The Disgrace of Papiss Cisse.

Image

When Papiss Cisse joined Newcastle United from SC Freiburg in 2012 and got off to a lightning start that helped propel Newcastle into 6th.  It seemed that Newcastle had found the great partnership up front (Ba & Cisse) that they have long been awaiting since the days of Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand.

A year later and Demba Ba has left for Chelsea and Papiss Cisse is striking based upon the club’s sponsorship.  If this wasn’t concerning enough for Newcastle fans, how about the potential that your next best striker is Shola Ameobi?  I know it sounds pretty terrible.

To the uneducated, this seems like an excuse to just get a transfer away from Newcastle.  However for those who have been educated on Muslim finance (a very interesting subject) it is a reasonable request.  Islam forbids simply lending money out for interest, which is exactly what Wonga does.  Pay day loan companies take advantage of people who are in a vulnerable financial position by offering them loans without any financial background checks to see if they can afford them.

So what’s the problem?  Well as a Muslim Papiss Cisse feels that he would be going against his faith and he is unwilling to do so, which in my opinion is fair enough.  I have sympathies for Cisse being put in this situation and respect his decision to refuse to wear the shirt with the sponsor on it.

I hear some people saying that last season Newcastle played with Virgin Money on their kit, another organisation which benefits from the use of interest, so surely Cisse took offence to this?  It is a fair point, but what Wonga do is take advantage of people’s requirement for money and that is all they do, whereas Virgin Money help people by giving them money allowing them to purchase things they couldn’t afford without their help (mortgages and such).

I felt sorry for Cisse, he was being victamised by Newcastle for not being willing to play with the kit’s sponsor.  He was left behind from the tour and forced to train on his own.  I’m sure that anyone who is sensible had sympathies with Cisse and the situation he found himself in.  That was until he was caught in a casino gambling.

For those of you who don’t know, Muslim’s are not allowed to be involved with gambling, it is seen as unethical.  So it begs the question of ‘how can the man who follows his religion to the extent that he is unwilling to wear a sponsorship, because it is against his beliefs, be found in a casino gambling which is also against his beliefs?’  The answer is quite simple, Papiss Cisse is a hypocrite.

Cisse has picked what parts of his beliefs to follow to suit himself, he has decided that he wants to leave Newcastle (for what ever reason) and has used the Wonga sponsorship as his reason for doing so.

Cisse’s agent came out and said that Papiss had only been watching and not actually placing bets.  Well if you look at the picture (it’s at the top of the post) you will seethat there is nobody sitting near Cisse, there are chips placed to bet in front of him and to the two positions next to him (probably his) and he has cupped in his hands what very much looks as chips.  Now who knows, maybe he is saving the seat for a friend, and maybe he is protecting the chips just in case someone steals them, but I think we all know what he is doing.

It is then unsurprising that today it was revealed that the Cisse and Newcastle shirt sponsorship conflict has been resolved, and Cisse has decided that he will wear the shirt after all.

Problem solved, now Cisse can go back to banging in the goals for Newcastle on a weekly basis and all will be forgotten.  Well I’m not so sure.

It is clear that Cisse used the issue of the sponsorship as a way of forcing a transfer without asking for a transfer request (probably would have lost his loyalty bonus).  Religion is always a sensitive issue and Cisse has tried to use this to his own advantage, which is sad.

You have also got to wonder whether Newcastle will actually want to play him anymore, after he has clearly tried to maneuver a transfer in such a classless manner.  It has put Newcastle in an awkward position, with very limited striking options, leaving Newcastle with the 2 Ameobi’s as their only options.

When this odd chapter in the world of football closes, it will be interesting to see what the outcome will be.  I don’t think Newcastle can realistically keep Cisse after the way he has treated the club, and would be better selling him off to anyone who offers a reasonable sum of money and move on.  For Cisse, it has left him in an awkward position in his professional life and his religious life.  Much like religion and politics shouldn’t be mixed, neither should religion and sport.  Papiss Cisse decided to mix the two and got burned because of it, and will now have to deal with the repercussions of his actions.

 

 

Leave me a comment on the subject.  I would especially like to hear from Newcastle fans on their opinions on how Cisse has behaved.  All comments are appreciated.

The State of the Scotland National Side.

