Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Dubai Desert Classic 2015

It's the last leg of the of the "Desert Swing" at the Emirates GC in Dubai for the latest European Tour instalment this week where this blog is aiming for a hat-trick of wins having backed Stevie Gallacher to win both in 2013 & 2014. Once again we have a top quality field where Rory McIlroy heads the betting market. Indeed it was here that Rory won his first professional title and having come up short yet again in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, he'll be hoping he can claim victory before he heads for the coutroom in Dublin next month. Speaking of firsts, this week we will see Javier Ballesteros make his professional debut.

I tweeted my shortlist on Monday, yet it excluded the defending champion. It must be noted that despite quality fields assembling on the Majlis course over recent years, with all due respect to the deserving winners, the title hasn't gone to the more illustrious players! Tiger & Rory have both been pipped here so yet again I'm ready to take on the hot-favourite this week. Rory has an early start and if he gets a solid opening round under his belt he could be hard to catch but he can't be backed at 4/1. I was very keen on Henrik Stenson this week who despite results, has shown a gradual improvement in his game the past couple of tournaments. It's a sort of homecoming too for the Swede as he lived here in Dubai for almost ten years before moving across to the States but if I was inclined to favour any player at the head of the market it would be Martin Kaymer @ 16/1. He can put aside the meltdown he experienced in Abu Dhabi by winning here in his first visit since 2012. In his six previous visits, the German has finished 13-31-4-4-2. He's comfortable in this part of the world and recent form from the current US Open Champion reads just as good with figures of 3-2-21-39. I think we can avail of 16s this week on the back of that loss two weeks ago, had he won he would most likely be ahead of Henrik Stenson in the market but Kaymer has the mentality to put all that behind him and he can bounce big time this week. He makes the staking plan.

The course is long and the scoring will be low and its the par-5s that tend to be the difference or the reason why a player prevails come Sunday afternoon. Stevie G bagged a number of eagles on these the past three season when winning twice and finishing 2nd the year before and when I see a course where par 5 scoring becomes key, Tommy Fleetwood is a name I scribble on the initial shortlist. That initial shortlist this week contained 32 players, and the second filter reduced it down to 18. I was expecting the Southport man to be around the 50/1 - 60/1 mark for this so I was pleasantly surprised to see him available on the exchanges at 100.00 yesterday. Thats gone now but 80.00 - 90.00 is still available. Fleetwood actually led here after two rounds two years ago before finishing 10th, but we have a much more experienced player these days. Tommy finished T23rd in Qatar following a MC in Abu Dhabi so is coming into the week in decent nick and at the price I cannot leave him out.

I was keen on Oosthuizen this week, was very keen- but I was expecting a better price than the best on offer of 25/1 (I know he was 33s the past couple of days but I thought about it too much). Like last week, where I wanted to back Grace at 28/1 but decided not to @ 25s..... I'm hoping I'm not making the same mistake this week. Oosty is over the injuries to his back that he endured throughout last year and he has already been backed e/w for the R2D @ 100/1 pre-Christmas. I'll leave him out this week and do exactly what I did last week - back Tongchai Jaidee again @ 140.00 on Betfair instead. I said last week he was fresh, perhaps he was but a bit rusty, but having skipped Abu Dhabi, I feel he could be nicely warmed up for the Emirates where he has posted 5 TOP20s in his last 12 visits, the last of which came in 2010 when finishing 3rd. He has been playing very well of late and although I'm now inclined to look at the younger guns on the tours more, there is another win left in this 45 yr old, and he could surprise at a nice price here.

Last week's runner up, Marc Warren is a player that may feature a bit on this blog this year. He's improving all the time and the Made In Denmark Champion can go close again this week having chased Grace home last week. He's played here a few times often missing the cut, but has produced two TOP20s when he made the weekend. Given that he's a vastly improved player this time round, he'll arrive on the back of solid form and represents great value at 80.00 on Betfair for the win. He's 7.00 for a TOP10 with Bet365 !

