The top 50 players in the world will converge on the Trump National course at Doral in Miami for the first World Golf Championship event of the year. The Cadillac Championship is a limited field event that is co-sanctioned by the European Tour, the PGA Tour, the Japanese Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Southern African Tour. With the best players from each of these tours competing in an event without a cut, this is the biggest event in the world of golf so far this year.
Rory McIlroy once again tops the outright market. By making him favourite, the bookies are hoping that punters won’t be put off by Rory’s surprising missed cut at last week’s Honda Classic. It was the first time since 2013 that Rory didn’t make the weekend and he will be sure to have worked hard on the range to put his problems to one side. It’s always dangerous not tipping the world number one to win, but at best odds of 11/2 and without a win at the Cadillac, it’s best to go with different options. For a start, you can get 25/1 on defending champion Patrick Reed. His challenge at the Honda fell apart last week as he seemed to uncharacteristically falter under pressure. That will give him all the motivation he needs this week.
The next player to have a good look at is Henrik Stenson. This will be the Swede’s first event in America after slowly finding his form in the Desert Swing events. He improved from missing the cut in his first tournament of the season to narrowly finish outside the top 10 in the next two. Last year he placed 16th here but with his power and experience as a multiple tournament winner, he’s capable of a big week at 33/1. He’s best backed at each-way terms at that price.
Lee Westwood’s 25th place finish at the Honda Classic may not look like outstanding form but he managed to survive the horrible weather in Florida and make the weekend, the same of which can’t be said of McIlroy, Dustin Johnson or Justin Rose. Westwood has the battling qualities to make the best of a bad situation and is comfortable amongst the top players in the world. He may not have a Major to his name but his big tournament experience will be a serious positive this week. He goes off at a big 66/1 with Coral. Back him each-way and he could provide a nice big return on your investment.
Outside of the top names who have always been fixtures at the Cadillac Championship, there are a few players making their bow here who could upset the odds. From the European Tour, the likes of Alex Noren, Tommy Fleetwood and Bernd Wiesberger will all be testing themselves against the best but the debutante who most appeals is Danny Willett. The Yorkshireman has worked hard on a back injury that saw him withdraw from the Malaysian Open and is desperate for good form in the States before his first crack at the Masters. Willett can be backed at 125/1 with Ladbrokes and is as good a long-shot pick as you’ll get in this field.
The European Tour made history with some of its recent events. In Thailand and in India they co-sanctioned events with the Asian Tour which have never before appeared on the European Tour’s schedule. The next few events are also co-sanctioned – this time with the Sunshine Tour – but the tournaments are much more familiar to players and fans alike. This will be the ninth edition of the Joburg Open in a row and it is held over the two courses at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
The East Course measures a tough 7,600 yards and is perhaps best known for the signature 10th and 11th holes. These brutes are thought to be the longest back-to-back par fours in world golf, coming in at a combined yardage of well over 900 yards. The West Course is a few hundred yards shorter and offers a tantalising risk-reward challenge. They both play to a level par of 72 but scoring is generally lower on the West Course. Make sure to make a note of that if you look to get involved in-play at any stage. If a player is making headway on the field and is on the East Course, you know he has an advantage going into his next round.
Since the event has been included on the European Tour, South African golfers have dominated. Six of the tournament winners since 2007 were playing on home territory. It makes sense then, that defending champion George Coetzee is the bookies’ favourite. Coetzee has yet to record a top-ten finish this season even in the recent Dimension Data Pro-Am which took place in South Africa. He will be disappointed if he doesn’t challenge here but it seems prudent to look to other challengers this week.
The first contender of note is the promising Tyrrell Hatton. The 23-year-old has been ever-improving having come from the Challenge Tour last season. He finished tied second at last year’s Joburg Open and is an unflappable character. At 33/1 with Ladbrokes his price appeals for an each-way bet.
Next, we look to a South African to do the job on home soil. Thomas Aiken has never won this tournament even though he has the tools to shoot a low score on both courses. He did hold the lead last season but a final round of 74 saw him finish tied-fifth. The 31-year-old has 11 professional wins so he knows what to do to combat Sunday nerves and is therefore recommended at 25/1 with Coral.
