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And So It Goes....

Overall: 7-1-0 (0.875)
Basis Function: Daubechies4

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Friday, June 19, 2009

June 19th, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)Well, well, 0-0-0 for my streak today as I had little time to consider any of the matchups. Surprisingly my blog picks still went 6-3-3, so hey maybe I'm onto something here and will be able to put together a week straight of 50%-plus winners. The layout changes have been slow going, especially making animated icons. Eventually those logos in the corner there will be clickable and the corresponding widget will fade into view to be used. So on to some picks.

1) Tiger Woods' First Round Score: 69 or lower vs. 70 or higher - 70 or higher
2) Italy U21 vs. Sweden U21 - Sweden win or draw
3) Who Will Card A Lower 1st Round Score: Rory McIlroy vs. Dustin Johnson - McIlroy win
4) How Many Holes Under Par Will Phil Mickelson Card: 3 or fewer vs. 4 or more - 4 or more
5) Serbia vs. Belarus - 2 goals or fewer
6) LSU vs. Arkansas - 11 runs or more
7) Cleveland Indians @ Chicago Cubs - Cleveland
8) Texas vs. Arizona State - Arizona State
9) Tampa Bay Rays @ New York Mets - Tampa Bay
10) Chicago White Sox @ Cincinnati Reds - Chicago
11) St. Louis Cardinals @ Kansas City Royals - Kansas City
12) Roy Oswalt vs. Kevin Slowey - Slowey allows fewer hits
13) Fernando Beltran Jr. vs. Monty Meza Clay - Meza Clay
14) Oakland Athletics @ San Diego Padres - Oakland
15) Texas Rangers @ San Francisco Giants - San Francisco

1) The first round of the U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park got off to a rocky start as heavy rains inundated the course eventually forcing suspension of play just before 2:00pm EDT. All of the morning groups teed off, but the furthest any of them got was 11 holes, with Tiger Woods' group ending up on the green of #7.

Tiger Woods requests a spot on the course be squeegeed as dictated by the rules.
Woods was at +1 to par with an 8 foot putt for par on the 7th hole when play was suspended. If he were to make the putt when play resumes this morning he would need to shoot at least 2 under par to hit 69 or better on the par 70 course. That may not sound like much, but the Black course at Bethpage is one of the most difficult on the Tour, this year or any other year. For one the course this year measures 7,426 yards with multiple par-4's over 500 yards in length and a monstrous 600 yard par 5 on the back 9. Another difficult aspect of the course are the enormous bunkers bordering both sides of many fairways and greens. Golf Club Atlas has a very nice article expanding on just what it is about the design of Bethpage Black which makes it so difficult.

The course will be plenty wet come morning despite the efforts of tournament organizers and volunteers. On the one hand this will make the greens play very soft, allowing golfers to place their shots closer to the hole without worrying about the ball rolling past and off the green. This benefits most pro golfers, but the drawback to this is that the fairways will also play soft. This means the ball will not bounce and roll after the tee shot, cutting 10-40 yards off each players overall drive at the very least. With the course being so long to begin with this will make the green of a 500 yard par-4 very difficult to reach in regulation, let alone to save par. One thing to keep in mind is that should the conditions on the course be difficult enough tournament officials are within their rights to move players up to a closer tee box:

``Some tees were moved up for the first round in an effort to be fair to the players who were already dealing with adverse conditions. No. 7, one of the U.S. Open-record three 500-plus-yard par 4s at Bethpage Black, was moved up to the penultimate tee box and played 36 yards shorter than the 525 yards on the scorecard."
Even if this allowance is made on some of the longer holes it will still be a difficult proposition to play birdie golf. In 2002 when Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open here at Bethpage he carded a 72 hole -3 to par, and led the field by three strokes. For him to remain at +1 to par by the end of the first round would be a fine accomplishment for Woods and to shoot 2 under par on the remaining 11 holes would be an tremendous feat.

The Swedish Under-21 national team looks to extend their unbeaten streak to five matches.
The trio of Balotelli, Acquafresca, and Giovinco hope to lead Italy to their first win since last October.
2) Italy are in desperate need of points after earning only one in a 0-0 draw against Serbia's Under-21 team. Now they will face host nation Sweden with the requirement of earning all three points from the match if they are to hold their fate in their own hands. Otherwise, the Azzurini will be relying on other teams in their group to lose or draw to keep them in the running to advance to the semifinal stage. Sweden are hosts and so automatically qualified for the tournament. Because they did not have to qualify this will be only their second non-friendly match at this level in two years. Their first was the 5-1 victory over Belarus earlier in the week.

