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!

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WGC Bridgestone Invitational

The WGC – Bridgestone Invitational

My name is David. I’m an alcoholic and I’ve been coming here for two years now.

Here we are, 63 miles south of Lake Eerie in a real old school industrial melting pot; rubber capital of the world and original home of the Goodyear blimp… This hive of national pride is home to the National Hamburger Festival (including Miss Hamburger contest), the All American Soap Box Derby, home to “Vocal Adrenaline” – comedy musical Glee’s baddies who’s school is based in Akron, and Founders Day – a celebration of the humble beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

But for one week of each year, the circus rolls into town for the greatest show on grass as two major golfing worlds collide for a 76 man showdown over the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company Golf Course. Ladies and Gentlemen, charge your glasses, sit back and watch as the greatest golfers on the planet lay some serious rubber as they take flight for the 2012 World Golf Championships and the Bridgestone Invitational. Cheers!

Date:                     2nd – 5th August 2012

Venue:                 Firestone CC, Akron, Ohio (South Course – Monster)

The Firestone Country Club is a rare breed of golf club where this event can boast its’ 58th consecutive year of tournament golf. It is the only Club to have hosted three nationally televised pro events in the same year (1974 for you pub quiz participants), has hosted three PGA Championships and ranks 4th among private facilities by GolfWorld. It’s as far removed from all things “Akroness” (adj. simultaneously possessing a look of prolonged neglect and frequent use) as is possible as this stunning course is noted for its length including a series of intimidating, long par 4 holes and one of the longest par 5s anywhere, with the 16th hole playing up to 667 yards.

Yards:                   7,400 yards

Par:                        Par 70

Field:                   

It really is a quality field; likened to the finest grapes hand-picked from their vines at dawn in early Autumn with the four days of competition the equivalent of the soft and tender squashing of the fresh sweet juices that start the process while the winning is the beautiful pop of the cork, the smell, and that first intake of the hard stuff. Magical!

Back to the event roll call where 17 major winners are present with fill the cabinet with 37 shiny replicas; 23 winners on the PGA Tour with 28 victories and 36 European Tour players still clutching 18 current trophy’s from 2012. Paul Lawrie (246/1 with BetFair) even bothered to make the trip over water for two weeks work here and at the PGA next week!

Consider…:

There are only two kinds of music; country and western. Similarly with this course – there’s only length and accuracy. Two musical traits required for this week’s modern game (unless you’re Zack Johnson). Nothing else matters.

Ones to watch:

On which note, if it’s quasi-ritualized therapeutic sessions you support, look no further than two time 2012 winner (and leader of the tour bible class) Zack Johnson (31/1 with BetDaq). His natural draw suits the tree lined course and the recent spate of warm weather has dried up the fairways lessoning his length disadvantage… With 9 top 25 finishes including two wins and two seconds – form would dictate you keep one of your forward lookers firmly on this on form swinger.

Hunter Mahan (25/1 with StanJames) won this event in 2010 and finished in the top ten in the two years preceding that. 11 top 25s this year including two wins put him 4th in the Fed Ex Cup and ranks him 13th in the current World order. Consistently there or thereabouts, in the last 4 weeks on the road he has returned 8th, and 11th and tied 19th at the British Open. A podium place beckons for certain…I’ll bet you.

Ones to win:

You could look at the rest of the field for inspiration and see Luke Donald (16/1), Lee Westwood (20/1), Matt Kuchar (35/1), Adam Scott (16/1), Bubba Watson (33/1) or Rory McIlroy (25/1 – all BetVictor) all vying for the attention of the podium and the $1,400,000 cheque – but none of them inspire me over this track more than one player…

So if history and current form is anything to go by, it’s extremely hard not to pick Woods (5/1 with SkyBet): 7 wins in 12 starts at Firestone including the famous shots in the dark when he won under cover of darkness by a record 11 strokes. His form is somewhere near his best – and his returns at Firestone are unsurpassed. His renaissance means that a good showing could see him take back his World Number 1 slot – although his putting is not as sharp as it used to be (as we saw at the Open Championship) the killer instinct clearly still exists somewhere inside… Champagne on ice for Tiger? Definitely!

Trick shots:

A win by 4 strokes or more – as has happened 6 times in the last 13 years – returns odds of 4/1 with Ladbrokes.

Brandt Snedeker as first round leader will surprise few but with odds of 55/1 with SkyBet are surely a tip to consider?

Francesco Molinari is attractive with returns of 33/1 (without Tiger Woods in the frame) to win the tournament – so PaddyPower does pay…

Thank me later!

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!