Of course, I cannot ignore Ross Fisher this week. Ross is in fine form and I think at the price this week he's worth a play since finishing 9th in Abu Dhabi, 2nd at the Nedbank ,and 2nd at the BMW Masters. In between he was 30th in Qatar, and 25th at the Turkish Airlines Open. He's bang in form and his driving at the Emirates can reward him @ a lovely 60.00 for the win (5.50 TOP10).He missed the cut twelve months ago but between 2007 - 2010 he produced results of 5-10-13-11-10. He could repeat such efforts this week again.

I was tempted to back Grace this week given the form he's in, especially as hes @ 30.00 and I almost pulled the trigger on Alex Levy as well @ 70.00 (6.00 T10). Lets hope for better luck this week.

Staking Plan (15 pts)

2 pts WIN M.Kaymer @ 16/1
0.50 pts WIN M.Warren @ 80.00
0.25 pts WIN T.Jaidee @ 140.00
0.50 pts WIN T.Fleetwood @ 90.00
0.75 pts WIn R.Fisher @ 60.00


2.50 pts M.Warren @ 7.00
2 pts R.Fisher @ 5.50
2.50 pts T.Fleetwood @ 5.00

4 pts T.Jaidee @ 3.75 TOP20

Monday, 19 January 2015

Qatar Masters 2015

The second leg of the "Desert Swing" moves to Doha, Qatar this week I'm sure the hour long flight from Abu Dhabi was full of conversation around Martin Kaymer's collapse on Sunday but the players will have little time to dwell on it as they are back in action on Wednesday as opposed to Thursday. One thing the players should take from it though is to keep going and never give up, afterall it's a 72 hole competition. Unfortunately, the same goes with my picks for last week as it looked very promising for 3 of those to secure TOP10s, until they each imploded in their own way during the final round. That said, I was delighted with Robert Karlsson's effort last week, he grabbed a lot of birdies and between himself & Martin Kaymer, they accounted for the majority of dropped shots on the 9th hole over the four days between the two of them. The Swede was +5 for that hole alone. He can dismiss Abu Dhabi as a warm up for this week where he will return to an event he has won in the past. At 50/1, he has to be a serious consideration again this week.

From my shortlist, tweeted on Monday, two time Qatar Masters winner, Paul Lawrie has shown progressive form lately and if the wind blows as it invariably does here, then the Aberdeen man can go close again. He has been working hard on his putting of late and I think he is a real contender for this. Lawrie finished TOP20 last week following a decent effort in South Africa the week before. He arrives in good nick and will relish the conditions. At 90.00 on Betfair he's worth a punt on the outright and the 6.50 for TOP10 can't be ignored either.

I was keen to back Branden Grace this week. He's in very good form and if not for a poorish second round last week he would have been contending for another title in Abu Dhabi. The bookies have acted accordingly though and the 29.00/30.00 price I was looking for is gone, with best price 26.00 now available. I wouldn't put anyone off but I'll opt for Tongchai Jaidee at 90.00 instead (5.50 TOP10). The Thai has been a model of consistency and rarely misses the cut. He doesn't do it here either with form figures of 33-9-20-19-32 (avg 22nd) the last five years. He did miss the cut back in 2009 but also enjoyed an average finishing poistion of 21st the previous five years. He's 3.00 to finish TOP20 this week. He arrives fresh this week too !

I'm adding one of my favourites here this week in the shape of Thomas Aiken @ 80/1 (7.50 TOP10). Aiken recently took out the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and should be in confident mood despite missing the cut last week. Fifth here twelve months ago and 6th in 2011, the South African has course form. Doha over the years has proven that having course knowledge can be crucial as the tournament has thrown up many multiple winners. Aside from Lawrie, Adam Scott has won twice here and notable "links proven" players have also prevailed - Chris Wood, Retief Goosen, Thomas Bjorn, and Ernie Els. Aiken is decent value for me here at this price and has to be included.

Steve Webster finished T12th in Abu Dhabi in his 2015 opener and he can kick on from that effort on a track he clearly likes. 5th & 4th the last two seasons suggests he does indeed feel comfortable in Doha, and with a further 3 TOP20s in his previous seven starts, the Englishman has a decent chance of a good showing @ 90.00 (8.50 TOP10). He may not get off to the start like he did here last year though as he holed his second shot on his first hole to record an albatross, the first time a player ever opened up a tournament posting -3 after just 1 hole. I wonder will he put that same 5 wood in the bag this week ? fond memories can often motivate a player to do well and he's bound to have those when teeing it up Wednesday.

