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 Casey has withdrawn with Robert Karlsson (28/1 – all BetDaq) stepping in.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!

Race to Dubai: Madeira Open Portugal

Race to Dubai:   Madeira Islands Open – Portugal

Welcome to Portugal’s hilly archipelago, Madeira and its own Open sponsored and kept interesting by its local tipple. This is the 20th anniversary of an event that this year returns to Santo de Serra after three years at the Portop Santo resort next door. I wish it has the makings of a Race to Dubai altering field, but the chances of this stirring the Ryder Cup race are slim and none – and slim’s out of town. i.e. If Gary Orr wins, he moves up to 80 places to 62nd!

Date:                     10th – 13th May 2012

Venue:                 Santo de Serra, Madeira, Portugal

We all may wish we had an rewarding and lucrative entry to The Players but not all of us do and so sit back and look forward to stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the marvel of a very hilly Robert Trent Jones Jnr course which varies in height to the windy and testing tune of somewhere in the region of a decent Bubba Watson drive. With big name skills missing – brace yourself for a field littered with odds higher than Sean Ryder.

Yards:                   6,825 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

This week’s cameos include the shining light of the current challenge tour, former European Tour starlet and buff spiky haired husband of Sky Sports hottest presenter Di Dougherty, Nick Dougherty (66/1 with Ladbrokes) fights to make the cut in his first big tour start in 2012 having won more in 2012 in two starts on the Challenge Tour than 34 on the full tour in 2011. There’s also the aforementioned Gary Orr (33/1 with Ladbrokes) and taking a break from filming in Hollywood and with surprising odds given I have never heard of him its Matthew Baldwin (33/1 with BetDaq) – who knew?

Consider…:

With hills, it can be tricky judging the distance because of the altitude and the wind and there are often visibility problems due to those pesky hills and inclement weather causing delays during tournament play. So my half baked tips this week points towards winners that have the same attributes as God; the patience of a saint, is just (it can’t be that Saltman boy then!), supreme and equal in power and glory (so it could be Phillip Archer (41/1 with BetFair) with a win and a 3rd place and leads the Challenge Tour). However, if our players get caught this week during a lightning storm they should hold up a 1-iron – as not even God can hit a 1-iron.

Ones to watch:

With six European Tour titles to his name, and a string of high placed finishes in major tournaments, it’s Niclas Fasth (66/1 with BetFair) from Sweden who deserves a little return to form this week having not won since 2007 and is having a quiet season on Tour with only two cuts made from 9 events. That said, he continues to be a great putter and has great scrambling, in particular from bunkers, and who is as accurate now with a driver as he was in 2007! I bet you…

A strong supporter of Glasgow’s disgraceful Blue Team, grumpy Alasdair Forsyth (26/1 with BetFair) stands out as one who could have the talent to finish towards the top of the field this week. Has incredible pedigree at boy, youth and senior level and lost to Poulter in Rookie of the Year in 2000. Has two Tour wins to his name – in Malaysia in 2002 and here in 2008 so has the insider knowledge of the course, the event and the weather.

Ones to win:

Sounding like a career in the working men’s clubs of North Yorkshire beckoned, it’s the talented Tommy Fleetwood (66/1 with Bet365) who looks lively this week. With 5 top tens’ on the Challenge Tour and a 5th place in last year’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, he has the ability and skills to add another event to his only win to date (in 2011 at the Kazakhstan Masters). And as we all know, chicks dig boys with skills.

Homing in on the brethren from the motherland this week, and confirmed as Wales finest since Ian Woosnam, former Madeira Open winner, Bradley Dredge (28/1 with BoyleSports) looks strong this week and will be buoyed by a final round 60 in 2003 when he shot 12 under to take the title. Has had a string of consistent midfield results in 2012 but take the top half of the field away, as this week, and he would have won two of them! One of the field favorites’ this week…

Trick Shot

Seve Benson with a top ten finish is a remarkably high offer at 24/5 with BetDaq – put a fiver on him while you can as with two top tens’ in three starts already in 2012 – surely there’s some mistake here!

