WACHOVIA CHAMPIONSHIP

We?re now moving into the second half of the new FedEx Cup schedule, and
looking at the next few weeks the changes look like a triumph. Next week a
tournament that I rate every bit as any US Major, the TPC from Sawgrass, has
its first running in its new and preferable summer slot. But beforehand
we?ve got the fifth running of the best emerging PGA Tour event, the
Wachovia Championship.

In every sense bar name this week?s affair resembles a Major championship.
The field couldn?t really be stronger with 29 of world?s top-30 in attendance on a course, Quail Hollow, that would grace any Major. This year with particularly dry and warm conditions forecast, a world-class short-game around these lightning fast greens looks essential. On a long, tree-lined course that will penalise inaccuracy, this event could resemble a US Open.

As ever in such events, greens in regulation is the the key stat, though I
should add that this is a shotmakers? course, which nearly always produce
world-class winners. Of the four previous winners of the Wachovia, three
most certainly were ? Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and David Toms. The other, Joey
Sindelar, was a massive upset but typical of the sort of steady, accurate,
greens in regulation type player that always has a chance of prevailing when
courses play really tough.

It’s interesting to see bookmakers, confident after cleaning up at the
Masters, feel confident about taking on Tiger Woods who starts at a
reasonable 3/1. He didn?t do a lot wrong when second at Augusta, and I see
no reason to expect Tiger not to continue the almost invincible form of the
last 10 months. He has yet to win at Quail Hollow, finishing third in 2005,
and 11th last year when notably out of form and distracted by his father?s
terminal illness. With an even greater emphasis on touch around the greens,
I?d think he has a stronger chance now, but as it isn?t one of his favourite
courses I?ll wait for a better price in-running for trading purposes.

Nevertheless, as has become the norm, the safest market to play is the
?Betting Without Tiger? market. Here, PHIL MICKELSON stands out as a very
obvious favourite. As we?re expecting US Open style conditions, it seems
fair to refer to Mickelson?s outstanding record in that Major. Despite
somehow managing to win a US Open, he has finished runner-up four times and
in three out of the last five. The reason is usually obvious ? the greens
are nearly always dry, fast and requiring the touch of a magician to
consistently make par. In this department, Mickelson has no equal. His Quail
Hollow record is also fair, with a 5th and 7th place from three visits. And
crucially, Lefty played really well over the weekend in the Byron Nelson on
a course that has rarely seen him at his best. He looks to be coming into
form at just the right time and well worth a punt this week.

Of the other main contenders, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen would come into
this on their best form. Vijay Singh should be rewarded for his tee to green
work, but could hate the greens. Putting woes could also affect Adam Scott,
Sergio Garcia and Trevor Immelman. Defending champion Jim Furyk, runner-up
the previous year, stands out at as an obvious selection, but is overlooked
having gone off the boil since the recurrance of a wrist injury.

And so despite costing me plenty of cash lately, I must stick with US Open
champion GEOFF OGILVY. Ogilvy will continue to be a selection of mine in
Majors and similar style events because, simply, he has the perfect game for
these tests. Notably, he?s finished in the top-10 at Quail Hollow twice
already and has since improved considerably. More so than fellow
twenty-somethings Scott, Immelman, Donald and Howell, Geoff seems at ease
with the challenging, fast greens and surround areas that we tend to see in
Majors.

Because of the big prices of my other selections, I?m going in with an extra
sixth selection this week. My only other double-figure priced selecion is
LUCAS GLOVER. As I?ve commented recently, Glover is a PGA Tour winner
waiting to happen, and we must stay the course and keep taking decent prices
when available. Glover made the frame in 4th at Quail Hollow last year to
add to a top-10 in 2004.

Next up, I?m going with BO VAN PELT at 100/1 to improve on last year?s 6th
place. Bo has excellent statistics in the crucial accuracy-orientated
departments, plus some sound if unspectacular recent form. He?s been no
better than 10th but no worse than 28th in his last six events. Improvement
will obviously be needed to challenge in this top company, but he really has
conditions to suit now and I?ve always had a sneaking feeling this talented
player would pop up as a surprise winner of a big event.

Given the course conditions, it is imperative to side with JOHN SENDEN and
JEFF MAGGERT in a variety of markets. Senden is leading the PGA Tour greens
in regulations stats, and usually thrives when an emphasis is placed on
accuracy. The demands of Quail Hollow are not entirely dissimilar to the
type of conditions in his native Australia in which he has excelled. He
looks a much more accomplished player since winning twice in 2006, once in
the US before following up with the Australian Open title.

And finally to Maggert, a US Open stalwart if ever there was one. Its hard
to think of a run-of-the-mill PGA Tour player who has so consistently over
performed in Majors and on tough courses generally. He really couldn?t ask
for more ideal conditions, so its no surprise to see that Jeff finished 5th
here in 2004. Having made the top-15 on two of last three outings, Maggert
also has some encouraging recent form. At 150/1, Jeff can only be a
speculative bet here but I strongly recommend looking out for him in
speciality markets.

