Favourites fire on day one
Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott dominate the outright betting after day one of the Open Championship.
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Sky Bet made Rory McIlroy their 4/1 favourite for the Open Championship at 2000 BST.
McIlroy's opening 66 was exceptional and could've been even better given that he spurned chances early on, and the question now is can he find the same level of form on Friday?
If he can, 4/1 will look huge and we must remember that both major victories so far have seen him stretch right away from the field. I didn't fancy him at the beginning of the week, but I wouldn't want to be a layer at the price especially if conditions remain benign.
Already, the former world number one has helped land a punt as he was backed both before and during his round to end Thursday at the top of the leaderboard.
John Rhodes explained: "Given that McIlroy is often at his best on day one, as we saw in Scotland just last week, we tried to keep him on-side in the first-round leader market.
"However, punters got stuck in anyway and that continue with our in-play betting as he got shorter and shorter throughout the day. It briefly looked like Adam Scott might come to the rescue but it wasn't to be so it's one-nil to the punters.
Sky Bet do however think Scott could come to their rescue come Sunday, making him 5/1 after a solid round of 68 saw him end the day two adrift of McIlroy.
Alone in second lies Matteo Manassero and he's in to 33/1, with Tiger Woods just 10/1 having managed to break 70 by a shot despite starting with back-to-back bogeys. Woods touched 50/1 in-play but is now clear third in the market.
Our outright selections
Furyk birdied three of the four par-threes to end the day two off Rory McIlroy's lead and in a good position to mount a weekend challenge. The 44-year-old hit 12 out of 14 fairways and missed just three greens, with his solitary bogey coming at the tricky seventh. Clearly, it's a fine start to the event for a player who spoke afterwards about how a break since the US Open has done him good, and of the inspirational effect of playing with Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.
A bad start and a bad finish does not a good opening round make, but there were enough positves in Snedeker's 74 to keep alive hopes of a run tomorrow. He'll need to sharpen up from the tee having hit just eight fairways but if he can get off to a better start and take advantage of the par-fives, he can make the weekend. Clearly from a win perspective he's hard to fancy, being as he is eight strokes off the pace-setting Rory McIlroy, but it's too soon to write him off particularly as we know Snedeker is capable of an exceptionally low round if it all clicks tomorrow.
While Hoylake wasn't easy on day one, I'm not sure it played to McDowell's strengths. The wind didn't blow and the greens were receptive, so it required less imagination than is typically the case and that's why it's Northern Ireland's high-ball guru who leads and not the player who starred here eight years ago. Like Snedeker, it's too soon to write off McDowell particularly in light of his performance in France a fortnight ago, but in truth we almost certainly need a lot of help from the weather. Even in that case it's hard to see seven-under or so being good enough here so he needs three rounds of 69 or better to hold a chance I suspect.
It felt like a case of 'what might have been' with Dustin today. Conditions were perfect for him to take apart the course but despite making a birdie at the second, he failed to do so. Fifteen pars, two birdies and a bogey represents good work but for him to par all four par-fives is a real disappointment considering all were easily reachable in two. Statistically he hit it well but didn't make his share so there's scope for improvement and he's probably got a similar chance now to when we backed him on Tuesday.
That Steele started with a pair of double-bogeys and played the par-fives in level-par, yet shot a two-over 74, shows you that he played quite well in parts and certainly fought hard to produce the best score in his group despite that nightmare opening. When backing a player at 300/1 we do so knowing he's probably not going to win, and it seems even less likely now. Hopefully he can break par tomorrow and make the weekend, thus justifying the logic in selecting him. I remain sure he's got the game for this test and he certainly has the attitude, hence shooting two-under for the final 16 holes.
Oliver Fisher to be the top GB & Irish player
Fisher looked in really good nick before this event and continued to produce some exceptional ball-striking until undermining an excellent day's work with a closing double-bogey seven. That puts him level-par and six back of McIlroy, but if he can put that behind him he's playing well enough to shoot something better in the morning and make the weekend with room to spare. If that's the case, the 20/1 place part of our 80/1 bet will look very strong and we could yet see him close the gap on Rory.
Darren Clarke to be the top GB & Irish player
It was a tale of two nines for Clarke who went out in four-over but came home in three-under to keep this one alive. He's in and around the likes of Ian Poulter and Luke Donald and they're all players here if they break par tomorrow and Rory does not. For anyone at one-over, making the cut is the first thing and to do so Clarke is going to need to get off to a better start when he tees off in the afternoon. With wind forecast, the course is likely to play to his strengths and I'm sure he remains a live player here, probably more so than when the bet was struck.
Jimmy Walker to be the top American
David John's 33/1 each-way tip looks like a great bit of business after Walker broke 70 to sit just inside the top-10 on the leaderboard. In doing so he failed to really put his length to good use on the par-fives so there's scope there, and you'd also expect him to get better and better as he gains more experience of links golf. There's probably reason to be slightly concerned that wind is in Friday's forecast but don't forget Walker won at Pebble Beach earlier this season as well as in Hawaii, so he knows what it takes to cope. Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk are the men to beat in this market but Walker is right in there pitching and again we have four places to play for.
Thongchai Jaidee to be the top Asian
Jaidee's score doesn't tell the whole tale. He made just one birdie to go with one bogey and 16 pars, but hitting just nine greens in regulation meant he was forced to lean heavily on his short game which came to the rescue. At level-par, he's got four men in front of them and the concern for backers is that one of them is Hideki Matsuyama. Still, we should never be afraid of one name and Jaidee is another of our wagers whose chances look similar to when we backed him.
A hard luck story but a solid start to the tournament. Our recommended double on Marc Warren and Pablo Larrazabal looked home and hosed as Warren landed his match by no fewer than six strokes, and Larrazabal led by four with five to play and then by three standing on the 17th tee.
From there it all went a bit wrong and I've still no idea how. Scott Stallings, playing with Larrazabal, made what I'm sure will be the only eagle of the week on 17 to tie the match and then birdied the last, as did our man, to ensure a dead-heat. It means the bet paid out at around evens instead of 3/1 but it's a winning start to the tournament.