2015 will always be remembered as Jordan Spieth’s year (sorry Jason, if you’re reading!). Whatever this incredible young man goes onto achieve in his career, it’s very unlikely that he will have a year as impressive as 2015 unless he actually manages the hallowed Grand Slam. To win 2 majors at the age of 22 is an amazing achievement on its own, never mind doing it in the same year and chasing them with T4th and 2nd in the other two. But Jordan wasn’t finished there. After a post USPGA Championship lull which saw the Texan miss 2 consecutive cuts he was determined to wrestle back the World No. 1 from Jason Day and end the season with everyone firmly knowing who the best player in the world is.
Unfortunately this week Spieth’s efforts were at the expense of my Stenson win bet. Although I’m not going to complain too much as there would have been a slight sense of injustice had Stenson won this week to lift the Fed Ex Cup without having anywhere near to as impressive a year as Spieth or Day. It was a fascinating spectacle over all four days with Henrik flying out of the blocks on Thursday with a close to perfect ball-striking performance. This made him the man to beat come the weekend but unfortunately that just left Spieth with a very clear goal, chase down and pass Henrik Stenson to win the Fed Ex Cup. His putting performance to do so on Saturday and Sunday will surely go down in History as one of the great putting displays, with his clutch putting on Sunday in particular bordering on unbelievable. On no fewer than three occasions with Henrik in kick-in birdie range, Spieth holed monster putts ranging from 20-45ft. After one of those the camera cut straight to the wry smile of Stenson, a look which suggested that he knew then and there that whatever he did, Spieth was going to find a way to beat to him. Now that mentality, coupled with a few errant shots from the Swede could in some circumstances be judged wrongly as a “choke”. It is one thing to throw a tournament away just through the pressure of being in contention, it is a completely different thing to be ground down by the best player in the world’s relentless and timely putting. A competitor as determined and as full of self-belief as Spieth can do that to even the game’s best.
While it will no doubt be debated furiously over the next 10-15 years where Jordan ranks alongside Tiger Woods, that is almost disrespectful to arguably the game’s greatest ever player. Tiger Woods completely changed the game of golf for the better and without him the landscape would be very different today. But as in all walks of life, people come and people go. With Woods increasingly looking a spent force the game needed someone to take over his throne. While Rory Mcilroy threatened to and still rightly sits amongst the top 3 in the world he wouldn’t even get close to the Top 10 short games in the world (I know, Spieth probably wouldn’t rank in the Top 10 tee to green either!). The game needed someone with that X Factor, capable of pulling off the unthinkable at exactly the right time, again and again as per a Tiger Woods You Tube highlight reel. In 2015 Jordan Spieth didn’t just threaten to be that player, he showed us that he unquestionably is.
Despite Stenson only finishing 2nd it was a reasonable week for me as Bjerregaard managed to sneak into a share of 5th place thanks to Ross Fisher’s bogey at the 18th on Sunday in Germany. Including both those singles and the advised EW double this brought returns of 16.48 pts and nearly broke even for the week with 18pts being advised. Running totals are now as follows;
Total Points advised – 164
Total Points returned – 233.68
Return on investment (ROI) – 42.48%
If anyone wants to see a full breakdown of results then just post a comment below or tweet me @thegreek82 and I can email it out.
So with the 2015 PGA Tour season behind us we now have to wait a whole 2 weeks for the 2016 Season to start.. But luckily the European Tour is still going strong and it heads back to the UK this week for one of the best fields of the year, The Dunhill Links Championship.
The Dunhill Links Championship
The players find themselves on the east coast of Scotland this week and on three of the UK’s finest courses, St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. This tournament has a different format to the norm with it being a Pro-Am. So each player plays a round at all three courses along with their often “celebrity” amateur of choice. The cut then falls after three rounds with those who make it continuing on to a final round at St. Andrews on Sunday.
Given the slower, less serious nature of this Tournament, players will need to feel comfortable in this environment in order to win. Scoring is always low as the courses aren’t set up as hard as they would be for a normal European Tour event given that amateurs are also playing.
With all three courses playing to a Par 72, Kingsbarns at 7150 yards usually plays as the easiest of the three, followed by St Andrews (7307 yards) and then Carnoustie (7412 yards) which retains some of its bite even with the favourable amateur pin positions.
Unsurprisingly, given the name, this tournament is normally won by a proven Links exponent. With a winning score usually in the 20s under par it is also important to score well with the pure links greens playing softer than in the summer. So my research is going to revolve heavily on finding players suited to the courses, putting well and with some good recent Links form also. In addition to previous editions of the Dunhill, we can look at this year’s Scottish Open held across the Firth, the Irish Open, The Open (which was held at St Andrews this year) and even the Dubai Desert Classic which plays very much as a Links course (several players have won both there and the Dunhill to back his up)
With such an impressive field I could have backed about 12 players this week but even with just the one tournament I wanted to keep it at 4 main plays and some additional side market bets. I really like Danny Willett’s chances this week but he looks plenty short enough at 20/1 as does Shane Lowry who hasn’t been seen since his US PGA missed cut.
