Tuesday, 24 May 2016

BMW PGA Championship 2016 - Wentworth

Its a short hop from Ireland across to Surrey, England for the tour's "flagship" event, the PGA Championship this week. Rory McIlroy had already announced he was not playing this one before he took out his own National Open at The K Club on Sunday and he joins a list of who's who on the sidelines. With the US Open looming at Oakmont, the top players are scheduling accordingly and it makes for an interesting discussion on scheduling for the main events over the next few years. With Rory and Sergio Garcia now hosting their National Opens along with a rotational hosting of the British Masters by the leading British Players, we could see a shakeup next year in where these four events sit. Its clear the players are not keen to play four weeks in a row any given week so a reshuffle looks likely. I suspect this "flagship" event will get bumped sometime soon. We have no Ernie Els this week, a regular participant and designer of the course changes six years go. We do have a visit from twice winner, Luke Donald, and from Lee Westwood, Russell Knox and the defending champion, Byeonghun An as well as The Masters Champ, Danny Willett. Gmac also contests to complete his trip home and Frani Molinari couldn't really stay away and play on the PGA Tour this week, given his course credentials for Wentworth!

Shane Lowry will be looking for a good week here. He should have beaten Rory to the title here two years ago and he produced another fine effort last year finishing 6th. The Irishman was 12th in 2013 and 4th back in 2011 and is a big fan of the course. But the bookies have factored all this in and he's become a no-bet @ 16/1.

Sergio Garcia's win last Sunday at the Byron Nelson was timely for his Ryder Cup chances and he'll have raised the ante with the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Francesco Molinari, Shane Lowry, Victor Dubuisson and Joost Luiten who all find themselves outside the qualifying positions at present. It's game on ! Whilst Darren Clarke may decide to pick his good mate, Westwood, should he need to, there's no guarantee that Poults would get the nod and on current form I can't see "The Postman" making the team. Some are surprised that he doesn't play here this week but I'm not. He's not had any form here and missed the cut more often than not in very much the same way as Padraig Harrington used to hate playing here. Its a course that just doesn't suit them and therefore we should take course form into account. Just ask Simon Khan or indeed look at his record here. It may be a horses for courses event but we did see Rory win here when he clearly doesn't like it and should Matteo Mannasero have won on this course? or Andrew Oldcorn for that matter ? The defending champ, An, made his debut here in winning last year and I wouldn't over-emphasize the course knowledge too much. There are so many young players in form right now that can pop up and win this week.

Is there a standout pick for this week ? I don't think there is and those arriving in good form should do better than most. Russell Knox played extremely well on course debut at The K Club last week and he can keep the momentum going here as he aims to haul himself up the standings and impress the European skipper. But we've seen over the years that even the world's best can struggle to work out Wentworth so its not a given that he can bring that good form into this week; I expect him to put in a good week though. Ross Fisher should know Wentworth well but his from has dipped here since the changes. I watched Ross playing alongside stablemate, GMac last Sunday and he was full of chat and came across very relaxed and happy with himself; expect a good week here.

Twice winner, Luke Donald proved at Hilton Head last month that he can produce the goods on a course that he knows well and it can be expected that he'll do the same again this week. Back to back wins in 2011 & 2012 came on the back of a runners-up display in 2010 and a third placing in 2008 and he followed up with another third placing in 2014. He may be of some value of 30/1 to some but I'm happy to pass here.

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Francesco Molinari put in a good showing at Sawgrass a couple of weeks ago to complement what has been a run of some solid performances over a number of months on the PGA Tour and he can bring that form onto a course that he knows every bit as well as Mr. Donald. His form here is excellent and much moreso since the course changes ; 5-7-9-7 here the last four years may be a typical performance of the Italian who just doesn't win often enough. He's priced about right @ 20/1 for the win and 2/1 for the TOP10 but the evens for TOP20 looks to be a giveaway.

