The Open

The Open 2023: Rory a fresh bet alongside two LIV raiders

The 2022 Open Championship leaderboard
The 2022 open Championship leaderboard

Golf betting expert Steve Rawlings delivered winning bets at The Masters and US Open, and previews The Open at Hoylake in search of a hat-trick of winners...

  • Scottish start a big possitive

  • Strong current form looks essential

  • Previous Open form a big plus


Tournament History

After a sensible change to the scheduling four years ago, the oldest and greatest of the four majors, the Open Championship, often referred to as the British Open, is now the final one of the four to be staged each year.

Organised by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (the R&A), the Open Championship is the only one of the four majors to be played outside of the USA. Willie Park won the inaugural tournament way back in 1860 and this will be the 151st edition.

Although a nomadic tournament, the Open Championship is always staged on a links course and this year we're returning to Royal Liverpool for the first time in nine years.

Venue

Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, England.

Course Details

Par 71, 7,283 yards

Stroke Average in 2014 when a Par 72 measuring 7,312 yards - 72.77

Set on a former racecourse beside the River Dee, Royal Liverpool, or Hoylake as it's usually referred to, was founded in 1869 and it's the second oldest seaside links course in England, behind Royal North Devon.

This will be the 13th time that Hoylake has hosted the Open Championship and the cream has tended to rise to the top previously.

Harold Hill and Bobby Jones, who both won the Championship here as amateurs, J. H Taylor, Walter Hagen, and Peter Thomson are all notable multiple Open winners that were victorious at Hoylake and the last two editions here have gone the way of three-time Open winner, Tiger Woods, in 2006, and Rory McIlroy, nine years ago.

Woods, who famously used his driver just once all week long on a rock-hard, bone-dry course, steered his irons to victory in an 18-under-par total and in more lusher conditions, McIlroy reached 17-under-par nine years ago.

There were a few subtle changes to the course between 2006 and 2014 and it played 54 yards longer when McIlroy won but there have been more significant changes this time around.

Hoylake is routed differently to how the members play it with the members' 17th and 18th holes, played as the first and second.

The third hole is the members first and the short par four fourth is one of the holes to have been altered by architects Martin Ebert and Tom Mackenzie, who have added more greenside bunkering.

The par four 10th hole, which was a par five in 2014 (the easiest hole on the course), kicks off what is now the longest back-nine in Open Championship history and framed by dunes, it has a slightly different feel to the front-nine. And it also has a brand-new hole!

As fabulous a course as Hoylake is, it arguably lacked a signature hole but the new par three 17th, called Little Eye, which measures a maximum of just 134 yards, looks like being an instant hit.

With its severely sloping infinity green and cavernous bunkers, the penultimate hole could well have a say in deciding the Championship before the contenders head to the par five 18th finishing hole (the members 16th), which is a left-to-right dogleg with internal out of bounds running alongside the righthand side of the fairway.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 06:30 UK time on Thursday and Friday, 12:00 Saturday and 11:00 on Sunday

Last 10 Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

  • 2022 - Cam Smith -20 26.025/1
  • 2021 - Collin Morikawa -15 42.041/1
  • 2020 - Championship cancelled
  • 2019 - Shane Lowry -15 100.099/1
  • 2018 - Francesco Molinari -8 38.037/1
  • 2017 - Jordan Spieth -12 17.016/1
  • 2016 - Henrik Stenson -20 25.024/1
  • 2015 - Zach Johnson -15 150.0149/1 (playoff)
  • 2014 - Rory McIlroy -17 19.018/1
  • 2013 - Phil Mickelson -3 21.020/1
  • 2012 - Ernie Els -7 50.049/1

What do the Open Stats tell us?

Although the Championship is played at a different venue each year, links golf offers up broadly the same test whichever links course is used so here's a look at the average traditional statistical rankings for the winners of the last ten Open Championships.

Average key stats for the last 10 Open winners

Driving Accuracy - 44.4
Driving Distance - 30.6
G.I.R - 14.9
Scrambling - 14.7
Putting Average - 10.7

Looking at the ten-year average rankings, no single stat stands out and Putting Average has the lowest average ranking.

