Selectabet: Bankia Madrid Masters

Date:                     6th – 9th October 2011

Competition:     Bankia Madrid Masters

The fourth Bankia Madrid Masters will take place this week with some of golf’s top names bullfighting for the lion’s share of the €1 million prize money. This year, the tournament, will be held at the El Encín Golf Hotel in Alcalá de Henares for the first time, taking over from last year’s venue, the Real Sociedad Hípica Española Club de Campo. Alcalá is a beautiful, historically rich city located around 20 miles from the Spanish capital, no-where near Benidorm. 

Venue:                 El Encin Golf Hotel, Alcala de Henares, Spain

El Encín Golf Hotel is a typical Robert Von Hagge design; a long championship course, but with six different sets of tees overlooked by the stunning mountains of the Santos del la Humosa region. It is a ridiculously flat course but comes with great undulating greens, a plethora of bunkers and huge water hazards in play on 16, 17 and 18.

Yards:                   7,651 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

It will mark the first time for 18 years that the World’s number one player will compete in a European Tour event in Madrid – if you lot remember Nick Faldo (Google him), he was the last in ‘93! There will be 22 home nation players competing including a Pedro (Oriol (399/1)), a Jose (Manual Lara (69/1)), a Javi (Colomo (499/1)) and Jesus himself (Arruti (749/1))! Perhaps mid-transgender operation, there are even a handful of Marias. The Master of the Masters is 48 year old winner of the 1995 Madeira Islands Open, Santiago Luna (499/1 – all BetDaq) who is making his 589th European tour start.

Consider…:

The rain in Spain won’t be falling mainly on the plain this weekend as it is planned to be typically warm and sunny and the key considerations are what time is the siesta, who’s backswing is least hindered by huge sun hats and who can follow through properly with a wicker donkey stuffed under their arm. And if stereotypes are to be believed, we can count out the Brits who come midday will be sun burnt and pissed and wont figure at all. That said….

Ones to watch:

Former Essex born English Amateur Champion and paella addict, Ross McGowan (294/1 at BetFair) is worthy of casting your mince pies on as a former winner of this tournament with record breaking scores (-25 under par) in 2009. Despite returning from a serious injury in 2010 and having a more off than on season, Ross is a fantastic putter and more than capable of causing some serious harm on these greens.

Former Johnny Walker Championship and Scandinavian Masters winner Marc Warren (85/1 at BetDaq) is also a man on form after a season best 5th place over the three links courses of the Alfred Dunhill Championships. Returning from missing his Tour Card in 2010, Warren’s season has been bitty (like tapas) at best but is on the up again.

Ones to win:

With 9 top ten’s from 11 starts in Europe (not to mention 13 top ten’s from 18 Stateside) Luke Donald (9/2 everywhere) reaches the real pinnacle of his career being mentioned in this feature two weeks on the trot. The winner of the paella pan and flamenco master class of the Madrid Masters in 2010 is again a contender this year, despite only three wins amongst his global dominance. Donald is proving to be as consistently brilliant as a Torres Rioja or the Rodriguez Spicy Chorizo sausage. This was the event that kick started his global ascendancy – will it continue here? 

If it’s not a Brit, it may be a fiery Latin (non Spanish) and this week we look no further than one of the Molinari’s. And specifically the quiet brother to the even quieter hairy one. A repeatedly consistent performer with one missed cut in 2011, Francesco (19/1 at BetFair and BetDaq) is where my money is at this week and I anticipate 166,666 reasons he believes he can win before he packs up to head for the hills and his annual snowboard-fest. No bull.

Jenks Out

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Selectabet: Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Date:                     29th September to 2nd October 2011

Competition:     Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is one of the richest tournaments on the European Tour and a 4 day pro-am.  With teams consisting of one professional and one amateur (from other sports or the worlds of entertainment or business) playing one round each at St Andrews Old, Carnoustie Championship and Kingsbarns. After these first three rounds there is a cut, with the leading 60 professionals continuing on to play in the final round at St Andrews over the historic Old Course.

