Golf Capital – Rumford wins Super 6, DJ goes to number one

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, notes and thoughts from the week across the globe covering tournaments in Perth, Adelaide and Los Angeles.

brettrumfordgolfcomfeb222017

Opening drive:

A Perth local beat out a rising star in the first World Super 6 tournament as 54-hole leader Brett Rumford also proved superior in the six-hole match play format beating Phachara Khongwatmai in the final on the same weekend Dustin Johnson became the 20th player to every reach the world number one ranking for the men since they were introduced in 1986. Johnson’s five-stroke win at the Riviera Country Club also meant he became the fourth player in history on the PGA Tour to win at least one tournament every year in ten years (or more) on tour. Florida resident Johnson joins only three other players to have done that – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

 

A busy Sunday saw a large portion of the field play/finish their third round before starting the fourth and Johnson, despite two bogeys on the back nine, had a healthy enough advantage to never really be in trouble. Johnson prevailed with Belgian Thomas Pieters and American Scott Brown in a tie for second.

 

Rumford’s win in Perth was intriguing in that the 39 year-old had a nine-shot spread on the players that got into the top 24 for the Sunday match-play component so his lead was effectively rendered worthless (even allowing for his first round match play bye which the top eight got) as everyone was back at level par so to speak come Sunday morning. Prior to the final day though there was great drama on Saturday as eight players, who finished at eight under, vied for five spots to round out the top 24. Playing in two foursomes to start with four players progressed in the first appearance of knockout match play for the weekend then Sebastian Heisele and Jordan Smith were eliminated with Kiwi Ryan Fox and Khongwatmai left to try to get the final spot. Despite over-shooting the green on the duo’s second attempt at the 18th hole the Thai 17 year-old chipped close enough to the hole before Ryan Fox missed his key putt from about 1.5 metres. On Sunday Khnongwatmai got lucky a few times and eventually made the final before Rumford won 2 &1. After this tri-sanctioned event the European Tour heads to South Africa for the Joburg Open this weekend with the Asian Tour and Australian PGA resuming next month.

 

An eagle-birdie finish to South Korea’s Ha Na Jang gave the world number six victory in the Women’s Australian Open at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club. Third-round leader Lizette Salas collapsed whilst up by three shots past the turn and ended up signing for a 78, which was a disappointing finish for the American who hasn’t won since 2014 on the LPGA. After Jang’s victory in South Australia the LPGA Tour heads to Chonburi for the Honda LPGA Thailand where Lexi Thompson is the defending champion.

 

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. With the West Coast swing on the PGA Tour concluded Florida is home to the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens with the tournament won by Australian Adam Scott last year.

 

20 and under: Sergio Garcia. Second behind Scott last year the Spaniard has good course form and won earlier this month in Dubai.

 

20 and under: Justin Thomas. Recent tour winner (twice in January) Thomas was four shots behind the winner last year. As long as his busy early load on tournaments hasn’t got to him he could go well here.

 

50 to 100: Matthew Fitzpatrick. The Englishman’s focus is the PGA Tour this year and his experience on links courses will help on what can be a windy layout. Fitzpatrick, 22, will derive great benefit from his go around here last year even though he missed the cut.

 

50 to 100: Billy Horschel. T8 last year in the tournament Horschel closed with rounds of 66-69 to finish seven strokes from Scott and the former FedEx Cup winner was in a playoff last year on the PGA Tour so has contended relatively recently even though he’s yet to win since the Tour Championship in 2014.

 

50 to 100: William McGirt. The American shot the best final round (67) of last year’s top ten here and he’s progressed from ranked 109 to 48 in the last 12 months so has improved his play gradually and ranks third for greens in regulation on Tour this season.

 

100 to 200: JJ Spaun ranked second last season on the second-tier Web.com tour in greens in regulation so with water in play on 13 holes that statistic is important here. LA native Spaun missed the cut at Pebble Beach last time out but was T4 and T9 in his two events prior at Phoenix and La Jolla, respectively.

 

Greens in regulation:

Widely lauded by those involved in the game the modified format debut in Perth on a big stage was pretty good for a first go with the three tours involved. The drama on Saturday was good fun, when has 24th spot ever mattered before in a sporting event, but the broadcast missing the first two and a half hours of the Sunday match play meant several players from the top 24 weren’t even sighted in live play on Sunday. Maybe next time around the TV coverage can commence at the start of the final day’s play. My other quibble was having playoffs for positions 3-8 once players got knocked out of the main running. Why not split the prizemoney and points? It looked messy and meant one semi-final wasn’t following one hole behind the other as I thought the case may be. Another good idea offered up by Ben Coley of sportinglife.com was the concept of a ‘shot clock’ which would add to the knockout drama of some of the holes. Format aside, the Perth tournament had one aspect which absolutely need to be introduced at every tournament from this week onwards and that was the ‘kids zone.’ I’ve not seen it before but the area allowed kids an area to get an unimpeded view of play next to a specific hole. Most fans will allow kids to shuffle up front in galleries but giving children a dedicated area to be theirs is a good idea. This would also alleviate something Jordan Spieth has spoken about recently regarding his disdain for adults getting signatures to sell online but seeing kids miss out.

