Intelligent punter's guide to the 2014 British Open golf odds
Can Justin Rose win three on the trot? Or should you be betting on another golfer to lift the Claret Jug?
Choosing the winner of the British Open, which starts tomorrow at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, might seem a daunting prospect. But if you take into account three key factors, it is possible to narrow down the huge field to those worth an each-way bet.
Course form: The last time the Open was held at Hoylake was in 2006. Tiger Woods posted a score of -18 and won by two shots from Chris DiMarco, with Ernie Els coming third and Jim Furyk fourth. Sergio Garcia and Hideto Tanihara tied for fifth. That may be eight long years ago, but course form is so important in Opens that anyone who did well at Hoylake last time needs to be taken seriously if they're lining up again. However, accuracy off the tee - rather than raw power – is going to be crucial: the roughs are much longer than they were in 2006 and there are now 82 bunkers to avoid.
Current form: Ten of the past 11 winners of the British Open had recorded at least one top ten finish that year. It's rare for a golfer to win the Open on the back of a poor run of form.
Experience: Include at least one golfer over the age of 40 in your portfolio. The last three winners have all been in their 40s and the last-but-one time the Open was held at Hoylake (in 1967) it was won by 44-year-old Roberto de Vicenzo, the oldest Open champion of the 20th Century.
Now let's take a closer look at the leading contenders and some of the best-hope outsiders…
JUSTIN ROSE. Best odds: 16-1. On the back of victories in his last two tournaments, Rose (above) is clearly the form choice. However, his record at the Open isn't great - he's missed three of the last four cuts - and it's a really tough ask to win three tournaments in a row. Furthermore, no Englishman has won an Open in England since Tony Jacklin in 1969. On the other hand - if we're thinking positively - last year Rose did become the first Englishman since Jacklin in 1970 to win the US Open.
ADAM SCOTT. Best odds: 16-1. The world number one blew a four-shot lead (with just four holes to go) in the final round two years ago, and again led on the Sunday afternoon last year before recording three straight bogies. You could say he's bottled it twice, but having posted top three finishes in the past two years, and finished eighth when the Open was last held here in 2006, his each-way chances are obvious.
HENRIK STENSON. Best odds 16-1. The Swede has performed very well in recent Opens without winning: he was runner-up last year and third in 2008 and 2010. This admirably consistent golfer has to be on any intelligent punter's each-way shortlist.
RORY MCILROY. Best odds: 20-1. The Ulsterman has shown much better form this year, but his tendency to put in one really bad round is a worry and he's only finished in the top 20 once in his previous six Opens. No surprise to see him go well, but his odds don't look over-generous given his record in the event.
TIGER WOODS. Best odds: 25-1. He's had no Major win since 2008, he missed the first two Majors of 2014 due to back surgery and he missed the cut when retuning to action at Congressional. The positives are that he burnt the course up the last time the Open was held here in 2006, and he's finished a tied-third and tied-sixth in the past two Opens. While the lack of recent competitive golf is a concern, the best available odds of 25-1 make a small each-way bet look tempting.
MARTIN KAYMER. Best odds: 25-1. Started what has proved to be a great summer for German sport by winning the US Open in June, when we flagged up his chances. His record in this event is not bad - he's had two top 12 finishes in the past four years - but while it would be no surprise to see him in the leading pack, it's tough to win back-to-back Majors.
PHIL MICKELSON. Best odds: 25-1. He won at Muirfield last year and in the last ten years we've seen two repeat winners of this event - Tiger Woods (2005 and 2006) and Padraig Harrington (2007 and 2008). The problem is that 'Lefty' hasn't been in great form in 2014, though two top 11 finishes in his last two events suggest he's starting to get it together again.
SERGIO GARCIA. Best odds: 25-1. He's still to win a Major but the Spaniard often does well in this event: he's posted six top ten finishes since 2002 and three top five finishes. One of those was at Hoylake in 2006, and while he's likely to come up short again from a win point of view, it would be no surprise to see him have another good tournament.
GRAEME MCDOWELL. Best odds: 30-1. He tied for fifth in 2012 - a year when he made the top 12 in all four Majors - but his Majors record since then hasn't been great and he could only tie for 61st the last time the Open was held at Hoylake. He comes here having won the French Open, but while he'd obviously have a big chance on his best form, his odds don't look particularly generous given his overall Open record and recent Majors form.
DUSTIN JOHNSON. Best odds: 40-1. Top ten finishes in two of the last three Majors and his good form in 2014 makes him worthy of serious consideration - as does his strong Open record: he's had two top ten finishes in the past three years. He's one of the longest drivers in the game, but that won't necessarily be a huge advantage here and the concern is that the course might not play to his strengths.