The 60 leading Pros’ and their teams are joined by the leading 20 teams, regardless of whether the professional member of the team made the cut individually.

“Oh. My. God. Hugh Grant looks a bit divine doesnt he?”

Venues:               St. Andrews Old, Carnoustie Championship & Kingsbarns Golf Links

A stern links test for all players this – especially Carnoustie (where in club medal competitions the standard scratch can be as high as 76!), but it is a great way for following patrons to get up close and personal with many of the players and the celebrities and enjoy the amazing walks around the three participating golf course.

“Howzat! Ian Botham looks fat now-a-days doesn’t he?”

Yards:                   St Andrews: 7,279 yards; Carnoustie Championship: 7,412 yards; Kingsbarns 7,150 yards

Par:                        Each Par 72

Field:                   

It is one of the stronger European Tour fields that you can get with a total of 15 of the world’s top 50 making the trip to Scotland, including Major Champions Darren Clarke (113/1), Charl Schwartzel (28/1) and other leading players including Ernie Els (69/1), Retief Goosen (77/1), Dustin Johnson (30/1) and Graeme McDowell (52/1 – all BetDaq).

“What a come-back for Shane Warne’s hair!”

Consider…:

Here are three links courses – two of which are exceptionally tough and the third of which can be relatively easy provided you know where to put the ball. So bearing in mind that despite recent forecasts for hugely unseasonal weather if the wind blows, playing well in this weather will be tough for all.

“What do you call a woman who knows where her husband is every night? A redhead….oh look, there’s Chris Evans.”

Ones to watch:

Sadly losing out on adding the FedEx Cup to his trophy cabinet last weekend, and the potential to remove consistent ownership from the yanks (yet still add yet another top ten finish to the 14 that helped get him in to contention), Luke Donald (Ladbrokes and 888Sport), winner over the Links at Castle Stuart earlier this year bids to ensure that the Race To Dubai doesn’t slip from his grip in the same way. Luke was 11th at the Open in 2010, 7th in the Dunhill in 2009 and is fishing for his second straight Scottish title.

With one or two putting problems on his shoulders at the moment, but still with 4 consecutive top ten finishes on both sides of the pond in the last 2 months, Lee Westwood (11/1 at Bodog & StanJames) continues to fight for the retaking of his Race to Dubai crown. A win here should see him skip over Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel (28/1 at BetDaq and BetFair) into second and an exciting run in where he stands an outside chance of catching Luuuuuuke for the European Number One spot.

“It’s so unfair; Tim Henman is a great golfer as well!”

Ones to win:

It’s the most exciting golfer of the last 12 months who, for me, is hotly tipped to take the Links trophy and 500,000 cans of Irn Bru that come with it. Rory McIlroy (10/1 with Victor Chandler & BlueSq) was third here on his second outing as professional in 2007 (securing enough money in two events, to retain his tour card) and who shot a blisteringly low 62 in the 2010 Open. Contrary to his admission at Royal St Georges, McIlroy is clearly a man who does enjoy his links golf when the going is good.

With 7 top tens’ including two wins in 2011, and as with bragging rights as a previous winner from 2009, its Simon Dyson (22/1 at Bwin) who is on a charge in the latter part of this season as he has climbed up to the Race to Dubai rankings. With a penchant for winning over courses he likes (he was won three KLM Opens now) it’s only a matter of time before he tops the leader board at the Dunhill, next year’s Irish Open or the HSBC Indonesian. While I’ve money in my pocket, he can have it now…. 

“Isn’t that one of the highest scorers ever playing in that group over there? It looks like Sir Bobby Charlton…”

See you in the Jigger Inn! Jenks out….

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Selectabet: Austrian GolfOpen

Date:                     22nd – 25th September 2011

Competition:     Austrian GolfOpen by Lyoness

In the absence of a functioning space-bar, and following a week watching tour pro’s attempt to recreate the excitement of the Walker Cup in a “thing” called the Vivendi Trophy, it is business as usual at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Austrian GolfOpen. However, this week it’s the turn of The European Tours “B” squad while the proper players fight it out in the US for the PGA Tour Championship finale at East Lake…but stick around….I’ll be back.

