Paul Williams has published his final preview and Open Championship tips for 2016 - read it here!
The Open Championship stands on a pedestal shared only with The Masters as the Major Championship that players covet the most. The 2016 Open Championship returns to Royal Troon in Ayrshire, Scotland for the 145th running of the oldest Major Championship in golf. The tournament, which runs from Thursday 14th July to Sunday 17th October 2016, will feature the most international field of the 4 Majors with 156 players all striving to lift the Claret Jug.
A Troon Open champions' list which contains names like Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton (remember him?) highlights the fact that 6 of the previous 8 Champions here have hailed from the United States with only Arthur Havers (1923) and Locke (1950) stopping the Claret Jug from travelling back across the Atlantic.
Now into our 7th season, Golf Betting System will be hunting for profit as ever with our Open Championship tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2016 coverage with Open Championship tips, long shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free course and player statistics plus our famous statistical Predictor Model.
We move from the Old Course at St Andrews, where the true difficulty was purely the fickle North Sea weather, to an altogether purer links test in the shape of Royal Troon on the Ayrshire coast. Famous for the aptly named 'Postage Stamp' 125 yard par-3, which is the shortest hole in Open Championship golf, the Old Course is set amongst sand hills and features some of thickest gorse/rough on the Open rota. If the prevailing north-westerly wind is unkind then Troon becomes a nasty challenge where, in 1962, even Jack Nicklaus made a 10 on the infamous 'Railway Hole' 12th.
The Open Championship is always a stern test of golf, but the Old Course at Troon is seen by the professionals as a very fair links test. Since the course was toughened by converting it to a par 71 for the 1997 Open - won by Jason Leonard - the winning scores here have been -12/272 and -10/274. A relatively easy opening 5/6 holes is followed by a much tougher closing set of 12 holes. Intimidating tee shots, blind drives, deep gorse, the nearby beach and a very much in-play railway line (think Whistling Straits but closer) make for an interesting test which, like every Open Championship venue, plays as tough at the British summer dictates. As Tiger Woods summarised on his last visit in 2004, "This golf course is a hundred percent dependent on the weather. And if it doesn't blow, then the guys are going to shoot some good numbers. If it does blow, it presents quite a challenge, especially coming home."
What to Expect at the Old Course, Royal Troon
The Old Course at Troon has produced plenty of drama and close finishes in recent Open Championships. 1989 saw Greg Norman shoot a stunning 64 on Sunday to force himself into the first Open 4-hole play-off with fellow Aussie Wayne Grady and American Mark Calcavecchia. Norman again started fast in extra time producing gains at the first two holes, but then overshot the 17th green and took a bogey to drop back into a tie with Calcavecchia. Famously Norman's great length was his undoing at the 18th where he drove into a fairway bunker that many thought was unreachable, giving Calcavecchia the chance to hit a 5-iron to six feet and whilst Norman went out of bounds with his third shot from yet another bunker, Calcavecchia converted his birdie chance to capture his one and only Major Championship.
In 1997 Justin Leonard putted his way to the title, winning on Sunday at a canter from long-time leader Jesper Parnevik and Darren Clarke. Like Calcavecchia, Leonard's victory at Troon would prove to be his only Major title to date. But where 1997 was straightforward, the last Open Championship held at Troon in 2004 turned into an epic duel between tournament favourite Ernie Els and the totally unknown American Todd Hamilton. Els, who on Thursday had delivered a hole-in-one at the Postage Stamp 8th, had looked a winner throughout the weekend with Hamilton scrambling his way around miraculously to stay in touch. And that paid real dividends when Els missed a birdie opportunity on the 72nd green, taking the tournament into another 4-hole play off between the two protagonists, which Hamilton unexpectedly won with a beautiful bump and run to 3-feet on the 18th hole. You guessed it, the victorious Hamilton has never been a factor in a Major since.
The Old Course, which will play as a 7,190 yard, par-71 across the 2016 Open Championship, is a true test of two halves. A prevailing north-westerly wind tends to dictate how the course plays and its strength tends to be the key to scoring levels. The outward nine heads in a south-easterly direction with the opening 6 holes staying close to the coastline. To contend, players make their scores on these holes with the wind at their backs, but typically firm links conditions makes stopping the ball far from simple. From the 7th hole onwards, making pars rather than birdies becomes the challenge. The 8th is one of the most famous holes in golf with the 125-yard par-3 looking tempting on paper - until you see the bunkers and run-offs which surround the tiny green.
The inward nine plays into the prevailing wind and turns into a challenge of survival. A number of blind tee shots intimidate, as does the drive at the 'Railway Hole' 12th which is one of the toughest in world golf. Players constantly talk about keeping the ball low and out of the wind on the inward nine where trouble including gorse, tough fescue rough and deep bunkers are only a slight mistake or misjudgement away. However, as ever with most links set-ups, the Old Course plays as tough as the weather conditions dictate. If there are light winds, scoring will become far easier. But if conditions are scorched with wind a factor, there will be correlations with Birkdale in 2013 where links veterans Stenson, Poulter and Scott were headed by the creative genius of Phil Mickelson (who finished 3rd here in 2004). Indeed the Old Course is renowned for its small and well-defended green complexes. Defence can be in the form of deep pot bunkers although the 9th, 10th and 13th holes feature greens with no surrounding bunkers. The vast majority of green complexes feature drop-offs and severe slopes, repelling approach shots and making top-level scrambling an absolute must.
