Ben Coley's Open Championship specials preview and tips

Ernie Els celebrates victory in 2012
Ernie Els celebrates victory in 2012

Ben Coley has a top nationalities trixie for the Open Championship plus a 28/1 each-way selection.

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1pt e.w. Ernie Els in top former winner market at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3)

1pt trixie Lorenzo-Vera top French, Grillo top South American, Lahiri top Indian at 15/8, 6/4 and 1/2 respectively

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Top former winner


There are 16 players in this market, available with a handful of firms, and half of them are quoted at 66/1 or bigger, including the likes of John Daly and David Duval.

Dismissing them all out of hand is a little simplistic, but only Tom Lehman, available at 100s, would make serious appeal and although playing nicely, he’ll still do well to make the weekend.

Nor is the top of the market tempting. Here with have an out-of-sorts Rory McIlroy at 5/2 followed by Henrik Stenson, who defends his title having struggled with his game for much of the year.

Taking on Stenson at a links course where he has previous is risky, but he’s skinny enough at 3/1 and then you get to 5/1 shot Phil Mickelson, playing his first major without former caddie Bones.

Again, there are obvious positives – he’s contended in three of the last six renewals, winning one, and was beaten only by some of the finest golf ever seen last year. But there has to be a concern that the inexperience of brother Tim on the bag costs Mickelson shots.

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With all of this in mind, 28/1 about Ernie Els makes strong appeal with three places on offer at a quarter.

Els is clearly not the force of old but it’s still relevant that he was 29th here in 1998 and seventh, despite an opening-round 80, a decade later.

His second Claret Jug came nearby at Lytham and his links pedigree remains a big plus in an event which strongly favours experience and knowhow. 

And while he’s not been in the mix for an age, Els has made five cuts in succession in preparation for this, a feat he last achieved back in 2014.

His best effort of the season also happened to come in the Qatar Masters, where controlling your ball in the winds of Doha is key. That's an event which has been dominated by Open specialists in the past.

Making the cut here would likely leave Els in prime position for a place and at three-times the odds of Padraig Harrington, he’s awarded narrow preference.

Harrington does look a solid option if, like me, you want to take on Rory but not perhaps with Els. He's 9/1 and there's even a case for dutching the two.

Top French player


Just three runners here and in an ordinary week, 13/8 about Alex Levy would look a steal.

He is the only European Tour winner among the trio, the latest of four titles having come in China earlier this season, and on all known form has a distinct class edge at his best.

The question is, will Levy be able to perform anywhere close to his best at a course which definitely isn’t ideal for his game, a game which itself has been a little patchy of late?

On balance I think he will struggle just as he did at St Andrews two years ago, while it’s asking a lot for young Mathieu Pavon to make an impact, days having qualified for it with a career-best finish in Scotland.

That leaves us with Mike Lorenzo-Vera, who happens to be at his best on tough golf courses like Birkdale.

Just last month, he sealed his spot in the field with third place in the Open de France, while his other standout effort in 2017 came in the Qatar Masters, referenced above as a good guide to potential Open candidates.

Last season he was in the mix at Valderrama, the only event on the European Tour that was won in an over-par score all year, so the prospect of a real battle in Southport will suit him down to the ground.

His recent form is at the very least comparable to Levy’s and while there has been money for Lorenzo-Vera already, the remaining 2/1 should be taken with 15/8 also perfectly acceptable.

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Top South American player


As with all of these markets, finding pools of players where there are obvious weak links is an excellent starting point.

Of the South American quartet teeing off on Thursday, only one can really be fancied to make the weekend so at 6/4 or bigger, Emiliano Grillo looks worth backing.

Grillo was 12th on his Open debut at Troon last year and anything like that sort of performance will see him land this bet by a distance, I expect.

Granted, he’s not playing quite as well at the moment but he did strike the ball really nicely on his latest PGA Tour start, before two fair rounds in Scotland.

That links tune-up puts him at a distinct advantage over both Jhonattan Vegas and Sebastian Munoz.

Vegas is woefully out of sorts, missing four cuts in a row with an opening-round 82 at Colonial the lowlight.

Munoz is in here because he finished third two starts ago, but that was totally out of the blue and thanks in the main to a sensational putting display.

This inexperienced PGA Tour rookie missed the cut last week and is likely to find his first taste of the Open Championship too much to handle.

That leaves Fabrizio Zanotti, a mid-tier European Tour player who played worse than Grillo in Scotland and has missed the cut in half of his starts this season.

Yes, he won in Malaysia but that was back in February under totally different conditions and there have been very few positives lately.

Grillo is simply the best player in this market by a distance, playing the most consistent golf, and not only is he the only one to have played in the Open before, he also happened to play superbly.

He’s essentially an odds-on shot available at 8/5 in a place and 6/4 generally.

Top Indian player


When there are only two players in a market, the tendency is to ignore it and instead find a supposedly 50-50 match bet involving the player you want to side with.

However, Anirban Lahiri's class edge over Shiv Kapur is far greater than odds of 8/15 imply so he has to go in the staking plan.

Lahiri recently finished second in a very strong event on the PGA Tour, and he’s held his form since with 17th place behind Jordan Spieth in the Travelers and then a closing 66 for 32nd in Scotland.

Those efforts confirm that he’s snapped out of a spring slump and three cuts made in four Open Championship starts is good enough to suggest he knows how to approach Birkdale.

Kapur started well at Muirfield in 2013 but shot 77-83-71 over the final three rounds to finish 73rd, with his only other attempt ending in a missed cut.

To underline the class discrepancy between world number 67 and world number 300, Lahiri has beaten Kapur eight times in succession, and on 13 of the last 14 occasions they’ve teed it up in the same event.

Going back to the start of 2014, the score is a resounding 20-3 to Lahiri.

Throw in a better Open Championship record and 8/15 looks far too big, even allowing for Kapur’s solid play of late.

And finally…


A word on some other markets which may tempt you in.

Sportingbet quote 8/1 that a slow-play penalty is issued. It’s just four years since one was dished out at Muirfield, there have been a couple this year and my gut feeling is that 8/1 is a shade generous.

It’s a bit of a finger-in-the-air job and credit to the firm in question for having a go. Anyway, while it might be generous, it’s not the sort of bet I imagine many are interested in having.

In the to make/miss the cut markets, Bubba Watson looks value at 11/10 to miss out on the weekend.

Bubba’s record in the Open reads eight starts, four cuts made, four missed, so immediately odds-against that he misses this one becomes somewhat interesting.

Then consider that bar the odd flash of what he can do, the left-hander is enduring his worst year on the PGA Tour in the best part of a decade.

You have to go back to August 2010 for the last time Watson was ranked outside the world’s top 50 – he’s now 49th and falling fast, with the form which took him to two Green Jackets a distant memory.

It’s well-known that Watson is no links golfer and while he might still make it through to the weekend, he didn’t manage it at Augusta and he didn’t manage it at Erin Hills, two far more suitable layouts.

Finally, it could be worth considering taking on McIlroy in the top Irish player market with both Harrington and Shane Lowry.

Backing the pair at 11/4 and 3/1 comes in a shade under evens and as Darren Clarke is carrying an injury and remains out of form, this is a case of two players versus one.

Most weeks on most courses, Rory would still get the vote but given that he’s struggling to score and no lover of this style of golf, the two links specialists against him makes some sense.

Posted at 1650 BST on 18/07/2017.

The Open: Related content


Ben Coley's outright Open betting tips
Ben Coley's specials preview
Player-by-player profiles of the whole field
TV coverage details & course guide
Player quotes from Royal Birkdale
Sky Bet pay 10 places on the Open   

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