The Open Championship

Muirfield 2013

Course: Muirfield Golf Links

Date: 18-21 July 2013

Current Champion: Ernie Els

The third major has finally arrived and this is a week many golfing professionals, aficionados and experts will be most excited about.  The Open Championship.

The 142nd edition of the famous tournament is being held at one of the greatest tests of links golf anywhere in the world.  Muirfield has been primed, prepped and improved since it last hosted the championship in 2002 and whatever the weather, we are all in for a 4-day, Christmas-come-early treat.

As we have done with previous majors, there are two in-depth, statistical and informative previews if what we write is just not enough to quench your gambling thirst. So please do check them out!

The first one is on the trends and brief links specialists –

https://downthe18th.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-open-championship-2013/

The second one is all about Muirfield and the challenge players will face, with a look at the key statistics needed.

https://downthe18th.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/the-open-championship-2013-preview-2/

You can also check out our column on the Golf Monthly website about the farce of Open Qualifying

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531565/golf-blog-the-open-qualifying.html

Also a look at Outsiders and the ridiculous offers of bookmakers  for Golf Monthly

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531646/open-championship-2013-blog-bet-on-the-outsiders.html

So what happened back when it was last held here in 2002?  Reigning Open champion, Ernie Els defeated Thomas Levet, Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby in a playoff to secure his 1st Open and 3rd major trophy.  That particular year the weather was beyond brutal on the Saturday, with unforeseen storms and torrential rains hampering scoring for the majority of the field.  Our favourite 2nd-place guru Colin Montgomerie infamously shot 74, 64, 84 in his first three rounds, letting slip another opportunity.

Ernie Els chipping out the bunker at Muirfield in 2002. This was one of the iconic moments of the whole tournament and an outrageous shot

Ernie Els chipping out the bunker at Muirfield in 2002. This was one of the iconic moments of the whole tournament and an outrageous shot

The long list of champions that Ernie added himself to is full of big names, the very best the sport has produced – from Sir Nick Faldo to Lee Trevino, Gary Player to Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson to Walter Hagen – the greats who have littered golfing history books.  But all of them during four days in the Scottish summer conquered the prestigious test of Muirfield.  What does that say? No mug is going to be taking home this trophy, the cream is likely to rise to the top come Sunday evening.  However, that does not mean it would be foolish to look elsewhere for an outsider, as many bookmakers are offering 6 places, whilst PaddyPower are paying out for 7 and BetVictor are (rather astonishingly, if you ask us) offering 8 places!

http://www.betvictor.com/sports/en/the-open-8-places?banner_home_1107

http://www.paddypower.com/bet/golf/open-championship?ev_oc_grp_ids=34304#area=sb&AFF_ID=10063836

So with outsiders you are certainly looking for e/w returns and as long shot Englishman Gary Evans proved 11 years ago, sneaking a place (and nearly winning the whole thing) is not uncommon for the touring pro.

With all that history malarkey out the way, what are we actually looking for in terms of player and attributes to take on Muirfield?

If you are errant off the tee, you can kiss goodbye to any birdie and most times, even a par.  The thick rough is virtually impossible to hit out of, therefore accuracy will be so crucial.  But it is not just the cabbage that needs to be avoided – strategically placed pot-bunkers litter fairways and valiantly protect greens.  Although every player will at some point find themselves lingering in the sand, how you play yourself out will be just as important as how few times you get trapped.

This does means better bunker players will save shots, but general scrambling, which is always a key component in any Open, will be vital.  It seems obvious to say it but GIR and approach play will be key, because this is where the strategists can work out when to attack and when to sit back, take par and run to the next tee.  If you’re too attacking – disaster, if you’re strategically attacking – lower score.  Simple as that.

Once on the undulating, sloping greens, putting is often the difference between 1st and 2nd.  To win majors, you have to be consistent with the short stick throughout the week and it will be no different here.  Rose putted well at Merion, Scott at Augusta and the player lifting the claret jug on Sunday will have been incredible on the greens as well.

However, at the end of the day, the really important factor to consider is the good old British weather.  Ability to keep your head in the game whilst winds blow in all sorts of directions – every hole at Muirfield is facing a different direction to each other, so wind will come from all angles – and play just as well in the rain as in the sun will be more crucial than anything.

We hope you have enjoyed our previews and found them useful, if you want to give us any feedback so we can improve for future majors, please do contact us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk.

So if you are in Britain, enjoy the wonderful and rare BBC coverage.  If you are anywhere else in the world, have fun watching four days of the most competitive golf and if you are lucky enough to have a ticket, well you’re a wanker.

Our picks –

The Favourites

Luke Donald (30/1 StanJames)

Luke Donald at the Masters in 2011 after he chipped in on the 18th. If he can get this fist pumping and passion going then we could have a second English major winner in 2013

Luke Donald at the Masters in 2011 after he chipped in on the 18th. If he can get this fist pumping and passion going then we could have a second English major winner in 2013

Wouldn’t it just make sense? Scott then Rose then Donald. If perfect symmetry was the sole factor for finding the 2013 Open champion then Luke Donald would be joint favourite alongside Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood – and we personally cannot handle anymore gruelling Westwood performances, our brains and hearts are not strong enough, although would never begrudge him a win.