 

Tap in:

In Los Angeles it was interesting to note that Kevin Hall, who has been deaf since the age of 2, got into the Genesis Open on the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption. Essentially it’s an exemption for a golfer from a minority background. Hall, 34, missed the cut but it’s interesting that Tiger Woods who ‘hosts’ the event places this exemption on his entry list but seems to be the only PGA event which does so. Named after Sifford, often referred to as the Jackie Robinson of golf, this would be a good idea for players from each area to be given this opportunity when the PGA Tour comes to their part of the States.

 

 

Five Metre Gap – WCC, WCS and NRL Trials

@hamishneal

Returning for 2017, like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the weekend of rugby league which saw the pinnacle club title in world rugby league return to the hands of a Super League side for the first time since 2012 plus trials from Sydney, to Hobart, Palmerston North and more.

Joe Burgess of Wigan Warriors celebrates with the trophy after the game
A Joe Burgess-inspired Wigan made it two for two on the weekend for English clubs as two NRL sides made their competitive returns for 2017. Burgess, who spent time at the Roosters and Rabbitohs last year, was right at home back in the north of England crossing the stripe three times as the Warriors beat Cronulla 22-6 on Sunday to win their fourth World Club Challenge. The previous evening had seen a comprehensive win to Warrington 27-18 over Brisbane. Despite the fact the Broncos didn’t play Cronulla in last year’s NRL decider they took up the mantle of the ‘second side’ to play Super League opponents in the World Club Series – which had been three matches last year. Sadly the Melbourne Storm, who of all NRL sides should know the value of growing the game, decided it wasn’t in their best interests to participate this time around. The rugby league karma god awaits in season 2017 to seek her vengeance.

 

From the game in Wigan Cronulla’s title defence in the NRL appears in a fair deal of trouble. Going into the game the loss of Michael Ennis was always going to be felt keenly but the overall attacking potency which the side missed (including their top three try-scorers from 2016) was highlighted in stark reality. Of that trio Ben Barba isn’t coming back, at least this year, and the return of Valentine Holmes and Sosaia Feki can’t be guaranteed for round one. Ennis’ part-replacement Jayden Brailey, an NYC star, looked good in attack but was turned inside out at marker on a few occasions which will be concerning for the Sharks defence. Cronulla needed to take only three plane flights to games last season and rarely left NSW but in 2017 it’s six plane trips (including the return journey from the UK) and seven if you counts the NRL Nines which some players played in. It all looks like the ingredients for a premiership hangover which won’t end well, and could land them outside the top eight. One bright spark for Cronulla was the form of Luke Capewell who played on the wing which wouldn’t have been expected this time six months ago given he’d yet to nail down a first grade spot. The utility was impressive carrying the ball early in the set.

 

Brisbane’s new pack, sans Corey Parker of note who is now retired, were shocked by Warrington early in the game but the Wolves efficiency overall (35/37 sets completed) meant Brisbane were always behind the eight ball once the home side got out to a 20-0 lead. The late niggle was understandable but James Roberts flying in late to join a fracas wasn’t the smartest thing and, like Andrew Fifita who punched Wigan forward Ryan Sutton late in the game the following day, he was hopefully read the riot act by the coaching staff as consistent actions like that will cost his team this season.

 

The Damien Cook/Robbie Farah number nine combination for Souths has been well covered after they dispatched the Dragons 32-14 in the Charity Shield at ANZ Stadium on Sunday but less mentioned has been the try to St George Illawarra forward Russell Packer who scored not long after he came on the field in the first half. Packer, 27, hasn’t scored at all in his time for the Dragons and only six times in 110 games for the Warriors before that. Perhaps the one-time Kiwi prop has found a new thirst for crossing the try-line

 

The Raiders fan at Queanbeyan’s Seiffert Oval might not have been thinking they would thrash the Newcastle Knights, who only won once all last season, but they certainly would have been expecting the Ricky Stuart’s side to score some points. The 44-0 score-line might have been a surprise but with likes of Jarrod Croker and BJ Leilua missing maybe it wasn’t that unexpected. Nathan Brown played an almost full strength side and given the upheaval of Jarrod Mullen’s pending drug sanction one may have expected some nerves from his replacement Brock Lamb but that wasn’t the case with the 20 year-old pivot further confirming his case to guide the Knights next to Trent Hodkinson against the Warriors in round one. When given his chance in the forward rotation Jack Stockwell was also influential in some key runs as the Knights notched up 30 points in the first half alone. Manly, the Bulldogs, North Queensland, Penrith and the New Zealand Warriors all picked up wins on the weekend in their final trials prior to the season which starts on Thursday March 2 when reigning champions Cronulla host the Broncos.

