Harrington And Garcia
Padraig Harrington won the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2007 and defended the title at Royal Birkdale twelve months later. He then experienced a dip in form but is playing well enough to win another Birkdale Open this week. Sergio Garcia has a solid record in the tournament and can contend this time.
The course is a classic links set up and one of the best stadium type layouts in the world. However, the viewing facilities are man made and the huge dunes provide an amphitheatre type feel to the greens. Harrington has proved he can handle the unique atmosphere of an Open on the course.
Birkdale is in Southport which is in easy travelling distance of the sports mad cities of Liverpool and Manchester. The crowds bring a football type feel but never cross the line from enthusiasm to anything unpleasant. The history and prestige of the Open is respected but things get a bit raucous after lunch!
The support for one player will be taken to a new level because Tommy Fleetwood is a genuine contender. He was brought up five minutes from Birkdale but as a youngster could not afford to play the course so leant his trade elsewhere. His caddie is his best mate and another local that the fans will want to do well.
The expectation around Fleetwood will be huge and it’s rare for a player to have a chance to win a major in his home town. If Fleetwood is three over after five holes the situation could be too much to handle especially if the crowds move to other matches. Punters will be all over Fleetwood but the betting value has gone.
Jon Rahm is another player who could handle the pressure or succumb to the demands of the Open on a tough links course. In 1976 a young Spanish player took the Open at Birkdale by storm so there will be comparisons to Severiano Ballesteros for Rahm and this could be an Open too soon.
Justin Rose has history with the Open at Birkdale. In 1998 he finished tied fourth as a 17-year-old amateur but then turned professional and had a nightmare start to his career in the paid ranks. Rose dug in and is now one of the best players in the game. Winning the Open at Birkdale would be appropriate but others are preferred.
Sergio Garcia can play low iron shots under the wind so has a game suited to links golf. In winning the Masters he has got the monkey off his back and the second major could soon follow and Birkdale is ideal for Garcia. His best Open finish was second behind Harrington in 2007 after a four hole payoff.
The champion that year won three majors in two years but then tinkered with a proven technique. There have been dips in form but signs at the Scottish Open last week that Harrington is near his best. Coming back to Birkdale will be inspiring so he can win the tournament that matters most on the course again with Garcia also in the mix
and Sergio Garcia at 20/1
Tips: Padraig Harrington with SKYBET 10 Places