Farmers Insurance Open and Qatar Masters – Betting Preview

Apparently Einstein once said that “Insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
While I’m not going to suggest that Rory Mcilroy or I are in anyway mad, I was certainly questioning my decision to back him to win his elusive first Abu Dhabi Championsip when I woke up and looked at the leader board on Sunday morning. This was the 7th time he had finished in the top 3 and while the course is largely perfect for him, it appears there is always just about enough rust in his game to prevent him winning first time out in the new season. Notably and perhaps worryingly for most other golfers on Tour, both Mcilroy and Spieth probably played to about 75% last week, holed virtually nothing between them and still managed to find themselves in the top 5 on Sunday afternoon. While Fowler may well have held them off anyway such is his talent, there aren’t many players in world golf that can remain so competitive when not playing to towards their best golf.

In the US things were heartbreaking as Lingmerth lost in a play-off to Jason Dufner. After leading all the way Dufner was passed by Lingmerth at the 16th and they were level again when Dufner pulled his tee shot on the 17th green. It went long and off the island green but somehow stopped on the rocks. That looked to be it but his ball also managed to find an excellent lie and Dufner stabbed out a chip that very nearly dropped.

So they went to a playoff and this time Dufner showed great strength of character to lay up out of the bunker face and then stick a wedge to 12ft. After Lingmerth missed his putt to win, Dufner still had to make his to continue. He fired it in the back of the cup and on the next hole Lingmerth pulled his approach into the water and that was that.

I can’t be too upset about the week though as his 2nd place together with Mcilroy’s 3rd and An’s 5th brought returns of 32.8pts which leaves the overall totals as follows.

Total pts advised – 365.50
Total pts returned – 493.36
ROI – 35%

It also brings 2016 into profit with a 5% ROI for the calendar year so far!

This week the PGA Tour continues its west coast swing and heads south west to San Diego while The European Tour hits the middle stop in its own Middle East swing, the Qatar Masters.

 


 

Farmers Insurance Open

At Torrey Pines this week we have several high profile former winners teeing it up, namely Jason Day (who defends), Brandt Snedeker and Phil Mickelson. It sets up to be a great week as we have the first hard test of 2016. The last three weeks have all been relative birdie-fests but the last two runnings of this were both won on -9 and when we consider that the South Course here is a Championship layout then we can see why that is the case. Tiger Woods won this seven times and he also took home the 2008 US Open from Torrey Pines with a finishing score of -1.

As well as the South Course each player will have a knock around the easier North Course on Thursday or Friday before the South hosts those that survive the cut on the weekend. In addition to being suited to the tougher South course, if a player wants to contend this week it is important that they adapt also to the North course and record a low score.

The rough can be quite penal around the South course but the fairways aren’t overly narrow so wayward driving isn’t normally a disadvantage but on tough layouts it’s always easier to hold fast greens with loft and spin working in your favour. As ever that is going to be made easier by being nearer the greens and in the fairway, so long, straight driving certainly won’t hurt.

With fast, undulating green complexes it will not only be hard to hold the greens but also to get the ball to stop near the flags. Accurate approach play will perhaps be the most important attribute this week. While strong putting is always crucial on these tricky poa annua greens, it will be more about saving par this week than making a barrel load of birdies so scrambling looks to be the 2nd most crucial.

This narrows our search down to long drivers who have great distance control with their irons and can get it up and down when they do get their approach wrong. I also want some current form and previous strong showings at Torrey Pines or at elast on similar poa annua greens elsewhere.

Phil-Mickelson_0

My main pick this week is Phil Mickelson and as I have already covered my reasoning in some detail I will include the link to the Matchbook preview here

https://www.matchbook.com/lounge/event-previews/farmers-insurance-open-2016-01-28

To summise, this is Mickelson’s home town, he finished 3rd last week with a total driving rank of 19th and an all round ranking of 11th. It seems his 3 months of work on his swing has paid off and he is driving it straighter than last year. He has won this tournament twice before and putts well on poa annua greens. I’m hoping if the driving remains straight this week he will contend on a course he knows well.

I can’t quite believe I’m going to do this but I’m going to tip Charles Howell III for the first (and probably the last) time. He is the typical journeyman these days and while he is a two time winner on Tour, we have to go back some 262 PGA Tour starts to 2007 for his last win. I’m not inspiring confidence here at all! But his form so for in the 2016 season is brilliant, 11th-13th-9th-17th-10th. That sort of consistency at least tells us that his game is in good condition and that can be further backed up by the stats. Last week he ranked 5th in total driving, 5th in ball striking, 24th in putting, 15th in scrambling, 15th in GIR and 2nd in the all round ranking. That started to get me interested in Howell III but the final nail in my coffin was that he also finished T5th at Torrey Pines last year. Howell III has always been a player that appeared happy to pick up cheques and finish in the Top 10 without threatening to win. He has certainly made a lot of money through that approach on his 15 years on Tour. But we have seen several players re-evaluate their game in their 30s and subsequently push on to bigger and better things. Matt Kuchar and Jimmy Walker are two hugely talented players who were previously tarred with the same brush as “Chucky 3 sticks”. They are now both multiple winners and Ryder Cup players. While I’m certainly not suggesting Howell has the attitude required to bring his game to that level, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for him to win again and it could be that the switch to PXG clubs is the little boost needed to remind him how much ability he has and to get over the line again. His price isn’t great but it would be even shorter if it was someone more fashionable in possession of his form figures.

