Thursday, July 28, 2011

Torres battling self-doubt as well as fitness

A transfer fee of £50million is always going to thrust you into the spotlight, more so if you are not an instant hit. So you can understand if Fernando Torres feels a little flustered and frustrated at the constant media glare in which he has to prepare for the new season.

Even though he appears fit and willing, talking a good game; the negative body language that has hung over his game for the past year remains.

Gone is the sprightly figure we saw in his early days at Liverpool, instead the head is bowed, the eyes are sullen, the lips pursed. The 27-year-old seems to be in a permanent sulk.

Initially it was due to the heavy treatment dished out by Premier League defenders that drew this negative reaction, after 30 goals in his opening season that has to be expected.

But now it appears he is just weary with the world, at having to constantly battle mental and physical obstacles. Those looking for Premier League tips will be wondering if he can do this.

He hasn't been helped by his team-mates either. In a situation similar to the plight of £35million man Andrei Shevchenko, the Chelsea players are desperate for the experiment to work. But that could lead to player passing to the Spaniard unnecessarily or crossing to him when there are other options. Footballers are at their best when they instinctively, as soon as they start thinking, that's when you're in trouble. Those who bet on Premier League weekend games will know this.

Given his injury woes last year as well as the lack of rest due to the World Cup many are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But, after a clear summer to rest there is also an expectation is that Torres will be back to like his best when the season kicks off. But as long as the sullen expression and hunched shoulders remain, people will have their doubts.

Can England Make it Three Finals in a row at the Rugby World Cup?

After England came off the pitch following their 0-36 hammering by South Africa in the Group stages of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, there was not a pundit in the world that would have tipped them to get to the final. However under coach Brian Ashton they showed great determination, recaptured their form and confidence then battled their way through to a second successive rugby world cup final. What's to say they cannot do something similar again this year? Despite ranking behind New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the latest Rugby World Cup odds, Martin Johnson's side will be full of confidence that they can reach a third successive final at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Looking at the groups, England should qualify in top spot from Pool B, where they have to overcome the attention of Argentina, Georgia, Romania and Scotland. Should they only qualify in second place then they will know that their World cup will probably be over as they would almost certainly have to play hosts and favourites the All Blacks in the quarter finals. That prospect in itself should provide plenty of motivation but by finishing top of the pool then the likelihood is that they will play France in the last eight a match that they would be narrow favourites to win.

Victory over France would result in all probability with a very difficult semi-final against the ‘Springboks’ a match where they would be the underdogs, but by no means out of it. Much can happen in such a long exhausting tournament and it could be that England will be finding their best form at this stage. It certainly would be difficult for England, but an each way bet on them making the final is not without substantial merit.

It is fair to say that England will arrive in New Zealand with a much stronger squad than they had in 2007 with a number of match winners in their ranks. These include the Northampton trio of the brilliant running full back, Ben Foden, the try hungry winger Chris Ashton and second row Courtney Lawes, one of the finds of the last two years . They also have potentially the best ball carrying inside center in the world in Manu Tuilagi of Leicester who can tackle decisively and is capable of breaking any defensive line in the world.

Others who could feature prominently for England are scrum half Ben Youngs, also of Leicester who, should he recapture the zest he showed in last November’s autumn internationals can create havoc at the breakdown and from the base of the scrum.

England have an outstanding front row with Dan Cole, Matt Stevens and Andrew Sheridan likely to start and alongside Lawes in the second row they have any one of three top class options.

Some might say that they are little short of world class in the back row, but they can still produce a top quality three man unit at the back of the scrum where they have players such as Nick Easter, James Haskell, Lewis Moodie and Tom Croft to choose from so don't write off England's chances of World Cup glory just yet!

The Rugby World Cup begins on the 9th September and concludes on 21st October.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Best Bets for Glorious Goodwood 2011

With the ground expected to be near perfect for Glorious Goodwood this week, punters will be able to get stuck into a number of true run races across the five day meeting which gets underway on Tuesday 26th July. The feature race of the week is the mouth watering encounter between the unbeaten three year old Frankel and the best four year old miler around, Canford Cliffs, in the Group One Sussex Stakes over 1 mile on Wednesday. There is also the Nassau Stakes on Saturday which will see the Sir Henry Cecil trained Midday looking to defend the crown which she won in such brilliant fashion 12 months ago. Here is a look at some of the best bets from the pick of the meeting's best races.