And looking at the stats for the two winners at Hoylake this century (see below), they're broadly in line with the ten-year averages but they clearly show the different tactics employed.

McIlroy powered his way to victory in 2014, ranking first for distance off the tee, whereas Tiger plotted his way around the course, ranking first for Driving Accuracy and second for Greens In Regulation.

2014

Rory McIlroy -17

D.A - 21st
D.D - 1st
G.I.R - 25th
Scrambling - 4th
Putting Average - 6th

2006

Tiger Woods -18

D.A - 1st
D.D - 53rd
G.I.R - 2nd
Scrambling - 13th
Putting Average - 12th

Strokes Gained stats were produced for the first time at the Open Championship 12 months ago so for what it's worth, here's the SG numbers for the top-five at St Andrews with the Strokes Gained stats - SG: Tee, SG: Approach, SG: Around the Green, SG: Tee to Green and SG: Putting.

  • Cam Smith -20 - TEE 34 APP 24 ATG 22 T2G 17 PUTTING 1
  • Cameron Young -19 - TEE 4 APP 10 ATG 8 T2G 2 PUTTING 17
  • Rory McIlroy -18 - TEE 1 APP 25 ATG 6 T2G 1 PUTTING 29
  • Tommy Fleetwood -14 - TEE 57 APP 9 ATG 23 T2G 18 PUTTING 8
  • Viktor Hovland -14 - TEE 41 APP 22 ATG 3 T2G 12 PUTTING 17

The stats don't reveal anything comprehensive, but Cam Smith separated himself from the rest with his flat-stick 12 months ago (gained 11.28 strokes!), Cameron Young in second ranked first for Putting Average, Rory and Tiger both putted well when they won at Hoylake and PA has been the most important stat over the last ten years so think twice about backing someone that ordinarily struggles on the greens.

Is a start in the Scottish Open essential?

Now that the Scottish Open is co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour, and that the field strength has increased dramatically as a result, what used to be a really great angle in is now just a factor worthy of mention.

Links golf is quite unique and ever since the Scottish Open moved away from Loch Lomond after the 2010 edition, to take in various wonderful Scottish links courses, an appearance in the Scottish the week before the Open has often proved beneficial.

Cam Smith Claret Jug.jpg

Last year's winner, Cam Smith, who finished tied for 10th in the Scottish Open, made it quite clear that playing the Scottish Open had been key to winning at St Andrews.

"I started to feel really good with where my game was at last weekend at the Scottish Open, I had a really, really solid weekend."

Now plying his trade on the LIV Golf Tour, Smith wasn't in the field at the Renaissance Club this year but it's interesting to see that Rory has decided to add the Scottish Open onto his schedule this time around.

Whether it was a factor or not is debatable but Rory missed the event 12 months ago and he was found wanting on Sunday at St Andrews when the putts just wouldn't drop.

When he won here in 2014, Rory finished 14th at Royal Aberdeen in the Scottish Open the week before, where he'd led the field after round one.

Since the Scottish Open has been regularly played on a links layout, seven of the last 11 Open winners have played in the event and it was very nearly eight. Matt Kuchar, who traded at odds-on before he was beaten by Jordan Spieth in 2017, had finished fourth in the Scottish.

Looking at the four winners that hadn't played in the Scottish Open, Spieth is the only one that hadn't played recently. His last appearance had been almost a month earlier when he'd won the Travelers Championship, but Zach Johnson won the Open in 2105 a week after finishing third at the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour and Francesco Molinari won the Open after finishing second in the John Deere Classic.

Shane Lowry didn't play in the Scottish Open but that made plenty of sense. Having finished 34th in the Irish Open on a links layout two weeks before the Open at Royal Portrush, he decided to stay in his native Ireland and tick over on links tracks instead of travelling back and fore to Scotland.

