FedEx Cup: AT&T National

Fed Ex Cup:        AT&T National

“Thank you for calling the AT&T National, please hold….“

Welcome to The Old Line State – Maryland; America in miniature with Countryside that ranges from sandy dunes dotted with sea grass in the east, to low marshlands teeming with wildlife and large bald cypress near the bay, to gently rolling hills of oak forest in the Piedmont Region, and pine groves in the mountains to the west. Despite the 3,400 mile distance, this is McIlroy County – home of Rory’s sensational US Open victory in 2011 but he’s not hearing the call (he’s in Ireland) – leave a message – tell him it’s the greatest game on grass and the PGA Tour is dialling in!

Date:                     28th June – 1st July 2012

Venue:                 Congressional Country Club (Blue Course), Bethesda, Maryland

Steeped in tournament history, Congressional has hosted many leading tournaments from juniors, ladies and seniors to majors in the form of the PGA and US Open as well as this established annual gathering – although the AT&T has had a 3 year absence from the roster at this venue and this year is 314 yards longer than it was in 2009! The exclusive Club counted Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D Eisenhower and Gerald Ford amongst its esteemed members and is so posh that the ice cubes are frozen twice to help them last longer in their G&T’s – now that’s cool!

Yards:                   7,569 yards

Par:                        Par 71

Field:    

“Just one moment please….”

If you are looking for your AT&T host – he’ll be a long in a minute, as for the first time since he took the trophy back in 2009 Tiger Woods (11/2 with SkyBet) has accepted an invite – from himself!! This invite only event at the Congressional is restricted to a field of only 120 including nine players who have already won on the 2012 PGA Tour, 11 major championship winners with a mantelpiece holding 28 major trophies and two of the current top three in the FedEx Cup standings, all of whom will be competing for a $6.5 million purse and a winner’s cheque in the region of $1,100,000.

Consider…:

“How may I direct your call?”

The World watched in 2011 as McIlroy obliterated the US Open field, and we knew the Blue course was tough – some would say brutal, but the scores were unlike many a US Open for at least 19 players ended in red numbers! It may not quite play so brutal this time around but the course still hosts tricky but rewarding holes – no more so than the 489 yards par 5, 6th hole and the 471 yard par 4, 12th holes that could make a big difference to a cards.

Ones to watch:

Potentially the hottest player on the Tour without a victory (yet) this year, Ryan Palmer (37/1 with BetDaq), if recent history is anything to go by, could see another finish in a placed position this week. In his last five starts, he’s posted four top 10s including in each of his last three outings. At a staggering aggregate 33-under in those 4 starts, with averaging 3.74 birdies per round and having finished 21st in 2011 U.S. Open, he knows how brutal but rewarding the course can be.

England’s Brian Davis (90/1 with BetDaq) recorded his third fourth place finish of the year at the Travelers Championship where he shared the 54-hole lead. He ranked within the top 10 in fairways hit, greens reached and birdies obtained at TPC River Highlands. He is certainly consistent currently sitting 29th on the PGA Tour in the all-around ranking but has yet to make the breakthrough into the winners circle and as such, it may just be a podium (and no more) on this call.

Ones to win:

Bo Van Pelt (35/1 with BlueSq) tied for 24th at the Travelers delivering his fourth top 25 in five consecutive starts and his ninth of the year from 13 cuts made! He is currently sitting fifth on the PGA Tour in total driving accuracy, 52nd in greens hit and third in Strokes Gained-Putting and tied for 14th at Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open. The World number 32 sits 37th on the FedEx Cup and with a few strong events could be a contender for a valuable Ryder Cup spot in Chicago.

Scot Martin Laird (63/1 with BetDaq) is a good call this week in theory, if you consider his length off the tee and the frequency of hitting greens in regulation (he currently sits 10th in the Tour rankings). Like some of Scotland’s other finest exports, he has a tendency to play the difficult courses well – coping well with the firm and fast conditions that suit his game. With warm, dry weather expected, don’t expect him to lose his cool.

Trick shots:

“I’m just putting you through…”

On fire Marc Leishman fresh from his win at the Travelers last week, returns 147/10 with BetDaq to finish on Sunday in a place… and with two top fives in his last 4 outings, you wouldn’t bet against it would you?

