As the rest of Europe fries and the unwary make their way to an airport in order to stay inside but abroad, a few of us will have made plans that require very little effort. Imagine if you will, that it is Thursday.
You were awake at 6:30 and you were able to listen as Mathew Jordan, Richie Ramsay and Branden Grace started Game 1 of The 151st Open Golf Championship at The Royal Liverpool GC at Hoylake. A little later, having fulfilled your normal morning routine, and with the Open Golf commentary running gently in the background, you breakfast well, and read the papers. At about 9.45, you hear that Matt Fitzpatrick has just birdied the first. Time moves on, and the day gently warms, as the sun streams through the Great Hall windows and onto the remains of your Cafe Creme.
Now it is 11 am in Manchester and at Old Trafford, the English Cricket team steps out. Wednesday had been a disaster, England having lost the toss and Australia electing to bat first, have given us something of a spanking – but without the benefit of a Wisden’s shoved down the back of the trousers. The game settles down but you have papers to deal with and a few calls to make. You keep The Golf running on Sky and have TMS on Radio 5 live. By 1:00 pm, and feeling a little peckish you perhaps throw a scoop of King Prawns into a dish of homemade Marie Rose sauce and then pop that delicate mixture between two pieces of thinly sliced wholemeal bread with a little lettuce. You rightly consider with that snack, that the wolf has been kept from the door and that one might perhaps have had Lea and Sandeman deliver a case of their astonishingly good 2021 White Bordeaux 2021 Le G De Guiraud and that it would be entirely appropriate to sip some with your sandwich, and perhaps a sliver of cheddar, as you watch the Golf and The Cricket individually unfold. Your golfing bets look, in the main, in good order, Australia seems to have been contained thanks to Woods, and as you now have to attend the local Parish Church Committee, the timings have all worked out rather well.
It is Friday. In the main it is a repeat of Thursday, except lunch is some of the left-over cold beef with some homegrown horseradish in a little creme fraiche served with some rye bread and luckily you had some Waitrose-sold 2020 Cave de Saumur Les Nivières, chilling in the fridge. But there is also a tiny timing issue because over in Hungary the F1 teams have started their practice for Sunday and it would be quite nice to get a handle on how the new mid-season improvements have bedded in, or indeed whether any of them have been further altered. England is faltering slightly in Day 3 of The Test and in The Open it looks as though the Cut will be at +2 which eliminates two of your golf bets. Quite a tiring day and you can’t find a charger for the second pair of internet speakers, which you need to keep abreast of the Tour de France, which is beginning to take shape.
On Saturday the morning is now considerably busier. The Morning Line will be updating one on the gossip re Frankie while telling us all about The Hackwood Stakes and The Wetherbys Supersprint at Newbury. There are also the Irish Oaks and jumping from Killarney. As that ends, England’s Lionesses start their campaign at 10:30 in the Women’s World Cup and there is an interesting section of The Tour de France, with the riders going through the mountains of Vosges and Haut Rhin. It’s always quite nice to watch and I had a friend who would follow the routes via his Gault Milau guide so that he could see whether, as the peloton flashed past the restaurant’s front door, the place appealed to him or not.
The racing gets underway, but simultaneously the Cricket is now getting crucial, and in Liverpool five major contenders are now getting their challenges underway. Two of them are names on your tickets – but you’re also trying to check how many places they were paying in The Hackwood as you had a fourth. Your trading position on the cricket is looking a little uncertain because the failure of Stokes to take advantage and Bairstow’s visible anger at his own poor play are now opening fractures in the team. It is a trying and very long day, but all in all, you have managed through sustained focus, to keep abreast of all the many developments across five major international sporting events.
