The 142nd Open Championship Preview

By Michael McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

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The Third Major for the year is upon us already. You can almost hear Ivor Robson’s distinct voice just thinking about it.

The Open Championship is the oldest Major and is always scheduled for the third Friday in July. This year we head to Gullane, East Lothian in Scotland to Muirfield Golf Links.

Muirfield is a Par 71 course measuring 7192 yards with 148 bunkers. There are four Par 3’s and three Par 5’s. The greens are bentgrass and will be running at 11 on the stimpmeter. The Purse is US$8 million with the Winner taking home US$1,405,890.

The course is arranged as two loops of nine holes, one clockwise while the other is anti clockwise, meaning if the wind is up on the day each hole has a different wind direction causing all sorts of issues. Golfers tied at the end of regulation must compete in a four hole playoff.

To play well in the Open you need to keep the ball in play as the fescue rough is high and once you are in it you will find yourself in a lot of trouble. Good ball strikers and scramblers always have a distinct advantage on links courses. A full bag of tricks will be needed.

When you look at the Past winners of The Open at Muirfield you will see names like Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. These guys all have a few things in common. They are disciplined and have great patience.

The Bookies Top 5 in betting are 10/1 Tiger Woods, 18/1 Phil Mickelson, 20/1 Justin Rose, 20/1 Adam Scott and 25/1 Graeme McDowell.

The Defending Champion is 28/1 Ernie Els. It is also worth noting that Ernie won at Muirfield in 2002 and he was T5th in 1992. He is being mentioned by many pundits this week.

Onto the selections for this week.

Alex Noren 150/1

The 31 year old Swedish player has three European Tour victories to his name. Currently ranked No.67 in the World.

He first played in The Open in 2008 finishing 19th. In 2010 and 2011 he missed the Cut while last year he was 9th.

What really got me interested in Noren for this week was his results last year. From 24 starts he had ten Top 25’s and seven Top 10’s. It is five of those Top 10’s that really stood out.

They were all on links style courses. 6th China Open (Binhai Lake), 10th Nordea Masters (Bro Hoff Slott), 3rd Scottish Open (Castle Stuart Golf Links), 9th Open Championship (Royal Lytham & St Annes) and 3rd Alfred Dunhill Links Championships (St Andrews, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns). He also won the Nordea Masters in 2011.

This season Alex has had 14 starts for five Top 10’s.  They include T4th Qatar Masters, T6th Malaysian Open, T6th Ballantines Championship (7th in 2012), T4th Nordea Masters (Bro Hoff Slott) and T4th BMW International Open.

Stats wise he is ready for Muirfield. Ranked 6th in stroke average, 8th in putts per GIR, 7th in putts per round and 12th in sand saves.

Matteo Manassero 66/1

In 2009 as the age of 16 he won the British Amateur Championship making him the youngest ever winner. The win got him into The Open that year where he finished T13th and won the Silver Medal as the leading amateur.

At The Masters in 2010 he became the youngest player to make the Cut. He then turned Professional in May that year and in October he won the Castello Masters by four strokes making him the youngest ever European Tour winner. He also became the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.

Matteo’s 2012 season saw him play in 26 events where he had twelve Top 25’s. Eight of those became Top 10’s. Highlights were his Win in the Singapore Open, 2nd Open de Andalucía, T3rd Italian Open and T4th Hong Kong Open.

This year Manassero has had 17 starts culminating in eleven Top 25’s and a Win in the BMW PGA Championship where he showed his nerves by winning on the 4th extra hole with a birdie, beating Simon Khan and Marc Warren. He was also 4th at the Nordea Masters which is a link style course.

He comes into The Open on the back of three solid results. T22nd BMW International Open, T25th Open de France and T57th Scottish Open.

When you look at Matteo’s stats this week you would expect to see him up there challenging. 12th in stroke average, 31st in driving accuracy, 45th in greens in regulation, 13th in putts per GIR, 35th in putts per round and 10th in sand saves.

Could this young gun continue on his rise through the ranks this week? With four European Tour wins to his name as well as two Asian Tour victories it would be a good idea to keep an eye on the World No.25 .

Miguel Angel Jimenez 150/1

Jimenez might be 49 years of age however he has experience on his side.  This will be his 21st Open! His highest finish was 3rd in 2001. However look at his last six starts. 12th, Cut, 13th, 27th, 25th and 9th. Most players would love those Open numbers.

Last season ‘The Mechanic’ had 27 starts of which eight were Top 25 finishes. He also had a Win at the Hong Kong Open. Other highlights were T9th The Open, T5th Ballantines Championship, T9th WGC Accenture Match Play and 7th Open de Andalucía.

This year Miguel has contested 7 tournaments for a missed cut Open de Espana, T4th BMW PGA Championship, T14th Nordea Masters, T19th Lyoness Open, T26th BMW International Open, 58th Open de France and missed cut Scottish Open.

I really like his stats for this week. 30th in stroke average, 21st in driving accuracy, 75th in GIR, 19th in putts per round and 7th in sand saves.

The wise old Spaniard has 19 European Tour wins to his name so he knows how to get the job done. Still ranked inside the World Top 100 and itching to have another crack at a Major. Expect him to show a few of the young guys that there is still plenty of life in the old dog.

Top Asian- Hideki Matsuyama 11/2

There are 17 Asian players teeing up this week and the one to keep an eye on is the 21 year old young gun. Where do you start! At 18 years of age in 2010 he won the Asian Amateur Championship.

In 2011 he finished T27th  at The Masters winning the Silver Cup as the leading amateur. He was also the only amateur to make the cut. In October 2011 he defended his Asian Amateur Championship title and a month later won the Taiheiyo Masters while still an amateur.

In 2012 Hideki had 8 starts and produced four Top 10’s.

This season Matsuyama has played in 10 tournaments and had eight Top 10’s! He turned Professional in April and won the Tsuruya Open then it was a 2nd in The Crowns, 2nd Nissin Cup and a Win at the Diamond Cup Golf.

He then played in the US Open where he played some fantastic golf to finish T10th. From there it was back to the Japan Tour for a  T7th, MC and T4th.

After starting 2012 ranked 203 in the World Hideki is now 48th! This kid has a very bright future ahead of him and there is no reason why he can not produce the goods this week and come away as the leading Asian player.

When you look at his Japan Tour stats you can see why he dominates the Tour. 1st in scoring average, 4th in birdie average, 11th in putting average, 6th in sand saves, 4th in GIR, 1st in Par 4 performance and 1st in 2013 earnings. His confidence will see him go far.

Top Australian- Brett Rumford 16/1

There are twelve Aussies teeing it up this week with Adam Scott the hot favourite at Even money however I think I may have found someone who could really surprise.

Last season saw him play well on a few links style courses. 22nd Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, 29th China Open and 2nd Johhnie Walker Championship. From 25 starts he managed ten Top 25’s.

This season ‘Rummy’ has played 13 tournaments and had six Top 25’s and 2 Wins back to back! Firstly he won the Ballantines Championship after a playoff against Marcus Fraser and Peter Whiteford. Then it was a four shot victory in The China Open (Links style course).

With the two victories under his belt and some good links form to his name it would not surprise to see Brett as the leading Aussie and possibly challenging the leaderboard over the weekend. His putting stats have been sensational too. Ranked 4th in putts per GIR and 1st in putts per round.

Roll on The Open! It is going to be four days of pure excitement and ups and downs.

Good Luck and Good Punting.

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