Tommy Fleetwood managed to land a portion of the place returns but ultimately it was a poor week. Rafa Cabrera-Bello played well in Malaysia but could only finish 10th as he struggled to keep pace with the low scoring. The top 20 bets all showed some promise over the first few days but in the end fell well short. It was the 5th week in a row with returns however so hopefully another win is on its way soon.
Total 2017 pts advised = 475pts
Total 2017 pts returned = 381.21
The CJ Cup is new to the PGA Tour and it marks the first ever PGA Tour event to be held in Korea. It is hoped that this can really start the mass globalisation of the PGA Tour as they finally seem keen to put their brand and marketability to good use.
The downside for punters is that we have a new course to analyse and one that has only ever seen four LPGA Tour events from 2002-2005. That makes it somewhat of a guessing game so we have to use our imagination a little this week while also keeping stakes low.
The course is Nine Bridges on Jeju Island off the south coast of Korea. Visually it reminds me a little bit of Lake Malaren in Shangai while I noticed Timothy Frank stating on Twitter how it looked a lot like Kapalua which I can also see. The wide fairways meander through trees and water but they also feature several elevation changes both off the tee and on approach shots to greens. However theses appear to be very clear lines towards greens, promoting good visibility. Similar to Jack Nicklaus’ design philosophy which limited blind approaches due to the guesswork and lack of skill that could be involved. The Golf Plan design team behind the course also designed the similarly named Haesley Nine Bridges and also the Sentosa GC which hosts the Singapore Open.
Patrick Reed has had a fairly mixed year often showing some very good signs but more often that not struggling to put all parts of his game together for 4 rounds in any given week. Yet he still rounded off his summer with a runner-up finish to Justin Thomas at the US PGA, a result that was some way his best in a major having never previously recorded a top 10. Reed’s form was simmering a little before the break and he will be more determined than some of the other big names having not had the best of years.
There are a couple of other factors in play here with Reed, firstly the appearance of Nine Bridges as similar to some Jack Nicklaus courses. Reed has a brilliant record on Nicklaus designs having made a name for himself in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. He also has runner-up finishes at Lake Malaren and Sherwood CC, an 8th at Muirfield Village and a 16th on his only visit to Crans. His win at the Humana Challenge also featured a 63 around Nickalus’s PGA West course. Reed often goes well on courses that he hasn’t seen before with three of his five PGA Tour wins having been as a course debutant. Reed is also a winner and runner-up around Kapalua in Hawaii which hosts the Tournament of Champions.
While some PGA Tour players don’t really like traveling outside the US, Reed has embraced it from the word go having tried his best to maintain his European Tour card over the last few years. He fell short of this due to the tough schedule which that requires but he is comfortable in these surroundings and I’d expect him to take to this course.
Adam Scott has won around the Sentosa course three times in his career so despite his indifferent 2017 season I think he looks a decent price at 35/1 here. Lets not forget that is a price that more than takes into account his form as a peak Scott would be on offer at a similar price to the front three in this market at around 12/1. Having won several times in Asia and on a similar course I’m hoping the few weeks off might have revitalised him and a new course looks the perfect opportunity for him to show off his tee-to-green prowess.
Si-Woo Kim opened at 125/1 in places and that price is still holding surprisingly. I’m not even going to explain this in any great detail. The Players Champion playing in the first PGA Tour event in his homeland of South Korea. When will he start getting the respect he deserves? It just looks like an auto-bet in a 78 man field with limited depth despite his missed cut last week. In fact it’s possibly the best piece of value I’ve seen in some time. I know he played poorly last week but we have seen already in his short career how quickly his game can turn around and a return home should do just that. Cue a 63rd place finish but a value one nevertheless!
His compatriot Song Young-han is a former winner and runner-up at the Sentosa Golf Club. That win of course was at the expense of Jordan Spieth in 2016 so he is clearly a player of some talent. While he hasn’t played in too many fields of this depth he is playing some consistent golf at the moment in Asia and he has five top 10s from his last 6 starts. He should be comfortable on the course and looks a decent price.
We stay in Europe for the final regular event of the 2017 season and what a venue awaits. Valderrama has only been around since 1980 yet it is already one of the more storied courses in Continental Europe. It famously hosted the 1997 Ryder Cup in which Seve led a European team to a famous victory. It has hosted some regular events since, namely the Volvo Masters from 2002-2008, this very tournament in 2010 and 2011 and it hosted the Open de Espana last year. Most of that is quite dated but is still worthy of consideration given the unique charms of the course.