Martin Laird also delivers 51/10 (also with BetDaq) for a top ten finish – he has had three already in 2012 and 18 in his career. The odds are looking in our favour…

Thank me later!

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Race to Dubai: BMW PGA Championship

Race to Dubai:   The BMW PGA Championship

Welcome to England! The first and only visit here this year excluding the British Open. (Not wanting to gloat but Scotland, (which is not in England by the way America!) has three tournaments every year not including the British Open). Anyway, despite that National trumping, this event is the Flagship of the Tour hence why only the best are playing. And when I say best, I mean the World’s best, as despite the yanks struggling to get passports that allow them entry to this Country, we do have the best golfers! And that gives them a chance on their own soil doesn’t it?

Date:                     24th – 27th May 2012

Venue:                 Wentworth Club (West Course), Surrey, Posh Shire, England

A cracking course to play and, for you Sir, a snip at only £360 for our finest 18. Or why not buy the whole thing – it could be yours for a mere £130 Million (prices based at last sale to fashionable so and so Richard Caring from 2004 before he did a Gok Wan and subsequently butchered the classic heath land course with input from a local -one Ernest of Els). Anyway, the stage is set, the flags are in position, the players’ hair and makeups done – and beyond Anton du Beke Day (Pro-Cel-Am on Wednesday), there’s time only for the fanfares and the tournament can begin!

Yards:                   7,302 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Having dominated the summit of the Official World Golf Ranking since Westwood deposed Tiger Woods in October 2010, the elite of The European Tour’s are set for a titanic battle over this West Course at Wentworth Club. And the field is the best of the season so far; we have the World’s top 3; the 9 European Tour number 1’s since 1993; 10 former PGA Championship winners; 12 victors from the 2012 season; 15 Major Champions holding 21 trophies; 29 Ryder Cup players and 110 European Tour winners holding 458 titles! My question to you – who needs America?

Consider…:

The fact that absolutely everyone can watch their chosen ones in the tournament this week as like only the best events, “Aunty” gets the crowning glory and Sky’s golfed-out audience will have to remind themselves what good golfing coverage on TV is like. The weather will be warm and that suits many of these players but with the fresh winds, the course will be waiting to capture anyone who strays just a little too far from the fairways. Look out for holes 14 – 18; from the par 3, 14th up the hill and the pair of par 5’s to finish. So nothings final ‘til the fat lady sings.

Ones to watch:

With five top tens’ from 10 starts in 2012 including a second in Spain, its 19 year old wunderkind Matteo Mannesaro who looks set to generate some sparks this week. Coming off the back of two 7th place finishes and having finished, guess what? – 7th here last year despite the two disappointing rounds of 72 and 75 to finish. The Tifosi will ignite with odds of 47/1 with BetFair and as the second best putter playing, on these greens – lucky number 7’s a sure thing.

Two second places including a storming finish at The Players Championship mean Martin Laird could have played himself right into contention this week. Taking time for a week off and acclimatizing to the UK, when the chips are down, look no further than a Scot to come good with your bets. A long ball striker, who ranks high in accuracy stats on the PGA Tour, fits right in here on these challenging links. Is he a contender? Och aye….

Ones to win:

Playing his 7th event in “Europe” in 2012 and having a 3rd and a 2nd to his name already, Graeme MacDowell needs only a win to keep his season stats from affecting his OCD – it has been a two year winless streak. After a second place finish in the Match Play, his game is clearly good enough to take on the best but can he replicate Luke Donald’s’ (9/1 with Ladbrokes) 2-1 from these same tournaments last year? At 33/1 with Ladbrokes, many of you clearly favour the OWGR #1 & #2 and not the Irishman.


Nine events entered, nine cuts made, three top tens’ including a win in Spain two weeks ago means Francesco Molinari (37/1 with BetFair) makes my shortlist this week. (He’ll be over the moon!) A consistent 4th in greens in regulation means the Italian is a constant threat on the leader board and the 9th position in the Race to Dubai and World ranking of 32 merely confirm it. The younger of the Molinari brothers will be keen to secure his playing involvement in the Ryder Cup before the nail biting selection process in August. Will he be amongst them? Of course he will!

