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!

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141st Open Championship – Pins (R4)!

Some cute pin positions on the final round of the biggest and most prestigious major tournament today – holes 9 and ten in particular. Im glad the sofa beckons as these are enough to halt anyones ascendancy up the leaderboard on final day!

112th US Open Championship – Pins (R4)!

Saturdays hole locations were tough enough. Take a final look at the fourth and final rounds locations. In particular, observe the knife edge you play with on the last… Thank goodness its them and not me!

112th US Open Championship – Pins (R3)!

If you ever think that they put the pins in a hard place for your Club Championship – what about these tricky and unforgiving pin placements for the 112th US Open Championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco?

FedEx Cup: HP Byron Nelson Classic

Fed Ex Cup:        HP Byron Nelson Championship

It is only 1,071 miles (17 hours in a car “at legal speeds Officer”) but The PGA Tour bus has navigated from PGA Tour HQ back to the Lone Star State to Irvine, deep in the Heart of Texas for this week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. If it is true what they say and everything is indeed bigger here – what on earth has happened to the prize pot since Sawgrass? It drops $2.5M while 1st place shrinks $600,000.

Date:                     May 2012

Venue:                 TPC Four Seasons Resort, Las Colinas

TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving is hosting this event for the 27th time but had shared the pre-cut rotation with its neighbour, Cottonwood Valley Golf Club, for 14 seasons however since 2008, the TPC Four Seasons Resort has flown solo. A redesign in 2008 has lead to the Driver being in the hands of the players more over the revamped links for more attacking play and also, as Sawgrass, to create a more fan friendly multi view point course for spectators.

Yards:                   7,166 yards

Par:                        Par 70

Field:    

There are very few top tens’ of the PGA Tour playing (in any category; FedEx Cup; World Golf Rankings or Money!) this week but those that can be bothered after the 5th major of last week include Carl Petterson (33/1), Johnson Wagner (50/1) and Phil Mickelson (18/1) and 2012 Tour winners John Huh (50/1) and Jason Duffner (28/1). Further down exists a malady of medically misaligned golfers in Flesch (Steve – 150/1), Ricketts (Brian – 400/1) to Lamely (Derek – 250/1) and Lovemark (Jamie – 250/1 (all Bet365)) all seeking an appropriate ointment for their ailment!

Consider…:

In 2011, TPC Four Seasons Resort averaged 72.354 strokes, resulting in the third-most challenging par 70 in non-major competition. There’s zero letup tee to cup and scrambling is the order of the day. It’s set to be warm (at a constant 30 even with clouds) but there’s a consistent 15 – 17 mph wind just to test the best.

Ones to watch:

My Tour favourite, Adam Scott (22/1 with StanJames), overcame his European disappointment at TPC Sawgrass specifically with a 15th place finish and has won this Championship in 2008 and shared third in 2006. If he logged enough rounds to qualify (less is most definitely not more Adam!), he would rank fifth on Tour in greens in regulation and first in birdies or better on par 4s. With an 8th place finish in the Masters, all this guys needs is some fire in the belly (putter!).

My next one to watch is Jeff Overton (50/1 with Ladbrokes)…who has illustrated an affinity for the host course, posting a 2nd here in 2010 and an 8th last year when he ranked inside the top 25 in stats across the board. Sits 24th on Tour in birdie average, 35th in birdies or better on par 4s and 32nd in bogey avoidance. We are seeing a form of resurgence from Overton – especially through March and April where he recaptured the form of his best season – 2010. Now Over to(n) you…

Ones to win:

John Rollins (50/1 with Ladbrokes) has made eight cuts this year, seven of which have gone for top 25s, including a 25th place at The Players Championship. He leads the PGA Tour in total driving distance and ranks 30th in greens in regulation. The Virginian guitar playing golfer finished just outside the top 60 in the FedEx Cup in 2011 but currently lies 34th and does sit 4th in the top ten finishes – so statistically you can justify popping a fiver on him…

You can never rule out back-to-back victories despite a seminal title at The Players Championship last week where Matt Kuchar (19/1 with BetFair) ranked 3rd in greens hit and second in strokes gained-putting. Kuuuuuuuch shared sixth place at last year’s event and currently sits eighth in scrambling and fourth in bogey avoidance – let’s not forget 6th in the FedEx Cup with 4 top ten finishes in 10 starts. No wonder he is the professionals professional.


