This Thursday, 156 top golfers in the world will tee their golf balls up ready to begin their quest to become the 2017 Open Champion and get their hands on the Claret Jug, which alongside the Masters Green Jacket at Augusta, is one of the most iconic and coveted items in the history of golf.
The weather forecast seems to indicate that players may well need waterproofs over Friday and Saturday, with showers forecast. However Thursday and Sunday look set to be relatively recent days and the winds are expected to be around the 14-16pmh mark, which makes the course manageable.
In this article, I’m going to preview the last few winners of the British Open and take a closer look at the venue Royal Birkdale, before giving you my view of the field and finally my British Open 2017 tips and predictions.
2017 British Open Preview
Let’s begin by examining who has won the British Open in recent times (since 2000):
Previous Winners of the British Open (since 2000)
- 2000 – St Andrews – Tiger Woods (US)
- 2001 – Royal Lytham and St Annes – David Duval (US)
- 2002 – Muirfield – Ernie Els (SA)
- 2003 – Royal St Georges – Ben Curtis (US)
- 2004 – Royal Troon – Todd Hamilton (US)
- 2005 – St Andrews – Tiger Woods (US)
- 2006 – Royal Liverpool – Tiger Woods (US)
- 2007 – Carnoustie – Padraig Harrington (Ire)
- 2008 – Royal Birkdale – Padraig Harrington (Ire)
- 2009 – Turnberry – Stewart Cink (US)
- 2010 – St Andrews – Louis Oosthuizen (SA)
- 2011 – Royal St Georges – Darren Clarke (NI)
- 2012 – Royal Lytham and St Annes – Ernie Els (SA)
- 2013 – Muirfield – Phil Mickelson (US)
- 2014 – Royal Liverpool – Rory McIlroy (NI)
- 2015 – St Andrews – Zach Johnson (US)
- 2016 – Royal Troon – Henrik Stenson (Swe)
The Venue: Royal Birkdale 2017
The 2017 Open Championship will be the tenth such time that The Open has been played on this linkside course, located on the “Golf Coast” right alongside a number of top quality courses including two other Open Venues nearby (Royal Lytham and St Annes to the North and Royal Liverpool to the south).
The course has a reputation for being one of the toughest courses on the Open roster, but also as a fair course. Despite having some very tricky holes (with the par 4 sixth being arguably the toughest), Royal Birkdale is a course that doesn’t require any ‘tricking up’. It is simply a tough, but fair test of links gold.
While soft conditions underfoot and gentle wins can offer golfers some hope of lower scores, accuracy from the tee is paramount given the depth and brutality of the rough and of some of the deep bunkers that are carefully placed around the course. It’s biggest defensive factor though, as with all links, is the wind and when those come howling in from the Irish Sea, it can make things incredibly tough for players.
The last two winners at Royal Birkdale did so with scores of +3 (Harrington 2008) and Even par (O’Meara 1998). While I’d expect a below par score to win it this time around, I don’t think you are going to see massively under par scores here.
Players that will do well will be those who can drive it long, but accuracy is far more important with tee shots than distance. If the wind picks up, then the ability to play the ball under the wind and be creative with your shots will be a bonus.
Despite its unforgiving nature, Royal Birkdale is as finer test of links golf that there is. It can be brutal, but in general, the players love the test and love the course in equal measure and whoever is crowned Champion on Sunday night, will certainly have earned it.
Previous winners at Royal Birkdale:
- 1954 – Peter Thomson (Aus)
- 1961 – Arnold Palmer (US)
- 1965 – Peter Thomson (Aus)
- 1971 – Lee Trevino (US)
- 1976 – Johnny Miller (US)
- 1983 – Tom Watson (US)
- 1991 – Ian Baker-Finch (Aus)
- 1998 – Mark O’Meara (US)
- 2008 – Padraig Harrington (Ire)
The Open Tips & Predictions 2017
Royal Birkdale, as we have seen, is a tough but fair test of links golf and as such, I think a skilled practitioner of links golf, with the ability to create unusual shots in testing conditions, will be the man that prevails here.
Rickie Fowler could be that man and I was very tempted to back him again (like I did in the US Open) as he will come good sooner or later, but I actually feel that this Open Championship is set up perfectly for Phil Mickelson to win (best odds 40/1 with Bet365). The legend is the best US player of links conditions, can create wildly innovative shots and having missed the US Open last month, will be itching for only his second crack at a Major this year.
Each Way Tip:
The vagaries of Royal Birkdale are such that I think anybody that has a solid knowledge of the course from playing it regularly in a wide range of conditions, will have a good chance over other players here and as such, with him being bang in form too and going so well in the US Open in June, I think Tommy Fleetwood (again best odds at 25/1 with Bet365) is a great choice as an each way tip here.
VALUE: I’ve also published an article over on the Cheeky Punter blog covering the best deal and promotions on the 2017 Open so make sure you check it out!.