Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Shenzhen International 2016

It was a quick and brief visit to Europe last week where Valderrama proved it's worth,as players struggled to break par throughout the tournament. More visits to Valderrama please ! So, its off to China now for a couple of weeks where Bubba Watson returns yet again. It'll be the third visit to Genzon GC just north of Hong Kong for the Europeantour, where results the past two seasons suggests those with length of the tee and decent GIR game should be to the fore this week. And its those stats that have my picks finalized for the event although my top selection arrives having had his putter stolen from the locker room in Spain last week. He stays in the staking plan on the belief that his father's company should be able to look after him !

Peter Uihlein is my main pick here @ 29.00. The American can smash it off the tee and not worry about keeping it as straight as he had to last week and if his irons are performing the way they have of late he should be getting plenty of birdie opportunities and he can improve on his three TOP10s from nine starts this season here by going close to a Win! We can ignore last week's finish of 56th as Valderrama wouldn't be a course that I would expect him to excel on and instead we can look at his previous four starts; finishing 9th in Malaysia, 4th in Perth , and 4th in Thailand before dropping to 30th in Delhi on a course where accuracy off the tee was paramount to contend. He'll be chomping at the bit here so considering he finished 4th here in 2015.

My second and only other selection this week is Nicolas Colsaerts, who like Uihlein, will be delighted to be teeing it up on a course where he can smash it off the tee. He did however miss the cut here last time but his form has improved since. No surprise either that he couldn't contend last week but he did produce a TOP10 in Thailand in his previous start. That followed missed cuts at Malaysia and Perth. The Belgian Bomber is priced accordingly and he's included on the staking plan as his game should suit this course and his form may actually be in better nick than those recent results show.

1 pt WIN P. Uihlein @ 29.00


2 pts TOP10 P.Uihlein @ 4.00


3 pts TOP20 N. Colsaerts @ 5.00

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Open de Espana 2016 - Valderrama GC

The Open de Espana returns to one of the best courses in Spain this week, Valderrama GC. It will be the tours first visit to the course since the Andalucia Masters was hosted there in 2010 and 2011. It was of course the host venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup in which a Seve captained Europe prevailed. It's not a long course  but it's a tight tree-lined one and scoring will be tough. Small greens will mean accuracy in approach play will be vital and it wouldn't be any harm to be a wizard with a wedge or putter either this week. Throw in some wind (we're not far from the sea here) and this week's event promises to be an exciting one. Sergio Garcia will host this week and heads the betting market. He does say this is his favourite course and perhaps he had a say in getting his National Open to return here, but will he be distracted in his hosting duties this week on the back of the toils at Augusta last week? I hope so although I had to keep him on my shortlist. The incentive to winning your home National is always a key factor in performing well in as much as it can bring added pressure. The field is very beatable here for Sergio and cannot be discounted lightly. Likewise, Rafa Cabrera-Bello may be the home bet for this week on the back of his most prolific run of form and he'll have plenty of backers @ 15.00. I was tempted too, but am determined to find some better value again this week.Of the market leaders, its Bello that I would fear the most.

Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood, Martin Kaymer and Soren Kjeldsen tee it up having played at The Masters and of those there is a lot to like about course specialist Kjeldsen (winner here in 2008 at the Volvo Masters and also twice runner-up on the course). Martin Kaymer made the cut at Augusta despite a T49th finish so whether it's a sign that his game is improving or not remains to be seen and I'd be inclined to see how he opens up on Thursday before getting involved. He plays alongside the host so expect the first two days to be played in a relaxed mood, which could help his progress.

The blog had an interest in Joost Luiten back in February and it's time to get involved once more. The Dutchman is determined to make the Ryder Cup Team this year and has set about this season in a very positive manner. He missed the cut last time out in Delhi but he was in great form prior to it. Three TOP10s from the five events previously shows the Dutchman has been in form and he arrived over a week ago to prepare for this and will be fresh and ready to go come Thursday afternoon when he tees it up with Pablo Larrazabal and Thomas Pieters. He has course form having finished 5th at the 2010 Andalucia Masters and makes some appeal to me @ 23.00 (was available @ 26.00 Tuesday night).

