Shell Houston Open – Betting Preview

Last week was both poor and frustrating at the same time. Leishman played poorly and can have no complaints while Rose didn’t really play much better but still went into his match against Kuchar knowing the winner would progress. The American’s brand of steady golf was too much though for Rose and Kuchar went through.

Matsuyama however did very little wrong. Finding himself 3 down to an inspired Rafa Cabrera-Bello he mananged to pull it back to all-square only for the Spaniard to get a massive spot of luck on the 17th when he missed the green by some twenty yards only to bounce left and trickle down the bank to the edge of the green. Naturally he holed his putt and went onto win, leaving Matsuyama up against it. But he won his next two matches very easily so was left waiting to see if Kjeldsen could beat Cabrera-Bello to allow him into a play-off. Kjelsden was 1 up going down the 18th but managed to lose the hole, eliminating the young Japanese in the process. The new match play format had a lot of critics this week and while I enjoyed it on the whole there are definitely some negatives surrounding the group stages. Yes all the golfers have their destiny in their own hands and in Jason Day the tournament had the rightful winner as he won all 7 of his matches. But there were too many golfers going home after the group stages that had done very little wrong. The introduction of the group stages was largely to prevent big names from being eliminated after one match but at least everyone knew where they stood in the uncomplicated straight-knockout format. Don’t be surprised if there are a few more tweaks again before next year.

Jason Day made it two wins in a row and 6 in his last 13 starts.  Very impressive and with his strong record at Augusta  he is surely the man to beat next week. I have been backing him for a few weeks now for the Masters and I had a few more pounds on Sunday knowing that his price would fall even further and he now sits at 8.0 on Betfair. I don’t see how his price can get much lower now though so it is maybe worthwhile holding off to see if any of the bookmakers take him on next week.

No returns leave the results as follows;

Total pts advised – 500pts

Tota pts returned – 623.37

ROI – 24.7%

This week Masters fever really begins properly as we have the Houston Open in its now customary place in the schedule. The host course enjoys being the warm up to the biggest tournament of the year and they do their best to accommodate those playing next week at Augusta. They set the greens up to mimic the speed of Augusta so it’s worth while keeping an eye on those who putt well in Houston.

Shell

The Golf Club of Houston course in Humble is pretty long at 7457 yards and generally it pays to get the ball out there off the tee. The fairways are wide and so generally driving accuracy isn’t of much importance here. The last 6 winners averaged 24th for driving distance for the week but just 50th for driving accuracy.

The approach shots aren’t as easy though with plenty of water and sand around the greens and the last 6 winners averaged 14th for GIR so the winner will certainly need to have their irons dialled in this week. By far the most important factor though is the slick greens and you have to putt well to win around there. Those same 6 winners averaged a ranking of 9th for total putting and the last two years JB Holmes ranked 3rd and Matt Jones 2nd. Indeed I remember being impressed by the number of hole outs Holmes made under pressure so I will be paying close attention to those that have impressive stats in the 4-8ft putting range. Furthermore the winner here always scores well on the par 4s so that looks another valuable asset in Humble.

There are a few obvious names that are thrown up by that challenge and the first one is Phil Mickelson who won here in 2011 and has a fairly solid record on the whole. Mickelson is in good form and only lost to an unplayable Patrick Reed last week so will be hoping to play well here in preparation for trying to win his 4th green jacket. He is no stranger to winning the week before a major and following up in the main event but at 45 years old there is no doubt that Mickelson’s main focus is the Majors. I’d expect him to go well but despite his competitiveness I’d wager that he will be quite happy to shoot 4 good rounds and finish somewhere around the Top 10. He looks a decent price but having been let down by him already this year I’d want to know he was 100% focussed on the task in hand to back him again.

Another who you would expect to be suited to this test is Dustin Johnson but he was inconsistent enough last week to suggest he may also just be looking to tighten things up ahead of a run at his elusive first Major next week. He also looks plenty short enough at 15.5.

Jordan Spieth finished runner-up here last year so plays well on the course but he wasn’t at his best last week. In a post-round interview during the week he spoke about not being happy with his swing. He missed a lot of tee-shots and approach shots right and I think this week will be all about trying to iron that out and get his accuracy sorted ahead of his Masters defence.

The rest of the players at the head of the market don’t really appeal either for similar reasons and instead it may well pay to focus on players who are in the next tier down who haven’t even qualified for The Masters. In their case we know that winning The Shell Houston Open will be the only thing on their minds.

chappell

Kevin Chappell doesn’t quite fit the mould entirely this week but when playing well he has a very accurate iron game and is neat and tidy around the greens. He first came to my attention when he finished 4th at the US Open in 2011 as a virtual unknown. Indeed it was that performance on a championship layout that led me to believe he could go well as an outsider at the 2013 US Open around Merion, a course where he fared well in the US Amateur Championship. It wasn’t to be but he finished a respectable 32nd and has remained on my radar ever since. Chappell is yet to get his first win on Tour and even said himself a couple of weeks ago how he felt he had been given quite an easy ride by the media considering he hadn’t won in 5 years on Tour. This is true and it may well be because he hasn’t obviously “choked” when in contention on a Sunday. This was further apparent by his excellent 2nd place finish when he chased World No. 1 Jason Day home at The Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago.

Chappell finished 2nd in Texas at the Valero Texas Open in his rookie season and also finished 6th here in 2013 so it would appear that he plays some of his best stuff in Texas. His 2nd place at Bay Hill followed up a 67th and a 26th so he should  continue to play well on a course that he knows.

Chappell sits in 20th on Par 4 scoring for 2016 and encouragingly he led the field on the Par 4s last time out at Bay Hill where he was -10 with second best only playing them in -7. He also ranked 7th in the all-round for the week and he can be dangerous when his long game is working. In 2013 when he finished 6th here he ranked 3rd in the all-round ranking so arriving again with everything working well I think he looks a very fair price at 66/1 on a week where the very top players will surely have their minds elsewhere.