Image

After the dreadful George Burley and Craig Levein eras Scotland had reached a low that had only been felt since the dark days of Berti Vogts (and God they were dark days), there was however a saviour and his name was Gordon Strachan.

Strachan walked into a mess; a squad ranked 78 in the world (awful), a squad that lacked quality players and a squad that relied on Kenny Miller for goals.  It was going to be a hard job, maybe even an impossible job to turn this once great nation around and take them back to the place where Scotland belongs.

Craig Levein was such a poor manager of Scotland that he managed to take Scotland out of contention faster than countries such as San Marino or Andorra, for a nation that has legitimate claims to the invention of the beautiful game it was just an unacceptable result.

Football is a religion in Scotland and religion is football, it is what makes the Old Firm (Celtic and Rangers [or what was Rangers]) rivalry so fierce.  The Old Firm is not about geography like many others (although both teams are from Glasgow), it isn’t about politics like El Classico but rather about religion (that’s a post for another day).

Strachan’s start was slow with defeats to Wales (or should I say Gareth Bale?) and Serbia officially knocking Scotland out of the 2014 World Cup and making the Tartan Army wait at least another two years for Scotland’s first appearance in a major competition since 1998 (24 teams in European Cup 2016 surely it is our time).

The future of Scotland looked bleak until one fateful night in Zagreb (Croatia for those not good at geography).  The unlikely result which saw the team ranked 4th in the world (I know incredible) defeated by the brave Scots 1-0 (I know more incredible).  Amazing ,just Amazing.  Is this the start of something special?  Is Strachan the man to bring Scotland back from the brink (up to 50 in world rankings)?  Will Scotland finally make a finals competition?

Time will tell if any of these things will come true or come to fruition but Scotland must work to improve their ranking so as to position themselves in a high enough seeding pot for Euro 2016 to finally end the drought that has haunted us so long.

Prior to the miracle in Zagreb, there was talk in the media and amongst fans about the concern of the upcoming friendly with England.  If Scotland were being outplayed and beaten by Wales (I mean Wales!) what would England do to them?  It was concerning and if there is one thing the Tartan Army do not want it is to lose to the auld enemy, those dirty bastards, the English (Scotland would rather lose to a team of grannie’s [as long as it wasn’t the English international grannie team]).

These fears were put to rest with the victory over Croatia, and after all if Scotland can beat the mighty Croatia (with their massive population of 4 ⅟4 million……why are they so much better than us?) then they can surely beat an average England team.

Well the hopes of the World were resting on the mighty shoulders of the wee man and the national team.  The excitement around the World built like a crescendo and a runaway train combined together in a massive mix of loud noise and fast trains (like Speed….no wait that was a bus.  Was there a sequel with a train?  Or was that a boat…..I don’t know, it doesn’t matter).  The hype was huge, however like many things involving Scotland it failed to deliver anything but disappointment.

Here is the squad evaluation based on 4 categories.  These are Goalkeepers, Defenders, Midfielders and Forwards (good categories I know).

 

Goalkeepers

If there is one area that Scotland actually has lots of depth and strength it is in nets.  I’m not saying we have anything amazing (I miss you Craig Gordon) but we have 3 solid keepers in Allan McGregor, David Marshall and Matt Gilks.

Personally I’d like to see Marshall start in nets but it will probably be McGregor (ugh), which is fine as well. The thing I don’t like about McGregor is that it is the common held belief that he is easily the best keeper Scotland but he plays for Hull and Marshall plays for Cardiff, I know who I think is a better team.

 

Defenders

If there is one area of major weakness in the Scotland squad it is in defence, it is a mess.  There are no quality established players in the squad whatsoever (with Gary Caldwell and Christophe Berra missing [oh wait I said quality players, my bad]).  I can’t personally comment on the fitness of certain players who did not get called up, so I won’t, but what I can do is criticise those players who got picked.

As far as centre backs go Strachan has called up Hanley (the rock in the middle and that is not a weight joke or a joke about his lack of movement…..), Gordon Greer (the uncapped 32 year old playing for Brighton), Charlie Mulgrew (is he a centre back? Probably but I doubt he will play there) and Russell Martin (who I know is a right back but after his display against Croatia at centre back I imagine he will play there again), oh wait and Andy Webster in the why the hell is this man still being called up for Scotland when he was never good enough in the first place?  Seriously Webster has received 28 caps (yes 28!), Stevie Nicol, Alan Hansen, Jimmy Johnstone, Charlie Nicholas, Andy Gray, Tommy Gemmel, Lee McCulloch (this one is a joke in case you are confused) incredibly all have less caps than Andy Webster.

