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Johnson drifts as bookmakers fear flying Fleetwood

Local lad the market steamer for Birkdale

Jon Rahm is fourth-favourite for Open glory
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The Open Championship market has a wide-open look to it as the hours tick down to the first round at Royal Birkdale, Southport, on Thursday morning.

World number one Dustin Johnson has drifted to 16-1 to become co-favourite of three with his fellow Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Spanish duo Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia come next in the betting, followed by the 2014 Open champion, Rory McIlroy.

The lack of a clear favourite for this hugely competitive affair means most punters will be opting for each-way investments, and the betting community has never had a more welcoming set of place terms. Sky Bet have raised the bar to a new level by offering a fifth the odds for the first ten.

Bet365, Betfair, Coral and Paddy Power have also chalked up excellent Open each-way terms of a fifth the odds on the first eight, while BoyleSports and Hills go a fifth the seven. Betfred and Ladbrokes are a quarter of the odds with six places.

The tee times for the first two rounds were announced on Monday. Luck of the draw often plays a huge role in the destiny of the Claret Jug and punters will be analysing the groups and the weather forecast in the remainder of the Open build-up.

The 1998 Open champion at Birkdale, Mark O'Meara, gets the event started at 6.35am on Thursday in the company of Chris Wood and Ryan Moore. Defending champion Henrik Stenson opens his campaign at 9.47am with Spieth and Si Woo Kim, while English hopefuls Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood follow close behind.

Most of the big guns are stacked late in round one, with Garcia, Jason Day, Fowler, Adam Scott, McIlroy, Johnson and Rahm all teeing off after noon. McIlroy, Johnson and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel form a marquee 2.48pm group.

A stiff breeze is forecast for most of the tournament, with spells of drizzle throughout, but neither section of the draw appears to have an edge at this stage.

Bet365, like many bookmakers, are fearing an Open victory for in-form local lad Fleetwood. The Southport man has won the Abu Dhabi Championship and French Open this season and been shortening for Open glory all year.

“Fleetwood was a 125-1 chance a few months ago,” said bet365 spokesman Steve Freeth. “Now he will tee off a similar price to McIlroy and we would rather McIlroy wins. There have been seven consecutive first-time Major winners and plenty of our customers think Fleetwood will make that eight on the bounce.”

The betting community has never had a more welcoming set of place terms