Patriotic Punt A Must But Head Says Argentina
Patriots, jingoists and they-just-might-ists will all be heading to the bookies today to strike their bets on England winning the 2014 World Cup at odds of 28/1 – and I’ll be one of them.
I confess, I think Roy Hodgson’s young team may well struggle to get through the group stage – but who cares – I’ll get my tenner’s worth of entertainment shouting at the TV.
However, I’ll be having a much bigger bet on Argentina at 9/2, whom manager Alejandro Sabello has inspired to victories over biggest dangers Brazil, Spain and Germany in the last two years. I also think they’ve got by far the best squad of players including the formidable strike-force of Higuain, Aguero and Messi. A relatively easy group means they shouldn’t have to exert themselves fully before the latter stages, whilst easy games also means that that Argentinian strikers make plenty of appeal to win the Top Goal-scorer Award especially Aguero at 16/1 ¼-odds first-four.
Whilst England don’t play until Saturday, there looks to be plenty of betting opportunities in Thursday’s and Friday’s matches – with the treble of Brazil (2/7) to beat Croatia, Spain (17/20) to beat Holland, and Chile (1/2) to beat Australia appealing on both the betting and entertainment fronts.
However, my biggest problem this week will be persuading the wife to let me watch two sporting events at the same time as it’s also golf’s second major of the year this week – the US Open.
Golf Major – US Open – (Thursday – Sunday)
Every man and his dog seems to want Phil ‘The Thrill’ Mickleson to complete his grand-slam of golf’s majors this week – but the stranglehold that US players once had on the US Open has all but vanished with only three US players claiming the year’s second major in the last decade – Tiger Woods, Lucas Glover and Webb Simpson. The other seven have been won by the Northern Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Australian Geoff Ogilvy, New Zealander Michael Campbell, South African Retief Goosen, Argentine Angel Cabrera and finally by Englishman Justin Rose.
Furthermore, of the 54 player who have made the frame in the last ten years (outright and ties), 28 have been US players, 2 Asian, 10 Rest of the world, and 14 European which, when you consider the much higher percentage of US players that make up the field – means the non-US players have fared pretty well.
The non-US players where even more of a factor last time Pinehurst staged the event in 2005, filling four of the five places and eight of the first fourteen places.
One non-US player I’m sure will win a major very soon, hopefully this one, is Australian Jason Day (33/1). The 26-year-old is younger than the average winner of a US Open winner but, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both won at a young age – and I put Day firmly in the same bracket when it comes to talent. The US Open winner will have to have a fearless long game and tidy short game to triumph and, for me, Day ticks all the right boxes. Also, he’s already finished 2nd twice in the event as well as posting a 2nd and a 3rd in the US Masters.
Next up has to be Henrik Stenson. The Swede is yet to win this season but his game isn’t too far away from the dizzy heights it reached last year when winning both the PGA Tour and European Tour season finales. His last four US Open appearances read 9/29/22/21 which, whilst not screaming winner, show a certain consistency. He also posted his highest ever finish at the Masters this year (Tied 14th), and he’s on record as saying he’s targeting the majors this year.
Sergio Garcia hasn’t hit the places in the US Open since he was third at Pinehurst in 2005 and, though he seems to talk himself out of becoming a major champion these days, it may be that the return to this venue evokes memories that may see him in the mix once more.
If the expected rain turns the course soft, McIlroy must have a favourite’s chance, whilst his fellow countryman McDowell will be hoping it turns into a real scrap, and the only thing that puts me off Victor Dubuisson is the fact he’s making his debut.
To finish the staking plan, I’m going to throw in a couple of ageing South Africans who are both dual winners of the event, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. I’ll be surprised if either of them win it – but top-10 bets on both of them may well pay dividends.
Jason Day each-way 33/1
Henrik Stenson each-way 28/1
Sergio Garcia each-way 33/1
Retief Goosen top-10 14/1
Ernie Els top-10 14/1