Memorial Tournament and Nordea Masters – Betting Preview

Last week at Wentworth seemed to sum up 2016’s betting so far. Going into the final round Hatton was 2nd, Westwood was 3rd and Cabrera-Bello was 7th so it looked almost unthinkable that none of them would finish in the Top 6. That’s exactly what happened though and if that wasn’t hard enough to take, David Toms bogeyed two holes late on in the US to fall out of the Top 20 for another week with no returns.

I have limited time this week so unfortunately this will be quite brief. In the US we have a brilliant looking field assembled for The Memorial Tournament but it’s all a bit dull again in Europe with a weaker looking field at the Nordea Masters in Sweden.

The profits have taken another hit and are now sitting as follows

Total pts advised – 636

Total pts returned – 722.80

ROI – 13.6%


Memorial Tournament

This week its Jack’s turn as the Tour heads to Muirfield Village in Ohio for The Memorial Tournament. The Muirfield course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and named after the scene of his first Open win in East Lothian. I’m not sure Nicklaus would have agreed with Muirfield’s recent decision to vote against Women members such is his willingness to promote the Ladies game but nevertheless it was a favourite of his and he created a course in Ohio of similar status in the game as it now heralded as one of the best stops on Tour.

It was opened in 1976 and has hosted The Memorial Tournament ever since producing an impressive roll call of winners. The course itself is 7337 Yards long and the fairways are of average width. There isn’t too much immediate trouble barring some lush green rough and it is very much a typical Nicklaus course as it is all about the approach shots and then what you do on and around the greens. Recent winners have been accurate drivers but a look at the stats confirm Muirfield Village’s increasing difficulty as you get nearer the hole. The last 5 winners have averaged just 22nd for total driving yet they have averaged 14th for GIR and 12th for scrambling. While putting is always important, Memorial is usually won with approach play but perhaps the most apparent stats information is how well the 5 winners have fared in the all-round ranking, suggesting the importance of doing nothing badly during the week rather than perhaps doing any one thing brilliantly. The average all round ranking for the last 5 winners is 3.6 and with such an elite field assembled here this week it looks a prudent play to side with someone whose whole game is decent order. With tricky, undulating, elevated greens, Muirfield tests all aspects of the iron game and it is a ball striker’s course undoubtedly. Approach shots need to be kept on a string to score well and Matsuyama who won this two years ago has some of the best distance control in the game.

In addition to previous form around Muirfield, other Nicklaus tracks are worth looking at too, Glen Abbey GC which hosted the Canadian Open in 2004, 208, 2009, 20013 and 2015, Sherwood GC which hosted Tiger’s World Challenge from 2000-2013, Valhalla where Rory Mcilroy won the USPGA in 2014 and Greenbrier which hosts the Greenbrier Classic and was redesigned by Nicklaus in 1977.

The top 3 ranked players in the world are all here and to make things even more interesting they all arrive looking for their 2nd win in a row. Over the last few years they have all shown their ability to hold their form and win back-to-back so it would take an exceptional effort for anyone to finish above Day, Mcilroy and Spieth, but if they did they would surely be top of the leaderboard come Sunday evening.

There aren’t a lot of players capable of staying with them if they hit their best form but the bookies are very aware of this and this has thrown up a lot of apparent value down the field (only 9 players trading below 50/1) but I’m not convinced that these juicy prices would be anything more than value losers. Should any of the market leaders start well then all trading potential will be lost on the bigger prices and it looks like a week to side with one of “the big three”. Between them they have won 16 of the last 62 PGA Tour events but there were plenty of those Tournaments where none of them actually played so a more accurate figure would be 16 in 48 or a 33% strike rate. That makes dutching Mcilroy, Spieth and Day at odds of 2.76 look like a worthwhile play here. I really can’t separate them this week but with the form they are in I expect one of them to win.

With the media having been very quick to label them the big three, each of them will be hugely motivated to win this week to set a marker down to the other two with the US Open just two weeks away. Over the last few years since Tiger’s dominance we have seen many of the game’s best players attempt to peak for Major Tournaments. But these three are playing to a level beyond that and they won’t be in the slightest bit worried about heading to Oakmont in two weeks having won both of their previous two starts.

Not only are they in form but unsurprisingly they all rank highly in the relevant stats and in the all-round ranking Mcilroy is 1st, Day 3rd and Spieth 5th over the last 3 months. Rose (2nd) and Stenson (4th) aren’t even here this week. They each have plenty of form either at Muirfield Village or other Nicklaus courses with Mcilroy having won at Valhalla, Day having won at Glen Abbey last summer and Spieth finishing 3rd in this last year.

In fact the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of the combined bet. Unfortunately it isn’t much of a price but given how hard it has been to pick a winner this year having all 3 running for us could be a welcome change. A 2.76 winner is better than a 60/1 loser and some returns are badly needed so a different strategy for a difficult looking week may pay off.

Ricky Barnes looks worth a small interest this week given his approach play last week. He ranked 2nd in GIR and he has 3 Top 25s from 4 appearances here with an impressive 3rd place finish on his debut in 2010 being the pick of those.

 


 Nordea Masters

The European Tour moves north to Sweden this week for The Nordea Masters and it returns to Bro Hof Slot GC (Robert Trent Jones Jnr design) after two years away at PGA National. There is plenty of course form with Bro Hof having hosted from 2010-2013 and the list of winners suggests that it is another ball-strikers course. I haven’t had a great deal of time to look at this so I’m just including a few small plays.

Tyrrell Hatton had a poor final round last week to fall out of the places but I don’t want to give up on him just yet. His price isn’t fantastic this week but again his stats look a good fit for the course and he arrives in better form than anyone in the field. He is 14th in driving distance, 3rd in GIR and 1st in scrambling. Last weekend was one of the few times where he has been in with a proper chance of winning going to bed on Saturday night and I would expect him to have learned a lot from the experience. We have seen many players on both Tours win the week after such a disappointment and even at 25/1 I think he looks the best play in this field with Stenson and Westwood looking very short at 7/1 and 14/1 respectively.

While you usually have to be a long hitter to prosper around the 7500 yard plus Bro Hof Slott course there are a few instances where other types of players have prospered. This week’s US Open Qualifying threw up some interesting results with Mikael Lundberg and Matteo Manassero qualifying in 2nd and 9th place respectively. Both players are short hitters but they have also won multiple European Tour titles and it is interesting that they have both returned to form.

Manassero finished 4th at Bro Hof Slott in 2013 on his only appearance so with him arriving here on a high I think he looks over priced this week. He ranks 3rd in GIR for the last 3 months so if he can get the putter going then he could outplay his odds of 200/1 which are surely too high in this field for a player of his class.

Mikael Lungberg interests me on Robert Trent Jones Jnr courses after winning twice at Jones’ Moscow Country Club early in his career. So it was a timely return to form for the Swede as he qualified with rounds of 68 and 69. He has been playing recently on the Challenge Tour and not doing an awful lot but with his Major debut to look forward to, a return home to Sweden might just see him go well on a course he has played competitively 3 times before.

 


 

Summary of Bets

Memorial

Jason Day 3pts @ 7.6

Rory Mcilroy 2.75pts @ 8.6

Jordan Spieth 2.75pts @ 8.8

Ricky Barnes 0.25pt ew @ 300/1

Nordea Masters

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Matteo Manassero – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Mikael Lundberg – 0.25pt ew @ 250/1

No doubles this week.

