Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview

By Mick McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

This week is the final leg of the Florida Swing on the PGA Tour and we finish with the ‘Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando.

The event was founded in 1979 and before that it had several different name changes since it began in 1966 when it was known as the ‘Florida Citrus Open Invitational’ and was played at the Rio Pinar Golf Club which is also situated in Florida. Arnold Palmer has owned Bay Hill since 1974 however the tournament was first played under his name in 2007. In the 1966 Inaugural event Lionel Herbert beat the Legend Jack Nicklaus by 2 shots. Arnold Palmer has also won this event and that was in 1971, eight years before he became the host.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of only 5 tournaments given Invitational status by the PGA Tour. The other 4 are The Heritage, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Memorial Tournament and AT&T National. Invitational events have smaller fields which are usually between 120-132 players.

The field this week is of a very high standard with players such as Graeme McDowell, Keegan Bradley, Harris English, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler teeing it up.

The bookies top five in betting are  8/1 Tiger Woods, 14/1 Justin Rose, 14/1 Justin Rose, 14/1 Bubba Watson and 22/1 Hunter Mahan.

Tiger Woods is the Defending Champion this week and will be looking for his ninth win at Bay Hill. While he is not in the best of form this season he is a proven winner on the course.

The course is Par 72, 7419 yard with 103 bunkers and water coming into play on 9 of the 18 holes. The Purse is $US6.2M with the winner taking home $US1,116,000. The Pros rank Bay Hill as one of the most challenging and enjoyable courses on the tour. Unlike a lot of the courses on tour where it becomes a birdie-fest, Bay Hill is one of those courses that will require patience and plotting to make your way around all 18 holes. Just ask John Daly who in 1998 hit 6 balls into the water on the 6th hole during his last round to score an 18!!

This week it is all about ball striking and hitting those greens. Looking back at the past winners you will notice that they all ranked highly in Greens in Regulation stats. If you get lost in the Bermuda rough it makes it almost impossible to shoot for the green.

Patience is paramount this week. As mentioned earlier it is vital to play your shots well and maintain those Pars as they are just as important as the birdies this week. It will require a steady head and poise.

Not many rookies or first times fair well at Bay Hill so look for players who have had good experience on the course and know how to plot their way around here. Experience will get you a long way at Bay Hill. Just look at the list of past winners and you will see what I mean.

Taking all this into consideration I have managed to find three players who should fit the bill this week.

Zach Johnson 25/1

When it comes to a cool head and mapping your way around a course then you can not look past Zach Johnson. He is a proven winner on the Tour with 11 PGA Tour victories to his name.

He started 2014 off with victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and has not missed a cut this year. He backed the win up with a T8th at the Sony Open and continued the form with a T3rd at the Humana Challenge.

Next up were a pair of T33rd’s in both WGC Accenture Match Play and The Honda Classic. His last outing was in the WGC Cadillac Championship where he finished T16th.

This will be Zach’s eleventh trip to Bay Hill and in that time he has only missed the one cut! His record from 2004 till 2013 reads as 6th, 8th, 43rd, 42nd, 54th, 3rd, MC, 47th, 11th and 34th. He certainly knows the course inside out.

If you look at Zach’s stats for the season you will see that his game is perfect for Bay Hill. 4th in driving accuracy, 8th in Greens in Regulation, 24th Strokes Gained Putting, 4th in Birdie average, 5th in Scoring average, 2nd in All Round rankings, 3rd in Par 4 Birdie or better, 14th in Ball Striking and 17th in Scrambling.

With Johnson this week you have a play who ticks all the boxes. He has plenty course knowledge and experience, great current form and his stats set up well for what is required. At 25/1 is a fantastic each way bet.

Henrik Stenson 25/1  

The World Number 3 had an amazing season last year which saw him win the Deutsche Bank Championship, TOUR Championship and DP World Tour Championship. He also became the first golfer to win both the FedEx Cup and Race To Dubai.

After such a ground breaking season Henrik has eased his way back into this year. He started off with three events on the European Tour with results of a Missed Cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC, T28th at the Qatar Masters and a T29th in the Dubai Desert Classic.

