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.

Race to Dubai: Maybank Malaysian Open

Race to Dubai:    Maybank Malaysian Open

Hello and welcome to hot and humid Kuala Lumpur for a few weeks of “regular” golf before the focus of the next Major starts once again. Apologies for the recent silence, I’ve honestly been away in Augusta – no seriously! …only in Oz – my travel agent has a lot to answer for and will be replaced (much as Tiger Woods’ nine iron will).

Date:                     12th – 15th April 2012

Venue:                 Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club

We find ourselves right in the heart of KL on a course that has been wholly reconstructed (every blade of grass is new), but routing and layout the same as before. It is to be found on pleasantly undulating ground where trouble, in the form of water, comes into play on no fewer than 13 holes!

Yards:                   7,000 yards dead!

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Five major champion winners take the 30 hour trip back across the globe to KL – well three. The major Major champion winners including Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuisen (all 62/5) – do we have verification that Todd Hamilton (557/1) and Michael Campbell (712/1 – all BetDaq) actually still play golf?

In 2010 an 18 year old Korean outsider won this event – Noh Seung Yul. In 2011 a 17 year old Italian took it to the field for a second Pro win of his career. What are the chances of a 16 year old winning this year round? Too high for anyone! Looking at the longer odds available at the Maybank, take a look at Ramasamy Nachimuthu, Muhammed Arie Fauzi and Muhammad Afif Razif – all of whom sit at 1,000/1 with SkyBet. They are definitely a long shot.

Consider…:

The fairways are small and tight and strike the fear of god into Alvaro Quiros (44/1 with BetDaq), meaning that we are probably looking at an accurate player more than someone with pure length in his armory. Look no further then than Adilson da Silva (406/1 with BetDaq) and Simon Khan (250/1 with BetFred) – with the two highest ranking stats in driving accuracy and greens in regulation respectively.

The forecast for tournament – hot and humid with a daily threat of thunder storms – does this curry favour with the Asians who are more than used to this? History would say not and actually I was in Singapore last week and it was hot and humid – sweaty but bearable.

Ones to watch:

Matteo Mannesaro (16/1 with William Hill) is a year older, a year wiser and with two top-6 finishes in March is certainly one of the European Tour players currently worth beating. Won the tournament as a 17 year old last year to notch up his second win although with a stronger field in the event than last year is this an unlikely title defence and a more likely top 5 finish? I think so.

The son of a fish farmer from Santander, this professional knows his plaice (get it?). Pablo Larrazabel (63/1 with BetDaq) is on the cusp of a return amongst the shoal of the Big Tour – his change in fortunes started in Morocco when he netted a top ten finish. Not much you say, but he has had a few weeks off to bring his game in line with the high standards he set last year when he hooked his BMW win and now looks to progress up the R2D (big fish) ladder.

Ones to win:

Two top tens’ and a top ten world ranking don’t necessarily mean prizes but it’s getting personal as Martin Kaymer (62/5 with BetDaq) slips down all of the rankings. However, he’s is German. He’s probably angry. And he is clinical. Having just shown the golfing fraternity his best performance at the Masters on a course that is not to his liking, just you see, this will be the start of the turning point for the former World number 1. Jawohl?

Currently the man of the hour! Has played outstandingly for much of the season and no better demonstration than last weekend when Louis Oosthuisen (12/1 with Bet365) came up just short in the Masters (in finishing and on the 2nd extra play off hole). Has had 4 top tens including a win in the opening tournament of 2012 – and currently sits 3rd in a tight leader board at the business end of the Race to Dubai league table.

Trick shot:

Simon Dyson at 5/1 (SkyBet) to finish in the top ten after all he had 8 top ten’s across the full season in 2011.

Winning margin to be 1 stroke is also a sure thing at 11/4 with 118Bet. 7 from the last 12 events have ended with a victor by one stroke.

Jenks out!

