It is clear that golf is somewhat on the up in Europe, most notably in GB & Ireland, with recent winners over the pond including Lee Westwood, Justin Rose(twice) and most memorably Graeme McDowell who showed remarkable consistency to win the US Open at Pebble Beach in treacherous conditions. It is arguable that the conditions on the Old Course will be similar, and so a good short game with tremendous accuracy will be needed to compete at the top end of the leader board. However the price of the three aforementioned British players has contracted in recent weeks due to their success and as such I for one will be passing them by. Westwood is carrying an injury(although that didn't stop Harrington in 2008), McDowell could struggle to get his game face on with his heads still in the clouds, and Rose is frankly too short for a player who hasn't performed in this event as well as his debut back into 1998 which resulted in an accelerated entrance into the pro ranks. When this event last took place at St Andrews at 2004 the top 5 were filled by Woods, Montgomerie, Olazabal, Couples, and Goosen. With Woods out of form, Monty well past his best and Olazabal/Couples absent from the field the only player with course form still playing fairly consistently is The Goose. A player who has returned to form over the last 9 months has always loved this course by his own admission, and will fancy his chances to compete on Sunday and has to be backed at 50/1 with Blue Square meaning their each way terms equate to 17/1 for a top 5 place.
Another leading UK player back in 2005 was Ian Poulter and he too has been inching closer to winning his first major. Having finished a close second to Harrington a couple of years ago, he is a much better player now than he was in 2005 when finishing T11. Having seen Paddy and G-Mac recently deliver major goods, he is keen to follow suit. Nobody should forget his tremendous performance as a wild card during the last Ryder Cup, which shows he has the mind to cope with the pressure scenarios and I can see him being thereabouts by Sunday tea time at 33/1.
Out of the outsiders, I like the look of Gregory Havret at a massive 250/1. His game has come on massively, proved he too can be a big game player when arguably unlucky when finishing second at the US Open, and played remarkably consistently at Loch Lomond last week. Over the first two days, he showed his class by only dropping two shots over 36 holes, and with slightly more clinical putting would have given him a top 5 placing at the each way stage. As it stood, he was some way off the pace due to this, and his concentration may have started to look towards this week as his game started to falter. With Bastille Day on Wednesday, and the Tour de France in full swing he will have the motivation but not necessarily the pressure to do well. With the disappointment of their football team still hurting over in our nearest neighbours, he could be the man to provide them with a new sporting sensation to get behind in the next few days and is worthy of support in several markets.
1 Pt e/w Retief Goosen 50/1 1/3 1 - 5 Blue Square
1 Pt e/w Ian Poulter 33/1 1/4 1-7 Paddy Power & Boylesports
1 Pt e/w Gregory Havret 250/1 Generally
2 Pts e/w Gregory Havret top continental Euro 28/1 generally
0.5 Pt e/w Gregory Havret 1st Round Leader 150/1 1/4 1-6 SkyBet