Zurich Classic and Volvo China Open – Betting Preview

Last week was a complete disaster and I failed to get to grips with either tournament. There isn’t really a lot of point in discussing the bets as they went so poorly.

Charley Hoffman was a popular winner in Texas having struggled recently in contention but given his troubles it would have taken a brave punter to back him at 25/1.

In Europe Korean youngster Soon Min Lee got his first win at just the 6th time of asking on Tour and while he did make some mistakes it was still very impressive on the whole. To win so early in his European Tour career suggests that he could well be the real deal and he is definitely one to watch now that he has playing privileges on Tour.

With no returns the results are as follows;

Total pts advised – 571pts

Total pts returned – 714.67pts

ROI – 25.16%

This week the PGA Tour moves along the coast to New Orleans and The European Tour returns to Beijing for the first time in 7 years.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans

The Tour stays in the deep south for the Zurich Classic in New Orleans this week. Last week there were some big names towards the upper reaches of the leaderboard and those that make the journey will be looking to carry over that form at TPC Louisiana.

The course is another Pete Dye layout and the Zurich Classic is sandwiched half way between 2 of the other Pete Dye stops, the RBC Heritage and The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in two weeks’ time.

TPC-Louisiana3-2000x598-1393696307

TPC Louisiana is definitely not as tough as his other courses though and the average winning score from the last 4 years is 20 under par. Whenever the winning score is that low you assume that strong putters will thrive but while the Zurich winners have putted very well during the week (the last 6 have averaged 12th for total putting but that includes Watson’s ranking of 53rd ), they are by no means the best putters around. Justin Rose, Seong Yul Noh, Billy Horschel, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson and Jason Bohn are hardly considered to be elite with the flat-stick. However they do tend to lag putt quite well and subsequently they don’t make too many 3-putts.

From doing my usual analysis of the main stats groups there is no real standout with every category averaging between 10th and 29th for the last 6 winners. Having not learned too much from that I had a think about what the recent winners had in common. Looking at the list immediately suggested to me that TPC Louisiana is a long game test. All the six winners above regularly sit prominently in both GIR and Approach Proximity stats from 150-175 yards, 175-200 yards and also 200+ yards. That isn’t to say that the putter won’t be hugely significant this week, more so that if your long game isn’t firing then you won’t be able set up enough short birdie putts to contend.

This certainly makes sense as that is what Rose and Dufner’s games are all about, hitting greens where others struggle. It is one of the main reasons they perform so well at US Open layouts. As well as these proximity stats I’m also interested in birdie average, bogey avoidance and 3-putt avoidance. Strong form on Dye courses is also crucial as some players repeatedly go well on his tracks whereas others do not take to them at all.

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

The last time Rickie Fowler received some bad press was when he was voted “Most over-rated player on the PGA Tour”. The week after that poll was published Fowler bagged himself The Player’s Championship and went onto have a stellar summer, firmly rubbishing any such theory and establishing himself at the very top of the game.

So given the backlash that he and his peers have suffered this week from going on a simple holiday, it’s perfectly acceptable to think that this could have a similar effect. For those that haven’t heard, Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Smylie Kauffman and Justin Thomas had themselves an innocent mid-season break in The Bahamas and decided to share some of their highlights on social media.

Quite what all the fuss was about I have no idea, some have suggested that this wouldn’t have happened in Tiger’s day and while that may well be true, even as recently as 10 years ago people wouldn’t have dreamed about being able to share such things instantly to the world. So even if Tiger had done, it’s highly unlikely to have been quite so publicised. I think this changing landscape should be remembered when judging young players for simply having fun.

Anyway, with regards to Fowler, it is easy to forget how brilliantly he was playing prior to his missed cut at The Masters. His stroke-play form figures read 10-8-6-2-MC-1 and his long game in particular has been impressive.

His approach play stats are simply brilliant as he sits 2nd in GIR 150-175 yards, 4th in GIR 175-200 yards, 13th in 150-175 yards proximity to hole and 17th in 175-200 yards proximity to hole. That tells me his game is set up perfectly for the challenge of TPC Louisiana. Further to that he ranks 5th in birdie average, 2nd in bogey avoidance and 1st in Par 4 scoring.

Fowler also has the required Pete Dye form with his brilliant win at TPC Sawgrass last year adding to a 10th place finish here in Louisiana in 2012. While he hasn’t given the appearance of someone that is putting well in 2016 he actually ranks 26th in strokes gained:putting and that is higher than he finished the 2015 (35th) and 2014 (36th) season in that department.

Over the last few years we have seen Rickie Fowler go off at silly short prices and rightly baulked at them. But this is a completely different player now. His iron game rivals the very best in the game at present and with his holiday last week he will arrive fresher than most and his Masters’ missed cut will be firmly forgotten about.

He ranked 1st for putting on Dye’s bermuda greens en route to his Player’s Championship win and if we see anything close to that level of putting this week then he will take a lot of stopping. If he does play well and contends then I would expect him to close it out on Sunday so I’m going win only with him this week.

Over last weekend Billy Horschel quickly made his way up the leaderboard and also my shortlist for this event. But his strong finish on Sunday alerted the bookmakers and that coupled with him being a former winner here has resulted in an unbackable price of 16/1.

Beyond Jason Day, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler at the head of the market this really isn’t the deepest of fields so I’m going to have a couple of small plays on some bigger each way prices in the hope that they can fill the places even if one of the main three runs away with it.

David Hearn still hasn’t won on the PGA Tour having had his card on and off since 2005. He hasn’t played a huge number of tournaments though so he isn’t quite the journeyman that you would expect for a 36 yr old maiden. What I like about Hearn here though is that he often pops up on the leaderboard at Pete Dye courses. He was actually 6th here last year and that was preceded by finishes of 34-21-24-46 at TPC Louisiana.

The Canadian also has some impressive form at The Player’s Championship finishing 26th on his debut and following that up with a 6th place finish in 2014 before a 42nd last year. He seems to thrive on Dye’s layouts and one of the main reason’s for that is his accurate approach play. He currently sits 8th in proximity to the hole and that will be important this week. At odds of 100/1 you could be forgiven for thinking he is out of form but he finsished 13th last week in Texas and that should set him up well for a crack at a course he plays well on. Hearn is a streaky putter but he ranked 38th for total putting last week and his iron play should help give him plenty of opportunities to get his putter hot here.

Robert Garrigus may be grossly out of form but given the skill set I have identified I simply have to back him this week. Granted it could completely backfire but a couple of his key stats are excellent. He ranks 1st in approach proximity from both 150-175 yards and 175-200yards and given those that have won here I don’t believe that the greens can be that difficult. His three play-off losses since his 2010 win have all come on bermuda greens so if he is to find some form with the putter then it will likely be on this surface. The greens will only run at around 10.5-11ft on the stimpmeter here and slower greens can sometimes be an equaliser so if he keeps hitting the ball closer than everyone else then maybe he can outplay his price. At 500/1 it’s worth a small play to find out even if it’s highly likely that I’m clutching at straws!