Image via uk.reuters.com

 

A-League 1,000: The Concussion Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 20 of the A-League which starts on Friday night in Adelaide and concludes at Gosford on Sunday evening.

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Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets, Friday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

It’s the second free-to-air game in a fortnight for last season’s champions and this time they’ll be hoping they aren’t embarrassed 5-0 as what happened last weekend in Perth. After a 0-0 draw on Monday night when they dominated chances on goal (8 shots on target to 2) Newcastle will be looking for a win in Adelaide after they shocked the Reds in Newcastle with a late winner to Morten Nordstrand when they met in December. With Eugene Galekovic still out missing and now Iacopo La Rocca sidelined for six weeks or so the Reds will struggle for team cohesion at the back, and it’s not been the best this season anyway.

 

Big game for: Newcastle’s unbeaten week of football. In addition to Jets draw on Monday, next door to McDonald Jones Stadium earlier in the evening Northern NSW National Premier League side Broadmeadow Magic beat Chinese Super League side Liaoning Whowin 2-1. On Wednesday evening the Sehnyang-based club continued their pre-season tour with a 2-2 draw against Edgeworth Eagles – after 2012/13 A-League Golden Boot Daniel McBreen chipping the keeper from distance for the second half equaliser. Newcastle area sides are unbeaten against pro football sides this week. Can they make it four games?

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: All Australian sides are at home to commence their Asian Champions League group campaigns after this A-League round with Adelaide featuring on Wednesday against Japanese giants Gamba Osaka who qualified for this stage via the recent ACL playoffs.

 

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – Westpac Stadium

The return of experienced striker Shane Smeltz from suspension is helpful for Wellington but the visitor’s have six players available with chief goal-scorer Bruno Fornaroli and chief pest Fernando Brandan back. The light blues beat the Phoenix in November 2-1 in Melbourne with Fornaroli and Nick Fitzgerald scoring for the home side. Wellington had a chance to sneak things to 2-2 at one stage against Sydney FC but Kosta Barbarouses shot wide and Sydney FC dominated the rest of the fixture with Wellington dipping in form.

 

Big game for: Ryan Lowry. In addition to Liaoning Whowin touring Australia Beijing BG, from the Chinese second tier, played in Wellington on Tuesday evening losing 1-0 to the Nix in a game which saw the first use of the Video Assistant Referee for an A-League side. Lowry featured and with Andrew Durante suspended should partner Marco Rossi in defence.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Visitor cohesion. With a host of players coming back it will be interesting to see how Michael Valkanis fits back in the players, perhaps more so on the bench, after a good comeback from 2-0 down against Brisbane.

 

Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC, Saturday – ANZ Stadium

After crowds totaling under 18,000 combined for both sides last weekend when they hosted home games officials after expecting over 40,000 for the second Sydney Derby at ANZ Stadium this season. The Wanderers looked listless in defeat to the Mariners whilst Sydney scored early and won easily 3-1 against Wellington on Thursday. Last month saw a 0-0 stalemate at Allianz Stadium when former Sydney FC keeper Vedran Janjetovic kept his first clean sheet for his new side. Wanderers skipper Dimas is suspended for this game.

 

Big game for: Quality goals. Sydney’s strike in the 22nd minute, finished by forward Bobo was terrific. It was a perfect demonstration of the precision and speed the league ladders can produce when given time and space.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Japanese powerhouse Urawa Reds get to take in the delights of Campbelltown Stadium when the Wanderers open their ACL campaign on Tuesday after they play the Sky Blues this weekend.

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Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – nib Stadium

Perth notched their seventh win of the campaign when they dispatched Adelaide and are a chance to move into third spot if they win here and Wellington win earlier on Saturday. However Brisbane, about to start their ACL campaign can move to within four points of second-placed Melbourne victory win a win here. In October John Aloisi’s side won 2-1 when they hosted the Glory and have lost only once in their last six meetings against Kenny Lowe’s side.