Gordon Stakes at 2.35

Difficult to oppose the Sir Michael Stoute trained race favourite, Fiorente, after his 5 length second place behind Nathaniel in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. We all know what Nathaniel achieved in the ‘King George’ on Saturday and the form of the ‘King Edward’ has been further franked by the handicap victory at Newmarket’s July meeting by Fulgar, who was fifth behind Nathaniel and Fiorente at the Royal meeting. Stoute has an excellent record in the race, winning twice in the last three years with Conduit and Harbinger. It is also an excellent race for favourites with four of the last five winning with the other one being the joint favourite.

Tip: Fiorente @ 11/10

Lennox Stakes at 3.10

Despite disappointing in the July Cup, Delegator, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor fro Godolphin is worth taking a chance on in this. He looked very impressive when he won over six furlongs in the Group Two Duke of York Stakes at York back in May but found the six furlong trip at Newmarket not necessarily to his liking. The extra furlong that he will get at Goodwood, should be very much in his favour and although he will have to overcome the likes of Strong Suit, Red Jazz and Libranno, he should have the class to cope.

Tip: Delegator @ 3/1


Sussex Stakes at 3.10

Although only five go to post, the race is being viewed very much as a two horse affair between favourite Frankel and last year’s winner, Canford Cliffs. Bookmakers have been reporting a huge surge on Frankel who is now 10/11 odds on while Canford Cliffs has eased slightly to 5/4. With so little to choose between them it might be as good an idea as any to place them in a reverse forecast provided a decent SP can be found. It is certainly difficult to find anything else in the race that should seriously trouble the two principles.

Tip: Reverse Forecast Frankel & Canford Cliffs


Nassau Stakes at 3.10

Midday will be bidding to create history by becoming the first mare to win the Nassau Stakes three times. She has won the race for the last two years of course but she perhaps showed signs of losing her racing zest last time when well beaten by Misty For Me in the Group One Pretty Polly Stake over ten furlongs at the Curragh in late June. Before that she put up a game performance in the Coronation Cup, going down by just a length to St Nicholas Abbey. Her trainer has given her a reasonable amount of time off, which means that she will come into the race refreshed and on the back of some good reports from home.

To win however, she will once again be taking on Misty For Me as well as 2010 dual Oaks winner, Snow Fairy, plus the very talented, Jim Bolger three year old Banimpire who got within a short head of the brilliant Blue Bunting in the Irish Oaks a fortnight ago. Before that, Banimpire won the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot and comes to the Goodwood track in great form and has the ability to see off this very strong field.

Tip: Banimpire @ 7/1

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Federer has gone too long without Grand Slam success

Roger Federer has not won a Grand Slam title for over 18 months and that is going to make him a dangerous animal come the US Open.

The Swiss tennis legend has slipped to number three in the world rankings and has seen Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic win the Grand Slams so far in 2011.

Federer won five straight titles at Flushing Meadows between 2004 and 2008 but has failed to add to his haul of US Open titles since that latest win.

It has now been six Grand Slam tournaments since Federer last won one but coach Paul Annacone has backed him to come back and be there or thereabouts come the US Open. Those looking to bet on Andy Murray should bear this in mind.

"Roger got to the semis in the Australian Open, the finals of the French Open, and quarter-finals of Wimbledon: he's right there. I don't see any reason why he's not going to be really geared up and ready to play in New York," he said.

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are all likely to appear at the Rogers Cup in Montreal at the beginning of August as they prepare for the US Open. Those who bet on US Open action will be keeping a close eye on him.

That trio, plus world number four Andy Murray, are likely to fill the semi-final slots come Flushing Meadow in what promises to be an exciting final Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Federer will be out to answer the critics and prove he can still win the big tournaments but it will be a big challenge as Djokovic is on a phenomenal run in 2011 and Nadal is so difficult to beat on the hard courts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Emmanuel Adebayor: Where Does His Future Lie?

