The Barclays and D+D REAL Czech Masters – Betting Preview


Last week.

Well it was back to earth with a bang last week as there were no returns on either tournament (every dog has its Day?….). However that doesn’t tell the whole story. Made in Denmark was always going to be a tough tournament to pick the winner of and so it proved. I went down the course links route to try to help and while that looked ok for a while on Thursday as Marc Warren and Paul Lawrie were both on the leaderboard, eventually they fell away and left the woefully out of form David Horsey (3 missed cuts from 4) to trot away with the title. It proved a timely reminder though that only small stakes should be used on these weak field European Tour events with limited course form where it can sometimes just be nothing more than educated guess-work.

At the Wyndham Championship it was a completely different story with Snedeker, Haas and Pettersson all in contention right through until Sunday. Teeing up for the final round they were all inside the Top 12 and it looked odds on that there would be some form of returns. But it wasn’t to be as Snedeker fell away with an uncharacteristic +5 round and Haas and Pettersson both finished in the dreaded T6th position! So it opened up for 51-year-old Davis Love III to take the title and become the 3rd oldest winner on Tour. Despite this losing week it’s 91pts out and 105.8pts returned so I’m still in a little bit of profit but down to 16% returns.

The PGA Tour begins its end of season Fed-Ex Cup playoffs this week at The Barclays and the European Tour has another low-key event having just its second running in Prague. I will stick with 3 from each tournament along with some other potential place bets. I always play the EW doubles to small stakes so I will keep them going also as they are a good alternative for those that want an interest each week but have less funds to play with.

The brilliant putting stroke of Snedeker in full flow

The brilliant putting stroke of Snedeker in full flow

The Barclays Championship

This is the first week of the Fed-Ex playoffs where the top 125 season points scorers have qualified to try their hand at yet another Donald Ross creation – Plainfield Country Club, New Jersey. Plainfield is a relatively short, 7012 yard par 70  course and has only held one recent tournament, The Barclays in 2011, won by Dustin Johnson. Dustin while being a bomber, can win on almost any course at his best but his length certainly helped him get to the front here at a rain-soaked event that was cut to 54 holes due to an advancing Hurricane. But the rest of the leaderboard was full of players who thrive with the wedge and/or putter, the likes of Matt Kuchar, Jonathan Byrd, Brandt Snedeker, Aaron Baddeley, Padraig Harrington and Webb Simpson all featuring prominently.

So I’m going to keep it fairly simple and pick 3 in form players that love Donald Ross courses and have an excellent short game.

This means that I’m going to forgive Brandt Snedeker for last week’s Sunday showing and make him my main pick again. Last week he hit a 2nd round 61 to fire himself up the leaderboard and he also hit the course record 61 in his 3rd round at Plainfield in 2011. So even in this elite field I was expecting him to be around 28/1-33/1 but he opened at a general 50/1 which was rightly hoovered up early on Monday however the 40/1 available now still looks decent value for someone who we know is suited to the course and in great form. As an extra bonus, Snedeker is a past Fed-Ex Cup winner so we know he plays great golf around this time of year. It’s hard to be too confident when he is up against the likes of Spieth/Day/Rose but with their prohibitive short prices, Snedeker looks like a great bet at 40/1 playing his second Donald Ross course in a row.

I believe Zach Johnson opened at 66/1 on Monday which is even more bizarre than Snedeker’s price. It was only 5 weeks ago that Zach won The Open defeating the bulk of this field around the Home of Golf nonetheless. How quickly bookmakers can forget the achievements of the lesser-hyped golfer. Jason Day, perhaps rightly, goes off this week at a single figure price and yet Zach’s achievement was every bit as impressive. It was Zach’s short game that won him The Open and I expect if he brings anything near the same level of wedge play and putting to Plainfield, he will out run a price that is bordering on disrespectful!

My 3rd pick was a little bit tougher with Webb Simpson, Luke Donald, Bill Haas, Matt Kuchar and Ben Martin all making the shortlist. However it was the odds (80/1!) that couldn’t keep me away from Jimmy Walker. I know he has been in pretty poor form of late but he still has 5 wins in the last 22 months and has spent longer than anyone on top of the Fed-Ex points lists over that period of time. Walker came 18th here in 2011 (shot a 2nd round 64) when a far less accomplished player and should relish a return. While he is very long off the tee it’s his putting touch that has been at the forefront of his winning run and he also has an affinity for Donald Ross courses; T9th at Pinehurst’s US Open, T4th at 2013 Wyndham Championship. With greens measuring an average of 7,500 square feet I think the putter will be very important this week and despite his recent slump he sits 2nd in Strokes Gained:Putting and most of his wins have come where great putters prevail like the Sony Open in Hawaii and Valero Texas Open. It’s very much a hunch pick but I think he will arrive here after a week off determined for a strong showing through the Fed-Ex series of events.

