The upcoming Flat Racing and Cricket season as well the annual melting pot of fantastic sport over the summer months is easily enough motivation to lure Sports Leviathan out of a brief hiatus to reaffirm his position as Britain’s best loved sports blogger, well a sports blogger from Britain at the very least.
The most pressing matter on the SL agenda is the upcoming US Masters golf which takes place at the beautiful Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia this weekend. The only major where the venue remains the same and subsequently repeat winners can be a regular occurrence; Nicklaus (6) Palmer (4) Woods (4). However with Tiger Wood’s stock in decline over the past 5 years and with him not winning the Masters since 2005 it has left the door ajar for some big breakthrough wins for new kids on the block; Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel and last years hero Bubba Watson. Gambling on the majors was a good punt because despite Tiger’s dip in form his Masters price was always too short and subsequently there was a lot of value around and whilst it is true again this year he probably warrants the general 4/1 quote as the World Number 1. If Tiger brings to the table the game he has showed so far this year he is going to be very difficult to beat however he still hasn’t won a big one since his return and it is continually worth taking him on until he does. I think he will definitely win the US Open this year but this is the Masters and it is a weekend unlike any other, so lets see if we can adopt Mowlgli’s bold approach in Kipling’s The Jungle Book and bravely tame the tiger.
Pick 1 – Bo Van Pelt – Price 110/1
The first selection is based on one stat but one which I think would be foolish to overlook. To be fair it’s just the score he posted in his last competitive round here. A 64 which at one point looked as though he was going to break the course record. He was 8th 2 years ago and 15th last year, he clearly can go very low. Vise a vie 110/1 each way is way to big.
Pick 2 – Jason Dufner – Price 70/1
I think Dufner is one of the most underrated of the American newbies. He is a very good player who’s main drawback is he has challenged in several majors and seemingly choked. With a Ryder cup under his belt and a bit more experience after winning twice last season he knows how to get it done. There is some suggestion Augusta isn’t great for him but he has made the cut both times he’s played and of the young American guns he’s who I’m keen to side with.
Pick 3 – Branden Grace – price 200/1
This is a left field selection on first glance on the basis that only Fuzzy Zoeller has won his Augusta debut but Grace is a man who loves winning. 4 victories on the tour last year and I just love the way when he gets a lead he pulverises fields. Wining is a habit and if he gets into a good position I would back him to hang in there. South African’s are flying at this venue. Immelmann, Oosthuizen and Schwartzel (won on only 2nd start) have all gone well in the last decade and Grace at 24 could spring onto the scene in a big way at a big price. Even if he makes top 5 the lure of 50/1 to do so is well worth siding with.
Pick 4 – Ian Poulter – price 50/1
Gutsy poults has shown Augusta is a course he likes. Two top tens in the last three years and an ever growing appetite for major success Poulter can build on his WGC wins with the major victory he craves. I actually think Augusta is his best chance of a major. The atmosphere and occasion are right up his street and he has really got to grips with the greens the last few years. I think he will go well again this year and although I probably fancy his pal Justin Rose a little more, at double the odds and a seemingly steelier character Poults gets the vote.
On top of the four picks I have a few selections for first round leader. Getting off to a flyer in the first round but not having the consistency to win a major is a situation many players flirt with.
Bo Van Pelt – 80/1. Shot a 65 in 2011 and a 64 last round he played here. Could spring back on the scene at a venue he likes.
Nicolas Colsaerts 80/1. A birdie machine and went very low in one round at the Ryder Cup. Quiros showed a few years ago that a big driver and European form can get you off to a strong start and Colsaerts fits the bill on debut.
David Toms 150/1. Had a mini resurgence last year and a veteran of this course. He has shot a 65 here and these days seems to play well in majors for the first two rounds and fades away, so this could be another of those times.
