Shark Shootout betting preview

Ben Coley thinks Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson are the team to back at this week’s Shark Shootout.

Golf never sleeps and this week we’re in Naples, Florida for the Shark Shootout.

Hosted by the Great White himself, Greg Norman, the event is in its 22nd year and for the 10th time will be played at Tiburon Golf Club, a course that when coupled with the two-man-team format lends itself to very low numbers.

That format starts with modified alternate shot on Friday, both players teeing off before picking the best ball and taking turns from there, followed by traditional better-ball on Saturday and ending with a Sunday scramble, both players teeing off and both playing a shot from where the best one ended up and so on. Too much to get your head around? Hopefully we can help.

Last year Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly, close friends and Wisconsin neighbours, closed with a tournament-winning 59 to hold off Kenny Perry and JB Holmes and the pair will defend their title with claims of doubling up. In a game like this it’s important to have a partner you get on with and with low numbers essential it certainly helps to have a putting wizard like Stricker on your side.

However, 2010 has been no more than a solid year for him owing to the fact he’s actually struggled with the flat-stick in the latter-half and with winless Kelly by his side quotes of around 11/2 make just limited appeal.

Instead, then, we’re wading in with a match that looks made in heaven – Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson.

Whichever way you look at the formatting, it suits our pair. Poulter excels in team competition and makes a bunch of birdies, while his accuracy off the tee should allow DJ to open up the shoulders on a course that is relatively forgiving to bombers. Add that to the fact that they’re among the best putters in the world let alone this field and you have a potent force.

Poulter is clearly in great form having closed with a win and play-off second on the European Tour before sharing sixth at the Chevron World Challenge last week. Add that to the fact that he’s enjoyed some time off with the family over the past few days and it’s fair to expect a happy, relaxed and in-form player who should make more than his fair share of birdies.

Johnson’s tie for 16th last week would be a slight concern, of course, but he was 5-under through 11 holes on day one on a course that traditionally rewards accuracy over power and his Saturday 80 came purely as a result of not one but two triple bogeys on par-threes.

Considering that was his first seriously competitive start since the Ryder Cup – he actually featured on the winning Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge winning team and took second in the ADT Skills Challenge in between – it was no bad effort and he really does appear to have the perfect partner in Poulter, especially given that relaxed DJ appeals as the sort of golfer to get on with one-and-all.

In an event which looks to have been priced up pretty accurately, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson have to be considered the biggest dangers.

Oklahoma State-grad Fowler closed the year with three top-five finishes in five tournaments during a globe-trotting autumn and will be buoyed by the PGA’s controversial decision to award him the Rookie of the Year award over Quail Hollow winner Rory McIlroy. His electric debut at Celtic Manor confirmed the suspicion that this type of golf serves him best and the Walker Cup star gets on tremendously with Watson, whose raw talent means he’s always capable of shooting ridiculously low numbers.

Like our preferred pair, there’s a combination of ball-striking and power here and both make a bunch of birdies, but if we’re comparing like-for-like it’s hard to argue that Watson is as consistent as Johnson while Poulter’s recent winning form and match-practise gives him the edge over Fowler, so at similar prices our allegiance is clear.

It’s quite easy to pick holes in most of the rest, so let’s do that.

KJ Choi has to play with Mike Weir, whose ball-striking this season has been frankly atrocious. Our host plays with Matt Kuchar, who didn’t look himself at the Chevron World Challenge and Norman’s golf in Australia left plenty to be desired.

Chris DiMarco has shown bits and pieces of form but hasn’t challenged all season and is partnered by Anthony Kim, who continues to struggle since returning from thumb surgery, and Mark Calcavecchia’s play since withdrawing from the Senior Players’ Championship in October hasn’t been impressive enough for us to side with him and Jeff Overton, despite the latter’s impressive Ryder Cup debut.

Jason Day impressed many in the FedEx Cup and is the type to do well in this format but he’s sure to be rusty and Rory Sabbatini isn’t your typical team player and we’ll give them the swerve too. Similar comments apply to Scott Verplank whose partner Justin Leonard has only one top-10 finish all season to call upon, so they’re taken on despite finishing second both times they’ve been paired together here while our final scratch goes to Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, with McDowell ready for a break and Clarke out of practise.

That, then, leaves us with Davis Love III and his partner David Duval as well as Kenny Perry and Fred Funk, priced up as the least likely winners of the event.

Perry has an exceptional record in the Shootout, winning twice in the last five years and taking second in 2009, but despite flashes of his brilliant best this season hasn’t gone to plan. Sluman’s recent form is more encouraging as he finished well in the Champions Tour finale, the Charles Schwab Cup, and he too has patches of form in the event to call upon.

We wouldn’t put anyone off a speculative punt on that pair given their history in this tournament but the case for Love III and Duval is stronger and we’ll stick them up as our each-way saver.

Long-hitting Love has three top-10s to call upon this season and has shot under-par in 10 of his last 11 rounds, while Duval finished T6 in the Open on his penultimate start before a second round 64 at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open once more advertised that he’s capable of making birdies.

Throw in the fact that he was born in nearby Jacksonville and an each-way play at 25/1 with Coral looks well worth considering, with their styles likely to compliment each other in a similar way to that of our headline pair, Poulter and Johnson.

5pts win Ian Poulter & Dustin Johnson at 4/1 (VC Bet). Format will suit this pair.
1pt e.w. Davis Love III & David Duval at 25/1 (Coral 1/4 1,2,3). Will compliment each other and offer good value.

  • Preview posted at 2005 GMT on 07/12/2010.
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