I would love to see the bookmakers results from the HSBC Champions as I really can’t see how anyone would have backed Scottish/American hybrid Russell Knox to win it even with his known ability. Indeed the only thing more surprising than Knox winning was the fact that Graeme Mcdowell has been pushed down to 2nd place in “Most cringeworthy accents on PGA Tour”. That said, Knox seems like a decent guy and the way he closed out the tournament was very impressive. Starting the week as 7th reserve and then once in the field, playing in his first ever WGC without even a regular win on the PGA Tour it was hard to see him holding on even down the stretch on Sunday with a three shot lead. From a personal point of view I noted last week how important proximity to the hole stats would be this week so it was particularly annoying to check these on Sunday morning and find Knox finished the 2015 season sitting 2nd behind only Jim Furyk. Leishman, Fowler and Oosthuizen never really contended despite Leishman getting my hopes up with a 65 on Saturday to get himself inside the Top 10.
With a weather affected tournament the Sanderson Farms Championship very nearly turned into a non-event. However with two rounds to play I took a little more interest again once Michael Thompson (125/1) got himself into the Top 5. I wish I hadn’t bothered. He bogeyed his final hole of his 3rd round and struggled to get anything going during his 4th round to finish down in 20th place. Quite frustrating as he led the field in Strokes Gained:Putting over the first two rounds and was looking good for a place. The winner was yet another young 1st time winner, Peter Malnati who led the field a merry dance on the putting greens to achieve a Strokes Gained:Putting rating of 11.85 which according to Twitter sits inside the Top 10 recorded since 2004. Impressive.
Another losing week leaves the running total as follows;
Total points advised – 254
Total points returned – 322.26
ROI – 26.88%
This week the European Tour stays in Shangai for the penultimate tournament of the 2015 season, The BMW Masters at Lake Malaren . The PGA Tour crosses the border to Mexico for the OHL Mayakoba Classic at El Cameleon in Playa Del Carmen.
The BMW Masters
With Danny Willett’s strong finish last week the Race to Dubai is set up perfectly with two tournaments to play. Willett has closed the gap and Mcilroy isn’t playing this week so he will be looking to overhaul the World No.3 to give himself the best possible chance of finishing the season on top of the points list. I read somewhere that a Top 25 finish would do it so it looks likely that Willett will hold his form at least enough to accomplish that goal.
There is no doubt that will be the story of the week but for the punters there is a puzzle to solve with regards winning the tournament. The BMW Masters is in its 5th running this week with the past champions being Marcel Siem, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Peter Hanson and Rory Mcilroy. The course is a long one at 7607 yards and is a Par 72 designed by Jack Nicklaus. The fairways are wide and exposed and there is plenty water in play. As well as those four previous editions we can look at some of the other many Jack Nicklaus designs that they face on Tour.
With the winners enclosure list at Lake Malaren we can assume it is a ball strikers course above anything while length off the tee is an advantage without being necessary. As ever, the norm for Jack Nicklaus designs is for the challenge to become harder as you get nearer the green which sits nicely with GIR machines like Hanson, Mcilroy and Fernandez-Castano having won here. But none of those could be described as excellent scramblers and putters which suggests that just hitting greens isn’t overly tough here but hitting it close to the flag is the way to get it done. That is backed up by the fact Lake Malaren has some of the larger greens you will see on Tour. So I’m going to keep with this theme and look at in form ball-strikers who will give themselves plenty of short birdie putts. Then even if they only hole their fair share they should still contend on greens where 3 putts will be in abundance for those that can’t find the right areas. Each of the front three in the market could win this at a canter with their A game but the market is only too aware of that and they all look short enough in what is a very strong European Tour field. It looks like a week to find some value in the middle of the market to me.
Alexander Levy looked like he might reward me with a contending week a couple of weeks ago in Turkey only to fall away after a terrible start to his 3rd round. But at 50/1 this week he represents some decent value at a course where he excelled for 63 holes last year before blowing up on the home stretch. The large greens allow this aggressive player to fire at the flags and with the rain softened conditions of the greens this week, his aggression can be rewarded. He isn’t the most accurate off the tee but he is long and his T20 in Turkey came with a GIR ranking of 1st and 81%. I’m convinced he will focus on the good memories from those first 63 holes rather than the bad memories from his closing 9 holes. Levy is a pretty solid putter from the 10ft-15ft range so if his irons are dialled in then he looks primed to out play his price.
