Valspar Championship and Tenerife Open – Bets

A bit of a washout last week as all the players in Gran Canaria struggled to go low enough and the course was too easy for the wind to become a big enough factor over the weekend. Rose and Stenson just played one average round at the wrong time on moving day and that made it very difficult for them to contend on the Sunday.


Valspar

Just a couple of quick bets here. I was impressed with how both Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel played last week as they lost in a play-off to Cam Smith and Marc Leishman. It wasn’t just visually either as Louis was 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green while Charl was 5th. I think the way in which they lost will spur them on and they should both be full of confidence at a course they have enjoyed before. Schwartzel is a former winner here in 2016 while Louis was runner-up in 2019. It’s always been a tee-to green test at the Copperhead course so poorer putters normally do just fine. However Oosty’s putting has actually improved out of sight this year as he ranks 3rd on Tour. Sadly none of this has been missed by the bookmakers but saying someone like Louis is too short for never having won in the US is very different to other non-winners. Oosthuizen is a major winner and 14 time winner around the world and I wouldn’t worry at all about him getting over the line in this event, even after that wayward play-off drive. He is all class and looks a great each way price in this sort of field at 30/1 to “rise up” again.

With Schwartzel’s form having been considerably poorer the last few years his price is a lot bigger at 100/1 and he looks an equally good bet with William Hill’s 8 places.


Tenerife Open

With a similar assignment to last week in Gran Canaria I thought that leaderboard was as good a starting place as any and it threw up Marcel Schneider who was 8th last week. To be honest he isn’t someone I know a great deal about but I like the fact he also leads the Tour for Par 3 scoring as there are six of the short holes at the Adeje course being used this week. He also gained strokes in every area of the game last week and we know he can play in the wind and go low as he shot 66-65-65 from Friday onwards. Looks an interesting play at 125/1

I’ll also have a small bet on Ashun Wu who was 21st last week in Gran Canaria after a 61 on Saturday. It was his 4th top 35 in a row and he is a winner at the Diamond Club where the last winner at this Tenerife course Kenneth Ferrie also won. This course is considerably easier but given Ferrie is a bit of a left field player I thought it was worth having an interest on 3 time winner Wu who looks to be simmering nicely.


Summary of bets

Valspar

Louis Oosthuizen – 1pt ew @ 30/1

Charl Schwartzel – 1pt ew @ 100/1 (both 1/5 odds 8 places WH)

Tenerife

Marcel Schneider – 0.75pts ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Ashun Wu – 0.5pts ew @ 90/1 (1/5 odds 7 places general)

Weekly points advised = 6.5

Gran Canaria Lopesan Open

A week off last week so there was no Masters review. It was a decent enough week with Spieth, Rahm and Harman FRL almost recouping all of the stakes. If Ryan Palmer hadn’t managed to take a 6 at both the closing par 3s then it could have been a lot better! He went from hovering around the places down to 34th to miss out on the top 30 which had looked fairly nailed on most of the weekend.

Despite Spieth and Rahm’s short prices they justified their selections. Both of them have serious records at the course as it’s not an easy place to return to each year and finish inside the top 10. It’s surely just a matter of time before Spieth is wearing another green jacket while Rahm could well be a major champion before we get back to Augusta next year.

2021 results to follow


Gran Canaria Lopesan Open

I wanted to get something posted for this event as I went on holiday to Gran Canaria some years ago and spent a fair bit of time down around the Maspalomas/Meloneras area where the course is this week. Where I live in the north of Scotland I’m used to a fairly constant wind even on an otherwise very sunny day. This was like being back home except we also had temperatures around 30c rather than 13c! There was very little let up and I’m expecting the wind to be the most important factor at a resort course that looks set to play as short as 6700 yards. The fairways look typically wide for a resort course and the rough appears minimal. A lot of the holes run through trees rather than the exposed coast line but even then they don’t look to be too tight and I imagine this will play as a 2nd shot course where giving yourself as many birdie putts as possible will be crucial. So I’ve gone for proven wind players this week first and foremost as everything else should be quite straight-forward.

My first bet is Chris Wood as he was already on the radar having finished 1st for approaches last week in Austria (he gained 11.990 strokes, his best figure ever). Wood has struggled with back and wrist injuries and loss of form over the last few years so his 21st place finish in Austria was his best finish since 2018. He didn’t drive the ball well at all but most players in the field could probably leave the driver in the bag here on the majority of the holes if they need to, especially if their iron game is working as well as Wood’s. He first announced himself in the 2008 Open at Royal Birkdale when contending as an Amateur before finishing T3. He has always been a strong wind player and at his best was a very good putter. He is also proven playing on windy tree-lined courses where distance control is difficult with a swirling wind as he has won around Wentworth. It’s a lot to ask of him having not contended for a long time but he is a 3-time European Tour winner and I don’t think he could ask for a better course to be playing this week after his best result in 3 years. He is as big as 150/1 in places but I’d rather the 7 places so I’m taking Betfair’s 125/1.

Matthew Southgate is one of the best horses for courses types as soon as you get to a windy or links style course and I think he should enjoy this layout. He can be fairly inconsistent right through the bag but as soon as there is a sea breeze his golf tends to improve. If it turns into a massive birdie fest he may get left behind but he does putt better on grainy surfaces and he looks a decent each way price in this sort of field at 125/1.

Soren Kjeldsen can still be a huge threat on short, coastal resort courses like this where his short hitting isn’t too much of a disadvantage. He is a 4-time winner on Tour with two of those coming in Britain and two in Spain so this windy course should very much suit him. His wedge game and short game can still live with the best on the European Tour and he looks to have been dismissed too easily at 150/1 on a course that will play to his strengths.

With three speculative efforts I wanted to finish with a more solid pick in case everything goes wrong with the three above. So I’ve sided with Andy Sullivan who was one of the first names down on my short list. He opened at 25/1 and has been cut to 20/1 but to be honest he should really be a lot closer still to Rozner at 14/1. Sullivan handles wind well and has always had a love of low scoring easy courses as was shown by his win last August at Hanbury Manor when he won on -27. His previous win was at the exposed, coastal layout in Portugal, again on a low scoring -23. I’ll have a bit of a saver on him with 1pt ew @ 20/1 and 7 places.


Zurich Classic

I managed to pick the winning team here last time this was held in 2019 so I thought I’d have a couple of stabs again this week even if it can be a difficult betting event generally. It was Rahm and Palmer that obliged two years ago and they rightly head up the market again here at 9/1. I was tempted as Palmer is playing some of the best golf of his career, no doubt buoyed on by that win alongside his friend. But the nature of the event makes it difficult to think about taking single figure prices even if we do only have 88 runners compared to the norm which is around 132-156.

With Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson both resurgent at the Masters I thought they were interesting here at 33/1. They have played in this twice before with limited success but they were a serious force in the Ryder Cup for a long time and I can’t resist a small play on them just in case both happened to have found something at Augusta and bring that confidence to TPC Louisiana.

My 2nd and final bet is the team of Cameron Percy and Greg Chalmers largely just because they look massively over priced at 350/1 with Skybet. Percy has been some really solid golf this year with his approach game in particular in fine order. Chalmers is even older than Percy at 47 but he has always been one of the best putters around so they should compliment each other nicely and they have done well here before finishing 10th in 2018. Percy was also 11th in 2017 with Grayson Murray while Chalmers has two solo top 10s at the course and they just look like a nice value play in a relaxed tournament where two older heads could enjoy themselves.

