Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Italian Open 2014

We have another weakish European Tour event this week, to be played at the Circolo Golf Torino where prizemoney stretches to €1.5M. Julien Quesne will defend his title on the course that hosted for the first time twelve months ago but he will have plenty of home challengers again this time round. The Molinari brothers will be keen to add their National Open Title (Francesco won it back it 2006) to their locker and obviously head the market along with Ryder Cup hopeful, Stephen Gallacher who will secure his place should he win or come second here this week.

That's his incentive and although he didn't play too well last week in Prague, Stephen will or should take the positive that he did eventually finish T7th. A better weekend this time round might just see him book his place at Gleneagles. As a Scotsman, he's here this week to give himself every chance of making that team. He's still available @ 20/1 for this and given the depth of the field I think he's worth chancing. From his 17 starts on Tour this season, Gallacher has produced 7 TOP10s, including a WIN in Dubai last February. He has missed just 3 cuts, 2 of which were at Majors (the other in Ireland the week after Pinehurst), but he has decent form notably 15th at Hoylake and a TOP20 at Golf National. He also lost a playoff at The Nordea Masters, was TOP5 at Wentworth and produced a 6th placing at Doral and a TOP35 at Augusta. If he can handle some of those pressures, he can handle the pressure that's before him this week in his quest for Ryder Cup participation. He will be encouraged by Jamie Donaldson and Hunter Mahan securing their places last week by winning and despite not having played at The Italian Open since 2009 I think he can put in a bold effort here where low scoring will be the order of the day.

I have tipped Matteo Manassero a couple of times this season to no avail despite decent enough form. He tees it up this week on the back of a missed cut at Valhalla, so he should be fresh and ready to go and to build on the TOP20 outing at Hoylake prior to the PGA. He was also T4th alongside Gallacher at Royal Aberdeen the week previously so he's playing decent enough. He finished way down the leaderboard twelve months ago here with a horrific closing 76 when very much in contention after the third round. I'm going to ignore that final round and suggest the other three rounds were good enough to enter this year's instalment in good hope. He did, of course finish 3rd in his home Open in 2012 and was 8th in 2011. He produced two further TOP30s in the two years prior. He is still only 21 years old and having won on tour each of the last 3 years, I wouldn't be surprised if he can continue his annual returns by winning here this week.  At 28/1 this week he'll go close.

I want to keep the faith with Tommy Fleetwood again this week also. He grabbed me some place money last week, albeit it in share for reduced stakes. In my preview for the Czech Masters I had indicated that the draw might work in his favour with an early start Friday starting on the 10th....it worked out perfectly but perhaps I should have elaborated in my preview that he could back that 2nd rd. up with two similar rounds the weekend ! Tommy will be happy with that result last week and having finished in the TOP5 after so many missed cuts in recent weeks, Circolo Golf Torino should suit with the Par 5s again being Tommy's best chance of scoring. His putting prevents him from challenging more often but he's improving and keeps giving himself chances. I'm giving him a chance this week @ 50/1.

Staking Plan

2 pts e/w S. Gallacher @ 20/1
1 pt e/w M. Manassero @ 28/1
0.75 pts e/w T. Fleetwood @ 50/1

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Barclays 2014 - Ridgewood GC, New Jersey

The PGA Tour enters the exciting FedEx Cup playoffs this week as The Barclays returns to Ridgewood Golf & Country Club in New Jersey having hosted this event in 2008 and 2010. Vijay Singh who won it in 2008 described Ridgewood as the best course that the PGA Tour had used ,ever ! He’s not alone in his assessment of this course, which is made up of 18 holes from the 27 that the country club boasts, as many others have expressed their admiration on past visits. Matt Kuchar won here in 2010 and its worth noting that on both occasions, a playoff was required to decide the winner. 125 players will tee it up in New Jersey with the TOP100 in the FedEx Cup at its conclusion, moving onto the Deutsche Bank Championship the following week which starts on Friday with a Monday finish.

The Ones to Beat :

Czech Masters 2014

We have a new course to contemplate this week again on the Europeantour, but I'm sure the field won't mind, having enjoyed what appeared to be a very successful Made In Denmark Open last week on a relatively new course to the majority. They won't mind the location either as leisure time will be well spent in the beautiful city of Prague. This is a new event although the Czech Open was last held in 2011 where Oliver Fisher was victorious. It represents an opportunity for those on the fringe of qualification for the Ryder Cup team to gain an automatic spot if they can win here and that means we have strong contenders in Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher, and Joost Luiten.