Weekly outlay – 12.5pts

Total outlay – 648.5 pts

@theGreek82

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Dean and Deluca Invitational and BMW PGA Championship – Betting Preview

While it wasn’t the worst of weeks last week there were still no returns and that leaves the profit at its lowest since before Jason Day’s USPGA win.

While i would have preferred Dustin Johnson to have kept his brilliant final round going and win, it was great to see Sergio Garcia finally win again in the US after a 4 year drought.

Over in Ireland firstly Ross Fisher and then Lee Westwood both looked like placing but it wasn’t to be as a mixture of poor golf and a bad draw did for them. Fisher played poorly over the weekend but he shot a brilliant -3 on Thursday in the wind and he can’t have been happy about facing the worst of the conditions again on Friday. But in Mcilroy we had another deserving winner I suppose although Scotland’s Russell Knox really made him work for it down the back 9 on Sunday.

No returns leaves the results as follows

Total pts advised – 621.5pts

Total pts returned – 722.80

ROI – 16.3%

This week we have two excellent tournaments as the PGA Tour heads to Colonial Country Club for the Dean and Deluca Invitational and The European Tour crosses the Irish Sea to England for the BMW PGA Championship.


Dean and Deluca Invitational

The PGA Tour continues on its Legends stretch of golf this week at Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas. After honouring one of the game’s greats last week in Byron Nelson, this week it’s Ben Hogan’s turn. While there is nothing official in the name, this Tournament will forever be associated with the great man such is the history he shares with the course. Hogan won around Colonial 5 times, 3 times more than any other player to date, and his exploits earned himself a statue on the grounds and Colonial CC the nickname “Hogan’s Alley”.

Indeed Hogan won the inaugural running of this Tournament in 1946 and it has been held at Colonial, in some guise or other, ever since. That makes it the longest running single venue Tournament on tour away from Major golf and subsequently there is an impressive roll of honour. Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson have all donned the red tartan jacket bestowed on the winner throughout its prestigious 70 year history.

The course itself is just over 7200 yards which on paper is pretty long for a Par 70 course, however such is the layout that only a few of the holes actually give any clear advantage to the longer hitters and that can be seen with a fairly diverse list of recent winners; Chris Kirk, Adam Scott, Boo Weekley, Zach Johnson and David Toms. It has narrow, tree-lined fairways with plenty of water in play, some 80 odd bunkers and fairly small, elevated bentgrass greens.

Ben Hogan famously said that “a straight ball will get you in more trouble at Colonial than any course I know”. But that was far from a criticism and this tough yet fair golf course is hugely popular amongst players and fans alike. This further backs up the fact that it can’t be overpowered as most players tend to still prefer traditional, classic layouts where they are required to shape their ball both ways and plot their way around the course.

With such a varied list of winners I expected to see no real correlation between the last 5 winners however that wasn’t the case at all. For all bar one of the main statistical attributes, the winners had averaged between 21st and 37th. The stand-out by a long way was total putting and that came as a bit of a shock considering Adam Scott and Boo Weekley are sandwiched in between 3 strong putters. Those 5 men actually averaged 7th for total putting during the week of their win and while a solid all-round game is definitely required there is no question that you must be putting well to conquer Colonial.

However total putting is not as complete an analysis for putting as strokes gained: putting so I tried to dig a little deeper into why they ranked so highly. When I began getting into PGA Tour golf more heavily a few years ago I remember that two-time winner Zach Johnson was spoken about as course specialist due to his ability with both wedge and short stick. That is something I remember each year at Colonial and so I had a look at proximity to hole from 125-150 yards, which is the normal range that most pros would be hitting a full wedge from. As I expected, in the years of their wins the same 5 winners all ranked highly for this stat. While proximity itself has no direct link to putting, it is perfectly fair to assume that while a player might not hole too many putts from 15ft, the more looks they have from that range the better their “Total putting” stats will be. On fast greens a poor putter will still make less 3-putts from 15ft away than a good putter from 30ft away. They will also probably hole a few more into the bargain.

So with 9 Par 4s measuring under 450 yards and 1 par 5 measuring some 630 yards, it is also fair to think that the key putting range will be from 10ft-25ft, or more specifically 10ft-15ft as that is where the pros would expect to leave their wedge from the hole. Luckily those helpful people at the PGA Tour site break all the putting ranges down for us.

In addition to those two main attributes, a handy 3rd would be driving accuracy. While maybe not highlighted by the stats, most of the winners are pretty handy off the tee and are comfortable around tree-lined fairways.

The winner’s rankings in birdie average were 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd so it is more about making lots of birdies than avoiding bogeys. They also performed well on the Par 4s as you would expect on a Par 70 course.

Wedge play and mid range putting? That’s surely custom designed for Jordan Spieth isn’t it? Well under normal circumstances, yes, but last weekend’s play from Jordan Spieth certainly wasn’t normal as he struggled with a bad case of the “rights” both off the tee and with his approach play. It was testament to his character that he was even in contention considering he said he felt uncomfortable over the ball the whole week. He certainly can’t be the bet at single figures given his disappointing 74 on Sunday.

Adam Scott demands respect as a former winner but he has been spraying the ball off the tee lately and he looks short enough at 13.5 having tailed off a little since his brilliant run of form earlier in the year.

Matt Kuchar is rounding nicely into form since his 3rd place at The Masters and he also finished 3rd last week. I’d expect him to go well again on a course that suits him but even at his best he struggled to get over the line and odds of 15.0 make very little appeal.

Kevin-Na-Michael-Weinstein-photo1

Kevin Na is a player that I said I would never back again after letting me down during the fall series. But after Garcia won again following a 4 year drought I have decided to re-evaluate given how much Na stands out this week. Of course he isn’t even close to the player that Garcia is but he certainly has a better game than many that have won this season. So while it is 6 years since he last won he has had numerous Top 5 finishes and his chances of at least playing well and contending look excellent this week.

If the attributes that I have highlighted stand up at all this week then Na has to go well. He is so far ahead that I had no choice but to make him the play. Na sits 2nd in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards,9th in putting 10ft-15ft, 18th in birdie average, 3rd in Par 4 scoring and 43rd in driving accuracy. It looks a perfect match and the nervous American actually led here after 54 holes before falling to 10th on Sunday.

He has overcome far bigger mental issues than Sergio too having had a serious case of the driving yips 4 years ago. That seems to be behind him and he has even managed to speed up his pre-shot routine a little to make him less annoying to watch.

There are some courses on Tour where Na has no chance due to his lack of length off the tee. But put him on a shorter, classical layout where you are forced to plot your way around trees and hazards and he excels. As well as last year’s 10th he has two other Top 10s here and has only missed 1 cut from 9 efforts. At his best he is a classy operator with two 12th places at the Masters and three Top 10s at The Players Championship and in addition to being a stand out pick on stats he also arrives in decent form. Prior to a missed cut last time at Sawgrass he was seen finishing 4th at the similar Harbour Town course. He ranked 7th for GIR on those small greens and 16th for driving accuracy through the tree-lined fairways.

