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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Hong Kong Open 2016 - Fanling GC

The final event on the Europeantour for 2016 takes place at Fanling GC this week for the Hong Kong Open. Despite withdrawing from last week's Hero Challenge, Justin Rose has made the trip to defend his title from last year. With the injury concern, bookies have instead made Patrick Reed the favourite to win. His recent form though is a concern and suggests we may have some value for the week! They are joined by Masters, champion Danny Willett and his compatriot Ian Poulter, who has solid form in China and arrives in decent form of late following a return from injury.


The Course


Fanling is a short, tight, tree-lined course where Miguel Angel Jiminez has won this event on four separate occasions. Finding the fairway off the tee is crucial here and those with a strong scrambling game this week should contend. Just two par-5s over the 7,000 yd course will mean that big hitters wont necessarily have an advantage although Scott Hend and Rory McIlroy have won here, and Rose is no slouch either off the tee!

Selections


Marcus Fraser is on the shortlist given his course form but recent form casts some doubt. I've left it late looking for 100/1 but if he's to find form again it could very well be here. The Aussie keeps his best results for Asian events and in his 8 starts here, he has finished in the TOP10 four times. He clearly likes it here.
Whilst Ian Poulter is showing a return to form lately, so too is Mikko Ilonen who produced his only TOP10 in 2016 at the recent Turkish Airlines. That came on the back of a T12 at The British Masters and another TOP20 at the Alfred Dunhill Links. That all said he's missed the cut here on his last three visits so perhaps the 100.00 on offer is a result of the course efforts to date. I'm prepared to give him a chance here as Fanling should suit.

For the TOP20 markets this week I'm keen to play Rashid Khan @ 9.50 Having learned his game at Delhi GC, a very tight and short course, he can put in a good performance here to follow up on his 2nd place finish last Sunday at the Panasonic Open India and his TOP10 at The Macau Open.
Aussie Jason Scrivener was 3rd here on debut last year and he can put in another result here this time round having put in a solid TOP5 at the Australian Open last month and 2 TOP20s at the Portugal Masters and European Open.

.25 pts WIN M.Faser @ 100.00
.25 pts WIN M.Ilonen @ 100.00

2.0 pts TOP10 M.Fraser @ 7.00
2.0 pts TOP10 M.Ilonen @ 10.00

1.75 pts TOp20 J.Scrivener @ 4.33
1.75 pts TOP20 R.Khan @ 9.50

Monday, 28 November 2016

Alfred Dunhill Championship 2016 - Leopard Creek

Charl Schwartzel goes gunning for his fourth title in five years at Leopard Creek for the Alfred Dunhill Championship this week and given his form of late it's no surprise to see him installed as the favourite ahead of compatriot and the 2014 winner, Branden Grace.(He also won this back in 2005)The home players tend to dominate on home soil in these co-sanctioned events but it could be an opportune week for the European Tour's younger members to gain some much needed points for confidence in going forward in the 2017 Race to Dubai.It'll be tough to get the two market leaders beat here and with weather forecast to indicate a nice settled week, scoring will be low as ever.


The Course


Leopard Creek is a Gary Player designed, par-72 parkland course where its signature or signatures is probably the animals that will be seen in proximity; hence SKY TV getting all carried away in between shots and annoying me even further. With the former Masters Champion and Grace in the field, I expect we'll see very little action form the other contenders unless playing alongside the two or challenging on Sunday so its an event I won't mind not viewing this time round. That all said, this a beautiful golf course with plenty of water throughout so to go low, the players will need to bring some accuracy to their game and a hot putter.

Selections to take on the TOP TWO


If home players are to prevail again this week then I'm happy to take a punt on Challenge Tour graduate, Dylan Frittelli, who lost a playoff at the Australian PGA Championship twelve months ago and which is being held at Pines Resort in Queensland this week He's opted to stay at home this time round now that he has his European Tour Card and he can continue his form by starting his new venture with a solid showing here having finished TOP10 at Cape Town last week. He finished 11th here in 2015 and is well worth chancing here @ 50/1 for the outright but is a strong play for TOP20 @ 2.50

Benjamin Hebert is a player I will follow closely next season as I believe he can win soon. He was 3rd here last year following a TOP30 in 2014 so he has shown a liking for Leopard Creek. He posted 8/29 TOP20s last season (28%) but 8/22 when making the cut(36%) but it was a progressive year for the Frenchman and in this quality of field he can deliver another T20 easily. He was T-34th at Sun City a couple of weeks ago, was TOP10 in Portugal in October and TOP20 in Italy in September. He as a TOP20 in him for December !


.20 pts WIN D. Fritelli @ 50.00
.20 pts WIN B. Hebert @ 60.00

2.80 pts TOP20 D. Fritelli @ 2.50
2.80 pts TOP20 B. Hebert @ 2.50

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

DP World Tour Championship 2016 - Earth Course, Dubai

The curtain comes down on the European Tour season in Dubai this week, where the TOP60 players will contest for the DP World Tour Championship at the Greg Norman designed, Earth Course. Its a tournament where Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson have each won twice in the past four years and they both understandably head the betting again this week. Rory arrives here with only a small chance of winning the Race to Dubai having given up his chance by withdrawing from the Turkish Airlines Open two weeks ago. His focus is primarily on winning this tournament this week, and then negotiating best price for equipment endorsements going forward next month before tying the knot at Ashford Castle on New Year's Eve. His main rivals however, Stenson & Willett will be planning on capturing the R2D title here. Should Alex Noren win yet again this week then Stenson needs to finish second so there is plenty of incentive for the market leaders to finish the season strongly.

The Course


The Earth Course was designed by Greg Norman and has hosted this event since 2009. Lee Westwood prevailed then and apart from Alavro Quiros winning in 2011, the winners were all well established in the Order of Merit/Race to Dubai for that season. A long course where accuracy and driving distance don't seem to be the key attributes for a great week, should see the scoring go low. Course form though is probably a requirement, Rory seems to love it here ; 2 wins in 2015 & 2012 with a 2nd & 5th in between were proceeded by figures of 11-5-3 from 2011 - 2009. He'll be up there again this week! Stenson has the two wins but other results are less encouraging and Alex Noren has shown no form here whatsoever although arrives this year in much better shape than he has in recent years.

Shortlist & Selections

I dropped Louis Oosthuizen from my final shortlist despite solid previous form here - his putting was awful last week on home soil and I'm banking on that not improving in time for this. His compatriot though, Branden Grace didn't play that well last week but still climbed the leaderboard to finish 3rd. He'll take great confidence from that and can improve on his Earth Course results of 3-9-52-6 the past four years. If he gets the flatstick hot this week he could prevail come Sunday. I had priced Grace @ 18/1 for this as a conservative quote so the 22/1 - 24/1 available has to be taken.

Jeunghun Wang almost ended the blog's draught in the winner's department last week, but despite holding a 5 shot lead during the final round he was overtaken in scintillating fashion by Noren's 63 to finish a distant second. He was 13th in Turkey the week before and although he's been on the move for a number of weeks now, he can continue good form by putting in one final effort here and make hay with a red hot putter he has of late. 7.50 for TOP10 is the bet for me with small stakes on the exchange for outright. He makes his debut though on the course this year but his compatriot An did likewise last year and finished 4th! Tyrell Hatton finished 6th on debut 2 years ago and backed that up with a T15 last year. Wang is two time winner on tour and has the credentials to kick on from last week's disappointment.

Finally, I have to stick with Tommy Fleetwood for the last event of the year. He's been knocking on the door of late and despite mediocre form here it should be a course to his liking. Six TOP15 finishes in his last eight tournaments shows the form he is in and he will tee it up with Nacho Elvira on Thursday. He had a poor start last year with a 77, and actually started poorly last week too with a 75, so he may be conscious of getting off to a better start this week.Tommy can capitalize on the Par-5s here and make a run for the title, and make the 7.50 for TOP10 also seem generous.


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Selections:
2.0 pts B. Grace @ 24.00
0.25 pts J. Wang @ 110.00
0.50 pts T. Fleetwood @ 140.00

2.50 pts TOP10 J.Wang @ 7.50
2.75 pts TOP10 T. Fleetwood @ 7.50



Tuesday, 1 November 2016

NBO Golf Classic Grand Final - Challenge Tour

The Challenge Tour concludes the 2016 season in Muscat, Oman this week for the NBO Golf Classic. Jordan Smith enters the week as the leader of the OOM. Smith won't need to win here so shouldn't be under too much pressure as he will tee it up on the European Tour next season but with so many points on offer here he will need a good showing to take the title. Ryan Fox could be the man to catch him although Germany's Alexander Knappe could do the same. The kiwi though has been in fine form of late and could stump them all here but I'll have a punt on Dylan Fritelli instead @ 20/1.

