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There's more Betfair Prizefighter action at York Hall on Saturday night and after an upset last time Alex Steedman is backing hard-hitting Curtis Valentine to pull off a long odds win...

Last month's Betfair Prizefighter in Liverpool was a timely reminder that just about anything is possible in this format of boxing. The final instalment of this year's boxfest sees eight light-middleweights chasing the £32,000 prize won recently by 10/1 shot Terry Flannigan and with the introduction of a £2,000 bonus for every knockout scored fans and punters will be hoping fighters chase the carrot.

The line-up features the usual mix of comeback guys with experience alongside the new kids on-the-block but don't worry there won't be any singing or dancing, at least not until the winner's announced.

Craig McEwan is as likely as any to hear his name mentioned last and on form he's a worthy favourite at 2.64. Edinburgh-born McEwan has spent most of his boxing life in America where he's mixed with highly ranked fighters but having been stopped in two important fights, McEwan has returned to the homeland and hasn't lost a round in two routine wins since.

Rubbing shoulders with some of the best at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym, McEwan lost an enthralling scrap with Andy Lee (stopped in seven by Chavez Jr) and to recently crowned WBO middleweight champ Peter Quillin, so he's fought some way beyond his peers here. The niggle with McEwan is he can be dragged into a fight so the format might suck him in, but he has the skills and experience to win this good looking.

Alongside McEwan, Kris Carslaw (3.55) is the next best fighter on form and profile with both seeking to become the first Scottish winner of Prizefighter since Ryan Brawley in Glasgow three years ago. Carslaw has mixed it with the best domestic operators and took current British Champion Brian Rose the distance in June. The Paisley man is tough as well as talented and that is a formidable combination in this tournament. Carslaw and McEwan are the men to beat.

The two floating danger men are interesting novice Larry Ekundayo (5.0) and hard hitting Curtis Valentine (12.0). Ekundayo comes into this on the back of just two fights but he's looked good winning both and he featured on a recent event as one of the Prizefighter 'prospects.' Ekundayo had his man down in both those fights and is a dark horse but his price isn't quite right for a speculator.

Valentine on the other hand is simply too big at 12.0. For a guy with the style and punch to excel in this format. Watch this YouTube clip to witness his wicked right hand from the crouch and he's a rough, no-messing rambler. Valentine has four KOs from five wins and carries the power from bell to bell.
He has lost twice but that includes to English Champion Erik Ochieng on points so he's good enough and at 31 this is his cup final.

If Valentine gets a fair shake with the draw he is back-to-lay material but I'd fancy him in a one-off against anyone in the line-up.

The fans will get their money's worth if Valentine is paired with either Terry Carruthers or Peter Vaughan, both of whom are limited to an extent but all-action fighters. Carruthers (19.0) gave Chris Eubank Jr his best test recently and will have a go but he was stopped in three by Kris Carslaw previously.

Vaughan (6.0) meanwhile progressed to the semi-finals of Prizefighter last year before losing to the reserve winner Robert-Lloyd Taylor. That is his only defeat in seven and he has the style to cause trouble again.

Ryan Toms (11.0) was chugging along quite nicely winning his first nine bouts until the second defence of his English Title when he bumped into the much transformed Stephen O'Meara who stopped him in one. Toms has been hard matched since losing inside the distance to the useful pair Erik Ochieng and Joe Selkirk. The southpaw is out of the frying pan into the fire here and can't be backed on form or confidence.

Along with Ekundayo, Nav Mansouri (8.0) is the only other unbeaten fighter in the tournament with three stoppages in eight wins. The Yorkshireman has overcome some tough journeymen on the way and having beaten Nathan Graham recently is probably knocking on the door at English Title level. That makes him a player but I'm more sold on others at this stage.

The market is right to respect McEwan who might be simply too classy for this particular stage though he might be dragged into a fight too. McEwan and Carslaw remain the most likely winners but I'm taking a small punt on Curtis Valentine who has the attitude, style and punch to do well in this event. Believe me, Curtis is one Valentine the others don't want in the post.

