Africa Open Betting Preview

page16_ricardo_santos

Ricardo Santos – Courtesy: ThePortugalNews.com


If you thought last week’s field for the Joburg Open was lacking in big names, you clearly haven’t looked at the field for this week’s stop on the European Tour, the Africa Open.
 
2013 Africa Open Fact Sheet

  • Course: East London Golf Course
  • Location: East London, South Africa
  • Yardage: 6,691 yards, par 73
  • Defending Champion: Louis Oosthuizen (not in field)
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Thomas Aiken, Jaco Van Zyl, Ricardo Santos, Garth Mulroy and Joost Luiten

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Sunday – 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)

As you can see from the list of favourites above, it’s not pretty for the European Tour this week. You can bet that tournament organizers were hoping for a better turnout, at least from the local South African stars. Defending champion Oosthuizen is taking the week off, and so is Branden Grace, George Coetzee and last week’s winner Richard Sterne, and the other prominent South Africans, including Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Tim Clark and Retief Goosen are all playing this week at the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open.
 
Despite the short length of the course, it actually plays to a par-73, a rarity amongst today’s courses. The East London Golf Club was built in 1893, and unfortunately, hasn’t really held up to the standards of difficulty that are present in the modern game. In the three years that this event has been held, we’ve seen winning scores of -20, -16 and -27. The fairways are about standard in terms of width, but because most of the course features a heavy treeline, the naturally windy section of South Africa really doesn’t become much of a factor. The course has smaller greens than most, and they generally play pretty fast, with the expectation that the stimpmeter will run to about 10, which is about USGA standard for the U.S. Open. With the weaker field, I can’t really see the winning total getting to the level of Oosthuzien’s 27-under from last year, but there will be low scores this week.
 
Suggested Plays (All Each Way)
 
Ricardo Santos (Best Odds 16-1 at Bet365)
I’m pretty sure that the only reason Santos isn’t the outright favourite this week is because of his poor form on the course, as he missed the cut here last year in his loan appearance. Don’t be turned off because of that though. He’s one of the hottest players in the world right now, and he really hasn’t had a bad tournament to start 2013, including last week’s T-3 at the Joburg. The 2012 European Tour Rookie of the Year looks poised to win again, and in a less than stellar field on an easy track, he seems like a solid bet.
 
Joost Luiten (Best Odds 22-1 at Betfair)
Much like Santos, Luiten has only played here once in the past and he didn’t really fare that well, ending up in a tie for 28th in 2010. The thing about East London is that it doesn’t really favour any type of particular player. Luiten’s just pretty solid across the board, assuming that he doesn’t put himself in trouble, which he doesn’t do very often, and he did finish inside the top-6 a few weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.
 
Fredrik Andersson Hed (Best Odds 35-1 at Bet365)
Andersson Hed is actually the only player in the field this week that’s ranked inside the top-100 in the world. He’s a pretty streaky player, but the one thing that never seems to leave him is the putter. It just seems like a decent price for one of the better players in the event, and if it wasn’t for an opening round 74 in 2010, he would have finished much higher than tied for 18th.
 
Tjaart Van Der Walt (Best Odds 58-1 at BETDAQ)
Van Der Walt was 25-under par in this event last year, and couldn’t get a win thanks to Oosthuizen’s sterling performance. That runner-up finish for Van Der Walt was also his last top-10 result. It might be wishful thinking to suggest that he could do it again this week, but he looked pretty good at the Joburg at times, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see his name near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.
 
James Morrison (Best Odds 150-1 at Coral)
I’m basing this selection on one event entirely. Morrison finished tied for fourth in the inaugural Africa Open in 2010, but hasn’t been back since. He’s actually played very little quality golf at all recently, missing his last four cuts and only finishing inside the top-10 once since May of last year, but I’m willing to take a flyer on him at 150-1.

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Snedeker makes it look easy at Pebble Beach

Brandt Snedeker

Brandt Snedeker (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

After back-to-back runner-up finishes to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker’s final round 65 was enough to hang on over a slew of contenders, as he won the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. The victory gives Snedeker his fifth career PGA Tour win, and his seventh top-10 finish in his last ten events.
 
What happened
 
Snedeker entered the final round in a tie for the lead with James Hahn, and even though there were a few moments where it looked possible that he would be caught by either Hahn, Chris Kirk or Jimmy Walker, Snedeker seemed in control at all times. He’s not a big hitter, but he is arguably the best putter in the world, and it showed this week, especially in the final round. His control on Sunday was superb, hitting tons of fairways and greens, and outside of a horrible downhill putt on the 9th, he didn’t make a bad stroke on the greens all day. For all of the complaints about slow play in the game right now, Snedeker is the polar opposite. There is no hesitation, which was really evident when compared to Hahn, who at times looked like he was standing completely still.
 
