US Open Preview

The golfing world focuses on Pinehurst for the next 2 weeks with The US Open and The US Women’s Open being hosted on the world renowned Pinehurst No.2 course, just 1 of 8 superb courses at this absolutely amazing spot. I had the privilege of visiting the resort in October of 2007 and couldn’t get over the place – nearly as close to Golfer’s Heaven as there could be.

Having looked at the field it will obviously take a superb player to win around the recently revamped course and I feel those with the better short games should end up at the top of leaderboard while fighting it out for the US Open Trophy. These are my 4 picks for the 2nd Major of 2014, form an orderly queue at the bookies please………

Pinehurst No2  US Open 2014 Logo

Phil Mickleson

Mickelson1

The short game genius returns to Pinehurst and has been talking up his chances this week, along with his confidence in going back to the pencil grip with the putter. Phil has previous Pinehurst form, finishing 2nd to Payne Stewart in 1999, and is one of the few people in the field to have performed well at Pinehurst No.2 before. After six 2nd place finishes in this Major alone that seems to mean the most to him, can he complete the career Grand Slam this week? I, for one, think he can. He’s around 4th favourite with those in the know, BetVictor giving best price at 20/1.

Henrik Stenson

Stenson

The super Swede Stenson has yet to hit the heights of last year, it would be hard to replicate all those performances really, but when he is in the mood there are few better in the world. His recent form has improved and if he keeps the driver in the bag the majority of the 72 holes this week, one of the few players that can around any course, he can definitely contend for his 1st Major title. Best price is currently with BetFred and Totesport who are both offering 28/1 but with 7 places.

Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter

The Poultergeist is one of the best pitchers, chippers and bunker players in the world and when the putter is hot he can simply putt the lights out – this doesn’t always happen of course but I think IJP will be up for it this week as he needs to up his game to either qualify for the Ryder Cup or impress Captain McGinley enough to pick him as a Wild Card. A 1st Major would help on both counts of course, over to you Poults! He’s best price 66/1 with those boys offering 7 places, BetFred and Totesport. Most of the others including Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and BetVictor are offering 66/1 as well but 6 places.

Luke Donald

Luke Donald

Luke Donald is fast becoming the “Best Player in the World Not to Win a Major“, a very much unwanted title! He has been undertaking some swing changes of late to most of all improve his performances in the Majors and it is debatable whether this transformation is complete yet, having said that his short game remains superb and that is what you need around Pinehurst No.2. If he can find the fairways then expect Luuuuke to contend come the Back 9 this Father’s Day. Donald is 50/1 best price with Ladbrokes while most of the rest are offering 40s or less.

So, those are my picks for this week at Pinehurst. Having visited the resort, and for anybody there this week, the Ryder Cup Bar at the Pinehurst Resort and the Sports Page just down the road would come highly recommended for a few after golf tipples!! Enjoy the golf wherever you will be watching it from and fingers crossed 1 of my 4 might prevail, either that or an Irish winner will do!

Valspar Championship Tournament Preview

So we’re still enjoying the Florida Swing, will be for a while yet! John has dragged himself away from his Cheltenham form book to hopefully pick a winner on the PGA Tour this week. He got close last week with Dustin Johnson so here’s to hoping he will go a few better this time around in the Valspar Championship. After the Beat Trap 2 weeks ago and the Blue Monster last week we’re onto Snake Pit at Innisbrook now!
Valspar Championship
Tampa Bay Championship - Round One    Innisbrook2
DC’s pick are as follows:
Jason Dufner
dufner
We know now that when Dufner begins to get hot, look out. Well, Dufner has begun to get hot and John is jumping on board right away. He scored fifth at the Hyundai TOC, made a run in match play and tied for ninth at the WGC-Cadillac despite a final round 76. When he began to warm up last year he capitalised with a major win at the PGA Championship. He’s consistently been inside the top 25 at this event over the last five years and DC likes him to be in the top 10 at least this week. “The Duff” is best price 28/1 with Paddy Power who are also paying 6 places!
Luke Donald
luke augusta
Donald’s entering his fifth start of the season, which is one tournament more than he typically has at this point. Whether that means anything or not, his game seems to agree well with Innisbrook with a T6 in 2010, a win in 2012 and a T4 last year. In the week that is in it we could be looking at horses for courses and Luuuuuke fits the bill here, he is best price 20/1 with Paddy Power again due to them offering 6 places.
Graeme DeLaet
Graeme DeLaet
After a blistering start to the year the Northern bandit has cooled down slightly. Hopefully this will be the week he rejuvenate his season. John has tipped him up a few times and his form is reflected in a price of 33/1 best with Ladbrokes.
Justin Rose
justin rose2
Big odds this week across the board with best price of 25/1 with Paddy Power (6 places!). He struggled a little with injury in January and February but that is now behind and this big a price is too good to let slide. Get on JR says JDC!
So they are John’s thoughts on the Valspar Championship! As usual you can give John feedback via Twitter on @johnalandeasy ! Prices accurate as of 8.45pm on 12/03/2014 via Oddschecker.com

