DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC
Despite the presence of a world-class field in Dubai, the market is completely dominated by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, and its easy to see why. Woods carried the phenomenal form of 2006 over into the New Year with his seventh consecutive PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines and now has Byron Nelson?s record of 11 straight wins realistically within his sights.
Tiger?s record in this event suggests he will be a very tough nut to crack
again, but for once he has to play second fiddle in the course form
department to Els, which explains Ernie?s ludicrously short odds of 11/2.
The Big Easy has two wins from his last six tournaments at the Emirates, and
has never finished worse than third. This just about compares favourably
with Tiger?s 1st, 2nd and 5th on his three visits. On the basis of an
impressive, fast-finishing third place in Qatar, Ernie looks pretty much
back to his best and ready to challenge again for the Majors. These odds,
however, make no appeal whatsoever with Tiger in the field, and anyone who
really wanted to back Ernie here would surely be better off taking 7/2 in
the ?Without Woods? market.
Statistically I could make a case for backing Tiger at 11/8, but unlike
Torrey Pines this is a course where others are capable of giving him a test.
Even when winning last year, he drifted out to double figures on the final
day before Richard Green and Els blew winning chances. So while he may win
again, its worth waiting for a bigger price in-running. For now, it makes
more sense to concentrate on the aforementioned ?Without Woods? market.
Despite an indifferent course record, I can?t abandon HENRIK STENSON just
yet. He was right in the thick of it again in Qatar until one disaster hole
put paid to his chances, so probably doesn?t deserve to be three times the
price of Els when last week he was just two points bigger. Henrik was a
perfectly respectable 7th here last year, a massive improvement on previous
Dubai efforts – a point that probably reflected the fact that he improved
out of all recognition in the intervening year.
After two solid opening efforts in 2007, it looks like ROBERT KARLSSON is
still close to the form that almost bagged him a shock Order of Merit
triumph last year. Karlsson?s form at the Emirates is particularly
interesting. Twice in the last decade the lanky Swede has finished top-6
here, and while that doesn?t look particularly outstanding it must be
remembered that for most of that time his game was in the doldrums. This
time last year, Robert would have started at odds of at least 200/1 in an
event of this magnitude. Ultimately his talent shone through and in the
second half of 2006 he was playing as well as anyone in Europe. Out of eight
rounds in 2007, seven have been under par so he could well be primed for
another big effort.
Another player who looks to be creeping back to form is NICK DOUGHERTY. Not
so long ago, the young Scouser was being mentioned in the same breath as
Luke Donald and Paul Casey, only to lose his way a little. There is still
plenty of form in the bank though, not least consecutive top-10 finishes
here over the past couple of years. After a miserable 2006, there have been
some promising signs recently. The runners-up spot in New Zealand has been
followed by two top-16 finishes over the past fortnight on the ?Middle-East
swing?, with every round par or better so far in 2007.
Finally, PAUL MCGINLEY looks a big price in this market. Though never a prolific winner, the Ryder Cup star has a fine record on this course and comes here in promising form. A final round 69 took him into a tie with Dougherty for 16th place, and hopefully that first effort of the year will have blown any cobwebs away so he can contend on a course where he has made the top-11 four times in the last six years.
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With Tiger away, this annual Tour fixture at Scottsdale has a wide open look
about it. Phil Mickelson heads the market, but after two distinctly
unimpressive 2006 outings its hard to make a case for him at the price, even
though he has won the event twice previously.
Its not straightforward identifying exactly what sort of player is likely to
prosper at Scottsdale. In the past, medium-hitters like Tom Lehman, Rocco
Mediate and Justin Leonard had prospered but since the course was lengthened
in 2004 some of the biggest hitters have prospered by taking some of the
hazards out of play. All in all though, previous course form is the most
Having made the top-20 with four sub-70 rounds, my big tip for 2007 TREVOR
IMMELMAN must come into the equation. Since that effort, the South African
prospect improved leaps and bounds and doesn?t look notably inferior to
anyone besides Tiger Woods. Its only a matter of time before he adds to last
season?s Western Open triumph and 18/1 in an average field looks more than
For a change, the fields for the last two European Tour tournaments have had
more strength in depth than the PGA Tour, so CHRIS DIMARCO?s efforts read
very well and suggest he is right back to his best. 4th and 11th in those
two events represent very good form, so surely Dimarco will be a very
popular choice on one of his favourite courses. Winner at Scottsdale in
2002, he was runner-up two years later and has made the top-15 five out of
the last six years.
It was interesting last year to see long-hitting rookies filling the top
places in this event, suggesting length is quite an advantage since the
course changes in 2004. JB Holmes was unheard of before running away with
this event, and would have come in for serious consideration again were it
not for the added pressure of being defending champion. I must side with the
runner-up though, CAMILIO VILLEGAS. Regular readers will know I?m a huge fan
of Villegas, a surefire Major winner of the future. He?s probably not ready
for that just yet, but I?m sure he?s capable of landing a first PGA victory
this year and rates excellent value at 80/1.
And at the same price for the same reasons, I?m also backing BUBBA WATSON on his course debut. Few if any hit it further than Watson, who produced another promising effort when making the frame at Torrey Pines at the weekend.
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DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC
BETTING WITHOUT TIGER WOODS
3pts ew HENRIK STENSON @ 12/1 (BET365, STAN JAMES, SKYBET)
2pts ew ROBERT KARLSSON @ 28/1 (SKYBET, STAN JAMES)
1pt ew NICK DOUGHERTY @ 40/1 (BET365)
1pt ew PAUL MCGINLEY @ 50/1 (BET365, STAN JAMES)
2pts ew TREVOR IMMELMAN @ 18/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
2pts ew CHRIS DIMARCO @ 28/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
1pt ew CAMILIO VILLEGAS @ 80/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
1pt ew BUBBA WATSON @ 80/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
2006/2007 STATS: +50pts
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