The Open

The 150th Open Championship: Steve Rawlings' pick of the Betfair's specials market

Golfer Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy on the eve of the 150th Open Championship

"Given three of the last 14 Open winners (Rory, Tiger Woods here in 2005, and Jordan Spieth in 2017) have all been leading after every round, the 20/1 about there being a wire-to-wire winner looks extremely generous."

On the eve of the 150th Open Championship, Steve's had a good look at the side markets and the best way to play this week's favourite, Rory McIlroy...

The last winner of the Open Championship at St Andrews, Zach Johnson, in 2015, was trending nicely prior to his victory, having finished sixth in the Travelers Championship and third at the John Deere Classic, and there's another American in the field this week with even stronger current form in those two events...

Poston poised to shine on debut

JT Poston followed up his second placed finish at the Travelers Championship with an impressive wire-to-wire win at the John Deere Classic last time out and he has the game to contend in his first Open Championship.

Great scrambling and putting are the keys to success at the Open Championship and Poston ticks both boxes emphatically. And with St Andrews playing firm and fast, his accuracy off the tee should be a big plus too.

Collin Morikawa won last year's renewal on debut, but he was the first to do since Ben Curtis in 2003 so that's clearly against Poston but that's reflected in his price.

Poston didn't make the cut in the Find Me a 100 Winner column, where I've concentrated on veterans, but he's an interesting runner at 250.0249/1 in the outright market, a fair bet at 6.411/2 to finish inside the top-20, and one to consider each-way for the Top debutant.

Poston at the wells Fargo.jpg

Dave Tindall's picked two of my three Find Me a 100 Winner picks, Adam Scott, and Kevin Kisner, in his First-Round Leader column but Poston's a possible there too given he's been in front after round one in each of his last two starts but the one I simply can't leave out there is Rory McIlroy...

Main man McIlroy value in several markets

Rory's played in eight editions of the Alfred Dunhill Links Pro-Am (finished inside the top-three four times) which is staged over three different links courses, with two of the four rounds played at St Andrews. Ordinarily the star names are drawn to play at St Andrews on Saturday so I doubt he's ever started the event here which may explain why his best first round placing in the event is 10th, which varies somewhat to his only major start at St Andrews...

Rory made just three appearances on the DP World Tour way back in 2005 and the Open Championship at St Andrews wasn't one of them and he also missed the 2015 renewal here after injuring himself playing football so his only previous Open Championship appearance at the Home of Golf was in 2010 when he shot 63 in round one to end the day two clear of the field.

Rory shot 80 in the high winds on Friday to fall to 38th before rallying to finish third, so he clearly loves the venue and he's a worthy favourite given how well he's playing but he's twice the odds to lead after round one than he is to win the championship, and that's one way to play him.

Incredibly, Rory McIlroy has led or co-led 33 times after round one and having ended the first round of the Travelers Championship alongside Poston last time out, he's now led or co-led after the first round in five of his last 17 starts.

Those stats suggest he's a no-brainer bet in the 1st Round Leader market at around 25.024/1 but what to do with him after that, should he find himself in front, is difficult to work out.

As highlighted in the Preview, a fast start at St Andrews has been imperative. In the 14 Opens at St Andrews since WW2, Jack Nicklaus is the only man to win having trailed by more than two strokes after round one (trailed by three twice) and five of the last six winners were in front at halfway.

Tiger Woods, in 2015, won wire-to-wire and whoever you fancy this week, backing them to Lead After Every Round and Win on the Sportsbook is a fun way to play your picks at a juicy price. Rory, who's 80/1 in that market, is the only player trading at less to 100/1.

Rory's been struggling to kick on lately and his finishing positions on the last 14 occasions he's led after the opening round read 8-2-5-2-8-5-7-3-10-4-6-13-8-17 so he usually makes for a fantastic back-to-lay vehicle, and he's been worth taking on at odds-on in the place markets too.

Rory only finished eighth at the US PGA Championship in May, having led by a stroke after round one, but he's twice won a major championship wire-to-wire.

He won the US Open (his first major) from the front in 2011 and he was never headed at Hoylake in this great Championship in 2014 so the 80/1 is eye-catching - although why even bother trying to name the player to achieve the feat?

Given three of the last 14 Open winners (Rory, Tiger Woods here in 2005, and Jordan Spieth in 2017) have all been leading after every round, the 20/1 about there being a wire-to-wire winner looks extremely generous.

Harrington and Herbert set to shine

One of the weakest looking side markets on offer this week is the Top Senior market and the two-time Open winner, Padraig Harrington, who won the Senior US Open only last month, looks a worthy favourite at 2.89/5.

Harrington at Portrush.JPG

Given the conditions, the Australians could feature prominently this week and the one I quite like is Lucas Herbert who's won on both the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour recently.

Had he been a point bigger than the 5/1 available, I'd have backed him each-way in the Top Australian market but I'm still happy to throw a few pounds in his direction in the win and top-20 markets.

Keeping a close eye on the weather forecast is going to be key this week and it's been changing throughout the week already. It looked like they'd be a slight bias in favour of the afternoon starters at the start of the week before the forecast changed but it's swinging back that way again with the wind looking to drop late in the day.

Of course, that can change again but it could also accentuate further so in addition to backing Rory to lead after round one, I've also taken 40.039/1 about Jordan Spieth, who doesn't kick off his challenge until 15:10 UK time on Thursday.

I'll be back tomorrow or on Friday with the In-Play Blog.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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