Daniel Berger was expected to make waves this year after winning Rookie of the Year for 2015 but he started the year very slowly with 3 missed cuts and a 58th in his opening 4 tournaments. His game has picked up of late though and he went into last week’s WGC Match Play with form figures of 11-28 and he gave Phil Mickelson a bit of a scare before finding trouble at the 18th and failing quite miserably with a tough recovery shot.

The young American ranked 4th for GIR on that 11th place finish at the Valspar and that is very promising. He is generally a strong driver of the ball and fairly solid on the greens but it was his iron play that was letting him down in the early part of the year. Having found his approach accuracy again he will surely be relishing getting going again with another stroke play event. He ranks 8th for 3-putt avoidance so he won’t be phased by the larger greens here and if he can hole a few more birdie putts than on his debut last year he can improve considerably on his 25th place. There isn’t much to lose backing a player of his talent at 80/1.

Jamie Lovemark has had an excellent 2016 season so far and his 6th place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was his fourth Top 10 so far. The formerly top class amateur has taken a little while to make an impact on Tour but he has struggled with injuries over the last couple of years. He seems to have put that behind him now and is well on his way to securing his card for 2017 already. Last week he ranked 4th for driving distance and an impressive 3rd in the all-round ranking. It was actually his putter that let him down but that normally isn’t a problem as he is very handy with the short stick, indeed he ranks 24th for putting inside 10ft so he too should handle the large greens. If he holds his form over then he looks a very fair each way price at 90/1.

With just the one tournament this week I’m going to back one more in the outright as I can’t get away from course specialist Cameron Tringale. On his last four efforts in Houston he has finished 5th, 4th, 16th and 8th so clearly loves it here. His 2016 season has been poor but perhaps he was just waiting for this as he stopped the rot two weeks ago with a 27th place finish at The Arnold Palmer Invitational. That will set him up nicely for a course that suits his game and he looks a sporting each way price at 80/1 considering his course form. I’m also going to play him in the Top 10 market.

I’m not going to go into any great detail but the Ladies first major of the year takes place and wonder kid Lydia Ko set herself up brilliantly to make history this week with a 4 shot victory at the weekend. She arrives in California for the ANA Inspiration looking to be the youngest golfer to have won 2 majors since Young Tom Morris well over 100 years ago. Her record at the Mission Hills venue isn’t spectacular but I’m a huge fan of hers and I would love to see her do it. She has already done a lot for the Ladies game and achieving a 2nd major so young would boost its profile even further. I’m going to have 2pts win for an interest.

Summary of Bets

Shell Houston Open

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Daniel Berger – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Jamie Lovemark – 1pt ew @ 90/1

Cameron Tringale – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 and 1pt Top 10

ANA Inspiration

Lydia Ko – 2pts win @ 9/2

Weekly outlay – 10pts

Total outlay – 510pts

@theGreek82

Advertisements

WGC Dell Match Play – Betting Preview

 

It was no better than ok last week after Stenson’s 3rd place helped to nearly break even for the week. He played fairly solid golf across all four days but came up against an inspired Jason Day who returned to form in perfect time for The Masters. There were small returns on the doubles with Lahiri finishing 2nd to SSP Chawrasia who I actually mentioned in the preview but couldn’t bring myself to back after he threw the same tournament away in such reckless fashion last year. To be fair that was built into the course specialist’s price and at 40/1 I was a bit annoyed not to be on when he stuck his approach at the 18th to 3ft but he was still unproven on The European Tour so I shouldn’t really be too concerned. It will be interesting to see how he fares now on The European Tour with this confidence boost as he certainly has talent and is a genius around the greens.

It was 12.5 pts returned in total and that leaves things as follows after 30 weeks of previews.

Total pts advised – 491.50

Total pts returned – 623.37

ROI – 26.83%

This week there is no tournament in Europe as we have the 2nd World Golf Championship of 2016 in the form of the WGC Dell Match Play held in Austin, Texas. There is an alternate event on The PGA Tour in Puerto Rico but I will be focussing on the match play despite it being a notoriously difficult betting heat. There are less points being advised though to allow for the unpredictable nature of match play.

 


bridge-austin-847

WGC Dell Match Play

Take dead aim” were words not so famously uttered by Austin Country Club’s longest serving Club professional, Harvey Penick. While he was talking about the course in its previous location on the other side of Austin it remains just as relevant at the current layout. Designed in 1984 by Pete Dye, Austin Country Club is a true test of golf and looks to be an excellent venue for the 2nd World Golf Championship of the year, The WGC Dell Match Play Championship. His words of caution however could equally have been aimed at punters holding a dart and trying to work out which of the 64 players to place their money on!

The format was changed last year in a bid to appease sponsors and TV companies so now nobody goes home until after two days with a round-robin group format in place of the straight knockout. But unlike similar match play competitions in Europe, this group format is ruthless with only the 16 winners of each group of four qualifying through to the knockout stage. This makes it a tricky betting proposition as a player could still be eliminated after thrashing two of the world’s best and losing their 3rd match in sudden death.

The competition’s 6 year partnership with Dove Mountain came to a close last year as Harding Park hosted the 2015 Tournament which was won in such a convincing style by Rory Mcilroy that the other 63 players lining up this week will no doubt be delighted by the quick change. The Texas venue is signed up to host through 2019 so in years to come there will be some valuable course form to look at but for now we are limited to photos and descriptions of the course together with the player’s match play records which can be found on Adam Sarson’s excellent site – http://adamsarson.com/2016/03/21/2016-wgc-dell-match-play-records-for-all-64-players/#more-12197

Given the combination of match play golf and a tough layout this week’s tournament appears as if it will lend itself to a certain type of player.

