In a little over two weeks time, fans of golf will focus their attention once again on the spiritual home of the game, St Andrews, where the top golfers from around the globe will congregate hoping to win the 150th Open Championship.
The Old Course still stands as a testament to the rules of golf and has not been radically altered since Tiger Woods lifted the 2005 championship, the last time the event was contested over the old course.
Why Woods makes Perfect Sense…
Indeed punters wishing to back Woods may need to give the American genius some weighty consideration. Two of Woods four Open Championship victories, those in 2000 and 2005, have come over the rolling hills of the old course. Despite having well documented off course problems and not playing much competitive golf, Woods still forced his way into contention at the US Open last month, finishing tied in 4th spot with Phil Mickelson.
The Old Course will once again suit his expansive game and with wayward driving not so severely punished as on other major championships courses and accurate putting on St Andrews huge greens clearly an advantage, Woods is certainly worthy of serious consideration as the outright winner this summer.
Indeed the bookmakers think so, Woods is as short as 13/5 with Bet365 while the best available odds currently come from Betfair where the American is a 4/1 shot.
The Best of the Rest?
With Woods out of the equation, the betting on the next Open Champion is much more open. Lee Westwood (18/1 on Betfair), Ernie Els (25/1 on Betfair), Padraig Harrington (26/1 on Betfair), Phil Mickelson (18/1 on Betfair) and Rory McIlroy (21/1 on Betfair) are all considered to be amongst the second favourites to become champion. Odds on US Open winner Graeme McDowell have been slashed too, with the Northern Irishman now just 31/1 with Betfair.
If you fancy an Englishman other than Westwood to become the first Open Champion since Sir Nick Faldo in 1992, then you have a quartet to pick from in Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter who are all reckoned to be around the 40-1 mark for the victory. Given the form shown by all four players in recent weeks, they are odds not to be sniffed at.
Golden Oldies who Shouldn’t be Written off just yet!
However consideration needs to be given to the return to form of two of Golf’s golden older generation, especially considering Tom Watson’s heroics at Turnberry in 2009. Ernie Els has enjoyed something of a resurgence in 2010 and the likeable South African will be hoping to add another victory to his already impressive list of performances this year, which has included victories in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral followed by success in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill just two weeks later. Els then followed that up by finishing in a tie for third place at the US Open at Pebble Beach and it seems foolhardy to contend that the Big Easy will be anything other than in the reckoning, come the final Sunday afternoon at St Andrews.
Finally, many British fans may have a soft spot for current Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie. Arguably one of the greatest ever golfers to never lift a major, Montgomerie’s chances seemed to have slipped by as he lost his form over the past couple of years. Despite suffering from a torn calf muscle, he qualified for the tournament on the back of a stunning, course record 62 at Sunningdale and after finishing second to Woods in 2005, Montgomerie will come to the Old Course with nothing to lose and no expectations.
The Championship starts in on Thursday 15th July and golfing fans across the world cannot wait for the third major Championship of 2010 and the prospect of Tiger finally rediscovering his roar.