The week before The Open gives us a chance to take a look at a few of the contenders for Royal Troon and get our picks in order. While Castle Stuart is a spectacular links course, it is very much at the tamer end of the spectrum and as such shouldn’t steer our thoughts for next week’s Major too hard.
Several of the top dogs will be treating this as a links tune up and will see a win as a bonus while they get their games in shape. We’d look at an event like The Dunhill links as a good guide for this week, with the difficulty level of the course very much on a par with Kingsbarns – scoring should be pretty decent.
It’s hard to look past Henrik Stenson, who is in fine form having won last time out in Munich but his 9/1 seems a little prohibitive and we’d have preferred a couple of the big 4 in the field to push his odds up to something more inviting. It’s a similar story with Branden Grace who will find this course very much to his liking.
The week before The Big One, here’s our picks:
Martin Kaymer 20/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £270
Kaymer has shown some good form of late, and got himself in amongst it last week around a really good test in France. The former Dunhill Links champion will certainly enjoy the conditions and course set-up. He may have won the tournament before, but that was at Loch Lomond and has no bearing on this week. We would relate this closer to US Open conditions at Pinehurst and Dunhill Links and he should feel much better about this week than next.
Thomas Pieters 50/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £645
Returned from a wrist injury last week with a highly creditable top 20 finish in Paris. It’s often the case that the big hitters aren’t credited with the ability to be able to negotiate the demands of links golf, but a victory in The KLM Dutch Open on a links course and an impressive 65 in the 3rd round of the Dunhill at Kingsbarns point toward him having the tools to do well this week.
Luke Donald 55/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £707.50
Won here back in 2011 and has a history of performing well on courses where he has previously won. It’s not an overly long course, but Luke’s creativity around the greens will certainly be an advantage around the greens. Our insider at the venue tells us that Luke is contemplating getting a Castle Stuart tattoo – such is his love for the layout.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat 66/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £845
Sub-optimal preparation last week at the WGC but he was 5th in Munich and that is where our confidence comes from. The generous fairways will invite him to open his shoulders as he likes to and a near miss at The Dunhill cements his status as a man whose game will suit the challenge. Though nobody may have watched it, he did actually win around a links in the Paul Lawrie Matchplay!
Thorbjorn Olesen 70/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £447.50
May have withdrawn from last week after round 1 but he is teeing it up this week and we’re happy to have a punt on him. His three outings at Castle Stuart have all been modest enough showings but he arrives here with a red hot putter and should it be firing again I can easily see the Dane competing over the weekend. He has a host of top finishes on tour despite only being on the scene around five years. Most notably he has won and finished 2nd at the Alfred Dunhill LInks and has shown a proper affinity for playing golf in the wind. The Sicilian Open he won in 2012 was another exposed layout by the sea. Things aren’t ideal with the withdrawal last week but previous to that he finished 2nd in the BMW and coming back to the links golf that he loves he must be supported.
Marc Warren 125/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £791.25
Scottish, tipped by our very own Stuart Holder who is on site and has a penchant for getting up to his back wheels in it when he has no right. We’ll seem come Sunday and hopefully not on Friday!