Last week was a bit of a disaster. Not only were there no returns on the 15.5 pts but none of the 6 players even got into contention at any point so it made for a rather dull weekend of Golf. My main two fancies Koepka and Olesen did their best to play themselves out of their respective tournaments on Thursday and never recovered. Mahan made it onto the Sunday evening leaderboard temporarily before throwing 5 shots back coming home and also finished down the field.
It was young Argentine Emiliano Grillo that won the Frys.com on his first start in his rookie season, a very impressive feat. European Tour followers will be familiar with him after he plied his trade there for 3 seasons before successfully tackling the Web.com Tour and it’s Q School last month. Grillo’s tee to green game rivalled the best on the ET and he is undoubtedly a highly talented player. But given his tendency for mistakes on and around the green under pressure, many will be surprised by how quickly his 1st PGA Tour win came on Sunday. Another hugely talented youngster that could have a big season. One to keep an eye on around ball striking courses.
In Europe Andy Sullivan came storming back to form in style to become the 1st player to win 3 times in 2015. He had gone off the boil a little as the season wore on after recording two wins early in 2015. He obviously found something in his swing prior to Portugal as he gave a masterclass all week to record a 9 shot win. At his best Englishman Andy has one of the purest swings on Tour and you can see why he can hit great shot after great shot when playing well. But he also has no real weakness to his game so perhaps the early 66/1 on offer last week should have been taken on value grounds alone. Given his canter around Oceanio Victoria it will be a long time until we see 66/1 about this likeable sort who plays the game the right way, quickly and with a smile on his face.
Total Pts advised – 208.5
Total Returns – 301.98
ROI – 44.8%
This week the PGA Tour stays out West but moves further inland to Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin for the Shriners Hospital for Children Tournament. The European Tour heads East to Fanling Golf Club for the co-sanctioned Hong Kong Open.
Shriners Hospital for Children Tournament.
Justin Timberlake was a key figure as host of this tournament for 5 years until 2012 and whoever wants to win this week will need to have their swing N Sync and hope their decision to play here is Justified……..
The tournament is held at the TPC Summerlin Par 72 course designed by Pete Dye protégé, Bobby Weed. It plays at 7243 yards long but is at altitude so the ball will fly that bit further for everyone.
Recent winners include Ben Martin, Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Jonathan Byrd and Martin Laird. Bobby Weed’s other course on Tour, TPC River Highlands hosts the Travellers Championship and its recent role call includes Bubba, Kevin Streelman (2nd last year at the Shriners), Ken Duke, Marc Leishman and Frederik Jacobsen. So as you would expect from a designer with such a close connection to Dye, a tidy short game is required as these names are some of the better chippers and putters on Tour. Given that last week was also a good test of their short games I’m going to look strongly at current form in addition to the scrambling and putting stats for 2015. I would expect those that played last week will be in a better position to contend this week although it is important that they had a break at some point over the last few weeks as the humid Vegas conditions will be hard to contend with if running on empty.
The course plays simple enough with large, easy to hit greens and the last few editions have all been low scoring. So proximity to hole and putting look key as well as a degree of accuracy off the tee as several players have noted that in order to get close to the flag, you need to have the right position in the fairway. Ryan Moore and Kevin Na are both capable of hitting it very close and holing plenty of putts when on their game and a T10th and 2nd place respectively last week tells us both their games are in great shape. I’m sure they would have been the first two players on most people’s short lists this week and while I’m not completely convinced by their prices I can’t get away from either of them this week as former winners arriving in good form. Na regularly ranks as one of the best scramblers on Tour and also has an excellent record at Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass. I’d expect him to put last week’s disappointment behind him and contend again.
Moore is one of the most accurate drivers on Tour and he usually plays well at this time of year (3 of his 4 wins have come in October/November). Last week could be the start of an improving run that should see him feature towards the top of the leaderboard on his home course. With familiar greens a good week with the putter could be the difference for Moore and his putting gradually improved last week so that is a real possibility.