The R&A have recognised that the Old Course needed to be updated after a 12-year gap between Open visits, so in 2014 Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert directed the following changes:
Below are some revealing comments about the course in 2004 from the players:
Ernie Els: "It's a difficult course, especially coming back to the clubhouse, a lot of difficult par-4s into the breeze, you've got to drive it very well. You've got to hit a lot of long irons. And then going downwind, the first nine, birdies aren't guaranteed. It's a couple of long par-5s. You've got to have a pretty sharp, short game to make birdies on the front nine. So all in all, it's a very fair, good test of golf this week on a very tough golf course. The rough is not terrible, you can get the ball out of the rough. So it makes it more exciting. You'll see some of the shots out of the rough. The greens are great. The greens are running beautiful, and I can't see the greens getting away from us this time."
"I think you can play quite safe off the tees on the front nine and give yourself a little bit longer shots into the greens. But even the longer shots you're even going in with short irons, from a 7-iron down to a wedge. With those kind of clubs, you've got to at least hit the green and get yourself within 25, 30 feet range. And as I said, even though it's short, going downwind it's tough to control the ball. You have to do it because that's your only real chance to make birdies. On the back nine it's just, try to hang on, hit it as good as you can, and if you shoot even par, 1, 2, 3 over, you're going to be happy with that on the back nine. So there's an extra bit of anticipation to get yourself off to a decent start maybe this year."
Phil Mickelson: "Given the prevailing (north-westerly) wind, the birdie holes are the first nine holes. They're not easy birdie holes, because it's hard to stop the ball close downwind. But it is by far the best opportunity to go under par. The backside is a tough stretch, the golf holes that you would take par on any hole. Downwind I'm going to be having full swings, taking some of the release and roll out of it. And then the backside are the holes that I really anticipate hitting lower shots and letting them run off."
Adam Scott: "I think you're probably going to have to change your ball flight a bit. I really don't want to hit it too high in the wind. You can take advantage of these downwind holes going out and getting a little length off the tee, and getting it down by some of the greens. Coming back, anything up in the air is going to be hit by the wind. I've seen some balls out there the last couple of days moving 20, 30, 40 yards up in the wind if it just gets up in the air a bit. So I think there's going to be a premium on keeping it as low to the ground coming back in into the wind, and hopefully running it up to the fronts of the greens, which is a pretty good position."
The Old Course at Troon, home of the 2016 Open Championship.
Those looking for a tournament link could do worse than looking at the Honda Classic, a PGA Tour event hosted in Florida since 1972. Since 2007 the tournament has been hosted on the Champions Course at PGA National which is a Jack Nicklaus design, but previous winners here going back to Mark Calcavecchia have all won the Honda Classic. In a strange quirk, Calcavecchia (1987 & 1998), Leonard (2003) and Hamilton (2004) have all won the Honda sponsored tournament in Florida, with 2004 Troon play-off participant Ernie Els also having won at PGA National. Calcavecchia also has a top-5 finish at PGA National to his name, with 2004 Open each way finishers Davis Love III and Lee Westwood also having strong affinities with the Honda. Winners of the Honda in the Open field this year also include Matt Kuchar (2002), Padraig Harrington (2005 & 2015), Rory McIlroy (2012), Russell Henley (2014) and this year's winner Adam Scott (2016).
With PGA Tour professionals dominating at Troon to date and an all-round game being key to victory here, another association can be drawn with the RBC Heritage played at Harbour Town Golf Links in South Carolina. A 7,100 yard, par-71 (sound familiar) played on the Atlantic coast, where hitting the ball straight is key, links clearly to Troon winners and contenders:
Further associations between Harbour Town and The Open Championship in general are easy to draw with reigning champion Zach Johnson, 2009 champion Stewart Cink (just down the Ayrshire coast at Turnberry) and 2007/08 champion Padraig Harrington all having wins or exceptionally close calls at Hilton Head.
Power with Panache
Let's take the final skill statistics from Todd Hamilton, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson from the latest 2004 Open Championship held on the Old Course at Troon. This gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
Three aspects jump out from these statistics. Well-directed power from the tee is a huge advantage. Hitting greens consistently is amazingly tough as the combination of wind, fast conditions and green complexes which repel approach shots creates a real ball-striking test. A plethora of missed greens over 72 holes even for players who are managing the course well from tee-to-green makes a top-class scrambling game 100% essential.
Will World Number 1 Jason Day Win At Troon?
Tempted to get on the World Number 1 (at the time of writing) Jason Day at the Open Championship? Well here's a word of warning for all those tempted to jump on: no World Number 1 since 2000 apart from Tiger Woods (who else) has won The Open. OWGR No.1 Day has already proven that he has the maturity to win any Major and although the 2016 Open at Troon will be difficult, his game management and putting will be a perfect fit for the Ayrshire course. For the record, Zach Johnson was 25th when he won last year at St Andrews whilst McIlroy was 8th and Mickelson was 5th in the OWGR at Muirfield in 2013. The previous 5 winners in Els, Harrington, Cink, Oosthuizen and Clarke were all ranked outside of the World’s Top 10 when triumphing.
|Year||Open Winner||World Golf Rank|
Recent Form Is Key
Zach Johnson's gritty win at St Andrews last year adds even more gravitas to the fact that in-form players are the guys to follow at the Open Championship. It makes sense that those who are struggling with their games are unlikely to find them on a tough links course and in the last 4 champions we can see a pattern that's easy to extrapolate.
For the record, 10 Champions from the last 16 renewals (63%) had won a tournament in the season prior to triumphing at The Open. Tiger Woods (00, 05, 06), Ernie Els (02), Todd Hamilton (04), Padraig Harrington (07), Louis Oosthuizen (10), Darren Clarke (11), Phil Mickelson (13) and Rory McIlroy (14) had all won in the season prior to lifting the Claret Jug.
Open Championship Tips 2016
Our final Open Championship tips for 2015 were published here. The remainder of this page is our preview for the 2016 event.
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