JOHNNIE WALKER CHAMPIONSHIP
Despite the bounty on offer at the Fedex Cup, its refreshing to see at least three European stars opting to play their home tour. PAUL CASEY, Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie all made little attempt to qualify for the Stateside bonanza, heading for Gleneagles this week instead. That?s not to suggest the 343,000 Euro first prize up for grabs in Scotland is anything to sniff at. In fact this offers a good opportunity for Monty and Casey to make some headway into Padraig Harrington?s Order of Merit lead.
The OOM is far from a done deal yet. I advised Harrington at 7/1 way back at
the beginning of the season and he now looks strong with a 300,000 Euro
lead. A best price of 8/11 seems awfully short though given the number of
lucrative tournaments remaining, and considering recent late turnarounds in
the money list during those final few decisive events. Remember last year
Harrington could be backed in double figures on the final nine holes of the
season before he stole the award from under Casey?s nose on the final green.
Much can change in the next few weeks, especially if any of the chasing pack
can win either the Dunhill Links, HSBC World Matchplay or Volvo Masters.
Casey starts this week in 12th place just under 1M Euros behind the leader,
but could still be a value bet at 80/1.
Casey really must be backed this week in his favourite tournament. He won
for the second time at Gleneagles last year, a course that suits his power
game down to the ground. A striking feature of Gleneagles is its five
par-5s, which are always the key to scoring here. Though the four tough
par-3s are also pivotal, there?s no doubt the longer hitters have an
advantage round here, as long as they can cope with windy conditions on this
exposed course. The wind has tended to be more of a factor in recent years,
favouring those with an early R1 tee-time.
All of my five selections therefore have what I hope will prove to be a
favourable early start. Alongside a win bet on Casey, BRADLEY DREDGE and
GRAEME MCDOWELL both represent decent each-way value around the 28/1 mark.
Dredge has seen his summer tail off with some predictably disappointing
efforts in the Majors, but is well capable of bouncing back in less exalted
company after a few weeks break since the USPGA. The Welshman finished
runner-up on this course in 2005 and would have very strong claims if he can
return to the form shown in two second placings in Ireland and Wales earlier
As for McDowell, it surely won?t be too long before this fiery competitor
lands his third win. He too has had a break after a couple of missed cuts in
good company, and should be refreshed for a test that suits his game. Few
players are expected to fare better in windy UK conditions than McDowell,
who finished runner-up on his last Gleneagles event three years ago.
My strongest fancy this week is emerging star MARTIN KAYMER. The brilliant
young German blew a golden opportunity to notch his maiden European Tour win
on his last outing a fortnight ago. Nobody who saw his final round in Sweden
could disagree that on an average putting day he?d have won that event by
several shots. Even though this wasn?t the first time Kaymer has putted
poorly in contention, its no reason to reach for the panic button. I?m more
concerned with his towering long game that could make mincemeat of the
par-5s at Gleneagles. An encouraging fact is that this event and course have
previously proved a good launching pad for youngsters on their way up.
Casey?s first win came at a very early stage in his career, and Adam Scott?s
win here was well before his arrival amongst golf?s elite.
Another interesting prospect, though perhaps not in Kaymer?s league, to have
sprung to prominence lately is ZANE SCOTLAND. I?d almost forgotten about
Scotland, highly rated as a teenager, until he twice popped up in contention
recently. Apparently injury took its toll and derailed his progress, though
he?s still only 25. Scotland will have learnt a lot from being in contention
on the final day last month in Germany, and could well pop up soon at a big
price. Gleneagles should bring the best out in him as he consistently
features high up the par-5 rankings.
DEUTSCHE BANK CHAMPIONSHIP
This second leg of the play-offs kicks off a day later than usual on Friday
to coincide with the Labor Day national holiday in the US, giving TIGER
WOODS another day?s rest and recuperation. It did come as a massive surprise
to see him pull out of last week?s inaugaral play-off event at Westchester
citing tiredness, especially as he?d criticised his fellow pros for their
lack of fitness only a few days earlier. With hindsight, it wasn?t so
surprising as this wasn?t the first time in recent years that Woods has
refused to extend his light schedule to play in prestigious events. Only
last season, he chose to avoid the lucrative Tour Championship even though
it was an opportunity for a seventh win on the bounce.