I'm sticking with the TOP20 markets again this week as a number of players make great appeal there ; Tommy Fleetwood, Julien Quesne, Mikko Ilonen and Jorge Campillo. Alex Noren and Marc Warren also appeal somewhat but are left out on the back of recent form, but this is a course which should suit both. Spaniard, Campillo, has been in fantastic form this season having made eight cuts from his nine starts yielding five TOP20s (55%) ! Only five players on tour have recorded more this season ; McIlroy, Oosty, Schwartzel, Grace and Luiten. He is a former Spanish Amateur Champion and appears to be up the up and up the past couple of seasons. TOP20 in windy Qatar earlier this year and a TOP10 in Delhi show his game is in fine nick. He will turn 30 on the 1st of June and would dearly love to add the professional title of Open de Espana to complement his amateur title!

Ilonen doesn't have much course form here but he certainly has been playing well of late although he missed the cut in his last two starts in Perth and Thailand. Prior to those mishaps though, the Finn was 12th in Malaysia, 16th in Dubai, 13th in Qatar and 22nd in Abu Dhabi. Always a good scrambler, Ilonen is well worth a flutter here @ 5.00 to finish in the TOP20.

Staking Plan

1 pt e/w J. Luiten @ 22/1 Betfair

3 pts J. Campillo @ 3.75 Bet365
3 pts M. Ilonen @ 5.00   Stanjames

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Masters 2016 - Magnolia, Azalea and Rose

Augusta National looks a picture of beauty on my TV screen every year and the many players and spectators, sorry "patrons", that visit, say the place is magical from the moment they drive up the 300 metre Magnolia Lane towards the clubhouse and course. The lane now has 60 magnolia trees each grown from seed over 150 years ago in the 1850s. (There was originally 61 trees but one tree fell in 2011 the week leading up to the tournament)Held the same weekend in April every year, the course is awash with April blooming plants and trees so much so that the eighteen holes are named after the various species that adorn this garden of golf. These are a sea of colour and will look spectacular to those in attendance with the exception of the players as they hope to stay on the grass!

1Tea Olive445410Camelia4954
2Pink Dogwood575511White Dogwood5054
3Flowering Peach350412Golden Bell1553
4Flowering Crab Apple240313Azalea5105
5Magnolia455414Chinese Fir4404
8Yellow Jasmine570517Nandina4404
9Carolina Cherry460418Holly4654


I'll be more interested in a rose variety than the natural species that adorn Augutsa National this week and that being, as per my final shortlist preview, a certain Mr. Justin Rose. The South African born Englishman won the US Open at Merion in 2013 and has been an ever-present world TOP10 golfer for quite some time. He was runner-up alongside Phil Mickelson last year as Jordan Spieth stole a march on them but there's a lot to like about Rose's chances at Augusta. Ten visits have seen him make the cut each time, his first effort being 39th and hes not finished as low since. Three TOP10s and five TOP25s is an impressive return and having practiced with Adam Scott last week, a winner here in 2013, Rose will be amongst those who will know all the perceived nuances of Augusta the most in a bid to capture his second Major. He's not three times the price of the "Big-3" for this week and is the blogs outright each way pick.

In the TOP20 markets, I have to go for another two Englishmen, both of whom bring a vast of course experience into the tournament; Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. The latter warmed up in Puerto Rico two weeks ago in finishing T3rd. In his eleven visits to the Masters, Poults has produced three TOP10s, and four TOP25s, only missing the cut once. He loves the place and has shown in the Majors especially here and at his home Open that he tends to play his best. He has won two WGC titles, the Matchplay and the HSBC champions and has shown in those two tournaments alone that he tends to hold form. The matchplay win in 2010 was his only win on US soil, but he does have twelve European Tour titles in his locker also. The effort two weeks ago will have the Londoner in good form and brimming of confidence and he's well worth playing for a TOP20 here @ 5.00.