After this week, he’s been under par in 18 of 19 rounds in 2013, and there’s no doubt that he’s the hottest player in the world right now. With the win, Snedeker moves into 4th in the Official World Golf Rankings, sitting behind only Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Luke Donald. He’s currently not scheduled to be in the field next week at the Northern Trust Open, but he should be appearing the week after in the WGC-Accenture World Match Play.
 
Final Leaderboard
1. Brandt Snedeker -19
2. Chris Kirk -17
T3. Jimmy Walker -14
T3. James Hahn -14
T3. Kevin Stadler -14
 
Chris Berman shows you how not to play a bunker shot…twice
 
ESPN’s Chris Berman always plays in the pro-am portion of this event and claims to carry a 15 handicap, but this is definitely not the way to play a bunker shot. Watch until the end to see the look of disgust on Berman’s face.
 

berman-bunker-1

Courtesy: PGATour.com


 
And take two…
 
berman-bunker-2

Courtesy: PGATour.com

 
Take this as your reminder that we’re not far away from having to listen to Berman at the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. At that point, you’ll be begging to see this instead of hearing things like Justin “Kiss From A” Rose.

 
The broadcast window
 
This is by no means a new issue, but if there’s something that the PGA Tour can very easily address, it’s the broadcast window. Every weekend, there’s a half-hour window in which there is no live TV coverage while the action switches to CBS or NBC from Golf Channel. The idea that the viewer can watch the first 90 minutes of TV coverage of the final two rounds, but then has to wait 30 minutes in between is ridiculous. I understand that they are also working on their digital coverage to get more access, but the last thing that any organization should want to do is have people walk away from the TV when the tournament is on.
 
In Sunday’s final round, viewers missed out on seeing the final group play a pair of holes, including the famous par-3 7th. I understand that there are other issues at play here, but they really should get this sorted out so people can actually watch full, proper coverage on the weekend.
 
Clint Eastwood
 
Clint Eastwood is a huge golf fan, and works as an ambassador for the Back9Network. He’s made numerous appearances on CBS over the years, but the one he made this week was definitely the most awkward. For some reason, CBS decided that it was a good idea to have Eastwood appear for the last 45 minutes of the broadcast. After taking a couple of questions from Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo, Eastwood simply had enough of the headset, and took it off.

 
The look of horror on the face of Nantz when he realized that Eastwood’s headset was off was priceless.
 
Other notes about the event

  • ICYMI, Phil Mickelson took a bit of a tumble in Saturday’s second round. He was never a factor in the event after winning last week, but he will be in the field at the Northern Trust on Thursday.
  • Two surprising missed cuts this week: Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney. In the case of Johnson, he spent the pro-am portion playing with Wayne Gretzky, the father of his girlfriend Paulina. Considering his history here, with two wins and three other top-10’s in six events, his result is definitely the most shocking of the week.
  • After finishing in the top-10 twelve times in 2011, Jason Day struggled in 2012, but he’s already got a pair of top-10’s this year. Keep an eye on him in the coming weeks.

GIF: Phil Mickelson takes a tumble at Pebble

This is the second Phil Mickelson GIF post that I’ve
made in two weeks.
 
This one however, is decidedly more humorous.
 
In Saturday’s third round at Pebble Beach, Mickelson went looking for his ball and took a bit of a tumble.

Phil-spill

Mickelson ended up firing a third-round 73, and sits 11 shots back of leaders Brandt Snedeker and James Hahn.

Sterne gets back in the winner’s circle in Johannesburg

Richard Sterne fired a stunning final round 64 en route to his first European Tour win since 2008, taking the Joburg Open by seven shots over Charl Schwartzel. It’s the sixth European Tour victory for Sterne, but his first since the South African Open in December of 2008.
 
What happened
 
Sterne entered Sunday’s final round tied for the lead at 17-under par with fellow South African Trevor Fisher Jnr, who was looking for his first win as a professional outside of the Sunshine Tour. Fisher started out hot, making an eagle on the opening hole, but it was all downhill from there. Fisher finished with a 1-under par 71 on Sunday, which was the worst final round score of anyone who finished inside the top-15. Sterne’s 64 tied him for low round of the day with Ricardo Santos, and allowed him to set the new scoring record for this event at 27-under par, besting the previous mark set by Schwartzel in 2010 when he got to 23-under par. Sterne also became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to drop only one shot in an officially sanctioned European Tour event.
 
