The Punter's picks at the Iberdrola Open and the Players Championship

The Punter RSS / / 10 May 2011 / Leave a Comment

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Ben Crane - One of the Punter's picks at Sawgrass

Ben Crane - One of the Punter's picks at Sawgrass

“The key stats around Sawgrass are Greens in Regulation and Scrambling and given their Ben Crane’s best strengths it’s no surprise his record here’s so good.”

Our man's struggled to find a fancy in Mallorca but there's plenty of picks at the Players where he's hoping it's going to be fourth time lucky for Ben....

Emotions will still be running high when this week's Race to Dubai event kicks off in Mallorca on Thursday, a day after Seve Ballesteros' funeral, and the mood amongst the home contingent will still be a sombre one. I could well be overstating matters but I'm swerving the Spaniards this week, but then I'm swerving just about everyone else too.

With the cream of the European Tour competing across the pond, the field is decidedly weak and that's a real shame as past results at Pula have thrown up some quality winners. The first three winners of this event were Miguel Angel Jimenez, Sergio Garcia and a still competitive Jose Maria Olazabal. And the other three winners here, Niclas Fasth, Gregory Bourdy and last year's champ, Peter Hanson are all multiple winners.

So weak is the field that last week's winner, Thomas Aiken, is favourite. And despite the fact that it's rare to see anyone win back-to-back, let alone someone who has just won his first event, I actually considered backed the South African!

I've been through the field umpteen times and I wasn't a million miles away from not playing anyone before the off but in the end I've plumped for a very small wager on Markus Brier. His recent form is pretty poor and he's missed his last four cuts but prior to that he had a couple of decent efforts. Third in Qatar and 8th at the Africa Open, where he traded as low as [3.3] before a Sunday collapse, were enough to show the Austrian veteran might just have one last hurrah left in him and he certainly has form at Pula. He was 4th in 2004 behind Garcia and the worst he's ever done in five attempts is tied 27th. With a nice early start on Thursday, playing the easier front-nine first, he could just get off to a decent start. You back your fancies in Spain here.

I'm happy to leave it at that for now and I'll look to build a portfolio in-running.


Markus Brier @ an average of [140.0]

I don't think you could describe yourself as a golf fan if you weren't looking forward to this week's US PGA event - the Players Championship at Sawgrass and as Paul Krishnamurty points out it's an event that should offer up plenty of trading opportunities.

With my team, Manchester City, playing in their first cup final for 30 years, quite how much trading I'll get done on Saturday is questionable at best. The Players may be a cracking championship but there's every chance I'll be in no fit state to go near my laptop on Saturday, whether they beat Stoke or not, so I'm hoping that one or two of my pre-event picks can get in the mix and carry on without me.

I've backed Ben Crane here in each of the last three years
, at odds of [210.0] in 2008, [280.0] in '09 and [95.0] 12 months ago, so I had a slight wrangle with myself this time around as to whether to play at much shorter odds.

With hindsight, I was in the realms of fantasyland to think I may get [60.0] or more this time around, given he's improved his placing in each of those three years, finishing 6th, 5th and then 4th last year and the ultra-shrewd Ian at was absolutely right to snaffle up the early value.

The key stats around Sawgrass are Greens in Regulation and Scrambling and given they are Ben's best strengths it's no surprise his record here's so good. I dithered and missed the early value but couldn't let him go un-backed. [40.0] is plenty fair enough.

With three missed cuts in four Sawgrass outings, Bubba Watson doesn't exactly scream back me but I couldn't resist. He's not the greatest scrambler either, but he tops the GIR stats and he's won twice in his last nine starts. He's also a completely different beast nowadays and [65.0] was just too big.

Zach Johnson
justified selection last week, finishing in the top-six, despite a tardy first round. In 21 attempts he's never bettered his first ever round here, when he shot an impressive 65 before going on to finish 8th in 2005. He's always struck me as the type to win a Players and the [85.0] available on Monday was more than fair.

With three top-six finishes in his last four outings, nobody is in better current form than hot-head Pat Perez. And he also has a bit of Sawgrass form having finished 3rd in 2006. He's an absolute nightmare in-contention and definitely a lay-back in the mix job but he's big enough at [190.0] to offer up a decent trading opportunity.

Stephen Ames' win here ahead of Perez five years ago was one of my best ever results and I'm in total agreement with Paul Krishnamurty; he again looks a great price at a venue he likes.

And finally, I've added a few rags at fun-sized prices in Heath Slocum and Troy Matteson. Heath was bang there over all four days last year before finishing 4th and is a plausible candidate if he can find some form. Troy on the other hand is much harder to make a case for! He notches the odd win though and at odds of [620.0] he isn't going to damage the bank balance too much should he flop.


Ben Crane @ [40.0]
Bubba Watson @ [65.0]
Zach Johnson @ [85.0]
Pat Perez @ [190.0]
Stephen Ames @ [250.0]
Heath Slocum @ [360.0]
Troy Matteson @ [620.0]

I'll be monitoring the play in Spain right from the get-go and I may well kick-off the Live Golf Blog as early as Thursday.

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