It takes just a cursory glance down the roll call of Open winners at Muirfield to deduce that punters should look little further than proven major winners when it comes to predicting who might be drinking from the Claret Jug on Sunday evening.
The last three players to emerge victorious at the East Lothian layout were Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and Tom Watson, while Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have also prevailed at the links layout, often described as the best course on the Open rota.
According to the world rankings – and the outright market – Tiger Woods (10/1) and Rory McIlroy (25/1) have the best chance of joining the list of champions at Muirfield, but with the world number one reportedly struggling with an elbow problem and the Ulsterman chronically out of form, both are overlooked.
Even though the course has been lengthened over 200 yards since Els’ success 11 years ago, it is distance control that will be key this week – especially as the hot and dry weather has firmed up fairways and greens.
Few, if anyone, on tour can match the mastery from tee to green of Justin Rose at the moment. The US Open champion ranked in the top 15 of four of the five main stats categories when winning the second major of the season and with seven top-15 finishes in his last 10 starts – as well as solid links form – followers are almost guaranteed a run for their money at 20/1.
The same can be said of Phil Mickelson (20/1), who can boast a win, two seconds and a third in his last six appearances. Lefty is one of the few top players who tee it up the week before a major, but don’t let that put you off. He followed a runners-up spot at the St Jude Classic with second in the US Open and could easily replicate Sunday’s Scottish Open success at Muirfield.
Mickelson’s creativity around the greens will be crucial this week and, as we saw in his play-off win over Branden Grace at Castle Stuart, he is not short of miracle shots from impossible lies.
Lastly, Bill Haas is a huge price at 80/1 to land a maiden major title. The 2011 FedEx Cup winner became a father recently and added to his PGA Tour title haul by winning the Memorial Tournament in May. His links form has got better year on year and his accurate play should see him competitive this week.
My three off the tee – Rose, Mickelson and Haas.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.