The British Open Golf Championship

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What You Need to Know

  1. The British Open takes place every July. This year it will start on the 12-19 July and will be held at the famous Old Course at St Andrews. It's the oldest and most prestigious of the four major championships of professional golf
  2. The tournament dates back to 1860. These days, it takes place at one of nine links courses in England and Scotland
  3. The Open is contested over 72 holes. To start with, it's open to 156 players, but after 36 holes, the bottom half of the leaderboard are cut
  4. After 72 holes are played, the player with the lowest overall score is named the winner. If there is a tie, there is a four-hole play-off and, if two or more players are still tied after this, it goes into sudden death
  5. Members of the public are welcome to watch the action live. Early-bird spectators tickets are usually available up until late May
  6. The Open is great for betting on golf. As well as the overall winner, you can bet on a player to finish in the top three, or how many holes in one will be scored overall
  7. Reigning champion Rory McIlroy is the favourite to win the 2015 British Open, with Jordan Speith also heavily backed. Other stars to look out for include Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson

What is the British Open?

Quite simply, the British Open is the oldest and, arguably, the most-prestigious golf tournaments in the world. Also known simply as the Open Championship or even just The Open, it's one of the four major championships in the world of professional golf and the only one that takes place outside of the United States.

The British Open is organised and administered by the R&A (the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) and traditionally takes place over the weekend starting on the third weekend of July, fitting between The Masters and the US Open on the professional tour circuit. 

The Open has also been an official PGA Tour event since 1995. This means that any prize money won here is added to a player's official total for the season, plus their performance at the Open will also affect their world ranking.

Thanks to its prestige, the event attracts some of the world's best players, while also attracting huge crowds, massive television audiences and great interest from sports betting enthusiasts.

History of the British Open

The first British Open Championship was played at the Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland in October of 1860. In that year, a field of just eight golfers, all of them local professionals, played three rounds of the 12-hold course, and history was made.

The following year the event was opened up to amateurs and then, in 1864 Open legend Old Tom Morris won the first cash prize of just £6. Soon afterwards in 1971, Prestwick agreed to organise the annual event in partnership with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, who chose to double the length of the competition to 72 holes.

Other notable historic landmarks include the 1894 tournament, which was first time the Open was held across the border in England, and the 1892 Open, the first when competitors played the full 72 holes.

While in the first few decades the Open was dominated by English, Scots and, to a lesser degree, Irish players, in the 20th century it became a truly international affair. The 1950s, 60s and 70s were largely dominated by the so-called 'Big Three' of Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. The 1990s saw America players come to the fore, though, come the turn of the millennium, Europeans again emerged as champions.

The British Open Today

These days, the British Open takes place in July of each year at one of nine different links courses in Scotland or England. As of 2014, the nine courses eligible to host the Open are:

  • The Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland
  • Carnoustie Gold Links, Scotland
  • Muirfield, Scotland
  • Turnberry Resort, Scotland
  • Royal Troon, Scotland
  • Royal St George's Golf Club, England
  • Royal Birkdale Golf Club, England
  • Royal Lytham & St John Golf Club, England
  • Royal Liverpool Golf Club, England

The modern Open is a 72-hole stroke play tournament open to an initial field of 156 players. Players can get a place in the tournament in a number of ways, including by being in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, the top 30 of the European Tour or even being successful in smaller local qualifying events.

There is a strict cut after the first 36 holes. At the cut, only the first 70 players of a total field of 156, as well as any other player tied with them, makes it through to the next round. All of the players who make the cut at the half-way point receive a share of the overall prize money.

If, at the end of the 72 holes, two or more players are tied, there is a four-hole play-off. If players are still tied after these four additional holes, the competition goes into sudden-death mode; the first player to win one hole wins the Open.

The 2015 British Open

The 2015 British Open Championship will be held at the Old Course in St Andrews from 12th July to 19th July, inclusive.

This will be the 29th time the tournament has been held at 'The Home of Golf', and the first time it has returned here since 2010, the year that saw Louis Oosthuzien win his first and only major title.

In all, a prize fund of around £6.3 million will be up for grabs, with the winner going home with £1.15 million, making this one of the richest tournaments on the global circuit. And, once again, a very strong field of 156 players will be in the running. Some of the big names due to contest the British Open in 2015 include past winners Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickleson, Padraig Hamilton, Todd Hamilton and Tom Lehman.

Alongside past champions, the field will also include the top 50 players on the Official World Golf Ranking, the first 30 in the Race to Dubai 2014, as well as players who have made it through from the qualifying events held over the first few months of 2015.