I’m throwing a few pounds at a couple of Top 20 bets too. Scott Piercy finished in the Top 20 here in 2011 and returned to form with a win in July at the Barbasol. Given his inconsistency over the last few years he will be delighted to have made the Play-offs and will want to go as deep as he can with a strong display here. Ben Martin’s form deserted him after the US Open 2nd round but he has had some better displays recently with a T10 last week and he has exactly the right attributes for this course. He showed he could compete with the very best at Sawgrass in May and if he is back to the top of his game then a Top 20 looks very likely to me.

D+D REAL Czech Masters

I’m not going to go into a great lot of detail here regarding the course, just 3 straight-forward picks and fairly low stakes.

Bradley Dredge came 2nd here last year and finished 6th last week in Denmark. Course form plus current form in addition to having been a proven winner at his peak on this Tour. With this weak field I’d expect him to continue his form and go well.

Eddie Pepperell was 6th here last year and has continued to have some high finishes in elite fields this year on the European Tour. He is yet to get his win but over the last few years we have seen many young up and coming golfers get their first win in a poor field where they are bringing some course knowledge. It can sometimes be forgotten that on top of the pressure of being in their rookie year, a lot of first season ET players are seeing courses for the first time. Backing them on their 2nd look is a solid enough plan for weeks like this and hopefully he should kick on from last year’s performance and go onto chase his first win come Sunday.

Robert Dinwiddie has been on my radar since his T10 at the Omega Masters in Crans during July when he closed with a 63. Interestingly he held his form over for his next start in Denmark last week with 4 under par rounds for a T11. The clincher for me on him was when I was looking back at the two runnings of this tournament in 2012 and 2013 when it was only on the lower tier Challenge Tour. It was also held at a different course but Dinwiddie finished 2nd in 2013 and will surely bring fond memories back to the Czech Republic with him. At a general 80/1 in this field I think he is decent value and will hopefully at least give himself a run at the places.

Summary of bets

The Barclays

Brandt Snedeker – 2pts ew 40/1

Zach Johnson – 1pt ew 55/1

Jimmy Walker – 0.5pt ew 80/1

Scott Piercy Top 20 – 1pt 9/2

Ben Martin Top 20 – 1pt 6/1

Czech Masters

Eddie Pepperell – 1pt ew 18/1

Bradley Dredge – 1pt ew 28/1

Robert Dinwiddie – 0.5pt ew 80/1

For the 9 ew doubles I’m going to take out Jimmy Walker and replace him with Jordan Spieth who I’d expect to go very close but isn’t quite a backable price (6/1) for a single at a course he hasnt played and Walker as I said was a bit of a hunch. So it’s (Snedker, Johnson and Spieth) x (Pepperell, Dredge and Dinwiddie)

9 ew doubles – 0.25pt ew @ odds from 132/1 to 4535/1

Weekly outlay = 18.5pts

Running total = 109.5pts


Wyndham Championship and Made in Denmark – Betting Preview

Day is congratulated on the 18th green by wife Ellie and son Dash

Day is congratulated on the 18th green by wife Ellie and son Dash

USPGA Review – Jason finally has his Day (…..sorry!)

After two previews with zero returns, had the third also been fruitless then it may well have proved to be the last. However my feeling that Jason Day was going to win was similar to that which I had at this years Masters regarding Jordan Spieth, very strong. So upping the stakes and going with one solid pick turned out to be a great success and the site is now in overall profit for the 3 weeks. (73pts advised, 105.8pts returned for a ROI of 45%)

In reality Day looked like the winner all weekend and barely faltered whatsoever. But that’s not to say it wasn’t still a nervy experience for his backers on Sunday, never more so than straight after his chunked wedge when sitting in A1 position on the 9th fairway. The panic was short-lived though as he saved par and then played a near flawless back 9, oozing the perfect concoction of power, accuracy and touch. Despite the murmurs of it being too easy a major with its record breaking score, I found the US PGA to be one of the more enjoyable Majors of recent years with an immaculate golf course allowing the world’s best golfers to play some truly breath-taking golf. To cap it off we got perhaps the most deserving major winner of the last 5 years and a hugely popular one at that.

