Tiger Woods makes one of his trips to Dubai this week but for the first time in probably more than 10 years he is not the bookmakers’ favourite to win a regular 72 hole tournament. Rory McIlroy is a shorter price for the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour but there appears to be some value in looking elsewhere for potential winners.
The OnParProfits golf service has highlighted other players at bigger prices who could beat the two market leaders.
This service managed through the Winning Information Network had a great winner last week. The main tip for the Qatar Masters was Sergio Garcia and he did the business for his backers by beating Mikko Ilonen in a play-off. Garcia has famously never won a major championship. However with a new partner he has stability away from the course and may have matured and finally moved on from the days of always being known as El Nino.
Some pundits believe Garcia’s putting will always let him down at the business end of majors. The OnParProfits service thinks he can win one of the four biggest prizes in golf and one course in particular that hosts a major this year is ideally suited to his game. This could be Sergio’s year to win a major and I would suggest it can happen on the Wirral Peninsula of north-west England in July. I think there’s enough clues to work out who I believe will be holding the Claret Jug this summer.
After three rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open Charley Hoffman appeared to be too far back to make the top 10. His five under par round of 67 which included a hole in one meant he made that bracket by just one shot. This is a player to follow on the US PGA Tour this season, especially on courses that require a decent short game for good scoring.
The Dubai Desert Classic is being held at the Emirates Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates for the 14th successive year and forms the third leg of the ‘Gulf swing’. The American-style course has fairly generous fairways leading to large, generally flat greens. Water comes into play on 10 holes. Unusually for a gulf course the 9th and 18th have a shared green which is normally seen on links course.
Greater than average hitting is not a prerequisite to contend but it is an advantage on the four par 5s which are key holes for getting below par. The most important attribute is quality iron play and the ability to hit the greens in the correct number of shots must be considered when identifying players with an advantage over the rest of the field.
There are some course details to bear in mind if betting in running. Three of the four par 5s are on the back nine which plays easier than the front nine. The 18th is reachable in two so an eagle for a player in contention can change the outcome significantly. However, it is a risk-reward hole with a long carry over water to the green so the shape of the tournament can change with one brave shot and holed putt.
McIlroy has built up a solid bank of course form in a relatively short career and he arrives in Dubai on the back of a tournament in which he played the fewest shots but did not win. He was given a 2 stroke penalty in the Abu Dhabi Championship in which he eventually finished just one shot off the pace behind Pablo Larrazabal from of Spain. McIlroy has been priced up as a recent tournament winner but too short to recommend a bet.
Phil Mickelson is favourite for the Phoenix Open on the basis of excellent course form. He went to college in Arizona and players with a local connection often do well at this tournament. Mickelson is the defending champion this week but is unlikely to match his winning score of 28 under twelve months ago. In the previous five years the average winning score in the Phoenix Open was 16 under. Mickelson looks a worthy favourite and only as this is his first outing in 2014 on the PGA Tour does he not warrant a bet.
The Phoenix Open has been held at Scottsdale since 1987. The event is best known for its huge galleries, over 150,00 strong on the Saturday, and in particular the raucous atmosphere at the par-3 16th. The crowd surrounds the entire hole from tee to green. The loudest cheers were probably when Tiger Woods had a hole in one there in 1997. The beer concessions do good business and the Phoenix Open is a tournament at which shouts of ‘your the man’ and ‘get in the hole’ are not only accepted but obligatory.
The TPC of Scottsdale is a typical stadium course, except that it is in the desert so waste areas and bunkers are common. Water is in play on several holes and the Bermuda greens are mainly above average in size. Course experience is more important than any particular skill but it certainly helps to have a good short game and driving accuracy is more important than distance. The stretch around the turn is exposed which is worth noting if the wind is blowing. The local climate produces still, warm conditions in some years and wet and windy weather in others.
In the past it has generally been worth looking at recent course form. The unique atmosphere at Scottsdale doesn’t suit every player and it is a test of temperament as much skill. However, some rookies have done well in the past but only those that relished the atmosphere generated by the huge crowds. The Phoenix Open is the best attended tournament on any tour and it gets more lively towards the end of play.
Local residents probably buy into the occasion more than others. This is Arizona’s biggest week for professional golf and players that live or studied in the state, such as Geoff Ogilvy and Mickelson, seem to have an advantage over the rest of the field. That means the Mickelson-McIlroy double will be popular but there is a case for opposing both favourites this week.
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