Last week didn’t come as a huge shock with Jason Day running away with the BMW Championship at Conway Farms. So amazing has his form been that once he hit the front that was the end of the tournament. I stated last week that I expected Day and Mcilroy to contend (hardly groundbreaking insight, I know!) so I was essentially chasing the each way money. Unfortunately when Jim Furyk withdrew after 6 holes (stakes returned as most bookmakers voided the bet) on Thursday that left Zach Johnson and Robert Streb to lead the fight and while they both performed well to finish in the Top 20 neither really looked like placing at any point. There was more joy in Europe however with Matt Fitzpatrick charging on Sunday to finish T3rd and nick a share of the place money. This also brought up the each way portion of the Mcilroy/Fitzpatrick double although at reduced stakes due to Mcilroy only having 2/3rds of the place and Fitzpatrick 3/7ths. All in it meant returns of 8.71pts on the week and so not a good week but happy to get some of the stakes back.
Total points advised – 146
Points returned – 217.20
ROI – 48.7%
This week we have the Fed Ex Cup finale as the Tour Championship takes place at East Lake and The European Open returns to the European Tour schedule in Germany.
The Tour Championship
The Fed Ex Cup finale is here and as usual the players head to East Lake this week for the end of what will seem like a very long season for some players. With most of the Top 30 that have qualified for this week taking an extended break afterwards there will be mixed levels of motivation here. For the top 5 in the rankings they know if they win here they will scoop the $10m Fed Ex bonus. For some further down the field they will be looking to secure a big bonus cheque and finish their breakthrough season on a high. However for several of these 30 players this will be one tournament too far and with money no longer being a factor they will struggle to lift themselves for this, even more so if they are out of contention early on. So in addition to the usual course and current form I think it’s important to go with guys that will still be focussed to produce something this week.
East Lake is 7300 yards long and plays as a long but not overly tough Par 70. It’s yet another Donald Ross designed course and for some it brings a welcome return to bermuda greens. Of course there is plenty course form with East Lake having hosted this since it’s inception in 2008 but with only 30 players qualifying every year there aren’t too many that have played it more than a couple of times. With this in mind the Wyndham Championship is a useful course correlation as it is also a bermuda green Ross design. The fact that it was only last month helps also for the sake of current form. Other Ross tracks have been mentioned before and a full list can be found quite easily through any reputable search engine but I will probably list a few that relate to my picks.
Generally long and straight driving is required with some fairly lush rough and tree lined fairways. Recent winners such as Horschel, Stenson and Furyk back up the need to find fairways. The last 5 winners have all ranked inside the Top 11 for Greens in Regulation so accurate types tend to prosper at East Lake. With the bermuda grass presenting testing greens it’s important to putt well here. As with any Donald Ross course there are tight runoff areas a plenty so good scrambling skills will be required to save par when the greens are missed.
Given Jason Day’s form it was going to have to be all or nothing with him this week. At odds of 7/2 I decided he is simply too short at a course where he might just be a bit wayward off the tee to win. His form figures at East Lake are good but at 7/2 you can’t have any doubts and while I won’t be surprised in the slightest if he wins, I’m happy to take him on.
I always give Henrik Stenson the utmost respect on any Donald Ross design such is his record on DR tracks in the biggest tournaments (Won here in 2013, T4th at US Open at Pinehurst in 2014, 3rd at Oak Hill in 2013 US PGA and T4th at Oakland Hills in 2008). In fact given that he has only played once at East Lake he has never been out of the places when including only Donald Ross Majors and the Tour Championship. Now this looks impressive enough as it is but I’m after the full package this week in order to oppose Day so can Stenson putt on bermuda? Yes, Henrik won both the Players Championship in 2009 and the WGC Cadillac in 2007 on bermuda greens. When we factor in that his current form reads 2nd at the Deutsche Bank and 10th last week at the BMW then he looks a stand out pick. Stenson also hasn’t won this season yet and unlike many of these PGA Tour players Henrik will be turning his attention to The European Tour’s Final Series after this so will be hugely motivated to switch Tours coming off a confidence boosting win. At odds of 10/1 (12s on Betfair) even just a Top 4 finish this week gives us similar odds to a Jason Day win so I’m happy to have Stenson as my no. 1 pick on a course that is custom-built for the accurate Swede.