While I didn’t plan on picking anyone making their debut, Si-Woo Kim is very hard to get away from this week. Si-Woo qualified for the Tour in 2013 missing all 8 of his cuts but things have certainly improved this season. He is making his 9th 2016 PGA Tour start and while he missed two of those first 3 cuts, he has turned the other 6 into Top 25s with calendar year form of 9th-4th. Not only is he in great form but his stats for the relevant attributes this week are alarmingly good. For his 3 months on Tour he sits 3rd in Total Driving, 3rd in the all-round, 8th in scrambling and 14th in putting. In truth, beyond being another young Asian professional with no apparent weakness to his game, he isn’t someone I know a great deal about. But I did notice that he has already won stateside with victory coming in the Stonebrae Classic, a tournament that has been won by two other players who have already shown a liking for tough, championship layouts in Kevin Chappell and Tony Finau. It’s an outsider pick for sure but 80/1 appears a great price for someone playing so well who on paper at least looks well suited to the course.

 


Qatar Masters

As the middle east swing continues we hit the middle stop and The Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club. While all 3 courses on the swing are in the desert and present a very links like test, Doha tends to be more exposed than the other two and subsequently the list of winners is a who’s who of Links golf experts. Branden Grace, Sergio Garcia, Chris Wood, Paul Lawrie, Thomas Bjorn and among those Robert Karlsson. They have all won tournaments on Links courses but also thrive in wind and all have high finishes on proper British links courses be it The Open, The Alfred Dunhill Links or the Irish Open.

The course itself stands at a fairly long 7400 yards and as well as being exposed the fairways are quite wide and forgiving. The greens aren’t the hardest to hit but their protection comes from the weather. If the wind blows as expected then solid ball-strikers who can keep the ball below the high winds will prosper. Once on the green they face bermuda greens again and they are grainy and quite tricky. Quality putters on links type greens go well here and that is backed up by George Coetzee and his strong Doha record of 12-3-2.

It looks like it pays to have been in Abu Dhabi the week before with the last five winners all having played but only averaging a 32nd place finish. Having acclimatised to the conditions appears more important than a strong finish last week but with them facing similar greens this week I’d certainly like to see that they putted ok in Abu Dhabi.

Doha Golf Club is a course that rewards experience of the test and there are  quite a lot of players who have regularly contended there over the years. All the previous five winners had played the year before they won and averaged a finish of 13th so I want players onside that have at least played here once before and preferably had a top 20 last year. A look at the stats alone for those five winners and what it most noticeable is how they did everything well the week they won, ranking 4th-8th-4th-1st and 2nd in the all-round ranking.

Form does tend to carry over across the three events and that is to be expected with both last week’s course and Doha being designed by Peter Harradine so a good showing last week is certainly not a disadnatage but with a Wednesday start they won’t want to be arriving off the back of a contending Sunday.

The front two in the market are the last two winners of this event and so must be given respect. But they are both single figure prices and neither have done anything recently to suggest that backing them at such prices in European Tour fields is a road to profit. They are both certainly prolific winners but since Grace burst on the scene with a 4 win season in 2012, he hasn’t made winning look as easy and regularly manages to find a Sunday bogey or two to derail his attempts. The same can be said of Garcia in the last few years. There is no question that they are two of the best three players (Oosthuizen) on show here but their short prices set up some value elsewhere in the field. Of the two I’d be be inclined to fall on the side of Grace who has at least played some solid golf so far in 2016 and perhaps wasn’t helped by the weather delays the last two weeks. I think I’d want nearer 12/1 to play him although I did consider him for the each way doubles until I struggled to whittle my shortlist down even without him.

Eddie Pepperell is a player that will be jotted down in many Golf punters’ notebooks with “Links golf” or something similar scribed alongside. Ever since he joined the Tour full-time 3 years ago he has come into his own largely on links type courses. Additionally, he will also be in a lot of notebooks as a potential 1st time winner during the 2016 season. I have had some success with stubbornly backing players that I’m confident will win sooner rather than later, (Weisberger, Coetzee, Fitzpatrick), but the key is trying to do so when their price still holds value. The 66/1 about the young Englishman looks more than fair when we see he finished 4th in this last year. That gives us the course form and he had further links finishes of 5th at the KLM, 4th at the Scottish Open and 2nd at the Irish Open. Those were his only top five finishes last season which further highlights his liking for these conditions.

Has he been playing well of late though? Well last week was his first effort since November and he played ok finishing in 46th place. Prior to Christmas though he signed off with an 8th place in South Africa so last week will have served well to get his game ready for this week and I suspect he has highlighted this as an event that he could win. His stats weren’t great but he did rank 10th in GIR so with a slight improvement in his normally sound putting, on a course he likes, he can play well and maybe find himself on the leaderboard again at the close of play. He hasn’t had any high profile collapses yet as he has never quite manoeuvred himself into a winning position on the weekend. But I think with the confidence that he oozes he won’t shy away from the challenge and his odds might look very favourable come the back 9 on Sunday.

