Betting on The Open: Brooks is the man to beat

Team USA's Brooks Koepka. Picture by Adam Davy/PA Wire

ABOUT two months ago, I had the pleasure of finally catching up with the person that reads this column.

I was in a bar in Draperstown – someone has to be–when a man approached me to find out my views on this summer’s Open Championship.

Buoyed by the knowledge that someone actually pays attention to my musings, and boosted by a couple of lagers, I declared confidently that “Brooks Koepkais the man to beat”.

Pushed for reasons, I pointed to his Major record and the fact that his caddie, RickyElliott, is from Portrush as evidence that he simply had to be backed.

At that stage,the muscle-bound, ice-cool American was available at 25/1 for the final Major of the year.

At that stage ,he had yet to win the USPGA Championship at Bethpage Black, or push Gary Woodland all the way in the US Open at Pebble Beach.

The fact he has done both of those things means the 25/1has long since disappeared, but I simply can’t get away from The opinion that “Brooks Koepka is the man to beat” at Royal Portrush this week.

At the very least, the Major machine should be going in as favourite around the Dunluce links, although the fact he isn’t probably owes much to the fact the bookies are slightly scared of being hit by a patriotic pay out on Rory McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy at Royal Portrush

The Holywood man is a 9/1 shot with a couple of firms for what would surely be regarded by the R&A as their dream victory, although they would never say as much.

There is no doubt McIlroy has a great chance, especially with showers forecast on the north coast throughout the week.

He held the course record at Portrush with a sparkling 61 fired as an amateur in 2005, and although here are two new holes in play these days, that kind of course pedigree is hard to ignore.

Outside of McIlroy, and Portrush native Graeme McDowell of course, Tiger Woods would perhaps be the most popular winner amongst the massive galleries that will flood to the northcoast,and plenty will have his name on their dockets at a best price of 20/1(Bet365).

 Tiger Woods delighted fans who got to watch him play yesterday at Royal Portrush ahead of The Open. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin 

But I have to believe he might be under-cooked having not played since finishing in a share of 21st in the US Open a month ago.

Indeed, the15-time Major champion has played just 10 competitive rounds since winning at Augusta in April,and while he will have done plenty of work away from the cameras, I don’t think he can do it.

Dustin Johnson is another leading light who hasn’t quite been at his best of late,which all leads me back to the conclusion that of those at the head of the market, Koepkais.

He is clearly the man to beat.

Local knowledge might also aid the chances of Jon Rahm, whose love affair with Irish links courses shows no sign of slowing down.

The fiesty Spaniard seems to find a new level of calm when visiting this island.

Rahm won the Irish Open in 2017 at nearby Portstewart,and he constantly talked about how at home he felt in the area.

Like Koepka, Xander Schauffele is another man who saves his best for the big occasion, and while he’s yet to get over the line in a Major, it will surely happen at some stage.

The San Diego native was joint runner-up on only his second attempt in the Open at Carnoustie last year, one of five top-10s in just 10 Major outings thus far.

The Open at Royal Portrush is estimated to generate £120m for the Northern Ireland economy. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Royal Portrush Golf Club in Portrush, Co Antrim, where The Open will be staged. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

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