2008 British Open Preview and Picks

Tournament: The British Open
Dates: July 17 - 20, 2008
Course: The Royal Birkdale Golf Club - Southport, England
Television: TNT/ABC

by Matt of Predictem.com

The eyes of the golf world focus across the Atlantic as the best of the PGA play visitor to the European Tour stars and all are looking to take home the crown in the year’s third Major. The Royal Birkdale Golf Club takes it’s turn as host for the British Open, with the course sporting a face lift from the last time The Open was contested here in 1998. Tiger Woods will miss this year’s event due to injury, leaving the door open for a number of players to challenge for the title. TNT will carry the Thursday and Friday telecasts alone, and will carry the weekend mornings as ABC picks up the Saturday and Sunday conclusions. XM radio has coverage and analysis all four days of the Championship.

Since the ’98 Open, the Club at Royal Birkdale has gone through a series of changes, but has not followed the trend of large yardage additions. The majority of the changes have come in the addition of bunkers and many holes have been tweaked to change the preferred play line. As with most British Opens, the weather will play as big a part in determining scores as the layout itself. For the week, Royal Birkdale will play at par-71 and measure 7,180 yards.

Defending champion, Padraig Harrington may be faced with a near impossible title defense as news of a wrist injury was reported on Tuesday. Reports have the injury taking place on Saturday and although the wrist is relatively pain-free, there is significant swelling after practice. Take note of subsequent news before placing a bet on Paddy.

Each week we take a look at the golf sportsbooks and make a pick to win from a short, middle and long odds perspective. We will also highlight a few matches and make picks to win there as well. This week’s odds to win are courtesy of the board at Bodog Sportsbook.

Sergio Garcia

8 to 1 to win and 15 to 8 to finish in the top-5 (including ties)

Sergio takes the favorite spot with Woods out and is looking to build on a run of solid British finishes over the last few years. Garcia notched 5th place finishes in ’05 and ’06 before taking second in a playoff to Harrington last year. Garcia broke through with a win over a strong field at the PLAYERS this year and finished T18 at the U.S. Open. Sergio likes the British style of play as he has carded sub-70 scores in six of his last twelve Open rounds. Garcia always fights the yips, but gives himself plenty of birdie chances with a top-30 total driving game and a 15th ranked GIR%.

Ernie Els

12 to 1 and 11 to 4

Els is another player with a good Open resume. Els is the ’02 champ and has been in the top-10 in 9 of 17 British starts. A third and fourth in ’06 and ’07 prove that Els can still get it done here. Ernie has a win on the PGA this year and although the stat sheet has been less than average over the year, he still tallies 3+ birdies per 18 on average. Any sub-par rankings for Els will be made up for by his wealth of Open experience.


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Lee Westwood

16 to 1 and 10 to 3

Westwood is on a roll in the Majors this year, with a T11 at the Masters and a solo 3rd at the U.S. Open as his finishes in ’08. Lee has a 4th place finish in the ’04 British as his best here and will look to improve on his 31st and 35th place runs in the last two Opens. Much like Sergio, Westwood is long off the tee and is very accurate with the irons, but fights the putter at times.

Phil Mickelson

16 to 1 and 10 to 3

Phil is a threat to win any time he tees it up, but the British has not been his strong event, with 11 of his 15 starts ending with finishes outside the top-25. Lefty’s best effort came in ’04 with a T3. Mickelson will be looking for his third win of ’08 and has top-20’s in the two previous Major’s this year. Phil has the best scoring average on Tour and can do it all as evidenced by his 3rd All Around Rank. If Phil can play the control game and minimize the big numbers, he should be a factor going into the weekend.

Padraig Harrington

22 to 1 and 7 to 2

We were all set to pick Paddy to go back to back before news of his wrist injury broke. Harrington broke through at Carnousite last year and followed that up with a T5 in this year’s Masters. Harrington is leading the Tour in birdie average and is 8th in scoring. Padraig’s chances will obviously hinge on his ability to play through his injury. The potential for a shot from the rough aggravating the wrist is substantial. Take care in betting Harrington, especially in match-ups as a withdrawal after the start of play will count as action.

Adam Scott

22 to 1 and 4 to 1

Experts have been waiting for Scott to break out on the Major stage and a Tiger-less event may be the time to get it done. Adam has not missed a PGA cut this year and took the trophy at the Nelson in April. Scott’s best British came in ’06, with an 8th place run, but has not shot a round over 75 in his last 12 rounds. Scott is one of the longest players in the field and a 24th best GIR% will lead to plenty of birdie looks. An above average putter leads to almost four birdies per 18 and Scott comes in as the number 1 ranked All Around player.

Jim Furyk

22 to 1 and 4 to 1

Furyk is a consistent competitor in the Open with three career 4th place finishes as his best efforts. Jim was 12th last year and has only one round over 71 in his last ten tries. Furyk is still looking for his first win in ’08, but has seven top-10’s and five top-5’s on the year. Furyk will lean on his 17th ranked greens hit stat to carry him this week although experience may be his biggest asset. One of Furyk’s fourth place runs came here at Royal Birkdale in ’98.

Stewart Cink

33 to 1 and 6 to 1

33 to 1 seems awful high for the leader in top-10 finishes who just won the Travelers at the end of June. Still, the British has not been the best to Cink, with more missed cuts than top-25’s. His best finish was last year with a T6 and his Major record this year has been solid with top-15’s in both the Masters and U.S. Open. Cink has compiled the 5th best scoring average on Tour this year, due in most part to a 6th best GIR% and a 23rd ranked putter. Cink averages nearly four birdies per round and is the 2nd ranked All Around golfer.

Stuart Appleby

66 to 1 and 10 to 1

Appleby got off to a great start in ’08 with five top-5’s early on, but has been mostly average of late. Top-20 finishes in the Masters, PLAYERS and Memorial prove he can get it done against the top fields, but a lone 2nd in ’02 is Stuart’s best British run. Appleby gets the nod as our longshot based on his 14th ranked scoring average and length off the tee. Stuart has been spraying it a bit of late, but the British is less penalizing than the other Majors on wayward shots and Appleby’s 32nd ranked putter should make up for that.

For the Win

Short: Sergio Garcia - The last three years (5,5,playoff 2nd) are too good to pass up here and no Tiger to stand in the way.

Middle of the Road: Adam Scott - Great mix of length and accuracy and can make the putts, too.

Longshot: Stuart Appleby - Good value here for a solid player with a Major-capable game. Plays well in tough events, look for the top-10 form to return.

Head to Head Matches (our pick)

(all matches are for entire tournament and lines courtesy of Linesmaker)

Ernie Els (-130) v. Mickelson (+110) (Mickelson)

Els’ Open record is far better than Phil’s, but Els scuffling a bit this year evens that out a bit. You almost never can get Phil as the dog, so we will take him here and hope Lefty can keep the lid on it this time around.

Adam Scott (-115) v. Furyk (-115) (Scott)

Scott has had solid Majors this year (T25, T26) and will play the bomber’s game against Furyk’s accuracy and moxy. Furyk is still capable and has a solid Open record, but the results have just not been there this year.

Justin Rose (+100) v. Padraig Harrington (-130) (Rose)

This match is here to highlight Harrington as an injured favorite. If the wrist responds well to treatment, Harrington would be the look here, but the short healing time has to hamper the overall game. I would like almost all players against Paddy this week, especially any with a game like Rose.

Good Luck!