Coetzee

George Coetzee let me down last week for a Top 10 but with 3 starts now since his ankle injury I’m keen to go in again on a player that has course form of 12-2-5. Coetzee loves the middle east swing and his form figures across all three tournaments are equally strong with just one missed cut and 6 top tens. One of the most frustrating aspects of Coetzee’s game is his knack of throwing in a big number with wild tee shots or aggressive play at the wrong time. But interestingly he ranked 10th in Total Driving last week which will definitely help him here and we know all about how well he putts, especially on these greens where has ranked 7th-1st-1st-7th for putting on his four visits to date. If he has managed to straighten up off the tee during his spell out injured it’s also possible that he had time to address other issues that might have been holding him back. So if he can plot his way around the course a little better over the weekend then he we might see him holding aloft his 4th European Tour trophy.

Alex Noren is a player whose talent is unfortunately matched by his misfortune with injuries. Over the last two years he has only played 19 European Tour events but he still managed to secure his 4th career ET win last summer back home in Sweden at the Nordea Masters. It was his second win at the tournament with both coming on two different links layouts. There is no questioning his prowess on Links courses and he has the record to back it up, 3rd place finishes at both the Scottish Open together with a 9th in The Open Championship in addition to his two wins in his homeland. He also loves Doha Golf Club and has finished 12th – 4th the last two years while struggling with injury. At his best he is one of the finest wind golfers on the European Tour so he wont be phased by the forecast winds in Qatar. Noren played well last week and finished in T35th which will have shaken off some of the rust from his 6 months out through a wrist injury. It would be a big ask for him to win again so quickly after returning but with so long out injured he will be determined to make up for lost time in 2016. At a general 66/1 he looks a decent each way price on a course that suits him perfectly.

Johan Carlsson just missed out as a pick this week as I’m not convinced that he is a winner just yet. But he has excellent recent form with a 16th finish last week coming after a 7th in the Joburg Open. Carlsson ranked 15th in the all round ranking and also a very respectable 20th in Total Driving which is pretty good for the wayward Swede. He is another that handles wind well and came 13th here last year after an opening 74. I’m going to add a Top 10 bet on him at

Joost Luiten was also very close but I felt he was a little short in the betting given he missed the cut on his only visit to Doha Golf Club. The reason he came so close though was that he ranked 1st in ball-striking and 2nd in the all round last week. Luiten also has a great long game for links layouts as he hits the ball so straight and true. However I’m not convinced that he will putt well enough this week so while he deserves a mention I’m just about happy to leave him out.


Summary of Bets

Farmers Insurance Open

Phil Mickelson – 1.5pts ew 22/1

Charles Howell III – 0.5pts ew 50/1

Si-Woo Kim – 0.5pts ew 80/1

Qatar Masters

George Coetzee – 1pt ew 33/1

Eddie Pepperell – 0.75pt ew 66/1

Alex Noren – 0.75pt ew 66/1

Johann Carlsson – 1pt Top 10 at 15/2

0.25pts 3×3 ew doubles – (Mickelson, Howell III, Kim) x (Coetzee, Pepperell, Noren)

 

Weekly pts advised – 15.5

Total pts advised – 381

 

@theGreek82

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CareerBuilder Challenge and Abu Dhabi Championship – Betting preview

Last week was a frustrating one for me on both Tours. After his win at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic last year Fabian Gomez wasn’t exactly flying in under the radar and I had been close to tipping him in last year’s RSM Classic (until I noticed he wasn’t playing!). He even had a decent week previously in the Hyundai although I must admit I didn’t give him much consideration last week. He was a deserving winner afer edging out Brandt Snedeker on their 2nd play-off hole.

In South Africa I was looking for the right sort of player as I picked long drivers who hit plenty of greens, unfortunately despite Porteous ranking 1st in driving distance in 2015, he also missed the cut the week before so I never really gave him a a 2nd look. Justin Walters however returned the place money with a good week. Bizarrely though, in a complete turnaround from his usual, he putted brilliantly and it was his approach play that let him down, ranking 3rd in putts per round and 66th in GIR. Oh well.

Swafford threatened to bring up the 518/1 place double as he played an excellent back 9 on Sunday but he left himself just too much to do and finished two shots out of the places in T9th.

It was just the 6.75pts returned for Walters so that leaves the overall results standing at

Total advised – 350pts

Total returns – 460.56

ROI – 31.6%

This week we have the Pro- Am Tournament in California as the Humana Challenge changes its name to the CareerBuilder Challenge and on The European Tour we start the Middle East swing with a trip to Abu Dhabi.


CareerBuilder Challenge

If last week was considered to be easy and low scoring then this week’s CareerBuilder Challenge can historically be considered a doddle. Since the tournament switched to the 4 round norm in 2012 the average winning score has been 24.75 shots under par. It’s still not to everyone’s tastes though as it is a Pro-Am event so the first 3 rounds are 6 hour slogs with Amateurs in tow. Subsequently many players bypass what was formerly called The Humana Challenge and most notably Tiger Woods has never appeared in the event.