Recommended Bet

1pt Back Curtis Valentine @ 12.0

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Steve Beaton's win over Andy Smith on Monday night was one of the most impressive first round performances. A 94.49 three-dart average (remember this is a double start format) and 58.33% success rate on his starting and finishing doubles were some of the best figures of the opening two nights.

Statistics don't always tell the whole story in sport, but in this case they are an accurate reflection of Beaton's stellar performance. It may have been a while since The Bronze Adonis made a significant impact in a televised major, but on Tuesday's form he could go a long way in Dublin this week.

Next up, however, is one of the game's form players and certainly the most improved player in the last 12 months, Andy Hamilton. The Hammer has consistently reached the latter stages of major tournaments over the course of the last year and is now firmly established in the world's top 10.

On form this season alone, Hamilton is a deserving favourite at odds of 1.58. However, having watched Beaton play in the first round with such panache and confidence, there is huge value in siding with the 1996 Lakeside world champion at odds of 2.7.

Recommended Bet:
Back Beaton to beat Hamilton @ 2.7

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Chelsea v Norwich

Chelsea will be looking to maintain their position at the top of the Premier League when they take on a winless Norwich side this Saturday. The Canaries were torn apart by Liverpool at Carrow Road last week and unless there has been some dramatic improvements we should expect a similar outcome at Stamford Bridge this time.

Norwich have won just one and lost six of their last nine Premier League away games, while Chelsea have won nine and lost just one of their last 12 Premier League games on home soil. Odds of 1.25 on a home win are more than justifiable.

Opta also tell us that Norwich have the worst chance conversion rate in the Premier League so far, scoring with just six % of their attempts on goal, and that the away side has failed to score in seven of the last nine meetings in all competitions between Chelsea and Norwich. Back Chelsea to win to nil at odds of 2.1.

Swansea v Reading

A blistering start to life in the Premier League for new Swansea manager Michael Laudrup is gradually turning into a slightly disconcerting one. The Swans have now lost their last three league games without scoring a goal, having been unbeaten in their first three games.

Reading, on the other hand, are still without a win since their return to the top flight, but do have a genuine argument to say that they have been slightly unlucky on more than one occasion.

Nevertheless, Reading are now on a run of just two wins in their last 22 Premier League games and have not won any of their last six games against Swansea.

The Opta stats offer little hope for the visitors and suggest that backing the home team at odds of 2.0 is the only option.

West Brom v QPR

While West Brom are enjoying their best ever start to a Premier League season, Queens Park Rangers are enduring their worst ever start to a top-flight campaign.

Add into the mix the Opta stat that West Brom have won four and lost just one of the last eight league meetings with QPR and it's not looking good for Mark Hughes' side. The Loftus Road boss dismissed talk of a crisis in the immediate aftermath of their defeat to West Ham on Monday, and I expect he may face similar questioning after this one. Back the home win at odds of 1.9.

There's also some value in backing Under 2.5 goals at odds of 2.08, given that The Baggies have kept eight clean sheets in their last 10 Premier League games at the Hawthorns.

Wigan v Everton

Like the Baggies, Everton are also experiencing their best ever start to a Premier League season as they go to the DW Stadium this weekend, and the Opta stats suggest that their good form will continue.

Wigan have won just one of the last 13 Premier League meetings with Everton, while David Moyes' side have lost just one of their last eight Premier League away games. So, at odds of 2.08, the value looks to be in backing an away win.

It may also be a good match to trade In-Play. The last four times Wigan have scored first against The Toffees, Everton have come back to earn two draws and two wins. So if the home team do take a lead in the game then it looks a good idea to lay them In-Play.

