QUINN INSURANCE BRITISH MASTERS
Well, I suppose it was always going to happen eventually. The Ryder Cup wouldnt be such a prestigious tournament if the same team won every time. As it turns out, Europes resounding defeat adds extra incentive to the 2010 renewal at Celtic Manor, for which theyve already been installed as favourites.
Despite a bad week on the betting front, Im not going to join the chorus of condemnation reserved for Nick Faldo. Its true he didnt really inspire as a captain and made some strange team decisions, but alternatively his wild-card choice of Ian Poulter proved many critics wrong.
Whatever the input of the non-playing captain, he is not the reason Europe lost. Rather,the big difference between 2008 and the last three Ryder Cups was the negligible contribution from the leading three European players Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood. And it would be madness to criticise them either, as they have more than earned their stripes over the years.
This will be a tough week for all the Ryder Cup competitors, but high-class events either side of the Atlantic ensure fourteen of them make an immediate return to strokeplay action. Two Europeans head to The Belfry, defending champ Westwood plus successful rookie Graeme McDowell, although it’s disappointing to see our other rookie, Oliver Wilson, withdrawing due to fatigue.
At 12/1, Westwood represents atrocious value given his poor showing over the weekend and failure to convert an event since this one last year. And even though McDowell emerged with credit from Kentucky, he could be at a disadvantage in very different conditions against a field whove all had the week off to prepare.
None more so than MICHAEL CAMPBELL, who in my view deserves favouritism. Quite simply, since returning to form over the last couple of months, the former US Open champion has looked a winner waiting to happen. His last four events have produced three top-10s, including 3rd last time in Germany. Few courses have better suited Campbell than The Belfry over the years. Hes made the top-5 on his last three events on this course, including last year when 4th was pretty much his only decent result of the season.
Winner in waiting would also accurately describe FRANCESCO MOLINARI, who is currently in the best form of his life. The Italians last ten starts have yielded seven top-20s, including a valiant effort as runner-up to an on-fire Robert Karlsson last time. My only concern is that, besides a sole win on home turf, Molinari has shown a tendency to do all his best work when not in contention. However, if he continues relentlessly hitting fairways and greens, more winning chances will surely arrive soon.
Theres every chance that those who just missed out on Faldos line-up will make their point this week, though I cant fancy Darren Clarke, who has never really prospered on this course. Similarly, Nick Doughertys failure to reach the top-10 in five visits to The Belfry rules him out of my calculations. Paul McGinley makes much more appeal at a venue where he holed the winning putt in the 2002 Ryder Cup and finished second in the 2001 B & H Invitational, and commands much respect.
Instead, at around the same odds as those Ryder Cup rejects, preference is for a couple of overseas players with no particular interest in last week’s extravaganza. With an emphasis on tee to green accuracy expected to be the order of the day, RICHARD GREEN can improve on an already fine fine course record. Hes already made the top-20 in four from five tries at The Belfry, and has registered some decent recent results from a light summer schedule. And while the rarity of Greens wins are always a concern, his last four starts outside Majors and WGC events have twice seen place-backers rewarded.
JEEV-MILKHA SINGH has improved leaps and bounds this season and could well win again before the year is out. 11th last time out in Germany was a fair effort in keeping with recent top-10s in France, Scotland and best of all, the USPGA. Singh rates very well in this weeks three key statistical disciplines – ball-striking, putting and par-5 performance – suggesting he can improve on a moderate previous course record.
Finally, GONZALO FERNANDEZ-CASTANO is worth a crack at big odds having very much caught the eye in his last tournament. Castano has won a Euro Tour event in each of his three professional seasons, but is running out of time to maintain that record in 2008. In Germany a fortnight ago, the talented young Spanish player fought back very well from a disastrous opening 80 to make his second consecutive top-25. Those results, and the stats recorded in the process, suggest he could make a late season charge.
2.5pts ew MICHAEL CAMPBELL @ 18/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
1.5pts ew FRANCESCO MOLINARI @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
1.5pts ew RICHARD GREEN @ 35/1 (GENERAL, 40/1 TOTE)
1.5pts ew JEEV-MILKHA SINGH @ 40/1 (SKYBET, CENTREBET)
1pt ew GONZALO FERNANDEZ-CASTANO @ 100/1 (SKYBET, CENTREBET)