It is a recognised fact in the QI Book of Who Knew that tipping your horse is the kiss of death. What is less well-known is that tipping your wife’s horse – which then loses – results ultimately in the kiss of death but only after the administration of the exquisitely painful, Death By A 1000 Jibes.
Not a risk I’m prepared to take, so you missed an OK 7/4 winning performance at Uttoxeter from the perfectly respectable Henrietta Bell trained by Harry Whittington, round the corner from Raceweb Towers. While some horses like to hear their hooves rattle on fast ground, Henrietta disturbingly wants to listen to hers clattering hurdles. Which she did – a lot. She won well and was probably good for another furlong and was 5 lengths over an odds-on Richard Newland nag who was thought decent… however… enough said.
The 148th Open will be played at Royal Portrush from 18th – 21st July 2019, First Tee 6:35 am and charmingly the R&A have asked Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke to make that first drive – honouring the man who has been quietly lobbying for a return to Royal Portrush together with his fellow Ulstermen Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy. McIlroy, who set the course record of 61 at Portrush aged 16, starts his quest to win a second Open at 10:09 am
- Length: 7,344 Par: 71.
- The Royal Portrush club dates to a nine-hole course in 1888, expanding to 18 holes a year later. Harry Colt designed the Dunluce Links in 1929.
- “Curran Point”, Portrush’s longest hole at 592 yards, is one of two new holes added on the Championship Course in time for the Open. Along with the eighth, named “Dunluce”, they have been taken from the Valley Links. (The previous 17th and 18th holes are now the site of the tented village).
- The shortest hole at Royal Portrush, a 177-yard par three.
- Nearby Dunluce Castle, dates from the 15th century and was a location for Game of Thrones.
- Field: 156 players
- Playoff (if necessary): 3 holes, aggregate score
- Prize money: $10.75 million
- Winner’s share: $1,935,000
- Defending champion: Francesco Molinari: He became the first Italian Major winner with a 69 – playing the final 37 holes without a bogey! A birdie on the final hole gave him a two-shot victory. Tiger Woods and six others all briefly had the lead on the final days round, and six were still tied on the back nine.
- The last 11 years of the Open Championship have seen 11 different winners.
- This could be the first time since 1982 when all the Majors have been won by an American
- It was last staged at Royal Portrush in 1951, with Max Faulkner becoming Champion Golfer of the Year.
THE TISSUE TIPS
So who makes the cut? These are the players I’m backing on Betfair to get through to Saturday and to allow me to “green up” my positions. (Basically, close everything out to make a profit via a helpful little button Betfair has at the top of the screen.)
- Adam Scott: Scott had a run of four consecutive top-10s at the Open from 2012-2015. (Try to put the 2012 nightmare out of your mind!). Scott’s putting was historically a concern, but he is now a top 25 position in Strokes Gained: (SG)-Putting. He has not finished worse than T17 in his past five starts, which include a T8 at the PGA Championship and T7 at the US Open. The 2013 Masters champion is proving his Major pedigree once more. Arrived last week at Portrush, and has been playing with Darren Clarke as his practice partner. He will be primed as Darren as indicated.
- Brooks Koepka: Brooks secret weapon is his Portrush caddie, Ricky Elliott, a former Ireland Youth International with hundreds of Portrush rounds in his bag. Brooks has won four of his past nine majors and finished runner-up in two others. He’s the World No 1
- Henrik Stenson: T4, T9 and T8 in his last three outings, the 2016 Open Champion comes here in excellent form. His various rankings, including 1st SG: Approach, 5th for driving accuracy and 23rd for scoring average.
- Hideki Matsuyama: He has made the cut on his last 15 starts – never coming less than T33. That stat includes five top 10s (the latest coming at the 3M Open). Best finish in the Open was a T6 in 2013. Ranks 2nd SG: Approach, 3rd SG: Tee to green, 8th Scoring average, 12th birdie average and 20th for SG: Around the green this season. Those are pretty damn good stats.
- Jon Rahm: Local knowledge might also aid the chances of Jon Rahm, whose love affair with Irish links courses shows no sign of slowing down. The Spaniard with the strange taste in shirts seems to just relax when he;’s playing here. He won the Irish Open in 2017 at nearby Portstewart, and he is always happy to tell anyone who’ll listen how much he likes playing here. The young Spaniard shot 64-62 over the weekend at Lahinch to win the tournament for the second time in three years.
- Matt Kuchar: Really can’t see how he fails to make the cut – Matt has five top 10s in his last nine starts, a second in the Open 2017 and T9 in 2018. The FedEx Cup leader was T20 at the Scottish Open last week and has three top 20s in the first three majors of the year. Ranks 5th Scoring average and GIR, 10th SG: Approach, 11th driving accuracy, 13th SG: Tee to green.
- Rory McIlroy: He’s got two wins and 11 top-10 finishes this season in 14 PGA Tour starts and he’s playing where he grew up. That makes him McIlroy the best golfer throughout the entire 2019 season.
- Xander Schauffele: X is a Major virgin – but this could be the site of his first win. One rather thinks that unlike some of the others his lack of regular Major experience means he’s less likely to bottle it. Someone will obviously say that X marks the spot on the Leaderboard – so let that someone be me. He’s finished in the top 10 in half of his 10 career major starts, including three top-three finishes in his past five. That includes a runner-up at last year’s British Open and a T-3 at this year’s U.S. Open.
Here are my positions for four days of great sport, in a country that could do with a bit of dosh, and where I’m in for £50
Hideki Matsuyama: 50/1 – £2.58 – £126.42
Matt Kuchar: 46/1 – £2.80 – £126.00
Henrik Stenson: 36/1 – £3.61 – £126.35
Adam Scott: 34/1 – £3.82 – £126.06
Xander Schauffele: 30/1 – £4.35 – £126.15
Jon Rahm: 16.5/1 – £7.65 – £118.58
Brooks Koepka: 13/1 – £10.52 – £126.24
Rory McIlroy: 9.6/1 – £14.67 – £126.16
YOU WON’T NEED A TISSUE
Tiger Woods: This will be Tiger’s 21st Open with 15 Major titles to his name. He’s now just three Major’s shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record, but the fact is that he has to save himself physically to play and his quote this week that “… I just don’t feel sharp” makes 16/1 the wrong price.