Race to Dubai: Ballantine’s Championship

Race to Dubai:   Ballantine’s Championship

There is nothing more Scottish than a whisky distiller and the real beautiful game, so no surprises exist when for the 5th successive year, Ballantine’s teams up with the European (and the Asian) Tour to being us their version of a pro golf event…but for the fact that its hosted in South Korea: an imperialist hermit Kingdom with the most fortified border on the planet keeping those pesky canine munching weapon of mass destruction concealers at bay in the North.

Date:                     26th – 29th April 2012

Venue:                 Blackstone GC, Icheon, Seoul, South Korea

They tell me that the course was created based on golf strategies and philosophy so that members of all levels are challenged and it has been designed to highlight different decisions a player can make in different kinds of situations that occur during a round including the numerous hazards which will easily challenge the skilled, accurate tee shots of power-hitters. This rewards the choices and strokes made by ‘Thinking Golfers’. What hope then for the yanks?

Yards:                   7,275 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Looking inside the ropes this week you will see Major Champions Darren Clarke (123/1) and YE Yang (28/1), PGA Tour darlings Dustin Johnson and K.T. Kim (28/1 – all BetFair) all helping underline the growing reputation of this tournament. Typically there is a half a field worth of Lee’s and Kim’s except the one Lee the golfing fraternity the would like to see–last year’s winner, all the way from Worksop…it’s Mr Lee Westwood. But alas no, not this year.

Consider…:

Blackstone GC is a young course that only opened a couple of years ago, and each year it will mature and get even better but there are a couple of excellent par threes which are long and over water – the seventh and the 12th holes. There are new tees on the 17th – making the hole 40 yards longer – and then there is the fourth. Arguably the most spectacular of the entire course with its panoramic views and dramatic drop from the tee down to the fairway so we can garner that it’s also physically demanding, and the greens are undulating and will testing pin positions.

Ones to watch:

Fresh from withdrawing at the RBC Heritage, PGA Tour rookie, Sang-moon Bae (24/1 with BetFair) is my one to watch this week and will enjoy swapping Tours to play in his Native open. With two top fives in 2012 in the PGA including 5th in the Accenture Matchplay and 2nd to Luke Donald in the Transitions and a stunning 64 at the Humana Foundation event in January, Bae is clearly a talented golfer enjoying a good year and one to watch generally.

Closing out a season best 3rd place in last weeks’ Volvo China Open, Richard Finch completes my long shot selection this week. Known for providing one of golf’s more memorable moments when he slipped on the riverbank at the 72nd hole of the Irish Open and inadvertently plunged into the water, before being fished out by his caddie and going on to close out a two-stroke victory. His tomfoolery clearly impresses and so take the 100/1 odds with Bet365!

Ones to win:

Three top ten’ in 8 events and with a putter that can’t stop puting the small ball in the bottom of the cup its George Coetzee who excites my betting heart this week! A 4th in the Volvo China Open, a 5th in the Desert Classic and a 6th in Abu Dhabi mean a seat in 21st place in the Race to Dubai and he is fast becoming a weekly contender seeking the first win of his pro career. Is a podium place likely this weekend?  At 29/1 odds, BetFair seem to think so.

8 times a winner on the European Tour, Adam Scott (17/2 with BetFred) is my one to watch this week. The affable Australian, who plays the majority of his golf in the US, lives in Switzerland and this week is dating Serbian Ana Ivanovic, is an on form player with 3rd in the Tavistock Cup, an 8th in the Masters and always looks a contender in the Middle and Far East swings on the Tour. Scored and putted better than everyone in 2011 Scott is fighting for improvement in 2012!

Trick Shot:

Take 13/1 with SkyBet for a double chance victory involving Coetzee and Jimenez.

Jenks out!

Selectabet: WGC – HSBC Champions

Date:                     3rd – 6th November 2011

Competition:     WGC – HSBC Champions

Shanghai huan ying ni! Welcome to Shanghai – and by the way, you are welcome to it! A city where every one of its 23,000,000 inhabitants will be at the airport when you arrive! Or at least, it will seem like it after the 12 hour flight!

And so, another European Tour year meanders towards its end and with this week’s Asian event, a star studded and global field that represent over 20 Nationalities for the $7 million prize pot of the World Golf Championships – Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Champions Tournament – unsurprisingly shortened to WGC – HSBC. (Which for all your grammar Nazis and repetitive human rights activists’ avoids repeating the same words in the one short soy sauce infused breath).