Joost Luiten has put a lot of time and practice into his game this season and it's showing. From his eleven outings this season he's missed just two cuts, in Delhi and in Ireland. He never got going last week and can be excused for that one, even moreso that it gave him extra time to practice and rest ahead of this week. From the other nine events, the Dutchman has produced eight TOP20s, of which six were TOP10s. He also has three TOP20s from his six visits here and can produce another one here if not a "W".  We need a player with strong GIR stats this week and Joost is up there in the TOP10 for the season in that department.

I'm sticking with Thorbjorn Olesen again this week. His Wentworth form is not great, in fact there is very little encouragement there with four missed cuts in five visits. He played beautifully last Sunday and we shouldn't dismiss him lightly here given his course record. Like Luiten, the Dane has been very consistent this season producing a bunch of TOP20s; six from his ten starts (four T10s and a TOP5). He has been in the TOP20 in his last four starts and should take encouragement for the way he stuck in there last week and finished it off with a superb 66. He tweeted on Monday when asked how he would do this week at Wentworth  "Never played well there! But I like it and I feel like I can do well there! " There is no doubting his ability and he seems to be returning to the promising form he showed when contending at Augusta a couple of years back in 2013 and he can add to his win tally soon. It was only last October when he saw off Brooks Koepka to land the Alfred Dunhill Links and that solid form has continued as the number of TOP10s this year have proven and if he feels like Wentworth is a course that he can do well on, then this could be the week to prove it. Highly ranked for GIR this season, the Dane was 3rd in the category at The K Club and was TOP10 in Driving Accuracy. Same again this week please Thor !

Finally, Johan Carlsson has little form here too but like Olesen has been very consistent of late with 10/12 and six TOP20s in the bag. He missed the cut last week and may find this week another headache but @ 8.50 for another TOP20 could be worth a dabble. Instead though, I'll opt for Sebastien Gros @ 5.00 to finish in the TOP20 again this week to follow up on an excellent effort in Co. Kildare. But for the 17th hole late on Saturday evening, the Frenchman could well have played with Rory in the final group on Sunday. He found the River Liffey twice as the rain bucketed down and the light faded only to return on Sunday and secure a TOP10. That was his fourth TOP20 from his thirteen starts , indeed his second T10 and he can keep it going with another solid performance here.

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1.0  pts WIN J.Luiten @ 40.00
.50  pts WIN T. Olesen @ 60.00

2.0 pts TOP20 J. Luiten @ 2.75
2.0 pts TOP20 S. Gros @ 5.00
3.0 pts TOP20 T. Olesen @ 3.75

Monday, 16 May 2016

Irish Open 2016 - Palmer Course, K Club

It's summer time ! The Europeantour returns to Europe having had a quick check-in at Valderrama last month and we'll see loads of action in this part of the world over the next few weeks starting in Ireland for the Rory McIlroy-hosted Irish Open. Since Rory has taken on the host role, the plan has been to bring the Irish Open around the country each year and following a very successful event at Royal County Down last May, we will see a strong field assemble to play The Palmer Course,host of the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club, in County Kildare. The course hosted the European Open on ten occasions from 1995 to 2003 and again in 2005 (the Smurfit course hosted in between and again in 2006 & 2007). Whilst the majority of Irish Opens over the years have been staged at links courses, the Palmer course will be a direct contrast and more "American Parkland" style. The course measures ~7300yards and will offer up birdie opportunities on all the par-5s, but the tournament maybe decided on the par-4s particularly on the back nine. The 15th & 17th could prove pivotal come Sunday and will require accurate drives on both if needing birdies. The week though for Irish golf will be saddened with the news that one of Ireland's best golfers, Christy O'Connor ("Himself") passed away last weekend. It might be worth remembering that whilst the prize fund this weeks exceeds €4M, it was Himself that became the first golfer to win a five-figure sum on the European Tour in 1955. Christy had many admirers worldwide none more so than Seve Ballesteros and was inducted into The Hall of Fame in 2009. "Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam"