Justin’s Major future looks Rosey after US Open win!

At marvellous Merion another thrilling US Open Championship came to a conclusion on Sunday 16th June with virtually the winning of the second Major of the year coming down to the last shots. No player was under par, nevermind that, all players were over par! Merion was setup superbly and albeit a relatively short US Open layout in terms of previous venues, the course which has not hosted America’s premier golfing tournament since 1981 tested the World’s best golfers admirably.

justin rose

On the course from early on it looked like it could well by Phil’s week, putting to bed those previous 5 second place finishes with most of them being agonising runner up placings! He played conservatively and hit the driver very rarely, a tactic he promised his coach Butch Harmon that he would not waiver from. As the field jostled for position over the first two days it became apparent that Mickelson would be one of the leading contenders along with former World No.1, Luke Donald, his compatriot Justin Rose, Australian Jason Day (looking to emulate his fellow countryman David Graham), 2011 Masters Champ Charl Schwartzel, veteran Steve Stricker and relatively new to contending in the final rounds of a Major – Hunter Mahan and Billy Horschel. By the close of play on Saturday the above players were those considered the only players still in with a shout, players like Tiger, Rory, Sergio and Harrington well out of the contention at the close of play after 54 holes.

The early holes for the leaders was quite something to see – Schwartzel was solid and looked the man to beat early on with birdies and a general calm. Phil narrowly missed birdies and 1 and 2 but posted a double bogey on 3. Luke Donald had a horror start and probably never recovered properly from hitting a standard bearer to the left of the green on 3. The third hole did cause problems all day – playing between a fairway wood and driver for most players in the field! Stricker had a shocker on 2, with a treble-bogey 8 including 2 shots out of bounds. Mahan started solidly with many pars while Horschel appeared as the golfer in the Octopus pants which got more attention than his poor start! Day and Rose did nothing to harm their chances early on, this start giving them the impetus to push on as the Final Round reached the pivotal moments.

merion image

The start at Merion includes 2 par-5s in the first 4 holes but this does not mean you can ease into the round and pick up some easy birdies. The first hole should be at worst a par but with the pin position it meant the good miss was short which left a difficult uphill putt but this was better than a devilishly difficult chip or pitch downhill with little green to work with should you be long with your approach. The 3rd hole was not one of the more popular ones during the week and the final round did not do much to improve this either, 260 yards plus which wasn’t far short of the 10th hole, par-4! As the players got through the tough par-4s in the shape of 5 and 6 the leaderboard had taken the shape that it would pretty much continue in for the remainder of the round, it was more or less down to 4 men – Rose, Mickelson, Mahan and Day.

Phil, who had not held a putt on much consequence on the front 9, continued this trend on the 10th but which a fantastic hole out from the rough for an eagle 2 to take the lead at that stage. More solid golf followed but an errant wedge shot cost him dearly on 13, carrying the green which resulted in a bogey for what was considered one of the last genuine birdie holes on the back 9. Another poor wedge approach resulted in a bogey on 14, lead back with Rose at this stage. Day was hanging in there but a few bogeys at the wrong time on probably the toughest closing stretch in Major Championship golf eventually meant he would finish at 3-over par for the tournament. Rose hit a superb tee shot to 17 to give him a chance of a chip-in birdie from just on the back right fringe but he left this stone dead rather than having a run at it, again pars being priceless over the last few holes. An immaculate tee shot on 18 left Rose in the middle of the fairway, some say he was beside the Hogan plaque (fittingly if so) and some a sprinker head, but his approach to 18 underlined his solid play all day and all week with an arrow-like long iron seeking out the pin and unlucky to run through to the back edge of the green. An expertly played greenside shot with a fairway wood gave him a tap in, unlucky not to post an Even Par total of 280 for the 4 rounds with what could have been a birdie at the last.