An in-form Ross Fisher is one of the best tee to green on the European Tour and he has 5 ET wins to his name as well as a career year in The Majors in 2009 when he finished 30th, 5th, 13th and 19th. He has gone off the boil a little bit since then only to pop back up every now and then with a contending performance. His last win came in March of 2014 and he struggles for consistency but last week’s finish of T3rd came along with some great stats for the week as he ranked 6th in fairways hit and 10th in GIR. Fisher came 2nd here in 2014 and so he clearly likes the course. He certainly isn’t one of the best putters around but neither was Fernandez-Castano so with his iron game on song he can contend again this week where he will be fully acclimatised to the Shanghai conditions having played there last week.
Byeong Hun An is a player I’ve followed closely this year since his win at Wentworth and I’m convinced it won’t be long until he wins again. Two weeks ago this well renowned accurate ball striker actually came 2nd for putts/round in Turkey. A solid 19th place finish last week will set up nicely for the test this week and I’d expect him to pound the greens at Lake Malaren. If his putter is still even slightly warm then he could run away with this where his errant driving (50% fairways hit last week) won’t be punished.
OHL Mayakoba Classic
The PGA Tour takes its now regular jaunt down to Mexico this week and the El Cameleon Golf Club in Playa Del Carmen. The course is quite a short, fiddly, tree-lined Par 71 at 6987 yards long. The greens are sea paspalum again as we were in Kuala Lumpur 2 weeks ago. This is the 4th running at this course and the previous three winners are John Huh, Harris English and Charley Hoffmann. All three are good drivers of the ball and when you look at photos of the narrow fairways with fairly lush rough you can see why the course generally suits the more accurate types. While there are no doubt some very accurate 2016 rookies, if we look at the winners so far this season like Smilie Kaufman and Peter Malnati they have been doing it on courses where they can simply get the ball out there and putt their way to victory. While there is no reason to think another fearless rookie can’t go in again this week, I think there are just about enough tricks at the El Cameleon course to make it very hard for someone to arrive and win on their first look. So without ruling them out I’m going to try and look more closely at those that have played here before and know exactly the type of test they face.
Harris English hasn’t been in the greatest of form lately but he opened with a 67 last week in Shanghai before struggling to keep up with the pace and finishing in a decent enough share of 23rd, ranking 22nd for driving accuracy and 18th in GIR. He is a two-time winner on Tour but both of those wins came in 2013 and so he will be looking to get back on track this season after a disappointing 2015 season. He is a former winner around here and the course seems to suit him. His other win came at The Fed Ex St Jude Classic which is actually one of the harder tournaments on Tour with fairways and greens rather difficult to find. While the scoring at Mayakoba is considerably easier, both courses are similar in that they need an accurate tee to green game to prosper. English should hopefully contend this week on one of his favourite courses where his price probably just about fair but it could have been worse given his strong course form and a relatively weak field. His travelling from Shanghai should be negated somewhat by the fact that a lot of these players will have had a late finish at the Sanderson Farms on Monday and will have had a similarly interrupted preparation.
Alex Cejka didn’t quite do himself justice two weeks ago when I backed him. But I’m applying the same logic to him again this week. To recap, a winner at the Puerto Rico Open in the summer on sea paspalum greens in hot and humid conditions. Cejka is also a very accurate player that sat T3rd last year with a round to go only to finish with a two over par 73 to fall down to T16th. With a recent win under his belt if he finds himself in that situation again I expect him to deal with it in a more convincing manner. I’m going to give him one more chance this week at 70/1 (going fast on Paddy Power)
Chez Reavie regained his PGA card with an impressive showing at the Web.com Final series, finishing 1st in the mini money list. So with his full card for the 2016 season and after winning again on the Web.com Tour he will be looking to get his 2nd PGA Tour win having not won on Tour since his 2008 Canadian Open win at Glen Abbey. As well as having strong recent success I was drawn to a couple of his PGA Tour stats from the 2015 season. He ranked 3rd in driving accuracy and 4th in proximity to hole. That looks like a deadly combination around El Cameleon so for a player full of confidence, he looks worth a small play at 100/1 even though he is making his El Cameleon debut.
Summary of bets
Alexander Levy 1pt ew @ 50/1
Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 50/1
Byeong Hun An – 1pt ew @ 40/1
OHL Mayakoba Classic
Harris English – 1pt ew @ 28/1
Alex Cejka – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1
Chez Reavie – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1
3×3 0.25 EW doubles (Levy, Fisher, An x English, Cejka , Reavie)
Weekly points advised – 14.5pts
Total points advised – 268.5pts