The Open Championship’s return to St Andrews, the spiritual Home of Golf, never fails to excite and enthrall, and this July’s renewal will be no different, although with it being the 150th anniversary, there will be an extra air of magic, as the largest crowd ever to gather at an Open assembles on the East Fife coast.
Ask the players, or anyone who has been to watch, and they’ll quickly tell you that an The Open at St Andrews is like no other. From the double greens to the world’s widest opening hole, from the Road Hole bunker to Swilken Bridge, the course is littered with familiar furniture. Throw in the party atmosphere of a university town where pubs only just outscore the number of shops selling tartan trousers and you have the makings of a great, big week-long golfing party.
While the eight other clubs on the R&A’s preferred list of host venues have to wait a decade to stage the game’s oldest major, St Andrews has that privilege conferred on it every five years. With such frequency comes not only the chance to build up a rich and varied history, and for armchairs fans to get to grips with the somewhat idiosyncratic layout, it also presents the opportunity for players to become ‘Old Course specialists’.
With many pros enjoying 30-year plus careers these days, and former champions being given a bye, an Open at the Old Course offers an unchanging backdrop to a surprisingly consistent cast list. It’s a cosy, comfort blanket of a tournament.
Yet this year, more than perhaps any other in recent history, offers the prospect of change, while also being reminded of the past. Tiger Woods, back in Major action again following his return to competition at last month’s Masters, has vowed to be back for what may well turn out to be his Open swansong. And while it will be beyond fanciful to think that, at 46, and with an injury list as long as your arm, that he will be able to lift another Claret Jug, that won’t stop the crowds from cheering him on every tee and every green, as he plays in what will might be his final Open at the Home of Golf.
Despite Woods being out of the betting picture, there remains a cast list of young hopefuls and established stars ready to fill the void left by the 15-time major champion, all ready to grab a slice of golfing history by lifting the Claret Jug at golf’s most hallowed of venues. Check out promo code casino for some great betting offers
FOUR CLARET JUG CONTENDERS
You won’t get long odds about Collin Morikawa successfully defending the title he won with such authority at Royal St George’s last year, but the 23-year-old American thoroughly deserves his favourite’s tag.
After turning pro in 2019, he enjoyed almost immediate success, winning the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship in only his sixth start. He would then go on to make 22 consecutive cuts, a streak bettered only by Tiger Woods (25) at the start his career. He then moved to a new level in August 2020 when winning the US PGA Championship at Harding Park in California. His final round 64 tied a record for the event, and he finished two shots clear of Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson.
Another high-profile victory at the WGC-Workday Championship in February 2021 lifted him to fourth in the world before his heroics in Kent saw him join the dual major winner’s club. A win at the DP World Tour Championship last November took him to a career-high second in the world rankings, while five top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts since his Open win show that he remains a man in form and ready to add to his major tally.
The 24-year-old Norwegian star was originally eligible to play in The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019 following his victory in the 2018 US Amateur, however he forfeited his entry by turning pro in June 2019, a week after finishing 12th at the US Open. So, somewhat incredibly, the current world no.6 will arrive at St Andrews having only played in one previous Open, that being last year’s renewal at Royal St George’s, where he finished a creditable tied 12th.
Hovland has taken to the pro game like a duck to water, and after tying for 54th on his maiden start in 2019, he recorded top-16 placings in each of his next eight events. Two PGA Tour titles followed in 2020, at the Puerto Rico Open and the Mayakoba Golf Classic and three more wins in 2021 catapulted him into the world’s top 10. Victory at the Dubai Desert Classic in February took him to a career high third in the world ranking and with three other top-10 finishes this season, he looks certain to make his presence felt in all the top events this season and looks sure to go well over a course that will suit has game as well as others.
Currently the highest placed Englishman in the world rankings – 21st – Hatton has enjoyed a fine run of form over the last three seasons, having secured three wins and 14 top-finishes across both the PGA Tour and European Tour since the beginning of 2020, all of which took him to a career high fifth in the world rankings mid-way through last season. And while Hatton’s major record is not yet as sparkling as he would hope, it is certainly The Open that has represented his best chance to date. A tie for fifth in 2016 at Royal Troon is his best major finish so far, while his most recent top-10 at a major came at Royal Portrush in 2019, when he shared sixth place.
Known for being a strong contender around courses that suit his eye, Hatton has dual winning form around the Old Course, having won the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2016 and 2017, which gives him a solid chance running into a top finish in July.
DANNY WILLETT If you’ve got room for another Englishman on your betting slip, then why not have one with a major championship victory under his belt and a recent win at St Andrews on his CV? The 34-year-old Yorkshireman has blown hot and cold over the last few years, but a lot of that has been down to injuries. When he’s hot, he’s very hot, as he has shown with wins at the DP World Tour Championship in 2018 and the BMW PGA Championship in 2019.
Now playing pain-free, the 2016 Masters champion put up a decent showing at Augusta last month, finishing tied 12th, and although he sits just outside the world’s top 100, his top-30 finish in last year’s European Tour money list ensure he will have a birth in the 150th Open. A win in last November’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, two rounds of which are played over the Old Course, shows he has the course form, and he looks generously priced to run into a top-10 finish.