Senior Open Championship: Don't dismiss 63-year-old Watson just yet

Tom Watson is still capable of winning this title at 63 years of age

After recommending a 20/1 winner and a 125/1 place on his beloved European Tour in recent weeks, Mike Norman continued his good form with headline tip Henrik Stenson landing Top European honours at the Open Championship. The Seniors equivalent starts at Birkdale on Thursday so who does our man fancy on the Merseyside links?

"Tom Watson is a links golf specialist having won the Open five times, and since he first appeared in the Senior Open Championship he has an equally remarkable record - three wins, seven top-10 finishes, and never out of the top-25 in 10 attempts."


After two weeks of exhilarating golf on the Scottish links it's proving quite a chore to get back into regular European Tour action, especially as this week's event is the low-key Russian Open which won't even be shown live on TV!

So thankfully, that's where my colleague Steve 'The Punter' Rawlings comes in.

Fresh from his pre-tournament wager on Phil Mickelson last week, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Steve is on his way to Russia now to get round the 'non-TV' problem. Wherever he is - and he could literally be anywhere given the way he celebrated on Sunday night - Steve has found time to preview this week's event, and you can read it by clicking here.

So thankfully I've been given the task of sticking with links golf, courtesy of the Senior Open Championship, in which Fred Couples will bid to successfully defend the title he won 12 months ago.

Understandably, Couples is the strong favourite in the Winner market at around the 7.413/2 mark, and while that price might not appeal to regular golf punters who seek out big-price contenders, it's impossible to argue against the American's chances.

Although 53-years-old (a perfect age for Senior golf) with a history of back trouble, Couples' physique is arguably better than some golfers 10-20 years his younger. His ability to compete at the highest level isn't in question either; since turning 50 he has remarkably finished in the top 15 at The Masters for three years running, and only last week he got better as the tournament went on at Muirfield, eventually finishing in a tie for 32nd in the Open Championship.

Incredibly, in the 12 Majors that Boom Boom has contested at Seniors level he has only once failed to finish in the top 15, and he has eight top-5 finishes to his name, including two wins.

In summary then, he is the class act in this field and his odds are probably correct. He is without question the man they all have to beat when this week's championship gets underway at Royal Birkdale, but try and get him beat we will with these four selections.


Tom Lehman - 15.014/1 (Exchange)

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Lehman is a real veteran of Seniors golf as he just loves playing and turns out at every opportunity. The reality is he's been on the tour for just four years, and in that time has notched up seven victories including three Majors. He also has 11 top-10 finishes to his name in Major championships from just 21 starts, and the fact that he made the cut at Muirfield last week strongly suggests his game is in good enough shape to contend this week.

Lehman tops the stats for Greens in Regulations on the Champions Tour this season, so the fact that he also ranks number one for Total Driving (distance and accuracy combined) is another indication of how well he is playing.

It's tough to split Couples and Lehman all things considered, so the fact that we can back the latter at twice the odds is the factor that swings our recommendation Lehman's way.


Rocco Mediate - 36.035/1 (Exchange)

Who will ever forget Mediate pushing Tiger Woods all the way in the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines? Woods finally won that Major championship on the first sudden death hole after the 18-hole play-off failed to split the pair. Woods has never won a Major since; perhaps Rocco was the great man's downfall?!

Mediate is in his first year on the Seniors circuit and won on his very first attempt back in February - in fact, during his first four tournaments on the Champions Tour he never finished worse than sixth. His form fell away slightly after that great start, but just a fortnight ago he was back to his best, finishing in a tie for third at the US Senior Open Championship.

The last time the Open Championship was played at Royal Birkdale, Mediate, then a 45-year-old expected to struggle - finished in a very respectable 19th place so not only does he have the form and class to go well this week, he also has course form at the highest level.


Tom Watson - 34.033/1 (Sportsbook)

You generally get about five or six years on the Seniors circuit where you can expect to play at a high level before the aches and pains really start to kick in. That is unless your name is Tom Watson of course.

Watson is 63-years-old yet could, perhaps should, have won the Open Championship just four years ago, losing out only in a play-off to Stewart Cink. He is a links golf specialist having won the Open five times, and since he first appeared in the Senior Open Championship he has an equally remarkable record - three wins, seven top-10 finishes, and never out of the top-25 in 10 attempts.

His form on the Champions Tour this season suggests he's not in decline either - two top-five finishes and never out of the top-30 in six starts. So if he's as good now as he was in the last few years then his Senior Open record means he's nailed-on to finish in the top-25 and very likely to finish top-10.

All this means he's a must bet each-way at 34.033/1 on Betfair's Sportsbook product. He narrowly missed the cut at Muirfield last week, but that is just as much a positive as it is a negative. His game looked in fine shape, and he will have had a few extra days to prepare for this championship, unlike those at the head of the market.


Paul Wesselingh - 101.0100/1 (Sportsbook)

Wesselingh won't be a familiar name to most golf fans, and even though I was aware that he was doing well on the European Seniors Tour this season, I still had to do a bit of research to find out more about him.

What I found was very moving. Wesselingh had been a club pro most of his life prior to joining the Seniors Tour, turning down the chance to try and earn playing rights on the European Tour during the 90s so that he could spend time with his young family. He prepared for five years ahead of his debut season on the Seniors circuit, and at the end of his first year won the Rookie of the Year award.

Wesselingh has improved even more this season, winning two tournaments on the tour in his last three starts, taking him well clear in the Order of Merit. He ranks 17th for Greens in Regulation this term, 5th in Driving Accuracy, and fourth in Putts per GIR, so his current form is there for all to see.

True, the Champions Tour is a different league to the European equivalent, but whatever the level, a player in brilliant current form has to be respected. At 101.0100/1, Wesselingh looks well worth an each-way wager.


Recommended Bets
Back Tom Lehman @ 15.014/1
Back Rocco Mediate @ 36.035/1

Back Tom Waston each-way @ 34.033/1
Back Paul Wesselingh each-way @ 101.0100/1


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