The Open Championship Preview from St Andrews

Frazzled looks ahead to the 144th Open Championship and the 29th time that it will be held at the Old Course St Andrews.  He has picks of Branden Grace, Brandt Snedeker in addition to the already advised Koepka and Fleetwood bets.

Event:

This is the 144th renewal of the Open Championship and St Andrews once again finds its slot in the rotation and is set to host the event for the 29th time. The Old Course now hosts the Championship every 5 years with previous winners being Louis Oosthuizen in 2010, Tiger Woods in 2005 and 2000 and John Daly, who was winning his second major in 1995.

While the purists love this venue, I must admit that it can be one of my least favourite, given that in benign conditions it can play much too easy for an event of this nature. However with the weather look set to play a significant role and the course softened by plenty of recent rain, this looks like being much more of a test than it has been in some of the recent renewals, which saw runaway winners and little in the way of last day excitement. The forecast is for blustery conditions throughout the event and some particularly wild conditions on Saturday which will really test the players of it is consistent all day, or provide a huge disadvantage to the players that are greeted with the worst of the weather.

In the absence of Rory McIlroy through injury, all eyes are on Jordan Spieth as he tries to win the first three majors of 2015 and set himself up for the Grand Slam, but despite the strength of character that he has shown in his brief career, this looks a big ask for him this week and it will require an incredible display from him to lift the claret jug after flying in from the John Deere Classic on Monday morning and facing a barrage of cameras throughout this week.

Course Characteristics:

Very little ever changes at this venue and the Par 72 measures 7,305 yards once again. Unusually for a Par 72, there are 14 Par 4 holes on the course and only two longer holes and two Par 3s. The other unusual aspect is that there are 7 double greens are used and the putting surfaces throughout the course are huge, placing a real premium on lag putting in order to minimise 3 putts as much as possible.

The fairways are very generous for the most part and if the players elect to play down the safer side of the course, then there is little trouble to be had unless the tee shots are extremely wayward or the wins really picks up. Playing down the right is likely to encounter greater difficulties, but if low scores are to be found, then taking this more aggressive line is likely to yield more birdies than the conservative approach.

While the fairways are generous, there are many little pot bunkers ready to catch many shots and in addition to this avoiding the hell bunker on the 14th and the road hole bunker on the 17th is absolutely essential in order to avoid running up a big score on these holes. As outlined in the excellent preview provided by Steve Rawlings, which can be read HEREthe course can be divided up with tricky sections between holes 2 & 4 and also from holes 11-17, but the scoring opportunities must be taken between holes 5 & 10, with only the Par 3 8th hole playing over par in 2010.

Requirements:

From an examination of previous winners at this venue, length is certainly important and with the fairways much softer this year as a result of plenty of rainfall, the course will be playing longer than usual, which places the likes of Jordan Spieth at a slight disadvantage. However with Chambers Bay playing as long as any US Open venue, it would be folly to significantly refute the claims of some of the shorter hitters, especially with 3 of the Par 4 holes measuring in excess of 460 yards.

The key requirements this week are Putting and finding Greens In Regulation. This is not really a venue where scrambling skills will be tested as the greens are so large and it is more a case of finding the correct spots on this undulating surfaces and then excelling with the flat stick to ensure that two putts is the maximum needed on any hole. In addition, it goes without saying that Par 4 Performance will be crucial as there are 56 of them to be faced this week. While information on Par 4 Scoring is readily available on the PGA site, it is difficult to ascertain for the European Tour without subscribing to some of the specific sites that deal with this information and trials with the likes of Tour Tips can be useful in order to glean this additional information.

Finally it goes without saying that form at links venues in the past is the best guide for this event, so a history of performing well in this Championship is certainly something to take seriously, while form at the Dunhill Links Championship and the 2012 & 2015 Irish Opens, which were played at Royal Portrush and Royal County Down is worth scrutinising. In addition the KLM Open can also be a useful guide even though the standard of field can be quite moderate while the wind affected Doha Golf Club, which hosts the Qatar Masters, has leaderboards which are littered with quality links players and can also be referenced with this event in mind.

SELECTIONS:

With the ever changing weather predictions, this is far from an easy event to recommend outright picks for and we will try and provide regular updates throughout the first 3 days and betting in running advice will be provided on Betswot and on Twitter, so following us for updates will be very worthwhile, while once again reading the In-running blog of Steve Rawlings will be worthwhile. However we have a few bets at the outside in addition to the bets that have already been advised on Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood ahead of the Scottish Open - READ HERE.

