Sportswarbler

Warbling. Opinion. Insight. Advice.

European Tour Golf – Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

No time to share my analysis or insight, so straight into my selections against the field.

Marc Warren @ 66/1

Paul Lawrie @ 25/1

Tommy Fleetwood @ 100/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello @ 35/1

Padraig Harrington @ 20/1

All selections each way 1/4 odds 1,2,3,4,5 (or 6 places with some bookies)

 

 

 

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PGA Tour Golf – JT Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

The Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (the clue’s in the title) is the first of the four tournaments in the so-called Fall series on the PGA tour. Coming just a few days after the emtional rollercoaster of the Ryder Cup, it’s safe to say most of the very best golfers aren’t down to play.

At 7,342-yards, the TPC Summerlin course is average in length for the Tour and its inviting greens and wide fairways means it regularly sits inside the top-10 for GIR. The scores are typically very low and birdies are plentiful at every hole. I’m looking for past course form, proximity to the pin, and birdies average.

Let’s look at the main protagonists starting with Kevin Na, last year’s winner on 23-under par but only shown glimpses of tournament winning form this season. Not one I’d be confident about backing at short odds.

Ryan Moore went to colleague at UNLV so will have positive memories and thoughts this week. Never threatened to win here but has been in top-25 three times. Going about his business this year without causing too many ripples, but burst into life in the FedEx playoffs, posting three consecuitve top-10s.

Nick Watney has had a lighter schedule this year but came back to form just before the FedEx playoffs. He has the added incentive of living in Las Vegas and finished just two shots back last year, having led going into the final round. He was also tied for sixth here in 2010. Must be on the shortlist.

Kevin Streelman has never shot more than 69 in 4 starts at this event so its hardly surprising he’s finished top-20s in last two years. Same again might not be good enough for top-5 finish which is our target.

Scott Piercy is another Las Vegas resident. He just scraped into the TOUR Championship at 30th  and often comes from behind in tournaments. Winner this year and has record top-20 finishes last two years here. One for shortlist.

Robert Garrigus is yet to miss the cut at this event in six starts and was tied for 16th last year. He’s been in good form this year and has progressed gradually approacing the FedEx playoffs and then finished with two top-10s in the first two playoff tournaments. He’s inside top-10 on tour for GIR and birdies average per round, so has to warrant serious consideration.

David Hearn is a live outsider given he finished 5th last year Started this year’s FedExCup Playoffs with a T10 at The Barclays.

Kyle Stanley has been quieter his year than last but still has the profile to do well here – GIR and Birdie Average are both good. Finished 10th last year.

William McGirt wouldn’t be a confident choice but he’s my idea of a good outsider bet given he was the first round elader last year, didn;t drop a short until the third round, before fading to a tie for 16th. His form has risen markedly of late and he’s put together three top-10s in his last seven starts.

Selections – all each-way:

Nick Watney @ 16/1

Robert Garrigus @ 20/1

Scott Piercy @ 25/1

Ryan Moore @ 14/1

William McGirt @ 80/1

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Ryder Cup – Day 1 Foursomes

Day one of the Ryder Cup. The morning foursomes are so important, for morale and emotional reasons as much as the four points on offer. Imagine how you feel walking off the course knowing you’ve earned a point for team or conversely how your shoulders will drop if you’ve been mauled in an one sided game. I feel its vital for Europe to come out of the morning foursomes no worse than one point down (2.5/1.5) if they are to prosper at Medinah.

The key pairings for Europe in the foursomes/fourballs are Donald/Garcia & Poulter/Rose. If they lose, Europe is probably in deep doo-doo. The Americans are less dependent on any one pairing – all could win, all could lose… the feeling in the camp wouldn’t inflate or deflate to the same extent if their star duo was defeated.

One of the first things to say is that, as good as I am at reading the game, making predictions with any confidence in the Ryder Cup is near impossible so don’t be fooled by myself or anyone else getting it right – or wrong. It really is the toss of a coin in most situations and there will be swings during most matches.

In this foursomes format, it’s quite probable that at least one of the morning matches will be halved. Question is, which one?

Dufner/Johnson vs Westwood/Molinari

I like the look of the Westwood/Molinari pairing in a fourballs format – in the foursomes, I’m not convinced as much. The one ball situation will only put the microscope on Westwood’s putting and the crowd will be the 13th man for the USA. Its alternative shots so the players need to read the game the same way, compatible styles yet complimentary. You can see Westwood putting the ball straight down the fairway on all his tee-shots and the brilliant molinari finding the green. The challenge will be how Westwood’s putting holds up under the pressure and Molinari isn’t always the best on the greens either.

Dufner and Johnson both knock the ball a mile and both have been in stonking form at the latter end of the season. I just think they might sneak a tight game- something like 2&1.

