Honda Classic and Perth International – Betting Preview

It was another case of so near yet so far last week as 250/1 tip Chez Reavie managed to finish in the worst of places, 7th and just one shot away from each way returns. He traded as low as 5.6 when he briefly held a 3 shot lead on Saturday night so I managed to lay back my stakes but it was very frustrating to end up with no blog returns at all last week after having a 250/1 shot trade so low.

In Europe none of the picks did too well as I had favoured accuracy off the tee as the most important attribute. Anyone who will have watched the action last week will have noticed that the course was in no way as tight as many thought it would be. Bourdy and Zanotti missed the cut and Oosty finished a never closer 12th after a good closing final round. Luckily I kept stakes small in Malaysia but overall it was still a 14.5pts loss for the week despite Reavie’s brilliant performance in the US.

That leaves the overall standings as follows;

Total pts advised – 427.5pts

Total pts returned – 531.99pts

ROI – 24.44%

This week we see the start of the Florida swing in the US and The European Tour heads down under for The Perth International.


 

HONDA CLASSIC

As the Tour heads to Florida it also winds up at what is usually the toughest non-major course the players will face. Over the 9 years that the Honda Classic has been held at PGA National it has had an average winning score of -8.

The short 7140 yard, coastal layout was designed by Tom and George Fazio in 1981 but has since had a couple of renovations carried out by Jack Nicklaus. The fairways are of average width and are exposed to the coastal winds. There is plenty of water in play and the greens are well protected with bunkering and run-offs as is the norm for Jack Nicklaus designs.

With average width fairways and fairly big greens at 5500 square ft it isn’t immediately obvious why this should be such a tough course and the wind is certainly its number one defence. If the fairways are missed then the ball will find itself in lush green rough. It will be hard enough to to control distance out of that sort of lie but when we add in the potentially 20mph winds then you an begin to see why even these larger greens can be missed. Doing so isn’t advisable at PGA National however as getting up and down is in no way straight-forward. That is backed up by the stats from the last 5 editions where the winners have averaged 10th for scrambling compared to 20th for GIR  and 37th for driving accuracy. But as you would expect on a tough layout, anyone looking to contend will need all aspects of their game to be in good shape. The last 5 winners ranked 3-3-4-4-11 for the all-round ranking. I’d make scrambling the most important factor this week closely followed by current form as despite Harrington’s surprise win last year, it is difficult to find your game on a demanding layout such as PGA National unless you possess the talent of the multiple major winner.

reed 2

This blog is slowly turning into a Patrick Reed Appreciation Society but while he keeps providing each way returns and keeps playing so well I’m in no rush to leave him out. With his putter cooling off after a 2nd place finish in Hawaii, Reed’s form tailed off for a few weeks and matters weren’t helped by a small foot injury. But two weeks ago at Pebble Beach Reed got his season very much back on track with a T6th. He ranked 4th for GIR and 10th for total driving at the coastal Pro-am event so there wouldn’t appear to be any problems with his long game. He putted ok but there is no question a return to bermuda greens will be a huge plus for Reed this week. I’ve banged the drum several times already about Reed’s prowess on the surface so I won’t repeat myself with the stats.

Reed finished 7th at the Honda Classic last year after shooting an poor 73 in his final round. But lining up at PGA National last year his tee to green game was nowhere near the standard we have seen over the last 6 months. Indeed he only hit 58% of greens and ranked a lowly 51st for total driving.As we would expect on bermuda greens he putted excellently ranking 10th in putts per round.

So with his driving and approach play back up to speed and returning to a venue where he thrived last year I simply can’t think of any reason not to back the World No. 9 here at a fair price of 20/1. He is the number one pick yet again.

Kevin Kisner is another player who seems to be getting regular mentions from me and this week we get a favourable price due to his missed cut last time out. I’m happy to forgive that however as the unique challenge that comes with the Phoenix Open isn’t for everyone. A short, tough, coastal layout on bermuda greens however is exactly up Kisner’s street. His win at the RSM Classic came at exactly that type of course at Sea Island and two of his play-off losses in 2015 were on difficult bermuda layouts over on the East coast. If we are happy to ignore the missed cut then a look at the all-round ranking shows him in 1st place and considerably ahead of the chasing pack. That is evident when you watch Kisner as he does everthing well. Again I can’t see any reason not to back him this week at 35/1 when he has everything in his favour.

I was really struggling to separate two players for the final pick this week as I really wanted to include both Brian Harman and David Lingmerth. So I decided I would.

Brian Harman is another player who enjoys coastal layouts and he finished 13th at The Sony Open around the Waialae course which correlates well with PGA National. He ranked 1st for driving accuracy and 10th for GIR here last year on his way to a 13th place finish so the course clearly fits his eye. Harman isn’t always the best on and around the greens but he tends to perform better on tougher layouts with bermuda greens as his 8th place at TPC Sawgrass last year confirms. He also hasn’t been in the best of form since Hawaii but he is very much a player that goes well when conditions suit and doesn’t when they don’t. The sort of player that should be profitable for punters, especially at an attractive looking 150/1 this week.

David Lingmerth came so close to the first win of 2016 for the blog at The CareerBuilder Challenge. Despite having a good record at that birdie-fest the Swede is a player that I think of as one who is better suited to tough layouts. He first came to my attention when contending on the bermuda greens at The Players Championship where he finished 2nd. He also has a liking for Jack Nicklaus courses with his only win coming at Muirfield Village last summer. Lingmerth arrives off the back of two missed cuts but a switch back to the East coast should suit him and I expect him to go well on a course where he finished 25th last year and actually led the field for putting. Looks a fair price at 66/1

For the sake of the 3×3 ew doubles I’m going to include Lingmerth as he is probably a classier player than Harman and the odds suggest he is more likely to play well here.