The South African started the year in fantastic form finishing 2nd at the Australian PGA on the back of a TOP15 at the Dunhill Championship. He then produced TOP20s at the South African & Tshwane Opens on the European Tour before he embarked on the Challenge Tour in Kenya. Form took a dip in May & June but he finished the summer well by winning The Rolex Trophy. He had also produced four TOP10s in five events leading up to that win. Form dipped in the two events after but he's rebounded with four TOP12s in the next four starts before a low finish last week in the UAE. He will tee it up this week having seen his former team mate at the University of Texas, Cody Gribble prevail at the Sandersons Farm Championship last week, and will want to end the season with a bang in just about the same way he started it and is my pick of the market leaders @ 20/1 here

1.0 pts e/w D. Fritelli @ 21.00

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Turkish Airlines Open - Europeantour Final Series

The European Tour winds down for the season this month but not before the Final Series is played out where Henrik Stenson,Danny Willett & Rory McIlroy will slug it out to capture the Race to Dubai Champion crown. You could argue that Alex Noren is still in contention also but by not playing this week, I can't see how he can take the title in Dubai in two weeks time. The three tournaments that make up the Final Series are this one, the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City next week and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai the week after. We've had a few withdrawals this week, most notably, Rory McIlroy and so we're left with Bernd Weisberger & Andy Sullivan to head the market.Needless to say for a Final Series event, the field can be considered as "disappointing". This week also sees the start of the monthly tipping competition exclusive to the Birdie Club Blog readers and followers. So if registered, make sure you sign in and make your tips as these will count towards the November competition. If not registered yet, make sure you do by using this unique link to do so REGISTER HERE

The Course

We have a new course to consider in the shape of Regnum Carya Golf Resort in Antalya, Turkey. Measuring 7,100 the course is located close to the sea set amongst a pine forest, where accuracy from tee to green seems to be highest priority here this week. Fast sloping greens suggest GIR and putting will be vital as well; it may not be for the bombers in other words.

Selections


Its a strange betting market but if taking on those at the head of the betting it may be wise to consider those in decent form of late that are renowned for their ball striking. Bjeung Hun An is one for sure and @ 28/1 makes most appeal at the top of this market.Richard Bland may not be one to side with in the outright market but he surely contens here this week as too should Harrington, fresh from a win last time out. Pádraig was on Irish TV chat show last Saturday night and it was clear from his attitude that a permanent switch to European Tour life is very likely. His short game is ideal for this week and yet he's still available @ 50/1. Marc Warren has shown a welcome return to form of late and he may just push on here with another good week. I backed Asun Wu last week in China for a TOP20 and he just missed out. He should take confidence from a decent effort in such a field and he can carry on here this week and add a second title of the season having won in Austria back in June. He swell worth backing @ 6.5 for a TOP20 here.

I'll conclude my selections with a stab at Frenchman Romain Wattel. Hes not really had the season he may have been looking for but sits comfortably inside the TOP50 in the R2D.  Six TOP20s from his 27 starts he can add to that here @ 4.33


0.5 pts e/w P.Harrington @ 51.00
0.5 pts e/w M.Warren @ 51.00
3.0 pts TOP20 A.Wu @ 6.50
3.0 pts TOP20 R.Wattel @ 4.33

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Portugal Masters 2016

We have a fairly decent field heading to the last Europeantour event to be played on European soil until well into 2017 this week. Alex Noren will go chasing his fourth title of the season having won again last week in London and he will face strong challengers from Ryder Cup stars, Thomas Pieters and Andy Sullivan,who will be defending his maiden title. Its another chance for those hovering around the 60 & 110 places on the R2D table to gain spots into the Series Finale and probably more importantly the coveted 110 placing required to secure playing privileges for 2017. Perhaps this is the week that Eddie Pepperell can regain his game and push on to secure his card for next season as he sits agonizingly in 111th place just €126 behind Craig Lee. I'm also hoping that Peter Hanson can continue good form of late and push on to make the TOP60 as he currently sits 63rd some €10,000 behind Renato Paratore in 60th spot.

The Course: 

The par-72 measures just 7200 yards and plays generously off the tee. It will be a low scoring affair this week and those that hit greens and make fewest putts will prevail. History has shown that Driving Distance is not key but a long straight hitter should excel. Wind is normally a factor here and interrupted play is par for the course especially at this time of the year.

The Shortlist & Selections:

Given the form of the market leaders this week, it may just be the week not to be getting stuck in on the outsiders. I've been a fan of Alex Noren for some years now and I'm thrilled to see him winning tournaments now that the nasty wrist injury he endured seems to have been sorted. It will be an interesting week to see how he fares and how the challenge of Pieters will evolve. Tommy Fleetwood is finishing the season strongly and he is overdue for a win and he should find the Vilamoura course and conditions to his liking. In his past three visits he has yielded 22-12-26 finishes. Englishman have done well here over the years and if Tommy isn't to prevail this week, there's no denying that David Horsey is in solid form too. His last five starts have yielded results of 12-11-49-5-4 and sits 55th in the R2D. Form here though on previous efforts isn't great so the price represents no value to me but @ 2.88 for a TOP20 he is a play.

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The blog put up Thomas Aiken last week and Peter Hanson at the Alfred Dunhill the week before and I'm happy to side with them again for this. Aiken has proven to like wind, and is quite strong in the GIR department....if he can only hole a few putts he'd be winning more, but he's more than capable. He has an early tee time Thursday starting at the 10th and I feel the early starters this week might have an advantage.He also plays alongside fellow Sunshine Tour player, Trevor Fisher, which is a plus. Peter Hanson tees off in the group behind Aiken, alongside YE Yang and Jorge Campillo (who just missed out on my 10-man shortlist). The Swede, like Noren, is returning from injury this season and is finding some form of late having finished 4th last week at The British Masters too. He has solid course form here too, but visits for the first time since 2011 when he finished TOP15. He posted 2 TOP5s in his three other starts. At 44.00 & 36.00 available for both they just about hold value.

1.00 pts T.Aiken @ 44.00
1.00 pts P.Hanson @ 36.00
4.00 pts TOP20 P.Hanson @ 2.50



Wednesday, 12 October 2016

British Masters 2016 - The Grove GC

Luke Donald will take on the role of Europeantour Tournament host this week where he will host the revised British Masters at The Grove GC, just outside London. He has a decent field to look after this week too, where Matthew Fitzpatrick will defend for the first time. He'll be joined by another Englishman who broke his duck last week, Tyrell Hatton, and it wouldn't be surprising to see another young Englishman prevail this week in a tournament that has been very kind to their compatriots over the years, and it may just signal a changing of the guard in English golf should the youth prevail once again. Andrew "Beef" Johnston, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Wood tee it up also and not to forget the more slightly older players such as Ross Fisher, David Horsey, Richard Bland, and Lee Westwood as well. Eddie Pepperell, James Morrison & Chris Paisley may want to get in on the act here too, but my final ten man shortlist only sees three.

The Course

Located in Hertfordshire, The Grove hosted the WGC Championship back in 2006 where Tiger Woods romped to victory. The scoring that time was low and there is little to suggest that the Kyle Phillips designed, 7100 yard, Par-71 shouldn't see a similar birdiefest this week where emphasis seems to be pointing to those with a strong GIR and scrambling game. Upside down saucer-like greens will need to be negotiated here. I admit to not knowing much about the course, but looking at various photos and layouts, it does somewhat remind me of the Montgomerie Couse at Carton House but perhaps without the lightening greens and as many bunkers.

The Shortlist & Selections

From my ten-man shortlist this week, four players are currently ranked within the TOP20 for GIR on the 2016 European Tour. These are Thomas Aiken, Ross Fisher, Andrew Johnston and Benjamin Hebert. The winner could be anyone this week and the bookies have a bunch of players in around the same price this week, so its not easy finding the real value here especially as most of the players will tee it up here for the first time. I backed Ross in Munich three weeks only to see him beaten by Alexander Levy in a playoff and he backed that solid showing up with another runners up placing last week. A Londoner too, Ross might just get his reward for his recent form here but @ 20/1 he is a bit short. Or is he if we compare to the leading contenders? Two players on the shortlist that in my opinion represent some value are Thomas Aiken and Beef Johnston. The Englishman has been in the headlines a lot lately but is performing well alongside the razzmatazz and having secured a PGA Tour card for next season, he can add to his Open de Espana title that he won at Valderrama earlier this year by etching his name alongside many of of his fellow compatriots here. 

Thomas Aiken, last showed up on the European Tour at Himmerland in Denmark where he produced a T15 finish. He arrives here for just his 6th counting event of the season having finished T4th at the BMW PGA Championship, 13th at The Nedbank and 18th at The Alfred Dunhill Championship back in 2015. His form at Wentworth is solid having posted 3 TOP10s in his 7 visits, so perhaps he likes the courses in this part of the world that reward good approach play. Aiken though is always a risky bet, but form on the PGA Tour was OK-ish finishing 166th in the Fedex Cup making 12/25 and 3 TOP25s, before just missing out on a card through the web.com tour playoffs. He is short of the required tournaments quota to qualify for a Europeantour card for next year but will satisfy that requirement by teeing it up here. The South African is very reliable tee to green and really should have won a lot more in his career to date. He has three European Tour titles to his name though. He is value @ 80.00 to win here and worth a bet in the TOP20 market @ 4.00
I'll settle on just the two picks from this week's shortlist

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Selections


0.50 pts win T.Aiken @ 80.00
3.00 pts TOP20 T.Aiken @ 4.00
1.25 pts e/w A. Johnston @ 34.00


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - St Andrews, Kingsbarns & Carnoustie

From the hype and tension of a Ryder Cup one week, to the relaxed and often regarded as the most loved, yet one of the most lucrative tournaments on the Tour the next, The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship takes place this week in East Scotland on three courses as a PRO-AM. The cut will come after round three with everyone having played each of the courses once, before playing St. Andrews on Sunday. Playing with amateurs, the courses will be set up fairly easy so if the weather behaves, we can expect some decent scoring. Its not everyone's cup of tea though; some players feel very relaxed in the company of celebrities and businessmen, other's don't. Same goes for us spectators; I won't be watching Bill Murray tripping over himself again this year or Niall Horan "promoting" the game to the hoards of screaming teenage girls either! Given the length of time it will take for the groups to play their rounds, I won't be checking the bloody awful European Tour app either too often. I'll tune in Sunday and hopefully I will still have an interest, bet-wise!