Recommended Bets:
Back Chelsea to win to nil @ 2.1
Back West Brom to beat QPR @ 1.9

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Australia v Pakistan, Sky Sports 1, 1100hrs BST


Barring something remarkable, Australia have already qualified for the semi-finals. It would take a huge defeat today and a huge win for India in the other game to deny them, and the Aussies have been more in the 'inflicting huge defeats on other people' business in this tournament. Despite having no discernable middle order they've progressed because of the magnificent form of Shane Watson with bat and ball. If it is possible to win an international contest on the shoulders of one man then they may well do so.

Xavier Doherty, the left arm spinner, had a fine game against South Africa on Sunday but may well lose his place (either to Clint McKay or, if the Aussies are feeling really cocky, Dan Christian) as Pakistan are better players of spin than the Proteas.


For years now, Pakistan teams have had two settings - the 'look like they could beat anyone' setting and the 'look like they have never played cricket before' setting. Worryingly, they have slipped into the second mode. Against South Africa last week they got away with an inept batting performance, but against India on Sunday they didn't. The heavy loss leaves them needing a win against the Australians, as both South Africa and India can easily surpass their net run rate in the second game.

Pakistan have made the fewest changes to their side over the course of the tournament and against Australia they will probably stick with the same side which played India and South Africa, meaning a four-pronged spin attack and no place for the left arm seam of Sohail Tanvir.

Match Odds

Australia are overwhelming favourites at 1.75n/a with Pakistan finding little favour at 2.3n/a. If they hit the form that they showed earlier in the tournament once again then that could turn out to be a generous price indeed.

Top Australia batsman

Watson has been phenomenal in this tournament and there is no reason to think that his run of form will come to an end against this Pakistan attack. He seems to enjoy batting on this Colombo pitch and has made runs against all kinds of bowling on it. Despite the comparatively short price, he's a solid bet at 4.0n/a

Top Pakistan batsman

Umar Akmal has been the only batsman to show any kind of consistency during this Super Eight series and he may have done enough to earn himself a promotion up the order from number six. If so, then his odds of 7.4n/a will begin to look very attractive indeed.

Recommended Bet:

Back Umar Akmal at 7.413/2 to be top Pakistan run scorer

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Since Europe replaced GB&I in 1979, the Old Continent has won eight editions of the Ryder Cup, one more than the USA (seven). The match in 1989 ended in a tie.

Europe have won three of the eight Ryder Cups played on American soil: in 1987, 1995 and 2004.

The last time a team won the Ryder Cup after trailing going into the singles session was back in 1999 when the USA clawed back a four-point deficit. The team leading before the singles has won each of the last four editions of the Ryder Cup.

Only two Ryder Cups have ended in a tie: 1969 (16-16) and 1989 (14-14).

USA have won 11 of the 16 singles sessions in the Ryder Cup (since 1979), a 69% rate.

José María Olazábal is the second Spaniard to captain the European team after Severiano Ballesteros in 1997. He was part of the first European team to win on American soil in 1987.

USA team captain Davis Love III has taken part in six editions of the Ryder Cup. Olazábal has been in seven.

Olazábal and Love III have played each other five times in the Ryder Cup. The Spaniard has won four of their encounters (two with Severiano Ballesteros in 1993 and two with Costantino Rocca in 1997) with only one win for the American (in 1993 with Tom Kite).

The six Ryder Cups Europe have won since 1995 have all been under non-English captains: Bernard Gallacher, Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie. The two Englishmen that have had the privilege of leading Europe since then have both lost: Mark James in 1999 and Nick Faldo in 2008.

Paul Lawrie is making his second appearance at the Ryder Cup, 13 years after his first (1999). He's the oldest player on the European team (43 yo).

Rory McIlroy is the youngest player at the 2012 Ryder Cup (23 yo). He played three matches with fellow northern Irishman Graeme McDowell at the last Ryder Cup, winning one, halving one and losing one. He then halved his singles match against Stewart Cink.

Steve Stricker is the oldest player on the USA team (45 yo) while Keegan Bradley (26 yo) is the youngest.

Nicolas Colsaerts is the only European making his Ryder Cup debut this year.

On the American side, four players are making their first appearance at the tournament: Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker.