 


 

PERTH INTERNATIONAL

The Tour heads to Western Australia this week for the 4th running of the co-sanctioned Perth International at Lake Karrinyup. The course is tree-lined yet still features a decent breeze whistling through more often than not. Despite its tree lined fairways Thorbjorn Olesen managed to win last year ranking just 66th for fairways hit. He did however rank 8th in GIR and that looks by far the best angle in. Th three winners of this plus the two from the tournaments held in 2002 and 2003 averaged 5th for GIR so I’m looking at those who hit a lot of greens when playing well. Any course that features both wind and trees can take a lot of getting used to with regards gauging the wind. It is one of the main reasons that there are so many repeat performers at Wentworth and I think a similar case can be made for Lake Karrinyup. As is the norm for Australian courses the greens are hard and fast so a tidy short game is certainly beneficial at the course too. Olesen ranked 4th for scrambling last year which further backs that up. He is also an excellent links exponent where the greens are usually hard and fast so players with a strong links pedigree should go well this week.

lucas-bjerregaard-hong-kong-open-golf_3368318

Lucas Bjerregaard’s form took a little dip early in the New Year as he missed two cuts but he has come back into form and interestingly he ranked 2nd in GIR last week in Malaysia. He finished 4th in this tournament last year and putted very well ranking 1st in total putting. So having discovered his approach play again I think he will go well on greens that he has shown a liking for before. The young Dane looked a winner in waiting throughout 2015 and it’s possible that he will need an event like this to get over the line. Many European Tour maidens get their 1st wins in co-sanctioned events when the field strength isn’t quite as intimidating as it might be in mainland Europe. His odds of 30/1 possibly reflect his chance but with their only being 5 players considered by the bookies to have a better chance, that further highlights the lack of depth to the field. There are plenty of decent European Tour players further down the market but to coin a racing term, they are all exposed sorts. In tournaments like this it can pay to side with younger players that could yet still turn out to be top class rather than European Tour journey men. When going head to head with Rose in Hong Kong last year Lucas suggested that he might just have the game to threaten the upper tier of European Tour players. If that is the case then he should take all the beating this week.

Jason Scrivener is a player creeping into more and more golf punter’s notebooks and he is of particular interest back in his homeland this week. Scrivener has form figures in this tournament of 15-28-19 and of equal interest was his GIR ranking in those three, 1-17-4. This is a player who is gradually finding his feet on the European Tour but he has a very solid record in Australia lately. He has missed only 1 cut from his last 21 appearances down under and he turned 13 of those into Top 25s, 5 of which were Top 10 finishes.

He hasn’t had the greatest of starts to 2016 but form figures of 63-44-12-28-27-3-3 are hardly anything to get too worried about. Last time out he ranked 14th for GIR he just struggled around the greens in South Africa. Scrivener is a big hitter off the tee but he has already shown both here and at Fanling in November (3rd) that he can change his approach on tree lined layouts. He actually hails from a town just 45 miles from Perth so he will feel comfortable on a course that he knows well and I think he will view this sort of field as an ideal chance to get himself into contention for the weekend. He looks a decent each way price at 50/1.

Andrew Johnston missed the cut last week in Malaysia but there seems to have been a massive over reaction with regards his price. He is 100/1 this week just 4 weeks after finishing 4th in the Qatar Masters which is played on a links course and is exposed to the conditions. He also won on The Challenge Tour at Aviemore which isn’t a links course but is windy and plays both firm and fast. Johnston also ranks 2nd for GIR over the last 3 months and 5th for driving accuracy so he will surely enjoy this test and can contend with a decent week on the greens. He didn’t play here in 2014 but he has seen the course before in 2012 where he made the cut during his rookie season on Tour. As much a price selection as anything he is the 3rd pick at 100/1.

 

Summary of bets

Honda Classic

Patrick Reed – 1.5pts ew @ 20/1

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 35/1

David Lingmerth – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Brian Harman – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Perth International

Lucas Bjerregaard – 1pt ew @ 30/1

Jason Scrivener – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Andrew Johnston – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

3×3 0.25pt each way doubles (Reed, Kisner, Lingmerth) + (Bjerregaard, Scrivener, Johnston)

Weekly outlay – 16.5pts

Total outlay – 444pts

@theGreek82

Matchbook preview – https://www.matchbook.com/lounge/event-previews/the-honda-classic-2016-02-25

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Northern Trust Open and Maybank Championship – Betting Preview

Last weekend was an extremely exciting one if hugely disappointing come 11:30pm on Sunday night. On Sunday morning there were 2638/1 and 666/1 doubles both looking very plausible with Mickelson leading Jacobson on the PGA Tour and Porteous sitting in 3rd in South Africa.
Haydn Porteous’ round was a very ugly one to watch as he really struggled to manage his game. The track in Pretoria is a tight one and after saving his par well on the first few holes he kept taking the driver out on several short Par 4s for absolutely no reason at all. It left him constantly with no shot whatsoever and he completely fell to pieces in the rough. While he is a very talented player and especially brilliant on the greens he is going to need to improve his course management considerably if he is to really push on to the next tier of The European Tour. But he is only 21 years old so he has plenty of time ahead of him to learn that side of the game.

Even with the each way doubles blown I was very confident that Mickelson would get the win at Pebble Beach, especially with his round of 66 on Saturday. Unfortunately that confidence lasted about 2 holes when it became clear that he wasn’t swinging very well. It was testament to his character that he still managed to hang on and if it wasn’t for Vaughan Taylor’s birdie run then he would probably still have won. As it was he failed to get up and down for his birdie at 18 and despite having all my golfers in the top 6, it was a fairly depressing evening considering there was a chance of clearing close to 1000pts 12 hours earlier.