Race to Dubai: Open de Andalucia (CdS)

Race to Dubai:   Open du Andalucia Costa del Sol

With four months having passed since the European Tour last played on its home continent and a month since our last proper European Tour (only) event, we thought it time to pack up the Speedo’s and the sun tan lotion, put down the latest James Lee Burke novel, end the practice of napping and stop the afternoon drinking to make an effort to return home and to work. And wouldn’t you know! It’s off to the Costa del Sol we go; home of the year round sun, afternoon siesta, tapas and sangria on tap!! It’s the first of five visits to Spain in 2012 and so bienvenida Espanola!

Date:                     15th to 18th March 2012

Venue:                 Aloha Golf Club, Andalucia, Spain

Three miles inland from the millionaire’s playground of Puerto Banus lies Nuevo Andalucia. And for one week only this small eucalyptus infused corner of Spain turns into the European Tours very own millionaire’s playground. Now this is not a long course, but what it lacks in length, it certainly makes up for with trees that creep tight to the fairway sides and truly unique greens with subtle borrows requiring deft touches and Seve-esque soft hands.

Yards:                   6,881 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

While many of the worlds’ top ranking big guns remain playing or practicing in Florida, the field here in Spain is still filled with quality players past, present and future. Five major champions tee it up on Thursday for their chance to make a dent in the 1 Million Euro fund by capturing the relatively underwhelming €166,660 first prize. They include Canadian Southpaw Mike Weir (227/1), PGA Champion and one time golfer Rich Beem (284/1), the omni-present-but-rarely-noticed Michael Campbell (569/1), arthritic legend Jose Maria Olazabel (142/1) and 1999 Qatar Masters Champion – one Pa. Lawrie (42/1 – all BetFair).

Consider…:

…and while we are on the subject, let’s not forget that Lawrie (28/1 with Sporting Bet) defends in Andalucia. Rewind 12 Months and he was staring at zero wins in 9 yrs & a steady ranking of 256th in World. This week he’s 45th and courtesy of one of the best 4 months of solid European Tour play is currently in the Ryder Cup team! He’s now a very solid player – accurate from the tee, solid with his irons and fast becoming a quality putter to boot. One of the favourites’ this week.

Let’s also look at tournament host – Miguel Angel Jimenez (28/1 with Coral) – Aloha Golf Club member and all round dark horse. Given how quiet he has been on the Tour, I would not put it past him to award himself his own cheque come Sunday evening. Finally, there’s Olazabel (142/1 with BetFair) – not the longest hitter on the Big Tour but given this course is 600 yards shorter than most, Jose Maria is back in the pack and with his deft touch around the greens is a sneaky outsider tip.

Ones to watch:

An outstanding each way bet can be found in Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – recently recovered from a long term injury, the Spaniard can lay claim to a finish inside the top 30 in each of his last eight starts. Generous odds of 26/1 with BetFair make this a simple second option.

Still under 20 years of age, young gun Matteo Mannesaro is one to watch this week. Starting with odds of 25/1 (with 888Sport) that put him amongst the favourites – his season has not yet kick started into full Azurrispeed but as a flair and confidence golfer – the lack of big names in the field mean that there is likely few to take the limelight as much as him this weekend.

Ones to win:

7 top ten finishes and an overall 24th place in the Race to Dubai suggest that Joost Luiten (33/1 with Ladbrokes) is a young player with a game on the up – especially after victory in Singapore at the tail end of last season. The Netherlands number one player has enjoyed a steady start in 2012 but must fancy his chances in a quality field where there is a notable absence of the global golfing superstars.

The Belfry’s very own poster boy Robert Rock is my hotly tipped winner for this week – currently sitting in 7th position on the Race to Dubai, and with one win under his belt already, the 34 year old floppy haired Tiger slayer is enjoying some inspiring form so far this season and putting as well as he ever has. Watch the 25/1 (SkyBet) odds take a tumble with a steady first round score – then watch as he applies the pressure down the stretch.

Trick shot:

Tommy Fleetwood is 9/1 with William Hill to finish in the top ten – he had 6 across both European and Challenge Tour in 2011!