As for Donald, he has admitted himself that it has not been a great season for him, after 2 incredible years of unerring consistency.  In his last three competitions he has finished T42, T8, and T21.  That T8 was at the US Open, where he went into the final day with every chance of taking the title but faltered away, allowing player partner and good friend, Rose, to capitalise.

In his last 10 major outings he has managed 7 top 32s, including 4 top 10s and you just get that sense he is on the verge of joining the major elite.

Even recent Open performances give you confidence in Donald, T5 last year with four consistent rounds and in 2009 a final day 67 put him 2 shots of a playoff place.  When you think of his playing style, it is no surprise that he finds himself at the top of various major championships.  But for us Merion and Muirfield have presented him with the best opportunities yet – a superb tee to green player, reliably accurate, a phenomenal scrambler and bunker player and when he starts holing putts he is so dangerous.  That combination is perfect for links golf and we feel very confident in our main man.

He was number 1 for a long time and his name is more than good enough to join that elite list of former winners.  In Donald we believe and trust.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 5 8 10 2

Recent Open Championship History (Including 2002 Open at Muirfield)

2012 2011 2010 2009 2007 2002
T5 MC T11 T5 T63 MC

PGA Tour Statistics

Luke Donald Stats

Graeme McDowell (25/1 various)

You can sample all the alcohol in the world if you win Gmac. It will be on us...

You can sample all the alcohol in the world if you win Gmac. It will be on us…

Yes he was our main man for Merion and yes he missed the cut, but that has not put us off one of the very best scramblers and tee to green players in the game.

It has been well documented, by both himself and the media, that it has been a very bizarre season.  3 wins in a single year is an incredible achievement, but 6 missed cuts doesn’t make a great deal of sense, especially with a usually consistent performer like McDowell.

Every time he has shown his true class and deservedly walked away with a trophy, he misses the cut the following week but we are sure it will not happen this time around, on a course that suits the Northern Irishman perfectly.

He was superb at the French Open two weekends ago, leading the field for GIR and lying in 15th for driving accuracy – two crucial Muirfield attributes.

And now he will be going into the third major, having missed the cut at Augusta and Merion in the knowledge that if he can make it to Saturday there is every chance he will be in contention.  He has made 7 cuts this season, only finishing outside the top 10 in one of those tournaments.  When his game is on, it is on and we would not be worried if the weather turns vile because his adaptable game can work in any conditions.

We really feel McDowell has the game for links golf (as shown by his history on such courses) and if he decides to turn it on, then he will have at least held one hand on a second major trophy.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 4 8 10 1

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
T5 MC T23 T34 T19 MC

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
152nd 15th 85th 46th 167th 63rd

PGA Tour Statistics

Graeme McDowell Stats 1

Sergio Garcia (28//1 various)

This is when Sergio had the world at his feet, jumping round like a ballerina.  Lets hope he can get back to that mindset and dance his way to the title

This is when Sergio had the world at his feet, jumping round like a ballerina. Lets hope he can get back to that mindset and dance his way to the title

You can read one half of DownThe18ths column for Golf Monthly on ‘The Curious Case Of Sergio Garcia’ here –

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/open-2013/blog/531615/the-curious-case-of-sergio-garcia.html

Sergio Garcia.  A confusing yet irresistible golfer who has an opportunity to resurrect his fortunes, correct the wrongs of foolish comments and finally win his first major.  We really feel that this is his best chance for a long time on a course that has a lot of history for the Spaniard.

Back in 1998 Garcia won the Amateur Championship, a matchplay format, which was held at Muirfield.  Then in his 4th year as a pro, he finished T8 in the Open proper – also held at Muirfield and at the time was his highest finish in the Championship.

He has openly admitted how much he loves the historic course and cannot wait to get back there for another attempt at a trophy he has recorded 7 top 10s in.

Obviously, as there always is with Sergio, worries about his mental state will play on the mind of every gambler throwing their hard earned money at the Spaniard.  The collapse at The Players was a horrendous watch, whilst the second day 76 at Augusta was a frustrating relapse after a glorious 66 on the Thursday.

But people do often forget how incredible and unlucky he was in 2007, after nearly going wire-to-wire before painfully losing in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.  He lipped out the winning putt on the 72nd hole and we cannot imagine how painful that must have been.

Yet, just like all our top 5 picks, we really feel a sense of everything coming together for Sergio.  All the stars are aligned and as we all know, his game is simply perfect for any links challenge, so if you have the guts to go through whatever he may bring for one more week then let the fun begin.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 0 1 3 5 2

Recent Open Championship History (Including 2002 Muirfield)

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2002
MC T9 T14 T38 T51 T8

PGA Tour Statistics

Sergio Garcia Stats

The Mid-Rangers

Brandt Snedeker (40/1 various)

How dapper does he look in this brown suit?! What a hero.

How dapper does he look in this brown suit?! What a hero.

