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

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



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