Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Championship, Masters Course, Laguna National GC, Singapore

As a replacement to The Ballantines Championship, until 2015, The Laguna National GC in Singapore will stage the inaugural “The Championship” this week on it’s Masters Course. It will be the first European Tour event to be played here since the Singapore Masters was held between 2002 –2007. Local favourite, Mardan Mamat has a fantastic record on the Masters layout, having won the aforementioned Masters title in 2006 and the Singapore Mercedes Benz Open in 2009, but he may have a tough challenge from his Asian &  European Tour counterparts this week. 

The 7200 yard, par-72 course, has in the past, produced winning scores in around 275/276. Good tee to green players again should contend this week. Hopefully, it may ignite Peter Lawrie’s season as the Dubliner has had two TOP10s here back in 2007 & 2005 and a return to a course that he should have fond memories of, may help him get back on track. It’s the same story too, for England’s Nick Dougherty, who on his last three visits finished 4-2-1.

As I wrote in this week's edition of Golfing Weekly (free to subscribe and sent out every Monday), Bernd Wiseberger could be the one to beat but he's no certainty to win. The last two weeks has seen him finish a very creditable 2nd in Malaysia and a T10th in Indonesia where it appeared he was frustrated by the weather delays. He may be in the mood to complete his Asian Swing in style by winning this title for the second time. Whilst the Austrian may appear to be the one to beat this week given acclimatisation and current form, he has not played Laguna previously. Englishman, Simon Dyson and Ross Fisher have however, both recording finishes of 3rd in 2006 & 2007 respectively. This will be Dyson’s 5th visit and he arrives this week off the back of a TOP10 in China whereas Ross Fisher arrives having missed the cut in Shenzhen. Dyson is very comfortable in this part of the world having played successfully for a time on the Asian Tour at the start of his professional career, and with a second TOP10 under his belt in his last 5 starts, and the 40/1 is a great price this week. Ross on the otherhand is well underpriced and best left alone. 

Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello produced another TOP10 in China and will play Laguna for the second time. You can ignore his missed cut in Malaysia, as he has produced some solid results in his previous 4 events – 3 TOP5s. That closing 67 in Shenzhen will have him full of confidence for a course that should really suit his game. He can be backed @ 18/1 this week, a price I was expecting and whilst a lot of punters may feel this is too short, given the quality of the field here, I think its a price worth taking, despite the small number of wins on his CV.

 Of the Asian based players, Indian, Anirban Lahiri will be full of confidence having won outside his homeland for the first time in Indonesia. Having finished no worse than twelfth in his last five starts he’ll be the tour’s main hope alongside Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Prayad Marksaeng. The latter won two starts back and has two TOP10s at Laguna, so of the three, would be my pick although Aphibarnrat appears to be hitting some form again but again he's a bit too short and I'd prefer to be on Rafa. Rashin Khan is another Indian golfer starting to make waves and is great form of late, but I do believe the European stalwarts will contend better this week.
Of those, Frenchman, Gregory Bourdy has been playing very consistently for awhile now. The French have shown in the past that they can take inspiration from their fellow countryman winning on tour, and Alex Levy’s win may just inpsire Bourdy to kick on from his five TOP20 finishes from his last six starts. Anders Hansen hasn't been in great form this season until that closing 63 in Shazhen catapulted him up the leaderboard and it's worth noting he has course form at Laguna. That round and final result should put him in good form for this but at 45/1, I'll opt for Bourdy at 28/1 instead being the more consistent this season.
I was happy to collect two place returns in China through Tommy Fleetwood & Francesco Molinari last week, and therefore am a bit relunctant to leave the former out this week. I also wanted a bit more than 33/1 for Andy Sullivan who has been very solid of late, but in a tricky event this week,my staking plan is finalized as per below.
Good luck if you follow!
Staking Plan (8 pts/units)
1 pt e/w S.Dyson @ 40/1
1.5 pts e/w G.Bourdy @ 28/1
2 pts win R. Cabera-Bello @ 18/1
0.25 pts win P.Marksaeng @ 125/1
0.75 pts P.Marksaeng @ 10/1

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Volvo China Open - Genzon GC

