Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Wells Fargo Championship, Quail Hollow - 2013

The PGA Tour rolls on this week with yet another top quality tournament to entertain us with. Rory McIlroy returns to action and to a course that produced his very first PGA Tour title 3 years ago, whilst Tiger decides to pass this week. Its a fascinating field again and the cream should be rising to the top come Sunday. The blog has been a bit unlucky recently with many players in contention after rounds 2&3 only to see the picks either have poor final rounds or another player comes through to trump them all over the closing holes. Its been awhile though since we had a player go in in the US but I am quietly confident that will change this week. Its a tough course, and one that will need some good accurate driving and some decent putting to win. Lets just hope our picks are still in it come playing the "Green Mile" on Sunday.

Volvo China Open - 2013

The European Tour stays east for this weeks event and sees the first visit to China of the season. The Binhai GC will host for the second time where Brandon Grace defends having won here last year. This is a long 7,600 yd par 72 track designed by Pete Dye and the North course will have a very links feel/look to it. The course should suit those big hitters and those that make good approach play. It should not suit a 12 yr old boy who tees it up this week. Local boy, Ye Wo-Cheng has qualified for the event but surely now comes the time to question the eligibility for entering. With both he and Masters sensation Guan Tianliang appearing recently the notion that golf is for the old retiring man has once and for all been admonished.

Anyway, onto the selections for who I think has the game to succeed here. Due to a family funeral last weekend, I was unable to see any of the action from Korea but was disappointed and somewhat surprised that Alex Noren didn't take out The Ballantines Championship having led going into the final round. I heard he was penalized a stroke for a ball moving on the 2nd green at address and these "silly" golf rules can have an effect on a player.I'm only guessing that this was the case with Alex but his scorecard was uneventful on Sunday. This track though should suit him right down to the ground. In fact he holds the course record here having shot a 63 in the 3rd round last year and eventually finished 6th. He is much improved player since and looks to be the one to beat this week and he should be in the mood to put last week's disappointment aside. 14/1 is OK and if he does start well the memories of that 63 should come flooding back and there may be no stopping him!

My second selection is Pablo Larrazabal @ 28/1. The Spaniard is in fine form with 3 TOP 10s in his last 4 starts. Surprisingly he missed the cut in his homeland before the T6 at Ballantines last week. That can be ignored and with solid form in China too behind him he will be quietly confident of doing well again this week. Im surprised he's not shorter in the betting this week on the back of his form stats so I'm not refusing the 28s with Betpack

My third pick is Julien Quesne @ 80/1 , also with Betpack. The Frenchman is improving all the time and has 3 TOP10s from 10 starts on the tour this year already. But for his putting we would be seeing a lot more of him on leaderboards but he is not without a chance this week. He finished T11th here last year and seems to play well in Asia despite having the weekend off last week. he has the length to do well at Binhai and he is preferred over Paul Casey (66/1)- just! Casey tends to play well in Volvo sponsored events so it will be interesting to see how the comeback is progressing this week.

TIP 1: 2 pts WIN Alex Noren @ 14/1 Paddypower

TIP 2: 1 pt e/w P.Larrazabal @ 28/1 Betpack

TIP 3: 1 pt e/w J.Quesne @ 80/1 Betpack

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Zurich Classic, TPC Louisiana - 2013

TPC Louisiana hosts this weeks event on the PGA Tour where Jason Dufner defends. 12 months ago, he claimed his first PGA Tour victory here and its a feat that has been achieved many times before in the past. That feat being the first title for many a tour player was won here. I have 2 players in my plan this week that would achieve their first PGA Tour title so hopefully that's a stat that continues come Sunday.
Last week was a strange one for the blog. All 4 selections made the weekend and indeed were just simmering behind the leaders after Friday's play. It was to be a quiet weekend thereafter with Bob Estes finishing best for T30th. Martin Kaymer got off to a good start and after his first two rounds I thought he was going to challenge but he never got to grips with the back 9 at Hilton Head and had a disastrous weekend. I mention Martin Kaymer as he obviously is one of the better European Players taking out a full card on the PGA this year and it seems to me that the newbies from Europe are somewhat struggling. That said we have been served up some great tournaments on some great tough courses the past 6 - 8 weeks. This week we have a Pete Dye designed course that was built in 2004 and is a long one at 7,400 yds. Full of water hazards and bunkers, the key may be to make the least amount of bogeys and take your chances when they come.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Ballantine's Championship - 2013

