Looking to end on a higher note and take something positive into today, so despite not planning to cover the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, I can at least report that Steven Stricker ( see below) leads by five shots, after tearing up the course with a 63, there are only eight players within ten strokes of him and with Stricker ranked number one for Round 3 scoring last year on tour and third in 2009, it is very hard to see him blowing up big time today.
Kevin Na shot the second best score of the day and beat Martin Laird, whom he is paired with today, by six shots, Pinnacle Sports make the Korean born Na 2.12 ( with the tie no bet) to repeat that win over the Scot and that at least was tempting enough to make me take a quick look at the match up. Obviously, quite a lot went right for Na yesterday, it has to if you are going to shoot nine under par, meanwhile Laird lost a ball and also missed a couple of very short putts, he hits the ball a country mile, but is not my favourite golfer and his all round stats over the first two days, especially in the key categories we discussed on Thursday have been poor. Laird was an eyecatching 2nd on Tour for 3rd round scoring last year, but outside the top 100 in the two previous seasons, in this category Na has improved year upon year ( 52-25-18) and is very solid. Because of the nature of the leaderboard and short field, the tournament will have something of a feel of a final day today, especially being played on a sunday, so I also looked at the "in contention" final round stats and this is where Na has a big edge, he has improved his position 100% of the time starting in the final five, Laird is just 33% from the same number of starts. It is hard to go low two days in a row, but at the odds offered I would just about side with Na, but no bet for me.
Elsewhere, In Serie A, the always interesting Atalanta - Milan fixture catches my eye. Hosts remain unbeaten in Bergamo with a 4-4-0 record , in fact they have lost just once at home in over 13 months and that a meaningless fixture when promotion had already been assured last season, they come into this game unbeaten in seven starts and without their six point deduction they would have entered the weekend in 5th place and boast a good record in this fixture, losing just one of four here in the league and three of ten in all competitions. The squad enter the game in reasonably healthy condition and the only real decision is who will replace Daniele Capelli in the heart of the defence, he will miss the rest of the season. Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri will be without the services of the banned Massimo Ambrosini, as well as injured quartet Ignazio Abate, Mathieu Flamini, Mario Yepes and Antonio Cassano. They have spent most of this week in Dubai, where they met PSG, so that might liven them up a little, they were very lacklustre after the Christmas break last season, finding a very late winner at Cagliari, losing entering injury time and conceding four at home to Udinese and drawing with Lecce. That especially applies to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has a reputation of peaking early season and "losing interest" in the second half of the campaign. Without the very important Abate and protection offered by Ambrosini, the visiting backline look vunerable and top Serie A marksman German Denis will be looking to add to his tally. I do not feel that Milan will few a point here as two dropped and with one eye on the Milan derby next week, will be very wary of picking up any more injuries, especially to their backline. I definitely expect Atalanta to score, especially if Antonini starts, as seems likely and take these two to share the spoils. Atalanata + 0.75 ball 1.89 asian line.
Two NFL Wildcard games to discuss. Perhaps the most interesting of all the games this weekend is the Pittsburgh Steelers - Denver Broncos match up. Steelers are the defending AFC champions and with regard to the post season, have been here and done it all many times before, the Broncos stumbled over the finishing line, losing their last three starts and are only here because they are in a very weak division and other teams, especially the Raiders, also failed to get the job done.
Steelers are definitely favourites, but travel West asked to give up 9 points and in what seems sure to be a big defensive battle, with the NFL’s top ranked rushing attack (Denver) facing the league’s number one overall defense, that does seem to be on the big side.
Pittsburgh lost running back Rashard Mendenhall for the season last week and that is a big loss as it will put increased pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his injured ankle, unless replacement Issac Redman can step up and that is in question after he came into the game last week and ran for 92 yards, but also fumbled the ball twice. They will have no option but to give him the ball, just to keep the Broncos honest, but will mainly be throwing to their outstanding receivers, this is a fine balancing act between winning the game and keeping Roethlisberger injury free for the rest of the post season.
Broncos do not throw the ball much at all, they lead the league in rushing yards and will be looking to establish this early and will only take limited risks through the air. Their operate more of a college style offense and whilst qb Tim Tebow has "an arm", it can go anywhere, however, he is mobile and can run the ball, which is not an option at present for his Steelers counterpart. They dare not go behind early by more than a touchdown, playing catch up is not their style and they do not have the personnel to do so. Defensively they will look to get to BR, they have a top ranked crop of linebackers and Dumervil and Miller alone have 21 sacks between them. Hosts have a big advantage with the noisy crowd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High and it is important that the Broncos keep the fans involved, this is all about how the opening quarter plays out IMO, if Denver can keep things tight early and run down the clock, the 9 point advantage will look big, but if they fall a touchdown or more behind and are forced to throw, the turnovers will follow and the Steelers could run up a big number. One to watch, savour and maybe play "in running".
I was very big on ....................