The Open Championship is here and with the Betfair Sportsbook rolling out an eight place offer for each-way bets we provide you with an octet of selections as we chase the Birkdale billions!
"Matsuyama's early links record is particularly interesting. In 2013 at Muirfield- a better guide to the Birkdale challenge than the last three Opens - Hideki finished sixth on what was his Open (and UK links) debut."
Paul Krishnamurty: Back Hideki Matsuyama @ 22/1
*Each-way 1/5 odds, 8 places
Dan Geraghty: Back Brooks Koepka @ 25/1
I've been heavily banging the Brooks Koepka drum for a good few years now and rather than his US Open triumph being the end game, I'm hoping it's just the start. I truly believe being world number one is in Brook's future and I've put my money where my mouth is with a hefty Koepka v Rahm (first to number one) matchbet with a friend. Although I'm worried about the lack of a warm-up event, Koepka's time in Europe stands him in good stead and his Open Championship form has a nice progressive look to it.
Paul Krishnamurty: Back Hideki Matsuyama @ 22/1
Royal Birkdale tends to produce winners of the highest class and I doubt this renewal will be any different. Of course, that involves a very long shortlist nowadays but equally with eight places on offer, all of the top guns are realistic each-way options. At 25, Matsuyama is already up to second in the world rankings with plenty of improvement to come so we're probably looking at the first Japanese major champion - in the last three he's finished second, 12th and fourth. His early links record is particularly interesting. In 2013 at Muirfield- a better guide to the Birkdale challenge than the last three Opens - Hideki finished sixth on what was his Open (and UK links) debut.
Joe Dyer: Back Andy Sullivan @ 100/1
A very solid run of form sees Andy Sullivan coming into The Open as a dangerman and I like his chances of filling one of the Betfair Sportsbook's eight places at the current industry best price of 100/1. A wobbly run of results around the turn of the year looks to have been consigned to the past with Sullivan finishing ninth at the Scottish Open on his last start to cap a run that saw him finish in the top 20 of the preceding two events - the Irish and French Opens. One of the world's best amateurs, Sullivan is on the cusp of being one of its best pros, having been as high as 28th in the world rankings after tasting victory three times on the European Tour in 2015. The links game clearly suits with his 12th in the 2016 Open Championship his best Major result. Birkdale looks like testing every facet and Sullivan's very solid game should stand him in good stead this week.
Steve Rawlings: Back Soren Kjeldsen @ 125/1
Veteran Dane, Soren Kjeldsen, has largely struggled on the PGA Tour this year but a return to links golf on European soil seems to have sparked some improvement. The 42-year-old sat inside the top-12 at the halfway stage of the Irish Open two weeks ago, before a disappointing weekend saw him slip down the leaderboard, and he made further progress last week when finishing ninth in the Scottish Open. With a win in the Irish Open two years ago, in foul weather, and a ninth place finish in this event last year, Soren's links form is very respectable and he could easily make the places at Royal Birkdale where his arrow-straight driving should reap rewards. He ranked a very encouraging sixth for Greens In Regulation at the Dundonald Links last week and he won't mind the forecasted breezy conditions.
Mike Norman: Back Ian Poulter @ 66/1
An appearance at last week's Scottish Open, preferably playing well slightly under the radar, has proven to be an ideal warm up for the Open Championship in recent years so I'm liking the chances of Ian Poulter on that basis. Okay, he didn't exactly go under the radar given that he was tied for the lead after three rounds but a disappointing final round at Dundonald means the Englishman isn't going to Birkdale with the pressure of being the most recent winner trying to go back-to-back. Four rounds of links golf in Scotland, and a top-10 finish, is on paper the ideal preparation for this week's Open, so when you consider also that Poulter is now in his forties and a vastly experienced links golf exponent, has been in excellent form this season, and finished runner-up here in the 2008 Open, then he makes a lot of appeal at 66/1 each-way.
