It may have seen more public meltdowns and humiliations than Kerry Katona’s entourage but the world’s top golfers tee it up on Thursday morning for the 154th Open Championship.
Phil Mickelson is looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Padraig Harrington (2007/08) after shooting the lights out on the final day last year to capture his first Claret Jug after Lee Westwood wished he stayed in bed after blowing a three-shot overnight lead.
The hat-trick seeking Justin Rose carries the favourite’s tag into the four-day spectacular having won the Quicken Loans National stateside and the Scottish Open last weekend. The last four Open champions played in – but didn’t neccessarily win – the Scottish Open, although Mickelson did the double last year.
Ian Poulter has given himself the green light after injuring his wrist in Scotland and finished T3 last year after a final-day rattle down Muirfield’s back nine – while Tiger Woods reckons his one round in three months and a trip to Switzerland to visit his sponsors leaves his game in good enough shape to repeat his 2006 win at this course.
Here’s the 7 players you’re backing off the boards to put a dent in Paddy’s book as of 3pm, Tuesday, July 15.
1. Shane Lowry 66/1
A 32nd and 37th place-finish (2013, 2010) isn’t really where it’s at when it comes to winning the Open Championship but the rotund Lowry has being showing signs all season that he could be closer to the top than bottom of the leader board come Sunday night. He’s the biggest liability right now for Paddy Power in the book, thanks to his price.
The former Irish Open champion – before he joined the paid ranks – warmed up nicely for Hoylake at Aberdeen last weekend with three rounds in the 60s to finish T4 – just six shots behind winner Justin Rose.
Lowry only started to produce his ‘A’ game in May but bar two blips at the US & Irish Open – he’s been very consistent since. Finished one-shot second to Rory McIlroy at the PGA Championship at Wentworth and T12 when just three shots off Fabrizio Zanotti at the BMW International Open in Germany.
Has the game to cope if the conditions get medieval on his ass – whether the has the stamina or the bottle – is another question.
2. Justin Rose 14/1
It’s no real surprise punters are tucking into the man-in-form Justin Rose.
One of England’s finest has been shooting the lights out in recent weeks winning the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour and the Scottish Open last weekend – and arrives at Royal Liverpool chasing a hat-trick and eighth career win.
Finally got to dine at the top table when winning the US Open at Merion last term before finishing a respectable 12th behind Martin Kaymer when defending it last month.
But in the nine Open Championships Rose has contested since 2002, his best finish as a pro (T4 as an amateur in ’98) is 12th behind play-off winner Padraig Harrington in 2007. He’s also missed the cut in three of the last four years – but was nowhere near the kind of form he’s in now.
3. Rickie Fowler 40/1
There’ll be no danger of not spotting the tangerined-one if he’s contesting Paddy Power’s 7 places come Sunday on Merseyside.
Fowler’s switch to swing coach Butch Harmon seems to be paying dividends and can build on his four-year form figures of 14-5-31-MC (missed cut) heading to Royal Liverpool.
Team Fowler decided to concentrate on being around for the awkward interviews at the end of the Majors this year and it’s paid dividends so far.
Posted a T5 behind Golf Boys side-kick Bubba Watson at the Masters and T2 at the US Open while a final-round 65 to finish T8 in Scotland will have oiled his engine for this week’s test, after being involved in a minor car crash two weeks ago.
Still just the one PGA Tour win since 2008 though the Wells Fargo Championship in 2012.
4. Martin Kaymer 22/1
The former World No1 had been as anonymous as Lionel Messi in the World Cup final as swing changes reduced his game to the brown stuff.
But Kaymer underlined his bouncebackability when winning the “fifth” Major – the Players Tournament – and followed up in the real thing a month later with a Henrik Stenson-like dominance of the field when adding the 2014 US Open to his 2010 PGA Championship win.
A quick lap of honour on the European Tour yielded big appearance fees but no trophy at either the BMW International or Open de France – but he arrives fresh at Hoylake after bypassing the Scottish Open.
With his game in the best shape it’s been for four years the German could be a contender to improve his previous best finish at the Open when seventh behind Louis Oozthuizen in 2010 at St Andrews.
5. Miguel Angel Jimenez 80/1
The most popular man in golf, Jimenez seems to get better with age like those fine wines that form part of his post-round warm down.
Two thirds of the Ryder Cup regular’s 21 career wins (14) have come since he turned 40 in 2004 – with the most recent addition to the mantlepiece being the Open de Espana in May.
A regular weekender for the last five seasons – never finishing outside the Top 30 and signed off for 13th and 9th place in the last two years.
With the last three Open winners all aged in their forties – the 50-year-old Spaniard won’t be daunted by the test and posted a fourth-placed finish at Augusta behind Bubba Watson in April.
Still has the cojones to be around at the business end on the final day.
6. Phil Mickelson 25/1
Lefty’s 19 years-a-tryin’ finally paid off last term when he lifted the Claret Jug for the first time – after missing the cut in 2012.
The lowest round of the final day (66) added an Open Championship to the popular Californian’s four-Major booty, winning by three shots from Fed-Ex Cup and Race to Dubai champ Henrik Stenson, with Ian Poulter, Adam Scott and three-shot overnight leader Lee Westwood back in third.
A reduced schedule and injury didn’t stop him finishing T11 in Aberdeen which could set Lefty up for a strong defence of his crown. Looking to become the third back-to-back winner of the Open this century after Tiger Woods 2005/06 & Padraig Harrington 2007/08 and fourth dual winner after those two and Ernie Els (2002,2012).
7. Graeme McDowell 28/1
The Northern Ireland man with the mid-Atlantic drawl has the game that is tailor made for Hoylake.
Arrives at Royal Liverpool after successfully defending his Open de France title earlier this month when making his way home in conditions that would grace any ball-busting links test.
Had posted five Top 10 finishes Stateside this season before losing his way a bit but recovered with a T6 at the Irish Open before winning at Le Golf National.
GMac is playing in his 11th consecutive Open with a fifth-placed berth behind compatriot Darren Clarke in 2011 his best finish so far.
Skipped Scotland but that shouldn’t stop his drive in adding a second Major to his 2010 US Open success as links golf is in his DNA.
- The Links Effect: Picking out a likely winner at the Open
- Open Championship preview: Find out if Justin Rose can finally end England’s hoodoo at Hoylake …. or will another of the golden generation deliver?
- Open Championship preview: Why trading on old memories won’t deliver another Major for Tiger Woods
- Cha-ching: How Paddy Power golf punters have been cashing in, even if their player shoots the lights out