Concentrate on the very best players

As Dave Tindall highlights in his ten year trends piece, the last ten Open winners have all been inside the top-40 in the Official World Rankings, and six of them have been in the top-ten, so the cream rises to the top and that's the same for all major championships given 45 of the last 46 majors have gone to someone in the top-50.

Phil Mickelson, who won the US PGA Championship at the age of 51 when ranked 115th in the Official World Rankings in 2021, is the odd man out.

A previous major win is far from essential

When 120.0119/1 outsider, Wyndham Clark, won the US Open last month (ranked 33rd in the world) he became the 21st first-time major winner in the last 32 and four of the last six Open winners were winning their first major championship so don't be afraid to back someone that hasn't tasted major success previously.

Experience counts for plenty

The last two winners have gone against the grain on several accounts. In addition to not having much or any previous Open form or very recent form (see below), both were in their 20s.

Rory and Louis Oosthuizen have also won this major in their 20s fairly recently but experienced pros have a great record in this major and I'd favour the old guard over the young guns..

Shane Lowry was only 32 when he won four years ago but he's played links golf all his life. He famously won the Irish Open at the County Louth Links as an amateur way back in 2009 and 12 months before Lowry won at Portrush, Francesco Molinari became the ninth player aged 35 and above to win the Open in 12 years. Veterans figure in this championship year after year.

Henrik Stenson had turned 40 just three months before he won in 2016 and the 2015 winner, Zach Johnson, turned 40 eight months after he'd won. Had he been born a little earlier, six of the last 11 Open winners would have been aged 40 or above and it would have been five from ten anyway if Kuchar had won six years ago. He turned 40 a month before Spieth edged him out at Birkdale.

In addition to Stenson winning seven years ago, 46-year-old Phil Mickelson finished second and 49 year-old Steve Stricker finished fourth and yet they were mere pups in comparison to a couple of fairly recent contenders...

At Royal Birkdale 15 years ago, 53-year-old two-time Open Champion, Greg Norman, led the field by two strokes after three tough, windy days and he was the oldest player to ever lead the Open Championship through 54-holes but only 12 months later, 59-year-old, Tom Watson, smashed that record when he took a one-stroke lead into round four at Turnberry. Both men were eventually collared but they emphasize the point I'm labouring. This is clearly a tournament where plenty of experience is a huge plus and age is no barrier.

Given how well experienced players fare, it's perhaps not surprising that debutants have a woeful record. Morikawa, in 2021, was the first to win since Ben Curtis in 2003 and the last debutant to win before Curtis was Tom Watson in 1975.

Even though it's played at a different venue each year, the examination is always similar and it's totally unique to anything else encountered so previous tournament experience is usually very important.

Open Championship form is a huge plus

Smith had poor previous Open form figures reading MC-78-20-33 and Morikawa was playing in his first Open but prior to 2021, previous Open Championship form had been a huge pointer and 14 of the last 17 winners had recorded a top-ten in the Open previously.

Shane Lowry and Francesco Molinari had both finished ninth previously but those finishes could be construed as slight anomalies given 12 of the last 17 winners have finished inside the top-six in an Open and remarkably, eight of the last 17 winners had finished inside the top-three!

Strong Current form has been key to success

The last three winners have had similar current form figures. All three had won earlier in the year but they'd cooled off fractionally.

They'd still won at least once in the previous six months though and prior to Lowry's victory at Portrush in 2019, five of the previous six Open winners had won in one of their five previous starts.

Shane Lowry wins The Open.jpg

Only surprise winners Ben Curtis, Stewart Cink, Ernie Els, and Zach Johnson have won the Open this century without winning on either the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour in the 12 months previously.

Winner's Position & Exchange Price Pre-Round 4

  • 2022 - Cam Smith - tied fourth, trailing by four 15.014/1
  • 2021 - Collin Morikawa - solo second, trailing by one 3.1511/5
  • 2019 - Shane Lowry - led by four strokes 1.635/8
  • 2018 - Francesco Molinari - solo fifth, trailing by three 16.015/1
  • 2017 - Jordan Spieth - led by three strokes 1.42/5
  • 2016 - Henrik Stenson - led by a stroke 1.768/11
  • 2015 - Zach Johnson - tied sixth, trailing by three 38.037/1
  • 2014 - Rory McIlroy - led by six strokes 1.21/5

In-Play Tactics

Molinari sat tied for 29th and six off the pace at halfway five years and he was still three off the lead with a round to go but off the pace winners have been fairly common at the 2018 venue, Carnoustie. That's not the norm though and it's not been the case at Hoylake either.

