Australian Masters betting preview

Ben Coley is opposing Tiger Woods and turning to three Aussies for his best bets at this week’s JBWere Australian Masters.

For the first time in 14 years, Tiger Woods hasn’t won a PGA Tour event during the season and, as he’s heading down under for the JBWere Australian Masters as opposed to taking in the final event of the Fall Series in the States, his chance has now gone.
But they do say there’s no substitute for winning, wherever that may be, and there can be little doubt that Tiger will be motivated to end the season on a high, starting with a defence of this title.
Last year the then-World Number One gained a wire-to-wire, two-shot victory over Stuart Appleby at Kingston Heath Golf Club, carding a 14-under par total in the process. This time around the event takes place at nearby Victoria and that shouldn’t prove a problem. Both are par-72s designed largely by Dr. Alistair McKenzie – the man who first brought tiered greens into the game of golf – and both are absolutely tiny by modern-day standards. As a result, both lend themselves to low numbers.
That was certainly the case in 2002, when Steve Allan sailed to a 19-under victory in the Australian Open, a remarkable score considering the event was limited to 54 holes. Whoever is crowned champion on Sunday, it seems safe to assume they will have made a bunch of birdies.
There’s every chance it will be Tiger Woods.
No, he isn’t the force he was, but he wasn’t this time last year either and that didn’t stop him. In finishing in a tie for sixth in China last week the Floridian looked at last comfortable with his swing and, third round apart, hit a lot of good golf shots. What let him down in the main was his putting and with low numbers likely that for me is a major concern – enough to turn down the general 9/4 and look elsewhere.
In doing so the man who stands out above all others is Geoff Ogilvy.
Gentleman Geoff is the most successful Australian golfer since Greg Norman, a major champion who when on song is a beautiful ball-striker and deadly putter. Since starting the season with a win in Hawaii, though, it’s fair to say things haven’t gone to plan – while he wouldn’t admit it this probably has at least a little to do with the birth of his third child – but recent signs are entirely more positive.
Having missed the cut in the first FedEx Cup event, The Barclays, Ogilvy went on to card finishes of T2 – T24 – T13 through the Deutsche Bank, BMW and TOUR Championships, showing that his game is back close to its best.
That he fell out of contention in the TOUR Championship (no chance with Hoffman in Boston) can surely be put down to the fact he’s not been in a winning position at halfway for a very long time and a close look at the stats suggests that he should be making amends soon.
In the Deutsche Bank, Ogilvy ranked T4 in greens hit and T2 in putts per greens hit, which shows that he was firing at flags and making a load of birdies, and that’s a theme that continued with a T3 for greens hit at the BMW then a slightly less impressive T14 in the TOUR Championship, where he ranked inside the top-5 in overall putting.
At a course that is unbelievably a par-72 stretching just beyond 6000 yards, an ability to hit at flags and make putts will be crucial, so all that remains is to find a bit of course form to put the icing on the cake. The only actual form to go on is that 2002 Australian Open where Ogilvy finished a respectable 10th but what’s more interesting is that he is a member at the course – he even has his own balcony overlooking the 10th hole – and said recently “I’ve probably played more times at Vic than anyone in the field”.
Add that to his recent stats and, providing he’s not too rusty having been off since East Lake, the home favourite will surely go close – I’m happy to wade in win-only against a field lacking depth.
Another man who has caught my eye of late and also looks worth a punt is Robert Allenby.
Like Ogilvy, his season hasn’t produced as much as it promised when he started with a solo-second in the SBS Championship followed by six top-25s in his next eight events but again there’s an excuse as he’s struggled all year with a wrist problem.
That all looks behind him now though and it was at this time last year that he started to turn things around by winning the Nedbank Challenge and Australian PGA Championship – I’m hopeful the run might start early in 2010.
Allenby arrives on the back of a reasonable T21 at Sheshan but it’s his results prior to that which impress me – he tied fifth in Malaysia and tied third in the McGladrey Classic, both times on courses that opened themselves up to birdies.
In the McGladrey, Allenby was second in greens hit and threatened to sneak a win before getting too aggressive off the 18th tee. Despite that mishap only Jeff Quinney carded more birdies and Allenby followed that up by sharing fourth in total birdies in Malaysia, so we know he’s putting plenty of blue numbers on the board.
Again, like Ogilvy, he’s a member at Victoria and he finished T6 when the Australian Open came here in 2002. Both men have early morning tee-times for their return home on Tuesday – I expect both to capitalise by going low and to me Allenby looks top-five banker material so we’ll make sure we get our money back if he does place.
Other names to watch out for this week have to include Jin Jeong, the Korean-born amateur who demonstrated a beautiful putting stroke when finishing T14 in The Open at St Andrews earlier this year, shortly after becoming the first Asian to win the British Amateur Championship at Muirfield. He’s based in Melbourne and will have plenty of support so it’d be foolish to totally write him off at fancy prices, however the sixth-ranked amateur may need more time still and we’ll complete the staking plan with another home-team player, Greg Chalmers.
The left-hander’s recent form figures are strong enough to think he can contend here as he’s finished inside the top quarter of the field in four of his last five PGA Tour starts, with the sole missed cut coming as the result of a shocking opening 80, from which he did at least respond with a 69.
While the course this year is new to most Chalmers was at the 2002 Australian Open and finished 20th despite a poor first round and this is an event that he’s performed well in regardless of the venue, with a tied second and a solo second in his last four starts and a further runner-up birth in 2004.
All of that bodes well enough in a slightly weak field and he certainly makes more appeal than the out of form Camilo Villegas and Stuart Appleby as well as Sergio Garcia, all of whom are priced shorter than he is.
Michael Sim can’t be ruled out having finished with a 69 on Sunday in China but, despite a masterful putting stroke, he’s still got work to do with Chalmers in that area as our pick is second on the PGA Tour in overall putting this year.
Chalmers has won the Australian Players’ Championship and the Australian Open and would’ve had this one on the CV had Tiger not shown up last year, so at the price