After just one week on European soil, the tour heads East and to South Korea for this week's Ballantines Championship, hosted at Blackstone GC for the third year. The tournament has already lost some notable participants from the USA following recent political tension in the region, so hopefully the week passes with good weather and some good scoring. Head of the market this week is Louis Oosthuizen but he is easy to oppose this week as recent form is questionable. I had tweeted my shortlist yesterday (Monday 22nd) but 2 of those players are also missing this week which has led me to rethink my staking plan. I was hoping for 18/1 about Alex Noren and have thought about the 16s on offer for quite a bit last night. Alex has some good results under his belt from his 6 starts this year, including 2 top 10s. He has finished no worse than 32nd,that being his first outing of the season. I backed him in Malaysia but he fell prey to the weather and therefore the wrong side of the draw where he eventually finished 6th. I can't get away from him this week. This is a long 7200 yd course, tree lined and the greens are undulating. His game should suit this week and indeed on his two visits here the past 2 years he finished 7th & 5th. As always though, he needs to get a decent start and I like his midday start on Thursday playing alongside the favourite, Louis Oosthuizen and local boy, K.T. Kim. They will then have a 7:20 tee time Friday which hopefully will see the Swede build on a solid opening round. Thats the plan anyway ! I'll have a nibble @ 16s with Paddypower

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

RBC Heritage - Hilton Head 2013

The PGA Tour heads out of Georgia and onto South Carolina this week for one of the best tournaments on the calendar. The Heritage is played at Harbour Tour GC, a short course with small greens, where accurate play is required. Yet again on the PGA Tour we have a very strong field assembled making the selection process difficult once more. One thing that can be considered for the shortlist though is that there have been numerous multiple winners here. Davis Love has won this 5 times! Some players this week would have played at Augusta last week and may not be "ready" this week whereas some will. Brandt Snedeker heads the betting and despite being disappointed with his final round at Augusta he may just be ready this week but is not backable for me at 13/1 despite having won the plaid jacket 2 years ago. Luke Donald should go well as he has done in the past but I'm looking for better bang for my buck this week.
I had shortlisted Boo Weekley for this, he is twice winner here.(2007 & 2008) and comes into the week with some decent form. He has won just twice on tour- both here so its hard to take 33/1 for him to complete a hat-trick.
Another experienced player that has won twice here in the past (2000 & 2004) that does take my fancy @ 55/1 with Bet Victor is Stewart Cink. T25th in Augusta proves his game is in fine nick, following a T6th at Houston. This is a player that will be looking to perform well on a track he likes to continue his decent 2013 season.

My second pick this week is also a former winner here and has shown a real liking for this course. he's also a player that may also be inspired to better things this week following his compatriots win at The Masters. Step forward Aaron Baddeley @ 50/1 with Paddypower. A brilliant putter, the Aussie should be excited to be playing here and comes in with decent form this season too. TOP20s at Texas and Pebble Beach and a TOP10 at the Farmers suggests his game is right for this. Although he missed the cut last year, the previous 6 years saw him finish no worse than 22nd with a win and 2 TOP 10s.

My final two picks are  Martin Kaymer and Bob Estes. The German made the cut last week at Augusta (T 35th), a course that he has not performed well on in the past. Being a short course this week, Martin's length off the tee will not be of any advantage but his iron and short game could serve him very well here. This is his first full season on tour in America and he will be anxious to start producing some results. A quality player that cannot be ignored most weeks and if he gets a solid first round under his belt he could get stronger over the 4 days. 66/1 is enticing with Paddypower.
Bob Estes has made 6 cuts from 7 starts this year and comes here off the back of a TOP 10 in Texas. A hot and cold player who also has indifferent form at Harbour Town but there is enough to like about his season so far. His last 6 visits here resulted in 3 MCs and 13-24-22 finishes. Small stakes at 125/1 with Boylesports just about give me some value and is added to the staking plan as an outside chance.