Finally, the man who inspired us to originally begin DownThe18th has made it past the ‘initial’ picks and found himself 4th on our list for The Open.  We have made no secret of the fact that he is one of our favourite players, but we have a feeling that this is now the right time to back him for a major.

At the beginning of the season, he was the form man in golf.  He looked irresistibly impressive and we were so excited to back him for the Masters.  But then came his rib injury and a run of horrendous performances.  Yet he went to Augusta on medication and managed to get in the running up until late Sunday afternoon, eventually finishing T6.  Whilst he went on to miss 2 cuts following the T8 at The Players, he recorded a T17 finish at the US Open and his last appearance at the AT&T National resulted in a T8 finish, which give us confidence he is back, but should be a great sign for the man himself.

He has shown ability on links courses in the past and last year finishing T3 after shooting an outrageous 66, 64 on the first two days.  He is more than capable of winning majors and with length not really needed on this course, his game has all the components to keep the ball in play and find the putting surface, where he is arguably the best in the world.  The short stick guru represents great value at 40s considering his ability, so jump on him whilst you can.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 3 3 5 7 3

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2011 2009 2008
T3 MC MC MC

PGA Tour Statistics

Brandt Snedeker Stats

Henrik Stenson (45/1 888sport)

Henrik Stenson showing he is not afraid to get down and dirty back in 2009.

Henrik Stenson showing he is not afraid to get down and dirty back in 2009.

After the very lengthy discussions in deciding our final picks, we came across Stenson and thought he was completely overpriced by Ladbrokes at 66/1.  Many bookmakers had him at 40s, which is roughly where he should be and after delving into his statistics, form etc. we chose to jump at Ladbrokes’ offer.  Subsequently he shot a 64 on the Friday at the Scottish Open and his prices slashed.  He went on to shoot 66 the following day, taking a two shot lead into Sunday, however a +1 73 meant he ended in T3, with Mickelson lifting the trophy.

We can only apologise for our 5th pick being at odds nearly half what we staked, but we do have an inkling that the Swede is back to form and in complete control of his game at the moment – even with the slight break down at Castle Stuart.

His tee to green abilities are up there with anyone and considering he has enormous power as well, he can challenge on any course at any tournament.

But he has shown a liking for links golf, with an admirable recent record, whilst two T3 finishes at The Open prove he can compete with the best.  In both 2008 and 2010 he rallied home on the final day to surge up the leaderboard, but without ever really contending.

Whilst he finished well at the Masters and US Open (T18 and T21 respectively) and he has only ever made the cut at both opening majors once – back in 2009 when he finished T13 at that years Open.

In all honesty, he should be higher up this list, because he has only missed 2 cuts all year, with four top 10s and if his putter gets going, he will be incredibly dangerous.

Links form since 2010

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 7 12 18 3

Recent Open Championship History

2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2002
68th T3 T13 T3 MC DNP

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
9th 67th 8th 118th 162nd 148th

PGA Tour Statistics

Henrik Stenson Stats

The Outsiders

Jamie Donaldson (125/1 Bet365)

NO this is NOT Brandt Snedeker, it is his long lost brother, Jamie Donaldson

NO this is NOT Brandt Snedeker, it is his long lost brother, Jamie Donaldson

Considering this is a man who is currently 38th in the world rankings, won on the European Tour this year and has a solid links record, 150/1 is outrageously over-priced.

Donaldson has impressed us throughout 2013, showing his ability tee to green and there have been few better scramblers.  If and when he finds trouble around Muirfield, the Welshman is the exact player you have every confidence in turning trouble into fortune.

In his last 2 outings he ranked 3rd for GIR in France (T6 finish) and 7th for GIR in Ireland (T10 finish).  We are aware that his overall stats do not jump out, but we feel they do not represent fully the excellent golf he has been playing over recent weeks.

At the end of the day this is a heavy outsider and with plenty of places on offer from PaddyPower and BetVictor, it would be foolish not to get involved with Donaldson, who has every capability of mixing it with the best and finding the top end of leaderboards at majors.  And for us, the Open represents the competition that will suit his style the most.  Don’t forget, he did finish T7 at the PGA last year, so he does have major pedigree…

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 7 9 11 6

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2006
T60 MC

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
85th 153th 122nd 2nd 88th 43rd

Our other outsiders we have looked at are Richard Sterne (100/1 various) and Mikko Ilonen (125/1 various)

Both guys have been winners on the European Tour this year – Sterne at the Joburg Open and Ilonen at the Nordea Masters and we were on them both times!

But intriguingly they have good links form and Ilonen made the cut here back in 2003, the year after he finished T9 at the Open.

Sterne has recorded 3 top 10s in his last 9 links tournaments and won the Alfred Dunhill Links back in 2009, whilst Ilonen has 2 top 10s.

If you prefer looking at outsiders and value, then these 2 guys are top professionals who will be used to the type of course, weather and conditions, whilst arriving in good form.  If you think they are the top end of the market for most European competitions – they are at the top of their game.

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2 thoughts on “The Open Championship

  1. Pingback: The Open Championship 2013 Preview 2 | DownThe18th

  2. Pingback: The Open Championship 2013 | DownThe18th

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