TCL CLASSIC

In stark contrast to the Laguna courses used for last week?s event in

Singapore where the Asian Tour players have always held an advantage, the

TCL Classic at Yalong Bay in China has only ever been won by Europeans in

the form of Paul Casey, Colin Montgomerie and Johan Edfors. Unfortunately

there are very few competitors of that class in attendance this time around.

Even the very best AsianTour stars such as Jaidee, Randhawa and Singh are

all missing. It would surely be asking too much for Wen-Chong Liang to win

two weeks in a row, so the Asian challenge looks very moderate indeed.

Only two players from the world?s top-100 are here, LEE WESTWOOD at number

54 and PAUL MCGINLEY at 94. NICK DOUGHERTY is down in 119th position but has

more talent than that alongside recent and course form credentials. So while

I don?t expect any awards for originality, I can?t find any alternative to

the front-three in the betting and suggest backing all three each-way.

McGinley is the best bet in my view at 16/1. At face value, his recent set

of form figures don?t make particularly exciting reading, but considering he

has been playing the PGA Tour and only the very best Euro events they are

excellent. Few if any of this field could consistently make cuts and top-30s

at the highest level. He also has course form, having lost a play-off here

to Paul Casey two years ago ahead of a far stronger field.

Westwood is the one genuine class act. We have to forgive a couple of poor

efforts in Asia over the last few weeks, but generally Lee?s form in the

region is exemplary. I can?t believe Westwood would be here if he wasn?t

taking this event seriously as he bids to move back up the world rankings.

As for Dougherty, I have to pinch myself that I?m prepared to back him at

odds as short as 12/1, but he does have a very strong case. For the second

year running he blew a big winning chance in Singapore on Sunday, with two

disastrous double-bogeys in the last three holes putting paid to those

chances. He should score even better on these greens though, and provided

that hasn?t affected him adversely, everything points to another week in

contention at the lower level, especially after finishing 4th on his Yalong

Bay debut last year with four sub-70 rounds.

ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL

Moving on to the week?s main event at Bay Hill, where the strongest field

for a strokeplay event so far in 2007 assemble for the latest twist in the

new Fedex Cup schedule. Of the world?s top-10, only Harrington, Scott and an

injured Jim Furyk are missing. And just to add to the ?Major? feel

surrounding the tournament, the course at Bay Hill has been toughened up and

is reported to resemble a US Open layout. The rough is said to be penal and

longer than ever, with the greens lightning fast. The essential attributes

of this week?s winner are clear – accuracy, good ball-striking and an

artist?s touch around the greens. In other words, exactly the players we?d

expect to challenge in Major championships.

Considering the fact Tiger Woods has won his last 8 PGA Tour strokeplay

events, odds of over 5/2 on Betfair look more than reasonable. Tiger used to

appear invincible at Bay Hill, winning four years in succession from 2000 to

2003. Efforts since here have been very poor by his own extreme standards

with a best finish of 20th but it should, however, be remembered that Tiger

probably hasn?t come into this event in anything approaching his present

form since those winning days. I certainly wouldn?t want to bet against the

great man, and as usual suggest placing our bets in the without Tiger

market, but with the course playing tough I?m going to wait and see if a

better price is available in-running.

And if we are going to see US Open conditions, PHIL MICKELSON must take the

world of beating. Lefty is of course yet to win a US Open, though I?m not

quite sure how, having finished runner-up in that Major four times.

Mickelson hasn?t won here since 1997, but has finished in the top-5 on three

of his last four visits. It certainly sounds as if his legendary short-game

will offer even more advantage than usual given the current course

conditions so a very bold bid is expected. Mickelson was of course in

stunning form at Pebble Beach and Riveira on recent PGA Tour starts, even

though we have to forgive a characteristic play-off debacle to lose the

Nissan Open. All things considered though, his outright odds of 12/1 look

attractive in their own right, but its still safer to take 8/1 without

Tiger.

Below Woods and Mickelson, clearly the best two players in the world on

current and recent form, its very hard to see exactly who is next in the

pecking order. Ernie Els hints at a return to his best, but cannot be

considered fully rehabilitated after the injury lay-off until he wins again

in the States. Vijay Singh is struggling and carrying injuries. Retief

Goosen is unlikely to improve on a disappointing course record on recent

evidence. Sergio Garcia?s putting is nothing short of a tragedy.

On the most recent form, the main challenge appears to be coming from a

batch of emerging young stars – Henrik Stenson, Charles Howell, Trevor

Immelman and GEOFF OGILVY. Of the four, Ogilvy looks the pick for Bay Hill

given his penchant for playing tough golf courses well, which enabled him to

land the US Open last year following a series of fine Major performances. We

have to overlook three moderate previous efforts at Bay Hill, but to balance

that, it should be remembered the huge strides Ogilvy has made in the last

year. He is a better player now, and should also appreciate the tougher

playing conditions. If he plays as well as he did at the recent World

Matchplay, the young Australian cannot be too far away.

If Ogilvy is the most likely Australian to keep the title in his country?s

name, AARON BADDELEY must run a decent second. Badds is another rising star

as his 2nd Tour victory at Scottsdale last month confirmed. He is another

with the perfect credentials for this type of golf, as shown by his amazing

back-to-back Australian Open titles as a teenager, the first as an amateur.

And though his progress in the US has been steady and nowhere near as

dazzling, its worth noting that he has already made the top 6 here in 2003

and 2005.

BART BRYANT is another who always must come into consideration on courses

that demand accuracy. Sunday?s 12th place was his fourth consecutive stroke

play top-20. If Bryant keeps up that level of consistency then another big

payday will come soon. And finally, ZACH JOHNSON showed his first bit of

form this year at the weekend with a never-nearer 14th. I?ve long rated

Johnson as a decent prospect, and potential big-priced Major winner. His

accurate game suggests a US Open or PGA would be the most likely. And again

there is a strong case for Johnson looking at his course form. Zach finished

in the top-8 on both of his first two Bay Hill outings.

Good Luck!

ADVISED BETS

TCL CLASSIC

3pts ew NICK DOUGHERTY @ 12/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

3pts ew PAUL MCGINLEY @ 16/1 (CORALS, TOTE)

2pts ew LEE WESTWOOD @ 14/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL

BETTING WITHOUT TIGER WOODS

6pts PHIL MICKELSON @ 8/1 (STAN JAMES, PADDY POWER, 9/1 EXPEKT)

2pts ew GEOFF OGILVY @ 28/1 (STAN JAMES, PADDY POWER, 40/1 EXPEKT)

1pt ew AARON BADDELEY @ 50/1 (STAN JAMES, EXPEKT)

1pt ew BART BRYANT @ 50/1 (STAN JAMES, EXPEKT)

1pt ew ZACH JOHNSON @ 60/1 (STAN JAMES)

2006/2007 STATS: +30pts

2005/2006 STATS: +144pts

ANTE-POST ALREADY ADVISED

VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT

5pts PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 7/1

5pts HENRIK STENSON @ 10/1

3pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN GRAND SLAM IN 2007@ 40/1

10pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN 3 MAJORS IN 2007 @ 8/1

US MONEY LIST W/O TIGER WOODS

2pts ew TREVOR IMMELMAN @ 20/1