But there was still lots of profit as the two full places plus Reed’s share gave a total return of 26.13pts on the week which leaves the overall standings as follows.

Total pts advised – 413
Total pts returned – 531.99
ROI – 28.81%

It also nearly takes 2016 into overall profit but not quite.

2016 pts advised – 91.50
2016 pts returned – 84.88
ROI –  -7.23%

This week sees the final stop in California for the PGA Tour with The Northern Trust Open and The European Tour heads east again for the inaugural Maybank Malaysian Championship.


 

The Northern Trust Open

The west coast swing hits the razzmatazz of Los Angeles this week and the Riviera Country Club. The course is a classic championship layout and as ever it will thoroughly test everyone teeing it up this week. Due to it’s location alongside Hollywood, Bel Air and Malibu the course has had some extremely famous members over the years including Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin and Walt Disney.

The course plays around 7300 yards long and has tree-lined, undulating fairways with several changes in elevation around the course leaving a lot of tricky approach shots where distance control will be crucial. With several greens that can only be attacked from specific places on the fairways, accuracy off the tee is a huge advantage at Riviera. As is distance off the tee as the greens at Riviera are small, fast and undulating so can be hard to hold with long irons.

The roll call of champions at Riviera is of the highest quality and it’s a course that I feel has a strong link with Augusta National, home of the Masters. The following players have all won at Augusta and Riviera; Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Fred Couples, Craig Stadler, Nick Faldo, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott. In terms of attributes then both courses require a high ball flight both off the tee and with approach shots in order to find the correct portion of the fairway/green. They also require some good scrambling skills with very definite fringes so they can’t just putt from off the green at either course. The level of difficulty is also similar with winnings scores usually ranging from -6 to -14 so it suits the mind set of those that are happy to make par on tougher holes.

Bogey avoidance, total driving, scrambling, approaches from 175-200 yards and approaches from 200-225 yards all look crucial. Both the approach stats are hugely important on long, tough, championship layouts where only the longest of drivers will regularly have a wedge in their hand. With lag putting important 3-putt avoidance will also help keep players in contention. I’m also looking for players who can easily hit a high, towering fade into these greens in order to hold them.

Charl

Charl Schwartzel was already heavily on my shortlist before Sunday but the nature of his 8 shot win in Pretoria was enough to make him my number one pick this week. He has already won back to back twice in his career so has no problem holding his form coming off a win and 11 of his 14 wins have come from December-February so he also loves this time of year. Last week his iron play was brilliant and he ranked 1st for GIR hitting an impressive 80% where most of the field struggled. Perhaps more surprisingly he ranked 2nd in total driving which is a big turnaround for a player who has been very wild off the tee recently. In the crucial approaches from 175-200 yards stat he ranks 2nd on the PGA Tour and he sits 15th in approach putts proximity so he should stave off the 3-putts. His putter also came alive in the final round in Pretoria after a coaching session with his “eye coach” who helped him sort out his reading of the putts to great effect. Playing last week in South Africa might be a disadvantage in terms of the travel but he was playing on kikuyu fairways and poa/bent mixed greens in Pretoria and that is exactly what he faces at Riviera so the transition won’t be as tough as it could have been going to another stop on Tour.

Charl has form figures at Riviera of 41-5-3 and it’s a course that suits him well which further backs up the Augusta link as his only win on US soil came at the 2011 Masters. It’s amazing that he hasn’t won since given his talent but his game has suffered some ups and downs and he said himself how his confidence was shot until he finally got over the line again in December at The Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. He hadn’t won anywhere in 2 years and had thrown some big leads away with some uncharacteristically poor golf under pressure. So with him arriving here having won 2 of his last 3 starts it’s perfectly fair to assume that his confidence is probably at its highest since his win in Georgia. Looking at recent form in the US then we see Charl finished 6th on his last start in October so he will definitely be determined to get his first PGA Tour win in 5 years and with the only negative being his travel from Pretoria I think he rates an excellent bet as it looks like he might be close to his very best again. For those that would look to dismiss him due to the lengthy commute, if we look at his last three Northern Trust Opens, Schwartzel has actually performed better here when having played in his homeland the week before. His two placed efforts in 2013 and 2014 were preceded by him playing the Joburg open while his 41st last year came off a three week break.

I was on Bill Haas in 2012 when he won around Riviera and it was a very impressive performance. He was playing in a final three-ball with Mickelson and Bradley and they were all level going up the 18th. Haas hit the closest approach shot to some 15ft (I think, long time ago) but had to watch as both Mickelson and Bradley holed from over 30ft for birdie. This meant Haas had to hole his just to make the play-off, which he coolly did before holing a 40 footer in the playoff to claim the trophy. It was the first time I really sat up and took notice of Haas and he now has 6 PGA Tour wins to his name. Yet for some reason he still doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves. That may be down to his poor major record (no top 10s in 25 starts) or perhaps just his laid back persona but for whatever reason it means we frequently see a lot of value in his prices. Last week he was as high as 100s to win before finishing 8th on his debut at Pebble Beach. It’s a simple combination of current and course form that makes Haas my 2nd pick this week at very favourable odds.