China hosts the latest instalment on the European Tour, a country that I think European Golf will be leaning on quite a bit over the next few years so it’s refreshing to see some star players teeing it up this week in Shenzhen. We have another new course to get our heads around but it’s probably not a bad idea either to have a “neutral” venue, although the course website does boast that this is a club that wants to become elitist with their tagline “Business, High End, Members Only”.  Nonetheless, Genzon GC is a mere 7200 yards, par-72 course and from the looks of the photos that I’ve seen, should the weather behave itself, we may have a birdie fest in store this week. I’m raging over Lee Westwood and Matt Kuchar both winning last week. I had backed them the week before at the Masters, both finished T10 at Augusta and brought their form into last week to win at 11/1 & 18/1 respectively. In hindsight, both were value on the back of their form….I gotta “keep the faith” more. So, what does that mean for this week? Well, market leaders are Henrik Stenson & Ian Poulter. Regular readers will note I also backed Poults at Augusta. He loves China! Do I back him? Maybe I should, but both he & Henrik are good buddies of the “Worksop Wonder” and both will be motivated to win here following that win in Malaysia. Stenson for me is well worth a punt here. He finished TOP15 at The Masters, suggesting his game is there or thereabouts and he is the quality player in the field. You could argue that Jason Dufner, a Major winner is the quality player, but whilst it is fantastic to see Duffer play abroad, it’s worth noting that he has yet to challenge for a title on the European Tour and wife, Amanda, will be keen to get some shopping done in the One District in Hong Kong during their visit. Christ, my wife couldn’t help herself when I brought her! Of the two, Poults & Henrik, I prefer to back the European Number One, despite being a fan of Poults. Given that the course is offering no advantage really to market leaders, I’m backing the Swede to ignite his 2014 season for a win!

 My shortlist threw up a number of players representing bloody good value this week and they included the 3 additional players I want to have a wager on here.
Pablo Larrazabal should be buzzing (I’m no journo, it’s the best pun I could come up with) this week and at 28/1 think he’s the real value in the field. Pablo is a winner and is playing very nicely of late yet again. This shortish course will reward those that finds the fairways and greens and those that make putts when it counts. Pablo ranks highly in the putting stats, for both putts per round and putts per GIR (top10 on tour in both categories). He hits it 285 off the tee and should he improve on his GIR stats here, he’ll be right in the mix. I rated Pablo around 18 - 20/1 this week, so I’m definitely on board.

Italian Francesco Molinari has just 3 European Tour wins to his name…..so, he’s due one right ? Solid tee to green, the Italian has much better GIR stats than Pablo yet has quite similar putting stats. He lacks a bit of length off the tee but that’s OK here. His coach, Denis Pugh will have added interest with fellow pupil, Ross Fisher also teeing it up so I expect the stable to be really focussed, especially given that the Ryder Cup qualification race is starting to gather pace.  25/1, again seems decent for me and I’m happy to have such a solid, tidy player on my team this week.

I won’t be backing the aforementioned, Ross Fisher this week. He’s on the radar for Wentworth next month alright so I’ll be keeping an eye out for in-play investment of perhaps a 2nd round threeball bet. My third pick this week though is Scott Jamieson who I had shortlisted last week and a player that is well capable of putting four decent rounds together and compete for a title. He’s a player simmering of late, putting well, very well, and if he can find fairways he’ll make his putting stats count for a better return. He plays with local hope, Ashun Wu on Thursday alongside Anders Hansen, nice and early off the tenth tee…..if he gets that all important good opening round under his belt, he can grow in confidence and make the 125/1 look huge.

Tommy Fleetwood continues to be a big price. He missed the cut last week after a nice opening round of 70, but I’ll overlook that as weather conditions were tough and it was a course that if you got out of position you got punished. Tommy is not playing too badly, and his tee to green game should be 
well suited here and as stated last week, he’s overpriced at 80/1. Nothing really changes here and I’m happy to keep on board.

