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Ryan Fox dominates the betting for the Hero Open and plenty of punters will be keeping things simple by backing the Kiwi powerhouse to triumph at Fairmont St Andrews.
Fox has been in superb form from February onwards, winning the Ras al Khaimah Classic and finishing second three times – in the Soudal Open, the Dutch Open and the Irish Open. He has a strong record in UK and Ireland events on links terrain.
The negatives, though, are a slight dip in form – 47th in the Scottish Open followed by a missed cut in the Open – and the fact he finished 34th in his only previous Fairmont spin.
Steve Palmer’s top tip
Hurly Long 30-1
Leaving Fox alone at the short odds and concentrating on better value alternatives is the preferred punting tactic – and improving German Hurly Long appeals most. The 27-year-old took advantage of the recent events which were co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour, finishing fourth in the Barbasol Championship and seventh in the Barracuda.
Those successful Stateside missions must have further bolstered the confidence of a man who has posted six top-tens this year. He won on the Challenge Tour in 2020 and looks ready for a main-tour breakthrough.
Long played four rounds at Fairmont in 2020, finishing 51st in the Scottish Championship, and he has since come on in leaps and bounds. He is the Pebble Beach course-record holder and can thrive at another coastal track this week.
Next best bet
Marcus Helligkilde 40-1
Eighth place in the Barbasol and 13th in the Barracuda meant Marcus Helligkilde also got an injection of self-belief from the co-sanctioned events. The Dane won three times on the Challenge Tour last year and is playing well enough to shed his DP World Tour maiden tag at the age of 25. This is Helligkilde’s Fairmont debut, but this is a straightforward links in the forecast calm.
Brandon Stone 66-1
Scott Jamieson 66-1
Lucas Bjerregaard 125-1
Daniel Hillier 125-1
Brandon Stone is a class act who has dropped a few hints lately that his game is coming back. Fifth place in the European Open was followed by 15th in the BMW International. The South African missed the cut by a shot in the Scottish Open last time out but he won that tournament in 2018 – on a low-scoring links where he closed with a 60 – and Fairmont seems ideal. He finished 16th in his only previous visit.
Richie Ramsay probably inspired the Scots on Sunday with his Cazoo Classic success. Scott Jamieson is a year younger than Ramsay – they grew up playing amateur golf together before becoming European Tour mainstays. Jamieson won a weather-shortened Nelson Mandela Championship in 2012 – one of ten top-three finishes he has had on the DP World Tour. One of them came in the Scottish Open and this week’s assignment suits. He was in terrible form before missing the cut at Fairmont by a shot last year but is in much better nick this time.
Lucas Bjerregaard struggled last year until finishing tenth at Fairmont, where he fired a second-round 62, then he went on to retain his Tour card. The Dane will be hoping the Hero Open sparks a similar revival again. The 2018 Dunhill Links champion loves this sort of test and is too good to ignore at the odds. He was fourth in the 2019 WGC-Match Play, where he beat Tiger Woods.
Daniel Hillier, who finished 23rd in last year’s Hero Open, is also worth chancing at big odds. The two-time New Zealand amateur champion is an improving 24-year-old with a beautiful swing and effortless power. He won on the Challenge Tour last year and has four top-tens on that circuit this season.
Players to note
Richie Ramsay The Cazoo Classic champion explained his love of links golf after winning and could ride the crest of a wave in his homeland.
Grant Forrest The defending champion contended in the Cazoo Classic on Sunday and should provide a stout title defence.
David Carey The Irishman won the Open Final Qualifying event at Fairmont this year and impressed early in the St Andrews Major itself. Tempting at massive prices.
Adrian Otaegui The 2020 Scottish Championship winner at Fairmont should hit the ground running. He played in the first two LIV Golf events, but did not make this week’s Bedminster bash.
Fairmont St Andrews course guide
Course Torrance Course, Fairmont St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland Prize money €1.75m (€297,500 to the winner) Length 7,230 yards Par 72 – four par-fives, ten par-fours, four par-threes Field 150 The cut Top 65 and ties qualify for round three Highest-ranked players in field (world ranking in brackets) Ryan Fox (48), Oliver Bekker (99), Takumi Kanaya (109), Marcus Helligkilde (138), Richie Ramsay (175)
Course records– 72 holes 264 Grant Forrest (2021) 18 holes 62 Adrian Otaegui (2020 Scottish Championship), Lucas Bjerregaard (2021), Grant Forrest (2021)
Course winners taking part Adrian Otaegui, Grant Forrest
When to bet By 7am on Thursday
When to watch Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Golf from 12pm on Thursday
Last week – Cazoo Classic 1 R Ramsay (22-1), 2 P Waring (80-1), T3 M Kinhult (66-1), R Petersson (500-1), D Huizing (150-1), G Forrest (80-1), J Guerrier (80-1), T8 A Sullivan (100-1), A Hidalgo (125-1), J Dantorp (70-1)
Course type Links
Course overview The European Tour introduced some new tournaments in 2020 to fill the void left by the coronavirus suspension – including a one-off Scottish Championship at Fairmont St Andrews. The Scottish Championship has gone, but Fairmont St Andrews has remained a Tour venue, taking over from the Forest of Arden as host of the Hero Open last year. The Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews hosted an Open Final Qualifier in 2010, 2019 and this year. The Torrance Course, on a clifftop overlooking the North Sea, was designed by Denis Griffiths with input from Torrance and the late Gene Sarazen. Like the Renaissance Club, which hosted the Scottish Open at the start of this month, the Torrance Course can be described as a ‘semi-links’, with several inland holes. The fairways are generous and avoiding the pot bunkers is crucial. The four par-fives – the third, sixth, 12th and 18th – are excellent scoring opportunities. The 345-yard par-four fourth, the 320-yard par-four seventh and the 359-yard par-four 15th are also great chances, but the 509-yard par-four second and the 220-yard par-three 17th are difficult
Story of last year Grant Forrest claimed a maiden DP World Tour title, edging James Morrison by a shot
Weather forecast Light to moderate breezes throughout, peaking on Saturday. No rain expected. Temperatures around 18C
Type of player suited to the challenge The Torrance Course can be torn apart by an attacking big-hitter in short-game form – the four par-fives and three short par-fours present easy birdies – and not much serious wind is forecast
Key attribute Touch/putting
Spotlight insight Five players finished 20 under par or better in last year’s Hero Open