Trick Shot

It’s the week of Double Chances – that’s the way forward here!

So, look out for MacDowell and Molinari (at 16/1 with SkyBet) to win in a Double Chance. (Compared to McIlroy and Westwood at 5/1 and you see how good a steal it is!)

Also at longer odds, consider Harrington and Anders Hanson in the Double Chance at 25/1 also show that there are some good returns should just one of these guys do good this week.

Jenks Out!

Want to see what my predictions were in 2011? Click here.

Selectabet: Dubai World Championship

Date:                     8th – 11th December 2011

Competition:     Dubai World Championship presented by DP World

It’s all about the Benjamin’s…and with a share of US $7.5 million up for grabs in both The Race to Dubai and the Dubai World Championship, the total prize fund on offer this week is one of the most lucrative in all sports.

Entrance at this week’s season finale is strictly for the 60 top performing (by money) Professionals across the full season but it is the bonus pool that most are playing for, given the Championship itself is a two horse race, and in order to achieve a share, you must be in the top 15 leading money winners when the last putt is holed on Sunday.

Venue:                 The Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, UAE

The Earth course is the first course ever to have been built for a specific championship and unveiled as the first shot was hit at that Championship. Some say it’s not one for strategy but it does require you to hit it straight, high and long – although some of the courses 105 bunkers are also strategically placed in the middle off the tee.

For all the agronomists amongst you; with the tournament taking place two weeks later this year it has given Jumeirah Golf Estates the opportunity to overseed the tees, fairways and rough on the Earth Course with ryegrass. It will be the first time the Earth Course has been overseeded for the event and will give even greater contrast and definition to the brilliant white bunkers and bark mulched landscape areas. It will also provide a tougher challenge to the players than was the case in 2009 and 2010, with more of a premium on finding the fairways with tee shots.

Yards:                   7,675 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

There should be no also rans this week as the biggest, best and most consistent (lets also not forget Darren Clarke) from the European Tour will fight it out for big bucks this weekend in the Race to Dubai season finale (trying not to sound like I’m plugging the last show of some weak plotted American Cop action series reshown on Channel 5).

The big guns you would expect, are all here – counted, present and ready, although there are some surprise entries close to the squeaky bum cut off line nearing the 60 mark. These include James Morrison (360/1) in 55th  – fresh from a sell-out performance at the Picture House in Edinburgh on the 6th December; the famous Lawrie Brothers; “fly away Peter (256/1)” and “fly away Paul (370/1)” in 57th and 56th place respectively; Henne Otto (237/1) – who thanks to a win last week in South Africa makes the grade in 58th; Scotland’s Scott Jamieson (569/1) in 59th who has achieved more or less nothing since July (demonstrating how good a first half of the season he had) and in the last available place – some lad called Christian Nilsson (265/1 – all BetFair) who made it courtesy of a strong October’s work on the greens.

Consider…:

“The Greatest Show on Earth” comes down to the battle between the two best players in the world for the Race to Dubai crown. Due to Luke Donald’s (12/1 at SkyBet) enormous lead, McIlrory is required to win the Dubai World Championship and Donald has to finish 10th or worse for the Irish one to win – even if Rory wins while Donald finishes in 9th, the winning margin (in favour of the current world number one) would only be five Euros!!

This is a long track and accuracy is not the ultimate factor but with tricky bunkering and strategically placed water, it will be a case of “he who dares…”  Course designer Greg Norman created this track specifically for this event and spent time ensuring a great climax which has become known as the toughest home stretch in the golfing calendar where the last four holes fall just short of a mile in length and are the most challenging and exciting in the sport.

Ones to watch:

A rejuvenated Sergio Garcia (16/1 at 188Bet) hopes to keep his impressive run of form going right to the end of the 2011 campaign as he targets a place in the top 15 in The Race to Dubai. The Spaniard completed back-to-back successes for the first time on The European Tour with victory in last month’s Andalucía Masters, a week after also winning on home soil in the Castelló Masters and moving from 11th place to seventh in The Race. The World number 18 currently leads the Ryder Cup points list and will be keen to put another top finish her in the bag for the team event next year, as a player, not just as backroom staff.

