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The Open Preview

Time to start thinking about The Open.  Here in short is a look at the odds today, among other things.

Tiger Woods (5/1): I feel like we’re getting very close to me moving back to a one bedroom apartment, driving a Toyota Camry, and making next to no money.  Why?  Because it’s turn back the clock to 2000 time.  I’m not a Tiger fan per se, but I think what is happening now is AWESOME.  Golf is simply better when the red shirted boogey man is in the mix.  I don’t know for sure if we get to see guys standing over a yellow puddle on Sunday afternoon again, but Brandon de Jonge proves it’s possible.  The needle has been moved, Tiger’s back, and it’s a tremendous amount of fun to watch.  If you want to wager on Tiger, now is the time to do it, at 5/1 it’s a steal of a deal.  By this time next week you’ll be lucky to get 3/1, the week after that you’ll be lucky to get 3/2.  (I think you can guess what I think the outcome of this week’s tournament at Greenbrier is going to be)

Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy (12/1): Westwood in The Open over the last five years has gone T32, Cut, T3, 2, Cut.  Rory over the same period has gone T42, DNP, T47, T3, T25.  It’s not great.  I feel that Westwood will finish ahead of Rory this year; but don’t see either figuring into winning.  Frankly, I’m not sure what is going on with Rory; however I think it involves tennis and a certain blonde who plays it.  At 12/1 I’m not sure I could advocate taking either.

Luke Donald (16/1): See the US Open.

Paddy Harrington (20/1): Think that he does well here, but I’m not sure he’s in form enough to stare down Tiger on Sunday and win.  I like Paddy in a top 10 prop bet more than as a winner.

Phil (22/1): Started the season well, has ran out of gas as of late.  I’ll wait to see how he does this weekend at the Greenbrier, but I’m not holding out much hope.  More to come later.

Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia (33/1): I like Rose here more than Garcia.  Before the season began there wasn’t many pundits that did not have Sergio as the winner of a major this year.  Then he comes out and says that mentally he doesn’t have what it takes to win a major *GULP*.  If he was going to win one this year, this is where it’d be, however you have to take the man at his word.  Rose started the season strongly, and has performed above average ever since.  Like Harrington, I like Rose in a top 10 prop more than winning.

Ernie Els (40/1):  Will he putt?  If you answer that question with a yes, Els is a tremendous value at 40/1.  I answer it with a half on the fence no.  Still though, as seen in the US Open, he’ll give himself a chance in these types of spots.  At 40/1 you’re just putting yourself on the board with players who you feel have a chance.  I like the value here.

Ian Poulter (50/1): He will win an Open, I’m certain of it.  If Tiger isn’t in contention I like Ian’s chances.  If Tiger is there or there abouts on Sunday I do not.

My super clever, out of nowhere to the public pick: Rafa Cabrera-Bello.  He’s not on the board yet as a future, but I like a lot of what I saw from Rafa on Sunday at the Irish Open.  Once he goes on the board I predict it’ll be north of 50/1, that is value the likes of which you rarely see. (Update: He’s now out there, 100/1, jump on that like a house on fire).  My second clever pick is Paul Lawrie, he also is not on the board yet.

US Open, Tips, Picks

Well, it’s here.  It’s not the Super Bowl of golf handicapping (The Accenture Match Play) or even the BCS National Title Game (The Volvo Match Play Championship).  However, in terms of pure entertainment I don’t know if there is an event that has more.  Rock hard greens, 2 inch deep rough, and a set up that is unique to its purpose; truly is the toughest test in golf.  Or at least it was, last year Rory McIlroy torched the field and the course.  It will be interesting to see if the USGA go back to having even par be the preferred score, or if they do as they did last year and make the setup only slightly more difficult than any other major.

Enough with the level set, you’re here for the numbers, let’s dive right in:

*Numbers from Bovada, 11am EST

Tiger Woods, 7/1: The perennial favorite whenever he seems to be playing well.  Hard not to suggest that folks take insurance here at 7/1, as this number will come down to at least 5/1 before Thursday.  This is a great price to take Tiger at, if he wins here you’ll not get 7/1 for the rest of the season.

