In the end it was a very frustrating week with no returns at all. There were times on Thursday and Friday where it looked like I might have got a good run in both tournaments but by Sunday morning all hopes lay with Peter Uihlein nabbing a place in Turkey. If it wasn’t for one bad tee shot on the 9th then he would have done so comfortably but even still a birdie at the 18th would have given him a share of 5th so when he hit the longest drive of the week there to leave himself an 8 iron approach I thought he had saved the week. But he chunked it into the bunker and proceeded to play an average bunker shot leaving 12 ft for his birdie. The putt just turned right on him to finish in the dreaded 6th position. The tournament was won in convincing style by the enigmatic Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. His ice cool aggression on Sunday made for one of the most exciting finishes we have seen for a while and also didn’t paint the Sky commentary team in the best of lights. Twice on short par 4 holes he took out the driver when trailing by 2 shots, on both occasions Mark Roe ridiculed the move. While their job is to analyse, it’s the sort of uppity, condescending attitude that we have come to expect from Roe and he really can be hard to listen to at times. With the number of top pros leaving the European Tour for the PGA Tour you would think they should be embracing one of their very best showmen rather than questioning his brave and exciting style. Especially as it worked for him there in 2013 and again on Sunday. After appearing emotionless all round , when his birdie putt dropped at the 18th he was completely overcome and broke down in tears with his coach. The year since his Ryder Cup debut has been a very tough period for Victor, fighting injury, personal problems and a related loss of form. It was great to see him back winning as there are few more exciting players to watch when in full flow.
In the US despite promising starts in the CIMB Classic from Moore and Cejka they never got close enough over the weekend in a tournament that turned out to play as easily as any will in 2016 with -26 winning. Justin Thomas was by no means a shock winner though going off a general 25/1 after having gone close a number of times in the last year. He is very highly thought of and could well win a few more this season after getting off the mark. As one of Jordan Spieth’s closest friends there is fair chance that some of Spieth’s winning mentality has rubbed off on Thomas and he could really push on as the 2016 season unfolds.
The losing week gives a running total of
Total pts advised – 240pts
Total pts returned – 322.26
ROI – 34.3%
This week we have the last WGC of 2015 and the only one to currently be held outwith US, the HSBC Champions in Sheshan, Shanghai, China. The world’s best assemble for this but there is a great chance for 2016 PGA Tour rookies to get off the mark this week too at The Sanderson Farms Open at Jackson County Club in Mississippi.
With Victor Dubuisson showing last week just how important course form can be it’s something that will not be lost on me this week in China despite Dustin Johnson winning at his first look in 2013. With the exception of the 2012 running, Sheshan Golf Club has been the venue for the WGC HSBC Champions dating back to it’s inception in 2005 season so there is no shortage of course form. It was designed by the renowned Asia based team of Nelson and Haworth and plays at 7266 yards long with undulating, tree-lined fairways, elevated bentgrass greens and plenty water in play. The design team are quoted as saying that they were influenced by Donald Ross’ Oak Hill course which has a lot of varied Par 4s with many elevation changes. Given that the last two winners were Bubba and Dustin Johnson you would think that length off the tee was a prerequisite but Bubba had to hole his bunker shot at 18 last year to force a playoff with Tim Clark who is one of the shorter hitters on Tour and in 2010 the short but deadly accurate Franceso Molinari won the event. Both those players are excellent with their long irons so while different types can prosper it would seem that distance control when trying to hit the greens and indeed getting the ball as close to the flag as possible are key to scoring at Sheshan. Clark regularly ranks highly on the PGA Tour for proximity to hole and Molinari would if there was such a stat on the European Tour. Graeme Mcdowell and Martin Kaymer both hold strong records here also and while both being top class in general, one of their best attributes is their lag putting.
