Links specialists worth doubling
Ben Coley fancies Tom Watson to give another demonstration of his superb links game in round one of the Open Championship.
- Related Content
Assessing the first-round three-balls for the Open Championship is certainly no easy task, and stakes are best kept small in favour of gathering information for rounds two, three and four.
However, I do think there's mileage in backing Martin Kaymer to get the better of Jason Day and Garrick Porteous.
Let's deal with the latter first. Porteous won the Amateur Championship at Royal Cinque Ports earlier this year, following on from his success in the Scottish Amateur Strokeplay Championship at Southerness.
We only have to rewind two years for a reminder that amateurs can enjoy success in this event. Tom Lewis shared the lead with Thomas Bjorn at Royal St George's, in turn providing further evidence that playing links golf as an amateur can yield results on the biggest stage.
But Porteous is very much pitched in at the deep end in a three-ball with two of the toughest competitors on the circuit, one of whom is a major winner and Ryder Cup hero and the other very much a winner-in-waiting, one feels.
So, odds of 5/1 probably reflect his chance and at 11/8 it's Kaymer I want to side with.
The affable German has returned to form lately, with a fifth-placed finish in the Byron Nelson Championship followed not long after by a fourth in the BMW International and a last-time-out 13th in France.
Those results set him up nicely for the Open Championship, an event he'll really feel confident about given that he's been seventh and 12th in two of his last three appearances.
Of course, last year's missed cut was far from ideal but it came at probably the lowest time in his career since he turned professional, and it's easily forgiven.
As a winner of both an Alfred Dunhill Links title and a KLM Open, plus that famous PGA Championship success at a wind-swept Whistling Straits, Kaymer is superb when controlling ball-flight and using your imagination is key to success.
I'm not quite so sure Day is. Clearly, the Australian is an awesome talent and his major record is only missing a win, which will arrive sooner rather than later if he keeps putting himself in contention as he has so often already in what's a young career.
However, while he's been third and second in just two starts at Augusta, twice second in just three US Opens and 10th in one of three PGA Championships, two Open efforts show relatively modest shares of 60th and 30th.
And while it's too soon for Day to be written off on this type of layout, I can't help but feel he should've played in the Scottish Open to prepare for this event, one different to every other on his schedule, and that could cost him a few shots at Muirfield.
He and Kaymer have played the same round eight times and Kaymer has carded the better score in six of them. While that's a slightly unreliable way to assess performance given the variable conditions we get at every Open, it does serve to further underline that it's Kaymer and not Day who falls into the links specialist category.
With that in mind, I'd have Kaymer as a marginal favourite here and at the prices available he's worth a small bet.
The other I like is Tom Watson.
He showed that he can still compete when 38th in the Greenbrier Classic on his last PGA Tour start and what's interesting about that is it came on a course he's a member at.
While not a Muirfield member, he does have plenty of experience of the layout having won the Open here in 1980, as well as the Senior Open Championship in 2007.
We only have to go back four years for that special week which saw him so very nearly rewrite the history books at Turnberry and, on the right layout, he's certainly capable of playing his way into the weekend.
The same probably can't be said of Sir Nick Faldo, who is the spare part of a three-ball completed by Fred Couples.
Couples hasn't played the Open since 2006 and he also missed the cut when last playing the event at Muirfield in 1992.
It must be noted that he won the Senior Open Championship at Turnberry last year but in the conditions likely at Muirfield I'd be uncomfortable making him favourite to beat Watson.
Both men closed out the US Senior Open with rounds of 69 but here in Scotland I'll take Watson to card the best round of what will be a popular group to follow.
As stated, it's best to keep stakes small here so a double on Kaymer and Watson is the advice.