By Lee Dover
Europe’s biggest golf tournaments starts on Thursday when The Open Championship tees off and Paddy Power is paying each-way 1/4 the odds the first seven places.
It’s a Magnificent Seven offer and here are Seven Magnificent contenders.
1. Darren Clarke
The Northern Irishman’s emotional victory at Sandwich last year saw him leapfrog up the World rankings jump to 30th , but a dismal run has seen him drop back to 84th ahead of his defence of the Claret Jug.
This hasn’t diminished Clarke’s resolve though and he said:
My name is still on the Claret Jug and I’ve got a taste of winning at the ultimate level at the ultimate tournament. I know if I get myself in the same position again next weekend, I know I can do it again.
An expert links golfer, Paddy Power go 125/1 that he regains the fire in his belly and clinches more glory at The Open next weekend.
2. Tiger Woods
The three-time Open winner is the 9/1 favourite before tee-off in Paddy Power’s online betting on the back of wins in 2000, 2005 and 2006.
What’s more, Woods has turned his career around after a spectacular slump in the past few years and is now focused on a 15th major title.
His opponents can take some hope, however, from the fact that the American proclaimed the Royal Lytham rough almost unplayable after some course practice. At least it will be the same for everyone.
3. Padraig Harrington
A two-time Open winner in 2007 and 2008 and a three-time Major Champion overall with victory in the US PGA Championship.
Since those dizzy highs, the Irishman has struggled and has not won a tournament for four years. However, his form towards the end of last season and so far this season has improved considerably and is many people’s choice to go close this weekend.
Harrington tied for 16th at the Scottish Open last weekend finishing on 12-under-par and could be worth a punt and is 16/1 with Paddy Power.
His new coach Pete Cowen certainly thinks so, noting:
Can Padraig win at Lytham? The way he’s hitting the ball now he could win anywhere, any week. I think he is ready to win a Major again.
4. Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy may just be the epitome of someone buckling under the weight of world golf’s expectations.
Just over a year ago, the Northern Irishman was on top of the world when he clinched the US Open by eight shots.
However his form on the run-up to this tournament has been inconsistent to say the least and has missed the cut a couple of times Stateside in tournaments where he was expected to shine.
His talent is undeniable and McIlroy did bounce back for the Master horror show last year by claiming the US Open title. It’s 16/1 that the Holywood star can lift his second Major on Sunday night.
5. Lee Westwood
British golf fans hoping to see a home-grown talent win the Open will likely put their faith in Lee Westwood.
The Englishman is may people’s fancy to snatch glory come Sunday, at a juicy 16/1.
One man who is fancying these odds is 1969 Claret Jug winner and legend Tony Jacklin. He told BBC Sport:
Westwood would be my favourite because of his incredible consistency. Day in day out, when it comes to controlling the golf ball he does it better than anybody in the world and has done it for a year or two.
6. Luke Donald
Donald (34) has seen off Rory McIlroy’s challenge for the World No. 1 slot in the last few months as the honour had ping-ponged between the pair early in the season.
The Englishman, though still not a Major winner, has been top-ranked for 52 weeks now, but disappointed at last week’s Scottish Open preparations to get his ‘A’ game in order.
It didn’t work out though as he finished tied 16th with Padraig Harrington behind surprise winner Jeev Milkha Singh. Donald has done everything right in his career to date rising through the ranks through sheer hard work, determination and no little skill. But will want to get the Major ‘monkey’ off his back sooner rather than later. Scotland was a disappointment but there will be plenty of takers at 18/1 for the Open Championship in Paddy Power’s online betting.
7. Phil Mickelson
Cutting short a family holiday in Rome for some extra links practice would see most men declared persona non grata on their return. But Phil ‘Leftie’ Mickelson (42) is not most men. His joint-16th finish in Scotland on 12-under-par reversed three missed cuts in recent weeks and left him ‘ready’ for the Open. Not getting any younger but was joint-second to Darren Clarke last year and the winner’s cheque would buy a whole lotta forgiveness in the Mickelson household. And give Leftie his fifth Major.
Others to note:
Jeev Milkha Singh threw himself into the spotlight with a timely Scottish Open win at the weekend and claimed the last qualifying position. There will be worse 150/1 shots in the field. Francesco Molinari played well all week and that maybe puts him ahead in the pecking order for what is the supreme test at Royal Lytham. Set a new record at Castle Stuart and was influential on Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team two seasons ago. No doubt he wants more of that come September and the 40/1 about his chances this week should not be dismissed. Former World No. 1 Martin Kaymer also showed flashes of his old self and if this signals a return to form then the 40/1 on him to win the Open won’t last too long.
Betting: Open Championship