Stewart Cink was the only player to remain unbeaten at the last Ryder Cup, in 2010: one win and three halves.

Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods won the most points at the last Ryder Cup: three each.

Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson lost the most matches at the last Ryder Cup: three each.

The Molinari brothers - Edoardo and Francesco - were the only Europeans who failed to win a match at the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Francesco Molinari and Jim Furyk picked up the fewest points at the last Ryder Cup: 0.5 each.

Lee Westwood has won six of his seven encounters with Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup.

Only five European players have picked up more points than Lee Westwood at the Ryder Cup (19): Nick Faldo (25), Bernhard Langer (24), Colin Montgomerie (23.5), Seve Ballesteros (22.5) and Jose-Maria Olazabal (20.5).

Tiger Woods has won the last two majors played on Medinah Country Club's #3 course: USPGA Championships in 1999 and 2006.

Woods has won only one of the six Ryder Cups he's taken part in, that was in 1999. He didn't play in the USA's last victory, back in 2008.

Sergio Garcia has lost four of the five singles sessions he's taken part in, his only victory being in 2004 when he defeated Mickelson.

Garcia and Donald have won the four matches they've played in as a pair.

Phil Mickelson will take part in his ninth Ryder Cup, a new record for the USA team. On the European side, Lee Westwood will play in his eighth Ryder Cup, the most in the 2012 side.

Luke Donald has won eight of his 11 matches at the Ryder Cup, picking up an average of 0.77 point per game. It's the best ratio of the European side among players having disputed at least five matches, ahead of Ian Poulter (0.73).

Luke Donald has a 100% record in foursomes: he's won the six matches he's taken part in.

Jim Furyk has won just two points from his last seven Ryder Cup matches (one win v Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2008 and two halves). He's won only four of his 20 matches in foursomes and fourballs.

Nicolas Colsaerts is the only Belgian player to compete for Europe at a Ryder Cup. England have had the most representatives in the competition (since 1979) with 22, next on the list are Spain and Scotland with nine competitors each.

Sergio Garcia is the youngest player to ever compete in the competition, back in 1999 at Brookline when he was just 19-years-old.

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Tournament History
The first Ryder Cup was staged in 1927, when the United States beat Great Britain 9 ½ - 2 ½ at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, but the wheels were set in motion for the biannual transatlantic tussle a year earlier. Samuel Ryder, a wealthy businessman who had made his fortune selling seeds at a penny a packet from his garden shed, sponsored an informal event in 1926 at Wentworth, which saw a GB side beat a Walter Hagen-led US team 13-1 before it became an official event 12 months later.

After losing the inaugural event, Great Britain won the next two renewals on home soil, in 1929 and 1933, but only managed one more victory, again on home soil in 1957, before Irish players joined them in 1973. Three Ryder Cups were staged with a GB & Ireland team but still the Americans dominated. The event was uncompetitive and fast losing its appeal so in 1979, Team GB & Ireland became Team Europe and although the US won comfortably in 1979 and 1981, in 1983 the Europeans ran the Americans close at the PGA National in Florida, losing narrowly 14 ½ - 13 ½ and that was a major turning point.

The Europeans comfortably won at the Belfry in 1985, before winning for the first time on US soil two years later at Muirfield Village. They retained the trophy with a drawn match in 1989 and it wasn't an uncompetitive event any more. It's grown in stature ever since and it now appeals to a far wider audience than golf fans alone. The last renewal at Celtic Manor, two years ago, was an absolute classic and if this year's event is half as exciting then we're in for a treat.

Two teams of 12 play out 28 match play ties over three days, with 14 ½ points the total required to take the trophy.

The first session on Friday morning sees US Team captain, Davis Love III, pick four teams of two from his 12 man squad take on European captain, Jose Maria Olazabal's four pairs in foursomes match play. Foursomes format is often called "alternate shot" and is a tougher format than fourball. The first player tees off, the second player hits the second shot, the first player then hits the third shot, and so on and so forth until the ball is holed. Players hit alternate tee shots so that the same player doesn't hit every drive.

