Its Open week, the 3rd major of the year and in my very biased opinion the one trophy all the players would like to have their name engraved into the most
Not only that its 'Milli Maker' week and a chance for one of us to strike it rich and fill the bank with a life changing amount of cash. Now of course I truly hope that lucky person is going to be me and like all of you I'm feeling good about this one and wish everyone the very best of luck... just please don't hurt me too much and pip me to that million with my own advice ;-)
The Venue and Course
This time and for the 147th Open, the rotation has made its way around to the most revered and potentially most challenging of all the Open venues
Carnoustie Championship Course or 'CarNasty' as its nicknamed is one beast and brute of a golf course. A true links masterpiece with all that you expect of a course of this elk. Littered with cavernous pot hole bunkers, undulating, wonky fairways that run forever (this year for infinity + infinity). Deep, daunting rough and pure rolling monstrous greens.
Playability and difficulty dictated by the weather and by far the truest test of golf the players will face all year. Both good and bad luck, which as it should be will add to the drama this course offers, it will cause frustration for many but for the one that battles hardest there will be jubilation and celebration to end the week.
Par 71, measuring 7,402 yards, consisting only 2 par 5's and 3 par 3's
As you should know by now Carnoustie is burnt-out!!! Across the UK we have been experiencing an incredibly dry season and to be honest I can't remember the last time we even saw a drop of rain. Golf courses everywhere have been struggling to keep them looking green and in particular links courses have been battered the most due to coastal winds exaggerating the severity of dryness.
Fairways are rock solid and running just as quick as Augusta's greens if not quicker. Judging the run out will be comfortably the biggest challenge players will face this week.
Good news though the rough is down and very patchy, still a bad lie to be found but just as much chance that you actually find a reasonable and very playable lie as well.
Greens will be running at something close to 10 on the stimp-meter, that's around 1ft to 2ft slower than the tour averages and the plans of the R&A will not only be to maintain this speed throughout the week but to also ensure that they remain green and receptive.
All in all, considering the incredible dry spell that could only be matched by Pats 2017 dry spell. The course has been prepared to an incredible standard, scoring will be decent and the golf will be extremely enjoyable to watch.
Although the forecast seems pretty set and I really don't think much will change in the next few hours I will leave talking about or offering advice until the last minute.. If you have questions or want directing to good sites with hourly forecast feel free to contact me on Twitter and I'll be glad to help where I can.
Key Stats and Stratergy
1st and foremost keep an eye on the weather and leave locking in those line ups until the last moment. Be cautious if favoring one half of the draw or the other and double check what time your players are going out on Friday.
There are very mixed opinions as to the style of golfer that will win here, personally I believe it can play in to the hands of the bomber just as much as it can for the short knocker and the tactician. I will be looking for a balance in my line ups (big hitting super stars mixed with super consistent, cut making tacticians)
Ownership will be very spread within the Milli Maker so don't focus to much on the projections. Go with your gut, pick the players you like and sit back enjoy the golf.. of course keep those fingers crossed you land the big one but lets not forget only one person will be winning life changing somes of money and your odds of winning are slim to say the least.
Look at other contests available and consider playing the bigger household names in those instead, for example Tiger who is likely to be higher owned in the more attractive and better marketed contests.
Look at those links course specialist and in particular with good previous tournament history. Experience counts for a lot on an R&A set up course and those that manage their misses best and understand the philosophy of the set up will stand a better chance of keeping those big numbers off the card.
Low ball flight can be nothing but a huge advantage, the breeze will pick up at some point during the 4 rounds and having that ability to chase the ball along the deck will eliminate some of the potential hazards and keep that score going.
Ultimately the player that wins will be the one who has a hot short stick, when looking at stats regarding putting, consider 3 putt avoidance and good stats from that 6-8ft range.. Rickie is a prime example of this and why so many believe one day if not this week the Claret Jug will have his name on it. the other great example is obviously Spieth and I'm sure he will credit his win last year to his former skills with the putter.
Dustin Johnson $11,300 - The bookies have him as the most likely to win and so do I. His game off the tee makes him perfectly suited to this course, long, accurate and piercing low ball flight. Also when looking at the alternative option in Rory I would much rather pay up the extra $300 for a lot more security in overall performance.