Summary of bets

Gran Canaria

Chris Wood – 0.75pts ew @ 125/1

Matthew Southgate – 0.75pts ew @ 125/1

Soren Kjeldsen – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1

Andy Sullivan – 1pt ew @ 20/1 (all 1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Zurich Classic

Justin Rose + Henrik Stenson – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Cameron Percy + Greg Chalmers – 0.5pts ew @ 350/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Skybet)

Weekly points advised = 9pts

The Masters 2021 – Some bets

I was hoping to be raring to go for this year’s Masters preview after a week off but even with the excitement of Spieth winning and the first major of the season I struggled to get too much enthusiasm for a preview. I think Burns and Westwood getting beaten seems to have properly knocked the stuffing out of me with regards the blog. Although with my major record so far on the blog nothing short of piss poor, it’s maybe no bad thing as I’ve tried to re-evaluate my major process this week. Easier said than done though. Anyway enough of the negativity, Spieth is a winner again and it’s Masters and Grand National week!!

2021 pts advised = 122

2021 pts returned = 73.98


The Masters

Ah the Masters….yada yada yada. There are a host of brilliant previews kicking around and I’ll never top my first 2016 preview so rather than regurgitate that I’ll just stick the link here for anyone who wants that sort of thing and then focus on the bets.

The Masters – Betting Preview | Golf Greek (wordpress.com)

I will just give a brief summary though of what is required – generally a long driving game (ideally able to shape ball right to left), a high and accurate iron game to hold the fastest greens they play on each year. A sharp short game and confident lag and short putting when things heat up over the weekend. Taking care of the par 5s is always important but not quite as important as not making a mess of the long and difficult par 4s! A par on an easy par 5 isn’t the end of the world but an untimely double bogey on a tricky par 4 can signal the end of someone’s tournament over the weekend. Experience of the course is also crucial as no debutant has won since 1979 while current form seems to be a lot more vital than it used to be as the quality of the professional game is as deep as it has ever been so it’s a hard place to just pitch up and find your form.

I started out my Masters research this year determined to do two things; firstly to attempt to revise my strategy as the majors haven’t been going too well lately on the blog despite plenty of players contending. Secondly, to try not to back the same players that I normally do in the US majors. Sadly it looks like I’ve failed on both counts so I’d forgive anyone stopping reading now as regular readers can probably guess where I’m going. The problem with Jon Rahm is that he keeps on returning the place money and I also couldn’t bare to miss out on him winning the Masters, even at his price this week. He has placed in 5 of his last 9 US majors and more importantly his last 3 Masters. He simply has everything required to win here and the only slight concerns are the new clubs and now a new baby that arrived on Sunday. I don’t have a strong opinion on “nappy factor” but what I don’t like is the immediately cynical viewpoint on the matter. Any edge can be crucial in a sport like golf however I’d be worried it might have come a bit too close to the event. However he seems the sort of person that will have received a bit of a perspective from such a huge life event and if he can free wheel even in the slightest over the weekend off the back of it then that could be enough to get him over the line. Clearly just watching Rahm you can tell what a great fit he is for Augusta and that would be enough for many traditional golf punters but I also love the fact that he sits 3rd in strokes gained off the tee (also 3rd in total driving) and 6th in GIR. It’s a frightening combo for Augusta and to just highlight that further, Bryson and McIlroy who sit ahead of him in SG:OTT are only 65th and 105th in GIR respectively. Rahm also tends to putt a little better on faster greens or if not better then he appears to give up less of an advantage as he is more comfortable lagging putts on quick greens. This was never more evident than his eagle putt to win at Torrey Pines in 2017 and again at Olympia Fields last year when his 66ft birdie defeated DJ at the BMW. He is also a good enough chipper to win here even if that isn’t regularly borne out in the stats and again that is something that improves on quicker surfaces where he can pick a spot and not worry so much about pace. Ultimately though with Rahm I just expect that major win to come very soon and I’ve followed him for so long now I have to continue at least until I get close to the cliff edge.

Although I’ll be honest the slight lingering clubs concern and the close proximity of his baby being born make me want a back up from the head of the market and I cannot leave Jordan Spieth unbacked here, even at what might appear a restrictive price on first look. Like most of the golf betting world I wish i had backed him at some point over the last 6 weeks when it started to become clear that the bulk of his game was somewhere close to its best. That could have brought about a nice value ticket at anywhere up to the maximum of 85.0 that he traded on Betfair. But just because we missed out on bigger prices that doesn’t mean he is a bad price to win here at 14.0 having shown us that he is firmly “back” with his Texas Open win at the weekend. As the most diligent of value hunters will repeatedly tell you the only thing that makes a bet value is if you think it has a better chance than the available odds imply and with Spieth this week that is definitely the case for me now that all is well. Even if we include the last two years where his game has been in the doldrums he has placed in 4 of his 7 Masters events. That works out as 1.75 for a place or a top 10 we’ll say. Backing him with any of the bookmakers offering 10 places you are getting around 3.0 to 3.2 for a top 10 whereas the Betfair price is fluctuating between 2.46 and 2.70. But if you forgive him the last two events then he has been in the top 11 on all 5 starts here! He is also a winner that could easily have 2 green jackets and possibly 4 without being that unrealistic. But purely on that one win his Augusta figures are 1 win from 7 tries which would equate to 6/1. While that’s maybe being a little bit too cute I definitely expect him to finish his career with at least 3 Masters from maybe 24 realistic appearances which would be 7/1. I firmly believe that he wins in this situation more than 1 in 13 times so I still think Betfair’s 14.0 is a value bet. He simply loves it here and if he can drive it straight enough to win at TPC San Antonio then he can definitely drive it straight enough around the forgiving Augusta fairways. We have an in-form Masters winner returning to his favourite course off the back of a win in his home state and the course is set up firm and fast just as he used to enjoy at his peak. Given the likelihood of someone from the head of the market winning this I’m more than happy to have two picks from that range.

Which I guess means I have tweaked something this week as I’m going to have sizeable win and place bets on both Spieth and Rahm, with a view to getting their win stake back if they finish inside the top 10. I’ll be backing them both on Betfair so that’s what I’ll advise in the summary.

Despite firmly expecting this to be won by someone towards the head of the market there are three outsiders who I quite like the look of this week with Skybet’s excellent 11 places on offer. Ryan Palmer has been playing some of his best golf over the last couple of years and I think it could be telling that he hasn’t actually teed it up at Augusta since 2015. His major record in general isn’t great but he has made 3 of his 5 cuts here returning two top 40s and a best of 10th back in 2011. Of all the majors you’d probably say that the Masters suits him best and he is sneakily ranked number 27 in the world having spent most of the last year inside the top 50. There are no signs of the 44 year old letting up and we know that age isn’t generally too much of a barrier at Augusta, especially if you’re still ranking 46th in driving distance on Tour. Some of his other stats this year are also a big standout as he sits 8th in par 4 scoring, 16th in GIR, 5th in approaches from over 200 yards and 23rd in scrambling. The powerful Texan has always made light of the par 5s but this improvement on the par 4s is probably what has seen the big world ranking rise over the last year and it makes him very interesting here even if it would be a massive surprise if he properly contended or even won. The hope is that he can perhaps stay on the fringes of the leaderboard and maybe backdoor a T7th with the pressure off on Sunday. I’ll also add a safer top 30 bet at 2/1.

