Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2015 - Royal County Down GC

The Irish Open heads to Northern Ireland again this year and to Royal County Down GC where the tournament is being hosted by the World Number One, Rory McIlroy and his charity Foundation. Its been a massive coup for the Irish Open having suffered heavily during the recession and by Rory taking it on, he has assembled one of the strongest fields on the European Tour outside of The Open for many a year. He's even managed to get a sponsor in the shape of Dubai Duty Free who have had a lot of success in Irish Sports, particularly in horse racing, but the one thing the Holywood native couldn't organize was the weather! Or then again, maybe he has.....after all we are being introduced to one of the best links courses in the world this week and there's nothing better than seeing the world's best compete on tough links in windy wet conditions. I personally will be heading up the M1 on Friday to attend, and typical of my luck lately, it looks as if I've picked the worst of the four days according to the weather forecast.

The event follows last weeks affair at Wentworth and comes just two weeks before the second Major of the year, the US Open. Rory will have a lot off course duties to attend to this week but having had last weekend off, I expect to be gunning for the title here on his home patch, although if the winds continue throughout I feel he can be taken on. Not many in the field will have much course knowledge and this will be a big advantage for Rory, if he didn't need it!. But his good friend and recent Players Champion, Rickie Fowler has good memories of RCD having played here in the Walker Cup back in 2007. Fowler has shown his liking for links so will be interesting to see how he fares here this week again. He will play alongside Rory for the first two days and they will be joined by Martin Kaymer who I mentioned in last week's preview as one I'll be interested in for this. At 28/1 and playing in this threeball I fancy the two-time Major winner and winner of the Dunhill Links as well as the Scottish Open (albeit at Loch Lomond) and the KLM Open to mention a few, as being good markers for doing well on a course that this week will be of Major difficulty. If the winning score is lower than -10 I'll be surprised and its these type of scoring conditions that sees the best of the 30 year old. He won his two Majors at Whistling Straits and Pinehurst, two tracks that are exactly "parkland" either. Throw in his success at wind affected events from the Middle East and Martin Kaymer is not without a serious chance of winning this week. He defends his US Open title in Seattle in a couple of weeks time and he'll be relishing that and I like the fact a top player is set to defend in an upcoming event and feel that they can raise their game in anticipation of that defence. 28/1 with Betfair is a nice price this week for me.

From my shortlist on twitter yesterday, I mentioned two Scots took my fancy and they were Marc Warren & Richie Ramsay, available @ 50/1 and 90/1. Both are used to links golf, have performed well on links and both have won in the recent twelve months; Warren prevailing on a links course in Denmark last August and Ramsay winning on a links course in Morocco, the Trophee Hassan. Warren is a three time European Tour winner having won the 2006 Scandanavian Masters in 2006 and at Gleneagles in 2007. From his eight starts on tour this year he's made seven cuts with 5 of those resulting in TOP20s. He was TOP20 last week at Wentworth and could be a real threat this week in conditions he'll be used to. Ramsay returned from injury with 5 missed cuts earlier in the year before going in at Morocco and since 11-7-15 before missing the cut last week. He did complain of sore feet in Surrey but I'm literally betting those feet will be well rested and rarin' to go at RCD this week. He too is a three time winner on tour and the former US Amateur Champion (2006) also won the Irish Amateur in 2005 and the Scottish Amateur in 2004. Ramsay is an accurate sort of player who will feel at home in the conditions and is well worth chancing in  an event that has had its fair share of top class winners and outsiders over the years.

I also had earmarked two Frenchmen who could surprise many this week, the two Grégory's; Bourdy and Havret!  Bourdy is very consistent, very accurate player and arrives on the back of some decent form. Aside from a lowly finish at Wentworth, Bourdy has reeled off results of 15-31-15-27-7 previously. Indeed from his twelve starts this season he has made ten cuts finishing TOP20 on six occasions. He's overpriced at 125/1. Same with former US Open runner-up Havret, also available @ 125/1. Similar sort of season progress as well with 9/11 cuts made with four TOP20s. Yet to record a TOP10 finish this season though his last four events have yielded 11-22-31-15. His stats look good for this; he ranks 3rd for Driving Accuracy, 23rd for GIR, and 20th for scrambling. Perfect ingredients to have in the bag for the week !

