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 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.
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