Victor Perez can boast stronger recent form than the large majority of this field and that makes him look like value in a number of markets. Perez just has one European Tour win to his name so far but it did come at St. Andrews in the Alfred Dunhill while his 2nd best finish was runner-up at Wentworth. For some reason there has always been a strong course correlation with these two courses and Augusta. This is the case through a variety of different types of players but the list of those who have won or played well at all three is a long one. Most recently Zach Johnson won at St Andrews and Augusta while Willett won the BMW PGA at Wentworth in 2019 four years after his Augusta triumph. Cabrera, Langer, Woosnam, Lyle and Olazabal have all won at both Wentworth and Augusta. Westwood and Howell have both won at Wentworth and St Andrews while Seve and Faldo have won at all three courses. Now it could seem to be fairly tenous and nothing more than being a case of all three generally producing top class winners but all require a high number of greens to be hit for a start and strong lag putting is also key at all three. But even the class angle in itself is perhaps a nod to Perez’s ability and that together with his 9th at the Players and 4th at the WGC Match Play tell me that he might be one to watch at this year’s majors. His long and accurate tee to green game looks perfect for championship courses particularly at the moment as he ranked 4th in both total driving and ball striking at the Players. He is also a decent putter these days having gained strokes on the green in 6 of his 7 starts this year and he tends to putt well on fast greens which is a bonus. His one weakness would be his chipping but at the WGC Match Play his short game was in good order. He finished 46th on his debut here in November but I’d expect him to prefer a firmer April Augusta and given he is now the 29th ranked player in the world there is a definite argument to be made for him being a shade of value at 100/1 with 11 places (the 300+ on Exchange also looks great if a little fanciful). I’ll also have a top 20 bet at a juicy 4/1.

I backed Sebastian Munoz in November here and he contended a lot of the way before sliding down the leaderboard on Sunday. I thought a soft Augusta would really suit his long game but having had four rounds at the course now his normally solid short game can help him go well again on a firmer April set-up. He has been firmly on my radar since November so it was nice to see him in and around the leaderboard at the weekend in Texas. Every area of his game was in good order and he looks primed for his second Augusta visit. I’ll also have a top bet at 7/2.

Finally I can’t let Augusta specialist Matt Kuchar go unbacked now he has found some form. His record here is excellent and if he hit the ball 15 yards further he may well own a green jacket by now. For some reason I can picture him in a green jacket more than any other player yet to win one, to the point that I feel like I’ve already seen a photo with him wearing one! But I can’t advise that anyone back him to win this although I’d be surprised if he didn’t put 4 solid rounds together given all 4 of his Augusta top 10s have come in difficult conditions when a single figure under par total won. So I’ll have a confident 3pts on a top 30 finish, something that has happened in 9 of the last 11 Masters.

The last two players off my list were Patrick Cantlay and Joaquin Niemann. Cantlay’s chance is an obvious one but such is his quality on long championship courses the bookmakers haven’t missed him and I would struggle to make an argument for 18/1 being a good price about someone with just two top 10s in 13 professional majors. I really think Niemann should enjoy Augusta but I just don’t like his price either considering his only two rounds here were 76 and 77 in 2018. He has vastly improved since and his controlled long game should be ideal but at 45/1 he is priced up like we know he can play Augusta while sadly that’s not the case yet. I’ll be watching him closely though and maybe looking to jump onboard on the Exchange where he is already tempting at 75.0. If Cantlay happens to drift to 28.0 on the Exchange I think I’ll be having a cover bet at the very least.

I’ve had 4 each way bets in the first round leader market – Brian Harman, Lee Westwood, Jason Kokrak and Scottie Scheffler. They have a good mix of tee times which I think could be wise this year despite the recent trend of later tee times oming out on top on Day 1.

Brian Harman is playing very well at the moment and is 8th in round 1 scoring over the last 3 months. In that time he has had a 68, two 67s and a 66 across just 6 stroke play events while he shot 8 under in the first round of the WGC Match Play. Having missed the last two Masters I think this Georgia native could fly out of the blocks again and looks a fair price at 66/1 in the 9am slot.

Lee Westwood is also in fine form and 5 of his last 7 opening rounds have been in the 60s. He has also shot his lowest round on Day 1 in 6 of his last 11 Masters and with his confidence as high as it’s been in sometime he can also be expected to make a fast start from a sociable 10:30am tee time.

Jason Kokrak has only played here once and missed the cut but he opened with a 71 and his powerful, high ball flight should really suit Augusta. His short game will be less suited but he has improved a huge amount on the greens this year so he looks capable of one low round even if he’s unlikely to put 4 good rounds together. Sitting 6th in round 1 scoring over the last 3 months there is a good chance that low round is his first round.

Finally another powerhouse Scottie Scheffler. His long game numbers have been off the chart lately and he actually leads the total driving stats which is amazing for someone who hits the ball so far. His approach play was poor last week in Texas but prior to that it had been excellent so he was maybe just trying something getting ready for the Masters. Not the biggest price but as long as the firm course doesn’t spook him he should continue where he left off in November after a 19th place finish on debut. Sits 10th in round 1 scoring so again he looks like he should start well.

Summary of bets

Jordan Spieth – 4pts win @ 14 and 2.5pts Top 10 @ 2.60 both on Betfair Exchange

Jon Rahm – 4pts win @ 14 and 3pts Top 10 @ 2.36 both on Betfair Exchange

Ryan Palmer – 0.5pts ew @ 125/1 and 2pts Top 30 @ 2/1

Victor Perez – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 4/1

Sebastian Munoz – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/2 all each way bets are Skybet and place markets are Betfair Sportsbook

Matt Kuchar – 3pts Top 30 @ 11/10

1st round leader (all 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Brian Harman – 0.5pts ew @ 66/1

Lee Westwood – 0.5pts ew @ 33/1

Jason Kokrak – 0.25pts ew @ 70/1

Scottie Scheffler – 0.25pts ew @ 45/1

Weekly points advised = 28pts

WGC Match Play 2021 – Some bets

Sorry, limited time with a Wednesday start so will get the results all updated ahead of next week. Just a very brief write up of the bets this week.


WGC Match Play

I won’t go into too much detail here as this is an annual event and they have been at Austin Country Club now since 2016 so everyone has a fair idea what is required. It’s a Pete Dye design that would sit towards the easier courses of his. Birdies are available on most holes so it’s a course that sets up well for aggressive match play. But as ever steady fairways and greens can be difficult to beat in this format so both types of players can go well and have done here. Ultimately I always look for proven match play exponents who enjoy Pete Dye layouts. Despite the difference in lengths there is a fairly strong correlation with Dye’s Whistling Straits and that is perhaps due to both courses being relatively forgiving off the tee by Dye’s standards yet altogether more testing on approaches and scrambling.

This year I struggled to decide whether I wanted to stick with each way betting as the group format is basically a crap shoot and you are really picking your players on their ability to go on and win the event if they make it through their group. Therefore I’m only going each way on two golfers with favourable groups and then win only on 4 more golfers to varying stakes as shown in the summary. Hopefully we can get a few into the later rounds and then look at laying stakes or perhaps backing some other players to tie in a profit. If we are lucky enough to be in that position come the weekend then I will tweet out any advice.

First up is my favourite play this week and that’s Paul Casey who I’m actually going to back each way as I really like his draw. Webb should be tough but he doesn’t have a fantastic record around the course while Casey has been solid here winning 7 and halving 2 of his 12 matches. Casey is brilliant at match play and is a two-time runner up in this event when held at Dove Mountain as well as a winner of the now defunct Volvo World Match Play. His recent form on Pete Dye layouts is very strong too as he was 5th at Sawgrass and 8th at the American Express which used Dye’s PGA West Stadium course for 3 rounds this year. This looks to have come at the perfect time for Casey and he rates a solid each way bet even at the trimmed price of 22/1 that gives us 8 places.

Jordan Spieth looks to have a decent group made even better by Fitzpatrick’s surprisingly bad record in this event. Spieth has been in great form this year and does look to be firmly “back”. He has shown a liking for match play throughout his career but I think right now it should suit him even more when a wild drive will only be punished by a lost hole at the absolute worst. He is in what I’m calling the 3rd quarter (top right in the bracket) and he should go well. If the draw works out then he would play his good friend Justin Thomas in the last 16. That could clearly go either way with Thomas a likely favourite so I’ll go win only on Spieth.