I'm also adding Matthew Fitzpatrick into the staking plan here. Another former US Amateur Champion and one tipped for great things in the professional ranks, the Englishman may have an appropriate name for the week that's in it, (it worked for Paul Casey!) and he has the game for the links challenge that awaits.He made his professional debut at this event last year at Fota, and could be in the mood to celebrate his first anniversary. There could be a bit of talk of Rickie Fowler and the Walker Cup of 2007 this week and if the Sheffield native wants to reflect on his own Walker Cup experience, he can cast his mind back just two years to his fine performance at the National Golf Links of America when securing 3 pts from his 4 matches. If Fitzpatrick is going to throw in a good result soon, it could very well be on a course of this type and I'm having a nibble at 175/1.

I'll also be watching Malahide native Gavin Moynihan in action. Looking to cement a place on the Walker Cup Team for a second time, The Island's best recently took out the Irish Amateur at Royal Dublin for the second time in very nasty conditions and it was his second round back nine that stood out; when facing the cut in terrible conditions he fought back with a bunch of birdies to stay in it then shot a superb 65 in the third round. He too is a former Scottish Amateur Champion, attended Alabama last year before returning home and he'll be making his third Irish Open appearance. One for the future but not without a chance of a bold showing this week either and if Darren Clarke says he has an impeccable short game, then he could feature !

Staking Plan

2pts  e/w M.Kaymer @ 28/1
1 pt e/w M.Warren @ 50/1
0.75 pts e/w R.Ramsay @ 90/1
0.5 pts e/w G.Bourdy @ 125/1
0.5 pts e/w G.Havret @ 125/1
0.25 pts e/w M.Fitzpatrick @ 175/1

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

BMW PGA Championship, 2015 - Wentworth

We're starting to gain momentum now on the European Tour as we hit the UK this week for the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship to be held once again at Wentworth. Rory McIlroy defends this week, and will be playing for the fourth consecutive week having won the WGC matchplay, finishing TOP10 at Sawgrass and winning again last Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship. Its been an amazing twelve months since he dumped his then fiancee, Caroline Wozniaki the week leading up to BMW PGA Championship last year and given the form he's in right now, it's very hard to see past him again here this week. But, it will be his fourth consecutive week and he'll have one eye on next week, the Irish Open which he is hosting for the first time. At 3/1 this week, he's easy to oppose. Over the years we've seen those who have course experience do well here so expect to see Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Francesco Molinari, Shane Lowry, and Ernie Els to feature. The course underwent some design changes back in 2010, under the guile of the aforementioned Ernie Els and it seems to have made an impact on both scoring and to those who did feature previously.

Twelve months ago, Thomas Bjorn let his lead slip to allow Rory in but it was probably one that Ireland's Shane Lowry should have won. The Clara native was 12th in 2013 and also posted a 4th in 2011 but he's too short for me here @ 33/1. I could back two time Major winner, Martin Kaymer at the same price ! Four TOP20s in his seven visits suggest that Wentworth is a course that the German can excel on but as he's on the shortlist for next week instead, I'm going to swerve here and take a stab at a few at decent prices.

Joost Luiten returns to Europe following a stint in the US where he has performed reasonably well with a best return of a TOP15 at the Honda Classic. Luiten is in decent form and can boast a 12th & 17th at either end of three missed cuts here the last five years. If he can find fairways off the tee he'll have a chance but its the poor driving stats that probably have him out at best price 66/1, but its worth taking for a player of his calibre. A late/early start may be an advantage too and with 6 places on offer this week with majority of the books, he makes my staking plan.

I wanted to back Ross Fisher again this week but have opted to leave him out this time round. Instead I want to get Alex Noren onside @ 100/1 with the 6 places on offer. Noren returned to action earlier this season following a lengthy layoff through injury and hit the ground running before falling away again. He was well down the field last week but arrives here with a tournament under his belt following two decent efforts in China last month. The Swede was 6th here back in 2008, before the course changes were made but has posted 32-21 finishes in 2013 & 2012. He withdrew last year due to that wrist injury. He can return to form this week and surprise and just like Luiten, if he can find the fairways he'll score.