It will be hard to be confident should he find himself on top of the leaderboard on Sunday but with odds of 40/1 there is a bit of scope to trade out should he hit anywhere sub 4/1 Despite his lack of recent wins, he usually plays well on weeks that he is expected to. So with question marks about Spieth and restrictive prices about others ,Na looks like having a good chance of going well again and hopefully at least contending for us over the weekend.

Kevin Kisner isn’t quite enjoying the 2016 that his win in November suggested he might have and he arrives here off the back of two missed cuts and nothing very special prior to that. But before both his Web.com Tour wins he had some miserable form. He went MC-MC-MC-23rd-MC-54th before his first win and he had missed 5 straight cuts prior to his second trophy so he is capable of finding his form from nowhere and therefore I’m not overly worried by that.

When previously tipping Kisner on here I spoke of his love for short, classical courses that favour shot makers and that is why I like him this week. Colonial is right up his street and he showed that last year with a 5th place finish where he ranked 3rd in the all-round ranking.

Despite his poor run of form he still has excellent stats for this week as he ranks 6th in proximity to hole from 125-150 yards, 14th in driving accuracy, 13th in birdie average and 12th in Par 4 scoring. There might well be a time soon where I have to admit defeat on him for 2016 but at odds of 66/1 on a course that is perfect for him I think he is worth one more go.

Roberto Castro is another player who tends to go well on classical championship style courses and he very nearly won on the challenging Quail Hollow course two weeks when he lost out in a playoff. That course is probably a bit too long for Castro though so it was an extremely impressive result and he will arrive back home to the state he was born full of confidence.

I first noticed Castro at the 2013 US PGA Championship when he finished in 12th position behind a host of brilliant ball-strikers on another technical, Par 70 course at Oak Hill Country Club. Jason Dufner won that week with a wedge workshop and time after time he left the ball within 10ft of the flag. The leaderboard that week actually had 3 of the last 5 Colonial champions above Castro so Colonial looks like it should be a good match for him. He has played it three times so far with no great success (MC-46-19) but he is a player that has taken his time to properly feel comfortable on Tour. As well as his runner-up finish last week he has some strong stats this week as he ranks 12th in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 18th for driving accuracy and 12th for Par 4 scoring. It is often putting that can hold him back but he ranked 1st for total putting at the Wells Fargo and 2nd the week before that at the Zurich Classic. If he brings that hot putter then he can make a mockery of his 100/1 odds.

 


BMW PGA Championship

After a good warm-up in Ireland the European Tour heads to Surrey for its flagship event the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. While there is a stellar European Tour field assembled there is still a feeling of disappointment that some of the game’s bigger names have dodged it this year. That won’t detract at all for the proper golf fan though and it has all the makings of an excellent tournament and a very open one too with Mcilory having decided to stay away.

Wentworth is a 7308 yard parkland course and it has some fairly tight tree-lined, dog leg fairways, lots of water in play and slick, undulating greens. Lee Westwood famously spun a wedge back into the water on the 18th to lose a play-off to Luke Donald in 2011 and distance control is crucial in holding the flags as long as it stays dry. Wentworth can be heavily influenced by the weather and two years ago when Mcilroy won it was completely soaked with a deluge of rain to start the week. That obviously made it hard for the shorter hitters with very little run out but it also helped to equalize the ability on and around the greens as they were far more receptive.

wentworth

The course can also get very windy and it is famously tricky to judge the strength and direction on the greens from 150 yards back in the fairway. While the scoring can sometimes be low, all this does make it a tough venue to master and usually debutants don’t fare too well. That wasn’t the case last year with Benny An winning on his first go but that was certainly an anomaly with the five preceding him having their 7th, 4th, 10th, 9th and 8th looks at the course when they lifted the trophy.

From a stats point of view the real standouts amongst the last 5 winners were GIR and scrambling. They averaged 9th during the week of their win for greens hit and 12th for getting up and down.  All five also played the Par 4s well and they averaged a ranking of 3 on those holes during the week.

I was following Tyrell Hatton very closely last summer and I thought he was going to win the Paul Lawrie Matchplay at the tight Murcar Links course during August. But his driving was a bit too wayward in the end and he lost in the semi-final. He continued to play well for the rest of 2015 and he finished 13th around the similar Woburn track at the British Masters.

Hatton must have worked hard on his driving over the winter though as he has made a huge improvement with regards his accuracy this year. He currently sits 1st in total driving for the calendar year and also 6th in GIR. This looks a brilliant combination for Wentworth already but he also ranks 2nd in scrambling and arrives in good form. Hatton finished 5th last week after a really strong showing in Ireland.

He has played the last two seasons at Wentworth and I think he will be arriving full of confidence that he can go very well on his 3rd look. While not exactly ripping up the course he did make both cuts with a 38th on his debut followed by a 46th last year where he only just hit half his fairways. With his long game in brilliant shape this excellent putter looks to have a great chance this week. He will be able to sleep in his own bed as he lives just 45 mins away in Buckinghamshire and with the strong recent record of Englishman at Wentworth I think he could be the best piece of value in the field this week at 50/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello has been on my mind for Wentworth for a few months now. His tee-to-green brilliance makes this an obvious stop for the Spaniard and I think he looks set to have a great week. While his early season form made him many people’s outsider for Augusta he strikes me more like the type of player what will build towards a contending performance at a Major. Without a win since 2012 he has been threatening this year with a very solid 2016 so far. I think this could be exactly the sort of tournament that he will be looking at to force his way into Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team and a win would all but book his ticket.

Rafa is another who has some solid stats this week as he ranks 17th in GIR, 7th in Par 4 scoring and 5th in birdie average for 2016 so far. While he is a player that used to be very frustrating to back he looks like a different golfer this year. He is playing with greater confidence around the greens and looks to have worked hard on his chipping resulting in a 28th place ranking for scrambling in 2016. That has taken the pressure off his approach play somewhat and he has thrived with 2016 form figures of 14-2-2-36-11-3-4-17-16-MC-8 with the only missed cut coming on his Players Championship debut.

I’m not suggesting that 25/1 is great value but sometimes players can find long-term improvement to their game that can turn their whole career around. It looks very possible that Cabrera-Bello could be having a career year and if that is the case then we might look back at this as the win that propelled him to Hazeltine for the Ryder Cup and we probably won’t be seeing 25s for him in Europe again for a little while.

Lee Westwood very nearly got in the mix last week for the blog as he threatened the leaderboard on Sunday. But he shot too poor a round on Thursday to ever look like winning the Irish Open. In the end he finished in a tie for 10th but what was interesting about that was his stats were actually quite poor. That isn’t something you normally associate with this fairways and greens machine so its interesting that perhaps his course knowledge alone may have helped him achieve a better position than his game actually did. He ranked a very poor 46th for GIR but that was the first time he had been seen since his runner-up finish at the Masters where incidentally he ranked 3rd for GIR. That is a far better gauge of his usual approach play and its likely that he was just getting rid of the rust for a crack at a venue he clearly enjoys.

Few in the field will have seen this course as many times as Westwood and in his 24 different tournaments there he has 6 top 5s with a win in the Volvo Matchplay back in 2000. He finished down in 38th last year but he was a very impressive 3rd in total putting. If he putts like that again and brings anything close to a decent long game with him this week then he is a very big price in this field at 28/1.

Francesco Molinari has made the Top 10 the last four years in a row and Wentworth just seems to be a perfect course for the accurate Italian. He looks overpriced at 2/1 to make it 5 in a row so he should be backed with confidence to play well again.

