GMAC Goes For Two-In-A-Row
Volvo World Matchplay
Henrik Stenson heads the betting for this week’s Vovlo World Matchplay event in Kent but does reigning champion, Grmeme McDowell, present more value?
This was once the most lucrative event in golf, but the introduction of the WGC Match Play and the tendency of the top American players to decline their invitations have reduced its prestige in recent years. In fact the last American to win it was Mark O’Meara in 1998.
This year the event has moved back to its original slot in the calendar in October and has also been slimmed down. Sixteen players will compete in four round-robin groups, with eight progressing to the knock-out stages.
The International Course at the London Golf Club in Kent is an undulating, exposed venue with fairly wide fairways, but unforgiving rough. In summer conditions, it might not present much of a challenge, but in typical October weather, players may find it hard to avoid the deep bunkers and the icy water hazards. Conditions are likely to be yielding underfoot and the greens will probably play a little sluggish.
In The Bunker
Henrik Stenson is one of five of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes taking part and as the top-ranked player in the field, starts as the antepost favourite but I think a case can be made for opposing him this week.
His group includes last year’s runner up Thongchai Jaidee and Francesco Molinari, who beat Stenson in last year’s group stage. Stenson is a class act, obviously, but there are equally good match-play golfers in the field and at odds of 9/2 I won’t be backing him this week.
Stenson’s Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell is only a slightly bigger price, but his recent record in this tournament makes him a stronger selection than his Swedish rival.
McDowell is the reigning champion, but he has never finished outside the top five in this event, coming second in 2012 and fifth on his first attempt in 2011.
He was widely-praised for his role in partnering Victor Dubuisson at Gleneagles, and has become one of the most consistent match-play golfers around. Back him at 5/1.
Shane Lowry had a difficult time of it in Portugal last week, but prior to that, he had been in good form, with consecutive top ten finishes at the Wales Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and it is worth giving him another chance this week. He finished in the top ten in this event at his first attempt last year and this exposed, windswept course should suit him down to the ground. Back him to win at 11/1.
The final name to add to your shortlist is a bit of a wildcard. Alexander Levy is in his second full season on the European Tour and has little experience of top class match-play golf, but after his victory in Portugal last weekend, the young Frenchman is the form player in the field and offers plenty of value at odds of 20/1.