The Open Championship returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951 as Royal Portrush plays host to the oldest major in Golf.
As ever, finding the fairways and avoiding the challenging links bunkers will be the key to putting together a good round on this Par 71.
It will be a new challenge for most of the field, especially given the new holes at 17 and 18, and the new green layout at the second.
Our golf experts preview the best bets and markets here.
It would be easy to suggest that Rory’s lead in the market is based on little more than hype and geography given that his last major crown came in 2014’s PGA championship. Incredibly though, McIlroy still holds the course record around Portrush, with a 61 he hit as a 16-year-old.
As well as course familiarity, McIlroy, one of the best golf players ever, also has form on his side. His improved work around the greens has seen him finish inside the top-10 in 11 of his 14 of his PGA starts so far this season, and he’d love to turn that into a fifth major.
He’s also finished in the top-10 in 19 out of the last 40 major championships, more than anybody else on tour and I’m backing him to to do so at Portrush this week. At 9/1 at Grosvenorsport.com, McIlroy to win on home soil is a good bet.
Cantlay is another whose consistency should stand him in good stead this week. He briefly lead during the final round of the Masters, and finished third at the PGA Championship. In between those impressive major finishes, he won at the Memorial, the Travellers Championship and came third at the RBC Heritage.
He finished T12 in his first Open in 2018, but should not be discounted from bettering that result this week. Even if he is unable to top his best major finish (third), at 25/1 Cantlay could prove to be a valuable each way bet.
The cool Swede’s form looks to have turned for the better in recent months. The 2016 Open Champion hasn’t quite looked the same man that won at Royal Troon in recent years, but should be confident after finishing tied fourth at last week’s Scottish Open.
His iron play has looked as strong as ever during top-10 finishes at the US and Canadian Open and if he can continue that, he should go well round Portrush.
Stenson’s 2016 win also came after a good performance in Scotland and he’s a 25/1 shot to win this week.
Fitzpatrick is another man whose game seems to be well suited to conditions at Portrush. He prides himself on hitting fairways and greens in regulation and has impressed with his major performances.
He played particularly well at the US Open, finishing tied 12th, threatening to put a low round together on several occasions.
Even if he does miss the fairways, his bunker play is also exceptional and should be able to scramble from positions where others would drop shots. He’s certainly an outside chance, but could provide value at 66/1.
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