The cream of European golf will be teeing up in Scotland this week for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which features two rounds at St Andrews.
Also teeing up at the ‘Home of Golf’ will be several celebrities as this is a pro-am. However, with a total prize fund of $5 million, the professionals will not be taking this event light-heartedly and punters can have a serious bet too safe in the knowledge that the cream will tend to the rise to the top with the late cut (after three rounds instead of the usual two) allowing players plenty of time to find their feet.
Certainly, last year’s winner Martin Kaymer would have been relatively easy to find and other winners in the past decade include the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington (twice), Lee Westwood, Simon Dyson and Robert Karlsson. That must encourage anyone thinking of backing this year’s market leaders: Rory McIlroy (10/1 general), Westwood (12/1 Stan James) and Luke Donald (12/1 general).
As you’d expect from a links course, the weather is going to be a factor this week with a stiffish breeze expected all four days, although it should stay dry. Experience of playing in these conditions, therefore, is going to be critical and that should help us to narrow the list of possible winners down to a manageable size.
My Three Against The Field:-
Lee Westwood @ 12/1 Stan James (Enhanced Win Only)
I’m going to start by putting a big fat line through McIlroy as we all should know by now that he doesn’t particularly enjoy playing in windy conditions and, while he will not doubt have plenty of birdies, I can see him have a fair few ‘doubles’ too. Donald surprised many when winning the Scottish Open on a links course but conditions were relatively benign that week and, besides, his hectic schedule must catch up with him soon.
Westwood, on the other hand, will be nice and fresh for this having had a rest recently and he will be encouraged by his progressive form coming in to this, which reads: 9-8-6-5. We know he likes the conditions as he’s a past winner here (2003) and has only once been outside the top-11 since. Always superb tee-to-green, he just needs a decent week with the putter to seriously contend and I’ll be amazed if he’s not trading shorter on Betfair at some stage, giving us the opportunity to trade out should we wish.
Thomas Bjorn @ 40/1 bet365
The Dane also looks to have excellent credentials and is a value price too at 40/1 with bet365 who, along with Boylesports, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, are pushing the boat out by offering six places for each-way backers. A winner of his last two strokeplay events – he’s won three this season, and 19 in total – you just know you are going to get a run for your money on this links circuit as there are few players in the world who handle these conditions better. His fourth place in this year’s Open, having finished second twice previously, provides evidence of that. Enough said.
Alex Noren @ 45/1 Paddy Power
I'm not going too far down the betting list for my final pick as I'm expecting the class players to come to the fore on Sunday and the young Swede is undoubtedly in that bracket. Consistency might not be his strong point at this stage of his career but when he's on song he's capable of destroying the opposition, as he showed when winning the recent Nordea Masters by seven shots; in windy conditions I should add. That was his second win of the season - he'd previously won the Wales Open - and the third of his professional career, while his 17th place here last year suggests he's comfortable with the layout and pro-am format.
Lee Westwood 3pts @ 12/1 Stan James (Enhanced Win Only)
Thomas Bjorn 1pt each-way @ 40/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 126.96.36.199.5.6)
Alex Noren 1pt each-way @ 45/1 Paddy Power (1/4 odds, 188.8.131.52.5.6)