Previous winners on the course include Berhard Langer, Per-Ulrik Johannson (twice) , Lee Westwood (twice), Darren Clarke and Michael Campbell. Clarke shot a second round 60 here in 1999, backed that up with a third round 66 before a ten shot swing on the Sunday saw Westwood pip him. The winners list above suggests that solid ball striking is required here so those arriving with decent form of late should be considered. The greens should be in great shape for the week ( they weren't in the early days) so I do expect a low scoring affair. The weather has improved significantly the first week in May and from a spectator point of view let's hope it remains but early forecasts predict showers Thursday (this event seems destined to be plagued by rain no matter what month it's staged). In excess of 30,000 will attend each day (we could see close to 40,000 on Saturday & Sunday) as Rory McIlroy tries to bring a home win. Shane Lowry should go well here too. The late Christy O'Connor Junior, nephew to Himself, won the last Irish Open to be staged at Woodbrook GC in 1975. (That Irish Open was the first to be played since 1953). If the Major winners already mentioned winning The European Open at the K Club weren't big enough names , then how about the list of Irish Open winners of Ben Crenshaw, Hubert Green, Seve, Monty, Sergio Garcia, Sam Torrance, Ken Brown, Mark James, Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Olazabal, Langer, Micahel Campbell, Thomas Bjorn, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington? Three time winners include Seve, Faldo & Montgomerie. History shows that the Irish Open title is a much coveted one. In years gone by, Harry Bradshaw, Fred Daly & Bobby Locke have also won this title. Harrington finally brought a home win at Adare Manor in 2007 having not had a winner since John O'Leary won in 1982 and Shane Lowry introduced himself to the world by winning at a rain-sodden Baltray in 2009. Darren Clarke & Graeme McDowell have been trying in recent years but given the roll of honour here, you can be assured that Rory McIlroy has this title in his list of goals and he wont find a better course in Ireland than this to suit his bid to do so.

So who has he to beat this week ? Course "specialist", Lee Westwood who went close at Augusta and saw the Masters Champion Danny Willett prevail there up close last month, makes a welcome return and he will be joined by the Masters Champion. David Lingmerth is also entered to play and given the strong Swedish success at the course, could be one to keep an eye on. Speaking of Major winners, the field will include Martin Kaymer, YE Yang, as well as the other four Irish Major winners. WGC champion Russell Knox will join fellow WGC Champion, Shane Lowry, and will be looking to impress Darren Clarke here on a rare European Tour trip and the field is completed with just about anyone who has ideas of a strong Race to Dubai campaign. It looks to be one of the strongest line-ups in history and I can't wait to see the action when I attend on Sunday with my father. Will we get a Rory win or indeed a "big name" winner ? Whilst the history shows a who's who of World Golf have won this we have also had a few "surprise" winners over recent years. In all due respect, the wins of Richard Finch, Stephen Dodd, and Patrik Sjoland came from nowhere although to be fair to the Welshman he also won the European Open at the K Club in Ryder Cup year in 2006, albeit on the Smurfit course, so perhaps he has a thing for Ireland ?

Rory will be the one to beat, there's no doubt but there is no value in backing him to do so especially as his putting needs to improve. His results of late are a bit flattering considering he's never been in the mix yet completes a number of TOP10s. Twelfth at Sawgrass, despite missing a bucket load of putts,indicates that tee to green he's on fire and it's that game that will suit the K Club. Start making some putts and Rory wins this and his summer campaign steps up to another level. Padraig Harrington ended a 25 year wait for a home win in 2007 and it seemed to propel the Dubliner onto the World stage, winning The Open just ten weeks later. Rory will be looking for something similar here where he won't have Jason Day or Jordan Spieth to deal with. The home crowd expects !

Whilst prices will ultimately decide my final staking plan, my early thoughts are centred around Matthew Fitzpatrick, Joost Luiten, Tommy Fleetwood, Bernd Wiesbereger, Lucas Bjerregaard, Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren although 80/1 now tempts me in. I do think Shano will go well too as should Lee Westwood and it may just fit Martin Kaymer's eye too.