The usual post major lull will hit both the PGA Tour and European Tour this week although there is still a decent enough field assembled on both sides of the Atlantic and I’m going to run through my thoughts for both quickly followed by 3 outright picks in each followed by any other bets that I might like. If it’s a succesful format then I might keep it going during these lower profile weeks.

Made in Denmark

Held at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort in Farso near Aalborg, this tournament had its inaugural running last year and was a massive success with some of the highest crowds seen for a regular European Tour event. It hasn’t attracted too many of the biggest names so a fairly average looking field arrives in Denmark to tackle the relatively short, exposed 7,033 yard Par 71 course. With only one running so far there isn’t a lot of course form to go on so instead I have decided to look quite closely at last year’s winner, Scotland’s Marc Warren for more information. Warren at his best is a great ball striker served by one of the best swings on the European Tour. He is a deadly putter and thrives on windy, links courses. He has won 3 European Tour titles ; The Scandanavian Masters in 2006 at Barseback Golf and Country Club, Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in 2007 and then the 1st Made in Denmark last season.

Whenever I think of Gleneagles I immediately think of a few courses that correlate nicely with Gleneagles. Crans in Switzerland (Omega European Masters), Doha Golf Club (Qatar Masters) and Barseback. As already mentioned Warren has won at two of these and only this year he finished 2nd in Qatar. Thomas Bjorn has won at Crans, Qatar, Gleneagles and came 4th at this course last year. Paul Lawrie has won at Qatar and Gleneagles. Robert Karlsson has won at Crans, Qatar and lost in a playoff to Warren at Barseback. Even Joakim Haeggman had 2 of his 3 career wins at Barseback and Qatar. The list goes on with countless players cropping up on the leaderboards at these same courses over the years.

Some may think “so what?” but it’s a method that can often throw up a winner. Many golfers just feel more comfortable on certain types of courses and it’s no coincidence that most of the courses above have undulating, exposed fairways (bar Crans which is tree-lined) and require a very sharp short game. So I’m looking for players that have performed well in the last couple of years at Qatar Masters and Omega European Masters, are in decent form and preferably better than average putters.

Marc Warren is favourite this week and rightly so. He arrives here off the back of a T48th at Whistling Straits and a T25th at Firestone. Not amazing but playing in fields that make this look like a Sunday Medal. Prior to that he looked set to win the Paul Lawrie Matchplay until a slight back injury prevented him from playing his best towards the end of a long week, losing in the Semi Finals to eventual winner Aphibarnrat. Warren is simply in great form, is suited to the course and on his day is one of the best in this field. His odds look poor but it must be noted that the opposition does too so I think he is worth a win only play at 11.5 on Betfair.

Johan Carlsson is also in good recent form with a T9th at the Matchplay and a T16th at Crans with no over par rounds and 68% of greens hit and 12th in Putts Per Round. This isn’t one of his strongest attributes usually so to me that was worth noting. Carlsson finished 13th and 16th the last two years in Qatar hitting a 65 on both occasions so we know he can go low when conditions suit.  Carlsson isn’t the most accurate off the tee but last year’s winner Warren only hit 50% of fairways so it clearly isn’t the most crucial of factors at Himmerland. The clincher for me with Johan was another course link. He has only won once as a professional on The Challenge Tour. This win was at the Kazakhstan Open and the previous winner at that same course was Tommy Fleetwood who has won at Gleneagles. Another tedious link to some no doubt but enough for me to think that he can go well at  a big price.

As I have mentioned Robert Karlsson has already won at both Qatar and Crans with the lost playoff at Barseback. So he is a great fit for the course but he also arrives in impressive form, having made the final of the Paul Lawrie Matchplay at Murchar Links. While he hasn’t won for a few years that performance will have given him confidence and looks overpriced if anywhere near his best.

Wyndham Championship

Like most Donald Ross designed courses, Sedgefield favours those that arrive with their whole game in good shape. This event has been held here since 2008 so there is plenty course form to study along with form at numerous other Donald Ross (DR) designs which the PGA Tour visits (East Lake, Aronimink, Oak Hill, Oakland Hills)

I’m not going to overthink this too much as there is a decent field with 7/8 top class players lining up so I’ve found three proven winners that arrive playing well with a solid bank of form around DR courses. They also rank highly on Par 4 Scoring and Scrambling which are possibly two of the more important attributes at Sedgefield.

