Looking for an outsider to back at the Open? Paul Krishnamurty marks your card with three picks at massive odds and discusses other alternatives at odds beyond 99-1.
"Pepperell is a high-class yet very streaky player who is always worth persevering with when in good spirits. Last autumn he put together a run of six top tens in seven starts. In 2014, he landed a top-five place four times during a run of five events."
After six straight, relatively predictable major winners, it feels like we are due an upset. If so, we couldn't really ask for a better major or course than this Open Championship.
The unique nature of this major - played on a tough links set-up, conditions fundamentally dependent on fast-changing weather - always acts as a leveller in a way the US majors rarely do. Four of the last ten winners started the week trading beyond [100.0] - more than the Masters, US Open or PGA.
Regarding the course, the penultimate Carnoustie Open produced one of the greatest shocks of all-time when one rank outsider, Paul Lawrie overhauled another, Jean Van De Velde. As explained when looking back at that classic and the 2007 Open played here, this set-up is made for volatility and therefore the perfect place to employ a back-to-lay strategy. Here's my three best trades among those players starting at [100.0] or better, plus some thoughts on alternatives.
Sullivan can make the most of an early tee-time
The evidence from 2007 in particular very much points towards focusing on links specialists, and that certainly applies to the first two picks. Until last week's Scottish Open, Sullivan hadn't missed a cut all year and was on a cracking run, registering five top-nine finishes in seven starts. His forte is long, straight driving which is a big asset to bring to a penal course like Carnoustie.
He already boasts plenty of past links form in the Scottish, Irish and KLM Opens, along with three made cuts in this major with a best of 12th. Whilst the weather forecast can quickly alter calculations, his tee-time in the opening group looks ideal.
Trust Pepperell to maintain last week's form
Certainly with regards to their form in those links events, a very similar case can be made here. Second place at Gullane was Pepperell's third Scottish Open top-12, along with a trio of KLM Open top-fives and a pair of top-eights in the Irish Open. He also won the Qatar Masters, which has a longstanding correlation with the Open.
Naturally Eddie's odds have crashed since Sunday but, given that links pedigree, odds of [250.0] still look very attractive. This is a high-class yet very streaky player who is always worth persevering with when in good spirits. Last autumn he put together a run of six top tens in seven starts. In 2014, he landed a top-five place four times in a run of five events.
Under-rated Bjork should love the scrambling challenge
Another price to crash over the weekend was Bjork, when the China Open champion led on Saturday, from [500.0] to below [200.0]. He's back in the middle of that range now and excellent value. He's made constant progress in less than two years on the European Tour, particularly on tough courses. Form going in is excellent, with three straight top-20s in the Rolex Series, including on links over the past fortnight.
Whilst he can't boast quite the same history on links as others, I expect Bjork to be well-suited as so many Scandinavians, used to playing in a similar climate, are. Plus his forte is scrambling, which as Steve Rawlings explains in his comprehensive preview, is the most important statistical indicator in Opens.
Naturally in such a strong event, with so many proven winners and class acts trading within our triple-figure price range, more outsiders than usual came in for serious scrutiny. I shall list four. At [120.0] Tony Finau is interesting after a couple of respectable opening efforts in the Open. He's a future major winner somewhere for sure. Also from the PGA Tour, Brian Harman is [350.0] on the basis of his lack of links record but these Americans do learn the art over time and he's the right sort of accurate, solid scrambler type for Carnoustie.
First reserve is Chris Wood, who is very much an Open specialist. Considering he was runner-up at the high-class Open de France on his penultimate start, odds of [270.0] are an insult. Likewise [400.0] about Jorge Campillo - a man with six top-five finishes this year and lost by one shot in third a fortnight ago on a links course in Ireland - are surely too big.