 

Big game for: Defensive replacements. Daniel Bowles has been ruled out for the rest of the season for Brisbane after he injured his right knee late in the weekend’s fixture but John Aloisi has acted fast securing 37-cap Greek international Avram Papadopoulos as an injury replacement.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: After this game Brisbane host Thailand champions Muangthong United in their first ACL group game on Tuesday so a win here is crucial.

 

Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium

It is heady days for the Mariners with Paul Okon’s side having won their last three games but the Victory have not lost in their last ten games against the Central Coast. The home side took advantage of early wastefulness from the Wanderers last weekend but may not get the same help here with Melbourne having scored 39 goals but the Wanderers only 23 (the same as the Mariners.) Like the Sydney Derby another captain is missing here with Mariners’ Nick Montgomery out due to accumulated yellow cards.

 

Big game for: Seeing Paul Izzo not play. The Mariners keeper, in consecutive games across eight day, has admitted to been dazed and then, on Sunday, was involved in a head-to-head collision with Wanderer Scott Neville. A cursory look at standard concussion protocols tells you Izzo should have been withdrawn against Adelaide and should, consequently, not have played last Sunday (if diagnosed) given the stand-down period for diagnosed concussion is seven days*

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how A-League expansion develops. The Victory often play in Geelong and the city has a confirmed group behind an expansion A-League franchise, however it’s been a busy week for the FFA with board structure issues continuing to cause consternation among the current clubs, so it’s no surprise the release of expansion criteria could be delayed.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not

We thought long and hard about the Mariners last weekend but went for the Victory (before their game was moved to Monday evening) this week we head to Sydney for the league-leaders ($1.87) to win the Derby followed by fun sauce bottle promotions at Gosford on Sunday. The goal celebrations might be messy.

 

Record: 6/19

Profit: – $62.30 (ten units per investment)

*Due to brevity the details regarding concussion have been reduced per the normal size for the column. I’d strongly encourage you to view the links.

Images via fourfourtwo.com.au and goal.com.au

Golf Capital – Spieth flying, Perth debuts new format

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, notes and thoughts from the week across the globe covering tournaments in California, Malaysia, Victoria and the customary Tiger Woods update.

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Opening drive:

 

It was a weekend of contrasts for the last two champions of the Masters with Jordan Spieth (2015) winning at Pebble Beach and Danny Willett (2016) throwing away a 54-hole lead in Kuala Lumpur. Spieth played with confidence to win the PGA Tour’s feature Pro Am event at the famous course by four strokes from Kelly Kraft. The world number 6 won Australian Open in November and in the four other tournaments since his Sydney triumph has finished no worse than T9. The PGA Tour heads to LA this weekend for the Genesis Open which was won by Bubba Watson last time at the Riviera Country Club and sees Spieth as the tournament favourite.

 

In Kuala Lumpur, Willett had a three-stroke lead heading into the final round but was overhauled after shooting one-over 73 at the Maybank Championship. Eventual winner Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay fired a final round of 63 to register his second tour triumph. Zanotti’s last-hole eagle was nearly usurped by American David Lipsky who almost forced a playoff but his birdie putt fell short.  Willett failed to break par, the only player in the top 28 who didn’t score par or better, and finished a disappointing T5 given the circumstances.

 

The unique dual Victorian Open saw wins to England’s Melissa Reid (via a playoff) and Dimitrios Papadatos from the Central Coast of NSW. Reid won on the fourth extra hole defeating Germany’s Sandra Gul and Papdatos saluted by a two strokes seeing off Adam Bland and Jake McLeod. Papadatos, whose other top level victory was the 2014 New Zealand Open, will now feature in the World Super 6 in Perth.

 

Off the course Tiger Woods, on Friday, confirmed he wouldn’t be competing in his next two scheduled events in LA and Florida due to back spasms. Should Woods look to pursue a path towards the Masters in April, and play more than one tournament before then, the 41-year-old would need to play a tournament he never plays – the Valspar Championship. Given everything happening with his back does he need to be getting used to a new tournament/venue? My thoughts are no. This leaves him in an interesting predicament schedule-wise, but the injury issue itself is far more critical. I think Woods may have played his final competitive round.

 

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Never one to shirk a challenge here at ‘Golf Capital’ we will go with the new format in the World Super 6 in Perth. The event is the fore-runner of a modified format called GolfSixes – which the European Tour is trying to debuting with an event confirmed for May near London.

 

20 and under: Alex Noren. The Swede lost out in the final of the Paul Lawrie Match Play event in Scotland last August and hasn’t finished outside the top 54 in his last 15 events (in which he’s won four times in that period) so should easily make the match-play section after the second stroke-play cut which is after the third round. He’d be heavily favoured when the top 24 feature in the knock-out six-hole match play.