Justin Rose $10,200 - 17 starts this year and every cut made to date, more impressively he has finished inside the top 10 on 12 occasions and picked up a win at Fort Worth to take him to a total of 22 professional career wins. Amazingly with all this consistency he has only picked up the 1 major so far and I know how desperately he would love to win here and double that total.
$9,000 - $10,000
Rickie Fowler $9,700 - Looked really impressive and really at ease last week in Scotland, Rickie will love and thrive within the challenge of winning the oldest major and like many others I believe his best chance of adding a major title will come from playing on a links course. He has the experience, creativity, driving game and ball flight control to know how to strategically work his way around the course and get himself into contention come Sunday
Tommy Fleetwood $9,400 - You either like him or you love him and I love a bit of Tommy this week, current course record holder from last years Alfred Dunhill Champs, all be it on a much easier set up of the course but still to post a number like that around a course as tough as Carnoustie certainly suggests that the course suits his eye, ball flight and overall game.
Brooks Koepka $9,200 - I'm completely with DB and absolutely love this play. Brooks at this price is too big an opportunity to miss out on. His game couldn't be more suited to taking on the courses and set ups presented by The Open and obviously The US Open. That accompanied with his experiences of playing here during his Euro days I think this is one of those no-brainer plays.
$8,000 - $9,000
Tiger Woods $8,900 - Experience, Strategy, Patience, Stingers, Red Shirt on Sunday. It's Tiger Woods y'all. Going to be very high owned in the 'milli maker' but I'm still going to have some ownership myself. Knowing the driver will stay in the bag for most of the week, gives me a lot of confidence that Tigers amazing iron play will create plenty of chances and with the better chance of keeping big numbers off the card
Francesco Molinari $8,600 - Gonna be super chalky this week but the Italian Bill Haas is the most in form player in the filed and certainly the player with the most control of his golf ball right now. On the Euro tour he won at Wentworth then followed that up with a 2nd place in his home nation open. Then went off to the US open and finished 25th on a course that really shouldn't of suited his game. After that decided to play some PGA tour golf in order to rack up some Fed Ex points and very impressively won again and followed that up with a 2nd last week at the John Deer.
Patrick Reed $8,400 - Captain America is certainly proving himself as the man for the big occasion. Obviously known for his amazing Ryder Cup performances but now starting to translate that in to the major events. An incredible win at the Masters back in April, followed up with a super impressive 4th place finish in the Us Open, now heading into the 3rd major of the year can he keep that form going? well what i saw last week in Scotland suggests that he is well and truly up for the challenge and i think we can be guaranteed that he will bring his A game to Carnoustie.
Alex Noren $8,300 - His win in France only a few weeks back will make Alex a very popular play this week, his performance on the upcoming Ryder Cup course was simply stunning and sets him up well to perform well again on a very difficult layout. his natural sahpe and trajectory will be well suited off the tee and his stunning short game should help massively with bogey avaoidance.
$7,500 - $8,000
Marc Leishman $8,000 - I think its fair to include Marc within that category as a links course specialist and certainly going off of his recent Open form history has to be another player well worth considering. 3 top 6 finishes within the last 4 Opens. Fantastic wind player and exceptional at making par look very easy when trying to grind out a result.
Tyrrell Hatton $7,900 - Unlike Tommy's like or love him situation, he is much more a love or hate him character. Listening to the TJ podcast and mini argument between DB and Pat about him cracked me up and I have to say your both right... He's a dick at the best of times but just as much as that he is an incredible character and knows how to enjoy himself. If Tyrrell's in the right frame of mind then he's worth a punt on. Loves playing links golf and has the recent links form to suggest the minds good and ready to rip it up.
Branden Grace $7,900 - You wont see many players out there consistently hit as low a ball flight as Branden. Hits driver like Tiger hits a stinger 2 iron. Showed us last year how good he can be on the links and this year continued to show us his high skill set with 19 of 19 made cuts, 5 top tens and 1 win under his belt.
Matthew Fitzpatrick $7,600 - Short knocker compared to many but fantastic on and around the greens and exceptionally good at keeping big numbers off the card.. the combination of player and caddie work very well together on tough tracks and everything suggests another solid performance this week.
Thomas Pieters $7,600 - 1 of my 2 punt picks of the week, wont have a lot of exposure but this big hitting talent could be worth a little gamble especially in the 'milli maker' If things click and form continues from the Scottish Open where he finished 6th this play could really pay off with good point scoring from birdies and even the odd eagle thrown in.