Tony Finau is my each way pick in the 2nd quarter (bottom left) mainly due to a great draw as he really should get the better of Kokrak, Frittelli and Will Zalatoris. All of whom are likely to be a bit overawed by this company. Finau’s form has tailed off a little but the change in format should be ideal for a man who took down an in form Tommy Fleetwood at the last Ryder Cup and whose long game is as relentless as anyone in the draw. Nobody in his quarter should really scare him at all and if he brings his best stuff you would expect him to see off Fleetwood or Bryson who is still relatively unproven in professional match play. That’s all we need for the each way pay-out so anything else would be a bonus.

I like Jason Day from the 4th quarter at the prices but I’d rate Jon Rahm as a danger (as usual!) so I’m going to play them both. Day used to be arguably the best match play exponent around when he won this twice out of three runnings when at the peak of his powers from 2014 to 2016. Despite a poor record since the switch to Austin Country Club there is no reason the layout shouldn’t suit and I think we can put that down to poor form. He has shown enough recently to suggest that he can go well this year at a nice price. Rahm will be more a saver as I’d be gutted to miss out if he won this.

I’m also going to take a 2nd player from Spieth’s quarter as I quite like Patrick Cantlay this week and a back-up to Spieth is probably sensible. Cantlay had a superb match play record as an amateur but he’s still fairly inexperienced as a profressional. His results here are ok though having won 3 of his matches, lost 2 and halved the other. His consistent long game and aggressive iron-play should really make him well suited to a match play event on a Pete Dye course and he has a favourable group. I wouldn’t love a last 16 match against Reed for him though so I’ll just play him win only rather doubling the stakes.

Finally I’ll have a bet on Kevin Na to spring a surprise and win group 1 at DJ’s expense. From looking almost unbeatable a month or so ago some wild driving has stopped him in his tracks and I think he could be vulnerable here where a sharp short game is required. A player of his calibre could easily bounce back and win this event but there looks to be plenty value about Na here as he looks to have been priced up as if they are playing this on a 7600 yard layout. Na is very dangerous on short courses, particularly Dye designs and he made the quarter finals in 2019. DJ won this in 2017 but has failed to get out of his group the two years since and has lost 5 of his 6 matches. This makes bet 365’s standout 15/4 about Na winning the group look like an excellent piece of value even if it will probably lose!

Summary

Paul Casey – 1.75pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Tony Finau – 1pt ew @ 30/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Jordan Spieth – 1pt win @ 32 on Betfair Exchange

Patrick Cantlay – 1pt win @ 32 on Betfair Exchange

Jon Rahm – 1pt win @ 16.5 on Betfair Exchange

Jason Day – 1pt win @ 50 on Betfair Exchange

Kevin Na to win Group 1 – 1.5pts @ 15/4 (bet 365)

Weekly points advised = 11pts

The Players Championship and Qatar Masters – Betting Preview

A shocker of a week last week as nobody even came close to returns with everyone struggling with the conditions. This week we welcome the European Tour back with the Qatar Masters but it’s a fairly poor field as we have The Players Championship over in Florida at TPC Sawgrass and as ever it has attracted the best field of the season. George Coetzee is playing in Qatar however and that’s really all I need to know!

2021 pts advised = 93.50

2021 pts returned = 53.73


The Players Championship

The Players Championship brings up a year since Covid cancelled its first golf event and what a difficult year it has been for everyone. However this week’s tournament brings with it a degree of hope as restrictions in the UK lift and over in the US we are seeing more and more fans present each week.

Whether those fans will see a typical Players Championship I’m not sure. The spectacle in May was superb as the course generally played fairly hard and fast and put a premium on the more traditional aspects of finding fairways and greens. With the switch to March in 2019 everything was a bit softer and therefore it all appeared a bit easier as the greens were more receptive so staying out of the rough was less important. Scrambling around the greens wasn’t nearly as treacherous either with a lot of the bite having been removed. It would perhaps be a little premature to assume that will be the new norm at Sawgrass especially with how firm Bay Hill’s greens got over last weekend but part of me appreciates that things might be changing here and so I’ve tried to focus on players that should handle it however it plays.

That leads me to my main bet from the head of the market and that’s Jon Rahm after he was pushed out to 16/1 this week. I was a little bit unsure at 14/1 but 16/1 with 10 places looks too good to pass up. I’m in danger of getting into trouble with Rahm where the big events are concerned at the prices he is now available, however I’m going to stick with him one more week and in all reality the Masters too…..maybe the US Open. He has shown enough since his switch to Callaway that he is getting back to his best and while the putter isn’t too hot it’s never that much better than warm with Rahm anyway. Rahm’s long game has been in superb order for quite some time now particularly off the tee where he has established himself as arguably the best driver in the game. While some of these figures are from his previous equipment he has played 5 events with the new clubs and 3 with the old. He ranks 4th in strokes gained: tee to green, 3rd in total driving and 13th in GIR. His big win is surely coming sooner rather than later and I expect him to get it this year so I’m stubbornly having 2.5pts ew at a venue that should suit his new, more controlled long game and his sharp short game.

The first bet I placed this week was when I saw Martin Laird’s name atop the ball-striking stats for the 2021 season on the PGA Tour (now 4th after they were updated for Bay Hill). Finding fairways and greens has long since been a prerequisite for success at Sawgrass and odds of 300/1 just seemed too big. Laird has a previous runner up finish and a 5th here from back in 2012 and 2013 respectively but he was a winner again back in October. His form has certainly dropped off a little but his long game numbers still can’t be too bad before he sits in such a lofty position in the stats. There are definitely enough things in his favour to have a small bet at 300/1 with 10 places. Maybe a top 30 bet too at 5/1.

The man who now leads those ball striking stats is Joaquin Niemann who has been having a fantastic year doing everything but win. It is Niemann’s debut here which will make it extremely hard for him to win but he’s not a true debutant as he did play the first round last year shooting a 73 when in very poor form. He arrives this year in great form though having made his last 12 cuts and managing top 45 finishes in all of those events. This included two runner up finishes, a 3rd place and a 6th place and he has gained shots in all 4 departments on 3 of his last 5 starts which shows the all round consistency that he has found already at a young age. He is already a winner on Tour with his 2019 Greenbrier success and The Old White TPC course presents a similar enough test to Sawgrass (but a fair bit easier) and form always correlates nicely with the easier Pete Dye courses. Whether he will properly take to Sawgrass we don’t really know but I just can’t get away from how his long game sets up for the test. As I said at the start he leads the Tour for ball-striking which comprises of 2nd in total driving and 13th in GIR however these still stack up in the modern strokes gained metrics as he is 11th off the tee, 11th tee to green and 48th in approaches. Now with that good a long game you might expect his short game to be poor before he hasn’t won yet this year but that’s not the case. He ranks 43rd around the green and 66th in putting so the consistent all around game is evident in his finishes and his stats and that is perhaps why he is just 50/1 this week. But I still quite like his chances of a good showing so he rates a solid enough each way bet.

I will probably regret this but I have backed Lee Westwood having decided that I can see the potential story of him contending on Sunday here after a brilliant weekend at Bay Hill. Westwood fits the profile of slightly left field winner with a brilliant long game that we used to see at Sawgrass. But what I really liked about last weekend wasn’t his approach game as we know how good that can be. It was his holing out from inside 10ft as he got every putt to the hole and to my mind holed all of them bar one down the stretch. He also ranked 2nd in the field for approaches and 1st tee-to-green as he gained over 2 strokes in every department. He has never done that before looking at all his available shot link events so his all round game looks to have arrived at the perfect time for Sawgrass. Westwood has 4 top 10s here and now that he is scrambling better than ever he should really have a good week. The 70/1 won’t be for everyone but he shouldn’t be dismissed here just because of his age. Throughout his career he has thrived on championship courses and he is as fit as ever so he looks a good each way bet to do so again this week. The 150 on the Exchange also stands out as huge for those who would rather go down that route at double the odds.