The action takes place on 3 courses this week, two of which are new to the Tournament. The PGA West Stadium course (Pete Dye design) and the PGA West Tournament course have been introduced alongside the usual La Quinta Country Club. So while we have limited course form now, they are still all short, open, resort courses and won’t present too much difficulty with the exception of possibly Dye’s design. But one thing that is imperative on low scoring weeks like this is a hot putter. So the focus will be on those who have fared well on the greens lately. All three courses feature bermuda greens again while notably the greens are a little tougher on the Stadium course where they play the final round on Sunday. That is maybe to be expected as it is a Pete Dye design so there are some heavily sloping run-offs and lots of undulations. That makes scrambling look like the 2nd most important aspect this week. The fairways appear easy enough to hit so I’m not going to concern myself too much with the long game this week. As long as they haven’t been spraying it everywhere of late and missing cuts then the CareerBuilder will most likely be won by the person who fares best on and around the greens.

So good putting stats, particularly on bermuda greens, strong scrambling skills and decent current form are leading me this week. I’d also want to know that anyone I was backing was comfortable in the drawn out Pro-Am process so previous form in the event will be a massive plus along with a patient attitude as 6 hour rounds and waiting for celebrities to line up their 4th putt isn’t the way to play golf for some.

I have also considered form on Pete Dye courses as an extra little titbit. Generally his courses play fairly hard so knowing how to navigate through his green complexes could be of assistance this week. Matt Kuchar has a strong record here and has won the RBC Heritage and Players Championships both of which are played on Dye courses. Bryan Gay has won both here and The Heritage. Tim Clark is a former Player Championship winner and he has two runner-up finishes here. Charley Hoffmann and David Lingmerth are two more that have form around Dye’s three courses so there appears to be some sort of correlation which will only be accentuated by the introduction of Dye’s Stadium course to the rota.

Bill Haas is a two time winner in this event so we know that he likes the tournament and the Pro-Am format. He also finished T4th in last year’s Players Championship. His recent form has been ok but his putting has been poor lately. To win a birdie fest like this two years in a row takes quite an effort and while he is a proven 6-time winner on Tour, I’m not convinced he can go back to back here and doesn’t quite look like value to do so at 25/1.

Phil Mickelson looks a fair price at 40/1 but while at his best he would contend here,  it would be too much of a risk without knowing which Mickelson we are going to see in 2016. I imagine he will have a far better year than 2015 as he will no doubt be targeting the Majors on layouts where he will be well suited. But I need to see something before I back him even at favourable odds of 40/1.

reed 2

Patrick Reed is the favourite and on first glance looks to be plenty short at around 10/1. But as we delve further, he looks hard to get away from even if there is probably no value in his price. Arguably only Jordan Spieth is playing better golf than him at the moment as he is now on a 7 tournament Top 10 streak. I wrote before the Hyundai just how brilliantly he had finished 2015, hitting well over 80% of greens during his spell on The European Tour. He held that form well to beat everyone bar Spieth in Hawaii and his stats were excellent again coming 1st in the all-round ranking.

Reed showed in 2014 that he enjoys the Pro-Am format, winning this with an incredible -28 and 3 opening 63s to leave the field trailing by Sunday. The extra room off the tee suits Reed and allows him to do what he does best and attack every single flag. If you don’t go at the flags this week you simply won’t make enough putts to contend. Once on the short stuff, as I have mentioned several times before (Zzzzz), Reed is one of the best putters around on bermuda greens. I see Reed as the most likely winner and while it’s probably the right price, I think I would be annoyed enough if I missed out at 10s when he looks such an obvious winner. I will play win only however and throw him in the each way multiples. If he plays well and is in contention on Sunday then I think he will win.

Charley Hoffman is player that is very hard to get right. On a few occasions over the years he has looked like a Top 20 in the World player over three rounds but then manages to quickly lose his form and you don’t see much of him for a few months. This is a tournament he clearly enjoys though having won it in 2007 and he finished runner-up last year. The courses involved don’t seem to make too much difference to him so it appears he is just suited to a laid back, low scoring week on bermuda greens. Hopefully the two new courses won’t make a difference to him this week and his fondness for the area can continue. Hoffman on his day can do most things well and for the final 6 months of the 2015 season he ranked 11th in putting and 22nd in driving distance. His iron play hasn’t been great of late but he only ranked 51st for GIR on way to his 2nd place last year. With a bit of room off the tee to aid him I think his putting can help him contend again this week.

I have had David Lingmerth marked down as liking Pete Dye courses since he finished T2nd on his debut on The Players Championship so it was interesting to see him finish T12th at Dye’s Whistling Straits in The US PGA Championship. Lingmerth also finished runner-up here on just his 2nd PGA Tour start while his sole PGA Tour win was at the Jack Nicklaus’ designed Muirfield. That was enough for me to consider a bet on him but I wanted to have a look at his current form and stats just to be sure. Unfortunately he doesn’t sit too favourably in any of the key stats but he does arrive on a great run of form. He finished 9th in Australia at their tough PGA Championship and then opened up 2016 with 15th and 13th place finishes in Hawaii. One of his main strengths is long, accurate driving which will allow him to hit a lot of greens this week. I’m not sure that he will hole enough putts to win this but the combination of a 2nd place here with the introduction of a Pete Dye course is enough to include him as my 3rd pick.