The 2015 Favourites and the Latest Odds

A field of 156 players will once again be contesting the British Open. However, the cut-offs are brutal, and the course is difficult, and, realistically, there are only a few players who have what it takes to win the British Open.

Here are some of the favourites going into the 2015 tournament, along with the odds being offered on them by the bookies in the build-up to the first day:

  • Rory McIlroy: Last year's champion is the big favourite to win the British Open again this time around. The Northern Irish superstar has been on fire over the past couple of seasons and will be the one to beat at St Andrews this year. 6/1
  • Jordan Speith: For good reason, America's Jordan Speith is just behind McIlroy ahead of the start of the British Open. He's also in great form and has won two out of the two majors he has played in so far this season, most notably claiming the recent US Open. 8/1
  • Dustin Johnson: Another American in the running, Johnson was looking good at the US Open only to blow it with some poor putting. Despite this setback, many tipsters regard him as being the best of the outside bets ahead of the British Open 2015. 16/1
  • Justin Rose: The world number five is widely-regarded as one of the best all-rounders in the modern game, and a combination of long drives and accurate putting is exactly what's needed at St Andrews. Rose came close to winning the Masters in the spring and has also won the British Open before, back in 2013, so he's seen as an excellent bet this time around. 20/1
  • Henrik Stenson: Not one of the game's superstars, but Stenson is nevertheless a solid pro, with a strong track record of finishing in the top five of major tournaments. Throw in his proven ability of avoiding difficult traps (of which there are many on the Old Course) and Stenson looks a good outside bet. 25/1

Watching the Action

The best way of watching the action is to go and watch the British Open in person. Each year, thousands of tickets are made available to the public, either through the host course or through the Open Championship website. If you're really determined to be in the crowd, a large number of early-bird tickets go on sale, with discounted prices usually available until the end of May each year.

Regardless of which course is hosting the Open, a range of vantage points will be available to paying spectators. Thousands of seats are erected by the main putting greens, and these are usually available on a first-come-first-served basis, while seats overlooking the 18th green almost always need to be reserved well in advance,

If you are going to watch the Open in person, be sure to check the green times and to read the rules of the course. Most courses will have designated mobile phone-free or photography zones, for example, with strict procedures sometimes in place for any breaking of the rules.

This year, day tickets for watching the action from right alongside the fairway or by the greens are avaialble from £20, though the prices go up as the tournament progresses. A day ticket for the final day, for instance, might cost you £80 or more. Concessions are always avaialble and, if you need to save money but still want to see some of the world's best golfers in action, then consider snapping up a bargain ticket to watch the practice rounds.

Alternatively, you can follow all the action on television. In the UK, you can watch all each day's play live on Sky TV, with a number of other broadcasters also showing large parts of the action.

Betting on the British Open

The Open is the biggest event on the UK's golfing calendar and is always massively-popular with sports betting fans. You can either place a bet with a high street bookmaker or, better still, sign up for an online betting account. This way you get the best selection of betting markets and will almost always be able to bet in-play. However, before you do put down any money on the Open, be sure to check this guide to betting on golf, especially if you're new to sports gambling.

There are a huge number of bets you can make on the Open, with most bookies happy to take odds on almost likely scenario. Some of the most popular bets made on the Open include:

  • Outright Winner: The simplest golf bet to make; simply predict which player you think will win the Open and put money on them at the odds offered. For example, if you think it's Tiger Woods' year and an online bookmaker is offering odds of 4/1 for him to lift the trophy, you stand to win £40 for a £10 stake. If, however, Woods fails to come out on top, you lose your money and walk away with nothing.
  • Top 3/5 Finish: As the name suggests, all you need to do is back a player (or several players) to finish in the top three or top five of the Open. It doesn't matter if your man finishes first or even fifth, so long as he makes the cut, your bet is a winner.
  • Top European/American player: A very popular type of bet for patriots, here you just need to bet on the player you think will do the best out of the entire pool of Europeans or Americans. For example, if you back Woods to be the top-ranked American professional at the Open, it doesn't matter if he comes tenth overall, so long as there are no Americans ahead of him on the final leaderboard you will win at the odds initially offered.
  • Number of Holes in One: All bookies will offer a wide range of fun bets for you to choose from. These are generally gambles that do not necessarily have an impact on the overall outcome of the tournament and may often be things you have no way of making an accurate prediction for.

Further Reading

  • The Open is just one of the major golf events that are perfect for betting on. The other majors - The Masters, The US Open and the US PGA are also great opportunities to place a wager assuming you have chosen a bookmaker first.
  • Knowing all the latest statistics, including players' form, can increase your chances of beating the bookie. Follow all the latest news from the Open with the BBC

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