Molinari, Todd Hamilton in 2004, and Stenson seven years ago are the only winners in the last 18 years to be outside the top-ten after the opening round and five strokes is the furthest any winner has trailed after round one this century.

Ernie Els was seven shots adrift at halfway in 2012 but he was still only tied for 10th and that's the furthest number of strokes made up this century after 36 holes. David Duval also trailed by seven in 2001 but ten 36-hole leaders have gone on to win this century, 16 of the 22 winners were inside the top-five places at halfway and 17 of the 22 were within three strokes of the lead after 36 holes. Unless the weather is poor, making up ground on links tracks can be difficult.

While watching the coverage, you'll invariably hear the commentators say on several occasions that there's a long way to go and that there's plenty of time to make up lost ground or that anyone that makes the weekend can still win - words to that effect.

And those with long memories may recall Paul Lawrie's miraculous win at Carnoustie in 1999 from ten shots back with a round to go but that was a freak result of monumental proportions.

I can't stress enough how important a fast start is and that's certainly been the case at Hoylake.

In the 12 Championships held at Hoylake since 1897, only one winner (Walter Hagen in 1924) has been outside the top-six places after round one but he was only four off the pace.

All 12 winners have been inside the top-three at halfway, and half of them were in front, and as many as nine of the 12 winners were in front with a round to go. And the three men that weren't leading through 54-holes were all within one of the lead.

Tiger sat second after round one in 2006 but he trailed by just one and he led after rounds two and three, Rory won wire-to-wire in 2014 and Charl Schwartzel was the only player to finish inside the top-eight that was outside the top-ten (tied 33rd) after round one.

And finally, it's too early to give the weather forecasts too much credence but bear in mind that there was a huge draw bias in 2014 of almost three-and-half stroke in favour of the AM-PM side of the draw and the weather was so unpredictable that we witnessed the first two-tee start in Open history in round three.

Market Leaders

Rory McIlroy has hardened at the head of the market and rightly so given how nicely he's playing at the Scottish Open this week.

Rory at the Scottish.jpg

He'll head into tomorrow's final round of the Scottish Open leading by a stroke and trading at around 13/82.63 and if he manages to get across the line at the Renaissance Club, he'll head to Hoylake looking to emulate Phil Mickelson's achievement of ten years ago.

Lefty won the Open Championship at Muirfield seven days after beating Branden Grace in a playoff at Castle Stuart.

Regardless of how the final round of the Scottish Open pans out, Rory is bang-in-form and playing every bit as well as he was nine years ago when he comfortably won here to claim the third of his four majors. The week before he won here in 2014, he finished 14th at Royal Aberdeen, having led after round one.

McIlroy went on to win his second US PGA Championship just a few months after winning here so he's well overdue another major success and that's arguably the only sizable negative. The longer the wait for major number five extends, the harder it becomes for him to achieve the feat.

The world number one, Scottie Scheffler, lined up at the Scottish with current form figures reading 2-3-3-3-4 and he looks like at least placing in Scotland, but once again his putting woes have hindered him considerably.

Having been matched at a high of 100.099/1, he rallied late on in round three, even holing one or two lengthy putts, and with a round to go he's sitting tied for fifth and only three behind Rory.

Scheffler is playing extremely impressive golf from tee-to-green, but his putter has been ice cold since he successfully defended his Phoenix Open title in February and it's testament to his fabulous temperament that he's repeatedly finishing placed.

Scottie finished eighth on debut at Royal St George's in 2021 and 12th at St Andrews 12 months ago so his limited Open record is fair and if the flatstick warms up he's going to be the man to beat but that's a huge if.