Race to Dubai: AAM Scottish Open

Race to Dubai:   Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open

Salvaged – that’s what this was. Salvaged. After all that came out in the wash (fairways, banks, bunkers and only 54 holes I seem to remember!) this was salvaged from a mere statistical existence in a history books, unlike most other Scottish sport, by a late to the party sponsor (who seem to like to properties all things shite Scottish). That said, I am delighted that the best game on grass warms up for “The Jug” by playing links golf in the motherland.

Date:                     12th – 15th July 2012

Venue:                 Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland

It’s already the 56th best global course after a few years in existence! The opening three holes on each nine run away from the Clubhouse along the edge of a raised running along the side of the Moray Firth. It’s spectacularly natural and offers incredible views over the water to the Black Isle. Beware though, the expanse of wild looking bunkers bordering fairways and greens, the rumples and infinity edges that will catch all but the most accurate of shots.

Pictures from CastleStuartGolf.com

Yards:                   7,193 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Looking at the full spectrum of talent on display consider the saltire clad loons James Byrne (500/1), David Law (600/1), Michael Stuart (1,000/1) and Sandy Lyle (1500/1) – with a cumulative world ranking of 5,436 (it seems the counting stops at rank 1447 (all bar James Byrne hit this invisible ceiling!) all the way down to the positively global Oosthuizen (33/1), Green (125/1) and Mickelson (28/1).

Consider…:

Not being negative (that’s the Scottish way) BUT, last year’s event was unfortunately hit by unprecedented summer storms that forced a foreshortened 54 hole version of the tournament. Coming off the back of 40 days and nights of recent rain – and with Noah clearly parking a sizeable floating zoo 100 yards out in the Moray firth – it all sounds too familiar aye? A winner again after 54 holes is possible but a little rain and 15 mph winds never hurt anyone right?

Ones to watch:

Hoping for another landslide victory on the 52 week cumulative anniversary as Numero Uno, it’s a majorly consistent Luke Donald (8/1 with BetFred) who has the potential to repeat what he repeated at Wentworth by repeating what he did last year. But I think it’s a likely podium not a triumph – though he does stand a better chance this week than next in the Open…

Pictures from CastleStuartGolf.com

“He’s big, he’s strong – he’s not been winning long – its Colsaerts!”. World number 35, tall and lithe, its big hitting Nicolas Colsaerts (22/1 with BetFair) who will out bat the rest of the field this week AND he’s been Mr. Consistent in his scoring too. He triumphed in the mighty lucrative Volvo Match play but currently clings to an automatic Ryder Cup  spot but he will want to cement his position and ensure that he’s the only Belgium you can’t blame anything on.

Ones to win:

Three top tens in five outings put Padraig Harrington (17/1 with BetDaq) back on the radar – and now crucially for such an experienced links player just in time for the three weeks of the Irish, Scottish and British Opens. An 8th in the Masters was followed by a 4th in the US Open and a 7th in the Irish. He’s the major winner of the field in the best current form but not guaranteed a Ryder Cup pick he will be aiming to find some form or a trophy to make up ground on his peers.

Having searched in the dark abyss of mediocrity, it seems that Henrik Stenson (31/1 with BetDaq) has finally found what he’s been looking for and stopped playing mince. Two consecutive top tens in Germany and France signify the sweet swinging Swede might be back to somewhere resembling his very best. I am unsure what we all think the reasoning behind his drop in form (a fall out with Fanny perhaps left at bitter taste in his mouth?) but it’s a great return for the former winner of the Ryder Cup, Players Championship and WGC World Match play. Its tatties for the rest of the field!

Trick Shot!

If a South African flavor trick shot is your thing, what about a triple chance where if Oosthuizen, Coetzee or Grace triumph – there’s a 12/1 return with SkyBet.

If it’s a more homeland feeling stirring your loins this week, consider a top ten place for Marc Warren that will return you 11/1 with William Hill.

Finally, if it’s for the top Sassenach to finish in the field this week, look no further than Simon Dyson – who returns odd of 8/1 (without Donald in the mix) from Bet Victor.

Jenks Out!

 

112th US Open Championship

112th US Open Championship

If the famous Frisco fog lifts, and if you can see us, we are safely stationed on the West Coast US in the Bay Area. I say ‘safely’ as there is actually a fault, the San Andreas earthquake fault, lying (currently!) dormant right beneath our spikes on this patch of links; a links like no other. Here there are no water hazards, no out-of-bounds and only one fairway bunker. It’s a place of too many trees – around 30,000 – too little sunshine and holes where the ball may or not roll because of the heavy conditions but the score certainly can roll up. So, roll up, roll up – the greatest show on grass visit San Fran’s legendary no nonsense ‘sleeping lady’ for the 112th US Open Championship!