The course sits at 7169 yards and from everything I can see it is truly spectacular. It is a parkland course set along sprawling hills giving rise to some elevation changes and undulating fairways very akin to some British links courses. There are also a lot of deep,menacing bunkers that give it a further links appearance. While the fairways appear to be of average width they will certainly not feel that way standing on the tee. There are many hidden tee shots where the players are forced to carry valleys or shape the ball around trees. The numerous dog legs and elevation changes will also bring about some blind approaches and it appears that accuracy will be the most important aspect this week. Whenever a course has elevation changes then distance control becomes absolutely paramount. Players will have to trust their yardages and commit to them in order to find both the right areas of the fairways and indeed the greens. As we have come to expect from a Pete Dye design (Sawgrass, RBC Heritage, Whistling Straits), the greens are relatively small and they are undulating and tiered. Accurate approach shots will be required to find the correct portion of the green to allow a makeable birdie putt. But there will be many flags that simply have to be avoided with run-offs and green side bunkers aplenty. There are lots of aggressive players that fare well in Match Play golf but this week I think it will very much need to be controlled aggression rather than firing at every single flag.

So I’m looking for someone that hits plenty of fairways and greens but isn’t afraid to attack pins when the chance is there. They must also have a solid match play pedigree, be that from the World Matchplay or strong showings in The Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup or perhaps The European Tour’s own match play events. With this being a Pete Dye design I’d certainly like them to have some form at his courses and perhaps also be a decent exponent of links golf. Form on similar TifEagle bermuda greens will also be useful and luckily that was in use last week at Bay Hill. I have nearly described the perfect all round golfer but that looks to be what is required at this testing layout.

Hideki

Hideki Matsuyama made the shortlist due to his excellent ball striking and after a further look at his profile he looks to have an excellent chance in Texas. He sits 4th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and he looks set up to play well this week after a Top 10 last week. The Japanese star ranked 1st in the all round ranking on his way to 6th place and after winning in Phoenix earlier in the year he looks to have his game exactly where he wants it. 2016 will be all about trying to win the larger tournaments for Matsuyama and this set-up looks absolutely ideal for him. He has a 63% win rate in match play singles matches and while that is from a relatively small sample, all good match play golfers have to start assembling their record somewhere. Additionally both his wins on Tour have come via a play-off so he appears to enjoy the head to head contest. Matsuyama has also finished in the Top 25 on his his last two efforts at Dye’s tough Sawgrass layout so he won’t be phased by the designer’s layout here. His long, accurate driving will put pressure on every opponent and that alone can be telling in match play. He also ranks 6th in GIR over the last 3 months so he will apply similar pressure to his opponent’s approaches to the greens. While not always being the best of putters he currently ranks 2nd in birdie average for the last three months so he is certainly doing something right with the flat stick.

When Mahan won the title in 2012 his ball striking was just relentless and amongst the best in the world. An on-form Matsuyama’s long game is of a similar standard and I think he will be a very tough opponent this week arriving high in confidence with his 2nd PGA Tour win under his belt. The only three matches that he has lost are to Mahan, Mcilroy and Mcdowell and there is absolutely no shame in that as they are three of the finest match play exponents of recent times. With a reasonably favourable group on paper (Kisner, Kjeldsen and Cabrera-Bello), if he can get into his rhythm prior to the tougher tie against Kisner then he will take a lot of stopping. Compared to others in the market his price looks to have a touch of value about it so he is the main pick this week to take another step towards a Major by capturing his first World Golf Championship.

Justin Rose is another that fits the profile perfectly and he has been immense in his last two Ryder Cup performances. He has really begun to use his quality to beat inferior opposition with relative ease and he will be very dangerous this week. His form on Pete Dye tracks is also solid with 4th at Whistling Straits, 3rd at Kiawah, 4th at Sawgrass and a win at the Zurich Classic around TPC Louisiana. Rose played well last week but fell away with a 73 on Sunday. His game was in fine fettle as he ranked 2nd in the all round ranking. He looks to be one of the most likely winners for me this week and his odds of 25/1 are fair but I just can’t get out of my head how poor his putting has been lately. I’m hoping that his ball striking will help him to get out of his group and after that if he can get some momentum going with the putter then he could storm towards the final. Rose got on a roll alongside Stenson at Gleneagles in the Ryder Cup and if he can do that here then he might just be able to grab his 2nd WGC title. Despite finishing 8th and hitting 82% of fairways he could only rank 31st for GIR so while everything wasn’t quite 100% with approaches he still ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking for the week, if he carries that form over then he could really enjoy the course this week.

Marc Leishman again played well last week and chalked up a 17th place finish. There is no question that he is still riding high after his Nedbank Golf Challenge win in December and I expect his next win won’t be too long in arriving. He has a good match play record and won all of his 3 group matches last year before going down to eventual runner-up Gary Woodland. He also took Jordan Spieth’s scalp at the President’s Cup in Korea in November. The Aussie ranked 1st in GIR last week so he is clearly swinging well but I noticed that he could only rank 73rd in putting which is a bit of a worry. He is normally a very good putter but if it isn’t hot on arrival then he could find himself behind early on and it doesn’t look like a course for chasing an opponent. His group looks pretty tough with Garcia, Westwood and Moore so he will need to get off to a good start against Moore tomorrow. Unfortunately everyone seems to agree that he has a chance this week and his odds have been slashed. After backing him twice recently I don’t want to miss out should he win here. He is in the same quarter as Matsuyama but I really like their chances combined so while it maybe isn’t the most logical of methods I’m sticking with them both as I really liked their chances prior to the draw.