From the Country that brought the world the sewing machine, sponsor Lyoness, for the record, is a Europe wide loyalty card. As someone who knows about these things, and like the sewing machine, it’s a dated creation, somewhat like Austria’s gift to the world of popular music – Falco (remember Rock Me Amadeus?).

Venue:                 Diamond Country Club, Atzenbrugg, Austria (Diamond Course)

With plenty of water to focus the mind, The Diamond Country Club is a mighty challenge stretching beyond 6,700 metres from the tips. Eight of the final twelve holes feature lakes and ponds to threaten tee shots and approach shots, and in some cases – both. Tis’ not the best course in Austria, but that doesn’t make it a rough diamond…

Yards:                   7,386 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

There are some really big names playing this week including Florian Pogatschnigg (1,000/1), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (45/1), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (24/1) and Alfredo Garcia-Heredia (213/1 – all BetDaq). Equally there is a big caddy nicknamed Wobbly (and a wobbly player named John Daly) who is carrying the clubs for Walker Cup hero Paul Cutler (90/1) on his Professional debut.

However, of the players, it’s difficult to see anyone from outside the top ten obvious favourites triumph this weekend. They include Padraig “Wheres me trophy” Harrington (12/1 at SkyBet), Soren “the Great Dane” Hansen (33/1 at Ladbrokes) and the walking humidor himself, Miguel Angel Jimenez (13/1 with Coral).

Consider…:

At this juncture, I would normally make mention of some of the better holes (probably here the 11th and 15th which are both par threes are both have island greens). I may also have mentioned a tricky hole towards the end (the 18th has water down the left hand side while out of bounds protects the right) but this week, I am not going to.

Occasionally, I also mention the weather forecast which this time around, is the most interesting of the usual features. Earlier this week, many Austrians awoke to a large dump of fresh snow which is the first snowfall on lower levels since last season. Sadly there was no skiing – as the weather was just too bad and although winter ski areas are around two months from opening, many were blanked with nearly half a metre of snow! With a half baked field such as this, this minor snowy distraction is music to my ears – in the form of the Austrian maestros Mahler, Mozart and Strauss….

Ones to watch:

Not wanting to appear as obviously homosexual as Austrian TV presenter Brüno Gehard, but this week, I have to say I rather fancy Tom Lewis (48/1 with BetDaq). Following an exemplary showing at this year’s Dubai Desert Classic (59th) and The Open (30th), and here in his professional debut, the sweet swinging, blonde haired blue eyed wiser-than-his-years Welwyn Garden City boy will be an exciting prospect for the future and well worth an each way punt this week of all weeks.

There’s no doubting that a visit to the history books often provides much of my inspiration for this meager collection of wordsmithery and so its perhaps no surprise that 2010 winner, Jose Manuel Lara (22/1 with BetFred and Totesport), reappears as a potential top 4 finisher this week. The rather scary, hairy and lairy looking twice Tour winning Spaniard, despite an interesting season in 2010 (with 21 missed cuts and a win!), has steadied the ship this year with 5 top 15 positions. 

Ones to win:

Aiming for the Swarovski and sparkling Red Bull (they like the podiums!), and hoping to beat the two year victory itch, is visor sporting Soren Kjeldson (33/1 with Ladbrokes) who is a consistent performer on the tour having never finished outside the top 67 since 1998. A gritty but stylish character Kjeldson will be eyeing the silverware this week.

And finally the smiling Frenchman, Victor Dubuisson (30/1 at PaddyPower and Bet365), Titleist playing wunderkind and general extrovert player is seeking his maiden victory having played himself both in (and out) of contention on several occasions across the season. Now seeks a solid performance to consolidate a solid rookie year on the big tour. But inspired by the smell of victory he hopes the local Apfelstrudel and Pez candy won’t be the only sweet things about his week in Austria.

Hasta la Vista baby.