It was then over to the PGA Championship where he has played three tournaments resulting in two Top 20 finishes. They were T17th WGC Accenture Match Play, Missed Cut in The Honda Classic and T16th at the WGC Cadillac Championship.

Stenson gets the nod this week as we all know how well he hits the ball and finds the green. Last season he was ranked 1st in Greens in Regulation and 1st in Ball Striking. Two stats that are required at Bay Hill. With his game in great shape since joining the Tour this season we can expect to see the Stenson we all know and love play well.

Henrik first played at Bay Hill in 2007 and finished T22nd on debut. He did not return until 2010 where his results have improved each year. 52nd in 2010, 47th in 2011, 15th in 2012 and 8th last year. Let’s hope that form continues on the upward curve this year.

Gary Woodland 50/1 

Woodland gets the final position this week as his form is continuing to improve over the last four tournaments as well as having the required stats that set up well for Bay Hill. From seven starts this year he has had no missed cuts and had four Top 20 finishes.

His season to date reads as T13th Hyundai Tournament of Champions, T38th Humana Challenge, T10th Farmers Insurance Open, T37th Phoenix Open, T33rd WGC Match Play, T16th WGC Cadillac Championship and T8th Valspar Championship. It is those last four events that stand out- 37th, 33rd, 16th, 8th. He is on the upside each week. This could be the week to strike while the iron is hot.

Gary’s course form reads as a missed cut in 2011, 48th in 2012 and 27th last year. Again, it’s another upside in results. Stats wide he is 24th in Greens in Regulation, 7th in ball striking, and 4th in Scrambling from the Rough. All positive stats.

Good Luck and Good Punting.

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Valspar Golf Championship Preview

By Mick McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

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The PGA Tour stays in Florida this week as we head to the Copperhead course at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbour for the Valspar Championship.

This is a Par 71, 7340 yard course. The tournament was founded in 2000 and has always been played at the Copperhead course. There are five Par 3′s and four Par 5′s to contest and the closing three holes (16,17,18) are rated amongst the most challenging closing stretch on the Tour.

The fairways and Greens are Bermudagrass with the fairways being tighter than most courses on the tour and the greens smaller than average. The Par 4, 460 yard, 16th hole is the most difficult on the course with water along the whole right hand side. This can create havoc if the wind is coming in from the left.

This event has gone through a few names changes in its short history. It was originally known as the Tampa Bay Classic from 2000-2001, however there was no tournament in 2001 due to September 11 terrorist attacks. In 2002 it became the Tampa Bay Classic Presented by Buick. After one year of sponsorship from Buick it became the Chrysler Championship from 2003-2006. Pods then sponsored it in 2007-2008 as the PODS Championship until it became the Transitions Championship from 2009-2012. Last year it was known as the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank. (Bit of a mouth full). In September last year the Valspar Corporation signed a four year deal to become the title sponsors of the event, giving us yet another name change!

After two stellar fields at the WGC Cadillac Championship and Honda Classic in the past two weeks we still have a good turnout of top players for this tournament with players such as Jason Dufner, Graham DeLaet, KJ Choi, Paul Casey, Brandt Snedeker and Marc Leishman taking part.

The Top Five in betting this week are: 16/1 Harris English, 18/1 Jordan Spieth , 20/1 Matt Kuchar, 20/1 Luke Donald and 25/1 Justin Rose.

Looking at the Copperhead course this week we can expect to so some real challenging golf as it can play difficult at times, especially if the wind decides to make things exciting which always plays a part in Florida. This can cause a lot of problems for many players especially those with little experience on the Copperhead course. The Par 5′s will also play a major part this week as they are all reachable for most players, so Par 5 stats should be closely monitored.

When looking at the past winners of this tournament they have all ranked highly in Greens in Regulation stats and have been good ball strikers, so again keep this in mind when looking for the winner as most of the greens are smaller than the tour average. It will also pay to look at good Par 3 performers as there are 5 of them to contend with this week. Taking all this into consideration I have two players who fit the bill.

