FedEx Cup: AT&T National

Fed Ex Cup:        AT&T National

“Thank you for calling the AT&T National, please hold….“

Welcome to The Old Line State – Maryland; America in miniature with Countryside that ranges from sandy dunes dotted with sea grass in the east, to low marshlands teeming with wildlife and large bald cypress near the bay, to gently rolling hills of oak forest in the Piedmont Region, and pine groves in the mountains to the west. Despite the 3,400 mile distance, this is McIlroy County – home of Rory’s sensational US Open victory in 2011 but he’s not hearing the call (he’s in Ireland) – leave a message – tell him it’s the greatest game on grass and the PGA Tour is dialling in!

Date:                     28th June – 1st July 2012

Venue:                 Congressional Country Club (Blue Course), Bethesda, Maryland

Steeped in tournament history, Congressional has hosted many leading tournaments from juniors, ladies and seniors to majors in the form of the PGA and US Open as well as this established annual gathering – although the AT&T has had a 3 year absence from the roster at this venue and this year is 314 yards longer than it was in 2009! The exclusive Club counted Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D Eisenhower and Gerald Ford amongst its esteemed members and is so posh that the ice cubes are frozen twice to help them last longer in their G&T’s – now that’s cool!

Yards:                   7,569 yards

Par:                        Par 71

Field:    

“Just one moment please….”

If you are looking for your AT&T host – he’ll be a long in a minute, as for the first time since he took the trophy back in 2009 Tiger Woods (11/2 with SkyBet) has accepted an invite – from himself!! This invite only event at the Congressional is restricted to a field of only 120 including nine players who have already won on the 2012 PGA Tour, 11 major championship winners with a mantelpiece holding 28 major trophies and two of the current top three in the FedEx Cup standings, all of whom will be competing for a $6.5 million purse and a winner’s cheque in the region of $1,100,000.

Consider…:

“How may I direct your call?”

The World watched in 2011 as McIlroy obliterated the US Open field, and we knew the Blue course was tough – some would say brutal, but the scores were unlike many a US Open for at least 19 players ended in red numbers! It may not quite play so brutal this time around but the course still hosts tricky but rewarding holes – no more so than the 489 yards par 5, 6th hole and the 471 yard par 4, 12th holes that could make a big difference to a cards.

Ones to watch:

Potentially the hottest player on the Tour without a victory (yet) this year, Ryan Palmer (37/1 with BetDaq), if recent history is anything to go by, could see another finish in a placed position this week. In his last five starts, he’s posted four top 10s including in each of his last three outings. At a staggering aggregate 33-under in those 4 starts, with averaging 3.74 birdies per round and having finished 21st in 2011 U.S. Open, he knows how brutal but rewarding the course can be.

England’s Brian Davis (90/1 with BetDaq) recorded his third fourth place finish of the year at the Travelers Championship where he shared the 54-hole lead. He ranked within the top 10 in fairways hit, greens reached and birdies obtained at TPC River Highlands. He is certainly consistent currently sitting 29th on the PGA Tour in the all-around ranking but has yet to make the breakthrough into the winners circle and as such, it may just be a podium (and no more) on this call.

Ones to win:

Bo Van Pelt (35/1 with BlueSq) tied for 24th at the Travelers delivering his fourth top 25 in five consecutive starts and his ninth of the year from 13 cuts made! He is currently sitting fifth on the PGA Tour in total driving accuracy, 52nd in greens hit and third in Strokes Gained-Putting and tied for 14th at Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open. The World number 32 sits 37th on the FedEx Cup and with a few strong events could be a contender for a valuable Ryder Cup spot in Chicago.

Scot Martin Laird (63/1 with BetDaq) is a good call this week in theory, if you consider his length off the tee and the frequency of hitting greens in regulation (he currently sits 10th in the Tour rankings). Like some of Scotland’s other finest exports, he has a tendency to play the difficult courses well – coping well with the firm and fast conditions that suit his game. With warm, dry weather expected, don’t expect him to lose his cool.

Trick shots:

“I’m just putting you through…”

On fire Marc Leishman fresh from his win at the Travelers last week, returns 147/10 with BetDaq to finish on Sunday in a place… and with two top fives in his last 4 outings, you wouldn’t bet against it would you?

Martin Laird also delivers 51/10 (also with BetDaq) for a top ten finish – he has had three already in 2012 and 18 in his career. The odds are looking in our favour…

Thank me later!