Notes about Sterne and the win
 
Sterne was in contention last week as well, carrying the lead in Dubai at the midway point before finishing as the runner-up to Stephen Gallacher. When you combine that with his past success at the course, where he won this event in 2008 and finished tied for 3rd at the 2002 Vodacom Golf Classic, you can’t be surprised that he found his way back to the winner’s circle this week. It’s been a long road back for Sterne, who missed most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to a severe back injury. He had some good finishes last year, and it’s easy to forget that before the injuries, Sterne was ranked inside the top-30 in the world. Sterne won three events in 2008 and looked to be one of the rising stars in the game until he was forced to sit out. Sterne had three bulging discs in his back, and was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis which basically prevented him from making any kind of movement. Thanks to all of the injuries, Sterne actually fell just past the 1000 mark in the world, a miraculous fall for someone with his kind of talent.
 
It’s tough to predict where Sterne goes from here, but it’s certainly not out of the question that he returns to being a force on the European Tour. With the win, he moves inside the top-60 in the world rankings, and is currently slated to play in the WGC-Match Play in a couple of weeks. If he can stay hot and get into the top-50, he’ll earn a spot in the Masters, where he hasn’t played since 2009.
 
Other notes from the event

  • Despite finishing seven shots behind Sterne, you’d have to think Charl Schwartzel is happy with the result. He hadn’t played since December, but with the runner-up finish, he’s placed inside the top-5 in each of his last five events.
  • A pair of solid finishes once again for George Coetzee and Ricardo Santos. For Coetzee, he’s close and he will get that first win at some point in 2013, and Santos has quietly put together a solid start to his season after winning the European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2012. He’s really only had one poor event since missing the cut in Singapore back in November.
  • Not sure what happened to Branden Grace this week, as the defending champion missed the cut after rounds of 72 and 70. It’s probably just a blip on the radar for him, but considering his form and track record here, I’m shocked that he finished as poorly as he did.
  • Decent finish as well for 2010 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein who ended up tied for 19th. Uihlein shocked some people when he decided to come over to Europe to play professionally after missing out on his PGA Tour card, but after a pretty good year on the European Challenge Tour, Uihlein could be poised to make some moves in 2013.

AT&T Pebble Beach Betting Preview

Brandt Snedeker

Brandt Snedeker (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

After Phil Mickelson blew away the competition last week in Phoenix, a loaded field of the world’s best players and former major winners are in California to play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Fact Sheet

  • Course: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula
  • Location: Pebble Beach, California
  • Yardage: 6,816 to 6,858 yards, par 70 & par 72
  • Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney, Lee Westwood

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)
  • Sunday – 1:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:30 PM ET (CBS)

The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is pretty much the marquee stroke play event of the early PGA Tour season, and most of that has to do with the venue. The tournament is held on three separate courses, with Pebble Beach handling two of the four rounds including Sunday’s finale, while Spyglass Hill and the Monterey Peninsula will also be used. Pebble Beach is one of the most picturesque areas of the United States, and always provides a breathtaking backdrop for the annual event with some of the most iconic holes in golf, most notably the par-3 7th. At most, the hole plays at 106 yards, but when the wind gets up, it becomes one of the most difficult par-3’s in the world. In the 1992 U.S. Open, Tom Kite hit a sand wedge on Saturday and a 6-iron on Sunday just because of how windy it got in the final round. There are many holes at Pebble that are affected in this way, and the wind is supposed to be pretty brutal on Friday, so those who can manage the conditions, or those who get lucky with the course draw, will likely give themselves an advantage.
 
Of the three courses, Spyglass is probably the toughest thanks to all of the elevation changes, and assuming that the wind is down, the Monterey Peninsula should be where players do most of their scoring. All three courses clock in at less than 7,000 yards, so they are shorter than most players will see during the season.
 
Key Storyline This Week
 
With so many good players in the field, you could really look at just about anything to focus on, but I’m going to go with the two consensus favourites this week. Both Mickelson and Dustin Johnson love this event, winning it on multiple occasions. Of course, Mickelson ran away with the win in Phoenix last week, but he was terrible in the two events before that. It’s worth noting that when Mickelson won this event in 2005, he also won in Phoenix the week before when it was known as the FBR Open. Winning in back-to-back weeks is just something you don’t see very often, and with most places pegging Mickelson as the 7-1 favourite, there just isn’t enough value in it for me.
 