 


Volvo China Open

With only one previous tournament being held on the Topwin Golf and Country Club in Beijing, both the players and the punters are very much in the dark this week. Furthermore when we consider that it was a very low grade Chinese Tour event, this doesn’t stand out as a great betting prospect.

The course is 7229 yards long and if the man who won that solitary tournament is to be believed then it will play all of that and more. Young Aussie Bryden Macpherson won the event last year and he replied to a tweet from @SteveThePunter suggesting that it will play very easy and will suit bombers who can putt. Now there is nothing to suggest that Macpherson’s appreciation of the course isn’t 100% correct but I wouldn’t want to put too much emphasis on that. However if we combine that with some of the photos available and take a closer look at Macpherson then we can get a better idea of what awaits perhaps. His main achievement is no doubt his Amateur Championship win in 2011 but unfortunately that wasn’t on one of the Open rotation courses. He won at Hillside Golf Club which sits alongside Royal Birkdale on the Merseyside coast and you don’t win the Amateur Championship without being an excellent links exponent.

topwin

On the other hand the photos that I have found of the course confirm that it is a parkland course. But there are obvious elevation changes, sloping greens and undulating fairways. This makes me think of Gleneagles which is an inland course but can play very much like a links course and with that in mind I think Topwin might represent a similar test.

That connection sits nicely with a player who was already top of my short list and also sits towards the head of the market, Bernd Wiesberger. The Austrian has been playing mainly on the PGA Tour lately and while he hasn’t taken the US by storm he certainly isn’t faring too badly. After opening the year with form figures of 16-13-26 through the Middle East swing he missed his first couple of cuts in the US before finding his feet on the tricky bombers course at Doral as he finished 14th in the WGC Cadillac. He led the field in total accuracy that week and continued his form with a 27th in Houston before a very solid 34th at The Masters.

He has obviously been playing with his irons dialled in as he sits in a very lofty 8th position for GIR on the PGA Tour. Given that he has played some of the tougher courses that is very impressive and a different level to what most of this field have been doing. Throw in a ranking of 15th for total putting over the last 3 months (just covers his 3 efforts in Middle East) and he starts looking like a very fair price at 16/1.

One of the first times I noticed Wiesberger was when he made the playoff at Gleneagles in the 2011 Johnnie Walker Championship and he proved that was no fluke when he finished 4th on his next attempt in 2013. With the similarities that I see between the two courses I think that he will take to this layout.

He is already a three time winner on the European Tour (once already in Asia) and stepping back down a level it’s possible that he could blow this field away if he does take to the course. Knowing that he can get over the line on a Sunday and arriving in great form I believe there is still some value in his price so he is the main pick.

I’m struggling to find three this week so I’m just going to go with Nathan Holman again. He played ok last week but seemed to ultimately succumb to the stop-start nature of the event as he fell down the leaderboard over the weekend. I think this assignment should suit him again and I’m surprised by his price in a field that is no better than last week.

If my Gleneagles hunch is at all accurate then Tommy Fleetwood should also go well as his only European Tour win was there in 2013. He has finished 19th on his last two starts so isn’t playing badly. But I don’t really want to get too involved with question marks around the course so I will just advise him in the 3×3 each way doubles.


Summary of Bets

Zurich Classic

Rickie Fowler – 3pts win @ 14.0 on Betfair Exchange

David Hearn – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Robert Garrigus – 0.25pt ew @ 500/1 (Stan James paying 6 places) + 0.5pt Top 20 @ 16/1

Volvo China Open

Bernd Wiesberger – 1.5pts ew @ 16/1

Nathan Holman – 0.5pts ew @ 80/1

3×3 0.20pts each way doubles (Fowler 12/1, Hearn, Garrigus) + (Wiesberger, Holman, Fleetwood 33/1)

Additional 0.45pts ew Fowler + Wiesberger double

Weekly points advised – 13.5pts

Total points advised – 584.5pts

@theGreek82

 

 

 

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Valero Texas Open and Shenzhen International – Betting Preview

It’s hard to be annoyed with last week given two 2nd places but at the same time the 1286/1 double came very, very close. Both Joost Luiten and Russell Knox did nothing wrong but just came up shy against two deserving maidens. Andrew Johnston’s excellent long game saw off the field around the brilliantly difficult Valderrama as he ranked 1st for both fairways and greens hit. It was great to see the course back in rotation after 5 years away and it provides a test quite unlike any other on Tour.

Branden Grace gave a Sunday clinic on controlling ball flight in the US as he took iron off almost every tee. This allowed him to punch accurate, low tee shots around the trees and under the wind to find the narrow fairways. That set up a number of wedges and he peppered the flag on his way to a reasonably comfortable 2 shot win. It’s a performance that will place him even more firmly in people’s Open Championship notebooks as his low ball flight could help him plot his way around Troon in July.

It was 48.47 pts returned and that brings the running totals to;

Total pts advised – 556pts

Total returns advised – 714.67pts

ROI – 28.54%

The PGA Tour moves in land again to Texas for the Valero Texas Open and The European Tour heads East again for The Shenzhen International.


Valero Texas Open

The Tour returns to the Lone Star State this week as The Valero Texas Open takes place at the Greg Norman designed TPC San Antonio Course (Oaks Course). It is a 7433 yard Par 72 and has been the host course since 2010 so we have plenty recent form to study.

While it is a more open course than last week’s tree covered offering at Hilton Head, these still aren’t the widest of fairways and up until 2014 driving accuracy was quite important. That hasn’t been the case the last two years however as driving distance has been more critical so perhaps the immediate rough wasn’t quite as penal.

PGA: Valero Texas Open-First Round

 

The one main difference from last week will be approach shots from the fairways. Last week the overhanging branches blocked out the tiny greens from sometimes as much as half of the fairway. That wont be the case this week where the trees are a little further back and are far more scattered out around the fairways. So while finding the fairways isn’t easy, at least there isn’t the same requirement to find the correct landing areas within the short stuff.

The bermuda greens (under seeded with bent and poa) are also considerably bigger and will be easier to find in regulation. That isn’t to say that birdies will be any easier to come by though as they are severely undulating and precise approach shots will be required to get near to the flags. Especially if the wind blows as it usually does in Texas.

So while we aren’t looking for the same sort of steady, accurate grinders as last week, the task in hand maybe isn’t as different as first expected. A good all round game is required again and this is evident if we look at the stats from previous renewals. The last 6 winners have averaged an impressive 2nd in the all-round ranking.

Beyond these main stats groups I found two other common attributes shared between recent winners. They usually rank highly in “going for the green -birdie or better” and “approaches 50-125 yards”. That makes a lot of sense for a long par 72 course as the winner will surely have to score well on the Par 5s (Jimmy Walker ranked 1st in par 5 scoring last year) and generally to do that you need to take them on in two or have a very accurate wedge game. The last three winners; Jimmy Walker, Steven Bowditch and Brendan Steele are equally happy going for Par 5s or attacking flags with their sand wedges.