Likewise can be said of the now 42-year old Lee Westwood. Now destined to join Colin Montgomerie as one of the best from Britain never to have won a Major, he may just be a little more relaxed this week. Lee has played here sixteen times ; made the cut on 13 occasions yielding eight TOP25s of which five of those were TOP10s. For the TOP20 market, Westy can be backed @ 7.00 and that's real value considering he has produced a T20 seven times (43% of the time). As alluded to in one of my earlier previews in compiling the final shortlist, history says age is against potential winners but history has shown repeatedly that age is no barrier to a solid showing as Langer, Couples, Nicklaus, Watson, Singh and Cabrera have shown in recent years. With over 40 professional worldwide titles to his name, Westwood can throw out the current form book and and fallback on the vast experience that he has and as he said himself yesterday, sometimes its better to be rested and not over-prepare for this one. I agree and think he could really surprise this week.

1 pt e/w A. Scott @ 33/1 (February bet) 
1 pt e/w J.Rose @ 30/1

2 pts TOP20 I. Poulter @ 5.00
2 pts L. Westwood @ 7.00

Monday, 4 April 2016

The Masters 2016 - My Shortlist (part 5)

It's Masters Week ! The 80th Masters will be underway this Thursday where rain is forecasted for the day, but for this day only. Augusta National is a long course and may just prove to be too long for some on Thursday, thus ending their chances early if the forecasted rain does fall. As per my previous previews for compiling this final shortlist, the Masters history has to be considered when  considering who the eventual winner will be, and history has shown that those who do win will have been up with the pace from day one. It's what we would expect in a Major, and this year being as competitive as it, should be just the same.

From my list of twenty still standing (Jim Herman's unexpected win at Houston means I have an additional member to consider, but will all respect to Jim, he won't be in my final shakeup), I am now looking a potential winner and those that can challenge and secure a TOP10 finish. As alluded to previously, I've already backed Adam Scott @ 33/1 and am very happy to have him on-board given his recent form and obvious Masters form. But is there anyone else I fancy from the market leaders?

Let's start with the defending champion who will play his third Masters this week. Jordan Spieth finished second on debut two years ago before romping to victory last year on the back of decent form preceding the tournament. It's a different Jordan Spieth entering this week, but his front-9 last night in Houston was encouraging and he could easily click here. Defending champions are far and few between here ; Nicklaus, Faldo & Woods the only ones to do so and I don't see Spieth joining this list here this week. He's far too short to emulate that feat anyhow. Jason Day will rightly go off the favourite having won six times in his last thirteen starts! He's in form but again he's far too short too. Day really should have won here in 2013 but for very late bogeys when the pressure came on. He was also runner up to Schwartzel in 2011. He opened with a 67 twelve months ago before slipping back to the field to finish T 28th, but it's fair to say if he opens with a 67 this Thursday he'll be a hard man to beat. He is most people's pick for this week for sure, but at ~9/1 and given the strength of the field I can't back him here. Bubba likewise, in brilliant form of late and won at Riviera this year as he did when winning in 2014 before winning at Augusta the same year. Bubba will chase a third green jacket this week and will have many backers but he is always suspect when the pressure comes on and he may have more than one breathing down his neck if in contention. Rory McIlroy looks destined to win at Augusta at some point and he will go very close this week. He hasn't been at the top of his game recently but it's not far away. Thursday scores could be pivotal for Rory and if he's near the top of the leaderboard this could be the year. The putter has to perform all four days, he's avoiding the traditional par-3 contest on Wednesday and will be prepped and ready to go come Thursday. I have doubted whether Rory arrives at tournaments fully prepared on tour but this is different. Rickie Fowler has to be a contender and at ~20/1 could offer some value. But he's not for me here, no other reason than I think the pressure to win a Major (still to win one) could be huge and he'll have proven Major winners to fend off to do so this week; too many in solid form. Phil Mickelson will go in search of fourth jacket at the age of 45! His Augusta form is simply phenomenal and has shown decent form so far in 2016 and cannot be dismissed lightly but I'd like more than the price being offered here.

