Golf Threeballs, Twoballs & Groups

Threeballs, Twoballs & Groups

Since the abolition of betting tax, bookmakers have taken every liberty possible with their percentages. Threeballs, once priced up to 109 per cent, are up to 112 with some firms and the groups are becoming unplayable. At 100-30 all five runners, that's now a 15 per cent profit margin; four-man groups at 5-2 each of four represents a 14 per cent edge.

So you have to be pretty sure of your ground before taking the enemy on. Betfair beats them to a pulp on these markets. Punters love threeballs but, apart from that Oxford man who picked up almost £815,000 for ten winners at Doral, I've never found anyone who can make them pay.

I certainly would never claim to be in front. As 18-hole short-haul events, they regularly defy form and logic.

Why? It may be because the players are not chiefly competing against each other but against the card of the course. In Thursday and Friday threeballs, the main aim is to jockey for position and make the cut for the weekend.

BOTTLERS, CHOKERS AND GOOD GUYS The easiest thing for a punter to say when his man has lost from a winning position is: "He's a bottler." But everyone bottles tournaments to a greater or lesser degree.

No one would dare call Tiger Woods a choker but what would you call the way he played the last hole in Dubai in 2001 after four days of head-to-head golf with Thomas Bjorn?

The pair were dead level standing on the last green and Tiger slashed at the drive, carving the ball into trees.

Then he put his third shot into the stream guarding the green, and handed the title to Bjorn. If that wasn't bottling it, I don't know what is.

And when Vijay Singh finishes bogey, double-bogey as he did in one bread-and-butter tournament, they don't call him a choker either. Instead, they say he was gambling trying to make up ground.

Yet if that sort of finish is produced by Scott Verplank, Jay Haas, Fred Funk, Woody Austin, Angel Cabrera, Stewart Cink, Steve Flesch, Padraig Harrington or any of the dozens of serial under-achievers, they get labelled bottlers.

Why, I even recall former Racing Post sports editor Derek McGovern calling Nick Faldo and Ernie Els bottlers in print. And Faldo, in his pomp, used to have the best nerve in golf. But as Harrington says, the more times you get into contention, the more times you are going to lose tournaments, and it may not even be your fault. Sometimes, others simply outplay you.

Players who have gone many years without winning find it particularly difficult. You only had to watch Jay Haas in his first Champions Tour Major, the Senior PGA Championship, in mid-2004.

On his main-tour form he should have waltzed it. But because he had not won for 11 years, all the doubts crept in at the end, and Hale Irwin, a man used to that winning feeling as the most successful over-50s golfer of all time, worried him out of it.

Through experience, you will discover who are the golfers you can back with confidence to win tournaments and who are the ones you can only back in match bets or on finishing positions.

But as I said before, absolutely anyone can win on either tour these days, although many can only do so with a bit of help from their rivals. Just ask Ben Curtis, probably the poorest Open champion of modern times.