Preview of the Turkish Airlines Open
There’s a massive lottery in Spain known as “El Gordo” which roughly translates to “the fat one”. That could almost equate to the appearance money Tiger Woods is allegedly being paid to play in this week’s Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour. Despite some much publicised personal problems off the course a few years ago the world number one is still the biggest draw in golf.
In the context of winning the tournament and qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship Woods is a subplot but he will get the most media attention and TV coverage around the globe. It will be interesting to see if the furore surrounding comments made by Brandel Chamblee will be off limits but its probably odds on that the press have been briefed not to ask any awkward questions.
Woods threatened to boycott the Golf Channel after its analyst suggested he “was a little cavalier with the rules” in accumulating four separate penalties in 2013 for infringements. After Chamblee made a long winded analogy with his own school grades he gave Woods an F which implied he was questioning the on-course ethics of the Player of the Year.
Bernd Wiesberger, Francesco Molinari and Martin Kaymer are my three selections, though at his best Tiger could lap most of the field if he can focus on golf and not the rules issue. He is the type of person that always tries his best to win any event that he enters. However, the host Montgomerie Maxx Royal course in Turkey is not a good fit for Woods’ game as it puts a premium on accuracy over distance.
At this stage of the season it really is guesswork with regards Woods’ form. He has not been seen on the course since finishing down the field in the Tour Championship. Motivation could be a key factor in determining his competitiveness but what we can assume is that the destructive driver will stay in the bag on most holes. Given that winning the Masters next April is Tiger’s next main goal other than for the dollars it’s hard to understand why he is playing in Turkey this week.
Our three picks are all assured a place in the season finale in Dubai next week. Even so for them money may be more of an incentive but an even greater reward for playing well this week will be winning Ryder Cup points. Wiesberger would be one of several Ryder Cup debutants if he made the European side for the matches at Gleneagles next September.
The Austrian bomber’s liking for long courses is offset by a solid run of form. Even though winning may be beyond him at this level he could well make the payout places at rewarding odds. He is in the top 25 for greens in regulation. However, with no course form to asses modest stakes are recommended. It might also be worth taking a shorter price with any bookmakers offering place terms for the first six as Wiesberger has wasted several good opportunities to win this season while still finishing in the money for his backers.
The younger of the Italian Molinari brothers is 13th in the Race to Dubai due to tournament winnings in 2013 of significantly more than one million Euro. He is one of several players in the field who could still win the Race but needs to win this week to maintain a realistic chance of finishing at the top of the final standings. Molinari is another player suited to courses that favour accurate hitters and has built up a solid bank of current form.
The same could be said of Kaymer, a former world number one and past major champion. Five other players in the field are winners of one or more of the four biggest prizes in golf, but that list does not include Colin Montgomerie, the course designer. Four of that quintet have won just one major and the only multiple major champion playing in Turkey this week is the aforementioned Tiger Woods but he would probably swap ten Turkish Opens for that elusive 15th major.
Preview of the McGladrey Classic
You could look at the full spectrum of statistics for the McGladrey Classic on the US PGA Tour but the tournament can be summed up in two words: putting contest. That makes Charles Howell, Chris Kirk and Russell Henley leading contenders for the fourth renewal of a relatively new addition to the schedule in the States. Simply put, the winner will come from a list of players that includes the best putters this week.
In the revamped PGA calendar the penultimate regular event of the year actually counts for next season’s records. For the first time FedEx Cup points are on the table and the winner will be invited to the Tournament of Champions, the Players Championship and the Masters if not already eligible. The tournament’s improved status has attracted a field that includes winners of 14 major championships.
That list includes several players well past their best and it would be a surprise if the likes of David Duval, Justin Leonard and Stewart Cink made the cut let alone figured on the leaderboard. However, Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson are the most fancied players in the field but their accuracy won’t give them a comparative advantage over the rest of the field.
The Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort will stage a putting contest. The course was the easiest par 70 in 2012 and was ranked inside the top 5 easiest for driving accuracy and greens in regulation. Scrambling will also be a key skill on a course characterised by greens that are above average in size and score highly on the Stimpmeter for speed and roll. The main objective this week will be to hole putts.
Matt Kuchar comes into the mix on the basis of his putting and scrambling but just misses out on making the shortlist of our three against the field. I don’t see him as having much stronger claims than players that can be backed at up to five times his price. Luke Guthrie looks a future PGA Tour winner but he is also overlooked because the bookies have written that fact into his odds on the market.
Howell was identified as a bright young thing on the PGA Tour more then ten years ago. He has won just two times on the main Tour, which is considered a poor return for a player of his ability. He couldn’t be described as a choker but often finds a handful of players scoring better than him at the business end of tournaments. If Howell is to add to his tally it will be on a course like Sea Island that puts such a premium on putting.
The player with the best overall skills’ profile is Kirk. He is the only player in the field in the top 10 for putts per round and scrambling. His short game more than offsets any lack of excellence in finding greens in the correct number of shots. His one win was it the Viking Classic in 2011 when four rounds below 70 and totalling 22 under got the job done. That tournament was also no more then a putting contest and Kirk’s short game makes him a major player this week.
Henley is a Tour debutant and but for Jordan Speith would be a good thing to be voted Rookie of the Year. He won the Sony Open in January, another tournament that was decided on the greens. He holed everything down the stretch in the final round and he is a player who could post a ridiculously low number this week. The average winning score over the three year history of the tournament is 15 under, low for a par 70 track, and Henley has the attributes to beat that number.
Simpson and Johnson have the major championship pedigree and are winners on the PGA Tour this year. However, both players will have to convert plenty of eagle and birdie opportunities to beat three players more suited to this week’s challenge. Backing Howell, Kirk and Henley each-way should lead to a profitable week of golf betting and cross doubles with the three picks for the Turkish Open could enhance any returns.