My third pick was a bit tougher and has come about from a second (slightly tenuous) course link. In 2013 when the RBC Canadian Open was held at Glen Abbey both John Merrick and Aaron Baddeley finished in the Top 10. They are both former winners here at Riviera which was interesting in itself. So then I looked a little further hoping to compound the link. Rory Sabbatini won here in 2006 and also finished 11th at Riviera in 2013. In 2015 Bubba Watson finished 2nd at Glen Abbey and he has won both here and Augusta. Mike Weir , VJ Singh and Billy Mayfair all have high finishes there too as well. Glen Abbey is a Jack Nicklaus design so scrambling is hugely important but I also think the long, high drives and approach shots are one of the main common factors. Additionally just looking at photos of both courses it is quite hard to tell the difference as both are bright green, tree-lined and feature many elevation changes as they sweep through the parkland.

Chez Reavie won 2008’s Canadian Open there before his game collapsed through injury and loss of form. Reavie has talent though and he gained his full card through finishing 1st in the Web.com Tour Championship in 2015. He has played here five times however and missed the 4 times but he was in the doldrums during most of those performances and it’s a course that I think should really suit him. Reavie ranks 23rd in total driving, 22nd in ball-striking, 4th in scrambling and 8th in Par 4 performance over the last three months so the only thing that might hold him back is his lack of length. But we have seen shorter hitters plot their way around Riviera before and Glen Abbey is a very similar yardage playing as a 7273yard Par 71.
Reavie was bang in contention at Pebble Beach last week until a poor final round but that was the first time he had been in contention on a PGA Tour Sunday for a while so being nervous about chasing down Mickelson at Pebble Beach isn’t anything to be ashamed of. It is a bit of a hunch pick given his poor record previously here but I think we have seen a new Reavie over the last 6 months so I think he is worth a small play here at hefty looking 250/1

 


 

Maybank Malaysian Championship

The Maybank Malaysian Championship seems to have taken over from the Malaysia Open which had a slot on The European Tour at Kuala Lumpur GCC since 1999. Whether it’s due to the course now being used for the CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour I’m not sure but for whatever reason this has moved across Kuala Lumpur to The Royal Selangor Golf Club

With very little course form to go on apart from when it hosted The Malaysian Open in 2002, it’s a bit of a guessing game this week. But there is still some information available to the keen golf punter and although there have been changes since 2002, I studied that leaderboard as a starting point. There are also some player quotes doing the rounds as well as plenty of photos of the layout and even some designer notes from Nelson and Haworth who were responsible for the renovation in 2006.

It is a parkland course, that much we know, and it appears to be quite a short, narrow one at that. Although many of the large old trees were removed in 2006 there are still plenty on the course to frame most of the tee shots. So that suggests the more accurate types will enjoy the test and the leaderboard from 2002 backs up the notion of a tight driving course. However with lots of trees having been removed it’s possible that with a bit of imagination the greens still be found from the woods.

But I have largely still looked at players who go well on similar courses as tree-lined tracks simply don’t fit the eye of many pros. Danny Willet tweeted yesterday how firm the greens are so good scrambling skills will surely be important this week too.

Alastair Forsyth won the 2002 tournament here and Stephen Leaney finished runner up so I looked at other courses where they have fared well. Stephen Leaney won at Gut Larchenoff in Germany which is a course that favours accurate types despite a lack of trees. There are plenty water hazards and the greens are quite tough to hit. Fabrizio Zanotti won there in 2014 for his first win and he returned to form last week with a 23rd place finish. The Paraguayan is very much a horses for courses type and doesn’t tend to go well on tracks that can be bullied by the bombers. While he didn’t have a consistent 2015 if we look at some of his results we can see that his long game was largely still in great shape. His best finishes of 2nd and 3rd came at the British Masters and Italian Open respectively and they were both played on tight, tree lined courses and he ranked 3rd and 4th in the all round ranking those weeks. So clearly the right course brings out the best in Zanotti’s whole game. He looks a great each way price at 100/1.

bourdy

Gregory Bourdy is a go-to player for most punters where accuracy off the tee is favoured as he has regularly found more fairways than the majority since he joined the Tour. Bourdy also loves it in Malaysia with form figures of 5-18-11-47-2 in the last 5 Malaysian Opens. One of his wins also came around the tight track at Fanling in Hong Kong where the always accurate Jiminez has 4 titles. In Bourdy’s win at the Open De Portugal in 2008 he defeated Alastair Forsyth in a playoff which further suggests he will take to this track. The Frenchman’s game is currently in fairly decent fettle, he has calendar form of 36-13-54 with the 13th place finish bringing with it a 1st place ranking in GIR. He ranks 8th in driving accuracy for the last 3 months and 2nd in GIR so the stats back up the strong status of his long game. If the course plays as it is expected to then this 4 time winner will surely be suited to the test and we know he enjoys the Malaysian climate. The 50/1 could be bigger but it’s certainly not skinny enough to put me off.

With it hard to have too much confidence this week I’m going to leave it at two picks but I wanted one of the market leaders to throw into the 3×3 each way doubles. None of them are deserving of an outright single given either the state of their games or their price. Martin Kaymer has shown very little of late and he is priced up on reputation alone. Danny Willett is obviously in great form but there is every chance that his driving will let him down here.
Joost Luiten and Rafael Cabrera-Bello could both go well here with their long, accurate driving but neither are players that I fully trust in the mix and I’m not prepared to back them at their current price.

This leaves me leaning towards Louis Oosthuizen who is an arrow straight driver when playing well and he is undoubtedly a class above here barring Kaymer. He has suffered from a few injuries over the last couple of years but has still managed to throw in some excellent performances on tough layouts. For the last 3 months he ranks 1st in total driving so it appears his game off the tee is in good enough shape even if his irons aren’t quite what they could be. Although he still ranks 15th in GIR over the same period. With strong form on other Nelson and Haworth tracks in Asia and a 2012 win in Malaysia, if he is fully fit this week then he will surely go well so I will throw him in with Bourdy and Zanotti.