Brandt Snedeker is vying for favouritism and on first look he appears a bit short at 16/1. However he closed impressively last week at the USPGA and has had a good enough 2015 considering he has been hampered by a hip injury. A Top 20 last week suggests he is over that and Brandt has performed well on a number of DR courses, finishing 9th at the US Open in 2014 at Pinehurst and winning the Tour Championship at East Lake in 2012. He ranks 10th in Par 4 Scoring and 5th in Scrambling. Add to that a win in the Wyndham at a different course with 2 further Top 5s at Sedgefield and Snedeker looks primed to get his 2015 going again.

Bill Haas is a player I have had some joy backing over the last few years. When playing well Haas has the all-round game to challenge the best but we normally see him coming to the fore in the tier below Majors/WGCs. He has a couple of Top 10s here and usually plays nicely around DR courses. Bill finished down the field last week but prior to that had a 25th at Firestone and a T4th at the Quicken Loans. Ranks 32nd in Scrambling and 46th in Par 4 Scoring.

Carl Pettersson won the first staging of this and has had several Top 10 finishes since 2008. He can be a little patchy with his form and missed the cut last week but prior to that he was T4th at the Quicken Loans and is never without a chance around his favourite courses. Looks a decent price and I’d expect him to play well again.

  cropped-golfbetting.jpeg                                     SUMMARY OF BETS

Made in Denmark

Marc Warren – 2pts win @ 11.5

Robert Karlsson – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Johan Carlsson – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 and 1pt Top 10 @ 7.4

Wyndham Championship

Brandt Snedeker – 2pts ew @ 16/1

Bill Haas – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Carl Pettersson – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

In addition to these main bets I’m going to do each way cross doubles with the selections above at 0.25pt ew. The cross doubles just means that I will combine each of the European Tour selections with each of the PGA Tour selections to give 9 each way bets. This is a good way to have a betting interest in the golf each week for lower stakes but still with the potential for decent returns. Obviously for a return you need to get one player from each tournament in the Top 5 while the dream is to get both winners!

9 ew cross doubles (Warren, Karlsson, Carlsson) x (Snedeker, Haas, Pettersson)- 0.25pt ew @ odds ranging from 209/1 to 5426/1

Johan Carlsson + Carl Pettersson Top 20 All Swedish Double – 0.5pt @ 15/1

This weeks outlay = 18pts

Total outlay = 91pts

Total returns to date = 105.8

US PGA Championship – Betting Preview

WGC Review

Another poor week last week with no returns. Firestone played a little tougher than was expected this year with very hard and fast greens. But despite Matsuyama, Oosthuizen and Horschel struggling from Friday onwards, on Sunday the Koepka, Bradley and Haas bets were all winning. But it wasn’t to be as Koepka finished in the dreaded 6th place and Bradley/Haas just missed out on their Top 10/20s.

So after another 18pts lost this week and less time available, I’m going to alter this week’s preview slightly and change the staking plan a little.

US PGA Championsip – Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits is a Pete Dye designed Par 72 and at 7790 yards is another absolute brute however it looks to be playing at a mere 7514 for the USPGA! There is a bit of room off the tee for the bombers as 2004 and 2010’s USPGA Championship Leaderboards prove (pictured below). Martin Kaymer won the 2010 Championsip and he has also won the Player’s Championship around Pete Dye’s flagship TPC Sawgrass. With the exception of Chambers Bay earlier this year, Whistling Straits is probably the closest golf course to a Links course that they play on the PGA Tour with some 610,000 sq m of sand and dirt on the course. In fact the course famously has too many bunkers to count as Dustin Johnson was penalised 2 strokes for grounding his club in a waste area to the right of the 18th fairway on Sunday in 2010. Although with the recent weather it is looking rather more soft and green than in 2010. As well as the bombers there were some shorter hitters like Zach Johnson and Steve Elkington on the 2010 leaderboard. Coincidently these two both finished the 2010 season inside the Top 10 for 3-putt avoidance and with the greens averaging 7000 sq feet that is perhaps not such a surprise. All the leaders below also hit a lot of Greens in Regulation so that will be the 3 main things that I will be considering along with the following 2 USPGA stats that will be banded around all week but are a fairly good guide. Some stats in Sport are a nonsense but many can be solid, analytical tools that can really help punters.

