Tournament Preview – Farmers Insurance Open

Torrey Pines is the venue for the next stop on the PGA Tour when the Farmers Insurance Open starts tomorrow. Unfortunately we won’t have a Tournament Preview for Qatar as John and myself both forgot it was starting today, Wednesday 22nd January!!

torrey pines2Like most people that know Torrey Pines know Tiger Woods should be right up there when the final round finishes on Sunday and expect nothing less this week. A best price of 5/2 with Paddypower who are offering 6 places is still very short however, having said that a win is a win and Tiger should be bang in contention after 72 holes.

Tiger Torrey PinesBill Haas will be another to keep an eye on this week in California. A top 6 finish last week at the Humana Challenge which could have been so much better had it not been for Patrick Reed going ga-ga with 3 consecutive rounds of 63, eventually finishing up with a 28-under par total to win. Haas shot 23-under and but for Patrick Reed we could have seen him fighting for even more money. Now he enters a tournament that has seen him finish tied for ninth last year, T-4 the year before, with another top-10 and three top-20′s to his credit over the years. Best price is with BetDaq at 27/1 with Paddypower next best at 25s.

bill haasJimmy Walker has been on great form of late and we expect to see more of the same this week at Torrey Pines. He is Top 10 in nearly all of the stats so far this season , on a hot streak and a good could go low again over the next 4 rounds. CORAL offer you the best price on Jimmy at 40/1 while Bet Victor are next best at 35/1, most of the rest are 33s and lower.

jimmy walkerJohn came close to a winner in Europe last week picking Phil Mickelson so hopefully he will go one better this week Stateside. If you’d like to give John a follow on Twitter you will find him @johnalandeasy ! Prices accurate as of 9pm on 22/1/2014 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

Major Preview – The Open Championship 2013

The oldest Major of them all comes back to Muirfield after an absence of 11 years. One of the most testing venues on the Open Championship Rota will again provide a stern test of links golf over 4 rounds in East Lothian, Scotland. The “Champion Golfer of the Year” winning at Muirfield has always been a stellar ball-striker past winners being Faldo (twice), Els, Watson, Trevino and Nicklaus among others. I expect a similar type of player to claim The Open Championship on what will hopefully be a sunny Sunday in July this year.

THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Muirfield Golf Club, Thursday 18th – Sunday 21st July 2013

open 2013

Course form really comes into it when considering a potential Open Champion, case in point was Tom Watson at Turnberry in 2009. That is why my main contenders for the 2013 Open Championship are Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els. Honourable mention, and this is a rare one for me, goes to Tiger Woods and maybe also to some unexpected (sometimes random) American who tends to somehow contend every year in the Open……..lets go with Rickie Fowler.

For those of you young enough to remember, Ernie was the only golfer to shoot all rounds in the 60s at Muirfield in the 1992 Open Championship, won by Nick Faldo. He then went onto win The Open here in 2002 in a playoff with Thomas Levet. That, allied with the fact that he is defending champion, is proof enough for me that he will contend this time around. He has not shown fantastic form yet but there is plenty time for that, he did not show much going into The Open last year either and we all know what happened.

ernie els

Padraig Harrington is one of finest Open Championship golfers of his generation, along with Tiger Woods and Ernie of course, and I expect a huge performance from the Irishman again at Muirfield. He was one bad tee shot away from making the playoff in 2002 and with his form starting to come back he could well become a serious Major contender once more. His run of 3 Majors in 13 months looks like quite a feat now compared to all the first time winners since then and do not be surprised if “Paddy” is again hoisting the Claret Jug in July, this time around the Harrington family might not be putting ladybirds in it though!

harrington1

Tiger did not have the best of times at Muirfield in 2002, losing his opening tee shot into the right rough at approximately 9am on that Thursday in July 11 years ago. It was an iconic shot as he was still using his Titleist 975D driver at the time although signed up for Nike several years before, and many the amateur golfer did have an early morning chuckle at him looking for his ball in the long rough down the right of the 1st fairway at Muirfield. He has shown he can put together a strategy to win an Open Championship though, not hitting a bunker on his way to victory at St Andrews and hitting driver only 3 or 4 times en route to his Hoylake win being cases in point here. I would still point to his long game being the most worrying part of his game, still, and his clutch putting ain’t what is used to be.

tiger1

Rickie Fowler looks like one of those American players that loves playing in The Open Championship. He is turning into one of the best shotmakers in the game and I would look to him for a Top-5 finish again. Had it not been for the worst of the weather affecting his run at the 2011 Open during the 3rd Round we might have been talking about his first Major win and not Darren Clarke’s Open triumph. Fowler played wonderfully well during that tournament and his putting under pressure looks solid, the amazing finish conjured up during his Ryder Cup singles match with Edoardo Molinari in 2010 at Celtic Manor provides the proof here. A few quid on Rickie could be well spent although I’m sure the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers might prefer if he changed into something less, well orange, if he was to accept the Claret Jug after 72 holes at Muirfield in July!

fowler

So, those are my early thoughts on The Open Championship. Out of the 4 contenders I’ve mentioned I would pick Padraig Harrington to claim his Third Open title, and Fourth Major, with Ernie being my pick to lead after Round 1. Expect plenty of surprises during the week at Muirfield but these 4 great golfers should be right there coming down the stretch on Open Championship Sunday in Scotland.

harrington2

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.

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.