I’ve looked over the extra markets for this week’s Open Championship and picked out three selections which should give us some added interest. These start with Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo finishing as the Top South American, in what essentially looks a matchup with Chile’s Joaquin Niemann.
Top South American – Emiliano Grillo
Grillo and Niemann make up two of three players in this market, along with current #24 ranked amateur, Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira. Who for all he looks a big talent, has very limited and uninspiring experience of links golf.
If we remove him from the equation, we’re left with a straight battle between Grillo and Niemann, and though Niemann is the more gifted golfer, he is an easy favourite to oppose in this market. Based both on current form and on Grillo’s superior links golf experience.
Though performing solidly in a couple of this year’s majors so far, Niemann has had a disappointing year at LIV, recording a best of 8th in those limited fields. Grillo, on the other hand, won his second PGA Tour title back at the end of May, against a strong field in the Charles Schwab Challenge and has many other strong performances littered around that victory; a 7th in the RBC Heritage a particular standout.
In addition to this, we have the benefit of in-depth stats to tell us how Grillo has been going about his business. Most impressive about Grillo’s play, particularly over the last three months, has been his approach play – an area in which he ranks 10th in this field over that period.
He compliments this with some hugely encouraging signs on the greens, ranking 19th over that same time. As a rock-solid driver too – where he isn’t short on either accuracy or power – he’s hitting the ball well enough to have a good week here. In comparison to Niemann, who has driven the ball well in his three major appearances this year but been poor with his irons.
However, the most decisive factor separating these two for me this week is the links form of Grillo compared to the Chilean. Niemann has appeared in three Open Championships so far and failed to crack the top 50 in each one. Meanwhile, Grillo has twice finished 12th at The Open; on debut in 2016 at Royal Troon and repeated that finish in 2021 at Royal St George’s.
Grillo ticks virtually every box over Niemann for me this week and looks a good bet to turn over the favourite in this market, in what should be a two-horse race.
Top 20 – Ryan Fox
Ryan Fox has a bounty of terrific links form, which was added to further last week, as he finished 12th in Scotland. With his results looking very encouraging since taking up Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour earlier in the year, I struggle to see him not hitting the higher echelons of the leaderboard this week at Hoylake.
Fox started his PGA Tour campaign this year with a 14th-place finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and had played there exclusively prior to heading to Scotland last week.
He’s missed just one cut in his last nine starts, which includes made cuts in each of this year’s majors so far, including top 30 finishes both at Augusta and in the PGA Championship. Though he produced his best finish of that run last week at The Renaissance Club.
Fox has produced quality right across the board over this time, ranking top 25 in this week’s field in strokes-gained total over the last three months; gaining strokes in each recorded area.
With that high quality he’d been showing, it’s no surprise to see him return to the links and produce his best finish last week. It’s a style of golf of which he has a great affinity with, having won the Alfred Dunhill Links last year and recorded a runner-up finish in the 2018 Irish Open, amongst other top 5s both in Ireland and Scotland.
His ability to play both on this style of course and in the conditions we typically find in these events has no doubt been shaped by the New Zealander’s country of birth, as both are commonplace out there.
Fox’s only previous major top 20 came in this event in 2019, when he finished 16th at Royal Portrush. Everything is pointing to him adding a second major top 20 to that this week.
Top 20 – Romain Langasque
Romain Langasque is another links lover and as someone who is driving the ball excellently right now, he looks well placed for a best-yet major performance this week.
Langasque’s links pedigree goes right back to his amateur career, as he was crowned the Amateur Champion at Carnoustie in 2015. This is something he carried over into his professional career, finishing 3rd at the Scottish Open in 2019 and amongst his other achievements was his 11-under at St Andrews last year in the Dunhill Links Championship, which equalled the course record.
He comes into this week off the back of another strong links performance when 25th in last week’s Scottish Open. A week where he once again excelled with the driver, ranking 15th.
This has very much been the Frenchman’s strength since turning pro and we see this on show again this year, as he ranks 15th in this field off-the-tee. Which I’m expecting to be a club of huge importance this week.
His finish in the Scottish Open was the most recent result in what has been a strong year for Langasque. He hasn’t missed a cut since the SDC Championship in March; recording seven top 25s and four top 10s in that time, with a best of 2nd in the Italian Open.
Langasque has made the cut in two of his three Open appearances so far, including on debut in 2015 when still an amateur. I don’t expect him to just make the cut again this year but with the quality he’s been showing over recent months, I expect him to put his links experience to good use and hit the top 20 for the first time.