MATT KUCHAR. Best odds: 40-1. 'Kuch' is the world number five, but his record in the Open hasn't been as good as elsewhere: he's missed the cut on six of the nine occasions he's played in it. That said, his record in Majors since the start of 2013 has been very consistent with four top 15 finishes, including a tie for 15th place at last year's Open. He's been in good form in 2014 and there's plenty to suggest that he could be in for his best Open performance.
JASON DAY. Best odds: 45-1. He's enjoyed five top five finishes in Majors since 2011, but his Open record isn't great: in three attempts his best showing was 30th in 2011. There's also been concern about the recurrence of a thumb injury. A very talented performer who is sure to win a Major sooner or later, there are probably too many 'ifs' surrounding his chances of winning this one.
RICKIE FOWLER. Best odds: 40-1. He improved on a fifth-placed finish in this year's Masters with a second-place in the US Open. Although he missed the cut in the British Open last year, he did post a top five finish in 2011 and, given his excellent 2014 form, at 40-1, he must enter each-way calculations.
ZACH JOHNSON. Best odds: 50-1. He's finished in the top ten for the past two years and comes here in fine form, having finished runner-up in the John Deere Classic. A solid contender - though he did miss the cut at Holyake in 2006.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA. Best odds: 60-1. The 22-year-old from Japan played really well to finish sixth on his Open debut last year and was only three shots off the lead when he was given a rather harsh one-shot penalty for slow play. That was his first experience of links golf, and while he looks very likely to win a Major in the future, no one this young has won the event since Seve Ballesteros in 1979.
JIM FURYK. Best odds: 66-1. His accuracy off the tee will be a big plus and he did well when the Open was last held at Hoylake, finishing fourth. He's 44 - the same age as Roberto de Vicenzo was when winning here in 1967 - and the American veteran could prove to be one of the better outsiders.
LEE WESTWOOD. Best odds: 66-1. You could call him the nearly man of golf. Equally, you could say he is one of the sport's most consistent performers. He looked to have a great chance of landing his first Major when he led going into the final round of the Open last year - but then he posted a four-over-par 75 and finished third. However, that was his third top three finish in this event in five years.
BRANDT SNEDEKER. Best odds: 66-1. He missed the cut in his first three Opens but finished third in 2012 and 11th last year. He tied for ninth in the US Open in June and so will come here in good heart. He's likely to go well and makes a good argument for an each-way bet.
PAUL CASEY. Best odds: 66-1. He finished a lowly 71st when the Open was last held at Hoylake but there are grounds for believing he might do better this time: he's in good form, having posted a final round of 65 in the Scottish Open last weekend, and he did finish tied-third in the Open in 2010. That said, you have to go back to 1969 for the last time an English golfer won an Open held in England.
ANGEL CABRERA. Best odds: 70-1. Could lightning strike twice at the Royal Liverpool? Cabrera is a 44-year old from Argentina, and a 44-year-old from Argentina (de Vicenzo) won the Open at Hoylake in 1967. Moreover Cabrera has good Open course form, having finished seventh here in 2006. He comes here in winning form and looks one of the more interesting outsiders.
IAN POULTER. Best odds: 80-1. If he is ever going to win a Major, it's likely to be this one. He's made the top ten three times in the last six years and came third at Muirfield 12 months ago, after a great final round of 67. However, there are worries over a wrist injury he incurred at the Scottish Open last week and he did miss the cut the last time the Open was held at Hoylake.
MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ. Best odds: 100-1. The colourful cigar-smoking Spanish veteran has a good Open record, with four top 13 finishes in the last seven years. He led at the half-way stage last year and although he'd be an unlikely winner, those who back him each-way could get a good run for their money again.
ERNIE ELS. Best odds: 100-1. The Big Easy is past his brilliant best - but he did come third here in 2006. Although he's probably going to need others to slip up if he's to win, you've got to respect the record of a man who has won the event twice - most recently in 2012 - and has seven top eight finishes to his name since 2002.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI. Best odds: 100-1. He was ninth last year and has made the cut in nine of the last 11Majors and is another of those 'under the radar' golfers who could figure if it all starts to come together. No Italian has ever won the Open though Constantino Rocca did come memorably close in 1995, when he lost to John Daly in a play-off.
HUNTER MAHAN. Best odds: 100-1. He started the final day of last year's tournament tied for second, but faded to finished ninth. That experience should stand him in good stead and the course should suit him too. There are certainly worse outsiders in the field than the 32-year-old American.