When looking for potential Open Championship winners from the PGA Tour, the Valero Texas Open is often used as a good guideline, due in part to the afore-mentioned winds but also the large, undulating, mixed grass greens. These are grainer than most in the US and so they tend to play like some of the exposed links greens (also a mix of grasses) that we are accustomed to in the UK. While the venue has changed over the years this connection to the Open has been strong regardless. Since 2000, 6 of the 16 tournaments have been won by Open champions. It may be worth looking at recent Open leader boards to try to find an angle in this week.

But most importantly it’s all about controlling your ball flight in the wind in order to get close to the flags on these big greens and have as many straight-forward putts as possible.

If ever there was a player that fits this mould perfectly then it is last years winner Jimmy Walker. He lives 20km along the road and admits to enjoying the test that the local wind brings with it. Walker is also an excellent putter normally and while he is probably at his best on poa annua greens, 3 of his 5 PGA Tour wins have come on bermuda greens.

walker

At Augusta only two weeks ago he gave us an idea of just where his wedge game was at as he set the course record on the Par 3 course on his way to winning the contest by some 3 or 4 shots. While he hasn’t yet won in 2016 he hasn’t had too bad a season and his form figures read 29-19-38-6-43-MC-11-4-13-10, with the 6th position being in the elite WGC Cadillac Championship on bermuda greens.

From a stats point of view in 2016 he sits in 8th for approaches from 50-125 yards, 3rd in going for the green – birdie or better and 24th in the all-round ranking so his game looks to be in the right sort of shape for the TPC San Antonio test.

Some players don’t handle the challenge of defending a Tournament but Walker has already shown that he can do that after going back to back at The Sony Open in Hawaii in 2014-2015. He is an experienced multiple winner now and will not be phased by the pressure of defending. The recent Par 3 win is of particular interest with regards to his mindset. Given the supposed jinx of winning the Par 3, many other players would have sabotaged their score to avoid winning. Not Walker though, he was far more interested in setting the record so instead he laughed it off, posted a 19 and started the real Tournament full of confidence.

That attitude will serve him well this week in his home state and with the important parts of his game in good order I think he can have a solid run at defending his title. It’s an obvious choice but with none of the World’s top 10 players taking part he has nobody to fear and I have seen worse prices for in-form defending champions.

Si Woo Kim is another  highly talented player from Asia who is now plying his trade on The PGA Tour thanks to graduating from the Web.com Tour last year. While Asian golfers don’t dominate the men’s game like they do the ladies, there is an ever-growing number now and you would think it is just a matter of time before we see the 2nd Asian Major winner.

Kim has had a pretty strong rookie year for someone so young and he has been very keen to learn having played 16 tournaments already. He has turned 8 of those into Top 25s but perhaps his most eye-catching result was his 4th place in Hawaii at the Sony Open. With the course links between that course and here then that might be reason enough to expect him to play well this week. However a closer look at his last two finishes of 13th and 14th are even more encouraging. He ranked 2nd in Houston for total driving but went one better last week at Hilton Head when leading the field. He also led the field in total putting last week so it was surely just his lack of course knowledge that prevented him from properly contending. I don’t think that will be as much of a problem this week as TPC San Antonio isn’t quite as tricked up as Harbour Town.

His approach shots can be a little more hit and miss but he hit 75% of his greens in regulation in Houston and with these large greens I’m hoping that his putter can help him out again this week. His odds of 80/1 might be considered too short for some given how little he has done in the game so far. But I’m far happier taking that price about a completely unexposed player than the silly odds on offer for the likes of Charley Hoffman who has repeatedly shown us that he shouldn’t be backed at short odds.

I’m not particularly convinced that Thomas Aiken can win on The PGA Tour but there was a time when I rated him very highly and thought he might win an Open Championship.He did manage two Open Top 10s however at Turnberry and Royal Lytham. But it was actually his first European Tour win that pointed me towards him this week. It was at the Greg Norman designed Golf Club De El Prat in 2011 which suggests he might just take to Norman’s TPC San Antonio layout.

Aiken is a brilliant wind player, a strong driver of the ball and he is also a capable putter on greens that suit. Given he was brought up on grainy South African greens then he should take to these undulating, grainy surfaces. It is very much a hunch pick but at 250/1 this 3 time European Tour winner might just outplay his price.

I won’t include him in the each way doubles however given there is no way of being confident that he will play well. Instead I will put Brooks Koepka into the doubles  at 25/1. This looks like a perfect set-up for him with the only negative that took him off my shortlist being his price. I thought he was a little skinny for a sometimes erratic driver of the ball but he actually ranked 15th for fairways hit at The Masters on his last start. More of the same would hopefully see him give us a run in the doubles.

 


Shenzhen International

The European Tour is in Shenzhen this week and more specifically the Genzon Golf Club for the Shenzhen International. It is just the 2nd running of this tournament with Kiridech Aphibarnat returning to defend his title. The 2014 Volvo China Open was also held there and won by Alexander Levy so there are two years of course form but hearing those two names already gives me a rough idea what the course is all about.

As with so many of the Championship layouts in Asia, Genzon GC is a Nelson and Haworth design and that is evident as soon as you see the pictures. It is an open, undulating course with lots of water features in play and some well protected greens. To my mind it best resembles the Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai which hosts the WGC HSBC Champions event every year. Other courses by the same team are Kuala Lumpur GC, Royal Selangor GC and the ?? at ??. It is definitely worth checking these leaderboards to see if any players repeatedly pop up.

With regards Genzon specificaloly though, it looks like a course where you need to drive the ball long and with the forecast rain I’d expect length off the tee to be even more crucial this week. The tricky, well protected greens will be a lot easier to find with short irons from the fairway than long irons from the rough so driving accuracy will also be important to avoid a horrible lie in the lush, wet rough. The greens will be more receptive than normal with the rain so that might just negate the need for touch o.

A long and straight driving contest is something that always alerts me to Ross Fisher and there are few better off the tee in the world game when he is swinging well. Unfortunately for Fisher he has really struggled to get all aspects of his game working correctly over the last few years and it is probably a cold putter above anything else that has prevented him from adding to his five European Tour titles. But he came back to form last week on the difficult Valderrama layout and he actually ranked 1st for total driving and in the all-round ranking when finishing in 6th place.

Four difficult rounds in Spain isn’t the ideal preparation for a Tournament in China but Fisher has a very impressive bank of form in Asia and rather than leaving him drained I think his last week’s finish will have given his 2016 season a nice kick-start after starting the year slowly. Fisher has a 2nd and 3rd place around Nelson and Haworth’s Sheshan Golf Club with the 3rd having been as recently as November.

Fisher isn’t much of a price at all here after that strong finish in Spain but this isn’t the deepest of fields and there are still only 5 men in the field who have won more European Tour titles than him. If he can just hole some putts then I would expect him to play well. He doesn’t get over the line as much as he should which maybe further devalues his 20/1 but it could be that last week’s strong play was inspired by fellow Englishman Danny Willett’s Masters win so hopefully he is hitting a prolonged period of form. If that is the case then even 20/1 could prove to be a solid each way price.

