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.
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.
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.
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
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