Open Championship 2018: Noren looks a great fit for Carnoustie

Sweden's Alex Noren
Alex Noren can lift the Claret Jug
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The Open Championship returns to Carnoustie in Scotland and Dave Tindall looks for more profits with these three selections...

"Links form? One of his 2016 wins came in the Scottish Open on the links of Castle Stuart while in his last four Opens he's posted T9 at Lytham in 2012 and T6 at Royal Birkdale last year."

Back Alex Noren each-way @ 25/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 8 places

Main Bet: Back Alex Noren each-way @ 25/1

Open Championships can throw up shocks and Carnoustie was held up as an obvious example in 1999 when Paul Lawrie won and Jean Van de Velde should have.

And yet Lawrie grew up on the links of Aberdeen and the 'other' man in that three-way play-off was the then defending champion Justin Leonard.

Run down the 2007 leaderboard and you'll find a host of links specialists beyond winner Padraig Harrington and runner-up Sergio Garcia. Double Open champion Ernie Els was T4, shock 2003 winner Ben Curtis T8 and Stewart Cink, although we didn't know he would win two years later, T6.

So don't panic too much after last week's bizarre Scottish Open results when 1000/1 Brandon Stone won. This is The Open. This is Carnoustie. Class acts come to the fore.

The famed par 71 also held the 2010 Senior British Open won by Bernhard Langer with 5-under. And looking further back in history we see Open wins at Carnoustie for Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tom Watson.

Look at those names again - Lawrie, Harrington, Langer, Watson, Player, Hogan. They're grafters. They plot. Harrington and Langer are two of the most meticulous players in the modern era.

Which brings me to Alex Noren. The Swede takes an absolutely fastidious approach to his golf game, leaving no stone unturned. College team-mate Hunter Mahan often raved about Noren's work ethic and desire.

It's brought him some incredible success over the last couple of seasons with four wins in the second half of 2016, the prestigious BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in 2017 and, most recently, the Open de France at the start of July.

Links form? One of his 2016 wins came in the Scottish Open on the links of Castle Stuart while in his last four Opens he's posted T9 at Lytham in 2012 and T6 at Royal Birkdale last year.

Carnoustie form? He didn't play in 2007 but Noren has pegged it up in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and broke the then Carnoustie course record by shooting 64 in October 2016.

"I putted great and then yeah, got it going. It was tough conditions but probably one of the best rounds I've played," he said later.

"I just love links golf. It just seems that I play well in Scotland."

That's not a glib, throwaway line. In his last 11 starts there he has a win, a second and two thirds. His first ever start in Scotland produced T6 in a Challenge Tour event at Murcar Links.

Noren is 12th in Strokes Gained: Putting on the European Tour this season and has ranked T8 for Scrambling in his last two starts (US Open and Open de France).

Perhaps above anything else he looks ready to take the next step and become a major winner.


Next Best: Back Sergio Garcia each-way @ 28/1

Given the extreme conditions at Carnoustie this week, I want someone who relishes firm, fast bouncy burnt-out links tracks.

The more I think about it, the player in question has to be Sergio Garcia.

Sergio has a history of playing well on fast-running links courses and showed his skills at Hoylake in 2006, the last time we saw such extreme brown conditions in an Open.

He went out in the final group with Tiger Woods that year dressed in yellow and shot a 73 - "dressed like a lemon, played like a lemon" said a colleague - to fall back to T5.

That was the deal for Sergio in majors back then. Close but no cigar.

Of course, he famously took his nearly-man status to new heights here at Carnoustie in 2007 when missing an eight-footer for victory in regulation time and then losing the play-off to Harrington.

Garcia had been two clear after round one, still two in front at halfway and three in front with 54 to play. It was a lot of pressure to carry.

The Spaniard returns to Carnoustie having thrown the major monkey off his back with that memorable Masters win in 2017. He's also become a dad for the first time so life is much more complete.

Fans of the 'Nappy Factor' have been rather disappointed that fatherhood hasn't led to the expected improvement in results but with Sergio it's just taken a little time to kick in.

After some rotten form through April and June, he's returned to Europe to post T12 in the BMW International Open and T8 at the Open de France (fifth for Scrambling).

The Open Championship has always been his favourite tournament and it's shown in his stunning record of 10 top 10 finishes, the last three (T2, T6, T5) coming at Hoylake in 2014, St Andrews in 2015 and Muirfield in 2016.

He's played the tournament in different conditions but one comment he made at Carnoustie in 2007 has extra relevance this week. With the course hit by rain that year, Garcia noted in his pre-tournament press conference: "I would love to see this course playing fast and firm like we played last year in Liverpool (Hoylake)."

Sergio deserves to have his name on the Claret Jug for all he's done in this event and how sweet it would be if he returns to Carnoustie and does it this year.

It may be a too sugary storyline for some but I'm happy to take the 28s and watch it play out.


Final Bet: Back Brandt Snedeker each-way @ 125/1

Americans have a great recent record in the majors (they've won six of the last seven) and in the Open Championship too (won 10 of 18 since Lawrie's 1999 Carnoustie win).

There's so many to choose from this week and Dustin Johnson may be hard to stop if he gets the putter working.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler love this test of creativity and Patrick Reed has a win and a fourth in this year's majors. The latter two got in some useful links practice at Gullane last week (T6 and T23 respectively).

But the one that takes my eye given the conditions is Brandt Snedeker at 125/1.

He's always loved his trips to the Open and really gets into the spirit of it all, often being spotted having a beer in the local pubs although never enough to be directing traffic or stealing road cones.

His big week was at Royal Lytham in 2012 when opening 66-64 to lead at halfway before finishing T3 while he's since added T11 at Muirfield in 2013 and T22 at Troon on his last visit in 2016.

An eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, he's triumphed in a variety of conditions but wind has often been a factor and he likes being by the sea as highlighted by two wins at Pebble and two at Torrey Pines.

For a few years earlier in the decade he looked like a major winner waiting to happen but injuries and a loss of form combined to do their usual double act and he fell down the world rankings.

Interviewed in the early part of 2018, Snedeker kept saying he was close but there's now some substance to those words after he took T6 at St. Jude in June and added a top three finish at the Greenbrier on his most recent start.

Talking at the latter, Snedeker said: "It's been a tough year for me, just not playing up to where I think I'm capable of. Putting the work in, knowing I'm working as hard, if not harder, than I ever have. So I knew this was coming, it's just hard to see the forest through the trees sometimes.

"I'm excited about the opportunity in front of me, and probably one of the few guys excited about this last long stretch of golf, and can't wait to play a lot of golf and show that I'm playing good."

As for Carnoustie, he tweeted a picture of himself at the 18th on Saturday, adding: "Carnoustie is baked out but greens are pure. Never seen an Open this firm. Will be an awesome week if it stays like this."

Seven of the last 10 Open winners have been 36 or over so 37-year-old Snedeker could now have the extra maturity to become a major champion.

He could be a very nice bet at 125/1.

Others I considered at three-figure prices were in-form links expert Ryan Fox and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen, a recent winner who landed the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a few years ago.

Nearer the front of the betting, Branden Grace at 35/1 and Tyrrell Hatton at 40s have obvious appeal given their prowess on links courses and I have a sneaky feeling that Tiger Woods could throw in a big one. A fair bit of that is down to his win at Hoylake in 2006.

Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £1060
Returned: £1652.84
P/L: +£592.84

(After the John Deere Classic)

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

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