Finally I quite like the look of Richy Werenski after a strong showing last week on another difficult Florida course. I thought he had maybe played his hand too recently to still get a good price but the 175/1 looks fair enough despite probably being a lot shorter than he was last week. However he has played nicely on both his visits here posting a 23rd and a 47th. Last week he recorded his 2nd best ever strokes gained tee to green number and with his normally reliable short game I think we should take notice. If Sawgrass does play at all hard and fast Werenksi looks better equipped to handle it right now than his price suggests. I’ll also have a top 30 bet at 4/1.

I was very close to adding Matt Fitzpatrick at 45/1 but for some reason his form here really isn’t great yet. I would expect that to change but maybe not in this new March slot. I’ll be watching him closely in-play. Cameron Smith got more than a 2nd look too but I’m not ready to forgive the splish-splashing around that he did over the weekend at the WGC Workday, certainly not around another water heavy layout like Sawgrass.


Qatar Masters

I was amazed to see George Coetzee priced up as big as 28/1 in places for this so I backed him straight away. His form in Qatar is superb and he has been unlucky not to have won this event already as the figures read 7-2-8-MC-7-12-5-2-35. Although we switched venue last year the new one proved to be more of the same as it’s another wide open course with large landing areas and big greens. This puts a premium on power and putting and that’s what this erratic driver is all about as he is one of the best putters around on grainy greens. He is even in good form having made his last 5 cuts and on his last start he was 10th in a very deep field on another exposed desert course in Saudi. With George it’s never a given how things will go but he is becoming better at playing well when expected to when conditions suit, which was apparent when he won the Portugal Masters in September. He has been cut to 25/1 but that still looks too big as I’d have him around 20/1 in this weak a field where only Thomas Pieters looks a threat if Coetzee does bring his A game. I’m going 2pts ew on Georgie boy who owes the blog nothing even after backing him 6 or 7 times a year!

I might add another bet or two on Wednesday once I get a proper look at it.

Summary of bets

Players Championship

Jon Rahm – 2.5pts ew at 16/1

Joaquin Niemann – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Lee Westwood – 0.75pts ew @ 70/1 and 1.5pts Top 20 @ 4/1

Martin Laird – 0.5pts ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 30 @ 5/1

Richy Werenski – 0.5pts ew @ 175/1 and 1pt Top 30 @ 4/1

All outrights 1/5 odds 10 places either Skybet or Betfair and Top 20/30s are Betfair

Qatar Masters

George Coetzee – 2pts ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 7 places general)

Weekly points advised = 18pts

Arnold Palmer Invitational – Betting Preview

Just when I thought I couldn’t have more of a horrible weekend of golf betting somehow yet again an even worse one transpired from a strong half way position. I went from having two 50/1 leaders and a 30/1 place at around 7pm on Saturday night to just a tiny portion of Percy’s place money in Puerto Rico by end of play on Sunday. Cameron Smith found the water 6 times over the weekend and still managed to finish T11th. That confirmed how suited he was to the course even if that was little comfort on Sunday night. If someone had told me at the start of the week that Patrick Reed was going to finish 6th in approaches then I’d have had a silly bet on him given how good his short game has been this year. Somehow though he managed to 3-putt from 35 feet on his penultimate hole to fall short of the places. Detry and Scrivener also came close to their respective top 20 and top 30 bets as they enjoyed the layout but just couldn’t quite put 4 rounds together in that company. A hugely frustrating week but at least the hard work is paying off in terms of finding players that are contending, even if Sundays have been rather brutal lately.

Still no European Tour action until next week so it’s just the Arnold Palmer Invitational from Bay Hill this week.

2021 pts advised = 84.50

2021 pts returned = 53.73


Arnold Palmer Invitational

It was quite an effort to pick myself up again and start another week’s research but that’s the nature of the game so on we go. This week’s action stays in Florida as the Tour heads to Bay Hill which shouldn’t produce too different a test from last week. It is one of the tougher regular stops on Tour with small, hard greens being the main defence along with the potential for a stiff breeze. It’s a tree-lined layout and generally the numbers of fairways and greens found would be fairly low but last year’s field averages of 54% and 50% respectively were particularly low as Hatton won with a winning score of just -4. With that said Hatton only ranked 33rd in driving accuracy so recovery approaches are very much possible here which is perhaps why Tiger Woods is an 8-time Bay Hill winner. Anyone who honed their short game last week at The Concession should be in a good position to tackle these greens however with less slopes and run-offs these will be set up faster which will make those approaches from the rough very difficult.

A lot has been said this year about how so few American players have won this recently and while it’s relevant it perhaps isn’t all that useful. There is nothing preventing any US player from playing well here it is more a reflection of how they tend to be most experienced in target golf PGA Tour style courses whereas those coming from a European Tour pedigree are more accustomed to firm, fiddly greens like these. Don’t be put off picking an American but do make sure they aren’t one dimensional bomb and gauge types as it takes more than that to win around Bay Hill.

Talor Gooch was my first bet on Monday as he has been on the radar since the Genesis two weeks ago. He played very well there to land the top 30 bet with room to spare (T12th) and he has shown on his two visits here (13th-26th) that he enjoys the challenge. Last year nobody scored lower than him over the weekend and if you ignore Friday when he shot 80 then he would have beaten the field by 3 shots. He ranked 6th on the greens last year when his strokes gained figure was the 2nd best he has posted in his career. In 2018 he ranked 6th tee to green putting up his 5th best figure ever. This shows how he is comfortable with every aspect of the course and he gained strokes in every department on that last Genesis start. He also sits 22nd in bogey avoidance which is always important at Bay Hill. If he holds his form he should go well here again this week at a decent 80/1.

To be honest the head of the market looks very strong indeed and I’ve been close to backing McIlroy, Bryson, Im, Hatton, Reed and Fitz but they all look to be about the right price having showed their hand last week on a similar course. I’m really struggling to separate them and it feels like a lot of guesswork would be involved in deciding where to land with my money. If pushed I would probably play McIlroy win only but I just don’t trust his short game enough on fast greens to be backing him at single figures. Instead I’ll have another two bigger each way prices starting with Tom Hoge who has form figures here of 15-26 and played nicely two starts ago at Pebble Beach. He was down the field at the Genesis but he also seems to really like Bay Hill. He posted his best ever strokes gained: approach number here in 2018 and then his 5th best last year. It looks like he enjoys this sort of test with his irons rather the more common target golf. He’s a massive price at 200/1 so there isn’t much to lose but I’ll also have a safer looking top 30 at 4/1.

Finally I’ll stick with Cameron Percy who played very well in Puerto Rico last week. He has never played at Bill Hill so it’s risky but he is 250/1 with Skybet and I don’t think that fairly reflects how well he is playing or how well his GIR heavy game should set up for this difficult test of golf. He was 7th in DA and 1st in GIR last week and he even putted fairly well it was just his scrambling that let him down. That could well be the case again this week but he is 12th on Tour in bogey avoidance and the final push I needed was seeing that he sits 2nd in par 3 scoring so far this season. The last 5 winners here have ranked 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 4th and 4th on the short holes so it’s clearly a crucial area around Bay Hill. I’ll also have a top 30 on him at 4/1.

Sam Burns has drifted to 55.0 on Betfair tonight and that was enough for me to pull the trigger. He might not have won at the Genesis two weeks ago but we can’t overlook the fact that after 36 holes he was 5 shots clear of the strongest regular PGA Tour field of the season on a very demanding course. Even on Sunday when he was ultimately beaten as his scrambling skills deserted him, he still rallied for 3rd. I think he will take the postives into the rest of the season and while 40/1 felt borderline I’m happy with the separate 55.0 outright bet and 6.0 for a top 10 on the exchange.