Venue:                 Sheshan International GC, Shanghai, China

Sheshan International Golf Club is Shanghai’s first and most exclusive private golf club where in truth both of its members are too busy trying to only have one child (or pay a fine) to find time to play the wonderful game that is golf. That said, I’ve played this on the Wii many a time and it’s a fantastic golf course where my personal best is a 57!

Back in real life, many of the holes play along the existing canal, around manmade lakes or over the spectacular quarry which is the major feature of Sheshan. Beyond the lakes, scenic landscaped streams don’t forget to add a stunning mountain forest backdrop to the picture and you have pretty much got one of the most aesthetically pleasing lush golf courses anywhere on planet golf. Holes 16 and 17 play around and over the quarry, giving golfers both a stern test of golf but also a wonderful vista, if you were not focused on your A-game.

As you can imagine, as a course, it is more American than Chinese. Otherwise it would be short. And yellow.

Yards:                   7,233 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

The 7 million Yuan first prize has appealed to every one of the Worlds’ most in-form golfers including Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel (28/1), Open Champion Darren Clarke (370/1) and US PGA Champion Keegan Bradley (48/1) who will all look to add the final World Golf Championship event to their 2011 Major success. They are joined by Cadillac Championship winner Nick Watney (23/1) and WGC – Bridgestone Invitational champion Adam Scott (88/5 – all BetDaq) alongside 23 of both the European and PGA Tours event winners and victors of other piddley-little events in Asia.

All, that is, except one Lucas Donald, who is rubbing salt into hard working Chinese wounds by staying at home while his live-in-baby-maker pops out yet another money-grabbing-sleep-stealer to push the population tally well over the 7 billion mark. Which appears to be a similar figure to that of his combined season’s winnings this year!

Consider…:

Consider only the quality of the field – it’s a really open 78 horse race! Anyone of these finally honed athletes could take the Old Tom Morris Cup come Sunday evening. It will be humid, it will rain and there may be thunderstorms and so obviously the likely performers, able to cope, will be those based in Florida or who are from the region.

Ones to watch:

With two wins in 2011 – including one, bizarrely, for his own tournament (The CJ Invitational hosted (and won!) by KJ Choi) – it is World Number 13 Choi (33/1 with Paddy Power and Bwin) who is my one to watch this week. The Korean son of a rice farmer made history as the first of his Nation to win on both sides of the Atlantic and has kept a consistent form at the top level since. With 8 top tens and a victory in the 5th major in 2011 he shows no signs of throwing the golfing equivalent of a “paddy” and should be contender rice up to the bitter end!

Second in 2010, and enjoying playing on the best conditioned golf course that he has seen all year, the Chinese tinged Lee “Woksop” Westwood (8/1 with Bet365 and SkyBet) hopes to follow in Luke Donald’s pedicured footsteps by vying for his first WGC title. Westwood’s fifth in the Shanghai Master last week included a hole in one and comes at the end of a quality five week spell where he has had 4 top ten finishes in 5 starts. He is certainly one to watch given recent form and sitting in a lowly 5th position in the Race to Dubai, a top finish will see him likely rise towards the top once again.

Ones to win:

Never the first to do anything of note, but will always eventually follow suit, it Rory McIlroy (11/2 with Victor Chandler) who will fire himself into the footsteps of Sergio and Bjorn with back to back win on the European Tour this year. With fire in his belly after the shambles that was the Masters, his form has been nothing short of phenomenal and you can see it in his eyes he believes that he can catch Luke for the European Crown. With the World Number 1 in absentia this week, it’s as good a chance as he will get to significantly close the gap! 

However, this week it’s all about a player with 7 top tens this year including a victory and a six in the other WGC events; it is the six foot good looking Aussie love machine Adam Scott (88/5 with BetDaq) that excites me this week. It’s a rarity that he plays outside the USA and his homeland but after sticking the fingers up at the “Has Been” Tiger Woods by employing his caddie and subsequently winning; Scott has been back to the form of old since returning from a dip in form in 2009 and reentered the World’s top ten. In particular watch for his crisp swing, accurate ball striking and some trophy broad of the quality of Ana Ivanovic, Kate Hudson or Marie Kojzar on his arm.

Your welcome!

Jenks out!

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