Date:                     14th – 17th June 2012

Venue:                 The Olympic Club, San Francisco, California

This is the 5th time here and, like the course, cutting straight to the chase, she is wicked! She opens with the hardest six-hole stretch in golf and no more so that the 520-yard par-4 first! It is not a long track by today’s standards, but it boasts an abundance of elevation changes that will test the best players. And don’t expect players to go low: in the four previous Opens here, only four individuals have finished in red numbers. AND if conditions this week seem unreasonably challenging, top golfers know exactly who to blame; McIlroy’s (88/5 with BetFair) ‘cracking’ performance at last year’s Open not only left Congressional Country Club in shambles, but it gave the USGA a considerably bruised ego as well!

Yards:                   7,170 yards

Par:                        Par 70

Field:                   

Of the 156 strong field, what counts is the simple fact that to win someone will need to string together four strong rounds – you would pay for that tip elsewhere!! Just as well that we have then assembled one of the best fields of 2012 including the last ten winners of the US Open from Lucas Glover (343/1) to Michael Campbell (969/1) and 5 years of winners of the other big three including Bubba (55/1), Harrington (79/1) and Kaymer (59/1). Let’s not overlook the top 60 in the world rankings including Lee Westwood (121/10), last year’s Tour Championship field with Bill Haas (135/1) and last year’s 10th place and ties to involve Sergio Garcia (53/1) and with a few other places then there’s the qualifiers from the regional heats including the story of the year about Casey Martin (969/1 – all BetDaq) – the man who sued the PGA Tour and now is permitted to drive a cart!!

Lovely picture but Louis is not in my top tips this week

Consider…:

With its small, firm greens and narrow, tree-lined fairways, Olympic Club generally favors finesse over power and so once again, it’s down to short game wizardry – so Phil Mickelson (24/1 with BetDaq) you think? But, the one who wins is likely to be someone who is not as renowned as the person he beats into second! In support, consider that in every US Open at the Olympic Club, the 54-hole leader has gone on to lose the tournament. Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart all threw away Sunday leads en route to runner-up spot against journeymen or unknown types.

Ones to watch:

Geoff Ogilvy (98/1 with BetDaq), 34, won the Open six years ago at Winged Foot. He’s ranked 50th in the world and has chugged along as a very decent pro without gathering much attention outside his native Australia. In 2012 he’s already had 6 top ten finishes but more relevantly ranks in the top 20 in scrambling, putting from inside 10 feet and top 5 for long range approaches. Similarly, 98 Olympic winner Lee Janzen claimed his first U.S Open title in 1993, five years before he showed up at Olympic to repeat the feat at age 33 with similar Tour stats. Ogilvy is practically a 1998 Janzen clone!

This year, perhaps more than any other, Luke Donald (14/1 with Ladbrokes) is as poised as he will be to win a major. The current world number 1 secured his second worldwide victory this year with a successful defence of his BMW PGA Championship title and ranks eighth on the PGA Tour in fairways hit, fifth in avoiding bogeys but most importantly carries top ten ranks on the European Tour in all putting disciplines with a #1 rank for one putts and extends that to scrambling too.

Ones to win:

Matt Kuchar (31/1 with BetDaq) is a good man, and more importantly a good bet. And, while not outspoken about his religion – as a regular member of the PGA Tour’s Bible study group – by Christ he is a strong bet given his record this season! With top-15s in the last two U.S. Open’s and top-10s in four of his last eight stroke-play starts this season including a win at the 5th Major, The Players. He’s clearly a man on form and lies second in bogey avoidance, 10th in greens in regulation and has a string of GIR and putting top ten stats to support the string of leader board threatening results including scoring average.

This man is becoming a silent robot again! With seven top 25s in his last eight starts Jim Furyk (40/1 with Totesport) leads the PGA Tour in bogey avoidance and ranks second in fairways hit, 25th in greens in regulation and 24th in Strokes Gained-Putting. He’s spent much of the past decade ranked in the World Golf Top 10 and has secured five top five’s in 17 starts in this event alone including his only major win in the 2003 U.S. Open.

Trick shots:

After his win at the Memorial and a lengthy absence, we welcome back Tiger Woods as the bookies favourite (at 7/1) but not being that predictable and more than that, we welcome his odds for missing the cut (9/2 – both SkyBet!) – he’s missed three in the past 18 months! Does that make us more crooked than Lombard Street?

With his last US Open here in 1998 he obtained a rather shock result in ending up in a tie for 23rd, its local qualifying hero and cart bound PGA Tour nemesis Casey Martin, who delivers a remarkable 66/1 (SkyBet) return for merely achieving a top twenty finish! If successful, he’ll be going straight to Alcatraz for that one!