Players will have to readjust their approach this week after two birdie fests in Scotland and Italy. Valderrama is very much the opposite with the winning score of the last 10 events averaging -5 however Andrew Johnston last year won with a +1 total.
The course was designed in 1980 by Robert Trent Jones Snr and it is very much in keeping with his style of course. His mantle was to make a course where you could score a “difficult par but an easy bogey” and therefore great strategy is required around his courses. Valderrama is very much a shot makers course where concentration will be key throughout all 72 holes. It isn’t a long course either coming in just under 7000 yards and nobody will be overpowering it this week.
The fairways are tree-lined, undulating and narrow while the greens are well protected with innovative bunkering and some water in play. They are also very small and well contoured so there will be plenty greens missed by everyone in the field. The last 5 winners around Valderrama ranked highly in most of the main stats so a good all round game is required to win here but above all accuracy and a patient game will be advantageous while excellent scrambling skills will be required to keep bogeys off the card.
Form across RTJ courses tends to stack up well as most of them are quite difficult and reward accuracy and shot-making. In Europe he has designed or redesigned Golf Du Palais Royal and Royal Golf Da Re Salaam (both hosted the Trophee Hassan) and Royal Park I Roveri (hosted Italian Open 2009-2012) while he is responsible for many more in the US. Most notable for European Tour purposes are Firestone, his Augusta redesign and Hazeltine.
The chances of Garcia and Rahm are obvious here but last week both Tours showed us the perils involved with backing short prices. Rahm, Thomas and Molinari all looked too short and not one of them even returned full place money. Both can be dismissed as a betting proposition here.
Shane Lowry has been striking the ball very well again lately but hasn’t managed to get the putts to drop. Even last week when missing the cut he still hit 75% of the greens but given the number of putts being holed his rounds of 69 and 71 weren’t enough to make the weekend. He looks worthy of a bet here due to his strong form on tough, Robert Trent Jones layouts. While he has a decent record here at Valderrama of 4th and 18th he is a winner around Firestone and he really should have won the US Open at Oakmont in 2016 after losing a 4 shot final round lead.
Lowry should relish this difficult shot-makers test and he is a far better player now than when visiting previously. He has been a little wild off the tee with driver lately but in truth he can use an iron for position on plenty of the holes this week. It is hard to get excited about his price but I think his skill set is so suited to Valderrama that I have to back him in what isn’t the deepest of fields.
My other pick is another fairly obvious one in course specialist Soren Kjeldsen. I did consider going for some of the juicier each way prices but so many of the players I had marked down for this aren’t playing. The only negative with Kjeldsen is his lack of competitive golf since coming back from injury. But I don’t see that as too much of problem for the veteran around one of his favourite courses. Very few players plot their way around difficult courses as easily as the Dane appears to and he reminded us of his grinding ability two years ago at Royal County Down when winning the Irish Open in tough conditions. He has also recorded his two best major finishes on courses with RTJ links as he was 7th at Augusta in 2016 and 6th at Hazeltine in 2009 at the US PGA while he also has a 12th at Firestone to his name. Again I don’t think his price is particularly fancy but I think having him and Lowry onside should give us a very strong hand over the weekend when things get tough.
The two shorter prices make speculation down the field a little trickier but the majority of players that I liked have decided not to play. The only one that I like now is Johan Carlsson, whose stats don’t quite tally up with his finish of 56th last week. He ranked 15th for GIR but amazingly the often erratic Swede was 2nd for driving accuracy on the tight course. It was an ice-cold putter that did for him in Italy but that isn’t often the case with Carlsson and it shouldn’t matter too much here if his long game retains that level of accuracy. Only Rahm, Drysdale and Wallace recorded less than his 4 bogeys for the week. Carlsson was 14th at Valderrama last year on his first appearance at the course and I think he can out play his odds of 150/1 this week. I will also have a top 20 bet on him here.
I tipped Alejandro Canizares at Valderrama last year due to the fact it’s his home course but he could only finish 11th. He has had a poor 2017 but played well again last week and he was probably the only other one close to being included but I think a similar finish could be on the cards for him without threatening to win.
Summary of bets
Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 28/1
Adam Scott – 1pt ew @ 35/1
Si-Woo Kim – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1
Song Young-han – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1
Shane Lowry – 2pt ew @ 16/1
Soren Kjeldsen – 1.5pt ew @ 18/1
Johan Carlsson – 0.25pt ew @ 150/1 and 1.5pt Top 20 @ 5/1
Weekly pts advised = 15pts
Total 2017 pts asvised = 490pts