One of my favourite events of the year has suffered badly at the hands of a scheduling clash, which has forced around a dozen plausible contenders to opt instead for the critical Fall Series event. Thankfully the presence of Tiger Woods, plus fellow world stars Camilo Villegas and Sergio Garcia, has rather saved the status of this opening leg of the Australian triple crown. Including that trio, there are only nine members of the world’s top 200 in this line-up.
If history is anything to go by, this shouldn’t be the hardest puzzle to solve. Every winner this century started at 33/1 or less, including Tiger last year at Kingston Heath. Indeed in my experience, there is no better time of the year for golf betting than the Australian triple crown, where a series of great venues usually ensure the best separate themselves from the rest. It is extremely rare that any of these events are won by somebody without some pedigree overseas.
Course and stats
Victoria GC was last seen in the infamous 2002 Australian Open. On that occasion, the opening round was abandoned due to unplayable greens and the tournament reduced to 54 holes. An outsider, Stephen Allan, won but the formbook should be remembered as holding up. Much to my painful memory as my five selections all made the top 10, everybody else in contention was obvious. In any case, Allan had claims on the grounds of being locally based and went on to prove his ability on the PGA Tour.
This is a classic Melbourne sandbelt venue, which takes no prisoners amongst those struggling with any area of their game. The fairways are hard and fast-running, and the greens famously fast. Depending on the wind, any score between 65 and 85 is plausible. An additional factor is the weather forecast, with storms forecast for the weekend. However, much as rain will make life difficult, softening the greens might actually improve scoring. Greens in regulation looks by far the most important stat to follow.
6pts ew ROBERT ALLENBY @ 8/1 (GENERAL)
It is hard to imagine Allenby not making the places. He has regularly proved himself as the leading Australian on home soil, with an impeccable record in the triple-crown. Twenty-six home events this century have yielded seven wins, a further six top fours, and 17 top 10s, amongst fields with much greater strength in depth than this. He’s never finished worse than eighth in five tries at Victoria. Moreover, recent form is excellent, with top fives at Sea Island and in Malaysia.
3pts ew CAMILO VILLEGAS @ 16/1 (GENERAL, 18/1 SKYBET)
Following Camilo this year has proved an expensive business since missing out on his Honda Classic win, but he has long struck me as the type to thrive on these sandbelt courses. He played a few events in Australia when very inexperienced, recording respectable figures at courses like Royal Melbourne and The Australian, and obviously has improved vastly in the meantime. He also won a skins event in Thailand on Monday, in which Tiger finished last.
3pts ew MICHAEL SIM @ 18/1 (GENERAL, 20/1 LADBROKES)
Rather like Villegas, in a field of such limited depth, the best value lies in the place part of this bet. These players’ odds are inflated due to Tiger’s presence, and ignore the fact that there are barely 15 players worthy of serious consideration for the places. Sim has yet to win in his homeland, although I doubt that statistic will last long as he was never off the leaderboard during last winter’s campaign, which saw four top-seven finishes and a worst result of 14th.
1.5pts ew BRETT RUMFORD @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
Especially with bad weather forecast, Rumford must come into calculations. He’s enjoyed an excellent season in Europe, registering five top 10s including twice as runner-up. He was particularly unfortunate to bump into Edoardo Molinari’s triple-birdie finish at Gleneagles, after Rumford had produced a superb back nine under pressure. He should love the weekend conditions.
1pt ew JIN JEONG @ 100/1 (GENERAL)
Brilliant youngsters seem to emerge every other week, and 20-year-old Jeong could be the next one. The reigning Amateur champion has been in my notebook for this event ever since a superb top 15 at this year’s Open, and learning afterwards that he resides in Melbourne. That Open at St Andrews was played amidst appalling conditions, so he could fare better than most if the weather turns sour.