Phil Mickelson deserves his British sweep

Just like the UK’s infamous public transport system, you wait 21 years for a golf title on British soil and suddenly two come along at once. That must be how Phil Mickelson felt on Sunday night after he careered to the Open Championship crown just a week after winning the Scottish Open, breaking a two-decade duck this side of the Atlantic.

Phil Mickelson, 43, deservedly landed his fifth – and maybe the greatest – major of his career at Muirfield, rising from the ranks on the back nine to birdie at the 13th, 14th, 17th and 18th holes. A 66 final round left him three shots clear of the field and eventually standing with the Claret Jug.

Few fans who bet on golf will begrudge the leftie this victory, for Mickelson has come agonisingly close to greatness at the Open. Since his debut in 1991, he has come third once and tied second in 2011 behind Darren Clarke. Having not won a major since the Masters in 2010 (including a sixth runner-up spot at the US Open this year), it was feared Big Phil was gradually on the slide yet this tournament victory puts his career right back on track.

What was so impressive, and what makes him a good favourite to win the PGA Championship later this season, is that he managed to beat the links courses that have so often plagued his game. While many of the world’s top stars avoided the Scottish Open the week before, Mickelson used his four rounds at Castle Stuart to implement a confidence base from which to tackle Muirfield.

It certainly worked on that glorious back nine on Sunday, which is where Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood slipped up their challenge. Golf betting fans can expect plenty more from Mickelson this season and even if he doesn’t win the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, he will place within the top-10 on this performance.

Phil Mickelson can erase Merion pain at Muirfield

Never has the phrase “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” applied more so than to Phil Mickelson and his relationship with the US Open. Lefty made it six second place finishes in 24 appearances at his home Open this year, and not for the first time in painful circumstances.

Having opened up a one-shot lead on the rest of the field at Merion it looked like it would finally be the 43-year-old’s year.

However, it wasn’t to be and Mickelson must now go again at the Scottish Open this week in order to put himself in contention for the Open, which starts on July 18. The American hasn’t shown many signs of recovery yet, missing the cut at the Greenbier Classic for the third consecutive year last weekend.

Perhaps a change of scenery and the type of golf he needs to play will help blow the cobwebs away as far as Mickelson is concerned. Traditionally, the Open has been his weakest major, with his second-place finish at Royal St George’s in the driving rain in 2011 the best he has to show for his efforts in the UK.

Having spent years trying to transfer the kind of target golf he is use to playing on the sterilised US courses to the Open, Mickelson acknowledged a different approach was required after finishing runner-up two years ago.

The decision to play the Scottish Open shows how seriously Mickelson is taking the year’s third major, with the majority of his compatriots opting to snub the chance to play on the links course.

However, anyone who bothered to check the recent history of the Open will have noted that the last two winners of the Claret Jug – Darren Clarke and Ernie Els – had played in the Scottish Open the week before.

Mickelson claims his game on the links courses has steadily improved over the last decade and is ready to put together a challenge for the Open. Whether Mickelson can back up his confidence at Muirfield remains to be seen but he certainly looks set to be the top American on the East Lothian course, with Tiger Woods’ injury troubles only enhancing his chances of lead the US charge.

Merion is bound to be at the back of Mickelson’s mind for some time to come but a good showing at the Open could go a long way to easing the pain.

Who will win the US Masters 2013?

The US Masters 2012 was won by Bubba Watson after an exciting play-off with South African Louis Oosthuizen following both golfers having an exceptional round on the final day and finsihing on -10.  The 33-year-old left-hander won at the second extra hole to claim his first major title. Peter Hanson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson finished in a three-way tie for third finishing on -8.  England’s Ian Poulter (69) finished seventh on -5, while Australian Adam Scott, last year’s runner-up, carded a 66 that included a hole in one on the 16th to finish -4.

England’s Justin Rose and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington finished in eighth with Adam Scott.

Pre-tournament favourites Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy ended a disappointing tournament tied on five over last year.  But that has no bearing on this year’s golf betting ahead of the US Masters 2013 where Tiger Woods is closing in on Rory McIlroy at the top of the official golf world ranking list; and after winning this year’s WGC Championship title for the seventh time, is now only one average point behind Rory McIlroy.  A victory at the US Masters would see Tiger Woods regaining the #1 world ranking he held for so long before injury and personal problems caused a meltdown in 2009.

The US Masters 2013
starts the week commencing Monday 8th April with the actual golf tournament beginning on Thursday 11th – Sunday 14th April at the famous Augusta Golf Course.

Is anyone prepared to bet against Tiger Woods (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005) winning his fifth US Masters Tournament next month?