I’m not advising the 3×3 doubles this week instead I’m going to have a small saver double on two course specialists who are just a little short in the betting to consider for singles. I successfully backed the Zach Johnson + Luke Donald double this week in 2012 and have done it every year since when these two Tournaments were held on the same weekend. It’s probably nostalgia more than anything but as I’m backing it I thought I would post it too.


Summary of bets

Dean and Deluca Invitational

Kevin Na – 1pts ew @ 40/1

Kevin Kisner – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1

Roberto Castro – 0.5pt @ ew @ 100/1

David Toms Top 20 – 1pt @ 13/2

BMW PGA Championship

Tyrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Lee Westwood – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Francesco Molinari Top 10 – 2.5pts @ 2/1

0.25ptw ew saver double Zach Johnson  25/1 + Luke Donald 25/1 double

No 3×3 doubles advised this week while we try to stop the rot.

Weekly outlay – 14.5pts

Total outlay – 636pts

@theGreek82

AT & T Byron Nelson and Irish Open – Betting Preview

Another poor week leaves the profits at a low for the year and without having seen much golf over the weekend I can only go on the highlights package. From what I saw Day’s length off the tee combined with accurate approach play, laser putting and a field leading 85% scrambling was just too much for everyone else. It was simply more of the same from the Aussie and when all aspects of his game are working that well then I’m not sure anyone will be able to keep up with him this year.

It was annoying to see Day hose up just 1 month after we backed him for The Masters but so far it has been a very tough season with as many 1000.0 shots winning as favourites. I fully expected Day to carry on his brilliant form into 2016 but so far he has proven tricky to catch on the right week. He obviously had the short game to go well at Sawgrass but his course form was distinctly average. With yet more lightning greens at the US Open venue at Oakmont next month he will surely be the favourite to win and add to his US PGA Championship from August.

In Europe it another difficult week that involved so much guess-work with regards the course and the low-grade field. That is why I kept stakes low though so while The Players was a bit of a disaster there was very little harm done with a few small bets in Mauritius.

The results are now as follows;

Total points advised – 606.5

Total points returned – 722.80

ROI (since July 2015) – 19.2%

This week the PGA Tour returns to normality with the AT & T Byron Nelson from TPC Fours Seasons Las Colinas in Texas and The European Tour finally returns to Europe for some of the higher quality tournaments with the Irish Open from K Club near Dublin


AT & T Byron Nelson

Jason Day himself is a former winner here but doesn’t tee it up this week and a quick look at all the recent winners of the Byron Nelson seems to throw up a combination of strong drivers of the ball, good wind players and great putters. From a stats perspective total driving is in fact the standout with the last 5 winners having averaged 10th in total driving. While putting wasn’t overly crucial in 2011 and 2012 the last 3 winners have ranked 2nd, 2nd and 3rd which backs up my original thoughts.

A further look into how those 5 winners have done their scoring at TPC Four Seasons throws up another valuable trend as the 5 have all been excellent on the Par 4s. That is to be expected on a Par 70 but nevertheless they have ranked 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd and 2nd on the Par 4s during the week of their win and it looks like another handy string to the bow this week.

The course is a long Par 70 layout and at 7160 yards with just two of the longer holes then it makes perfect sense that long, straight driving helps to get it done at TPC Four Seasons.

johnson-dustin-OK

Dustin Johnson is without a win since March 2015 but some of the quality golf that he played during 2015 was overshadowed by his high-profile collapses. DJ took apart most of the Major courses over the first two days with his power game and when he is driving it even remotely straight and putting ok he is a threat no matter who is in the field.

TPC Sawgrass clearly isn’t his track however and it was interesting to see him record his highest finish at the course last week (28th). He ranked 8th for driving distance and that will set him up nicely for TPC Four Seasons where the softer, slower greens will help cover up his relatively weak short game and allow him to attack the flags with more wedges than most. Despite the brown greens being almost impossible to hold last week he still hit 68% of the greens and that isn’t too shabby around Sawgrass.

Johnson also happens to be one the best wind players around and that is important on any Texas course where the wind blows more often than not. Indeed he has four Top 10s in 6 efforts here and it clearly fits his eye.

Although there hasn’t been a win for a while Johnson still sits in 9th place for the all-round ranking over the last 3 months so his game can’t be far off and perhaps the most encouraging aspect is that he ranks 9th for total putting over that same period. Day’s win stopped the run of huge price winners on The PGA Tour and when that last happened in February the next few Tournaments were shared out amongst the game’s top table.

A similar thing could happen again this week as the first few players in the market will be determined to try to keep pace with the World Number 1 player. With Spieth having missed the cut last week I think 2nd favourite DJ looks to be the most likely winner and while 10.0 may appear short it shouldn’t be forgotten that he is a 9 time winner on Tour capable of blowing most fields away when at his best. It will be important for him to get over the line again sooner rather than later given last year’s woes but when he does win again it will no doubt be away from fast greens like Chambers Bay and this looks like the perfect set-up for him to get back in the winners enclosure.

The last two weeks have provided very differently priced winners on the Exchange. James Hahn went off at 1000.0 and Jason Day was around 13.0 last week. So as we have one from the head of the market I have decided to compliment Johnson with two outsiders.

Andrew Loupe finished 4th two weeks ago at The Wells Fargo and I think he has the right combination of power and putting that could see him go well on his 2nd look at the course. He currently sits 6th in driving distance for the last 3 months and 11th in total putting. He is rather wayward off the tee but with that not having been quite as crucial recently I think 150/1 is huge for a player that finished 4th last time out and is putting that well.

Hudson Swafford stopped a run of 3 missed cuts with a 57th at The Players Championship but it was his opening 66 that got my attention as we haven’t seen him on a leaderboard for a little while. He fell away as the greens firmed up over the weekend but it’s possible that he found something before the Thursday as prior to that 66 only 2 of his last 16 rounds were in the 60s with nothing better than a 69. Although scoring was low on the Thursday that is still quite a place to shoot your lowest round in months and he finished 7th in total driving for the week. If he found something off the tee at Sawgrass then the slower greens could be exactly what he needs this week and he looks to be a big price at 250/1.

One final thing of interest I found was a course link to Atlanta Athletic Club which hosted the 2011 US PGA Championship. Four of the first seven players home there have all won the Byron Nelson which seemed quite pertinent. Unfortunately that hasn’t thrown up anything too interesting but I did see David Toms at 690 on Betfair and that seemed quite high. He won his US PGA around Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001 and then also finished 4th there in 2011. Given he was seen finishing 14th at the RBC Heritage a few weeks ago and the recent high price winners I thought he was worth a small win bet with a view to trading out should he start well.


Irish Open

As soon as I noticed that the Irish Open was moving to K Club this year one player jumped out at me such is his connection with the course. Lee Westwood will be hoping that this connection can have a positive influence on the latter stages of his career. Having had a poor 2015, Westwood will be desperate to try to qualify for his great friend Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine in September.

I don’t think there could be a better place for Westwood to lay down a marker than the K Club. Firstly he has won around the course twice, in 1999 and 2000 with Clarke himself winning the following year. This began Westwood’s affinity for the course but it was the emotional 2006 Ryder Cup that has firmly etched this Golf course into the careers and lives of both Westwood and Clarke.