It might be a little risky siding with another excellent driver whose putter has gone extremely cold but at his best Peter Hanson is considerably better than most of these and is one of the 5 men with more titles than Fisher. He has suffered with injury as much as loss of form over the last few years but after easing himself into the 2016 season he finished 19th in Spain last week where he played brilliantly apart from on the greens. He ranked 4th for total driving and 7th in the all-round ranking so like Fisher he is only a warm putter away from contending.

Hanson also has a strong record in Asia with a 3rd and 6th in the HSBC Champions event when at his peak but he also has a win in China at Lake Malaren in 2012. With no signs of injury last week if he is back to full fitness then he should go well on a course that will reward his long, accurate driving. It seems the bookies also have him on their radar though as he is perhaps a little short at 40/1. But it should be noted this is a 6 time European Tour winner with three Major Top 10s to his name so anything close to his best would surely see him in contention over the weekend.

Nathan Holman won the Australian PGA Championship in November as a virtual unknown to most golf fans. It certainly alerted me to his talents and having followed him since it is clear that he feels more comfortable playing outside continental Europe. Closer inspection of his Asia form actually shows some strong finishes on Nelson and Haworth designs as he finished 8th at their Royal Selangor GC in March and 11th in 2015’s Maybank Malaysian Open around Kuala Lumpur GC. I suspect the open, undulating fairways and elevated greens fit his eye and although he is making his debut here I expect him to take to the course. He was also making his debut at Royal Selangor when he rushed into a 36-hole lead before struggling a little over the weekend.

Over the last 3 months he ranks 14th for total driving on Tour and we know that will be a valuable weapon this week especially with the rain.He actually ranked 5th for total driving in some good company at the WGC Cadillac Championship but struggled on the slick greens. He is normally a good putter though as he ranked 1st in total putting around KLGC’s paspalum greens last year and its paspalum that he faces again here. Hailing from Melbourne he will be used to grainier greens and he should find these to his liking.

As a European Tour winner now I think Holman is a player that should be watched on courses that suit and with him arriving here fresher than most, 80/1 is a very fair each way price having finished 8th just three starts ago in a similar field.


 

Summary of Bets

Valero Texas Open

Jimmy Walker – 1.5pt ew @ 18/1

Si-Woo Kim – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Thomas Aiken – 0.25pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Shenzhen International

Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 20/1

Peter Hanson –  1pt ew @ 40/1

Nathan Holman – 0.5pt ew 100/1

3×3 0.25pt each way doubles ( Walker, Kim, Koepka) + (Fisher, Hanson, Holman)

Weekly outlay – 15pts

Total outlay – 571pts

@theGreek82

RBC Heritage and Open de Espana – Betting Preview

Wow. I’m not even sure where to start with last week’s Masters. An incredible final round after a really tough Tournament saw Danny Willett run out a deserving winner in the end but that doesn’t tell the half of it. Anyone who took any joy from Jordan Spieth’s woes at the 12th must be a rather sadistic individual. All Sports fans love to witness the greats winning and most true fans of the game would have been willing Spieth towards a play-off after his quadruple bogey 7 left him trailing Willet by first 3 shots and then 4.

I must admit to being a little bit shocked by Willett’s win despite his lofty World Ranking of 12 and a 3rd place finish at Doral dropping more than a hint in March. I’ve watched him play  a lot of golf over the last year and while he certainly had the self belief to win a Major I thought he would have to contend in a couple before learning how to win one. But it was a brilliant performance and one that will hopefully not be too overshadowed by Spieth’s demise.

As you would expect from the classy young Texan he carried himself superbly in the aftermath and I hope he bounces back sooner rather than later. The lightening quick greens of Oakmont will suit him perfectly so a 2nd US Open would be the ideal way to silence his critics.

From a betting point of view it was extremely frustrating. Jason Day looked the winner in waiting at times on both Thursday and Friday and despite some costly errors he was still T5th and 3 shots back going into the final round. He never got anything going though and finished in T10.

Snedeker was even more frustrating as he was sitting T4th with 2 holes to play and managed to bogey them both to finish T10th and out of the 8 places that Sky Bet were paying.

It was left to Hidkei Matsuyama to bring some returns with his Top 10 finish. It could have been a lot better for the Japanese had his putting not been so poor on Sunday but that is why I never advised a win bet as his putting just doesn’t hold up on fast greens under pressure yet.

On the whole it was an excellent Tournament though and one that sets up the season ahead brilliantly with so many European golfers having performed well on US soil ahead of The Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in September. We look to be in for a superb summer of Golf.

With Matsuyama’s 10.825 pts returned that leaves the results as follows;

Total pts advised (from July 2015) – 540

Total pts returned – 666.20

ROI – 23.4%

Any Masters hangover will be short-lived as we have two excellent Tournaments again this week. The PGA Tour moves to the East Coast and Harbour Town Links at Hilton Head which hosts the RBC Heritage. In Europe they are back on the Continent as the Tour returns to the beautiful Valderrama in Spain after 5 years away.


RBC Heritage

“Golf is not a fair game, so why build a fair course” were the words of renowned Golf course designer Pete Dye but he certainly wasn’t referring to his Harbour Town Links course at the time. It was built in 1967, long before he designed some of his more daunting courses like TPC Sawgrass and Whistling Straits. It certainly isn’t easy but it is an absolute gem of a course.

Harbour Town stands as a fairly short Par 71 at just 6973 yards and it is very much a shot makers course that will not be over powered. Its narrow, tree-lined fairways require accuracy off the tee in order to find the right area of the fairways to attack the greens. It is accuracy over power again with the approach shots as these bermuda greens are some of the smallest on Tour. If they are missed then the greens are surrounded by trademark Pete Dye bunkers and run-offs so getting up and down isn’t easy. If we look at the recent roll call of winners then we see they are all steady shotmakers who are known for plotting their way around short, technical layouts. Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Graeme Mcdowell have won the last 3 editions.

If we look further at the last 6 editions then we see that the winners averaged 7th for total accuracy, 8th for scrambling and 11th for GIR. The same 6 ranked just 52nd for driving distance further highlighting the need for accuracy over power this week. As you would expect with it being a Par 71, the Par 4s are crucial and those 5 winners ranked 2nd-1st-3rd-1st-1st on the Par 4s.

Some golfers just don’t enjoy Pete Dye courses, Patrick Reed for one has a poor record on his courses. I’d want anyone that I’m backing this week to have form at Harbour Town or one of Dye’s other course used on The PGA Tour.

My go to player on Pete Dye tracks used to be Carl Pettersson who won here in 2012 but he has been badly out of form lately. A more relevant player with strong Dye form is Kevin Kisner and despite him not playing too well over the lat 2 months he is player that I cannot get away from this week. His recent form on Pete Dye courses reads 2-28-2-34-38 with those two runner-up finishes being both here and at TPC Sawgrass. That’s a pretty big hint dropped that Kisner enjoys his courses and having backed him for his maiden win I decided he was a player to stick with this year, especially when conditions suit.