My final selections will be here on Tuesday evening

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Challenge Tour - Montecchia Open 2016

 The Challenge Tour rolls onto Italy this week following events in Turkey, Madrid, Egypt and Kenya and the weather forecast for the week is to be a lot cooler than what has been experienced to date on the tour. Sebastian Soderburg leads the Road to Oman rankings after the these four events having won in Kenya and finishing third last week in Turkey. Frenchman, Romain Langasque produced his third TOP5 last week and looks the man to beat this week. Clement Sordet won last week though having missed the cut in Spain and Kenya so don't be surprised if the event doesn't go the way of form players. With next weeks Irish Open at the K Club to look forward to, the Irish contingent will be looking to hit some form here and will welcome the wet conditions that are being forecasted. Kevin Phelan, Cormac Sharvin, Gary Hurley, Gavin Moynihan, Ruaidhri McGee and Chris Selfridge tee it up here and I wouldn't be surprised to see all of them go well here at the Golf Della Montecchia. Whilst on first glance it may seem Phelan with his European Tour experience, maybe the pick, it's the two Northern Irishmen, McGee and Selfridge that have posted TOP10s in Madrid whilst Hurley & Moynihan have posted TOP20s in Kenya. Phelan's best effort to date was 38th in Kenya.

Betting wise, Langasque heads the market at best price 16/1 with Soderburg and Gagli perhaps offering some value @ 25/1. Of the Irish contingent mentioned, Selfridge is the shortest @ 60/1. Regular readers of this blog will know I am keen to follow my neighbour, Gavin Moynihan regardless but he's a player to be respected out here on tour as he finds his way in the professional ranks. Twice a Walker Cup player, The Island player had a fantastic amateur career, he has an invite to the K Club next week and has that as motivation this week to perform well. He will also be thrilled to see Colm Campbell win at Royal Dublin last week too. At 150/1, I have to get on board here as the early start Thursday on the 10th (opening first looks a monster) looks favourable along with the weather conditions.

I also have to have a punt on Christian Bezuidenhout @ 33/1. The South African was in Morocco last week finishing 34th. He did miss the cut in Egypt by a shot but was T4th in Kenya prior to that. Back in January he made all the headlines when coming second at his South African Open. We were being offered similar odds and lower back then on the European Tour & Sunshine Tour events so I'm very happy to take the 33s on offer for this one this week.


0.5 pts e/w C. Bezhuidenhout @ 33/1
0.5 pts e/w G. Moynihan @ 150/1

Mauritius Open 2016 - Anahita Golf Club

We have a new new venue for this year's Mauritius Open out in the Indian Ocean, an Ernie Els designed resort course that has been used previously in hosting the Mauritius Masters. The masters event is normally held between players from the French Allianz Tour and some guests from the European Tour. Max Orrin will be well tipped to do well here as he won the Masters event last December at Anahita and in 2014!

By all accounts the wind will be the main factor this week, and those that have played here in the past as always should have some advantage. Its a tri-sanctioned event this week in that the Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour and European Tour have all endorsed this tournament. It's not a great field it has to be said  but it has found a slot on the schedule alongside the Players Championship at Sawgrass on the PGA Tour this week and one week ahead of the Irish Open at the K Club, before moving on to Wentworth the week after for the BMW PGA Championship. Given the timing and the purse though, this could be an event that could grow over the years especially if we have the market leaders all in contention come Sunday. I've never been to Mauritius but from hearing from those that have, this island ranks as one of the most beautiful places on earth and it has attracted interest from some of the players playing here this week, none more so than my selection for the week, Nicolas Colsaerts @ 28/1.

