The 94th PGA Championship

94th PGA Championship

It is unusual for America to have anything really resembling history – in the grand scale of things – but this week’s lesson starts here; in 1670, the Head Chieftain of the Kiawah Indians led English Colonists to settle at Charleston Landing. With a little bit of home and garden help in 1991, the colony has grown to 1,170 settlers that remain on this unique island protected by towering gates and fences, some security guards and huge unwelcoming dogs.

For one week only though, it’s a different kind of interloper who has invaded this former baron land; an affluent multi-cultural multi coloured brand crazy native playing their own version of cowboys and Indians. It sounds primitive (and is) and involves sticks – some short, others long – and small white balls. Much fist pumping and hollering (hopefully not the “get in the hole” variety!) and it’s a major event in the calendar! Ladies and Gentlemen, roll up, roll up, the circus is in town. It’s the greatest game on grass – stand by your teepees and order in an Indian for the 94th PGA Championship from Kiawah Island!

Date:                     9th – 12th August 2012

Venue:                 Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina, USofA

Designed in 1991 by Pete Dye (you can tell that by the use of salvaged railway sleepers everywhere!) specifically for the Ryder Cup – this course, this year, ranks as the longest ever played on the PGA Tour – coming in at a whopping 7,676 yards (a lengthy par five longer than Royal Lytham for the Open Championship)! Consistently rated as one of the best and yet, due to large slopes, bunkers and tough Bermuda grass, most difficult courses on the planet (Golf World, Digest and others), it is a lengthy stern test of golf that was designed so that players have a view of the shoreline of the Atlantic but also exposes golfers to the oft-strong winds in the area.

Yards:                   7,676 yards

Par:                        36 + 36 = Par 72

Field:    

Once again the world’s best players meet for the last shot at glory including all of the top 103 in the world rankings (Webb Simpson and Jason Day allowed a return from babysitting duties!) and the top ten of most of the important tours and performance gauges around the world. The running order includes 28 winners from the 2012 PGA Tour (33 victories), 57 European Tour members (14 debutants), 13 PGA Champions, 33 Major Champions with 54 trophies, a young Matteo Mannesaro (363/1) and a Welshman (Jamie Donaldson) (615/1 – both BetDaq)!

Consider…:

I’ll keep this brief but this week, it’s clear that the player needs to be able to cope with (significant) length, (significant) wind, (significant) bunkers, (significant placement of) water and the fact that this is the last major of the 2012 year and the Ryder Cup looms so there’s a lot a stake and, like our forefathers, its survival of the fittest.

Ones to watch:

Is a true links specialist and has performed well in all of the seasons majors this year and so Graeme McDowell (45/1 at 32Red) (with his worst major result of 2012 a quite highly contended 12th at the Masters) is one to watch – following on from his 2nd in the US Open and a fifth at the Open Championship (not the British Open by the way!). For each day that the wind blows – this seaside expert probably will gain one shot per day on the field…

Tigers (10/1 with Ladbrokes) record in the majors rivals the best in the world – especially when his rather dull and monotonous iron play from the tee puts him in contention. We all know his putting is just one tweak from its best and so, love him or hate him; spitting, shagging and club hurling aside, he is the major draw in-case he brings his A-game. And if the former world number 1 doesn’t – it’s usually quite fun watching the best ever golfer come a cropper (like we all usually do)….

Ones to win:

Jason Dufner (28/1 with SkyBet) has finished no worse than 7th in his last four starts on the PGA Tour and has delivered back to back top fives in the PGA Championship in the past two years. He is one to win this week where he would add another victory to his two already on the big US tour. Lies sixth in greens in regulation, 5th in scoring average and total driving, 3rd in the FedEx Cup, 2nd in the Money list and so the only thing left is….

Despite only 14 events having been played in the US, seven top 25’s have been clinically delivered, in Europe it’s a similar story; 5 top tens in ten starts including 2 wins and a second at the Masters. For me, major winner Louis Oosthuizen (40/1 with BetDaq) looks like he is hitting the form that helped him breeze to the 2010 Open at St Andrews. He ranks 4th in longest drives, 3rd in shots around the 200 yard mark and 1st in putting from inside 5 feet. Surely a second major is not beyond him….