Kevin Kisner

Although his game has tailed off a little he still sits 1st in total accuracy, 5th in Par 4 scoring and 38th in proximity to the hole. That looks like a perfect combination for the Harbour Town test so it makes perfect sense that he nearly won this Tournament last year. It was Jim Furyk that beat him to the title but Kisner did absolutely nothing wrong in defeat, it was just Furyk’s time surely after having many agonising losses of his own since his previous win.

Recent winners have actually played the week before at The Masters but generally not fared that well. Kisner was making his debut at Augusta last week and will probably be quite content with his 37th place finish. He ranked 5th for fairways hit and while that’s of little importance at The Masters, it will serve him very well here at Harbour Town. As will his ranking of 16th for total putting and we can expect his putter to stay hot on the bermuda surfaces this week with his win at the RSM Classic coming on the bermuda greens along the coast at Sea Island.

Many of the market leaders will arrive here thinking about what could have been last week and while we have seen people bounce back and win in Europe after a high Masters finish, the record isn’t so good on the more competitive The PGA Tour.

Kisner on the other hand will have quickly refocused and arriving this year as a winner I think he looks set to play well again and continue his quest for a Ryder Cup berth with his 2nd PGA Tour title.

Russell Knox finally got his first win last season and he did so at a rather big tournament, the WGC HSBC Champions in November. For the last few years Knox has been considered one of the most accurate ball-strikers on Tour but he either struggled with his putter or his nerves when in contention. By that respect he was somewhat of a shock winner in China but I suppose given his talent he maybe shouldn’t have been. His form was solid through-out the Fall Series but he hasn’t quite got going after the break although there haven’t been too many weeks where everything was in his favour.

Behind Knox in that HSBC event was Kevin Kisner and it seems fair to assume that they like the same courses given that they both have short, accurate games. His stats aren’t quite as good as they were earlier in the season but they still make brilliant reading for The Heritage. The Scot ranks 2nd in GIR, 4th in bogey avoidance, 38th in proximity to the hole and 6th in total accuracy.

Knox missed the cut last week at The Masters but that was his debut and it is too long a course for him. Furyk and Mcdowell both missed the Augusta cut prior to their win here so it doesn’t look to be too detrimental given the differences between the two courses.

While his price has shortened slightly, there is still some juice in 55/1 for a WGC winner on a course where he has finished 18th and 9th the last two years.

Chez Reavie very nearly gave us a place at a huge price at The Northern Trust in February and I’m happy to get him onside again as he is the standout statistical match this week. Obviously that is no guarantee that he will play well, especially as he has some fairly average form at Harbour Town. But he has looked a different player over the last 6 months now that he is free of injury and he arrives in good form.

He sits 1st in scrambling over the last 3 months and that will be of huge importance with the small greens this week. He is also 15th in driving accuracy, 5th in Par 4 scoring and 19th in proximity. The 66/1 looks a decent enough price for him to continue his good form that has seen him finish 7th in two very strong fields over the last 6 weeks.

Jason Bohn returns this week after suffering a heart attack on the course at The Honda Classic in February and while it would be a good achievement just to make the cut, I can’t resist having a small interest on him at a huge price. Bohn is another stats dream this week as he ranks 6th in driving accuracy, 5th in GIR, 1st in Par 4 scoring and 2nd in bogey avoidance.


 

Open de Espana

Valderrama is a name that will forever be associated with two things in Sport, big-haired South American footballers and the Ryder Cup. It is the Ryder Cup association that we are interested in here as The Open de Espana moves to the Valderrama Golf Club in Sotogrande, Spain.

valderrama-golf-club

This course first came to the attention of the World game when hosting the 1997 edition of the Ryder Cup and it will always bring back memories of the great Seve Ballesteros who captained the winning European side on his home soil. Since then it has been used for both The Andulucia Masters and The Volvo Masters, but while there is course form to look at, there is nothing since 2011.

The course was designed in 1980 by Robert Trent Jones Snr and it is very much in keeping with his style of course. His mantle was to make a course where you could score a “difficult par but an easy bogey” and therefore great strategy is required around his courses. As is the case in the US this week, Valderrama is very much a shot makers course.

The fairways are tree-lined, undulating and narrow while the greens are well protected with innovative bunkering and some water in play. They are also very small and well contoured so there will be plenty greens missed by everyone in the field. The last 5 winners around Valderrama averaged between 9th and 29th for all the main stats so a good all round game is required to win here but above all accuracy and a patient game will be advantageous.

Unfortunately despite the 5 year hiatus there are no secrets about what is required here and subsequently some of the early prices have been cut. However I had a strong feeling for these three players so I am sticking with them despite some of the value having disappeared.

joost

Joost Luiten arrived in Spain almost a week ago and has been putting in the practice, no doubt fuelled by missing out on his 3rd Masters and having to watch several of those ahead of him in The Ryder Cup pecking order play very well indeed.

Joost’s career hasn’t quite gone as expected since he won three times in just over a year from 2013-2014 but he has started the 2016 season well with 7 consecutive Top 25s before a missed cut last time out (4 of those were Top 10s). The missed cut was in India on an extremely fiddly looking track and the leaderboard was littered with local talent who know the course inside out. It is easy to forgive him that one performance and focus instead on the excellent form beforehand. Due to which he currently sits 2nd in total accuracy and that is a good indication of where his tee-to-green game is at. He also ranks 11th in scrambling and 3rd in GIR over the last 3 months so an average week with the putter should see him at the right end of the leaderboard come Sunday.

The Dutchman also has the appropriate course form having finished T5th at Valderrama in 2010 as a far less accomplished player and with the thorough preparation that he had this week I expect him to go very well and he looks to be the best bit of value at the head of the market.

Richie Ramsay’s love affair with Robert Trent Jones courses started with what is still probably his biggest win, The US Amateur Championship in 2006 at Hazeltine. Since then he has won the Trophee Hassan II around Jones’ Golf Du Palais Royal course and finished 3rd at Valderrama itself in 2011, the last time The European Tour was in town. Ramsay is very much a short but accurate player and in general he thrives on courses that require the golfer to plot their way around the course, having to think about every shot. Another of his wins came around Crans in Switzerland and while that is a Jack Nicklaus design it too is a shot-makers course with narrow fairways.

His current form isn’t particularly great but that was exactly the same prior to his last win in March 2015. His figures leading into that were MC-MC-wd-MC-MC and this time around they are actually a little better – MC-41-16-17-53.

On a course that fits his game perfectly he looks a very attractive each way price given he has proven in the past that he can find form from nowhere when conditions suit.

Alejandro Canizares is another player who has fantastic form on Robert Trent Jones courses with a win at Golf De Palais Royal and finishes of 7th and 21st on his last two starts at Valderrama. That maybe shouldn’t be a surprise though as this is Canizares’ local course and he knows it better than most. That on top of the strong links between the course and the great Seve Ballesteros might just put a lot of pressure on the Spaniard but I’m hoping that it might have the opposite effect and inspire him. His dad (the lesser known of the Jose Marias) played on 3 Ryder Cup teams with Seve and I’m happy to take the chance that all the history won’t be lost on Alejandro. It certainly didn’t hinder him in 2011 when they were playing just 5 months after the golfing world lost one of its greats and he went onto finish 7th.