$7,000 - $7,500
Luke List $7,500 - The other 1 of my punt picks and made his way in to write up for almost exactly the same reasons as Pieters, however he did finish slightly better in the Scottish Open with T3.. Only concern here is ownership but at least if this low exposure ship sinks I wont be the only one going down with him.
Jorge Campillo, Andy Sullivan, Lee Westwood, Zach Johnson, Thorbjorn Olesen all priced at $7,200 - I have spent way too long trying to separate and choose between these players, all have been displaying superb form and have games that could hold up here and even grab a cheeky top 10 placing or better. After all my deliberation I have finally decided to roll with them all. use big name players to make up my core and sprinkle these in wherever I see fit.
$7,000 or less
Charley Hoffman $7,000 - With 7 Opens played to date and his best finish coming last year at Royal Birkdale I feel this is the year to play a little Charley, especially as he is coming into this major with solid recent form.. 20th place in the US Open followed up with T15 at the Travelers and 19th last week in the Scottish.
Eddie Pepperell $7,000 - Eddie falls in to that class of short knockers, but comfortably one of the best iron players across all the tours. hits greens for fun and other than the driver has a very solid all round game. Going back to the driver the good news for Eddie is the burnt out fairways and ridiculous amount of run. He will get away with either hitting 3 wood or 2 iron all week and not find himself so far back that the approach then become to tough.
Matthew Southgate $6,900 - Those that know me and know my write up will know that I love getting behind Matt on any links course. He feels at home on these courses, loves using the natural lie of the land to his advantage and has the creativity and imagination to not only play from tee to green but also manage those up and downs to avoid bogey when needed. His best performance of late came at La golf national where the course and conditions where far from easy and even winding things back to the 2 last years in the Open Matt showed the world how good he can be with with a 12th place finished, followed up with a 6th place finish at Royal Birkdale.
Ryan Fox $6,900 - This bomber expressed how much he was looking forward to the series of links course events and of course the big one starting tomorrow. Only managed a T44 in France but this isn't true links and to be fair to him was a solid result considering the abundance of water in play there. Soon as he moved on to true links that fit his aggressive style better the placings improved considerably with a very unlucky 2nd place finish in Ireland that was then followed up with a 6th place in Scotland.
Alexander Bjork $6,800 - Solid off the tee, very good with irons and wedges in hand. Very calm and collected head on young shoulders and as patient as they come. Form leading up to this event has been eye catching and if looking for a pivot play off of Grillo this could be the perfect pick
Emiliano Grillo $6,800 - Ticks an abundance of boxes within the stats categories and at this very low price, presents an opportunity to be a little heavier stacked at the top end. what i like most about this play is his performances on tough tracks and although ownership could be higher than some others i think i would much rather have a better chance of a made cutt than gamble away a good line up with a low end scrub pick.
Dylan Frittelli $6,800 - Form coming into this event has been solid, 12th in France, 14th in Ireland and 23rd in Scotland. has a game that adapts well to links golf and is most certainly enjoying this style of course as reflected with the recent results.
Stewart Cink $6,600 - Loving the form and the style of play, first and foremost any success this week will come from a 6/6 line up so if you are heavily stacked at the top a player with fantastic course management and renewed confidence surely can only be a very sensible selection.
Tom Lewis $6,300 - If you have to start scrapping around at the bottom of the scrub picks this is where I feel most comfortable, lewis has an absoult abundance of experience on tough links course tracks and of late has started to show some signs that he is getting ever closer to the quality of golf he expects and we all expected from him.
Rory McIlroy - Why on earth would I even consider playing Rory when I have the option to take DJ for only $300 more or even make a massive saving by taking a far more consistent Justin Rose and save myself $800.
Bubba Watson - I love Bubba and I usually love taking a punt on him, however the more I look at the course and the more I think about the way he likes to work the ball the harder I find it to play him. With the amount of curvature he likes to work with it will in effect make the fairways play much narrower, that accompanied with awkward bounces and bad luck I cant see him keeping enough bogeys or worse off the card.
Phil Mickleson - Fantastic player with all the experience in the world, however since the issues at the US Open, we just haven't seen the same Lefty. Once again looked out of sync whilst playing in Scotland and considering the quality of golf played by the majority in very calm conditions on a much easier course than Carnoustie I needed to see a lot more than a missed cut to get me backing him again.