Summary of bets

Talor Gooch – 1pt ew @ 80/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/2

Tom Hoge – 0.5pts ew @ 200/1 (both 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair) and 1pt Top 30 @ 4/1 Betfair

Cameron Percy – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet) and 1pt Top 30 @ 4/1 Betfair

Sam Burns – 1pt win @ 55.0 and 1pt Top 10 @ 6.0 (both Betfair Exchange)

Weekly points advised = 9pts

WGC Workday Championship – Some bets

There was another disappointing Sunday for blog followers as Sam Burns eventually gave way to both Tony Finau and Max Homa around the 13th hole. He rallied and managed to grab the place money and the top 20 bet as he finished 3rd but we really needed that winner to kick off the season. Burns together with Gooch’s top 30 made for a profitable week but with 3 players inside the top 10 heading in to the final round it was a little hard to swallow all the same. This week we have the first of the WGC’s of the season which has been relocated to Florida and there is an alternate event down in Puerto Rico which I will have a quick look at too.

2021 points advised = 69.50

2021 points returned = 52.35


WGC Workday

The WGC Mexico has been moved due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it has now become the WGC Workday and is being held at The Concession GC in Florida. I won’t bore you with the details around the name as you will hear that 100 times this week. As ever though with a new course on rotation there is a clamber for information and videos of the new course. I have managed to find a few to get some sort of idea what the course is about and rather than rip off this excellent course preview I thought I’d just share it.

https://www.sportsgamblingpodcast.com/2021/02/21/wgc-workday-championship-at-the-concession-preview-and-betting-strategies/

On the whole it seems like this will be a very difficult course but ultimately in line with Jack Nicklaus’ usual MO. That is that the challenge becomes greater as you get nearer the hole. He has never been one for making a properly penal driving course and despite all the talk of this being one of the toughest courses in the US, it does look like most of the landing areas are wide enough and will give everyone a chance. There are loads of trees and plenty of water surrounding the greens and fairways but they appear to wind around them at a distance that can be avoided as long as a degree of care is taken. So anyone wildly hooking or cutting the ball is probably going to run into trouble, especially with the fairways looking likely to play hard and fast. A nice high, long baby fade off the tee could be the go to shot this week. From the fairway is where this course appears to get really dicey as some of the images of these green complexes are extremely scary looking. There are deep bunkers winding around the greens which themselves have huge drop offs and run-off areas as well as undulations within the greens themselves. Now add to that they will play firm and fast much like Riviera last week and they are beginning to look rather treacherous. The one saving grace is that they are said to be so well maintained that there is almost no grain on the bermuda greens so they putt more like smooth bentgrass and they will run as pure as Augusta.

The article above goes into great detail about how Nicklaus designed many of the holes and plenty of them are replicas of other holes from around the world at some of his favourite courses. This gives a long list of the types of courses that may tie in well this week and amongst those are his own Muirfield Village and PGA National designs, Augusta, Royal Melbourne, Bay Hill and Riviera. Leaderboards from these courses are worth a look at together with seeing whose iron play or short game flourished around the greens.

I’ve backed Patrick Reed here just on price alone but he should relish these difficult green complexes. On his latest brilliant win at Torrey Pines he only ranked 51st in GIR as he put on a pitch and putt masterclass. That is what he is all about but we know he is capable of a world class iron game on his day too. He is obviously a winner around Augusta but he is also a two time winner in Florida. With a win two starts ago around a difficult course he simply looks over priced for me at 30/1.

In similar fashion to Reed, Tyrrell Hatton’s short game should thrive here but he is also performing brilliantly tee-to-green and is now the world number 5. Despite him appearing reasonably short at 22/1 when he opened I think we forget just how good he is. He has 4 world wide wins in his last 22 starts and he won at the difficult and similar Bay Hill in Florida this time last year. His all-round game should help him if this does produce a properly difficult test off the tee too but ultimately these slick greens and links style run-offs look perfect for a two-time Alfred Dunhill Links winner and someone who has the imagination to pull off every short game shot this course will ask of him.

My third pick is Cameron Smith and you can see the template I’m going for with short game wizardry! However Cameron Smith’s long game bounced back last week at Riviera too and there is no question he prefers difficult, firm tests that remind of him home rather than the ten-a-penny target golf courses we see on the PGA Tour week in and week out. He was 10th in approaches and 2nd around the green last week and that was the best combination for those two stats in the whole field. That immediately put him on the short list for this week given the expected skill-set required at Concession. His 2nd and 5th at The Masters also looks like solid form for these difficult greens and I think he is very close to the sort of level of player that we have seen pick up their first big win at a WGC in recent times. His price has shortened since Monday but there is still some 50/1 about with 7 places and I think that looks fair enough.

I’m taking a bit of a punt on Thomas Detry who played here for the University of Illinois in the 2015 NCAA Championships. He finished T3rd in the individual event behind Bryson and CT Pan but Illinois won the team event. Competitive experience of the course can surely only be a positive but Detry’s normally stellar short game should also be suited to the course. He is yet to win on the European Tour in a regular event but he and Thomas Pieters won the World Cup in 2018 around Metropolitan GC on the Melbourne Sandbelt. That course looks quite similar to the Concession GC particularly the hard, fast yet perfectly manicured greens and the stylish bunkering. It was also partly designed by Dick Wilson who designed Bay Hill in Florida which looks like it will tie in nicely with Concession. Detry tends to play most of his best stuff on Thursdays and Fridays before wilting over the weekend so it’s hard to see him winning an event of this stature but we know he has plenty of ability. His long game has taken a little while to get going this season but he is only 10 rounds in and last year he ranked 14th on the European Tour for strokes gained: tee to green. Hopefully he can start well and give us an option to trade out but I’ll also include a top 20 bet as he should feel quite comfortable returning here.

Finally I’m having a 2nd punt on Jason Scrivener who is another player with that approach game and short game combination but also one who thrives on difficult firm greens. You would normally say this is a huge jump in class for the steady Aussie but if we look at his recent Abu Dhabi piece of form there is no reason he should be as big as 250/1. He came 2nd there and was sandwiched between Tyrrell Hatton and Rory McIlroy as he earned over €700,000, which was over 25% of his career earnings to that point. That would have been somewhat life changing for him and therefore we can excuse the two follow-up results of 41-MC. It’s very speculative but he should enjoy the course and if he can bring that Abu Dhabi form I expect him to out play his odds. Again I will also have a more realistic top 30 bet at 7/2.

Down in Puerto Rico I’m just having a play on Aussie veteran Cameron Percy. He has caught the eye a few times this year briefly popping up on leaderboards and he is striking the ball well ranking 7th in GIR over the last 6 months. He is used to golf on the coast hailing from Melbourne and his form in Puerto Rico is solid enough with just 1 missed cut from 7 attempts and 4 of those returning top 30 finishes. He was 21st on his last start at Pebble Beach which would have been a good preparation for this. If the putter can warm up in this lower grade then he should have a decent week and rates a good each way bet at 50/1.

Summary of bets

Patrick Reed – 2pts ew @ 30/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Tyrrell Hatton – 2pts ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Skybet)

Cameron Smith – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Bet365 & 888)

Thomas Detry – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places) and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2 general

Jason Scrivener – 0.25pts ew @ 250/1 (1/5 odds 7 places) and 1.5pts Top 30 @ 7/2 Betfair

Puerto Rico – Cameron Percy – 0.5pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Weekly points advised = 15pts

Genesis Invitational – The bets

Jordan Spieth couldn’t get it done on Sunday but he finished 3rd to justify the faith put in him. I was very impressed with him and definitely think there were a lot of positives to take. Sky Sports mentioned how many Cantlay putts burned the edge on Sunday but Spieth had just as many so it wasn’t really his long game that cost him despite a few wayward drives. I’ll be watching him very closely ahead of the Masters in just 7 weeks time. This week we have the Genesis Invitational from Riviera while there are still a few empty weeks yet with no European Tour action.


