After tipping 40/1 winner Brooks Koepka in the US Open last month, it’s time to try to find another major winner with our Open 2017 betting tips as the 146th Open Championship takes place at Royal Birkdale, writes Phil Casey.
We have already analysed the top-10 odds and the best of the tournament specials but now we are focusing on the outright winner.
A relative latecomer to the rota, Birkdale first staged the Open in 1954 as Australia’s Peter Thomson won the first of his five titles, with the last also coming at the same venue in 1965.
The first of Arnold Palmer’s back-to-back Open wins came at Birkdale in 1961 and is commemorated with a plaque on the old 15th hole (now the 16th), where the swashbuckling American produced a remarkable recovery from thick undergrowth to the right of the fairway.
Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson also got their hands on the Claret Jug in the shadow of the art-deco clubhouse, while Padraig Harrington successfully defended the title there in 2008.
The last seven majors may have produced first-time winners, but the list includes Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker, who was the lowest ranked of the seven (48th) when he won the 2016 US PGA.
With Walker still the lowest-ranked winner of any major since Keegan Bradley in the same event five years earlier, the top of the betting market remains the best place to be.
In addition, six of the last seven Open winners had played the Scottish Open the week before, with 2015 champion Zach Johnson the exception. (The 2010 Scottish Open, where Louis Oosthuizen missed the cut, was the last to be played at Loch Lomond, rather than on a links course).
So where does all that leave us? Picking someone who didn’t play in Scotland of course, but a player who did at least contend in the Irish Open the week before.
Hideki Matsuyama’s Open record is nothing to write home about, with his sole top-10 finish in four appearances coming on his debut at Muirfield in 2013. Since missing the cut at Troon last year though, the world number two has gone from strength to strength, finishing fourth in the US PGA, 11th in the Masters and second in the US Open after a superb closing 66 at Erin Hills.
Away from the majors, Matsuyama has also collected five wins around the world and was 14th at Portstewart, which turned into more of a birdie-fest than can be expected at Birkdale. Matsuyama, who gave us a winner in Phoenix earlier this season, is the first of our Open 2017 tips at 22/1.
Our second Birkdale betting tip also needs to buck the trend of having played in Scotland, with Masters champion Sergio Garcia not having competed since finishing in a tie for second in the BMW International in Germany.
Possibly being distracted by his upcoming marriage is also a concern, but shedding the tag of ‘best player not to have won a major’ should do wonders for the talented Spaniard, who has 10 top-10 finishes in the Open since 2001, including the last three years in succession.
One player who does fulfil the Scottish Open criteria is the last of our Open 2017 betting tips in Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen, who can be backed at 125/1.
Kjeldsen was ninth at Dundonald Links and compiled one of the best rounds of the day in the bad weather on Saturday, before closing with a 68. His win in the 2015 Irish Open at Royal County Down also came in miserable conditions and he will not be afraid to grind out a score if the weather plays a part at Birkdale.
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