As for Johnson, after winning the season opener at Kapalua, he withdrew the following week at the Sony and followed that up with a T-51 at the Farmers. He’ll be playing with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky in the pro-am portion of the event, who just happens to be the father of DJ’s new girlfriend, Paulina. His record here is outstanding, finishing inside the top-8 at Pebble in five of six career appearances.
 
Suggested plays
 
Brandt Snedeker (Best Odds 12-1 at Bet365)
The logic here with Snedeker is pretty simple: He’s playing too well to pass up. He’s been inside the top-3 in three of his first four events to start 2013. In those 15 rounds, only one of them has been over par. Further to that, he’s played ten events since missing the cut at the PGA Championship in August, and he’s been under par in 37 of 39 rounds. He’s only got one top-10 finish at Pebble in his career, but when a guy is this dialed in, you pretty much have to take him until he cools off.
 
Lee Westwood (Best Odds 22-1 at Pinnacle)
You should never be able to get Westwood at this kind of a price, especially when he’s coming off of a good week. He finished tied for fifth last week in Dubai in his season debut, and he does have a good record in his three events at Pebble. Not that it means a ton, but in his pre-tournament press conference, Westwood mentioned that if he could pick one place to play his final round of golf, it’d be Pebble Beach. He obviously likes it here, and like I said earlier, the price is simply too good to pass up.
 
Webb Simpson (Best Odds 37-1 at Betfair)
It’s not often that you get a chance to grab a major winner from the previous season at long odds like this. Simpson, last year’s U.S. Open champ, missed the cut in the Humana two weeks ago, and we haven’t seen him since. He’s a streaky player, and his best finish at the course was a tie for 46th last year, but there’s good value here. When he’s hot, there are very few players better than him, and if the wind picks up, he’ll be just fine. When the wind is at least 15 mph, Simpson is nearly a full stroke better than when it’s less than 15 mph. That may not seem like much, but at Pebble Beach, it can mean an awful lot.
 
Tim Clark (Best Odds 45-1 at Betfair)
Clark’s only finished outside of the top-20 twice at Pebble, and it probably has to do with his lack of distance being minimized by the short courses. He’s a machine when it comes to hitting fairways and greens, and even when he misses, he’s one of the best scramblers in the world. Despite not finishing particularly well in the past few weeks, Clark actually has the best scoring average (67.36) of any player on the PGA Tour in the last three months.
 
Greg Owen (Best Odds 298-1 at BETDAQ)
Greg Owen is your dartboard, hail mary selection of the week. In four events this season, his best finish is a tie for 51st at the Farmers, but he always seems to play well here. In seven appearances, the Englishman has 3rd, 4th and 9th place finishes, as well as a T-21 and T-39. At 230th in the world, Owen stinks compared to other professionals, but for some reason, he loves Pebble Beach. The general public forgets how good these guys are, and when someone is comfortable somewhere, even someone like Owen, they have the ability to go low. He’s not going to win this tournament, but at 298-1, throw a couple of bucks down on an each-way finish.
 
Other Tournament Notes

  • Jim Furyk makes his 2013 season debut this week. After vomiting all over himself for much of 2012, it’s going to be interesting to see how he bounces back. He still had a good year in 2012, making north of $3.6 million, but he blew four Sunday leads and was a major factor in the collapse of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. If I had to bet on what to expect from Furyk this season, I’d say that it only gets worse from here.
  • David Duval will also be in the field, and he will be back using Nike clubs for the first time in two-plus seasons. Duval officially re-signed with Nike earlier this week after leaving the manufacturer in 2010.
  • There was a time when Mike Weir was a surefire lock to be at the top of the leaderboard at Pebble Beach. From 2003 to 2009, Weir finished no lower than 4th on only two occasions here, but all of that has changed in recent years with his struggles. He has started to get part of his game back though, so who knows, Pebble could be the place where Weir puts it all together again.
  • Lastly, keep an eye on Padraig Harrington, who very quietly has put together three top-10’s in his last four events, including last week in Phoenix.

Joburg Open Betting Preview

Charl Schwartzel

Charl Schwartzel (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Charl Schwartzel headlines a massive field in South Africa this week, as the European Tour heads to Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club for the Joburg Open.
 