Harris English 16/1 

There is a good crop of young talented golfers hitting their stride on the PGA Tour in the last 12 months and one such player is Harris English. After turning Pro in 2011 he found his way onto the PGA Tour in 2012 and has not looked back since.

Last year he won the FedEx St Jude Classic in June then followed it up with his second title in November at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. His World ranking jumped from 136th at the start of last season to be 38th at present. If he keeps going like this Harris could be inside the Top 20 real soon.

He has started 2014 with a lot of confidence. Seven starts have resulted in six finishes inside the Top 20! First up was a T11th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, then a 4th at the Sony Open, T33rd Humana Challenge, 9th Phoenix Open, T10th Northern Trust Open, T9th WGC Accenture Match Play and finally a T16th WGC Cadillac Championship.

With form like that English’s third tour victory is just around the corner.

If you look at his stats leading into this week we can expect to see him contending on Sunday as the course should set up well for his game. 13th in Driving Distance, 6th in Greens in Regulation, 4th in Birdie average, 4th in Scoring average, 5th in Par 3 birdie or better, 11th in Par 4 birdie or better, 10th in Par 5 birdie or better, 3rd in Ball Striking, 28th in Scrambling and 2nd in All Round rankings. Not to mention 5th in the FedEx Cup standings.

I usually stay clear of the favourites when it comes to the golf, however this week it is impossible not to jump on board the Harris English bandwagon. He represents an excellent Each Way bet and I expect a collect this week.

Stuart Appleby 150/1 

While I am very keen on Harris English winning this week I have decided to look further afield for a good longshot selection this week. Appleby last won on the PGA Tour in 2010 when he won two tournaments. During 2011, 2012 and 2013 he contested a total of 96 tournaments and managed a woeful three Top 10 finishes. One in each year to be exact.

Roll forward to 2014 and we have a new rejuvenated Stuart who has already had two Top 10′s from his six starts to date. The encouraging part is that he has not missed a cut in any of those six starts.

Last week at the Honda Classic Appleby finished T8th with rounds of 69-69-65-72 to finish just three shots behind the Winner Russell Henley. Perhaps this is the year that sees Stuart get back into the form that saw him reach as high as World No13 in 2004. There is still plenty of life left in the 42 year old and he could surprise at big odds! Well worth a look at in Top 10 markets too.

Good Luck and Good Punting.

 

Sol Campbell blasts The FA and Fans for being Racist

By Brad Eveleigh ( @Brad_Eveleigh )

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Former England football international, Sulzeer Jeremiah “Sol” Campbell, has launched a controversial attack towards the English Football Association (The FA) accusing them of being racist.

The 39-year-old, who played for Arsenal, Tottenham, Portsmouth and Newcastle United, has said the FA and the England fans were and are unfavorable towards a Black or mixed-race Captain for the National team.

Campbell, who earned 79 caps for England, has said in his biography “If I was White, I would have been Captain for 10 years. It’s as simple as that”.

“ I think The FA wished I was White. I had the credibility, performance-wise, to be Captain.”

“I don’t think it will change because they don’t want it to, and probably the majority of the fans don’t want it, either.”

“It’s alright to have Black Captains and mixed-race in the under-18s and under-21s but not dot the full national side.”

“There is a ceiling and although no one has ever said it, I believe it’s made of glass.”

Campbell did in fact captain the national side however only in friendly matches against Belgium, Czech Republic and United States.

He also went on to criticise the selection of Michael Owen as Captain ahead of himself saying “Michael Owen was made Captain ahead of me. I thought ‘What is going on here?’ I think The FA didn’t want me to have a voice.”

“Owen was a fantastic Forward but nowhere near being a Captain.”

“I’ve asked myself many times why I wasn’t [named Captain]. I keep coming up with the same answer. It was the colour of my skin.”

 

pic: Independent UK

GEALE PUNISHES WOOD

By Hayden Hooper ( @Hoopaman18 )

Photo by Louie Abigail

 Photo by Louie Abigail

After all the pre fight animosity, Daniel Geale puts on a completely dominant performance to force Garth Wood into submission after 6 one sided rounds at Sydney’s Horden Pavilion.