TIP 1: 1 pt e/w S.Cink @ 55/1 Bet Victor

TIP 2: 1 pt e/w A.Baddeley @ 50/1 Paddypower

TIP 3: 0.5 pts e/w M.Kaymer @ 66/1 Paddypower

TIP 4: 0.5 pts e/w B.Estes @ 125/1 Boylesports

Open de Espana - 2013

The oldest Open on the European Tour (apart from The Open) takes place for the fourth time at The Parador de El Saler Golf Club outside of Valencia in Eastern Spain. This will be the first time since 2001 the course has hosted the event, so it makes it difficult to assess course form for this week. This golf course has generally wide fairways; vast, challenging greens; and almost one hundred bunkers, some of them natural, created by using the dunes that seperates the course form the sea and the pine forest that it was built on. Measuring just under 7000 yards, the course will be a test this week and will suit good putters ot those that show the creativity of getting their approach shots close as pin locations over the 4 rounds will change significantly due to the sheer size of the greens.

 Berhard Langer, who put up such a strong showing at Augusta last week, has won twice here and holds the course record 62. The latest instalment of the Open de Espana staged here was won by Sweden's Robert Karlsson. The field this week will be headed by Spain's own Sergio Garcia who won the title in 2002. The locals have only won the Spainish Open 5 times so it may be prudent to look elsewhere this week.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The US Masters - 2013

The eagarly waited US Masters is finally upon us as all golfing eyes turn towards Augusta National in Georgia next week. It goes without saying that golfs majors make riveting viewing on TV, and despite reduced coverage on the opening two days, I'm sure alot of my spare time will be spent fixated on the coverage throughout the tournament. Bubba Watson is the defending champion having beaten Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff last year. Bubba bids to become just the fourth player ever to win back to back green jackets. Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods being the others who have achieved this feat.

The first Major of the year, is always hosted at Augusta National Golf Club. The course was opened in 1933 and co-founder Bobby Jones declared
    "Our oveall aim at the Augusta National has been to provide a golf course of considerable natural beauty,enjoyable for the average golfer and at the same time testing for the expert player striving to better par.We want to make bogeys easy if frankly sought, pars readily obtainable by standard good play, and birdies except on par 5's, dearly bought."

Green Jacket
Since 1949, the Masters Champion has received the now famous green jacket. Sam Snead was the first to win such a jacket. The custom is now that the preceeding champion presents the new champion his jacket. Jack Nicklaus, when defending successfuly in 1966, slipped on his own jacket, whereas Tiger Woods was helped into his when successfuly defending in 2002 by Augusta chairman, Hootie Johnson.

Amen Corner
The course comprises many fantastic holes but none moreso than the 11th -13th holes known as "Amen Corner". This name was penned by Herbert Warren Wind of Sports Illustrated in 1958. Wind defined Amen Corner as being comprised of the second shot at 11 through the drive on 13. He used the phrase from an old jazz recording, "Shoutin' in that Amen Corner." He wrote
  "On the afternoon before the start of the recent Masters golf tournament, a wonderfully evocative ceremony took place at the farthest reach of the Augusta National course - down in the Amen Corner where Rae's Creek intersects the 13th fairway near the tee, then parallels the front edge of the green on the short 12th and finally swirls alongside the 11th green."
   - Excerpted from "The Fateful Corner," by Herbert Warren Wind, Sports Illustrated, April 21, 1958.
 Many a player has "prayed" around Amen Corner, and seen their Masters bid evaporate and indeed in that infamous final round in 1996, Greg Norman lost his tee shot in the plantation behind the green only to offer afterwards in his press conference anyone 50 bucks who could tell him where it went (he never found it). The cameraman in the overhead crane, duly obliged later that day.

The Par 3 Contest
Since 1960, the Masters tournament has been preceeded on the Wednesday by a par 3 contest on the par 3 course. This is a fun event and its worth noting that no winner of the par 3 has gone onto win the green jacket in the same year. If you want to hold of placing your bets until this concludes and scratch the winner from your staking plan by all means !

My TOP 3 Shots at Augusta

1. Last year we witnessed one of the rarest scores to be made on a golf course, an albatross (a 2 on a par 5).This was achieved in the final round by Louis Oosthuizen on the 2nd hole, the first ever on this hole. Louis would later that day lose in a play-off to Bubba Watson who also performed one of the greatest approach shots from the trees to seal victory.

2. My all time favourite golfer, Greg Norman is the only man in history to be beaten in all 4 Majors in a play-off. In the 1987 Masters, my betting slip was squashed within my fingers,as whilst the Shark was lining up his birdie putt on the 11th hole, Larry Mize did this .....

