The 2013 Open Championship
For this preview, we will again use the official site for all the main detail about the week whether it be the course details, records, history, whatever.. the official site is comprehensive and can be found here
Muirfield is regarded as one of the fairest tests of golf there is, a links course with slightly a different layout as the two 9s loop around a lot rather than go out and then back as is standard; thus you will get wind from all over the place if it blows! The outward 9 is a loop around the outer part of the course whereas the inward 9 is more of an inner circle – the par is 71 and the course measures a shade under 7,200 yards. More relevant than distance however is the wind; if it is still or from behind, then the pot bunkers up to 280 yards generally can be avoided with a lusty blow, if driving into the wind then the circumspect approach will be a long iron into position
The rough apparently has been allowed to grow a bit to compensate for the very fast fairways so straight hitters should do well as they will take advantage of the ball running; there are pot bunkers about though so it’s not quite as simple as hitting it straight and having a short iron in.
Accuracy is always key but a bit of luck really can make a difference on a links course. Short games will have to be as good as ever as you can’t afford to be careless on a links course and fritter shots; anyone chipping close regularly and nailing those 5-6 footers will have a shout, remember ‘drive for show and putt for dough’!
Changes were made a couple of years ago to stop the course being taken apart if the conditions were benign – these involve more driving distance traps and also tightening up the run-off areas around greens; again, accuracy will help and of course, links experience and knowledge is always worth a few shots in this eventHistory
Muirfield last hosted The Open in 2002; that event was mainly remembered for the awful Saturday weather and some very high scores (Tiger shooting 81 etc) – Ernie Els, the current defending Open champion, was the victor in ’02 beating Thomas Levet on the first sudden-death hole after they tied in the 4-hole 4-man playoff (others were Elkington and Appleby). Scoring was fairly reasonable on the other days in 2002 and as per usual, the weather is the key element on this East Lothian coastline course
Muirfield has a history of providing household names as Champion Golfers; the previous winners reads like a Who’s Who of Golf and although there’s a chance that an outsider will triumph (thinking of 2003 and 04 when Curtis and Hamilton were surprise victors) recent history has shown that proven winners have triumphed with Woods (2), Harrington (2) Clarke, Cink, Oosthuizen and Els all taking home the Claret Jug
Many will remember Adam Scott’s dramatic closing holes last year and that’s a good reminder that experience is vital – players who have been through the last 9 of a major, in contention, have an edge usually as the mental strength is the key factor at that point. Scott himself proved this when redeeming himself this year and fair play to him, he will no doubt be a contender this year tooTips
Having tipped up Scott as my main bet in the Masters, I was hoping for a similarly hot tip this major but it’s more a case of who is likely to do well; no-one is jumping off the page to me. I have a few longer priced golfers who I think will do well and if the weather is decent, it will bring many more of the field into contention.
The usual suspects will have plenty of backers; namely Woods, Mickelson, Rose, McDowell, Scott and McIlroy – I will leave all of them and look further down the field this week. No doubt 1 or 2 of them will be in contention and Mickelson off the back of a win last week in Scotland could be the most likely but I’m thinking of avoiding the top 5 or 6 and picking others with more attractive prices
Westwood and Donald are ‘overdue’ as the saying goes although that means nothing! Day has proven to be a worthy contender in many recent majors, Garcia has the ability but not the mental strength required and it’s a big ask for Els to repeat last year’s win although he will be popular with his prior Muirfield win too
I may well change my mind and back one of the above at the last minute or look to back them In-Running but for now these fellows will be my selections:
Thorbjorn OLESEN > gifted young player 130 (betfair) whose form has deserted him recently after a sparkling start to the year and a great effort at Augusta. Has really fallen away with some high rounds but no doubting his ability so if it all clicks again this week he could be a surprise package at a decent price
Nicolas COLSAERTS > long-hitter who could overpower the course if conditions allow; great talent and had a great closing round last yr – undoubted ability and expecting him to shine here so odds of 70 (betfair) will do nicely for me. Was 10th at the US Open and then top 10 in Scotland last week so ticking over well – may fall apart if it blows and he loses control but this guy is going places for me
Martin KAYMER > odds of 80 reflect his downturn in fortunes in the past couple of years but he is top-class and has the ability and know-how to surprise people and win here; brave call to back him obviously but I have a suspicion that he will get it together again soon (a la Casey) and return to winning ways. %th in the Byron Nelson and then two decent efforts in Europe bode well for a return to form for the straight-hitting German
Rickie FOWLER > 50 on betfair is juicy for me for the young and colourful potential superstar. Has turned into a steady performer this year surprisingly but without the highlights, yet! Has done well previously in this event and could be anything; expecting him to scramble well and sink some putts and be up there and competing on Sunday
Dustin JOHNSON > a player I back a lot and despite his rep as a bomber, he is a quality player who seems to like this tournament and also seems to prosper in the wind – if conditions turn ugly then I think he will come to the fore and be in with a great chance. 13th at Augusta and then down the field in the US Open so no great form in majors this year but he has come so close previously and has been 9th and 2nd in the last 2 yrs in this event- worth a shout at 44
Bill HAAS > a favourite of mine and a great golfer again – has shown he has the magic touch and can win tournaments, next step for him would be a major. He has been around a while now but has notched up 5 tour wins including the Tour Championship in 2011; could be due to step up to the next level and his all-round game and current form means he is worth considering for sure, 95 looks generousTrades
Some outsiders that may be worth watching for early trading are > Martin Laird at 120, Quiros 430 (hint of a return to form), Kyle Stanley 480, Blixt 290 – all players who are capable of shooting low early on and dropping in price hopefully
There is usually a player I really want to back, or a couple from near the top of the market but this time I really haven’t got a feeling for any of them – Tiger is a supreme golfer, Micko has just won, GMac has a great record this season, Rose has moved up to major winning level, and so on. I think the winner will come from the 2nd level of the field so to speak – ignoring the top 10 or so and looking towards the above players. No great reasoning and mainly on gut feel but they could go well and surprise a few people I think. I’ll be looking at trading as always and will back in-running if I get to see enough of the tournament (could be tricky being down under!). If pushed I would say DJ, Fowler and Colsaerts for the 1-2-3 with possibly Mickelson, Donald, Rose, Haas, Westy and Kaymer in the top 10 (although there is the distinct chance of a tour plodder having a cracking week and making the top 10 too)
Should be a great week of top golf whatever the result with many twists and turns no doubt