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.
“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.
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.
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 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
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