2013 Joburg Open Open Fact Sheet

  • Course: Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club
  • Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Yardage: 7,237 to 7,592 yards, par 71 & par 72
  • Defending Champion: Branden Grace
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Charl Schwartzel, George Coetzee, Branden Grace, Richard Sterne and Danny Willett

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Sunday – 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)

In what will likely be the biggest field of the year on any major tour, 210 players are set to tee it up this week. Unfortunately for the European Tour, most of the world’s best are either taking the week off or are at Pebble Beach for the AT&T Pro-Am. As we’ve seen a couple of times already this season, the tournament will be played on two separate courses, with players alternating between the West and more difficult East course in the first two rounds before playing the weekend on the East.
 
The weather isn’t expected to be great for the event, with rain in the forecast and below average temperatures. Assuming the conditions don’t bother the players too much, you can expect low scores as the difficulty of both courses tends to skew to the easy side. In the six years that the event has been held, the winning score has been higher than 15-under par only once.
 
Key Storyline This Week
 
In most events that he plays, Charl Schwartzel is one of the best players in the field. Of the 210 players in the field this week, he’s the only one ranked inside the top-20 in the world, and fellow South Africans Branden Grace and George Coetzee are the only others inside the top-50. These are the events that he should go out and dominate if he wants to be mentioned among the truly elite players in the game. Now, he has won his last two events, and has finished in the top-5 in each of the last four times that he’s teed it up. When you combine that with the fact that he is a former two-time champion of this event, and outside of missing the cut last year, he’s never finished outside of the top-20 on the course, you’d think that he’d be one of my suggested plays this week, but he’s not.
 
I’m a little concerned about the near two-month layoff between events, and to be honest, there’s no value with him anywhere right now. In most places, I’m seeing him at roughly 3-1 to win the whole thing, and even though it’s likely that he does come through this week, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth it to even bother with putting money on him.
 
Suggested Plays
 
George Coetzee (Best Odds 8.5-1 at Coral)
One of these days, I’m going to write something about Coetzee getting his first European Tour win, and it’ll likely happen sooner rather than later. He nearly had that win two weeks ago in Qatar before Chris Wood took him down, and since missing the cut at the PGA Championship in August last year, he’s really only had two poor events, finishing in the top-15 in nine of twelve tournaments. He’s had decent performances here in the past, and he was a multiple time winner on the Sunshine Tour in and around the Johannesburg area.
 
Branden Grace (Best Odds 9.5-1 at Betfair)
Much like Brandt Snedeker on the PGA Tour, Grace is simply playing too well to ignore. He won the event last year, and has placed in the top-7 in all three events he’s played on the European Tour so far in 2013. I don’t usually like taking defending champions in events because repeating is a rarity, but I really think Grace represents the best chance of winning this week.
 
Danny Willett (Best Odds 30-1 at Stan James)
Willett always plays well in South Africa, finishing outside of the top-20 in all events in the area just once in seven events since 2009. That includes a pair of fourth-place finishes in this event, as well as a T-14 last year. He missed the cut last week in Dubai, but he had been playing well before that. 30-1 seems like a great price for an each-way bet.
 
Robert Rock (Best Odds 35-1 at Betfair)
I was a week early on Rock when I thought he would do well again in Abu Dhabi, but he found some form last week in Dubai with a nice T-7 finish. This is really just a case of trying to find a little bit of value with a player who is simply better than most in the field. If he’s healthy, which he says he is, he should be near the top of the leaderboard this week.

Mickelson cruises to Waste Management win

Leader Phil Mickelson teeing off on the 18th h...

Leader Phil Mickelson teeing off on the 18th hole at TPC at Sawgrass during the final round of the 2007 Players Championship. Mickelson bogeyed the hole but still won the title by two shots. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Phil Mickelson’s opening round 60 set the tone for the whole week, as the four-time major winner never relinquished the lead en route to his 41st PGA Tour victory, and third at TPC Scottsdale.
 
What happened
 
As we documented on Thursday, Mickelson came perilously close to joining the rare “59 Club” in his opening round. He had to settle for an opening round 60, and was never ahead by less than three strokes at any point when he was on the course. I actually said to a few co-workers on Thursday that I thought he was going to give up the lead pretty quickly because I thought he’d have a tough time in Friday’s second round off of such a great day on Thursday. When he fired a second round 65, it was all over. He was driving the ball far too well, and his accuracy with his irons and putting was incredible. When he last won this event in 2005, his GIR was 62.5%, and this week it was 87.5%. His putting? He gained 1.85 strokes over the field this week. Brandt Snedeker led the PGA Tour last year with an average of 0.86 per event. Mickelson was so good this week, you can pretty much ignore how bad he was in his first two events of the year.
 