 

Abu Dhabi Championship

I’m not going to look too deeply into this Tournament as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are both in the field. The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship is played at the aptly named Abu Dhabi Golf Course this week and that has been the host since the 1st event in 2006. It is a course that tests most aspects of a golfers game but perhaps greens in regulation is the most important. Despite the recent run of surprise winners (Gary Stal, Pablo Larrazabal and Jamie Donaldson) I really can’t see anyone beating both McIlroy and Spieth this week so while neither look to be much value, it’s a case of deciding which one to back for me. Jordan Spieth has never played the course before while Rory’s form reads 2, 2, MC, 2, 2, 3, 5, 11 with his MC coming about largely due to his Nike clubs making their debut. He also ranked 1st the last two years for GIR and the long, 7600 yard course is perfectly set up for him with four Par 5s and a little bit of space off the tee.

While there has been some debate with regards Spieth’s length off the tee, the stats don’t lie and at best he is slightly above average length, ranking 104th for the last 6 months in driving distance. We know that hitting it far can be an advantage on most desert courses and ADGC is no different, the average DD rank for the winner is 13th. But those same 10 winners have averaged 12th for putting so with the way Spieth putts he will likely keep up with Rory, but I can’t see anyone else doing so this week. McIlroy will be spurred on by the World No. 1’s presence here this week and will view it as the ideal chance to lay down a marker for 2016 after seeing Spieth dominate much of the 2015 season.

Mcilroy

Therefore he will be my only outright pick but I will include two others for each way double purposes. George Coetzee was nearly a bet last week but I felt he might still be a bit too rusty after his lengthy lay-off. George managed to finish T13th without doing anything spectacularly well but he did rank 16th for putts per round. In his first three appearances at ADGC he didn’t finish outside the Top 10 (6th, 9th, 4th) but let that record slide last year with a 37th place finish. Where there is a bit of space off the tee and Coetzee can keep double bogeys off the card, he can be a huge threat with his deadly putting. He led the field at The US PGA in putting en route to a 7th place finish. That course was the Whistling Straits links and so the greens will have a similar grainy feel to those in Abu Dhabi. Three time Abu Dhabi winner Kaymer won the 2010 US PGA at Whistling Straits so there does seem to be a bit of a link. Coetzee goes into the each way doubles at 66/1 but I am also including a Top 10 bet at a very attractive looking 11/2.

Byeong Hun An was tipped on here several times last year and he just couldn’t seem to get over the line for his 2nd win. An is extremely talented and he drives it long, hits plenty of greens and is capable of putting very well. That isn’t always the case but at present he ranks 3rd for putting in the last 3 months on The European Tour. That is a jump from 61st for the last 6 months and it is that improvement that tells me is very close to another win. Benny finished 12th in Abu Dhabi on his debut last year so with a win under his belt now and having a 2nd look at the course I’m sure he will go even better than last year and hopefully get himself into contention over the weekend. He goes into the doubles at 33/1.

I’m not overly happy with the staking plan this week but with a short price pick in both events it’s about the best I can do without splashing out lots of points.


 

Summary of bets

CareerBuilder Challenge

Patrick Reed – 3pts win @ 10.5 on Matchbook

Charlie Hoffmann – 0.75pt ew 45/1

David Lingmerth – 0.75pt ew 60/1

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

Rory McIlroy – 4pts win @ 5.0 on Matchbook

George Coetzee Top 10 – 1pt @ 11/2

3×3 0.25pts each way doubles (Reed, Hoffmann, Lingmerth) x (McIlroy, An, Coetzee)

 

Weekly outlay – 15.5pts

Total outlay – 365.5pts

 

This week on Matchbook I have covered the Abu Dhabi Championship so please have a look at the link if you want a bit more detail regarding the Mcilroy pick. It should be up shortly. Thanks

https://www.matchbook.com/lounge/event-previews

@theGreek82

Sony Open and Joburg Open – Betting Preview

While Reed was a very confident pick last week, he was still tipped knowing that Spieth could quite easily spoil the party. Unfortunately he did and it looks like being a familiar occurence in the 2016 season. Basically every time he tees it up, the first objective for the punters will be to decide if he is a value price. He will more than likely not go off bigger than 7/1 for any tournament this year so finding value priced each way alternatives looks like being a key strategy for the 2016 PGA Tour season.

Reed played fantastically and arguably as well as Spieth but for the putter. Spieth started exactly where he finished off last year and holed a 30fter on his 2nd hole on Thursday. Despite trailing Reed by 1 shot after the 1st round, Spieth never really looked back. He threw in a few bad shots here and there but one of his most admirable traits is his ability to get the most out of every single round and he so seldom makes bogey after his bad shots. It’s possible that he could have an even better year this year and the 2/1 about him to win the PGA Tour money list is starting to look like a sound 10 month investment option.

Over on The European Tour it was a poor week for the blog with only Bourdy making the cut. A strong third round suggested he might still make the places but unfortunately his front 9 on Sunday was miserable and he could only finish in T21st. It was won by the supremely talented young South African Brandon Stone. He has been touted by many in the game for the last couple of years but he had struggled to make an impact on Tour. This win could be the start of a great career for him and he could easily go in again soon.

Total pts advised – 336

Total returns – 453.81

ROI – 35%

This week the PGA Tour stays in Hawaii for the Sony Open at the Waialae course and the European Tour also stays put with the Joburg Open at the The Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.


Sony Open

The holiday continues this week for the PGA Tour pros as they stay in the sun drenched 50th state. Jimmy Walker arrives in Waialae chasing a hat-trick of Sony Open titles as the first full field of 2016 gathers.