 

20 and under: Thorbjorn Olesen. The Dane won the World Cup last year in Melbourne with Soren Kjeldsen having triumphed in Turkey earlier in the month in an individual event plus he won in Perth in 2014. The wind is meant to be at its strongest during the first two days on Friday morning so those, like Olesen, teeing off first on Thursday could have an advantage.

 

20 and under: Louis Oosthuizen. The South African lost out to Jason Day in Austin last year in a WGC match play event so has good recent form in the match-play format in a far stronger field. To get to the match play knockout section of the format (top 24 after three rounds) the world number 25 needs to replicate the form which saw him win the stroke-play format here last year.

 

20 and under: Jordan Smith. The event can be impacted by seaside winds so recent experience in similar conditions helps and Smith’s respectable T23 and T6 finishes in his last two Desert Swing events in the Middle East hold up well.

 

20 and under: Peter Uihlein. The American was their Amateur champion just under seven years ago winning the title in the 36-hole match play final and  he finished fourth here last year.

 

20 to 50: Jason Scrivener. The Australia has appeared a bit on the European and Asian Tours of late and was third here at the Lake Karrinyup venue last year. His T4 behind Jordan Spieth in Australian Open from November when he was only two shots from the eventual playoff winner looks to be very good form.

 

Greens in regulation:

After the joint event in Victoria on the weekend the women’s tour heads South Australia for the Women’s Australia Open which is con-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour ensuring a strong field for the event worth $1.3 million. Japan’s Haru Nomura is the defending champion and the 24-year-old won again in April on the LPGA Tour last year so the victory wasn’t a fluke. A final round of 65 saw Nomura stare down world number one Lydia Ko and secure the win. Su Oh was the best placed Australian in Victoria last weekend finishing T3 and will hope for a strong performance at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club.

 

Tap in:

Ko and world number two Ariya Jutanugarn will meet for the first time in 2017 when the duo step out in Australia but in the last few weeks there was confirmation of an off-season move with the new the pair will share the same coach – South African Gary Gilchrist. The Kiwi and Thai golfers are now guided by Gilchrist who has coached Jutanugarn since February of last year. Ko had been looking for a mentor since the Korean-born golfer split with David Leadbetter last year. Bar other golfers and possibly tennis it’s hard to think of two direct rivals in an individual sport sharing the same coach. Whilst Ko says the pair get one it will be interesting to see Gilchrist reacting if one beats the other in a playoff early in the year. Any other prominent examples of rivals sharing the same coach in any sport?

Image via zimbio.com

 

A-League 1,000: The Ban Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 19 of the A-League which starts in Sydney on Thursday evening when the unbeaten Sky Blues FC host the Nix before it concludes in the Harbour City on Sunday. Perth also host the defending champion second franchise form Melbourne in the W-League decider.

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Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix, Thursday – Allianz Stadium

One goal separated these sides when they met in Wellington in October but it only came late in the game when Milos Ninkovic nudged home in the second minute of stoppage time. Sydney’s unbeaten run rolls on and they have netted 38 times in 18 matches whilst the Nix, currently placed eighth, have only scored 26 times. Sydney’s keeper Danny Vukovic has only conceded eight goals this campaign and the last goal he let in at Allianz Stadium was in November when Graham Arnold’s side beat Perth 4-1, and that deflected in off Rhyan Grant. Brandon O’Neill is suspended for the Sky Blues and ex Sydney forward Shane Smeltz is also banned for Wellington.

 

Big game for: Michael McGlinchey. The All White had a goal scratched out for off-side the last time these sides played so he’ll be keen to score at a ground where he has found memories when the Mariners won the title in 2013.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Hopefully a good game. The infernal Thursday night timeslot is with us for the final time this season. It suits few people to attend and with only five fixtures per weekend shouldn’t take place.

 

Adelaide United v Perth Glory, Friday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

Back in November, when Adelaide was still a fortnight away from picking up their first win of the season, Perth won 3-1 when these sides last played after going down 1-0 22 minutes into the contest. Andy Keogh netted twice in the game. Winners last week at home 3-2 Perth should be in the box seat to triumph here but this is the sort of match the fifth-place side have lost in recent times when looking to climb the ladder. Adelaide were beaten in Canberra by the Mariners but have managed to do some recruiting this week, including adding Asian Champions League winner Kim Jae-Sung.

 

Big game for: After his ban Liam Reddy will return between the sticks. However the recent record away from home isn’t great conceding eight goals in four games despite some great saves. Although that has been behind a disrupted defence.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Sunday night in Perth Bobby Despotovski’s side will be looking to claim the W-League crown after romping into the final on the back of a 5-1 semi-final triumph over Sydney FC. Standing in the way will be last season’s champs Melbourne’s Citizens.