Staking Plan (8 pts) 

2.5 pts WIN H. Stenson @ 9/1
1 pts e/w P. Larrazabal @ 28/1
1 pts e/w F. Molinari @ 25/1
0.25 pts e/w S.Jamieson @ 125/1

0.50 pts e/w T. Fleetwood @ 80/1

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Maybank Malaysian Open 2014

Well, that's Augusta all done for another twelve months and yet another Masters where I've come up short in backing a winner. Yes, I did back Kuchar & Westwood, two players proven to fall short time and time again on Sunday and after yet another disappointing final round from both players, I think its time to leave them be. That said, Lee Westwood e/w at those odds couldn't be ignored and he did come up just short for the place money. Augusta though, did show once again its very much one of those "horses for courses" venue, where Freddie Couples once again along with Bubba, Westwood, even Jim Furyk, and Olazabal showed they can still compete on this course. Noted for TOP10 picks next year- never write off the 'aul fellas ! But a word on Bubba....what a win, he was well ssured on Sunday and those two matching birdies on 4 &6 to Spieth's proved to be the settling scores as he played a magnficent driving game thereafter and provided the most anti-climatic Masters for quite awhile. he was bundle of nerves on Saturday and I genuinely thought he would implode again on Sunday especially alongside Spieth, but I suppose in hindsight, the fact that it was Spieth who he has a good rapport win proved pivotal. Well done Bubba Watson.

So, with the PGA off to Hilton Head on Thursday, the Europeantour heads to Asia for the Malaysian Open where Aphibarnrat defends the title he won in a storm affected 54 hole tournament last March. Kiradech has fantastic form on this course and is a player to consider again but I've looked beyond him this week and taken players paying decent prices. I wouldn't put anyone off backing Messrs Westwood and Oosthuizen who have arrived via Augusta as Oosty managed to win here having lost to a playoff at Augusta to Bubba two years ago and Matteo Manassero edged out Rory McIlroy in 2010, the Northern Irishman arriving having "blown" the Masters the previous week. If any sort of conclusion can be made from the performances of those competing having played a tough Masters the week before, is that, possibly the cream truly are too strong for the field here. However, I think the quality of field from the European Tour contingent is stronger this year and its the regular tour players I'm looking at to do better than their Asian counterparts.

I'm backing 3 players to win this week, of which one has won here in Kuala Lumpur before. Matteo Manassero is a young golfer who has multiple wins under his belt already and he saw off Rory McIlroy here in 2010 in winning this title and he can repeat again. Recent ventures on the PGA Tour should stand him well despite missed cuts on the last two events(Augusta really doesn't suit). The course this week, where he obviously has form on, is a course that suits greatly. Not a long course, but a course that does reward accuracy from tee to green and the Italian can on his 4th visit here add to that win, a 7th and 17th finish. At 25/1 he is a bet for me.

I've kept Tommy Fleetwood onside this week for four main reasons. 1. His accurate tee to green game 2. The wind factor 3. Course form. 4. Price ! The first 2 reasons should tick the boxes fairly ok , whilst his course form is based purely on last years effort of 11th (over 54 holes). He MC the year previously. Tommy went off the boil a bit back in February but he's well rested now and will be anxious to get going again. He excels on par-5 scoring and his win at Gleneagles shows he's well up for competing in weather conditions and against a quality field. He's simply over-priced for me again at 70/1 and I cannot leave him out at that price any week on courses where he can go well.

My third pick is Frenchman, Gregory Bourdy. He too was T11th alongside Fleetwood 12 months ago and is also visiting here for the 4th successive year having finished 44th & 2nd(2011). Clearly, he too likes the course and having produced three TOP20s in his last 5 starts, Bourdy, no stranger to winning either, could be a real prospect @ 50/1

Staking Plan ( 6 units)

1 pt e/w M.Manassero @ 25/1
1 pt e/w T.Fleetwood @ 70/1
1 pt e/w G.Bourdy @ 50/1

Saturday, 5 April 2014

US Masters 2014 - Augusta National

The first Major of 2014 is almost here! Whether its the first on the rota each year or its the fact that its the only one played on the same course every year, the US Masters is often regarded as the biggest Major of them all. No matter if it is the biggest or not, there's no denying that it produces some amazing excitement and some cliffhangers, this is one major that truly lives up to the  "tournament starts back 9 Sunday" tagline, as year on year we are sitting on the edge of our seats as the leaderboard changes constantly.  Twelve months ago, fans all over the world were treated to an amazing climax as Adam Scott edged out former Masters champ, Angel Cabrera in a play-off. It was the 19th play-off in tournament history and the 3rd within the last 5 years. (Cabrera winning his green jacket in 2009 in a playoff over Kenny Perry & Chad Campbell). Do not be surprised if we are treated to extra time again this year.