Genesis Open

Patrick Cantlay is surely trending to another win again soon and a tee-to-green California test which doesn’t usually require too hot a putter looks an ideal stop for him. The fact that he is yet to put up the same sort of W numbers as the likes of Day, DJ, McIlroy, Bryson and Thomas have all done at periods over the last 6 years or so often leaves a feeling that he is under priced when we see him at 16/1 in these fields. But such is the strength of his game I have no doubt he is going to win more consistently than many of the bigger names over the course of his career. Whether he will ever turn in a 4 or 5 win season I’m not sure but he looks extremely likely to win once or twice each year for the next 10-15 years. So I’m suggesting there is almost an element of implied value with his price although that maybe sounds daft to say it out loud! Anyway he ranked 1st tee-to-green last week, he has recent Riviera form figures of 17-15-4, current form figures of 3-2-13-17-1 and hails from down the road in Long Beach. He is clearly comfortable here and playing as well as anyone. He looks a rock solid each way bet at 16/1. Well he looked a rock solid bet at 16/1! But I see he has been cut to 14/1 now. I’ve backed him so I’ll include him but 14 feels like the absolute minimum I’d be taking. He is 16.5 on the Betfair Exchange.

I have backed Charley Hoffman at Riviera the last three years as I’m convinced that it should be a perfect course for him. The two main courses that tie in with Riviera are Augusta and Glen Abbey and Hoffman has as a brilliant and well documented record at the former while he lost a playoff to Vegas at Glen Abbey in 2017. Considering I’d have probably backed him anyway it was nice to see him shoot a round of the day 66 on Sunday to finish T7th at Pebble Beach. However that hasn’t done for his price as much as I’d expect and we can still get 150/1 which is more than fair. Hoffman ranked 10th off the tee at Pebble while he is 20th for the season so far. He is 25th for GIR but more pertinently for Riviera he is 7th in GIR from over 200 yards. Strokes Gained: Approaches is one of the best analytical tools in the game but with Riviera demanding you find the right portions of the undulating greens I think the more traditional metric of GIR is as good a pointer this week. Trying to get close to every flag is dangerous at Riviera and Adam Scott’s strategy last year was all about hitting greens rather than firing at flags. Hoffman’s iron game is in a good place for finding greens while he is also scoring well on the longer par 4s as he sits 4th in efficiency on Par 4s measuring 450-500 yards. Riviera has an extremely tough set of long par 4s with 6 holes inside that yardage range and the last 7 winners have ranked 6th-2nd-1st-1st-6th-5th-2nd for those holes while two further play-off losers were 1st and 5th. Scoring well on these 6 holes is imperative if you want to contend at Riviera and only Wes Bryan in this field is performing better on holes of that length. I swear I will give up on Hoffman here if he doesn’t do anything this year but I think his 4th place finish from 2017 is more in line with what he is capable of at Riviera and I think he is a great each way bet at 150/1. I’m also going to have a top 20 bet at 9/2.

Talor Gooch performed well here last year to finish 10th but he has been a little out of sorts lately even if he does still have two top 5s for the season. I’m going to include him anyway as Riviera is the sort of course that just suits some players and he has hardly been playing terribly. He ranked 6th tee to green last year while he was 7th for that same metric on his debut in 2018 while finishing 20th. Hopefully there is just something that fits his eye about Riviera and he leaves last week’s missed cut behind. I’ll have a top 30 bet too at 11/4.

Sam Burns is having a very good season and ranks 14th off the tee, 15th in GIR, 32nd in putting and 16th for the 450-500 yard par 4s. He isn’t the best of scramblers though so I was weary of including him here but sometimes poor chippers like Burns actually improve at Riviera because there is plenty of grass under the ball. If he can scramble to even a half decent standard this week the rest of his game is so good right now I would expect him to improve on last year’s 23rd.

I’m surprised KH Lee’s price has held at 150/1 given he has the bookie friendly current and course form so I’m definitely having a small play. He was superb at TPC Scottsdale two weeks ago as he led the field tee to green and his Riviera form reads 13-25. He was 7th here tee to green last year and 3rd for putting in 2019 so he can handle both the long game test and the undulating greens. If he can bring both this week we can surely expect another top 30 at least so I’ll play both markets.

At the risk of getting carried away with 6 picks Chez Reavie is another player that I have always thought is suited perfectly to Riviera. That nearly paid off in 2016 when he went close to winning at 250/1 and he recorded another top 10 last year. He was on the radar for this week even before I noticed that he ranked 5th tee-to-green at Pebble Beach as he finished 16th. Obviously Riviera is considerably longer but Reavie is a lovely long iron and hybrid player and despite his lack of power he is also very good out of the rough. I think he is well worth a small each way interest here.


Summary of bets

Patrick Cantlay – 2.5pts ew @ 14/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

Charley Hoffman – 1pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places general) and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2 Betfair

Talor Gooch – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfred) and 1pt Top 30 @ 11/4 Betfair

Sam Burns – 0.5pts ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 8 places) and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/2 general

KH Lee – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places) and 1pt Top 30 @ 12/5

Chez Reavie – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places) and 1pt Top 30 @ 5/2

Weekly points advised = 16pts

AT&T Pebble Beach – Some bets

Ryan Fox managed to land the bulk of the place money as well as the top 20 to make it the first profitable week of the year. The PGA Tour was a wash out as Conners couldn’t quite get close enough to challenge. The European Tour takes a break for a few weeks so it’s just Pebble Beach this week and there is no pro-am this year so they are only playing Pebble and Spyglass. This might see things play a little harder as Monterrey was generally the least taxing course and there will be no easy amateur flags. However I still think it will be a fairly wide open event as usual, especially with DJ’s late withdrawal.

2021 pts advised = 45

2021 pts returned = 25.5


Pebble Beach

I’m always keen to try to find an outsider or two at Pebble Beach given the format and relatively short course. It usually means that pretty much anyone in the field can win this with a good short iron game and a strong putting week. DJ Trahan caught my eye having been 18th just two years ago but also when having a quick look at some of this season’s wedge stats. Trahan is 4th in proximity to the hole from 50-125 yards and 5th in scoring relative to par on approaches inside 125 yards. He has missed his last three cuts around the turn of the year but on his last start in California in October he was 14th at the Safeway Open (poa green) and he has two other top 10s at Pebble Beach. One of his two PGA Tour wins came in the state as did his best ever major finish when he finished T4th and three shots shy of the famous 2008 US Open play-off at Torrey Pines. He ranked 8th for putting on the poa annua greens here in 2019 and if the switch can bring about another good putting week he could make 500/1 look rather big come Sunday. There is obviously a very clear risk he that he misses the cut but I also like the 9/2 about a top 40 finish. He has played this event 12 times making just 6 cuts but recording a top 40 in 5 of those 6.

In similar fashion to Trahan I’m going to take another punt on local player Ricky Barnes who made it in to the field as an alternate on Monday when Kuchar pulled out. Barnes hasn’t played since November due to limited Tour status but he has made all three cuts and his approach numbers were superb on his last home start at Silverado (also poa annua greens). So good in fact that they still have him in 1st on Tour for approaches and proximity to the hole but they are the only 4 rounds that he has had recorded this season! Despite those rankings, we can probably just take that with a pinch of salt but Barnes was 3rd here back in 2012 and 27th at the US Open in 2010. So he clearly enjoys the layout when playing well and if you’re thinking that was a long time ago then he actually opened with a 67 in round 1 at Monterrey last year to sit in 4th place. Monterrey isn’t on rotation this year and he fell away in the wind on Spyglass to miss the cut but all in I think there could be some mileage in backing him here at 500/1. I will also throw some pounds on a Barnes Top 40 at 9/2.

