Tuesday, 25 February 2014

8000 yards - who would? Fleetwood and Wood would !

We’re back in South Africa this week for The Tshwane Open to be played on the Ernie Els designed course at Copperleaf GC,Centurion, a monster at just under 8,000 yards. Being at some altitude though will help the players, and as was seen last week in Arizona, players will need to account for that extra bit of distance being carried into these sloping greens.  That said, big hitters will definitely have an advantage here.  I tweeted my shortlist on Tuesday morning containing 10 players that when filtered on my spreadsheet represented the best value in the betting for me and we all know that events staged in SA are usually won by one of the home players as was the case last year here when Dawie Van der Walt prevailed so the two obligatory home players to be included(on the shortlist)to carry the flag this week actually provide great value in the shape of James Kingston & Charl Coetzee. For this blog, it turned into joy for a couple of readers last year, as they accidently backed Dawie instead of my tip Tjaart, but perhaps I’m tempting fate again by putting Ross Fisher on the shortlist with a number of other Fishers in the field as well as Charl Coetzee as opposed to recent winner, George !!Having debated hard whether to actually go with the latter, Iv'e opted to leave him be this week despite decent form lately. 

I had priced Ross up as a 20/1 shot this week so was a bit surprised to see him open at 28s. Ross is long and accurate off the tee and although he comes in for some criticism for his putting stats, I don’t believe he’s that bad and as shown at The Africa Open recently he can get himself amongst the leaders in this quality of field.
But the one player that I’m thrilled to see available @ 50/1 is another Englishman, Tommy Fleetwood who has enjoyed some success in this part of the world before and a player that seems to be excelling on par-5s. Should he continue to score well on par-5s this week he’ll go some way to getting close to the required -20 to win and he’s a definite WIN bet for me here. If the wind gets up, he'll definitely be a factor. I'm amazed the 50/1 is holding up still.
I put up Gangajeet Bhullar for the Joburg Open last month and despite a solid start he fell right back into the pack in the 3rd rd before finishing with a decent round on the Sunday. He’s well overpriced here this week @ 125/1,(opened at 150s which I've missed) almost double what I had anticipated. Bhullar has been in the winners enclosure back in Asia but he’s up for the challenge on the European Tour and having settled in somewhat now I expect him to produce the goods soon and I’d much rather follow him at the moment whilst he is available at such good odds.

As the blog heading suggested (for those that could decipher it), Chris Wood is also on my radar this week @ 50/1. He may not be as long off the tee as others (averaging 276yds) but he is one of those players that has shown great consistency the past 12 months and now that he has completed the Desert Swing where he defended the Qatar Masters, the Bristol native can concentrate on putting in some good tournaments and has a good opportunity here in this field.

James Kingston was backed for the Joburg Open and is being backed again this week. He missed the cut in Joburg when after the opening round looked as if he was going to be in for a good week. He went well last week at the Data Dimension before running up a score to drop back and finish well down the field so it’s a case of keeping it together this week and he’ll give us a run for our money. He represents a good Top20 bet here.

Staking Plan (8 pts/units)

1 pt WIN Ross Fisher @ 28/1
1 pt WIN T.Fleetwood @ 50/1
1 pt WIN C.Wood @ 50/1
1 pt WIN G.Bhullar @ 125/1

1 pt G.Bhullar @ 10/1
1 pt T.Fleetwood @9/2
1 pt C.Wood @5/1

TOP 20
1 pt J.Kingston @15/2

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

My 3 to feel comfy on Hogan's Alley

One of the best regular events on the PGA takes place this week in Los Angeles, the Northern Trust Open, formely known as The Los Angeles Open, made all the more famous by Ben Hogan winning here a few times in the '40s including the 1948 US Open. Since then, Riviera GC has affectionately been nicknamed Hogan's Alley. Its a fantastic course, measuring 7200 yards and is a par71. It requires patient and accurate play to succeed here and history shows that the cream normally rises to the top come Sunday afternoon.( John Merrick stopped that trend last year though) 12 months ago I thought I was licking the cream when my picks Bill Haas, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan went close to winning (they finished 3rd-6th & 8th in the end). Haas was defending champion having beaten Phil Mickelson & Keegan Bradley in a playoff. Given the difficulty of the course and subsequent scoring, its worth noting that Haas is -17 for the last 2 years here, next best being Freddie Jacobsen at -12!  Haas, I fancy to go well again this year, as too do I think Mahan and Simpson, especially Simpson following recent good form. But I'm not backing them here this week at their prices (they were 33/1 & 35/1 last year) but its the aforementioned Swede, "Freddie J" that I will be having an interest in.

