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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational

 
 
Defending Champion : Tiger Woods (seeking his 9th win at Firestone)
Invitational by the International Federation of PGA Tours
No Cut - 76 players in the field (Dustin Johnson has withdrawn)
 
The Bridgestone comes, as always just one week ahead of the year’s final Major, the PGA Championship, (to be played at Valhalla, Kentucky) and tends to be a real strong indicator as to who will win the PGA Championship that following week. Since 2006 up to 2013 every PGA champion has finished within the TOP 25 here at Firestone CC. Last year’s PGA Champion, Jason Dufner finished T4th at Firestone. Whilst this week may prove to be a more of a pointer for the following week there are trends and form at Firestone to be aware of. If Muirfield Village, home of the Memorial Tournament is fondly known as “Jack’s Place” then Firestone CC surely can be dubbed “Tigers Place” as Tiger Woods, the defending champion simply loves this course having won on it a record eight times. (Even playing in the dark!) The best in world golf normally prevail here and debutants struggle. The “Monster” South Course will need to be respected if wanting to succeed this week. Players arriving for this year’s instalment through the various qualifying criteria set down by the International Federation of Tours, will need to be in form if they expect to win, because in previous years the eventual winner here indeed arrived on the back of some strong results in their season.
 
 
Justin Rose failed to record a hat-trick of wins at The Open following his wins at Royal Aberdeen and Congressional but The Open hasn’t always been kind to him. Firestone though, suits much better. Justin was T5th here in 2012 and T17th twelve months ago. In the past 12 weeks, Rose has played ten tournaments, producing two WINS, three TOP10s and four TOP25s. He’s in some of the best form of his career and is Rory’s main challenger at present.
 
 
Keegan Bradley has shown his liking for Firestone with victory in 2012 followed up with a T2nd to runaway winner Tiger Woods in 2013. He was TOP15 in his debut the season before and that was after he held the 36-hole lead. A slow start to the 2014 campaign hasn’t deterred Bradley and he’s really beginning to put a nice run together of late. Maybe he just loves playing golf in July & August? A TOP20 at Hoylake came off the back of T4th at the Greenbrier and another T4th at The US Open at Pinehurst. Winner of the PGA Championship as a rookie in 2011, Bradley has shown he is a player for the big events and especially in the WGC strokeplay events. From his nine starts in the WGCs, he has finished in the TOP10 four times with four further TOP25s. He may even be a nice price this week.
 
Jim Furyk must be respected again this week. Jim is currently the 10th best player in the world at 44 years of age, and whilst he hasn’t won since the Tour Championship in 2010, he has been knocking out consistent results of late including six TOP10s this season. With three TOP10s here the past six seasons and arriving on the back of a 4th at Hoylake before his Canadian Open efforts, Furyk must come into consideration again this week. He may not have won last Sunday but he had put himself in contention yet again and he can maintain the momentum into this week. I favourited a tweet the other day from Jamie Kennedy (@jamieonsport) where he shows Furyk's 52 week H2H vs the TOP100 players in the world on a WIN-LOSS-TIE as 838-229-45. That's a win ratio of 75.4% the best in world golf at present. He has just 75 to contend with this week and I'm happy to stay onside.


Staking Plan : (8pts)

2 pts WIN J.Rose @ 20.00
1.5 pts e/w K.Bradley @ 25/1
1.5 pts e/w J.Furyk @ 22/1

Monday, 21 July 2014

M2M Russian Open 2014 - Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club

We have a very weak field assembling this week 40 km north of Moscow for the Russian Open to be played for the second successive year at the Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club, a Jack Nicklaus design which by all accounts is a super course. The 7,400 yard par-72 hosted twelve months ago when Michael Hoey ran out a 4 shot winner. Sadly, the defending champion is missing this week having had to withdraw with skin calluses on his foot. It's understandable I suppose that after the excitement of Hoylake a lot of players are taking a well earned rest, but this week gives a few players an opportunity to get some much needed cash and a chance of a win. We do have at least last year's results to go on where GIR stats stood up strong for those who featured at the head of the leaderboard.

I would advise treading cautiously this week, and when I tried to whittle down to a shortlist today, my job was made a bit easier with the release of the bookies odds where some were ridiculously priced , I think mainly on higher OWGR rankings than others. (Jamieson & Karlberg in particular). Matthew Nixon will be a popular pick for sure this week given his recent form but @ 22/1 its difficult to be confident in him winning but I certainly wouldn't put anyone off. For me though I'm backing just 2 players, as the price seems better than fair.

