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Steve Bamford's tips for the 2011 Greenbrier Classic – The Old White TPC, Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
It’s a strange time of the golf season, with heads turning in a number of directions. Some players are desperate to find form and grab a position in the Top 125 on the PGA Tour Money List. Luminaries such as Ben Curtis, Jason Leonard, David Duval and Vaughn Taylor all sit outside the cut-line and have NO exemptions to fallback upon. It’s going to be a long season for these guys and don’t be surprised to see Taylor et al in the mix this week in West Virginia.
For those that have PGA Tour exemptions to sit on (a winner of a tournament grabs a minimum 2 year exemption guaranteeing full status and a choice of tournament schedule) the FedEx Cup which runs alongside the overall Money List motivates - after all if you don’t make the Top 125, you don’t make the big money Playoffs which start in August. As things stand, Tim Clark, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera and Louis Oosthuizen won’t line up at the opening Playoff tournament, The Barclays, where there is a cool $8,000,000 purse. Harrington sits on the bubble at 125th and remember there is nothing that motivates a player more than big money tournaments! To give a level of context, each of the 4 Playoff tournaments has an individual $8 million prize find - larger than that of The Open Championship! The PGA Tour hates to mention it (you try and find the detail on their site) but the overall Playoff winner also grabs a further $10 million...now that's motivation!
For others though, the next couple of weeks are important for other reasons. The World Golf Championship (WGC) event at Firestone looms next week in Ohio and only world-level tournament winners and the Top 50 are invited to this select tournament. The PGA Championship follows on from there and again the qualifying criteria dictates a PGA Tour win, Top 100 World Ranking or a Top 70 spot in a separate year-long cumulative championship which ends this week in West Virginia.
So a player’s psyche is a key part in my selections this week because, like Stuart Appleby last year, a “goal” plays a huge part when it comes to the back 9 on Sunday. Appleby qualified for both the WGC (Firestone is a favourite Appleby course) and PGA Championships by winning in 2010. The Old White course itself is a remodelled (since last season) 7,200 yard Par 70 where the level of scoring will be tuned down slightly from the crazy low scores that we saw last season. Saying that we’re looking for players who have great form on bent greens and who have form of going low on resort-type drag strips. That “extra motivation” I mentioned earlier is a perfect scenario and the final piece of the jigsaw when it comes to members of my 10 point team this week:
I’m staying on the profit train that is Webb Simpson, choo-choo! Regular followers know that I’m an admirer of the North Carolina youngster who is playing exceptional golf right now. The days of grabbing 80/1 and 66/1 each way results on Webb (he should have won both!) are long gone, but that comes with the territory and the season this kid is having I’m afraid. That season has brought him to the front door of the golfing top table. A World Top 50 position gets guaranteed spots in all Major and WGC events and that starts with the Bridgestone Invitational next week in Ohio. All that separates Simpson from his first WGC spot is 3 pesky spots on the World Golf Ranking. One good week in Virginia delivers Webb his first World Golf Championship spot. 14th at the US Open and 16th at the Open Championship suggests that Webb feels he belongs in exalted company and recent finishes of 13th at River Highlands, 8th at Aronimink, 7th at Muirfield and 4th at TPC Summerlin (Fall Series last year) show a player who can play on Bentgrass greens. RESULT: T9
One day Bill will deliver what I have promised for a while now and, like Simpson, I’m keeping faith this week because the Greer, South Carolina resident ticks all the right boxes. I last tipped Haas at Aronimink 4 weeks back at 35/1 and he gave us a run for our money by being right in the mix after 54 holes. However an unexpected 76 on Sunday did for our chances, but the fact remains that Haas is playing great golf right now and will be motivated to make it to Firestone next week. Bill hated the Saturday and Sunday conditions at Sandwich but still made his first Open Championship cut and a recent Bent form-line of 34(Aronimink)-23(Congressional – US Open)-45-8(Colonial)-4(Quail) highlight a player growing in confidence on Bent. Motivation-wise Haas has a guaranteed spot at Atlanta Athletic in a fortnight, but his current 47th World Golf Rank does not guarantee an outing at Firestone unless he performs well in Virginia this week and The Old White “drag strip” is right up Bill’s street as he loves shooting low scores. Check Haas’ record at Palm Springs, Doral, Annandale, Colonial, La Cantera and TPC Scottsdale and you’ll find a player who loves the space to shoot low. RESULT: T2nd, lost in playoff
