One of the nicest links courses in England, Royal St Georges, beckons Darren Clarke’s inheritors back to its comfort and largesse, ten years after the Ulsterman won the 139th Open. Won at Portrush in 2019 by Shane Lowery, the Sandwich links course has traditionally proven tough to score on, and of the last five Champion Golfers at Royal St George’s, only Greg Norman in 1993, recorded a winning round total lower than five-under-par and also posting a stunning 13-under of 267, which remained a Championship record for 23 years. One of the highlights to watch out for is one of Royal St George’s toughest holes, the fourth, and home of the deepest bunker in championship golf – the spectacularly tall ‘Himalaya’ bunker. They’ve fiddled around with it I gather and have removed the old sleepers that lined the giant sand-trap, plus roughed up the edges. Who cares? It’s still bloody enormous! Those who clear the large dune with a straight drive will land on a flat area of fairway known as the Elysian Fields. The green is cut at an angle and players must avoid overshooting it, for fear of the “Out of Bounds” posts running perilously close to the back edge. Author Ian Fleming used the Royal St George’s course under the name “Royal St. Marks” in his 1959 novel Goldfinger, and when he died, Fleming was the Captain-elect of the Club. Much like Goldfinger in the book, Tiger Woods also lost his ball here in the 2003 Open, the first of his professional career. It was Tiger’s first tee shot and he pushed it right into the rough – and a sizeable crowd. With something approaching masterful understatement Tiger said at the time, “…it was a little disconcerting…”, when the ball was nowhere to be found. He hit the next one into the same rough and walked off the opening hole with a triple-bogey 7 – despite all of which – Tiger finished two shots back of Curtis and in a tie for fourth.
So the course isn’t easy, and links courses aren’t easy to play and, it transpires, neither is writing about horseracing.
I only bring up the subject, before I tip the winners of the 149th Open, as I was publically admonished by an industry apparatchik for getting the sex wrong of Champers Elysee when I left off the S in He. The rebuke was followed by a note with a slight hint of the Welsh Baptist about it.
“I read your pieces for the amusing intros. I am not actually a betting man and not that interested in racing these days.”
Interested enough to correct my spelling apparently, but what frightened me was that his phrase seemed to encapsulate the racing industry’s position at almost every turn. It almost exactly mirrors that of a director of one of the organisations on the Horsemans Group. “…It’s hard to understand why the industry bodies seem incapable of working together. If it’s not interested – why the hell should I be?”
Charlie Brooks wrote – as he does more often than not – an excellent piece in Monday’s Telegraph. In it, he questioned the rationale and, more importantly, the integrity of recent manoeuvres in the world of racing media rights, and simultaneously he raises the same questions as I did at the beginning of July when I suggested the BHA Whip consultation was pre-determined and, rather strangely, seemed designed to give racing’s enemies a public platform. Add to that, the fact that we face a Panorama investigation which will, next Monday, expose the “cruel fate” of a number of racehorses both here and in Ireland – and if you thought the Gordon Elliott affair was over, I suspect you will discover the true meaning of “Sitting Duck” before 10:00 pm. that evening. My fears for racing have been expounded here fairly regularly, but again I feel obliged to say “Wake Up”. When senior figures have been “disrespected”, as us young people like to say, and feel no emotional ties with the sport, then the masonry bees are already deep in your foundations, and Private Fraser’s dire warnings spring to mind
I had also wondered in a previous post whether AOB’s early G1 entries had something to do with the approaching end of Galileo’s stud career, in a way that I couldn’t fathom. I didn’t realise how near his end was, but his impact on global bloodstock lines is beyond question. Before I give you my selections for The Open, I’ll leave you with a few of Galileo Galilei’s best thoughts on the subject he might have intended them for.
- ON THE GOVERNMENT’S REFUSAL TO PURSUE IMMUNITY TESTING: By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox.
- TO SAGE: In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.