The Courses

We have three links courses this week being played in October in Scotland. These are St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. We immediately start looking at our Irish & British contingent don't we? We should also consider past winners, especially those that have won here from totally out of the blue and who can't forget Oliver Wilson's victory here two years ago! Given that the tournament contenders will play St Andrews twice, its worth looking at results here and at The Open last year. The Scottish Open played at Castle Stuart should also provide some clues. Of the three courses, Kingsbarns represents the best scoring opportunity with Carnoustie the more difficult. Branden Grace shot 60 at Kingsbarns in his opening round here in 2012 and went onto win the title. Pending weather, it might turn out to be advantageous to play it first provided a solid opening score is produced. Playing St Andrews third provides a back to back opportunity but all in all it should all balance out. Five plus hours playing alongside "colourful" characters will require patience so I don't expect the likes of Victor Dubuisson to prevail here.

My Shortlist


I had reduced the field down to 19 players this morning before chopping it further to settle on 10. I mention this as Richie Ramsay & Soren Kjeldsen as well as the aforementioned, Branden Grace, Ross Fisher who went close for the blog in Germany LTO, along with Paul Dunne, Thorbjorn Olesen, Renato Paratore, Oliver Fisher and Ben Evans and Bradley Dredge were the ones culled and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them did indeed win. I may even get involved in-play with Ben Evans should I check the leaderboard at some point !

Martin Kaymer came in for a lot of stick at Hazeltine for his poor performance so he'll be anxious to put that right very soon. He has form here having won in 2010 and has a further 3 TOP20s in his other 7 starts. But he can't be trusted at the moment so instead I have to consider Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood who both have solid form for this event. Indeed the Englishman has impressive results to show from his 5 visits: 13-2-5-55-5 and he certainly arrives in much better form this time than in previous editions. Lowry will tee it up here motivated to make the Ryder Cup team in Paris in two years time and whilst qualification for it doesn't start this week, he'll want to end the year on a high especially having coming so close to winning the US Open back in June. Three TOP20 finishes here the past 3 years augurs well, even more so that he was practicing last week at Tralee Golf Club, a tough links course on the Atlantic Coast. But its Graeme McDowell I want to get onside with this week for pretty much the same reasons as mentioned for Shano. He tweeted on Sunday how "cheesed off" he was to be sat on his couch watching the Ryder Cup. 2016 wasn't a bad year for Gmac although he lost his putting form during the summer. If he has found his touch again he can prevail here on courses that suit him greatly. TOP20 finish last year came after a 3 year spell away, and he yielded a 3-17-26 the previous 3 years before that again. His personality is perfect for pro-ams, and he will revel the conditions. 66/1 is more than big this week.

Jamie Donaldson has been out of form for quite awhile on the back of injury but recent results maybe suggest a good week is not far away. He did miss the cut in his last two events (European & Italian Open- both weather affected events). The Welshman has 3 TOP20s from his last 7 visits to the Dunhill(2 TOP10s) and is a former winner of the Irish Open at a Royal Portrush back in 2012. Another who would have watched events at Hazeltine with mixed emotions, Donaldson can do a "Wilson" here and surprise. He seems to produce his best results at this time of the year too. 150/1 is worth a play here to keep that Autumn form going in the outright market as well as the 6/1 on offer for TOP20.

Finally, Peter Hanson makes the staking plan this week and hopefully he will have more to celebrate than his 39th birthday (4th October) come Sunday. Just the 1 TOP10 so far this season and 5 TOP20s from his 16 starts may not seem encouraging but 2 of those TOP20s came in his last 3 starts. From his 11 starts here, he has missed the cut just once, yielding 5 TOP20s. Fair to say he likes this event. The tournament has thrown up triple figure priced winners many times in the past and as with Oli Wilson, has seen a player hit form out of the blue. Hanson is a quality player who is steadily starting to produce some scores and he could be an ideal back-to-lay play here this week. He makes a TOP20 play for sure @ 6.00

Selections

0.50 pts win G. McDowell @ 67.00
0.25 pts win J.Donaldson @ 180.00
0.25 pts win P. Hanson @ 160.00

2.00 pts TOP10 G.McDowell @ 6.00
2.00 pts TOP20 J. Donaldson @ 7.00
2.00 pts TOP20 P. Hanson @ 6.00

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Kazakhstan Open 2016 (Challenge Tour)

All golfing eyes are on Hazeltine this week as the USA try to stop the European juggernaut winning the Ryder Cup for the 4th successive time but in the background, many aspiring tour players are slogging it out in Lisbon, Portugal and Hardelot, France in a bid to get through to the 2nd Qualifying Stage of Tour Qualifying. Others are trying to maximize points on the Challenge Tour by showing up at the biggest event in the season schedule to be played at the Zhailjau Gold Resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Berd Ritthammer returns to Challenge Tour action having mixed it with the big boys at The European Open & KLM Open in recent weeks and the Race to Oman leader will try to capitalize on recent good form by extending his 693 point lead over Jordan Smith here as 72,000 points go on offer. An interesting stat from the Europeantour website states that all previous eleven winners of this event have gone on to secure their cards for the European Tour. Four of those winners actually won the season long order of merit. There's your incentive this week lads!

The Course

The Zhailjau GC will offer up a sort of birdie-fest this week. The course was designed by the late Arnold Palmer and is a tree lined course with ample room off the tee. The bigger hitters and those that contend in birdiefests are sure to be prominent over the par-72, 7100 yard course this week. The course has five par-5s. Sam Hutsby won last time here in 2014 with a -19 score, good enough to beat Bjeung-Hun An and Andrew Johnston who feature regularly on the main tours these days, and a certain Matt Fitzpatrick who makes his Ryder Cup debut this week back in T8th. In other words, many of the rising stars in Europe have been here and can approach the week knowing that if they can find their game and put in a solid four rounds, the rewards could be significant. With this in mind, my shortlist couldn't ignore most of the market leaders not could it dismiss those that have form here on the course.


The Shortlist

As previously mentioned, Bernd Ritthammer arrives as the R2O leader having won at Mt Wolseley last month. He's since played the European Open in Bad Griesbach where he played all four rounds. Indeed he's only missed one cut in four ET starts this season. Confidence will be high and he looks decent value to me @ 29.00. My shortlist shows that the German has posted 8 TOP20s from his 15 starts on the Challenge Tour this year of which 6 are TOP10. Winner last time out, he can keep the momentum going and make it 12 winners to secure their European Tour card for 2017.

Ryan Fox, though is the player I fancy most here this week. Son of All Black legend, Grant, the Aucklander can use his length to great advantage here and secure his card. From only 8 starts on tour, the kiwi has amassed a win in Galgorm Castle, with a winning -19 total that included a closing 62, as well as another 6 TOP20s of which 4 of those were TOP10s. I'm surprised to see the 18/1 on offer here for him to win as I would have made him favourite.

Alvaro Velasco won on this course back in 2010 and proved his fondness for the course with a follow-up 4th two years ago. The Spaniard hasn't had the best season to date with just 1 TOP20 from his 16 starts, that being a win out of the blue in France just three weeks ago. He won on the back of 7 successive missed cuts (only 4/14 this season). That win though, probably does back up the belief that players can gain confidence ahead of either defending a title or visiting a tournament that they particularly like. Time and time again we've seen players hit form all of a sudden just 1-2 weeks ahead of a tourney that they love. Whether its due to an increase in their practice regime or its just down to the subconscious clearing out bad thoughts and overpowering the brain with positive thoughts, that's up for discussion, but we can't really ignore Alvaro's chances here given that he's won from nowhere seemingly just three weeks before he heads off to Kazakhstan where he secured European Tour cards in the past. He represents decent value here @ 66/1 and 9/1 for a TOP10.

Lastly, I was tempted to get onside with the two Irish lads, Selfridge & Phelan here but results have been a bit sporadic and had they showed up better in Carlow last time, especially the latter, I'd have had an interest. I wouldn't be surprised to see either make a push for TOP15 in the R2O over the next couple of tournaments but they need to start putting four rounds together and this is the week to strike


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The European Open - Bad Griesbach


The European Open returns to Bad Griesbach and it will be the last event in Europe before The Ryder Cup so it comes as no surprise to see two European Ryder Cup team mates, Thomas Pieters and Martin Kaymer head the betting. What may be a bit surprising is that it's the Belgian that goes into the tournament as favourite to win ahead of two-time Major and local hero, Martin Kaymer! Pieters returns this week having had to pull out of the KLM Open a couple weeks ago due a bee sting and with a wet course in play this week his length could well be a factor come Sunday afternoon.