Phillip Archer and Darren Fichardt in a Double Chance to win at 16/1 with SkyBet – with 5 wins between them and 1 already this year, these guys lead the way in experience and bounce-back-ability in this field.

Jenks out!

 

Race to Dubai: Reale Seguros Open de España

Race to Dubai:   Reale Seguros Open de España

Hola, bienvenido a Sevilla! And amazingly only for the third time this year, the European Tour at last returns to its own fair shores and time zone for Spain’s’ Native Open in the Southern Europe swing. This week’s event marks the 40th anniversary of the Tour, and with such a good showing from top drawer runners and riders, while the weather may only be a mediocre 20 degrees – the potential action heading towards Sunday should be Scorchio!

Date:                     3rd – 6th May 2012

Venue:                 Real Club de Golf de Sevilla, Seville, Spain

This is a 20 year old development from Jose Maria Olazabel (225/1 with Bet365) with 18 holes, 90 spectacular bunkers, 10,000 trees, 9 lakes and flattering par of 72. It is a challenging layout, not long in today’s terms but features undulating greens and generously wide fairways that might mean scoring could be as low as the airline prices that probably got you here.

Yards:                   7,140 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

This week’s tournament involves the Spaniards not daring to take a siesta – Rafael Cabrera-Bello (50/1), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (45/1), Ignacio Garrido (66/1) and Pablo “Drinking­-from-his-own” Menjibar (1,000/1) and typically plenty of daily record reading sun worshipping shell-suited Scots with ghetto blasters including Scott Jamieson (125/1), Craig Lee (250/1), Marc Warren (200/1) and Peter Whiteford (175/1 – all SkyBet).*

Consider…:

It is possibly that this week’s event could be a simpler one to call than in previous weeks – not for the lack of quality in the field, but more from a breaking the game down into its component parts. To succeed this week you will simply need to be on song with your putter as due to those runway wide fairways you can also be a long, not so consistent driver which opens this up as a pitch and putt event with scores to match.

Ones to watch:

World Ranked 41 is still Aberdeen’s Paul Lawrie (33/1 with Ladbrokes) – who continues to play well with 4 top tens’ in 8 starts including the big win in Qatar in Feb. Rumoured to have nearly quit the game in 2011 but decided to work harder and its clearly paying dividends. Two of his 7 tour wins have come in Spain and not having missed a cut and currently lying 7th in the Race to Dubai – this rich vein of form looks set to stay for a while longer.

Then there is little known Frenchman Romain Wattel (80/1 with BetFair), who finished 5th at El Prat last year. He is consistent with 5 top 25’s in 9 starts including a 7th place in Malaysia a few weeks back. He lies 12th in putts per GIR and 29th in distance. Is mentored by Gregory Havret (who also came 5th in 2011) and is only the 5th amateur to have won on the Challenge Tour. This is only his second year on tour having come 90th in 2011 with 350,000 Euros.

Ones to win:

…leading to the obvious long hitting local hero Alvaro Quiros (25/1 with Bet365) who springs to my mind this week. Quiros flew the flag for the event last weekend by hitting shots during the Real Betis v Athletico Madrid. My day job is in football and it’s just crazy to see on one hand, throwing missiles is banned at matches but give a talented man a golf club and some balls – and that’s perfectly acceptable? Quiros long game should see him right this week.

…and then also big hitting and clearly keen to pay off a student loan with the week in week out playing its Nicolas Colsaerts (16/1 with Ladbrokes) with his 5 top ten finishes in 9 events that keep in 8th position in the Race to Dubai and firmly in the mind. His stats are impressive, 25th in putts, 15th in greens in regulation, 4th in stroke average and he leading driving distance. On this track, you’ll be lucky to find anyone who better fits the profile of a winner.

Jenks out!

