Live on BBC: Thu 19th Jul: BetVictor’s Charlie McCann previews the action at Royal Lytham for this year’s Open Championship.
The 141st Open Championship begins at Royal Lytham & St Annes on Thursday 19th July the first time the course has hosted the event since 2001 when former World Number 1 David Duval landed his sole Major Title. It would not be one of my own favourite Open Championship venues, by any means, but what can we look forward to next week?
• Par 70; it is the only course on the Open rota which has an opening Par 3 and is the only Open course to have three Par-3s on the front nine.
• There are over 200 bunkers on the course and accuracy and course management will be more important than length off the tee.
• The last six holes are all Par 4s including the notorious 413-yard 18th which is surrounded by bunkers.
• It is the only Open venue bordered on three sides by houses; the first nine holes tend to be wind-assisted with the inward half usually played into the wind.
• Seve Ballesteros is the only golfer to win the Tournament twice at Royal Lytham in 1979 and 1988 when he shot a majestic final round of 65 to nick the Open from Price and Faldo.
Tiger Woods is the 13/2 favourite at BetVictor (1/4 odds six places) for the 2012 Open Championship and he was largely out of sorts when he finished in a tie for 25th as holder of the Claret Jug on his sole outing at Lytham back in 2001.
Woods is a three-time winner in the States so far this year but he missed the cut in the Greenbrier Classic last time and folded tamely in the Final round of the US Open last month when in contention. The former World Number 1 knows that his golfing renaissance won’t be complete until he has another Major under his belt (last one was the 2008 US Open) and he is sure to be well-prepared for the challenge.
Tiger has already proved popular and it is worth noting that BetVictor will refund all losing stakes on the outright market up to a maximum of £50 on the Open Championship placed pre-event if any of our “Lost Boys” Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter or Sergio Garcia gains their elusive first Major success.
Donald finished fifth at Turnberry in 2009 but does he drive the ball well enough for Lytham? Westwood had his chance in the US Open last month but once again just fell short; he already has 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed finishes in the Open but will his fragile short game take the strain?
Poulter finished runner up to Padraig Harrington in 2008 at Royal Birkdale and his game looks to be coming together at just the right time; he is a must for the short-list although one wonders if Sergio’s chance of Major success has been and gone. The Spanish ace has six top-ten finishes in the Open and is still only 32 years of age, but his putting remains suspect and he is an infrequent winner these days.
As with any links course luck can play a key part in the Championship and the long range weather forecast does not suggest we are in for a benign week on the Fylde coast. Driving accuracy and an excellent short game look imperative and my two against the field are Americans Hunter Mahan (50/1) and Rickie Fowler at 40/1.
Mahan has failed to make the cut in three of the last four Opens but he did finish in a tie for 6th at Carnoustie in 2007 when he carded a Final round 65; Fowler has finished 14th in 2010 and 5th last year in his two Open Championships and there are many who consider his 68 in the 3rd Round at Royal St George’s last year, under the worst of the conditions, the best round of the Championship.
Fowler has broken his duck on the PGA Tour already this year winning the Wells Fargo Championship whilst Mahan has landed both the World Match Play and the Houston Open in 2012.
Given six places and money back at BetVictor with our “Lost Boys” promotion it is Mahan and Fowler for me in what promises to be another wonderful event; Darren Clarke rolled back the years and knocked back the Guinness in 2011, but what will be the story of Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012?
Could one of our “Lost Boys” finally come good? The Open is one of the most eagerly-anticipated weeks on the sporting calendar and we will have everything covered at BetVictor from the first tee shot to the last putt on Sunday evening.
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