Win or “lose” this weekend, the eyes of the golfing world will be on Rory McIlroy (11/2 with BetDaq). Can he overturn the largest lead in professional golf, stop the world number one, win the Race to Dubai and the Dubai World Championship? I fear not, but if anyone will ensure we remain glued to the box, sitting on the edge of our seats until his ball hits the bottom of the cup on Sunday, it’s the exciting youngster who’s season has been spell binding from the start to present moment. A top four finish would be a great achievement and another feather in the young man’s cap.

Ones to win the Dubai World Championship:

With 8 top ten finishes this year Lee Westwood (6/1 at BetFred) is one tip to take the honours this week. The world No. 3 had the benefit of a seven-shot lead heading into the final round after a sparkling third-round 62 last Saturday in the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and comes here with form on his side and experience from his win in the same event in 2009. Will be a difficult contender to beat – and with Luke and McIlrory both having firmed up their positions in the World rankings, Lee will be looking to ensure he doesn’t fall too far behind.

Raking in over a cool million Euros in an easy schedule over the last three months, Martin Kaymer (16/1 at UniBet or 9/1 at SkyBet without the Big 2) and his win in the WGC HSBC Champions in early November have catapulted the calculating German right back into form and the fight at the top of the World Rankings. Sure he can’t win the Race to Dubai this year, but he will make sure he doesn’t give up the biggest prize in golf easily will be something that he will take great pleasure from after a rather uninspiring season – especially after last year’s amazing performances.

One to win the Race to Dubai:

Luke or Rory? Rory or Luke? Steady versus aggressive? Youth versus experience? For me only one person truly deserves to be awarded the Race to Dubai this year – despite a late charge that means that it is only one from a possible two – and they exist as World Number 1 and 2 respectively just for completeness.

In twelve outings in Europe, he has missed only one cut, and barring a 45th and an 11th position – the other 9 outings have been within the top ten and within that there has been three wins! Earning a whopping £3,856,394 – that equates to winnings of a whopping £1,210.78 per shot and we are not even on the big money game yet! He has also snatched the money list title of the PGA Tour and is the first person ever to be on the cusp of doing so on both sides of the pond in the same season.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your truly inspirational World Number 1, PGA Tour Money winner and soon to be Race to Dubai winner 2011 is…..Luke Donald. Thank you, good evening and good night.

Till next year…Jenks out!

http://www.selectabet.net/

Selectabet: UBS Hong Kong Open

Date:                     1st to 4th December 2011

Competition:     UBS Hong Kong Open   

This week it’s a welcome return to Hong Kong and the penultimate of the season where the there is much to play for at the top, and certainly at the bottom of the current R2D rankings before next weeks’ Dubai World Championship.

The UBS Hong Kong Open is Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event. Beginning in 1959, it has a rich history of winners including nine different Major Champions who have amassed 25 Major titles between them. This week its home to 150 of the European Tours shining stars and a select few who could still possibly prize the year end Race to Dubai trophy from the current likely clutch of PGA Tour winner and now six month World number 1, Luke Donald.

Venue:                 Hong Kong GC, Fanling, China

Simply its one of the best and most difficult courses you’ll ever play. Don’t let the fairly straightforward start fool you! It has beautiful views, undulating lightning fast greens and magnificent fairways and trees galore – this one’s not for the fainthearted – short (ish) as it may be.

Yards:                   6,700 yards

Par:                        Par 70

Field:                   

This weeks’ field includes the colourful Richard Green (50/1), Justin Rose (61/5), Mark Brown (267/1) but also a Richard Bland (218/1).  It also introduces these colonials that roll off the tongue (get ready for it) Timothy Tang (974/1), YE Yang (25/1), Anthony Kang (228/1), Wang-ter Chang (735/1), Wen-Chong Liang (98/1) and Lian-wei Zhang (677/1 – all at BetDaq). Man!

Consider…:

Everything is to play for with only the top 60 making next week’s Dubai World Championships and so a good performance matters for so many regardless of their position in the Race to Dubai. This will be where Tour cards are retained, big money can be won and ultimately where hearts will be broken. Anyone could steal the show this week.