Furyk/Snedeker vs McDowell/McIlroy

McIlroy, undisputed world number 1 in the form of his life paired with great friend and fellow Northern Irishman McDowell, former US Open Champion and thereabouts in every major championship this year. Europe banker, right? Well, I’m not convinced. I really want to support McIlroy and G-Mac in this one but I sense Furyk and Snedeker could be one of the USA’s better pairings. Rory and G-Mac are friends off the course, know each other really well which counts for a lot in Ryder Cup golf – you need emotional support as much as anything in the heat of battle. The Northern Irishmen weren’t great at Celtic Manor, despite chipping in with their share of points.

Furyk is a veteran of the Ryder Cup but his return hasn’t reflected his world rating ranking or ability. Snedeker is a cup rookie but I don’t expect the recent FedEx Cup winner to falter and his putting will be a major asset. This is the game I can see being drawn, but at the odds I’m going for a Furyk/Snedeker “shock” win or a drawn game.

Mickelson/Z Johnson vs Garcia/Donald

When both Olazabal and his mgt team looked at the draw, they will have locked into this match as one of the crucial games of the morning. The Donald/Garcia duo are unbeaten together in foursomes and Garcia have famously not lost in this format. They are also perfect temprements for the Ryder Cup. Donald is popular on the PGA Tour and is the only player on boths sides to reside in Chicago where he went to college so will have some polite support. If there is ever anything approximating a banker in Ryder Cup golf, this is Europe’s banker on the first day. If they lose this point, they could be facing a whitewash.

Mickelson has been largely disappointing in the Ryder Cup and hasn’t been the force on tour this season. Zach Johnson is solid enough and could be the lynchpin of the pair but I feel Garcia/Donald could win this one a tad cosily. “

Woods/Stricker vs Poulter/Rose

In the traditions of Ryder Cup matchplay, this could be an absolute classic. Europe need this one to go their way – especially if the preceding matches are showing the american flag on the leaderboard. Psychologically, this si a big game too. The USA will be looking to their elder statesmen – two of the most winningest players on tour – to win this and it will send a message to the dressing rooms if they do.

Stricker is the key player in the US pairing. He’s stable and consistent and brings out the best in Woods – not something Furyk or others have managed to do in previous Ryder Cups. Stricker/Woods have an excellent record together in the Ryder Cup and its no surprise to see them together in the opening foursomes. However, they are up against one of europe’s finest pairings – debatable whether the foursomes crown belongs Garcia/Donald – in Poulter/Rose.

Poulter and Rose have known each other since their first days on the tour, both reside in the states and are great friends. On the course, their style of play gels perfectly. As tough as Stricker/Woods are… I fancy Poulter/Rose against anyone. Could easily be a tied match but I’m going to put my faith in the English boys to put a point on the board for Europe.

If I’m right in anyway, the score after morning Foursomes will be 2-2 or 2.5/1.5.

Bring it on!

 

 

 

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PGA Golf – The Tour Championship and FedEx Cup

The remaining thirty golfers in the FedEx rankings do battle for the FedEx Cup – worth a cool $10M to the winner – in the Coca-Cola TOUR Championship hosted at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for the 9th consecutive year. If Rory wins the event this week, he’ll have netted c. $17M in the last six weeks… that’s even more than I earn.

At 7,319 yards for a Par 70 course, it suits the BIG hitters. Tiger Woods is ‘the man’ at East Lake having won here twice, finished runner up another four times and holds the course record of 257 (-23) – but that was before the change to bermuda grass. Since its introduction, no winner has better 9-under par. The course places a premium on fairway accuracy, GIR and strokes-gained putting. The key stat for me is that three of the last four Tour champions led the field that week in putting.

The FedEx points are “re-set” after Crooked Stick such that any of the top five golfers are guaranteed to take the title if they win the Tour Championship. Other than that there is a myriad of permutations beyond the depths of this article.

Given its a 30-man field, just about anything can happen and I notice that a few pundits have recommended backing McIlroy to finish last in the field @ 150/1. It’s not a bad ploy as finding the last man is theoretically no more difficult than finding the winner and there’s just a chance Rory may have a meltdown and throw it all away. However, I doubt it… this is like a skins contest, its all about the money, and there shouldn’t be anywhere near the pressure of a Major. Rory has won 3 of the last 4 tournaments including the last 3, posting -20 or better scores in each.

There’s little point providing a short-list and analysis this week – of course all players are in form or they wouldn’t be here and they all have a decent chance of winning by virtue of the same (remember Haas last year? enough said).

Of the top five, Rory is the adjusted scoring leader and has made more birdies than anyone. He hasn’t played East Lake before but it looks perfectly suited to his game. Tiger, obviously, is right up there and I’d probably make him joint favourite with Rory. There’s always a player or two who makes a late surge and times his run to perfection. This year, I’d put Phil Mickelson in that bracket. He’s had a pretty quiet year by his standards but showed at TPC Boston and Crooked Stick that he’s coming into form and his putting is as good as anyone’s when he’s rolling. He’s also the winner here in 2000 and 2009. Nick Watney, third in the rankings with 2000 points, is often overlooked and I personally would be surprised if he “stole” the title this week as he’s never quite fired at East Lake. For European golf fans, quite frankly any other result than a Rory victory will seem like robbery as the Irishman was around 4000 points clear of next best (Tiger) before the points reset. But it’s a playoff, the rules are clear (to the golfers at least), and he has to go out to beat everyone in the top-10 this week to guarantee the FedEx title.

