Sunday, August 05, 2012

uspga championship

off to Kiawah Island and the Ocean Course
for the final major of the season, the USPGA CHAMPIONSHIP which takes place this week..

should be a fabulous test of golf and let's hope that the wind is strong enough to test these guys but not too severe to make it a lottery

this course is long at over 7,600 yards and can play to almost 8,000 if they shift the tees to the furthest point back - the ocean breezes make a massive difference to the required shot here however and there can quite easily be a 4-5 club difference when playing the same shot on different days

fairways shouldn't be too hard to hit here and the greatest asset will probably be iron play into the greens - obviously accuracy will help but playing the right shot at the right time will be paramount; course management is vital and with likely changing breezes from hole to hole then you really need to remain calm and have your wits about you - there have been some course changes over recent years which have mainly been fairly subtle and relate to green fringes and run-offs mainly - the greens are paspalum these days which basically means no grain; most of the players won't be used to this but shouldn't make much difference as they will be cut 'major-speed' low

thus, hitting it a long way and having good GIR stats will help; finding the right spot on the greens will help otherwise there will be plenty of shots rolling off the edges - scrambling will of course be vital as there will be plenty of good shots ending up off the greens being a coastal course - putting as ever needs to be strong as being a major these greens will be quick

expecting the winning score to be around -5 or so.. may be lower if its calm but doubt it will go past -10; if it blows a bit then expect level par to be closer

therefore I'll be looking for players who have a fair bit of experience, preferably having played here before but definitely those with a decent record on these type of courses; great short games and reasonably accurate off the tee although will edge towards the longer hitters probably - great course management is a must

keegan bradley is the defending champ (winning on his major debut!) and has come into some form recently so he will presumably be popular in the market, having a bit harder time of it in his 2nd full tour year but has got great stats an dis no 1 ranked in the all-round category showing that he is playing well without hitting any particular heights - could be worth watching and 66/1 is probably about right
(edit: he won the WGC Bridgestone yesterday so is indeed 'in form'! and his odds have now dropped to 50/1 best fixed and about 43 betfair)

tiger will be the fav as per the old days but there are a fair few others who have the game and experience to do well here
(edit: a solid final round at Bridgestone yesterday for woods and note that his tee to green was really good (3rd in GIR), it was his putter that let him down a bit- still managed another top 10 however)

jason dufner lost in that play-off last year and was 5th the year before and with his consistent performances in recent times will be another popular pick no doubt - twice a winner this year and showing that he can now handle the pressure and compete on a sunday

rory mcilroy likewise has done well in this event and with a decent effort this week will be attracting support - has been hit and miss in recent months so hard to judge whether he will put it all together and impress or fall away; risk with him is he does seem to lose interest if it isn't happening

webb simpson broke through with his US Open win and returns to action this week; being a 'local' he will have the benefit of the fans support - the dad factor may help him as often provides the maturity that some players need (or the lack of sleep that can be worse!)

another local is dustin johnson who has had injury problems for a fair while now - looks to be back on song now though and living locally, he will be well supported and with his length and record he looks a sure-fire back bet to me

donald westwood and scott all have good reasons to be backed as they seek that elusive major win; mickelson is out of form but has come from nowhere before and mcdowell and rose have had good solid seasons too

picks >

dustin JOHNSON > top player and has twice been close to winning a major previously; has returned from injury this season and won the St Jude Fedex event - missed the cut at the US Open but finished 9th at The Open last month - currently going well this week too so is in good nick it seems

has made the cut in 11 of 13 majors which is a good sign; he also has a decent record when in contention - high percentage of wins relative to 2nds and 3rds compared with other players

has won on tour 6 times and once each year for 5 yrs since turning pro in 2007 (matching tiger in that respect)

missed cut in this event last yr but was 5th and 10th prior to that; also has 2 career wins at pebble beach in the AT&T event

thus, he lives locally in myrtle beach, is a consistent winner, knows what to do at the business end of an event, hits it miles, is confident, has been close before to winning a major, etc etc.. all points to what should be a really good week for DJ and perhaps his first major

available at 33/1 and that is very tempting as I would rate him about a 20/1 shot or better (30 betfair)

graeme MCDOWELL > having a stellar season with regard to the majors, finishing 12th at augusta, 2nd in the US Open and 5th in The Open recently - add a 2nd place at the arnold palmer event and he has obviously had a really solid year and seems to have benefited from picking and choosing events; is gearing himself around the majors and could complete a terrific  effort in them with a win here

ranked 2nd for accuracy off the tee he should be able to set himself up nicely to hit his irons in to these greens - again, he is highly ranked for approaches and the only thing probably stopping him winning here would be a few missed shortish putts - if he can get the flat stick working then he should be one of the ones to relish the conditions and won't be hampered by the breezes like some others perhaps