Ones to watch:

Englishman Ian Poulter (14/1 at Ladbrokes) scorched his way to a 60 in the second round last year en route to the title by one shot from Dyson and a young Italian teenager. Poults heads to Hong Kong on a high after storming to a joint second place finish in last week’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup with a stunning 63 alongside Mr Pink in the final day’s foursomes. A win, or maybe a second, could put Woburn’s finest into the lucrative top 15 and should not to be overlooked.

Someone with a slightly bigger mountain to climb is Stephen Gallacher (93/1 at BetDaq) who sits ever so slightly on the wrong side of the Dubai World Championship threshold in number 61. The Scot, fresh from a solid performance with Countryman Laird in last week’s World Cup will be on a high but will be focused on the task of soaking up some Arabian sun next week. If his putter is switched on, watch out for a meteoric charge come Sunday!

Ones to win:

Has been quiet, but consistent, for much of the tail end of the season – perhaps school work has got in the way, but it’s the Crayon and Creamola Foam sponsored 2010 runner up Matteo Mannesaro (35/1 with William Hill) who means business this weekend before Nanny will ask him to sit down and write his letter to Santa. Has performed consistently across the season and currently lies 26th in the Race to Dubai requiring a win to propel him skyward to the real big boys and another delayed week before he puts a big sticky pen to dog eared paper.

I can count with both hands and a foot, the times I have rallied for the world number 2 to take the Race to Dubai to the wire. And here we are once again, where my winning focus is for Rory McIlroy (5/1 at Victor Chandler) to make a fight of the season and sock it to the quiet consistent leader (without a Major). McIlroy has had 4 top fours in his last 4 (Tour) outings and a win in Shanghai propelling him closer and a respectable showing for Team Paddy last week. With Kaymer and Donald out of action this week, a win means the action hots up in the desert next week. 

Your welcome!

Jenks out!

http://www.selectabet.net/

Selectabet: OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup

Date:                     24th – 27th November 2011

Competition:     OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup            

The Omega Mission Hills World Cup returns to the international golfing calendar this year as a biennial event with a record prize fund of US$7,500,000 at a brand new venue in the Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island in Southern China. It remains the only team event in the men’s professional game where players can proudly represent their own countries and maintain its status as the oldest international team event in professional golf.

The Championship is a 72-hole stroke play team event with each team comprising of two players. The first and third days are four-ball (best ball) play and the second and final days are foursomes play. A total of 28 teams, each one of different nationality, will compete in the 2011 Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

Venue:                 Hainan Island, China

The World Cup will be hosted over the Blackstone course; a spectacular, 350-acre layout that weaves through a striking landscape of mature trees, expansive wetlands, ancient town ruins and ever-present lava rock, the 7,777-yard Blackstone features a myriad of risk / reward opportunities throughout the back nine.

Yards:                   7,777 yards maximum!

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

The Official World Golf Rankings as at July 18, 2011 will determine the 18 leading nations that qualify automatically for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup. The leading player may select any player of his choosing from the same country provided such player was ranked within the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking as of either July 18, 2011 or August 22, 2011. If there was no other player from that country within the top 100 on the OWGR on either of the dates, the exempt player’s partner shall be the next highest ranked available player.

Consider…:

The United States of America holds the record for the most number of wins with 23. South Africa is next with five, then Australia and Spain with four, followed by Canada’s three titles. Despite this year’s hype, Ireland have yet to register a win!

However, consider that the course is long and that anyone not landing on the short stuff runs the risk of taking another ball from the tee –as the ever present lava presents a more difficult challenge than its stunning aesthetics. This course then is all about the second shots – and long irons, hybrids and chipping and putting.

Ones to watch:

Team Mid-Atlantic (“Go on! Go on! Go on! Go on! Go on!”). Graham McDowell and Rory McIlroy – always an interesting combination of mid-Atlantic drawl – especially when they are together – with Rory clearly the man to watch at the moment and the hype surrounding these best-of-friends is always interesting. With Rory’s classic youthful gung-ho approach and Graeme’s more laid back solid performance – Team Ireland (9/2 at Victor Chandler) will be in the mix come the weekend.