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Selectabet: The Walker Cup

Date:                     10th – 11th September 2011

Competition:     The Walker Cup

The Professional games impressive little amateur brother for the best players from the USA and Great Britain & Ireland. Contested by male amateur players in teams of not more than 10 players and a Captain. Much as the Ryder Cup, the Walker Cup is contested every two years, alternately in the USA and Great Britain and Ireland.

Venue:                 Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, Aberdeen, Scotland

Founded in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is the sixth oldest golf club in existence. For the first 35 years, the club was known as The Society of Golfers at Aberdeen, with membership being determined by ballot. The Aberdeen Golf Club was formed in 1815 on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, and its members continued to play on the Queen’s Links, a strip of common land between the Don and Dee Rivers, until 1888 when they migrated to the current links at Balgownie.

More recently it has been Richie Ramsay’s training ground – a wild and windy frontline for whatever the North Sea wishes to throw at the Scottish mainland.

Yards:                   6,873 yards

Par:                        Par 70

Consider…:

The Americans look stronger on paper. But the Great Britain & Ireland have the home advantage. But the US are always favourites but….and it’s a huge but, the weather is set to be wet and windy. It’s a tough links and I know from recent personal experience that they have tightened the course in a little and while the greens are relatively slow for this standard, 10.5 (or so) on the stimp, they will most definitely be tough in these conditions.

Ones to watch:

Patrick Cantlay – Cantlay has had a stellar freshman season at UCLA, winning three events and being named Golfer of the Year, first-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-10. He was recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Award (NCAA Division I player of the year) and the Phil Mickelson Award, presented to the freshman of the year.

He was the low amateur at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, tying for 21st place. He shot 60 in the second round of the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour, which set the record for the lowest round in a PGA Tour event by an amateur. He went on to finish 24th in the event. He also had a top-25 finish at PGA Tour’s AT&T National at Aronomink outside of Philadelphia and tied for ninth at the RBC Canadian Open. He claimed the 2011 Southern California Golf Association Amateur and was runner-up to Ethan Tracy at the Western Amateur, losing the final match, 1 down.

He currently is the top-ranked amateur, according to the World Amateur Golf.

Tom Lewis – Lewis announced himself to the world of golf at Royal St George’s this July when he became the first amateur since Sir Michael Bonallack in 1968 to lead The Open Championship. Lewis compiled an opening 65 to share the lead with Thomas Bjorn, and went on to finish joint 30th to take the silver medal as leading amateur. He won the St Andrews Links Trophy in June.

He finished 59th in the Dubai Desert Classic, his first European Tour event. He ended the 2010 season with two outstanding performances on the Australasian Tour, finishing 12th in the Australian Open and losing a playoff to Peter O’Malley in the New South Wales Open.

Ones to win:

As there are only three possible outcomes – it’s a surprisingly hard one to call. Essentially, its better “big event” ready players (US) versus the links friendly home advantaged. 

The available odds tell the full story: the US being offered at 8/15 with Betfair while Team GB & I, are at 9/4 with Ladbrokes and SkyBet.

The odds of a tie (where the US retain the trophy) are valued at 10/1 with practically everyone including William Hill, Stan James and BoyleSports.

I’m going with my gut instinct on this one and saying that Team GB & I will dominate (courtesy of the wind and rain) day one – much as the Europeans do in the Ryder Cup and while it will be a close call at the end, the Americans will eek out a vital win (again).

Jenks out.

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Selectabet: KLM Open

Date:                     8th – 11th September 2011

Competition:     KLM Open

It’s just a short hop from the height of the Alps (and its’ 2 correct predictions) to Holland and with many of the top Europeans getting high and flying the friendly skies, the 2011 KLM Open has its strongest field yet and will be one of the closest fought events on this years’ tour. Founded in 1912, long before the Tours arrival in 1972, the Dutch Open is a long standing well attended boys outing. And besides the obvious things guys do when they go near Amsterdam, they can also get stoned and go to prostitutes. It’s not all museums you know…

Venue:                 Hilversumsche Golf Club, Hilversum, Netherlands 

It is the most exclusive golf club in the Netherlands and winds its way through the woods and forests and is similar to England’s fine heath land courses of Woburn, Sunningdale and Wentworth. The course begins and ends with testing par fives with many fine holes in between including fine pairs of par fours at 3 and 4 and in the back nine at 15 and 16. The par 3’s are outstanding and 3 of the 4 are less than 160 yards from the back pegs: a course worthy of both a smoke, and a pancake, in the 19th hole.