* = (Shell suited fact not as yet proven)

Race to Dubai: Ballantine’s Championship

Race to Dubai:   Ballantine’s Championship

There is nothing more Scottish than a whisky distiller and the real beautiful game, so no surprises exist when for the 5th successive year, Ballantine’s teams up with the European (and the Asian) Tour to being us their version of a pro golf event…but for the fact that its hosted in South Korea: an imperialist hermit Kingdom with the most fortified border on the planet keeping those pesky canine munching weapon of mass destruction concealers at bay in the North.

Date:                     26th – 29th April 2012

Venue:                 Blackstone GC, Icheon, Seoul, South Korea

They tell me that the course was created based on golf strategies and philosophy so that members of all levels are challenged and it has been designed to highlight different decisions a player can make in different kinds of situations that occur during a round including the numerous hazards which will easily challenge the skilled, accurate tee shots of power-hitters. This rewards the choices and strokes made by ‘Thinking Golfers’. What hope then for the yanks?

Yards:                   7,275 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Looking inside the ropes this week you will see Major Champions Darren Clarke (123/1) and YE Yang (28/1), PGA Tour darlings Dustin Johnson and K.T. Kim (28/1 – all BetFair) all helping underline the growing reputation of this tournament. Typically there is a half a field worth of Lee’s and Kim’s except the one Lee the golfing fraternity the would like to see–last year’s winner, all the way from Worksop…it’s Mr Lee Westwood. But alas no, not this year.

Consider…:

Blackstone GC is a young course that only opened a couple of years ago, and each year it will mature and get even better but there are a couple of excellent par threes which are long and over water – the seventh and the 12th holes. There are new tees on the 17th – making the hole 40 yards longer – and then there is the fourth. Arguably the most spectacular of the entire course with its panoramic views and dramatic drop from the tee down to the fairway so we can garner that it’s also physically demanding, and the greens are undulating and will testing pin positions.

Ones to watch:

Fresh from withdrawing at the RBC Heritage, PGA Tour rookie, Sang-moon Bae (24/1 with BetFair) is my one to watch this week and will enjoy swapping Tours to play in his Native open. With two top fives in 2012 in the PGA including 5th in the Accenture Matchplay and 2nd to Luke Donald in the Transitions and a stunning 64 at the Humana Foundation event in January, Bae is clearly a talented golfer enjoying a good year and one to watch generally.

Closing out a season best 3rd place in last weeks’ Volvo China Open, Richard Finch completes my long shot selection this week. Known for providing one of golf’s more memorable moments when he slipped on the riverbank at the 72nd hole of the Irish Open and inadvertently plunged into the water, before being fished out by his caddie and going on to close out a two-stroke victory. His tomfoolery clearly impresses and so take the 100/1 odds with Bet365!

Ones to win:

Three top ten’ in 8 events and with a putter that can’t stop puting the small ball in the bottom of the cup its George Coetzee who excites my betting heart this week! A 4th in the Volvo China Open, a 5th in the Desert Classic and a 6th in Abu Dhabi mean a seat in 21st place in the Race to Dubai and he is fast becoming a weekly contender seeking the first win of his pro career. Is a podium place likely this weekend?  At 29/1 odds, BetFair seem to think so.

8 times a winner on the European Tour, Adam Scott (17/2 with BetFred) is my one to watch this week. The affable Australian, who plays the majority of his golf in the US, lives in Switzerland and this week is dating Serbian Ana Ivanovic, is an on form player with 3rd in the Tavistock Cup, an 8th in the Masters and always looks a contender in the Middle and Far East swings on the Tour. Scored and putted better than everyone in 2011 Scott is fighting for improvement in 2012!

Trick Shot:

Take 13/1 with SkyBet for a double chance victory involving Coetzee and Jimenez.

Jenks out!