I’ve been trying to get away from backing Jordan Spieth since the markets opened on Monday but when it was announced DJ had pulled out I knew there was no chance I’d manage. It’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty which Jordan Spieth will turn up this week but I’m hoping we have seen the start of him coming out of his slump. Spieth led a very good field in approaches last week on his way to a 4th place finish. He also ranked first for approaches at Pebble Beach last year and we know he loves the course with good form figures either side of the 2017 win. Yes he only shot level par on Sunday when joint 54-hole leader but if we’re being critical then neither Xander or Thomas fared much better. I think it’s a huge positive how he hung around and while his driver was all over the place these shorter courses will mean he doesn’t have to wield it on every hole. He was 10th in 250-275 yard proximity last week so his 3-wood and hybrid were working fine. There will be plenty who won’t like the price but I don’t hate the 22/1 at all with DJ now out. It’s not that strong a field, he loves Pebble Beach and if he can just keep the ball in play more often than not then his iron play and putter can do the talking from there. It’s a big ask but I’m a big fan and while my heart is perhaps leading the head over this bet I have now backed him so I have to include him here. Whatever happens with the bet, fingers crossed he can put 4 decent rounds together and continue his comeback. I’m sure most people will agree after the weekend that golf is all the better for him being back on the leaderboard.

I did have Kevin Streelman and Matthew NeSmith featuring heavily on my shortlist but I’m not sure I can quite get onboard with Streelman’s 40/1 while the NeSmith price is a little more tempting even if it is a fraction of last week’s after a strong 7th place finish in Phoenix. His putting improved out of sight though as he gained 3.73 strokes on the greens which was his highest number since last January’s Sony Open and a big improvement on the 4.817 strokes he lost the week before. The downside is that the big loss was on poa annua greens but he fared OK on the Pebble greens last year ranking 27th on his way to a debut 11th place finish. That was impressive and he will be expecting to hold his form over and enjoy another good week having his 2nd competitive look at the courses. So I’ll have a smallish bet at 66/1 with Betfred’s 8 places.

Summary of bets

Jordan Spieth – 1.5pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 8 places WH)

Matthew NeSmith – 0.75pts ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfred)

DJ Trahan – 0.5pts ew @ 500/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair) and 1pt Top 40 @ 9/2 (Betfair)

Ricky Barnes – 0.5pts ew @ 500/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet) and 1pt Top 40 @ 9/2 (Betfair)

Weekly points advised = 8.5

Phoenix Open and Saudi International – Some bets

Big Tony repaid the faith I showed in him to bounce back as he finished T2nd behind Patrick Reed at Torrey Pines. While he didn’t really contend on the weekend too closely he still probably came as close as anyone bar Hovland to stopping Reed. In similar fashion to the week before Finau went eagle chasing with his approach on the 18th and he came up what appeared to be just a yard short of carrying the bank and ended up in the water. His line was perfect and had he carried he may have banked down to a fairly short eagle putt. Ifs and buts although it would have been interesting if he had posted -11 never mind the -12 that an eagle would have taken him to. The returns were the first of the year but not quite enough for a profitable week. I’ll update these figures tomorrow and post below.


Phoenix Open

TPC Scottsdale will be somewhat more quiet this year than normal but everything else should be the same. It’s normally a ball-strikers haven where a long and accurate tee-to-green game gets it done. Jon Rahm heads the market and looks every bit the man to beat but his new equipment would make it very hard to back him just yet at single figures. Instead I’ve had a couple of each way plays on two golfers who have been playing well for a sustained period, have put up some good long game numbers this season and also played well here before.

Daniel Berger has four top 11 finishes at Scottsdale and is 2nd in ball-striking over the last 3 months (his last 12 rounds) after two consecutive top 10s in Hawaii. He then took a couple of week’s off but should be nicely rested for this. His 9th here last year kicked off a brilliant run of form either side of lockdown as he became the hottest player on Tour after his win at Colonial. While things slowed down a little he has still only missed one cut in his last 20 events and his consistent long game should see him go well again here. His odds of 20/1 aren’t huge but there isn’t the usual depth of field here after many made the trip to Saudi for a pay day and I think that makes it look like a rock solid each way bet.

Correy Conners followed up his best ever major finish of 10th at the Masters with another two Top 20s to close the year. Last week’s 37th was his first start of 2021 so some rust was to be expected. He has just played here once when he finished 45th last year but Conners should love this ball-striker’s test and he sits 4th in that department over the last 3 months. Having missed Hawaii he is back off the radar after his Masters performance and the 70/1 looks very fair indeed.


Saudi International

The European Tour heads to an event that most fans would probably rather didn’t exist but this will be the 3rd running and its brought the best field so far which for me is hugely depressing. I’ll not go into much detail beyond stating that the course is a bit of a bomber’s paradise that can be overpowered due to the wide fairways and typically minimal desert rough. With that said GMac managed to win last year so an accurate long game can be enough if they also possess a brilliant short game but ultimately the big hitters have a huge advantage here.

That makes it very hard to look too far beyond DJ and Bryson at the head of the market but those short prices have created a good each way market so I’ve played three powerhouses who thrive on open desert layouts and an Austrian with some sneaky current form.

Firstly I’m sticking with Adri Arnaus after he came up one shot shy last week in Dubai. He had a bad run of 18 holes over Friday and Saturday yet still managed to rally to finish T9th. Arnaus gained strokes in all the main 5 departments and that was only the 2nd time he has managed that and not finshed inside the places. Generally when he puts it all together he contends at the regular European Tour level so with his game in excellent shape I think he can go well on his 4th Middle East start in a row. The first three have produced a run of 10-12-9 as he has showed how comfortable he is in these parts. He has gained strokes on the green in his last 3 starts and that is a huge positive for a player whose poor putting is the main reason that he hasn’t won yet. The strong field gives us a nice price of 66/1 but he easily has the talent to improve on last year’s 27th and contend here given his current form.

Thomas Pieters is perhaps the biggest enigma in the game in terms of how much talent he possesses but yet seems to struggle to bring it all to the course. That’s a strange thing to say about a 5-time European Tour winner still only 29 years old but Pieters is a monster of a golfer tee-to-green although he is an even worse putter than Arnaus. So as soon as I noticed he was 8th in putting last week in Dubai I knew I was backing him this week. Honestly though I wasn’t expecting odds as big as the 66/1 that was around when he opened but I’m perfectly happy with the 50/1 and 8 places that Skybet are still offering. Pieters has played both events to date and last year he finished 3rd putting up the highest tee-to-green number of his career as he gained 15.804 strokes. If he can bring anything like last week’s putting to Saudi then he must have a chance given how consistent his long game has been (2nd tee-to-green for 2020) and how well suited he is to the course.

Matthias Schwab isn’t a player who has done too much yet in the desert but his long game numbers have been immense lately and I think that should bring around a good result here on a course where he will be able to unload more than he normally does with the driver. Schwab has gained over 37 strokes tee-to-green on his last 4 starts and I doubt there are many better in that stretch. He has played both events here with his results of 44th and 24th nothing better than solid but coming in off a 9th place finish last week a slight improvement with the putter should be all he needs to contend again.

Finally I’ll go back to one of my favourites Ryan Fox who loves wide open desert courses where the emphasis is on the 2nd shot. Fox’s approach play was in great shape last week so I’d expect to see something more like his 6th from 2019 than his 27th here last year. I will also have a top 20 bet on the Kiwi.

With Rahm and DJ’s chance so clear I’m going to have a small saver bet on the each way double. Nothing in sport is ever certain but it be a huge surprise if either didn’t manage to finish inside the top 8 even with the strong fields.


Summary of bets

Phoenix Open

Daniel Berger – 1.5pts ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Correy Conners – 0.75pt ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 8 places WH)

Saudi International

Adri Arnaus – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Thomas Pieters – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Matthias Schwab – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1

Ryan Fox – 0.5pts ew @ 100/1 (all 1/5 odds 8 places Skybet) and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/2 (Betfair)

Jon Rahm (13/2) + Dustin Johnson (5/1) – 1pts ew double @ 44/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Weekly points advised = 14pts

@theGreek82