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FedEx Cup: St Jude Classic

Fed Ex Cup:        St Jude Classic

Ahem. Can I please have the attention of the class…? Today’s geography lesson centre’s mainly on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff on the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers in Shelby County in the Southwestern corner of the State of Tennessee. Or the great city of Memphis as its more commonly known. Memphis is famous for one thing, and one thing only – music – and everything connected with it. From W.C. Handy to Elvis and BB King to Marc Cohn at whatever time in recent musical history, Beale Street in Memphis is the centre of the Blues and Rock n Roll Universe but for one week only, the city’s focus turns to sport; its hometown FedEx Cup event, the St Jude Classic.

Date:                     7th – 10th June 2012

Venue:                 TPC Southwind, Memphis, Tennessee

TPC Southwind is one of 33 TPC Networked courses and here at Southwind, we are dealing with the hoi polloi as it is the only private club in the state. The golf course features undulating fairways, lush Bermuda greens and numerous lakes, streams and ponds and adding to the charm of the golf course are two grain silos and a windmill; remnants of the dairy farm once located on the site. With Fuzzy Zoeller as one of the consultants to architect Ron Prichard, isn’t it great to see that there is life after making a name for yourself on Tour due to your funny name? This links has long been rated one of the more challenging courses on the PGA Tour and currently ranks 23 in the world by Golf World.

Yards:                   7,244 yards

Par:                        Par 70

Field:                   

Bearing in mind next week’s US Open in San Fran, the field for this week has many of the seasoned players of the PGA Tour including 13 major winners who hold 17 titles including Padraig Harrington (42/1) and US Open champs, Graeme McDowell (24/1) and last year’s runaway victor, Rory McIlroy (107/10). There is also a glut (or should I say gut?) of over 40s including Lee Janzen (368/1) and David Duval (712/1), rowdy Australasian’s (11 in total including Robert Allenby (69/1) and Stuart Appleby(557/1)) but just 8 former winners of this event with David Toms (21/1) and Justin Leonard (232/1 – all BetDaq) amongst them. This should be interesting…

Consider…:

It’s a long track this for such a low par and the hunt for birdies isn’t helped by undulating, smaller than normal greens, smaller target areas and tight pin positions. So expect this event then to be more about avoiding bogeys than finding the eagles and birdies and so, we are likely looking at good scramblers and putters given that driving accuracy from the tee is a significant challenge! Players! Be inspired by Elvis – now shake rattle and roll!

Ones to watch:

Colombian, Camillo Villegas (69/1 with BetDaq), has demonstrated his fondness of TPC Southwind regardless of form entering St Judes week. In six outings, he’s made the cut six times and delivered four top 20s including top 10s in each of the last two visits here. Despite not yet striking the results he would expect in 2012 his putting he is amongst the very best on tour from within 25 feet – and in Memphis that sounds like he’s just taking care of business to me.

This long driving, accurate scrambling and hugely successful with the putter plays tough courses as well as anyone. Ryan Palmer (36/1 – BetDaq) has shot par or better in eight of last nine rounds, and has top-10s in three of his last four starts. Although he sits just 46th in the FedEx Cup, top 5s at the other end of music highway in both New Orleans and the Colonial in Houston, demonstrate a man who had a great May and that he can deliver an unchained melody.

Ones to win:

Spencer Levin (40/1 with BetDaq) held the 54-hole lead at the Memorial before it all got too much and his challenge faded, like the awning above the Graceland shop, to a share of fourth place with a Sunday 75, despite being at the turn in a bogey-free 1-under. Led the field in strokes gained putting for the week so clearly a contender if that continues this week. Will history repeat itself? I got a feeling in my body! He ranked 2nd in fairways hit en route to a T15 here last year.

There may be players with higher world rankings in the field but no one is playing better in the world than Zach Johnson (107/10 at (yes you’ve guessed it!) BetDaq) and he is potentially the most dangerous player in the 156 strong field. Took a week off following his victory at Colonial which followed a pair of runner-up finishes in his previous three starts including the Players Championship. Has great stats this year and sits third (crucially) in bogey avoidance and has had 2 top-15s in 3 appearances here but is it a case, yet again, of Zach’s Steamroller Blues for everyone else or will he be crying in the Chapel come Sunday?

Trick shots:

Danny Lee to finish as top Australasian is at 7/1 with BetFred. He has finished above all of his continental colleagues on 7 occasions since joining the tour in 2011 – if not this time, it’s a case of return to sender to Oz for Danny.

Big Boss Man McIlroy is 8/1 (Ladbrokes) to miss his 4th consecutive cut – which would be a disaster ahead of his defence of the US Open next week! 4 consecutive cuts would be his worst streak since turning professional in 2007 with a plus 6 handicap!

Class dismissed!