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.
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.
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.
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
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