phil us open 2013

Mahan had been hanging around the lead for a while but a terrible double bogey late on scuppered his chances, he wasn’t the only one struggling over the final holes at Merion though and the closing holes bared their teeth. Phil was now the only golfer left to threaten Rose’s Major hopes coming up 18 after making par on 17 to stay 1 behind. A drive into the left rough looked to have ended Lefty’s opportunity to finally put claim to a first US Open triumph but with his second shot finishing up short of the green it still gave him the chance to pitch in – something that he has been known to do from time to time! Mickelson stalked the pitch for quite a while and eventually played a decent shot, aggressively punched towards the hole but as it raced past the right edge as did his chances and Rose became the first English golfer since 1970 to win the US Open and since 1996 to win a Major!

Everything was indeed Rosey in the garden for Justin at Merion on US Open Sunday!

justin rose2 merion logo

2013 Majors – a Look at the US Masters

Well the regular season is well and truly underway and already the proverbial knives are out and being sharpened for Messrs McIlroy and Woods after their poor season debuts. Without much early tour form to base this on, these are my picks for the Golf Majors this year……….hopefully I will be able to tell ye all “I told you so” towards the end of the season with my chosen golfers picking up the Green Jacket, US Open Trophy, The Claret Jug and the Wannamaker Trophy. First up is the Masters at Augusta.

THE MASTERS TOURNAMENT, Augusta National, Thursday 11th – Sunday 14th April

the masters

If there is one golfer that will be motivated to win the Masters and get the Augusta golfing monkey off his back, it is Rory McIlroy. With the memories of the Back 9 collapse of 2011 still fresh in his mind I’m sure he will be chomping at the bit to claim his first Green Jacket, some of my fellow tweeps (collective noun for people that tweet!!) have been adding the hashtag #GreenJacketComingHome in recent times so there is definitely an expectation that Rors may well become the first Irish golfer to claim the Masters and, by virtue of this win, complete an Irish Grand Slam of sorts in the Majors. I would personally love to see the current World No.1 win at Augusta but I’m not sure he will have enough form behind him, and maybe enough confidence in his new clubs by then, to conquer the layout at Augusta National this time around. The ditching of his new Nike putter after only 1 round in Abu Dhabi can’t point to him being happy with this club or his putting for that matter, a bad putter does not win at Augusta but that does not mean Rory is a bad putter but I just do not think it is his time yet at Augusta.

rory augusta

My picks for Augusta, as they have been in recent years, are Luke Donald and Phil Mickelson. No earth shattering choices there I hear you say, well you are right they are not controversial or unexpected but these guys are always there or thereabouts when the final round nears the final 9 holes on Masters Sunday. Phil is quite simply an Augusta expert and few courses have been designed that suit a professional golfer better, he loves to hit a cut off the tee (right-to-left shape for a leftie) and that suits probably 16 holes at Augusta. His golf at the Ryder Cup at Medinah last September in particular was more like the Phil of a few years back and he is also at his best when playing his attacking style of golf, it is great to watch and always entertaining – I’m sure we all remember THAT SHOT on the par-5 13th Hole in the Final Round which led him to victory in 2010, Nick Faldo calling it “the shot of his life” which says it all. Another Augusta top-5 awaits for Phil and few are better in contention on the Back 9 on Sunday at the Masters.

phil mickelson

Luuuuuke is one of the most consistent performers in world golf at the moment and his Masters performances recently have resulted in him getting close but without the cigar so far. He does not make him score on the par-5s  like many potential Masters champions do as he tends to plot his way around the course but I’m sure plenty of us remember Zach Johnson laying up on every par-5 and claiming the Masters back in 2007 on what was one of the longest versions of the Augusta National layout, Luke could well fit the same billing here. Donald has one of the best wedge games in golf and is also lethal around the greens too, and that is what you need around those undulating greens during the Masters. He will be in contention again and if his putter finally works like it should in the final round and particular during the Back 9 on Sunday then I fully expect Donald to live up to expectations and land his first Major title.

luke augusta

That’s my “two cents” on the Masters, might be worth a small few quid/euro/dollars on good auld Tom Watson for first round leader presuming that he will be teeing it up of course which I’m sure he will to keep an eye on potential Ryder Cuppers. I would welcome any comments, feedback and the like and I’m sure everybody has their opinion on who will claim the First Major of 2013.

