THE BRITISH DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIP
First of all, a look at the teams that are still intact from last years event:
1) MAY THE FORCE BE WITH WHO - Chris Harding & Marc Chapman - the reigning champions having taken the title for the past 2 years. Can they do it again? Probably. Will they? No.
2) WILSON - Oliver Florence & Richard Skeggs. Last years runners up were the surprise package of the event but I can't see them repeating this in 2012. Florence has been 'turned' by the lure of Worm Charming and it remains to be seen if Skeggs can keep himself and the Machine focused long enough to win this weekend.
3) CASUAL FORCE - Sean Homer & Marion Homer. The longest running pair in the Doubles event returning for the fifth year in a row. If a photo hitting the net this week is accurate It would appear that the better half of the pairing has now been given the captains armband. Can Lady Homer take the pair to the elusive crown? It will take more than a degree of luck for this given the Presidents form this year.
4) TEAM SQONKEY - Richard Gottfried & Scott Lancley. Failed to live up to their own hype last year with a poor knockout stage. A no-show and a dismal finish in the recent Matchplay Championship doesn't bode well for the returning Midlands/Kent hybrid. If they get a tough group then will probably be trawling the bottom half of the event for scraps.
5) JIFF-FREE - Seth Thomas & Chris Smith. The name has changed (so long the Green Warriors) and this may well prove enough to see the Cambridgeshire Minigolf club duo make a charge for the title in 2012. Thomas, fresh from his debut at Porto will have a point to prove given recent disappointments and Smith Sr has shown some real form in Matchplay over the last 12 months. Could go all the way.
6) TEAM SPLODGE - Marina Breeden & Adam Breeden. The local pairing. Had a tough debut in 2011 being drawn in the same group as CF and MTFBWW and ended in the bottom half of the drawn for the Knockout stages. No doubt have been hitting the greens of Dorridge since their only other event this year in January so could cause an upset or two if they can make the most of home advantage.
7) THE BOOZE BROTHERS - Brad Shepherd & Chris Jones. Back together again after a less than successful break in 2011. The third married couple in the returning teams, will be tough to beat if Shepherd, a proven Matchplay contender, can keep his game together.
So with 7 returning pairs we have the final 9 'new' partnerships:
8) GEMINI - Steve Sturdy & Ruth Burke. Both played well at the Club Championships in 2011 at Dorridge so could be a decent bet for a couple of wins. But can't see them troubling the top slots.
9) WILLFRED - Will Donnelly & Freddie Blackburn-Shaw. Will either be pushing for a top 5 finish or perhaps more likely will crash and burn in the group stages. If they can manage to unsettle (i.e. annoy) their opponents with their constant chatter then could well cause an upset or two (if only to the sanity of those playing against them).
10) PERFECT FOR SHAW - Alex Pragnell & Alastair Shaw. A great name. Not sure there's much more to say that hasn't already been said. Alastair proved to be a tough matchplay player in the recent 2012 championships so the pairing has that going for them. Alex will need to focus better than he has shown in recent events or this could be a nightmare for both players. However if Alastair takes control of the pairing then they have a chance of taking a scalp or two.
11) YOU'VE BEEN NICKTED - John McIver & Nick Chitty. A late pairing with an even later name (finally appeared on line earlier today). The anticipated return of the ex-UK number 1 hasn't materialised and although it will be disappointing to miss his reaction to the new GRRRRR king , the reality is that the pairing is stronger with the arrival of Chitty. If slow play is not penalised then they could have a chance but the glory days of Planet Hastings are a distant memory so could see this power pair fail to make the top 8.
12) WE'AR THE LADS - John Moore & Dave Donnelly. On paper a strong pairing. Whether they can cut it when the pressure is on is questionable. I think they may do well.
13) WEIR BIN YO FROM - Owen Johnson & Paul Johnson. The Midlands captain has a decent record in matchplay and if Johnson Jr can keep his head when the matches hot up and doesn't have one of his traditional rants at Johnson Sr then they have a chance of not coming last. If it all kicks off during a match then they may as well concede the points straightaway.
14) OXBRIDGE MORONS - Michael Smith & James Rutherford. After a poor showing by both players in last years event (with different partners) this pairing has the gentle whiff of desperation as the current top 2 players in the UK team up to try and banish the painful memories of 2011. I fear that the only thing that will drown out the desperation in these two will be the tears and tantrums as 2012 proves to be yet another nail in the Doubles coffin of Rutherford and Smith. Or they might just win it.
15) THE SNOOZE BROTHERS - Alan Norman & Gareth Holmes. The name is back but with a different line-up for 2012. Norman is a dogged player and if Holmes can cope with the sun and heat then they might do quite well. Their slow play could be their main weapon as the matches drag on in the Midlands sun.
16) REAL ALE MADRID - Jam Trubridge & Rob Dodd. Possibly the best name in the field and with Trubridge they have a proven winner on the doubles circuit (2009 Champion with McIver). Dodd has been MIA on the circuit for a while so it will be a tough ask to see them push into the top half of the event. Their name is ultimately a lot better than they are.
As for who will win? Impossible to call even once the draw is done. Whatever the draw, looking at the pairings above I could safely predict 7 teams who won't win but can't pick a winner overall.
But what's the point in being a predictor who cant predict (you know who you are Sandra Meg). So here we go:
4th - May the Force Be With Who
3rd - Oxbridge Morons
2nd - Booze Brothers
1st - Jiff-Free
And that's your lot for now. Until then, in the words of the new Midlands Captain, Johnson Sr,