Branden Grace:

Some of the fancy prices about Branden Grace have disappeared after his excellent display when finishing 4th in Chambers Bay in the US Open. However at 50/1 each way with Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes, who are paying 6 places, he still looks to represent good value. His prices have really been dropping since he won the Qatar Masters earlier in the year and with the Doha form line highlighted above, it was no surprise that he was on many pundits' radars earlier in the year. Grace also has exceptional links form as he is a previous winner of the Dunhill Links event in 2012 and he has also won at the Fancourt Links course in South Africa. In addition he was beaten in a playoff by Phil Mickelson in the 2013 Scottish Open at Castle Stuart and it is likely that these generous fairways at St Andrews suit him more than any other Open Championship venue on the rotation.

Grace is generally an excellent putter and ranks 17th in Putts Per GIR this year and 34th in Putts Per Round, so his low key build up last week at Gullane is still encouraging, given that he was so good from tee to green (19th in Accuracy, 8th in Distance and 14th in GIR) but ranked a very moderate 67th in Putts Per GIR and 49th in Putts Per Round. He still managed to finish a solid 17th and that will have provided him with the perfect preparation for this week. A late Thursday tee time is not ideal but we cannot do an awful lot about the weather and the forecast is changing all the time, so he still heads our bets this week and could follow in the footsteps of Louis Oosthuizen, by lifting the claret jug at this venue.

Advised Bet:

1.5 points each way Branden Grace at 50/1 with Bet365, Ladbrokes and William Hill.

Brandt Snedeker:

With the weather forecast in mind, our second pick is a player that looks to have a favourable Thursday tee time and is a player with some excellent links form that should excel on this difficult "lag putting test". Brandt Snedeker may not be quite the best player not to win a major currently on the PGA Tour, but he would not be a million miles away from it and he is a brilliant putter who should love this venue.

While he did not play here in 2010, he has finished 3rd behind Ernie Els at Lytham in 2012 after starting with rounds of 66 and 64 but fading over the weekend and he was 11th to Phil Mickelson in 2013, when a 79 on Friday ruined his chances, illustrating that he can excel at these links venues and could be a major threat if he can keep it together for four rounds. He is also a dual winner at Pebble Beach in the AT&T and that is as close to a links venue as there is in the States and it adds further lustre to his chances this week.

After a lapse in form after his AT&T win earlier in the year, Snedeker has hit a purple patch again and his recent outings have been 2nd in the Crowne Plaza, 6th in the Byron Nelson, 8th in the US Open and 10th last time in the Travelers. Importantly his putting is right back to its best and he lies 7th in Strokes Gained Putting and 24th in Putting Average on the PGA Tour this season. He is also 7th in Par 4 Scoring Average which will be crucial this week and 27th in Round 1 Scoring Average, which is another important attribute given how difficult it is to make ground from off the pace at this venue.

Snedeker is not the longest from the tee, but he has many attributes which should make him hard to beat this week and with a fast start important from what looks a favourable tee time, he is worth backing for first round leader and in the Outright market. He has placed in the First Round Leader market twice in the past 4 years and with his 8:33am tee slot, this looksa a good bet to supplement the outright wager.

It is essential that the 7 places offered each way by Paddy Power and Skybet are taken for this bet as finishing 7th would leave a bitter taste. If anyone opens a Skybet or Paddy Power account via links on this page, we will give them €15 FREE if Snedeker makes the cut.

Advised Bets:

1.5 points each way Brandt Snedeker - Outright win at 50/1 with Skybet & Paddy Power (7 places paid)

1 point each way Brandt Snedeker - First Round Leader at 50/1 with Boylesports (6 places each way)

skybet.com

Already Advised:

As outlined earlier, we had advised bets on Koepka and Fleetwood ahead of the Scottish Open. Both performed well at Gullane, but neither putted well enough to lift the title. With quite an early start for Koepka on Thursday, he looks to have a very solid chance and we certainly would not out anyone off him if they have not had a bet thus far.

1 point each way Brooks Koepka at 60/1 with Coral

1 point each way Tommy Fleetwood at 60/1 with Coral and Betway

 

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