Monday, 31 March 2014

NH Collection Open 2014

The European Tour finally makes its way onto European soil this week for the inaugural NH Collection Open to be played at the Sotogrande La Reserva, near Valderrama GC which should really suit Trophee Hassan winner, Alejandro Canizares. Indeed he has stated this week that he plays here quite a bit and is really looking forward to the event, but he's just far too short to back and sometimes being over-confident brings its own pressures and I'm hoping  we can get him beat. That said, he's no hot favourite to do so, there are better quality players in the field and as tweeted, I've drawn up a list of value contenders that I think could go well on a course yet to be used on the Tour. It was used recently for the Spanish Amateur in February and hopefully its an event and venue that can establish itself on the tour in the years to come, and with free admission for spectators this week, it needs to find local support if its to do so.

By all accounts, this 12 year old course will suit big hitters, its quite open with big greens. Its a 7200 yarder, but judging by the galleries and photos I saw of the place, it could be a birdie fest if the wind doesn't get up. Its known, however, to blow consistently here so with that in  mind my leading 2 selections have shown they can play in these conditions in the past and remain on the staking plan despite not producing the goods last time out for the blog.

Chris Wood missed the cut in Morocco, but was 6th the time before. He can make amends this week at a very decent price of 33/1 with Betpack.

Shane Lowry hasn't got going at all this season, but I reckon he's gonna be this type of player, on fire one week and not at the races the next. He arrived nice and early this week, didn't lose his clubs en route either, so he has to be settling in well. With The Masters taking place next week, Lowry will be anxious to get going and make some moves up the rankings if he has any desire to start playing Majors more often. The road to success begins this week. Well capable of beating off this calibre of field, he'll be reminded of his Portugal Masters win not that far from here and at 55/1 with Bet365 I'm not going to pass up the chance to back him.

I was tempted to back James Morrison and Tom Lewis, with the latter being too short for me. Morrison is really hit & miss but has Spanish form and at 80/1 proved too tempting. He wasn't on my shortlist earlier but given that this his territory and having relooked at his price, I've had rethink, and decided its best to have him on board. Stephen Brown from the Challenge Tour arrives here in great form and @ 200/1 could be worth a wager also, but I'll pass on the basis that the dozen or so regular tour players that have won recently may prove to be the ones to beat. Patrik Sjoland is on the shortlist again this week....he went well in South Africa and Morocco until one or two bad holes put him back down the field. I'm going to chance him one more time for a TOP10 @ 16/1.

Staking Plan (6pts/units)

1.5 pts WIN C.Wood @ 33/1  Betpack.
1.5 pts WIN S.Lowry @ 55/1 Bet365
0.5 pts e/w J.Morrison @ 80/1 Paddypower

2 pts P.Sjoland @ 16/1 BetVictor

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Valero Texas Open 2014

Phil Mickelson will make his first appearance at the TPC San Antonio this week and start off favourite to win as he begins his preparations for The Masters in 2 weeks time. First played back in 1922, this is the 3rd oldest tournament on the Tour and is now played on one of the toughest courses on the PGA rota. Accuaracy is key this week if anyone has any ideas about winning. I tweeted my shotrlist on Monday and whilst contemplating the final staking plan I noted a rather telling stat about the Texas Open - Six of the last 11 winners have hailed from the Lone Star State and seven of the last 16 victors overall. Indeed, even the 2005 champion, Gamez can claim to be a native as his father was from the town so perhaps a rethink was required. The only players meeting this criteria that I could actually contemplate adding to the list were Ryan Palmer and Brian Gay, but despite the former yielding a  TOP15 last year, he's not a great bet at just 25/1 for me and the latter, though available @ 150/1, doesn't really make me fancy him to contend here on recent form. That all said the last 3 winners were all triple figure fancies pre-tournament so perhaps there's another decent priced winner in store this week.

I had 4 South Africans on that shortlist- along way away from being natives of the Lone Star State but I'm keen to get involved with Els for starters. He played this course back in 2010 and despite a disappointing opening round managed to finish on -12 for a 4th place. His comments this week when asked about competing on this course again he said "It’s the kind of course where if you get out of position you can easily make a big number. It’s a tough test and you have to be very accurate, but also very creative. Every green is different, with a lot of run-off areas, and it always keeps you thinking. It’s different to what we play most weeks, but personally I felt comfortable out here in 2010." Ernie may not be as accuarte off the tee these days but he has fond memories of the course and will know how to play the down wind and up wind holes here as they can often lead to many's undoing. I think he's worth chancing this week.