Trick shots:

Chad Campbell, enjoying a resurgence in recent weeks can deliver 4/1 returns with SkyBet for a top 20 finish! He had 7 top 25’s in 2011 and has had 95 in 300 starts on the PGA Tour! So it’s easy then…

And if Jeff Overton repeats his first round lead of 2012 (at 45/1 with ToteSport) its money in your pocket boy!

Thank me later!

FedEx Cup: RBC Heritage

Fed Ex Cup:        RBC Heritage

Leaving the colour and the Major appeal of Georgia we head out initially east over the Savannah River and down 125 and onto US278 bound South to the beautiful Hilton Head Island and the best course I have ever played (on a computer) – the Harbour Town Golf Links – and the RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Heritage.

Date:                    12th to 15th April 2012

Venue:                Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina

The golf course is a Pete Dye designed shot-maker’s course, which requires precision off the tee to avoid live oaks, pine trees and strategically placed bunkers. Getting your ball to the hole is also quite a challenge with subtle breaks in the small, well guarded greens, posing problems for golfers of all levels. While the course itself is one of the shorter courses on the Tour, number 18 is one of the most demanding finishing holes on any of the world Tours.

Yards:                 6,973, yards

Par:                      Par 71

Field:                   

17 Major Champions litter the field, light on any current holders or major challengers it must be said, and they hold 24 major trophy’s between them – so it’s not that light a field where 18 of the top 30 on the Fed Ex Cup are teeing it up. The field includes such notables as last year’s winner Brandt Snedeker who pipped Luke Donald in a tight ran playoff, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink. Less well considered include real outsider Tommy Biershenk and bizarrely David Duval, Chris Di Marco and Mike Weir. (All 949/1 with BetDaq).

Consider…:

Looking for a winner in this field and you should be asking for accuracy, precision, great putting, an ability to scramble well and overall a tidy golf game. Early in the round there is the easiness of the par 5 second hole at a mere 505 yards and very reachable in two while the later difficulty of the par three 14th with small green and hidden pot bunker claims a lot of mishit strokes. The winning score in 2011 was -12 so it still does not disappoint birdies addicts.

Ones to watch:

Last year’s runner up, still world number one and British – its Luke Donald (133/10 with BetFair) who once again returns to a course he likes and is looking to go one better. He ticks the boxes on the accuracy, precision, scrambling and overall tidy golf but something in me says it won’t be his week – but he will likely demonstrate a return to form after another disappointing Masters display.

Buoyed by the performance of his Countryman last week, and as a former Masters winner, Trevor Immelman (123/1 at Betfair) will be one who puts in a season best performance this week at Harbour Town. The South African has a strong game that suits the tight nature of the course but has yet to fully demonstrate it since his last win at the Masters in 2008. But if David Toms can do it – so can better golfers like Immelman.

Ones to win:

Bill Haas (125/1 with Ladbrokes) is one of the hottest men on tour right now after his win at the Tour Championship in 2011 and Februarys Northern Trust win. Is ranked 10th in the Fed Ex Cup, 18th in the World and with top ten stats at scrambling, GIR from fairway bunkers and consecutive cuts made this consistent regular has the game to go up a notch and join Hunter Mahon with two wins so far on the PGA Tour in 2012.


 
This native of Sea Island who will be sleeping in his own bed this week must stand a decent chance after his third place finish in the Masters and his all round solid and consistent game. Matt Kuchar (14/1 with Ladbrokes) looks lively for me (as he often does) this year – especially his 6 top 25 finishes from 7 starts and top ten stats in greens in regulation, scoring average and all round ranking. The Georgian golfer looks like a peach to me!

Trick shots:

For the RBC Heritage to finish in a playoff, as it did in 2011, the odds return 5/2 at 188Bet.

To predict a place finish for the only Scot in the field will return you 53/10 with BetFair – given his quiet nature, a win may not be on the cards but with 4 top 25’s from 8 cuts made including two top tens’ – it’s not unlikely!

Thank me later!