Yards:                   6,906 yards

Par:                        Par 70

Field:                    150

The event is considered by the organisers as having the best field in their 99 year history but it is pot luck week this time around as everyone stands a fighting chance while consecutive winner Thomas Bjorn steps down to give others a go at winning. Equally, I’ve taken time to weed out the tulip seeding wooden shoe wearing homegrown locals who include Jurrian Van Der Vaart (949/1), Inder Van Weerelt (949/1), Joost Luiten (66/1) amongst their peoples and the most well known of the flat land cycling ball strikers, Maartan Lafeber (142/1 all at BetFair).

Consider…:

As almost half of the Netherlands is land reclaimed from the ocean and as its scheduled to rain until the weekend you would think this leads to plugged balls and much placing of the ball but actually no – the sandy subsoil makes for all year round play. And despite the frequent sighting of aesthetically pleasing windmills, there won’t be that much of the invisible interfering nuisance this weekend or any anticipated sightings of Camberwick Greens’ Windy Miller.

That said, the course is tight by anyone’s standards and with Kyle Phillips recent remodeling, Hilversumsche now determines that successful players now have to be long as well as straight to stand a chance.  

Ones to watch:

Johan Edfors (123/1 at BetFair) is a truly consistent player – one of the more consistent on the Tour, who likes this type of course having finished 7th at Wentworth in the BMW PGA and is a fierce competitor with 5 top ten finishes in 2011 alone. Is accurate and generally plays well where Lee Westwood (see below) is a real contender.

Nick Dougherty (142/1 at BetFair) is on “form” having made the cut for the first time in 2011 at the Omega Masters, and after his stunning 45th placing delivering his first winnings from 23 outings this season; he is my one to watch this week. With SkySports Di Dougherty on your side – how could you fail after that stellar improvement?

Ones to win:

With 300,000 wooden clogs and a lump of cannabis up for grabs this week, what better shoe cupboard to fill than that of a strictly heterosexual ale swilling Yorkshireman in the form of his life. Simon Dyson (26/1 with BetFair) with 6 top ten’s including a 3rd place over a tricky Wentworth course, a win at the Irish in 2011 and a previous KLM victory in 2009 over this very tight course, Dyson will be a player fighting to maintain (and improve on) his top ten Race to Dubai position.

With seven top ten’s in 15 events, only one missed cut and only one Big Tour win in the current 2011 season, former World Number 1, Lee Westwood (19/2 at BetFair) is surprisingly dropping down the Race to Dubai rankings (currently he is in 5th) thanks to a resurgence (at the right time) from Martin Kaymer (57/5 at BetFair). Ever the fighter though, the Wizard of Worksop is keen, during the busy mainland Europe swing, to fight for his place atop the listings and so expect more from Lee than just “window” shopping in Amsterdam this weekend as he goes all out to score big for both OGWR, R2D and his own winning tally. Westwood hopes a Holland win would be dope.

Jenks out.

Selectabet: Omega European Masters

Date:                     1st – 4th September 2011

Competition:     Omega European Masters

The race to qualify for José Maria Olazábal’s Ryder Cup team begins in earnest on the Big Tours most spectacular destinations at the breath-taking Crans-sur-Sierre this week. The tournament signals the beginning of Olazábal’s captaincy and a journey that will lead him and his final 12-man Team to Medinah Country Club in Chicago, Illinois, to defend The Ryder Cup Trophy that Europe reclaimed at Celtic Manor last year.

Up for grabs this week is 333,000 gold sovereigns put directly into a suitably Swiss, and in no way dodgy or tax avoiding, bank account – wink, wink, say no more, if you know what I mean.