A look at USPGA Oak Hill form is of interest to me. Tim Clark finished T3rd there in 2003, Stenson finished 3rd in 2013 and David Toms was 7th in 2013. Clark and Stenson are both winners of The Players Championship and Toms has a great record there with a runner up finish and several other Top 10s. In a roundabout way this serves to highlight a player that I already had on the shortlist for this week, Rickie Fowler, who won this year’s Players Championship as well as finishing 3rd round here last year. His distance control at TPC Sawgrass was amazing on his back 9 and those memories of such accurate iron play under immense pressure will serve him well this week. Additionally when we look at his recent form we see a win at Deutsche Bank in the play offs. A disappointing 1pt from 4pts at the Presidents Cup preceded a T25th at The Shriners. But Rickie has really learned to peak for the larger Tournaments over the last 18 months and I’m sure he will arrive here in confident mood. With both Spieth and Mcilroy playing this week the odds for Fowler are even quite fair at 20/1 so he is my main pick this week where Spieth and Mcilroy both look opposable at single figure prices with only Mcilroy being able to boast a Top 10 finish (although he does have 3 of them). But he averaged over 30 putts per round last week and until we see an improvement that just isn’t going to get it done in this company where Dustin finished 1st in putts per round in 2013 and Bubba finished 13th last year. At least I know Rickie Fowler is putting well as he led the field at The Shriners for strokes gained:putting. I would probably have preferred 25/1 but 20/1 isn’t to be sniffed at for the world no. 5 in a 78 man field.
After a promising few rounds last week Graeme Mcdowell was going to make my staking plan for this week but I see he isn’t playing. I’m sure this must be his decision rather than the result of his demise over the last year but either way he won’t be in Sheshan this week.
My mid range pick was between Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen. Louis has had an excellent 2015 but hasn’t managed to find that elusive win. With runners up finishes in both The US Open and The Open he will be pleased but feel that he missed out to a certain extent. On top form there are only a handful of golfers in the world that can be considered better. His two perfomances so far at Sheshan read T14, T15 so they are solid without standing out but none of those 8 rounds were over par which is encouraging and suggests he does like the course. This year he arrives (touchwood) injury free and in excellent form after scoring 4.5pts/5pts at The Presidents Cup thanks to a dream partnership with Branden Grace. With that taking place in Korea it was further proof that Oosthuizen is happy playing anywhere around the world. His long and accurate driving will serve him well this week and with it playing tougher last year a half decent week on the greens could see him contend at surprising odds of
50/1. Annoyingly the 50/1 has gone but 40/1 is still just about fair.
Marc Leishman is always a player of interest to me in the bigger tournaments these days. With a couple of strong major performances already behind him (T5th 2014 Open, T4 2013 Masters) he very nearly won The Open this year at the home of golf. Indeed he played the weekend at St Andrews 5 shots better than the next best (Spieth) and 6 shots better than the winner, Zach Johnson. That is a serious level of golf. Last year here, he shot 69-69 over the weekend to finish 9th and with opening rounds of 72-71, none of his rounds were over par on his first appearance at Sheshan. His weekend score was only beaten by Pablo Larrazabal’s 69-68. He also finished T12th around Oak Hill in 2013 and has a Players Championship T8th in the bank too. A recent T29th at the Shriners was ok and while his 1.5pts/4pts at the President’s Cup was only average, he defeated Jordan Spieth in the singles which is sure to have given him a big confidence boost. Leishman isn’t the most accurate of drivers by any means but he has a strong long iron game and is deadly on the greens. While he still only has one win to his name on Tour (the 2012 Travellers Championship which has been won twice by reigning WGC HSBC Champion Bubba Watson) his exploits in the summer tell me that he has the ability to contend in elite fields and with available odds of 125/1 I think he looks a very nice ew price if he can keep the ball in play.
I’d still like to involve Kaymer somehow but will see what the Sanderson Farms throws up.