Clarke’s wife lost her battle with cancer just 6 weeks prior to the Ryder Cup and Clarke bravely decided to still take up his wild card spot, with Westwood being Woosnam’s other pick. They teamed up for a perfect record winning both their four-balls matches. Westwood would also half both his foursomes before winning his singles match to leave himself as the top scoring player with 4 points out of 5. Europe earned a resounding 18 ½ -9 ½ win and the scenes at the K Club were some of the most emotional we have witnessed in the Ryder Cup.

There isn’t a single doubt that Westwood will be part of Clarke’s team in September, it’s just a matter of whether he can qualify, do enough for a Captain’s pick or have to make do with being one of Clarke’s vice captains. But any win between now and August would probably be enough for the Ryder Cup stalwart and I think he has a great chance this week.

While not a links course there will be plenty of similar weather in store for them and Westwood won’t be phased by that at all. In addition to his 2 wins at the course he has another 5 European Tour wins in England and Scotland so he is right at home in the cold, damp, windy conditions that are forecast for the week.

Although his K Club history was what highlighted Westwood, he also arrives in fairly decent form having last been seen finishing 2nd at The Masters. Only Danny Willett can boast a better piece of form in the field so he looks a great price at 33/1 to go well on a course that suits him perfectly.

K-Club-Golf-Resort-Ireland-10.jpg.w=1600&h=990

The K Club course is an inland parkland course and it was designed by Arnold Palmer. It stands at 7350 yards long but yielded some fairly low scoring when it hosted The European Open from 1995 to 2003 and again in 2005. A look at those leaderboards together with the Ryder Cup and it seems that keeping the ball in play off the tee is crucial. That will only be accentuated some 10 years on with the growth of many trees on the course.

With Westwood a strong fancy based on course form I wanted to make the other two picks about current form and suitability to the course.

Joost Luiten has been playing some brilliant golf so far in 2016 with form figures of 44-2-2-MC-6-15-18-13-5 and the only thing missing is the win. Luiten is used to playing in the wind and one of his 4 wins was on the exposed Kennemer Links course in Holland. He also has a win in Wales in fairly miserable conditions so he will be relishing this opportunity with his game in such good order. That Wales Open win was around another Ryder Cup venue at Celtic Manor and with Luiten desperate to make his debut in September it won’t be lost on him that he has the chance to win around the 2006 host course too.

Luiten has been going off at fairly restrictive prices lately such is his form but with the strong field gathered in Ireland this week he looks a fair each way price at 33/1 where his 2016 ranking of 6th for total driving should help him considerably.

I’m going with another poor weather specialist in Ross Fisher at what looks to be a great piece of value. Fisher won this title in 2010 at Killarney Golf Club and like Luiten he also has a KLM Open title amongst his European Tour wins. Fisher hits the ball long and straight (4th in 2016 total driving) and that helps him in the wind. His home course is Wentworth and he can handle swirling winds through tree-lined courses better than most.

He was last seen in China where he finished in 44th after struggling to get to grips with the quirky nature of the greens. But two starts before that he played at the tough Valderrama course where he contended with his excellent ball-striking but ultimately his putting wasn’t quite up to scratch and he finished in a tie for 6th place. He led the field in the all-round ranking however and I think that is a better idea of where his game is at.

With his strong record playing in poor weather, his proven ability and his current form, 50/1 looks fairly decent despite this field strength. Fisher is a former World No 15 player and he has  already played in a Ryder Cup so he will also relish a chance to fire himself up the European Points list with a contending performance in a country where he already has a win to his name.

I will just go with 2×3 doubles this week as Swafford is a bit more of a hunch pick and a player I think could win soon at a big price rather than one that I definitely expect to play well this week.

Summary of bets

AT & T National

Dustin Johnson – 2.5pts win @ 10.0 on Matchbook exchange

Andrew Loupe – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Hudson Swafford – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1

David Toms 0.5pt win on Betfair Exchange @ 690

Irish Open

Lee Westwood – 1.5pt ew @ 33/1

Joost Luiten – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 50/1

2×3 0.25 ew doubles (DJ 9/1, Loupe) + (Westwood, Luiten, Fisher)

Weekly outlay – 15pts

Total outlay – 621.5pts

@theGreek82

The Players Championship and Mauritius Open – Betting Preview

Last week looked like being another fruitless week until Nino Bertasio played two solid rounds over the weekend in Morocco to land a share of 5th place at 125/1.

Kevin Chappell stormed to favouritism after the 1st round at Quail Hollow but I’m not sure what happened to him after that as he started spraying the ball all over the place and he gradually slipped down the field. The rest of the bets did very little and with 8.13 pts returned for Bertasio the results are as follows;

Total points advised – 594.5pts

Total points returned – 722.80pts

ROI – 21.6%

 


The Players Championship

As The PGA Tour season finds itself halfway between the first two majors of the year what better place to slot in what is now unofficially known as the “5th major”. It is of course The Players Championship held at the stunning TPC Sawgrass and we have one of the best quality fields that we will see all season. Rickie Fowler looks to shake off last week’s poor final round and defend the title he won so brilliantly last year with a run of 5 holes of some of the best golf I have ever seen.

All of the “big three” are here together with another 43 of the Top 50 ranked players and they make up an impressive field of 144.

At just 7215 yards, TPC Sawgrass isn’t a long course by modern standards but that is perhaps fitting of what Pete Dye was attempting to do with his Florida gem. In 1980 he sought to design a course that tested all aspects of a player’s game and favoured no particular type of player. He has certainly achieved that as the recent list of winners includes some of the most varied players you could imagine. Tiger Woods has overpowered it on just two occasions but even then that was as much down to his touch on and around the greens. Short, accurate types like Fred Funk and Matt Kuchar have won. Ball striking machines Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson both won there in their youth and the enigmatic Mickelson also managed a win. While this does indeed tell us that any type of player can win I still had a look at the stats for the last 10 winners to see if there was anything that they happened to all do well during the week of their win.

The least important aspect at TPC Sawgrass would appear to be off the tee as the 10 winners have averaged 35th for driving distance and 23rd for driving accuracy. That’s not to say that you can afford to drive the ball wildly as it is undoubtedly easier to hold the small greens from the fairway. But statistically anyway The Players Championship isn’t usually won or lost with the driver.

The lowest ranking appears in scrambling and that is usually the main attribute that I consider for Sawgrass so that makes perfect sense. The 10 winners ranked 12th but that improves to just 6th if you remove Garcia’s rather bizarre ranking of 57th when he won in 2008.

Just pushed into 2nd was greens in regulation as the same 10 averaged 13th place for greens hit but again removing Fowler’s abnormally high-ranking from last year then this becomes an average ranking of just 7.

Looking beyond attributes for a moment there is an interesting pattern of the last 10 winners all having recorded a Top 16 finish previously at TPC Sawgrass but also having plenty of experience as they won their title at an average attempt of 7.4. This isn’t a course that beginners tend to fare too well on and even when 26-year-old Fowler won last year he was having his 6th look at the course. Four of those previous 5 attempts were missed cuts but the one time that he did make the weekend he finished 2nd. I would think twice about backing debutants or anyone that hasn’t shown at least something at the course before.

TPC Sawgrass’ iconic hole is the island green, Par 3 17th in and it completes a very tough set of Par 3s. Indeed of the last 10 winners, 6 have played them under par so I would expect minimising bogeys on the short holes to be crucial again.

