AUSTRALIAN PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Following the Australian Open and Mastercard Masters, the PGA represents the final leg of the Aussie triple-crown and naturally most of the country?s leading players line up except World Cup representatives John Senden and Mark Hensby. Played at the Hyatt Regency course at Coolum, this is another Australian event that always seems to produce a quality leaderboard and separate the cream of the crop from the also-rans.
Bearing that in mind, it’s no surprise that ROBERT ALLENBY and Peter Lonard have won five out of the last six runnings, as that pair have consistently produced the goods at home far more than any of their compatriots. Question marks must be raised though over their ability to reproduce that form this week. Allenby has uncharacteristically flopped badly on his other recent Australian starts, and while Lonard has been on the fringes of contention in both tournaments, he never seriously threatened the judges in either. And again, the market is headed by Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy, purely on the basis of their supremacy over the rest in the US as both are still yet to win an Australian event and neither have any form of note on the course.
At current prices, the standout value in my view has to be ROD PAMPLING at 25/1. On US Tour form, Pampling is only just behind the principals here, but his home record is clearly superior. At Coolum, Rod has been knocking on the door in this event in recent years, with three consecutive top-10 finishes including 2nd in 2003 and 3rd in 2005. His only home start so far this winter at Sydney was a tad disappointing but even then he rallied well after a poor start. On the basis of a top-6 finish on his penultimate start in the States, he is in as good a form as the other main contenders.
It’s also high time STUART APPLEBY won in Australia again, and Coolum represents as likely a venue for that to occur. Winner of the Coolum Classic in 1998 at this venue, Apples also has figures of 3rd and 8th on his two most recent course outings. There?s nothing wrong with his form ? he only just missed out at the Australian Open (a poor effort at Huntingdale the following week was not too surprising given an indifferent course record), so 14/1 looks a very reasonable each-way price.
Finishing better than anyone at Huntingdale was MATTHEW GOGGIN, who ended up 7th after looking a cert to miss the cut at one stage. Runner-up to Allenby here last year, Goggin is arguably the most improved Australian over the last 12 months, and that title has plenty of competition. There?s been little wrong with any of Goggin?s home form over the past 2 years, nor with a number of high finishes in exalted PGA Tour company. I?m convinced a win is around the corner at a decent price.
But what of the course specialists? It seems very harsh to abandon Allenby and Lonard purely on the basis of a couple of moderate weeks. Those results are more than factored into their prices of 16/1 and 20/1 as in previous years those odds would have been half of that – Allenby’s in particular, who I can remember successfully taking single figures about for two of those past Coolum wins. Of the pair he represents slightly better value and is therefore included in the staking plan.
The final World Golf Championship of the year takes place at a rare destination for professional golf, Barbados. Course or regional form therefore are completely non-existent, but while that creates difficulties for form-reading, this pairs event is not particularly competitive and I doubt the winner will come from anyone other than the first dozen in the
England are worthy favourites, represented by Luke Donald and David Howell. I can?t think of a player better suited to team golf than Donald, who partnered Paul Casey to victory in 2004 and held a great chance of retaining until bad weather forced last year?s renewal to be curtailed early. Despite being favourites, I wouldn?t baulk at the 5/1 odds if it wasn?t for the lingering form and injury doubts about David Howell, who tailed off again at Sun City after a promising start.
Ireland?s Padraig Harrington is probably in better form than anyone in Barbados, but his pairing with Paul McGinley has not really prospered in this event since landing a shock win at Kiawah Island nine years ago. I prefer the chances of SWEDEN. Henrik Stenson continued his recent rich vein of form at Sun City, finishing 2nd to Furyk. His partner, Carl Pettersson, didn?t finish the US season very well. That, however, may have been a reaction to just missing out on Ryder Cup selection after a busy summer. Suitably refreshed, he should strengthen rather than weaken Stenson?s hand.
The US never take this event seriously enough and field anywhere near their best pairing, though I wouldn?t underestimate this year?s duo of Stewart Cink and JJ Henry. They arguably emerged from the Ryder Cup with more credit than any of their team-mates, both looking well suited to team golf.
Defending champions Wales are a decent price at 20/1, but Stephen Dodd is in nowhere near his 2005 form. Australia?s pair includes bang-in-form John Senden, but also struggling Mark Hensby.
The best value for me lies with SPAIN, who look a cracking each-way bet at 25/1. Regular challengers in recent years with the Jiménez/Garcia partnership, it may be a blessing in disguise that struggling Sergio has swerved the event this year. His replacement, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano is a superb prospect if still very inexperienced. Nevertheless, ultra-experienced Jiménez could be the perfect foil in a potentially strong pairing.
ALFRED DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP
Considering we?re less than three weeks from Christmas and very much in the close season, it?s a pleasant surprise to find a third televised event in the form of this co-sanctioned European Tour event from South Africa. Despite a full-sized field, this tournament, however, is arguably the least competitive of the three.
Its very, very hard to get away from the claims of runaway favourite and defending champion ERNIE ELS. The only serious question is whether to back him now or wait and hope for a bigger price in-running. The Big Easy hasn?t always been the most reliable short-priced favourite over the years, but having not won for a year, he is hungry to prove he is not in decline and will take the world of beating at Leopard Creek.
There are only two obvious rivals. Lee Westwood makes a rare Sunshine Tour appearance and would have every chance on his last two starts in Europe. He hasn?t played since the Volvo Masters though, and preparation and fitness must be taken on trust. A bigger threat is expected to materialise from home star CHARL SCHWARTZEL. One of the finest young talents in world golf, Schwartzel must always make the shortlist in his home country, particularly at Leopard Creek. The winner in 2004, only Ernie finished ahead of him last year, and on the basis of some good golf in much better company at the Nedbank Challenge, Charl must surely be there or thereabouts once again.
AUSTRALIAN PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
3pts ew ROD PAMPLING @ 20/1 (BETFRED, LADBROKES)
3pts ew STUART APPLEBY @ 14/1 (BET365, BET DIRECT)
3pts ew ROBERT ALLENBY @ 16/1 (BET DIRECT, SKYBET, VCBET)
2pts ew MATTHEW GOGGIN @ 33/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE, 40/1 LADBROKES)
ALFRED DUNHILL PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
8pts ERNIE ELS @ 5/2 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE, 11/4 BET DIRECT)
4pts CHARL SCHWARTZEL @ 10/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
WGC WORLD CUP
4pts win SWEDEN @ 7/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
2pts ew SPAIN @ 22/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE, 25/1 LADBROKES)
2006/2007 STATS: (After Week 3): +33pts
2005/2006 STATS: +144pts
ANTE-POST ALREADY ADVISED
VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT
5pts PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 7/1 (PRICES AVAILABLE WITH LADBROKES, BET DIRECT)
5pts HENRIK STENSON @ 10/1 (BET DIRECT, BLUESQ, LADBROKES, TOTE)
3pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN GRAND SLAM IN 2007@ 40/1 (HILLS)
10pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN 3 MAJORS IN 2007 @ 8/1 (BLUESQ)