The British Open is just one of the four grand slam events in golf and it attracts solid betting action. It is so different from the rest of its major brethren, though, that at times it is almost as if it is a different sport. Bettors who approach the tournament in the same way that they approach the Masters, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship are probably doomed. At the very least they are leaving money on the table because they aren’t making the best decisions that they could. If you want to bet on the British Open successfully you have to make some serious adjustments for the uniqueness of the tournament. Here are five areas in which bettors need to be aware that the British Open is far different than major American tournaments:
Weather – A friend of mine asked the perfect question here – why does it always look like the British Open is being played in the middle of winter? The middle of July is the middle of summer in Britain just like in North America, but you would never guess it judging by some of the conditions they can face in this tournament. High wind is pretty much a given, driving rain is far from uncommon, and you can’t entirely rule out bitter cold, either. A lot of the courses are built close to the ocean as well – on an island the size of Great Britain nothing is too far from the ocean – so that has a big effect on the weather patterns, and can cause rapid extreme changes. On top of that most of the courses are very short on trees and any other kind of protection taller than a stalk of grass. That means that golfers who are well equipped to handle the wind – keeping their shots low, shaping shots effectively, getting lots of roll, and so on – are far better equipped to succeed at this tournament than those who can’t. Players who have survived the conditions and thrived in them in the past are easier to trust here as well. there isn’t a tournament on the PGA calendar in which the ability to handle the weather is more of a factor for handicapping than it is here.
Accuracy – On most North American courses – with the exception of the U.S. Open many years – it doesn’t penalize you heavily if you miss the fairway. The rough is longer than the fairway obviously, but it is still manicured and you can usually play a reasonably solid shot as long as you aren’t too far into a trouble zone. At the British Open the whole course is often a trouble zone. The rough is incredibly long, and it is just left to grow wild so it can be a tangled mess of ball eating horrors. Players who can find the fairway are always reasonably value, but at the British Open making sure a player is accurate before betting on them is absolutely crucial. British courses often require target golf to the extreme, and players who can’t get comfortable with that will have a shorter tournament than they want to. Another similar quality players need to have as well is the ability to play smart golf. You have to outthink the course at the British Open much more than at a lot of other courses. That’s why older, more analytical golfers oten do better at this tournament than at others.
Rough play – Golfers need to be able to stay out of the rough, but they also need to be able to play out of it effectively when they find it. That requires a soft touch, some creativity, and some strength. Players who don’t shine playing out of the rough on the PGA have no chance of playing well at the British Open over the long term.
Bunker play – In a lot of North American tournaments the bunkers aren’t often in play, and when they are they are easy to play out of if you find them. A lot of British Open sites have ugly pot bunkers or deep bunkers with very nasty lips, though – and they are often placed in locations in which they are definitely in play. Before you trust a golfer in the British Open, then, you need to be sure of two things. First, you have to be confident that they can play out of the sand effectively. Second, and more importantly, you need to be confident that they can show restraint when they need to. Deep bunkers often punish aggressive players who try to make the home run swing to get out of them. Sometimes players have to swallow their pride and hit sideways or backwards, and it takes a special kind of player to show that restraint.
Greens – When North American golf courses are built – especially newer ones – a lot of effort is put into shaping greens and moving dirt until they are just right. On older British courses all they did to design the greens is cut the grass shorter. Greens in the British Open can be harder to hit, harder to judge, and just plain harder to play than a lot of greens that players are subjected to. Golfers who have very strong short games and excellent putting technique are going to shine at this tournament. Guys who are inconsistent putters at the best of times could have a serious headache by the time they are through with the British Open.