3. Every golfing fan will recall this shot from the 2005 Masters. I do, because that year I was on Chris Di Marco! Another betting slip chewed up when Tiger did this.......

and for me one of the greatest shots I have ever seen ( and I bet we get to see it sometime during coverage this year too)

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Valero Texas Open - 2013

Only one event this week as the European Tour takes a breather from all the travelling around the world. It was a starnge week for the blog on both sides of the Atlantic where 4 of our 6 picks missed the cut, and by some way too. In Morocco, we will just put it down to luck (or lack of) the draw as Scott Jamieson & Rafa Cabrera-Bello failed to cope with the wind and the rough on a course that was well set-up. Its certainly an event that with the right sponsorship could be a player on the tour in coming years. Lee Slattery made the cut, again, and finally put together a decent final round to finish in a tie for 21st. On the PGA, the blog almost produced the winner in Dustin Johnson who was on fire in his final round. Unfortunately I only saw bits of the coverage over the Easter, but I hear he missed a 5 footer for birdie on 11 and then went for the green on the 12th to find water. Had he made birdie on 11, things could have worked out better, but I'll never bemoan a player who goes for it. He finished T 4th to ensure some return and therefore minimize the damage of the 4 missed cuts. This result is prime example why e/w golf betting is important in my view as these place returns keep the bankroll somewhat tidy before the winner comes along. So then, where's the next winner I hear you say?
The Valero Texas Open takes place this week at TPC San Antonio where Ben Curtis will defend. He is joined in the field by Rory McIlroy who has expressed his desire to get more competitive golf under his belt before he heads to Augusta next week. Its a good decision in my eyes and we can be assured he is working very hard on his game to peak before he drives up Magnolia Lane. I expect him to play well this week, but I am sure he is not worried about winning the tournament, therefore he's not a bet for me. Of the favourites I would be tempted by Matt Kuchar, but he too is off to Augusta next week and I'm a bit wary of backing a player that has real high hopes of wearing a green jacket come Sunday week. Also in the field is Charl Schwartzel, Padriag Harrington, Ian Poulter, Peter Hanson and Freddie Jacobsen who are playing next week. Harrington is interesting and is a player I want to back next week and having won the par 3 at Augusta to "jinx" himself before, I'm sure he wont mind winning this week either. His driving is better suited to Augusta than here but he is a definite watch this week.
I have found three players that have some value and who I do expect to compete on the Greg Norman designed course, rated as the most difficult on tour outside of the Majors. The course has undergone some changes namely to 4 or 5 greens, and the run offs around them , as well as shortening of the rough.It will be interesting to see if it plays a bit easier this year on the back of these changes. Its  a 7,500 yarder, bunkers are quite deep and straight hitters and good GIR stats are what I'm looking at this week.

My first selection is Jim Furyk @ 33/1 with . Jim has not played this event in almost 20 years and makes his 7th start this season having made 6 cuts already. Not the longest of drivers, but his ability to find fairways is key here as he is ranked 8th currently on tour,and the "veteran" is quite capable of winning this as the par 5s this week will play for most as a "three shotter". The price is good for a player that has 3 top 25s in his 6 starts this year.

My second pick has to be Billy Horschel who I have put up twice already this season at bigger odds. Billy currently has the longest cuts made streak on the tour standing at 20. Last week he nearly won, the week I wasn't on him so I have to keep the faith in him this week. He is 55/1 with Bet Victor. Thats still good value despite not having won, but that win is coming. Following injury two years ago and a slow path back to the Tour, the early potential looks like its about to reap reward and having tweeted that he and his wife, Brittany had bought their first home a couple of weeks ago, all seems good in his life at the moment and that good feel factor goes along way on a golf course.

My final pick this week is Brendon de Jonge @ 66/1 with .From 11 starts this season he has made 9 cuts which include 4 top 25s and 2 top 10s. He's in form and had a good weekend in Houston. He is 26th in GIR, and 10th in all round scoring which comes on the back of making the most birdies on tour this year. A streaky player, so hopefully he continues the form he has shown already in Texas.

TIP 1: 1 pt e/w Jim Furyk @ 33/1

TIP 2: 1 pt e/w B.Horschel @ 55/1 Bet Victor

TIP 3: 1 pt e/w Brendon de Jonge @ 66/1