Another “Major” Golf Tournament on during Masters week is, of course, the Social Media Open (www.facebook.com/SocialMediaOpen, www.twitter.com/SMOpen) which runs from Wednesday 10th to Sunday 14th April at some of the finest courses in Ireland – Mount Juliet, Castlemartyr, Adare & Old Head. Based on the trash talk and banter at present it is likely to be hotly contested. Main contenders, mainly due to their unashamed self-promotion, include Ross & David Starkey; Maurice Ryan & John Kelly; James English & Kieran Aherne and Kevin Connolly & his playing partner Ryan. Other teams, who have remained quiet(ish) compared to other more outspoken competitors include Tony Regazolli & Tom Kennedy, Allan Farrelly & Glen Holmes and John Deasy & AN Other.  There are 3 teams who all entered together from Dublin, spearheaded by Fergus McGrath and Denis Murphy, who could be dark horses while a few local Cork teams cannot be discounted especially due to the unfamiliarity of most of the other teams with the “People’s Republic” and, most importantly, pints of Murphy’s,  Kinsale Lager and the White Lady Night Club on a Saturday night!

white lady     old head4

It promises to be a great week’s golf but I think the Masters Tournament could be slightly more straightforward to predict than the Social Media Open, only time will tell.

PRODUCT REVIEW – MIZUNO FLI-HI

Any club that is good enough to help Luke Donald on his way to becoming the current World No.1 should be good enough for any golfer. That is definitely the case with the Mizuno Fli-Hi.

I sat down at the start of the year and took a long look at the instruments at my disposal – surely if you can’t blame the arrows, blame the Indian! That is probably the case but I was of the opinion that I could at least make throwing the arrows a little easier! The golf bag purge began by replacing my 3 and 4-iron with a 21-degree and 24-degree Mizuno Fli-Hi. They are pretty much a mix between an iron and a hybrid/rescue club, the best of both Worlds I hoped at least! I have too much ego to completely get rid of a 3 and 4-iron and replace them with rescue clubs, I don’t want to look like YE Yang with 5 or 6 woods in the bag, so the Fli-Hi’s were a perfect fit.

I really like the look of the Mizuno Fli-Hi behind the ball which adds a bit of confidence on the course. They look so easy to hit and looks are not deceiving here, they are easy to hit and the look of the clubs does inspire confidence before you put your swing in motion! Even off-centre strikes and those low hits on cold mornings don’t leave you needing minor surgery to restore your hands back to normal and, unlike long irons; you do not lose much distance either with the Fli-Hi’s. They really are game improvement clubs and a must for any player looking to get more from their long game. You can practice all you like but if you have not got the correct equipment for starters then you are fighting an uphill battle – put these clubs in your bag and you will not regret your decision.

One thing that can be a little bit of a negative is that is not as good out of the rough as a fairway wood or rescue and they can be a tad difficult to shape from time to time, I suppose hitting the ball dead straight isn’t something most amateurs or even certain professionals generally consider! They can be a little more tricky to hit at a lower trajectory in comparison to irons as well but I suppose they are made to get the ball into the air easier hence the higher ball flight which most players do look for.

All in all, I love the most recent additions to my golfing arsenal. They are easy to hit, you get the most out of poor strikes and you have the added confidence that comes from the great look of the Mizuno Fli-Hi. As I said earlier, if they are good enough for the World No.1 they should be good enough for any golfer – the Mizuno Fli-Hi’s are definitely good enough for me!

US Open 2012 Preview, The Olympic Club

US OPEN 2012 PREVIEW
 
It’s consistently the toughest tournament in golf every year when par is usually the winning score, last year and Rory being one of the few exceptions. We’re off to Olympic Club in San Francisco where the patience and, of course, the golf games of the World’s best players will be tested to the fullest.
 
Tiger Woods – best price 17/2 with sportingbet
 
I’m amazed TW is favourite for the US Open, albeit at a decent price for once! His game is in decent shape but he has won at Bayhill and Muirfield Village this season, venues where he has won at ease and many times while in his pomp so I would not put as much value with those performances as usual, added to that the struggles the chasing pack on both occasions endured adds no fuel to the fire that would have me recommend Tiger. He may contend but I think a top 5 finish may be his best result here.
 