Race to Dubai: Volvo China Open

Race to Dubai:   Volvo China Open

Well well well, here we are in China for the first time since December (it’s just as well the world is round!) and I have to say the Airmiles tally is looking pretty good but for the fact that the last thing Ill want to do on my holidays is go overseas! Anyway, those sensible Swedes have been jumping on the bandwagon again and with the subtlety of a raging teenage boner, welcome to the European Tours for the tacky 2012 yellow jacket and the Volvo China Open.

Date:                     19th – 22nd April 2012

Venue:                 Binhai Lake GC, Tianjin, China

A new course this – opening in September last year but it proves that designers can take less-than-ideal sites and transform them into exceptional golf courses! To make Binhai Lake possible, the site — which was within the confines of a man-made lake — was drained and its bottom excavated. The resulting fill was used to create the peninsula where the course is now situated. All holes feature strong angles of play both off the tee and into greens. Risk-reward opportunities abound, including two short par 4s and several tee shots where bold drives over sandy waste areas will yield short-iron approaches. Given the often windy conditions, the design team created wide fairways. Proper positioning is essential, however, to attack the relatively small and sometimes wicked putting surfaces.

Yards:                   7,667 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

On form Peter Hanson leads a field which also includes the arrogant Ian Poulter (14/1), delightful Francesco Molinari (16/1) and the North East’s finest, Paul Lawrie (33/1 – all StanJames). Technically, it should also be an easy week for commentary teams as this year’s event contains more than a fair share of look-a-likies in the form of Kims, Huangs, Wu’s and Zhangs – so pick one and don’t specify the first name and you should be quids in!! (Tip from the top!)

Consider…:

With the course being no short arse, consider those who strike a long straight ball including last year’s big hitting winner Nicolas Colsaerts (18/1 with Bet365). This also would point towards England’s Steve Webster (96/1 with BetDaq) or Victor Dubuisson (66/1 with BetFair) neither of whom are demonstrating form worthy of a trophy. And never overlook the putting either – especially on small tricky greens and so keep watch for the top ranking putters George Coetzee (37/1) or Marcus Fraser (56/1 – both BetFair).

Ones to watch:

Leading the way this week is the Netherlands Joost Luiten (40/1 with Bet365). He has shown the sort of solid consistency worthy of making him a regular feature in this section each week having made every cut thus far. Has gained ten yards in length this season alone and so as the rest of the game adapts to the new found closer positioning expect his scores to drop and the work rate and success at the business end of each week to increase.

My tip for this week has had two top fives in four starts in 2012 and currently lies safely within the top 50 in the Race to Dubai. It is the gritty, determined and boringly consistent competitor Soren Kjeldson (35/1 with BetDaq) with his red hot putter who will definitely be one to keep your mince pies on this week. Had his best finish in 2011 at this very tournament (over the Luxehills track) but having missed a week in Malaysia will be one of the most match ready on the course.

Ones to win:

In an alien move for me, I’m going to stick my neck out and tip the formally injured and now returning to competitive golf Paul Casey (30/1 with Bet365) who looks lean, mean and the trophy winning oriental Volvo driving fighting machine for me this week. Has had a gentle introduction back in to the Tour in the US but is holding his own with the putter and the driver and looks set to kick start a return to his form from 2009 when he was top 5 in the world.

Had a top fifty achieving rookie season in 2011 thanks to a number of runner up places in South Africa, Italy and France and has already gone one better in 2012 with a win at the under viewed tournament in a big field on a rock called Sicily. It’s Denmark’s finest since Mads Vibe-Hastrup, Thorbjorn Olesen (33/1 at StanJames) who receives my vote this week with his largely arrow straight, healthy distanced drives and the quick improvement to his putting. A safer bet than meatballs and loganberry sauce over sweet and sour char sui pork noodles.

Trick Shot:

Putting a bet on a playoff will reward you 5/2 at StanJames. There has only been one playoff in the 16 year history of the event when Paul Casey pipped Oliver Wilson for the crown in 2005.

Jenks out!