Colsaerts first visited Mauritius when he was fifteen years of age and has been going back regularly ever since, so much so that he now represents Anahita GC on tour. He also won the Mauritius Masters in 2010. He said a couple of years ago that it was his favourite place to play golf and is a course that is "almost always windy" and "it's great for ball striking". Plenty of room off the tee should see Colsaerts with an advantage and with small greens to aim at, its worthwhile noting that the Belgian Bomber ranks high in the GIR stats category this season. I backed Colsaerts in Qatar and Shenzhen to no avail but I'm hoping that on a course he knows very well and being settled in for the week at his own property nearby, he can make it third time lucky here and kick-start his season.Hes made seven cuts from his nine starts for just one TOP10 and one TOP20 but he's been playing better than his results have shown and he should be determined to put in a good show here.Despite the recent winners in the field, Colsaerts may see this week as a huge opportunity and he's a confident pick.

In this "weak" field we have defending champion George Coetzee who on paper should take all the beating but recent form doesn't suggest that he is a shoo-in. The field also sees the winners from the last three weeks compete: Hao Tong Li, Soomin Lee and Jeunghun Wang, not to mention Thailand winner back in March, Scott Hend. Throw in Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous, winners in the South African and Joburg Opens, and the event and it's sponsors can boast a decent field. Its not as "weak" on second glance. The young guns could have something to say again this week.

From my shortlist released on Tuesday, Hennie Otto could be worth getting onside with @ 45/1. Otto missed the cut in both Valderrama and Genzon but he was 21st at Topwin GC after an opening day 63. Otto has always produced his best on his home tour although he did win the Italian Open in 2008 and 2014. But as mentioned, the youngsters could be having their say this week and I'm happy to overlook the 39 year. (he turns 40 next month for those who like the milestone birthday factor to consider). David Dixon, also 39, was TOP10 in Morocco last week improving on his 38th in Shenzhen & 45th in Valderrama and was considered for this, but I'll add my second selection in the shape of Rashid Khan @ 110.00.  Its been a quiet spell for the very talented 25 year old form New Delhi but he did show his game is in decent shape with a solid sixth on his home course last time out. Hopefully he will see fellow Asian Tour success in the last three weeks as a motivator to perform better as he goes in search of his seventh professional title.


1.5 pts e/w N. Colsaerts @ 29.00
0.5 pts win R.Khan @ 110.00
2.5 pts TOP10 R. Khan @ 9.00

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Trophee Hassan 2016 -

Its a change in venue this year for the Trophee Hassan which is a great pity as Prince Moulay Rachid who hosts the tournament makes the call to go back to the Royal Golf Dar Es Salem GC in Rabat. The course last staged the event in 2010 where Rhys Davies emerged victorious. The Welshman returns again this week. I much prefer the Golf du Palais course at Agadir.

It's a course that will reward accuracy over power and the winner will need to make some birdies. It's a weak field and an event I won't be getting heavily involved in, and the one player I'm going to have an interest in, is the Aussie veteran Terry Pilkadaris. My shortlist did include Paul Dunne and Kevin Phelan but I've had a second look and think Cormac Sharvin could also go well here. At 17.00 for a TOP20 he could be worth a bet and I may just do that later before the off.

As for Pilkadaris, he's not been a regular winner on any tour, in fact his three wins to date have all been on the Asian Tour and his last came some eleven years ago. He may not win ever again, but I couldn't help but ignore the 160.00 on Betfair for the win and I've also gone TOP20 @ 7.00 The Western Australian's form has been inconsistent but he does tend to play nicely in weaker fields and on tight courses and whilst Royal Dar Es Salem may not be that tight it still requires some accuracy. He played well in Delhi last month before fading for T15th, was 22nd in Perth and recorded TOP10s in Vietnam (HO Tram Open) and his home Australian Open back in December. Again, decent results either side of four missed cuts in Malaysia, Singapore, Johannesburg and Myanmar. He finished two shots back from David Horsey at The Made in Denmark event last year when he carded a 74 in his final round on another course that rewards accurate tidy players. The journeyman is quite capable of popping up any given week and especially on windy tracks and given the strength of this field is not without a decent shout here.....but then again so too could anyone this week.

0.25 pts T. Pilkadaris WIN @ 160.00 & 3.75 pts TOP20 @ 7.00

ItRoyal Golf Dar Es Salam