While having had no real study of the Puerto Rico Open I noticed that one of my favourite players George Coetzee lines up as he steps up his own Masters preparations. These alternate PGA Tour events are usually fairly low grade and a good chance for class to show. Coetzee is certainly one of the better players in this field on everything he has done so far in the game . He is a multiple winner on The European Tour with 3 wins in the last 2 years. With the grainy, slower, sea paspalum greens in use at the coastal venue, Coetzee’s excellent and aggressive putting could see him contend with just a decent ball striking week. I’m going to throw 0.5pts ew on him and 0.25pts ew on the Coetzee and Matsuyama double for an added interest.

Summary of Bets

WGC Match Play

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts ew @ 33/1

Justin Rose – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Marc Leishman – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Puerto Rico Open

George Coetzee – 0.5pt ew @ 33/1

0.25pt ew double – Matsuyama + Coetzee @ 1155/1

Weekly pts advised – 8.5pts

Total pts advised – 600pts

@theGreek82

Arnold Palmer Invitational and Hero Indian Open – Betting Preview

With it being Cheltenham week this will be fairly brief with a limited write up. I haven’t had the time to do as much research as usual so don’t go blowing all your Cheltenham Day 1 profits!

A very good week last week returned 65.38pts for the 3 places and two each way doubles but it still could have been so much better. Although both Scott Hend and Charl Schwartzel were deserving winners it was annoying to have three players bang in contention but ultimately never really look like winning on Sunday. Schwartzel was particularly annoying having backed him on his last 2 US starts but he disappointed at Doral so wasn’t keen to go in again a 3rd time.

Anyway that takes the totals to;

Total pts advised – 476pts

Total pts returned – 610.87

ROI – 28.33%

It also brings 2016 into profit for the first time with a 6% ROI.

This week the Florida Swing winds up at Bay Hill for The Arnold Palmer Invitational and The European Tour stays east for another co-sanctioned event, The Hero Indian Open from Delhi GC.


 

Arnold Palmer Invitational

Henrik

Henrik Stenson is my number one pick this week. His record is excellent at Bay Hill and I can’t have the first two favourites at the prices. Mcilroy disappointed last time out at Doral and Scott is going for a three-timer which is so hard to do. Stenson’s course form the last 6 years reads 2-5-8-15-47-52 and the only place to improve from there is to win. He has also ranked 5th-1st-2nd for GIR the last three years here and it is regularly one of the most important stats around Bay Hill which is very forgiving off the tee. His last two starts have seen him finish 11th and 28th so they too are progressive and he ranked 4th for GIR last week so looks to be rounding nicely into form as The Masters approaches. With the recent roll call of winners on Tour all being top class Stenson would also keep that recent trend going with a win and he looks to have the best chance of doing that at an ok price of 14/1

I wanted to back Paul Casey a few weeks ago such were his impressive GIR stats for the broken down approach yardages. But he didn’t play that week and then I forgot all about him at Doral so was kicking myself when he was on the leaderboard at the start of last week. He fell away over the weekend but still finished 7th and ranked an impressive 10th for GIR, 13th in scrambling and 19th in total putting. That sort of combination is dangerous on any course but even more so where driving is not too important. He also still sits 6th in GIR from 150 yards to 175 yards and that is crucial on any course but particularly one like this. He doesn’t have the best record at Bay Hill with only a 14th in 2007 to note but a 7th place at Doral should have him set up nicely for this test.

I want a classy player for my 3rd pick too and I’m prepared to give Marc Leishman one more go. I won’t repeat myself from two weeks ago at Doral but he has a 3rd place here in 2011 and while he hasn’t gone so well here recently I’d expect to see him return to his Riviera form rather than the up and down game that we witnessed at Doral. He found the water 6 times over the week and still finished 28th so there was a lot of good golf on show hidden in between the errors. If he has sharpened up his approaches on his week off then I expect him to go well again. I also feel a bit burnt from Schwartzel winning last week so don’t want to give up too quickly on Leishman!


 

Hero Indian Open

Even less time has been spent on this Tournament and there is only last year’s tournament to look at for top tier form. So stakes will be small but there are still some angles in. Anirban Lahiri won last year and ranked 2nd for total putting while SSP Chawrasia who chased him home finished 1st. I can only find stats for two of the Asian Tour tournaments here but it is more of the same in terms of the winner. In the Panasonic Open in 2015 Chiragh Kumar ranked 6th in putting when winning and Siddikur Rahman led the field in putting while finishing runner-up. The same tournament in 2014 was won by Chawrasia who again ranked top in putting. You can see the pattern and it is clear that putting is of the utmost importance around this course.

I’m giving Peter Uihlein another go this week as I don’t think he did a lot wrong last week and he is a similar price again in what appears a similar strength field. He ranked 3rd in putting last week and his touch was also excellent around the greens. Better than most of these and can hopefully contend again.

Siddikur Rahman has course form of 2nd-7th-5th and he ranked 1st-4th and 2nd in putting in those events. An extremely short hitter so his missed cut last week can easily be forgiven on a bombers course. He looks a good price at 70/1 given the lack of any real depth here and his superior knowledge of the course.

Chiragh Kumar won The Panasonic Open last year and he finished 19th last week in Thailand. He ranked 1st in putting in Thailand so will relish a return to this course where he won on his last start. Again looks very fair at 100/1.

