July 14, 2009

Playing The Odds At Turnberry

Mike Johnson handicaps the British Open. Just don't blame him if come Sunday evening you're not cashing a winning ticket

As someone who is not opposed to the tradition of plunking down a few pounds on the Open Championship, I feel eminently qualified to offer advice on how you should spend your hard-earned money in your office pool or with a friendly bookmaker here in the U.K. Of course, some folks prefer the hefty odds over the favorites, so here are the current 10 favorites with their odds from Ladbrokes along with a scouting report.

Wager at your own risk. In other words, don't blame me if you're not cashing in Sunday night.

Tiger Woods

Odds: 5/2

__Scouting report:__Really, what is there to say? The best player in the history of oxygen is the odds-on favorite every time he tees it up. And with three wins and a top-10 finish in every stroke-play event he has competed in this year you'd be hard-pressed to look anywhere else. Only problem is, at barely 2 to 1 he's not a great return on investment. That said, if all your looking for is some action and a chance to double your money, he's the man.

Jim Furyk

Odds: 33/1

Scouting report: Accuracy more than length is a key at Turnberry and Furyk knows how to find fairways, ranking 16th on tour. Still, his GIR rank of 116 is cause for concern. A return to the Open Championship, however, may get the juices going as Furyk has finished fourth, T-12 and T-5 the last three years. Add in seven top-10s this year (four in his last five starts) and the odds look appealing.

__Sergio Garcia

Odds:__ 33/1

Scouting report: After a rocky start to his season, the fiery Spaniard seems to have breathed some life into his game. A T-10 finish at the U.S. Open showed signs and now, back in the championship he nearly won two years ago at Carnoustie, it would not be out of the question he could finally win his first major. On his side is a putter that finally seems to be working. Long Garcia's nemesis, he rated his putting a "15" when asked to rate it on a one to 10 scale. " If the putter stays hot this week, watch out. After all, this is a man with six top 10s in the Open since 2001. Still, I'd place my money elsewhere.

__Hunter Mahan

Odds:__ 33/1

Scouting report: In my opinion, the best bang for your buck. The man is on a roll, knows how to handle wind (after all, he did play college golf in Oklahoma) and has improved his finish in each of his last six starts, with his last three all top 10s (a sixth at the U.S. Open, T-4 in Hartford and second at the AT&T). Can he improve one more time? I'm thinking yes. Don't bet the ranch, but a few pounds on Mahan is in order.

__Ian Poulter

Odds:__ 33/1

Scouting report: Last year's runner-up was so eager for a look at the course he snuck onto the 18th at 10 p.m. Sunday night only to be shooed off by security guards. Poulter acknowledge his own expectations have hurt him in the past, and said his mindset this week is to play golf rather than think he has to win. If he succeeds in doing that, he just might be able to go one spot better than last year.

__Lee Westwood

Odds:__ 33/1

Scouting report: Time is starting to run out for the 36-year-old to win a major and recent form in the Open Championship is not with him. Since a fourth-place showing at Royal Troon in 2004, Westwood has gone missed cut, T-31, T-35 and T-67 in the last four wth no round lower than 69. A second and a T-8 in his last two Euro starts offer a glimmer, but I'd stay away.

__Paul Casey

Odds:__ 40/1

Scouting report: The second highest-ranked player in the field with the absence of Phil Mickelson, Casey had been batting the flu at the AT&T National but says he feels fine now. Casey took last week to play some links golf at Burhill and flew instructor Peter Kostis over for some last-minute prep. Casey's recent form has been off, but he has played Turnberry (in the 1996 British Open) and loves the course, ranking it as his favorite. Casey flopped as one of the favorites at Bethpage. Here, with expectations not as heavy, he has a chance to contend.

__Padraig Harrington

Odds:__ 40/1

Scouting report: Looking for a three-peat, Harrington's game seems nowhere near what it needs to be, despite a win last week at the Irish PGA. Tinkering with his swing has not only hurt the Irishman's game, but his confidence seems to be eroding as well. "It's very sketchy," Harrington said when asked to assess his game. "I could only be hopeful rather than expectant to put in a good performance this week." Of course, Harrington could be playing possum, but I don't think so. Four missed cuts in his last five PGA Tour starts don't lie. Save your money.

__Martin Kaymer

Odds:__ 40/1

Scouting report: Back-to-back wins on the European Tour, including at the Scottish Open, have thrust Kaymer into the spotlight. But let's be serious. The German has played in six majors, missing the cut in four and a T-53 (2008 U.S. Open) and 80th (2008 British) being his only weekend appearances. A win this week? Not. A. Chance.

__Henrik Stenson

Odds:__ 40/1

Scouting report: A big hitter who seems to come up big in the big spots. Stenson has a trio of top-10 finishes in his last four majors, including a T-3 at last year's Open Championship. Won the Players in May showing smarts by using 3-wood almost exclusively off the tee to avoid trouble. A similar strategy could work well this week.

LONGSHOTS TO LOOK AT

__Kenny Perry

Odds:__ 80/1

Scouting report: Despite a penchant for playing the game in the air, Perry has had some solid results in his few starts in the Open Championship (T-8 in 2003, T-11 in 2005). However, the toll on a 48-year-old body playing 36 holes at the John Deere Sunday, then flying over and playing in possibly iffy weather may be significant. Still, Perry has made it clear that majors are a priority for him now. And anyone who nearly won the Masters is enticing at 80 to 1.

__Lucas Glover

Odds:__ 125/1

Scouting report: Lemme tell you, Lucas Glover gets no respect. Sure, the last player to win the U.S. Open and British Open back-to-back was Tiger Woods in 2000 -- and Lucas Glover is no Tiger Woods. Still, Glover's penchant for finding fairways should serve him well here, as should the relative anonymity he is enjoying despite his win at Bethpage. Glover's mindset also seems in the right spot. "The advice I got from some of the guys was that the only normal thing you're going to know right now is when you get between the ropes," said Glover. "So I think being able to play and keep on playing has helped." A win may be a lot to ask, but the 125 to 1 odds are a lot, too.