14 of the last 16 USPGA winners had already won that season

All of the last 8 USPGA winners had finished in the Top 22 the previous week at Firestone.

Which tells me that you want a long hitting, green hitting, in-form, 2015 winner that plays well on Links courses and has a proven Major pedigree.

Whistling Straits

Jason Day of Australia celebrates on the 18th green after winning the World Cup of Golf tournament at Royal Melbourne Golf Course in Australia, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Jason Day

I have had Jason Day in mind for this for a few months. He has already racked up 9 Top 10 finishes at Majors, all starting with his T10 here at Whistling Straits in 2010. With so many near misses Day was starting to be discussed as a bit of a bottler and a non winner given he only had 1 PGA Tour stroke play title to his name prior to this season. However his Major final rounds this year have appeared to be a lot more solid and he was so close with his putt at the 18th at St Andrews. Additionally the fact Day hasn’t yet won a Major shouldn’t put anyone off him for “Glory’s last shot” as 4 of the last 6 USPGA winners were winning their first Major (and the other 2 were both Mcilroy!) It is surely just a matter of time before Day wins a Major and Whistling Straits looks to be right up his street. He has two wins this season to his name and a T12th last week at Firestone. He sits in 3rd place in Driving Distance, 36th in 3-putt avoidance, 32nd in Greens in Regulation and a brilliant 5th in Scrambling which is just crucial at every Major. He also has form at other Pete Dye courses with a T4 at TPC Lousiana in the Zurich Classic this year and a T6th at TPC Sawgrass in 2011. I can’t see him out of contention this week and I firmly believe he is due a little luck on a Sunday at a Major. If he gets it then surely this world-class talent can get over the line on Sunday. I really like him this week so he is going to be the main bet and the rest of the bets will just be cover bets to get my stakes back, longshots or place bets.

Other bets

My only other outright bet is a win only cover bet on Bubba Watson. He lost in a playoff here in 2010 when a far less accomplished and major-less player. He now has two Masters green jackets on top of several other PGA Tour titles in the last 5 years. He comes off a 2nd place last week in the WGC Bridgestone and also a 2nd place to Jason Day two weeks prior to that in Canada. Bubba also has the all important win this year at the Travellers Championship around TPC River Highlands (a Pete Dye redesign). I can see both Bubba and Day fighting it out with Dustin Johnson on the back 9 on Sunday but after DJ’s recent collapses I don’t think he is deserving of anyones money at 16/1 so happy to play just 2 this week.

I like 6 Top 20 bets in this for a few different reasons too

Bernd Wiesberger played in the last group on Sunday in last year’s USPGA going on to finish down in 15th after struggling with the pressure a little. He as had another stellar season with a win in one of the European Tour flagship events – Open De France. Kaymer himself won there in 2009 and Wiesberger also has several other high finishes at courses where Kaymer has won. He is long off the tee and also finished in the Top 25 last week with his weekend 66-69 only being bettered by the champion Lowry. Looks set up to play well this week

Kevin Na loves Pete Dye courses and he had a fairly good start to the 2015 season but tailed off slightly. He came back to form last week with a resurgent T15th and will enjoy this week’s challenge having seen it before in 2010.

Ernie Els has 2 Top 20s already at Whistling Straits and even in his declining years he has shown that he can pull some form out of nowhere at courses that he likes. This long, linksy set-up is ideal for Els and I’d expect him to start strongly given he has been T2nd here after Round 1 in both 2004 and 2010. I’m going to play him first round leader as well as Top 20.

Camillo Villegas was T8th at Whistling Straits in 2010 and has played very patchy golf the last few years since he stormed onto the scene. When playing well his talent is unquestionable so it was interesting that he finished T25th last week closing with a 65.

Ben Martin very nearly won The Players Championship this year just finishing 1 shot shy of the playoff and continued his form at the US Open for 3 rounds. He looks to enjoy the test of a Major Championship so while not in the best current form I think he can outplay his price for a Top 20.

Ross Fisher simply loves long links courses and has several high finishes around courses that Kaymer thrives on. He looks massively over priced considering only a month ago he was finishing T8th at the Scottish Open around Gullane Links.

Finally I will throw a small bet on the reverse forecast with Jason Day/Bubba Watson for a bit of fun more than anything.