By all accounts the course will play long with some very short rough stuff although accuracy for approach could be key. I'm inclined to look at those that score well on long courses and can convert chances. The three market leaders are undoubtedly the ones to beat but favourites don't always win, not to mention these three that have hardly been regular winners. I'm going to chance two players this week here and I'm sticking to one of those I selected last week, Felipe Aguilar. The Chilean was joint leader with Thomas Bjorn after the first round last week, played very well but as the next 3 days turned the event into a windfest, he dropped..or should I say nosedived down the leaderboard. He didn't putt well in the wind but I am happy to ignore that as I did get enthusiastic hearing his interviews , stating that he had taken time out to recharge the batteries, played little golf and concentrated on some chill out time. He came across very relaxed and energized....the outing last week may have just warmed him up for this week. He is still available @ 50/1 with Ladbrokes and I have to keep the faith with him here.

Tommy Fleetwood has gone off the boil lately, in a big way actually having missed the cut 6 times in his last 8 events! These came after back to back TOP10s but the 23 year old may be suited to Albatross GC where the Par 5s could be to his advantage.

He has an afternoon tee time Thursday with an early start Friday and if he does put a decent first round together on day 1 he may just take advantage early Friday starting on the 10th tee by grabbing early birdies there and at the 12th (both par 5s) to gain some momentum. That's the plan anyway !  Tommy is best price 55/1 with Skybet

Staking Plan :

1 pt e/w F. Aguilar @ 50/1 Ladbrokes
1 pt e/w T. Fleetwood @ 55/1 Skybet

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Made in Danmark Open 2014

The European Tour heads to Denmark for the first time in over a decade as the Himmerland Golf Club plays hosts. Ian Poulter was the last to win on the European Tour in Denmark. The Backtee course here at Himmerland was used on the Challenge Tour in 1995 where Thomas Bjorn won his first professional title. With really no course form to go on this week so, and because the course also underwent extensive renovation since Bjorn won here, my focus will turn to those in decent form of late.

Thomas Bjorn will no doubt go off the favourite and the 7300 yard par72 course looks like a course that suits players that can handle some wind which we know Bjorn, the 24th best player in the world right now, can. Fellow countryman, Thorbjorn Olesen has not had the best of seasons although he put in a decent effort at the PGA Championship and he may take this opportunity to kick start his career, but he’s no value here.

Of the market leaders, Chris Wood may be the best pick over improving Marc Warren and with both @ 30/1 in the market, its tempting. There are two interesting players to look out for this week who have been winning regularly on the Challenge Tour. They are Moritz Lampert and Andrew Johnston. The German won last time out to claim his third win on the CT and the Englishman has won twice and produced three further TOP10s in his last five starts. Home hope, Lucas Bjeeregaard is attached to the course so should have that local knowledge but at best price 55/1 I'd rather chance others.

My Selections:

0.5 pts e/w Damien McGrane @ 80/1 Betpack

McGrane went very close in Russia last time out, indeed he was probably a little unlucky not to win had David Horsey not chipped in on the 71st hole and catch him before seeing it out in the play-off. With the Irishman securing his card at this stage of the season, I expect him to be more relaxed, and on a track like this, he is not without a chance to put that Russian disappointment behind him. Accuracy off the tee could be an important attribute here and the Meathman knows how to handle the wind as it’s likely to blow hard on the North Jutland.


0.75 pts e/w Felipe Aguilar @ 55/1 Bet365

Chilean, Aguilar won on tour almost four months ago and arrives in Denmark well rested having not played since early July where he finished T24 at the Scottish Open. He hasn’t threatened to win again since his success in Singapore but his last two outings are encouraging. He ranks highly on tour for driving accuracy (8th) and GIR (4th) which compensate for his lack of length off the tee. Should he get the flatstick warmed up he can contend at a decent price.


0.75 pts e/w Moritz Lampert @ 55/1 Betpack

Up and coming German star, Lampert has been in prolific form on the Challenge Tour winning for the third time in Azerbaijan coming from behind in the final round to secure his promotion to the European Tour. The 22 year old will now buddy up on tour with his mate, Max Kieffer and he could be worth siding with this week while the form is hot. He is definitely a player to watch out for and and at decent odds in his first outing since automatic promotion he's worth a punt . He is slightly preferred over Johnston. The price at 55s is just about fair.


0.5 pts e/w Daan Huizing @ 125/1 Boylesports

 Dutchman ,Huizing was briefly mentioned in my Monday preview in the free weekly edition of Golfing Weekly, where I mentioned that he could be included on the final staking plan pending price. My tissue had Huizing chalked up @ somewhere between 80/1 - 90/1 and following the withdrawals of Bello and Fisher, I think the 125/1 on offer is real value and cannot go un-backed. It hasn't been the best of seasons for him but he was 12th last time out in Russia, was 12th at the Open de Espana in May and since that result Spain, he has made 5/7 cuts earning just over €80K. That form has seen him get to 133rd on the Race to Dubai and more importantly get closer to securing his card for next season. It's in these events of this quality of field, where a good performance is required to earn those all important points, and on a track like Himmerland which it  appears to be (windy, short, accuracy requirement), he's not without a decent chance of scoring well again and move closer to safety. He won twice on the Challenge Tour last year against many in the field this week in Aalborg, including a win at the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle.