Likewise with Brandan Grace who has shown is fondness for links style/wind affected events. He's decent odds as he obviously doesn't play the PGA Tour often and has never played here before, in a tournament where debutants have had very little success. At 125/1 outright he's worth an e/w punt or 5/1 for a TOP20 (11/1 TOP10)

He's not from the Lone Star State but from Arizona and has shown he likes the tough tracks, but I do like the chances this week of Michael Thompson. He's played here just the once though, missing the cut 3 years ago but he's not a 150/1 shot this week ! He currently ranks 21st in Driving Accuracy and his GIR stats aren't that shoddy either (67%), but the encouraging stat if buying into statistics for this week is his scrambling rank of 18th. From his 9 starts this season he has 3 TOP20s and is arriving here having had last week off. He's a definite bet for me.

Having looked further at Andres Romero, I have decided that his driving may not be quite up to TPC San Antonio and have axed him from my final staking plan. Brendon Je Jonge doesn't win tournaments....sure he doesn't? He can hang around leaderboards though, and with 2 TOP25s here in the last 3 years, he may be worth adding for a TOP 20 finish @ 7/2 or 8/1 for a TOP10.

The one player that I am going to add to the final staking plan though who was not on my shortlist on Monday, is Ryo Ishikawa, who I also put up twice in recent weeks. He has finished 8-25-19 the last 3 weeks yet remains a 66/1 shot this week. On the back of that recent form, the Japanese younsgter is kept onside for another week. He comes in at the last minute to replace Retief Goosen. I'd hate to leave him out if he did go on and win when I've been tracking him so much of late.

Staking Plan (9 pts/units) - updated Wednesday 26th @13:20 to include TOP10 (Els & Thompson)

0.5 pts WIN E.Els @ 124.00 Betfair 
0.5 pts WIN M.Thompson @ 250.00 Betfair
0.5 pts WIN B.Grace @ 143.00 Betfair
0.5 pts WIN R.Ishikawa @ 67.00 Betfair

TOP 10
1 pt E.Els @ 13/2  Betpack
1 pt M.Thompson @ 14/1  Betpack
2 pts B.De Jonge @ 8/1 Betpack
1.5 pts B.Grace @ 11/1 Betpack
1.5 pts R.Ishikawa @ 6/1 Betpack

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bay Hill Betting without Tiger

No Europeantour action this week, or next, so I'm having an interest in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill where Tiger Woods should have been going for his 9th WIN! Sadly, he's withdrawn citing continual back spasms and with The Masters looming, he obviously feels he needs rest rather than more title shots at this point in time. To be fair it was difficult to see him winning this week given his recent form. He's out now anyway, so who can capitalize? Bay Hill completes the Florida Swing in which this year has really tested the players and this week will be no exception. Emphasis will be on par-5 scoring this week; its where Tiger has dominated in his previous eight victories. That said, tidy scoring elsewhere is required and a number around -12 or possibly -11 might be enough to prevail come Sunday. Its a 7,800 yd course where accuracy is key and those that play the par-5s well to take advantage on their scorecard will be challenging.

I wanted to back GMac this week but hes a bit short for my liking as is Justin Rose (way too short even with Tiger out). For this week I've been looking at players that could surprise and put in a good performance and are available at decent odds. I've decided upon some TOP10 & TOP20 bets as well as a couple of each ways  and hopefully the event won't be delayed as it was last year and we can get uninterrupted TV viewing in the absence of no Europeantour golf.

First up is Zach Johnson, who to be fair is probably in the best form of his career right now, although has tailed off a bit in his last 3 starts with 16th his best finish. Previously though he was in awesome form and he's been on the radar for Augusta since January. He along with my second selection this week are firmly on the Masters shortlist and if Zach goes well here I'd expect to see his 33/1 odds slashed, so along with a punt here this week, Zach is also going on the staking plan for Augusta. He's 22/1 this week, which is a fair price. Decent previous form here which has seen him miss the cut just once in his 9 starts, and finish with 3 TOP10s and an 11th placing 2 years ago.

