Jeremy Champmans Senior Open Preview

Stewart Cink, really a lovely guy but the most hated man in golf in 2009 when he stopped 59-year-old Tom Watson becoming the oldest Open champion of all time by defeating the much-loved veteran in a Turnberry playoff, won another Open duel of sorts at Hoylake when he pipped Richard Bland for Top Senior honours.

So it’s a shame neither will be at Royal Porthcawl in wet Wales for the Senior Open where Padraig Harrington, who finished well behind that pair in 64th place on Sunday, is a warm though opposable order.

Still capable of making a fair living on the main circuits of the world and longer off the tee than when winning back-to-back Claret Jugs in 2007-8, those four gruelling rounds, Sunday’s in particular with the weather at its most churlish, could take some getting over. Pod played decently enough but he was beaten a long way (13 shots) the last time he played a Champions Tour Major and at around 3/1 the layers are giving nothing away.

Far better value is the winner of that Senior US Open, Bernhard Langer, even if at 66 next month, he is spotting the likes of Harrington 14 years and more than that in yards off the tee. But as Harman proved at Hoylake, guile beats brawn more often than not in links golf.

Besides, the German has a phenomenal record at Porthcawl which is playing at 6901-yard par 71. It’s rugged and the forecast rain and weekend 20mph gusts won’t make it any easier.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going and nobody is tougher or fitter than Bernhard who won the 2014 and 2017 Senior Opens on the Welsh links, the first one by an embarrassing 13 shots from the redoubtable Colin Montgomerie. He was also runner-up there to Des Smyth in his main tour days in the 1982 Coral Welsh Classic.

No wonder I am keen on my old friend at 10/1! He used to stay at my place in the early days (it’s a long story for another time) when tournaments were in the south because my wife’s German cooking made him feel at home. Besides, it was free and Langer was always very careful with his money!

Ernie Els, Darren Clarke and Jerry Kelly, along with Pod, look dangerous but I’ll be having a little each-way on Thomas Bjorn at 33s. A fine bad-weather player who should have won Ben Curtis’s Open at Royal St George’s but took three to get out of a bunker at the last short hole, the Dane can still play, making the cut in several early-year main-tour events (38th in Thailand best) and a fair 15th in May in the Senior USPGA.

Popular Sky pundit Rich Beem, who once beat Tiger Woods for a PGA Championship and still competitive when he gets a week off work, will be heartened by Harman’s triumph, a big victory for the little man. Rich is much the same height!

At 14/1 the field the Evian Championship in France, fourth of the five LPGA  Majors - the last is at Walton Heath two weeks hence - looks much harder to solve. Played as ever at picturesque Evian on the France-Swiss border overlooking Lake Geneva, most of the big names will be there, not least Nelly Korda and Jin-Young Ko who started the year fighting for the No. 1 spot.

Lower back problems have restricted Korda’s appearances but she looked 100% when easily winning an Aramco Series event on our tour at the Centurion Club last week. Whether that means she’s back to her imperious best is another matter. The 16/1 is tempting but she’s never contended at awkward Evian, only 6523 yards long par 71, a layout once described by Lexi Thompson, a similarly tall, powerful lady, as having “too many bad breaks for good shots”, later amended to “great course but pretty complicated, you have to think about lots of things.”

Recent course winners Brooke Henderson and Minjee Lee are of some interest as is new sensation Rose Zhang but it’s about time a European won it again. Not since Anna Nordqvist did the business in 2017 have our Solheim Cup girls kept the raiders at bay and it could be the turn of another Swede Linn Grant, fresh from her breakthrough LPGA success in the Dana Open. The 24-year-old’s runaway victory over the men in the mixed event on the DP World Tour last year marked her down as special - and she was eighth to Henderson on her Evian bow last year.

Charley Hull’s US Open second to another new star, Allisen Corpuz, came out of the blue after some poor efforts but that’s Charley for you, unpredictable. Her third at Evian last year stands in her favour so there could be more fireworks but I’d sooner be on Solheim Cup heroine Leona Maguire, Meijer Classic winner and sixth, finishing like a train with a 61, at Evian two years ago.

Jeremy Chapman's Senior Open and Evian Championship selections: 

Senior Open:  Langer @ 10/1 each-way (nap) and Bjorn 33/1 (small each-way)

Evian Championship: Grant @ 30/1 and Maguire @ 18/1 each-way


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