First up is South Korean, Seuk Hyun Baek @ 66/1. The 23 year old plays primarily on the Asian Tour but has had decent results on the co-sanctioned events by finishing 5th at The Avantha Masters and T40th at the weather affected Malaysia Open in 2013 and backed those up with a T11th at The Championship in Singapore two months ago. He may be out of his comfort zone this week but so will his fellow competitors. The burly Korean is predominately based in Thailand and has been gradually improving his putting and his short game. This means he hasn't missed a cut in his last 10 events, which have yielded 6 TOP30s including 2 TOP5s. At 66/1 I think he's worth a chance this week.

My second pick is Indian Gangajeet Bhullar @ 90/1. With just one Challenge Tour Victory under his belt and a mediocre season in 2014, the 26 year old is still preserving and could be in line for a reward very soon. His season's results are mixed to say the least. He made the cut in Scotland, missed it in France but had a nice TOP35 in Germany the week before. In fact he seems to miss the cut one week, then miss it the next so I'm factoring in a break last week in the hope he's refreshed and ready to improve on his 133rd position in the Race to Dubai here. To be fair though, from his 16 starts on the European Tour in 2014, he's made 11 cuts. The missed cuts have come at tough venues in much higher quality fields so he's not without a chance of a bold showing this week. A speculative punt here this week for sure but he's value given the consistency of making cuts that will eventually get rewarded with a decent result sometime soon.

Staking Plan

0.5 pts WIN S H Baek @ 66/1
0.5 pts WIN G Bhullar @ 90/1

TOP10 FINISH

1.5 pts TOP 10 Baek @ 5/1 Ladbrokes
1.5 pts TOP10 Bhullar @ 15/2

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Open Championship 2014 - Hoylake


The third Major of the year hits Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake this week, where Tiger Woods last won The Open Championship staged here back in 2006. That was Hoylake’s first time to stage after a thirty nine year gap. Hoylake will host for the 12th time.

Tiger is back again to “defend” but its hard to see him winning again given his recent injury and rehabilitation taking it’s toll. Phil Mickelson of course, is the defending champion from Muirfield twelve months ago,and having produced an excellent effort in Scotland last week he must be a real contender again this week. He clearly has the game for links and he will thrive on last week’s performance here. The par 72 course is just a tad over 7300 yards and the scoring eight years ago was extremely good with Tiger posting a winning 270 score (-18!) In 1957 the winning total was -10.  The Championship course this week actually starts on the members 17th hole, as it did in 2006 and finishes on the 16th ! It was at Hoylake that Ireland produced its first Open Major Champion in Fred Daly so let’s hope it’s good to the Irish again this week as Open Champions Padraig Harrington & Darren Clarke wet their lips in anticipation of more links golf. With Shane Lowry in great form having finished Tied 4th in Aberdeen last week and Michael Hoey also playing well of late, Ireland’s hopes of yet another Open Champion are good. Rory too, will be hoping for decent weather and a better Friday performance (what exactly does Rory be up to on Thursday nights?) if he is to win his third Major. And what about Graeme McDowell ? He arrives on the back of victory at the Open de France so will be in confident mood also. Gmac has excellent Open form and is a real contender this week. He led after round 1 at Hoylake back in 2006 before fading. Should he get a decent start this time, I’m sure he’ll be sticking around to late Sunday afternoon.

Its very open this year with no real standout contender. If looking at current and recent Open form though, perhaps solid cases can be made for the likes of Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia. All three played here in 2006 finishing 8-48-5. What makes better reading for the three though, is their form over the last 7 Majors since including 3 TOP3s (runner up last year) and Garcia – 4 TOP25s including 2 TOP10s. At 16/1 or thereabouts this week its hard to be confident and taking those prices will only suit the bravest. When comparing their form to Rory McIlroy we can see that Rory’s Open form is poor with just one TOP10 of any real note. Justin Rose likewise has poor Open form and its hard to get onside with him at short odds despite winning his last two tournaments. Having won in Scotland, JR is now favourite this week and its hard to argue with a player that is the form of his life, and who won the US Open in 2013. But going now for three in a row will be tough, but not impossible but I’d still prefer to have a bit of value elsewhere. Perhaps I’m smarting for not backing him last week when I did say he was the one most likely to win at Royal Aberdeen . But at 14/1 – 16/1 and given his previous Open form I’m happy to leave him be this time.