My second selection is Lee Westwood who is also being backed for Augusta. Lee is 66/1 this week (50/1 Augusta) and for me he's over-priced on both books. Recent coach change (back to Pete Cowan) may be timed to perfection and Bay Hill gives us a real good opportunity to see how his game is. Excellent off the tee, Westwood's putting stats are gradually improving and he's likely to play the par-5s well.He finished well down the field last year, and didn't play Bay Hill between then and 2008. He has a TOP 5 from 2006 albeit some time ago now but the key to scoring well is to know the course and thats backed up by the fact that there has not been a debutant winner of the API since 1980. With the first Major almost upon us, I'm expecting a big showing from Lee this week and I cannot ignore the 66s.

Recent winner, Russell Henley is in form and therefore cannot be ignored at present.He made his debut last year and missed the cut but confidence will be high having beaten Rory McIlroy in that playoff two weeks ago and he's worth chancing for a TOP10 @ 10/1.

Another outsider I can see putting in a decent showing here is Japan's Ryo Ishikawa. He's currently 29th on the FedEx Cup rankings having grabbed himself 2 TOP10s in his 11 starts this season. When you consider that he's made 7/11 cuts of which 6 of those saw him finish inside the TOP25, Ishikawa may be on the way to a more consistent campaign in 2014. From his total 78 starts on tour hes just made the TOP25 8 times previously so signs are he's improving vastly this year.Now ranked just outside 80th in the OWGR, he needs to produce a good result in one of the bigger tournaments to kick on and this could be a course and event that he can do that.He likes the par-5s too ! He ranks in the TOP10 on tour currently in par-5 scoring. I don't expect him to win so its a TOP10 & TOP20 punt for me @ 14/1 & 11/2.

My last 2 plays are both former Major winners, looking to desperately revive their careers.  Irishmen Padraig Harrington & Darren Clarke are a long way away from the winners enclosure but both are working hard on getting back to where they were and their experience where patience is key could help them sneak a TOP 20 placing provided they get a solid opening round under their belt.

Staking Plan: (9 pts)

1 pt e/w Z.Johnson @ 22/1     Titanbet
1 pt e/w L.Westwood @ 66/1 Titanbet

TOP 10
1 pt R.Henley @ 10/1 Betpack
1 pt R.Ishikawa @ 14/1 Betpack

1 pt R.Ishikawa @ 11/2 Betpack
1 pt P.Harrington @ 11/2 Betpack
1 pt D.Clarke @ 16/1 Betpack Free Bet

Monday, 10 March 2014

Trophee Hassan 2014

We’re off to Morocco this week for the Trophee Hassan to be played over a links/coastal course(Golf du Palais Royal) measuring just 6800 yards. It’s a tight track with a lot of bunkers and it’s been an event I’ve enjoyed watching on TV the past few years. Unfortunately, the bigger names on tour are missing again this year although George Coetzee, just off a strong showing at Doral headlines. I’m expecting him to be a bit jaded though this week and Pablo Larrazabal @ 25/1 had tempted me towards the head of the betting. He has excellent course form with 2 TOP10s the past 2 years here but I am attracted to bigger prices this week.

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First of these is Chris Wood @ 40/1. Put up here on this blog LTO, Chris is playing well enough to grab another win and should the wind blow as expected here he will be up there. An absentee last year, he did play the previous 2 years finishing down the field but I’m more confident in recent form with figures of 6-23-43-65-18 in his last 5 starts. The last 3 events have been progressive and this a field that he can beat.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry has been too quiet of late and represents some decent value for me here at  70/1. We are well aware of his wins in the wind at Baltray, Ireland and in Portugal and with a TOP 20 last visit here in 2012, the ever slimming hurling fanatic could be about to strike. He’s over-priced this week and is worth a shot.
So too is his compatriot, Damien McGrane @ 125/1. He has shown lately that he prefers the shorter tracks where accuracy is key and I’m very surprised to see him a triple figures this week again. He missed the cut last year (wasn’t a great season for him) and yet finished TOP5 the year before.  He was TOP 10 in Africa on a similar short track last month and he can repeat that performance here.

I really like the chances of Scotsman, Craig Lee @ 70/1 who has also shown he prefers these types of courses and the wind.  Top 10 last year and TOP15 the year before in his only 2 attempts proves he likes the course and whilst recent form is missing, he could just click if arriving with good memories.