66/1 with Ladbrokes is an outrageous market-beating price on Texan Palmer that you won’t see elsewhere This time last year saw Ryan Palmer truly establish himself on the world stage with his 2nd place finish at the WGC Bridgestone in Akron. His 3rd round 63 at Firestone was one of the best performances of the 2010 season. Everybody apart from my tipping partner Paul Williams expected Palmer to make up the numbers but he delivered in Ohio and, to be fair, he hasn’t really stopped since! 5th at Ridgwood, 11th at TPC Boston and 8th at TPC Summerlin followed in 2010 and 2011 has seen 4th at the Bob Hope Lottery, 10th on debut at Augusta, and 2nd at TPC Four Seasons (yet another one of my 2nd places at 80/1 this season!). A place at the top table brings guaranteed Major appearances and Palmer has not been overawed with 21st coming at Congressional and 30th on his Open Championship debut last time out in Kent. However a spot in the World’s Top 50 is hard to keep and his current 52nd spot could see a non-appearance at Firestone: you can be assured that Ryan will be 100% motivated this week on a low scoring Par 70 that will surely suit the 3-time winner who shot -15 to triumph at Waialee in 2010 and -22 when winning the Disney in 2004. RESULT: M/C
Confusion reigns on DL3 this week. Totesport quote as short as 30/1 whilst Boyles go 50/1 and I can see why the market traders aren’t unanimous in their assessment this week. We all know that Love’s issue is with the putter, but the truth of the matter is that Davis has taken the mantle of Ryder Cup captain seriously in 2011 and knows that this is his last serious shot for both success and to show his team that the Captain can deliver. A recent form-line of 9th(Open)-12th(JDC)-11th(Congressional- US Open) show a player comfortable on Bent greens and check out his recent history and you see great results on “drag strips.” Take the recent John Deere Classic where he shot an opening round 64 on his way to 12th. 2009 saw a 2nd place finish at Kapalua (-18) and his last win was at Disney in 2008 (his 2 year PGA Tour exemption ends this year) where he delivered a -25 total and that followed a 6th at TPC Summerlin (-21). Taking all of this to one side, Love could do with a result this week to guarantee his PGA Championship birth (he currently sits at 92 in the OWGR) but it’s his love affair with Firestone that truly inspires me to tip him this week and you can guarantee that the South Carolina vet will be breaking his neck for one last outing in Ohio, where he has 9 Top 20 finishes including 6 Top 10s and 5 Top 5s. A win here in Virginia will guarantee a start at Bridgestone and a potential fairytale win at his beloved Firestone. RESULT: M/C
With BetClic not offering a market at the time of writing, my saver bet on Lefty is absolutely perfect for placement with Unibet where you’ll get a £20 No Lose Bet. A Mickelson win protects the staking plan this week and Unibet are giving you £20 to back him with…perfect! I’m pleasantly surprised with the 10/1 about Phil after his 2nd place at Sandwich a fortnight ago. I find Phil’s entry in the Greenbrier Classic this week fascinating on a number of levels. Firstly it guarantees 2 straight weeks of competition prior to the PGA and secondly he knows that The Old White will suit his game far more than Firestone next week where his record is poor. Any course that is tree lined, has fairways that have wide landing areas and Bent grass greens where low scoring is required is right up Lefty’s street! Indeed his last PGA Tour win was at the Houston drag strip prior to Augusta in April. Recent wins at TPC Boston, Doral, TPC Scottsdale, and Colonial simply magnify the well known fact that Phil can take apart any low scoring “resort” style course where his bad driving isn’t overly punished. Get on and cover your back this week.RESULT: M/C
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:45BST 26.7.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
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