Canizares is yet another accurate sort and he currently ranks 25th in total accuracy. But if he does miss these small greens then he his better equipped than most to get up and down. His ranking of 2nd in scrambling together with his course knowledge should help to keep the bogeys to a minimum.

His form this season has been pretty good on the whole barring two missed cuts but those were on courses too long for him and he has progressive figures again now since with his 2016 figures reading 15-35-MC-MC-8-27-5. The two top 10s came in quality fields on the Middle East swing so he will have no problems teeing it up alongside the bigger names on show this week. Again some of his value might have gone but I’m just about happy with 33/1 for him on his home course this week given he is having a good season.


Summary of Bets

RBC Heritage

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Russell Knox – 1pt ew @ 55/1

Chez Reavie – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Jason Bohn – 0.25pt ew @ 175/1

Open De Espana

Joost Luiten – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1

Alejandro Canizares – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Richie Ramsay – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

0.25pts ew 3×3 doubles (Kisner, Knox, Reavie) x (Luiten, Canizares, Ramsay)

Weekly outlay – 16pts

Total outlay – 556pts

@theGreek82

The Masters – Betting Preview

A good week last week as Lydia Ko made history by becoming the youngest golfer to win two modern-day majors. Very impressive stuff and she will surely go on to win many more.

On the PGA Tour it was another frustrating Sunday as Lovemark collapsed to fall from co-leader to 18th place but Daniel Berger managed to sneak us a place with a good finishing round. That returned 32 pts for the week and gives the overall returns a nice boost ahead of the biggest week of the year. They now stand at;

Total pts advised 510

Total pts returned – 655.37

ROI – 28.5%

This week we just have the one tournament again but it’s kind of a big deal…..

 


 

 

Magnolia Lane, Amen Corner, Rae’s Creek, Butler Cabin, even just hearing some of these terms can get most sports fans excited, never mind the golf obsessed punters that might be reading this. (Or that wrote this)

For many, The Masters is the sporting show of the year and Augusta National the finest theatre in the world. Be it the history they share, the perfectly manicured golf course, the guaranteed brilliant tournament year after year, the wonderful array of colours sprayed throughout or simply the traditions upheld, there is something truly magical about this place. Throughout 2016 so far, Georgia has firmly been on my mind.

magnolia lane

Augusta National stands at an ever-increasing 7,435 yards with many measures taken to try to “Tiger-proof” the course in the early 2000s. Subsequently the general opinion is that short hitters cannot win and that any potential winner needs to average around 290 yards off the tee. The layout was opened in 1933 and was designed by local amateur golfer Bobby Jones and esteemed Scottish golf course designer, Alister Mackenzie. The first Masters was held the year after and it has remained there ever since.

As most readers will be aware it is heavily tree-lined right through the course but with that the fairways are still relatively wide and while the rough is penal, there are many situations where you can fly the rough and find a decent lie in the mulch under the trees. Over the years we have seen several famous recovery shots from such lies and consequently driving accuracy has never been overly important at Augusta, highlighted by the success that Woods and Mickelson have had there. Both of which were partial to missing a fairway or nine during a round even in their pomp.

A lot will be said of the importance in moving the ball from right to left off the tee this week and while it’s not essential it is certainly advantageous. There are many dog leg holes to the left and those that can shape the ball around the corner can gain a lot of yardage on those that can’t. So while the majority of the field are right handers and will need to draw the ball to achieve this, the left handers will have to fade the ball. This is thought to be one reason that left handers have had so much success recently at The Masters. It is easier to consistently control distance on hard fairways with a fade than it is a draw as the ball has less run-out on landing. Both Mickelson and Watson have used this to their advantage but being power hitters too there are some holes in which they not only shape it right to left but also cut the corner by driving it high over the trees. The yardage difference between approach shots from Bubba Watson and a short hitter incapable of drawing the ball is quite startling. Bubba could be going in with a 9 iron while his playing partner has a 4 iron and you can begin to see why power can be so crucial.

The biggest test however at Augusta is surely the fast, undulating bent grass greens and there are many players that would surely have green jackets by now if it weren’t for succumbing to the perfectly maintained green carpets (In 2012 Westwood had 128 putts for the week compared to Mickelson’s 107 and both tied 3rd). As mentioned above, length off the tee is crucial here to allow the players to attack the greens with as much loft as possible. All the game’s best will expect to regularly put their wedge to within 15ft but it’s the setting up of a wedge rather than a 7 iron that can be crucial in holding these greens and getting close to the flags.

If they miss the greens then they are in trouble as there are no easy up and downs on the course. More often than not they will find their ball lying in lush green rough and unless they are blessed with the touch of Phil Mickelson, getting any real control is hard enough before any consideration is given to the chances of being short sided and above the flag. If there has been a winner at Augusta that couldn’t chip then I definitely don’t remember them.

It doesn’t get any easier when on the greens as they tend to run at around 12.5-13.0 on the stimp meter so they are around the fastest they face all year. With so many undulations, lag putting is extremely crucial at Augusta and is one of the most important attributes. Two key stats that highlight good lag putters are 3-putt avoidance from 25 yards+ and approach putt performance. Holing out is also tough so putting from inside 6ft can be a handy indicator. Jordan Spieth also showed last year that you have to hole plenty of putts so additionally I’d want someone who sits towards the upper reaches of the 15ft-25ft category too.

From a stats perspective all this is backed up if we look at the last 10 champions. The average rankings are as follows; 19th driving distance, 29th driving accuracy, 6th in GIR, 9th in scrambling, 13th in ball-striking, 10th in total putting and 5th in the all-round ranking. The winner will have to do pretty much everything well apart from hit every fairway. Further to these main stats, Par 5 scoring is always crucial as that’s where the winner usually does the bulk of their scoring.

Augusta-National-HD-Wallpaper

Augusta National lies just minutes away from Georgia’s boundary with South Carolina and some 80 miles to the east of its capital, Atlanta. Every single Masters has been held there since the first in 1934 and across these 79 previous editions it is the age-old traditions that give the tournament so much of its wonderful charm.

The defending champion picks the dinner menu on Wednesday, the caddies still wear all white onesies, family and friends join together for the Par 3 competition, the previous year’s champion places the green jacket on the back of his successor. All these little quirks contribute to the unique charm of the Masters. It is also the only Major that is played on the same course every year so above all that is perhaps the golf punter’s favourite tradition.

One of the key factors in gathering statistical information is quantity of data. If an event happens once then obviously  we can analyse what has happened but in order to place any great significance on how and why things have happened, it is better to have as much data as possible. So naturally in Golf terms, the more tournaments held on the same course, the more reliable the stats and trends.

However sometimes in sport we hear stats banded around year upon year, at no event more so than The Masters, that have no great logic to them. For example “nobody has won the Masters after winning the Par 3 contest on the Wednesday.” While this is true it is as much down to chance as anything and there is very little preventing the man who plays best on the Wednesday continuing to do so and donning the green jacket in Butler’s Cabin on Sunday night. If anything the fact they are playing so well should boost their chances.