- TO ANTIVAXXERS: It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved.
- ADVICE TO MY CRITICS: Wine is sunlight, held together by water.
- MY CRITICS ADVICE TO ME: I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.
- ON RACEWEB’S TIPPING: All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.
Talking of discoveries, here are my five against the field and their current best prices:
The one thing that is abundantly clear historically, is that seasonal form is vital. 14/20 Open Champions (70%) had won a tournament in the same season.
- Tiger Woods (00, 05, 06)
- Ernie Els (02)
- Todd Hamilton (04)
- Padraig Harrington (07)
- Louis Oosthuizen (10)
- Darren Clarke (11)
- Phil Mickelson (13)
- Rory McIlroy (14)
- Henrik Stenson (16)
- Jordan Spieth (17)
- Francesco Molinari (18)
- Shane Lowry (19)
Of the non-winners, David Duval (2001) had 3 Top-10 finishes and had finished 2nd in The Masters. Padraig Harrington (2008) had four Top-10s prior and Stewart Cink (2009) had two Top-10s including a 3rd at the World Match Play. Zach Johnson (2015) had seven Top-10 finishes and a 6th and a 3rd in his last two. Otherwise, there’s always one to screw the stats and that was Ben Curtis at Royal St Georges in 2003 who was on his first PGA Tour year, and “only” managed a 13th at the Western Open two weeks before.
Also remember this: The favourite or second favourite has only won The Open once since 2007. Worse yet, the average odds of the winner is 62/1, more than double the average odds of the Masters or US Open winners. So who’s on the board?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: (Bet365 40/1 8p-1/5)
There is something about having fans back on course again and few have a fan base like Tommy Fleetwood. Runner-up to Shane Lowery in 2019, Tommy is hitting his stride at just the right time and his confidence will be further boosted by being selected to represent Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics. He likes playing in the Open and his performances have improved every year. He isn’t spectacular or flashy – but he’s very consistent, which if the wind gets up will help enormously. He has missed the cut only three times in the last 22 tourneys, but hasn’t won since the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November 2019. I know that flies in the face of the big stat, but he might be one of the 30%.
My other home choice is:
MATT FITZPATRICK (Bet365 40/1 8p-1/5)
He’s had five top 10s in 14 starts this year and he one of a select group to have played all 12 rounds of the year’s men’s Majors to date. As well as being one of the best putters on tour, he also ranks high on driving stats and he’ll cope with the new rough, which has been grown higher on &&A orders. He is not a big hitter – but that really doesn’t matter here because you don’t need to be.
PATRICK REED (Bet365 40/1 8p-1/5)
It was only when I was looking at the prices that I realised that Reed might be overpriced. Reed is a nine-time PGA T our winner and making four of six Open cuts with a T-12 and T-10 in that span. His last top-10 was at the Memorial back in early June and the fact that he has three European Tour wins in addition to all his PGA victories and wind on Links courses seems serious. He is 12th on total strokes gained over his last 48 rounds and is 9th on SG: Putting.
BRANDEN GRACE: (Mansionbet 70/1 8p – 1/5 or Bet365 55/1 8p-1/5)
Just have a look at those prices a near 30% spread and I know which way I’d be running. He is 62nd in the world, South African missed one cut in his last 13 starts, and he won the Puerto Rico Open in February. His Open record bears scrutiny with a tied-6th in 2017, where his third round of 62 was the first sub-63 round in the history of any of the four majors. He’s only 33yo, likes links golf – or at least isn’t phased by it – witness his tied 7th in last months US Open.
I was torn for my 5th selection to pick from a shortlist of KOEPKA, LEISHMAN, OOSTHUIZEN and SPIETH and it was easy for me to swerve the favourite
So I didn’t back any of them and will wait until later in the Championship before playing more. Meanwhile, this is how my ticket looks, to a 10-pt stake and returning a 117.1 profit, or near 12/1 if you will.
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