Lastly, to complete the staking plan my second TOP20 bet rests with Oliver Wilson who also has shown his liking for links when winning the Dunhill last year. He has course form here - 5th in 2010 as well as two TOP20s in 2011 & 2008. He's 9/1 to grab a TOP20 here with Betpack, so yes please!

Staking Plan (15 pts)

0.50 pts WIN R.Karlsson @ 51.00
0.25 pts WIN P.Lawrie @ 90.00
0.25 pts WIN T.Jaidee @ 90.00
0.25 pts WIN T.Aiken @ 81.00
0.25 pts S.Webster @ 90.00

2 pts TOP10 R.Karlsson @ 5.00
1.5 pts TOP10 P.Lawrie @ 6.50
1.25 pts WIN T.Aiken @ 7.50
1.25 pts S.Webster @ 8.50

5 pts TOP20 T.Jaidee @ 3.00
2.5 pts TOP20 O.Wilson @ 10.00

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Sony Open 2015

PGA action stays in Hawaii this week but we have a different setup to last week and a much bigger field as opposed to that of the Tournament of Champions which finished on Monday. Jimmy Walker will be looking to put the disappointment behind him very quickly here but he may have missed his chance last week and the best odds still available at 17.00 don't excite me at all. Same goes with Matt Kuchar who really disappointed last week but could be excused for rustiness and he does like Waialee GC this week but again 21.00 is just a bit short for a player that doesn't win often enough. Of the market leaders though, I do like the chances of last Monday's fast finisher, Chris Kirk @ 20/1. Kirk has stated in the past that this course and tournament is one of his favourite three courses and given the level of confidence he is at right now to complement his 62 on Monday, he must be a contender here this year.

Kirk finished 2nd twelve months ago and produced a TOP5 the year previously. His fifth visit could see him go one better and his game is the best shape of is career right now. The course will suit accurate players with strong GIR stats, it will suit those with a draw off the tee (right to left) and this is Kirk to a tee.

Kevin Streelman was tipped before the Christmas break and I'm happy to keep in my thoughts for the time being on a course that suits him. I think he is way overpriced @ 85.00 for the win and @ 7.5 for TOP10. A 26th place is his best effort to date, back in 2013 but he's been playing well of late and if the wind gets up he could be a contender. He's one to watch out for this season at this price and is kept onside for the time being.

I had fancied former winner Russel Henley for this but his strong showing last week has seen his price slashed since Monday and all the perceived value is gone as best price now is 25/1. Its a fair price but I'd prefer to take a chance instead on Paul Casey @ 90/1 with Betpack, & 10/1 for TOP10. 4.50 for TOP20 cannot be ignored either. Casey has shown he can play in windy conditions and on linksy type courses. A recent father, he will have enjoyed that first Christmas as one and will be fired up for 2015 as he too makes his comeback. Its ten years since his last visit here but there's been a few lean years in between, so he's taken on ability and price to do well this week. If he can get a decent start with an early start off the 10th tee, the Englishman can grab a TOP20 here.

My final pick this week is Jeff Overton on the back of solid Waialee form - 7th & 8th the past two years ! He also has a TOP20 from 4 years ago. Hasn't played since the Mayakoba in November but his TOP30 finish suggests his form is ok and if he wants to put his December descretions behind him and concentrate on golf rather than basketball and his beloved Hoosiers, then this is the place for him to do so.

Staking Plan

2 pts WIN C.Kirk @ 21.00
1 pt WIn K.Streelman @ 85.00
0.5 pts WIN P.Casey @ 91.00

1.50 pts TOP 10 K.Streelman @ 7.5

3.25 pts TOP20 P.Casey @ 4.50
2.25 pts TOP20 J.Overton @ 5.50

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Expect the Unexpected ! - Abu Dhabi & Sony Open 2015

It was nice to start the new year with a winner last week as sole pick, Trevor Fisher Jnr, duly obliged in finishing in the TOP20 @ 3.25. I will be aiming for more TOP10 & TOP20 markets this year as the competition each week gets tougher and tougher on both main tours. We were treated to a lot of drama on both sides of the Atlantic last week where somehow, Charl Schwartzel inexplicably lost his National Open when it seemed the engraver was getting the nod with just 4 holes to play. The former US Masters champion wasn't playing well and couldn't keep the ball in play and eventually found himself in a play-off with Englishman, Andy Sullivan who then pipped the local hero at the first play-off hole with a stunning birdie. In Hawaii, Patrick Reed lived up to his own hype, by catching Jimmy Walker to win his 4th PGA Tour Title in 35 starts !