 

Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – McDonald Jones Stadium

The Jets have been a stone in the Victory’s shoe in recent seasons however Melbourne have won 2-0 and 4-2 against Newcastle this campaign so Kevin Muscat’s team have the upper hand. With Marco Rojas scoring in each fixture (including a double in the win in Melbourne in November) the Kiwi enjoys playing the Jets. Newcastle are back in their home city for the first time since round 15 when they drew 2-2 with Perth.

 

Big game for: After Besart Berisha featured in some of the more controversial parts of the Melbourne Derby Muscat will be hoping it’s a quieter time for the forward here.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More forward goals. Laying down the marker for the Jets front-men Mark Jones wants goals from his attackers, and not just his wingers. That means you Morten Nordstrand!

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Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – AAMI Park

Consecutive 2-1 defeats and three losses in their last four games doesn’t have the home side sitting well ahead of the visit of third-placed Brisbane who sit two points above them on the ladder. John Aloisi’s team balancing act resulted in a 0-0 draw against Sydney FC in their last A-League fixture, a match which so easily could have gone either way, before Wednesday night’s upset 2-0 triumph in China against Shanghai Shenhua.

 

Big game for: Irony. When the draw was known a while back, due to probable Asian Champions League commitments Brisbane requested this game be shifted to Sunday but the light blues’ refused this request. Ironic given the home side threw their toys out of the cot with recent travel delays getting to Coffs Harbour. The final layer of irony has them missing six players due to various suspensions (including Dean Bouzanis’ who on Wednesday got a five-week ban for discriminatory language) so they’ll be understrength at a time when Brisbane will be somewhat fatigued.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: With Michael Theo and Brett Holman rested from the trip to China Brisbane will be welcoming players back to their side as the hosts miss key players including Tim Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli due to their bans plus Michael Jakobsen’s calf injury is a concern.

 

Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners, Sunday – Spotless Stadium

An enthusiastic start saw the Wanderers beat Wellington in New Plymouth 3-1 last weekend and with plenty of time to plan for this fixture Tony Popovic’s side should be well placed here. Having won in the ACT the Mariners recovery from playing in hot conditions will be pivotal to their success. Nico Martinez has continued to come alive in recent weeks for the home side so he could have another big game.

 

Big game for: Vedran Janjetovic. After the Wanderers placed a ridiculous media ban on their newly acquired shot-stopper he spoke during the week about leaving Sydney FC. The 29-year-old is seeking his third clean sheet in six starts for the red and black half of Sydney.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit:  Community engagement. The Mariners had the great opportunity to link with the local community given Canberra United were hosting a W-League semi-final but did nothing of note in the lead-up to last weekend in the ACT. They could have hosted a joint training/signing session or any number of things even arriving a day or two before the game but didn’t. Canberra, Dubbo or North Sydney Oval. Wherever the Mariners take home games away in the future they must do better. Perhaps the FFA need minimum standards for such initiatives in the future.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not

Staying with the Victory ($1.90) to win on Saturday and this could be followed by the Mariners fans bringing some more snakes for Janjetovic to eat on Sunday afternoon.

 

Record: 6/18

Profit: – 52.30 (ten units per investment)

 

Images via yahoosports.com.au and stuff.co.nz

 

 

Golf Capital – Garcia salutes, Matsuyama masters Phoenix (and playoff) again

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, notes and thoughts from the week across the globe covering Tiger Woods’ withdrawal in Dubai plus action across Asia, the USA and Australia.

 

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Opening drive:

Tiger Woods’ pulled out of the Dubai Desert Classic (eventually won by Sergio Garcia) after playing only one round but elsewhere there were was a fifth win in five months for world number five Hideksi Matsuyama when he defended his title in Phoenix. Garcia, 37, is a hugely successful player in the Middle East with the Spaniard only second to Rory McIlroy in prizemoney gained in Desert Swing events in the last five years. Garcia won easily in the end (by three stokes) at the Emirates Golf Club but it was a difficult tournament for some players, including Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, with windy conditions blowing over signage during play.

 

The home of the party hole saw another playoff win for Matsuyama in Arizona when he won the WM Phoenix Open. Matsuyama, 24, won on the fourth playoff hole (the same as he did last year) seeing off American Webb Simpson who was seeking his first triumph since October 2013. Simpson shot a best of the day 64 before losing the playoff and has slumped to a 1-4 record in playoffs he’s contested on the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour moves to from TPC Scottsdale to Pebble Beach in California with a host of big names, and celebrities, but also sees the PGA Tour debut of Australian Brett Coletta.