Lee Westwood – 12/1 with Bwin
 
Westy is again looked at as somebody that should contend this week and I would not be surprised is he does, his performance in Sweden bodes well of course but only on rare occasions does the winner the week before triumph in a Major championship the week after. Lee’s putting and short game will be severely tested over the Olympic Club layout and I again see this being his biggest stumbling block to claiming a Major title. A good each way bet but I don’t expect Westwood to win.
 
Luke Donald – 13/1 best with Boylesports
 
The current World No.1 would cement his position at the top of the game this week with his first Major win. I note the fact that I have tipped “Luuuuuuuuke” for numerous Majors over the past year but I think his game is ideally setup for Olympic Club. Lee Janzen won the last playing of the US Open here in 1998 with a score of level par and I saw a lot of parallels between the two players – both decent ball strikers but with short games to envy. Donald will be right in the hunt come the cauldron that will be the final round at Olympic Club on Sunday.
 
Rory McIlroy – 20s with William Hill
 
I’d be getting you Rors at 20/1 with this UK bookmaker! The same price as last year has a nice ring to it and his good performance at the FedEx St Jude won’t do him any harm, his final hole disappointment may only help to spur him on all the more. Rory’s form wasn’t all that great last year when he got to Congressional and he doesn’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders this year like he did after Augusta this year. A great each way bet and expect Rory to come out of the blocks firing from Thursday!
 
Phil Mickelson – 22s with Coral
 
I’m a huge fan of Phil but the only Major I would usually look to him to do the business would be the Masters. There is a lot better value out there including many more US golfers in better form, sorry Phil but I can’t see it being your week!
 
Matt Kuchar – 28/1 best price with William Hill
 
I’m liking Kuchar’s form this year, he won superbly at The Players Championship and I fully expect him to move on from the “Fifth Major” to winning one of the Big 4 tournaments this week. Great value as well, winner alright me thinks as the US continue their comeback into the upper echelons of world golf – I’m getting worried about the Ryder Cup already!!
 
Jason Dufner – 28/1 with William Hill
 
It could be a battle of the 28/1 shots this week in San Francisco as the two form players in the world come under the spotlight. Dufner is steady steady steady and he just seems to have ice in his veins at times. Having said this, however, his eventual collapse at the US PGA is the only worrying point. He looked coolness personified until fairly late during the back 9 on Sunday where the wheels well and truly came off.
 
Jim Furyk – 35/1 with Paddy Power
 
Furyk is the sort of US Open specialist that you may always look to in the betting. Solid off the tee, a superb iron player and generally an excellent putter when the pressure is on, his putting of late has been a concern but he seems to be creeping into form at the right time. One for the shortlist although he should probably be a higher price in fairness, do you hear me Paddy?!?!
 

The Rest of the Irish

Padraig Harrington – 80/1 with Bwin
 
Paddy has an outside chance, he played well in the St Jude Classic and will hopefully take that form into this week. If he starts well expect him to stay in contention, worth a few quid as he could be the only sportsman wearing green doing well this week!
 
Graeme McDowell – 80/1 with Bwin
 
2010 US Open Champ G Mac comes into the tournament having little or no form. His terrible showing in Memphis which resulted in him missing the cut did not help in the slightest for his confidence either. Not for me this week.
 
Peter Lawrie – 300/1 with Bwin
 
Huge odds for his first US Open appearance do not foster much optimism but Peter has been playing well and you just never know with up-and-coming Irish golfers these days. What’s a €1 each way???
 
Big D doesn’t tee it up this week with the Irish Open his hopeful comeback, we wish him all the best for this and the links will hopefully bring out the best in his game.
 
Some long shots to consider – David Toms 150/1 with Coral, Jason Day 66s with Coral, Louis Oosthuizen at 66s with Coral and Geoff Ogilvy 80/1 with Bwin, special mention goes to a namesake of a very good friend of mine, Brian Gaffney, who is at 2,500/1 with BetVictor!
 
I hope ye enjoy a week of watching the world’s best golfers struggle over the layout at Olympic Club and, of course, win a few quid along the way! Best prices from oddschecker.com Mobile App as at 10.53pm on Wednesday 13th June.