The Course


The European Open returned to the schedule twelve months ago here at Bad Griesbach having been dropped from the schedule since it was last contested at the London GC in 2009 and 2008. It did have a home at the K Club in the preceding ten years. Thongchai Jaidee won here last year with a -17 score and it looks like those with a strong tee to green game should do best here. "The Beckenbauer" course, one of six 18-hole courses at the resort is a 7100 yards,par-71 course with five par-3s. Stats from last year suggest those that can get it down there and actually hole some putts will do well. With water in abundance, accuracy is important but with recent downpours the course should play soft and long although the weather forecast is good for the tournament. I would favour Pieters over Kaymer based on the conditions.

The Shortlist

Twelve players made it to my final shortlist this week but truth be told it was a struggle to get it down from 24. Some of those omitted at the final cull included Kaymer himself, Hend,Bland, Karlberg, Stone, Campillo, Hebert, Morrison, Otaegui, Green, and Paul Dunne.

Thomas Pieters is becoming one of Europe's stars and hes been in fantastic form this summer having won in Denmark the week after coming 2nd in the Czech Republic. He also finished 4th in Rio. Four TOP10s in his 16 starts this season the Belgian quite rightly got the final call up by Darren Clarke to play in this years Ryder Cup, possibly over Russell Knox. He can warm up for his debut next week with a solid showing here but at the price he can be left out of our staking plan. Likewise for Bernd Wiesberger, who should have a good week, he's at 16s which  I think is way too short to be confident in expecting a victory here. Instead I'll stick with Tommy Fleetwood again @ 34.00. Tommy produced the TOP10 requested of him last week and it was very encouraging to see a final round score produced to bring him into the week here. He must be buoyed by the past few weeks as he's started to get involved on twitter again! I wouldn't back him at less than 34.00 though,but he's a contender here for sure.

Ricardo Gouveia won on this course on the Challenge Tour a couple of seasons ago and he may just respond to playing it again here this week.From his 19 starts this season, the Portuguese player has produced 4 TOP20s and he can grab another here. He may lack a little off the tee  though so strong iron play will be called for if he is to get into contention and put the two missed cuts behind him from Holland & Italy recently.

Peter Uihlein suffered a wrist injury earlier in the season and returned to action at the Paul Lawrie Matchplay where he lost his opening round match at the 2nd extra hole to Oliver Fisher, who eventually won the 3rd place play-off. Uihlein missed the cut last week despite solid 69-70 rounds so the selection this week is taken in the hope that he's fully fit and ready to add to his 3 TOP10s from his previous 11 starts this season. The American certainly has the length for The Beckenbauer and can boast solid putting stats.At 140.00 on the exchanges he's worth chancing but perhaps he is a better speculation within the TOP20 market @ 5.50

I was quite tempted by the 70.00 on offer for Anirban Lahiri but recent form suggests he should be watched this week rather than be backed. Instead, I'm going in again on Ross Fisher @ 51.00. Ross hasn't had the best of seasons again this year and its been awhile since he last won.Indeed, he is a former winner of this event having won at the London GC in 2008. Ross averages just under 300 yds off the tee and is accurate in doing so and ranks very highly for GIR. He lets it all down on the dancefloor though. Ross is 15/18 this season with 4 TOP20s and was 5th here twelve months ago having arrived on the back of 3 straight missed cuts! He was ranked TOP10 that week in the Europeantour "Putts per Round" category. That result backs up his obvious liking for playing in this part of the world having produced 6 TOP20s from 9 BMW International Opens. There is plenty of talent within Ross Fisher and his 5 European Tour victories probably don't account for that ability. This is a player that defeated Anthony Kim in the 2009 World Matchplay Final, the same year that he lead all 4 Majors at one point. Its been awhile since the Englishman asserted himself like he did back then but perhaps he can take some inspiration from Francesco Molinari's win last week in that they both are coached by Denis Pugh. Pugh who resides in Munich should have his team well catered for this week, let's hope they don't indulge in the wiessbier too much during Oktoberfest.

Selections:

1.00 pts win T. Fleetwood @ 34.00
0.25 pts win R. Gouveia @ 150.00
0.25 pts win P.Uihlein @ 140.00
1.00 pts win R. Fisher @ 51.00
1.50 pts TOP20 R. Gouveia @ 6.50
2.00 pts TOP20 P. Uihlein @ 5.50
2.00 pts TOP10 R. Fisher @ 6.50

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Italian Open 2016



The 73rd staging of this week's Italian Open takes place at Golf Club Milano where Sweden's Rikard Karlberg will defend his title having seen off Martin Kaymer twelve months ago on this very course. The German returns again and leads probably the strongest field ever assembled for the Italian Open where OWGR Strength of Field points are set to increase by almost 50% from previous years. With most eyes now focusing on the Ryder Cup in a few weeks, it's interesting to see so many of the European team teeing it up here. Kaymer, Willett, Westwood, Fitzpatrick, Cabrera-Bello,Wood and Sullivan are all in attendance as they try to gain much needed form. I'm sure they'll be hanging around each other's company too this week. It's a critical week in my opinion for Andy Sullivan as he tries to make a cut having missed his last three. If personal problems do exist in the background then a poor week may see the very likable lad play a minor role for Darren Clarke later this month.Clarke's vice-captain, Harrington will be keeping a close eye the first two days.

The Course

Golf Club Milano is an old course dating back to 1928 and can be considered a "traditional/technical" course where the fairways will be tree-lined emphasizing accuracy from tee to green although last years statistics indicated that the approach shot was the key factor rather than finding the fairways. Undulating fairways and slow greens with the rough not as penal was to what players have been experiencing of late, will be welcome to a lot of players as they either hone their game for Ryder Cup or the Fall Series, or make their move towards a TOP110 in the OOM. Whilst 2-time Major Champion, Kaymer and the current Masters champ are in the field, a case can be made for many at the top of the market such is the competitiveness this week. If Kaymer can eliminate Sunday blues that have crept into his game the past eighteen months, he is definitely the man to beat having finished 2nd in Italy last year and 5th in 2012. 

The Shortlist

I couldn't reduce my shortlist any further this week and rested at 16 players. Of course not all on that list represent value in the outright betting in my opinion but the focus really is on the TOP10 and more so the TOP20 markets. Last weeks KLM Open winner, should have been a bet though, he was marked as a value bet on the shortlist and was a regular tip this season on the blog. Luiten has more TOP20s than anyone else on tour this season with 12 from his 19 starts of which 9 are TOP10, yet there's no place for him on the European Ryder Cup team. I expect him to produce another one here and @ 2.10 for a TOP20 finish, he will have his supporters. When looking at the leading contenders here,I've asked myself if Kaymer is value @ 15.00 to win over Willett (19.00) An (19.00) Fitzpatrick (23.00) Bello (23.00), Westwood (26.00) and indeed Luiten (23.00) and concluded that he is even though I had my tissue at 17.00. A proven winner, in solid form of late, Kaymer returns to European action where his class should tell. He plays alongside Willett and Fitzpatrick the first two days with an afternoon tee time and should he get a solid opening round under him he could be the man for the title this week. I may get involved Thursday afternoon if the price is tempting.  If Willett is to partner Lee Westwood at Hazeltine, I can see the young Fitzpatrick playing fourballs with Kaymer so the grouping should be hot this week. The youngster can go on to be a regular winner on tour and compete in Majors but at present its hard to tell which Matty Fitzpatrick will show up any given week. At the odds, I'll pass again.

Jaco Van Zyl could be a contender this week despite being suspect on Sunday afternoons. There are a number of the leading protagonists this week in the same category though, so there's every chance he could fall across the line at some point. He has been very consistent this season, as well as persistent in what he wants to do schedule wise, and a TOP10/20 is not a tall ask this week. The 3.00 about a TOP20 seems very achievable here. The South African has an excellent Italian Open pedigree in finishing TOP15 twelve months ago and 16th and 10th back in 2013 & 2012. He arrives here having finished 6th in Denmark and 19th in the Czech Republic following what was to him an honourable achievement to represent his country at The Olympics last month. 8 TOP20s from his 15 starts shows his level of consistency this season (3 TOP10s).

I've backed Tommy Fleetwood the last two tournaments and his results have been progressive finishing TOP10 last week in Holland. He had a poorish weekend scoring wise but his GIR stats were encouraging and it could be just a matter of finding the bottom of the cup with the putter that is all that is required to capture his second title and I'm not about to abandon him just yet. He's available at Betfair at 75.00 to win which is a certainly worth taking and the 7.00 for a TOP10 cannot be passed up on either.

As with Fleetwood and Luiten, the blog has also tried to cash in on Nicolas Colsaerts a few times this season and this week could be the week to try again. If GIR stats are to be key again this week then Nico has a chance on a course that yielded him a TOP20 twelve months ago and a tournament that saw him finish 4th in 2013, 5th in 2012 & 3rd in 2010. He must like the place or the pizza! He arrives on the back of consecutive 24th place finishes the past two weeks, boasts strong GIR stats being ranked 14th on tour, and can deliver here. At 55.00 for the outright and 3.25 for TOP20, he's a must for me this week.

Finally, two players highlighted on the shortlist that could have a good week are Romain Wattel and Thorbjorn Olesen. The Dane though has gone off the boil, but could just show up and play any given week so I'm happy to play him in the TOP20 market @ 6.00. He has 7/17 this season already. The Frenchman has solid results in Italy the last three years; TOP10 on the course last year and 11th & 8th the previous two years. At 5.00 for a TOP20 he is included.


