The golfing gods aren’t quite with us at the moment with 66-1 shot Pablo Larrazabal blowing a three-shot lead in the BMW and then Cameron Tringale three-putting the last hole to drop from third place on his own to a seven-way tie for 4th and 5th in the Greenbriar at a juicy 100/1 – but there’s always this week!
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club hosts the Scottish Open for the first time this week in a bid to provide players with a suitable warm-up for next week’s The Open Championship, and it is likely to provide a much sterner test than either Castle Stuart or Loch Lomond, the previous two hosts.
“It’s a course to test the better golfer, one who can accommodate the many variable conditions this arduous links can throw at you” is how Royal Aberdeen describes the Balgownie Links Course and, though it has never previously staged a European Tour event, the leaderboard from the 2005 Seniors Open certainly leads you to believe just that.
Only four players broke par that week, with five-time Open Champion Tom Watson coming out on top from Des Smyth and dual Open Champion Greg Norman. A look at these three players Open records prompts me to make a somewhat tenuous link with Turnberry where both Watson and Norman claimed one of their Open victories (both low-scoring affairs) and Smyth posted a fourth-placed finish, his only decent finish in a string of decidedly average efforts. Watson and Norman both tied for 11th at Turnberry in 1994, before Watson, at the age of 59, lost in that heartbreaking play-off in 2009 against Stewart Cink.
In 2009, 23 players finished within four shots of the lead, many of whom are playing this week including Chris Wood 70/1, Lee Westwood 33/1, Luke Donald 28/1, Ernie Els 70/1, Thomas Aiken 225/1 Miguel Angel Jimenez 70/1, Matteo Manassero 125/1, Justin Rose 14/1, Francesco Molinari 40/1, Thongchai Jaidee 45/1 and Ross Fisher 80/1.
Off all those players, Aiken looks the best value at 225/1 (most bookies paying 6-places this week). He was 8th in the aforementioned 2009 Open, whilst he was also 7th in the 2012 Open (another low-scoring affair at Lytham) and, despite not being the most consistent player, is worth taking a chance on. The 20/1 for a top-10 finish should also be snapped up.
Next up is Chris Wood who jumped to prominence with his tied 5th at the 2008 Open at Birkdale before bettering that a year later with 3rd at Turnberry. A winner on the European Tour last year, he’s also posted three top-8 spots in his last six appearances.
Manassero won 4 events before his 21st birthday including the PGA at Wentworth, and looked a sure fire future Open winner after his 13th placed Turnberry debut in 2009. Won once a season since and should appreciate this tough test, whilst he also had the confidence boost of holing his final iron-shot at the French Open for an eagle.
Last, but by no means least, it’s worth taking a chance on wily old campaigner Jimenez whose last five Open appearances have seen him finish 13/27/25/9/13. In great form a few weeks ago, he‘ll soon pick up where he left off if he gets a sniff of the title.
Thomas Aiken each-way 225/1 and 20/1 top-10 finish
Chris Wood each-way 70/1
Matteo Manassero each-way 125/1
Miguel Angel Jimenez each-way 70/1