Trick shots:

The half way (36 hole) leader WILL be Jason Dufner and returns 33 of what you put on at PaddyPower.com. Statistically he has the lowest score on Tour after 18 holes and so you do the math’s and see what happens…

It’s cruel but it’s fun – Luke Donald to miss the cut returns 5/1 with StanJames. He doesn’t do it very often, but sadly more often than not in the major championships…

Top former winner is also a new tip for me – and so take Phil Mickelson (at 7/1 with PaddyPower.com) and subscribe to the when-you-least-expect-it theory with me!

Lastly – here’s a triple chance winner for all non believers. Westwood, Duffner and Dustin Johnson return 8/1 with SkyBet if you fancy hedging your bets a little!

Jenks Out!

Self Destruct: The 1999 Open Championship

Accidentally pushing the self destruct button happens more than we care to think about in the wonderful and exciting world of golf.

In recent years, we will all remember the pain suffered by Rory McIlroy (who subsequently demonstrated bounce-back-ability to take the US Open two months later). Others though are not so lucky.

To tie in with the start of the Open Championship this morning, lets have a look at the last major collapse at this most iconic of majors (not the British Open American friends!) and in particular the exploits of Jean Van De Velde in 1999.

With a three shot lead on the 18th tee, a double bogey 6 or better was all that seperated the Frenchman from the Claret Jug. The video reminds us of the events and what unfolded:

However, its not all bad karma. A few months later, Jean VdV revisited Carnasty to exorcise his demons with his well respected and trusted “Never Compromise” putter to see if he could beat the 7 he recorded only using the flat blade of his most prized tool. Watch that particular storyline unfold too.

To keep up with the very latest on what the scores are at Royal Lytham & St Annes GC this weekend, visit here.

2012 Open Championship Infographic

Author: Jake Filan @ Golfsliced.com

The 2012 British Open is here and kicks off today at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. This is a highly anticipated major since Tiger Woods seems to have found his game and is looking for his 4th Open Championship in 12 years. The field is deep and so is the rough, should be a great week. For tips on who might take the crown this week see the betting blog here.

But its not all about the golf as this interesting insight behind the scenes demonstrates:

The 141st Open Championship

141st Open Championship

268 miles as birdies fly from the peace and tranquility of Castle Stuart and Moray Firth, is the beating heart of West Lancashire; home of the hot pot, the Illuminations, 24/7/365 Ken Dodd, the only curry house-come-disco I know (‘Planet Poppadom’ if interested!) and the gay capital of the north (does the R&A know?). It’s Blackpool-Sur-Mere!

Ten minutes further in a taxi is Lytham where the following has been taking place; Darren has returned a silver jug; agronomists have been busy shaving it nice and tight; the rough areas have been left to grow to waist height and Ted Potter Jr. is preparing for a good-old-fashioned-knees-up on the trams with a curry and a boogie.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s the oldest and most prestigious major golfing event on planet earth, so pop your Little Boots on for the greatest game on grass as the Royal & Awesome rolls into town for the 141st Open Championship!

Date:                     19th – 22nd July 2012

Venue:                 Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, Lytham St Annes, Lancs, England

It’s been 11 long years since the Tour Circus last rolled into Lytham and David Duval must be thinking that too (it was his last tournament win) here on the 11th Open outing over these fine links. For those of you old enough to remember, it is the only Open venue that is not directly on the sea; that starts with a par three; includes three par threes on the front nine and has three tough holes to finish (remember Seve’s shot from the car park on 16 in ‘79?).

It’s not a long track and it will favour accuracy over length due to 206 strategically placed bunkers near its narrow fairways and around its tiny greens – and sadly no one has said that it favours left-handers like Ted Potter Jr yet…

Yards:                   7,086 yards

Par:                        34 + 36 = Par 70

Field:   

Like all major tournaments, it’s the golfing crème de la crème this week including the top 50 in the world (minus Mssrs Simpson and Day who both opted for babysitting duties), the top 30 of both the 2011 PGA and European Tours, all previous Open Champions under 60 and Ted Potter Jr (500/1 (838/1 with BetDaq is available!)).

The field includes the walking legend that is Tom Watson (500/1) and every Open Champion from the recent modern era with the exception of Mark O’Meara – at the other end of the scale are two amateurs fighting for the silver medal; the motherlands Alan Dunbar (1/2 to take it) and the positively international Manual Trappel (6/4 – all Ladbrokes).