Raphael Jacquelin is 18/1 with ToteSport in a place finish on Sunday.

Selectabet: Saab Wales Open

Date: 2nd – 5th June 2011
Competition: Saab Wales Open
Venue: Celtic Manor Resort, The Twenty Ten Course

The well lush Twenty Ten course was designed with the 2010 Ryder Cup and all the thrills and spills of team based match play in mind, but it also provides a unique stage for traditional stroke play. Water hazards feature on no fewer than half of the holes and classic risk reward considerations frequently add to the drama depending upon what’s occurring.

Yards: 7,378
Par: 71
Field: 149

For a European Tour event with a top ten prize fund, and a tidy £300,000 awaiting the winner, the field seems remarkably light but for those on their game, it is a good opportunity to make a move on the order of merit.

Ryder Cup heroes Jimenez, Fisher, Peter Hanson and MacDowell – master of last year’s Ryder Cup proceedings – all turn in an appearance. John Daly adds colour to the event and Paul Lawrie and his putter also return to dismiss the demons of 8 putting the 2nd green in 2010.

Arguably, the Saab Wales tournament is too open an Open to call, however, bare the following in mind…

Consider…:

With risk reward being a crucial element; accuracy and length are the key tools for a high placing finish.

There are opportunities to shoot low including the dogleg 15th 377 yard par 4 (though drivable at 270 as the crow flies), the 575 yard par 5 last with water catching all short mishit 2nd or third shots and the cracking par 4, 14th with lakes either side of the fairway that catch the shot that leaks left or right but is a realistic chance for the longer straighter hitter who can carry the first stretch of water.

Ones to watch:

My two to view this week come in the shape of Johan Edfors, 60/1 (Bet365), fresh from an encouraging performance over a testing West Course and has shown good levels of consistency throughout May.

Edfors is an increasingly potent performer with three European Tour wins to his name from 2006 and looks like being on the cusp of a return to winning ways soon.

Daffodil dressing Bradley Dredge (55/1 at Bet365) also shows signs of flowering in time despite the disappointment of a wilting 78 in his last round at Wentworth.

One Each Way:

One of Denmark’s many Hanson’s is my each way tip for this week. Anders Hanson at 33/1 (Bet365, Betfred) currently sits 5th in the Race to Dubai, 12th in stroke average, high in the ranking for both putts and scrambles and at 38th in the World Rankings is a strong contender for a podium finish.

One to Win:

I won’t lie to you but its home grown 25/1 shot (Bet365, Blue Sq) Taff, Rhys Davies that catches my eye this week. 2nd here in 2010, 18th at the PGA last week and ranking high in putts per round this year, the 40,000 strong home-support will aid a performance-of-the-season display that ensures it’s Rhys’ lightening that strikes this year!

http://www.selectabet.net/

Selectabet: BMW PGA Championship

Dates:                  26th – 29th May 2011

Competition:      BMW PGA Championship

Venue:                 Wentworth Club (West Course)

The BMW PGA Championship is the flagship event of The European Tour and returns to the recently remodeled West Course at Wentworth Club for the 28th time. Surrounded by heath and heather, the West course provides a stern but fair test posing questions of every area of a golfers’ game. The course delivers elevation changes, fairways that turn both ways and significant bunkering to test anyone but the most accurate of strategic ball strikers.

Yards:                   7,261

Par:                       71

Field:                    143

The field consists of the usual high placed European Tour players with some of the higher ranks from the regional orders of merit but crucially includes 12 major champions holding 19 major titles and six of the World’s current top seven players.

Consider…:

Course changes were made to stymie advances in technology by Ernie Els and restauranteur, Richard Caring and, for some, still leave a nasty taste. And agreement or not, as the UK’s most televised course, even viewers will find the visual changes hard to swallow. Two holes stand out; the uphill 179 yard par three 14th with tiered green always delivers more bogeys than birdies; the bunker-less par 5 17th offers a tight tee shot with a sloping fairway that kicks balls further from the green leaving second shots long, difficult and no certain birdie.