Anirban Lahiri is a short favourite but is a class above most of these when at his best. He hasn’t been playing great in the US lately but this is a massive drop down in quality. He could easily return to form on a course he knows well so I’m going to stick him in the each way doubles instead of the outsider Kumar


Summary of Bets

Arnold Palmer Invitational

Henrik Stenson – 2pts ew @ 14/1

Paul Casey – 0.5pt ew @ 45/1

Marc Leishman – 0.5pt ew @50/1

Hero Indian Open

Peter Uihlein – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Siddikur Rahman – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1

Chiragh Kumar – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

3×3 0.25 ew doubles – (Stenson, Casey, Leishman) + (Lahiri 17/2, Uihlein, Rahman)

Weekly outaly – 15.5 pts

Total outlay – 491.5pts

@theGreek82

Valspar Championship and True Thailand Classic – Betting Preview

The WGC Cadillac was a tournament to forget for me. The three each way value bets were never really in contention. All three showed flashes of good golf throughout the week but ultimately there were too many mistakes. Leishman alone found water three times on Thursday and that scuppered his chances from the start. While he remains a player firmly in my notebook for tough championship layouts I’m not sure I can say the same about Schwartzel and Oosthuizen. This isn’t the first time they have let me down on US soil when arriving in form and I really seem to struggle to catch them at the right time. I don’t think I’ll be tempted to play either of them again in the US away from perhaps Augusta.

The Bubba Watson saver bet never looked better than with 3 holes to play on Sunday and in truth I expected him to win once he parred the tricky 18th. As stupid as it may sound having gone back to back, I still don’t think of Scott as someone to be relied on under pressure. He showed why with a bail-out drive into the right rough off the 18th tee which left him behind a tree. While this was unfortunate it was still the outcome of a poor drive under pressure. He then tried to cut his approach around the tree but failed massively and the ball pitched on the bank and looked 99% destined for the water. Somehow his ball stopped on the 45 degree bank and then he managed to compose himself to play an excellent chip shot to 8ft. The putt was holed and Scott beat Bubba by a shot but it would have been so different if it weren’t for that outrageous piece of luck. That said Adam Scott became only the 4th player to win back to back PGA Tour titles in the last 30 years and across the week on the whole he was definitely a worthy champion. Hopefully my bout of seconditis will disappear this week with a long awaited 1st win of 2016.

The lack of returns leaves the results as follows;

Total pts advised – 460

Total pts returned – 545.49

ROI – 18.6%

This week the Florida swing continues with the Valspar Championship near Tampa and the European Tour heads east again for the True Thailand Championship in Hua Hin.


 

VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP

Just the picks this week in US as I’m short on time.

My matchbook preview can be found here – https://www.matchbook.com/lounge/event-previews/valspar-championship-2016-03-10

FedEx St. Jude Classic - Final Round

First up is Harris English who has looked like he is shaping up to win again soon. His last three starts have been 10-39-3 and the 10th place finish was his best ever in a major or WGC. English has course form of 10-38-7 and Copperhead is very much a course that suits certain types of players. English favours tree-lined tracks and both his wins have came on similar layouts. He ranked 11th for total driving and 13th for total putting at the Cadillac and that sort of demanding layout should have his solid all-round game primed for a strong showing on a course that he enjoys. Not the best of prices but with so much in his favour he is still the main bet.

Another player who goes well on a lot of similar tracks to Harris English is Ryan Moore. He is a short but accurate player who repeatedly plays well when conditions suit. His current form is good, reading 10-MC-11-10 and he will be annoyed to have missed out on playing in the WGC last week having dropped to World Number 61. Moore finished 5th here last year and ranked 1st in the all round ranking so his game clearly suits Copperhead. So far in the 2016 season he ranks 40th for strokes gained:putting and over the last 3 months he ranks 17th in scrambling. He ranked 5th in the all round ranking last time out which looks promising. Three of his four wins have come without playing the week before so having had a week off while his peers teed it up at Doral I expect him to arrive at Innisbrook with his game finely honed. Looks a decent price each way price at 40/1.

My last pick doesn’t exactly fit into the same mould but he was hard to get away from this week. Jason Kokrak has finished 7th and 14th the last two years here despite appearing to lack the finesse required around Copperhead. Kokrak missed the cut at The Honda Classic but prior to that he was last seen sandwiched between some of the games best at Riviera where he finished 2nd behind Bubba Watson. He ranked 1st for GIR that week but just fell short ultimately around the greens where he only ranked 57th for scrambling and 56th for putting. Given how important those aspects are around this course then I would expect him to struggle but that hasn’t been the case. If he can continue to pound the greens then the confidence obtained from his Riviera performance might just be enough to continue his progressive results and maybe even get him over the line for his first win.

Chez Reavie finished one shot out of the places for us at Riviera and he looks overpriced again this week. I’m not prepared to be let down by him again for an each way payout but a Top 20 looks very achievable for him this week. His accurate game and strong scrambling will help him here and odds of 9/2 look too good to pass up. I will fire this into a double with The European Tour.


 

TRUE THAILAND CLASSIC

The European Tour takes to Thailand this week at the Black Mountain GC. It held the inaugural tournament last year but that is the only time it has held a European Tour event so there isn’t much top class form to look at although the Asian Tour has held a couple of tournaments there since it was opened in 2007; The Royal Trophy in 2011 and The King’s Cup in 2014. Without a great deal to look at I’m taking a fairly routine approach this week.

A case could be made for many of these in form Asian Tour players but so often they come up short while trying to win on The European Tour. With that in mind I’m going to look at the classier players in what is quite a strong field for a co-sanctioned event.

While Andrew Dodt won last year with a brilliant all-round performance, the rest of the leaderboard was littered with powerful hitters and strong putters, or both in the case of Aphibarnrat and Scott Hend. This is backed up by the 7346 yardage and the fact that the greens ran at 12.3 on the stimp meter last year. So that’s where I started the search.

