Monday, 29 July 2013

WGC Bridestone - Firestone, Akron Ohio 2013

Tiger Woods goes searching for his eighth Bridgestone Title in Akron, Ohio this week and his first since 2009. This invitational will see the worlds best in action with all members of both Ryder Cup teams from Medinah eligible to compete alongside the worlds top 50 and tournament winners. The event also comes just one week ahead of the years final Major to be played at Oak Hill CC and tends to be a real strong indicator as to who will win the PGA Championship. Since 2006, every PGA champion has finished within the TOP 25 here at Firestone CC. With this in mind, punters have to be aware that despite the generous prize money on offer, this event will be suited to the in-form players at the top of their game as Firestone is a course that requires accurate long driving amongst the tree-lined fairways. This is a par 70 course measuring 7,400 yards so its not short and recent changes to some of the holes ensure that the potential winner needs to be able to drive it 290 yards or more. They will also need accurate approach play to small greens and have the patience to score.

One trend that has emerged over the years at Firestone is that all winners were coming here in excellent shape and won without any great surprise in doing so. Keegan Bradley won twelve months ago seeing off Jim Furyk with a closing 64. (It was the second time Furyk had been beaten into second following a seven-hole playoff defeat to Tiger back in 2001). Bradley was the then defending PGA Champion and had already pocketed ten TOP25s from nineteen starts that season. In 2011, Adam Scott triumphed having had produced 6 TOP25s from his 11 starts which included a runners up at the Masters.

 I don’t foresee any triple figure price winner this week but as with any betting, the punter is seeking value and with Tiger Woods the favourite, that value can be found as we look to get him beat. My shortlist for this event lists players that meet the criteria above, big but accurate driving with strong approach play and experienced patient play. They are also in excellent form this season and a win is just around the corner. Whether Phil Mickelson wants to make it a hat-trick and a four-timer the week after remains to be seen but he cannot be discarded too lightly given the form he is in now. Darren Clarke is the only European to win this event but there are a handful of players meeting my criteria that can end that trend. Most notably are Lee Westwood and Justin Rose, both have the driving attributes required and both are having stellar seasons with the former missing a win. It’s a course that should suit Rory McIlroy but he doesn’t meet the “in-form criteria” so is eliminated from my list. A lot of people did the same twelve months ago and Rory went on to win the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island and claim his second major.

With no debutant having won at Firestone, previous course form is a must before the final staking plan is finalized and then the bookmaker’s prices are assessed before value is determined whether we have the right bets selected. My three selections for this week with estimated price are as follows:

Justin Rose – Winner of The US Open in June, the Englishman is obviously in great shape. Ignore his Open performance at Muirfield, as that was a course not to his liking. This is. Justin was T5th here last year (2nd also in 2007), ranks 27th in Driving Distance (DD), 20th in Driving Accuracy (DA) and has an excellent approach game due largely in part to his coach Sean Foley. Along with his Major win this season, Justin has eight TOP 25s from 10 starts, of which five are TOP 10s.  His season is far from over.

Lee Westwood – Having failed to capture his first Major at Muirfield when leading by 3 shots early in the final round, Westwood will be unfazed by yet another “choke” on the big stage and prove that by mounting a serious challenge here. Tee to green; he is one of the best and as recent form shows his approach play and short game have sharpened significantly that can only lead to a win very soon. Firestone is the course for a player simmering for that elusive win and despite a third round 81 last year, he can go one better than his runner-up place to Vijay Singh in 2008.

Bill Haas - With Hunter Mahan becoming a father sooner than he was expecting during the Canadian Open, I fully expect him not to be a factor this week and instead my attention switches to Bill Haas who should provide some value. Haas has won this season at Congressional and has from his eighteen starts has produced eight TOP10s from the thirteen cuts made. Ranking fourth on tour for Par 4 scoring, the FedEx Cup winner, currently in seventh position, will be fired up for this stage of the season.