Whenever a tournament hits a links course, punters everywhere look to the Irish & Scottish players for some indicators. Most of them will have played an abundance of links courses over the years and the same can be said these days of those that have had a successful amateur career on the European Tour no matter where they hail from. Joost Luiten has a good links game yet he finished well down the field last week. I can ignore that as he was firing on all cylinders at one stage in round 2 before four straight bogeys ruined a good day, and he never got going again. Also tipped last week was Thongchai Jaidee who also has decent links form. The third selcetion, Stephen Gallacher finished in a tie for 4th and I do expect him to go well again this week.But whilst I think they may have a good Championship I do have a liking for some of the home players to succeed for the first time since Paul Lawrie prevailed in 1999 at Carnoustie and I do think its time that an English player prevailed. English playres look poised this week to pounce and I do quite like the chances of a couple of them. Regrettably though I wont be backing Lee Westwood but would love to see him finally land a Major, and with 4 TOP5s in the last 10 Opens he certainly makes a case.

 

My Selections

 

Paul Casey, like Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson of late, has been making steady progress back to the top of the game following a lengthy injury. Having enjoyed some consistent results on the PGA Tour recently, Casey arrives rested and fresh hoping to make this years assault on the Open a challenging one having missed out playing twelve months ago. Casey finished well down the field in ’06 but has produced 2 TOP10s since.  At 66/1 with Betpack,  Casey is worth a dabble here with 6 places on offer (50/1 about for 7 places for those that prefer the extra place)

 
Ian Poulter always produces his best Major form at The Open and that becomes evident by his results of  three TOP10s in the past 6 years. He’s well rested for this week, maybe a bit too much having not played competively now for four weeks. But he’s been back home preparing, and with solid enough performances under his belt of late (3 TOP10s in his last 6 starts) he’ll be in good nick to contend again. Like his Ryder Cup approach, Poults will be fired up for his home Major and having gone close a few times lately this might just be the year he can finally see it through. At 50/1, I’m happy to be on board again as I was at Muirfield.

 Hideki Matsuyama is an interesting punt this week for me. Available at 66/1, the Japanese star could produce another first at Hoylake by surprising all to win as the first from Japan to do so. He has won already on the PGA Tour this year having beaten Kevin Na in a playoff to take out the Memorial and produced a fine 6th placing at Muirfield twelve months ago. The 22 year old has already shown the world that he can compete in the Majors by finishing T10th at Merion and T19th at Oak Hill in 2013.  At  these odds he’s well worth a bet to become the first Japanese winner of a Major. Major winners tend to have plenty of experience behind them and this is vital for The Masters and US Open as well as this, The Open but we’ve had our fair share of shocks as well over the years, with all due respect to Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton. With 7 places available, Matsuyama can defy the lack of experience and put in another strong showing.

 

Finally, after much deliberation I’m going to stick with Dustin Johnson @ 35/1. DJ has gone off the boil lately but has shown his ability on links courses for quite some time. If scoring is to be had on the par 5s this week, Johnson could be become a factor and he’s a player for the big events. Well capable of showing up this week and he’s added to the staking plan.

 
 

Staking Plan (8 pts/units)
 

1 pt e/w P.Casey @ 66/1

1 pt e/w I.Poulter @ 50/1

1 pt e/w H.Matsuyama @ 66/1

1 pt e/w D. Johnson @ 35/1

 

 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Scottish Open 2014 - Royal Aberdeen GC


This week’s Scottish Open on the Balgownie Linksof Royal Aberdeen Golf Club has attracted a world class field as the players try to emulate Phil Mickelson from twelve months ago, by winning this title and repeating the week after at The Open. We have very little course form to go on here, as, despite being known as the sixth oldest Golf Club in the world, this will be the first time it’s hosted the Scottish Open. It has hosted the Seniors Open in 2005 where Tom Watson beat Ireland’s Des Smyth in a play-off and the 2011 Walker Cup which saw the hosts defeat the Americans. One thing is for sure though , we will be treated to pure links golf, severe rough and tricky greens and a few bunkers ! The fairways are reported to be quite narrow so emphasis on accuracy cannot be underestimated this week. Home boys Paul Lawrie and Richie Ramsay will know the course better than most and the latter may be worth keeping an eye on.