The Stupid Thing Johnny Miller Said This Week
 
With Jim Nantz and CBS doing the Super Bowl this week, NBC took control of the weekend coverage. Mickelson switched drivers this week to Callaway’s new RAZR Fit Xtreme, and he was tremendous with it, hitting tons of fairways all week. Of course, Johnny Miller has been a Callaway endorser since the early 90’s, and whenever a Callaway athlete has a successful week, we are treated to endless love for the company and product line from NBC’s lead analyst. With Mickelson’s driving this week, Miller started selling the product harder than ever.
 
I guess he’s just doing his part for the company that pays him, and it was worth noting that Mickelson switched clubs for this week, but Miller certainly didn’t need to be ram it down our throats as much as he did on the weekend.
 
The PGA Tour’s new social media policy
 
I’ve avoided comment on this for the past couple of weeks, but the idiotic policy change by the PGA Tour to attempt to silence the play-by-play of their events on Twitter was magnified on Thursday afternoon. For those unaware, the PGA Tour sent out a memo to all journalists covering the Tour that basically said that live play-by-play was now going to be banned, and those who disobeyed were going to have their access revoked. They later eased up a little bit saying that one tweet per hole was going to be allowed. The reason behind this, allegedly, is that the PGA Tour thinks that the tweets are taking away from their coverage on PGATour.com and their Shot Tracker.
 
Shot Tracker can be a useful tool, when it works. Unfortunately, it provides little in the way of context and is frequently unreliable when it comes to, you know, actually tracking shots. In a sport that is struggling to maintain its relevance in the North American sports scene, the most prolific organization in the world is trying to stop people from discussing its game and all of the great things about it. The worst part about the whole thing is that I’m not even surprised. Every negative stereotype that you can project about golf and its governing bodies comes to fruition with this policy, and it just shows once again how out of touch they are with reality. They’ve been getting ripped non-stop in the media, but so far, they haven’t really relented.
 
Now, Mickelson’s chase for 59 on Thursday was a big deal. Golf Channel cut away from their regular programming to jump in early, and my Twitter feed was getting pretty excited about the whole thing. The other reason I know it’s a big deal is because of the way my office reacted. I work in sports media, but golf is never the focus, especially on Thursdays of non-majors. Everyone was glued to the TV when Mickelson approached the 18th tee and it was magnified even more when he stepped up to attempt his putt that lipped out. Events like that are what Twitter was made for, and it’s when Twitter is at its best.
 
Trying to stop people who want to talk about the game from talking about it is about as asinine as it gets, but hey, it’s their decision. Can you imagine the NFL implementing something like this for the Super Bowl? Of course you can’t, because there’s no way that the NFL would ever do something that stupid.
 
Padraig Harrington’s field goal
 
Padraig Harrington was one of the many players this week to have a little fun with the fans on the 16th. One of Harrington’s sponsors is Wilson, who is the official manufacturer of the footballs used in the NFL, so in Saturday’s third round, Harrington decided to attempt a field goal into the crowd. For someone who has allegedly never kicked or thrown a football, he actually did pretty well. Video below:
 

 
Other notes from the tournament

    • I don’t have a ton to say about Vijay Singh’s PED use or his withdrawal from the event this week with “back soreness”. What I will say is this: Vijay is either the dumbest person on the planet for not thinking there could be something illegal inside deer antler spray, or he thinks that we’re stupid enough to believe he’s innocent. Much like other sports, I’m simply tired of the whole discussion. Let me know when someone more relevant in the golf world is caught with something.
    • Mickelson’s dominance is going to overshadow his performance, but Brandt Snedeker had a tremendous week. Rounds of 64-66-65-65 gave him his second consecutive runner-up finish. In fifteen rounds played this year, only one has been over par.
    • Pat Perez was DQ’d after Friday’s second round for signing an incorrect scorecard.
    • Lastly, we didn’t see anything too crazy at the 16th this week, but take a look at the below image. Always come prepared to heckle at TPC Scottsdale.

Gallacher gets second European Tour win in Dubai

October 10th, 2004.
 
That was the date of Stephen Gallacher’s last win on the European Tour. That day he won the Dunhill Links Championship, taking down a young Graeme McDowell in a playoff. Nearly nine years later, Gallacher has his second European Tour title, winning today’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.
 
