Betting on the Golf Majors

The Golf Majors

The US Masters, at Augusta every April, is by far the most reliable Major for betting purposes because it is the only one of the four Grand Slam championships that's held at the same course every year. The same players do well year after year, even if they are out of form everywhere else. You only have to look at Jose Maria Olazabal's cracking Masters record over the past few years and compare it with his abysmal form elsewhere.

Players who fly the ball a long way through the air are favoured because of the undulations of the course, which is much hillier than it looks on TV This has led to some false thinking that shorter hitters have little chance, especially now the course has been 'Tiger-proofed' and lengthened.

The facts do not back this up: shorter-than-average hitters such as Ben Crenshaw, Olazabal, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo and Mark O'Meara have won ten Masters between them. But long hitters at the top of their game are undoubtedly at an advantage; that's why Tiger has won three Masters and Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els fought out the finish in 2004.

The key to Augusta is getting iron shots to the right side of the flags so as to avoid three-putting and to give genuine birdie chances. There are plenty of birdies available, especially on the par fives.

So look for the players whose iron play is hot, rather than go for the massive hitters who may lack the finesse to deal with all the problems around the glassy greens.

Next best for form students is our Open which, despite some recent shocks (Paul Lawrie, Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton), usually goes to one of the fancied runners. The 'British' is always played on a links (at or near the sea, a traditional course with no trees) and there are only a handful of those on the championship rota: St Andrews, Muirfield, Royal Troon, Turnberry, Carnoustie in Scotland; Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham, Royal St George's and, returning to the fold soon, Royal Liverpool, which last hosted an Open back in 1967. Unlike the Masters and US Open, the Open has proved a hard one to win twice in recent times.

The last multiple winner was Greg Norman in 1993. Annual backers of Tiger Woods from his Open bow as a pro in 1997 up to and including 2004 are showing a loss as Woods's only victory came at St Andrews in 2000.

With the field teeing off over a nine-hour stretch for the first two days and substantial variation in wind strengths on seaside links, your money can quickly be blown right off course if your man gets on the 'wrong' side of the draw.

This happened to Els in 2003. He opened with a 78 in the worst conditions and could, never get in a blow. Generally speaking, an early-late pair of starting times beats a late-early one.

The US Open is played on mostly the great traditional courses, which are tricked up with narrowed fairways and heavy rough around the green to take finesse out of the game and generally reward boringly straight, medium-length players who hit green after green in regulation, hence victories for players like Tom Kite, Lee Janzen, Corey Pavin, Curtis Strange (twice) and Jim Furyk.

Occasionally, when the USGA doesn't tamper too much with a course, such as Beth-page Black in 2002, pure class prevails with Woods winning from Phil Mickelson. It is such a weird tournament that two of plodding Andy North's only three tour wins came in this second Major - and the lone victory of Orville Moody's main-tour career came in the 1969 US Open.

The policy with the USPGA Championship has been to take it to some interesting new venues - it was linksy and highly-praised Whistling Straits in 2004 - mixing them in with some of the magical older venues such as Oak Hill, Medinah and Winged Foot.

The courses are deliberately not made too hard because this Major is open to two dozen club professionals and as it is the club-professional arm of the tour that organises this one, they are not keen to make their own teaching pros look stupid.

Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel were recent big-priced winners but the vast majority of USPGA champions come from the game's greats.

The biggest surprise came when ninth reserve John Daly, then an unknown 500-1 chance, came in at the last moment to replace Nick Price, who had to duck out late in the day, and conquered Crooked Stick in 1991.