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Sports Spread Betting -
The Open 2008 Royal Birkdale

It's ten years since the Open was played at Royal Birkdale and the unfancied Mark O'Meara shot a level par total of 280 to edge out Brian Watts in a playoff and his good friend Tiger Woods by a shot.
So what about this time around? Well without Tiger it's exactly as the tournament name suggests... wide Open!


The Course -Royal Birkdale
What do you need to know about the course?

1) Well it's widely-regarded as the fairest of all the links courses on the Open circuit.

2) No-one has a real advantage as far as playing on it, since it hasn't been the venue for the Open for ten years -even Justin Rose (who made his name at Birkdale) said that he hadn't played the course for several years.

3) The course should favour the good putters in the field -so check out who is handy with the blade before you take the plunge. For example, pre-tournament favourite Sergo Garcia is 183rd on the US tour stats list for putts per round! Last year's winner Padraig Harrington is a wizard with the putter -but has an injured wrist with which to contend
4) Length shouldn't be too important as long as it doesn't blow a gale over the four days. Although the course measures in excess of 7000 yards, it's not a long course and there are only two par fives, of which only the 15th is a realistic eagle chance for the big-hitters. Expect lots of drama on the re-modelled 18th -it isn't over until it's over...

5) Accuracy is more important than length around Birkdale -which is a hilly course with lots of grassy mounds just waiting to swallow up errant drives.

So what are the qualities we are looking for in a potential winner?
a) Straight hitter
b) Solid Putter
c) Won tournament(s) in the last two seasons
d) Good current form
e) Cool head under pressure

Seven Players To Follow This Week
Miguel Angel Jimenez -Top of the money list, he is an excellent putter and shouldn't be fazed by the links course. Finished like a train in Loch Lomond and will definitely be there or thereabouts on Sunday afternoon.
Angel Cabrera -Already won a major (2007 US Open) and showed good form last week until two bad holes. Good Open form and is a fair price in the markets.
Mike Weir -Like Cabrera, has a major under his belt (2003 Masters). Tied 8th last year and is a solid putter (58th on US tour stats). Again, fantastic value to be had.
Robert Karlsson -Has finished in top ten in both this year's majors. A strong player who is 13th on European tour in putting. Definitely in the shake-up come Sunday.
Nick O'Hern -Formerly in the world's top 20, O'Hern can sneek into tournaments in a stealth-like fashion. Extremely accurate and a demon putter, benign conditons would make him fantastic value at around 200/1.
Richard Sterne -He has won four times in the last two seasons and is overdue a good performance in a major. Just missed the cut last week after two steady rounds, you can get 500/1 about him this time out.
James Kingston -Was last week's sleeper at the Scottish Open when he came 2nd after a storming final round. Has won all over the world and is hot with the putter.


Seven Players To Avoid This Week
Sergio Garcia -Incredibly short in the markets considering there are 150+ other players in the field. Made a real hash of things last year when 5 shots clear in the final round. His putting is just too suspect to capitalize on Tiger's absence.
Phil Mickelson -Leaving aside his hole-in-one last week, he looked out of sorts and only just made the cut. Seems to has lost some of his buzz this season.
Ian Poulter -His own worst enemy, He seems to think he has a divine right to win -but in truth he hasn't come close in a major. His Open form is patchy, best finish is tied 11th in seven attempts. Didn't have a single birdie in the final round in Loch Lomond in benign conditions -a definite selling opportunity.
Vijay Singh -Whatever happened to Vijay Singh? He used to win several times each season, but hasn't finished first since March 2007. It seems to be the law of diminishing returns, back in 2005 he was top ten in every major, but hasnt been top ten in any of the last eight.
Padraig Harrington -Was a major doubt to play at all, but will soldier on with a bad wrist. Don't fancy his chances of smashing the ball out of the rough, which he will inevitably end up in at some point. Only the true greats such as Palmer, Trevino and Woods have won back-to-back Opens. Best avoided or even sold.
Graham McDowell -No Scottish Open winner has ever gone on to win the following week at the Open. Can't see history being created by McDowell.
Anthony Kim -America's next big thing has had a great season so far with two wins on the US tour. But at 23 he is still a little young and under-travelled to be a contender here. Making the cut would be an achievement.





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