A couple of big price place money last week was topped off by Mull of Killough’s barnstorming late effort which saw him defeated in the Lincoln by a nose. Poor Jockey-ship was definitely to blame, but none the less a great start to the flat season. It was one year and 84 article posts ago that Sports Leviathan began and what better place to mark the anniversary than Augusta. There is always something very special about 1 year anniversaries and with Golf’s most beautiful gem at the heart of this weeks article lets hope we can bag a birthday winner.
There is lots of talk about this years Masters being the most exciting ever and it is easy to see why. Of the main protagonists World Number 1 Luke Donald won last time out, World Number 2 Rory Mcillroy won a month ago and his last three tournaments read 2-1-8 in finishing positions. Lee Westwood lies 3rd in the rankings and his recent major record has seen him finish in the top three, five times in the last nine majors. Newly promoted to World number four, Hunter Mahan won last week in Houston, so he is in great shape. World number 5 Steve Stricker has already won this year and world number 6 Martin Kaymer announced his appearance with a lake skimming hole in 1 this week to delight the bamboozled crowd. Just for good measure Tiger Woods fresh from his exceptional victory at Bay Hill is world number 7, returning champ Charl Schwartzel is at 8 and 9 and 10 are filled by ultra consistent Justin Rose who won last month in the WGC Cadillac and Webb Simpson, who although hasn’t won yet this year was a two time winner on the PGA tour last year and this year looks set for an exciting masters debut.
What do Darren Clarke and Charl Schwartzel have in common? Both have won majors this year…true , both are represented by Chubby Chandler (major winning extraordinaire) … also true, however what is also interesting is that both players were tipped up by Sports Leviathan’s newest contributor at huge odds. In the case of Darren Clarke recently one website quoted that “nobody would have picked Clarke pre tournament” but that is exactly what Apollo did and then went on to hammer the bookies with a follow up win on Simon Dyson in the Irish Open. Named after the God of the Sun lets hope Apollo can shine some light onto the fourth and final Major of the golfing season. Read More…
With David Moncoutie coming second in yesterdays stage at around 33/1 as well as Sammy Sanchez’s win the day before Sports Leviathan’s Cycling wing looks to firing on all Cylinders. Todays stage is trickier to pick the winner as it is likely to come from one of the final selection seen chasing Sanchez home on Luiz Ardiden. The Schlecks, Contador, Evans, Sanchez, Cunego and Basso are all in the mix and I expect one of those to win. There aren’t many great prices knocking around but given how strong Frank Schleck looked the other day and the fact Basso and Evans will be most suited to the final part of the climb I suspect that may be the top 3. Evans and Basso are both about 10-1 and if I was to have a punt Evans could put a serious marker down by winning today and I would probably just shade him as favourite today – unless Sammy comes and spoils the party again, he is probably the most dynamic climber of the the lot. Whatever happens today is going to be a real cracker. Read More…
Before I begin with my Open preview I want to firstly commend a fantastic tribute to Seve on BBC1 last night. It was a superb overview encapsulating the character and emotion of Seve. I have made my views loud and clear on previous posts on how important a contribution he has made to the world of golf and the first Open without him alive will be poignant and sad for all concerned. Read More…
Whist I haven’t been driving barefoot to Dundee scoffing Toblerone, it has been an odd weekend for me on a sporting front and it seems injuries continue to plague my sporting selections. This, coupled with a bit of punting stupidity/rashness has contributed to the mixed bag of results of late. Read More…
Dancing Rain and Pour Moi produced two stunning performances at the Derby meeting over the weekend to ensure that readers of this blog were financially rewarded with some serious satchel filling! I have to admit it is a meeting I love to watch due to the history of the occasion and the fantastic spectacle it provides; 2011 did not disappoint!
The Oaks is the fillies premier race of the season and whilst Wonder of Wonders may yet prove to be the best horse, she wasn’t up to the task of reeling in our girl Dancing Rain. A superb ride from Johnny Murtagh saw a front running performance of perfection, judging his fractions expertly. Dancing rain was tipped up on this site the day before the Oaks and she actually drifted out to 20-1 before the start, a real treat for SP backers. In my article I also wrote about the chances of 25-1 Izzi Top ( the eventual 3rd) so I was chuffed to bits to see her in the frame too. Ultimately it was a game victory for the Haggas trained filly who showed her stamina and galloping front running style was just what was required to land the spoils in quite convincing fashion. Get in!
