BMW INTERNATIONAL OPEN
The roll-call of previous winners of this annual Munich fixture suggest this is one event where bets should be focussed on the top players and market leaders. You have to go back 9 years for the last upset, courtesy of Russell Claydon. With the exception of dual-Major winner John Daly, recent champions HENRIK STENSON, Howell, Jiminez, Westwood, Bjorn and Montgomerie were all world-class, Ryder Cup stars.
Scoring is always low at Nord-Eichenried, though Stenson?s tally last year was eight shots higher than 2005 with the course playing tougher. In keeping with the view that the best players usually dominate on this course, Stenson defeated two other world-class players, Goosen and Harrington, in a play-off.
As always in the week following a Major, matters are slightly complicated by the concern that some players will come back tired and deflated. Given the brutality of Oakmont, its possible that confidence could be affected. This is the only logical explanation for Stenson and PAUL CASEY to start at double-figure odds here. For three rounds Casey looked as likely a US Open winner as anyone, with Friday?s 66 particularly memorable. Sunday must have been very disappointing, though at least he bounced back at the end of the round to bag his second top-10 finish in 2007 Majors, this time in the one that he says suits him the least. In the past 18 months, Casey seems to have moved up a level and become a world-class player, so its particularly interesting that while on the way up he notched four consecutive top-10s on this course from 2001 to 2004.
Stenson?s price is an obvious over-reaction to missing the cut on 15 over par. I wouldn?t read anything at all into that result, as I never expected him to be suited by Oakmont. His two previous starts had yielded top-10s in top-class fields either side of the Atlantic, and missing the weekend struggle ensures he arrives fresh and with a point to prove. I generally consider Stenson the man to beat when he appears on the European Tour these
Many will look to Niclas Fasth and Nick Dougherty after their Oakmont heroics, while Ian Poulter played better than 36th place suggests. The one Oakmont cut-maker I couldn?t consider backing this week is market leader Ernie Els. Its nice to see Ernie playing in Europe but he played poorly on a course that really should have played to his strengths, driving his long-term supporters to despair.
Having missed the US Open, better value could lie with RAPHAEL JACQUELIN. Few Europeans have been in better form recently than Jacquelin, whose win in China was the highlight of five consecutive top-7 finishes in April and May. He?s twice made the top-10 here in the past four years, never in better form than now.
The German crowds will no doubt come out in droves to cheer Bernhard Langer, though a better home hope may be future star MARTIN KAYMER. Odds of 50/1 can?t really be considered great value given his inexperience, rather they reflect a fast-growing reputation. He must be forgiven the missed cut in Austria last time, following swiftly after a disappointing final round in Wales when he held a big chance of landing a first European Tour win. Kaymer did win his last start in Germany on the Challenge Tour and will no doubt be regularly contending and winning this championship in years to come.
In spite of its post-US Open slot on the schedule, the new sponsors of this event have managed to attract a strong field, though it was even stronger until Phil Mickelson withdrew yesterday to rest his injured wrist. Mickelson has twice won the corresponding event at River Highlands, perhaps no surprise considering the emphasis on short-game brilliance around this course. An otherwise straightforward course?s main defences are small, saucer-shaped greens, making greens in regulation and good scrambling the key attributes. Asides Mickelson?s two wins, the history of PGA tournaments at River Highlands is littered with unlikely, big-priced winners. In each of the last four years, outsiders such as JJ Henry, Brad Faxon, Woody Austin and Peter Jacobsen have made this a bookies? benefit.
There seems little reason then to justify any sizeable bets on the market leaders. Vijay Singh is favourite in Mickelson?s absence, but achieved little on two previous visits. Justin Rose, 3rd in 2005, is in the form of his life. As with Casey, for a very long way he looked certain to be in the shake-up at Oakmont before a poor final day. As far as returning to action immediately is concerned, it must however be a worry that Rose was suffering
from a sore back as early as the second round.
Padraig Harrington’s US Open efforts were bitterly disappointing, and even factoring in that he may be suited by River Highlands, the Irishman is at a disadvantage on his course debut. Of the market leaders, the two most likely contenders for me are Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, though neither makes much appeal at the odds.
The best value may lie with a resurgent KENNY PERRY. Following a fitness drive and switching to the belly putter, nine-time PGA Tour winner Perry bounced back from a long spell in the doldrums to grab 3rd place in top company at the Memorial. Its obviously a gamble that he will repeat that level of form, but he?s had a fortnight?s break and more to the point has a fine record on the course, making the top-10 four times out of six between
1998 and 2005.
Another player who may benefit from missing the US Open is FREDRIK JACOBSEN. Yet to deliver that much anticipated first Stateside win, Jacobsen is another who has returned to form of late. His last two outings have yielded 5th and 17th place finishes, suggesting that elusive win could be around the corner and this course should suit his talents.
At the same odds of 50/1, NICK O?HERN is also worth persevering with on a course that is tailor-made for him. He actually came back fairly well after a poor start in the US Open and only missed out on the top-20 because of three bogeys in the last four holes. Nick has the perfect accurate greens in regulation game for River Highlands, as well as a quality touch around the greens when he does stray.
HEATH SLOCUM too would seem to have all the attributes to succeed here. He also had a week off following a respectable 12th place at Southwind, where he showed hints of returning to the early season excellence that yielded three top-6 finishes. In three consistent, mid-division attempts at this venue, Slocum has only one over-par round out of twelve.
And finally, at 66/1 its worth a punt that NICK WATNEY returns to the form shown to land a first PGA Tour victory at New Orleans in April. Watney showed great temperament there and will win many more times for sure. Back on a course where he already has consecutive top-10 finishes, a good week looks in store.
BMW INTERNATIONAL OPEN
4pts ew PAUL CASEY @ 12/1 (BETFRED, LADBROKES, VCBET)
3pts ew HENRIK STENSON @ 14/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew RAPHAEL JACQUELIN @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew MARTIN KAYMER @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew KENNY PERRY@ 40/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew FREDRIK JACOBSEN @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew NICK O?HERN @ 50/1 (GENERAL, 66/1 WITH LADBROKES)
1pt ew HEATH SLOCUM @ 66/1 (GENERAL, 80/1 WITH CORALS)
1pt ew NICK WATNEY @ 66/1 (GENERAL, 80/1 WITH CORALS)
2006/2007 STATS: -190pts
2005/2006 STATS: +144pts
ANTE-POST ALREADY ADVISED
VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT
5pts PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 7/1
5pts HENRIK STENSON @ 10/1
US MONEY LIST W/O TIGER WOODS
2pts ew TREVOR IMMELMAN @ 20/1