I have to include Patrik Sjoland for a decent finish again this week. Loves this type of course and could be a surprise packet. Same with Tom Lewis, proven wind player and links type player who could give us a shout in the TOP10 markets.

Staking Plan (8 pts/units)
1 pt WIN C.Wood @ 40/1
0.75 pts e/w S.Lowry @ 70/1
0.5 pts e/w D.McGrane @ 125/1
0.75 pts e/w C.Lee @ 70/1

1 pt D.McGrane @ 8/1
1 pt T.Lewis @ 11/1

TOP20 Finish
1 pt P.Sjoland @ 16/1

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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

WGC Cadillac Championship 2014

The 2nd of the WGC events takes centre stage this week at the newly re-vamped Blue Monster Course at the Trump International at Doral, Florida. Over $200M has been spent re-shaping, redefining and essentially toughening up the course since Tiger won by 2 shots here 12 months ago on a score of -19. There’s water everywhere now and there’s bigger greens, so all the known reads from years gone by should count for nothing this week. We’ll know soon enough what the player approach to the new course will be as the first hole now appears to be a lot more challenging than previously and it’ll be interesting to see the score stats on this hole compared to previous opening rounds. But, in conclusion, we definitely have a new course, it remains to be seen does it finally live up to its name as being a monster, at 7600 yards, it should be.

 It’s a highly competitive event this week with so many players in form, and therefore this could go to anyone. Is Tiger fit enough to compete and can Rory bounce back from a very disappointing final round last Sunday?  If he takes the positive from that fantastic 2nd shot onto the 72 hole, he will be ready for this one no doubt but, of course, us punters can’t back him with any level of certainty with a doubt of his ability to close the deal at the minute. He could easily have 3 wins under his belt in 2014, he should really have 2 in his locker but he doesn’t! So is there value to be had this week? Given the field, there has to be, and whether it is a case of taking a fair price or backing players that are considered over-priced this week, it will be challenging for nay punter to find the winner. I am looking at players that have both recent form and Doral form to some extent. It’s an event where the cream normally rises to the top and as per shortlist that I tweeted Monday; it’s these players that I’m hoping can get in the mix come Sunday.
I don’t normally back Henrik Stenson but he’s over-priced for me this week. Of course, most recent form suggests he is not playing his best but if we go back to end of 2013 the Swede was in brilliant form and despite changes (clubs etc) he has been working away on his game and will be well freshened having spent time in Florida leading up to this in the company of his tour buddies, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter. Gmac’s BBC blog post the other day did suggest that the players are really relaxed this week which for me could really be the key to taking on the re-vamped course and  at the price available, Stenson cannot be ignored.

I’ll echo that again with the aforementioned Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter. The latter may not be as prolific in the strokeplay events on the PGA tour but he has the game to score well this week. He did suffer an early exit at the recent matchplay but seems to be in good shape to challenge here; after all he does have decent form in both WGC events and in Florida. I think he’s worth chancing here. Graeme McDowell had a disappointing week last week but he’ll be up for it considering the mates are playing too. It’s a local event for him and has spent recent days playing rounds of golf with his Dad, will be really relaxed and could be a big contender. 5th last year and a player that is becoming an ever present on big tournament leaderboards, GMAC is a definite inclusion on the staking plan.  I’ve read somewhere that 20 from the last 24 winners here and either lived in Florida at the time of their win or had won in Florida prior.
I’m sidestepping Jason Dufner this week and I hope I don’t regret it. He made the shortlist based on price, thinking he was a bit big but changes to the green could impact on his suspect putting so he’s reluctantly left out to accommodate a punt on Charl Schwartzel. The former Masters champion is playing well of late and has been for quite some time and could very well be simmering for a long awaited win on US soil. Everything about Doral suits his game and he’s included too. I expect a strong showing.

My final addition to the staking plan is a play on Kevin Streelman who continues to represent some value on the books. Quite capable of winning any given week and his price really is too big.

Staking Plan (8 pts/units)

1 pt WIN Stenson @ 41.00

0.5 pts WIN Poulter @ 101.00

1 pt e/w  McDowell @ 46.00

1 pt WIN Schwartzel @ 46.00

.50 pts WIN Streelman @ 150/1

 TOP 10

1 pt Poulter @ 9.00

1 pt Streelman @ 11.00

1 pt Schwartzel @ 4.33