Sport : Golf

Geoff to show that Aussie rules

5th December 2012, 08:15am

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Geoff Ogilvy has a fine record at The Lakes

Geoff Ogilvy has a fine record at The Lakes

There's golfing action across the globe this week and Geoff Ogilvy rates Ben Coley's best bet in the Emirates Australian Open.

It's December 2012 but the 2013 Race To Dubai starts this week, on a course inside Greyville racecourse in Durban. This is not the opening line to a joke.

Meanwhile, Lee Westwood will defend his Thailand Golf Championship title in a field that is decidedly top-heavy, while Adam Scott bids to win the Emirates Australian Open for the second time in his career.

It's all live on Sky so there's plenty for viewers to go at, but for those of us who like to have a bet as well as watch the action the truth is this is all pretty uninspiring - it would be no surprise at all were one of the first half-dozen in the betting to win each event.

Take the Nelson Mandela Championship at Royal Durban Golf Club as Exhibit A. This course was last used for the 2008 South African Amateur Championship in which none of today's stars took part, and to be frank it's no surprise the venue hasn't been a staple part of even the Sunshine Tour.

Trapped as it is within the confines of Greyville, a horseracing track of some distinction, the course is devoid of any sizeable trees as they'd be an obscruction for regular racegoers.

Its defence is said to be the wind as well as the fact that any shots straying onto the track are out of bounds, but at well short of 7,000 yards and with fairways that reportedly hold, we shouldn't see the classier players find much trouble.

But do you want to be backing any of them at short prices? I certainly don't.

Branden Grace - an ambassador for this event - is one of several who will be desperate to win a tournament named in honour of South Africa's greatest son, but at the end of a long, hard season that may not be enough to see him over the line again.

George Coetzee continues to frustrate and at around 9/1 just cannot be backed on a course that wouldn't look a perfect fit on paper, while the likes of Tim Clark and Jaco Van Zyl should in theory enjoy this test but I couldn't back either with confidence.

For me, Pablo Larrazabal looks overpriced in relation to most of the field and I'll make him one of two small bets.

The Spaniard is a rare visitor to Africa but was ninth in Morocco last time he ventured south while in his rookie European Tour season he sat second after 36 holes of the Joburg Open before falling out of contention.

Of course, Larrazabal's career has largely been on an upward curve since winning the Open de France later that year and, as is the case at Le Golf National, much of his best golf has come at venues that require accuracy over brute force.

In addition, he showed when second in the Open de Espana earlier this year that he's more than happy to face the challenges provided by howling winds and in fact he's probably better for having something to battle against.

Larrazabal insists he's been striking it well for a long time and is simply a good week with the putter away from going very close, which he's already done with six top-10 finishes this season including a tie for eighth on his penultimate start on a tight track in Hong Kong.

Last time out he ranked 11th for driving accuracy and sixth for greens in regulation in the DP World Tour Championship and having been practicing hard since, it's easy to see him ending this week close to the top of the ball-striking charts.

His regular caddie won't be on the bag this week but his son - a member at the course no less - will be and sometimes a small change to the routine is all a player needs to step his game up.

Throw in some encouraging words from Gary Player via Twitter plus Larrazabal's obvious determination to get off to a fast start and there's plenty to support a small bet.

For me Larrazabal is the one player in this field who is trustworthy in contention, a class apart from most and a decent price, so he gets the vote.

At bigger prices, Tano Goya looks value at 150s and again I'm prepared to chance him taking to the venue.

A winner of a similarly weak European Tour event in the past, Goya has just come through Q School to finish fourth and secure his playing rights for 2013.

That gruelling six-round affair might've taken a lot out of him physically, but he's had time to recover and should be feeling on top of the world having successfully navigated one of the toughest tests any golfer will ever face.

The Argentinian owes his finishing position to a pair of stunning 64s on the easier layouts at PGA Catalunya, but he responded admirably to shooting 73-76 with a final-round 69 on the feature course.

Goya's best finish of the season came in a weak field outside of Europe where the emphasis was on accuracy and more recently he finished a respectable 33rd in the SA Open Championship, an event on a much longer track when he had the pressure of playing for his card to deal with.

Ultimately, there's not a lot more to go at than the fact he played well when last in action, knows how to win and is at his best on short layouts, but at 150/1 that's enough for a small wager.

With the Nelson Mandela Championship dealt with, my most confident wager of the week comes in the Emirates Australian Open where Geoff Ogilvy can go very close.

First and foremost, 2010 champion Ogilvy has a fine record at the host venue, The Lakes Golf Club, a fantastic track that requires the levels of patience former US Open winner Ogilvy has demonstrated throughout his career.

He also finished fourth at the venue last year thanks to a final round 65 and although we've not seen him in competitive action since a modest effort in the WGC-HSBC Champions, that was exactly the way he arrived at the event last year.

Keen not to let his career slip away, Ogilvy has hired friend and fellow Victoria member Matthew Tritton to replace long-time caddie Alistair Matheson as he seeks to end a winless streak that dates back to this two years ago.

Tritton has experience of working with winners throughout his career and was even involved with Matt Kuchar as he, as Ogilvy is attempting to do himself, returned from a relatively quiet period to compete at the top level.

Ogilvy's form when he returns home to Australia is absolutely rock solid, he's making the right noises and this venue is perfect for him.

With Justin Rose having been all over the world of late and looking tired last week, for me Ogilvy is the man to serve it to worthy favourite Adam Scott and at 14/1 in a field with no depth whatsoever I expect him to place at least, as he has done on each of his last two visits to the track.

I touched upon the Thailand Golf Championship earlier but with a lack of prices to go at I'm going to revisit that later in the week should anyone make appeal, although in truth I doubt that they will.


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