Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Golf practice: Learning how to score

The winter months are always a time for the amateur golfer to lay out grand plans for the season ahead. A common resolution is to practice more and to practice better.

Opinions vary about the best way to practice. A good practice session to many is to stand on a range and spank umpteen buckets of balls each week, while for others it means picking a spot at the side of a practice green and chipping balls until the cows meander home. Truth is, there's no right or wrong and different methods will suit different players.

I recall a conversation several years ago between Padraig Harrington and a young up-and-coming Irish amateur. The two were discussing how the amateur in question could best prepare for a possible future move into the professional ranks. The youngster informed Harrington that he had been playing weekly competitions over the European Club - a testing links at the best of times, let alone during the chilly and dreary Irish winter.

The amateur's thinking was that if he could consistently shoot a decent number around one of the hardest courses in Ireland, he would be able to score anywhere. Successive rounds of in and around level par had been achieved, but Harrington wasn't buying into the plan. Instead, his advice was that the young lad should go back to his home club (an average-length parkland in Dublin) and start playing rounds from the women's tees.

The young lad looked bewildered, but Harrington's reasoning was simple: getting used to shooting level par, or even one or two under par, is no use when it comes to the pro ranks. Most weeks on tour, a level par total after two rounds would simply result in a missed cut, no pay cheque and a blow to confidence levels. "Go and get comfortable making birdies and eagles," said Harrington. "Get used to shooting 61s and 62s. Get used to shooting in the 60s all the time and thinking nothing of it."

That would stand him in good stead, Harrington reasoned, as for ever seriously tough track on tour there were nine that were straightforward tracks that required a player to score.

I'm not sure whether the young lad in question ever took heed of Harrington's advice. Regardless, it would appear not to have worked as I heard recently that the player in question had signed his pro forms and is well on the way to becoming a teaching pro.

What do you think of Harrington's advice? Let me know in the comments box below.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Picks For The US Open

 The US Open Trophy: Up for grabs this week
I watch pretty much anything golf-related that's on TV. Like many, though, I generally only get the urge to have a flutter on the outcome when it comes to Major weeks.

I picked fairly well at the Masters in April with eventual winner Bubba Watson (45-1) and runner-up Louis Oosthuizen (90-1) both among my handful of picks. My status as a fair weather gambler is confirmed by the fact that my Masters winnings still sit, untouched, in my online betting account (I haven't had a bet since!).

That will change over the next 24 hours, however, as I take a punt on the US Open, which gets underway on Thursday (June 14) at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. When Majors come around, I tend to base my bets on hunches. With the idea of this blog in mind, I did admittedly spend an hour or so last evening perusing the various tips and previews floating around the internet.

The result, somewhat predictably, is that I now have around 20 names in my head. Everyone, it seems, has their own hunches. My over-riding feeling going into the event is that Olympic will see Tiger Woods return to Major-winning ways. Trouble is, with best odds available of 10-1 (William Hill), there's little value for someone like me who prefers to keep my stake fairly small (I am Scottish afterall!). But, when you get a hunch you have to go with it.

Dustin Johnson was a name that had been rattling around my brain for a long time leading in to the tournament. I was gutted therefore to see his weekend charge and victory at the St Jude Classic last weekend. I spotted Johnson's name up around the 60-1 level at the end of last week and made a mental note to stick a couple of euro on him at Olympic. But with the St Jude trophy in his back pocket, the best price you'll get on Johnson now is 30-1 (Paddy Power). I really can't see Johnson winning again this week and around the same price level I'm more inclined to go each way on Jim Furyk (35-1 with Paddy Power) or Jason Duffner (28-1 with Bet365 and others). A flutter on Johnson will have to wait until the Open in July.

Sergio Garcia: Good value at 45-1
A little further out, Sergio Garcia (45-1 with Paddy Power and others) catches the eye. Garcia has performed well at the US Open in recent years, finishing tied for seventh in 2011 and tied for tenth in 2009. Garcia has shown sporadic glimpses of form this season, but is yet to turn it into a victory. A third place finish in Sweden last weekend should see 'El Nino' arrive at Olympic full of confidence.

Finally, I was surprised to see YE Yang at such long odds. The Korean finished in a disappointing tie for 66th last week at the St Jude, having opened with an encouraging 68 (-2). Yang can be found as high as 175-1 (Skybet) for the US Open, which seems incredible given his third place finish in the event last year. The Korean has had a largely disappointing six months with a best finish in strokeplay on the PGA Tour of 30th (the Honda Classic in March), but the majors seem to bring the best out of him. And at those odds, he has to be worth a euro.

Bets For The Week (€20 total):
Tiger Woods €10 @ 10-1
Jason Duffner €3 @ 28-1
Jim Furyk €3 @ 35-1
Sergio Garcia €2 @ 45-1
YE Yang €1 e/w @ 175-1

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

92,000 Tickets Sold For Irish Open

Royal Portrush: Host venue for the 2012 Irish Open
The 2012 Irish Open, which tees off at Royal Portrush in just over two weeks time, is shaping up to be quite an event. And hats must be tipped to the stellar work that has been done by the Northern Irish Tourist Board (NITB) in drumming up publicity and interest in the event, which takes place over the Dunluce Links from Thursday June 28 to Sunday July 1.

The NITB's efforts to promote the tournament saw them host a media lunch in Dublin this week to update journalists in the Republic on how the event is shaping up. The answer, it seems, is pretty damn well!

The Irish Open hasn't been staged in the North since 1953. The 30 or so media in attendance heard that the 2012 staging of the Irish Open is set to become the best attended European Tour event in history, with the total number of spectators forecast to exceed 100,000 for the first time ever. The last of the 27,000 tickets for the final day of the tournament (Sunday) sold out several weeks ago and at the time of writing (June 12) only 2,000 or so tickets remain for the Saturday. More than 20,000 tickets have been sold for both the Thursday and Friday. Present at the lunch in Dublin was Irish OpenTournament Director for the European Tour, Antonia Beggs, who stated that the organisers expect the event to sell out completely over the coming 16 days.

When you consider that Portrush was only announced as the host venue at the start of January this year, those figures are mighty impressive. How do they compare to previous years? In 2011, the European Tour say that 86,500 fans passed through the gates at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, up from 82,500 at the same venue in 2010.

The fervour for tickets among golf fans in the North is understandable, given the exploits of local heroes Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy over the past 24 months. Add to this the fact that the Irish Open hasn't been held north of the border since 1953 and the stage is set for one hell of an event.

One thing's for sure, Carton House, the host venue for the Irish Open in 2013, are likely to have a big act to follow!

Antonia Beggs, Irish Open Tournament Director for the European Tour with Alan Clarke, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, and Fiona Cunningham, Market Manager Northern Ireland Tourist Board (ROI)
Royal Portrush Golf Club
Irish Open Tickets
Irish Open Website