Having been the most in-form player on the planet between September and February, when he won five of the eight tournaments he played in, Jon Rahm has cooled off considerably.

Having taken the week off before he won the US Open in 2021 and before he won the US Masters in April, Rahm has taken the decision not to play in the Scottish Open but he has been spotted acclimatising himself to links golf in Ireland.

With current form figures reading 50-16-10-MC since he finished second to Tony Finau when defending his Mexico Open title in April, the Spaniard can't be described as being in fine form, and not playing in the Scottish can be construed as a negative too, but I wouldn't be in a huge rush to write him off.

After winning the Genesis Invitational in February, Rahm had form figures reading 39-W-31 before he won the US Masters and a trip to Ireland will have given him plenty of positive vibes.

He won the Irish Open at Portstewart in 2017 and again at Lahinch two years later so although his third at Royal St George's two years ago is his only Open top-ten in six attempts, he's a fine links exponent highly likely to add this title to his portfolio one year.

Next up is the defending champion, Cam Smith, and he's the first of my two pre-event picks...

Selections

Defending titles is never easy but Open champions have a fair record at holding on to the Claret Jug.

Padraig Harrington was the last man to win the Open back-to-back in 2007 and 2008 but it's happened plenty of times before that and Smith is attempting to become the third man to win at Hoylake, a year after winning at St Andrews.

Peter Thomson won his second and third titles at St Andrews and Hoylake in 1955 and 1956 and Tiger's impressive victory here in 2006 followed his facile five-stroke cakewalk at the home of golf in 2005.

As a Liv Tour player, Smith wasn't able to warm up at the Renaissance as he did 12 months ago but he won the Liv Golf London wire-to-wire last week, so he arrives in fine form, and we've already seen plenty of evidence to suggest that the Liv players are more than capable of contending at the majors.

Brooks Koepka won the US PGA Championship after leading the US Masters through three rounds, Phil Mickelson finished runner-up to Rahm at Augusta, just ahead of Patrick Reed in fourth, and Smith finished fourth at the US Open after a slow start.

Back Cameron Smith @ 20.019/1

Bet now

I've already backed a couple of outsiders for the Find Me a 100 winner column, which I'll publish on Monday or Tuesday, but my only other pre-event pick is fellow Liv golfer, Dustin Johnson, who was 10th at the US Open last month.

DJ has Open Championship figures reading a respectable MC-14-2-9-32-12-49-9-54-MC-51-8-6 and he shot the lowest round of the week (65) when he finished 12th behind Rory in 2014.

Dustin Johnson US open day one 23.jpg

He was a fast finishing fifth behind Smith at the London Club two weeks ago, a week after finishing eighth around Valderrama, having led after round one, so he arrives in fair form and is simply too big at almost 50/151.00 given he fits the profile of many an Open champ.

Back Dustin Johnson @ 46.045/1

Bet now

Red-hot Rory added to the portfolio

Given he isn't always at his best in blustery conditions, I couldn't have been any more impressed by Rory McIlroy's finish to the Scottish Open yesterday morning and as detailed in the De-brief, I'm quite surprised how well his Open price is holding up.

Rory now heads to Hoylake full of confidence and there's plenty of reasons to think he's well worth at least a saver at 8.88/1 on the exchange.

As highlighted above, Phil Mickelson followed up his win in the Scottish with victory in the Open ten years ago and when Rory won his last major championship - the 2014 US PGA Championship - he did so one week after winning the Bridgestone Invitational so he's already shown he can win a major immediately after bagging a big title.

Rory wins the Scottish.jpg

Having won multiple tournaments at Quail Hollow (the Wells Fargo Championship), TPC Boston (the Dell Technologies Championship), East Lake (the Tour Championship) and the Emirates (the Dubai Desert Classic), he has a strong record of winning at the same venues so as the only course winner in the field this week, he really is the man to beat.

Back Rory McIlroy @ 8.88/1

Bet now

Read Dave Tindall's Open Championship Trends piece here


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