In addition to the usual picks I’m going to have a stab at a place double this week too. Keegan Bradely absolutely loves Riviera and tee to green its suits him perfectly. While not in the greatest of current form, most of his woes are with the putter. I don’t think he will hole enough putts to win this but his long game alone could easily land him a Top 20 and his odds of 11/4 look very favourable considering it would have been a winner the last four years.
Should Zanotti not come good on the each way front I’d like to be with him in another capacity should he still play well. He is a healthy looking 9/2 for a Top 20. Throw these in a double at just under 20/1.

Summary of bets

Northern Trust Open

Charl Schwartzel – 1.5pts ew @ 28/1

Bill Haas – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Chez Reavie – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1

Malaysia Championship

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Fabrizio Zanotti – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

3×3 0.25 pts each way doubles (Schwartzel, Haas, Reavie) x (Oosthuizen 18/1, Bourdy, Zanotti)

Place double – Bradley Top 20 + Zanotti Top 20 – 1pt @ 19.6/1
Weekly outlay – 14.5pts

Total outlay – 427.5pts

@theGreek82

Matchbook preview link – https://www.matchbook.com/lounge/event-previews/northern-trust-open-2016-02-18

AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Tshwane Open – Betting Preview

There were some returns in Europe last week as all three players finished T8th or better with Benny An finishing in 4th and Andy Sullivan just one shot shy in 2nd place. It was a poor showing in US with the in-form pair of Dufner and Kisner both missing the cut and Grillo never getting close enough to strike a blow.

The golf on show however was some of the most impressive pressure golf we have seen this season. In both Dubai and Phoenix numerous clutch putts were holed down the stretch on Sunday and in particular the 18th hole. While it was Danny Willett and Hideki Matsuyama that won the Tournaments, Andy Sullivan and Rickie Fowler were almost as impressive and the fans were treated to a brilliant finale on both Tours. Willett holed a 20fter at the 18th to win the Dubai Desert Classic while Matsuyama traded blows over 4 Play-Off holes with Fowler before the later succumbed to his relentless aggression by finding water on the 17th.

It was 12.5pts returned so an overall loss for the week. While it would have been 17.75pts had I not chosen the w/o Mcilory market I still consider it the right move given how close the Northern Irishman got again playing nowhere near his best. That leaves the overall results as follows;

Total pts advised – 397
Total pts returned – 505.86
ROI – 27.4%

This week the PGA Tour moves back to the coast and the Monterey Peninsula for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am while the European Tour heads back to South Africa for The Tshwane Open.


AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

As the players find themselves back on the west coast this week, they are yet again in beautiful surroundings with Pebble Beach long being regarded as one of the most scenic on Tour. There will be plenty of opportunities to soak it all up too as it’s another Pro-Am this week so we can expect a lot of slow golf across the four days.
It’s another multi-course set up this week with rotation across Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula and Pebble Beach Golf Links over the first three days with the Top 60 and ties playing the final round on the more famous Pebble Beach course on the Sunday.
With the amateurs in tow we can expect another fairly low scoring week and all the courses measure under 7000 yards. To help aid the celebrities and money men further, the rough isn’t normally very penal and that can be noted with an average DA rank of 52nd going back to 2009.

The challenge this week will be hitting a high number of greens and scrambling well when you do miss. The greens on the Pebble Beach are some of the smaller they will face on Tour so that will be particularly important come Sunday when the course will have firmed up. With the average winning score since 2009 being -17, it can become somewhat of a birdie-fest if weather conditions allow and Snedeker broke the Tournament record last year with a -22 week.

With driving looking fairly unimportant I have focussed on GIR, scrambling and birdie average this week to whittle down my list. This certainly wasn’t easy given the high class field on show this week but with so many players trading under 30/1 I managed to find reasons (however small) to leave out most of them.

Spieth could only finish 2nd last time out in the shoddy looking Singapore Open and while he will surely contend again he looks short enough to do so and isn’t an each way price at 5/1. Dustin Johnson is too short at 10/1. Jason Day was suffering from illness two weeks ago and may need a few rounds to get up to speed. Jimmy Walker loves it here and will probably play well but his price doesn’t quite reflect where his game is at the moment. His recent finishes have been OK but neither his driving or his putting look to be at their best.

Phil-Mickelson_0

Although I tipped Phil Mickelson with no success two weeks ago I don’t see any reason to give up on Lefty just yet. He bounced back with an 11th place at The Phoenix Open last week and his game looked to be progressing very nicely. His stats were excellent as he ranked 3rd for total driving, 8th for GIR, 21st for scrambling and 2nd in the all-round. If the high finish and excellent game on paper weren’t enough, the words coming out of his mouth suggest he is rounding nicely into form for one of his favourite stops on Tour. Mickelson is a 4-time winner of this Tournament and his post-round comments last week suggest he is very determined to get his 5th win. Mickelson commented on his ever strong love of golf, his competitive nature and also where he thought his game was. The most notable point was that he said he felt he was in full control of his golf ball again. Combine that with his famous short game and it could be that he is almost back to his best. If that is the case then he will surely play well on a course that sets up perfectly for him.

I’m starting to sound like a broken record tipping the same players again and again. But Patrick Reed is simply too good to not make the three picks this week at a price of 33/1. Prior to an ankle injury that appeared to limit his ability at Torrey Pines, Reed had some of the best form figures in the World. He has already won a Pro-Am event at 2014’s Humana Challenge so will be comfortable in the format. As for the golfing test, GIR, scrambling and birdies could not be more suited to Reed’s game. He led the European Tour for GIR during its fall series, is one of the best scramblers in World Golf and across his average 2015 season he still ranked 23rd for birdie average . His aggressive game will be perfect this week and it simply looks like his form over the last 3 months played second fiddle to his recent withdrawal when the bookmakers priced him up.

