One of the pleasures of British Open week for visiting Americans is to venture into one of the many local betting emporiums to place a modest -- and legal -- wager or two on their favorite players. Nowadays, such bets can all be done online. And with the advent of exchange betting sites like Betfair, as well as backing a player you can "lay" a player or bet against them. This kind of betting is thus more like trading, and you can do it throughout the tournament, right up to the last putt.
So on the eve of the tournament, I fired up my laptop, put £100 -- about $160 -- into the kitty in my Betfair account and went shopping. Here's how I spent it:
£5 on Tiger Woods at 10.5 (to 1) to win £47.50. Not particularly original to bet on the favorite, but these seem like decent odds for a 14-time major winner who has won three times on tour this year and has a good record at Lytham. In the 10 previous Opens at Lytham, the winners have all been thoroughbreds.
- £10 on Westwood at 15 to win £140. English golfers of a certain age get a little misty when they recall Tony Jacklin winning here in 1969. The English who believe in fairytales are naturally hoping for another homegrown champion, and seeing as how the current world nos. 1 (Luke Donald) and 3 (Lee Westwood) are English, their dream may well come true. Of the two I prefer Westwood: he's a long, straight driver, which is going to be essential this week, and he's just been too close too many times not to break through.
- £10 on Justin Rose at 32 for £310. Another Englishman whose won this year and who often gets overlooked in the Donald-Westwood battle for world domination. He's still never bettered his tied-fourth position in his debut Open, in 1988, when as a 17-year-old amateur he holed a pitch at the 72nd hole, but this could be the year.
- £10 on Graeme McDowell at 36 for £350. The 2010 U.S. Open champion is in his prime, and grew up in Portrush, Northern Ireland, so he'll be well prepared for whatever foul weather Lytham throws at him this week.
- £10 on Rickie Fowler at 40 to win £390. I watched Fowler play a few holes at Royal St. George's last year and he was playing all kinds of improvised linksy knockdown shots and delicate bump and runs, just like a Scottish native. In his two Open appearances, he's finished tied 14th and tied 5th, and with his maiden win on tour in May, he destined for great things.
- £10 on Sergio Garcia at 40 to win £390. Here's hoping he can channel the spirit of Seve Ballesteros, who two of his three Opens here, and finally live up to his potential.
- £5 on Jason Dufner at 48 to win £235. OK so he missed the cut in both of his two prior Opens, but he's solid, unflappable, and in form: two wins on tour this year and a tied 4th in the U.S. Open.
- Four other bets on players with long odds who I don't think will win, but I do think that their odds have a good chance of shortening during the week, in which case I can "lay" them, hedging the bets and pocketing the difference. As follows: £5 on Zach Johnson at 75 to win £370--the man in form;
£5 on Bubba Watson at 85 to win £420--the Masters champion's creativity is well suited for links golf;
£10 on Branden Grace at 200 to win £1,990--the South African phenomenon is a three-time winner on the European tour this season and is looking for a big breakthrough;
£5 on Brandt Snedeker at 300 to win £1,495--streaky, unpredictable, and could suddenly find his groove.
- £10 on winning nationality being South Africa at 8.4 for £74. There have only been four South African winners of the claret jug, but the country has 14 players in the field, with many of them realistic contenders.
- £5 on a winning score of 5 strokes or more at 8.8 for £39. A throwaway bet but good odds for a runaway winner.
I'll be trading throughout the championship and will report back on Sunday on how much I won (or lost).
-- John Barton