Conversely, the one stat that stands out most to me is that of the defending champion. In the entire history of the Masters only three men have managed to win back to back at Augusta and those just happen to be the two must successful golfers ever and one of the best golfing minds we have seen; Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo. That speaks volumes for just how difficult a task Jordan Spieth faces this week.

Arriving as the Champion brings so much media attention and extra work off the course that they must be physically and emotionally shattered even before they tee-off on Thursday. This puts them at a huge disadvantage compared to someone who is in form, has a solid record at Augusta and can fly in under the radar to a certain extent.

But the task looks even harder when we consider the on-course side of Augusta. Winning a tournament in golf is hard anyway so defending any tournament is already very tough. Forget the fact that they have to shoot a lower score than every single man in the field for a moment. Turning up to a venue where they won the year before they are not only expected to play well by everyone else, but they expect to play well themselves and probably win. This for me is the main reason why only three of the steeliest, most driven golfers ever to play the game have managed to successfully defend their green jacket.

Luckily for Spieth he has mental strength well beyond his years and experience. It wouldn’t surprise anyone should he laugh off the challenge and win by 4 again. But I simply can’t back him to win again this year at a similar price when he has all that to deal with in addition to his game not being where it was last year. There is just too much against him, history included.

Rory Mcilroy doesn’t have the best of records at Augusta and last year’s 4th place finish was his first Top 5. Despite the media constantly telling us how well suited he is to the course, I don’t think he putts or chips well enough on fast greens to win at Augusta. While I’m sure he will manage to sort this out over time and bag himself a green jacket, it won’t ever be with my money down at single figures.

This takes me to third of the market leaders and the winner of the last major in August, Jason Day. The Aussie has long been thought of as a future Masters Champion and his game could not be more suited to the venue, backed up by his two near misses when he just lost out in 2011 and 2013 finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. In fact such is his recent form, he is now the slight favourite this week.

Jason Day

 

Day has the perfect combination of power, high ball flight and excellent touch on and around the greens that is required around Augusta and after a couple of years of carrying an injury in April, he did look like he was going to arrive in absolutely perfect condition having won just three starts ago. But he seemed to tweak his back last week at the Match Play and while that was a concern for me initially, it didn’t prevent him from winning the tournament so I’m not fully convinced by the seriousness of it. Day can sometimes have the appearance of a bit of a drama queen and I’m confident his week off will have sorted any minor problem that he might have had.

To my mind the only thing that stopped him winning in 2013 was the fact that he hadn’t yet developed the knack of closing out big tournaments. After chasing his US PGA win with another in the Fed-Ex Series that is no longer the case. I started backing Day for this straight away and while I was a little concerned with his form at the beginning of the season he came back with a bang to win The Arnold Palmer Invitational three weeks ago before going back to back at the WGC Match Play. The likeable Aussie can drive the ball with the best of them and this season he ranks 44th in total driving despite a poor start to the season. While en route to his USPGA win he ranked 1st for total driving and he looked to be almost back to his best off the tee at times over the last two weeks. His irons have also been improving as the year has gone on and at the Match Play some of his approaches were simply brilliant.

During 2015 there was a lot written about Spieth’s excellent putting but Jason Day wasn’t far behind and appeared to hole a similar number of long-range putts from June through to September. Throughout the season he actually ranked 6th for Strokes:Gained Putting and this year he sits in 4th. Last week in Texas his scrambling and putting was about as good as we have seen since Tiger at his best and if he stays that sharp around the greens then he could lap the field this week.

The average ranking of the last 10 winners the year prior to their win is 26th so while Spieth was runner-up in 2013, generally the winner was not in contention the year before. They do usually give a hint though by shooting at least one under par round, often in the 60s. In the last 10 years, the lowest rounds shot by the winner the year before read; 70-70-66-67-69-67-72-74-70-69. This gives an average low round of 69. Last year Day finished in 28th place and shot an opening 67 which looks like exactly the sort of non-contending performance required to keep his own level of expectations down (although his success since last April might have the opposite effect!)

The Masters winner has often played well at the WGC Cadillac Championship and with that being the highest profile tournament of the year prior to Augusta then this makes sense. Both are elite fields, long layouts and firm and fast greens. The average finishing position for the winners is 14th and while Day only finished 23rd that is close enough for me as it obviously isn’t an exact science.

You have to go back to 2008 and Trevor Immelman to find a winner that wasn’t properly top class and with the strength of the top-level of players at the moment I would certainly expect this year’s winner to come from the head of the market. With that in mind I don’t see any need to look beyond Jason Day this week. It may be a little obvious but that is generally how majors go when the overall quality is so high. Spieth and Day won three of last year’s four between them and Zach Johnson really shouldn’t have been a surprise at St Andrews. Day arrives in brilliant form, his game is suited to the course, he has course form and he looks by far the most likely winner for me.


 

There is an argument to be made that perhaps Day and Mcilroy’s odds are too short when compared with Spieth and Bubba Watson given the first two named have never won here yet. But the argument for Watson’s odds being too high is one I’d give more credence to. This is a man who has won 2 of the last 4 Masters and whose game is almost custom designed for Augusta. Bubba is, and has been for some time, one of the most under rated golfers in the US and this dismissive attitude must be taken advantage of by the punter. I’m not sure what more he can do to highlight his chances of winning his 3rd jacket. He arrives in very good form having won already this season which is more than can be said for Mcilroy who trades at nearly half his price.Bubba also ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-green.

So far Bubba has followed up his wins here with a poorer showing as defending champion and that explains his 38th last year. But interestingly he finished 38th the year before his first Masters win, so while that is of no real significance it does mean that he will arrive with less pressure. In 2012 and 2014 when he won, he also finished runner-up at the WGC Cadillac Championship, again this year he came 2nd to Adam Scott at Doral.

I make Bubba the 2nd most likely winner this week so I’m going to have him as my saver outright bet as well as two decent each way options.

Brandt Snedeker has threatened to win around Augusta on more than one occasion with the most recent of these coming in 2013 when he led after 54 holes before going on to finish 6th to save the bookies a small fortune as he had been severely backed from around 66/1 into 25/1 in the weeks prior to the tournament. This wasn’t the first time that he was in contention as he was 2nd after 3 rounds before firing a 77 to finish in 3rd on just his 2nd appearance in 2008.

While he is a decent ball-striker when playing well it is his consistently brilliant short game that is his main weapon at Augusta. Over the last 8 years on Tour there have been few better on and around the greens and this is a course that allows him to show his skills off. In the Masters cuts that he has made he has gone onto rank 4-12-6-22-1-29 for putting average and you can count on him to fare well on the greens again this week. But it is his tee to green game that will make or break his Masters week and so far in 2016 we have seen a big improvement from the American after an out of sorts 2015. Snedeker is already off the mark for the year with a win at his beloved Torrey Pines resort. His stats are also good as he ranks 14th in GIR for the last 3 months, 45th in ball-striking and 5th in Strokes Gained: Putting. But perhaps the most pertinent difference is the extra yardage that he has gained this year after some hard work through the off-season. He is averaging a further 5 yards off the tee and that could well be the crucial factor in helping him over the line this year. Previously he fell just short of the supposed magic number of 290 yards with 288.4 averaged for 2015. So far in the 2016 season he is averaging 293.5 yards and this will help him to attack more flags, potentially allowing him more looks at makeable putts.