Jenks

FedEx Cup: Waste Management Phoenix Open

Buckle up ladies, this is your superior officer speaking and this might just get exciting…welcome to my new office…

Fed Ex Cup:        Waste Management Phoenix Open 

After the thrilling ending to last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the PGA tour heads to the Arizona desert for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, built in 1986, hosted its first Waste Management Phoenix Open in 1987 which has now become the largest attended golf event in the world and brings immeasurable attention to the quality field that entertain. Most of whom can be found as part of the largest and loudest gallery situated in the stands that circle the perimeter of the par-3 16th green…oh boy!

Date:                     2nd – 5th February 2012

Venue:                 TPC Scottsdale, Phoenix, Arizona

Set in the Sonoran Desert and surrounded by the majestic McDowell Mountains, TPC Scottsdale embodies the standards of excellence in golf operations worldwide. The Stadium Course, designed by the team of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, is a masterful blend of challenge and playability for the enjoyment of all levels of golfers, professional and amateur alike. It is not the toughest course on the PGA Tour (ranking 42nd of the 51 used) but offers a low scoring option that clearly excites and delights its sizable number of patrons each year.

Yards:                   7,216 yards

Par:                        Par 71

Field:                   

A quality field has returned “home” to Scottsdale for the biggest prize of the season to date as so many of the players have residences with an abundance of suntan lotion around Phoenix. Expect many of these ‘locals’ to be in the mix come Sunday afternoon including Simpson (26/1), Snedeker (29/1), Laird (37/1), Fowler (31/1), Watney (25/1), Mickelson (39/1), Bradley (45/1) and Dustin Johnson (51/1). The season also starts here for Ian Poulter (61/1 – all at BetFair) who joins the headlines of a field with a depth to it.

Consider…:

This week will boil down to those who minimise mistakes and take their chances on these greens and so we will be looking for players who hit plenty of greens. Over the last few years, there would seem to be a premium on good, solid drivers of the ball with previous winners Kenny Perry (189/1 with BetFair) and Hunter Mahan both ranking highly in the Total Driving stat at the time of their victories.

Two holes stick out in my mind; the par-3 195-yard 12th with water guarding the entire right side and sand bunkers to the left and behind. The green is long and narrow with a two-club difference between the front and back pin placement. Then there is the par-5 595-yard 13th with a split fairway. Downwind, the shot is probably the right fairway, driving between the water and island desert. Play this right and make it 50 yards shorter and reachable in two. Softies go left to the wider driving area, eliminating the chance to reach. Its good old fashioned exciting stuff!

Ones to watch:

World number 22 (did you know that?) and current FedEx Cup holder Bill Haas (51/1 with BetFair) has such long odds for someone of his caliber that he just has to be a consideration for a place. Had a great 2011 season earning $4M+ through 7 top tens including a PGA Tour win and two top two positions. Currently lies 5th in Greens in regulation and so given my considerations above, is a worthy contender this week.

A promising gymnast who quit to focus on the small ball game, it is bald headed funny guy Ben Crane (61/1 with BetFair) who is my tip for a place this week. With two top tens from three starts the form shows and with such strong stats for putting (with strokes gained) and one of the highest Eagle hitters on tour, just you watch the daft Beaver at the business end come Sunday!

Ones to win:

All round Mr. Nice guy Matt Kuchar (33/1 with BetFair) smiles his way into my vision as a hot prospect this week. He is just warming up after one start this season but his stats for 2011 are impressive: 24 events played, 19 top 25’s including 9 top tens – the only thing missing was a win but he has proven he has it in him previously. The second most accurate driver on Tour, Kuch is Mr. Consistent and high in birdie averages too. Surely this makes this Georgian a peach of a bet?

Breaker One, Breaker One, I might be crazy, but I ain’t dumb! It’s Bubba Watson at 45/1 (with Betfair). Generally (General Lee – get it!?) he’s gonna cuff ya and stuff ya! Having bought Bo and Luke Dukes real star, Watson has found a Hazzard he wants to be in and the Southpaw is the one to outrun the rest of the field this weekend – probably in it. A solid start to the season with two top 25’s, Bubba is just warming up (probably as all Arizona residents do – in ‘Daisy Dukes’ and a tank top!). With top ten stats for both driving (obviously) and greens in regulation he may just be the Boss (Hogg) come Sunday.

Trick shots:

Webb Simpson to be 1st round leader at 25/1 with BetFair and Aaron Baddeley and Ben Crane in a Double Chance win with SkyBet @ 22/1.

Thank me later!