At wing back Scotland have more depth with Alan Hutton (still playing? Who knew), Steven Whittaker (still playing? Who knew), Steven Hammell (some oldie from Motherwell) and of course Mulgrew and Martin.  The quality issue is less of a concern here, especially if you consider Martin and Mulgrew as wing backs rather than centre backs.

Andy Webster is the problem with Scotland’s current international state.  It isn’t his fault, but a man who is past his best (and well past it at that) is still being called up by Scotland (even though he doesn’t have a club) because quite simply they have nobody else.  The further problem is that in my opinion it is better giving these international experiences/caps to young players, who even if they aren’t ready for this level of football the experience could be invaluable.  It is surely better giving a potential star of the future his first chance rather than giving some old duffer another one.

I’d imagine the back four for the England game will line up Hutton, Hanley, Martin & Mulgrew.

 

Midfielders

The greatest area of strength in the Scotland squad, not only do Scotland have a wealth of solid central midfielders but they also have a lot of good nippy wingers who can keep opponents up at night.

Scotland are likely to line up with 4 in midfield with one playing off the front and rightly so because there a lot of good players and Strachan has recognised this by calling up 14 midfielders.

In central midfield there is Scott Brown (the stand in captain and pitbull terrier), James Morrison (possibly Scotland’s best player), Charlie Adam (set piece demon and slow as a week in the jail [not from my own experiences]), James McArthur (integral part of the relegated Wigan team, whom I thought may have gotten a transfer away but could become the star of that first team now), Barry Bannan (a player who continues to flatter to deceive), Graham Dorrans (central midfielder at West Brom, more of a squad player for both Scotland and West Brom though) and Liam Bridcutt (an Englishman [we have a few] who does the dirty work that no one else wants to do).

Out wide there is Steven Naismith (the blondey bandit), Robert Snodgrass (the conqueror of Croatia and star of Norwich), James Forrest (one of two of the bright young wingers in the squad), Gary Mackay-Steven (the other bright young winger in the squad), Chris Burke (the player that is very much out his depth with the rest of the midfield, but he’s ginger and Strachan likes that) and Craig Conway (a man who would not win a beauty contest but was an important cog in the Cardiff Championship winning side).

Scotland of course are missing their best player in Darren Fletcher which is a shame because with Fletcher comes a winning mentality and an experience of playing with and against the world’s best players and in the world’s best competitions.  I am also disappointed to not see Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Jack or Liam Kelly get a chance in the squad, but to be fair there is such strength and depth in midfield it is understandable.

In a perfect world I would love to see the line-up be Forrest, Brown, Morrison & Mackay-Steven because I think with the two young wingers we could really give England some trouble and the midfield would be solid with Brown and Morrison in there.

In reality I think the midfield will line-up like Naismith, Brown, Morrison & Snodgrass (a player who I really like and banged the drum for when he played for Leeds but left out because I think that Mackay-Steven and Forrest could become special).

The only player that I could really complain about starting out of the players who were called up is Burke, not because he is a bad player (he isn’t) but rather because there are better players than him in the squad.

Forwards

Previously the greatest area of weakness in the Scotland squad; however in recent years the quality of strikers has improved dramatically and there is the beginning of a healthy crop of youngsters coming through.

The forwards consist of George Boyd (who had a really good season with Hull and Peterborough last year), Shaun Maloney (who was he a standout for Wigan last year and instrumental in them winning the FA Cup), Jordan Rhodes (who had a solid year in a poor Blackburn side), Leigh Griffiths (the SPL player of the year) and oh my god I can’t believe this man still gets called up for Scotland Kenny Miller (a man who it is easier to list his bad traits than his good ones [never a good sign]).

Scotland has 4 solid forward players right there, each could probably start and you couldn’t complain and yet Strachan goes out his way to piss the Tartan Army off by picking Kenny ‘cannae hit a barn door’ Miller.