Another player who finished tied for fifth place in the 2014 event was Andy Sullivan. The 28-year-old Englishman has already won on the Sunshine Tour this year when he scooped the prize in January’s South African Open by chasing down Charl Schwartzel who had a seven-shot lead. He also has a top-five place on the European Tour in 2015 at the Dubai Desert Classic. Sullivan is a player in form so Bet365’s 16/1 for him to win is very appealing.
The final bet is a long-shot. Matthew Fitzpatrick only turned professional this season and therefore needs to qualify for the 2015 Open, a tournament in which he made the cut as an amateur. He’s displayed decent form so far and will be chasing the Open spot that winning the Joburg Open guarantees. At 150/1 generally, he is good value for a final each-way bet.
The Honda Classic boasts arguably the strongest field of any PGA Tour event so far this year. Most of the top players have picked and chosen the events of the ‘West Coast Swing’ that they played in. Some players don’t like playing in pro-ams or events set over a number of different courses, but they pretty much all want to play in the Honda Classic. The emigration of European Tour players who also play on the PGA Tour continues with Lee Westwood, Victor Dubuisson and world number one Rory McIlroy all making their PGA Tour bow this week.
The Champion Course at the PGA National was specifically designed to host big events. It has hosted major championships and Ryder Cups and has been redesigned by Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear introduced one of the most feared stretches of holes with the “Bear Trap” which comprises holes 15, 16 and 17. Along with the other tweaks that Nicklaus added in 1990 and 2014, the par 70, 7,140 yard track will require top-notch course management.
Last year, McIlroy was in control on Sunday until he hit the water at the 16th and took a double bogey. He made a four-man play-off which was won on the first hole by Russell Henley. This time around, McIlroy is the stand-out favourite. The best price available on the Northern Irishman is 4/1 with Betfred which is miles shorter than second-favourite Dustin Johnson who is 16/1 generally. That price may be bordering on the ridiculous for such a competitive field but Rory won this tournament in 2012, finished first and second in his last two events and is just so good that you may as well back him for insurance purposes.
Away from Rory-mania, let’s have a look at some bigger priced contenders with the game to challenge at the Honda Classic. Another European, Paul Casey, is the first to have a look at. The former Ryder Cup player has suffered with a host of injuries in recent years but his career is currently on an upwards trajectory. He made the play-off at last week’s Northern Trust Open after re-establishing himself on both tours last season. Casey is a general 50/1 in the outright market which offers each-way appeal but the recommendation is to back him at 23/5 with BetVictor in the top 10 market. Another week of improvement beckons.
Next it’s time to plump for a fan-favourite to get back into form. Luke Donald was once ranked as the number one player in the world but the last couple of years have been something of a nightmare for the Chicago-based Englishman. A couple of seasons of coach-swapping and swing changes have resulted in Donald trying to go back to the swing which brought him success. His horrible form has masked green shoots of recovery in his game and given that he generally plays well around the Champion Course, the price of 80/1 with Coral is worth an each-way play for small stakes.
With the migration from the European Tour to PGA Tour almost complete for those who hold cards on both tours, there will be a very strong European presence at the Honda Classic. Many of the top Europeans live in Florida also, so get on the 5/6 that BetVictor are offering for the winner to come from outside America to hedge your bets if your individual picks don’t quite come off.
Rivera Country Club is next up for the PGA Tour and its California Swing. Gone are the film producers and comedians playing along in last week’s National Pro-Am, this week is strictly business. That means that a number of players who shunned Pebble Beach have returned to the battle for their share of a $6,700,000 purse and FedEx points that may prove to be vital at the end of the season. The par 71, 7,349 yard course will host the likes of returning champion Bubba Watson, last week’s winner Brandt Snedeker and Sergio Garcia, who is returning to competitive golf in America.
