Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, even if he is the one manning the wheel and setting the odds for The Open Championship for the great and powerful Ladbrokes, your betting shop of choice if you happen to engage in such a thing.
Whoever made the decision to install Tiger Woods as the favorite – 7-2 is the price – had to have had a couple of pints of Guinness too many before he reported back to work after lunch that day.
Tiger the favorite? That’s a drunkard’s flight of fancy if there ever was one. It’s true that he has proved he can win a major with a broken leg but he hasn’t demonstrated he can win one with a broken spirit, which apparently is more debilitating.
He flew in his G4, or whatever he flies, to Ireland to play in J.P. McManus’ pro-am last Monday and Tuesday and shot an impressive 79 in the first round of the 36-hole charity event, demonstrating the amount of control he has over his game at present. Instead of staying over to practice and play at the Old Course to ready himself for The Open Championship, he chose to fly back to Orlando, telling the press that he wanted to see his children.
But you can wager, and not with Ladbrokes, that the real reason he fled Great Britain was to avoid at all costs the ravenous British media that will hound his every step while he’s in Scotland. When he returns to St. Andrews it’s also a good bet that he will stay at the Old Course Hotel, which is a short walk to the course and back, and he hopes the hotel has Sky TV and the room service food is passable for a week.
If you want to take a flyer on Woods, hey, it’s your money. But you punters would be better served if you looked farther down the list for the players to fancy this week. Phil Mickelson is next at 14-1, but that’s not a particularly informed bet, either. Mickelson has had next to no success at The Open Championship and there’s nothing in his current form to suggest that this might be the year.
Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy are all 16-1 and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and the world’s hottest player, Justin Rose, are installed at 25-1.
In fact, besides Woods, there are no short odds on any player in the field, which tells you that the bookmakers are convinced The Open Championship is just as wide open at the U.S. Open was. No one in his right mind would have made McDowell his first pick to win at Pebble Beach, perhaps not even McDowell himself. It’s said that the bookies seem to know something the rest of us don’t, but the only thing Ladbrokes seems to know is that more than a handful of players have a chance to win The Open Championship. And whoever bets the right way will step up to the window and have a handsome payday.
Currently, there is no play to bet on a European winner and that’s the only likely wager where there would be a really short price. In fact, that’s why probably such a bet isn’t on the board because as it stands, it would be an odds-on favorite for a European – perhaps an Englishman – to win the Open Championship.
Besides Westwood, Harrington, McIlroy, Rose and McDowell, Englishmen Luke Donald, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter each can be had at 33-1, all of whom would be well worth a £20 note on an each-way bet – win, place and show.
If you like the Americans, you can get Jim Furyk at 40-1, Steve Stricker – World No. 4 – at 50-1, Zach Johnson at 66-1 and Dustin Johnson at 80-1. But you might as well drink away your hard-earned quid at the corner pub. You’re certain to get more for your money.
Does that mean that The Open Championship won’t be very interesting if Woods, Mickelson and most of the usual suspects probably won’t win? Quite the contrary, if you keep an open mind. This is your opportunity to learn about players you probably know nothing about, unless you have a television in your office and watch the European Tour in the mornings on Golf Channel.
Whoever heard of Frenchman Gregory Havret and who would have imagined he would be the U.S. Open runner-up? The Open Championship has a habit of introducing Europeans to the U.S., especially in the early rounds. So, don’t be surprised if you see players on the leaderboard such as the Molinari brothers of Italy – Eduardo and Francesco – Ross Fisher of England, Martin Kaymer of Germany, long-hitting Alvaro Quiros of Spain and Rhys Davies of Wales, perhaps the best putter on the European Tour.
And don’t be shocked in the least bit if any of the aforementioned actually come up large and win The Open Championship. In fact, if you were smart enough, you’d do well to bet on it.