There's only two weeks until the Open Championship at Royal Lytham St Annes, but much can change in that time. Those players winning tournaments or even contending strongly over the next fortnight will likely see their odds shorten markedly, so rather than risk missing the boat, it makes sense to back long-range fancies now. Here's four contenders who are likelier to shorten rather than drift, and are recommended as immediate bets.
Rickie Fowler @ 50.0
Rickie has been my leading fancy for this major ever since finishing fifth last year at Sandwich. Considering his inexperience of majors, especially in treacherous British weather, his performance was nothing short of superb. Fowler is obviously a natural when it comes to coping with fierce winds, which can normally be relied upon to appear in Opens on the Lancashire coast. More than any emerging young player, I expect Fowler to rack up multiple Open wins throughout his career. Let's also not forget that Rickie has vastly improved over the past year. He came of age when winning the Quail Hollow Championship and went very close at Sawgrass, (again thriving on the windiest day). Americans have won the last two Lytham Opens and, Tiger Woods aside, Fowler looks their strongest candidate.
Paul Lawrie @ 80.0
Lawrie's renaissance at the age of 43 has been one of this year's surprise stories and the 1999 champion looks well over-priced at 80.0. In reality he is a far better player now than when landing that enormous shock at Carnoustie. Previously, his rare appearances in contention tended to coincide with terrible weather, but the new Lawrie has become a Gulf specialist, finished runner-up at Wentworth and even made the top-25 at Augusta. Its notable that Paul has opted for a lighter schedule than most, swerving the US Open, so we must expect him to arrive at Lytham in tip-top shape and Sunday's closing 66 at Portrush points that way too. When the Open was last held at this Lancashire venue, Lawrie was only four shots back with a round to play.
Nicolas Colsaerts @ 80.0
Again, these are big odds about one of the stars of 2012, reflecting an over-reaction to missing last week's cut. Colsaerts has won the Volvo World Matchplay and enjoyed an outstanding US Open debut, challenging after three rounds. His efforts in the former at Finca Cortesin demonstrated prowess in very windy conditions and there has been further encouragement on links courses. 12 months ago, Colsaerts finished third in the Open-preceding event at Castle Stuart, only to be forced out of the major with an injury. It would be no surprise to see him put up another sterling bid for the Scottish Open next week, forcing these odds to collapse.
Ben Curtis @ 160.0
Rather like Lawrie, it took Curtis a while to shed his image as a fluke winner of this major, but having since added a further three PGA Tour titles he deserves to be taken seriously. Curtis is clearly a good links and bad weather player. While so many of his more illustrious compatriots struggle over here, Ben made further Open top-tens in 2007 and 2008. This season he's won the Texas Open, again in very windy conditions, finished runner-up at Sawgrass and registered six top-15 finishes from his last 11 starts.
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