Adebayor’s favour in the first team at Manchester City has been in doubt for a while now with competition being high for the position of striker.

Last season saw Adebayor make a loan move to Spanish giants Real Madrid. He succeeded in adding five goals in 14 appearances, with some impressive performances to boot.

As of recently, though, Emmanuel Adebayor’s future has been cast in uncertainty as to whether or not he will remain at the City of Manchester Stadium. Real Madrid are one of two keen clubs interested in adding the powerful Togo international to their side.

Another club that is supposedly interested is the London club Tottenham. During the preceding Champions League, Adebayor managed to bag two goals against Spurs, so it’s no wonder Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, wants to make the goal-hungry striker part of his team.

City bought Adebayor from Arsenal for a fee thought to be around the region of £25 million, which to me is overvaluing the talents of Adebayor.

We all know that he is a great player, but his price tag most certainly does not reflect his corresponding ability. Contrary to the previous point, Man City were building a team at a fast rate and wanted to ensure the construction of a world-class team in a short period of time. This particular snippet of information didn’t work in Adebayor’s favour, as his squad status changed from being a regular first team player into a bench warmer.

Come the end of the transfer window I’m quite sure that Emmanuel Adebayor will not remain at City. The favourites to claim his signature are the likes of Real Madrid, and closely following Madrid is Tottenham Hotspurs. It would be nice to watch Adebayor in English football for another season, but I can’t say that I’ll miss him too greatly as there are players in the Premier League with plenty more expertise than that of Adebayor.

To make the next few weeks before the start of the new football season go a little faster, find some diverting entertainment by checking out Fosters' online videos featuring Vic and Bob Mortimer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hampshire Favourites As Friends Life T20 Reaches Quarter Final Stage

The annual Friends Provident T20 tournament has finally reached the business end with the draw now confirmed for the quarter finals. The four matches will all be played between 6-8 August to decide which four teams go forward to finals day at Edgbaston on Saturday 27th August.

The draw has seen the defending champions and winners of Group South Hampshire pitched against Durham Dynamos who finished fourth in Group North. The other three ties will see the runners up in group north, Leicestershire against the third place team from group south, Kent Spitfires, while group north winners, Nottinghamshire Outlaws will take on the fourth team in group south Somerset. The fourth match brings together group south runners up, Sussex against Lancashire, the third place team in group north.

It is completely understandable why Hampshire are the favourites to win the tournament for a second successive year after they dominated group south this season with 11 wins and only two defeats. They are drawn at home against Durham where they have remained unbeaten all season, which is as good a reason as any why Bookmakers have made them 8/13 odds on favourite to win a place through to finals day and current head the Twenty 20 odds.

Next best in the betting are the Nottinghamshire Outlaws who won Group North in equally convincing style as Hampshire had won Group South, winning eleven and losing only twice all season. They managed to make finals day last year but were knocked out by Somerset in the last four. Some of their success is down to several high scores achieved in the group and by some excellent batting from Adam Voges and Alex Hales who have scored 470 and 466 runs respectively this season so far. Darren Pattinson has also been an important player for them taking 22 wickets in 15 matches played.

To win their quarter final however they will need to avenge last season’s semi defeat as they will be taking on Marcus Trescothick’s Somerset in what looks to be the tie of the round, with very little between them in the betting.

Quarter Final Draw:

6th August - Leicestershire Foxes v Kent Spitfires

7th August - Nottinghamshire Outlaws v Somerset

7th August - Hampshire Royals v Durham Dynamos

8th August - Sussex Sharks v Lancashire Lightning

This year’s tournament has seen some remarkable individual performances, Leicestershire batsman Andrew McDonald finished as top run getter through the group stages with a massive 510 runs from 15 innings. He averaged over 63 runs per innings and had a very useful strike rate of over 127.

The highest individual score came from Kevin O’Brien of Gloucestershire with 119 runs scored against Middlesex which came off just 52 balls and included eleven sixes. This innings helped gave Gloucestershire a total of 254 off 20 overs, the highest total in the history of domestic T20 cricket. His superb knock should come as no surprise as O’Brien holds the world record for the fastest century ever scored at a World Cup, which came earlier this year when he thumped a hundred off just 50 balls against England.