The Waialae Course is a short, coastal resort with reasonably tight, tree-lined fairways. The greens are bermuda grass as per last week although that is the only similarity. This week’s greens are far smaller and we shouldn’t see nearly as many 3-putts as last week. Despite being tree-lined the course can be prone to winds sweeping through. There appears to be very little forecast so scoring will probably be quite low but if it does get up then the course can play a lot tougher. Last week’s commentary team in South Africa commented on how the Glendower course can bring about the same wind problems as Wentworth where it is very hard to gauge the wind 200 yards ahead at the tree-lined greens. I would expect similar problems here so a strong wind game will be required should it get up.

In the last three editions of this the winner has ranked 1st , 2nd and 1st in the all-round ranking. Jimmy Walker ranked 3rd and 5th for total driving in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

If we look at both Jimmy Walker and 2013 winner Russell Henley then in addition to being good drivers they are also very accomplished with the short stick. So this week I’m looking for someone with a solid all-round game but especially a long, straight driver who sits high in the Strokes Gained:Putting stat.

bergerDaniel Berger won rookie of the year last year and whether he fully deserved the award or not he certainly had a great year. He managed six Top 10s with two of those being runner-up finishes. Berger was 13th here at Waialae last year on his first look ranking 5th in the all-round ranking and 9th in total driving. This tells us he has the game for the course and although he didn’t play last week he finished the 2015 season strongly with a 7th place at the HSBC Champions. He also ranked 11th for Strokes Gained:Putting in 2015, 25th in the all-round and 18th for total driving meaning the performance in Hawaii was no fluke as he was performing well in those areas all year.

One of his 2nd places came at The Honda Classic on the bermuda greens of PGA National so he has shown a liking for bermuda greens too. Russell Henley and Mark Wilson (2011 winner) have also both won The Honda Classic so there does seem to be a course link with PGA National and Waialae.

This is a player who is extremely well thought of and it will be a big surprise if he doesn’t win at some point this year. He will be looking to start 2016 strongly and Waialae appears to be the perfect place for him to get off the mark with only a handful of the PGA Tour’s top players lining up.

Hudson Swafford missed the cut last year but was an impressive T8th on his debut in 2014. He ranked 2nd for total driving in the tournament and also 7th throughout 2015 for the same stat. Swafford also ranked highly in SGP finishing the 2015 season in 20th place while he sits in 26th place so far for the 2016 season. He had an ok 2015 with 7 Top 25s  but he hardly set the Tour on fire so Swafford is another who will be keen to get off to a great start on a course that he knows he can perform on. He has the perfect combination of total driving and putting to play well this week at a nice each way price of 150/1.

While there are no Jason Days or Jordan Spieths this week we do have five or six of the next tier of golfer with the likes of Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and of course Jimmy Walker all in the field. I’m keen to get one of these four on board in some capacity. Zach struggled last week with his new clubs and Kuchar wasn’t eligible to play for the first time in 6 years after a poor 2015.  Snedeker had a great week but I’m not convinced he drives it well enough to win here at Waialae. That leaves the hat trick chasing Jimmy Walker who finished in 15th place last week. He didn’t play nearly as well as he did last year but did manage to shoot a 3rd round 64 which gives me hope that he might be close to getting back to his A game. If that’s the case then a course where he has already won twice might be just what he needs. Let’s not forget that he won this by 9 shots last year so he may manage to win this with just his B+ game.

I will include him in the each way doubles and play 1pt win only as a saver should he destroy the field again.


Joburg Open

The Tour moves 2 miles west across Johannesburg this week to the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf CLub (RJKGC). There are two courses in play this week as they face both the East and West courses before the cut with two further rounds at the weekend on the tougher East championship course.

They were both designed by Bob Grimsdell and subsequently both present a similar type of challenge. Tight, tree-lined fairways appear on both courses with the rough normally being more penal on the Championship layout. The East course also plays considerably longer at 7658 yards compared to the West course’s 7203 yards. As normal in SA the players will be on kikuyu fairways but this week there is some poa mixed through the bentgrass greens which means they will be even harder to read than usual in SA.

TFJWith many South Africans playing this week that are all of a similar standard, I needed to separate someone from the pack. This wasn’t easy as there are many that have claims of some sorts. Trevor Fisher Jnr gets the nod however as he meets all the criteria I’m looking for. He arrives in good form after a 8th place finish last week, he is hitting plenty of greens as he ranked 7th for GIR last week and is 24th for the 2016 season so far. While finishing down the field in 32nd last year, Fisher still has strong course form with 6th and 3rd place finishes in 2013 and 2012 respectively.

Fisher hits the ball a long way and ranks 10th for driving distance in 2016. Unlike many of these South African journey men, he has a European Tour title to his name, winning The African Open last year at East London Golf Course. Being a proven winner in this company is a huge plus and makes his price look excellent value when you compare it to the flakey Jaco Van Zyl who is trading at half the price. But what I like most about that win is the fact it was on a similar course to this week’s RJKGC, both feature tree-lined, narrow fairways with relatively small greens. Of further interest was a look at his next best result from the 2015 season. It was a 3rd place finish at The Portugal Masters which was won by none other than last year’s Joburg winner Andy Sullivan. In addition to that, 2015 Joburg Open runner-up Anthony Wall finished joint 3rd along with Fisher. This suggests a course link and a further look back at previous renewals throw up plenty of other names that have gone well at both venues. One of the main reasons for that seems to be high GIR numbers which again suits Fisher Jnr’s game. With a good week on the bentgrass greens I think Trevor Fisher Jnr can go well and hopefully get his name on the trophy alongside some his South African peers.

