Dustin Johnson has everything in his favour in the context of this week’s Open Championship and sometimes in betting the obvious should not be ignored. Adam Scott also has a great profile and can get in the mix to win a second major. Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler have not made a breakthrough at the highest level but both players have games suited to the Royal Troon course that hosts the most prestigious event in the sport for the first time since 2004.
The Open is the ‘big one’, the oldest and most prestigious of all the majors and the only one held outside America. Troon is a typical links course exposed to the wind. The front nine is the easier half as players must hold on to their score over the back nine. The par 3 8th is the famous 123-yard Postage Stamp, protected by deep pot bunkers. The par 4 11th is a brute of a hole running parallel to the railway line and is one of the toughest holes in any Open. There are four par 5s but only three pars in a par of 71, rare for an Open venue.
Royal Troon is located by the Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland. The Open goes back to the Ayrshire links for the first time since Todd Hamilton won the championship twelve years ago. The course has staged 8 Opens since first being used in 1923. All of the last six Troon Open champions were US players who had won a tournament earlier in the season. Johnson would maintain the trend of American winners if he prevailed. Since 2000 nine Open champions have been from the United States, four from Europe and three from the rest of the world, all South Africans. The average winning score over the last 16 Opens is 9 under.
There is a field of 156 players this week of which 27 competed in 2004. Fifteen made the cut and Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood were placed behind Hamilton. The course is now 15 yards longer but is basically the same challenge even though most holes have changed in terms of length. The field’s overall scoring average in 2004 was 2 over but five Opens since have seen higher average scores in relation to par. Wind is always a factor but only light breezes are forecast so scoring should be better this time and compared to the 2 over average in 1997.
Hamilton won the 2004 Open at odds of 750/1 and he has not accomplished much since. He had his week in the sun at the greatest championship in the world. Hamilton wasn’t in the top ten for any of the key skills but had an eagle and 16 birdies to offset 8 bogeys for a 10 under total. The key attributes for good scoring this week are driving distance, hitting greens in the correct number of shots, scrambling and low numbers for putts per round. This is a typical ideal profile for the Open and several players fit in with the identikit of potential contenders.
Dustin Johnson is currently the hottest player in the game having won the US Open and WGC event on his last two starts. He is by far the most likely winner this week and would create a strange sporting quirk as another Johnson, Zach, is the defending champion. Dustin is a player in form who could destroy the front nine with his driving distance. He could have several eagle putts over the front nine and a score of six under at the turn is well within his range. Johnson is now a proven major champion and can join a small group of players who have won two majors in the same season.
Adam Scott has the best overall form over the last four Opens and has a game suited to the links challenge. He all but won the Open at Lytham in 2012 but four bogeys over the last four holes opened the door for Ernie Els to win his second Open. Scott recovered to become the first Australian to win the US Masters the following April. The Aussie has finished five shots or better behind the winner of the last four Opens so has been knocking on the door for a number of years. Scott is a top 20 player for driving distance and greens hit and has adapted to a new putting method. The dual winner in the States this season is a massive runner and viable alternative to Johnson.
Any list of the best players to never win a major would include Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia. Both players have solid records in the majors and played well on links courses in the past. Fowler and Garcia are in the top 30 for distance off the tee and top five for greens in regulation. They have the game to make the payout places but not quite enough to challenge Johnson and Scott on Sunday at the top of the leader board.