I have never been a fan of Miller, he is wasteful in front of goal, has no passing ability and takes a squad place from younger more deserving talent, oh and his face is orange.  What makes the fact that Miller got called up even worse is that he is done; he has been done for about 3 years.  It is further compounded by the fact that Miller has to travel from Vancouver (for those bad at geography the west coast of Canada), almost as far away from Scotland as you can possibly get.  The problem with that is, Vancouver is 8 time zones over and to travel that amount and then have to recover and play within 2 or 3 days is not possible.  Look at any game Miller has played since his move to Vancouver he hasn’t lasted more than 30 minutes because he does a lot of headless chicken running.  As soon as he moved to the MLS (a lower level than the SPL) he should have been dropped from the team never to be called up again, yet whenever a squad is announced there is that little orange faced ned once again.  I very much doubt he will start or even play for that matter but in getting called up Miller is taking away the experience of being in a squad from a younger player like Tony Watt or Johnny Russell who could potentially be the future of Scotland.

Anyway I am rambling back to the point.  I’m pretty sure that the line-up will be Maloney & Griffiths, with Maloney playing off the front.

 

Conclusion

There is nothing quite like international football to stir the passion in your heart and increase the love of your country, it is made even greater when you are playing your biggest rivals for the first time in 13 years.

Scotland doesn’t look like a bad side on paper and the world ranking of 50 resembles poor second rate management more than it does the actual squad.  In nets, midfield and up front Scotland are stacked with good players and have nice depth to go on top of that.  However with good there comes bad and the defensive frailties are very concerning for now and looking in to the future.

As far as the England game goes I imagine it will be close.  Scotland will play a stuffy game and look to hit England on the break, which will not suit England because they aren’t very good with the ball and are lacking quality midfield talent that can open up a defence.  Scotland couldn’t get England at a better time, they are seriously lacking in quality (for England’s standards still a better team than Scotland) and although I doubt that any Scottish player would get into the England squad (Morrison or Snodgrass maybe, but at a stretch) there is nothing that these players would like better than to stick it to the auld enemy.

I am looking forward to the game win or lose (as long as we don’t get gubbed) I’ll be happy with a good performance and even happier with a win.  Although it is a friendly don’t forget there is not such a thing as a friendly between Scotland and England, the English may have forgotten that but the Scots certainly have not.

 

 

Feel the Tartan Army roar by leaving a comment or if you are English feel free to leave a comment about how Scotland will be humiliated as if it was a cricket match against Australia that you seem to go on about a lot even though you haven’t actually won.  All comments are welcome.

The 2013 Open Championship Review.

Image

The 2013 Open Championship is over and the champion golfer of the year is America’s Phil Mickelson.  With a blistering final round of 66 Mickelson finished -3 for the tournament 3 shots from Henrik Stenson.

Throughout the week I kept commenting that I felt that the winner could well come from back in the pack because the course was playing harder as the day went on and the back 9 was also playing very tough.

 

Phil Mickelson

Before the beginning of the 4th round I commented that:

“Mickelson currently sits at +2 (T-9th) and if there is one man to go out tomorrow and shoot a low score with some aggressive play it is Phil Mickelson.  Mickelson is a man on form; he won the Scottish Open the week prior to this week and finished 2nd in the US Open earlier this year………..Before the tournament started I didn’t think Mickelson had much of a chance but it is definitely not beyond Mickelson shooting a 68 (-3) or better and putting himself very much in contention.   At 20/1 Mickelson is good value at this stage of the tournament.”

and:

“-1/-2 could be a winning score and that is what the players over par should be looking to finish on to have a chance of winning.”

and although Mickelson finished at -3, a -1 total would have been good enough to win him the championship.

I picked Mickelson before the 4th round as a good value bet for a player to win the tournament and commented that he would have to score at worst a 68 to be in contention by the end of the day.  Instead Mickelson played the round of the tournament and shot an incredible 66.

I didn’t fancy Mickelson at the start of tournament because I believed that he didn’t have the game to win the championship (even Mickelson was of that opinion) but he put himself in contention after the 3rd round and produced the goods on the final day.  It really was one of the greatest final day performances that you will ever see, in no way did Mickelson back into the tournament he went out and won it.  To only score one bogey and six birdies in the final round of a major championship is fantastic golf; to score 4 birdies in your last 6 holes is unbelievable.