Justin Walters falls into a similar category but at 35 years old he is still chasing his first win on The European Tour. While I’m not overly convinced he will ever get there he is another that arrives off the back of an excellent week with his irons and with the necessary course form. Walter’s last three years read 24th, 2nd, 16th so it is a course he clearly likes when playing well. He also has a 2nd place at The Portugal Masters in 2013.

His putting was awful last week with an average of 32 putts/round but Sullivan proved last year that the Joburg Open isn’t neccesarily won on the greens as he averaged 30.75 putts/round. If Walters continues to pound the greens then he is a very fair each way price at 50/1.

Adrian Otaegui’s best two results last year were in South Africa. He finished 10th here along with a 6th place finish at The Tshwane Open. His stats made for good reading last year ranking 12th in DA, 21st in DD, 8th in GIR and 21st for putts/round. The GIR numbers were a huge improvement on his 44th ranking the year before where he finished 22nd. This powerful young Spaniard is still finding his way on Tour and we shouldn’t forget how hard it must be to play many of The European Tour venues for the 1st and even 2nd time. But with Otaegui having his 3rd look at the venue this week I think it’s highly likely that he can continue in the right direction and contend over the weekend. The only downside is that he missed the cut last week but hopefully that will just make him fresher and maybe even have given him more time to practice at RJKGC. Looks overpriced on his two previous efforts here.

Dylan Frittelli just misses out for me this week as he is a player I still don’t know an awful lot about. He is certainly held in great esteem in South Africa and he caught my attention with a 2nd place finish at the tough Australian PGA Championship in November. While he only finished in 18th place last week he actually ranked in 3rd place for GIR. If he keeps that up then he will surely have a good week here but my enthusiasm was dampened by two consecutive Joburg Open missed cuts. However, given he is still young,  it’s very possible that he has improved drastically in the 10 months since last year’s Joburg Open so I will include a Top 10 bet largely based on last week’s excellent approach play.

Summary of bets

Sony Open

Daniel Berger – 1.5pt ew @ 45/1

Hudson Swafford – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Jimmy Walker – 1pt win @16s on Matchbook.com

Joburg Open

Trevor Fisher Jnr – 1.25 pt ew @ 28/1

Justin Walters – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Adrian Otaegui – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Dylan Frittelli – 1pt Top 10

0.25pts each way 3×3 doubles (Berger, Swafford, Walker) x (Fisher Jnr, Walters, Otaegui)

Weekly pts advised – 14

Total pts advised – 350

@theGreek82

Hyundai Tournament of Champions and South African Open – Betting Preview

With one or two Christmas trees still standing proud, the golfing season is already back underway as both the PGA Tour and European Tour begin on Thursday.

There won’t be any traditional remains of Christmas however as both Tours find themselves in the sunnier climes of the southern hemisphere. The PGA Tour starts its Hawaii swing with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the European Tour is in South Africa with the BMW SA Open.

2015 was a great golfing year and it was also pretty succesful for the blog with a ROI of 39% from the starting point in July. (321.5pts advised and 447.11 returned)

I will continue with the rolling results but might also try to update for 2016 only. If anyone should want a full breakdown then they can tweet me @theGreek82

As of this week I will also be writing weekly golf previews for Matchbook.com, a new, up and coming Betting Exchange. A lot of the information may cross over between the two but for those that are keen then please give it a look. The advice will be different as I will be giving 1 main outright trade on their Matchbook.com exchange and a 72-hole match bet which is something that their site specialises in. If you don’t have an account then it’s well worth looking into.

https://www.matchbook.com/

As for the blog, it will continue in the same format most weeks with 3 picks in each tournament along with the 3×3 ew doubles and some other side bets.

A happy and profitable 2016 to all readers!

Hyundai Tournament of Champions

This week the 2016 PGA Tour season starts properly. Since the PGA Tour started a wraparound season in 2013, many of the bigger names in the game stay off the circuit until this week, giving themselves a well-deserved rest. As the name suggests, here we have a field made up largely of the tournament winners from the 2015 season plus the 2016 Fall Series winners

The host course is The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Hawaii and many of the players have an extended break here while also getting in some practice at the course. Indeed Rickie Fowler has been there for over a week having spent New Year in Hawaii.

The course is unique for the PGA Tour in that it is a Par 73, with some very long par 5s and some very short par 4s bringing up a 7452 total yardage. It has wide, sweeping fairways, minimal rough and large, undulating bermuda greens. It was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and is one of the most picturesque on the whole PGA Tour with  stunning views out to the Pacific Ocean and neighbouring islands.  The room off the tee and large greens means it perhaps isn’t surprising that the winning score is usually in the 20s under par. When we look at the list of recent champions we find the likes of Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, Jonathan Byrd and Stuart Appleby (3). They all have very strong wedge games and are deadly on the greens. With the afore-mentioned short Par 4s and long Par 5s this makes perfect sense as they will be hitting it closer to the flag with their wedge, subsequently having a better chance of holing their putts. Strokes Gained:Putting, GIR under 150 yards and Proximity to the Hole look to be the stats to focus on this week.

reedLast year’s champion was Patrick Reed and he is back to defend this year coming off a very impressive final few months of 2015. He completed the European Tour Final Series with 3 Top 10s and then went onto to finish 2nd behind Bubba Watson at the Hero World Challenge. The confident, young Reed has 4 PGA Tour wins but hasn’t managed to get over the line since this stop last year. When we look at his four wins we see that two of them arrived in January with one in March so clearly plays well in the early stages of the season and he will be very eager to start the Ryder Cup year strongly to gain a head start on his fellow Americans seeking a place on the team. As well as enjoying his January golf, Reed also loves to putt on bermuda greens as all four of his wins have come on the surface.