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.

Race to Dubai: Avantha Masters 2012

Race to Dubai:   Avantha Masters 

After a testing three week Middle East swing, much of Europe’s big hitting high fliers of the European Tour head for a break. Those who now play globally, head directly to Arizona for a practice week ahead of the Accenture World Matchplay. So, you could say it is without the usual suspects, but with longer odds, it makes it even more rewarding.

Date:                     16th – 19th February 2012

Venue:                 DLFG&CC, New Delhi, India

The dramatic Aravali range forms a magnificent backdrop for the stretches of lush turf, rolling fairways, meticulously manicured greens and fairways that compliment the flowers and streams that meander through this quiet paradise. It’s Augusta – only in India. Water is in spectacular abundance – be it in the form of a delightfully cascading waterfall on the 17th or the five lakes that add serenity all their own to the natural beauty of the course so it’s very American.

Yards:                   7,156 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Only ten of the top 60 from the European Tour are competing this weekend and there are 35 Tour winners with 64 event titles between them – the most successful of which is Richard Sterne (but recent return from back injury likely removes his chances of taking the sacred cow come Sunday) (46/1). However, the most recent is Joost Luiten (18/1 with BetVictor) who having knocked on the door towards the tail end of 2011, succeeded in landing the Iskander Johor Open and looks likely to compete at this new higher level more in 2012. However, also joining the field are US born one time Major winners in John Daly (79/1) and now European Tour convert and expert from “just off the green with a hybrid” – it’s Todd Hamilton (314/1 – All with BetDaq)!

Consider…:

The European Tour bridesmaids – who in the absence of the sponsor saturated limelight stealing tweeters stand a great chance of making the breakthrough at events just as this and include Scot Jamieson (42/1), Soren Hansen (49/1), Gareth Maybin (59/1) and Rhys Davis (88/1).  However, if its longer odds you like, look at these three spicy options that may curry favour; Zaw Moe (431/1), Berry Henson (266/1) and the gloriously titled Shanker Das (969/1 – all with BetDaq) – who really should be right down the courts tomorrow to have that changed if he knew what was good for him.

Ones to watch:

Shiv Sanker Prasad, known to all as SSP (Chowrasia) (66/1 at BoyleSports), used to sneak on to the historic Calcutta Golf Course before starting a career in golf as a caddie. Latterly he was persuaded to plough a furrow on the Asian and European Tours as a golfer with two victories to his name. SSP won this event in 2011 and is a firm favourite to place highly again this year. His putter is working as well as it ever has, even if length is not his strongest point. SSP is not one to win.

Great Dane Thorbjorn Oleson (33/1 with Bet365) has made the transition from also ran professional to a quality and oft-in-contention golfer – and did so frequently within 2011 en route to a whopping 640,000 Euros salary from just 30 events. Is one of the players expected to be in contention this week and with relatively attractive odds given his status this week, is surely worth an each way flutter?

Ones to win:

With six top ten finishes in  32 events and a pay check of just shy of 1 Million Euros in 2011, Aberdeen’s former favourite golfer (now that Paul Lawrie’s is firing on all cylinders!) Richie Ramsay (37/1 with BetDaq) is one stepping into contention this week.  With greater statistics in greens in regulation clear to all, his season is yet to see the rewards from the efforts of all of his off season “work” which includes reducing salt and vinegar condiment use on deep fried pizza and trying not to start a fight with Rangers supporters should they meet. His golf is set to improve even if his waistline isn’t.

Welsh born but Macclesfield surviving, Jamie Donaldson (20/1 at SkyBet) is one of the favourites this week after a career best 38th in the Race to Dubai after seven top ten finishes and a third in 2011. Shooting lower than ever already this season and with steady and improving results in his few consecutive outings since December last year, the lack of a top quality field should allow the red dragon to add some a significant win to the three challenge wins already on his Pro golfer CV.