The Ones to Beat


Rory leads the market and having honed his links game at home the past couple of weeks he should be well prepared for the next two weeks.Well, if the nightclubbing with a certain Irish model hasn't worn him out! Maybe the sessions he's had the past couple of weeks with his mates and some time to let some steam off after the incessant meetings re: Horizon lawsuit, could be a good thing though. We'll get an idea this week. Of the two courses though I’d prefer his chances at Hoylake more so than Royal Aberdeen and he’ll be a watching brief for me this week. The field comprises quite a few Americans and they will be buoyed by Kevin Stadler’s near miss in Paris on Sunday. Indeed from that Walker Cup in 2011, Peter Uhlein will be hoping for a better outcome this time. Defending champion Phil Mickelson will also be joined by Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler who have the game to do well here. Fowler seems to thrive on the more difficult course, and Walker’s accuracy will be key to his chances. But the very mention of difficult courses means one player jumps out, and that is recent PGA Tour winner at a difficult Congressional, Justin Rose. He may contest favouritism with Rory this week but rightly so. For me he has all the tools to compete here. Patience will be a big attribute.

 My Selections

 With a relatively unknown course to assess form on, and given the quality of the field, it could be a very difficult week to pick the winner. Those without a world class short game will struggle here and it maybe an opportunity for Ireland’s Padraig Harrington to get amongst the leaderboard. Recent signs are his game is not far away and if he should start holing some putts he can make a decent score. He’ll relish this course and if weather is kind (draw wise) to Padraig he could have a very good week. Likewise, Shane Lowry who arrives on the back of four TOP25s in his last six starts. Both could relish conditions this week but I'm prepared to swerve both.
 
Stephen Gallacher is playing very well this season and he’d love to win this title just as much as Lawrie and Ramsay. Also from Aberdeen, he will be familiar with this course. He went well for awhile in Paris last week before a final round 76 saw him drop down to a tie of 18th. Former winner at the Dunhill Links augurs well for his chances not to mention he was beaten in a playoff last year at Gleneagles so he clearly loves playing at home. Gallacher has pocketed two TOP10s at the Scottish open in the past six years but this course will be more up his alley this time round. On top of those TOP10s, Gallacher has recently gone close to taking out another victory having lost in the play-off in Sweden last month, not to mention losing in a playoff to Tommy Fleetwood at Gleneagles last year. He's a must bet for me this week at current odds of 45/1. 

I couldn’t ignore Thongchai Jaidee again this week either, and sometimes it pays to stick with players in good current form. Tied 2nd in France following his TOP5 in Germany, Jaidee arguably is the in-form player on the European Tour right now but yet decent odds often come about the 45 year old who won that Nordea Masters only last month. Ultra consistent from tee to green, Royal Aberdeen should be to his liking and it would be no surprise to see him in the mix once again.

Joost Luiten has always shown his liking for links and he, like Gallacher finished T18th last week after a couple of weeks off. Prior to his missed cut at the US Open, the Dutchman had bagged himself  two TOP5s in his previous 3 starts (12th in the other) so he could be nice and warmed up for this and next week. At 40/1 minimum he's worth adding to the staking plan.
 
Finally, a speculative wager on Aussie Brett Rumford this week on a links course, where if the wind blows, gives the former Irish Open champion a chance to put recent poor form behind him. He has a decent enough record at Gleneagles (four TOP10s in his last seven visits) and his ability to play in the wind on finicky courses could be a welcome challenge to the five time European Tour winner. Hes popped up to win before in the past after a bad spell and who knows he may draw on his experience at Baltray and strike again. Small stake on Betfair at around 500.00 and a play on the TOP20 market @ 11/1 for a little interest though for me.
 
Staking Plan (7pts/units)
 
1 pt e/w S.Gallacher @ 45/1
1 pt e/w T.Jaidee @ 45/1
1 pt e/w J.Luiten @ 40/1
 
.10 pts win B.Rumford @ 500.00
.90 pts TOP20 B.Rumford @ 11/1

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Open de France 2014 Betting Plan


With just over two weeks to go before The Open, we have a touney headlined by the US Open Champion and former winner here, Martin Kaymer as well as defending champion, Graeme McDowell. The US Open champion will be keen to put last week's effort behind him as he missed the cut for the second successive time at Gut Larchenhof. He'll like the Le Golf National much better this week!  Graeme McDowell heads out the 2nd favourite @ 12/1 or thereabouts but despite his obvious liking for the course I can't be getting excited about that price especially as he failed to take out the Irish Open last time out. Both he and Kaymer, couldn't deliver in their homelands so it may prove to be that this week gives them a much better opportunity to win without that added extra pressure to deliver in fornt of their adoring fans.. Between GMac and Kaymer, they have both won and bagged a further four TOP 20s in their last seven starts in Paris and they quite rightly are the men to beat. This course is a par-71, 7200 yards and is tough one,with the finishing holes claiming many a bogey and worse over the years.  The winning score will be in around –10 and should be good enough to claim the Edward George Stoïber trophy. Martin Kaymer obviously is the one they all have to beat and the German will be keen to hone his game before heading to Liverpool.  He may be worth backing  for those that like backing favourites but he does have fair competition.  French hopes lie mostly with Victor Dubuisson whom I backed last year at a staggering 100/1! He produced a Top20 finish but he’ll be expected to do better this time round should his shoulder hold up.