Neil Hubbard: Back Zach Johnson @ 80/1
Zach Johnson, tournament winner in 2015, gets the nod for this year's most open looking of Opens. A welcome return to form last week at a tournament he loves sets him up nicely for a major where he's made the cut in each of his last 10 visits - at Birkdale in 2008 he was just 6 off the lead after the cut so we know he handles the track. He comments after his T5 last week showed the fires still burn "I think I got a little antsy at times. I felt it, which is good, so I will be better next time around" and at a course where the best scoring opportunities come late on the card "slow and steady" could win the day, and Zach optimises that.
Adam Baylis: Back Steve Stricker @ 125/1
One of golf's true tests requires one of the game's great warriors, so step forward Steve Stricker. At the grand age of 50 he brings all the experience that Royal Birkdale demands and was tied 7th in the 2008 renewal here. Since then he's thrown in a further two top-ten finishes in The Open from six attempts and comes into 2017 in strong form. Playing this year's Irish and Scottish Opens would have been a preferential route to Southport for most but Stricker opted for the John Deere where a rattling Sunday finish saw him finish tied 5th for a nice Pre-Open confidence boost. Veteran he may be, but Stricker has broken the top 20 at both the US Open and The Masters already this season and has an abundance of links form, especially if the weather were to turn a little sour. At a triple figure price and with eight places on offer the Presidents Cup captain should not be readily passed over.
Andy O'Rourke: Back Marc Leishman @ 55/1
Having managed back-to-back top five finishes in the years previous, many expected Marc Leishman to mount another challenge at Royal Troon in last year's Open. Sadly it wasn't to be. An opening round 74 left him three-over-par and quashed any real chance he had of capturing his first major. The Australian ultimately finished in a tie for 53rd.
Ever the optimist, I'm more than willing to forgive last year's also ran performance for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the world number 34 has been in solid form this season. A win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier in the year has been complemented with three more top 10 finishes, good play that sees Leishman ranked 8th in total strokes gained on this season's PGA tour. Secondly, despite his blip in 2016 he has serious Open Championship form. A fifth place finish in 2014 was followed up by a tie for second the next time out, when he narrowly missed out on victory in a three-man playoff. The only concern for me is that Leishman didn't play in either the Scottish or Irish Open this year so he may be slightly rusty on a links track, but at 55/1 and with eight places on offer he's well worth including in your staking plan.
2017 Season P/L to date: -£111.67
- Scottish Open, Anthony Wall @ 200/1 - PLACE (Paul)
- US Open, Brooks Koepka @ 40/1 - WIN (Dave Tindall)
- Lyoness Open, Dylan Frittelli @ 40/1 - WIN (Paul)
- Lyoness Open, Mikko Korhonen @ 50/1 - PLACE (Joe)
- Nordea Masters, Chris Wood @ 33/1 - PLACE (Joe)
- Nordea Masters, Thorbjorn Olesen @ 50/1 - PLACE (Steve)
- Open de Portugal, Mark Foster @ 50/1 - PLACE (Mike)
- Golf Sixes, Denmark @ 10/1 - WIN (Dan)
- Golf Sixes, Scotland @ 12/1 - PLACE (Paul)
- Volvo China Open, Dylan Frittelli @ 35/1 PLACE (Paul)
- Masters, Paul Casey @ 50/1 - PLACE (Steve)
- Hero Indian Open, Carlos Pigem @ 80/1 - PLACE (Paul)
- Tshwane Open, Dean Burmester @ 16/1 - WIN (Paul)
- Abu Dhabi Championship, Martin Kaymer @ 30/1 PLACE (Steve)
- Alfred Dunhill Championship, Thomas Detry @ 66/1 - PLACE (Dan)
- Alfred Dunhill Championship, Richard Sterne @ 22/1 - PLACE (Paul)
* Total P/L for 2016 Season: +£267.58
* Total P/L for 2015 Season: +£958.37
* Total P/L for 2014 Season: +£251.75
£5 E/W Per Bet