Selections:

0.5 pts T. Fleetwood @ 75.00
2.0 pts T. Fleetwood TOP10 @ 7.00
0.5 pts N. Colsaerts @ 55.00
2.5 pts N. Colsaerts TOP20 @ 3.25
3.00 pts J. Van Zyl TOP20 @ 3.00
2.00 pts T. Olesen TOP20 @ 6.00
2.00 pts R. Wattel TOP20 @ 5.00


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

European Masters 2016 - Crans sur Sierre


Always one of the favourite stops on the European Tour for the players, and their wives/girlfriends, the Omega European Masters takes this place at Crans-sur-Sierre GC in Switzerland. Masters champion, Danny Willett will defend as he looks to hone his game before meeting up with his Ryder Cup team mates later this month.

The Course


Crans-sur-Sierre is a par-71 played at altitude. It should not present any advantage to the longer hitters but should reward those with a strong GIR game at present and those that scramble well. Whilst the course won't play as long as the measurements on the card suggests, emphasis should also be on how the players score on the par-3s. An interesting stat from the 15thClub(see right) shows that these and the GIR/scrambling requirements proved pivotal twelve months ago with driving distance having little importance in comparison. We have five par-3s this week where three of them played as the 2nd,3rd and 4th most difficult on the course(holes 11,16,3)


The Ones to Beat

The Masters and defending champion, Danny Willett heads the betting market and given his form over the summer, we can be confident in getting the favourite beaten this week. Willett does have strong course form though having finished 2nd in 2012 and 5th in 2014 along with his victory here last year. Fellow Englishmen, Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan follow him in the betting but both are easy to oppose as well, with the former returning to action here following an injury, and the latter coming into this on the back of another missed cut in Denmark having done the same in Prague the week before. Both will be looking to put their games right before they make their Ryder Cup debuts for Europe. The event hasn't seen the defending champion defend successfully since Seve did in 1978.

Selections

Benjamin Hebert produced yet another TOP20 last week in Denmark for the blog, yielding his 6th TOP20 from his 17 strokeplay starts this season and is now at 53rd on the R2D. Ranked inside the TOP10 currently for GIR, the Frenchman can continue to yield similar results and boost his bank balance as well as our own. The 29 year old will make his third appearance this week at Crans, and despite poor course form he does represent value @ 5.50 to grab that TOP20 again.

Richard Sterne is showing solid form of late and he too can continue to improve his position on the R2D  and climb within the TOP60 having posted his sixth TOP20 from 13 starts for the season. Sterne's career has been blighted with injuries but the 35 year old is a class act and has returned to action in eye-catching form. TOP10 last week in Denmark came on the back of TOP15s in Scotland and France so his form is solid. He's well worth adding to the staking plan @ 3.00 for a TOP20 here.

Ricardo Gouveia has gradually been finding his feet on the European Tour and recent results may just give him the confidence to progress further and capture his maiden win. Last week saw him produce his 4th TOP20 of the season (2 xTOP10s) and the three-time Challenge Tour winner knows how to maintain form. His 8th place finish last week is encouraging and he will be eager to get going here. He's a bet for me this week @ 4.50 for a TOP20.

Lastly, it's been awhile since I backed Tommy Fleetwood, mainly due to his swing changes and subsequent dip in form but the Englishman arrives at a course that he clearly likes this week. He did miss the cut last year but posted 19-9-5 progressive form the previous three years. If he's striking his irons this time round he'll figure on the leaderboard. A TOP20 finish last time out in nearby Czech Republic should be a confidence boost ahead of this event. With progressive form of late complemented with his fondness for the course here, Tommy is worth a punt in the outright market @ 67.00 as well as the TOP20 @ 3.75. Tommy despite "poor" 2016 form has posted 5 TOP20s from his 16 starts.

Staking Plan


0.25 pts win T. Fleetwood @ 67.00
1.75 pts TOP20 T. Fleetwood @ 3.75
2.00 pts TOP20 B. Hebert @ 5.50
2.00 pts TOP20 R.Sterne @ 3.00
2.00 pts TOP20 R. Gouveia @ 4.50




Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Made In Denmark 2016

Its the last "counting" event for European Tour Ryder Cup qualification but in reality its last chance saloon for those looking for a wildcard from skipper, Darren Clarke next week. Shane Lowry and perhaps home favourite Soren Kjeldsen will be looking for a win this week to grab a captains pick whereas Martin Kaymer's experience and stature within European golf may be enough already to secure one of those picks. The German tees it up trying to convince all that he is worthy of a pick and keep the pundits guessing right up to "D-Day". For others, much needed Race to Dubai points will be the focus. In all its not a strong field and the head of the market sees Kaymer the man to beat alongside Matt Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan and Shane Lowry. Whilst I believe Clarke will indeed pick his good mate, Lee Westwood, Kaymer and Russell Knox, perhaps the only player in this field that could make him sleep uneasy for a couple of nights next week is Lowry. Shane will be very disappointed to see himself in this situation having won the WGC Bridgestone last season. Having gone so close at Oakmont in June too, the Irishman will be scratching at his beard wondering how he hasn't accumulated enough points. A re-jig of his schedule for next season is most likely. It's a big call for Darren next week as both Lowry and perhaps Thomas Pieters would have fancied their chances of a pick. Russell Knox looks a cert though following recent victory on American soil, and he is based in the US and should get the nod. If Shane Lowry is to have any chance of making Hazeltine he simply must win here this week. So, he's under pressure to do so and he could be in the mood to prove a point. He opted not to play in Rio, citing Zika as an excuse but he will have seen his good friend Padraig Harrington having a ball over there and he may regret the decision not to be an Olympian. Let's hope he doesn't end up regretting not being a Ryder Cup player too. He has all the incentive to win this week and will visit the course for the first time but it's a course that should suit. He did however have chances last week at The Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield GC where a second round 65 set him up for the weekend but didn't capitalize on the opportunity. It remains to be seen if he can take it in Himmerland but it's a win he needs to have any chance. He will play alongside Ryder Cup Vice-Captain (well one of them), Paul Lawrie whilst Pieters will play alongside Clarke himself. Is it Clarke's way of saying "I had you on the shortlist"?

Himmerland GC will host for the third time and based on the previous two installments, it seems those that find the greens in regulation will fare the best. Driving doesn't seem to be vital although the rough is reported to be tough. Its  not a links course....but it is. A lot water around the course is complemented by a lot of mounds and is often subject to windy conditions. The forecast shows more is expected this week too.

It's been a frustrating year betting on the Tour this year but I'll continue to pursue the TOP20/TOP10s with an eye on grabbing a winner before the season is out. My shortlist this week shows fifteen players. These are the only players according to my database that have five or more TOP20s on the European Tour this season. Only Kaymer and Sullivan have more TOP20s than local hope, Thorbjorn Olesen and he's a player that I've tried to cash in on a couple of times of late. It's imperative Thor gets a solid opening round under his belt and he has a nice draw playing with last weeks winner, Petersen and Matty Fitzpatrick. Thor ranks nicely for GIR(lies in TOP20 from his sixteen events) and was seventh here two years ago. Having put some hard earned cash on the Dane a few times this summer already I would be mad to not have an interest here in his home event. Hopefully he enjoyed the Olympics and arrives motivated to kick-on and finish the season strongly. His season shows him sitting 29th in the R2D and 71st in the OWGR. He has been working hard on his game and I feel its only a matter of time before he wins again to follow up his last win at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last October. From his sixteen events he has posted two TOP5s and a further three TOP10s.

Johan Carlsson will turn 30 years of age on Monday and will be hoping to celebrate with a bold showing here. 2016 has been a very solid year for the Swede with just two missed cuts in Shenzhen and Ireland. He's posted seven TOP20s in his eighteen starts and can continue that solid form by grabbing another here. He played well at the Paul Lawrie Matchplay having won three matches before losing out to compatriot, Alex Noren.

Frenchman, Benjamin Hebert is another with a handful of TOP20s under his belt this year (5/16) and his GIR stats suggest he could be in for another paycheck this week and a chance for another TOP20. At 7.00 to do so, and on the back of a TOP20 here last year, he has to be included on the staking plan to repeat.

Finally, Thomas Aiken cannot be overlooked on a course where GIR stats hold strong. If he can hole some putts he'll sit highly on the leaderboard and could land a TOP10 finish. Hes 6.00 to do so (3.30 for TOP20) and arrives here having played mostly in the US this season. Four sub par rounds at the Wyndham Championship last week saw him finish T-22nd. He can bring that form here and excel on the links type course that he has shown over the years that he can challenge on.


Selections


0.50 pts win T. Olesen @ 46.00

3.00 pts TOP20 T. Olesen @ 3.25
2.50 pts TOP20 J. Carlsson @ 4.50
2.00 pts TOP20 B.Hebert @ 7.00
2.00 pts TOP10 T.Aiken @ 6.00

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Can Eddie master his first winner's Czech ? - Czech Masters 2016

As the race for European Ryder Cup places hots up, the European Tour returns to Albatross GC outside Prague for this week's Czech Masters. Its a fairly weak field to be honest where defending champion, Thomas Pieters heads the betting following the dreaded 4th place finish at The Olympics in Rio last Sunday. He will face competition from Ryder Cup hopeful, Andy Sullivan and Ryder Cup veteran, Lee Westwood. But they may find Matty Fitzpatrick the one they have to beat this week. The four though are far too short in the market given their experience. All four though remained on my shortlist as I do expect them to be in contention.