Wood tried his best to upset Geale with hostility in the lead up, even head butting Geale at Tuesday night’s weigh in. Maybe this wasn’t the smartest idea, as Geale came out all guns blazing and imposed his superiority from the opening bell.

The former world champion started fast and had Wood on the canvas in the very first round. Wood was able to get to his feet and after avoiding another onslaught, he heard the bell and finished round 1.

Wood was down again in the second round, but referee Charlie Lucas called a low blow and deducted a point from Geale.

Rounds 3 and 4 would see Geale pick Wood apart with measured attacks to the head and body.

Once again in round 5 Wood found himself on the deck after a straight right hand from Geale connected flush on the jaw. Wood managed to rise to his feet and battle until the bell sounded and even after, as referee didn’t hear and the men continued to fight. Finally action was stopped and places on the stools were taken.

Geale dropped Wood to the floor once more in round 6. Wood rose yet again and after getting hurt badly at the end of the round, staggered to his corner.  Trainer Lincoln Hudson had seen enough and wisely stopped the contest between rounds to avoid his fighter taking any more punishment.

In the post fight interview, Geale made clear he would like to set up a fight with undefeated WBA and IBO champion Gennady Golovkin.

Photo by Louie Abigail

Photo by Louie Abigail

The undercard seen NRL superstar Paul Gallen score a 2nd round TKO in his professional debut over Herman Ene Purcell.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Gallen, as 19 year old Toowoomba resident Purcell came out swinging in the opening round. He landed a left hook on Gallen’s jaw than sent the Cronulla captain to the canvas.

Gallen was able to compose himself and in round 2 land some nice combinations. Purcell decided to prove how tough he was by dropping his hands by his side and walk straight into Gallen’s power shots. After wearing some flush punches, Purcell ended up on the ropes where Gallen continued to batter him, forcing referee Garry Dean to step in and stop the contest.

Chaos almost erupted as both Gallen and Purcell continued to fight after the bell, forcing both corners to step in to control the heated combatants. It was all smoothed over and the men embraced.

In an action packed Light Heavyweight contest, PABA champion Robert Berridge was able to defend his title with a 10th round TKO over Kerry Foley.

After almost 3 years out of the boxing ring, Foley done extremely well against the impressive New Zealander who was riding a 7 fight KO streak going into the fight.

An even bout throughout the first 5 rounds with back and forth action, Foley then landed a right hand in the 6th on the southpaw Berridge that sent him to the canvas. Berridge was able to spring straight to his feet and in the following round answered back by putting Foley on the floor.

Berridge then began to gain ascendency and landing big punches on Foley. Between rounds Foley’s corner told him they would stop the fight is he doesn’t do anything this round.

In round 10, Foley grimaced as though he injured his right hand, he was then hit with a body shot and went down onto one knee. The referee has seen enough and stopped the fight.

After a thirteen month absence from the ring, undefeated Cruiserweight Brad Pitt showed no signs of ring rust, scoring a 1st round KO over Emosi Solitua with a thunderous left hook.

Cruiserweight Shane Quinn was also able to score a KO from a left hook. His was in the 4th round agaisnt New Zealand’s Jake Revill.

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Rules for the NRL Auckland 9s

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With the 3rd game underway of the Rugby League 9s being played in Auckalnd at the moment I have noticed some major confusion amongst fans on social networks regarding the rules.

Obviously there are some major changes and additives to this weekends competition so I shall explain below.

Rule Changes:

• Introduction of the Bonus Zone – a five point try for tries scored in the in-goal area between the goal posts at each end. All tries scored outside the bonus zone will remain four pointers

• Introduction of ‘GoldenTry’ – where if teams are drawn at fulltime – in extra time the first team to score a try wins – with the ‘Golden try’

• Goal-kicks will not feature in the tournament with dropkicks taken in line from where the try was scored worth two points. Penalty dropkicks will be worth two points with a field goal in general play remaining at one point.

• Scrums will consist of five players from each team and will only be used in the event of a double knock-on or a mutual infringement.

