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!

Trump International Golf Links

Donald Trump, the larger than life US tycoon, struck the first ball on his new Scottish golf course today.

• Donald Trump opened the golf course with Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie

• Menie development sparked a long-running row with environmentalists

• Future of proposed offshore wind farm to be decided by Scottish ministers

The tycoon was piped to the first hole of the Aberdeenshire course and teed off with former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, who said it was an “honour” to play the first round on the “marvel” of a course.

Sandy Jones, chief executive of the PGA, and George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, said they would work to bring major golf events to the course.

Regardless of what your thoughts on the tycoon – the pictures (taken by legendary golf photographer Brian Morgan) portray the course to certainly look like one of the world leading links golf courses. What do you think?

You’ve Been Trumped

American tycoon Donald Trump has hit the first ball on his new Scottish golf course on Tuesday.

The building of Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire has been controversial, with environmental campaigners opposing the construction of the course on protected sand dunes and Mr Trump himself complaining about a potential offshore wind farm being built near the site.

The course will open to the public on Sunday July 15 with a series of private events being held this week.

The businessman cut a ribbon on the first tee on Tuesday to mark the opening and hit the first balls with former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie.

More than £100m has been spent on the course and the clubhouse, but further plans for a hotel and homes in the area have been put on hold until a final decision is made on the offshore wind farm proposal.

Trump International said 160 jobs have been created so far with positions in management, catering and course maintenance.

Work on the course began in July 2010 after the tycoon won planning permission to start work on the construction four years after plan were first put forward.

By way of a topical look at the development, take a look at the trailer for the movie “You’ve Been Trumped” released in 2011 (links to the full film are available…).

Race to Dubai: Irish Open

Race to Dubai:   The Irish Open

They promise us red hair, leprechauns, more pubs than you could ever imagine and more champ with your potatoes and chips than you can shake your stick at. But it’s not all here yet – its quiet, its calm and it’s too early in the week! However with 100,000 tickets sold for golf’s major (home) coming later this week – what a stick shaking carnival this will be. It’s the greatest game on grass and we are here at Irelands second best course (Royal County Down is best!) for the craic at the Irish Open with Guinness on tap and a best guaranteed party atmosphere anywhere on Tour!

Date:                     28th June – 1st July 2012

Venue:                 Royal Portrush Golf  Club, County Antrim, Norn Iron

Royal Portrush has one of the most dramatic entrances of any course – quite simply, it’s has a geography that could make you cough up your colcannon and say crikey. The fairways nestle in natural valleys between towering sand dunes, the putting areas are protected by grassy hummocks instead of the usual bunkers and the greens themselves are small and understated – completing designer Harry Colt’s masterpiece. Look out for the 14th hole suitably monickered “Calamity” – a 210 yard par three with a deep chasm to the right!! It will deliver a cliff hanger alright!

Yards:                   7,143 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

This week’s rich field includes 10 major champions not forgetting Irish golf’s great quartet of Clarke (67/1), McDowell (51/5), McIlroy (34/5) and Harrington (58/5). There’s yet more locals – a plethora of Brendans, Michaels, Eammons and a Mooney (969/1) including proven Tour winners in Shane Lowry (92/1) and Paul McGinley (49/1)! And finally a sprinkling of Uncle Sam’s winners too with Keegan Bradley (38/1), John Daly (176/1) and Rich Beem (552/1 – all BetDaq) making a welcome appearance on the European Tour.

Consider…:

In my mind this week it is the home crowd and the local players in this most anticipated event to hit the European Tour in years. What could be better than the home support cheering their own coming down the final stretch? And to anyone else threatening to knock them off the pedestal, what pressure to dare to hold your nerve? It’s a tough enough course this, especially in a wind, requiring solid driving, accuracy and course management to give any true competitor a fighting chance.

Ones to watch:

With 3 top ten’s in 4 recent outings including a tie for third last week at the BMW in Germany….this Irishman has hit form just at the right time! Scoring low last week with a 65 to start and a 66 to finish (marred somewhat by a 77 on moving (backwards?) day on the Saturday!) McGinley (55/1 with Totesport) is clearly feeling that it is time to play serious – especially with his home crowd around him. Remember his Ryder Cup fight back at the K Club, the winning put in 2002? What inspiration does a player need?

With a welcome return to some semblance of form Chris Wood (47/1 with BetFair) is now stringing some better results together with two podium places in the last two months including at the BMW in Cologne last week. The joint tallest player on Tour is well known for his heroics on the links at the Open Championship as an amateur in 2008 (finishing 5th) and as a pro in 2009 (finishing 3rd) and so entering the links season, expect a few contending weeks in the next 4 weeks.