Friday afternoon sees four teams of two from each side play each other in the first fourball session. In fourballs, each of the four players plays their own ball and a point is scored by whoever plays the hole in the fewest number of shots.

Saturday is a repeat of Friday. Foursomes in the morning and fourballs in the afternoon and then on Sunday, there's no hiding place with 12 singles matches determining the result.

Medinah Golf and Country Club (No.3), Medinah, Illinois

Course Details
Par 72, 7,658 yards

Medinah's Number Three Course, originally designed by Tom Bendelow in 1928, has staged five majors to date. Three US Opens - 1949, 1975 and 1990 and two PGA Championships, in 1999, and most recently, in 2006. Both PGA's went the way of Tiger Woods but the most memorable Medinah moment came courtesy of a fresh-faced Sergio Garcia in 1999.

The course won't be set up anywhere near as tough as it was for any of the majors, with minimal rough and wide fairways, designed to suit the US Team. Paul Krishnamurty takes a more in-depth look at the course here.

TV Coverage
Live on Sky all three days - 12.30pm and 6.30pm on Friday and Saturday and 4.00pm on Sunday. Highlights on BBC.

Last Ten Ryder Cup Results
2010 Europe (14 1/2 - 13 1/2)
2008 United States (16 1/2 - 11 1/2)
2006 Europe (18 1/2 - 9 1/2)
2004 Europe (18 1/2 - 9 1/2)
2002 Europe (15 1/2 - 12 1/2)
1999 United States (14 1/2 - 13 1/2)
1997 Europe (14 1/2 - 13 1/2)
1995 Europe (14 1/2 - 13 1/2)
1993 United States (15 - 13)
1991 United States (14 1/2 - 13 1/2)

Recent results point to the Europeans but home advantage is huge and Medinah is widely regarded as more likely to suit the Americans, who have been well backed over the last week or so. The market looks about right now to me but if forced into a pick I'd side with the Europeans.

As much as I'm looking forward to the event, unearthing triple-figure stroke play event bets are more my cup of tea and I'm going to leave the outright market for now, though Paul's advice to back the draw looks interesting. It's looks sure to be tight, and given that half of the last ten Ryder Cups have finished with a score of 14 ½ - 13 ½, I wouldn't put anyone off backing either or both sides to win by that margin again.

In the Top European Market, I simply have to back Ian Poulter again. He has been the top overall points scorer at the last two Ryder Cups. He's won both the WGC World Matchplay and the Volvo World Matchplay in recent years and although he needed a wildcard pick this time around, with a record that reads, eight wins from 11 ties, I can't let him go un-backed.

Dustin Johnson is in fine form and Medinah should be ideally set up for him but his match play record is too poor to ignore, so in the Top US Market, I've followed in Paul with Bubba Watson at a sporting price.

Top European Points Scorer:
Ian Poulter @ 9.4
Top US points Scorer:
Bubba Watson @ 13.0

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Man United v Newcastle, Wednesday 19:45, Sky Sports 2

These early round exchanges between the big clubs largely depend on the strengths of the second string and the crop of youngsters who are knocking on the first team door.

Arsenal's relative success in this competition is often down to the full-blooded endeavours of their inexperienced players looking to impress after finally being given the chance.

With this in mind, a third round date at Old Trafford is likely to be a severe test for Newcastle's injury-strewn squad against the might of Manchester United's resources.

There is no question that Newcastle will take this competition seriously as their quest to bring in a first domestic cup since 1955 demands, though the squad is still depleted by a host of defensive ailments.

Problems for Danny Simpson, Ryan Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini mean that most of the defenders who featured on Sunday against Norwich will have to play a second game in four days, so tiredness could definitely play a part.

Conversely, Sir Alex Ferguson will be able to call on a host of fresh legs, with players such as Danny Welbeck, Paul Scholes, Javier Hernandez and Tom Cleverley, only deemed worthy of the the bench at Liverpool and all possible starters.

