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.
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.
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.
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
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