 

13th Beach Golf Links at Barwon Heads hosts the Oates Vic Open this week with Kiwi Michael Long the defending men’s champion. The tour stays in Victoria after Damien Jordan, after playing 36 holes in Sunday, triumphed in the Victorian PGA Championship to win the first Australasian Tour event of 2017. Jordan, who has secured his card until the end of 2018, has an unusual background for a professional golfer having been stationed in Iraq on two occasions in the Australian Armed Forces.

 

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. With half the course teaming with celebrities (including Superbowl winning coach from last weekend Bill Belichick) at Peeble Beach for the AT&T Pro Am we look to an event with a full professional field at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia. Co-sanctioned between the Asian and European Tours it takes place at Saujana Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.

 

20 and under: Lee Westwood. The Englishman won this event in 2014 and has nine Asian Tour events, plus four titles in Japan, to his credit so loves this part of the world and experience counts.

 

50 to 100: Jorge Campillo. Going back to the well with the Spaniard who was T4 at this event last year, albeit at a different venue in KL.

 

100 to 200: Sam Brazel. The Hong Kong Open winner isn’t the most recent Australian to win on this tour after Todd Sinnott won in Myanmar a fortnight ago but Brazel’s likeness for these conditions and knowledge he isn’t playing for his card this season should see him in a comfortable mental space here.

 

100 to 200: Jazz Janewattanond. The Thai 21-year-old won last week’s, admittedly not strong, Bangladesh Open but form and comfort in the conditions is important.

 

100 to 200: Soomin Lee. The Korean has been out of form with a T60 and two missed cuts in the Middle East but was second at this event in 2016, although it was at a different venue in KL. Hopefully he has recovered from his three-shot collapse which handed the title to Australian Marcus Fraser.

 

100 to 200: Curtis Luck. He won the Asia Pacific amateur title in Incheon Korea in October so has already shown versatility to win in different conditions. Luck, 20, finished 23rd in Dubai last weekend.

 

Greens in regulation:

In addition to this men’s event in Australia the women’s tour is also linked to the Vic Open this weekend. This comes after the RACV Challenge was won by Thailand Prima Thammaraks by one stroke from Australian Sarah-Jane Smith on the Gold Coast. It’s ironic the linked male/female tournament (which has been going for a few years) is occurring the same weekend another mixed sporting innovation is taking place in Victoria with the third and final leg of the inaugural Nitro Athletics series wrapping up at Lakeside Stadium in Albert Park on Saturday. The first Nitro event was covered in depth on The Footy Almanac by Joseph Ryan and it’s an interesting read about developing innovation in sport. Which is very pertinent to the Super 6 golf tournament which is on in Perth next week.

 

Tap in:

Tiger Woods’ withdrawal in Dubai, naturally, saw strong reaction varying from ‘he was here for the money’, to ‘he’s still not ready.’ The real answer might be somewhere in between. My initial thought was taking part in this event was always a step too far amongst the group of tournament he lined up to play to open 2017. Whilst he had triumphed in the Middle East before the advantages of playing well, say finishing top 20, in this event would have been outweighed by solid practice before competing in the Genesis Open which comes up after this weekend’s event in Pebble Beach. It was interesting to note that the Golf Channel, which has a huge vested interest in Tiger doing well, was posting columns to the effect of maybe ‘we are seeing the end.’

Image via : TheNational.ae

 

 

 

A-League 1,000: The Gunners Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 18 of the A-League which sees the Mariners take another home game to the ACT and the Phoenix host the Wanderers in New Plymouth as Guns N’ Roses takeover their stadium in Wellington.   

 ccmjanuary2017fourfourtwo

Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC, Friday – Suncorp Stadium

Sydney head to Brisbane for the second time this season after nabbing a 1-1 draw in November and do so having beaten the Victory 2-1 last round. Graham Arnold’s side came from behind after James Troisi opened the scoring with the goal for substitute Bernie Ibini perhaps the most pleasing aspect for Arnold as his side builds towards the finals safe in the knowledge they have the Premier’s Plate all but sewn up. Last time here Sydney did score first but wasted several good opportunities. It was probably one of the least impressive games in their unbeaten streak. Brisbane beat Global FC 6-0 in their Asian Champions League playoff game on Tuesday evening but will make team changes here.

 

Big game for: Brett Holman. An experienced player doing well in back-to-back A-League games could be what brings Sydney’s unbeaten run undone.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: After on Tuesday night win John Aloisi might tinker with his squad here and Corey Brown returns from an A-League suspension after featuring against the Philippines outfit during the week.  