ITALIAN OPEN

It was at the Italian Open last year when I managed to end a particularly
barren run of luck with a 33/1 1-2 thanks to Francesco Molinari and Anders
Hansen, and I?m quietly confident that this year?s renewal won?t be that
hard to work out either. For the third year in succession, the event is
being played at Castello di Tolcinasco, a flat course without much in the
way of penal rough where low scoring is guaranteed. Previous winning scores
here were -18, -19 and -23 last year.

As with last week in Spain, the weather forecast is rather unsettled with
thunderstorms and inevitable delays throughout. The consequence of last
week?s conditions was a soaked course offering considerable advantage to the
longer hitters. The extra distance through the air makes so much of a
difference when there is little or no run on the fairways, and encourages
the long hitters to attack soft, receptive greens. It played right to the
strengths of CHARL SCHWARTZEL, and in a weaker field, the South African
looks very much the one to beat again.

Normally I?d be very wary of backing someone for back-to-back wins, but I
think in this case we are seeing the emergence of a world-class player, and
the odds don?t truly reflect Schwartzel?s potential superiority in this
lower grade. Let’s remind ourselves that while Charl is a well known face on
the European Tour, winner of the South African money list and winner of
three events, he is still only 22. Not withstanding the unique Tiger Woods,
most players don?t peak at least until their late twenties and when
Schwartzel reaches that age I expect he?ll be winning or challenging for
Majors. In the meantime, the European Tour is the right place for him to be
learning the game and developing the winning habit. He was outstanding in
Spain at the weekend, and very nearly won the previous event in Portugal,
despite a terrible start. This course is perfectly set up for him, in fact
he made the top-10 on his only visit in 2004. Unless there?s a reaction to
last week?s victory, I find it very hard to envisage Schwartzel out of the
frame.

Its also worth giving another chance to NICK DOUGHERTY to end a run of poor
luck. Some of Dougherty?s golf in recent weeks has been outstanding, but his
short putting has been atrocious and how he contrived to get beaten in
Singapore last month is something only he knows. He remains one of the best
prospects on the European Tour though, and a good competitor to boot.
Dougherty should like the course for all the same reasons as Schwartzel, and
rates a good each-way bet at 22/1 on his Italian Open debut.

Wins for Graeme McDowell and Molinari in 2004 and 2006 confirm that this is
a course where youngsters can win in spite of inexperience. And speaking of
great prospects, every judge in the game seems to be tipping MARTIN KAYMER
to win very soon. Its too early too tell if the young German can live up to
some of the more optimistic comparisons with his legendary compatriot
Bernhard Langer, but he certainly has looked the real deal in recent weeks,
finishing top-15 in each of the last three events in Europe, with a best
of 3rd place in the Estoril Open. Again, this long-hitter looks to have
conditions to suit and can contend again.

Yet another brilliant youngster with the right credentials here is ALEJANDRO
CANIZARES, who looks worth a punt at 50/1. I suspect those odds are the
consequence of a missed cut in Spain at the weekend, an over-reaction
considering his excellent form in general. In the two events in
Portugal he made the top-15 and had previously been plying his trade at an
incomparably higher level on the PGA Tour. Two top-25s from three US starts
is an excellent return. And unlike Molinari last year, Canizares isn?t
searching for his first win, having landed the Russian Open last summer.

Finally, lets have a nibble on a 100/1 shot more than capable of winning at
this level, Scotland?s MARC WARREN. Warren seems to like Italy, finishing
8th here last year, and previously as runner-up in consecutive Italian
Challenge Tour events. The reason he is 100/1 is simply chronic
inconsistency, but Warren is a very capable player on his day as last year?s
win in the Scandinavian Masters testifies. Take his last 10 starts – Warren
has missed seven cuts, a poor record by anyone?s standards, but the other
three outings have all yielded top-15 finishes, including a fine 5th in a
stellar field at the HSBC Champions Trophy.

Good Luck!

WACHOVIA CHAMPIONSHIP

BETTING WITHOUT TIGER WOODS

4pts win PHIL MICKELSON @ 11/1 (BET365, PADDY POWER, STAN JAMES)
2pts ew GEOFF OGILVY @ 25/1 (PADDY POWER, STAN JAMES)
1pt ew LUCAS GLOVER @ 60/1 (STAN JAMES, 55/1 WITH BET365)
1pt ew BO VAN PELT @ 100/1 (STAN JAMES)
1pt ew JOHN SENDEN @ 125/1 (STAN JAMES)
1pt ew JEFF MAGGERT @ 150/1 (BET365, STAN JAMES)

ITALIAN OPEN

4pts ew CHARL SCHWARTZEL @ 12/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew NICK DOUGHERTY @ 22/1 (GENERAL)
1.5pts ew MARTIN KAYMER @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
1.5pts ew ALEJANDRO CANIZARES @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew MARK WARREN @ 100/1 (GENERAL)

2006/2007 STATS: -78pts
2005/2006 STATS: +144pts

ANTE-POST ALREADY ADVISED

VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT

5pts PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 7/1
5pts HENRIK STENSON @ 10/1

3pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN GRAND SLAM IN 2007@ 40/1
10pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN 3 MAJORS IN 2007 @ 8/1

US MONEY LIST W/O TIGER WOODS

2pts ew TREVOR IMMELMAN @ 20/1