We could carried away with statistics and get over focused on who is bound to go well here and over the years we have seen some illustrious names on the trophy (Jacklin, Oosterhuis, Faldo, Langer, Seve, Olazabal, Monty, Cabrera, Jiminez, Casey, Donald, and Rory) but we've also had "shock" winners in Simon Khan (who simply loves playing here) Drummond and Oldcorn ! Some players along with Rory will arrive looking for a rest rather than another week of competitive golf and I'm hoping the home based players feel the fatigue with the added media attention thrown in. So I'm going to complete my staking plan with a number of TOP20 bets as per my tweets from Tuesday. Max Kieffer, Bjeung An and Robert Rock are three players in fine form and could put in a good showing here. Kieffer hasn't missed a cut this season in 11 events and he's well a nibble in the TOP20 market @ 7.50. Likewise, An is 10/11 with six TOP20s under his belt already and although he makes his debut at Wentworth, I feel the course may suit. Robert Rock completes my interest this week on the back of some solid performances of late; two TOP30's in his last two starts. Rock is available @ 7.00 with An @ 4.50

Staking Plan

0.75 pts e/w J.Luiten @ 66/1 * 6 places
0.75 pts e/w A.Noren @ 100/1 * 6 places


2.5 pts M.Kieffer @ 7.50
3 pts B. An @ 4.5
1.5 pts R.Rock @ 7.00

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Players 2015 - Sawgrass

No rest for the world's elite golfers this week as they head across to Florida for one of the richest golf tournaments; The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass! Often dubbed the "5th Major" this tournament is one of the most watched and loved by golf fans all over! Germany's, Martin Kaymer defends this week, a feat not done before in the thirty three installments! Tiger plays though this week but he comes into this with a lot of emotional baggage - his recent split with Lindsey Vonn comes the week of the anniversary of his father,Earl's passing. This week, it's the Rory & Jordan show and amazingly they've been drawn together for the opening rounds!! Maybe golf does need the fanfare and the hype around the best two golfers in the world right now so we'll forgive the organizers for putting them out together, but for us punters it creates a nice betting event. Experience is meant to be a big help here but young Mr Spieth finished 4th twelve months ago and like his Masters debut last year, he could be the exception to the rule that Sawgrass knowledge and experience is a must.

From my seventeen man shortlist, I've decided on who best is placed to strike should Rory and Jordan not deliver. Louis Oosthuizen stays on my staking plan this week although I'm relying on reports that his back problems are indeed gone. He played 5 matches in San Francisco last week and it could cause problems if not exactly 100% but I'm prepared to take the risk @ 50/1. Oosty currently ranks top 10 in both "Strokes Gained Tee to Green" and "GIR" on the PGA Tour this season and its his current form I'm pinning my hopes on that he can improve on his best finish at Sawgrass of 29th two years ago. The South African has posted four top 10s in his last seven starts.

 Likewise Adam Scott is a decent price this week @ 50/1 and if he starts striking it as well as he has been and gets the putter going he could challenge. For Scott, it's all down to his putting performance this week. If it clicks he'll be there or thereabouts. The South Australian will be defending in a couple of weeks at The Colonial and I'm sure he'll be thinking of that along with his putting game ahead of next months US Open. Four top 20s in his last ten starts at Sawgrass augurs well and season ranking in the "Strokes Gained tee to Green" and "GIR" sees him sit inside the top 10.

Jimmy Walker hasn't been backed by myself before, but I just couldn't ignore his chances this time round.  At 35/1 he is worth a play where ball striking will serve him well. In his 5 starts here he has posted a debut 26th, mc and then produced progressive figures of 35-15-6th. He ranks highly for "SGTTG" and "GIR" and if getting a good start he'll grow in confidence following recent success. He might be entering this week in confident mood following reports he's been seeing Butch Harmon and if Butch has improved on something it can only augur well for a bold showing.

Kevin Streelman has been put up a couple of times already this season here and he's been given the nod again this week ahead of Brendon Todd @ 150/1. Streelman was runner up two years ago and posted a further Top 20 in 2011. He ranks nicely in the SGTTG & GIR as well and arrives well rested, unlike most. His T12th finish at Augusta suggests his game is in fine fettle for a course not too dissimilar in terms of positioning play and emphasis on ball striking. He's 12/15 this season with just the one top 10 in the bag, but he's streaky and can go well again here this time round.

Staking Plan (7pts)

1 pt e/w L. Oosthuizen @ 50/1 Bet365 * paying 6 places
1 pt e/w A. Scott @ 50/1 Betfair * paying 6 places
1 pt e/w J. Walker @ 35/1 Bet365 * paying 6 places
0.5 pts e/w K.Streelman @ 150/1Bet365 * paying 6 places