 

Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Yarrow Stadium

Wellington have already had success in home games away from Wellington this campaign with a win and a draw. The draw came against the Wanderers when both sides played their part in an entertaining 2-2 encounter but Tony Popovic’s side should have done better leading 2-0 at one stage before having Dimas miss a penalty which would have seen them go 3-1 up in the second period. Wellington’s ability to recover from the oppressive conditions in their 2-2 draw in Adelaide will likely be a key factor.

 

Big game for:  Marco Rossi. Even though defender Ryan Lowry got the TV man of the match in the South Australian capital Wellington will welcome back the Italian to their back four this weekend and he will be looking for what would be his third clean sheet in four games.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Having chased the following players; Dimitar Berbatov, Didier Drogba, Roy Keane and Eduardo (with various levels of hope/opportunity recently) the Wanderers will fill their striker position with former Jets and Adelaide attacker Ryan Griffiths joining the club. The 35-year-old is available for selection this weekend.

 

Melbourne Victory v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – Etihad Stadium

The tide has somewhat turned compared to the last Derby these two sides played at Etihad Stadium when the Citizens won 4-1. Sure the light blues have won the FFA Cup but since then the Victory beat Michael Valkanis’ team 2-1 at AAMI Park and are six points clear of their city rivals in second place on the ladder. In the 23rd Melbourne Derby James Donachie is suspended which means Nick Ansell could return in his place whilst Josh Rose, who started in the light blues’ 2-1 defeat to the Jets in Coffs Harbour misses out on the squad altogether as Manny Muscat returns.

 

Big game for: Continued improvement. Providing attacking support to Marco Rojas and Besart Berisha James Troisi is becoming arguably the Victory’s most important player.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Agility. Michael Valkanis, coach of the City Football Group-backed side wasn’t happy with travel delays associated with their match in Coffs Harbour and the fact his side ended up travelling early on the morning of the match. If only they had the funds for alternative transport options when they knew of the problem early on Thursday, the day before the game…

 

jetsgoalcoffsgoaljan2017

 

Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets, Saturday – nib Stadium

Having only met in Newcastle on January 15 these two sides play again in Perth where the Jets won 2-1 in December. Andrew’s (Nabbout and Hoole) have each scored recently against Perth and the duo are crucial to the Jets’ success this campaign which has seen them notch five wins with a victory here, only three wins less than all of last season, with ten games still to go in the regular season. However Kenny Lowe’s side officially have welcomed Rhys Williams back into the fold so his experience could be crucial here. This is good news for a side looking to bridge the five point gap to the team above them in fourth.

 

Big game for: Nick Feely. With Liam Reddy’s late red card in Gosford Feely, 24, gets the chance to add to his sole senior game for the club (which was an FFA Cup appearance in 2015.) The former Celtic youth player is one of a cadre of local players who have returned to the club in recent seasons.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More regional games. The Jets have set the benchmark for future A-League games when sides take matches away from home. A sensible new venue and effective timing at the end of the school holidays meant a crowd of 7,891 showed up in Coffs Harbour. Given the corresponding fixture in Melbourne in November saw 7,745 attend the figure in a city of 68,572 people was impressive.

 

Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United, Sunday – GIO Stadium

Back in Canberra for the second time this campaign the Mariners will be hoping for a better result than the 2-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Nix in November but they come into the encounter having impressively dispatched Perth 2-0 on Saturday. Adelaide opened with a goal before coming from behind to secure a draw against Wellington so Guillermo Amor will have taken some joy from that result. Less positive for Amor is the fact Henrique looks to be leaving the club, the sides’ third major departure in the last few weeks.

 

Big game for: The warm-up fixture. The only side not linked to an A-League franchise in name (Canberra United) is in the W-League finals again. The two-time champions notched a third premiership (regular season) crown after Sydney FC stumbled in Adelaide and Rae Dower’s team are favoured to prevail for a tilt at a possible third grand final victory.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit:  Recovery. It’s worth (again) pointing out the folly of the FFA going ahead with the two games last Sunday in Adelaide as they did. With the A-League fixture kicking off at 4:30pm local time when it was still 38 degrees two drinks breaks per half followed as the pace and execution of skills in the game suffered. Both sides did well to play as they did but that fixture, and the preceding W-League game should have been delayed. Fairfax NZ journalist Liam Hyslop outlined how the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature measure (developed by the US military in the 1950s) is now seen by multiple scientists as ‘obsolete’. If WBGT is not a bad measure then FFA should hold their next board meeting in similar conditions.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not

After going with Sydney last weekend we flick to the team they beat Melbourne Victory ($2.15) to continue their recent dominance over the other team in light blue into a massive Canberra Cosmos banner at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

 

Record: 5/17

Profit: – 63.80 (ten units per investment)

Images via: fourfourtwo.com.au and goal.com.au