 

Lee Westwood

I feel sorry for Westwood, he wanted it so badly and put himself in the perfect position going into the final round, yet he blew it.  If he goes round in level par he makes a play-off, instead he shot +4 and finished in T-3rd, it is easier said than done (evidently) but if you are a professional golfer and this is potentially the biggest moment of your life, to shoot a 75 in those circumstances is awful and Westwood quite simply bottled it.

 

Adam Scott

What can you say about Adam Scott?  He blew the Open last year and allowed Els to nip and take the crown and this year he managed to do the exact same thing.  Maybe this is harsh but Scott (much like Westwood) bottled it.  After 12 holes he was sitting at -2 and leading the championship by 1 shot from Westwood, Scott then followed that with 4 consecutive bogies, essentially taking himself out of contention.  There was no bad luck involved, it was just mental errors as the pressure got too much for him and his game collapsed, finishing T-3rd.

It was the common held belief that by winning the Masters Scott had vanquished his demons of not winning a major, but his performance with 6 holes to go of the Open shows that he still has problems finishing the job.

 

Hunter Mahan

I knew Hunter Mahan would not win it was not a surprise to me he played so poorly, all you have to do is look at times he has been under massive pressure (Ryder Cup 2010 and US Open 2013) and every time he has blown it, you can now add the Open 2013 to that list.

Mahan shot a generous 75 which included 6 bogeys and an eagle (which made his score seem better than his play).  He struggled all day and never really looked like he would seriously challenge and finished a very disappointing T-9th.

 

Tiger Woods

I can only describe Woods’ open in one word, disappointing.  I really thought he was going to win at the start of the tournament, after the first round, after the second round and after the third round but after his first 6 holes it was evident that it just wasn’t going to happen.

It is weird for Woods to put himself in contention and then put up absolutely no fight as far as winning the competition goes.  You kept waiting for Woods to do something special this week and yet it just never came, he was always so close to shooting a really good score but sloppy play or a bit of bad luck kept getting in his way.

This was a chance lost for Woods, he shot a 74 (his worst round of the week) and finished +2 (5 behind Mickelson) which on the final round of a major is just not good enough.  I don’t think that he bottled it, it felt more like he just played really poorly which possibly more is concerning.  It used to be the case that Tiger kept his best for the final round of a major that no longer is the case.  Sadly for Tiger the people who claim he is past it or no longer has the bottle will only gain louder voices, which can only be bad for his mind-set.

 

Henrik Stenson

I thought Stenson over the piece had a great tournament finishing outright 2nd on E.  Stenson went out and played a solid final round, nothing special but he did not take himself out of it (like many others did) and that is commendable.  When you consider so many of the other main competitors shot over par, Stenson was the only player (+1 or better) who scored under par (-1).

Unlike Mahan, Westwood, Scott and even Woods, Stenson did not bottle it, I thought at the beginning of the day he would have to shoot 69 to have a chance and although he only shot 70 that was good enough to finish in front of everyone but one man (who played like a man possessed).  Stenson can walk away from the Open with his head held high and also walk away a better player from the experience, I don’t think any of the other leaders (going into the final day could claim that).

 

Ian Poulter

I’m sure if you had told Ian Poulter at the end of the day he would be in a tie with Westwood and ahead of Woods he would have thought he would be in a play-off for the Open Championship, instead he finished a highly respectable T-3rd.

I had read reports that Pulter felt that he was still in it before the beginning of the round even though he was 8 shots off the lead.  I thought that it was typical Poulter arrogance (I’m not a fan) and he didn’t have a chance in hell.  He proved me wrong and played quite outstandingly throughout the day.  If it weren’t for Mickelson then everyone would be talking about Poulter’s early charge for the title and how he just fell short but in doing so showed glimpses of the golfer he has the potential to be when he gets hot.

 

My Tips

Pre-tournament I made 5 tips on who to be on for the Open Championship and recommended betting each way.  They were Tiger Woods (T-6th) who disappointed, Brandt Snedeker (T-11th) who ruined his chances with a 2nd round 79, Jason Dufner (T-26th) who never looked like doing anything until a 4th round 67 when it was too late, Martin Laird (T-44th) who blew his chances with a 3rd round 81 and Luke Donald who missed the cut.