I am expecting Tiger Woods to win but hope to enjoy a battle between Woods and Rory McIlroy all the way to the final pin. If both players have a good tournament and play to their potential, the US Masters could offer one of the most exciting final rounds in recent history.  But don’t forget three-time winner Phil Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010) has his own private love affair with the tournament and US golf fans.

At the time of writing this article, bwin golf betting has Tiger Woods favourite at 5/1 from Rory McIlroy at 9/1 and Phil Mickelson at 11/1.  The big three are followed by Brandt SnedekerCharl Schwartzel & the highest place Englishmen Luke Donald at 21/1.

Europe Win the Ryder Cup 2012

Starting the third & final day 10-6 down, the odds were stacked against Europe to even make a reasonable score, let alone retain the Ryder Cup by winning a majority of the 12 singles matches.  But with Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose & Paul Lawrie winning the first five matches, the final day was an amazing show of awesome, nail-biting golf.

Ian Poulter didn’t lead in his match against Webb Simpson until the 17th hole and Justin Rose needed 18 holes to beat Phil Mickelson finishing with two sublime birdies.

While Rory McIlroy beat the young charismatic Keegan Bradley after only arriving at the Medinah Country Club ten minutes before his tee time in a police car with the excuse he had confused Eastern with Central Time!

Luke Donald & Bubba Watson was the first match of the day & the first to finish with Donald winning 2&1. But apart from Paul Lawrie thrashing US rookie Brandt Snedeker 5&3 every match was a tight one, with many switching from red to blue and back again.

It went right down to the wire, the last two matches between Steve Stricker & Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods vs Francesco Molinari.  With three holes to play both matches were all square with Europe needing just one point to retain the Ryder Cup. And it went down to the 18th when Steve Stricker made his putt and left Martin Kaymer a shot to win or lose the Ryder Cup for Europe. With just one match remaining, Kaymer won the Ryder Cup for Europe in the most amazing comeback of all-time.

In a post-match interview José María Olazábal attempted to dedicate the win to his great friend Seve Ballesteros before breaking down with emotion.

Sunday’s Singles:
Bubba Watson lost to Luke Donald 2&1
Webb Simpson lost to Ian Poulter 2 up
Keegan Bradley lost to Rory McIlroy 2&1
Phil Mickelson lost to Justin Rose 1 up
Brandt Snedeker lost to Paul Lawrie 5&3
Dustin Johnson beat Nicolas Colsaerts 3&2
Zach Johnson beat Graeme McDowell 2&1
Jim Furyk lost to Sergio Garcia 1 up
Jason Dufner beat Peter Hanson 2 up
Matt Kuchar lost to Lee Westwood 3&2
Steve Stricker lost to Martin Kaymer 1 up
Tiger Woods v Francesco Molinari A/S

Who will win the 112th US Open?

The golfing calendar is now brimming with professional golf tournaments every weekend of the year, it seems.  Though the four tournaments that matter above all else in men’s golf are the Majors; and it is every pro golfers dream to win one of the four most prestigious championships in the world.

The first of the Major Championships in 2012 was a classic, settled by a two-hole play-off when Bubba Watson beat South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen after an amazing approach shot found the green after a disastrous tee shot left him deep in the trees.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were the favourites going into the US Masters though I had a sneaky feeling the long fairways were going to be perfect for Lee Westwood to win his first Major Championship. Neither Tiger or Rory were contenders, and Lee Westwood left himself short with some poor putting throughout the whole tournament.

The next of the four Majors will be the 112th US Open Championship in June, followed by The British Open (known simply as ‘The Open’) in July and lastly, the PGA Championship in the United States.

While Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer continue to jostle to be ranked number 1 in the world, all eyes will be focussing on the US Open which this year will be held at The Olympic Club, Lake Course on 14-17 June.

Rory McIlroy and Tiger woods are once again favourites ahead of the US Open, with McIlroy looking to defend his title and Tiger Woods (2000, 2002, 2008) looking for a fourth victory to equal the current record held by Scotsman Willie Anderson (1901, 1903, 1904, 1905) and American legends Bobby Jones (1923, 1926, 1929, 1930), Ben Hogan (1948, 1950, 1951, 1953) and Jack Nicklaus (1962, 1967, 1972, 1980).

Current golf betting has Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods at 8/1 followed by Phil Mickelson 12/1, Lee Westwood 14/1 and Luke Donald 16/1 with Hunter Mahan, Martin Kaymer, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson at 33/1.

I can’t help thinking, if only Lee Westwood could be step up with his short game, it would only be a matter of time before he wins his first Major.  But equally, you never know when the Tiger is going to return; and I am confident it is when and not if.