Venue:                 Crans-Sur-Sierre, Crans Montana, Switzerland (Severiano Ballesteros Course)

If golf was meant to be played in spectacular settings, you will find nowhere better than Crans-sur-Sierre. Perched at 5000 feet above sea-level, you are not just continually looking at stunning high Alpine scenery, you are part of it.  The championship Ballesteros layout carries the great man’s name following design improvements he made to the course where the holes will fairly challenge; sometimes a little bit tight between the tree-lined fairways; and at others, reveling in the openness of the summer pasture environment. In winter, skiers’ wizz down the fairways at speed, but with the timing of a Swiss timepiece, from late-Spring to early-Autumn the sound of club on ball is all that is heard on this natural alpine layout.

Yards:                   6,822 yards

Par:                        Par 71

Field:                    150

This week’s field contains 6 of Team Europe’s Ryder Cup winning team of 2010 and major champions including Darren Clarke (71/1), Louis Oosthuizen (86/1), Todd Hamilton (579/1) and Michael Campbell (593/1 – all at BetDaq). As an Asian Tour co-sanctioned event, also expect a high quantity of high caliber players with unpronounceable names including Seung-Yul Noh (40/1 at Bwin and BetFred), Pariya Junhasavasdikul (474/1 at Betfair), Udorn Duangdecha (678/1 at BetDaq) and Namchok Tantipokhakul (764/1 at BetDaq).

Consider…:

A great tournament to watch – although our friends at Sky Sports may revel in the scenery more than the golf at times.  Expect longer than average ball flight in the thin mountain air which on a course measuring no more than an old school course off the whites – it’s a veritable pitch and putt and scoring will be low. -21 won last year but despite the Jimenez (36/1 at BetDaq) victory, it is a course favoured by the fit young things due to its undulating terrain.

Ones to watch:

I have a habit that requires to be broken and that is to pick winners one week ahead of schedule. In recent outings, this skill has seen Larrazabel, Noren, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson all finish on the podium if not win. Looking backward to look forward, I’ve re-picked last week’s Jeev Milkha Singh (despite a poor showing at Gleneagles) (at 143/1 with BetDaq) to come out of his dip in form and who should be one to “watch” this week.

Rory McIlroy (9/1 with UniBet & StanJames) has a new and improved temperament that if circumstances fit, means he wins.  He’s only tested this theory once – and won the US Open. Has spent a lot of time breaking up, getting back together and breaking up with yet again on-off girlfriend and Absinthe drinking partner, Holly Sweeney. Fresh from a few days sleeping at JFK airport (thanks Irene), he now has tennis starlet Caroline Wozniaki in tow. Despite a minor set-back with a wrist injury suffered at the US PGA, Rory is back in the focused zone and will be expected to contend in the tournament that he squandered in his first full year on Tour in 2008 and as such will have something to prove.

Ones to win:

Fondue and raclette loving Matteo Mannesaro (18/1 with BoyleSports and Victor Chandler) will be getting into the Swiss swing of things this week and hoping for a competitive form after school holidays meant he took time off to relax by playing in the park, getting muddy knees playing from hours of “One-and-in” and playing soldiers in the local woods late into the evening until his folks called him in for milk and cookies. Currently 20th in the Race to Dubai with only 14 starts, the talented Azzurri has had 4 top 10’s in 2011 and a bright future beyond school. While length has no advantage here, his scrambling ability alone make him a contender so expect low scores from him this week to threaten lifting the muesli filled trophy come Sunday.

Bringing this weeks’ youth inspired line-up to a close, it is Martin Kaymer (20/1 with Coral and Bet365) exciting me this week after a quiet summer by his standards. We once again saw fire in the belly in France in July and fired up by the start of a new Ryder Cup year, and by a number of weeks off – Kaymer will be one who’s outstanding short game and Germanic attention to detail will stand him in good stead to be somewhere deep in the thick of it at the business end of the weekend.

Jenks out.