Lee Westwood, 12/1: Even though I’ll be rooting for Lee, he’s one of my favorites; I’d not take him at this number.  Prior to last weekend, you’d of not taken Lee at anything less than 15/1.  Consider this, has traveled halfway across the world, all new clubs in the bag, and has only been slightly above average in putting this season.  It’s a wager filled with red flags in my view.

Luke Donald, 14/1: Does just about everything that you like to see out of a player in the US Open.  Isn’t going to make a tremendous amount of mistakes, will keep the ball in play and on the fairway.  Only knock is that his putting hasn’t been tremendous recently.  He was my pick at the beginning of the season, I’ve not seen anything yet to make me change my mind.

Rory McIlroy, 14/1: Played better last week, but has had a disastrous month.  Girlfriend is halfway across the world, which for Rory recently has been a terrible sign.  Good price, but I don’t see him as a great repeat champion in this event.  Doesn’t have nearly the motivation that he had last time to do well here.

Phil Mickelson, 18/1: The tank is empty as far as I’m concerned.  At a minimum, there’s not enough fuel in the tank to win this event.  Honestly I’d be surprised if he made the cut.

Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, 28/1: A group at 28/1 that combines great price with good opportunity.  Apart from Dustin Johnson (whom I’m shocked won this early after coming back from injury, nothing against him just felt it was too soon) I like everyone in this group.  Dufner, Rose, and Kuchar aren’t going to make mistakes, and at one point in the season were the best at the tournament.

Other notables:

Rickie Fowler, 30/1

Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson 33/1

Adam Scott, Hunter Mahan, Sergio Garcia, Steve Stricker, 40/1

 Bo Van Pelt, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer 50/1

Ernie Els, Ian Poulter, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley, Nick Watney, Peter Hanson, Webb Simpson 66/1

So if I had a ticket in what would it look like (not that I will, or advocate that people do unless you live in a place where sports gambling is legal)?

Tiger Woods, +700, 10 units

Luke Donald, +1400, 20 units

Jason Dufner, +2800, 20 units

Zach Johnson, +3300, 20 units

Ian James Poulter, +6600, 10 units

With the remaining 20 units I’d try to find a good 1 v 1 matchup.  If you can find it, I’d take TW v Jason Dufner, so long as you could get Dufner at +150.

Gun to head, had to pick a winner, I’d go with Luke Donald.  6 out of the last 10 have been won by internationals.  Of the 4 that have been won by players from the US, TW has 2 of them.  If a player from the US does prevail, I like the chances of Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.

Quick Shots, BMW Championship

It’s a big week on the European Tour with the BMW Championships taking place at Wentworth.  Last year we had a huge showdown between Lee Westwood and Luke Donald that went into extra holes.  You’ll also remember that this is where Luke Donald pipped the World #1 Ranking off of Westwood.  Very similar scenario this week with McIlroy, Westwood, and Donald all in position to take #1 depending on how it all goes.

I’ll take these in order of the odds

Luke Donald, 8/1, had a great back 9 at TPC Sawgrass; touch and go other than that over the past few weeks.  Just not scoring the way that Luke Donald had last season.  I suppose it’s down to short game and putting.  Will be there or thereabouts this weekend, if you can find a T10 prop at a good price I’d get in on it.

Lee Westwood, 10/1, I’ll bottom line it for you, until Lee starts having the putter warm up he’s going to be tough to back.  All other parts of his game look good, but you need to make the odd 10 foot putt to score.  I hope it heats up this weekend, I’ll be watching closely.

Rory McIlroy, 11/1, has a chance to win every time he puts a peg in the ground (as long as it’s not Sawgrass).  11/1 isn’t a bad price, hard not to consider.