Consider…:

Luke Donald (37/1 with Betfair to be first round leader) nailed it when he said much of what you need to know; “It’s very fair, but it’s very tough. It’s certainly going to produce the guy who plays the best because there’s no escaping some holes; you’ve just got to step up there and hit good tee shots. You aren’t going to find lucky lies in the rough. You’re not going to be able to get to the greens from the bunkers. It’s about hitting fairways, hitting greens…”

Beyond that, the weather plays its part; and thankfully no rain is currently scheduled for competition days. There are 10 mph winds Thursday through Saturday and a positively challenging 20 mph wind on Sunday. Oooocha…

Ones to watch:

It is just a matter of time before Dustin Johnson (57/1 with 32Red) grasps his first victory in a major having had trophy’s snatched from his very clutches on two occasions; at the PGA Championship in 2010 and in this outing last year where he shared runner-up honors at Royal St. George’s after going OOB on the 14th. He tied for 14th in 2010 at St. Andrews and has proved he could win anywhere, could pound the par 5s and could deliver proven success in unpleasant conditions.

The cheeky Italian Francesco Molinari (49/1 with 32Red) failed to close the door on what would have been a wire-to-wire victory at last week’s Scottish Open, settling for his second straight runner-up finish and sixth top 10 in his last eight starts worldwide. He is second in the Race to Dubai and ranks highly on the European Tour in fairways hit and top five in greens in regulation. Does he have enough gas in the tank to compete again this week? I (ti) think so!

 

Ones to win:

The world’s top-ranked golfer has a pair of victories already this year worldwide – the BMW PGA and the Transitions Championship with 3 further top tens worldwide from 13 starts although his only two top 10s from 11 starts in the Open occurred in 2009 and 2010. Luke Donald (20/1 with BetVictor) has an improved range of shots from the tee that will be a valuable addition to his arsenal alongside his scrambling – which some think will see him finally grab the major honours that he deserves.

The first player in 2012 to hit the magical three wins is playing – he’s a former world number one and there is an argument that his recent swing modifications were built exclusively for this week. He’s fifth on the PGA Tour in total driving distance so won’t need the long stick often (we all remember his victory at Hoylake in 2006 when the big club gathered dust in his bag). He ranks 11th in greens hit and high in putting but more importantly he is Tiger Woods (10/1 with Ladbrokes).

Trick shots:

Ted Potter Jr to be the top finishing debutant delivers – 25/1 with Ladbrokes. (You heard it here first!!)

Ted Potter Jr to be the top finishing left hander will return you 14/1 with SkyBet (Thank me later!)

Ted Potter Jr to be the top finish American and you will get back 175 of what you put on (I said to you!)

Now cue the classic BBC golfing music and run VT…

Jenks Out!

Spain: Best Team of All Time?

Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012 in Kiev on Sunday to win their third major tournament in a row. Vicente del Bosque led his side to an emphatic victory in Ukraine to become the first coach to win a World Cup, a European Championship and a Champions League title.

Spain have now won the last two European Championships and the last World Cup in South Africa. So are they the best national side to play the game?

BBC Sport looks at the contenders and asks the experts for their views. Who do you think is the best team?

Spain 2008-12
BBC chief football writer Phil McNulty

The debate began long before Spain’s goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas lifted the trophy at the end of the Euro 2012 final. In fact the debate began long before the end of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Such was the scale and artistry of their 4-0 win against Italy that they staked the most eloquent claim to be the greatest international team in history.

When the template for the all-time great sides is assembled, Brazil’s legendary World Cup-winning side in Mexico in 1970 is invariably used. It was built around legends like Pele, Tostao, Jairzinho, Rivelinho and Gerson – and many more besides in a marriage of team work and individual brilliance.

Analysis
Martin Keown – Football Analyst

“Spain are going to dominate for years to come. They have to be the best side ever. I can’t see any other team getting near this. Spain have really set the bar high and they have time on their side. They’re beautiful to watch and there’s something extra special about this team. They’re a group of winners.”

Germany have had great sides through the ages and Argentina won World Cups in relatively quick succession in 1978 and 1986 – but has anyone ever had a tighter stranglehold on the world game than Spain?

They have now been untouchable in three major competitions and already few would back against them in South America when the World Cup goes to Brazil in 2014.

They are the ultimate combination of silk and steel. They conceded one goal in Euro 2012 and have the Barcelona “carousel” of Xavi and Andres Iniesta augmented by Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso in midfield.

Del Bosque felt confident enough in this brilliant side to ignore the claims of a conventional striker such as Fernando Torres, although he made a devastating late contribution against Italy.