Regular readers of this blog will know I've backed Dustin Johnson a few times in the Majors and he really should have a few in his locker by now. The question is now of course, is he destined to go Major-less in his career ? He's only 31 years of age though and has time. He showed in Houston that his game is in good nick but he needs to grab a tournament by the scruff and close it out. He created history here last year on the par-5s by recording three eagles in his Friday round. Par-5 scoring is crucial here and having read Steve Rawlings Betfair preview this morning where he emphasizes the same by showcasing the par-5 performances of the last ten winners here (their accumulative scoring are Par-3 -2; par-4 -9 and par-5 -90), I'm inclined to believe those that score well on them this year again will be in the mix if they cut out the double bogeys, which Dustin invariably adds to his scorecard too often. I said after The Open last July, that his third round effort could have a lasting negative affect on DJ in the Majors, but I'm not sure that it will now if being honest. I am expecting a bold bid this week,and think there is some value in the 22/1 on offer.

Its the 33/1 on offer for Justin Rose though that I can't refuse. Second alongside Mickelson last year, Rose has a further two TOP 10s and a further two TOP15s not to mention three other TOP25s. Tee to green Rose is very consistent and if the putter gets going he'll have a huge chance this week. In his last four starts in strokeplay, Rose has finished no worse than 17th (Doral) and was 6th at Pebble Beach, 16th at Riviera and 9th at Bay Hill. He's simmering and in the last ten appearances here, Rose has led after rounds one, two and three at some point and indeed back in 2007 , led after the 16th in the final round before taking a six at the 71st hole. The 2013 US Open Champion has been practicing with Adam Scott and is real live contender for the 80th Masters.

At this point, I'm taking the following players off my shortlist !

1. Jason Day
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Bubba Watson
4. Rickie Fowler
5. Phil Mickelson
6. Jim Herman

Omitted on price but if you don't have a Betfair account and do fancy the big three, open an account this week and availing of a decent price.You'll also get €30 and 6 places

Back Spieth @ 25/1 here

Back Day @ 25/1 here

Back McIlroy @ 25/1 here

From the remaining fourteen players I can finalize Adam Scott and Justin Rose leaving a dozen on the shortlist which includes former winner and current Open Champion, Zach Johnson, former winner Charl Schwartzel and former Open Champion and previous runner-up at the Masters Louis Oosthuizen. Of the three I'd prefer the chances of Schwartzel. There are eight players remaining which haven't been mentioned, all of who are maidens at the Majors. These are the players that I will look to for the TOP10 markets. Rory and Dustin remain in the shortlist and I'll leave my final shortlist at thirteen and it is available here.

For those that prefer their each way bets, be advised that Skybet are offering 8 places on the Masters (1/4 odds) and you can avail of that offer here also - open a Skybet account and avail of 8 places !

Paddypower are offering 7 places and a new account can also be opened here

Friday, 1 April 2016

The Masters 2016 - Making the Shortlist, Part 4

With just six days to go, its time to narrow down the shortlist and start finalizing the final staking plan for the most eagerly awaited Masters in years. As play resumes at the Shell Houston Open, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler show signs that their game is good nick as they sit nicely behind the leaders after day one. It also shows that Dustin Johnson is once again a player to consider for First Round Leader (FRL) bets. This blog backed DJ for the Masters last year, did so again for the US Open and stuck with him for the Open at St. Andrews. His third round at St. Andrews blew him out of contention again and I began to doubt if DJ could ever win a Major, and began to think that he is a bottler, a choker in the big events when the pressure comes on. I'm still not convinced that he will go Major-less in his career, and he may be just peaking and timing his run to perfection ahead of this year's first Major. He most definitely remains on the final shortlist and won't be tossed aside as a no-hoper by me.

As per my opening, part 1 preview, I have backed Adam Scott already back in February @ 33/1 and his best price today (Friday 1st April) is 12/1. The Aussie has some great form here, winner in 2013 following form of 8-2-18 in the three preceding years, Scott followed up in 2014 with another TOP15 before dropping his standards twelve months ago to a finish of 38th. He tied alongside previous twice winner Bubba Watson who coincidentally also finished 38th in 2011 before winning in 2012! Bubba's form at Augusta shows a mixed bag ; he either wins it or does nothing (best place outside his two victories are those two T38ths). Strangely enough, Dustin Johnson also finished 38th in both 2011 and 2010. (has recorded a 13th & 6th since). Bubba though is in fantastic form this season having won at Riviera,and finishing 2nd at Doral. He has to have a shout. Rickie Fowler would you believe finished T38th in 2013 before producing  5-12  results the following two years.