And as Opta inform us, Manchester United have come out on top in seven of their eight cup meetings, so history is certainly not on the side of the Magpies.

Man United Total Goals

Although United have not been at their vintage best in the last couple of matches, Opta tell us that they have still won their last five in all competitions, an ominous sign for Pardew's side.

At Old Trafford, Sir Alex's fringe players will be desperate to put on a good show for the manager and this should equate to goals.

In their two domestic home games, the Red Devils have racked up at least three goals and against a tired Magpies defence they should profit in front of goal again.

First Goalscorer

Javier Hernandez's chances have been limited this season but this is the kind of game that the Mexican should thrive in.

Chicharito scored first in this fixture in the league last term and also bagged in his sole start against Wigan 11 days ago.

Best Bet : Back Javier Hernandez to score first @ 5.7
Other Recommended Bet: Back Man United to score two or more goals @ 1.65

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Leeds v Everton: best bets

25 Sep 12 08:01
Leeds v Everton, Tuesday 19:45, Sky Sports 2

Although both these sides recorded league victories in their respective divisions at the weekend, the nature of their triumphs bore stark contrast.

While an animated Neil Warnock bit his fingernails at Elland Road as Nottingham Forest pressed hard for the equaliser, David Moyes' Everton side had calmly stroked it
around as the clock wound down in their game a few hours earlier safe in the knowledge that all three points were in the basket before the half-time whistle.

Everton's emphatic win in Wales has thrust the Merseysiders into a lofty third position in the Premier League, whereas the Yorkshire club's third win sees them lying 12th in the Championship after garnering ten points from seven games.

Apart from a blip at the Hawthorns, Everton have started this season with incredible purpose, culminating in Saturday's 3-0 mauling of Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

They look like a team who are really enjoying themselves, with players such as Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines showing outstanding form from the first kick of the season.

The Belgian in particular has raised his game to astronomical levels - even if a little liberal interpretation of the rules was required to set up Everton's opener against the Swans.

Unfortunately for Leeds fans, Everton are also taking this competition seriously this year, Moyes fielding a very strong team for the Toffees second round hiding of Leyton Orient.

Given Everton's stunning performance against Swansea, it's difficult to see anything other than a win for them here. Leeds will certainly be no pushovers in front of their vociferous home support, but the gap in quality should be telling.

The home side's form is patchy at best. Before Saturday's win, they had gone three games without tasting victory, losing two of those as well.

Everton's intentions in this competition have already been outlined by Moyes' initial team selection and they won't want to fall at this early stage, so will give it everything.

Everton Total Goals

Everton's exciting brand of football has seen them rack up the goals this season, with the Toffees managing to notch at least two in four out of their six games to date.

Their hosts have also conceded an average of over two goals per game over the last four matches which should mean the Toffees can find a way past their defence more than once.

Best Bet: Back Everton to beat Leeds @ 1.84
Other Recommended Bet: Back Everton to score two or more goals @ 1.93

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One of the quirks of team matchplay is that there can be a substantial discrepancy between the odds of players whose fate is largely dependent on one another. If for instance, a pairing stays together throughout the foursomes and fourballs, they will begin the final day singles with identical points. There is precisely such a differential between the two players whose partnership is widely expected to form the backbone of Europe's bid - Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Whereas Rory starts as 6.0 favourite to be top European scorer, his likely partner is an 10.0 chance, which must represent better value. Of the two, McDowell actually has a superior matchplay record, having starred on both previous appearances, famously holing the winning putt at Celtic Manor. Even if Jose Maria Olazabal surprises everybody by breaking up this popular Northern Irish pairing, Gmac would still be a key man.

Another likely pairing is Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, but at 9.6 and 10.5 respectively, the difference in their odds is much smaller. In this case, Poulter is preferred because he's been top overall scorer in the last two Ryder Cups and is therefore much likelier to play all five matches. Moreover, this matchplay specialist will take the world of beating in the singles.