Justin Rose, 20/1, has cooled off slightly from the start of the season, I’d be looking for a T10 prop here.  Will be boosted by being back in Blimey this week, boosted by new apparel sponsor.  20/1 for Justin Rose with his play so far this season looks like one hell of a good price.

Martin Kaymer, 28/1, if you read my blog you know what I’m going to say already.  Not to pile on, but he had an awful Volvo Championship.  You’re more likely to win by getting a scratch off ticket at your local gas station.

Picks for Value

Ben Curtis, 33/1, HOTTEST hand on the PGA Tour right now with the exception of Jason Dufner.  Slightly worried about having to play away from home but Ben started the season out on the Euro Tour and played well.  I like the price at 33/1, and would go HEAVY if you can find a T10 prop somewhere.  He keeps playing like this and he’ll have to make plans later on this season to travel to Medinah.

Graeme McDowell, 33/1, played his way into the final of the Volvo and looked good doing so.  Good but not great price for Graeme.

Ian Poulter, 33/1, I wish that I could provide actual metrics here, but this for me feels like the week going into the Australian Masters for Ian.  I had a feeling then that he was going to threaten a win, and feel the same way this week.  He’s playing well, and I get the feeling that he is absolutely desperate to win this tournament this week.  Ian excels at taking positive rounds and stringing them together, forgetting easily about the average rounds in between.  Boosted hugely by the first round at TPC Sawgrass among other recent rounds.  I look for another flying start, if you can get him as a first round leader it’d be worth a look.

Martin Laird and Paul Lawrie, 50/1, both are playing extremely well at the moment, and a tremendous pick for value in terms of price at 50/1.

Branden Grace, 66/1, not a great Volvo, but not bad either.  Most in form player at the moment on the Euro Tour.  Great price for someone who is playing so well.

Volvo World Match Play, Day 2

What a first day from the Volvo World Match Play Championship.

I’m pleased to say #humblebrag, that I went 6-1-1 in my first day picks.  The only blemish coming in the Quiros v Garcia match.

Pool Stage – Morning

Senden v. Lewis: interesting match for plucky Tom Lewis, if he has any hope of moving on he needs to win this match.  Sadly, I don’t believe he will; it’ll be close however.  Pick: Senden

Bjorn v Grace:  Who has the hottest hand on the European Tour?  Branden Grace.  Pick: Grace

Lawrie v Villegas: There’s a lot I like about Paul Lawrie’s game right now; it’s a shame he’ll not be coming over for the US Open.  Pick: Lawrie

Quiros v Hiratsuka: Alvaro needs to win this match to stay in.  Pick: Quiros

Karlsson v Kruger: If Branden Grace has the hot hand on tour, JBE Kruger isn’t too far behind.  I like Kruger here, and it’s likely you’ll get him at a good price in the +115-+125 range.  If you can get him at +125 jump in with both feet.  Pick: Kruger

Colsaerts v Goosen: I’ll make a bold prediction here, this match won’t even be close.  Pick: Colsaerts

Rock v Clarke: Robert Rock got dusted this morning by Justin Rose who is an in form player from the PGA Tour.  Clarke doesn’t have near the momentum that Rose has, but is skilled at match play.  It’ll be close, but Robert Rock is a quality player and needs to win.  Pick: Rock

Cabrera-Bello v Finch: Will be close, but Rafa has to be flying after a dominant win over Kaymer.  Pick: Cabrera-Bello

Pool Stage – Afternoon

Poulter v Lewis: Lewis gets an education from a masterclass match play player.  Pick: Poulter

Snedeker v Grace: Grace will have already played in the morning, so advantage Snedeker.  Brandt Snedeker is a good match play player.  Pick: Snedeker

Hanson v Villegas: Pick: Hanson

Garcia v Hirtsuka: Pick: Garcia

McDowell v Kruger: Should be an awesome match that fans should have tipped as one of the more exciting matches of the day.  McDowell figures out a way to win.  Pick: McDowell

