Having held three strong winning chances going into the final day, to lose money at Huntingdale on Sunday was a disappointing start to the 2008 Australian triple-crown. Nevertheless, examination of the result shows a continuation of all the trends outlined in last week’s preview, and reiterates that we should retain the strategy of focussing on the small band of market leaders when betting on golf in this part of the world.
I outlined some marked statistical trends at Huntingdale, predicting that the event would be dominated by the 20-odd players at around 50/1 or less. Though I picked the wrong ones, all six players in the top-5 places indeed started at 50/1 or less. This week’s PGA venue, Hyatt Coolum Resort, boasts similar trends that favour the obvious. In the six years since the PGA has been hosted on this course, only 7 of the 30 players to register a top-5 finish started at above 50/1, with only two at 100/1 or more. Of the winners, only the formerly world-class Peter Senior in 2003 was an outsider.
The field is stronger this week, with 10 of the world’s top-100 in attendance, albeit slightly weaker for Adam Scott’s withdrawal with a knee injury. Last week’s clear favourite, Robert Allenby, now faces competition for top-dog status with former US Open champ Geoff Ogilvy bidding for a long overdue first title on home soil.
Allenby’s final round at Huntingdale was an extremely frustrating affair. Starting the day at Even money in a tie for the lead, he never really moved into top gear and looked unconvincing on the greens. As he’s one my favourite players, I’m loathe to say this, but Allenby gives the distinct impression of a man who has forgotten how to win. Rather like Lee Westwood, Allenby’s reputation as a prolific winner and master under pressure stems from victories achieved quite some time ago.
Another concern is that Allenby has off-course concerns at the moment relating to his mother’s ill health, and he could be forgiven for being less than 100% focussed. Nevertheless, I much prefer his chances to Ogilvy, whose two previous runs at Coolum amount to nothing special. I don’t read too much into Ogilvy’s barren run in Australia, and make him a very strong candidate for next week’s Open where I expect the course to suit him better.
Last week’s winner Rod Pampling could easily land the second leg of the triple-crown. He’s finished top-3 at Coolum three times before, and thoroughly deserved the Yellow Jacket after producing the best golf at Huntingdale. For once, his temperament looked solid under pressure, but having landed what was still only the fourth title of a 16 year professional career, its asking a lot for Pampling to win back to back.

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