Goal.com carries a preview of the match and note that both sides will be at full strength. They give the impression of Italy being the far more talented team, but given their results over the first half of this year they still have some issues with team chemistry and discipline. The Swedes, on the other hand, appear to be in top form, despite having gone through 70 players in the two years since their last major competition.

Recent Form/Results
Belarus (5:1)Serbia (0:0)
Estonia (2:1)Netherlands (1:1)
Poland (2:1)Austria (2:2)
Spain (0:0)Sweden (1:1)
Finland (0:1)Germany (1:0)
Scores reported in (home:away) format

Italy played a friendly match earlier this year in Trieste against Sweden with the result being a 1-1 draw. Some additions and subtractions have been made to each squad, but for the most part these are the same two sides who met back in February and they know each other very well. The match will pit two star strikers against one another. Sweden's Marcus Berg scored a hat trick against Belarus and is playing terrific football right now. Italy's Mario Balotelli struggled against a tough Serbian defense in their last match but will be looking to make amends. Overall, I think Sweden and Italy are well-matched on paper, and with being in better form at the moment they have a very good chance of winning this match outright. SkyBet has Italy as 5/4 (+125) favorites, with Sweden at 15/8 (+185), and the draw at 9/4 (+225), which would make Sweden winning or drawing a decent favorite at 59.6% odds to 40.4% for Italy to win.

``They are two great strikers, but I think Balotelli has a more individual style, while Berg plays more for the team so I think he fits better in our side." ---Sweden coach Jörgen Lennartsson regarding whether he would exchange Berg for Balotelli

``I don't think there is any rule not allowing me to replace Balotelli during a game. I took him off after 70 minutes as he was not having a great night and he had been booked." ---Italy coach Pierluigi Casiraghi when questioned about subbing for Balotelli against Belarus

4) So after all that about how difficult Bethpage is and how hard it would be to shoot -2 to par with 11 holes one might be wondering how Mickelson could be expected to card four holes under par. Well, it would take a number of holes over par, because he is not going to be carding a 66 or better today at Bethpage. Conditions were rainy last time the USGA held the U.S. Open at Bethpage in 2002. Looking at his scorecard from that tournament Mickelson had one round under par that year, but three rounds with four or more holes under par. Mickelson has a monster drive and so he will be able to take advantage of those wet greens without being bogged down as badly on the wet fairways. It won't be easy for Lefty, but he's been one of the best golfers on the Tour this year.

Belarus played Serbia in qualification for the Euro U21's, a 1-1 home draw and a 3-1 away loss.
Serbia will be without Nemanja Matić while Nemanja Tomić will be limited.
5) Serbia may have injuries to deal with, but Belarus have being dominated by Sweden to answer for. After losing 5-1 and allowing a hat trick by Marcus Berg the Belarussians, and Sergei Kislyak in particular, are desperate to prove they belong in this competition. They made it through the qualifying stage and looked far better than they did against the Swedes, but it will be hard for them to turn things so completely around. Serbia and Belarus played one another twice in the qualifying stage with Serbia claiming three points with a 3-1 victory at home and coming away with one point in a 1-1 draw in Belarus. UEFA provides a few articles on each team and this match which give an idea of the mindset for each squad. Serbia know they need to score goals and come away with three points while Belarus are simply determiend to achieve a positive result from the match. Goal.com provides a preview where they note the absence of Nemanja Matić and Nemanja Tomić for Serbia and predict a 3-1 win for Serbia. Oddsmakers have 3 goals or more favored with SkyBet in particular putting over 2.5 at 8/11 compared to even odds for under 2.5 goals. Looking at the two sides' recent results, however, shows 80% of their matches have come in under. I think Belarus will be determined to avoid another landslide defeat and will limit the scoring. It will be close, but I see a 2-1 win for Serbia or a 1-1 draw.
Recent Form/Results
Sweden (5:1)Italy (0:0)
Moldova (2:2)Romania (1:1)
Finland (1:0)Ukraine (0:0)
Germany (1:1)Cyprus (0:2)
Turkey (2:0)Israel (2:3)
Scores reported as (home:away)

12) If you look at Roy Oswalt's and Kevin Slowey's stats from this season you'll see that Oswalt gives up fewer hits on average, hands down. He has a .274 bat against average and a 1.07 HIP compared to Slowey's .307 bat against average and 1.26 HIP. Both pitchers are right-handed and not surprisingly both do better against right handed batters. Here are the lineups for tonight's game. Both teams have some solid hitters on their side. The difference here is that the very best batters for the Twins are left-handed (Morneau, Mauer, Kubel) whereas Houston's top men are right handed (Lee, Pence, Tejada). I think that could be the deciding factor in this one.

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