Top wicket taker so far is Tim Phillips of Essex with 26 wickets at a very impressive average of 13.23. He had an economy rate of just over 7 runs per over and had best figures of 4/41. The best individual bowling figures in fact came from Arul Suppiah of Somerset when he took six Glamorgan wickets for just 5 runs off just 22 balls.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Will the Sale revolution bring glory?

There is a revolution going on at Sale Sharks as they look to challenge the big guns of the Aviva Premiership, but is such a major overhaul guaranteed to bring success?

Sale Sharks executive director Steve Diamond has had a busy summer so far and brought in a total of 20 new players, overhauled the behind-the-scenes of the club and also outlined plans to move the side from Edgeley Park.

His latest bit of business was to bring in former Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks as their new first-team coach, replacing Peter Angelsea, who had been in charge on an interim basis. Those placing rugby bets will be watching the changes with interest.

Hanks has previously won three Premiership titles and a Heineken Cup during his two spells with Wasps and Diamond described his appointment as the "final piece of the off-field jigsaw" – hinting there may be more new faces on the playing front.

"Tony has worked with some of the best teams in the world and brings a level of experience and achievement that will be of immediate benefit to Sale Sharks," the director said of Hanks' appointment.

Despite the experience of their new coach, the revolving door policy that seems to have been introduced at Sale mean Hanks is going to have one hell of a job trying to turn this new collective of players into a team by the time they start their Aviva Premiership challenge against Worcester on 3rd September.

It is a massive gamble by Diamond and the rest of the Sale directors to attempt such a massive revolution during one summer period and there is the risk it could backfire as the players struggle to gel in the early weeks, and months, of the season.

They have done this overhaul in the hope of Aviva Premiership success, but the teams ahead of them in the league are established and have such a strong backbone built over many years – which is something Sale cannot do within one summer.

Meanwhile, fans of Rugby World Cup betting will be looking forward to the tournament which starts in the autumn.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Power Can Land 2011 World Matchplay

Despite no longer being the dominant player in the world of darts, the Bookmakers still believe that defending champion, Phil Taylor, is the man to beat at this year’s Stan James World Match-play Championship which gets underway at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool this weekend.

Taylor in fact has won this tournament nine times in the last 11 years and also won it twice more in the 90’s which is why he is the 11/8 favourite in the Darts Odds and why also most darts followers believe that this tournament is his exclusively.

The two times he was beaten in the last 11 years in this competition came in 2005 and 2007 when he actually never made the final, but the two players who got the better of him in those matches, John Part and Terry Jenkins failed to go on and win the tournament.

The reason why pundits believe that "The Power" is no longer the dominant force is simply because he has failed to win a major championship for almost a year. In that same period several other players have emerged including new world champion, Adrian Lewis and Premier League winner, Gary Anderson. Add the names of Wade and Australian number one, Simon Whitlock and former world champion, Mark Webster then it is easy to see why Taylor has struggled to maintain his number one status.

As Taylor struggles so does his former nemesis, Raymond Van Barneveld, who is without a win in big tournaments for far longer than Taylor. His best finish at the Winter Gardens in fact came 12 months ago where he suffered a 12-18 defeat at the hands of Taylor and has only flattered to deceive at best since.

Although he remains a crowd favourite, ‘Barney’ will do well to get even close to the final this year as he has been given a very tricky draw. He has a difficult first round opponent in Steve Brown which should he win he is then likely to face Paul Nicholson and Wade in rounds two and three.

Much of the smart money this year has been going on Premier League champion, Gary Anderson who is currently a good value bet still at 13/2. Although he cannot boast consistently good form in this tournament in the past, it is only been over the last 18 months or so that the Scot has arrived at the elite end of darts and has proven that he can grab opportunities such as this with both hands. If he comes to Blackpool in top form then he will be extremely hard to beat.

