The last time the Estoril Open was held at Oitavos we saw one of the most amazing finishes of recent years. Paul Lawrie and Barry Lane contrived to hand the title to Paul Broadhurst after numerous catastrophes on the tough final few holes. Lane, needing a bogey to win, ran up nine shots on the final hole, sparking absolute carnage on the betting exchanges. I don?t think I?ve backed another odds-on golfer to this day.
The reason for the fluctuations was the nature of the course and conditions, leading me to the conclusion that we could be set for another memorable finish on Sunday.More than anything else, I?m just excited about the prospect of being able to watch the European Tour at a more sociable hour.
My recollection of the course is that it favoured experienced strategists that keep the ball in play, rather than the long-hitters. A look at the top-10 from 2005 reveals names such as Lawrie, Lane, Broadhurst, Dodd, Emerson and Garrido that all fit the experienced criteria. Though Charl Schwartzel made the top-10, I?m not sure this is his ideal course, nor that of the other co-favourite Nick Dougherty. And using the same line of thinking about experience, I?m also ignoring the claims of several other youngsters including Francesco Molinari, Andres Romero, Anton Haig and Oliver Wilson.
Broadhurst, bidding for a third consecutive win in Portugal, has obvious claims and played well enough for three days in incomparably stronger company at Doral over the weekend. Despite being feared, he hasn?t really shown enough anywhere this year to warrant support at fairly short odds.Of the batch of favourites, the two I like most are SIMON DYSON and PAUL MCGINLEY.
Dyson has generally been in fine form for the past year, but particularly in recent weeks he has looked a winner waiting to happen. Four of his last five starts have resulted in top-11 finishes. Only a cold putter cost Dyson victory in Malaysia and Singapore, but the best effort of the lot was probably 7th behind Stenson, Woods, Els and co in Dubai. McGinley didn?t really do much for us in China a fortnight ago, but continued to hit plenty of greens in regulation, as he had been doing in the States. This experienced Ryder Cup star fit?s the profile of the type of winner I?m expecting this week, and should have no trouble coping with windy conditions.
I?m surprised to see PETER HANSON available at 50/1 this week considering
his 2007 form. 2nd in Abu Dhabi and 6th in Dubai represents the best form on
offer in this moderate field. I presume the reason for his price is the fact
he only finished 45th here two years ago. But in fairness to Hanson, he?s in
much better form now and generally prospers on golf courses that require
accuracy and sound strategy.
Similarly, ALASTAIR FORSYTH should go well on this course now he?s showing
much more consistent form. His last six starts, whilst being nothing out of
the ordinary, have been solid enough and he could come into his own now in
ideal conditions. Rather like Broadhurst and Lawrie, Scotsman Forsyth is
very much a player to keep on side when wind is likely to be a factor.
In this final event before next week?s opening Major of the year, there is
almost universal agreement that the Redstone course will have strong
similarities to Augusta. At 7457 yards long, with scarce and insignificant
rough and lightning fast greens, the resemblence is obvious. Though it
represents the perfect Masters warm-up, many of next week?s principle
players have opted for a week off. I?m sure the likes of Woods, Mickelson,
Els have their own Augusta-specific preparations planned, but even without
them there?s a handful of top players in the field including PADRAIG
HARRINGTON and Adam Scott from the world?s top-10.
David Toms helped design Redstone but duly missed the cut last year on the
new layout?s first appearance. After a disappointing weekend on one of his
favourite courses, I?m looking elsewhere again for the winner. Even more so
with Adam Scott, who has been struggling with putter lately and finished
with 80 at Doral on Sunday.
Though not necessarily in any way a guide to next week?s outcome, I have a
suspicion that this could be a good week for the Europeans. By far the best
chance lies with Harrington. Pod finished only in mid-division last year on
his Redstone debut, but does look to possess the perfect game for the
course. He?s usually seen to best effect on ?2nd shot courses? like this,
and has all the shotmaking and putting skills required to negotiate these
lightning fast greens. Furthermore, he has a history of producing his best
form the week before Major championships.
STUART APPLEBY defends the title and has proved in the past that he can cope
with the extra pressure and media demands that entails. Amongst an
impressive tally of 8 PGA Tour victories, Appleby won the Mercedes
Championship three years in a row. He is very much the type of player who
seems to need particular type of course demands to be seen at his best. On
courses with non-penal rough, fast greens and ideally windy conditions, he
has very few peers.
Former USPGA champion RICH BEEM has shown some good form lately, and looks
worth a small punt at 66/1. 10 out of his last 16 rounds have been sub-70,
which is certainly better form than he was showing prior to finishing 11th
here last year. His 2002 triumph over Tiger Woods at Hazeltine will always
rank as one golf?s great ?fluke? victories, but this doesn?t do Beem
justice. His performance that afternoon at Hazeltine was outstanding, one of
the most nerveless displays I?ve ever seen. No wonder then that, despite
generally being well down the money list, he?s won two other PGA Tour
titles, an impressive win ratio considering his usual odds.
Finally another European for the portfolio. ROBERT KARLSSON enjoyed an
excellent weekend to finish 11th at Doral, confirming again that he?s slowly
coming to terms with life on the PGA Tour. The lanky Swede is another who
seems to prosper on ?2nd-shot? courses, and will appreciate the lack of
rough more than most. Though it came out of the blue, Karlsson?s run in
Europe in the second-half of 2006 was quite something to behold and nearly
resulted in the most unpredictable Order of Merit triumph ever. It may just
be that, belatedly, this talented player is stepping up a level.
2pts ew SIMON DYSON @ 20/1 (GENERAL, 20/1 WITH SKYBET)
2pts ew PAUL MCGINLEY @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew PETER HANSON @ 50/1 (BET365, CORALS, HILLS, STAN JAMES)
1pt ew ALASTAIR FORSYTH @ 66/1 (GENERAL, 80/1 WITH VCBET)
SHELL HOUSTON OPEN
3pts ew PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 16/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew STUART APPLEBY @ 25/1 (BET DIRECT, STAN JAMES, VCBET)
1pt ew ROBERT KARLSSON @ 50/1 (GENERAL, 66/1 WITH STAN JAMES)
1pt ew RICH BEEM @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
2006/2007 STATS: +14pts
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