In all seriousness, who can blame him? The evidence of the last year is that
Tiger is capable of maintaining his A-game for several months if he picks
and chooses his events. Starting with the 2006 Open Championship at Hoylake,
Woods has won an incredible 11 times from 19 PGA Tour events, always in
world-class company. Everything points to another stroll here. TPC Boston
has shown in its four years on the Tour to very much favour the best players
and longest hitters. Tiger, Adam Scott and Vijay Singh have won three of the
four events here, usually with a wide margin back to the rest. Scott and
Singh re-oppose this week, but are in nowhere near their best form at
present. In any case, if Woods repeats the form of his last two victories in
the WGC-Bridgestone and USPGA, nobody on the planet can live with him.
Tiger?s task has been made all the more straightforward by the withdrawal of
clear second favourite Ernie Els. Phil Mickelson at least showed his best
form for a while and could come into the argument on his course debut. I
don?t see any sense in taking on Woods though, and suggest five each-way
bets in the ?Without Woods? market instead.
Firstly, GEOFF OGILVY is selected very marginally ahead of Justin Rose on
price grounds. Rose has some great course form to his name, and will surely
be winning before long. 16/1 is short enough though for a non-winner.
Alternatively Ogilvy is a few points bigger and well overdue his first win
since the 2006 US Open. The Aussie has looked right back to his best in his
last two tournaments, finishing 6th at Southern Hills and contending all the
way at Westchester over the weekend. He certainly looks to have the right
type of game for Boston, interestingly finishing 5th in 2003 when a minor
PGA Tour figure at best.
RORY SABBATINI was also in contention right until the last at Westchester,
where 3rd place lifted him above Woods in the Fedex Cup list. Of the three
players heading the World No 1 in that race for a $10M bonus, I marginally
prefer Sabbatini to Steve Stricker and KJ Choi this week. It seems that with
Rory, he?s either bang in contention or nowhere to be seen, largely
depending on whether the course is suited to his attacking game. After
Sunday, he?s now finished in the top-3 on six separate occasions this year,
a record that very few could match. He?s making his course debut at TPC
Boston, though it would appear to be one that will suit so I?m expecting to
see the South African?s name on the weekend leaderboard once again.
My other three selections are all relatively inexperienced future stars.
BRANDT SNEDEKER can easily be forgiven a missed cut at Westchester,
immediately following his maiden PGA Tour win at Greensboro. Snedeker has
been a model of consistency this summer, and seems to play long courses
particularly well. Prior to Westchester, he?d made eight cuts in a row
including five top-10s, excellent progress for his first full season.
With long-hitters expected to enjoy a significant advantage, this looks
within the compass of big-priced outsiders CAMILO VILLEGAS and BUBBA WATSON.
Both have already proved their liking for the course, Villegas finishing
12th in 2004 when very inexperienced, Watson on his course debut last year.
His last three efforts have all been respectable, just off the pace amongst
world class fields on tough golf courses. The Colombian seems to thrive on
courses where his length off the tee and classy iron play are seen to best
As for Watson, 200/1 without Tiger is a crazy price. Bubba is very
inconsistent and has missed nine cuts this year, but he also has five top-10
finishes. All of those came on courses, rather like this one, where his
outrageous distance off the tee receives maximum reward. And lets not forget
that its only two months since Watson finished 5th in the US Open.
VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT
2pts PAUL CASEY @ 80/1 (TOTE)
JOHNNIE WALKER CHAMPIONSHIP
5pts win PAUL CASEY @ 9/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew BRADLEY DREDGE @ 28/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew MARTIN KAYMER @ 33/1 (GENERAL, 35/1 CORALS)
2pts ew GRAEME MCDOWELL @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew ZANE SCOTLAND @ 80/1 (CANBET, VCBET, 100/1 WITH PORTLANDBET)
DEUTSCHE BANK CHAMPIONSHIP
12pts TIGER WOODS @ 15/8 (SPORTING ODDS, BETFAIR)
BETTING WITHOUT TIGER WOODS
2pts ew GEOFF OGILVY @ 22/1 (PADDY POWER, STAN JAMES, PORTLANDBET)
1.5pts ew RORY SABBATINI @ 33/1 (STAN JAMES)
1pt ew BRANDT SNEDEKER @ 80/1 (STAN JAMES)
1pt ew CAMILO VILLEGAS @ 100/1 (BETFRED, PORTLANDBET)
0.5pt ew BUBBA WATSON @ 200/1 (STAN JAMES)
2006/2007 STATS: -28pts
2005/2006 STATS: +144pts
ANTE-POST ALREADY ADVISED
VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT
5pts PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 7/1
5pts HENRIK STENSON @ 10/1