Jim Furyk has been around the top of the FedEx points table all season but has often let leads slip. Still, he won here in 2010 and isn’t going to be far away this week either. It would be great to see Donald or Westwood take the title but both have to rely on the top five to slip up and I think they are a little short of winning form this week. Of the top five (who guarantee Fedex title with a win), I have a sneaky feeling for Brandt Snedeker. He broke into the top five last week at Crooked Stick and he’s the best putter on tour this season. I have backed Jason Dufner several times this season and only collected a few place pennies but he’s another with the game and temprement  for East Lake. It would be a bit of a fairytale if Adam Scott – after his disappointment at The Open – could take home the title and $10m Fedex bonus. He’s definitely got the game for this course and. like many players in the field, they have nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

I would put Pettersson, Kuchar, Huh and Fowler amongst the least likely winners this week and they would be my idea of bets in the “Finish Last” category.

In summary, I can’t see all of the current top five fedEx players falling away as has happened in the past and I think the best placed amongst that group will take the FedEx Cup. Concentrating on the Tour Championship event itself, I think the top five with exception of Watney will be thereabouts plus Jason Dufner who I can’t desert at the death and he has the game for East Lake.

Snedeker – 2pts e/w @ 40/1 (1,2,3,4 places) looks the stand out value bet.

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BMW Italian Open Golf – 13-16 Sep 2012

The BMW Italian Open returns for the fourth consecutive year to the Royal Park I Roveri club in Turin. Hitsorically it has been played the first week in May, but it was shifted to June last year and now finds itself positioned at the back end of the tour schedule. Defending the title will Robert Rock who narrowly held off Thorbjorn Olesen, one of the tour’s breakthrough young stars. There are several players in good form at present who have shown their liking for this course and tournament and that’s going to be my selection formula this week. The long-list is as follows:

Fredrik Anderson Hed, winner in 2010 and been knocking on the door in recent tournaments.

Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, another past winner from 2007 and 5th last week after leading for part of the final round. 

Franceso Molinari, is the home favourite and will be joined at a tour event for the first time this year by brother Eduardo who has been recovering from a wrist injury. Francesco won in 2006 and obviously will be up for this one – it will also be his final tournament before the Ryder Cup so I expect his game will be tip top.

Matteo Manasserro, another local boy would desperately love to win his national open championship and has been fine tuning his game for this week. He’s shown in previous reneals that he can handle the added pressure and he should make a bold bid this week although he isn’t playing well enough coming into the event to justify being amongst the favourites for the title. In fact if I had to pick an italian at the odds available, at almost three times the price, I’d probably prefer compatriot Lorenzo Gagli.

Scott Jamieson, was 4th at last week’s KLM Open ad 8th a couple of weeks before that at the Lyonness Open in Austria. He’s striking the ball very nicely presently and I’m expecting he’ll keep the momentum going into this week. He was 7th in that minor event called the USPGA Championship last month and for a man who plays well in Italy and is a maiden tour winner this year he really shouldn’t be 110/1 – but he is with Bet365 and that’s too tempting to pass over.

Pablo Larrazabal, tied 2nd place with Richie Ramsey last week in an event he has an affinity for but his best finish here in recent years was his 11th place last year.

Thorbjorn Olesen, finished 2nd last year on 20-under par and has continued that form this year winning the Sicilian Open earlier in the season and playing some outstanding golf in several top-10 finishes. he shot the lowest round of the tournament last year with a 62 – and if it hadn’t been for relatively poor scoring in rounds 2 and 3, he’d have won by a distance. He looked a little jaded at the European Masters and missed the cut, but rested last week and that could be just the tonic he needed before mounting a big bid for the title this week.

This course favours the long hitters and birdie-makers so that points to a big show from Nicolas Colsaerts who will be keen to get his game in shape for his debut at the Ryder Cup. He was 8th last week and top-5 here last year so everything suggests he’ll be thereabouts this week.

Graeme Storm, 7th in 2010, halfway leader (by 4 strokes) at last week’s KLM dutch Open will be looking to maintain the momentum in the push for an overdue title.

It would be stretching the truth to say Peter Whiteford is playing great golf right now, but he has made the top-10 in the Scottish tour events and he was 4th here last year and 11th the previous year. He’s only played the tournament three times so that’s a good record plus he was 7th in Italy when playing on the Challenge Tour. He could be one to surprise at 150/1.

Hennie Otto has been in poor form by his own standards in the second half of the season but he was the winner in 2008 and 7th in 2010.

Without further ado, my staking plan this week is:

Thorbjorn Olesen – 2pts e/w @ 25/1

Nicolas Colsaerts 1.5pts e/w @ 12/1

Fredrik Andersson Hed – 1pt e/w @ 55/1

Scott Jamieson 1pt e/w @ 110/1

Graeme Storm 0.5pt e/w @ 100/1

Peter Whiteford 0.5pt e/w @ 150/1

 

 

 

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