The media’s need to keep updating their sensationalist stance on the “Big 3” or the “Big 4” after Fowler’s recent form is nothing short of lazy. But none of the rhetoric will have been lost on Patrick Reed and he will look at that possible 5th place behind them with a wry smile. He won’t have forgotten how the media destroyed him for suggesting that he was a “Top 5 player in the world” after his debut WGC win at Doral in 2014. A win this week and the World Ranked Number 10 would take a huge step closer to that 5th place. If fully fit expect a strong challenge from Reed yet again.

On a side note and further to the point regarding Reed and the media, a similar thing happened to Bubba Watson last week. He was simply asked for his comments on the changes to last week’s TPC Scottsdale course and he answered them honestly. He was then ridiculed for insulting the course and even the Tournament itself (the latter he didn’t actually do). I read an article this week that spoke about how dull Tiger Woods’ “yes”, “no” press conferences were over recent years and it went on to argue can anyone really blame him? With every single word under scrutiny why should they go out of their way to answer a question honestly if they are going to be hung out to dry for doing so? With such an exciting crop of young players at the top of the game right now it would be a crying shame if the media forced them all into their shells amidst fears of their every word being over analysed. Some may argue that is just part and parcel of the job and that may be well be the case but first and foremost they turn up to play golf every week and personally I think that should be remembered when a player has a small error of judgement while giving their 23rd interview of the week.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the third pick.

Freddie Jacobsen arrives off the back of a 4th place finish at The Farmers Open and that may well signal a return to form for the likeable Swede. At his best Freddie is one of the finest putters on Tour but hasn’t won since 2011 with the rest of his game letting him down. While looking for my 3rd pick this week I looked at approaches from 125-150 yards given that there are three short courses this week so there will be plenty of wedges in play. Freddie ranks 11th in this stat which is very interesting. If he can continue to hit his wedges closer than the majority of the field then his laser putting will surely fire him towards the upper reaches this week. He also ranks 15th for Scrambling on Tour and finished 7th here in 2013 so we know he likes the poa annua. In a week where driving isn’t too important, Freddie will look at this as an ideal chance to contend again. I had hoped for a three figure price but there is still some 90/1 around and for a player arriving with form figures of 4-69-5 that still looks like a decent each way investment.

 


 

Tshwane Open

After three high class Tournaments in the Middle East it’s back to basics with a thud this week as The European Tour returns to South Africa for a rather dull looking Tshwane Open. This is yet another co-sanctioned event with The Sunshine Tour and subsequently the field is more than just a little bit lacking in depth.
The event returns for the 2nd year to Pretoria CC and the defending champion George Coetzee also returns looking to defend at his home course. He doesn’t quite make favourite though as Charl Schwartzel makes his first appearance since illness forced him out of The South African Open in January.
The course is quite short at 7063 yards and although it is a narrow tree lined course, Coetzee is hardly the most accurate of drivers and neither were the rest of the players atop the leaderboard last year. That suggests that finding greens can still be done from the rough so as per the US this week, driving will take a back seat in the search.
The course was designed by Bob Grimsdell who was also responsible for Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. That shouldn’t surprise us too much as both courses are rather similar to the eye, feature tree-lined kikuyu fairways and bentgrass greens. To give further credence to the course link, George Coetzee has also won around RJKGC so with only one year of Pretoria form to go on, I’m also going to look at recent editions of The Joburg Open.

Charl Schwartzel is no longer the clinical assassin of 3 years ago when playing in his home country. There have been several tournaments that he has thrown away when there for the taking, perhaps most memorably his loss to Andy Sullivan at last year’s South African Open when leading by 5 shots with 5 to play There is absolutely no question at all that he is the best player in the field but I’m not sure that the Charl of 2016 is a player that we can go steaming into at such a restrictive price as 5/1. Yes the field is poor but we have seen him struggle to beat similar fields recently and I am happy to leave him alone coming off an extended break.

Coetzee
In contrast to Schwartzel, George Coetzee seems to be finding winning increasingly easy with three European Tour wins to his name in the last two years. For four years he threatened to win with countless Top 10s but he could never quite get over the line. Coetzee is a likeable player, usually smiling and never getting too upset with himself. He is actually one of my favourite players on Tour so I find him very easy to back but he is also very talented and he knows this course like the back of his hand. He was brought up in Pretoria and played both tennis and golf at Pretoria CC as a youngster (he was equally proficient in both). I backed him last year here at a similar sort of price (10/1 maybe) and I think he is the man to beat again this week. While he spent the last 4 months of 2015 out with illness and injury, he now has 4 tournaments under his belt since his return and he will have had his defence of The Tshwane Open very much in his plans throughout his recovery. I think he will arrive having removed any rust and eager to get back to winning ways. Coetzee putts better than most on any course but on greens that he grew up putting on he will take a lot of stopping even with an average ball-striking week. But his long game looked to be in decent nick throughout the Middle East swing so he will arrive full of confidence for his defence. Before his injury last year Coetzee signed off with his best finish to date in a Major, 7th place at the US PGA Championship. That tells us just how much better he is than most of these players and I expect Coetzee to send that message home this week.