David Silva and Cesc Fabregas more than compensated – and it was all done without their great goalscorer David Villa and iconic defender Carles Puyol.

The greatest? It would have to be a very powerful argument against Spain.

Brazil 1958
Tim Vickery, South American football expert

“Brazil 1970 are usually wheeled out when the debate gets going on the best international side of all time. But take away the advantage of television – Mexico 70 was the first World Cup screened all over the globe – and their predecessors from 12 years earlier have a much better claim.

On a man-for-man basis it is a no contest. It is hard to think of anyone from the 1970 side who would have walked in to the 58 team. And Brazil of 1958 had so much that was new. Their pioneering use of a back four gave them defensive cover – Brazil did not let in a goal until the semi-final, where they beat France 5-2.”

Analysis
Alan Shearer – BBC Sport

“This Spain team is the best ever. We mention the Brazil sides with Pele but this is absolutely unbelievable what they have achieved.”

There were attacking full-backs and dangerous free-kicks. Their preparation – with physical specialists, doctors, dentists and even a premature experiment with a sports psychologist – broke new ground. And with the collective side of their game right, the individual talent could flourish. While Pele and Garrincha were both on the field, Brazil never lost a game.

They were the first Brazilian winners of the World Cup – and remain the only South American side to have lifted the trophy in Europe. And they also kept on winning. Only a controversial last-minute refereeing decision prevented them claiming the 1959 Copa America, and they successfully defended their title in the 1962 World Cup, despite losing Pele, then at the peak of his powers, in the second game.

They beat Spain on the way – it would be fascinating to see them up against the Spain of today.”

France 1998-2000
French football journalist Matt Spiro

“France’s crowning moment came when they won the 1998 World Cup on home soil, yet the team that clinched the European crown two years later was a far more complete side and is widely regarded as the nation’s best ever.

Use accessible player and disable flyout menusEuro 2000: France victorious over Italy
While goalkeeper Fabien Barthez and the powerful back four of Lilian Thuram, Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly and Bixente Lizarazu were imperious in both competitions, Roger Lemerre’s team also displayed an enviable attacking swagger.

Patrick Vieira excelled in midfield in 2000, adding steel alongside canny skipper Didier Deschamps, and the inimitable Zinedine Zidane was by then established as the world’s leading player. The schemer’s mesmerising performance against Portugal in the semi-final remains one of the most stylish in the competition’s history.

Analysis
Alan Hansen – Football Analyst

“The first-half performance by Spain in the final was superlative and they should go down as the best team in history. Their technical ability is better than anyone we’ve seen.

“We will be talking about that first-half display for 30 or 40 years.”

In attack, Les Bleus were blessed with a deadly cocktail of talent. The speed and skill of Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka, David Trezeguet’s potency, Youri Djorkaeff’s trickery, and the guile of Christophe Dugarry invariably left opponents floundering as 13 goals were plundered in six games – one more than Spain this year.

Like Vicente del Bosque’s current Spain team, France had extraordinary depth – as the final victory over Italy demonstrated.

They were on the verge of defeat when substitute Sylvain Wiltord struck a late leveller. In extra-time, two more players sent on by Lemerre – Robert Pires and Trezeguet – combined to conjure a sublime golden goal.

It was a fitting way for this incredibly tough, gifted and ruthless team to sign off.”

Do you have anything to add? Please leave a comment below:

View From the Spire: Alex Hay 1933 – 2011

Alex Hay, a PGA professional for more than half a century, former Ryder Cup referee and celebrated TV commentator, died peacefully this morning following a short illness. He was 78.

Hay was born in Edinburgh in 1933 and joined Ben Sayers as an apprentice clubmaker before becoming an assistant at Potters Bar.
 
He qualified as a PGA professional in 1952 and had spells at East Herts, Dunham Forest and Ashridge golf clubs before moving to Woburn in 1977. Initially, the head PGA professional there, he became its managing director.
 
Hay also wrote several books on the techniques of the swing and played a key role in the drawings used in the PGA’s training manual.
 
However, it was his role as a commentator for the BBC from 1978 to 2004 that he is best known. He co-presented all the major tournaments with Peter Alliss and the pair were renowned for their wit, rapport, feeling and deep knowledge of the game.
 
Hay, who passed away with his family by his side, leaves a wife Ann, and two sons, Graham and David.