Trick shot:

Richie Ramsay at 9/1 with Ladbrokes as top finishing GB and Ireland competitor.

Thorbjorn Oleson to be first round leader with 40/1 from BetFred.

Jenks out!

Race to Dubai: Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Race to Dubai:   Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Assalamu alikum! Here we are back in the UAE for The Omega Dubai Desert Classic. This tournament was born in 1989 when the European Tour visited Asia for the first time. Look at it now – we can’t actually get away from the place and it’s not even in Europe!

Date:                     9th – 12th February 2012

Venue:                 Emirates GC, Dubai, UAE

The flagship course at Emirates Golf Club, The Majilis is a challenging championship par 72, 7,301-yard layout designed by architect Karl Litten, the original 18 holes were built in and around the dunes of a beautiful site on the edge of the city of Dubai – it was the first all grass championship golf course in the Middle East when it opened in 88!

Yards:                   7,301 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

This week there’s a welcome return to some of the games’ best players who have been using the perfect UAE weather to perfect their game in time for this tournament. It also includes some significant experience from stateside including Fred Couples (94/1), Mark O’Meara (189/1) and US Walker Cup star in the making – Peter Uihlein (189/1 – all BetFair).

However, no one is currently on form like perma-odd shortening Paul Lawrie (28/1 with BetFair) – he has amassed 1 Million Euros since mid December in winnings and currently lies third in the Race to Dubai after a sensational 1st place in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters – a tournament he won 13 years ago in the same year he triumphed in the little known Open Championship!

Consider…:

Unlike in Qatar – the weather will be on the side of all of the players and the locals will be keen to see an exciting finish similar to Middle Eastern delights the Majilis course has delivered on many occasions previously. However, here’s hoping the interested locals will bring more billionaires and belly dancers than bombers and leave explosions of any sort strictly to the professionals coming from the sand traps!

Ones to watch:

Alvaro Quiros (19/1 with BetFair) again! In 2011, Spain’s Quiros was tied 65th after an opening round of 73, staged one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, to win the tournament at 11 under. He was eight shots behind the leader after 36 holes. He’s getting back into the swing of things now and his enormous length will prove of some sizeable advantage this time around as his average drive is blowing in a desert storm at 324 yards!

World number 75, George Coetzee (31/1 with BetFair), is enjoying a hectic but satisfying schedule across both African and Middle Eastern regions since an off season focus on specific practice has delivered rewards meaning a career high 17th position in the R2D. In particular, an improvement in driving accuracy and putting have been the key factors to his ever developing game that he hopes will blow sand in the faces of his golfing colleagues giving them all the hump.

Ones to win:

Hoping to win the coveted decorated but grotesquely smelly camel ride is Peter Hanson (21/1 with BetFair) of Sweden who with three top fives in his last four outings is playing some fantastic competitive golf. Benefitting in 2012 from a little more length from the tee and a white hot putter – providing both of these key elements are on fire, he will surely be leaving the Desert Classic Competitors eating dust.

World Number three Rory McIlroy (24/5 with BetFair) looks tasty yet again as each of the last six outings on the European Tour have netted him six figure winnings and include – at their very worst, an 11th place. On a course he loves, Rors will be looking to retake the 2nd world ranking spot, enjoying further success in the desert after a recent second place in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully the return to the scene of one of his three victories will motivate the youngster as all eyes look to him to fulfill his Middle Eastern promise.

Trick shot:

A winning margin of 4 strokes here at the Emirates will return 34/5 with BetFair.

Jenks out!

(In case it wasn’t hugely obvious, all odds this week have been brought to you by our friends at BetFair)

Race to Dubai: Commercialbank Qatar Masters

Race to Dubai:   Commercialbank Qatar Master presented by Dolphin Energy

Off we trot around the globe, only this week slightly further up the Arabian gulf for the second of the three event swing in the desert at yet another predictably lush oasis with artificial lakes and an over opulent clubhouse. So, let’s start with slating the title; it’s the European Tours longest titled event – bigger that the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize Odier Bungener Courvoisier (shortened to OBC); it then has one of the longest holes in European Tour golf at 639 yards it’s unsurprisingly a par 5; and even without golf’s CFZ – Mr. Woods, is a pretty well attended outing.

