The Week Ahead: Five 'must have' bets - an Open Championship special

JB Holmes is looking to break into the top 10 of a major for the first time
JB Holmes is looking to break into the top 10 of a major for the first time

After three more winners last week at odds of 2.0, 3.5 and 3.2 the editors are in good spirits this week with the Open Championship looming at St Andrews. Mike Norman, Luke Moore, and Joe Dyer provide five bets for the big event that we simply must consider...


Back Zach Johnson @ 4.57/2 in Top 20 Finish

"There are so many short par 4s here that he will be going into greens with a wedge in his hand, and as I've already alluded to, that's a part of the game where Zach excels."

The Open Championship 2015
Thursday 16-19 July
Live on BBC


Top 20 Finish
Back Zach Johnson @ 4.57/2

There's no denying that the big hitters will be suited to St Andrews this week but there's a certain type of 'shorter' hitter that must also be considered - the type that has arguably the best wedge game in the world. Or in other words, Zach Johnson.

The American is deadly accurate off the tee and I envisage him plotting his way around the Old Course, a la Tiger 10 years ago. There are so many short par 4s here that he will be going into greens with a wedge in his hand, and as I've already alluded to, that's a part of the game where Zach excels.

In addition, this former US Masters champion - ranked inside the world's top 25 yet a triple figure price outsider to win this week - is in terrific form. He's made the top 20 in six of his last seven events, and finished 5th, 6th, and 3rd in three of his last four starts. He's made eight consecutive Open Championship cuts now and recorded two top 10s in recent years so we know this test suits him.

It's hard to find a negative but if there is one then it's the fact that Johnson has an afternoon tee time on Thursday and that might be the 'wrong' side of the draw. But you'll go a long way to find a more in-form player who should relish this week's test trading at over 100/1 to win. A top-20 finish will suffice for us though. MN


Top 10 Finish
Back JB Holmes @ 10.09/1

When I look at picking a successful player for this year's Open Championship at St Andrews, I'm looking for four things - distance off the tee, putting ability, mental toughness and a track record at the course.

Most of the favourites can be discounted on at least one of these criteria: Jordan Spieth? Not long enough off the tee. Dustin Johnson? Not enough mental steel down the stretch. Adam Scott? Putting terribly. I actually quite like the idea of Rickie Fowler building on his win at the Players Championship - he ticks all the boxes and likes the wind, but his price doesn't really interest me and so I'm looking slightly further afield.

JB Holmes has a recent win on the tour - he won at the Shell Houston Open in April beating Jordan Spieth in a playoff no less. He's a big hitter, solid with the putter and his best performance in a major came at St Andrews in 2010 where he finished T14. I like 10.09/1 on him breaking his top-ten-finish-in-a-major-duck this weekend, and that's where my money will be going. Come on JB! LM


Top 5 Finish
Back Rickie Fowler @ 6.05/1

You always have to be happy with how you arrived at a selection in gambling and in backing Rickie Fowler this week, whichever market you play, you will definitely be on safe ground with your reasoning.

The facts are that Fowler has a stunning recent record in major championships, famously recording top-five finishes in all four of the big ones last year. He has also turned into a winner this season after being labelled one of the most overrated players in the world - he promptly won the Players Championship a few days later and of course, he arrives at St Andrews having won last week's Scottish Open.

So we know the 26-year-old is in form, we know he can win and compete at this level, and we also know that he loves links golf - as well as that Scottish Open victory he has recorded top five finishes in this major in two of the last four years.

And to top it all, we know that Fowler is perfectly suited to wind and poor conditions. An afternoon tee time on Thursday isn't ideal, but if he can stay in touch then the rest of the week should be a level playing field and we should get a great run for our money in the top five finish market. JD


First Round Leader
Dutch Victor Dubuisson and JB Holmes E/W @ 31/1
(Sportsbook)
1/4 Odds - 5 Places

The Thursday forecast suggests the morning starters are going get the best of the weather at St Andrews so let's chuck a few darts at a few early risers. We suggest you back a pair in the market - whether you dutch them in the Exchange FRL Win market or dutch back them each-way on the Sportsbook is up to you (just one player placing will quadruple our outlay).

First up, Victor Dubuisson. Tipped by many as a dark horse to win the tournament, the Frenchman has shown good form in recent weeks with a trio of top 20 finishes culminating in 10th at the Scottish Open last time out. We know he plays the Old Course well as he jointly holds the course record. Vic tees up at 08:11 on Thursday morning when St Andrews will be at its most benign.

On the tee a little while later is US bomber JB Holmes, and if Luke is to land his Top 10 Finish bet then we believe a good start is very likely. Steve Rawlings makes the case in more detail here.

And it's a persuasive one. Holmes - who is in the middle of a fantastic season - is often quick out of the blocks. He was 14th last time The Open was played at St Andrews and is gifted with an early tee time. JD


First Round 3-Ball
Back Marc Leishman @ 2.35/4 to beat Kouemi Oda and Kiradech Aphibarnrat
(15:18)

With the wind set to blow on Thursday afternoon there won't be many players from the later starters who will feel more comfortable with the conditions than Marc Leishman.

Leishman hails from Australian, and like most of his compatriots his amateur career was spent in his homeland playing some of Australia's long and fast courses that are often battered by strong winds. He made the cut at St Andrews in 2010 too, and last year recorded a top five finish at the Open Championship, proving that he has the game for a windy links venue.

Playing partners Kouemi Oda and Kiradech Aphibarnrate are capable on their day, but Thursday's test will be relatively new to them and it will come as a big surprise if either of them can get round the Old Course in 70 or under. If they do then fair play, but if they don't then Leishman should have few problems winning this particular three-ball. MN


*****


Not made your mind up who to back yet? Well don't miss Steve 'The Punter' Rawlings' stunning comprehensive preview of the Open Championship here, or visit our unrivalled Open pages here, featuring stats, analysis, course guides, in-play hints, and much much more as the week progresses.


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