After the 2nd round I made three further tips based on their new odds and again recommended betting each way.  They were Henrik Stenson (2nd) who finished just behind the excellent Mickelson, Francesco Molinari (T-9th) who never really took it to that next level and Martin Laird again.

After the 3rd round I made three more tips based on their final odds for the tournament (recommending each way again).  They were Phil Mickelson (1st) who won the tournament, Francesco Molinari again and also Brandt Snedeker again.

Overall I had 8 picks (plus 3 players twice) and of those 8 five finished in the top 11, which isn’t too bad.  It is made even better considering I tipped Mickelson before the final round at 20/1 (although I did see him at 28/1 elsewhere).  As I have already commented I thought someone from deeper into the draw would be able to post a score and win as the leaders fell back and I felt Mickelson’s game suited doing this the best, and so it turned out.  If you bet each way on either Woods or Stenson you also would have received a return.

 

Conclusion

I thought that the 2013 Open Championship was an excellent week of golf and once again showed not only that the best golf courses in the world are found in the great country of Scotland but also that this is the greatest golf competition in the world.  The British crowds really are the best in the world and it is nice to watch a golf tournament where every other shot is followed by ‘get in the hole’ (there were some idiots).

Phil Mickelson was a deserving champion and really played the perfect round of golf to win the championship.  I am glad that Mickelson didn’t back into it and rather went out and won it, which is good for the Championship, as is the winner being a well-known and well deserving star.

A special shout out to the Scottish Open which Mickelson won the week before.  It is played on a links course the week before and is in my opinion the perfect pre-tournament preparation for the Open.  It was perfect for Mickelson going into the Open, with 3 days of nice weather before a very windy final day at the Scottish Open, preparing him for the changing conditions that are so common day to day at links courses.  You also cannot replicate playing competitive golf in these conditions regardless of how many practices you play.  If you listen/read Mickelson’s comments about the final green he references how he 3 putted the final green (when he should have 2 putted) at the Scottish putting himself in a play-off and how he knew that he could not risk doing that again.  Although he holed the putt, the experience the week prior made him think twice about being too greedy and forcing a birdie putt.  That is the greatness of Mickelson’s win, he knew he wasn’t the best links player so forced himself to play links golf (Scottish Open) and in doing so it helped him prepare perfectly for the biggest win of his career.  Add onto Mickelson that Stenson (who finished 2nd) also played in the Scottish Open (finishing 3rd and throwing away a lead in the final round) it should surely be a glamorous tournament next year with other players following the Mickelson/Stenson path.

 

 

So that is my round up of the Open Championship, what did you think of this year’s Open?  Was Mickelson a worthy winner?  Was there any players you were disappointed in?  Let me know and leave a comment.  Thanks.

5 Tips for The Open Championship *4th Round Update*

ImageSo the final round of the Open Championship has arrived and England’s Lee Westwood is leading by 2 shots from Hunter Mahan and Tiger Woods.  My top 5 tips (https://bm23sportsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/5-tips-for-the-open-championship/) and my update (https://bm23sportsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/5-tips-for-the-open-championship-update/) have left me with 4 players in contention (Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari and Brandt Snedeker).

As is the way of golf the complexion of the tournament, and those who are in contention changes from round to round.  You can find some of the best value by betting on the 4th round of a tournament, because realistically there are fewer people who could potentially win the tournament.

The men that I am touting to bet on are based upon their chances of winning, their play this week and their odds (from Bet365).  So it is not going to be a list of favourites, rather a list of value bets.  At this stage of the tournament you are still able to receive 3 places if you bet each way and that is recommended.

I commented in my update that the way Muirfield is playing this week plays perfectly into the hands of someone out with the leading groups posting a score and backing into the championship.  With this in mind I believe that anyone who is at +3 or better is potentially in with a chance if they shoot a good score, don’t forget that +3 is currently T-11th and 6 shots off the lead (4 off of 2nd).  Muirfield is playing harder as the day goes along and that plays further into the shoot a score early and back into it theory.  Look at Hunter Mahan’s 3rd round, where he shot a 68 under no real pressure and has put him thoroughly into contention (T-2nd).  -1/-2 could be a winning score and that is what the players over par should be looking to finish on to have a chance of winning.

