WACHOVIA CHAMPIONSHIP

We?re now moving into the second half of the new FedEx Cup schedule, and

looking at the next few weeks the changes look like a triumph. Next week a

tournament that I rate every bit as any US Major, the TPC from Sawgrass, has

its first running in its new and preferable summer slot. But beforehand

we?ve got the fifth running of the best emerging PGA Tour event, the

Wachovia Championship.

In every sense bar name this week?s affair resembles a Major championship.

The field couldn?t really be stronger with 29 of world?s top-30 in attendance on a course, Quail Hollow, that would grace any Major. This year with particularly dry and warm conditions forecast, a world-class short-game around these lightning fast greens looks essential. On a long, tree-lined course that will penalise inaccuracy, this event could resemble a US Open.

As ever in such events, greens in regulation is the the key stat, though I

should add that this is a shotmakers? course, which nearly always produce

world-class winners. Of the four previous winners of the Wachovia, three

most certainly were ? Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and David Toms. The other, Joey

Sindelar, was a massive upset but typical of the sort of steady, accurate,

greens in regulation type player that always has a chance of prevailing when

courses play really tough.

It’s interesting to see bookmakers, confident after cleaning up at the

Masters, feel confident about taking on Tiger Woods who starts at a

reasonable 3/1. He didn?t do a lot wrong when second at Augusta, and I see

no reason to expect Tiger not to continue the almost invincible form of the

last 10 months. He has yet to win at Quail Hollow, finishing third in 2005,

and 11th last year when notably out of form and distracted by his father?s

terminal illness. With an even greater emphasis on touch around the greens,

I?d think he has a stronger chance now, but as it isn?t one of his favourite

courses I?ll wait for a better price in-running for trading purposes.

Nevertheless, as has become the norm, the safest market to play is the

?Betting Without Tiger? market. Here, PHIL MICKELSON stands out as a very

obvious favourite. As we?re expecting US Open style conditions, it seems

fair to refer to Mickelson?s outstanding record in that Major. Despite

somehow managing to win a US Open, he has finished runner-up four times and

in three out of the last five. The reason is usually obvious ? the greens

are nearly always dry, fast and requiring the touch of a magician to

consistently make par. In this department, Mickelson has no equal. His Quail

Hollow record is also fair, with a 5th and 7th place from three visits. And

crucially, Lefty played really well over the weekend in the Byron Nelson on

a course that has rarely seen him at his best. He looks to be coming into

form at just the right time and well worth a punt this week.

Of the other main contenders, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen would come into

this on their best form. Vijay Singh should be rewarded for his tee to green

work, but could hate the greens. Putting woes could also affect Adam Scott,

Sergio Garcia and Trevor Immelman. Defending champion Jim Furyk, runner-up

the previous year, stands out at as an obvious selection, but is overlooked

having gone off the boil since the recurrance of a wrist injury.

And so despite costing me plenty of cash lately, I must stick with US Open

champion GEOFF OGILVY. Ogilvy will continue to be a selection of mine in

Majors and similar style events because, simply, he has the perfect game for

these tests. Notably, he?s finished in the top-10 at Quail Hollow twice

already and has since improved considerably. More so than fellow

twenty-somethings Scott, Immelman, Donald and Howell, Geoff seems at ease

with the challenging, fast greens and surround areas that we tend to see in

Majors.

Because of the big prices of my other selections, I?m going in with an extra

sixth selection this week. My only other double-figure priced selecion is

LUCAS GLOVER. As I?ve commented recently, Glover is a PGA Tour winner

waiting to happen, and we must stay the course and keep taking decent prices

when available. Glover made the frame in 4th at Quail Hollow last year to

add to a top-10 in 2004.

Next up, I?m going with BO VAN PELT at 100/1 to improve on last year?s 6th

place. Bo has excellent statistics in the crucial accuracy-orientated

departments, plus some sound if unspectacular recent form. He?s been no

better than 10th but no worse than 28th in his last six events. Improvement

will obviously be needed to challenge in this top company, but he really has

conditions to suit now and I?ve always had a sneaking feeling this talented

player would pop up as a surprise winner of a big event.

Given the course conditions, it is imperative to side with JOHN SENDEN and

JEFF MAGGERT in a variety of markets. Senden is leading the PGA Tour greens

in regulations stats, and usually thrives when an emphasis is placed on

accuracy. The demands of Quail Hollow are not entirely dissimilar to the

type of conditions in his native Australia in which he has excelled. He

looks a much more accomplished player since winning twice in 2006, once in

the US before following up with the Australian Open title.

And finally to Maggert, a US Open stalwart if ever there was one. Its hard

to think of a run-of-the-mill PGA Tour player who has so consistently over

performed in Majors and on tough courses generally. He really couldn?t ask

for more ideal conditions, so its no surprise to see that Jeff finished 5th

here in 2004. Having made the top-15 on two of last three outings, Maggert

also has some encouraging recent form. At 150/1, Jeff can only be a

speculative bet here but I strongly recommend looking out for him in

speciality markets.