The Course:

Albatross GC measures just 7500 yards but as it sits over 400m above sea level it will play a bit shorter than it does on paper. From reports, it seems the rough is quite penal this year so accuracy off the tee could be key to posting the required number this week. The course hosted this event the past two years and it seemed to favour the bigger hitters. With wind and rain forecasted this week, the rough being more penal than previous editions, it might pay to stick with the patient type player who can find fairways and greens.

Selection:

I'm taking just one selection this week and that's Eddie Pepperell @ 51.00. Eddie doesn't rank too good for driving accuracy and he admits this is the one area of his game that is preventing him from winning at present. Its been a poor season up to now as well for Eddie although he was in contention last time out at the Kings Cup in Thailand. Maybe there is some frustration within his game right now but he has always come across as a person who just gets on with things and as he says in is own blog following the third place finish in Pattaya, "I’ve never had a problem winning and I never will. I won when I was a junior, an amateur, and when I really needed to on the Challenge Tour. With all respect to the tournament I’ve just played, the thought of winning it didn’t make me tremble at the knees or make my bladder leak…" 

As Andy Sullivan continues to show the level of consistency to win on tour and his good mate Tyrell Hatton has started to show an equal level of consistency in the bigger tournaments, Eddie may be feeling left behind but he's with a new coach these days who seems to be working well with him. With a shorter course in front of him this week, he may not have the driving woes that seem to be holding him back and if he gets a solid enough start, the carefree attitude that he speaks of now may just be the ticket to getting over the line come tournament Sunday. As mentioned, its a weak field and the leading contenders are close to Eddie and he won't fear them. Eddie was one of the 10 players on my "Ten to win soon list" in 2014 and whilst a number from that list have indeed won (some more than once), Eddie is yet to do so and recent form suggests he's playing well enough to keep putting himself in contention and he's worth a bet here on a course that hes finished 22nd last year and 6th back in 2014.

1.5 pts win E. Pepperell @ 51.00
4.5 pts TOP10 E. Pepperell @ 5.50

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

PGA Championship 2016 - Baltusrol Lower Course

With the dust barely settled on The Open, the fourth and final Major of the year takes place in New Jersey from Thursday 28th July at Baltusrol on it's Lower Course.We were last here in 2005 when Phil Mickelson emerged victorious. The World Number One, Jason Day defends. Jack Nicklaus won two of his four US Opens at this course.

Lower Course

Measuring 7,400 yds, the par-70 for the PGA Championship has just two par-5s...and they come back to back on 17 & 18. That said, the opening hole is a par-5 to its members at 478 yds,it won't be an easy start for the world's elite, indeed nor will any of the opening half a dozen holes. The course suggests accurate driving and perhaps those that can get it down there will fare the best. Bunkers galore adorn the fairways and by all accounts, the rough is quite penal for those not hitting fairways. The signature hole, the 4th is a par-3 over water and has seen many a story over the years as too has the first of the par-5s, the 17th. Not many have reached this green in two over the years so it will be interesting to see how Messrs. Day, Johnson, McIlroy et al fare here. The 7th, normally a par-5 to the members, was ranked the toughest par-4 on the PGA Tour in 2005 and the second toughest hole of all.(Harbour Town #14 ranked toughest) Finally, the 18th yielded just three eagles back in 2005 so we can assume scores will be hard to come by....a target of perhaps of 270 -272 might be enough.

The Contenders

I saw a great tweet form OWGR aficionado. "Nosferatu" (@VC606) on Monday where he reminded us that all four Majors are currently held by first time Major winners ( Day, Willett, Dustin Johnson and now Henrik Stenson). Another interesting tweet was that this time last year, there were five players in the World TOP10 without a Major win, and now there is just two (Sergio & Rickie). It's worth thinking about when trying to pick the winner here. Let's face it, "these guys are good". The PGA Championship, often referred to as "Glorys Last Shot" in the past, has seen many first time Major winners break through in its Championship.

Will Sergio Garcia take inspiration from Stenson's win ? Stenson had been knocking on the door at The Open quite regularly and the Spaniard has been knocking too. His TOP5 at Troon came on the back of a TOP5 at Oakmont. Sergio has been runner-up at Majors on four occasions, twice at The Open and twice in this tournament. Who would have thought back in 1999, at Medinah when he came so close to edging out Tiger Woods after that wonder shot on 16 that he would still be Major-less some seventeen years later? Garcia ranks inside the TOP30 for driving distance (DD) at an average 298 yds.




Patrick Reed is one of those players who appears to be a Major Winner-in-waiting. T12th at Troon came on the back of a TOP10 at Castle Stuart in what has been a very consistent season, without a win. He's posted ten TOP10s on tour this season (only DJ has posted more) and has risen to 14 in the world. This consistency should reward him with a win soon and Baltusrol looks like a course that should suit very nicely. Reed ranks 45th for DD at an average of 295yds.

Brooks Koepka is another knocking on the door for a big one but had to withdraw from The Open with an injury (torn ligaments in his knee). Its doubtful that he will be ready in time for Baltusrol and on the basis of the nature of his injury he is left out of my calculations, which is a shame as I thought the course would suit him greatly.

Kevin Chappell is yet to win on tour but its not without trying. Six TOP10s from his twenty one starts sees the Californian into the TOP10 in the FedEx Cup rankings. Runner-up at both Bay Hill and Sawgrass emphasizes his ability in these fields and he can enter the week in confident mood if looking at his Strokes Gained tee to Green (SG:TTG) where he ranks 10th on tour and SG:APP where he ranks 7th. If Chappell could find a putting week, he has to contend here. As I pen this post he can be backed @ 125/1. He sits inside the TOP50 for driving distance averaging 295 yds. If the link between this and the WGC Bridgestone can be maintained this year (although the WGC and this were moved up due to the scheduling of the Olympics) then Chappell's 3rd place is encouraging

JB Holmes is the longest on tour at present and will be buoyed by his T-3rd at Troon where he was one of only three players to break par each day (Stenson and Mickelson the others). Averaging 312 yds he edges Dustin Johnson slightly in the ranks. He missed the cut at Oakmont but posted T4th at Augusta so his 2016 Major form is strong and shows his best form ever in Majors. It's been a fine comeback following brain surgery in 2011 so soon after he withdrew form the PGA Championship. The Kentuckian has won in each of the last two seasons on tour. Big hitters will be best suited to Baltusrol but Holmes will need to find some accuracy if he's to put that advantage to use here. Now ranked 16th in the world, JB has the potential to put in another solid Major performance this week and make the 81.00 price seem too good to pass on.

Bubba Watson has the power to get it it around Baltusrol this week and he'll prefer the conditions much more than what he encountered in Scotland. Ranks 5th in SG:TTG, Bubba has shown a likeness for the bigger events of late and providing he gets a decent first round under his belt, could be in the mix this week. He's on the shortlist at a general 31.00.

Henrik Stenson finally broke through to end his Major drought and he did it in fine style seeing off Phil Mickelson with a closing 63 at Troon. Up to Number 5 in the OWGR rankings, he completed a memorable couple of weeks of golf for Sweden having won himself in Germany at the BMW International followed by Alex Noren's win in Scotland. Anna Nordqvist was beaten in a playoff for the Women's US Open in between. Stenson is one of the those players who seems to hold form as evidenced by his form of late. 4th at his home Nordea Masters in June came soon after a runner up spot in Houston and a third placing at Bay Hill.Having finished third at the 2013 Open Championship, Stenson closed out the year with the FedEx Cup title and a cool €11M not to mention taking out the Race to Dubai Title as well that year. If looking for Major Championship form, Stenson has played 42 Majors (21*T25s-10*T10s). Whilst often regarded that the Open was probably is best Major it's worth noting that his PGA Championship form is equally as good. His last three PGA returning figures of 3-3-25. He was also 4th & 6th back in 2008 & 2009; that's 4 TOP6 finishes in his last 6 PGA Championships.

Rory McIlroy will tee it up for his 8th appearance at the PGA Championship having won it in 2012 and 2014. He was T-3rd in his debut in 2009 and again in 2010. 17th last year at Whistling Straits was his worse finish in those eight appearances. Baltusrol should suit his strong tee to green game (he ranks 3rd on the PGA Tour). The World Number 4 missed the cut at Oakmont but returned a TOP5 at Troon and will tee it up in his last big event before the Ryder Cup in September having decided to give the Olympics a miss. He'll of course have the FedEx Cup Playoffs before joining his team mates at Hazeltine. Due to get married in December in Ireland, Rory will indeed be making this his final shot at golfing glory for 2016. If it to go the way of the bombers, then Rory has a shot here and despite lacklustre putting performances its hard to ignore the results this season, with a win at The K Club and numerous TOP10s , (10/15).

Dustin Johnson broke his Major maiden tag at Oakmont and he can double up here as his power game is likely to suit. DJ has fond memories in New Jersey too having won The Barclays at nearby Plainfield CC in 2011 (its worth noting that Jason Day edged out Henrik Stenson on that course too in 2015). DJ has solid PGA Championship form which includes his heartbreaking effort at Whistling Straits back in 2010. He has 4 TOP10s from his 6 starts in the Championship. He finished strongly at Troon and will be confident to nab his second Major in one that owes him!