As Bubba is defending his title from last year, it is no surprise that he is up at the top of the betting. At a general 12/1 the bookies rank him as joint favourite with Dustin Johnson. Both men rank among the biggest hitters on the tour, have plenty of tournament wins under their belt and are in decent form. Watson has finished 10th and second in his two PGA tournaments this year. Johnson missed the cut on his return at the Farmers Insurance Open but recorded a fourth place finish last week. With a reputation to rebuild and a new baby to look after, Johnson could well have a very good season, but out of the two Watson is the man to side with.
It is not just the main two in the betting who deserve closer inspection. There are two players who, at big odds, are worth an each-way play. First up, Jason Kokrak. He is 100/1 pretty much across the board but he is one of the longest drivers on tour and a very good putter. His approach play will need to be strong this week but if it is, he may well return in a big way. The second player is Scott Piercy. Piercy’s been up-and-down this season so far with a best finish of second place at the Sony Open. His game should suit the challenge of the Riviera and at 125/1 with Bet365 he should be included in your betting arsenal.
Bernd Wiesberger has never played a competition at the Riviera and is only in the field this week due to an invitation. However, his form on the European Tour this season is so good that he is difficult to ignore in the top 10 market. BetVictor are a best priced 6/1 that he will overcome his lack of experience and power his way to an impressive top 10 finish.
Another man who plays on both tours and could well have a good time at the Riviera is Francesco Molinari. Very few players are as accurate off the tee as the Italian who can place himself in the best areas around the course to make up for his average driving distance. Molinari is a consistent player who hits in greens in regulation over 70% of the time, if he can convert the chances he is sure to get, he can make Ladbrokes’ odds-compiler regret the 100/1 they are offering. They also go 80/1 that he will be first round leader which is definitely worth a small punt.
The Indian Open has been going for over 50 years but the 2015 staging will be extra special. For the first time in its history, the event will be officially sanctioned by the European Tour. Perhaps following on from the success of tournaments in China, the European Tour is keen to capture a slice of the huge potential fan base available in India. An exciting event at the Delhi Golf Club will go a long way to converting fans to golf, as did Anirban Lahiri’s victory in the Malaysian Open two weeks ago and the six wins by Indian golfers on last season’s Asian Tour.
The Lohdi Course which will once again host the Indian Open is one of the shorter courses on Tour this year. At just under 6,000 yards a greater emphasis will be given to hitting greens in regulation than power and distance off the tee. Canny players who plot their way around the course are likely to be at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday. With the quality of the field increasing from recent years, expect the winning score to be around 20 under par.
Out of all the razzmatazz that the European Tour brings with it, those hosting the Indian Open are most looking forward to welcoming the ever-cool Miguel Angel Jimenez. The Spaniard missed out on becoming the next European captain in the Ryder Cup this week but said that will just harden his ambition to qualify. Jimenez finished tied for seventh at the True Thailand Classic last week, an event he was using as a warm-up for this week. It could have been even better for him last week had he not run out of steam on Sunday. The conditions may be hot in Dehli but the length of the course will help Jimenez maintain his challenge across all four days. He is a best priced 11/1 with Coral and Bet365, and even at the ripe old age of 51 he has the game to be successful.
The only player above Jimenez in the outright market is local favourite Anirban Lahiri. At a course that he enjoys and a tournament in which he is desperate to do well, he can be backed at 8/1 with Ladbrokes. Another Indian player of interest is three-time winner of this tournament Jyoti Randhawa. The 42-year-old New Dehli resident has a recent victory on the Asian Tour but missed the cut in his last two events which were both co-sanctioned by the European Tour. Both Ladbrokes and Coral offer 50/1 that he will once again triumph at his home tournament. Given the quality of the field, take BetVictor’s 7/2 that he will finish in the top 10.
The final player to back each-way is the American Paul Peterson. The left-handed golfer has only been playing on the Asian Tour for one season but managed an impressive 22nd place on the 2014 order of merit. He has impressive driving accuracy, a controlled game from tee to green and is one of the better putters in the field. At 35/1 with Bet365, he is a strong contender for the title but should he fall short, a top-five finish and the payout for the place portion of the bet is very achievable.
The Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin hosts the inaugural True Thailand Classic as the European Tour stays in Asia for the second consecutive week. Although this is the first running of the tournament, the course will be familiar to the Scandinavian contingent, many of whom use the facilities as their winter training base. Many other players have been impressed by the resort course which is one of the best in Asia.