ITALIAN OPEN

It was at the Italian Open last year when I managed to end a particularly

barren run of luck with a 33/1 1-2 thanks to Francesco Molinari and Anders

Hansen, and I?m quietly confident that this year?s renewal won?t be that

hard to work out either. For the third year in succession, the event is

being played at Castello di Tolcinasco, a flat course without much in the

way of penal rough where low scoring is guaranteed. Previous winning scores

here were -18, -19 and -23 last year.

As with last week in Spain, the weather forecast is rather unsettled with

thunderstorms and inevitable delays throughout. The consequence of last

week?s conditions was a soaked course offering considerable advantage to the

longer hitters. The extra distance through the air makes so much of a

difference when there is little or no run on the fairways, and encourages

the long hitters to attack soft, receptive greens. It played right to the

strengths of CHARL SCHWARTZEL, and in a weaker field, the South African

looks very much the one to beat again.

Normally I?d be very wary of backing someone for back-to-back wins, but I

think in this case we are seeing the emergence of a world-class player, and

the odds don?t truly reflect Schwartzel?s potential superiority in this

lower grade. Let’s remind ourselves that while Charl is a well known face on

the European Tour, winner of the South African money list and winner of

three events, he is still only 22. Not withstanding the unique Tiger Woods,

most players don?t peak at least until their late twenties and when

Schwartzel reaches that age I expect he?ll be winning or challenging for

Majors. In the meantime, the European Tour is the right place for him to be

learning the game and developing the winning habit. He was outstanding in

Spain at the weekend, and very nearly won the previous event in Portugal,

despite a terrible start. This course is perfectly set up for him, in fact

he made the top-10 on his only visit in 2004. Unless there?s a reaction to

last week?s victory, I find it very hard to envisage Schwartzel out of the

frame.

Its also worth giving another chance to NICK DOUGHERTY to end a run of poor

luck. Some of Dougherty?s golf in recent weeks has been outstanding, but his

short putting has been atrocious and how he contrived to get beaten in

Singapore last month is something only he knows. He remains one of the best

prospects on the European Tour though, and a good competitor to boot.

Dougherty should like the course for all the same reasons as Schwartzel, and

rates a good each-way bet at 22/1 on his Italian Open debut.

Wins for Graeme McDowell and Molinari in 2004 and 2006 confirm that this is

a course where youngsters can win in spite of inexperience. And speaking of

great prospects, every judge in the game seems to be tipping MARTIN KAYMER

to win very soon. Its too early too tell if the young German can live up to

some of the more optimistic comparisons with his legendary compatriot

Bernhard Langer, but he certainly has looked the real deal in recent weeks,

finishing top-15 in each of the last three events in Europe, with a best

of 3rd place in the Estoril Open. Again, this long-hitter looks to have

conditions to suit and can contend again.

Yet another brilliant youngster with the right credentials here is ALEJANDRO

CANIZARES, who looks worth a punt at 50/1. I suspect those odds are the

consequence of a missed cut in Spain at the weekend, an over-reaction

considering his excellent form in general. In the two events in

Portugal he made the top-15 and had previously been plying his trade at an

incomparably higher level on the PGA Tour. Two top-25s from three US starts

is an excellent return. And unlike Molinari last year, Canizares isn?t

searching for his first win, having landed the Russian Open last summer.

Finally, lets have a nibble on a 100/1 shot more than capable of winning at

this level, Scotland?s MARC WARREN. Warren seems to like Italy, finishing

8th here last year, and previously as runner-up in consecutive Italian

Challenge Tour events. The reason he is 100/1 is simply chronic

inconsistency, but Warren is a very capable player on his day as last year?s

win in the Scandinavian Masters testifies. Take his last 10 starts – Warren

has missed seven cuts, a poor record by anyone?s standards, but the other

three outings have all yielded top-15 finishes, including a fine 5th in a

stellar field at the HSBC Champions Trophy.

Good Luck!

WACHOVIA CHAMPIONSHIP

BETTING WITHOUT TIGER WOODS

4pts win PHIL MICKELSON @ 11/1 (BET365, PADDY POWER, STAN JAMES)

2pts ew GEOFF OGILVY @ 25/1 (PADDY POWER, STAN JAMES)

1pt ew LUCAS GLOVER @ 60/1 (STAN JAMES, 55/1 WITH BET365)

1pt ew BO VAN PELT @ 100/1 (STAN JAMES)

1pt ew JOHN SENDEN @ 125/1 (STAN JAMES)

1pt ew JEFF MAGGERT @ 150/1 (BET365, STAN JAMES)

ITALIAN OPEN

4pts ew CHARL SCHWARTZEL @ 12/1 (GENERAL)

2pts ew NICK DOUGHERTY @ 22/1 (GENERAL)

1.5pts ew MARTIN KAYMER @ 33/1 (GENERAL)

1.5pts ew ALEJANDRO CANIZARES @ 50/1 (GENERAL)

1pt ew MARK WARREN @ 100/1 (GENERAL)

2006/2007 STATS: -78pts

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