Coetzee was a long-time winner in waiting prior to his first win at RJKGC and he then promptly followed up with 2 more in Africa. He isn’t the first South African player to win again quickly after finally getting over the line and a player that fits a similar profile to George is Haydn Porteous. They are both bit hitters that excel on the greens and Porteous got his first win at The Joburg Open last month at RJKGC. He missed the cut here last year but it appears that he has improved drastically and on recent form alone it is perfectly realistic to think that he has the 3rd best chance of winning here this week behind the two favourites.
He followed his win with a missed cut and a 56th place finish, no doubt celebrating his first win. But he came back to form again last week with an 8th place finish and he ranked 11th in the all-round ranking so his game hasn’t deserted him. The week he won he ranked 1st for putting and a similar performance here at Pretoria should see him challenge again. Without knowing just how progressive he might be with a win under his belt, he looks an excellent each way bet at 28/1.

Jacques Blaauw isn’t someone I knew too much about until he stormed through the pack on Sunday at Pretoria last year with a final round 61. Luckily it wasn’t enough to ruin my bet on Coetzee but it did grab him 2nd place. Blaauw has also finished in the Top 10 on his last two starts at RJKGC so that is enough for him to be the third pick this week in a fairly poor looking field. His last outing was that 7th place at the Joburg Open where he ranked no worse than 33rd for any stat so he is clearly in control of all aspects of his game and we know he can go low at the course. South Africans have won 16 of the last 22 co-sanctioned tournaments so it looks wise to go with a 3 pronged home attack and at 60/1 Blaauw is a very fair each way price.

Summary of bets

AT&T Pebble Beach

Phil Mickelson – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Freddie Jacobson- 0.5pt ew @ 90/1

Tshwane Open

George Coetzee – 2pt win @ 7.6 on Matchbook

Haydn Porteous – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Jaques Blaauw – 0.5pt ew @ 60/1

3×3 0.25pt ew doubles (Mickelson, Reed, Jacobson) x (Coetzee, Porteous, Blaauw)

Additional 0.25pt ew double Mickelson + Coetzee.
Weekly pts advised – 16pts

Total outlay – 413pts

@theGreek82

Waste Management Phoenix Open and Omega Dubai Desert Classic – Betting Preview

 

It was a poor week for the blog last week with zero returns and I can have some sympathy for the players on both Tours as I felt like I had been battered by the winds just watching my players capitulate one by one. While I can have no real complaints in Europe as I knew it would be windy I was a bit annoyed at how George Coetzee putted as he ended up 7th with a fairly average performance on the greens by his standards.

In California Phil Mickelson didn’t even wait for the weather to mess up his week as he managed to do that himself. After shooting an excellent 69 on the tougher South Course on Thursday he played a truly awful round on the North course on Friday to miss the cut after trading as the 9/1 overnight favourite. It really was disappointing from Big Phil who I genuinely thought was going to go from strength to strength after his 3rd place finish at The CareerBuilder Challenge.

Kim and Howell both struggled with the weekend wind after looking very solid over the first two days and it was the rather obvious looking Snedeker that ran out the winner shooting an amazing 69 in terrible conditions where nobody else even broke par. It’s always frustrating when the winners on both Tours were players that I discussed in the preview but that is the nature of the game and as always there are two more Tournaments to get stuck into this week.
The PGA Tour moves inland to The Waste Management Phoenix Open and the European Tour completes its Middle East Swing in Dubai with the Omega Desert Classic.

The running results now stand at

Total pts advised – 381

Total pts returned – 493.36

ROI – 29.5%


 

Waste Management Phoenix Open

I have written a preview for this on the Matchbook site and it’s getting late so I’m just going to go with the picks here and include a link to their site which should have the preview up in the morning.

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

GrilloMy main pick this week was led by price as I think Emiliano Grillo should really be nearer 50/1 this week. He came flying out of the blocks in the 2016 season winning his first PGA Tournament at just the 6th time of asking. This was effectively back to back wins as he won the Web.com’s version of The Tour Championship. Grillo is an excellent ball-striker and I had him marked down for tournaments such as this for a while. Greens in Regulation is the name of the game at TPC Scottsdale and few find more than an in-form Grillo. His stats are an excellent match for Phoenix as over the last 3 months he ranks 8th in GIR, 2nd in total accuracy, 1st in ball-striking and 1st in total driving. Grillo isn’t the greatest putter but Hunter Mahan proved in 2010 that if you hit enough greens then you can make a score at TPC Scottsdale and Grillo also fits a similar profile to last year’s Phoenix Open champion, Brooks Koepka, both having impressed on The European Tour before making the switch to the US. In fact one of Grillo’s best performances was at The Dubai Desert Classic in 2014 where he finished in 2nd place, one place better than Brooks Koepka. They both have long, powerful games suited to desert tracks and while Grillo doesn’t perhaps have the touch of Koepka around the greens, scrambling isn’t normally too tough at TPC Scottsdale and the greens are relatively flat and straight-forward.

I’m hoping he takes to it on his debut as Brooks did and I think he represents great value to do so at 80/1.

Kevin Kisner ranks 1st in the all-round stats for the last 3 months and he has played so well lately that I have to get him onboard at a ball-strikers course. Kisner has looked a completely different player over the last year and I expect him to push on again after getting his first PGA Tour win in the RSM Classic during the Fall Series. While the head of the market is undoubtedly strong I think there is almost a case for Kisner being overpriced at 33/1. He looks like an out-and-out closer of tournaments and he didn’t back off during any of his 3 play-off losses last year. I’m going to continue to back him while he is playing this well as I think he can rack up a lot of high finishes and make his way onto the US Ryder Cup team. Over the last three months he ranks 1st in putting average, 4th in total accuracy, 3rd in ball-striking, 7th in total driving and also 1st in Par 4 performance. That is a frightening combination for TPC Scottsdale and given that we know he can win, he can’t be left out at 33/1 .