On Sunday, you offer up a prayer to the Gods, as England’s women aren’t playing down under; and the F1 isn’t until the afternoon. The Cricket is on a knife edge because of the bloody weather, but you still have to go to Church, and you have been rather thoughtlessly invited to lunch. You have to go to the lunch because it is the DL and you need someone to open the fete in August and he at least has a uniform. You watch and listen to as much Golf and Cricket as you can and leave at midday for lunch. You get back at four. You are exhausted, but you have taped the F1 and you have had the TV screen on Pause for the Golf. You have kept abreast of the Cricket via your earpieces, which you have taken to passing off as hearing aids. This works until Root hits a second-inning six from an over in which he had already scored a dozen and you exclaim “YES!!!” very loudly and try to pass it off as your delight at the Summer Pudding recipe. When you get back, you manage to watch the last few holes of Golf, in which you might have a tied fifth spot at 20/1. but little else; you accidentally erase the F1 which is won by Verstappen and fall asleep during the cricket highlights. Other than a measly return of £4.27p, none of your other bets win. The wine at lunch was filthy and you now have a dry mouth, a cracking Rose headache, and you’re down £75 for all your trouble.
Now under these circumstances will you [a] happily do it all over again or [b] head to the airport for some peace and quiet and no satellite signal in your air-conditioned box, overlooking the Costa del Muerte?
Welcome to my world… and if you’d like to know how I’m going to get on – here are my thoughts on The Open Golf…
Royal Liverpool will host The Open Championship for the 13th time this year, the first time since 2014. Rory McIlroy won that year, defeating Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia by two shots. Royal Liverpool first hosted the tournament in 1897, but strangely has only hosted twice since 1967. Tiger Woods won in 2006, and McIlroy won again in 2014. The course has been modified for this year’s tournament and it is now 7,383 yards long and a par 71, after the 17th hole was shortened from a par 4 to a par 3 of about 130 yards. The links-style course is susceptible to heavy winds, but the forecast for this week calls for only moderate winds and light rain.
As regards my selections, I am almost minded to simply rename my Scottish Open recommendations, which entirely thanks to Ryan Fox gave us a small profit. I fear Rahm and Scheffler – who wouldn’t – but I just don’t think JR’s current form is good enough – especially when you consider the strength in depth of the top 2o players. McIlroy is joint-favourite with Scheffler and perhaps one treats them both as insurance, but back-to-backs are rarer than hens’ teeth on the tour – and especially so close together.
So here is my Short Odds list: Dutching all five of them with the bookies would return approx 11/4. If you left out Scottie Scheffler, you’d be getting about 6/1. If you do the last four with Betfair you’re getting about 15/2. The answer for a decent return (other than picking the winner) is to mix up your selections – my final betting list is below.
- SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER [15/2]
- Incredibly, the World No. 1 has finished in the top-12 in every tournament he’s played in 2023 (16))! He hasn’t finished outside of the top-5 since the RBC Heritage in April. In two Open Championship starts, Scheffler has finished 8th and T21. I’m expecting another top-end result this weekend, especially if the wind isn’t too significant (as expected). If not for Rory’s win on Sunday, I would’ve ranked Scottie top on this list.
- VICTOR HOVLAND [22/1]
- Held the co-lead with Rory McIlroy at the end of Round 3 in last year’s edition before fading to a T4 on Sunday. In addition to a win at the elevated Memorial Tournament in June, Hovland finished T3 at The Players Championship, T7 at The Masters, T2 at the PGA Championship, and 19th at the U.S. Open. Over the last three months, he ranks seventh in strokes gained off the tee thanks to his accuracy and distance.
- TOMMY FLEETWOOD [25/1]
- Shot a 63 on Saturday to get himself a top 2 for Sunday then double bogeyed the 18th hole to finish T6 on Sunday. He’s still in top form, with 3 top-six from his last 4 tournaments. Two top-4 finishes in his last three Open Championship appearances. He is 19th in Scrambling, 3rd in Overall Putting Average, and 7th in both SG Tee to Green and Around the Green.
- TYRRELL HATTON [28/1]
- I missed a couple of opportunities to green out during Tyrrell’s front nine as he went on a birdie fest in the howling winds. Then the wheels fell off on the back nine en route to a T6 finish. He’s familiar with links courses, has a strong bounce-back history, and is ranked third in Strokes Gained Total this season on the PGA Tour and is ranking 9th in SG Tee to Green, 10th Off the Tee, 14th in SG Approach, and 6th in SG Putting.
