Betting Preview - 2014 Emirates Australian Open
We backed Henrik Stenson last week for an 8/1 win after he overcame the well-rested world number one Rory McIlroy to win by two. It looked comfortable on the scoreboard at the end of the day, but his win was anything but, even though he held the lead after Friday and Saturday.
This week there is no Stenson, but there is still a Rory returning to to take on Adam Scott in his own backyard for top honours down under. McIlroy has a chance to join an illustrious twosome this week - and we're not talking about Craig Parry and Peter Fowler in the bar either. Both Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are the only international players to have retained the Australian Open. They also happen to be holders of the Grand Slam too, ominous signs for McIlroy's Augusta hopes in April.
Still, I prefer to back Australians on home turf, they're more fun; take Paul Hogan, a lá Crocodile Dundee; Barry Humphries, as Dame Edna Everidge; Steve Irwin, greatest man ever to appear on TV on behalf of nature; and Greg Norman, swashbuckling golfer and maker of fine wine. For these reasons alone I choose three Australians to back this week at the aptly named The Australian Golf Club.
About this time last year I read former tour pro Ewan Porter's autobiographical account of his time in pro golf. It was a guts-and-all story detailing excess, drinking, food poisoning, a lot of travel, golf buggy off-roading and more drinking. James Nitties was one of Ewan's best friends on tour and it is testament to his commitment that he is still plying his trade on the Web.com Tour and other golf circuits. His last win might have come in 2011 but he always seems to hang around the leaderboards back home in Australia. He finished 2nd last week at the Metropolitan Club in the Australian Masters and 14th in last year's edition.
I watched Rhein Gibson finish 4th last year and qualify for the Open Championship with four very strong rounds, all of which were sub-par and slightly off the radar. Combine this with a final round (and course record) 65 to finish the Australian Masters in 9th place at the Metropolitan Club, another year's experience and he could well go a few places better this time. His 65 reminds me of the big reason I went with Stenson for the DP World Tour Championship last week; his final round 64 in Turkey the previous week was, similarly, the best of the day and with this omen I'll happily back Gibson.
Matt Griffin has great recent form, especially in the Aussie triple crown events. He made the cut in all three last year, not failing to finish outside the top 25. Last week at the Metropolitan Club he was 5th, just two shots off the winner's score. He has already tasted victory twice this year; at the 2014 Oates Victoria Open, in February; and then 2014 Yamaha Hankyung KPGA Championship, in July. At this tournament last year he confirmed victory of the OneAsia Tour Order of Merit. He may well come of age this week.
Whilst all the action is invariably going to focus on Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, there has to be value elsewhere. Even if the aforementioned do win, there are still places to be filled.
Back: James Nitties at 45/1 [1.5 points Each Way], Matthew Griffin at 80/1 [1.5 points Each Way], and Rhein Gibson at 80/1 [1.5 points Each Way]
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