Thomas Pieters finally got off the mark with a win in the Czech Masters in August and he promptly followed that win up with another in the KLM in Holland which is played on the Kennemer course in Zandvoort. It is an undualting, exposed course and Links specialists like Simon Dyson, Joost Luiten, Darren Clarke and Ross Fisher have all won there previously. Pieters has several other high finishes on Links courses and a decent T18th on his debut here last year. It is very hard to win three tournaments in a row (he hasn’t played since Holland) but at this stage with the talent he has this powerful Belgian could yet be anything. As well as his length of the tee he will be aided this week by his deadly putter. He is -39 for his last 8 rounds so while he may look slightly short at 40/1, his limits are not yet known so I’m happy to include him while his putter is hot (averaging 26.25 putts/round over those 8 rounds) in a Tournament that can often turn into a putting competition in fair weather. Furthermore he can take inspiration from Branden Grace who won here in 2012 after himself having a multiple win breakthrough season.
Eddie Pepperell is a young Englishman that has been more banging the door down than knocking on it over the last 2 years. This season alone he has 4 top 5 finishes on Links courses; 4th in Qatar, T2nd in Irish Open, T4th in Scottish Open and T5th in the KLM 3 weeks ago for the blog. He told me yesterday on Twitter that he hasn’t played at all since Italy two weeks ago but I’m not that concerned as he will arrive refreshed and determined to finally get his win in a Links environment that will suit him perfectly. Those that follow him on Twitter will know that he is good fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously so he should feel at ease in this Pro-Am format. With a week off his price is possibly a little better than I expected so 50/1 looks very fair for a proven Links specialist that is deadly on the greens.
Pablo Larrazabal is a player that I struggle to get right. He has let me down a few times when everything has looked in his favour for playing well. But I think, given the course links from where he has won tournaments, he is due a big performance in a classic Links tournament. Golf Club Eichenried, where he has won two BMW International Opens, has a very similar roll call of winners as The Dunhill; David Howell, Martin Kaymer, Robert Karlsson, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood have all won at both and a host of other players have high finishes. Now Eichenried is not a Links course so I’m not sure why this is the case. But there is a premium on distance control with the irons and also scrambling when the small greens are missed. Larrazabal’s other wins have come at Le Golf National and Abu Dhabi which have also been the scene of wins for many strong Links players, amongst these Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Jamie Donaldson and Paul Casey. He arrives in fairly poor form but those that are familiar with him know that he can appear out of nowhere to play well. Pablo’s win this year in the BMW came after 2 weeks off and prior to his T100 last week he also had 2 weeks off. It is more of a hunch play but odds of 150/1 are available and they are just too big for this proven winner who enjoys such a short game test.
Peter Uihlein has been promising to take the European Tour by storm for the best part of three years. But after his first win in 2013 Uihlein has had to sit back and watch his friend Brooks Koepka and several fellow members of the 2011 US Walker Cup team (Russell Henley, Harris English and a certain Jordan Spieth) establish themselves with multiple wins. Uihlein impressed most on courses with some room off the tee where he could let loose with his long yet erratic driving and then let his excellent iron game give himself numerous eagle and birdie chances which he would often take when his putter was hot. But over the last 18 months he has tailed off somewhat and subsequently we have seen some decent prices about him in 2015. He lost to David Howell here in a play off in 2013 and followed it up with a T18th last year when in very average form. So we know that he likes this group of courses but that isn’t really enough if he isn’t playing well. Which is why it was very interesting to see that he came 3rd in GIR (an impressive 80.6%) last week en route to a T12th in Germany which came 3 weeks after a T30 in Holland (77.8% GIR ranking 16th). Uihlein is a serious talent and if he is going to get that elusive 2nd win he is going to do it when conditions suit. The Dunhill Links Championship looks a perfect fit and although I had hoped for odds greater than 50/1 I think he is still a good ew play this week where his putter should hopefully warm up on familiar greens.
A couple of place market bets for me this week too. Anthony Wall is a bit of a European Tour journeyman but he is always worth consideration on Links courses such is the quality of his scrambling. He finished T12th at The Open Championship this year at St Andrews so I think he looks over priced for a Top 20 this week at 13/2.
I’m also keeping the faith to a certain extent with Lucas Bjerregaard. I’d be very surprised if he wins this week but I expect him to continue his fine form for another big cheque.
Paul Dunne led The Open after three rounds at St Andrews and that was an amazing achievement for an amateur golfer. As expected he fell away on Sunday but he arrives here as a professional now and will be keen to start banking some money. The Dunhill Links looks an ideal place to start and 8/1 looks a nice price for a Top 20 when he has already proven he can handle playing with the very best on Links courses.
Darren Fichardt is an excellent putter and can go well when the his long game is in decent shape. He arrives off the back of 20th and 12th place finishes and has previous Dunhill form of 25, 28th and 13th. Again 8/1 looks a good price for another South African that putts well on the grainier Links greens.
Summary of bets
Thomas Pieters – 2pts ew 40/1 and 1pt Top 10 7/2
Eddie Pepperell – 2pts ew 50/1
Peter Uihlein – 1pt ew 50/1
Pablo Larrazabal – 0.5pt ew 150/1
Anthony Wall – 1pt Top 20 13/2
Lucas Bjerregaard – 1pt Top 20 9/2
Paul Dunne – 0.5pt Top 20 8/1
Darren Fichardt – 0.5pt Top 20 8/1
Weekly outlay – 15pts
Total outlay – 179 pts