10/1 shot Lewis proved that he has the temperament for the big time when he defeated Anderson in the world championship final back in January and although his consistency has never been one of his strong points he is still a big danger to Taylor.

For two or three years Taylor saw Wade as his chief rival and the two have met in several finals in the past. However, Wade much like Lewis suffers from inconsistency and is prone to putting in a bad performance in the early part of a tournament. Should he however get through to the third round and overcome ‘Barney’ he is in with as good a chance as any. He too can be backed at 10/1 with sponsors, Stan James.

Despite the poorish run of form, Taylor has proven time and time again that he is the man to beat in the ‘big ones’. He is defending the title in one of his favourite events and is well motivated to prove to the chasing pack of rivals that they will need to be at their absolute best to beat him. He also knows that even that might not be enough if he turns up in Blackpool in the form he was in 18 months ago.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Europeans set to dominate British Open

The Europeans are dominating the world golf rankings at this point in time and Colin Montgomerie reckons they will rule at the British Open as well this week.
Former Ryder Cup-winning captain Montgomerie got to see the cream of European golf up close during his time with them last year and he reckons the top three in the world – Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy – are "all good enough" to win the British Open at Royal St Georges. The British Open golf odds reflect this.

It is widely expected among golf fans that the European stars will be more suited to the links course at Sandwich while the weather, with winds of up to 30mph predicted for during the tournament, could also be more troubling to the Americans heading over to the British Open. Those looking to bet on British Open 2011 should bear this in mind.

McIlroy is coming into the British Open on the back of his scintillating win at the US Open, while world number one Donald won the Scottish Open last week and is looking full of confidence.

Then there is Westwood, who has lost his number one spot but remains a strong contender who could be coming into form at just the right time.
Montgomerie reckons Westwood and Donald are more than capable of winning their maiden Major title, while McIlroy also cannot be ruled out – but he is predicting European success.

"It's going to be interesting, but when you look at Luke's game, Lee's game and of course Rory's game I can easily see them finishing first, second and third," he added.

"But that could be in any order - we'll just have to wait and see."

South African star Charl Schwartzel won the opening Major tournament of the season, the US Masters, and he admits he is "really looking forward" to the British Open after his positive previous experiences at Sandwich.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Donald confident ahead of Open

Luke Donald is confident he can now go on to claim his maiden major title at the Open after claiming the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.

Donald produced a superb final round of 63, the lowest round of his European Tour career to win by four over Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed and stretch his lead at the top of the world rankings.

The tournament was cut to 54-holes after torrential downpours on both Friday and Saturday left the Inverness course layout, but Donald overcame the elements to post a total of 19 under par and claim his third title of the season. Those following the British Open betting will have been impressed by his efforts.

After his round, Donald admitted that due to the soft conditions the, the course was 'there for the taking' and is pleased he could take full advantage and send a message to his rivals ahead of next week.

"I see it as all positive," he said. "I'll be high on confidence, I'm obviously hitting the ball nicely and to do it on a links course is even better.

"That's why I decided to play in Scotland this year. There's always a little added pressure when you're number one, but hopefully I've proved I can handle that. Obviously next week will be different, but this was the best way to prepare".

Donald previously took a break from the game, complaining of exhaustion after playing regularly on both sides of the Atlantic. He now feels fresh and ready for the upcoming event at Royal St George's but is wary of getting ahead of himself after such a fine week in Inverness.

Friday, July 8, 2011

McIlroy planning his British Open return

Rory McIlroy has been the subject of intense scrutiny since winning the US Open and he is hoping his self-imposed three-week break will benefit him coming into the British Open.

The Northern Irishman stormed to a wholly impressive win at Congressional and since then decided not to participate in either the French Open or Scottish Open. Those following the British Open odds may have raised an eyebrow at this.

McIlroy claims his decision was to ensure he could "just concentrate on golf" upon his return to competitive action as he was forced to carry out to a host of media commitments following his victory.

He will be the centre of attention when the British Open gets underway at Royal St George's and will undoubtedly have the largest crowd following him around. The British Open golf odds suggest this could put a bit of extra pressure on him.

McIlroy reckons the course will give all the players a "good test of golf" and he has taken the opportunity to practice on the course during his break from competitive action.