Sanderson Farms Championship
The tournament that has the pleasure of going up against the WGC HSBC is the Sanderson Farms Championship and it takes place in the deep south of Mississippi and Jackson Country Club. The course is a medium length Par 72 at 7284 yards with tree lined fairways and small, tricky greens that are said to resemble Donald Ross greens which suggests they are undulating and generally fall from back to front. This sets a precedent on distance control with irons and indeed approach putting. Last year was the first running at Jackson CC so course form is limited but it was won by Canadian rookie Nick Taylor who was excellent on the greens.
There will be a lot of very determined and highly motivated rookies teeing it up this week, all inspired by Smilie Kaufman’s win 2 weeks ago. None of these players will have the benefit of having seen the course last year but the flip side to that is that none of the worlds’ best players are here and subsequently we have a tournament that could quite literally be won by any one of the 156 strong field. This makes taking short prices look like something we should avoid this week so unfortunately the first name on my shortlist, Jason Bohn has to be ruled out at a ridiculous price of 10/1. He arrives with excellent form figures of T2, T3 but this is a 42 year old 2 time winner on Tour with his last win coming in 2010. He may be in great form and even finished T2nd here last year but that is a crazy price for a player that struggles to win up against all the young and hungry 2016 rookies. Although given his form he looks likely to contend again so he is on my mind for the place markets.
This poorly priced favourite points to value down the field so lets have a look at last year’s running. The leaderboard had neat and tidy sorts like Bohn, ball strikers like Mcgirt and Weekley, in addition to bombers like Thomas and Uihlein all inside the Top 10 so it does appear a course where all sorts of players can thrive. All in this looks fairly tough to get an angle into so I will keep stakes small and focus on some previously decent sorts who have already won on Tour and might be just over priced in a field this weak. With the greens quite hard to hit last year I’m also going to pay close attention to scrambling and proximity to hole although the conditions are apparently softer this year so the greens should be more receptive. Given the competitive nature of this tournament my 3×3 EW doubles will have reduced stakes this week.
Kevin Streelman is a solid enough player that I have marked as a great putter so it surprised me to see that he ranked 13th for ball striking on Tour in 2015. He is a two time winner on Tour having won the Tampa Bay Championship in 2013 and The Travelers Championship in 2014. He can be quite streaky and arrives here with form figures of T41, T16 so in a tricky looking betting event he looks probably about the best value bet from the head of the market.
KJ Choi arrives having served as Vice Captain to Nick Price at The Presidents Cup in his homeland of South Korea. Sometimes things like that can remind players of what they are missing out on. At KJ’s best he was a Top 10 player and a former Players Championship winner so if he received any motivation from that then his odds of 80/1 could look very generous. Four of his eight wins have come on bermuda greens so we know he putts well on the surface. His high ball flight hybrids will help him to hold these greens from distance but when he misses his excellent scrambling skills will allow him to save par and I’m hoping he can find some form on a course that he will surely enjoy.
Michael Thompson is a bit of a hunch pick really based on his liking for classic golf layouts and the fact that he is a very good price for someone who is a PGA Tour winner and still potentially better than the majority of these. He finished T3rd this year at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic and there are similarities here with it’s TPC Southwind course as both feature elevated bermuda greens. His most recent finish was only a T50th at The Shriners so stakes will be small but he could find some form at his 2nd look on a course that should suit him.
Summary of Bets
WGC HSBC Champions
Rickie Fowler – 1.5pt ew @ 20/1
Louis Oosthuizen – 1pt ew @ 40/1
Marc Leishman – 0.5pt ew 125/1
Sanderson Farms Championship
Kevin Streelman – 1pt ew @ 33/1
KJ Choi – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1
Michael Thompson – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1
3×3 0.15pts* ew (Fowler, Oosthuizen, Leishman x Streelman, Choi, Thompson ) *lower than usual stakes
1.3pts on a place double – Paul Casey Top 10 HSBC + Jason Bohn Top 10 Sanderson Farms @ 17/2
Weekly pts advised – 14pts
Total pts advised – 254pts