The cream usually prevail at Augusta, those that have course knowledge and  excellent form coming into the event. Course knowledge is an essential tool to have if having any ideas on winning, and its telling sign that previous winners have had a lot of experience before winning. Not just any old experience...but having produced real good results from Augusta in the past. Last year, Scott won his maiden Major. Previously at Augusta he had recorded two TOP10s the previous two years as well as 5 TOP30s in the 6 years before that. (only 1 missed Cut in last 9 years).

Other winners the past 20 years show a very similar trend -

Bubba Watson - 3 TOP40s previously
Charl Scwhartzel  - TOP30 in his start previously
Phil Mickelson - 3 WINS, 6 TOP5s and 3 TOP10s
Tiger - 4 WINS, 1 TOP5, 1 TOP10, 2 TOP20s.
Angel Cabrera - 3 TOP10s and 2 TOP25s plus the playoff defeat last year
Trevor Immelman - 1 TOP 5
Zach Johnson - 32nd the year previously
Mike Weir - 3 TOP30s in the 3 years leading up to his win
Joe Maria Olazabal - 3 TOP 10 s before first win in 94 & 3 TOP15s in between that and his 2nd win
Mark O'Meara - 7 TOP 30s in the 7 years before his win (incl a 4th)
Vijay Singh - 3 TOP 30s in the 7 years before his win
Nick Faldo - 3 WINS, usually always within TOP30
Bernard Langer - 2 WINS , 3 TOP10s and 4 TOP30s between that and his 2nd win
Fred Couples - 8 TOP35s in the 8 years before his win in '92 (incl 2 TOP5s and 2 TOP10s)
Ben Crensaw - 4 TOP5s, 2 TOP15s in the 8 years leading up to his win in '95

That's 16 players I've listed above. Nearly all of them served their Augusta Apprenticeship before donning that jacket. But its clear, that the winner needs to know the course and its clear that those that have produced multiple TOP10s here are serious contenders. We are privileged as golf fans at the moment to have so many young players exploding on the scene right now.

With Tiger Woods out though this year, who is the leading fancy? Phil Mickelson probably has the stand out Augusta form and, as I post this, "Lefty" is making steady progress up the leaderboard at Houston Open, suggesting that his game is coming nicely together for next week. So, what about Phil? He simply loves the place and is focussing on Majors now more than anything. 14s is just about a fair price.

 Rory ? he should have a jacket already - but he hasn't,and he's learned from that experience....he's playing very well at present but hasn't been closing out the deal...get off to a good start this time though, he may be hard to reel in. 3 TOP30s in the last 4 years and for me is the rightful favourite @ best price 9/1.

Of those not mentioned above, we have to consider Jason Day, but he too has an injury(thumb) and we're not sure how bad, it was deemed bad enough to pull out of Bay Hill, but it may have been precautionary. ( abit like Phils pulled oblique muscle??) Day should have won last year, he really should have, and he looked like the winner until the closing holes. He obviously loves the place too with a 2nd and 3rd in his last 3 starts here.

The US Open Champion, Justin Rose is a real contender this year. He too meets a lot of the criteria that matches the trend of Masters winners in that he has produced 4 TOP25s in the past 5 years. (includes 8th behind Bubba and 11th behind Schwartzel). Currently 28/1 - great value.

Sergio Garcia ? - Playing very well the past 6 months and has great form here too. As I post he leads in Houston...Is he peaking too soon ? 8th last year and 12th the year before - Has he the bottle to win a Major? He could have had a couple already. 35/1

 Also tied 8th last year was Matt Kuchar who also finished 3rd in 2012. Two TOP30s the previous two years indicates Kuchar will be comfortable this time round too given the consistency of his game recently. Again he too is in fine form in Houston and that Houston form counts for alot as the course is somewhat similar in setup, and in greens speed. It will be very interesting to see if he can cope with "back 9 Sunday" here as he has been very suspect in regular PGA events to date. At 25/1 he's worth backing this year

Jim Furyk has produced two TOP10s in the past 4 years as well as two TOP25s and he's going to tempt punters @ 90/1. He's a value bet for sure.