After two obvious picks my 3rd is a rank outsider. With huge greens this week then 3-putt avoidance will be crucial. Colt Knost ranked 5th in 2015 for this. He also had other relevant, impressive stats for this season; 12th in proximity to hole, 7th in driving accuracy and 8th in approach putting. Knost is a former US Amateur Champion and World No. 1 ranked amateur so we know he has ability. Since his 2007 Walker Cup appearance he has had to sit back and watch many of his team mates go onto far bigger things (Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk) but after getting his card at the Web.com Final Series he will be determined to keep it and have a good year on Tour. This week’s course looks ideal for him and a look at last year’s leaderboard shows a T18th so he will know the course. I think at the very least he can go well and outplay his price of 150/1
Hong Kong Open
The last three titles here at the Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling have been won by Scott Hend and Miguel Angel JIminez (2) so immediately that tells me that any type of player can win as they are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Hend is an out and out bomber with a decent short game and Jiminez is a very short, accurate sort but also with an excellent short game. Looking further back we have the likes of Mcilroy, Montgomerie and Harrington winning here so usually one of the elite players gets to the front by Sunday.
The 6699 Yard course is very short and can be quite fiddly off the tee. The greens aren’t the easiest to hit as they are slightly elevated and firm up over the weekend with the usual hot conditions. So maybe the one common factor between Jiminez and Hend is their ability to find greens at Fanling, Hend with his power off the tee allowing him lots of wedges and Jiminez with his excellent long iron game. This would be strengthened by Monty and Mcilroy being former winners as they both have exquisite distance control with their irons. So I’m looking for a classy player with an accurate iron game, great touch around faster greens, and capable of going low when their putter is hot. Justin Rose had a Top 10 last week in California and has made the long journey to Hong Kong for this. He is undoubtedly a worthy favourite and the best player in the field but given how poorly he has putted over the last year or so it would be hard to make a compelling case for him at 6/1 in a tournament where the winning score looks set to be in excess of -20. But conversely, I’m finding it hard to find someone with a good enough game and the current form to stay with Rose even if he doesn’t hole much.
Dustin Johnson is 2nd in the market and we know he travels well with several high finishes in the Open and also a WGC HSBC win in China in 2013. His game was in good shape throughout 2015 but he obviously had some high-profile woes under pressure at the Majors although he did win his 2nd WGC at the Cadillac Championship. That’s a course where your short game has to be up to scratch with approach putting and scrambling always massively important. I expect Dustin and Justin to both play well in a field that isn’t exactly packed with depth. However taking single figures about either of them doesn’t look the wisest of plays even if they should win.
Patrick Reed is 4th favourite for this and looks to be the best piece of value in the field. While the course will be unknown to him, he looks the type that could prosper around Fanling. He has a solid tee to green game but Reed’s strength is on and around the greens so at a course where Hend’s win suggests at least a small degree of leniency off the tee, I’d expect Reed to go well. He has already shown he can mix it with the best having notched up 4 wins on the PGA Tour in strong fields and also taking last year’s Ryder Cup by storm. Going head to head with either Johnson or Rose would be no problem for this confident young player so hopefully he will be there or thereabouts come Sunday at a far better price of 22/1.
Other options are proving harder to come by again this week so I’m just including one larger priced ew shot but then I think I will use Rose and DJ in the each way doubles where their price isn’t such a problem.
Craig Lee led the field for GIR last week and came 2nd in fairways hit en route to a T6th finish in Portugal. He has proven in the past that he can hold his form and also contend in good European Tour fields when he is playing well. His best finish on Tour came at the Omega European Masters when he lost out in a playoff to Thomas Bjorn in 2012. One of Jiminez’s favourite courses besides Fanling is that of Crans where the European Masters takes place and so it is reasonable to assume that someone who fares well at Crans should take to this week’s test at Fanling. With no win yet at the age of 38 he certainly doesn’t fall into the classy bracket but looks worth a small stakes play at 150/1 while playing well.
Summary of Bets
Ryan Moore – 1.5pts ew @ 28/1
Kevin Na – 1pts ew @ 28/1
Colt Knost – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1
Hong Kong Open
Patrick Reed – 1.5pts ew @ 20/1
Craig Lee – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1
3×3 0.25 pts EW doubles (Moore, Na, Knost x Reed, Rose (6/1), Johnson (8/1))
Weekly outlay – 15.5pts
Total outlay – 225