Controversial last hole at Wentworth looks different without hospitality

Ones to watch:

For me, it’s the week of the ‘azzurri’. All 5 foot 8 of Francesco Molinari at 40/1 (Skybet) is one to keep an eye on; he handles the pressure of big events – a classy win at the HSBC Championships in 2010 guaranteed him a Ryder Cup place – and his game suits the course but is it a tall order? As the youngest winner in Tour history, Matteo Mannesaro at 45/1 (Bet 365), has the statistics in support of a promising weekend at Wentworth ranking in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation. If he keep his nerve and uses experience of two wins already in his professional career he will certainly be teaching the old dogs new tricks…

One to Win:

Martin Kaymer at 16/1 (Bluesq, PaddyPower, 888Sport & Bet365) ranks high in most stats most months, his results this year are improving by the week and while always be a strong contender for the 750,000 euro first prize, if he is to repeat his feat of running away with the Race to Dubai crown and regaining world number one spot he will need to start the victory marches sooner rather than later.

Each Way:

“The Mechanic”; lover of fine wines, cigars, and fast cars, was a prolific winner in 2010. In 2011, Miguel Angel Jimenez at 45/1 (Skybet) in a vehicle sponsored event has the performance for the big events, the drive and experience to boot. You could you call it karma [car-mah]….

http://www.selectabet.net/

Spain Prepares for Ballesteros Funeral

The funeral of golfing legend Seve Ballesteros will take place today (Wednesday) in his home village of Pedrena, Cantabria in Spain.

The ceremony will be at the San Pedro parish church at 1200 BST.

Seve Ballesteros

Image courtesy of Action Images

Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance are among a few of golf’s biggest names that are expected to attend.

Ballesteros died aged 54 in the early hours of Saturday morning after a long battle with cancer.

“Seve will be cremated at a ceremony that will be as intimate as possible and at a place that nobody will know,” said the Ballesteros family.

“That was his express wish. His ashes will remain at his estate, at his home in Pedrena.”

Seve’s brother Baldomero Ballesteros was quoted as saying:

“The funeral rites will be as simple as those for any neighbour from the village. He was born here and here he will remain.”

Miguel Angel Revilla, head of the local Cantabria government, said the region will observe three days of official mourning.

At the Players Championship in Florida this week, the Spanish flag will fly in honour of Ballesteros until Sunday.

Normally, the previous year’s winner has his national flag flying over the Circle of Champions but the South African flag marking Tim Clark’s victory last May has been replaced.

Such was his legend across the sporting fraternity but his passing has been marked across the world, with silences being held at the European Tour’s Spanish Open, the Barcelona – Madrid game, the Madrid Open Tennis Championships and at the Wells Fargo Championship in America over the weekend.

Seve Ballesteros – memorial for “spiritual leader”

Tributes continued to pour in for five-time major champion, Seve Ballesteros. But with the Seve Trophy recently renamed the “Vivendi Trophy with Seve Ballesteros” many believe there should be a more high-profile reminder of European golf’s best-loved character.

Padraig Harrington proposed Ballesteros’s silhouette replacing that of Harry Vardon on the European Tour’s official logo and the idea soon gathered pace.

Rory McIlroy and his manager, Chubby Chandler, were just two who signalled their intention to support the campaign after being contacted on Twitter. “I’m not sure who is on our logo for the European Tour, but I’d certainly back putting Seve on it,” said Harringon.

The conviction was only strengthened by Colin Montgomerie’s words on Radio 5 Live yesterday morning. “Seve completely changed the face of European golf,” said the Scot. “He is the reason why it is in the enviable position it is today. Prize money has gone through the roof because of one man. The Ryder Cup is the international event it is because of one man. There is a huge amount to thank that one man for.”

Ballesteros’s funeral will be held in his hometown of Pedrena in northern Spain on Wednesday as part of a regional three days of mourning in Cantabria. A players’ service will also be held that day at Sawgrass ahead of the TPC Championships.