He looks to have a great chance of playing well again at one of his favourite courses and with his all-round game in good shape he looks a huge each way price at 55/1.

 

kirk

While it was no doubt more about selective camera work, Chris Kirk appeared to hole everything he looked at inside 20ft at the WGC Matchplay. On his day there are few better putters than Kirk and he is a player I have long thought of as suited to Augusta. I backed him here last year and he had a decent week finishing 33rd on what was just his 2nd masters appearance after finishing 20th the year before. He is still just learning the course but that is some pretty solid form for his first two efforts. Kirk was raised in Georgia, he studied in Georgia and he is now one of the many professionals that reside at Sea Island on the Georgia coast. One of his 4 PGA Tour wins came there in 2013 and he obviously feels at home in these conditions. His natural shot shape is a draw and while he isn’t always the best ball-striker, he can hold his own when playing well as his 4 wins suggest. Two of those wins have come on bentgrass greens as well so he has a liking for the consistent surface. Prior to his 5th in the Match Play he had brushed off two missed cuts with a 42nd at The Valspar and then a 12th at Bay Hill. At 200/1 he looks well worth a small play in the outright market in the hope that his hot putter can keep his results moving in the same direction.

Top 10s

Hideki Matsuyama is making a habit of playing well in the Majors with 6 Top 25s already in just 13 attempts. He has also turned three of those into Top 10s including one here last year when finishing 5th behind the elite company of Spieth, Mcilroy, Mickelson and Rose. His superb approach play helps him to hit more of these fast greens than most and while he may not be the best putter on fast greens, we have seen many superb iron players gather Top 10 after Top 10 at Augusta even if their short stick limitations prevent them from winning.

He is in great form having won this season already in Phoenix and he ranks 13th in GIR and 4th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Matsuyama is expected to go onto be a multiple major winner in the future and while there are no arguments from me on that front I’m not sure he will win a green jacket. However I think he has the game to rack up a lot of Top 10s and hopefully at the very generous price of 10/3. He has finished in the Top 10 here on 50% of his efforts (albeit just 1 out of 2). That is obviously simplifying things somewhat but to look deeper at his Major record he is 3/11 for professional top 10s. That should really suggest that a fair maximum price is 11/3 but perhaps closer to 3/1 when we consider he is improving all the time. This makes 10/3 look very tasty and I’m happy to make it a strong bet with 2.5pts.

Matt Kuchar loves Augusta and when he was at his peak 3/4 years ago he looked like a Masters winner in waiting. It wasn’t to be though as there was always something holding him back from winning but he did have 3 consecutive Top 10 finishes from 2012-2014. He was down the field last year but recently he has shown glimpses of the same ultra consistent player that seemed permanently fixed to the leaderboard from 2010-2014. With his short game looking sharp at the WGC Matchplay I think the chances of him making a Top 10 are slightly under rated at 5/1 so he looks worth a bet on a course where his short game thrives.

Top 20s

Chris Kirk looks worthy of a Top 20 bet in addition to the each way. If he doesn’t go quite as well as expected then there is still money to be made from another solid showing.

Nobody played the weekend at Augusta better than Ian Poulter last year as he closed with two 67s for a share of 6th place. Poulter finished 2nd two weeks in Puerto Rico and then took a week off to prepare for the Masters. His game was in fine fettle south of the border as he ranked 4th in total driving, 3rd in GIR and 2nd in scrambling . As Poulter announced on Twitter last week, this is the only 2016 Major that he has qualified for thus far. Nobody will be more annoyed by that than him and he will be determined to change all that as quickly as possible. In his last 9 efforts at Augusta he has finished inside the Top 20 on six occasions so while his overall form appears to be on the decline, he is actually performing better in the US. With him arriving in form the odds of 4/1 simply look too big.

Benny An as any regular readers will know is a big favourite of mine. He was amazingly consistent alst year and won the blog a lot of each way money. I missed out on his first win at Wentworth last May when he won in impressive fashion on the normally tough tree-lined course. There are many players that have gone well at both Wentworth and Augusta due to the championship layout and fast greens. Palmer, Langer, Faldo, Woosnam, Seve, Olazabal and Angel Cabrera have all won around both and there are several others to have played well on both. He missed the cut in 2010 as an amateur but he has improved a great deal since then. With 9 Top 20s in his last 12 starts I think odds of 10/3 are a little dismissive of the Korean’s talent and he should be backed accordingly.

1st Round Leader.

Dustin Johnson tends to fly out of the blocks on a Major Thursday and while I can’t really see him winning a green jacket, he is definitely improving around Augusta National and made the Top 10 for the first time last year when he finished 6th. He has actually only missed the cut once here and has a couple of 67s, a 68 and a 69 already at Augusta. He led every major apart from the Masters after Thursday last year and I don’t see any reason to stop backing him to do so this year (70-65-65-66 for those 4 Thurday rounds) . It definitely makes for a less stressful experience than backing him to win and his odds are even higher due to the more random nature of 1 round.

I like to have at least two 1st round leader bets at the Majors, one fancied player and one outsider. The outsiders have been kind to me over the years having been on both Michael Thompson at the 2013 US Open and Carl Pettersson at 2012 USPGA. Both those high odds wins were through course links but unfortunately everything at Augusta is laid out in front of us. So I’ve gone with a player who has previously played very well there but is flying in very much under the radar this year and looks a big price given how fast he started last year. Ernie Els shot a 67 to tie for 2nd after Thursday and his form was nothing exceptional coming in. That is the same this year but Els is one of his generation’s greats and didn’t finish out of the Top 6 at Augusta when at his peak from 2000-2004. His Open win in 2012 and his decent showing at Augusta last year (finished 22nd) are proof that he still has the long game to go well on tracks he likes and I can’t resist a small bet on his 200/1 price.

I’m also going to have a little interest in the forecasts as they are big prices even for the favourites and I don’t expect too many surprises at the top end of the leaderboard come Sunday. All six combinations involving Day, Spieth and Watson.


 

Summary of Bets

Outright

Jason Day – 6pts win @ 7.8 and 4pts Top 5 @ 2.7 (both Betfair) 

Bubba Watson – 2pts ew @ 12/1 (6 places – general)

Brandt Snedeker – 1pt ew @55/1 (Sky Bet 8 places)

Chris Kirk – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (Sky Bet 8 places)

Other markets

Hideki Matsuyama – 2.5pts Top 10 @ 10/3

Matt Kuchar – 2pt Top 10 @ 5/1

Ian Poulter – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Chris Kirk – 2pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Benny An – 1pt Top 20 @ 10/3

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 22/1

Ernie Els – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @200/1

All 6 forecast possibilities (1st and 2nd) with Day, Spieth and Bubba – 0.25pts on each = 1.5pts

Weekly outlay – 30pts

Total outlay – 540

@theGreek82