Ones to win:

In five events, Padraig Harrington (12/1 with BetFred) has delivered three top ten’ and in front of his home crowd, this will be like the years fifth major and so expect some significant fighting and effort by the Dubliner… Playing most of his golf in the US in 2012, he has similar standing there – 7 top 25’s and three top 10’s from 10 cuts made. Another links specialist, is this the start of the form that sees 4 weeks of this genre of golf bring Harrington once again to the fore?

With weather looking to include drizzling rain, freshening temperatures and 14 – 18 mile an hour winds, look no further than links and bad weather specialist Paul Lawrie (28/1 with BetDaq) to continue his rich vein of form over the Dunluce Links this week. Well rested after taking a week off whilst others in the top 50 travelled the long way to California and likely disappointed after a tied 20th finish last week – he will be looking at once again striking while the iron is hot to ensure his inclusion in Olazabal’s Ryder Cup squad in August.

Trick Shot

At 16/1 with SkyBet, Peter Lawries recent return to form may just have you reaching for a fiver to take a punt on him finish as the top Irish man in the field….

Local amateur hero and newly crowned Amateur Champion, Alan Dunbar, could cause a stir this week and for returns of 100/1 everywhere for the first round lead, might just enable you to pay for the Guinness that will undoubtedly ensue!

Finally, in the handicap market, take – 4 from Brandon Grace and see what happens. If he then wins – 9/1 with (obviously!) PaddyPower sees the best possible return in that market.

Jenks Out!

Race to Dubai: BMW International Open

Race to Dubai:   BMW International Open

Guten Tag Herr feinen, schönen Abend – willkommen in Köln. We are in Cologne and it smells – I’m unsure if this is connected with being a town twinned with Liverpool or if it’s linked to the local aftershave we now know and love. We are here for one of Germanys many car manufacturer sponsored tournaments which could include The Seat Open, Land Rover International or Mini Match play but doesnt? German eh? However, as with everything Germanic, this is a precise affair starting at 07:30 exactly on Thursday when Bradley Dredge (125/1 with Bet365) clips one into the light rough.

Date:                     21st – 24th June 2012

Venue:                 Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof, Cologne, Germany

The strangely titled Gut Larchenof Golf Club hosts this event for the first time however the venue has previously hosted the German Masters 11 times between 1998-2009. It’s a Jack Nicklaus designed challenge but fair test and, I’m told, all about rewarding precision and intelligence over brute strength. The final holes of both the front and back nein’s deliver the biggest challenge ensuring an exciting finish! Well, it couldn’t be as bad as the US Open!

Yards:                   7,289 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Despite the US Open just last week and the impending British Open, the field stacks up to be of decent quality including six players who have won the German Masters here. This includes 8 time European number one; Colin Montgomerie (1998) (300/1), Sergio Garcia (1999) (12/1), James Kingston (2009) (150/1) and Bernhard Langer (2001) (80/1) who is out to claim the only German-staged European Tour he has not won. And Paul Casey (80/1 – all SportingBet) will make yet another comeback. Again.

Consider…:

Since the days of General Franco and Adolf Hitler chillaxing around World War II with their stuffed donkeys and their lederhosen, the Spaniards have done well in Germany. In golfing terms, these include last year’s winner Pablo Larrazabal (33/1), Antonio’s son – Ignatio Garrido (125/1), the oiley handed Jimenez (55/1 – all SkyBet) and the legendary Seve.  However the English and the funky Swedes also have a rich history taking the Bratwurst and Blue Nun from the Krauts in their own backyard.

Ones to watch:

Fighting for a big €333,330 is local lad Martin Kaymer (15/2 at PaddyPower) who organisers appear is the spectator’s favourite despite the fierce Cologne – Dusseldorf rivalry. That said the former world number 1 (currently 13) is on the ascendancy again with nothing worse than 20th position in his last 7 non-major starts and after an encouraging performance at last week’s US Open (tied 15th) a high finish is just what is needed for certain Ryder Cup inclusion – home crowds or not.

A newbie on my hall of fame but it’s the more German than Austrian sounding Bernd Weisberger (translated to Burnt White Burger?) (50/1 with Ladbrokes) a 2012 winner at the Ballentines in April is one to potentially set the (sort of) home fires burning over the Rhine and in the far hills of the Vienna. Had 4 top fives in 2011, and with his maiden victory should carry enough momentum and local support to achieve a place this week before driving his Trabant back home.

Ones to win:

Rightly cowering like a prisoner of the Gestapo last week to avoid a clearly tough US Open, Paul Lawrie (20/1 everywhere including BlueSq) will be one of the few fresh faced and mentally strong out on the links this week. Focusing on the Ryder Cup (as he is right to do), the Aberdonian still currently carries the best form of anyone else on Tour and hopes it to continue to picking up another trophy before popping the cork on the local Sekt before a fly by from the local Luftwaffe signifies what would be his second win of the year and his 6th top ten in 13 starts. Form indeed!