Stats wise then we are looking at someone who can hit a lot of greens, is excellent at getting up and down, plays Par 3s well and is a strong putter on fast Bermuda greens. The course backs that up as Sawgrass has some of the smallest greens on Tour at 4500 sq ft. They are surrounded by sand and water hazards throughout so accuracy and particularly distance control is needed to hold the greens. They also feature lots of typical Dye run-offs so hitting the greens really isn’t easy at all. Of course when the greens are small and so hard to hit, that makes getting up and down all the more important as so many greens will be missed.

Given the overall quality of the field this looks a wide open contest and while any of the front 3 in the market could win this I think there are enough question marks to warrant taking them on. Rory Mcilroy has played very well at the last 3 Players Championships but he just simply isn’t playing anywhere near his best and is easily left alone. Jordan Spieth hasn’t been seen since Augusta and if he starts well then he may be the man to beat but in truth we don’t yet know just what effect that 12th hole will have on him. I’d wager not as big as you might think but he has to remain a watching brief for now. Jason Day just doesn’t appear overly comfortable around Sawgrass and with 3 missed cuts from 5 attempts he surely can’t be backed at just 12/1.

It’s defending champion Rickie Fowler next in the betting and he looks the most likely winner to me and was very close to being the pick. But the pressures of defending (nobody has ever successfully defended at Sawgrass) coupled with last week’s poor final round made me think twice. I also backed him here last year at somewhere nearer 50.0 so its hard to pull the trigger at just 18.0 even though he is a vastly improved player. With four players trading under 20.0 in this good a field and both the last two PGA Tour winners having gone off at 1000.0, there must surely be some value down the field and that is where I have decided to look.

BillHaas

Bill Haas has looked like a player that is going to win a big tournament for some time now. He is a 6 time winner on Tour and has a very solid all-round game with no real weakness. In fact it is probably the fact that he is seldom exceptional at any aspect that stops him properly contending at Majors. But TPC Sawgrass looks like it should be ideal for the North Carolina native and it seems Haas himself is starting to realise that. This will be his 10th look at the course and it is quite a mixed bag up until recently. His first seven efforts returned finishes of 72-MC-MC-39-MC-25-MC but in 2014 it appears on paper at least that Haas realised how important the Par 3s are and went about addressing that. He played them in a combined +20 during those first 7 years but on his two most recent starts he has played them in -2 and subsequently finished 26th in 2014 before finishing one shot shy of the play-off last year. The short holes at Sawgrass are no place to be attacking flags and chasing birdies so a simple change of attitude for a player of Haas’ calibre may have been all that was required.

While he missed the cut last week at The Wells Fargo I’d prefer to focus on his results prior to that as he hasn’t played Quail Hollow well at all recently. After an excellent 24th place finish at The Masters, Haas played the following week at Pete Dye’s fiddly Harbour Town course and performed well finishing 14th. His approach play caught the eye on a set of greens that are actually even smaller than those at Sawgrass. He ranked 4th for greens in regulation and if he brings that level of accuracy to Florida this week then I’d expect him to go well again.

From a stats perspective his game also looks to be in fine fettle. For the last 3 months he ranks 22nd in GIR, 29th in scrambling, 17th in Par 3 scoring and he sits 30th in strokes gained: tee to green for the season so far. While his putting could have been better this season he still averaged 28 putts per round last week when missing the cut and he has form on fast bermuda greens having won 3 of his 6 titles on the surface.

He is arriving in form, goes well on Pete Dye courses, has played well at Sawgrass before, has the required experience of the course and also has exactly the type of complete game that you need to win a Players Championship. With it looking like a wide open tournament I think that combination makes this multiple winner look like a great piece of value.

Luke Donald finished 2nd a few weeks ago at Harbour Town and that immediately put him back on my radar. For years he was one of my favourite players and although Golf was stuck a little bit in the post-Tiger Woods’ dominance doldrums at the time, it was still a tremendous achievement to reach World Number 1. His game suffered though as he changed his swing in an attempt to add some length to his game. In hindsight this was a foolish move as he plummeted down the rankings and he is now without a win in Europe or the US since 2012. So often is the case with elite Sportsmen that they keep striving for perfection but in some cases it is surely better to focus on what has made you the player that you are. In Donald’s case it was undoubtedly his ability on and around the greens and at his peak there was probably no better short game. This means that the Sawgrass test should suit him down to a tee and he has some favourable results at The Players finishing 4th in 2011 and 6th in 2012.

Donald decided to change his coach last year and go back to basics, focussing on regaining his brilliant short game. This has reaped rewards so far and over the last three months he sits 3rd in scrambling, 29th in GIR and 5th in bogey avoidance. His runner-up finish at Harbour Town doesn’t appear to be random fluke, moreover it seems that as his short game is improving he is regaining his confidence and he has said as much in recent interviews.

Tiger Woods in 2013 and Martin Kaymer in 2014 were two cases of former World No. 1s returning to glory at Sawgrass and I think Luke Donald could easily follow suit. He will arrive with little pressure and that can only help the Englishman. Even at his best he sometimes struggled at Majors when he was expected to go well so with the focus firmly away from him he will be able to let his chipping and putting do the talking here. For a player of his undoubted ability, 125/1 looks a very fair each way price.

As I’ve gone with largely big value prices this week I decided to have four outright picks. The last two are a couple that have been in my Sawgrass notes for a few years and I couldn’t leave either of them out this week.

David Lingmerth finished 2nd at The Players on his debut in 2013 before missing the cut the year after when not playing very well. He never qualified last year but will be very much looking forward to his return this week. His accuracy together with his normally great touch around the greens makes him a great fit for Pete Dye tracks and his best result of the season so far involved 3 rounds on Dye’s PGA West in California when he finished runner-up to Jason Dufner in the Career Builder Challenge. His season hasn’t quite kicked on like he would have hoped from there but he played well over the weekend at Quail Hollow to set his game up nicely for another go at TPC Sawgrass. He ranked 9th in the all-round ranking there and he currently sits 16th in proximity from 150-175 yards and 23rd in 175-200 yards. That sort of accurate approach play is why he goes well on Dye courses and if he putts well then he hopefully he can contend again at a reasonable price.

David Hearn is another with a very high recent finish around Sawgrass as he finished 6th in 2013 after a commendable 26th on his debut the year before. Hearn was actually in the Top 8 going into the weekend last year but final round nerves led to a 78 which resulted in a 42nd place finish. I’m sure he will have learned from that and he arrives in ok form having finished 13th and 20th before last week’s missed cut on a course that is too long for him.

But Hearn has the perfect game for this course as he sits in a strong position in most of the key stats; 41st in GIR, 35th in scrambling and 25th in Par 3 scoring. He looks massively over priced at 275/1 this week. I’m also backing him for a Top 20 at 8/1

I considered backing Chez Reavie in the outright too but instead I will just have a play in the Top 20 market. He is a brilliant stats fit this week as he ranks 31st in GIR, 9th in scrambling and 34th in Par 3 scoring. Reavie also ranks an impressive 20th in strokes gained: tee to green so despite me not having forgiven him for finishing 7th at 250/1 earlier in the season I need to have some money on him here.

 


Mauritius Open.