TIP 1: 1 pt e/w J.Rose @ 22/1  Paddypower

TIP 2 : 1 pt e/w L.Westwood @ 25/1 Paddypower

TIP 3: 1 pt e/w B.Haas @ 50/1 Paddypower

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

RBC Canadian Open 2013 - Glen Abbey GC, Ontario

Action on the  PGA Tour this week still remains outside the US as we head to Ontario, Canada for one of the oldest professional golf tournamnts in the world. With title sponsors, RBC at the helm, this event has recently been staged on a rotational basis and this year Glen Abbey GC will host for the 26th time. The first solo project of Jack Nicklaus was completed in 1976 and birdies are required here to take the title of Canadian Open Champion, a title that in 2013,19 Canadians are eager to win as no home player has won since the early 1950s. In form Graeme De Laet leads the home charge as he seeks his first win. An awkward week on the calendar, following The Open at Muirfield and before the WGC at Firestone next week and the PGA Championship the week after, RBC have ensured they have a quality field with many of their stable contracted to play.
   One trend though over the years apart from lack of home wins is that those competing at The Open, especially those who did so over the weekend have poor results in this, the week after. Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedker, Dustin Johnson,Matt Kuchar, Charl Scwhartzel as well as Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald to name just a few tee it up here but its hard to see them competing hard following their efforts in Gullane but perhaps a case could be made for Donald having only played 36. But once we look at those players that only played 36 holes another player offers better value and that player is Billy Horschel @ 33/1. Billy won his maiden title in New Orleans at the end of April in a season that has seen him make TOP 10 on 7 occasions from his 17 cuts made (19 starts). He will be fresh this week following just the 36 holes at Muirfield and Glen Abbey is a course that will suit his game where making birdies is a must. Billy ranks 2nd on tour for birdie scoring. He also ranks inside the top 50 for driving accuracy and lies 5th in the FedEx Cup. His game is in good shape and has a nice grouping for the first 2 days playing alongside Hunter Mahan & Dustin Johnson and they tee off very early Thursday

My second and final pick this week is Swede, David Lingmerth @ 100/1. Out very early on Thursday morning also, this is a player who had a TOP 10 last time out at The Greenbrier and who challenged Tiger Woods at Sawgrass in May. With 3 TOP 10s from 18 starts this season (8 MC), the 26 year old, who celebrated his birthday on Monday, will be keen to improve on his FedEx Cup ranking of 37th as the regular season nears conclusion. With his fellow compatriot, Jonas Blixt, winning the Greenbrier I'm hoping the feel good factor from there spills onto Canada and he can compete at decent value.

2 selections for 4 pts

TIP 1 : 1.5 pts e/w B.Horschel @ 33/1 Betpack * paying 6 places

TIP 2: 0.5 pts e/w D.Lingmerth @ 100/1 Paddypower * paying 6 places

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Open 2013 - Muirfield

The 2013 Open returns to Muirfield for the first time since 2002, when Ernie Els prevailed in a 4 man playoff.  An interesting Open is in store this week with sunshine forecasted for the week, meaning the course will play hard and fast putting emphasis back on accuracy off the tee with a superb short game both with wedge & putter being essential ingredients for success come Sunday. The winner of '02 actually arrives here in decent form (ignore MC last week in Scotland) having won in Munich a few weeks back. Ernie will be quietly confident this week and why not? Twice winner of The Championship Medal (2002 & 2012), Ernie also lost out to Todd Hamilton in 2004 in a playoff. Ernie's Open record is impressive and over the 13 years since that win at Muirfield he has returned results of T18-2-T34-3-T4-T7-T8-MC-MC-1.(1 WIN, 5 TOP 10s, 1 TOP 20)
       Looking at results over the past 10 years a handful of players seem to excel in The Open. Els is one, Tiger, Padraig being the others with actual victories, but there are also a few others that were regularly competing in this without winning and the first player that springs to everyone's mind perhaps is Sergio Garcia. Thomas Bjorn has good form too as too does Retief Goosen,Henrik Stenson and to some extent Adam Scott,Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer and even Ian Poulter has threatened a couple of times (2 TOP 10s in last 5 years). Of those mentioned, only Tiger hails from the US, but the Americans have experienced great success between 1995 to 2006 winning it 10 times. Can they find a winner this year? Phil Mickelson leads the charge off the back of his playoff win yesterday at Castle Stuart and Tiger is, well, is Tiger and cannot be ignored here this week. Of all the Americans, I do like the chances of Dustin Johnson who prepared by visiting Ireland last week to play some links before heading to Muirfield. Johnson is not in great form this season but he's not far away and as mentioned a few times on this blog there are always players "simmering", i.e. playing well without really hitting top gear or getting the deserved results. Muirfield will suit DJ who has indicated he may not hit driver this week and his links record is extremely good. A course specialist at Pebble Beach and with recent Open form too,it suggests that he is a contender this week. His 3 years recent record reads T9-T2-T14 and I very much like his chances this week. 