With three top fives in 9 starts on the regular tour and a pleasing 10th in the US Open, the European Tours best putter, Retief Goosen (26/1 at BetFair), a previous winner of the tournament, is worthy of watching this week. With top 20 rankings for all relevant precision and intellectually technical stats – a place finish is not only likely, it is mathematically guaranteed. Something that those detail driven Germans quite like – vorsprung durch technic, as they often say.

Trick Shot

Given the mentions above, look no further than picking last year’s victor Pablo Larrazabal as top finishing Spaniard for a 6/1 return from Ladbrokes – with the only two real contenders Alvaro Quiros (precision? Nah!) and Sergio Garcia (intelligence?) – it’s in the bag!

Sticking with Spain (well, the Euro Championships are on!) and the podium sitter from last year, select Pablo Larrazabal to only finish inside the top ten and win yourself a return of 50/3 with BWin.

I know I’ve picked mostly Spain here today but there will be no saur krauts unless Kaymer misses the cut (7/2 with BetFair) but even then, this would then deliver something towards your weekend Liebfraumilch. Enjoy!

Jenks Out!

Race to Dubai: ISPS Handa Wales Open

Race to Dubai:   ISPS Handa Wales Open

A mere two hours and 30 minutes separates the opulence of the exclusive Wentworth Club and the Showcase of the European Tour from the knock down, discounted (and frankly) tacky looking Celtic Manor resort and an also ran competition struggling for proper sponsorship but for those chasing Ryder Cup entry, it’s 150 minutes that could be well worth it. Welcome to South Wales! (…and by the way, you are welcome to it!)

Date:                     31st May – 3rd June 7th 2012

Venue:                 The Celtic Manor Resort (The Twenty Ten Course), City of Newport, Wales

Far better than the ridiculous resort that engulfs it is the stunning 2010 Course that was built exclusively to host the World’s greatest golfing event – The Ryder Cup, in 2010. With a mind melting six signature holes (how do they do that?) the track offers a links land feel alongside lakeside lined challenges – where water hazards feature on no fewer than half of the holes and classic risk reward considerations frequently add to the drama. A tough finishing stretch culminates in an 18th hole with a sting in the tail…

Yards:                   7,378 yards

Par:                        Par 71

Field:                   

For a competition with winners held in such high regard as Ian Poulter, Robert Karllson and Graeme McDowell – surprising how not one of them has bothered to show face this weekend. Thus leaving spaces instead for the likes of Miguel Angel Jimenez (40/1), Paul McGinley (175/1), 3 Rhys’ (Davies (80/1), Pugh (600/1) and Enoch (750/1)), Knut Borsheim (where do they get them?) (750/1) and likely local lad Zhiqun Lam (1,000/1). Oh, and don’t forget Millenium year winner Steen Tinning (400/1 – all Bet365). (Steen who you ask?)

Consider…:

As last year, it will be accuracy and length that will be major factors once again in 2012. And if not, scrambling is also key what with that thick Welsh wet grass that will nestle balls deep and mess up a tidy score card quite easily.

Ones to watch:

Swede Alexander Noren (25/1 with Ladbrokes); who was winner here in 2011 and also winner in his Native Sweden within weeks to help him rise to 14th in the Race to Dubai in 2011. Comes to Wales off the back of two top tens in April that have helped earn him much of his income for the season to date. Currently 83rd in the World Rankings and 43rd in the R2D but its this period of golf that really suits his game and so watch the charge up the rankings this week.

Spains relatively new kid on the block, Pablo Larrazabel (41/1 with BetDaq) shot a brilliant closing 67 here last year showing his true might (ahead of his maiden win in Germany a month later) in a spell that resulted in a 4th (in Wales), and 11th and then the victory in Munich. Has had two top tens in the last 5 starts and an increasing number of low scores – in particular 67s and 68s and seems to be hitting form at the right time for the lucrative summer spell and a charge up the R2D rankings.

Ones to win:

With exceedingly short odds, it’s the man of the hour with the fantastically smooth and fluid swing – Paul Lawrie (14/1 with Bet365) that could set the heather alight here. Coming off a stunning second place, final round “best of the day” 66 and a crucial £350k closer to a Ryder Cup spot at Wentworth, and as a previous winner here in 2002, no one currently looks a more likely winner in the quality light field this week despite the memory of an 8 putt on the 2nd in 2010.