If finishing in a position of 38th is an omen of any sorts at Augusta then what about the results from twelve months ago where Jimmy Walker, Danny Willett and former champion, Charl Schwartzel tied alongside previous winners Bubba & Adam Scott for a tie of 38th ? Danny Willett became a father for the first time this week and will now be raring to go, whereas as Texan Jimmy Walker will be hoping to continue the amazing Texan success story at the Masters. there have been thirteen titles own by Texans, Jordan Spieth being the latest. The South African is in the best form of his career of late and is a contender this week for certain. Sergio Garcia has mixed form at Augusta; 4th way back in 2004, his bid for his first Major continues and he hasn't bettered that result here since. He was TOP20 twelve months ago and TOP10 in 2013 and he too is showing some form of late but he's not for me from a betting perspective, although I would love to see him win one at some point soon.  Henrik Stenson has solid consistent form at Augusta but over the years has never really shown us that he is going to win here. in the past ten years his form-line reads 19-14-18-40-mc-mc-38-17-17-mc. He does have a 38th finish to consider ! He too is not for me this time round either. Both Garcia & Stenson are not shelved with a flick or swipe of the pen easily. They are top golfers quite capable of winning both both are susceptible to pressure come Sunday afternoon and its this reason and the nature of the form of the field this year that leaves me with the decision to look elsewhere. The Nappy Factor would have to kick in here for Danny Willett if he were to win but I think he still needs more course experience to take the jacket.

Brandt Snedeker has gone close in the past with a 6th in 2013 and a 3rd in 2008 but I would like more than 60/1 for this. Hunter Mahan has three TOP10s including one from last year (when form generally wasn't there) and at odds in excess of 200/1 he despite poor form this year cannot be dismissed just yet. Round one scoring from Johnson Wagner in Houston proving that no matter what current form is like, if you have previous excellent course form then your game just might click. I will axe Chris Kirk and Ernie Els at this point although both have shown their game is an upward trend of late but not enough to challenge this week. Charley Hoffman is most definitely in form and produced a TOP10 last year at his second attempt but like Garcia & Stenson, he is yet to prove himself when in contention. I'll pass on Charley too. Ryan Moore might give you a run for your money for a TOP10 although he has never finished in the TOP10 here despite a form-line of 12-mc-38(!!)-35-14-13.

Lastly for now, the English lads of Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey have huge course form in all of them ! Rose was T 2nd last year; his third TOP10 at Augusta. Casey was 6th last year in his first visit since 2012. He was 38th in 2011(that 38th finish again eh) and produce results of 20-11-10 in 2007-2009. Poulter has been very consistent here; 6-20-mc-7-27-10-20-25-13-33-31, just the one missed cut and three TOP10s. I've backed lee Westwood a number of times here over the years as I did Greg Norman and Chris Di Marco (perhaps I was there jinx). Westy had his worst result here last year finishing way down at 46th but he didn't have the best years personally last year and that can be overlooked. He is 42 years of age though now so history is against him but we can't argue with a previous form-line of 7-8-3-11-2-43-11-30. I'd keep an eye on TOP10 markets next week. Bill Haas would have to produce his A-game, and he's quite capable of doing so but he hasn't shown enough at Augusta with a form-line of 12-20-20-37-42-26 although it certainly is progressive. My final culling will fall on Jason Dufner though I do expect him to challenge for his best finish here next week. He will have to finish better than 20th to do that and that kinda sums up his chances for the Masters. Fast slick greens may catch him out and he's passed over again.

So, my 30-man list is shortened again; those that are chopped at this point are:

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Sergio Garcia
3. Ryan Moore
4. Jason Dufner
5. Chris Kirk
6. Ernie Els
7. Charley Hoffman
8. Henrik Stenson
9. Bill Haas
10. Danny Willett

This now leaves me with 20 players - have I left out the winner? I hope not but its clear now that I do think the winner will come from the market leaders but just how high up ? My final preview will be online on Tuesday next or you can have it sent directly to your inbox by clicking here