  As I go through my files, there are a few more that have shown consistency at Augusta. Snedeker, Mahan, KJ Choi, Westwood,  even Ian Poulter with 2 TOP10s and 2 TOP25s in the last 5 years, despite MC 12 months ago. But its the trio of Dustin Johnson, Bill Haas and Trevor Immelman that catch my eye for 2014! DJ was 13th last year when early doors looked like he was going to walk away with it. 3 TOP30s in the previous visits,to go along with his strong 2014 form means Dustin is my headline fancy. I've personally backed him at 33/1 but best price now is 22/1(on the back of recent form).(edit- as DJ had a disastrous opening round in Houston and eventually WD, his odds have slipped out to 25/1) In 2014 season, DJ has recorded 4 TOP6 finishes in 5 starts. He's matured alot and that elusive first major is coming soon. It just might be at Augusta

I tweeted recently that I was backing Lee Westwood @ 50/1. I did but he can still be backed  @ 66/1. Hasn't had the best of season up to now but is showing some signs of getting it going in Houston and next week is a different story. Westwood has the apprenticeship well completed in Augusta and if he sticks to his game plan and can take advantage of the par-5s which he didn't 12 months ago, he can contend.

Ian Poulter has the weekend off in Houston but I'm willing to have a punt here. He says he played nicely but made silly mistakes so if not doubting his form, he's certainly the type to shrug off the poor result and set about the task here. He has the added incentive these days with good buddies Rose & Stenson doing so well, it can only spur him on. 55/1 is decent price for me.

I'm tempted to back Justin Rose but feel he's not warmed up yet this season so instead I've opted to back former champions here in South African duo Charl Schwartzel & Trevor Immelman.

Schwartzel is in form without winning but he may relish coming up Magnolia Lane next week anticipating that next victory. He won here in 2011 and followed that up with a place of 50th in 2012 before another TOP25 last year. Hes in better form now than 12 monbths ago. Gets the putter going and he'll be in the mix. 40/1 is a decent price in my opinion.
Immelman is a big price and thats fair, due to a real lack of form the past couple of years. He did however make the cut here the past 2 years finishing down in 50th & 60th but previously in 2011 and 2010 was TOP15. In 2009 he followed up his win with a TOP20. So thats a win and 3 TOP20s in the past 6 years. I've backed him @ 200/1 on the grounds that he is comfortable playing Augusta and that in his 2014 season so far he has posted 3 TOP20s, and recently finished T26th at Bay Hill and T31st in Texas. He is currently in action in Houston too so will arrive well prepared. He's not without a shout again.

Bill Haas completes my staking plan. He got off to a great start in Houston and is one of the more consistent on the PGA Tour this season. From 11 starts, Bills worse result was T43rd at the Farmers ! He has 8 TOP25s of which 2 are TOP10s. At Augusta,his previous 4 visits yielded 20-37-42-26 and he too, like Schwartzel ,comes into this years edition in much better form than before. I've backed him @110/1 but he's down to 90/1 now.

So, with no Tiger and me being an Irishman, am I backing the right players? One strange stat to consider is, that of the 4 majors that Tiger did not play in since turning pro, all 4 of them were won by an Irishman ! Harrington (x2), McIlroy & McDowell. I do think Rory will go close this time but he's just too short @ 8/1...if he had closed out the deal when he should have last month then perhaps I'd be a bit braver.

A special mention to those who like to enter competitions to win free bets. the guys over at Golf Betting System run a fantastic weekly competition but they also some great cash prizes on offer for their Majors competition where before the first ball is struck at Augusta next Thursday, you simply enter the comp by selecting a player for each of the 4 Majors in 2014.Its free to play, its a bit of craic and the scoring is done on a points basis. Not in and you can't win ! The guys are so accommodating they'll even accept entries via Twitter, E-mail or Facebook !

For the record my entry is

US Masters : Dustin Johnson
US Open: Rory McIlroy
The Open : Dustin Johnson
PGA : Webb Simpson

Enter your selections here -
GOLF Betting System Majors Competition 2014

Masters Staking Plan (10 pts/units)

1 pt  WIN Dustin Johnson @ 25/1
1 pt WIN  Matt Kuchar @ 25/1
1 pt  WIN Charl Schwartzel @ 40/1
0.25 pt WIN Trevor Immelman @ 200/1
1 pt  e/w Lee Westwood @ 50/1
0.5 pt e/w Bill Haas @ 90/1
0.75 pts e/w  Ian Poulter @ 55/1

1 pt T.Immelman
1.25 pts B.Haas