Schwartzel v Goosen: Pick: Schwartzel

Rose v Clarke: I know that Clarke has been playing closer attention to fitness this season, but Rose is looking a freight train of momentum at the moment.  Don’t forget, Rose essentially feels he needs to win this to put himself into the top tier of selections for the Ryder Cup.  Pick: Rose

Kaymer v Finch: I know what you’re thinking.  I won’t do it.  Pick: Kaymer

Sybase Match Play Championship, Picks

There is no end to the value that The Plugged Ball attempts to bring its readers.  If ever there was an opportunity to beat Vegas, the LPGA is a great way to do it.  Furthermore, the learning curve is flattened a bit in match play (the same is true of the Euro Tour and PGA, always a simpler wager in match play).  Having said that, I wrote a couple weeks back that I’m a huge proponent of catching LPGA events, and there’s no better week than the Sybase.  Here are a couple of my highlights/picks. (At the time of publication match odds were not available, overall winner odds were however).

*Note, as soon as match by match odds are available, I’ll post an update.

Patty Berg Bracket

All you need to know here for the most part if this is the first LPGA event you’ll be watching this season is that Yani Tseng and Brittany Lincicome are in this bracket.  Not to diminish Paula Creamer and others, it’s tough not to take the afore mentioned Tseng and Lincicome in the bracket final.  Tseng at a +450 price is almost not even worth walking down to the Las Vegas Hilton to put money on.  However, Lincicome at +2500 is well worth the trouble.

Paula Creamer in at +2200 ahead of Lincicome is Las Vegas’s version of an oft played trick.  If there is a ‘public’ team in the LPGA, Creamer is definitely one of them.  I like Paula to win her first two matches and be beaten in a good showdown with Lincicome.

Kathy Whitworth Bracket

Much in the same way of the previous bracket, Ai Miyazato and Christie Kerr are in this bracket, I have both in the bracket finals.  You can get Miyazato at +1400 to win, and Kerr at +1600; both good if not great prices.  This bracket has probable Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu who you can get at +2000. 

Or (Don’s Desk Special Tip) you can go super clever dark horse in this bracket and take Vicky Hurst (+10000)  Hurst avoids Miyazato and Ryu until the bracket final, and would only have to upset Kerr or Stanford to get into the bracket final.  If you’re going to a punt that could land you big in the cash, this is one of the areas I’d be looking.  In fact the more I think about it, the better I feel about getting in here at +10000.

Mickey Wright Bracket

To be fair, I don’t expect very much in the way of upsets here.  Na Yeon Choi and Jiyai Shin will be in the bracket final and you can get them at +1000 and +1200 respectively.  I have Natalie Gulbis and Morgan Pressel winning their first two matches.  Not much else to say here.

Annika Sorenstam Bracket

I’ll start out with this (Don’s Desk Special Tip), Suzann Pettersen is struggling, mark it down, Jodi Ewart moves on through the first round.  I don’t know what the price is going to be here, but Pettersen is something of a ‘public’ team on the LPGA so it’s likely you’ll be able to get Ewart at +135 in the match up.  I’ll be going HEAVY on Ewart to win this match.

In the second round there will likely be a very good showdown between Sandra Gal and Stacy Lewis, could go either way, I have Lewis winning but if you can get Gal at a similar +135 price in the matchup I’d be tempted to take Gal.

Whoever moves on in this match could face off against fearless Jessica Korda if she can get past Hee Kyung Seo, setting up another great match.  A back to back match with Lewis/Gal then Lewis/Gal v Korda provides great entertainment.  If Korda gets beaten in the first round (I have her moving on), there’s not as much entertainment in the 3rd round match.

Out of this bracket however, I have Stacy Lewis.  She’s got the hot hand right now, and is arguably the best American player on the LPGA thus far this season.

Final Four

I have Lincicome v Miyazato and Choi v Stacy, in the final I have Miyazato v Lewis, with Miyazato winning it all.  Of note, I have Tseng getting beaten by Lincicome.