- SHANE LOWRY [35/1]
- Won the 2019 Open Championship and Top-20s in five of his last six events including a T12 in Scotland. Was 12th in 2021 and T21 in 2022 in this championship.
and here is my “YOU’RE KIDDING ME” list. Everyone on this list turned in a confidence-boosting round, or even two, in the Scottish Open and achieved prominent best-in-class stats: for example Lingmerth’s and Fox’s birdie figures which were top two in the Scottish Open. Good recent form is essential to remind a player of what he can achieve.
- COREY CONNERS [80/1]
- Fired a 66 in each of his last two final rounds to net a T9 at the Travelers Championship and T19 in nasty conditions in Scotland on Sunday. Finished 15th at The Open in 2021 and T28 last year. Top-20s in five of his last seven tournaments.
- RYAN FOX [90/1]
- Fox had a very good week in the Scottish Open, finishing in a tie for 12th place. He was one of the most consistent players in the field, with rounds of 67-68-69-69. He was particularly good on the par 5s, where he made an average of 4.00 birdies per round. He made 21 birdies, which was tied for the second most in the tournament. He also had 7 bogeys, which was the fewest of any player in the top 20. His driving distance was 302.7 yards, which was 14th in the field. His accuracy off the tee was 64.52%, which was 39th in the field. He hit 69.89% of greens in regulation, which was 24th in the field. His putting average was 1.74 putts per hole, which was 11th in the field. Fox has a good chance to contend for a good finish in The Open. He is a good ball striker, he is good at putting, and he is a good fit for links courses. He will need to improve his accuracy off the tee if he wants to win, but he is one to watch.
- NICOLAI HOJGAARD [150/1]
- Højgaard has won two European Tour titles, the 2018 DS Automobiles Italian Open and the 2022 Ras Al Khaimah Championship presented by Phoenix Capital. He has also finished in the top 10 in several major championships. He finished tied for 6th place in the Scottish Open, shooting a total of 273 (-9), six strokes behind the winner, Rory McIlroy. Højgaard had a consistent week, with rounds of 63-70-67-73. He was particularly good on the par 5s, where he made an average of 3.75 birdies per round. Højgaard has made two appearances in The Open, both at Royal St George’s – finishing a tied 6th in 2021. He has a positive SG average in The Open, and he has made an average of 3.50 birdies per round. He has also saved par from the sand 55.56% of the time. Højgaard is a good ball striker and has a strong all-around game – but he is a little shy on distance. He is a good fit for a windy links day.
- BYEONG-HUN AN [150/1]
- Qualified for The Open Championship by virtue of a T3 in Scotland, where he gained more than eight strokes ball striking (off-the-tee plus approach). Top-40 finishes in his last two Opens though he wasn’t eligible for last year’s edition. Riding the current links form and hoping for the best at a big price.
- DAVID LINGMERTH [400/1]
- Lingmerth had a decent Scottish Open, with rounds of 67-68-67-70. He was particularly good on the par 5s, where he made an average of 4.25 birdies per round. He made 22 birdies, which was tied for the most in the tournament. He also had 11 bogeys, which was the fewest of any player in the top 10. His driving distance was 293.4 yards, which was 12th in the field. His accuracy off the tee was 64.29%, which was 17th in the field. He was 31st in GIR. His putting average was 1.76 putts per hole, which was 13th in the field. Lingmerth has made two appearances in The Open, both at St Andrews. His best finish was a tie for 74th in 2015. He has a positive SG average in The Open, and he has made an average of 3.93 birdies per round. He has also saved par from the sand 58.33% of the time. He is a good ball-striker, he is good at scrambling, and he is a good fit for links courses. However, his putting has been a weakness in The Open, and he will need to improve this if he wants to win.
VIKTOR HOVLAND [28/1] – TOMMY FLEETWOOD [32/1] – TYRRELL HATTON [30/1] – SHANE LOWRY [46/1]
- Backed on Betfair at the odds shown to 20 pts stake divided
COREY CONNERS [85/1] – RYAN FOX [160/1] – NICOLAI HOJGAARD [220/1] – BYEONG-HUN AN [220/1] – DAVID LINGMERTH [770/1]
- Backed on Betfair at the odds shown to 10 pts stake divided.
- The same selections backed with Betfair for a Top 10 finish for 20 pts stake divided. It is this latter bet which effectively acts as an “insurance” bet. If any of them are placed in the Top 10 – I get approx 95% of my total stakes back