Freddie seems to like it here, was T3rd with Haas last year and 13th in 2012. He's played 7 tournaments this season with a TOP10 recorded at the Shriners Open last October. He may have missed the cut last week at Pebble Beach but this is a different setup this week and he has been posting some decent rounds of late. Whilst Freddie may not win this week hes worth backing each way with Paddypower who are the only books offering 6 places, as well as a punt on TOP10 @ 11/1 with Boylesports.

Another that has terrific Riviera form is JB Holmes. Holmes has posted 4 TOP 10s in the past 6 years here at Riviera and has made 3/3 cuts on tour this season icluding a TOP25 at The Farmers last month. He is a twice winner on tour (both at the FBR Open) and following brain surgery in 2011, Holmes is making his way back on tour and could be ready to get back into some form.He missed most of last season to another injury but if he returns like he did in 2012 after the surgery on his brain, where he made 20/25 cuts, posting 8 TOP25s and 2 TOP10s then we could be seeing the Kentucky man a lot more this season. I'm having a punt for a TOP10 finish this week again.

My final pick for Riviera this week is Aussie, Marc Leishman @ 66/1 e/w and 6.50 TOP10. Two TOP5s in his last 3 starts is encouraging for a player that has shown he can handle the pressure in the big events. He's one to watch for Augusta this year too. From 23 tournaments last season, the Victorian posted 8 TOP25s and 4 TOP10s and finished in the TOP 70 in the FedEx Cup. He finished 28th the season before despite only posting 5 TOP25s from the 23 events played but he did win that season and he's due a win again sometime soon. Two TOP 20 finishes here the past 4 years suggests Hogan's Alley fits his eye and he can contend at a decent price this week.

Staking Plan (6 pts/units)

0.5 pts e/w F.Jacobsen @ 100/1 Paddypower
1 pt TOP10 F.Jacobsen @ 12.00 Boylesports

1 pt TOP10 JB Holmes @ 12.00 Betpack

1 pt e/w M.Leishman @ 66/1
1 pt TOP10 M.Leishman @ 6.50 Paddypower

Monday, 10 February 2014

Old Boys to excel at Eastern Cape

 Following the disappointment last week where Thomas Aiken failed to win his home Open in Joburg, we move 100KM east to East London, Eastern Cape for the Africa Open to be played on a links style course measuring just 6600 yds where emphasis will be on hitting greens and keeping it out of the rough. Expect the scoring to be low this week unless the wind blows. Its not a great field so I've looked at a number of "experienced" players that I think might just upstage the youngsters as well as toyed with the idea of just backing Aiken again on the basis that he's probably the best on show.

So then, is Thomas Aiken worth backing @ 12/1 ? Is he value? I think its a fair price (it matches my odds expectations) and whilst Darren Fichardt may have better course form as defending champion, the former is more consistent and is in truly great form of late.( I do believe that had Justin Walters not eagled the 18th on Saturday, that Aiken may have gone on to win on Sunday despite Coetzee's charge...anyway, on we go). Aiken excels in the GIR department, and was ranked 3rd in Joburg and East London GC requires exactly that. As you, the reader read this paragraph, be assured that this is the third time I've penned it, i.e. deciding whether Thomas is worth backing this week or not. Its about getting the staking plan right this week as I do fancy a punt on the Norther Trust Open on the PGA Tour as well, and having mulled over this event for awhile now, I've concluded this is an opportunity for Aiken to get a WIN and he's a bet for me @ 12/1 with Betpack

My second WIN bet is on Argentine, Emiliano Grillo @ 25/1. The 22 year old is also playing well of late and narrowly missed out on a collect for the blog last week. He's been to East London the past 2 years and has finished TOP 10 on both occasions. Recent 2nd in Dubai, the Argentine has shown a real fondness for links golf with creditable finishes not just here but also at the KLM Open, Morocco and Spain. He ranks 11th on tour for GIR and was ranked 11th last week too. He needs to make more putts to win however, his ranking is poor but with smaller greens this week, my thinking is if he is to utilize his GIR stats he could be close enough to improve his putting stats here and get in the mix. With course form under his belt he has to be in a confident mood following his recent good form.