Volvo World Match Play

If you are familiar with the World Cup, or the Champions League then you understand how this weekend’s Volvo World Match Play Tournament works.  Because of the format, I can’t do a beginning to end list of picks, but will have a daily list of picks so that you can make decisions effectively if you’ll be playing the matches this weekend.  It’s not the Accenture Match Play; which has 64 competitors, but it’s fun to watch no less.

Thursday Match 1, Ian Poulter v John Senden: Bad draw, I believe, for Poulter; but he’s familiar with Senden most recently from the Australian Masters event that Poulter played in this weekend.  Will be closer than it should be, but Poulter will ultimately prevail.

Thursday Match 2, Brandt Snedeker v Thomas Bjorn: I typically stay away from picking Americans in European Tour events, however it is widely believed that Thomas Bjorn has a back injury.  With that in mind, I’ll take Snedeker.

Thursday Match 3, Peter Hanson v Paul Lawrie: Lawrie has a good short game and has looked good this year in the events that I have watched.  I’ll take Lawrie.

Thursday Match 4, Sergio Garcia v Alvaro Quiros: Total toss up in this match, I’d not be holding any tickets this Thursday tied to either of these guys.  At gunpoint if I had to make a selection, I’d take Quiros.

Thursday Match 5, Graeme McDowell v Robert Karlsson: Dangerous match for GMac, but I’ll still take him here. If I can get Karlsson at +125 or better, I’d think hard about getting a good price.

Thursday Match 6, Charl Schwartzel v Nicolas Colsaerts: If you have followed this blog you know that I believe that Nicolas Colsaerts is going to be a big, big star.  The only way that you get to that position is if you start collecting some scalps; Schwartzel would be a big one.  Nicolas made the semifinal last year, and I don’t think this year will be any different.  If you pick one match on Thursday to either watch or DVR, this is absolutely the one that I would pick.  Will be a great and tough matchup, but I’m taking Colsaerts.

Thursday Match 7, Justin Rose v Robert Rock: Another great showdown, both players have been tremendous so far this season.  Similar to Colsaerts, I believe that Robert Rock is going to be a HUGE star for years to come.  Rock did beat Adam Scott in the Accenture, but it was an ugly match.  I’d love to see Rock make a run and fortify his case to be on the Ryder Cup, but Rose is going to be tough.  Let’s not forget Justin Rose has a similar objective in getting back into the Ryder Cup fold.  I’m taking Justin Rose.

Thursday Match 8, Martin Kaymer v Rafael Cabrera-Bello: Total coin toss, which is saying a lot considering that Kaymer is ranked #9 in the world against Carbrera-Bello’s 61.  On paper this is a mismatch, correct?  Incorrect.  Cabrera-Bello should have gone farther at the Accenture, and will make up for it here.  Plucky victory for Rafael is my pick.

Quick Shots, The Players

Quick Hits

I’m helping all parties involved here.  1) Kuchar, T2) Laird, Z Johnson, Fowler, Curtis, 6) Donald, T7) BVP, Vegas, Na, T10) Toms, Petterson.  Why did I just document the top 10 from the Players?  Because as of today, if I were handicapping the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island all of the tickets that I’d have in my hand would have the names above.  If EA Sports have done a good job of replicating Kiawah on TW13, then the translation from Sawgrass is very, very similar.

On a similar note, what a month Ben Curtis is having.  Every night before I go to bed, I pray that he will be at least a +4000 price by the time that the Memorial rolls around.  Ben is a hometown boy that will almost certainly be there or thereabouts on current form at the Memorial.  Ben grew up playing Mill Creek, which is a very short distance away from Muirfield Village, and is an excellent course.  If you’ve not had the pleasure of playing Mill Creek and are from Central Ohio, I am a very big advocate of getting out there soon.  Ben is up to 17 in the Fed Ex Cup, and if his current form holds up he figures to be close in getting selected for the Ryder Cup.  Not bad, not bad at all for a season that started on the European Tour.