 A number of players have some solid form on this course including Damien McGrane,Graeme Storm,Richard Green and Soren Kjeldsen. Both Storm & Green prepared well for this week with a good showing in Germany last week but the others are out of form of late. Damien has grabbed five TOP20s in his ten visits to Paris, including a best finish of 3rd in 2007 behind eventual winner....... Graeme Storm! Indeed, Storm is a real horses for courses type for Le Golf National. Following his win, he has racked up four TOP15s and finished 21st as defending champion with just one missed cut. He was 3rd twelve months ago.  Recent form would suggest he won’t contend this week but he maybe worth a small play certainly for TOP10/20 on the back of a decent outing in Cologne. Richard Green has five TOP10s in his last nine starts on this course which cannot be ignored and the Swede has three TOP 10s his last six visits. These four players in conclusion ,emphasize the requirement for accurate play over power.

I backed previous winner Pablo Larrazabal last week in Germany and I see no reason why he can’t contend here again this week despite not taking out the BMW on Sunday. Just one of those days where a low score to come through the pack was inevitable.Like McDowell in Cork the week previously, Pablo couldn't hole a putt on Sunday and eventually lost that aggressiveness needed to see it out.Winner here in the past, but since his win he has missed the cut three times in the last 4 years and although he'll be very anxious to contend quickly again that recent course form is a concern.  Welshman, Jamie Donaldson finished sixth here twelve months ago and his game really suits this course, the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.  Currently sitting in fourth for the Race to Dubai, Donaldson can get his putter to heat up here and collect his third European title. At 25/1, I’m leaning towards the Welshman over the Spaniard.

 One of France’s other rising stars amongst a few is Gary Stal. I tipped the 22 year old for a good showing at Fota and he didn’t let me down finishing in a tie for 8th albeit out of the place money. Only one missed cut in his last ten events, which has seen him finish no worse than 40th, he has also produced  four TOP30 finishes. Twice winner on the Challenge Tour, Stal is one to watch out for and he may just ride the French support here. He’ll be egged on by compatriots Romain Wattel, Julien Quesne, Raphael Jacquelin and Alex Levy, not to mention Gregory Bourdy and of course Victor Dubuisson and the other fifteen French players teeing it up here and we’ve seen a lot of French success on tour of late and how they do celebrate together. If he gets a good start he’ll get plenty of vociferous support to carry him on. A look at the TOP French Market may also be worth considering this week but I'm happy to back Gary in the outright marker this week on the back of the consistency shown the past few months @ 80/1

 Anders Hansen could be worth keeping onside here too as the Dane has shown a lot of consistency of late.  Does he like the course? Yes is the answer, as he too has a bunch of TOP 10s in his locker (four). Hasn’t missed the cut here in the past five years and is likely to be on the leaderboard throughout.

 Finally, former European Number One, Robert Karlsson is showing a lot of signs lately that his game is about to click and he will be of great interest to me if the price is right and I do believe that 50/1 is better than fair this week  Again, just one missed cut in his last nine events is encouraging and the few low rounds that he’s put together lately suggests he is about to challenge once again. This is his first visit here since 2010 and in his previous six visits he’s been inside the TOP 20 three times. In 2013 we saw the re-emergence of Henrik Stenson and this year we have seen Paul Casey make big inroads in returning to the top echelons of world golf, so it shouldn't be any surprise to see Karlsson following suit. He's motivated by the two and he will be eyeing big tournaments over the next couple of months to gain invaluable OWGR points. He's a play for this week.
 
Finally, a quick update on the "10towinsoon" idea. Eddie Pepperell went close in Spain a few weeks back and last week we had quite a number of contending and finishing in the top20. Betfair prices for the majority of these have been @ +500.00 and its worth noting that 7 of these are playing so well of late that they have given an opportunities for a nice back to lay profit. I'll be backing them again this week too but I'm sure we'll find a winner from the 10 soon!
 
Staking Plan: (6pts)
 
1.5 pts e/w J.Donaldson @ 25/1
0.5 pts e/w G.Stal @80/1
1.0 pts e/w R.Karlsson @ 50/1