Although my tips in the first two triple-crown events have been disappointing to put it mildly, the general theory that lay behind them has been vindicated. To reiterate, the ‘golden rule’ of Australasian Tour events is to stick with the minority of players with decent overseas form, particularly on the US and European Tours. Both Masters champion Stuart Appleby and US Open victor Geoff Ogilvy obviously met that criteria, as did a majority of those who made the frame.
Of the three events, the PGA Championship has been the most predictable in that respect. All of the last six winners were among the leading four in the betting, and 28 out of the 31 players to register a top-five in those years indeed had plenty of form overseas. There are around 20 such candidates this week, so hopefully I can make a better job of distinguishing between them.
The most significant aspect of this year’s renewal is some rather un-Australian weather. Instead of the usual firm, fast conditions, Australia is currently enduring an extremely wet summer. This Queensland course, Hyatt Regency Coolum Resort, is absolutely soaked and as England’s cricketers very nearly found to their cost, the bad weather hasn’t gone away. Forecasts for the weekend predict wind and rain throughout the event, which naturally informs the following selections.
Weather certainly played a part last week in Sydney, with Geoff Ogilvy benefitting from an advantageous draw. Not that, with a winning tally of -19, he probably wouldn’t have won irrespective of tee-time. However, the wind is forecast to be stronger this week, and given long-running doubts about Geoff’s suitability to such conditions, odds of 6/1 look pretty short. Especially when considering that he has two world-class rivals for favouritism in the form of Adam Scott and ROBERT ALLENBY.
Scott presents me with a dilemma. I’ve argued many times that he is one of the best, (if not the best), player around on a wet golf course with receptive greens. That was the case for both his 2010 titles, as well as many previous wins. On the other hand, Coolum has never looked his track in the past. Scott has a couple of top-tens, but has never earned a place payout here.
That could well change given the different conditions, but Allenby’s vastly superior course record demands he takes preference. Robert is bidding for an incredible fifth PGA victory this century, and third on this course. Unlike last year, he can’t go in with a recent win under his belt after failing to defend his Nedbank title, but there is enough in his 2010 record to assume another very strong showing. Allenby has made an impressive eleven top tens this year, including three during October.
There is one other candidate with rock-solid credentials, and at 12/1 JOHN SENDEN is just a big enough price to back each-way. The PGA has been easily Senden’s best triple-crown event, making the top six in four of the last five renewals, all on this course. Greens in regulation has always been the key statistic to follow at Coolum, and that is his forte. Senden ranks third amongst all PGA Tour players in this discipline over the past twelve months, well ahead of all his compatriots. He is also enjoying arguably the most consistent spell of his career, registering top 15s on six of his last seven US starts before Sunday’s fourth at The Lakes.
Many of the other ‘golden rule’ candidates have questions to answer. Several were involved in last week’s PGA Tour Q-School scramble, with only Jarrod Lyle achieving his goal. Otherwise plausible candidates Richard Green, Brett Rumford, Marcus Fraser and Steven Bowditch have poor Coolum records. Peter Lonard is the ultimate course specialist, winning three times, but has no recent form following long-term injury problems.
Another course specialist whose campaign has been decimated by a knee injury is NICK O’HERN. For that reason, he is easily forgiven a slow start to last week’s comeback, and much encouragement can be taken by his fightback to finish 24th. That makes it 21 consecutive top 25s in Australia, a run which also includes 13 top tens. If there is one course in the world where O’Hern must be backed, Coolum is it. He won both his pro titles, and has ten straight top-20 finishes here, including six top Tens.
First reserve is Marc Leishman, who was fourth last year and is slowly establishing himself as a PGA Tour regular. Last week’s runner-up Matt Jones warrants a place on any shortlist, while Michael Sim and Rod Pampling also came in for serious consideration. Scott Strange and Nathan Green have plenty of previous at Coolum, but have struggled for form this year. A couple of decent outsiders are promising youngsters Bobby Gates and Kieron Pratt.
Finally, another long-term golden rule is to back MICHAEL CAMPBELL when he’s going well, and oppose him at all costs the rest of the time. There is rarely an in-between level – he tends to be either world-class, or a certainty to miss the cut. Sunday’s 12th was his best result in over two years, and he gave some very positive interviews afterwards. If he is indeed on the comeback trail, 80/1 would be absolutely massive.
Advised golf bets:
2010 STATS: +72pts
More betting: Golf betting for the Alfred Dunhill Championship