The par 72 course at Hua Hin is a long 7,350 yards but it can be taken apart by the players if the conditions remain benign. The wind can often get up and cause issues but officials at the resort are confident that the weather will allow players and spectators to see the club at its best. The allure of the course along with a prize fund of $2million, a specially designed trophy and a luxury house on the resort for the first player to hit a hole-in-one at the 14th has attracted a strong field.
Among those playing from the Asian Tour are the winner of last week’s Malaysian Open, Anirbarn Lahiri and local hero Thongchai Jaidee. From Europe a host of in-form players like Alex Noren and Marc Warren are joined by veterans Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez. The winner of this tournament is likely to have to post a seriously low score over the four rounds. Let’s have a look and try to find that winner.
We’ll start with Marc Warren. The Scotsman has recorded three top-15 finishes in a row and is one of the best putters in the field. Warren is also remarkably consistent from round to round so if he shoots a good first round, he can be expected to stay around the top of the leaderboard. He will need to maintain his good form having travelled a considerable number of miles recently but if he does, he’s a good shout for an each-way bet at 14/1 with Bet365.
Jaidee never really got going at the Malaysian Open but with the European Tour coming to Thailand for the first time in eight years, he is sure to do all he can for the home fans. Jaidee is 16/1 for the win with Ladbrokes and again, that is a solid choice for an each-way bet.
Next we move to Miguel Angel Jimenez. The ‘most interesting man in the world’ won on the Champions Tour in January and finished in the top 50 at the Malaysian Open. He is 33/1 for the win generally and can be backed at 11/4 for a top 10 finish. The victory may be a step beyond him, especially as he has talked about his desire to win next week’s Indian Open. In order for him to find form for that, he will be looking for a good showing this week so you should side with him in the top 10 market. The last player to back each-way is Robert Rock at 66/1 with Coral. He’s been quiet recently but is an accurate driver with excellent greens in regulation stats. This course could well suit him, especially at that price.
Pebble Beach Golf Links is regularly voted the best course in America. It has hosted six Major championships as well as playing host to what the organisers aim to make the best Pro-Am tournament in the world.
The course is set in a bay and offers a genuine links challenge including the iconic 18th hole. As well as the links course, the first three days of the tournament will be held at Spyglass Hill and the Shore Course at Monterey Golf Club. Some of the best golfers in the world will be competing in the latest tournament in California including Jim Furyk who is making his first appearance of the season. Also teeing it up (and trying to not look too out of place) will be Huey Lewis, Michael Bolton and, of course, Bill Murray.
None of the three courses that host this year’s tournament rank as the longest on tour. The Links Course (6,816 yards/par 72), Spyglass Hill (6,953/par 72) and the Shore Course (6,867/par 71) are challenging in other respects however. It will take a great deal of concentration and patience to win this tournament as is always the case in tournaments set over more than one course. Knowing when to attack and when to take par and move on is crucial.
The outright market is headed by two in-form golfers. Last week’s winner of a play-off at the Farmers Insurance Open, Jason Day, is joined by leader of the FedEx Cup (and defending champion) Jimmy Walker. They are both available to back at around 8/1 generally and you can make a good case to back both players. If you fancy a bigger price, Ladbokes are offering 40/1 that the players will finish as the top two. Alternatively, you can wait until Sunday and all of the players are playing Pebble Beach. This is especially the case for Jason Day who can attack from behind as he showed last week.
2013 champion, Brandt Snedeker, stands out as decent value for another win at 25/1 generally. The Nashville-born multiple winner can place high up in a tournament on the back of indifferent form and has a good record of finishing in the top five early on in the season. As Snedeker is 5/1 to finish in the top five it is worth taking the 25/1 for him to win at each-way terms. Another player to add to the arsenal at each-way terms is Ryan Palmer. He has improved his finishing position in each tournament he’s played so far, culminating in a second place at the Phoenix Open. He also placed 10th in the Humana Challenge which was played over a similar format. Coral go 28/1 for Palmer to win which is the best price available.
