• Betting Bunker

Louis the likely lad at Lytham

Josh Williams July 18, 2012
Another Claret Jug for Louis Oosthuizen? © Getty Images
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After we saw the Olympic Club course snarl at the players during this year's US Open, we move onto the Open Championship at Royal Lytham, which is expected to prove an equally hostile venue.

Tiger Woods made his play for the back pages earlier this week when he described the rough as "almost unplayable" in places - and the pitfalls don't stop there: you've also got to factor in the forecasted wind and rain, the narrow fairways and small greens, as well as the 206 bunkers just waiting to swallow up someone's chances of victory.

All of which says to me that this is not the course for a young turk to demolish the field with a swashbuckling performance. Instead, it's going to be about shrewd course management, mental toughness, accuracy and experience of handling the wind.

To kick us off, I'll put forward Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open victor who came second at Olympic Club last month - and that's of particular interest because Lytham, like the San Francisco track, requires plenty of left-to-right shots from the tee.

The Ulsterman is renowned as one of the best wind players around, capable of bulleting the ball through the breeze, and he always seems to raise his game for the majors, which shows the clarity and resilience of his thinking under pressure. Plus, given all his European Tour experience, there's nothing about links golf that will befuddle him.

Williams' wagers

  • Graeme McDowell E/W - 30/1 at bet365
    Francesco Molinari E/W - 35/1 at bet365
    Louis Oosthuizen E/W - 40/1 at bet365
    Thomas Bjorn E/W - 80/1 at bet365

Where McDowell has excelled all year has been his ball-striking, and he currently finds himself second on the PGA Tour's driving accuracy charts. He'll stay out of both the sand and rough more often than not, and any player who does that is not going to be far away from the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.

Francesco Molinari is cut from a similar cloth, a sort of less-celebrated version of Lee Westwood in that he fires it straight and long (seconds in greens in regulation, 21st in driving accuracy) before, it must be said, looking less than assured on the greens. But he arrives in such terrific form - second in both of his most recent European Tour starts, including at the Scottish Open - that I feel 35/1 is a terrific price.

I strongly believe that a European Tour regular, or someone who has performed on that circuit many times, starts from such a position of power in comparison to more celebrated American rivals, because they have felt the full force of links golf's cruelty. Molinari fits into that category perfectly, and his performance in Scotland last week proves he can handle the demands.

Louis Oosthuizen has the unflustered demeanour we're after, and he's turned himself into one of the world's finest players since taking the Claret Jug a couple of years ago. The South African has won twice this season and, at the Scottish Open, showed what he's capable of with a third-round 66.

Once again, he's a marvellous guy to back at the majors, because he keeps his cool and takes his game to the next level: let's not forget the near miss at The Masters earlier this year, where he had a final-round albatross as the competition was hotting up.

He's first in the European Tour's standings for both GIR and scrambling, and has a swing reliable enough to carry him to the fairway from the majority of tees. A really great price at 40/1.

Finally, the gnarled veteran Thomas Bjorn, who will look the course square in the eye and stride towards it with real purpose. The Dane, fourth at The Open last year, has five top tens this season and is tidy and shrewd enough to land himself a place.

Please note that odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

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Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk