WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championships

Fed Ex Cup:        WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship

As the eyes of the golfing globe focus on Tucson, the Worlds’ top 64 golfers will this week try to etch their names into the golfing history book. Billed as the corner stone of the highly regarding WGC series, the WGC Accenture World Match Play Championship has a whopping $8.5 million dollar prize pot and a Redknapp themed (allegedly) tax avoiding moonlight flit by the winner to hide $1.4 million – sadly with recognition on the PGA, European Tour and the Japan Golf Tours as evidence and exhibit A: the famous mildly camp and twee looking oversized granny-esque looking fruit bowl in the living room – the Walter Hagen Cup.

All matches are held over 18 holes including the final. The losers of the semi-final matches play an 18-hole consolation match for third place. This five-day, six-match tournament begins on Wednesday, with a match per day through Friday. The quarterfinals and semifinals are played on Saturday; the finals and third-place match conclude the tournament on Sunday.

Date:                     22nd – 26th February 2012

Venue:                 Ritz-Carlton GC, Dove Mountain, Marana, Arizona

Legendary champion Jack Nicklaus took advantage of the High Sonoran Desert Brokeback Mountain-style setting to integrate strategy, variety and fair shot values into his Signature Design golf course at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain.

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain is his first Tucson golf course in 25 years, playing at elevations ranging from 2,300 to 3,200 feet. Nicklaus created 27 holes with unique challenges and distinct character, blending naturally among noble saguaros and the surrounding Tortolita Mountain Range.

Yards:                   7,791 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Donald (18/1 with ToteSport) will go into the first WGC event of the year as the top seed and, for the first time, all four top qualifiers are European with Lee Westwood (22/1 with BetDaq), Rory McIlroy (13/1 with StanJames) and Martin Kaymer (25/1 with BlueSq) occupying the top four positions in the World Ranking although Rory McIlroy could take the number one spot this week if dominoes topple a certain way.

There are also 23 Americans in the 64-man field … and 10 of those Americans are in the Hogan bracket, led by No. 2 seed Steve Stricker (44/1). The Hogan bracket also has all four Golf Boys in it — No. 5 Bubba Watson (41/1), No. 6 Hunter Mahan (57/1), No. 9 Rickie Fowler (69/1) and No. 12 Ben Crane (79/1 – all BetDaq). Watson and Crane will face off in the first round.

There are some interesting first round duals taking place on Wednesday including Luke Donald vs. Ernie Els (137/1) (top overall seed vs. last seed); Keegan Bradley (47/1) vs. Geoff Ogilvy (51/1) Ogilvy, the two-time champ, is a 12th seed!); Dustin Johnson (36/1) vs. Jim Furyk (82/1) (power vs. precision) and there is potential for a Snedeker (69/1)  Vs Stanley (49/1) in match 2 that also might mean must watch TV. (All bets BetDaq)

WGC Accenture World Match Play Championship Bracket

What to know:

The weather forecast is scheduled to be around 20 degrees Celsius with no more than a one club wind across the five days of tournament play.  What does that mean? That it shouldn’t be as cold as last time around and therefore possibly does not lean in favour of the Europeans quite as much as last year?

Staggeringly the new leaner, meaner and fitter Darren Clark is 250/1 rank outside for this event! Interesting odds given he won this tournament in 2000 pipping Tiger Woods at the post and that his record in Match Play is pretty decent including in the Ryder Cup and this very tournament. Albeit you should recognise the form guide for Clarke is not filled to the brim with positives about his current form.

Ones to watch:

Poster boy, Nick Watney (49/1 with BetDaq) – not on form but he makes a shed load of birdies and so the attacking style must be worth watching – especially with an easy-ish entry to the event with a head to head with Mr Clarke (see above!).

The perpetually young looking Sergio Garcia (20/1 with Paddy Power) enters this big tournament after an earth shattering final round 64 at last week’s Northern Trust Open. Belongs to a particularly strong group with three of the 4 major winners in it – but with that sort of form, its confirmation that he’s back to his very best.

Ones to win:

Dustin Johnson (36/1 with BetDaq) – will need to break the duck of his last three appearances here but his current form in undeniable; striking the ball long and accurate – DJ will make light work of the nearly 8,000 yard track and provided he makes it to round two and beats Furyk then Scott (34/1 at BetDaq) and then Donald will be right in it come the business end of the weekend.

With a core speciality that is avoiding making bogeys, it is Matt Kuchar (50/1 with SkyBet) who is sticking his head above the parapet this week and will be fighting his way in every match. Accurate and deadly with a putter – his form in 2011, showed he was a major contender and as the next big tournament on any tour, a win here would put him some way to show his true metal and with relatively long odds this weekend, a win would be just a Kuchie coup….

Trick shots:

The competitive Ian Poulter is at odds of 12/1 with BWin to reach the final! Perhaps a bet worth taking, win or lose …

Dustin Johnson AND Rory McIlroy to make the final and you will receive a massive 100/1 with BWin. Go do it! Even a pound… I dares ya!

Oh, and you can thank me later!

FedEx Cup: Northern Trust Open

Fed Ex Cup:        Northern Trust Open

This week the PGA TOUR moves from Pebble Beach on to Los Angeles for the Northern Trust Open at the historic Riviera CC – a course with as much history as the United States itself; Riviera having hosted major tournaments way back to 1948 when it hosted its first US Open.

Date:                     16th – 19th February 2012

Venue:                 Riviera CC, Pacific Pallisades, California 

Riviera has long been known within golfing circles as “Hogan’s Alley”, a nickname bestowed upon it by three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret after Hogan won the 1947 and 1948 Los Angeles Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open at the Club within a span of 18 months. Today, Riviera remains one of golf’s few genuine classics, with a course layout that is virtually unaltered, yet every bit as great and testing as the day it was opened.

Yards:                   7,279 yards

Par:                        Par 71

Field:                   

From young to told, East to West, the field for this event is a hugely all encompassing affair – from Danny Lee (360/1) to Fred Couples (113/1) and Chris DiMarco (484/1) to Ryo Ishikawa (142/1 – all BetFair) – this is an exciting collection of golfers regardless of event and so it’s a difficult choice for any tip hungry gambling monkey. But that’s why Im here.

Let me start with where you could put your dollar: last years winner Aaron Baddeley (31/1 with BetDaq)– had an awful fall on the PGA Tour and so starts as an unlikely outsider. Then there is the return of Luke Donald (16/1 with WilliamHill) and the start of his 2012 PGA Tour season – will a first time outing result in victory – probably not this time around by my calculations.

Then there’s where not to put your buck – this list is not exhaustive but may include T. Biershenk (969/1), S. Gangluff (969/1) and M. Battencourt (731/1 – all Betdaq) who resemble not so much a trio of top class pros and more a gathering of second class lawyers. The defence rests.

Consider…:

Up for grabs this week is an eye watering $1,188,000 to the winner – no doubt paid into a Northern Trust Account with interest but with few players standing out too far – maybe the answer lies in the course set up?  Notable holes include number ten, a driveable par four that yields birdies and double bogeys with equal swiftness, and a massive par four at number fifteen that plays directly into the ocean breezes. The monumental par five 17th hole measures 578 yards, all uphill before the finishing hole is a world-famous 454-yard par four that plays to an elevated fairway, then requires a long second shot to a narrow green. All in – this requires great course management more than brute strength or direct accuracy.

Ones to watch:

Last year Jason Day (37/1 with BetDaq)– outperformed everyone in the four majors. He also broke into the top ten with sand saves, strokes gained putting, money leading and scoring average across a season. His form was so good he had ten top tens in 21 outings – and rocketed to world number 7. It’s his first outing in the US in 2012 but I’m confident that for an each way bet, the Queenslander will make sure that this dog has not yet had its Day.

Now that the furore with racist bag carrier, Steve Williams, no longer seems to tar his name, Adam Scott (30/1 with Bet365) has a white sheet of paper and the chance to capitalize on his return to form in 2011. He has won here over this track in the past (2005) and with his belly putter still improving his putting with every outing, Scott looks a good each way bet – for an Aussi.

Ones to win:

Following an exceptionally strong finish to tame the Tiger last week, this superb left hand scrambler has already two wins here at Riviera and could be in with a shout – he’s on form, he’s fiery and he can be deadly accurate. More than that – he’s hurt himself a good number of times to learn when to play smart – so keep your eyes on Phil Mickelson (10/1 with 188 Bet).

Since taking the worst ever score on the PGA Tour since the tour began recording hole-by-hole scores in 1983 at a par 4, making a 16 on the ninth hole at the Valero Texas Open last year, Kevin Na (43/1 with BetDaq) – third here last year, has enjoyed 7 top tens including two consecutive top fives in his last two outings this season. Is a reliable performer and likely about to make another step up to the big league. For those thinking “nah”, think again….

Trick shots:

Aaron Baddely to lead after the first round rewards 40/1 with Ladbrokes.

Martin Laird with a -5 handicap returns 12/1 with StanJames.

Thank me later!

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!