The last player to look at this week is Dustin Johnson. He wasn’t at his best last week as he returned from six months out. However, he finished as runner-up at the National Pro-Am last year and is playing with his father-in-law Wayne Gretzky. He will enjoy the event and is very capable of finishing in the top 10 which he is 11/8 to do with Ladbrokes.
The PGA Tour returns to California this week as Torrey Pines plays host to the Farmers Insurance Open. As ever with the tour there are any number of storylines to choose from. From the return of Dustin Johnson after six months away dealing with “personal issues” to Tiger Woods going off at 50/1, the biggest he’s ever been priced in his career. Amidst all the soap opera, there is a golf tournament to be won. So let’s have a look at it.
In terms of favourite status, the bookies are torn between Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. You can get both of them at prices between 8/1 and 14/1. That the pair of them are favourites is understandable. Day finished tied second at the 2014 tournament and Spieth just lacked the experience and mental strength to turn a second-day lead into a victory as he shot consecutive rounds of 75 on the weekend. The 21-year-old has gained a great deal of fortitude in the last year. He won the Australian Open, finished tied second in the Masters and competed well in the Ryder Cup. Those experiences will no doubt help him this week. The claims of both on victory are strong, but there are other ways to go this week.
The first challenger to include is Jimmy Walker. The Oklahoma-born golfer experience a break-out year in 2014. He won three events on the PGA Tour and has already followed that up by defending his title at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Walker is the sort of player who plays well in spells and gets his form up to scratch early on in the season. The best price available on Walker is 16/1 with Ladbrokes who are paying five places for each-way bets. Taking him each-way rather than in a top 10 or top five market is the way to go because he could well be in contention for victory on Sunday.
Backing a player coming back from a six month break may not seem overly prudent, but with Dustin Johnson, there are reasons to support his claim for a top 10 finish. He loves playing at Torrey Pines – in a casual round with his father-in-law, ice hocky legend Wayne Gretzky, Johnson shot 61 around the track. Obviously, the much-debated issues that Johnson sought help to fix have had an effect on his price. You can back him at 40/1 to win with Coral but it’s probably best to back him at 11/4 to finish in the top 10 as a victory is likely beyond him.
How about a long shot pick for the chance of some serious returns? This week the pick is Scott Piercy who can be backed at 100/1 for the win with Coral. The suitability of his game to Torrey Pines is the reason for picking the Las Vegas-born Piercy. He struggled at the Phoenix Open as he missed the cut but the par fives at Torrey Pines rank among the easiest holes on the course and Piercy ranks fifth out of everyone in the field in terms of his scoring on the long holes. He also tends to get stronger as events go on, so as long as he doesn’t blow-out early on you can bank on his price shortening significantly come the weekend.
Finally, a word on Tiger Woods. The multiple major winner shot the worst round of his career when he carded an 82 last week. To be fair to Woods he faced the media afterwards and is still entered for this week’s tournament. Not only has he won this event eight times but he also won the US Open in 2008 when it was held at Torrey Pines. His game is so poor at the moment however, that it is difficult to make a case for him. For Tiger fans, the best hope is that he improves and gets some confidence from competing for all four days here. If you can’t turn down the 50/1 about a Woods win, just know that backing him at the moment is a brave decision.
The Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club plays host to the 54th Malaysian Open this week. Defending champion Lee Westwood heads the betting in a field that the tournament organisers are rightly proud of. Plenty of players who took part in the ‘Desert Swing’ events over the past three weeks will tee it up alongside some of the best golfers plying their trade on the Asian Tour.
The parkland course plays just under 7,000 yards and has water in play on many of the holes. In terms of scoring, the front nine plays considerably easier than the back nine so whoever wins is likely to have lead from the front. In fact, the first round leader has recorded wire-to-wire victories the last two years.
Last year, Westwood showed his commitment to the tournament by flying to Malaysia directly after finishing seventh in the Masters. This year, the omens are looking good for a repeat victory. His game is well suited to the course; he looked sharp when finishing ninth in Dubai; he plays well when coming back from a break (this is only his second event of the year); and he can handle hot conditions. All of this is reflected in his price. At 7/1 generally, the bookies are offering fair value on Westwood. If he can get his putter going then everything else is in place for his title defence.