Peter Uihlein looked almost back to his best on his last couple of outings and if that is the case then he is a cut above most of this field. In his youth he was regarded on the same level as Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth and that looked to be the case when he won in his rookie year on Tour. The wins haven’t came as quickly as we would have expected and while he seems to enjoy The European Tour there is no doubt that his intentions were to use this as a spring board to the PGA Tour like his friend Brooks. He is still a young man but he will be keen to get back to winning ways to get his PGA Tour card sooner rather than later. His last two outings have been very positive with a 9th in Malaysia followed by a 4th in Perth. His driving was as wayward as usual but that wasn’t punished in either of those starts and with these wide open fairways then it will be more of the same from the tee from the American. His huge distance off the tee will allow him more looks at eagle and birdie than most and with the state of his putting that should help him to keep up his progressive results and hopefully pick up his 2nd win. He ranked 1st for total putting last time out in Perth and sits 33rd over the last 3 months. With last year’s winner Dodt having seen the course before in the King’s Cup it pays to have played here before so Uihlein’s two rounds last year will be a huge advantage. As will the fact he doesn’t have the bad memories of a missed cut as he had to withdraw having shot 69-70 on the opening two days. Uihlein looks to have a great chance of playing well again this week at a venue where the two key attributes happen to be his two best weapons, power and the putter.

Thomas Pieters has hit a bit of a mini slump of late with two missed cuts but it is hard to ignore him on a track that favours big hitters and strong putters. Pieter’s game is very similar to Uihlein and the Belgian is expected to go on to be top class. I’m happy to ignore the poor form given how well suited he should be to this course. Despite that poor form he ranks 12th in putting and it is only 6 months since he won twice in quick succession. He is sure to rack up a lot more wins in future and off the back of a two week break I’d expect him to find his game again at a course that looks perfect for him.

The final pick comes in the shape of a strong course and current form player in Jorge Campillo. The Spaniard arrives here off the back of a 4th place finish in Malaysia where he ranked 1st in total putting and 27th in driving distance. He finished 15th in this last year after opening with a 73 so with a decent start he should hopefully get into contention on a course where he averaged just 27.25 putts per round last year.

Prayad Marksaeng won the King’s Cup at Black Mountain in 2014 and also lives nearby. While being a very short hitter the veteran Thai is an excellent putter and arrives off the back of 12th place finish in Malaysia. There is no reason to think that he can get his 1st European Tour win at the age of 50 but odds of 2/1 for a Top 20 at his home course look more than fair. I’m going to stick this together with Reavie for 16.5/1 Top 20 double.

I’m also going to persist with the each way doubles as they are still in large profit overall. But if the ROI continues to creep towards zero then I may decide to omit them to keep the weeklay outlay down.


Summary of Bets

Valspar Championship

Harris English – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Ryan Moore – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Jason Kokrak – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1

True Thailand Classic

Peter Uihlein – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Thomas Pieters – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Jorge Campillo – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1

3×3 0.25pts each way doubles (English, Moore, Kokrak) + (Uihlein, Pieters, Campillo)

Reavie + Marksaeng Top 20 double – 1pt @ 16.5/1

Weekly outlay – 16pts

Total outlay – 476pts

@theGreek82

 

WGC Cadillac Championship – Betting Preview

Jason Scrivener’s 3rd place made for a decent week for the blog as it nearly broke even but at the same time it was a little frustrating. I recorded the action from Perth and watched it from the 8th hole. Just as I turned on Scrivener holed a birdie putt to go level with Oosthuizen and I started to get a little excited. That didn’t last long however as three holes later he found himself 4 shots behind. The fact that it was last week’s tip Oosthuizen that won was even more annoying but he was also chased home by Gregory Bourdy who missed the cut while carrying our money last week. It was just as well for my sanity that the young Aussie held on for 3rd.

The Honda Classic was a bit of a strange one with the massively in form Patrick Reed having a stinker and missing the cut. All areas of his game were off and I might be forced to leave him alone for the time being (cue him winning this week!) Lingmerth and Kisner fared better but both got increasingly worse as the week went on and barring Lingmerth’s first round, neither figured on the leaderboard.

Scrivener’s 13.5 pts leaves the running totals as follows;

Total pts advised – 444

Total pts returned – 545.49

ROI – 22.86%

This week we just have the one tournament but it’s a big one as a world class field assembles in Miami for the first World Golf Championship of the year, The Cadillac Championship.


 

doral

WGC CADILLAC CHAMPIONSHIP

With so many young, exciting players on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour in great form, 2016 is shaping up to be an excellent year and this week sees the first of the big tournaments as 66 of the world’s best arrive at the Doral Resort to tackle The Blue Monster. It’s a mouth-watering prospect with so many players in with a chance of winning should they bring their best game. Unfortunately we can’t back them all so we need to try and work out who is best positioned to contend around this course this week and then hope the bookies disagree.

The Blue Monster more than lives up to its name with water hazards winding their way through the whole course and it plays this year to a whopping 7543 yards. Originally designed in 1961 by Dick Wilson, the course was substantially redesigned prior to the 2014 tournament by Gil Hanse. It was lengthened, more water features were added and some of the bunkers modified. Players have noted that it has a different feel to the course that was used from 2007-2013. So while that form is still relevant it may pay to focus more on the last two editions.

The course is long but the fairways are wide so bombers are certainly suited to Doral and that shows with the last two winners ranking 1st and 4th for driving distance but only 41st and 52nd for driving accuracy. The rough is penal however and water is in play on many tee shots so while there is room to let rip, plenty attention still has to be paid to many of the tee shots. Even more so should the wind get up and at present it is forecast to be a steady 10mph throughout.

The greens are on the larger side but they are well protected by bunkers, run offs and plenty more water. Given the length of the course there are plenty of long approach shots so the greens certainly aren’t easy to hold. This makes proximity to hole from 175 yards and up key this week and every player in the field will miss greens so scrambling will also be important in helping to keep bogeys to a minimum.