Date:                     2nd – 5th February 2012

Venue:                 Doha GC, Doha, Qatar

This course is described as having teeth – especially when the wind picks up! It measures some 7,388 yards, has eight artificial lakes weaving their way along most of the holes and, with the addition of a punishing rough made up of desert sand, rocks, trees, shrubs and long grass and cleverly bunkered fairways that twist and turn, the utmost accuracy will be of crucial importance. Although uniquely different, this classic links course was designed by Peter Harradine, the same man responsible for the one at Abu Dhabi where last week Robert Rock tamed the Tiger.

Yards:                   7,388 yards

Par:                        Par 72

Field:                   

Headlining the event this week is World Number Two Lee Westwood (10/1 at BlueSq) who is joined by Number Four Kaymer (147/10 at BetFair) and TPC Champion KJ Choi (39/1 at BetDaq). Add a sprinkling of our friendly competitors from across the pond in World Number 10, Jason Day (35/1 at BetFair), Ryder Cup cry baby Hunter Mahon (25/1 at SkyBet) and former US PGA Champion and very low shooting (58 in the 1998 Omega PGA Championship Pro-Am) Shaun Micheel (512/1 at BetFair) and you are squinting into the sun at an interesting golfing shoot out in the desert.

Consider…:

However, there will only be a European winner – if you will permit me to stereotype for a moment. Americans don’t appear to have what it takes to get past the potential security threat of the exceptionally functional keffiyeh’s and the physical (stereotyped) similarity to the amazing self detonating bombers of the surrounding regions. That said, picking one winner from 120 without the American participants is still the challenge we face…

Ones to watch:

This swashbuckling Spaniard showed resurgence to his very best form in the fall of 2011 not least his demolition of fellow tour pros winning by a staggering 11 shots over his home course. It is Sergio Garcia (141/10 at BetDaq) this week who continues to deliver in the sun and fight to regain his rightful Ryder Cup place – and not just drive the Captains golf cart when September comes. A regular top ten finisher in the gulf, including here last year, watch out for continued form from El Nino while he has the wind in his sails…

Three times a winner in 2011 including those unexpected back to back wins in Scotland and Switzerland my glass eye gazes firmly at reigning champion Thomas Bjorn (25/1 at Bodog and BetVictor) as one who will be worth watching this week. Following a career best season, Bjorn delivered an equally inspired performance to tie in third place in Abu Dhabi and looks set to continue a highly productive swing in the Middle East.

Ones to win:

Still struggling to lose the dreadful mid-Atlantic twang but playing exciting competitive golf is Florida’s favourite club wrecker – Ulsterman Graeme MacDowell (18/1 at Coral). With three top three finishes in his last 6 outings he was aided enormously by a hole in one, a holed chip and a ricochet off the grandstand to six feet on 18 in the last 6 holes in Abu Dhabi – MacDowell is a fiery competitor and well used to appearing near the top from seemingly nowhere.

Reigning Dubai World Champion and former Commercialbank Qatar Masters winner Alvaro Quiros (18/1 at Bet365) is again one to win this week – the Middle East is a happy hunting ground for the 28 year-old Spaniard with three of his six European Tour titles having been won in the Gulf, including a triumph here three years ago. Having also finished runner-up on each of his last two visits to the $2.5 million tournament, King Quiros starts as one of the favourites.

Trick shots:

Retief Goosen at 20/1 (Ladbrokes) to be first round leader come Thursday night – he’s been one stroke off this in three of his last four outings. And look at Scott Jamieson at 20/1 (also Ladbrokes) for a just getting a top ten finish – he had five from 31 starts in 2011!

Jenks out!