• In the event of a successful 40/20 kick, play will recommence with a tap re-start to the kicking team 20 metres in from where the ball crossed the touch line.

• Matches will be re-started by the scoring team through a drop kick off

• Referees will have the power to send players to the sin-bin for five minutes for foul play.

Rules provided by NRL .com

FIFA World Football Rankings

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RANK TEAM POS + / – POINTS
1 Spain <> 0 1506
2 Germany <> 0 1314
3 Argentina <> 0 1255
4 Portugal 1 1219
5 Columbia -1 1211
6 Switzerland 2 1159
7 Uruguay -1 1157
8 Italy -1 1135
9 Brazil 1 1125
10 Netherlands -1 1122
11 Belgium <> 0 1117
12 Greece <> 0 1084
13 USA 1 1044
14 Chile 1 1038
15 England -2 1032
16 Croatia <> 0 966
17 Boznia-Herzegovina 2 919
18 Ukraine <> 0 917
18 France 2 917
20 Denmark 5 907
21 Mexico <> 0 887
22 Russia <> 0 862
23 Côte d’Ivoir -6 841
24 Ecuador -1 831
25 Sweden 1 821
26 Aigeria 1 819
27 Slovenia 2 799
27 Cape Verde Islands 8 799
29 Serbia 1 775
30 Armenia 8 711

Daniel Geale v Garth Wood

By Hayden Hooper ( @Hoopaman18 )

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Two of Australia’s top Middleweights will go head to head at Sydney’s Horden Pavilion on Wednesday night. Daniel Geale (29-2, 15KOs) and Garth Wood (12-3-1, 8KOs) will fight Live on MainEvent PPV over 12 rounds for the WBA Pan African and IBF Pan Pacific titles.

Geale, a former world champion, is coming off just his second career defeat, a narrow loss in the United States at the hands of Englishman Darren Barker in which he lost his title. Although Geale’s last six fights have been world title bouts against some of the worlds best, this is a danger fight and a must win if the Tasmanian is to put himself back in the world title picture.

Wood, a former NRL first grader and winner of The Contender reality series suffered disappointment of his own late last year when his world title bout with Martin Murray was cancelled just weeks prior. He is determined and feels this is his big chance to push himself into the world title frame.

This MainEvent PPV undercard will also feature the much anticipated professional debut of NRL star Paul Gallen. Gallen has participated in the charity event Fight for Life the previous two years, winning both bouts and impressing people along the way.

The Cronulla and New South Wales captain and a man who is considered one of the fittest and toughest in the NRL will take on Queensland’s Herman Ene-Purcell, a 20 year old who resides in Toowoomba under the tutelage of Brendon Smith. The ‘Hermanator’, as they call him, has had two professional fights, a win and a loss.

In a rematch, highly regarded New Zealander Robert Berridge (22-1-1, 18KOs) and Sydneysider Kerry Foley (14-1-1, 12KOs) meet in a 12 round battle for the PABA Light Heavyweight title.

In 2011, the pair fought to a 6 round decision draw. Foley has since not fought, while Berridge has had 13 bouts in that time, only suffering defeat once at the hands of undefeated Blake Capparello.

Australia’s number one Cruiserweight Brad Pitt (14-0, 11KOs) will also make an appearance after a lengthy period absent from the ring. The 2008 Olympian and former Australian and regional title holder has not fought since November 2012. He will fight Emosi Solitua (4-0, 3KOs) over 6 rounds.

Another international encounter takes place between New Zealand’s Jake Revill (7-0, 3KOs) and Sydney’s Shane Quinn (7-1-1, 5KOs) when the Cruiserweights fight over 6 rounds.

Current Australian Super Feather champion Kye MacKenzie (6-0, 4KOs) and former Australian Light Welterweight champion Addisu Tebebu (5-3-3, 1KO) meet in the middle at an agreed catchweight of 61kg.

Also on the card is Lauryn Eagle (8-3-1, 3KOs) taking on Shari Ranger (0-1).

You can read more of Hayden’s work at http://www.haydenhooper.wordpress.com