Jason Dufner is my 3rd pick here for very similar reasons as the other two. He is a recent winner, his driver and irons are completely dialled in (14th GIR, 9th total driving) and most importantly for a player like Jason Dufner, he currently sits in 4th for putting average over the last 3 months. He is a dangerous enough player when he is missing putts but as he proved two weeks ago when he won the birdie-fest at La Quinta, he can win anywhere if performing well on the greens. Arguably TPC Scottsdale fits his game a lot better and he has had some decent finishes here, notably a 2nd place in 2011. He has missed his last two cuts here but Dufner looked back to his best in California so I think he will go well again here and hopefully contend if he keeps his putter hot.

Koepka himself just misses out as he looks a shade too short at 18/1 to go back to back in such a raucous atmosphere as he will face at TPC Scottsdale. It’s entirely possible that as the reigning champion he will get too involved in everything else going on and I’d want to know he was 100% focussed on the 4 rounds of golf to back him at such odds in a field of this strength.

 


Dubai Desert Classic

The Middle East Swing finishes this week in Dubai where the whole European Tour season will wrap up in November. Last year Rory McIlroy won at both venues and he is the short priced favourite to go in again here at the Emirates Golf Club. The tournament is having its 27th run (with just 2 away from Emirates) and the list of winners are largely desert and links lovers so the search will be very similar to that of the last two weeks and indeed those that have performed well on the swing so far will be given close consideration.
The course is a quite a long one and plays to every bit of its 7319 yards. It is an open track though and there is certainly room to spray the driver about to an extent but there is plenty of water around so players can’t be entirely carefree off the tee and miss the fairways by too much. As you would expect in the desert there are bunkers and waste areas galore but even then it is still possible to hit these relatively big greens from the sand. The requirements aren’t too different from Phoenix this week as you would expect given they are both desert tracks. This is another ball-strikers course but unlike TPC Scottsdale, form at the track is paramount. Before McIlroy gained his 2nd win last year Stephen Gallagher won the previous 2 runnings and he is far from a prolific winner elsewhere. He plied his trade on the links courses of Scotland and so he clearly likes the challenge involved here.
Putting hasn’t figured too highly with the last 5 winners only averaging 16th in the field so getting it close to the flags and giving yourself plenty of birdie looks is the way to win around here as the same 5 winners averaged 9th for GIR.
Yet again “what to do about Rory?” is the opening conundrum.This week he is a virtually unbackable 9/4 favourite. Yes, the field is weaker than in Abu Dhabi where he finished 3rd to Fowler but his putter was stone cold that week and he also hit some very average approach shots. Obviously the odds reflect his chance here and this is another course that sets up perfectly for him. But backing 9/4 shots in full field tournaments is certainly not the way to riches.
Although given the respect that he must be given, this week I’m going to dabble in the “without Mcilroy“ market and take him out of the equation completely. Most odds are only around about 15-20% lower and I think that is a fair trade to not have to worry about whether he will win or not. I have found three players to play in that market and they are all fairly obvious but I can’t get away from them this week given their form and suitability to the course.

Sully
Over the last 12 months or so, most courses on the European Tour that Mcilroy has played well at, Andy Sullivan tended to go well also. Although he finished poorly two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi after finding the a bush off the tee in his 4th round while leading, he has held his form into 2016 and Sullivan finished T4th here last year. Away from his three wins last season arguably his best piece of form was 2nd place to Rory at the DP World Championship. He beat the rest of the field by 5 shots that week and with his solid all round game he could easily put in another similar performance. Sullivan sits in 11th in the all-round ranking and after showing his liking for the course last year I expect a big performance from the much-improved Sullivan.
Thorbjorn Olesen is a well-known lover of both links and desert courses. But for all his ability he has really struggled for consistency through out his career but even more so since he switched to Nike clubs. He came from nowhere at last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links to win at a big price and remind us of what a talent he is. Olesen ranked 2nd for GIR last week en route to a 2nd place finish and with his approach play in great shape he looks primed to go well on a course where he has already finished 5th and 3rd. On both those occasions he was continuing his good form on the Middle East Swing so it’s highly likely he will do that again.

Byeong-Hun An is a name that readers of this blog will be very familiar with. I’ve tipped him a few times and he has finished in the places twice for us. His all-round game makes him easy to back even with his missed cut in the Singapore Open last week. Indeed he ranks 6th in the all-round ranking for the last 3 months with only McIlroy, Reed, Grace, Garcia and Grillo ahead of him. He has grown very accustomed to the European Tour very early in his career and it could be that even though the Korean was back playing slightly closer to home that he was slightly out of his comfort zone in the humidity. I’m going to ignore his poor weekend play and assume that he will revert back to his strong game that saw him lift the Rookie of the Year Award for 2015. He also finished T13th here on his debut so will be more familiar with the course this time and can surely improve on that.

All three picks are advised in the “without McIlroy market” that several bookmakers offer.


Summary of Bets

Phoenix Open

Emiliano Grillo – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Jason Dufner – 0.75pt ew @ 33/1

Dubai Desert Classic

Andy Sullivan – w/o McIlroy 1pt ew @ 22/1

Byeong-Hun An – w/o McIlroy 1pt ew @ 20/1

Thorbjorn Olesen – w/o McIlroy 1pt ew @ 25/1

3×3 0.25 pts ew doubles – (Grillo, Kisner, Dufner) x (Sullivan, An, Olesen – all w/o McIlroy)

 

Weekly outlay -16pts

Total outlay – 397 pts

@theGreek82