Bet of the Day: McIlroy the best home player at 2019 Open Championship

14th September 2021

Of the four majors in the world of men’s golf, the British Open is, without a doubt, the one that stands out. Partly, this is because it’s the only one not played in the USA, granted. It is also the oldest, and also the only one that tends to be played on links courses – making it an enduring challenge for the American golfers who dominate the upper echelons of the world rankings. This week, the Open is to be played in Northern Ireland for the first time in sixty-eight years, landing at Royal Portrush on the Northern coast of Antrim.

A field of 156 will tee off on Thursday morning, and be winnowed down at the cut on Friday evening – and although we can assume that the eventual winner will come from a select group of top golfers, the magic of this tournament is that the winner can come out of nowhere, as did Ben Curtis in 2003 and Todd Hamilton the following year. This makes it a popular event for bettors, who know that picking a long shot can come off as long as you know what to look out for.

This year’s Open is also a rare major on the home turf of Rory McIlroy, who takes the mantle of tournament favourite with most bookmakers. Although McIlroy was born and raised about 100km south of the venue, he shot a course record 61 around Portrush’s Dunluce Links in 2005. That’s impressive, but what’s more stunning is that he was 16 when he did it. McIlroy knows this course, then, and he’s comfortable playing on it. That’s a pretty handy advantage to start with.

Tiger has his bite back

Like McIlroy, Tiger Woods showed his potential in the game of golf at an early age, and he completed the career Grand Slam by the time he turned 25, winning his first Open in 2000 at St Andrews. Woods’ tribulations since the turn of this decade have been pretty much inescapable, and it was believed at one stage that he might never reach the heights of his early career. However, back in April he won the US Masters, his first major in eleven years. His three Open triumphs are indicative of a level of comfort on links courses, making him an interesting bet for this year’s Open.

Woods is priced at 18/1 with William Hill to add a fourth claret jug to his already sizeable collection of trophies, and those odds are attractive. They may reflect the fact that his return to the pinnacle is still, at the moment, in its infancy and that the windier conditions by the Irish Sea coastline present a different challenge to the manicured fairways and greens of Augusta, where he won in April. However, Woods has overcome so many challenges over the course of his career that it’s hard to believe he’s still only 43. He can’t be ruled out here.

Senior names hope to roll back the years

Golf is unlike the majority of popular sports in that a player like Woods, aged 43, is far from one of the oldest players among the field for a major championship such as this. Indeed, despite more than two decades of tournament experience, Woods doesn’t even qualify as a “Senior” for this tournament. Only players over the age of 50 can lay claim to that designation, and among the Seniors taking part this year there are a few names who have an Open Championship or two already in the trophy cabinet.

Darren Clarke, who in 2011 ended years of being dubbed “one of the best players never to win a major”, will appreciate the chance to return to his native Northern Ireland while Paul Lawrie, the 1999 winner, just turned 50 and is among Betway’s field for the “Top Senior” in this year’s competition. However, the two former winners have had a few fallow years while Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, at the age of 55, has still been winning titles on the full tour. He’s 11/8 with Betway to finish ahead of his fellow “oldies”, and good value at that.

McIlroy to be the best of the home crowd

Still just thirty years old, Rory McIlroy is already on his way to becoming one of the greats of all time in this sport. Add to that the fact that he could play this course in his sleep, and it’s not hard to see why he’s fancied to win the title here. With that said, among such a large field, there might be some debate over whether 8/1 – his standard price – can ever really represent value when so much can happen over the duration of 72 holes of golf.

What we can say is that McIlroy has a real chance of winning, and that he’s an excellent bet to finish highest out of all the UK and Irish players in the field. While there will be a solid challenge from competitors such as Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey, McIlroy’s knowledge of the course and his four career majors make him a stunningly good bet at 11/4 to win among his compatriots. Those odds can be found with Unibet, and the Holywood man will almost certainly be there or thereabouts when the final shots are being played on Sunday.

Bets of the Day

Rory McIlroy best Irish or UK player (Unibet, 11/4); Woods to win Open (William Hill, 18/1); Miguel Angel Jimenez best Senior (Betway, 11/8)

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