What happened
 
Gallacher carried a three shot lead into Sunday over opening round leader Richard Sterne, but the gap was closed early as Gallacher carded a pair of bogeys to open his round, while Sterne birdied the second. The two went back and forth all round until Gallacher holed out for eagle on the 16th from just over 100 yards. That combined with back-to-back bogeys on 15 and 16 gave Gallacher a four-shot lead with only two holes to play. Gallacher ended up regaining his three-shot lead from the start of the day, getting to 22-under par and picking up up his second European Tour win.
 
Notes on Gallacher and his win

  • The win moves Gallacher into the top-60 in the Official World Golf Rankings, and assuming he keeps up some decent form, he should qualify for the Match Play in a couple of weeks.
  • If he can manage to play really well and get into the top-50, he’ll qualify for the Masters for the first time in his career.
  • By winning, he’s now fully exempt on the European Tour until the end of 2015.
  • His 22-under par score ties the tournament record set by Thomas Bjorn who won the event in 2001.
  • The hole out on 16 was actually his fourth hole out of the week, which goes more towards luck than good play, but obviously Gallacher will take it.

Shot of the tournament
 
Gallacher’s hole out on 16 is what won him the tournament. The look on his face after it lands in the cup is almost one of embarrassment. Four hole outs in a tournament is a rarity, so it’s almost as if Gallacher felt bad about it.
 

Courtesy: EuropeanTour.com

Courtesy: EuropeanTour.com


Westwood and Garcia
 
Lee Westwood’s first event of the year was better than I thought it would be, finishing in a tie for fifth. All four rounds were under par, and by all accounts, his short game was actually in order this week. I’m still a little wary about his outlook for the season, but he really couldn’t have hoped for a better start to his 2013 season. Sergio Garcia faded a little bit as the weekend rolled around, but considering his past at this event, it’s not surprising. Still though, just like Westwood, all four rounds were under par this week.
 
Other notes from the tournament

  • Another good finish (T-3) for Thorbjorn Olesen this week, who I pegged as my top pick for the tournament on Tuesday. It’s almost a good idea to throw your money down blindly on him until he has a bad week. He’ll win at least once this season.
  • Robert Rock had his first quality finish in a long time, making only three bogeys in his final 54 holes. His T-7 was the first top-10 finish he’s had in a regular stroke play event since winning in Abu Dhabi in January of 2012.
  • Last week’s winner Chris Wood finished in a tie for 30th.

GIFS: Phil Mickelson’s lip-out for 59

Golf is a cruel, cruel game sometimes. Phil Mickelson had a chance to do what few golfers have ever done, fire a 59 in a professional round. There’s only been five in the history of the PGA Tour, but Mickelson had a chance to be the sixth today at TPC Scottsdale. After a solid approach into the 9th, Mickelson’s last hole of the day, he needed to drain a 25 footer for birdie, which would have given him the elusive 59. The four GIF’s below show how close Mickelson was to joining the club.

01.31.13-Phil-Lip-Out-1 01.31.13-Phil-Lip-Out-2 01.31.13-Phil-Lip-Out-3 01.31.13-Phil-Lip-Out-4

The reaction of Mickelson’s caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, is priceless in the last GIF. Mickelson had to settle for 60 and an 11-under par round, giving him a four-shot lead heading into Friday’s second round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Waste Management Phoenix Open Betting Preview

Kyle Stanley

Kyle Stanley (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Kyle Stanley will attempt to defend his title this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, but as usual when it comes to this event, there’s only one thing that anyone really wants to talk about: The famed par-3 16th and the crazy party atmosphere surrounding the hole.
 
2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open Fact Sheet

  • Course: TPC Scottsdale – Stadium Course
  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Yardage: 7,216 yards, par 71
  • Defending Champion: Kyle Stanley
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney and Bubba Watson

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM (NBC)
  • Sunday – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM (NBC)

You don’t often hear the words “crazy party atmosphere” uttered around a PGA Tour event, but the par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course is a fun time. About 20,000 fans pack in around the entirety of the hole, from the tee box to the green and they drink, smoke, chant and heckle for four rounds. It’s only 162 yards long, but much like the island green at TPC Sawgrass, the surroundings make it a much more difficult approach than it should be. There’s typically a wait of at least an hour to even get a seat, so if you’re planning on getting in, make sure you give yourself enough time. Obviously with the different atmosphere, some players react positively and others, negatively. Rickie Fowler takes the positive approach as you can see below.
 