If the Oaks saw a perfect front running ride then the Derby couldn’t have seen a more opposite tactic employed. Monsieur Barzelona the 19 year old rookie sat stone last on Pour Moi before flying home to win in a stirrup jangling photo. The image of the young jockey standing up in the saddle yards before the line will ensure the 2011 Derby will be remembered for years to come. It was a stunning race, a fantastic turn of foot from the french colt and a calculated ride by the youngster, who clearly had the best horse, but at one point looked like he might not get up. However as the line drew close Treasure Beach grew weary and Pour Moi cleaned up for Fabre, Barzelona, the Magniers and Sports Leviathan. Another second for Aiden O’Brien, who recently, hasnt quite managed to win the big prize of the Derby ( his horses a la Dylan Thomas often cone on greatly for their Derby runs so their progress will be interesting). And the irony of the winning owner will be lost on nobody (especially at coolmore!)
Having advised Pour Moi ante post without being sure he would run in the English Derby I think the owners were probably the driving force behind his appearance at Epsom. Furthermore he needed every yard of the 12 furlongs to claim a victory, so the Prix de Jockey Club (French Derby) may have been too short for him over 10 furlongs. It clearly was an inspired decision from SL and Andre Fabre!
Overall a fantastic, in fact, a classic weekend and with Johan Edfors placing at 50-1 in the Welsh Open too it was happy days all round in the sports leviathan camp
From a punting perspective Corinthian picked out several stage winners in his preview of the Giro and although Contador was supreme we still picked out the 2nd, 3rd and 6th for a small profit. This weekend Horse Racing tops the bill and below is Sports Leviathans preview of the biggest male and female flat horse races of the year.
The IPL is compulsive viewing for a cricket fan and whilst it isn’t the Sports Leviathan’s favourite, it is exciting. Today the Kolkata Knight Riders set a decent total of 175 and defended it with aplomb…until the last few overs when the wheels spectacularly came off. Mumbai Indians spearheaded by James Franklin (45 off 23) scored 58 runs off the last 5 overs, needing 21 to win off the last over! Franklin started the over with four 4’s before Rayudu smashed a six to win the game. A great comeback for Tendulkar’s men who now play the Knight riders in the playoffs but crucially have home advantage as a result of their win. I only turned on when the Indians needed 12 an over and immediately I was cheering them on to try and pull off an unlikely victory. There is something habitually British about supporting the underdog and there is a similar level of excitement when a team or performer produces a comeback or revival from an unlikely position. This weekend was full of sporting ripostes which seemed to be evident whichever sport I watched.
Starting with Football, it appears Carlo Ancelotti has finally reached his stop on the Oligarch express with the news breaking of his departure – hardly surprising given Abramovich’s merry go round style of employing managers. With the topic of comebacks high on the agenda and in light of Gus Hiddink claiming today he has been working at Chelsea as an “advisor” for the last two years it may be the canny Dutchman who returns to the helm at the Bridge.
Survival Sunday didn’t fail to disappoint, with team’s fortunes changing more times than Chelsea’s managers. In fact with 3 minutes to go Wolves were down (and the Leviathan was smiling) but late goals from Hunt and Pavlychenko condemned Birmingham and Blackpool to the Championship despite the Tangerines heroic efforts in Manchester. Both sides have had an awful end to the season with Birmingham only picking up 8 points after their Carling cup victory against Arsenal, ending with 5 losses and a draw from 6 games. On New years’ day Blackpool were 8th! They only picked up 14 points for the remainder of the season as they produced streaks which saw them lose 5 in a row and then draw once and lose 5 out of 6 games; sadly for Ollie’s band of zesty warriors that is relegation form and their inability to reach the hallowed 40 point mark cost them dear (despite only spending 22 days in the bottom four). In contrast Wigan were 2-0 down to West Ham last weekend with 30 minutes to go – Half an hour to save their season the commentator noted. They not only won that game 3-2 but then beat Stoke to survive, somehow Martinez has led a monumental revival and their achievement ranks as one of the premiership’s greatest comebacks.
