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Open Championship: Hatton to flatten Carnoustie for maiden major

The 147th Open Championship returns to Carnoustie for the first time since 2007 when Padraig Harrington beat Sergio Garcia in a play-off to land his first major title.

Carnoustie is widely regarded as the toughest links course in the world and at 7,400 yards it is also the longest on the Open rotation.

The par-71 course can be brutal as it was in 1999 when Jean van de Velde held a three-shot lead at three over par heading to the 72nd hole but a visit to the Barry Burn with his third shot resulted in a triple-bogey and a three-man play-off which Paul Lawrie won.

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Deep pothole bunkers guarding greens and encroaching on fairway landing areas are bad enough but add deep rough to the equation plus wind which can play havoc with the world's best players and the recipe is there for a chaotic four days.

Tiger Woods played eight holes on Sunday and said the fairways are currently quicker than the greens, adding that Carnoustie is the most difficult venue on the Open rotation.

Rickie Fowler was complimentary about the Angus links after practising there in the week before the Scottish Open where he finished sixth.

He told the European Tour: "The course is great. I got to see it on a pretty mellow day, not a whole lot of wind. Tee to green it's very fast and dry which is how it should be...Tee shots are very demanding especially when you need to hit driver, even the iron shots off tees.

"I love using my creativity. This is a place that allows you to play the ball in the air if you want to or you can still play shots on the ground. It could be my favourite of the rotation."

Fowler is 16/1 second favourite to win this week behind Dustin Johnson owing to a superb Scottish Open record, a reputation as an excellent wind player and a couple of top fives at The Open.

However, his price looks a wee bit skinny for a player that should have more titles under his belt so the first prediction in our Open betting preview is Tyrrell Hatton to win his first major at 40/1.

One interesting trend worth highlighting is that five of the last seven winners had played on a links course at the Scottish Open in the week before and that's the case with Hatton, who finished ninth at Gullane for his third top 10 in five appearances at the Scottish Open.

In October he shot a seven-under-par 65 at Carnoustie on the way to winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for the second year in a row, so Hatton clearly likes the course and links golf in general.

One negative surrounding Hatton is that he has missed the cut in five of his six appearances at The Open, a statistic that does not look good on paper, but on the one occasion he made the weekend in 2016 he finished fifth at Troon.

We're prepared to give Hatton the benefit of the doubt at 40/1 with eight places on offer this week.

Next in line in our Open betting preview is Francesco Molinari at 28/1. The Italian has produced spectacular results recently working with swing coach Denis Pugh, winning the PGA Championship in May which he followed with second place at the Italian Open.

Molinari returned to the USA where he followed 25th at the US Open by winning the Quicken Loans National and was runner-up to Michael Kim at the John Deere Classic over the weekend.

In 10 appearances at the Open, Molinari has a best finish of ninth at Muirfield five years ago but his form suggests he will be a contender here as well as being fourth and first in greens in regulation and scrambling respectively, skill sets which could be key this week.

For those worrying about the long flight to Scotland, Zach Johnson won The Open three years ago having played at the John Deere Classic in the previous week.

Another player hard to ignore in our Open Championship betting preview this week is Marc Leishman at 40/1. The Australian has finished inside the top six in three of his last four Open appearances and lost a three-man play-off three years ago involving Louis Oosthuizen and eventual winner Johnson.

Leishman is enjoying another consistent season on the PGA Tour with five top 10s since October as well as a ninth-placed finish at the US Masters.

Next on our list is Matthew Southgate who appeals at triple-figure odds, surprising for a player who loves links golf and is a member at Carnoustie.

Southgate ticks the box for having played at last week's Scottish Open and he has improved with every appearance at The Open Championship, bouncing back from a missed cut in 2014 only to finish 12-6 in the last couple of years.

The 29-year-old from Southend, who has fought back from testicular cancer diagnosed in 2015, won the 2010 St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur and has twice featured in the top five at the Irish Open, so this is a man who should relish a familiar course and has great Open odds of 125/1.

Fourteen of the last 23 winners have come from the United States so we could not go by without picking at least one of our American cousins.

DJ, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Fowler and Tiger Woods are all expected to mount a challenge this week but one player that could fly under the radar is Charley Hoffman at 125/1.

The 41-year-old from San Diego was 20th last year despite playing at the John Deere Classic in the week before but 12 months later he is taking his challenge more seriously by playing in East Lothian where he shot four sub-70 rounds to finish 19th.

Hoffman's major record this year has been impressive, following 12th place at the US Masters with 20th at the US Open and although he may not be as fashionable as some of the star names from across the pond he certainly has decent each-way claims.

The Open Betting Tips

Traders' Tips - View from the trading floor

The time has arrived for silky Dane Thorbjorn Olesen to put all his talent to fruition and add a major championship to his growing list of accolades. In a case of cometh the Rolex Series, cometh the man, Olesen has produced some of the best golf of his still youthful career over the previous six weeks and has fired himself into seventh spot in the Ryder Cup standings and he, along with captain and mentor Thomas Bjorn, will know victory at Carnoustie locks in a spot for Le Golf National in September. He arrives at Carnoustie off the back of a sixth-place finish in Ballyliffen at the Irish Open - in similar conditions to what we can expect to see this week - where he gave an exhibition in scrambling, leading the field in this stat, which is mandatory for anyone wanting to contend this week. Having sat out the Scottish Open, focus will be on nothing but a W this week and with two of his victories coming on links courses, the belief will firmly be there he can take down the best.

NAP of the tournament, Emiliano Grillo faces off against Fabrizio Zanotti and Jhonattan Vegas in this three-horse race and where Grillo's game is genuinely in a place where he could contend, the latter two's focus will be on making the weekend and even at that it is unlikely they both do.

The Open Mobile Offer: Stake refunded as a Free Bet up to €/$/£20 at BetStars if either Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth win The Open. Applies to bets placed on mobile or tablet only. Pre-tournament Outright bets only. Free Bet valid for 7 days from issue. T&Cs apply.

Who will be leading after the first round?

Warren Barner
@warren_barner in Golf