Two years ago, Fowler gave away his trademark Puma hats to the fans on his way to the green:

And last year, he asked the crowd to make some noise before he teed off, Happy Gilmore style:

As I mentioned though, it’s not all positive, as John Senden found out a few years ago when he had some trouble on the green. This is the only place in the world of golf where you’ll see fans boo the players:

Of course, it’s only one hole on the course, but the rest of TPC Scottsdale is relatively pedestrian until you get to the final four holes. The 15th is a reachable par-5 with water in play from the tee, and we’ve talked about the 16th already. The 17th is a drivable par-4 which can yield eagles quite easily, while the 18th is one of the most exciting closing holes on the PGA Tour. With water in play off of the tee and deep bunkers guarding the right side of the fairway, accuracy is paramount, and the approach into the green doesn’t get any easier with another deep bunker on the right side of the green, and a heavily sloped green on the left. There is a ton of potential for a change at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the day on Sunday with these four holes, and we saw that last year with Stanley coming from behind to steal the victory away from Spencer Levin. No lead is safe at TPC Scottsdale.
 
Key Storyline This Week
 
Phil Mickelson has always had success at Scottsdale, winning twice and placing inside the top-10 on six other occasions, but he’s been awful to start 2013, and is definitely on the wrong side of his career, turning 43 this June. I don’t think anyone knows what to expect out of Mickelson this season, and he hasn’t exactly inspired confidence in his first two events. Another bad tournament doesn’t signal the end of the line, but I can’t place any money on him without seeing something of positive consequence first.
 
Suggested Plays This Week
 
Bubba Watson (Best Odds 18-1 at Betfair)
I took Watson last week at Torrey Pines, but he had to withdraw due to illness. He says he’s feeling better this week, and I don’t think there’s a more talented player in the field, so 18-1 is simply too good to pass up. We talked about the final four holes above and when you consider that there’s a par-5 and a drivable par-4, that falls right into Watson’s wheelhouse. With his length, nobody would be shocked if he came away with several eagles on those two holes alone. He’s finished outside the top-10 on the PGA Tour once since the end of August, and has a pair of top-10’s at Scottsdale in the past. He’s already having fun with the 16th hole too, asking fans on Twitter for suggestions on what he can do when he gets to the tee.
 
Rickie Fowler (Best Odds 18-1 at Bet365)
As mentioned above, Fowler clearly doesn’t get intimidated by the atmosphere at Scottsdale. He’s also on a run of good form, finishing in the top-6 in his last two events, and that was after an awful opening round 77 at Torrey Pines had him in last place on Thursday night. He’s had success here in the past, finishing as the runner-up to Hunter Mahan two years ago. He’s actually gone down to the favourite at roughly 14-1 in a lot of books, so get your money in on him now before the tournament gets underway.
 
Martin Kaymer (Best Odds 28-1 at Paddy Power)
People like to rip on Kaymer for his fall from being ranked as the world’s best player a few years ago, but he’s very quietly put together a solid run of form in Europe over the past few weeks. He’s placed inside the top-10 in four of his last five events, including Abu Dhabi where he was paired with the Rory McIlroy/Tiger Woods power couple. Now, he doesn’t have a good track record at TPC Scottsdale, missing the cut in his lone appearance, but he did grab a runner-up to Luke Donald in the Phoenix area in the 2011 Match Play. He’s playing too well to pass up at 28-1.
 
Hunter Mahan (Best Odds 35-1 at Stan James)
Mahan won this event in 2010, and has always played well in Phoenix, winning the Match Play last season against Rory McIlroy. He’s only had a pair of top-10 finishes since April of 2012, but I’m giving him a look this week. He actually played pretty well last week at Torrey Pines, and he’s a notoriously quick starter. 35-1 seems to be a little high considering his past history here.
 
Aaron Baddeley (Best Odds 66-1 at Betway)
2007 was a long time ago. Aaron Baddeley won this tournament six years ago back when it was known as the FBR Open, and he’s only got one win since, but there’s reason for optimism here. The Australian has battled injury and inconsistency over the years, but he was decent at the Humana, finishing tied for 27th, and he grabbed a T-6 last week at the Farmers. Even with all of the problems, the putter has never been an issue, and if there’s one quality that most pros would like to carry with them, it’s the flat stick. I like him this week on an each-way bet.
 
Graham DeLaet (Best Odds 170-1 at Betfair)
DeLaet will win an event sometime soon, and while I’m not sure this is the one, 170-1 seems crazy high for him. He finished tied for 9th last week, and if he can get the putter going, he’ll be a force on the PGA Tour. I usually try to give one dartboard pick a week, and it goes to DeLaet at TPC Scottsdale.