So Tiger Woods, unquestionably the best golfer of all time, is back!
Eleven years after he last won a Major (US Open at Torrey Pines); after FIVE back surgeries including spinal fusion; at least two failed come-backs (one in which he couldn’t even pitch the ball on the green from the fringe); and much publicized personal crises; Tiger, aged 43, won the Masters at Augusta last Sunday.
Two years ago, he needed nerve blockers to attend the Champions dinner. Now he wears a fifth green jacket and owns his 15th Major Championship. The great Jack Nicklaus, who holds the record with 18 Majors, quipped “I’m shaking in my boots”.
He should be. This year’s PGA Championship will be played at Bethpage Black, New York, where Tiger won the 2002 US Open. Then, the US Open returns to Pebble Beach (June 13) where he won in 2000. The Open Championship will be played at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland starting on July 18. Tiger has always performed exceptionally in Europe and proved he can adjust his power game to the more strategic requirements of links golf by winning three Opens (two at “The Old Course” at St. Andrews and one at Royal Liverpool).
Already the owner of “The Tiger Slam” (held US Open; The Open; PGA Championship 2000 and the Masters 2001 titles consecutively), it’s more than a possibility that he could become the first golfer to win the Grand Slam in one calendar year. The others must now catch a Tiger, if they can, by the tail or however else.
Tiger revolutionized golfers’ approach to the game with his fitness regime, focus and intensity which dismantled the “Grip it and Rip it” era exemplified by the likes of two-time Major Champion “Big Bad” John Daly. The physiques of young golfers like Rory McIlroy (4 Majors) and Brooks Koepka (3 Majors) illustrate Tiger’s effect on the game.
Pundits wanting to know who is most likely to be Tiger’s successor need only review last Sunday’s back nine starting with the 12th hole where four of the leading contenders teed off into the creek guarding the green. All carded double-bogeys. Only Brooks Koepka rallied after that to threaten and eventually lost by only one shot. He replied with an eagle on 13 and birdie on 15.
Tony Finau also subsequently carded 3 under par (3 birdies) but was too far behind. He is another to watch, especially in Ireland. Open Champion Francesco Molinari followed his double-bogey on the 12th with another at the 15th and faded away.
So, Brooks Koepka should be the one to take over when Tiger finally retires. Tony Finau has an inspiring life story to go with a great future in the game. In the meantime it’s as we were. Tiger makes the impossible seem inevitable.
Last weekend Jamaica’s first 2019 classics were run and it was a clean sweep for trainer Anthony Nunes whose 1,000 Guineas win was particularly impressive from a technical standpoint. He conditioned late foal I Am Di One [Adore the Gold-It is I (Footloose II)] to win a mile classic the hard way (pressed a fast early gallop; shook off determined favourite Lady Blue and kept on determinedly in the final 200m) despite having made her debut only three weeks previously. This was a remarkable training feat.
His charges were first and second in the 2,000 Guineas as Supreme Soul was presented a “changed-up horse”; broke unusually sharply; was never more than 5 lengths off the pace even when left a bit flatfooted 800m out; switched outside, fairly flew up the lane to win decisively. Last time I described him as “more a Derby type” which opinion hasn’t changed. This performance makes him the one to beat come Derby day.
Readers didn’t do too badly in both races as my value bet in the 1,000 Guineas, Casual Drink, was 3rd at the whopping price of 74/1 returning $345 to place while 2,000 Guineas pick Toona Ciliata was 2nd at 7/1 and $116 to place. I warned you not to touch hyped favourites Lady Blue (2nd) and Run Thatcher Run (7th) with a barge pole.
This regular review of local performances is based on REAL times.
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of the effect of track conditions on official times to arrive at “real” or “corrected” times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” a slow track (e.g. -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
Let’s review Guineas weekend.
April 13, 2019 [TV-0.1 per 200m (Round); +2 (Dee Danger) +5 (Exhilarate)]
God Of Love (-9) finally confirmed early promise (Race 9; 3yonw2/ Imported maidens; 1300m; TV-1) beating a high quality field by 4½ lengths in 1:19.2! His CT (1:19.3) is 3/5th second faster than nw3 so he can repeat.