We are in for some more excitement this week too, as the elite of European golf are joined by Rickie Fowler in Abu Dhabi. Rory is the hot favourite, justifibaly so, having arrived in the UAE looking to complete some "unfinished business" as he's finished 2nd here 3 out of the last 4 seasons. He will face stiff competition, not only from Fowler, but course specialist, Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson & Justin Rose just to mention some ! Rory, might be in the mood for sure and he arrived in the Middle East nice and early for this so will be chomping at the bit to kick start 2015 with a bang ! At 4/1 I'll pass, and oddly enough, I'm overlooking the other leading contenders too, despite Kaymer's obvious claims.

Sweden's Robert Karlsson is a huge price this week that I cannot ignore. It's 5 years since he won on the tour, but those last two victories came in Dubai & Qatar and with a return to Titleist for this season, I expect the 46 year old to put in a stellar campaign as he bids to reach the World TOP50 again. Having recovered from his injuries to his eye, Karlsson showed glimpses of that return to form in 2014 and with Henrik Stenson, his compatriot having completed a similar comeback, he can be motivated to follow suit. He produced his best golf playing with Titleist equipment in the past and he has been quite vocal about the new Titleist ProV1x ball that he will be using.Speaking of winning in this area in the past, its worth also noting that he was T6th in Dubai last November and was 8th here in 2014. Whilst his driving and GIR stats last season may be a bit off putting for this week, I'm happy to have some of the 80.00 and 100.00 on Betfair this week for a win but he's also worth a TOP10 punt too.

I noticed a South African has finished in the TOP5 here every year, except for 2008 & 2006, where James Kingston finished T7th and Schwartzel was 8th respectively.It may be an anomaly but with just ten South Africans in the field this year, I couldn't look pass them. With Charl Schwartzel missing out on home turf last week in the manner that he did and with Ernie Els looking like his best days are behind him, I'm drawn towards the likes of George Coetzee, Brendan Grace and Thomas Aiken. Aiken clinching the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit last week might motivate him here this week and his game should suit here but on his past 5 visists he has mustered just 2 TOP20s and 2 MCs. Grace & Coetzee though have decent form with the latter having finished 4-9-6 here the last 3 years!!. Grace has dusted off the cobwebs from Christmas and he could be ready to contend again following his runaway win at Leopard Creek the week before. He was 5th here in 2013 so knows the course and is a much improved player now.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello isn't a prolific winner but he's a consistent player on the right course. He has 2 TOP10s in his locker for Abu Dhabi and arrives in decent nick. Accurate player, he should be up there again this weekend again and his TOP10 in Dubai back in December in this type of company gives some confidence that he can perform again.

Scotland's, Craig Lee, had 5 TOP20s last year from his 28 events but just the solitary TOP10 - here at Abu Dhabi ! He was 17th in 2013 so clearly he too likes this course. He actually led after three rounds last year so perhaps he too has some "unfinished business" to attend to in 2015 and his progressive form the past 4 seasons suggests that the 37 yr old maybe in for a good campaign this year and why not here on a course that he clearly likes?

Staking Plan

.25 pts WIN R.Karlsson @ 90.00 Betfair
.25 pts WIN . G.Coetzee @ 70.00 Betfair
.25 pts WIN B.Grace @ 40.00 Betfair
.25 pts WIN R. Cabrera-Bello @ 55.00 Betfair

2.0 pts TOP 10 B.Grace @ 4.5
2.0 pts TOP10 R.Cabrera-Bello @ 5.5
1.5 pts TOP10 G.Coetzee @ 6.00
1.5 pts TOP10 R.Karlsson @ 6.00
2 pts TOP20 C.Lee @ 7.00