The 2014 Open Championship

By | July 16, 2014

It is time to determine the Champion Golfer of the year for 2014 and R&A takes us to Royal Liverpool (aka Hoylake).  The Open Championship returns to here for the first time since 2006 when Tiger took home the Claret Jug for the second consecutive year.

Links golf is less predictable than what we have here in the States.  It often makes for exciting viewing and challenging handicapping.  This week we are dealing with a course that will play (drastically) different than it did in 2006.  Back then the course was dry and firm — Tiger won by leaving driver in the bag and playing irons off the tee.  His strategy took the fairway bunkers of out play because they were simply out of reach.  That won’t work this time because early reports from the course say it is softer and slower than it played in 2006 and there is a significant chance for rain tonight, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

From the tips (7,350-yards), Hoylake plays to a par 72 — not a long course by any measure.  The course challenges the player to manage his tee ball and the elements.  The holes do not favor a particular ball flight and the doglegs are not severe.  After placing your tee shot in the middle, approaches to the green are rather straightforward.  Shaping the ball is necessary to manage the wind but not necessary to find the fairway.  As for the greens, players will generally aim for the middle.  Steady play and a controlled ball flight will yield many birdie opportunities.  The greens are big, hilly and slow.  Professional golfers will make lots of putts, even long ones.  They all know this and the smart player willing to hit more greens and take his chances from 20 to 30 feet will have a better shot than the aggressive player trying to carve hard cut shots into the face of a hill behind the flag looking to spin one back for a tap-in birdie.

Driving is important.  Remember that.  Driving is important.  The fairways are challenging and the rough is lush.  It won’t take much to drift into the heather and gorse because many of the fairways are narrow (22-24 yards in places) and the slopes in the fairways will throw otherwise good drives into the rough and fairway bunkers.  Most holes have no more than three or four fairway bunkers but they are well-placed and each is extremely punitive.  Players will not reach the green from those traps; if they drive it into one, it is (at least) a one-shot penalty, as they’ll be coming out sideways.  If the tee shot stops against the face of a trap, the player is staring at a big number.  A few OB stakes also come into play as they players work their way around the driving range on holes #3 and #18.   Anyone feeling frisky about cutting a corner on their way home runs the risk of a stroke a distance penalty.

No surprises here – it is the British Open and ball striking matters.  If you doubt that, take a look at the last few winners — Mickelson, Els, Clarke, Oosthuizen, Cink, Harrington (x2) and Woods (x2).  Play to the middle of the fairway and keep it under the wind.  All these men won with good driving and, except for Phil and Oosthuizen, a low trajectory.  Both of those things will also help this week.  So, of the guys that can drive it long, straight and through the wind, who will win?  The winner will be the guy that plays the par fives well.  When Tiger won in 2006, he was 18-under for the Championship.  He was 14-under on the par fives.  They are all reachable (weather permitting) so guys with length and strong long iron players have an advantage.

And now the action…

This is a wide open field.  Unlike the US Open, lots of guys have a chance which makes it tough to pick tournament winners.  I could rattle off twenty guys with the right stats or trend information but the price is important too.  With that, I like the following:

 

To win it all (1/4 unit each):

Woods +2500

Bjorn +6600

Casey +6600

Cabrera +6600

 

Tournament Matchups (1 unit each):

Scott -116 over Rose

Woods +183 over Stenson

McDowell -106 over Kaymer

Fowler +132 over Kuchar

Casey +145 over Kuchar

Casey +102 over Bjorn

Westwood +124 over B Watson

Ilonen +105 over Mahan

Dufner +130 over Bradley

Dufner +125 over Walker

Lowry -104 over Todd

 

Thursday’s head-to-head (1 unit each):

Weekley +137 over Willett

Ilonen -106 over Manaserro

Fowler +123 over Garcia

Gallacher -119 over Mahan

 

Best of luck,

plusfours

 

 

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