Incidentally, this years NI Open takes place again at Galgorm Castle, it's free to attend but if you fancy winning a spot in the pro-am check it out here.

 Staking Plan (4.5 pts/units)


0.5 pts e/w Damien McGrane @ 80/1 Betpack

0.75 pts e/w Felipe Aguilar @ 55/1 Bet365

0.75 pts e/w Moritz Lampert @ 55/1 Betpack

0.25 pts e/w Daan Huizing @ 125/1 Boylesports

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

PGA Championship 2014 - Valhalla GC, Kentucky

Valhalla GC will host the PGA Championship for the third time this week following Tiger Woods playoff victory over Bob May in 2000 and Mark Brooks’ playoff win in 1996 over local boy, Kenny Perry. Perry coincidently plays here this week having won the senior’s 3M Championship last Sunday. The 2008 Ryder Cup was also staged here which the Americans won with ease.

The course is a Jack Nicklaus design and following Woods' & May's 72-hole score of -18, the course has undergone some changes. It’s been lengthened for sure but contrasting reports exist as to the severity of the rough, but some players’ comments on the course layout, suggest that accuracy will be the key to success. For me, I’m keen to side with players that are in decent form recently and have the required driving distance stats that seems to be a requisite to win at Valhalla. Having said that, I am mindful that, although this major has produced so many first time major winners, significantly more than any other major, 13 of the last 15 PGA Championship winners had at least one win in their prior 20 events. 20 events can stretch back over some amount of time but I do think it’s important that a major winner these days has to be a “winner” and one that is doing well on the order of merit. Despite the three major winners in 2014 having won a major previously, 15 of the 19 major winners previously were first time winners, so I’m not afraid to look at a possible first time winner again this week. With the Bridgestone results in, it’s interesting to note that in the seven years that it has been played the week prior to the final major, the eventual winner of the Wanamaker Trophy finished no worse than 22nd in the WGC. Perhaps the sample range is too small but it lends to the notion that bringing you’re a game into this week is essential. I’ve included a couple of players who finished outside that 22, but only just!

It’ll be tough to take on Rory in the betting this week should the expected weather materialize (thunderstorms etc.) but winning three on the spin, is not an easy feat. Justin Rose can vouch for that of late, but given that length off the tee could be key here, Rory is a worthy favourite. Those recent PGA Championships also showed that Driving Distance was key, as too was GIR & obviously excellent putting stats. These all point for a Rory success. Favourite backers surely will be on, but as an Irishman, of course, I’d love to see him win it, but from a betting perspective, I think Rory has created some value for me further down the field

Patrick Reed may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s good for us golf punters as his prices are often bigger than they should be.
He produced a fast finishing performance at Firestone on Sunday and that augurs well for this week, and this very confident, two-time winner on tour this season will be relishing Valhalla as he arrives on the back of his latest efforts of 4-mc-26-11.

We’ve seen unlikely victories in this particular Major with Beem, Micheel, Toms, Brooks, and Yang all prevailing in recent years, so it can be done.

Reed is not without a chance and I’m happy to invest to see how far he can go. He's available at 75/1 with Bet365 who are paying 6 places

Just outside the Top 25 last week in the WGC was Jimmy Walker. The FedEx Cup leader has won three times on tour this season and ranks high for driving distance and GIR stats.

Two TOP10s in the Masters and US Open in 2014 suggests that Jimmy’s major form can see him contend once again here on a track that will suit.
 8 TOP10s from his 22 starts shows the level of consistency throughout the season and he’s sure to be up there throughout the week.

Jimmy Walker is available @ 60/1 with Skybet also paying 6 places

A lot of comparisons have been made between Valhalla and Muirfield Village and former champion, Rich Beem has been tweeting photos of the course on twitter declaring the back 9 holes to be a replica of sorts of Muirfield Village. I hope so, as I really think Hideki Matsuyama can go well this week. The Japanese star won the Memorial Tournament earlier this season and finished T12 at Firestone. In his last seven starts he’s won, produced one TOP10 and finished no worse than 38th.  He’s value for me on this course even though he has come in from 66/1 to 50/1 in the market over the past 24 hours and he's preferred over Charl Schwartzel who I looked long and hard at before passing up @33s.

Lastly, as this major is also affectionately called "Glory's last shot" I'm taking my last shot this week on Harris English.
Harris English is one of those on tour that could become a regular winner. His recent form is mixed, although he’s won this season and delivered a further seven TOP10s. A disappointing final round last Sunday saw him slip down to T31st but at 125/1 or better, he’s worth a look. Ranked in TOP10 for GIR and averaging around 300yds off the tee, his game should suit Valhalla and he shouldn't be that price.

Staking Plan: (8 pts/units *all paying 6 places)

1 pt e/w P. Reed @ 75/1
1 pt e/w H. Matsuyama @ 50/1
1 pt e/w J. Walker @ 60/1
1 pt e/w H. English @ 125/1