"I went down to Royal St George's on Tuesday and Wednesday so that I could get a good look before too many people were there," said the star.

"The practice was great because we had one calm day and one when the wind got up so I got a great feel of what we can expect."

Phil Mickelson is hoping to break his British Open duck at Royal St Georges and he seems to disagree with McIlroy's decision to skip the Scottish Open at Loch Lomand.

The American star is playing the tournament to get some links practise and he has stated the winner of the British Open "will be in the field" of the Scottish Open, though he was quick to deny speculation he was running McIlroy out of the running for the title.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Westwood not thinking about rankings

Lee Westwood knows that victory at this week's Scottish Open could see him regain the World Number one spot but says he has bigger things on his mind.

The Englishman heads to Castle Stuart looking to build his form ahead of next week's British Open at Royal St George's. The Worksop born star is still looking for his first Major title, finishing in the top three in five of his last seven Majors including the recent US Open in June. The Open odds suggest he can push on.

These near misses have only spurred Westwood on to bigger things and is targeting a big result this week, not only to help him back up the rankings but also to build momentum for the Open.

"If you play well this week and come out with a good result - obviously winning would be fantastic - that's momentum going into next week," Westwood said.

A top five finish would see Westwood overtake compatriot Luke Donald at the top of the standings who has decided to take a week off ahead of the Open.

Like Westwood, Donald is also on the lookout for his first Major title and has decided to spend the week practicing to hone his game ahead of the tournament in Sandwich.

He's even brought over his Chicago based coach, Pat Goss as well as performance coach Dave Alred, famous for his work with Jonny Wilkinson to help him get his game in shape in time for the third Major of the season.

"I always felt like playing links golf leading into the British Open is very important" he told reporters. "There are some golfers that don't practise that much and rely on natural ability, but I feel I have to go out there and work at it".

Deysel handed World Cup chance

Defending champions South Africa have called up Jean Deysel into their World Cup training squad to provide cover for a number of injury worries to their forwards. The Sharks' back-row has been handed the call following niggling injuries to Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen. Those following Rugby World Cup 2011 odds will be keeping a close eye on South Africa's injury problems.

A statement from the South Arican Rugby Union confirmed the news of Deysel's call-up.

"Sharks loose-forward Jean Deysel has been added to the Springbok training squad in Cape Town because of injuries. Deysel joined the group on Wednesday," it said.

26-year-old Deysel earned his first cap for the Springboks in 2009 against Italy but has often found his path to the national team blocked by the large number of quality players in his position. Now the Sharks man will have the chance to impress Peter de Villiers in the run up to the World Cup, which starts in September. First up though for South Africa will be the unfortunately timed Tri-Nations, which this year will be played just weeks before the season showpiece in New Zealand.

The SARU were also quick to play down reports that Stormers defensive coach Jacques Nienaber has joined the Springboks' coaching staff for the World Cup. Nienaber has been working with the squad on a short-term basis but the SARU have confirmed he will be returning to the Stormers in time for their Currie Cup campaign.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oosthuizen skips Scottish Open

Defending Open champion Louis Oosthuizen has decided to stay in America this week, rather than travel to the UK to compete in the Scottish Open. The South African will instead continue his Open preparations in the States, with this week's John Deere Classic his preferred event.

Oosthuizen has admitted his love of tractors and farms have had an impact on his decision to play the tournament in Silvis, Illinois, with a trip round the John Deere factory seemingly too good an opportunity for the 28-year-old to turn down. Following his week on the farm, Oosthuizen will then travel to Kent, where he will get himself accustomed to the Royal St George's Course in Sandwich ahead of the start of this year's third major. Those following the British Open betting odds golf will be wondering how he will get on.

"It was a big dream for me, coming from a farm, and I always wanted to go to the John Deere factory," he said.

"When I saw the John Deere Classic I realised that I could come and play this. They have the charter to Kent and I also think it's a good week to get the swing right for next week."

It's going to be a hell of a job for Oosthuizen to match his Open triumph from last year, where he romped to a seven-shot win at St Andrews to pick up his maiden major. The British Open specials reflect this.

