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%
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.
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
Jason Day 3pts @ 7.6
Rory Mcilroy 2.75pts @ 8.6
Jordan Spieth 2.75pts @ 8.8
Ricky Barnes 0.25pt ew @ 300/1
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