The front seven in the market this week are all trading under 16/1 and there is a considerable jump then up to 25/1. Those seven are the biggest names in golf right now and several bookmakers are pricing up “Big 7 against the field” markets. All this suggests that the winner will come from the following seven players; Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcilroy, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler.

But I’m not wholly convinced by any of them at the prices although out of the seven I do like Bubba’s chances the best this week and he has almost drifted to a decent price. He has form at the renovated course of 3rd -2nd and arrives off the back of a win at another tough layout at Riviera. I’d kick myself were he to win here so will have a small win bet as a saver.

Jordan Spieth has looked very out of sorts over the last month and I don’t expect anyone will be in a rush to back him with both his long game and even his putting not firing on all cylinders. He is drifting though as the money comes for others but I can’t see him figuring this week and with Doral form figures of 17-34 I can easily ignore him this week.

Rory Mcilroy makes little appeal arriving off a missed cut and also several appearances where his game on and around the greens hasn’t looked up to the standard required to win at The Blue Monster. I’d expect him to go well tee to green and possibly contend but as the greens firm up over the weekend I just don’t think he will hole enough putts.

Dustin Johnson is the reigning champion and finished 4th the year before that so he clearly loves the course. Last year however he ranked 1st in GIR and an impressive 8th in total putting en route to the win. A repeat of those figures would see him go close but the putter hasn’t been behaving too well of late. To back him at that price I’d want to have seen him win again after his high profile collapses last season. He must be considered in the first round leader market however given his ability to fly out of the blocks on a Thursday, especially on The Blue Monster. He has sat 3rd and 2nd the last two years after the first round.

Adam Scott is in brilliant form with his win last week at The Honda Classic being preceded by a runner-up finish at Riviera. These further highlighted his love of tough championship courses and if we listen to the media then he has made a turnaround with the short putter. But I’m not fully convinced by that and if we look at last week’s stats then he still only ranked 42nd for total putting. Four tough rounds at PGA National will have taken a lot out of Scott and to go back to back around another tough layout would be nothing short of exceptional. I expect he will roll his form over another week but find at least one just too good for him on the greens.

Jason Day doesn’t have a great record at Doral which is surprising as it should really set up perfectly for him. But his game hasn’t been at the same level that it was for the closing 6 months of 2015 so I’m happy to leave him alone until he finds his A game again.

Rickie Fowler would have been added to most Doral shortlists on Friday of last week only to be quickly scribbled out as he played two average rounds over the weekend. The bogey free opening rounds on the demanding PGA National layout appeared to take a lot out of him and I’m not sure whether he will be able to lift himself so quickly.

I’m convinced with 7 trading under 16/1 that there must be some value in the field and there is one player in particular that I think looks an excellent price so I made him my Matchbook tip this week. This is what I wrote about Leishman’s chances.

Despite arriving here as an outsider, Marc Leishman has become somewhat of a big stage player over the last few years and he now has a Top 5 at The Masters (2013) and consecutive Top 5s at The Open (2014 and 2015) to his name. In fact he has finished in the top 5 in 20% of his Major and WGC appearances. In December he added the Nedbank Challenge to his 2012 PGA Tour title and 2016 looks to be a year where he will be targeting the main 9 events on Tour. Finishing in the top 5 at both Augusta and St Andrews is no mean feat and his weekend score at St Andrews last year was amazing. To my knowledge it is the lowest ever weekend score at a Major and while he got lots of credit for his high finish, his 64-66 seemed to run a little bit under the radar in the aftermath of Zach Johnson’s triumph. It was 5 shots better than anyone in the field and while he got the best of the weather over the weekend it was still fairly miserable and it was still St Andrews.

The main attribute of his that sets up well to championship courses is his ability to handle hard and fast greens. That is exactly what they face at Doral this week, so he has been on my shortlist for this tournament for a while.

Marc-Leishman-post-1st-round-2013-Masters

Leishman has only played here once though and he finished down the field in 2010 when a far less accomplished player. So with never having played the course since the renovations, I wanted further hints that the course will suit him. In order to help me with that I decided to run through a stats model on my shortlist together with the rest of the top 30 or so in the market. I looked at previous editions and tried to pick out what I felt were the most important attributes required around the Blue Monster course. The 10 stats I chose were driving distance, GIR, scrambling, total putting, 3-putt avoidance, proximity to hole from 175-200 yards, proximity to hole from 200-225, proximity to hole from 175-200 from rough, proximity to hole from 150-175 from rough and Par 5 scoring. These were taken for either the last 3 months or the 2016 season depending on availability from the PGA Tour Stats page and the excellent Tour-Tips site. Not only did Leishman score well in this but he came out on top with an average ranking of 37th where only one other player averaged under 50. This was enough to push him to the top of my short list.

To those unfamiliar with Leishman’s game, that might come as a surprise. But anyone who has watched him play around tough venues will have noticed how comfortable he looks. He drives the ball a long way without being overly inaccurate (21st in total driving). His long irons are also extremely good when on his game (35th in proximity to hole from over 200 yards). Hailing from Australia he is used to both wind and fast greens so should the wind get up it won’t affect his ball striking. With greens hardening up over the weekend there will be plenty of missed greens but Leishman ranks 5th in scrambling so getting up and down shouldn’t be a problem for him. On tough layouts with large, undulating greens, lag putting becomes very important and Leishman also ranks 5th in three-putt avoidance so that will help him keep bogeys off the card which is very much the focus this week at The Blue Monster, where the winning scores since the renovation works are -4 and -9.

In terms of potential course links I looked at Dick Wilson designs used on Tour and that mainly threw up Cog Hill, which hosted the BMW Championship in 2007,2009,2010 and 2011 and Bay Hill which hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational. There certainly seems to be links with all three of the Cog Hill winners having also won at Doral; Tiger Woods (2), Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson. Bay Hill and Doral also happen to be two of the courses that Tiger Woods dominated most with 8 wins and 7 wins respectively. When I looked at Leishman’s results there I found he had a 3rd place at Bay Hill in 2011 and a 2nd place at Cog Hill in 2009.