The 2nd Don Almighty’s CT (1:20.2) is 4/5th second faster than nw2. Losses are only lent.
April 14, 2019 [TV-0.7 per 200m (Round); +2 (straight)]
Master Of Hall (-14) has come to hand with a vengeance (Race 5; Overnight Allowance; 1600m; TV-6) winning by five lengths on a common canter in 1:37.0!! His CT (1:38.1) is 1 2/5th seconds faster than the grade above (Open Allowance). He is one to follow.
The 2nd, Saratoga Sight (-9) has quirks (one eye) and needs the rail for guidance but his CT (1:39.1) is 3/5th second faster than Overnight Allowance.
The comparative CTs of the Guineas are 1:40.2 (1,000) and 1:40.0 (2,000). Track Variant corrections make it clear the colts aren’t as far in front of the fillies as it appears and, with I Am Di One open to any amount of improvement, she’s not to be discounted come Derby Day.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
Good Friday sees Lingfield’s polytrack surface hosting the “All Weather Championships”. Let’s have a race by race search for early value.
Championship Apprentice Handicap (0-100; 7f; 1330GMT; 7.30 a.m Jamaica):
The two to concentrate on are #2 Breathless Times and #6 Gallipoli. They were ¾ length 2nd (Gallipoli) and 2 ¼ lengths 5th (Breathless Times) behind smart Keyser Soze (Wolverhampton; Tapeta; 7f; February 20). The former is 3lbs better off and his best synthetic track runs have come on polytrack so is taken to reverse the form.
Marathon (Class 2 Conditions; 1m7f169y; 1400GMT; 8.00a.m Jamaica)
A perfect spot has been found for #1 Amade 6 for 9 on synthetics including hacking up in his March 7 qualifier at Chelmsford. Ryan Moore rides.
Fillies and Mares Championship (Class 2; 7f; 1430GMT; 8.30a.m Jamaica)
Those at the head of the market have questions to answer. #7 Island of Life improved markedly stepped up to 7f last time (Wolverhampton; tapeta) but seems not so good on polytrack while #9 Rasima may find this sharp. The pick is #12 Tiger Eye (NAP) unexposed and progressing with every race.
Sprint Championship (Class 2; 6f; 1505GMT; 9.05a.m Jamaica)
This is a sharp track so a low number draw will be advantageous but #9 Kachy (Banker Bet) has four wins and a second from 5 starts on synthetics culminating with a smart win (from a wide draw) over Gorgeous Noora (runs in the Fillies/mares race) at course and distance on February 2 in track record time. Who beats him, wins!
3year-old Championships (Class 2; 6f; 1540GMT; 9.40a.m Jamaica)
Again, a low number draw is best but that’s unknown before Thursday. #3 Deep Intrigue needs to dominate his races so the two to concentrate on are #1 Charming Kid and French raider #7 Pizzicato. The former went missing after running a creditable 2¼ lengths 3rd to subsequent Dewhurst 2nd Advertise at Newmarket (July 12) but resumed his progress last time at Dundalk (very similar course) with a cozy success. He’s clearly above average but could fall victim to the latter who won a listed race (Chantilly) on last and has two wins and a second from three polytrack starts.
Middle Distance Championships (Class2; 10f; 1615GMT; 10.15a.m Jamaica)
It’s impossible to see beyond #8 Wissahickon, 6 for 7 on synthetics (one 2nd) who swerved the Dubai World Cup for this.
Mile Championship (Class 2 Conditions; 8f1y; 1645GMT; 10.45a.m Ja Time)
This is the feature. #13 Oh This Is Us returns to his favourite course and distance after flopping behind #1 Above the Rest over 7f at Wolverhampton. He’s expected to bounce back at the expense of #10 Keyser Soze (probably best at 7f) and #11 Matterhorn (front runner who needs to dominate)
As usual, we close with a notebook horse:
Twist ‘N’ Shake [3yo bf Kingman-Hippy Hippy Shake (Danehill Dancer)] changed stables since running green on debut (Newmarket; August) and progressed nicely on re-appearance (April 16; Newmarket maiden; one mile; good to firm) to give favourite Maqsad a fright finishing a short head second. She’s a filly with stakes potential.