After a couple of seasons in the wilderness both Richard Sterne and Ross Fisher havw bounced right back to form says Mike Norman, and that makes them the men to beat on the European Tour this week.
With one round to go at the US Open the Form Guide was in a good position last week with both Lee Westwood and 250.0249/1 selection Nicolas Colsaerts bang in contention in a tie for fourth. But unfortunately that was as good as it got.
To win any golf tournament you generally need a bit of luck from time to time. Westwood's luck - as it so often is in these big events - completely deserted him when his tee shot on the fifth hole got stuck up in a tree. That was that as they say. As for Colsaerts, I'm not sure if it was bad luck or bad play, but when you start the final round with four straight bogies you just know it's not going to be your day.
Congratulations to Webb Simpson but after two consecutive missed cuts he wasn't on my mind at all. And he won't be on my mind this week for the Travelers Championship where 'in-form' players are pretty thin on the ground. The BMW International Open looks a better event from that perspective so that's where we'll start.
European Tour - BMW International Open
(Tournaments used: US Open, Nordea Masters, Wales Open, PGA Championship, World Matchplay Championship, Madeira Islands Open, The Players Championship)
Richard Sterne (3)... 18
Paul Lawrie (2)... 17.5
Ross Fisher (2)... 17 (T10 2011, T5 2010)
Sergio Garcia (2)... 13.5 (T5 2011)
Retief Goosen (2)... 12 (T5 2011, T5 2009)
*number in brackets after a player's name is the number of top-10 finishes achieved in last six weeks/tournaments on tour
**information after a player's points relates to wins (W), top-five (T5) and top-10 (T10) finishes in corresponding tournament in previous three years
I wouldn't put anyone off backing any of the five players listed above as all appear to have an outstanding chance from a recent form perspective. A note of warning though; this week's course is a completely new venue for this event so past tournament form should be treated with caution.
For this reason I've put more emphasis on recent form, and with this being the case few come into this event in better recent form than Richard Sterne and Ross Fisher.
Sterne's injury nightmares have been well documented but when he's fit and at the top of his game then he's easily one of the best players on the European Tour, as four victories within the space of two years will testify. He started this season with a sixth place finish in the Africa Open but then completely went off the boil, missing five consecutive cuts prior to bouncing back to form at the BMW PGA Championship three weeks ago.
A sixth place finish at Wentworth was a terrific performance, and the South African followed it up by finishing second in the Wales Open despite an opening round 73, and then another top-10 finish at the Nordea Masters. Sterne is clearly in good heart, and a reproduction of the form he has demonstrated this month will see him go very close this week.
Much the same sentiments apply to Fisher who has bounced back to form in recent weeks after 18 months of relatively poor play by his standards. The Englishman was one of the game's rising stars in 2010 with a Ryder Cup appearance, a win at the Irish Open, and a second place finish at this event amongst his achievements that year. But a new addition to the Fisher family resulted in a loss of form, and it's only been in the last few months that the Fisher of old has returned.
He narrowly missed the Cut at Wentworth despite playing some good golf, and he promptly turned that good play into a sixth place finish at Celtic Manor before finishing runner-up behind Westwood at the Nordea Masters. Like Sterne, a reproduction of his recent form will see him go very close in Germany.
Recommended Bets: Richard Sterne @ 30.0, Ross Fisher @ 18.0
PGA Tour - Travelers Championship
(Tournaments used: US Open, St Jude Classic, The Memorial, Crowne Plaza Invitational, Byron Nelson Championship, The Players Championship)
Zach Johnson (2)... 21.5
Michael Thompson (1)... 14 (T5 2011)
Matt Kuchar (1)... 14
Webb Simpson (1)... 14
Padraig Harrington (1)... 11 (T5 2010)
John Merrick (1)... 11 (T10 2011)
I'm not overly confident about having a good week at the Travelers Championship with leading form player Zach Johnson arriving here on the back of two poor displays. Prominent in the betting Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson have obviously had some high profile victories in recent weeks and they look too short to follow up here, so the selections will be big-price contenders Michael Thompson and John Merrick.
Thompson performed brilliantly in San Francisco last week, albeit on a course that he'd previously performed well on. And the signs are good this week too as Thompson recorded a top-five finish here just last year. Merrick also performed well here in 2011 so the fact that he finished second at the St Jude Classic recently augers well.
Recommended Bets: Michael Thompson @ 70.0, John Merrick @ 95.0
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