All this tells me that he should be suited to Doral on paper at least but with the last five winners here all having recorded at least a Top 5 finish in the calendar year, you also need to be in form to tame The Blue Monster. On Leishman’s last start he shook off two missed cuts to finish in 5th just three shots behind Bubba. His stats for that performance were all strong as he ranked 11th for driving distance, 20th for GIR, 2nd for scrambling and 28th for putting . Riviera also played very tough with fast greens so having had a week off to recover in between he will arrive at Doral with his game exactly where he wants it.

But can he win a title this big? Well until someone either has a meltdown or gets over the line in a WGC or Major then we never know exactly how they will cope with contending down the stretch. But if we look at the last WGC winner in the US, Shane Lowry, then he has a similar profile to Leishman. Both men have excellent touch on and around the greens and are strong drivers when on their game. Both had won on Tour and hinted at being close to top-class. Everyone in the field will take inspiration from Lowry’s win at Firestone and many will use it to give themselves that extra belief that the top players in the market can be beaten.

It was an ill-placed divot that did for him in the play-off at St Andrews more than any pressure, so there are no real clues there but I suspect that he will be calmer than most if an opportunity to win presents itself. Leishman plays the game with a different attitude now since the horrific ordeal that his family went through last year when his wife almost died after contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome. I won’t go into the details but the story is very grounding and certainly worth reading about. It left Leishman with a new found perspective on life and every week he tees it up he knows that it is merely a game. That sort of appreciation could be very dangerous come Sunday if he finds himself in contention and when combined with an excellent short game I don’t think we will see him wilt if faced with clutch situations on the back 9 during the final round

In a week where you could make a case for more than half the field I think the front seven are just about worth taking on so with Leishman already proven in big tournaments on tough layouts I think he looks the best piece of value in the field at 80/1. Since writing this he has been cut to 66/1 but that still looks a fair price and Sky Bet are offering 6 places this week.

The player who came 2nd in my stats list was Charl Schwartzel and while I was a little unsure about including him after letting me down at Riviera, I’m going to give him one more go stateside. Schwartzel finished 2nd at Doral on his debut in 2010 and since then has also finished 4th and 9th, with the 9th place coming since the renovation so it appears to still fit his eye. At his very best Charl is world class and while he has not won in the US since his Masters win in 2011 he has racked up 5 other wins around the world. His brilliant all-round game sets up well for championship courses and on his last win in South Africa not only was he striping his irons but his putter was extremely hot over the weekend. His driving has let him down over the last couple of years and he pulled the irons out off the tee a lot at Riviera leaving him too far back to hold the small greens. But the wider fairways at Doral will help Charl to hit more greens this week and if the putter stays hot then he will surely go well on a layout he enjoys. His price has come in a little but 45/1 still looks more than fair for a player of his class who has two wins in his last three outings.

I really wanted to find an American to back given their strong record in this tournament but my last pick is Louis Oosthuizen. While his value has almost gone and he has travelled from Australia since Sunday, I can’t let him go unbacked again given how brilliantly he played over the weekend. He hit an astounding 67/72 greens in Perth and they were by no means large, soft greens either. The always accurate Bourdy ranked 2nd and he could only hit 61 of them. Louis finished 6th here last year and the way he was talking in Perth he has found a way to adapt his swing to play through his niggling injuries. If that is the case then we can expect a big year from the South African especially when we look at what he did in the majors last year while having such an injury disrupted year. I think all he needs to contend this week is his putter to heat up but he ranked 9th in total putting here last year so he would appear to like the Blue Monster greens. The 33/1 could be bigger but I couldn’t leave him out.

As well as the outright bets there are a few bets I like in the place markets. Andy Sullivan has shown in Europe over the last 13 months just what a talent he is and he will be looking at tournaments like this to attempt to move to the next level. He can get the ball out there off the tee and averages 295 yards through the 2016 season so is definitely long enough for Doral. But it is ability around the greens that has helped him the most in winning his 3 titles to date. He has an excellent touch on and around the greens ranking 14th on the European Tour for scrambling but he also possesses great touch with his long range putting and also holes more than his share ranking 16th for putts/round. Odds of 10/1 are a little bit dismissive of his ability and while yet to show us anything on US soil, I expect him to take well to Doral on his debut.

Byeong Hun An would probably eclipse even Patrick Reed for my most tipped player. But when you consider what an excellent all–round golfer he is then it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise. He keeps delivering each way returns and his consistency is frightening. His current run is 6 Top 5s in his last 9 tournaments and while we have to go back to May for his only win, that was at the European Tour’s flagship event, The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He currently ranks 12th for putts/round, 7th in scrambling, 19th in GIR and 41st for driving distance over the last 6 months. Odds of 11/2 for a Top 10 finish are too good to ignore for a player that enjoys playing on hard and fast golf courses and should take to Doral on his debut.

I’m including a 1pt win only saver bet on Bubba Watson too as I really need to get an American onside this week too after siding with five overseas players.


 

Summary of Bets

Marc Leishman – 2pts ew @ 66/1 and 2pts Top 10 @ 5/1

Charl Schwartzel – 1pt ew @ 45/1

Louis Oosthuizen – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Bubba Watson – 1pt win @ 14

Andy Sullivan – 1pt Top 10 @ 10/1

Byeong Hun An – 2pts Top 10 @ 11/2

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 16/1

 

Weekly outlay – 16pts

Total outlay – 460pts

@theGreek82

Matchbook preview – https://www.matchbook.com/lounge/event-previews/wgc-cadillac-championship-2016-03-03