might be a big ask to again feature in a major but I remember him really stepping up a few yrs ago in the ryder cup and you could see him start to believe that he was actually a top player and 
deserved to be competing in the big events; that confidence has made the difference and he can be in the mix on sunday afternoon.. 40/1 fixed / betfair looks decent indeed

matt KUCHAR > having been on tour for 11 yrs or so he really has stepped up in recent years to become a top player - superbly consistent and was in danger of becoming a nearly man almost having peppered his record with top 10s but without winning as many events as he should have until he went and won the players championship this year

that was a big victory and followed a 3rd at augusta - he has since finished 9th at The Open too so is really starting to post good performances in the big events as well as consistently making cuts (22 on the trot); has posted seven top 10s this season and has superb stats too being top ranked for scoring average and par 4 performance and highly ranked in scrambling too which well help this week

chance to notch a major and cement his position as probably the most consistent player around these days, 40/1 (42 betfair) looks too high again and since he lives up the coast at sea island he is definitely worth backing this week too

luke DONALD > usually shy away a bit from the market leaders but being a major you would expect the cream to rise to the crop - of the mcilroy, donald, westwood triumvirate I often pick luke as he is the number 1 player for me in the world - consistent and with such a terrific all-round game

he really needs a major on his CV and quickly or else there will always be that question mark on his record - has come a bit closer in recent times but doesn't do himself justice in the big 4 events really; did manage a 5th in the Open and elsewhere was 6th in the Players and won the Transitions too so another successful campaign for sure but he needs to win a big one - he was 8th last yr at Atlanta Athletic

stats are great - ok, his distance off the tee is relatively poor but he concentrates on being accurate and with his amazingly good short game (probably the best there is for consistency) he will always be knocking on the door - this may not be the best course for him but he is worth backing at 17 betfair as he is probably the best bet of the top 5

final pick is between mahan, bradley, colsaerts and possibly kaymer although the latter's form hasn't been good enough to warrant my money; any of these have a good shout- might have to go with both mahan and colsaerts being a major and 6 places are covered each-way

hunter MAHAN > needs to chip in a couple of times or have a really good week with the putter as that's probably what will stop him doing well here - classy player and great ball-striker - terrific stats with high rankings in accuracy striking etc... has performed well in majors and won both the WGC accenture matchplay and the shell houston open this year so having a great season in that respect> looks reasonable at 45/1 best (47 betfair)

nicolas COLSAERTS > the long-hitting belgian is having another really good yr after improving so much last yr - won the volvo matchplay and has sprinkled top 10s on his record - has done ok when crossing the pond with a 27th in the US Open (76 final round took the shine off a bit)

great 7th in the Open and has really stepped up his game, maybe high enough to challenge here - stats are good and probably just needs to drop under 30putts a round to compete as distance, GIR and scrambling are all really good > available at 80/1 with youwin (60 betfair)

mention for bradley who is obviously peaking nicely with this week's win; would be really hard to win consecutively and to pick up 2 majors in your first 5 attempts would be staggering so probably worth avoiding now and more so as the 66/1 has gone

summary >

I always tend to trade tiger separately as I have mentioned many times before - his game is good but still questions over his consistency// he could play averagely and still be top 10 though such is his ability - if his putter works well and he keeps his solid tee to green game from last week then he will be a contender for sure and the 8/1 looks generous... I will avoid for now but expect a top 10 definitely

DJ looks the one for me so going in on him - to add to the above picks I would have tiger, maybe someone like kyle stanley or aaron baddeley to surprise a bit and make the top 10, and one of my traders to hang around long enough - perhaps pettersson / cabrera-bello / noren.. cab-bello was a good trade for me last week as backed him at 380 and got out at 15 on friday (never confident he would keep going!) - did leave some on him hoping but not to be.. noren is long and can be spectacular, will trade him as he is over 400 now

can also see an old boy somewhere (verplank and toms did well last yr) and john daly may appear up there briefly as he is playing well - da points could be worth watching too as although not in form, this course should suit him

trading >

HAAS > such a likeable bloke, great player too with good all-round game, not been in great form but can find a performance from nowhere - already won this yr after last year's heroics> 100 betfair

PETTERSSON > 5 time tour winner who has the knack of winning from nowhere every now and then, north carolina resident and great putter - might be time to make an appearance in the top 5 or 10 in a major? > 125 betfair

VJ SINGH > the old-timer is in decent nick and may be worth a trade, currently 180 - cant sink the putts these days but he may have a reasonable start and be worth a quick back to lay if he can drop below 100

keeping an eye on the following > Cabrera-Bello 200, Noren 390, Olesen 230, Stallings 300 as all could have good starts and drop a bit although would expect to lay them if they drop sub 100 as doubt they will go too low

edit: stanley at 150 added, pettersson now 160, haas down to 85, VJ out to 190, noren at 410 added and daly at 405 added

top 5 or top 10 bets to follow later on..