The South African's rivals are well aware of what he is capable this time around though and that element of surprise will have been lost.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Scottish Open Can Provide Crucial Clues to Open Championship

This year's Scottish Open Golf Championship has attracted a fantastic field, five of which sit in the world’s top ten. Most of the field, including these five will be playing the Castle Stuart Golf Links in the Scottish Highlands for the first time and will be using the tournament as a major part of their preparations ahead of the Open Championships that begins at Royal St George's on Thursday 14th July.

The venue for the 2011 Scottish Open has changed this year from its usual site at Loch Lomond to the traditional links venue, which is designed to be a serious test of accuracy, course management and putting. It is a par 72 course which stretches over 7,000 yards and is the main reason that several of the biggest names in the sport are heading to Scotland to practice their links game ahead of the British Open.

Favourite to win is current world number two, Lee Westwood, who won this tournament in 1998. World number two, Luke Donald is second favourite in the betting but neither player has been seen in a tournament since the US Open last month, where Westwood, as he seemingly always does, gave a good account of himself by finishing in a tie for third place thus maintaining his very high level of form so far in 2011. Donald however disappointed at Congressional, finishing in a tie for 45th which was the first time he had finished outside of the top ten in his last eleven events. Both players remain second and third favourites behind Rory McIlroy in the British open odds and a good performance in this event will be crucial ahead of both looking to win their first "major".

As usual, the Scottish Open has attracted a lively challenge from the American tour, with world number six, Phil Mickelson and world number eight, Matt Kuchar, leading the way from across the Atlantic. Others making the trip from the PGA Tour include Adam Scott and Martin Laird whose consistency on the US Tour has seen him rise to number 25 in the world, making him the highest ranked of all Scottish players. Justin Rose is also over from the States as is Brandt Snedeker, who performed very well when tied 11th in the US Open.

One player hoping to bounce back to winning ways will be Graeme McDowell, who after four wins worldwide in 2010, including the US Open has failed to find any consistency in 2011. He did put up a good defence of his US Open crown, finishing in a tie for 14th but still couldn't challenge at the top of the leaderboard. McDowell is overdue a big performance, he loves links golf, has been working very hard on his swing and must be in with a big chance both in Scotland and at Sandwich .

Others who can be expected to put in good performances at Castle Stuart include, Ross Fisher, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els. All three are great exponents of links golf and all, like McDowell are long overdue some form of success.

Defending champion of this event is Italian, Eduardo Molinari, whose form compared to that of last year has dipped sharply and has been responsible for his rapid drop in the world rankings where he is now down to number 34 from a previous high of 18th.

It may have to reside in the shadow of next week's 'main event' but the Scottish Open is a fantastic tournament and should provide plenty of pointers ahead of the third major of the season.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Watney could lead American charge at Open

The top players in the golfing world try to ensure their game is peaking at the right time coming into the four Major tournaments.

With the third Major of the year, the British Open, just around the corner the players talked about as favourites are likely to be the top Europeans such as Lee Westwood or Rory McIlroy.

The main American contender is likely to be the ever-green Phil Mickelson, but one man coming into real form and a possibility for the British Open title is Nick Watney.

He tops the FedEx Cup standings and victory at the AT&T National last week was his second win of the season – add into that six top ten finishes so far in 2011 and he is coming into the British Open is good stead.

Watney won by two shots from KJ Choi at the AT&T National, with a large chunk of success down to a course record eight-under-par 62 for his third round. The British Open odds indicate he could be a surprise challenger later this month.

The windy links courses of the British Open have a tendency to favour the European players but some US stars have shown in the past they can come over and perform and those looking to bet on British Open 2011 should remember this.

Watney said after his AT&T victory he thinks things are moving in the right direction and is confident more wins could be just round the corner.

"I'm doing some good work with my coach, and my caddy has also been great. I feel like it's a process and I just need to keep working hard and hopefully keep winning," he added.

It has been confirmed that Dane Thorbjorn Olesen and American and Charles Howell have all made it into the British Open after leading non-exempt players at the AT&T National.