With the only possible negative being his defending of the title, there is simply too much in Reed’s favour to leave him out this week. The bookmakers agree unfortunately but I’m still happy with 12.0 about one of the in-form players in world golf in a restricted 32-man field.

Obviously Jordan Spieth and Jason Day warrant respect this week but given the 2015s that they both enjoyed it’s perfectly fair to assume that they would have relaxed and enjoyed a well-earned rest over Christmas. That makes it hard to back them at single figure odds. Fowler and Watson are appealing but are in the same price range as the 6th favourite Reed who we are already backing. So I’m going to look further down the field for a 2nd pick and I like the look of Kevin Kisner here. He arrives off the back of his 1st PGA Tour win in November and a 2nd place finish at the WGC HSBC Champions. Kisner is a player with very similar attributes to Zach Johnson as they both have short, accurate games coupled with a killer touch on the greens. So if he has held his form then I think he can go well on his debut at a course where Zach won in 2014. Just the two picks in Hawaii given the small field.


The BMW South Africa Open

The South African Open returns to Glendower Golf Club for the 3rd consecutive year with Andy Sullivan arriving as the reigning champion after a win last year that propelled him to a career year and well into the World’s Top 50. Morten Orum Madsen won the 2014 renewal and VJ SIngh won the only other time it was held here in 1997. So rather uncharacteristically for a SA tournament, that’s three non South African winners from three runnings.

The Glendower Golf Club is 7564 yards long but it is at quite an altitude so it won’t play to all of that. As usual in SA the fairways and fringes will be the rather specialist Kikuyu grass and the greens are bentgrass. Although the course does appear to be quite a tight driving course, the last two winners have only hit 47.6% and 46.4% of fairways respectively. Last year Sullivan won the tournament with a fantastic performance on and around the greens while Madsen hit a very high number of greens en route to his 2014 victory but also putted solidly. Despite Sullivan’s poor numbers of fairways hit, to me he is the type of golfer who is capable of doing everything strongly, so when he putts well he can take a lot of stopping, something that Rory Mcilroy will testify to after their shootout at the DP World Championship.

So I’m looking at players with a good all round game, have a decent record in South Africa and also found some form towards the end of 2015.

Perhaps the most obvious play then is to back last year’s winner Andy Sullivan again. We know he likes the course, has another win in South Africa and bounced back to form in the Race to Dubai Final Series. But it is so obvious that the bookmakers have him a general 8/1 2nd favourite. To me he looks the most likely winner and given his calm, smiley nature on the golf course I can’t see defending a tournament as a problem for him. At double figures i would be happy to advise an outright bet however I think the 4 week break makes it very hard to back someone at single figures when they aren’t in the elite bracket yet. I will include him as my 3rd player for the each way doubles though.

Branden Grace is also plenty short enough at 4/1 so I’m looking down the field for some each way value.

Pablo martinBut we don’t have to look too hard. Pablo Martin Benavides is a very streaky player but one who has 3 European Tour wins to his name already and is still only 29 years old. Two of those three wins came in South Africa at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and he finished 11th there in December before signing off for Christmas with a 28th in Australia. He ranks 2nd in one putts on the European Tour,14th in putts per round and 19th in driving distance. Pablo also finished 4th in this event last year so will know exactly what challenge is to be expected around Glendower. Odds of 125/1 are simply too big for a three-time winner who claimed in December to be playing the best golf of his career.

Gregory Bourdy signed off for the festive break with an excellent 2nd place to Charl Schwartzel at Leopard Creek. He enjoys the test of South African golf and should the rough be more penal this year then this accurate driver will be able to plot his way around better than most. Bourdy’s all round stats were excellent too for that 2nd place, 10th in DA, 18th in DD, 14th in GIR and 8th in Putts/round. In addition to that he sits in 16th place in scrambling for 2016 season so his game looks in great shape to contend again in a relatively weak field when we take into account the Frenchman is a 4 time European Tour winner.

Summary of bets

HTOC

Patrick Reed – 2pts win @12s on Matchbook.com, 2pt Top 4 @ 3.35 on Betfair Ex

Kevin Kisner – 1pt win @ 23s on Matchbook.com, 1pt Top 4 @ 6.2 on Betfair Ex

BMW SA Open

Pablo Martin Benavides – 1pt ew 125/1

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew 28/1

2×3 0.3pts Each way doubles (Reed, Kisner) x (Sullivan, Martin Benavides, Bourdy)

Additional 0.45pt ew on Reed + Sullivan double

 

Weekly outlay – 14.5pts

Total outlay – 336pts

2016 outlay – 14.5