My advice for last week’s events represented the high and lows of golf betting as clearly as I can remember. When John Senden landed one of the unlikeliest 33/1 touches after a superb 67/65 finish to overcome a ten-shot halfway deficit in Sydney, things couldn’t have been much better. His two closing birdies included early contenders for iron-shot of the season, and will live in the memory for a long time. But within an hour, the jubilation had turned to frustration as an even less likely scenario occured in Japan, with Tiger Woods losing a three-shot lead down the last six holes. I wonder how many years it will be before we see that again?

MASTERCARD MASTERS

Nevertheless, it was a good start to the Australian season, and we move swiftly on to my favourite winter event, the Mastercard Masters at Huntingdale. The field is ever so slightly more competitive than Sydney as the Masters is now co-sanctioned with the European Tour. Of the European Tour regulars, PAUL CASEY and former Masters champ Michael Campbell are very much the star attractions, closely followed by a top-class European who plies his trade in the States, JUSTIN ROSE. But as Casey (pictured) confirmed in an interview yesterday, the home players have an edge due to their vast experience of this great, tough old course. Hitting greens in regulation is very much the prime asset to hold at this venue, and players struggling in that department will be penalised severely. Courses like this usually accentuate the distance between the top and bottom of the leaderboard, and the best players come out on top.

Consequently, course form has always been a major factor at Huntingdale. Two players in particular, ROBERT ALLENBY and PETER LONARD, have made this event their own recently. Defending champion Allenby is bidding for his third Masters in four years, having only finished lower than 7th twice in his last eight visits. Its impossible to deny that Allenby’s showing at Sydney was a massive disappointment, but he did finish with the second best score of the final day, and he sounds confident enough about making amends so we should expect another big showing.

Lonard too has nine top-10 finishes in the last eleven years here, and is also bidding for his third Masters, to add to the 1997 and 2002 titles. The simple fact is Lonard owns the absolutely perfect golf game for this venue, rarely missing a green and naturally the results flow. There was nothing wrong with his efforts at Sydney either, he just didn’t hole enough putts to make the required leap from the fringes of contention where he spent the entire weekend.

The overseas challenge, however, should not be written off. Colin Montgomerie, Michael Campbell and Mark O’Meara have all landed this in the not so distant past. Ultra-consistent Casey has a fine record in Australia, came 5th on his course debut last year and probably has a favourite’s chance. Judging by his 6th place in Hong Kong after a slow start, it appears Paul quickly shrugged off the heartbreak of losing the Order of Merit on the final hole. With a possibly favourable early tee-time, it would be dangerous to leave Casey out of the staking plan.

Rose, too, must come into the argument after some seriously good golf without the ultimate reward in recent months. Before his 4th in Tokyo behind Woods and Harrington at the weekend, Justin’s last eight PGA Tour starts yielded three top-4 finishes and six top-25s. That sort of form on the best Tour in the world is extremely hot, and for my money Rose is a winner waiting to happen. He came in for some unfair criticism in betting circles after failing to convert a big lead in the penultimate US event of the year. But that event was a target golf affair, where it is notoriously hard to defend a lead. I much prefer to recall those 4 wins back in 2002, when there were no accusations about his temperament.

Another former champion who it is very hard to see out of contention is RICHARD GREEN. Green is the last man to break Allenby and Lonard’s winning sequence back in 2004, and has the perfect accurate credentials. Richard was right in the thick of it all weekend in Sunday, and looks certain to maintain that good form. 25/1 looks a very attractive each-way price.

Finally, despite a quiet Open, my hopes remain high for MATTHEW GOGGIN this winter. He’s developing a reputation for being a good player of tough golf courses after an excellent Australian season last year, and some good finishes in the States. Two other things about Goggin are of particular interest this week. Firstly, he was 4th last week for greens in regulation, and secondly, he finished 2nd at Huntingdale way back in 1998 when a shadow of the accomplished performer that he has since become.

Good Luck!

STAKING PLAN

MASTERCARD MASTERS

5pts win PAUL CASEY @ 10/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

4pts win ROBERT ALLENBY @ 12/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

2pts ew PETER LONARD @ 20/1 (CORALS, LADBROKES)

2pts ew JUSTIN ROSE @ 20/1 (BET DIRECT, BLUESQ, PREMIERBET, SKYBET)

2pts ew RICHARD GREEN @ 25/1 (BETFRED, CORALS, LADBROKES, STAN JAMES)

1pt ew MATTHEW GOGGIN @ 50/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

2006/2007 STATS: (After Week 2): +3.5pts

2005/2006 STATS: +144pts

ANTE-POST ALREADY ADVISED

VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT

5pts PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 7/1 (PRICES AVAILABLE WITH LADBROKES, BET DIRECT)

5pts HENRIK STENSON @ 10/1 (BET DIRECT, BLUESQ, LADBROKES, TOTE)

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

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

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