I haven’t hit the Golf WRX message board in a couple of weeks but I assume that it was in full meltdown mode yesterday.  There is a large contingent of ‘Keyboard Commandos’ that despise Rickie Fowler; there’s an equally large contingent that believe he truly will be America’s answer to Rory McIlroy.  The fact is, Rickie struggled mightily at the beginning of the season, but looks to now have turned it around.  As I watched yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about how golf fans love a guy that throws caution to the wind and just goes for it every shot (see Phil Mickleson).  Whether Rickie wants it or not, the PGA Tour and the media will at some point start making the comparison.  As he continues to either win, or be in contention, I’ll be eager to see just how much the needle moves compared to those televised tournaments where he’s not in contention.

What can I say about Kevin Na that hasn’t already been said?  I’m shocked given his pre-shot routine that he’s able to play as well as he does.  Fairplay to him that he’s as open an honest as he is about what he’s going through.  I think as the weekend went on, he went from being a villain to a very sympathetic figure given the level of honesty.  For me it was refreshing that he spoke so openly about what he’s going through before he hits the ball.

Don’s Desk, The Players

For the Year:

Amt Spent: 565

Amt Won: 1175

Picks This Week:

Steve Stricker, +3300, 20 units

Louis Oosthuizen, +4000, 10 units

Coverage:

Ernie Els, +5000, 10 units


Quick Shots

This is a quick hits post that will cover a few topics that I think are worth noting.

First there are two big pink gorillas trying to hide out in the corner of the room.

1)      You knew that Fowler was going to win at some point; to win in this fashion underscores the quality of player that he is.  I think that it is a fantastic confidence booster to win at a course like Quail Hollow, and will be additionally nice having won against a player the stature of Rory McIlroy in a playoff.  Finally, I think it speaks to the quality of Rickie Fowler off the course that a number of players on the PGA Tour blew up Twitter last night with messages of support.  This would not have happened with a number of other players who are less liked.

2)      Speaking of McIlroy, as a handicapper how can you not at least use him as your insurance to cover?  Whenever Rory plays, he’s going to be there or thereabouts with very few exceptions.  Don’t get caught out by not having at least a portion of your units on him to win.  The price will not be great but you can get further coverage by taking him with a top 5 or top 10 prop where available.  At this point he’s likely to be the odds on favorite for the US Open, The Open, and PGA Championships.  As the days move on, I feel good about him getting at least one of the three.

Early odds are out on The Players.  Rory is in at +1000.  See above.  Wear ski mask when you put the ticket in.  Getting Rory at +1000 could have you convicted of robbery; what a great price for the penultimate favorite.

Speaking of Early lines, Westwood +1400, Donald +1400, Phil +2000, Tiger +2000, Mahan +3300, Dufner +3300, Adam Scott +4000, Justin Rose +4000, Oosthuizen +4000, Fowler +4000, Kaymer +5000, Francesco Molinari +6600, Ben Curtis +8000

Not quite as mouthwatering but worth noting McIlroy Top 5 +165, Donald +250, Westwood +250, Phil +350, Woods +350, Mahan +550, Dufner +600, Adam Scott +700

For a laugh, McIlroy to win 2 majors this year +1800, 3 majors +6600

I like all of those odds except the ones that I put in there for comedic properties.  Any guess who has me laughing the most?  Tiger.  You might as well take your money, put it in a garbage can and set it on fire.  Very little about what you and I do out on the golf course translates well to the PGA Tour.  The one and only thing that might is thinking too much when you swing.  In any book that you read they something to the effect that you think on the range, you play on the course.  It’s clear to me Tiger is thinking out on the course.  Very honestly, on current form I’d be shocked if he won again this year.

Dufner at the moment is probably another soft opportunity.  Dufner just got married this weekend.  For those of you that have gotten married you know that it’s exhausting.  Add to that, you know he’s not practicing right now.  Even with the most understanding of spouses, he’s going to need a couple of weeks.  A couple weeks from now Jason Dufner will go straight back to finishing most tournaments in the top 10-20; he’s having a great season.