 

Phil Mickelson     20/1

Mickelson currently sits at +2 (T-9th) and if there is one man to go out tomorrow and shoot a low score with some aggressive play it is Phil Mickelson.  Mickelson is a man on form; he won the Scottish Open the week prior to this week and finished 2nd in the US Open earlier this year.

Mickelson does however have a tendency to be too aggressive when playing from behind, and could blow it by taking himself totally out of play.

Before the tournament started I didn’t think Mickelson had much of a chance but it is definitely not beyond Mickelson shooting a 68 (-3) or better and putting himself very much in contention.   At 20/1 Mickelson is good value at this stage of the tournament.

 

Francesco Molinari      66/1

I wrote about Molinari yesterday as someone worth betting on for the weekend, and although he shot a 72, he hasn’t taken himself out of contention.  Molinari currently sits at +2 and in T-9th (Molinari & Mickelson the group to watch as potential threats from behind tomorrow) and has the game that is required to play well at this course.

Molinari’s rounds have been a 69, 74 and 72 and he may not have the game to post the amount of birdies he requires to put in a potential threat to win.

I liked Molinari before the tournament and he has put himself in an outside contention to win.  If you consider that Mickelson is also at +2 yet his odds are 20/1, whereas Molinari’s are 66/1 which is tremendous value for position.

 

Brandt Snedeker       66/1

My personal pick pre-tournament had a stinker of a second round (79) but shot 69 in both the 1st and 3rd rounds.  Snedeker is sitting at +3 (T-11th) maybe a little too far back as I believe that at +3 he will need to score at worst a 67 (-4) to have a serious of chance of winning (he could easily place).  Snedeker has the game to shoot a low score though and is generally an excellent putter which is so important round Muirfield.

Snedeker is quite far back and the 79 he shot in the 2nd round is still fresh in the mind, it is unclear whether he will have a good round (like in the 1st or 3rd rounds) or a bad one (like in the 2nd).  There is no room for error, even an ok round is not good enough to get the job done for Snedeker, if he is to compete he must score well.

Sitting at 66/1 (really showing the Molinari value) Sned’s is a good choice for someone who could make an impact on the last day with an early charge.  He certainly has the game to do so and is far enough back to take the issue of him bottling it out of the picture, but he must have a good day.

 

 

There it is three players to take a look at if you are thinking of picking a winner for the Open and are looking for some value.  Of the three I think Mickelson has the best chance but Molinari is definitely the better value.

 

For the tournament as a whole I do believe that Tiger Woods is still the most likely to win.  He is sitting pretty at -1 only 2 shots off of Westwood, although he has never come from behind to win a major.  I’d really like to see Westwood win because he does deserve it but I get the feeling that he will bottle it, as for Hunter Mahan just look at any of his big moments in his career (Ryder Cup 2010, US Open 2013) he is a perennial bottler, he will not win the Open.  I am sure that someone from the pack will shoot a good score, there are a lot of good players in the pack and they are all capable of doing so.  Overall I like Woods to win and you can get 5/2 for him to do so, which to be honest are not bad odds for Woods at this stage of the tournament.

 

So let me know what you think and how you think the tournament is going?  All comments are appreciated and enjoy the last day of The Open.

5 Tips for the Open Championship *Update*

ImageWe are half way through the Open Championship at Muirfield and My Top 5 Tips (https://bm23sportsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/5-tips-for-the-open-championship/) aren’t looking too bad.  Tiger Woods (8/1 pre-tournament) is sitting at -2 just 1 place off the lead (currently held by Miguel Angel Jimenez), Martin Laird (100/1 pre-tournament) is at -1 in T-6th, Brandt Snedeker ( 35/1 pre-tournament) had a stinker of a second round and is well off the pace at +5 in T-39th, Jason Dufner (66/1 pre-tournament) also had a stinker of a second round and is at +7 in T-58 and the less that is said about Luke Donald’s abysmal performance over the previous days the better (missed the cut).  4 out of 5 making the cut isn’t bad and neither is 2 out of 5 seriously contending going into the weekend but I feel it is worth looking at potential other winners of the Open based on how they’ve played this weekend and their odds at the bookies (Bet365 live odds).

