Open preview

The Open 2015: Field wide open for St Andrews

Can Jordan Spieth make it three Majors in a row, or will a rank outsider claim the Claret Jug? These questions will be answered when The Open 2015 tees off at St Andrews on July 16th, the 144th edition of the greatest tournament in golf. This year the Open returns to the home of golf, a place like no other for golfers that has inspired many a famous championship over the years.

Open preview – Runners and Riders

Open preview golfers

First up, the elephant not in the room. Rory McIlroy, the defending champion, won’t be in St Andrews after rupturing an ankle ligament playing football. What a pity, we would have all loved to watch the 26-year-old Ulsterman look to make it two in a row.

Jordan Spieth is the out and out clear favourite. The youngster has already notched up two Majors this year, at the Masters and the US Open, and is fighting for what would be an astonishing third-straight Major. If you fancy having a bet on the favourite here, you can currently get best price of 6/1, and this is being offered by William Hill

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The 21-year-old is relatively untested on the links, so it’s going to be interesting to see how his game can adapt to the Scottish conditions. However, the windy, links-like course at Chambers Bay, the US Open venue this year, shows he’s up to the challenge. Chances of him landing a third Major currently sit around 14%, which is not a bad price considering. A win at St Andrews in 2015 would see him elevated to one of the greats of the game; so it will be worth watching every shot he plays.

Tiger Woods has won The Open at St Andrews twice, in 2000 and 2005, but he’s a different player these days. The 14-time Major winner is licking his wounds from posting the worst round of his pro career, an 85 at the Memorial, in June.

But write off Woods at your peril; this fallen star still has a lot of life in him. Tiger’s price is about 25-1 and probably good money at that, given his record around the Old Course. He loves it in Fife and could yet add to his haul of Majors.

Dustin Johnson’s calamitous three-putt in the US Open denied him his first Major but he’s definitely playing some of the best golf around at the moment and is ready to step up. He’s a big hitter, which is ideal for St Andrews, and has finished second and sixth at the last two Majors. The world number four is priced at 12-1 at most bookies; the question is whether he’s mentally ready to compete after Chambers Bay.

Another famous final-day collapse came in the shape of Adam Scott, who blew his chance to win The Open in 2012 at Royal Lytham. The Australian came back from that disappointment with a fantastic Masters win though, and is a relaxed and confident figure around the course these days. Definitely a top pick at 20-1.

England’s Justin Rose is the favourite British player to lift the Claret Jug. Nick Faldo, the last Englishman to win The Open, triumphed at the Old Course twice and Rose is in fine form to emulate. He ran Spieth a close second at Augusta earlier this year and has a big desire to match Faldo’s 6 Majors. If he’s going to do so then St Andrews is the perfect place to make it number two.

Louis Oosthuizen is former winner here who clearly loves the wide fairways of the Old Course. The South African won in 2010, the last time the tournament was staged here, and is in good shape again.

American Bubba Watson could be an interesting one to watch. The owner of the General Lee is the world number three, but his odds for the 2015 Open don’t reflect that position in the slightest. Links golf is not exactly suited to his game, but at 33-1 there could be money each-way when bookies are paying on the top 6 places.

Jason Day is similarly priced and shouldn’t have to worry about fainting in the Scottish July sun. Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia are all solidly priced and could make a strong fist of things on the Old Course. Can Garcia shake his Major hoodoo? Speaking of which, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are usually in the running for a day or two.

Biggest outside bets? It’s worth stressing now just how the history tell us that St Andrews favours the elite players at the top of the rankings. But … past winners Sandy Lyle and Nick Faldo can be had at 2,500-1. We wouldn’t imagine these old stalwarts of Open Championships to make it too far up the leaderboard. Todd Hamilton and David Duval are among the biggest priced American former champions, but again hardly worth the effort.

Really we’d be looking at someone in midfield for a bit of a punt. Jimmy Walker has done very well this year, winning a couple of times on the PGA Tour in the US and now second to Spieth in the FedEx Cup standings. At about 66-1 there’s form in this American but the links could be beyond his reach.

For a real links pro, Tommy Fleetwood could be an interesting one at about 70-1. The Englishman’s record around the Old Course in recent Alfred Dunhill Championships suggests he loves the Old Course and may be a dark horse for a placing at The Open.

Home favourites are thin on the ground these days. Marc Warren is probably as good as it gets at around 150-1. Scottish golf is not what it once was.

The Course

Open preview - St Andrews

So what about the actual course? What atrocities await the foolhardy and the stupid?

Well, actually, the Old Course is not the trickiest of the Open links. Most of the bunkers don’t really come into play, the fairways are wide and the big guns can make mincemeat of
certain par 4s.

Although, there’s still plenty of challenges for the players. Hell Bunker (14th) and the Road Hole Bunker (17th) are among the most feared traps out on course. And if the weather gets up, there could be all manner of chaos.

Really the Old Course is all about the history, the iconic landmarks like the Road Hole and Swilcan Bridge, and the shared greens that are a throwback to another era.

St Andrews is about tradition, and that includes the players to grace this famous links.

Winners at St Andrews over the years have included some of the biggest names the sport has ever seen; the likes of Sam Snead, Bobby Locke, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods have all lifted the Claret Jug here.

Whether Spieth adds his name to this list of champions is still to be decided. If he does, he’ll surely go down as one of the greatest to ever lift a club.

That wraps up our Open preview, but be sure to head back to our brand new golf blog for future news, previews and announcements.