Team Sweden (“Klunk!”) (61/5 at BetDaq). Robert Karllson and Alexander Noren look sweet to me. Norens two wins in 2011 position him high in the Race to Dubai while Karllsons solid Tour performances over the last 22 years and his 11 wins means he is the experienced old timer with a victory (with Henrik Stenson) in this very event in 2008.

Ones to win:

Team South Africa (“Go Boks!”). With two recent major winners both recording a very healthy 2011 season – Schwartzel and Oosthuizen will provide some tough opposition to ensure anyone else lifts the trophy on Sunday. The holders of the two man South African Tour events in 2011 will not only be vying for their position as their Nations number one, but also the number one team position for the Boks. Will there be gold at the end for the Rainbow Nation? 

Team USA (“USA! USA USA!”)(9/1 at UniBet, SportingBet and Stan James). You have to love their cheesy spirit, their chants and the nonsense that our dear allies resort to in team golfing competitions. That said, they have Mister consistent in Matt “Kuchie Koo” Kuchar and length and outright bravado in Gary Woodland. Seems like a deadly combination that might just deliver the 24th win for the Yanks to me!

Your welcome! 

Jenks out!

http://www.selectabet.net/

Selectabet: Alfred Dunhill Championship

Date:                     17th – 20th November 2011

Competition:     Alfred Dunhill Championship

Venue:                 Leopard Creek CC, Malelane, South Africa

Aweh my bru! Welcome to the rainbow nation and a truly awe inspiring Mpumalanga. Designed by Gary Player, the course at Leopard Creek is in a stunning setting on the edge of Kruger National Park. Winding through the bush and grasslands past natural water hazards, the layout is famed for its plentiful and diverse wildlife with hippopotamus, waterbuck, impala, giraffes, crocodiles and leopards all frequently seen on and around the course. This year we will also see the rare (on the big Tour) cheating half of Team Saltman – “little” Elliot (423/1 at BetDaq).

Yards:                   7,326 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Although the field is dominated by home players, a number of the lower ranking Europeans are on the start sheet, many from the Challenge Tour or those who finished outside the top 115 on last year’s Tour. Included in this watered down Tour event is the very American sounding Linus (Gillgren) at 835/1, Dodge (Kemmer) at 265/1, Wade (Ormsby) at 275/1 and both the Tyrone’s (Mordt (275/1) and Ferreira (854/1)) – all at BetFair! The LA Crips clearly has some new members!

Who could cast a beady eye over the start sheet without stopping on the RSPC sponsored Neil Sheitekat (618/1) and my new favourite monickered player on any Tour – the one, the only…Theunis Spangenburg (974/1) – both BetDaq!

Consider…:

With just four events left on the 2011 Race to Dubai, a number of players in the field this week are feeling the pressure. Some are trying desperately to ensure they finish in the top 115 on the money list in order to retain their playing privileges for 2012, others are looking towards the top-60 and the prospect of competing in the Dubai World Championship.  Beyond that, the trick will be finding the greens in regulation. The last seven winners of this event have averaged 72.41% of GIR.

Ones to watch:

With five top five finishes, a putter that’s always on fire and having made the right career choice (his father wanted him to be a tennis player) Pretorian George Coetzee (14/1 with William Hill and PaddyPower) is definitely one to watch this week. Coetzee has firmly secured his Tour card for next season and clearly stated his intentions on the Tour with frequent strong finishes. Ag baas!

With seven top fifteen finishes in the season before making a breakthrough with his maiden victory at the Open de Espana in 2011 just a few days after golfing legend Seve passed away, South African Thomas Aiken (141/10 with BetDaq) has certainly cemented his standing on the European Tour. Has earned a wage every week bar five this season and sits comfortably in the top 20 on tour. Finished fifth here last year and again will be a strong contender ya?

Ones to win:

Moffie look-a-like Robert Rock (18/1 at Coral and BetFred) is widely tipped among those to perform well this weekend having performed consistently in patches throughout the year. Is about to embark on his most consistent performing “swing” on the tour but will he be chomping on the boerewors on Sunday and waking with a babelaas babbelas on Monday?

Pablo Martin (34/1 at UniBet) obviously! A win again here at his special place would mean a hat trick of consecutive gold medals. Enough said!

Your welcome! 

Jenks out!

http://www.selectabet.net/

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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