Summary of Bets (all bets Betfair Exchange unless stated)

Jason Day – 6pts win @ 14.5 , 4pts Top 5 @ 4.7

Bubba Watston – 2pts win @ 16

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt Top 20 @ 6.6

Kevin Na – 1pt Top 20 @ 6.6

Ernie Els – 1pt Top 20 @ 9.8

Camillo Villegas – 1pt Top 20 @ 9.4

Ben Martin – 1pt Top 20 @11

Ross Fisher – 1pt Top 20 @ 12.5

Ernie Els – 0.5pt EW 1st Round Leader @ 125/1 Betfair Sportsbook

Jason Day/Bubba Watson Reverse/Dual Forecast – 1pt @ 110/1 Sky Bet

20 pts outlay.

(73 pts in total so far)


WGC Bridgestone – Betting Preview


Open Review

While it was a fantastic tournament, it was a particularly bad Open Championship for me from a betting point of view. The wind on Thursday/Friday seemed to ruin Stenson and Fowler’s chances and Snedeker never got going at all. Coetzee managed to get to -3 on his front 9 both days but was destroyed by a strong wind on both his back 9s and missed the cut. Kaymer had a solid enough week but finished a never closer 12th without ever really being able to strike a blow. Goosen looked set to give me a small return until a poor weekend left him down the field.

However I’m reasonably happy with how I saw the tournament playing out and putting certainly ended up as the most important factor. Length off the tee was important even if Zach Johnson winning suggests otherwise. Such is the quality of his short game when at his best, he can win on courses where length is favoured. Just look at his 2007 Masters win where he laid up at every Par 5 to wedge his way to victory.

But there is no getting away from the fact that it’s a 35pts loss for the first preview! Must do better in the next two or they may well be the last!

WGC Bridgestone

The final US based WGC of the season takes place this week at its regular home of Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio. The tournament has been held there since 1999 in its current guise as a World Golf Championship but there has been a regular tournament held at Firestone dating back to 1962.

Now in its customary slot the week before the USPGA Championship the elite players see this as a perfect preparation for a usually similar challenge that awaits them the following week. Both Tiger and Mcilroy have done the Firestone/USPGA double in recent years and most other USPGA winners post a Top 20 here prior to lifting the Wanamaker Trophy so it’s worth keeping an eye on next week’s market as the tournament goes on.

The Course

The South Course at Firestone sits at 7360 yards long and plays to every yard of it, earning itself the nickname “The Monster” from Arnold Palmer after he once took a treble bogey at its 16th. Originally designed in 1929 by Bert Way, it underwent a massive redesign at the hands of Robert Trent Jones in 1959 to prepare it as a Championship course.

It has several long Par 4s and the Par 5 16th is one of the longest on Tour at 667 yards. The fairways are around average in width but they aren’t to be missed with lush green rough awaiting the inaccurate and leaving a very long approach to the greens. The fairways are also mostly straight and tree-lined so any shot shaping off the tee has to be extremely accurate The greens while perceived by some to be small, average 7,600 ft in area so they are actually on the larger side. However many of them are elevated with steep slopes which make them harder to hold. They also run at 13″ on the stimpmeter so they should play very fast.

What is needed to win?

Most winners of the WGC at Firestone are world-class and usually a major winner already. Since 1999 only Hunter Mahan (2010) and Craig Parry (2002) haven’t won one of the main 4 tournaments. To further make this point ,since 2005 every winner bar 2 has finished that season in the Top 3 of the PGA Tour’s All Round Ranking.

Since 2009 the worst that any winner has finished in that season’s Total Driving rank is 17th. So they have to be long, accurate drivers to have any chance of winning at Firestone. You simply can’t consistently find greens from either the rough or 200+yards out for 4 days in the Ohio heat.

But of course everyone misses the odd fairway so I want a player that can still hit greens from well back in the rough. Looking at Approach shots from 225-250 yards, Firestone lover Keegan Bradley (15th, 1st, 2nd, 4th here) regularly performs well in this stat which backs up that theory. The mind numbingly slow Bradley is also a terrific ball striker and when he finally does hit his irons they are both high and long which helps him to hold the ball on the fast greens.

Another key attribute of Bradley’s is hitting Par 5’s in two or “Going for it” as the PGA Tour like to call it. While there are only 2 Par 5s at Firestone it does have some almighty Par 4s that may seem like Par 5s to the shorter hitters.

With a roll call of recent champions including Mcilroy, Scott, Mahan and VJ Singh, it can be noted that you do not have to be one of the best putters to win at Firestone. So while I’m not going to ignore it completely, I’m going to focus more on Scrambling given how hard the greens are to hit.

