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.
My 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.
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
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