Another European Tour event, another new course with very limited course form to go on. After just one running at The Heritage Club last year, they have upped sticks to The Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita and at first look that appeared to make for a betting nightmare. But there have been a few editions of a low-grade limited field event (Mauritius Golf Masters) and having found the leaderboards for 2014 and 2015 there is a bit of an agnle in. Confidence again won’t be high though so this will be reasonably brief and I won’t be advising the full 3×3 doubles either. Instead I will have 4 small each way interests.

The Four Seasons course stands at around 7500 yards and looks to play every bit of that. It is an Ernie Els design and it looks like he has designed a course that he himself would go well on. It is built into the surrounding natural landscape and that gives the terrain a links appearance, especially towards the greens that have runoffs and hidden bunkers like in Scotland. With Els’ love for links golf it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his vision incorporates such features.

Both the 2014 and 2015 Tournaments were actually won by the same person, Englishman Max Orrin. He is in no way a house hold name but almost immediately I after I discovered that on Sunday I saw his name creep ever closer to the leaderboard in Morocco. That was a difficult test week with the winning score being -5 and that was also the case here as he won with winning totals of -6 and -9, albeit just over 54 holes.

Any value has almost certainly gone as punters and bookmakers alike have latched onto his excellent course form. But despite Mcgowan going terribly last week with similar low-grade course form, I can’t leave Orrin out this week. There were some decent players in the fields when he won and he must love the course to have won there twice. It’s not a great each way price but he arrives in form after a 22nd place finish in Morocco where he ranked 2nd for total driving and 1st in the all-round ranking. There really isn’t a lot to beat here and we saw how difficult most players find winning last week as the lead changed hands every 5 minutes on Saturday and Sunday at Golf Club Dar Es Salaam. At least Orrin has two Challenge Tour wins to his name in addition to the wins here.

It is an obvious bet but with very little to go on I’m going to have a small play on him and also a couple of hunch bets based on those who should be suited to the course.

Orrin tends to go well on long, tough courses and it looks fair to assume that is what Four Seasons entails. Ernie Els himself thrived on courses that put a premium on long and accurate ball striking and if we look at others on the two leaderboards then most of them are big hitters. Colsaerts, Carlsson, Hebert and Gros have all finished in the Top 5 and it looks a sensible angle in.

Jamie Mcleary caught my eye at the bottom of the market and I was surprised at just how big his odds were in this field. The Scot is a long and accurate driver of the ball who to be fair has done very little at European Tour level but he does have two Challenge Tour wins. One of them came in Scotland in Aviemore on The Spey Valley course and while inland it plays very much as a links course and he has also won around St Andrews as an amateur.. He missed the cut last time out in Morocco but prior to that he ranked 1st for total driving in Shenzhen and also on the last cut he made in Australia. He also finished 7th at The Tshwane Open in February where the leaderboard was littered with big hitters. With the long game of the utmost importance this week I think there is a chance he might pop up randomly on the leaderboard here. In a very basic field 300/1 is well worth a small stakes investment.

Adrian Otaegui has promised good things in short bursts over the last couple of seasons but then he disappears just when you think he might be ready to contend on a course that suits. He is a bit of a bomber and often his driving accuracy stats are terrible. But last week he led the field in fairways hit and was 3rd in GIR. That upturn brought about a 22nd place finish which was his best since August last year. It could be that he has found something with his long game and the 160/1 that Bet 365 are dangling could be huge for someone who ranked 6th in the all-round last week at another tough layout.

Finally I can’t resist a small saver on Hennie Otto. He has been massively out of form lately but he still looks a decent price at 40/1 against this field and he usually appears more comfortable in Sunshine Tour sanctioned events like this. He has a 5th and 10th at Ernie Els’ Copperleaf course and from what I can find they look quite similar.


Summary of Bets

The Players Championship

Bill Haas – 1pt ew @ 100/1

Luke Donald – 1pt ew @ 125/1

David Lingmerth – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

David Hearn 0.5pt ew @ 275/1 (Bet365) + 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Chez Reavie – 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Paying 6 places this week with most bookmakers

Mauritius Open

Max Orrin – 0.5pt ew@ 40/1

Hennie Otto – 0.5pt ew @ 45/1

Adrian Otaegui – 0.5pt ew @ 160/1 (Bet 365)

Jamie Mcleary – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1

Weekly outlay – 12pts

Total outlay – 606.5pts

@theGreek82

 

 

Wells Fargo Championship and Trophee Hassan II – Betting Preview

Another poor week with no returns last week. Annoyingly there were long rain delays on the PGA Tour and you can’t help but feel a little hard done by when a Tournament is reduced to 54 holes. While I didn’t have anyone properly in contention to win the interruptions prevented all three players gaining any momentum and Garrigus looked very good for a Top 20 finish before the reduction to 54 holes was announced.

In China Wiesberger looked the most likely winner during the first two rounds but he never recovered from a terrible 3rd round and finished down the field knowing his chance had gone on Sunday.

That leaves the overall results still in profit but dwindling a little;

Total points advised – 584.5pts

Total points returned – 714.67pts

ROI – 22.27%

Hopefully things will get back on track this week with the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina and The European Tour arrives in Morocco for The Trophee Hassan II.


Wells Fargo Championship

The PGA Tour moves north this week as players and punters alike search for sunnier climes. The weather delays on Tour recently have been a nightmare and if last week’s Zurich Classic wasn’t already ruined by the weather then it certainly was by Sky Sport’s ridiculous decision not to show the perfectly poised final round on Monday morning. It went to a three-man play off and by all accounts it was a pulsating finish. This isn’t the first time Sky Sports has let their golf fans down and it does make you wonder just what you are paying for sometimes.

Unfortunately the forecast is more of the same for Thursday before clearing up for the rest of the week so fingers crossed the Wells Fargo Championship is uninterrupted this week.

quail hollow

Rory Mcilroy arrives in town as defending champion and the short priced favourite and he is rightly the man to beat in Charlotte, North Carolina. The course is Quail Hollow and it is one that appears to suit him perfectly as his form figures suggest, 1-8-10-2-MC-1. But it’s definitely of interest that his only missed cut was as defending champion.

It is 7575 Yards long and lately it has been a bit of a bombers paradise. After the 2013 edition brought with it many complaints about the quality of the greens, they were changed from bent grass to bermuda and a lot of trees were removed to allow more light to hit the greens. In addition to the removal of trees by the greens the fairways trees were also reduced in numbers somewhat. This has created a more open course that can really be attacked with driver and on the two renewals since, Rory Mcilroy and JB Holmes both ranked 1st in driving distance during the week of their win. But if we look further at the last 5 renewals then driving distance was already crucial as the 5 winners averaged 10th which is lower than any of the other main stats. It was closely followed by scrambling (12th) and GIR (14th).

Rory does look the most likely winner this week and while I was very close to recommending him as the bet, I’m not sure his game is in good enough shape to win this. Brian Stuard proved just last week how much strength in-depth there is this season on The PGA Tour and while the Northern Irishman won last year by 7 shots, his single figure price this week has resulted in a lot of value elsewhere for some very good players that will also be suited to the test.