Shane Lowry completes my ten man shortlist despite being off form of late. Well...a missed cut following an horrific opening round on the back of a 36th at Firestone whilst defending, is hardly a worry and he did challenge for the US Open at Oakmont, finishing T2nd!! He did miss the cut in Scotland also. "Shano" loves the big events and he can easily click into gear any given week and I think the course will suit his eye. With just 6 weeks to go before Darren Clarke needs to select his wildcards for the European Ryder Cup team, Lowry needs to produce the goods if he wants to make his debut in the event at Hazeltine. He will also represent Ireland at The Olympics next month so its an event that he should be approaching in confidence. He currently sits 74th in the FedEx Cup standings so will have the Barclays in his schedule for sure. With a clear plan ahead of him it's business end of the 2016 season for the Clara native. Lowry is 10/14 on the PGA Tour this season with two TOP10s (four TOP20s) and ranks 14 for Total Driving. At 80/1 with the books he's worth a flutter but maybe best taken on the exchange at 125.00 for a trading opportunity, if and when it represents itself.


I'll be using the players above to fill some Daily Fantasy teams over at Playon for the final Major of the year if indeed available to play. Whilst the site has been having an awful load of issues since launch, its the only available fantasy sports portal available at present to players in Ireland.

Sign Up here for Playon Fantasy European Tour Events here



Selections


3.50 pts WIN R. McIlroy @ 10.00
0.50 pts e/w J.B.Holmes @ 81.00
0.25 pts win S.Lowry @ 126.00 - 2.75 pts TOP20 @4.33
0.25 pts e/w K. Chappell @ 151.00
1.0 pts e/w P. Reed @ 51.00












Monday, 11 July 2016

The Open 2016 - Royal Troon

The third Major is upon us this week as we head to Royal Troon in Ayrshire, Scotland. for the ninth time. The 145th Open will be played over this short 7,000 yd par-71 course for the first time since Todd Hamilton's shock play-off victory over Ernie Els in 2004. Rory McIlroy tees it up looking for back to back Opens as he sat it out last year following a foot injury. Weather forecast looks decent for the week so do expect the scores to be non-Open type, with a score of -12 to -15 likely to be required to lift the Claret Jug.

Often regarded as one of the more boring Open venues, Troon is an old course setup up in two distinct nines, with the outward nine appearing to be easier than the inward. As with any links course, wind will have its say. Stats from 2004 & 1997 will show those with a strong and long driving game will fare well and if the nuances around the greens can be worked out by those getting it close it should be the same again this year. It should be right up Dustin Johnson's creek and he could go back to back having taken the US Open a few weeks ago. Like Tiger Woods and Tom Watson before, DJ warmed up for The Open by visiting Ireland at the weekend where he played Portmarnock GC and The Island GC. I expect DJ to be in the mix come Sunday as I do Rory McIlroy. Some will say Rory is not a links/wind player but I'm not so sure that its as bad as many will make out. A promising amateur career saw him touted as a future World Number One which he duly obliged on, and that amateur career was founded on a lot of links playing. At fifteen he won the first of his West of Ireland Championships, and again at 16 years of age, shot a 61 around Portrush, the venue for the Open in 2019. He opened up with a 69 at Carnoustie in 2007 still as an amateur and has since lifted the Claret Jug, at Hoylake just two years ago. Of the "Big-4" its Rory & DJ for me.


American Dominance

The USA are hoping to continue their dominance at Royal Troon as we have not had a non-American winner there since 1950 (Bobby Locke of South Africa). Prior to Hamilton's win, Justin Leonard prevailed over Darren Clarke in 1997 to follow Mark Calcavecchia's win 1989. Tom Watson won his fourth Jug here in 1982. Tom Weiskopf won seven years earlier and it was Arnold Palmer that started the run in 1962. If the course is to be overpowered this week, we can expect to see a handful of Americans in the mix again with DJ leading the charge. But power was meant to be the key at St. Andrews last year, so it may have been a surprise to see Zach Johnson prevail(he also bucked the stats by winning at Augusta). We have 52 players from the US (33%) so odds are pretty good that one of them can keep the run going.

Rickie Fowler has shown his likeness for links courses and could be a real threat this week but for recent form. Three consecutive missed cuts though were sandwiched between a TOP5 at Quali Hollow and a TOP10 last time out at Firestone. Fowler will play alongside Jason Day and Danny Willet in the opening rounds: a nice draw. He has declared himself as an Olympian for next months Olympics too and could be in bullish mood to return to this part of the world where he won the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen last year. He was also runner up to Rory at Hoylake in 2014.

Brandt Snedeker is an interesting runner this week. Twice winner of the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, the Tennessee native arguably delivered one of the PGA all-time great rounds last February in capturing his second title there.He narrowly missed out at the Sony Open losing to Fabian Gomez in a playoff. "Sneds" is in form this season and can improve on his best finish T3rd at Royal Lytham and his T11th at Muirfield. At 90/1 - 100/1 he's great value here.


Jim Furyk has six TOP10s from his twenty Open appearances and at age 46 perhaps the second Major is getting beyond him. But the Open, of all Majors has shown time and time again that the more experienced players tend to do well here. Tom Watson should have won in 2009 when he had a shortish putt to win on the 72nd hole, and Greg Norman ran Harrington close in 2008. Darren Clarke and Phil Mickelson won their jugs in their 40s! "Gentle Jim" was fourth here in 1997 behind Leonard, Clarke and Parnevik. He was also runner up to Dustin Johnson at Okamont alongside Shane Lowry and Scott Piercy following his recent return from a lengthy layoff due to injury. The 2003 US Open Champion can be backed around the same odds as Snedeker, again great value.

Zach Johnson will defend this week and he might just do a Padraig on it while he's at it! At 80/1, he too has to be considered. Eighth at Oakmont and tenth at Firestone in his last two starts reads well. He's 9/12 at The Open (hes actually 9/9 in his last nine starts) and has pocketed a win, two TOP10s and a further two TOP20s. No surprise to know that Zach likes a bit of wind too as his wins in Hawaii (twice) and Texas (four) seem to point out. Tight finicky tracks where emphasis is on accuracy seem to fit Zach's makeup and despite Troon offering itself up to the bombers this week, Zach has proven many times he can win on tracks least expected to.

European Challenge

As mentioned, Rory McIlroy will aim to win his successive Open this week and if he gets the putter warmed up he could very well do so. He heads a strong sixty-one European contingent where many of Europe's finest could boast strong current form. 

Sergio Garcia has always threatened to win a jug, and perhaps should have done so at Carnoustie in 2007. He was this blog's selection at Oakmont a few weeks ago and gave us a run. So, can he do so again? There is no arguing with his current form having followed up his US Open performance with a TOP5 in Germany at the BMW International. He was 3rd at Valderrama where he hosted the Open de Espana and went in with a win at the Bryon Nelson on the PGA Tour. At 30/1 and most books offering six players, he'll have his supporters.

Martin Kaymer is winless since Pinehurst 2014 but The Open is one I always felt he could win as well. He has links form, Scottish form and certainly excels in the Majors with two to his name already. He has won the Dunhill Links over St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, has won the KLM Open at Kennemer and his wins in Abu Dhabi didn't come without a bit of wind about. His PGA Championship win at Whistling Straits can be compared to a links performance too. The German is in solid form (6-41-39-5-7-37-5-13) and is trending towards an overdue win. Troon will be Kaymer's ninth Open. A TOP10 and two TOP12s to date suggest that he can challenge for a Claret Jug. Now ranked outside the World's TOP50, it's time for a return to the winners enclosure and we can take advantage of the 50/1. He plays alongside DJ and Russell Knox with an afternoon tee time Thursday. I like the draw!

Padraig Harrington probably boasts the best links form in the field and warmed up nicely at Castle Stuart last week in finishing 21st. His Open victory at Carnoustie in 2007 came on the back of consecutive cuts in 2004 here at Troon and in 2006. A TOP20 twelve months ago is his best return since his 2008 victory having missed three cuts in '10,'11 and '14. We have a more relaxed and chilled Padraig Harrington these days and his form of late is encouraging and would represent the best value of the more experienced guys with links form. He's only 44 years of age too, so don't write him off. He firmly believes he can win it again and has a lovely group with Louis Oosthuizen and Jamie Donaldson. There's worse 125/1 bets or 10/1 TOP10 bets out there.

Ernie Els has shown he can still contend these days, maybe motivated to put the putting woes behind him that struck at Augusta. He produced a TOP5 at Congressional last month, a course where he won one of his US Opens and he take heart from that result here. Afterall it was here in 2004 that he was beaten by Hamilton in the playoff. He's only missed four cuts in his twenty five Open appearances, has won it twice and recorded a further five TOP5s. It must be noted though, that his Open form really excelled between 1992 -2009 where he produced eleven TOP10s, his worse finishing position being T34th. Remarkably, he missed the cut in 2010 and 2011 after the run before winning it in 2012! Incidently He was T10th in 1997 here at Troon. The 1992 winner, Calcavecchia was T10th alongside him and was 11th in 2004 also. Troon proving to be his favourable Open course. Els can show the same fondness at 160/1 or 12/1 TOP10 (9/2 TOP20).

What about the young Guns?

