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We are just over half-way through the hottest summer that I can ever recall so time for a little mid-term update but mainly a look forward to the second half of the holiday season (plus the Ryder Cup in September), which is the quieter half in terms of content to be uploaded to the website with the World Cup, Royal Ascot, Newmarket July Meeting, French Open, Wimbledon, the US Open and Open Championship now behind us.
My personal highlight was France winning the World Cup having been nibbling away at them for around a year after they beat England in a friendly international as highlighted in From Soba To Moldova followed by Without Parole winning the St James’s Palace Stakes - both being 8/1 ante-post recommendations. If you haven’t got round to reading From Soba To Moldova yet as are saving it for your holiday, I hope that it takes away some of the boredom of your flight or laying by a pool, something that I just can’t do!
It looks like I will be out of luck in the Tour de France however with the podium places set to be contested by Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin. For my money Dumoulin has been the strongest rider in this year’s race but, with no team mates good enough to help him, he has so far struggled to overcome the Team Sky tactics but the World Time Trial Champion still has to the TT to come and I’d argue that he’s a little overpriced at 13/2. If he does come up short, what price for Dumoulin for victory in 2019 with hopefully a better team to help him in the mountains and Froome probably not quite the rider he was?
Alongside Le Tour, the other main focus this week is the World Matchplay Darts that has been made far more interesting with the odds-on Michael van Gerwen being dumped out in the opening round. Then I’ll be covering King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day at Ascot and I hope some of you took my 9/2 ante-post recommendation about Crystal Ocean for the big race before he won the Hardwicke as he is now a top price 7/4.
Onto August where I will be covering all nine days of Glorious Goodwood and the York Ebor Meeting, Paul Smith will be overseeing all five test matches between England and India in addition to previewing the series as a whole, and Ciaran Meagher will return with his preview of the USPGA Championship. I will then cover the first of the Fed-Ex Cup series (the Northern Trust Open) whilst Ciaran is away but he will be back to cover the other three events including the Dell Technologies right at the end of August.
I’ll admit to being no fan of ‘Tiger the Man’, but it was exciting to see ‘Tiger the Golfer’ back in the heat of an Open Championship. I wondered what would happen when he hit the front and quickly got my answer and, as Ciaran pointed out before The Open, this was his best chance in a Major this year, so I’ll be surprised if he gets his head in front this season but I may have to revise my prediction from a few months earlier that I can’t see him winning another PGA event on the main tour.
At one point during the third round, eight of the leading nine positions were held by Americans which propelled me to take a look at the Ryder Cup standings and odds. In the end though it was a victory and two of the runner-up positions for three of Europe’s elite. You might recall that over two years ago I was all over the USA to beat Europe which they did handsomely, but this time I prefer Europe, mainly as Paris National is a ball strikers’ course and Thomas Bjorn’s team should be stacked with them.
In winning at Carnoustie, Molinari cemented his position in the team alongside other superb ball strikers in Rose, McIlroy, Stenson (likely to need a captain’s pick), Rahm and Noren (Fleetwood and Hatton are also virtually assured of a spot) and my best guess on the other four places would be two more exquisite ball strikers in Casey and Garcia, a pumped-up and back-to-form this season Poulter and then probably Pieters who was Europe’s star man two years ago. Bubbling under are then Fitzpatrick, Knox, Cabrera-Bello, Fisher and Oleson.
The American side is shaping up with certs being Dustin Johnson, Spieth, Thomas, Watson, Koepka and Reed and I’d be very surprised indeed if Fowler and Mickelson didn’t join them. Simpson and Kuchar would also be odds-on to make the team for me and then the other two places seem to be between DeChambeau, Schauffele, Kisner, Finau, Walker, Chappell, Cantlay and Zach Johnson. Whichever two they choose, I am convinced that Europe will have the strongest numbers 10, 11 and 12 and Bubba just doesn't do it in Europe.
But will Jim Furyk now consider his former partner, a certain Mr Woods? Another high showing in the USPGA will really ramp up the pressure for him to do so but it is absolutely no coincidence to me that America’s last two wins were without Woods in the team and his inclusion would therefore only increase Europe’s chance.
America are a best-priced 10/11 but I’m pretty keen on Europe at 6/5 back on home soil if it’s the same dozen players that I have highlighted (as many as six of them have won on the PGA Tour this season) representing them. I’m also far keener on Thomas Bjorn, as opposed to Darren Clarke who never struck me as a leader, as captain this time. Bet.