For British golf fans, this coming weekend is one of the biggest weekends of the year with the British Open Championship taking place at the famous Carnoustie course in Angus, Scotland. Justin Spieth will be amongst 156 players trying to land the Claret Jug on a course that was recently ranked by CNN Travel as the second most difficult golf course in the world.
The mere mention of Carnoustie will bring back memories of the 1999 tournament, where a storm blew in from the North Sea and this combined with severe semi-rough and unplayable rough, meant that almost every player on the course struggled. Sergio Garcia finished last after rounds of 89 and 82 and famously left the course in tears.
That event was won by Paul Lawrie in almost farcical circumstances when Frenchman Jean Van de Veld, needing only a double bogey or better at the last hole to win, somehow managed to score a triple-bogey seven, forcing himself into a playoff with American Justin Leonard and Scott Lawrie. It was Lawrie who came out on top of the four-hole playoff to claim what is still the last win of the Open by a Scottish player.
That particular event saw the course re-named ‘Car-nasty’ given the tough conditions of the tournament and the Royal and Ancient received heavy criticism for how the course was set up, which has led to similar events being set up a little more favourably for players, in particular with a shorter first cut of rough, although wayward shots can still be punished by landing in real trouble.
Let’s learn a little more about the tournament and course, before we take a look at the players likely to be in contention this year.
The Open Championship
The first Open Championship took place across the then 12-holes at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland and it was Willie Park Senior that was the first ever Open Champion. Over the years there were many changes in the courses the tournament was played on and how it was organised although the tournament did take on a familiar shape by 1920 with the Royal and Ancient taking over sole running of the now 72-hole event.
Currently, there are ten different courses on the Open roster. Tournament compete to hold the event in the intervening years between the years ending on 0 and 5, which is when St. Andrews tends to hold the tournament (a tradition which began back in 1990).
The ten Open courses are as follows:
- Royal Portrush (Northern Ireland)
- Royal St Georges, Royal Liverpool, Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St.Annes (England)
- Muirfield, Turnberry, Royal Troon, St.Andrews, Carnoustie (Scotland)
Next year the tournament will be played at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland followed by Royal St Georges in 2020 in a break with tradition, allowing St Andrews to host the 150th Open Tournament in 2021.
The tournament saw early winners almost exclusively from the British Isles and Channel Islands with Jersey’s Harry Vardon winning the most tournaments with six, all before the start of the First World War. The modern era saw many more players from around the world make their mark on the tournament and that can be seen when you look at the winners of the event since 2000.
British Open Champions (2000 – onwards)
- 2000 – St Andrews – Tiger Woods (US) – 19-under
- 2001 – Royal Lytham – David Duval (US) – 10-under
- 2002 – Muirfield – Ernie Els (SA) – 6-under
- 2003 – Royal St Georges – Ben Curtis (US) – 1-under
- 2004 – Royal Troon – Todd Hamilton (US) – 10-under
- 2005 – St Andrews – Tiger Woods (US) – 14-under
- 2006 – Royal Liverpool – Tiger Woods (US) – 18-under
- 2007 – Carnoustie – Padraig Harrington (Ire) – 7-under
- 2008 – Royal Birkdale – Padraig Harrington (Ire) – 3-over
- 2009 – Turnberry – Stewart Cink (US) – 2-under
- 2010 – St.Andrews – Louis Oosthuizen (SA) – 16-under
- 2011 – Royal St Georges – Darren Clarke (N.Ire) – 5-under
- 2012 – Royal Lytham – Ernie Els (SA) – 7-under
- 2013 – Muirfield – Phil Mickelson (US) – 3-under
- 2014 – Royal Liverpool – Rory McIlroy (N.Ire) – 17-under
- 2015 – St Andrews – Zach Johnson (US) – 15-under
- 2016 – Royal Troon – Henrik Stenson (Swe) – 20-under
- 2017 – Royal Birkdale – Jordan Spieth (US) – 12-under
Carnoustie has hosted the tournament on just seven occasions and the winners of these tournaments are outlined below.
- 1931 – Tommy Armour (US) (+8)
- 1937 – Henry Cotton (Eng) (+6)
- 1953 – Ben Hogan (US) (-6)
- 1968 – Gary Player (SA) (+1)
- 1975 – Tom Watson (US) (-9)
- 1999 – Paul Lawrie (Sco) (+6)
- 2007 – Padraig Harrington (Ire) (-7)
We could well be set for a playoff on Sunday to decide the winner as all of the last three events held at Carnoustie from 1975 onwards have produced a playoff to decide the winner.
The winner of the tournament will pocket $1,890,000 (£1,420,000), which is one of the largest winning cheques in golf today.
The current holder of the Claret Jug is American Jordan Spieth who won last year at Royal Birkdale.
Our Tips for the British Open 2018
Outlined below are some of the golfers that stand a great chance of success at the British Open, however I would back these as each way bets, given that most bookmakers offer pay outs for more than the top five places (bet365 Sport for example, offers pays for the top eight places and ties). As such this makes an each way bet far more appealing.
Tommy Fleetwood (22/1) – The Englishman is the new course record holder after posting a superb 62 in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships at Carnoustie last autumn. If he gets good weather and can hit his best form, then he stands a great chance having been brought up playing the links around his home town of Southport.
Henrik Stenson (40/1) – The Swedish player won this event in 2016 and he has a great mix of distance and accuracy from the tee, combined with a strong short game and excellent mental fortitude to deal with the sometimes rotten bounces and runs you can get on links courses. He didn’t perform well at Royal Birkdale last year but I think he’ll be in contention this time around.
Phil Mickelson (60/1) – The veteran American may be slightly past his best but he is one of a number of American players that have worked very hard to adapt their game to links courses and he is certainly one of the best amongst that group. He may not have the stamina to win the event, but he is a very solid performer at the Open in recent times and I think will be so again.
Lee Westwood (90/1) – Westwood’s time to win a Major may have passed and that is a shame as the Englishman has, from tee to green, been amongst the very best in the world for many years, although his form has dipped of late. A consistent performer and coming into some decent form at the right time means that he could surprise a few with a decent showing at Carnoustie this weekend.