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!

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!

FedEx Cup: Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

Fed Ex Cup:        Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

Ten gallon hat? Check. Peewees? Check. Denim? Check. Ute? Check. Check? Check. And so we are ready – ready to stay on in Texas! Having completed one whole week at one of the Tour Players’ most detested courses at Las Colinas (49th of 52 on Tour suitably demonstrated by only 9 of the World’s top 50 in attendance!), it’s time to cross town a mere 30 miles in JFK’s perforated 1961 Lincoln cabrio to the scene of this week’s crime; the greatest game on grass is at the longest running event on the PGA Tour and home of caddy racing at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth!


Date:                     24th – 27th May 2012

Venue:                 Colonial CC, Fort Worth, Texas

Developed in 1936, this 18-hole par 70 layout is consistently rated as one of the best courses in the United States and wider in the golfing world. Colonial hosted the 1941 U.S. Open, the 1975 Tournament Players Championship, the 1991 U.S. Women’s Open, and continues to host this annual PGA Tour event. If you liked the atmosphere at The Players at Sawgrass, you will love it here! It’s party time – pass the beer nuts…

Yards:                   7,204 yards

Par:                        Par 70

Field:    

Much as with the BMW PGA at Wentworth, it is a quality home field this week including seven of the top ten on the FedEx Cup leader board, 11 winners with 13 trophy’s from 2012 and 13 major winners clutching 16 trophy’s. This week’s ugly mob specifically includes Ben Crane wannabe Bill Haas (40/1), 2011 winner David Toms (28/1), Sergio (33/1), one tired Matt Kuchar (16/1) and a lucky one from the Nationwide Tour, Mr Dicky Pride (100/1 – all BWin)!

Consider…:

Wind will serve as the primary challenge for the field this week with gusts from 25-30 mph expected during the first two rounds. Temperatures will flirt around 90 degrees most of the week.

Last year defending champion David Toms (30/1 at BlueSq) exemplified the requirements for success at Hogan’s Alley. He ranked fourth in both fairways and greens hit a year ago and there is nothing different this year to impede the golden paved path to victory – but a mere 84 bunkers and 3 water hazards. As last outing, fairways and greens hit will a considerable factor here again in 2012.

Ones to watch:

All three of Ben Crane’s top fives at Colonial have occurred in the last three even-numbered years – is this a likely converging trend? (…asked my learned PGA Tour colleagues!) Despite missing the cut at The Players two weeks ago due to an uncharacteristically shoddy 78 in the second round he comes off three top tens’ in his last four outings and ranks in the top half of the field in both fairways and greens hit. A bold move – but at 45/1 with Coral, there are good returns for a risk taking gambler.

Bo Van Pelt (28/1 with BetFair) has rebounded from an injury in his left wrist such that he finished in seventh at Sawgrass for his fifth top 10 of the season. His form in Texas is as good as anyone’s as he has been on the receiving end of eleven consecutive rounds in the 60s at Colonial over his last 8 starts here and finished a solo third last year.

Ones to win:

With eight top 25s in 16 appearances at Colonial that include six top 10s and his worst finish in his last six starts this year a mere 26th at Quail Hollow, its Jim Furyk (35/1 with BetFair) who could unleash his own brand of fury as a very likely contender this week. He currently sits third on the PGA Tour in fairways hit and 64th in greens and with the sizeable greens here (well, everything is bigger in Texas!) he ranks 12th in Strokes Gained-Putting.

Joaquin Phoenix look-a-like Zach Johnson (16/1 with Ladbrokes) sets “converging trends” once again after coming off a second at Sawgrass, and his second runner-up in three starts (Heritage) and he’s posted top 10s in his last three trips here, including a victory in 2010 when he established the tournament record (21-under 259). Zach ranks 8th in driving accuracy, total eagles and 3rd in scrambling inside 50 yards. He’s not in it for the (Johnny) Cash but can he Walk the Line?

Trick shots:

Look no further than the first round leader to be Rickie Fowler (25/1 with Bet365 and StanJames) – he has carded both a 64 and a 63 (last year in round one) at Colonial.

Louis Oosthuizen is available at a high 10/1 with PaddyPower to win with a handicap of -3. If offered at both the Masters and the Shell Houston Open, this would have lead to two impressive gambling victories!

Thank me later!