Godolphin "very happy" with Delegator ahead of July Cup bid

It's all systems go for Delegator's bid to win Saturday's Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket after Sheik Mohammed's five-year-old came through his final serious gallop before the contest with flying colours, writes Elliot Slater.

Seen only once this season in competitive action when impressively landing the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes at the North Yorkshire track in May, Delegator had been the leading fancy for the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes but was taken out of the race after heavy rain in the days leading up to the six furlong contest turned the ground soft. With much faster ground anticipated at HQ this coming weekend and having worked in fine style under Ted Durcan on the Limekilns gallop, hopes are very high in the Saeed bin Suroor camp that the former high-class miler can prove himself somewhere near as good over the two furlong shorter trip against the cream of international sprinters. Those following the Newmarket betting will be keeping a close eye on him.

Frankie Dettori, absent through suspensions for much of the last three weeks, is due back on board the son of Dansili who currently heads the ante-post market for the race sponsored by Sheik Mohammed's Darley breeding empire at a best priced 4/1. Delegator lost his way as a four-year-old having switched from the care of Brian Meehan to Godolphin in the middle of his three-year-old campaign that had begun with him winning the Craven Stakes before giving the now legendary Sea The Stars a fright when bustling up the great champion in the 2009 2000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile. Subsequently well beaten in heavy ground at the Curragh in the Irish equivalent, Delegator came back to run a tremendous race in failing by only a neck to beat Master Craftsman in the St James's Palace Stakes of the same season, after which he beat Zacinto (before subsequently being disqualified) in the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood.

After a modest campaign last term Delegator was dropped in trip to sprinting and at York showed he could be the major force in the division this term with a highly impressive winning return.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Contador Favouite to win A Four Tour de France

The gruelling, exciting, controversial and lucrative Tour de France gets underway this weekend with the first of the 21 stages going off from the Passage de Gois to Mont des Alouettes, some 191 Kms or 119 miles. The final stage from Creteil to Paris of 95kms (59 miles) takes place on the 24th July and will conclude the 98th edition of the world’s most famous cycle race.

Odds on Favourite to win the overall classification is defending champion, Alberto Contador from Spain, who will be looking for his fourth title. Should he win he will be the first since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year.

Contador in fact owes his win in Italy as much to uncertainty as to advanced planning as he entered the event believing that he would be banned from the ‘Tour’ due to the controversy surrounding his alleged use of clenbuterol. He had fully expected the findings of the case to have been concluded before now, but they are not now to be known until August, leaving Contador to go for the ‘double’. Despite the fact that his victory in Italy and his likely victory in France may well be nullified, it is hard to bet against him, even though he has switched teams from Astana to Saxo Bank Sungard. The fact remains that Contador has won all six of the last Grand Tours he has entered; the 2011 race looks sure to be his seventh according to the Tour de France odds, for which he is the even money favourite.

The biggest challenge to Contador will undoubtedly come from two time runner up Andy Schleck, who has left Saxo Bank with his brother Frank to form his own team, the Leopard Trek, believing that he needed to do this in order to overcome the final hurdle of actually winning the ‘Tour’. It should be noted that Schleck finished only 39 seconds behind Contador in 2010 which was a massive improvement of over three minutes from 2009. Schleck is a very short priced second favourite for glory with odds of 7/4.

Britain’s Bradley Wiggins has the best chance of the British riders. Heading Team Sky, Wiggins finished fourth in the 2009 Tour de France and will be looking to improve hugely on the disappointing 24th place he earned a year ago.

There were plenty of reasons why he did not do so well in 2010, but he comes into the race having just won the British Road race Championship, which followed a string of successful rides in some of the smaller but classic events in Europe.

Targeting the Points Classification title or the Green Jersey will be Britain’s Mark Cavendish, who rides for the HTC-Highroad team and who has achieved 15 stage victories in the three years he has been riding in the event. He is being tipped very strongly to at least equal that again this year and to possibly even become the greatest stage winner the Tour de France has ever known. That record is 64 stage wins achieved by the great Eddie Merckx, who also won the ‘Tour’ five times between 1969 and 1974.