So, in what looks a wide open contest this year, who makes my staking plan? I found it hard to whittle down my initial 32 man shortlist to 20! Each time a player had the line drawn through his name, I had to recheck if I was happy in doing so. The Open does throw up some upsets and its one Major where 3 figure players have a chance of a place especially when most bookies are offering 7 and 8 places. Could I find a player at 100 - 300/1 to grab a place? I found 2 that I really liked . But is there value in backing the winner? is Tiger @ 9/1 with potential to go out to 10/1 or even 11/1  tempting? Whilst I really do give Tiger a shout, a big one at that, its not a bet for me. 

Muirfield was the course where Els won, Faldo won, Nicklaus won,Watson won, Trevino won,Player won,Cotton won,Hagen won, Braid won and Vardon won ! Triple figure prices this week? Anyone? If one is to conclude that golf legends win at Muirfield then Tiger Woods is in with a shout. So too is Mickelson (and there ends any mention of Phil to avoid cursing my picks), and so too is Padraig Harrington, twice an Open Champion. But legends have to be born sometime and Gary Player's first Major win was here in 1959, so who is to say we don't see a winner this Sunday that becomes a legend in the game? Is it to be Brooks Koepka @150/1, the new kid on the block who produced a TOP 15 last week on his debut on The European Tour ? Time will tell. Perhaps Rory finds his game and adds his 3rd Major to his locker on his way to becoming a legend, perhaps Tiger ends his drought or perhaps one of the young guns that have been winning titles all around the world will add a Major,and there is every chance such is the abundance of young talent on the Tours at present. One of those is my headline tip.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Scottish Open 2013 - Castle Stuart, Inverness

For the third year running, the Scottish Open will be staged at Castle Stuart GC in Inverness. It's a new course, but quite a stunning course as can be seen by this video flyover, and will give many of the players playing this week an opportunity to hone their links skills before heading to Muirfield the week after for The Open. As reported on the European Tour website it is also seeking a hat-trick of a different kind as the winner of the last 2 Opens competed in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart the week before. Phil Mickelson will once again compete in the Scottish Open and could be worth a nibble at 20/1 but I'm inclined to back someone who might just want to win without the fear of jinxing his chances the week after. Scoring has been very low the past 2 years, with softish conditions, but the recent weather may provide us with a faster track and despite generous fairways scoring may not be as easy. That taken into account, the course will reward accurate shotmakers and those that can make birdies.

I put up Francesco Molinari to win in Ireland a couple of weeks back and then chose to watch how he fared in Paris. He did "OK" but his 3rd round, 67 did catch my eye and despite a closing 73 finished with a TOP 20 on what is widely accepted as a tough course. Castle Stuart will suit "Frani" this week and is one of those players simmering before a decent week. I was pleasantly surprised to see 33/1 available for the Italian who was beaten by Jeev Milka Singh in a playoff last year. He is gradually returning to form and I'm quite happy to back him to go one better than last year at that price.

My second pick is homeboy, Stephen Gallacher,who obliged for this blog back in January in winning the Dubai Desert Classic. With John Daly to undergo surgery on his elbow, the Scot claimed his place at The Open this morning (Monday) at his expense,and that should put him in a more relaxed mood for this week. Tied 8th last week in France, Gallacher is becoming increasingly consistent and the former Alfred Dunhill Links winner will be right at home on this course where he finished T24th last year. He also finished 5th & 6th in his 2 starts in Scotland last year so clearly likes playing his homeland and he's on the betting slip this time round at a lovely 66/1 with , who along with most bookies are paying 6 places this week.

My third pick is Thorbjorn Olesen @ 66/1 also with . The Dane had a horrible front 9 at Le Golf Nacional last week but he tried hard to get back into it and was going great guns in rd 2 before the bogeys arrived leaving him with a 70 and no chance of making the cut. He hasn't made a cut since the Masters but as I pointed out last week, I'm happy to ignore this stat as he is the type of player to find his game any given week. He's well rested and will be smarting after the 78 last Thursday and he should take heart from GMac's win off the back of 3 straight missed cuts. He is a top player, will bounce back, and knows how to score on this course having thrown in a 65 last year. He too, like Gallacher, has Scottish & links form with a runners up placing at the Alfred Dunhill Links last year to go along with his TOP 15 at Gleneagles, his T9th at Royal Lytham and his T8th at Portrush. I won't "dump" him just yet.