The major difficulty for Westwood will be overcoming the quality of his competitors. With challenges possible from so many, two particular players stand out as being well suited for the Kuala Lumpur course. The first is Graeme McDowell. The major winner returned to action strongly last week following the birth of his daughter. The 10-time European Tour winner can take the course apart on his best showing and can be backed at 16/1 with Bet365. The second player is Bernd Wiesberger. The Austrian is arguably the most in-form player in the field at the moment having placed in the top 10 in each of the last three events. Last year he finished in a tie for second so he knows exactly how to score well around Kuala Lumpur. The best price you can get for him to go one better this year is 12/1 at Ladbrokes.
As this is an event which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, it is advisable to include Asian Tour players in your staking. The two men who most appeal are Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphinbarnrat. With a 20 year age gap between the pair, they are at different ends of their career but both are previous winners of the Malaysian Open. Jaidee’s victory in 2004 was the first of his six European Tour wins and made him the first Thai golfer to ever win on the tour. He doesn’t possess the same length off the tee as the other main contenders but his greens in regulation and scrambling statistics make up for that. Aphinbarnrat also claimed his maiden tour victory by winning this event. Although he has so far been unable to add to his 2013 win he averages over 300 yards with his driver and he has some of the best putting statistics of anybody in the field. Both players can be backed at 50/1 (Jaidee with Ladbrokes, Aphinbarnrat with Totesport). With the bookies paying out on five places you can either back them both each-way or turn to Ladbrokes’ top five finish market where Jaidee is 10/1 and Aphinbarnrat is 9/1.
Guess who’s back? Back again. Tiger’s back. Can he win? Well probably not, but Tiger Woods playing the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open brings back memories of his famous ace there and is something most golf fans would love to witness. Tiger aside there is a stellar field turning up to TPC Scottsdale including three-time winner Phil Mickelson who has included this event in his carefully managed run-up to Augusta.
The 7,152 yard, par 71 Stadium Course was renovated in 2014 with over 250 trees added, a number of challenging bunkers introduced and the relaying of all the greens. The co-designer of the course, Tom Weiskopf, was drafted in with the brief of making the course challenging for the PGA Tour stars but also playable for the average golfer as it is open to the public throughout the year. To that end, the changes may throw the more experienced players briefly but you can still expect plenty of good scoring especially as the tournament progresses. The course is perhaps best known for the raucous atmosphere of the 16th hole. As the players walk from tee to green it has become tradition for them to throw goodies to the 20,000 fans who are packed in all around the hole.
A quick look at the outright market shows that there is no clear favourite. The bookies are torn between Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson for favourite status. Under those two Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Big Phil are expected to have good weeks. Bubba finished runner-up last year after he was caught by eventual winner Kevin Stadler. This is Stadler’s home course and without him in the field this year, Bubba could well go one better. The two-time Masters winner plays his own game and ‘Bubba golf’ has all the elements needed for success this week. He can be backed at 16/1 with Totesport and is worth each-way consideration.
Hunter Mahan won the 2010 version of this tournament and at 40/1 generally his game appeals. The stats shows he is second in greens hit this season and in terms of strokes gained tee-to-green he’s 28th. Those are good indicators of a strong showing at the Phoenix Open. It’s a big price for someone who invariably finishes in the top 10 at this event so get involved, even if on each-way terms.
Finally, let’s try and nail a long-odds selection. Step up to the plate Francesco Molinari. The Italian had a poor season by his high standards last year but along with coach Denis Pugh he put in a great deal of work over the summer and his game has shown signs of improvement. Molinari finished tied for 10th at last week’s Humana Challenge and at 66/1 with Ladbrokes he is an interesting small stakes option. The same firm also go 5/1 that Molinari will fare at least as well as last week and finish within the top 10 places.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open attracts the most fans of any event on the regular PGA Tour. Who will send the fans wild on the 16th and will anyone hit a shot poor enough to deserve a chorus of boos? If the players tipped above perform though, it will be us cheering come Sunday night, that’s for sure.