Recent year’s stats suggest that a high finish in the Masters is preferable, showing that your game is in good shape for high class test. Further good performances at the other Majors and WGC are obviously good pointers too so I’m looking for at least 2 Top 20s from these 6 stroke play tournaments in 2015.

Debutants don’t tend to take to Firestone immediately so unless they rank highly everywhere else, they should probably be avoided.

Players I’m backing

I have managed to get down to a shortlist of 8 given the skill set required (and including Spieth because he is Spieth) – long, accurate driver, great ball striker with high, accurate irons and a solid scrambler. But that is too many for a restricted field tournament so I have tried to whittle it down to 4 main bets.

The shortlist was – Spieth, Day, Fowler, Oosthuizen, Mastsuyama, Bradley, Koepka, Schwartzel, Haas. I’ve ruled out Spieth on price and not being the longest of drivers. I think Day may well win but I’m hoping he just ticks over with a Top 10/15 thus saving a better price for the USPGA next week. Fowler disappointed on Sunday, doesn’t have the highest of ball flights for these approach shots and is also a very short price. Bradley hasn’t been at his best this season so while he will probably play well on his favourite course I can’t see him winning.

Hideki Matsuyama

For me this week Matsuyama is an ideal fit. We know he is one of the best drivers of the ball in the world sitting 5th in Total Driving. He is 8th in Greens in Regulation (GIR) and ranks 10th in Approaches from 200-225yards so his long game is in fantastic shape. His short game is also in decent nick as he is 10th in Scrambling and 4th in the All Round Ranking. Matsuyama can be quite an inconsistent putter, holing everything on a Friday and then nothing on a Saturday but the test at Firestone suits with slightly lesser emphasis on the short stick. He also finished 21st here on his debut in 2013 and then 12th last year with his weekend 65-68 only being beaten by Mcilory. A confident main pick.

Louis Oosthuizen

One of the most in form golfers in the world he has Top 20 finishes in all 3 majors together with a Top 10 at the WGC Cadillac. Finally over the injuries that have plagued him the last few years he seems to be contending in every big tournament at the moment. There is no better swing in the game of golf than Louis’ and when on form he puts that to great use finding fairways and greens for fun. This is backed up by 32nd in Total Driving and 20th in GIR. Oosthuizen has no real weaknesses and looks sure to continue his form at a course where he already has 4th and 9th place finishes.

Brooks Koepka

Although Brooks is a debutant and a relatively short price I had to include him this week. While he may be inaccurate off the tee his length will suit and his fantastic iron game will set up plenty of chances on the greens. He has also shown a liking for hard and fast tests with some impressive finishes of late and he sits in 5th in the All Round Ranking. I don’t think a Top 5 is out of the question and if he manages to keep his errors to a minimum then he could contend over the weekend.

Billy Horschel

I originally thought I had found a decent left field pick but since then I have noticed he has been tipped in places. While known by most keen golf fans, Horschel really stormed into the mainstream in September last year winning back to back Fed Ex Playoff Events to win the $10m bonus. On his day Horschel strikes the ball as well as anyone but he has stuttered since then as his objectives have changed somewhat since setting himself up for life financially. However his long game stats still make good reading and the putting could be worse as he sits 5th in Putting >25 feet. Given that it was around this time last year that his putter got hot I don’t think it’s too much to expect that he kicks on again from here. His only Firestone appearance opened with 3 rounds in the 70s but closed with a 66 suggesting that he was beginning to get used to the course.

Other bets

I have included a Keegan Bradley Top 10 due to his great course record and Bill Haas Top 20 after a good showing last week at the Quicken Loans (also on a Robert Trent Jones course) suggesting he is maybe overpriced to go well again. Adam Scott likes the course and tends to start well in big tournaments. His long game was immense as usual at St Andrews so worth a go 1st Round Leader before his short putting/nerves get the better of him over the weekend.

Summary of Bets

Hideki Matsuyama – 3pts ew 30/1

Louis Oosthuizen – 1.5pts ew 25/1

Brooks Koepka – 1pt ew 50/1

Billy Horschel – 0.5pt ew 60/1

Keegan Bradley – 2pt Top 10 7/2

Bill Haas – 2pts Top 20 7/4

Adam Scott – 1st Round Leader 1pt ew 25/1

Total = 18pts