I had considered Simon Dyson this week on the back of a very strong performance last week and decent returns here the past 2 years but am not totally convinced he has found form to make a bunch of birdies at Castle Stuart. I have decided instead to opt for Robert Rock @ 125/1 with Boylesports. H missd the cut last year but finished T31st in the reduced to 54 holes event the previous years where he shot 65, 66 in his final 2 rounds. He was 2nd to Paul Casey in Ireland 2 weeks ago so his game is in good shape and is my outside bet this week. Needs a big result to make the field for Muirfield.

TIP 1: 1 pt e/w F.Molinari @ 33/1 Betpack

TIP 2: 1 pt e/w S.Gallacher @ 66/1

TIP 3: 1 pt e/w T.Olesen @ 66/1

TIP 4: 0.5 pts e/w R.Rock @ 125/1 Boylesports

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Greenbrier Classic 2013

The 4th staging of this new event on the PGA Tour takes places at the Old White TPC in West Virginia and has attracted a decent field just 2 weeks before The Open as players try to refine their game before the 3rd major. Ted Potter defends whilst others try to emulate recent maiden winners on a track that has produced first time winners the past 2 years in play-offs. In its inaugural year, Stuart Appleby produced the magical 59 in the final round to win, but the course has been toughened up somewhat since. Nonetheless, expect low scoring again this week where birdies are required to win.

My preview is very brief this week, apologies for this as I'm stuck for spare time but rather than giving the tourney a miss I coudn't ignore my top pick nor my outsiders.

I'm going with 3 players here for a 4 unit (points) play.

My top selection is a 2 PT WIN bet on Webb Simpson @ 16/1. I just couldn't ignore Webby. He's playing well enough to strike and his all round game should be suited to scoring well here. 15th in overall scoring augurs well and should he get the putter going he could be hard to beat.

My second pick is Jason Kokrak @ 80/1 with Paddypower who are paying 6 places. I had a dabble on Kokrak recently to no avail but he certainly hit some form last week at Congressional. He should bring some good vibes with him here so and he's being added again in the hope he keeps that form up. The 23 yr old big hitter should be at ease off the tee and can score well on this course.

The third pick for me this week is Robert Karlsson @ 125/1 with Paddypower also. The Swede has shown glimpses that his game is returning and like Appleby in 2010, this could be an event that sees him back on the leaderboards. He'll take heart from Paul Casey winning in Ireland following injury.

4 point staking plan - all bets with Paddypower

TIP 1: 2 pts WIN W.Simpson @ 16/1

TIP 2: 0.5 pts e/w J.Kokrak @ 80/1

TIP 3: 0.5 pts e/w R.Karlsson @ 125/1

Open de France 2013 - Le Golf National

Over 80,000 spectators attended the Irish Open at Carton House last week where th course proved to be a hit as much as eventual winner, Paul Casey. It was fantastic to see Paul return to the winners enclosure and to do so at the Irish Open and hopefully he will kick on and now and rise up the world rankings. I say it was fantastic but from a betting perspective it wasn't as I backed Casey the previous week ! In fact he had been on my shortlist 4 times recently but overlooked for Carton House.
I've been very happy with my 10 or 12 man shortlists on the European Tour this season which has listed the eventual winner a number of times. I just need to ensure when I finalize my staking plan that I'm not leaving that eventual winner on the bench as has been the case recently. Because those shortlists are hitting the posts and "dropped" players are capitlizing without the burden of my hard earned cash on their shoulders, I'm approaching the next 2 weeks as I did for the Irish Open. I'm looking for players that are playing better than their results are showing and those that have an affinity for the course/tournament. Richard Sterne didn't get the result I was looking for last week but he played solidly enough and therefore I have to stick with him here. He is a player I daren't "dump" having seen Casey go in last week. The South African returned a 74 last Sunday when out of contention but he played beautifully and will be warmed up for Paris. He is generally available at 50/1. So what of those players on the shortlist not on my final selection? Well, I don't see the value in backing Luke Donald @ 14/1, but with regret I'm leaving Ian Poulter (25/1) out. Despite his outspoken views on the course a number of years back, Ian has supported this event a lot and has decent form and could be a contender. He was next on the list. Pablo Larrzabal is playing very well and will be disappointed not to have done better last Sunday. Former winner here too in Paris but he could be tired after recent efforts. Castano is always worth a place on any shortlist whilst Jamie Donaldson at just 40/1 was overlooked for another 40/1 shot.