Another Scot. Following The Great Nations new found admiration for one time Major Champion Paul Lawrie – and following a conscious decision to work harder on (or quit) The Tour, his bretheren from the Motherland will take note of Lawries significant advances up the Race to Dubai and a strong bid for an valuable automatic Ryder Cup spot and be inspired to deliver stronger performances (as McIlroy did after GMac’s major win) in a bid to prove that The Hallowed Land is not a one trick pony now that Sandy Lyle has gone off the boil somewhat… The real possibles then include Richie Ramsay (70/1), Scott Jamieson (113/1), Stephen Gallacher (85/1), Peter Whiteford (151/1), David Drysdale (85/1) and Marc Warren (94/1 – all BetFair).

Trick Shot

Local lad Rhys Davies is quite capable of turning on the style when required – and for just a top ten finish you can see returns of 11/2 (William Hill) – and hes had 6 of them since the Saab Wales Open in 2010.

And for a sure thing, surely the thing to do is opt for a double chance with Molinari and Lawrie (Pa) that will return you 11/2 with SkyBet. Not bad odds for the most on form duo playing.

Jenks Out!

 

Race to Dubai: Volvo World Match Play Championship

Race to Dubai:   Volvo World Match Play Championship

Here we are again in Southern Spain as the circus comes to Andalucia but forget tournament golf as we know it and stick this in your mental microwave and see how it defrosts. (If you have any questions there will be time after). It’s a more complex format than it needs to be; a field of 24 will contest 18 holes of traditional match play drawn into eight groups of three with the group matches being played on Thursday and Friday. The top two players in each group will progress to the knock-out stages for the last 16 and quarter-finals, played on the Saturday and semi-finals and final, played on Sunday. All matches will be contested over 18 holes of traditional match play. You still with me?

Click to view the Volvo World Match Play Championship Draw 2012

Date:                     17th – 20th May 2012

Venue:                 Finca Cortesín, Casares, Andalucía, Spain

Designed by award-winning American golf course architect Cabell Robinson, Finca Cortesín opened to great acclaim in 2007, a challenging golf course with world-class facilities and a luxury boutique hotel immediately setting a new gold standard for Spain in general and Andalucía in particular.

Yards:                   7,290 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

The Volvo World Match Play Championship returned to Finca Cortesín in May 2011, when loud mouth Poulter took the title in a field that was of the highest calibre where all four ‘Major’ champions took part and six of the top-10 players in the world. It’s not quite so topical this year but it will see 2011 Open Champion and bounce gamer, Darren Clarke (106/1), 2010 US PGA Champion Martin Kaymer (39/5), two-time US Open Champion Retief Goosen (46/1) and 1999 Open Champion, Paul Lawrie (27/1) all lining up. Justin Rose, who will be playing in Europe for the first time since winning his first World Golf Championship title earlier this year, also stars. Casey has withdrawn with Robert Karlsson (28/1 – all BetDaq) stepping in.

Consider…:

This is essentially a flat course on a very undulating piece of land. It will be hot and windy, especially on the weekend and that’s when it can play a very different course. Three of the par fours could be reachable with a drive depending upon wind direction and some of the holes have been shortened for the spectators benefit and some low scoring.

Ones to watch:

Biting my tongue as I write this, it’s last year’s winner Ian Poulter (10/1 with BetFred) and his incredible match play record that stands out for me (for the same reasons I predicted his victory last year) but desperate to automatically make the Ryder Cup this year, I don’t think he will make the last step required to recapture the trophy come Sunday.

The battle of Spain kick starts Sergio Garcia’s (21/2 with BetFair) tournament on Thursday at 1250 when he takes on Alvaro Quiros (25/1 with BetFair). For my money, it’s Sergio all the way following his form everywhere but on the PGA Tour with four tops tens in six starts and a home crowd to inspire and ignite the passion he has when he plays in Spain.

Elevation drops as sharp as Poulters dress sense.

Ones to win:

Another player with 4 top tens in 6 starts in Europe is Justin Rose (109/10 with BetFair) although his includes a win at the WGC Cadillac and an 8th at the Masters not counting his 6 top 25’s including 4 top tens on the US PGA Tour. If form follows him across the water, and as second highest World Ranker in the field, it’s his tournament for the taking.

Its private pilot’s license holder and general golfing high flier, Charl Schwartzel (who took no time to take advantage of Rory McIlroy’s collapse in 2011) who stands out for me this week. With 7 European Tour wins its the permanently smiling South African who ranks 15th in the World list and currently 11th in the Race to Dubai that has the edge this week – especially with two wins on Spanish soil in 2007 and 2008.

Trick Shot

Retief Goosen is 8/1 (bWin) to make the semi final! The best putter on tour available at these odds? It’s practically stealing from the bookies….

Ian Poulter is 5/1 (bWin) to just make the final. A spirited and experienced match play professional – this bet is as close to a sure thing as you will get this week.

Any questions?

Jenks Out!