Before I begin I would like to say that I believe that those who are going out late in the day are at a massive disadvantage to those who are playing earlier.  The scoring in the afternoon has been on average around 2 shots more than in the morning and this could very well allow someone who has just snuck inside the cut to post a -3/-4 could very well put themselves in contention on the final day.  So don’t look past guys like Branden Grace +3 (Scottish Open runner-up and 100/1), Brandt Snedeker +5 (200/1) and Matt Kuchar +5 (150/1).  I’m not saying I think any of them have a chance but the way the course is playing a guy who shoots a good clubhouse score on the final day could quite easily back into it when the leaders are playing the tricky back 9.

 

Henrik Stenson       9/1

Stenson this weekend has been mr. consistency, he has garnered barely any television time and somehow finds himself in the final group for tomorrow’s 3rd round.

Stenson currently sits at -2 after consecutive 70’s (course par 71) and is the only man to have been able to post consecutive below par rounds this week.  Stenson also had a very stong showing at this year’s Scottish Open (links competition held the week before the Open) finishing 3rd.

The major concern about Stenson is that he has never won a major and there is a major question about his bottle.  These questions were increased further based on the fact that he shot a 73 in the final round of the Scottish Open after he had been in the lead after three rounds.

Honestly I didn’t think that Stenson had a chance this week (especially after the Scottish Open) but he has proven me wrong.  His odds are 9/1 and he is currently Tied for 2nd it is fantastic odds for his position in the field and his play over the weekend.

 

Martin Laird       22/1

One of my 5 picks before the start of the tournament has seen his odds plummet from 100/1 to 22/1.

As I said in my original post Laird had a good Scottish Open last week and has followed it up this week with a great showing at the Open currently sitting at -1 and T-5th.  Martin Laird also has the credit of having the most birdies so far at this year’s Open (had a handful of bogey’s as well seeing as he is only -1).

Like most people in the field Laird has never won a major (or even been in a position to win a major) and there will of course be questions of his bottle but the questions over Laird’s previous play at the Open can be discarded because he has played very solidly this week.

To receive 22/1 for a man who has played very consistently over the week so far and has sunk many important long birdie and par puts is again a good offer.

 

Francesco Molinari      60/1

A man who I was considering placing in my Top 5 picks at the start of the tournament as opposed to Luke Donald (to be fair I also considered Matteo Manassero) has the perfect game for this golf course.

Molinari is all about hitting fairways and hitting greens and as has been evident from the prior two days of golf, which is what Muirfield is all about.  At +1 Molinari is sitting nicely in T-11th, out of the limelight and a good number of groups behind the Tiger chaos.  Molinari hit a 69 on the first day and a 74 on the second (with only a bogey and a double-bogey on the card [no birdies]) showing incredibly consistent golf.

Again Molinari has never won a major and that is a concern, but probably the bigger concern is the fact that in his second round he scored no birdies at all (looks a lot like my cards in many ways [as in no birdies]).  It is a major concern because at Muirfield it is easy to run up a score at any hole (Colsaerta 5 putt, even I don’t 5 putt [on good days]) and although Molinari had 16 pars in his second round he still shot a +3 74.

However at a very tasty 60/1 it is well worth a punt on Francesco Molinari, especially a bet each way when you are still receiving ¼ odds for 4 places (maybe even 5 in some places).  Don’t forget Molinari is only 4 shots off the lead and is only 10 places from first, still very much in this tournament.

 

 

There you go three more guys to take a punt on for the weekend at the Open.  The three men I did actually bet (Laird, Snedeker and Dufner) are all still active so I am probably not going to bet anyone else until maybe the final day when the picture is clearer, although if I were to bet I would go for Molinari each way.

 

As a side note out with gambling I really think it looks like Tiger Woods is going to win this weekend.  It feels like he hasn’t played well at all this week (so far) yet he is tied for second, that is what Tiger of old would have done and this looks like his return to form in the majors.  However at 5/2 you really are receiving no value at all and who knows maybe this isn’t Tiger of old and instead is the new inconsistent Tiger.

 

So what do you think?  Are you enjoying the Open so far?  Is there anyone who you think is worth a punt on that I haven’t mentioned?  Let me know and leave a comment.