In Horse Racing a past selection came back in style today. Misty by Magic was a fancy of mine in the 1000 Guineas but didn’t seem to enjoy things at Newmarket – She had never raced in Britain before, having had all her previous success in Ireland and France. She was clearly below par on Guineas day and reversed a 17 length defeat to stablemate Together with her victory in the Irish 1000 Guineas today. There is talk of a tilt at the Oaks but I think she may go to the Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly instead. The race is 2 furlongs shorter than the English Oaks, so there will be no issue with her not getting home, and the way she swooped late today illustrates the step up to 1 mile and 2 furlongs looks ideal. Either way Aiden O’Brien’s string are in great form and that bodes well for Seville, who although disappointed in the Dante will hopefully be spot on for Epsom. Given his price remained unchanged after the Dante the news regarding him must be fairly positive. I will be doing a more in depth look at the Derby after final declarations but I am very intrigued by Pour Moi and think, if a confirmed runner ,will shorten in price a fair bit, so it may be worth a little ante post punt to ensure the best odds – He is currently best priced 10/1
A note too on Ian Poulter – He was asked before the Masters why he couldn’t transfer his Ryder Cup form to tournament play. Poulter said that he was due a win and felt he was swinging the club really well, citing the camaraderie and nature of matchplay events better suited his mental approach. Poulter seems to thrive in the match-play environment and he duly succeeded in the first matchplay event since his quote! Sometimes it pays to believe what you read in the press.
The Heineken Cup final on Saturday saw another impressive comeback – the biggest in Heineken cup final history. Northampton led 22-6 at the interval until Johnathon Sexton ruined the Saints party. ”We were shellshocked and needed leaders. I said comebacks happen in finals – I knew we could come back.” Said Sexton who, by all accounts was inspirational. Sexton used Liverpool’s Turkish turnaround as motivation and it clearly worked. Leinster replied with 27 unanswered points to lift Europe’s premier club trophy. Having the right mental psyche in situations like this is vital in maintaining your self belief. The best performers are the ones who can ‘chalk off” their errors and mistakes and not let them effect their future performance. This is crucial in golf and the match-play format makes it easier to do this. I would suggest Poulter needs to develop his mental dexterity to ensure he can produce a good swing consistently over 4 days and not let his mistakes get the better of him before he is going to win a major, though is his getting closer. In rugby and football the half time break provides the ideal forum for this psychological regrouping. Teams often come out galvanised in the second half and an improvement in performance is immediately evident as a result of a change in their psychological approach – conscious or not . The process of resting and regenerating our bodies mental capacity is crucial in succeeding in professional sport.
And how else could I end an article about comebacks but mention Bernard Hopkins. The new Light Heavyweight champion of he world is old enough to be David Hayes father but give him credit; he was impressive against a very disappointing Jean Pascal and at the ripe old age of 46 is the oldest man to hold a world boxing title. Sometimes the idea of running around like a teenager again fills the mind with excitement, but it seems Hopkins isn’t just thinking it; he’s living it and fair play to him.
Anyone with any interest in golf knows that this week’s tournament at Sawgrass is ‘the one with that awesome hole!’ In fact if you ask most amateur players which 1 hole they would most like to play, the 17th at Sawgrass would be right up there. My first memory of this hole was from a walkthrough guide from Fuzzy Zoeller “This 132 yard par three is the courses signature hole and a wedge should be the club of choice for your approach” Wise words from the stalwart. I pictched it on the memorable island green and holed the birdie putt for a deuce. I will always look back and remember Sawgraas with fond memories. However I found the course quite hard and since my SNES has been out of action I haven’t revisited it. Still…EA sports’ PGA Tour golf – What a game! Read More…