Regardless of finding the winner or even contending, one great way of enjoying the Open spectacle is to back players for lesser targets, hopefully keeping your bet alive for the full four days. Check out Paul Krishnamurty's six-man betting plan...
"Another links specialist - with top-three finishes in four of the last eight Opens - Stenson is the most reliable driver in world golf, ranking first and second for accuracy over the past 12 months on the two main tours. For that reason, Birkdale may prove his ideal Open layout."
Back Ernie Els for a Top 40 Finish 4u @ 16-5
Back Ernie Els for a Top 20 Finish 1u @ 12.011/1
The biggest challenge facing any serious gambler is the perennial need to guard against sentimentality - never place heart above head. It is important, therefore, for readers to understand the context behind what must appear a bizarre selection, with absolutely no case on recent form.
Readers can decide whether I'm motivated by sentiment in getting with a player I backed in every Open from 1994 to 2012. After his second win at Lytham, I decided to quit while ahead and am under no illusions that the Big Easy will ever return to glory. However on this course, at these odds, there is a case to be made about value.
Birkdale is arguably the ultimate Open challenge, so one would expect the all-time links greats to appreciate it. That's precisely what Greg Norman did here in 2008 to finish third at the age of 53 - a renewal in which Els finished seventh, despite opening with 80. Open legends regularly turn the clock back in this major and these very limited targets are still within Ernie's range. In 2008, a top-20 merely required finishing 11 strokes off the lead or 14 strokes for a top-40.
Back Francesco Molinari for a Top 40 Finish 8u @ 6-5
In contrast, here's a short-priced bet which Molinari has landed on his last five appearances. The ultra-accurate Italian should be particularly well suited to Birkdale, where hitting fairways is essential. Moreover this year's form, including nine PGA Tour top-25s and runner-up in elite company at Wentworth, is rock solid. A personal best in the Open is realistic.
Back Andy Sullivan for a Top 30 Finish 5u @ 11-4
The case for Sullivan is laid out in Find Me a 100 Winner and by Joe Dyer in our each-way column. Again, the selection is fundamentally about driving accuracy. There are few more testing courses off the tee in the world than Birkdale so if Andy brings his recent form (71% of fairways over the past three months) he will be moving forward on most holes. He reached this top-30 target on both previous Open attempts.
Back Ross Fisher for a Top 20 Finish 4u @ 4.67/2
Fisher was one of my ante-post selections at 170.0169/1 and confidence hasn't waned by finishing only 35th last week at Dundonald. That position in the Open warm-up is actually quite reflective of recent champions and he topped the greens in regulation stats. 2017 is arguably Fisher's best year to date with impressive figures on both main tours. His record in this major bears no resemblance to his links ability and a good Open is long overdue. The wetter and windier the better.
Back Sergio Garcia for a Top Finish 6u @ 3.39/4
As Els demonstrated in his prime, the best links exponents contend almost every year. Amongst today's elite, Garcia is probably the closest example, even if he's yet to win a Claret Jug. Sergio has finished top-ten in 10 of the last 16 Opens, including the last three. He's arguably never been better and, having finally broken his majors duck at the Masters - by far his least likely target - I expect a bold bid at the one for which he is best suited.
Back Henrik Stenson for a Top 20 Finish 6u @ 2.68/5
Back Henrik Stenson for a Top 5 Finish 2u @ 9.417/2
Perhaps I'm missing something but the defending champion seems hugely overpriced across the range of markets. I'm with Steve Rawlings in regarding him as one the players to beat and as he explains in his Open preview, back-to-back or multiple winners of this major are frequent.
Another links specialist - with top-three finishes in four of the last eight Opens - Stenson is the most reliable driver in world golf, ranking first and second for accuracy over the past 12 months on the two main tours. For that reason, Birkdale may prove his ideal Open layout and he's a much more complete player than when finishing third here in 2008.