World golf is changing. The young guns (under 30 years of age) are dominating. Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth continue to win the majority of tournaments and world tours can boast similar trends over the past year or so. The PGA Tour has seen the emergence of Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Smylie Kaufman, Harris English, Tony Finau, Russell Henley and Kevin Chappell. Europe can boast Masters Champ, Danny Willett, Shane Lowry, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Thorbjorn Olesen, Matteo Mannasero, Joost Luiten and Thomas Pieters not to mention last years Open story, Paul Dunne. The Asian Tour can boast Anirban Lahiri, Jeunghun Wang, Soomin Lee, Hideki Matsuyama, Byeong Hun An, Seung Yul Noh, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and not least Kyung Tae Kim. Phacara Khongwatami at seventeen years of age could be anything and he'll learn a lot from The Open this week. Can any of them win this week ? Too right they can and its the Asians that I feel could surprise, notably, An and Kim. The latter can be backed at 10/1 for a TOP20 finish and if the seventeen year old from Thailand gets a solid start, he might make the 50/1 TOP20 look stupid.

Who's gonna win then ?

Adam Scott @ 25/1 is worth looking at in my opinion. The South Australian should have won The Open before now yet continues to go close. He took a four shot lead in the final round in 2012 before maintaining the four shot lead with four to play. He lost out to Ernie Els. He hasn't been outside the TOP10 since. Twice a winner already this year, Scott arrives here very much in form having posted a TOP10 at Firestone and TOP20 at Oakmont. The Aussie has been at the course since last Saturday and should be fully prepped. I backed Scott at Augusta and Oakmont and I'm more determined to stick with him here too. A Thursday afternoon tee time with Zach Johnson and Henrik Stenson looks ideal too.

Chris Wood is one of the under 30 brigade who seems to be finding his way these days and has constantly produced solid links results over the years. Wood has won in a windy Qatar Masters, and more recently captured the BMW PGA Championship at a windy Wentworth. The Bristol native will make his sixth Open appearance this week having won the Silver Medal in 2008. He was Tied 3rd in 2009 at nearby Turnberry too. He arrives in excellent form having finished T11th in France, and T23rd at Oakmont. He's value at 90/1 here.

Thomas Pieters is the player I think can come through and shock everyone this week. The Belgian can get it down there off the tee and has shown he has the game for links by winning at Kennemer last year. He finished TOP30 last week to follow up from a TOP20 in France. He makes his Major debut this week but wont lack confidence. At 200/1 or more available we can throw a few quid at him for this and the TOP20 is certainly attainable @ 6/1

Richard Sterne has been plagued by injuries throughout his career but it's been a solid 2016 campaign so far for the South African. Two TOP15s the past two weeks suggests his game is there as too did his TOP10 at The K Club at the end of May. Major form isn't great, due mostly to the stop/start nature of his injury affected career but he did post 21st at Muirfield. At 8/1 he could be worth a TOP20 dabble. Good friends of three times Open Champion, Gary Player, Sterne is more than capable here.


Selections

2.5 pts win A.Scott @ 25/1 
1.0 pts e/w R.Fowler @ 35/1 (6 places)
0.50 pts e/w B.Snedeker @ 90/1 (6 places)
0.50 pts e/w Z.Johnson @ 80/1 6 (places)
1.00 pts e/w M.Kaymer @ 50/1 (6 places)
0.50 pts e/w C.Wood @ 90/1 (6 places)
0.25 pts e/w T.Pieters @ 200/1 (6 places)

0.25 pts TOP20 - P. Khongwatami @ 50/1 










Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Open de France 2016 - Le Golf National (Albatross)

The 100th staging of the Open de France takes place this week and sees Rory McIlroy headline a stellar field in an event that is staged in direct competition to the WGC Bridgestone in Ohio. The Irishman arrives making his first appearance since announcing his withdrawal from The Olympics. With The Open just three weeks away, this will be Rory's last outing before teeing it up at Troon.

Last Week

Henrik Stenson put the two fingers up to everyone last week by winning in Germany, recovering well from his "neck injury" in Pennsylvania the week before!A disappointing effort from this blog as it looked like Joost Luiten would contend after day one but the stop/start nature of these tournaments of late does impact how players focus and challenge once they have been disrupted. Going forward, any tournament under threat of thunderstorm forecasts will have to be seriously considered as no-bets. You can't win a tournament on Day One but you can certainly lose it or make it near impossible to. Benjamin Hebert had a round to forget on Thursday but shot best of the day, 64 in round two to sit just outside the TOP20 and hopes were high, but alas the weekend effort wasn't what we wanted. With the emphasis last week in staying with recent selections (Luiten & Colsaerts) it was very frustrating to see Thor (Thorbjorn Olesen) in the mix as I had collected on his TOP20 in Ireland and put him up again to no avail at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. "Keeping the Faith" was my theme but I chose the Belgian over the Dane! In hindsight the Dane was the bet, especially @ 66/1 and 7.00 for TOP10 and 3.75 for the TOP20. (he was runner-up). We'll approach this week a bit differently.

The Course this week 

The "Albatross" course underwent some design changes since last year but having had a look at the changes, the course setup should still suit those who have 1) played here previously and 2) have a good "links" pedigree as the Albatross does have that feel about it. The changes to the greens and bunkers could emphasize that again this week. The changes have been brought about in preparation for the Ryder Cup to be held here in two years time.


The Ones to Beat


Rory will go off favourite against a field not too dissimilar to the one that teed it up at The K Club last month. And the Irish Open results may be a marker for what may unfold here albeit a different type of course. So, who has course form? McDowell won back to back here two years ago before Bernd Wiesberger prevailed twelve months ago. Martin Kaymer has won here as too did his compatriot Marcel Siem. Victor Dubuisson has gone close since fellow Frenchman Thomas Levet won in 2011 and Rapahel Jacquelin warmed up nicely for his National Open by finishing 4th last Sunday to complete back to back TOP10s. (8th at The Nordea Masters). He was third back in 2012 here and can lead the home challenge.

With the WGC event on at the same time, there may be a greater desire from those competing here that would normally have competed at Firestone to produce the goods. Not that they don't try each week but its an ideal tournament to lay down a marker ahead of The Open and the PGA Championship two weeks after that. Its getting serious now the next few weeks!
Rory has dropped to World Number four following Dustin Johnson's win at Oakmont and Stenson did himself some good in the rankings by climbing to number five. The event has an estimated Strength of Field (SOF) rating of 235 where the winner could collect ~42 points in OWGR points but it's worth noting that the WGC event will be over 625 SOF, and the winner could collect ~ 68 ranking points. Rory has motivation to perform well this week!
Martin Kaymer is a former winner at the course and has slipped outside the TOP50 OWGR rankings. He will be looking to get a much needed win and move back up the rankings. The former World Number One is looking for his first win since winning his second Major at Pinehurst two years ago. Not only a past winner here, but he also finished 4th twelve months ago. His results the past seven years read 4-12-13-70-4-6-1. He has maintained his likeness for the course despite the changes and I don't see him suffering this week with the latest ones either, in fact he may prefer them. His scrambling game though is a worry but if the irons are dialed in it may be enough to contend.
Francesco Molinari returns to European action having played extensively on the PGA Tour this season and he arrives in good form with his third TOP10 in nine starts over there coming at Congressional last Sunday. He just doesn't win though, does he? Just three wins on tour with the last coming back in the 2012 Open de Espana doesn't inspire a win bet. His course form is solid too (6-26-18-2-mc-2-25-13) and he's probably more a TOP10 bet than anything else considering.

Bernd Wiesberger, the defending champion, has been very solid this season with 12/13 and 6 TOP20s under his belt. (missed cut coming at Oakmont) He was TOP 10 last week and in his homeland the week before the US Open and these came on the back of a TOP15 at Wentworth. On world rankings, he is the 8th best player in the field. (Five of the seven ahead of him have all won this season with the exception of Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Lee Westwood). The Austrian is a much different player the past eighteen months and its taken me awhile to respect his chances but he's certainly worthy of consideration to defend again.

Thorbjorn Olesen is definitely on the way back to establishing himself on Tour following a runner-up spot last week in Germany. The Dane has missed just three cuts from his twelve starts this season. He has been in the TOP20 seven times and he is worth taking @ 3.25 to do so again this week. He has though missed the cut the last three times he played here but was second in 2011 so I'm not particularly worried about those missed cuts. He has worked hard the past twelve months and that effort is starting to reap benefit with excellent form of late (19-8-15-10-mc-2). He is available @ 48.00 on the exchange too and could be about to win.

Kristoffer Broberg on the other hand is not in good form of late having missed three cuts in his last four starts. Ranked just outside the TOP100 in the OWGR, the Swede has course form having posted 25-12-12 in his three starts. He's not ranking well for GIR at present which is a concern but does seem to be putting well. If he can find the fairways he can produce another solid Golf National performance and sneak a TOP20 @ 9.00

Selections

1.50 pts WIN M. Kaymer @ 17.00
0.75 pts WIN T. Olesen @ 48.00
3.75 pts TOP20 T.Olesen @ 3.25
1.00 pts TOP20 K.Broberg @ 9.00

I really like the chances of Dustin Johnson at the WGC Bridgestone this week so its an each way double with Martin Kaymer. DJs driving and new found confidence from victory at Oakmont could see him go in again and the double can be backed in general @ 153.00

0.25 pts e/w DOUBLE D.Johnson (WGC) / M.Kaymer (ODF) @ 153.00