The experienced guys could have a good week here and I'm liking the chances of Damien McGrane, James Kingston & Patrik Sjoland putting in a decent showing. South African, Kingston may be just a tad bit older than myself but we've seen the old boys still winning on tour in their late 40s in Des Smyth, Thomas Bjorn & Miguel Angel Jiminez, albeit they are/were at a different level of golfer to James, in all due respects. Speaking of respect, Kingston is a twice European Tour winner ( his first came just down the road from here at Pearl Valleys GC), an 11 time winner on the Sunshine Tour and 4 time winner on the Asian Tour. Whilst its been awhile since his last win, Kingston is not without a chance of putting a good performance here this week and he is added to my staking plan to finish in TOP 20 @ 7.50. Damien McGrane is also added in the TOP 20 market @ 6.0, purely on links and short course criteria being met. He did however miss the cut here the past 2 years but recent form shows that the Meathman is not far away from producing a good performance over 4 days. Former Irish Open winner ( Ballybunion of all places), Patrik Sjoland, is making a welcome return to tour golf and finished in the TOP 60 last week in Johannesburg. That outing will have him tuned up for this week and he will relish this style of golf here. Not the biggest of hitters is the Swede, also in his 40s, but he is a real lover of links style golf and has shown his likeness for playing in Eastern Cape in the past whilst competing in the South African Airways Open, and he too @ 8.00 for TOP 20 is worth a dabble.

I'll be back tomorrow for some selections for the Northern Trust Open to be played at Riviera GC in California but this completes my interest for the Africa open this week.

Staking Plan (6 pts/units)

2    pts WIN T. Aiken @ 12/1 Betpack
1    pt   WIN E.Grillo @ 25/1  Betpack

1 pt TOP20 J.Kingston @ 7.50 Betpack
1 pt TOP20 D.McGrane @ 6.00 Skybet
1 pt TOP20 P.Sjoland @ 8.00 Skybet

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Joburg Open 2014

The blog went with a new approach last week and delivered the winner in Stephen Gallacher for the second time in two years. Despite taking the Scot to win @ 25/1 without the 3 favourites (Tiger, Rory, Henrik) I was well pleased with the approach taken especially as Robert Rock also delivered a TOP20 in finishing 5th. Again there were ties for 5th meaning reduced place money, and its this reason that I again look at TOP10/TOP20 markets for this week's Joburg Open. Having spent time myself in Joburg on business back in 2005, and having passed by the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC on the way to work, its an event that I always look forward too. 210 players tee it up this week where Charl Schwartzel & Richard Sterne go for hat-tricks.

I'm delighted to see my man Ross Fisher play here this week as its a course I think will suit him very nicely. He hasn't participated here before, hence why the 33/1 is available I'm sure, (plus the fact he missed the cut last week also), but Ross can win provided he gets a decent start. I like seeing him go out early Friday morning having posted a good opening round so hopefully the draw is kind to him here. 33s is definite value for me where the tournament will be played over the West & East course the first 2 days and then the East over the weekend. His length will be a big bonus, he just needs to get a good start.

I'm getting excited about the 150/1 on offer for India's, Gangajeet Bhullar here too. Yes, he too hasn't played here before but he's a player playing consistently well of late.He did miss the cut in Dubai also, but form beforehand was solid and I think he can compete here. Having finished T22nd in Qatar and T10 in Abu Dhabi, he'll be rested and ready to produce four more solid rounds in Joburg. The 25 year old can hit it around 300 yds off the tee and is fairly accurate with it so he's not without a chance this week. He'll find plenty of home comforts in Joburg too.

I really do like the chances of England's Danny Willet @ 33/1. He's played here the past 5 years, missed the cut last year but has 2 TOP5s and a TOP15 to his record. He played very well in the Middle East with results of 13-43-19. Willet ranks 15th for GIR, is due a big week and is one of those simmering for that big week.Couldn't be in better form playing a course that he has excellent form on.

The tournament is usually won by a South African so I've no choice but to include one and I must back Thomas Aiken, a Joburger @ 25/1. I thinks thats a great price for a player, who like most South Africans, plays his best on home soil as proven here by his results of 6-24-3-mc-12, the past 5 years. He arrives back home in fine form with a week off last week following results of 5-19-8 the three previous weeks. Ranks 5th in GIR, knows these courses well and could be in for a good week.

Staking Plan (12 pts/units)

1 pt WIN R.Fisher @ 33/1   Skybet
1 pt WIN T.Aiken @ 25/1    Titanbet
1 pt WIN D.Willet @ 33/1    Ladbrokes
0.5 pts e/w G.Bhullar @ 150/1 Titanbet

To complete my staking plan I'm backing some form players for TOP 10 finishes with Betpack or Stan James. 

1 pt T.Aiken @ 4.0
1 pt G.Bhullar @ 15.0
1 pt Emiliano Grillo @ 6.00
1 pt Jaco Van Zyl @ 6.0
1 pt Jbe Kruger @ 9.0
1 pt Robert Rock @ 5.0

TOP 20
1 pt D.Drysdale @ 4.50
1 pt G.Bhullar @ 7.0