Of the rest, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia are afforded great respect on the basis of their tournament records, although I could see the latter pair missing a round or two, given their indifferent form. It is hard to see Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer or Nicolas Colsaerts getting enough games to challenge in this market.

Recommended bets
Back Ian Poulter 3u @ 9.6
Back Graeme McDowell 3u @ 10.0

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Ryder Cup build-up

24 Sep 12 09:48
Humans have always been a pattern-seeking breed, desperate to make deductions about the world around them. However, this thirst for explanation has led to some false steps throughout history (the Flat Earth Fan Club is all out of subscribers) which is why we have science to pick up the pieces of our own innate biases and misunderstandings.

Unlike chemistry and physics, golf isn't a perfect science. Lazy theories get bandied around in the faint hope of penetrating an impenetrable game - and seldom are they more in evidence than during Ryder Cup week. Wildcard selection normally provides the hottest topic of debate, as hacks and commentators dissect the potential fault-lines in each captain's pick. But this year renewal of the biennial battle at Medinah has been remarkable only for its lack of controversy.

Which either means Davis Love and Jose Maria Olazabal have chosen wisely, or that everyone is suffering from the same misapprehension. Sport, of course, is all about opinions, so it can never be subjected to the scientific rigours of peer review. That said, it is worth pointing out that even in science has its drawbacks in this regard, usually filed under Sampling Bias. This is the fatal flaw where we notice the hits and disregard the misses along the road to drawing a bad conclusion.

I would argue that sampling bias goes right the heart of the most obvious wildcard pick on either side: Ian Poulter. After a strong performance at his concluding qualifying event, the USPGA, Poults still finished short of an automatic spot. But even if he'd down tools and missed consecutive cuts, he was a lock for Team Europe because of his stellar Ryder Cup record. Ask anyone from Olazabal down to your local pro and they would agree that the Englishman and the Samuel Ryder's trophy go together like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Poults even lets his kids eat their cornflakes out of the cup.

Now I'm not about to bash Poulter's glittering RC CV, which is beyond reproach. He has registered eight wins in 11 matches and was the leading point scorer of either side when the event was last held stateside at Valhalla. However, the notion that matchplay somehow elevates his game is bunkum. True, he won the WGC World Matchplay in 2010 and the European equivalent the following year. But it is equally true, that he has regularly bombed out in the early rounds of both events. So rather than celebrate the hits and disregard the misses, we should resolve that it is matchplay - with its one-off, knockout format contrasting sharply with the typical four rounds of strokeplay - which is the game-changer here. Not Ian Poulter.

But what about at Celtic Manor, where this cocksure campaigner defiantly told the media there was no doubt he'd secure a point for Europe in the singles? Granted, Poults went on to whip Matt Kuchar 5&4 and everyone was again calling him the team talisman. Nevertheless, it's important to note that Poults is regularly given to similar flights of fancy. Some pan out, others don't. He predicted that once he reaches his full potential "it will just be me and Tiger Woods". Rory McIlroy might have something to say about that. He then said Woods has no chance of a top-five finish at last season's Masters. Tiger subsequently charted in fourth place. And more recently before the last round of the BMW, he tweeted that he'd comfortably qualify for the Tour Championship with a round in the low 60s. Poulter was quickly four-over after six holes on the way to a round in the low 70s. More misses than hits there too.

The world number 24 is a very good player who has made the most of his talents, as three top-10s in the year's majors will readily attest. He should be praised accordingly. However, Poulter is far from a great golfer (winless on Tour this year) and has not even performed in the Ryder Cup's format (knocked out in the first round of both World Matchplay events this term).

Maybe Medinah will generate the requisite warm and fuzzies this week, or perhaps his playing partners will help him out of a hole. However, for me, Poulter is one to take on in every scoring market (Top European, Top Englishman, Top Wildcard) where he is consistently priced near the head of the betting. There's an inherent danger to making your name in a fickle format which is no respecter of reputation. And I fear Poulter may soon be hoist by his own petard.

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