My 2nd pick is another Donald Ross lover and also a former winner at East Lake in 2011. When Bill Haas got up and down from the east lake itself to grab the $10m bonus four years ago he was a relative unknown to many golf fans. But Haas is now a proven winner with 6 PGA titles to his name and 4 of those coming on bermuda greens. He also has a fantastic record at the Wyndham Championship with recent form figures of T6, T2, T20 and T7. Haas returned to some form last week with a Top 20 and having received a President’s Cup wild card pick from none other than his dad Jay, he will be more motivated than most this week as he aims to further justify his pick. Odds of 66/1 look generous in a field that has only 8 more prolific PGA Tour winners.
I’m only going with two picks for the singles due to the restricted field and subsequent prices but the 3rd selection for the 3×3 ew doubles is Rickie Fowler. He is in great form, goes well on bermuda greens (Won The Players Championship in May) and has the added motivation of knowing a win will secure him the Fed Ex title. Which wouldn’t be a bad year for “the most over rated player on Tour”!
The Porsche European Open
We have another new course this week as The European Open returns to Tour having been absent since 2009. The course in question is the Golf Resort Bad Greisbach and while having never gathered the ET elite it has held the last 3 runnings of the Challenge Tour’s Aegean Airlines Tournament. However with no stats available from those tournaments there isn’t a lot to go on. Pictures of the course suggest that it is relatively open off the tee and at 7188 yards long the Par 71 course is of average length. With a lot of water on the course, especially around the greens, it looks like approach play will be an important factor. There is also quite a strong field assembled so it doesn’t look like a week where we can expect players to find some form from nowhere and therefore I’ll be looking at players who are at the top of their game.
The first objective this week in Europe was to decide whether there was any value in the front three in the market with Weisberger, Schwartzel and Mahan all trading under 20/1. So often we see elite players winning events like this easily, even without great recent form. But with the new course being a leveller and a better than average field I’m not convinced by any of them. In fact it was quite hard to finalise my picks this week so in the end I have simply chosen three players who are in good form and hitting a lot of greens.
Fabrizio Zanotti led the field last week in Greens in Regulation with an impressive 83% helping him finish T3rd. Less impressive was his 29.25 putts per round average and anyone who watched the final round on Sunday would say that figure flatters him. But with approach play appearing so important it looks sensible to lead with last week’s best iron player. Zanotti also got his first win in Germany last year at the BMW International Open so a hopefully a return can bring about his zweiten sieg.
Byeong Hun An is a player I have been watching very carefully since his impressive win at Wentworth in May. Amazingly after a quite ridiculous ball striking display “Benny” went off the boil through the summer with some very mediocre finishes. His win got him into some big tournaments so after The Open he flew out to the US but failed to take the US PGA Championship by storm like he did the European Tour equivalent. He hasn’t been seen in Europe since but after an eye-catching win back home in Korea last week it seems like he is back in some sort of form. Granted it was a weak field but he did manage to get the better of proven PGA Tour winner Seung Yul Noh. If he is hitting the ball anywhere near to his Wentworth standard then he can contend every week in Europe so I’d expect him to go well coming off another win.
I really wanted to pick Jens Farhbring this week as he has played in all 3 Challenge Tour events at Bad Greisbach but he isn’t in the field. So instead I’ve picked Lucas Bjerregaard who finished alongside him at T3rd last week in Italy ranking 9th in GIR along the way. The Dane has a T12th here in 2013 so will bring some course form as well as current form and looks huge at 150/1 this week.
Summary of bets
Henrik Stenson – 3pts win @ 12s, 2 pts Top 4 @ 3.55 both on Betfair Exchange
Bill Haas – 1pt win @ 95s, 1pt Top 4 @ 13.5 both on Betfair Exchange
Porsche European Open
Fabrizio Zanotti – 1.5pt ew 40/1
Byeong Hun An – 1pt ew 25/1
Lucas Bjerregaard – 0.25pt ew 150/1
3×3 0.25pts ew doubles (Stenson, Haas, Fowler 11/1) x (Zanotti, An, Bjerregard)
1pt Top 10 double 35.75/1 – Scott Piercy in US and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in Europe
Total Outlay = 18pts