Russel Knox - You may be surprised to see that I'm not one who will follow the current recent form of Knox, yes he has been very impressive in the last 3 events but what puts me off is mental fatigue. Russel was talking himself about how much the last few events have taken its toll on him and I think his final round of 75 last week perfectly demonstrates how tough it is to remain competitive when that mental fatigue kicks in and there is no way anyone can get away with switching off whilst playing in the Open.
Bryson DeChambeau - The shoulder injury and withdrawal last week has really put me off this play, but even before that I had serious doubts about playing him as I honestly don't think he can science the s**t out of a links course and especially one as unpredicatable as this burnt out Carnoustie course.
First Round Leader
With very calm conditions forecast for Thursday morning I'm looking at those early starters and someone to post an untouchable number in the best of the conditions.
Tyrrell Hatton - 45/1 - One of the form players and loves his links golf. This early starter will be teeing off in group number 7 at 07:41. Most certainly has the caliber and aggressive nature to post a low number compared to the field. Also plenty of quality within his group to bounce off of.
Patrick reed - 45/1 - Out in group 21 at 10:20 with Casey and Oosthuizen, love the pairing, early enough tee time not to be too disturbed by increasing wind speed in the afternoon and after seeing a very solid performance last week in Scotland I am expecting Reed to try to get off to a flyer and give himself the best opportunity to be in the mix for yet another major come Sunday.
Andy Sullivan - 80/1 - 1st out on Thursday morning with a 06:35 tee time. Will play the course in its purest of conditions and with his current recent form very capable of posting that low number.
Matthew Southgate - 90/1 - 2nd group out with a 06:46 tee time. This links course specialist has been showing great form as he always does during this time of year. He has also started his last few events really well. Just hoping he can get off to a flyer again but maintain his score a little better as he comes down the final stretch.
Luke List - 90/1 - Out in the 3rd group at 06:57 and paired with 2 players showing some solid form. The big hitting American played incredibly well last week in Scotland and posted the lowest number last Thursday with a 63. With similar calm conditions forecast it should present another opportunity to attack the course and go low.
As with all the majors the bookies are offering 8 or even 10 places on each way bets and with such an incredible field the values on most are considerably higher than usual. If your going to land an outright now is the time to do it and there are plenty of options out there that grab the eye. These are a few of my favorites.
Dustin Johnson - 12/1 - Just like the bookies he is my clear favorite to win here. His long hitting, strength and lower ball flight offer the best skill set to take on the course and hit plenty of wedges into the greens even if that means the odd wedge shot comes from the wispy rough. If I'm going to take any short odds player it makes sense to roll with the world number 1.
Francesco Molinari - 30/1 - The odds for Franky have been slashed from 40/1 to 30/1 but absolutely no surprise considering his current form and how in control of the golf ball he is. With most bookies offering 8 places with an each way bet this still presents great value.
Patrick Reed - 40/1 - This big occasion player seems to be too good value to miss out on especially considering his major performances this year (Win The Masters, 4th The US Open.) and a nice little boost from a solid performance last week in Scotland whilst adapting his game ready for this week.
Tyrrell Hatton - 40/1 - Coming in to this event Tyrrell has displayed some excellent form, T9 last week in Scotland, T12 a few weeks back in France and T6 in the US Open. On all 3 occasions he has had one round within the 4 that has kept him out of the top spots, if he can keep his cool and string together 4 solid rounds he could even be lifting the Claret Jug on Sunday.
Alex Bjork - 160/1 - Those that read my write up weekly will know that I think very highly of this player and expect good things to come his way. Such a very consistent performer with a fantastic temperament. Won the Volvo China open back in April and more recently has been showing signs of picking up another win. (T19 Scotland, T14 Ireland and T8 in France)
Jorge Campillo - 200/1 - Very much a long shot but certainly not out the question, form has been superb and most importantly over the last 3 events (links style courses) has really impressed. T32 in Scotland (In contention on Sunday but dropped away after a disappointing triple bogey on the 1st hole of his final round.) 3rd in the Irish Open and T8 in France.
Right ladies and gentlemen that's me done, time to work on building and finalising my winning line ups. Best of luck to you all and as always feel free to ask about anything I haven't covered through twitter.