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 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.
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.
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
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