Given Kevin Chappell’s recent form an argument could be made that his price is a little big this week and that is the view I’m taking. His recent form reads 4-9-MC-2 and in some pretty decent fields too. Not that Chappell has ever been one to be scared of going up against the best. When I tipped him a few weeks ago I highlighted his love of Championship style layouts, supported by his 3rd on his US Open debut and a 10th the following year. While Quail Hollow isn’t quite the difficult test that the US Open brings, it is definitely a long, Championship style layout and The PGA Championship is actually booked in at Quail Hollow for 2017.

chappell

A further look at the list of winners of The Wells Fargo shows several Major winners and since 2003 only shock winner Derek Ernst doesn’t boast a minimum of one finish in the Top 10 of a major. That tells us that it is generally a classy player that wins here and usually one that can play well on long courses. Chappell isn’t quite amongst the longest of hitters but he is very accurate with his long irons which can more than compensate. However he did rank 16th in driving distance on his last start, averaging 293 yards off the tee. While that is still some way short of Mcilroy, it is long enough to go well at Quail Hollow and he has had some decent finishes here. He finished 16th last year where he ranked 4th for par 5 scoring and he was 11th the year before where only Jason Bohn performed better on the par 5s.

The last 5 winners here have averaged 2nd in the all-round ranking so every part of the game needs to be working for Chappell but that doesn’t look to be an issue as he ranks 24th in the ARR for the last 3 months and encouragingly he was 2nd last time out in the same stat.

Chappell has looked a winner in waiting throughout this season and given four of the last eight winners of The Wells Fargo were winning for the first time (Kim, Mcilroy, Fowler and Ernst) I think this presents another excellent opportunity for Chappell to record his first win. Rory won’t give up his title without a fight but Chappell beat him by 10 shots last time they were in the same field so that shouldn’t phase him unless Mcilroy brings his A game. We really can’t be sure of that so Chappell looks like a very solid alternative at around 8 times the price.

Given how much I have backed Byeong Hun An recently in Europe there was a small tear in my eye on Monday when it looked like he might win on just his 3rd regular PGA Tour start. I must admit to being a little relieved as I would have hated to miss out on his first US win at odds of 66/1, especially as I don’t actually think I was aware he was playing until the Tournament started. Unfortunately his odds have been cut this week and the field is considerably stronger than last week too. But given I am such a big fan and we know how well he holds his form (his figures from November – February read 4-19-3-4-8-4-5-38-4) I don’t want to miss out when he does win and I’m going to take the hint from last week.

With an excellent all-round game if he continues to progress then I think he could well be a future major winner. That is exactly the type of player that goes well at Quail Hollow and An seems like he goes well on most of the same layouts as Mcilroy. He won at Wentworth last year where Rory had won the year before and he chased him home in the DP World Championship towards the end of the 2015 season finishing in 4th position. He also finished above him in the Dubai Desert Classic and one shot behind him in Abu Dhabi.

If there is a weakness to An’s game it is probably his chipping but the same has been said about Mcilroy in the past so it could be that scrambling is quite straight forward at Quail Hollow. His scrambling is also improving as he ranked 5th in that department in New Orleans. He currently ranks 31st in driving distance and 21st in GIR but a more telling idea of his current game was that he ranked 1st in the all round ranking last week.

While his price doesn’t have too much value based solely on what he has done in the game so far, if we factor in his potential then I think 45/1 is just about fair for Benny this week.

Patrick Rodgers was expected to have a big 2016 season but that hasn’t materialised yet. He finished 6th on his first start at The Fry’s Open but since then he has missed 6 out of 14 cuts returning nothing better than a 17th in the calendar year. It has mainly been his putting that has been letting him down though as some of his long game stats are still strong.

Rodgers was the number one ranked Amateur in the world as recently as 2014 and given the quality of the Amateur game recently he is still expected to go onto great things in the game.

Rodgers would have gone down in a lot of notebooks for Quail Hollow this year after finishing 2nd to Mcilroy last year. So it was particularly interesting to see just how good his long game was last week. He ranked 1st in total driving, 1st in ball striking and 1st in total accuracy but his putter left him down in 31st place. Having ranked 15th in total putting at the course last year it’s fair to think that his putting might improve this week on familiar greens. If he brings last week’s tee to green game then even an average week on the greens will hopefully see him contend again.

 


Trophee Hassan II

The European Tour gets a little bit closer to mainland Europe this week as we land in Morocco for The Trophee Hassan II. While this has been a fully sanctioned Tour event since 2010 there has been a change of venue this week as we return to the 2010 host venue Royal Golf Dar Es Salam after 5 runnings at Golf Du Palais Royal. It doesn’t appear to be a popular switch however as there is a very weak field lining up in Rabat. Aside from the 2010 renewal there is some old form from the course as it was used for the Moroccan Open at the turn of the century with Ian Poulter last winning in 2001. Additionally it has also hosted the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open on the low-grade MENA Tour in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

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The course is another Robert Trent Jones track just like the previous host course so recent form might not be entirely useless here. From the abundance of youtube videos showing highlights of the MENA Tour we can see what the course has to offer and it is extremely well tree-lined with fairly small looking greens. That combined with its length (7487 yards) suggests that long, straight driving will be beneficial here together with a hot putter as the highlights packages seem to show the main protagonists holing lots of mid-long range putts.

With Kikuyu collars and bentgrass greens it appears that scrambling will be important given the tricky nature of chipping from kikuyu lies. The grass also restricts the run out of the ball on the fairway so that will further highlight the need for length off the tee. It is also found mainly on South African golf courses so perhaps consideration should be given to in form South Africans. Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Aiken both finished inside the Top 10 in 2010.

While there will be many in the field that have never seen the course before, Ross Mcgowan has played here several times on the MENA Tour. Not only that but he has won there and also finished runner-up the year prior when he blew a lead. So with such strong course form in a relatively weak field I was surprised to get odds of 110/1. Ross is a former winner on The European Tour so while he is having to make a living on a lower tier tour he does know what it’s like to compete with the bigger names. He doesn’t arrive in the greatest of form recently but earlier in 2016 he finished 12th, 3rd and 10th all in South Africa. He simply has to be backed where his course knowledge could give him a huge advantage over field this week.

With course form covered I wanted to find the long, straight driver that should hopefully be suited to the test. Sebastian Gros finished 1st in total driving last week and that was nearly enough on its own given how weak this field is. But he also finished 4th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on another kikuyu + bent combo at Leopard Creek CC. Throw in recent form of 34-19-45-20 together with the fact that he finished 1st in the all-round ranking last week and he looks a solid each way bet at odds of 50/1. While he is still relatively inexperienced on The European Tour he has won twice in the last 12 months on the Challenge Tour so getting over the line in this company shouldn’t present a problem if he does take to the course.

Nino Bertasio finished 11th at Valderrama and that was the first time I really took notice of him. He ranked 1st for putting and that will surely serve him well around here. The rest of his game doesn’t appear to be too great but you don’t finish 11th around that course without doing something right. Robert Trent Jones also designed that track so while it’s definitely a bit of a risk his other high finish was 9th at the Australian PGA Championship so there might just be enough about him that he can make a mockery of his 125/1 odds.

 


Summary of bets

Wells Fargo

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Byeong Hun An – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Patrick Rodgers – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Trophee Hassan II

Ross Mcgowan – 1pt ew @ 110/1

Sebastian Gros – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Nino Bertasio – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

No doubles advised this week due to limited confidence in Europe.

Weekly outlay – 10pts

Total outlay – 594.5pts

@theGreek82