WGC Bridgestone and Open De France – Betting Preview

Unfortunately with missing most of the golf last week I’m still a little unprepared this week. But keen to get back into it I still have a few bits of advice although given my lack of preparation and the bad current run it’s maybe not a week for huge stakes!

The blog is still in profit as we approach the 1 year mark but only just……

Total pts advised – 675.50

Total pts returned – 728.79

ROI – 7.89%


WGC Bridgestone

The final US based World Golf Championship of the season takes place this week at its regular home of Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio. The tournament has been held there since 1999 in its current guise as a WGC but there has been a regular tournament held at Firestone dating back to 1962.

It’s now customary slot is the week before the USPGA Championship so normally the elite players see this as a perfect preparation for a usually similar challenge that awaits them the following week. But with the rescheduling due to the Olympic golf it now finds itself up against the French Open at La Golf National. With that being a future Ryder Cup venue and holding its 100th edition many of the top class Europeans have given this a miss so we have an even more restricted field than usual. The French course also plays quite like a links venue so is probably better preparation for The Open in two weeks’ time.

But there is still a stellar field led by the world’s top two players and we should be in for an exciting and fairly open looking tournament.

The South Course at Firestone sits at 7360 yards long and plays to every yard of it, earning itself the nickname “The Monster” from Arnold Palmer after he once took a treble bogey at its 16th. Originally designed in 1929 by Bert Way, it underwent a massive redesign at the hands of Robert Trent Jones in 1959 to prepare it as a Championship course.

It has several long Par 4s and the Par 5 16th is one of the longest on Tour at 667 yards. The fairways are around average in width but they aren’t to be missed with lush green rough awaiting the inaccurate and leaving a very long approach to the greens. The fairways are also mostly straight and tree-lined so any shot shaping off the tee has to be extremely accurate. The greens, while perceived by some to be small, average 7,600 ft in area so they are actually on the larger side. However many of them are elevated with steep slopes which make them harder to hold. They also run at 13″ on the stimpmeter so they should play very fast.

Most winners of the WGC at Firestone are world-class and usually a major winner already. Since 1999 only Shane Lowry (2015), Hunter Mahan (2010) and Craig Parry (2002) haven’t won one of the main 4 tournaments and even then Lowry showed how close he is to winning one two weeks ago and Mahan was one of the game’s best for a couple of years. To further make the point about class, since 2005 every winner bar 3 has finished that season in the Top 3 of the PGA Tour’s All Round Ranking.

Since 2009 the worst that any winner has finished in that season’s Total Driving rank is 17th. So they have to be long, accurate drivers to have any chance of winning at Firestone. You simply can’t consistently find greens from either the rough or 200+yards out for 4 days in the Ohio heat.

Firestone lover Keegan Bradley (15th, 1st, 2nd, 4th here) is one of the best drivers in the world game and the mind numbingly slow player is also a terrific ball striker when he finally does hit his irons. They are both high and long which helps him to hold the ball on the fast greens.

Another key attribute of Bradley’s is hitting Par 5’s in two or “Going for it” as the PGA Tour like to call it. While there are only 2 Par 5s at Firestone it does have some almighty Par 4s that may seem like Par 5s to the shorter hitters.

With a roll call of recent champions including McIlroy, Scott, Mahan and VJ Singh, it can be noted that you do not have to be one of the best putters to win at Firestone. So while I’m not going to ignore it completely, I’m going to focus more on scrambling given how hard the greens can be to hit.

Recent year’s stats suggest that a high finish in the Masters is a bonus, showing that your game is in good shape for a high-class test of golf. Further good performances at the other Majors and WGCs are obviously good pointers too so I’m looking for at least 2 Top 20s from the main stroke play tournaments so far in 2016.

Debutants don’t tend to take to Firestone immediately so unless they rank highly everywhere else, they should probably be avoided.

Scott Piercy looks to fit the perfect profile this week. Having performed brilliantly at the US Open two weeks ago his game is in ideal shape for Firestone. With Shane Lowry having won here last year and then finished alongside Lowry in 2nd place at Oakmont, I think it’s fair to think that Piercy should also be suited to Firestone. That was certainly the case on his debut when he finished T19th in 2012 even if his next effort was 59th when out of form a year later.

But gradually over the last few years Piercy has improved and his record in majors and WGC tournaments certainly isn’t to be sniffed at even if the US Open was his first in proper contention. He didn’t wilt under the pressure and there was one point on Sunday where he looked the most composed and the likely winner. His record in the big 7 stroke-play events is very solid with 8 top 25s from his last 18 starts since he became a winner on Tour.

One of the notable similarities between Firestone and Oakmont is the presence of poa on the greens. Oakmont’s are all poa annua while Firestone has a mix of bent-grass and poa annua. That may not seem all that important but time and time again we have seen golfers go well on the same surface and I don’t think it was a complete coincidence that it was at Oakmont where Lowry’s putting improved drastically.

While long, relatively straight driving is probably the most important aspect this week it is worth noting that last year Shane Lowry was the first winner since 2009 not to rank 1st in the all-round ranking. Firestone is definitely a course where you need everything working well as good shots are rewarded but bad shots are certainly punished. Piercy ranked 4th in the all-round at the US Open which is a further string to his bow this week.

He also has a habit of playing well in the summer heat with all three of his PGA Tour wins coming in either July or August. Despite this being a month ahead of its usual slot it will still be baking hot in Ohio and with Piercy hailing from the desert in Las Vegas he is more than familiar with those conditions.

His last win was at the inaugural Barbasol Championship in July of last year and that was on a Robert Trent Jones track which gives me further confidence that he can go well this week on a Trent Jones redesign.

Piercy drives the ball a long way but doesn’t always hit the most fairways. Although he ranked 19th in total driving at Oakmont which was an improvement on his ranking of 41st over the last 3 months. Everyone saw how nasty the rough was at Oakmont so he should handle the rough here when he does miss the fairways.

His price this week seems very fair given he is a 3-time winner who finished 2nd last time out in the US Open. There are a few obvious players with better chances but I’m not sure there is any better value around.

I backed Louis Oosthuizen here last year off the strength of his long game and despite him not having been in great form lately he did finish 23rd at the US Open. His stats are quite good and these days we generally need a long game test to get the best out of the purest swing in golf. I’m going to try him again here this week as he is just too big a price for a player of his class.

 


Open De France

I haven’t had a chance to write too much of the usual preview stuff but there are a couple of bets I like in France this week.

I’ve been tracking Pablo Larrazabal closely this season since I uncovered what I thought was a link between Golf Club Eichenried and Oakmont. He never made the US Open field but his golf has been improving of late and he finished 9th last week at the BMW International Open. The Spaniard is another who plays well in the summer with 3 of his 4 European Tour wins arriving at the end of June. The first of those was here in 2008 and while he hasn’t done too well here of late it is still a course that should suit an in-form Pablo.

On his way to that 9th place finish in Germany he did everything well and he ranked 4th in scrambling which is always important at La Golf National. Prior to that was a missed cut in Sweden but the week before he finished 12th at the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth where he ranked 4th in greens in regulation.

I think he looks set up to play well this week and the presence of Mcilroy in the field gives us a very attractive price of 80/1.

Ashun Wu won just two weeks ago and looks a ridiculous price here for a Top 20. He missed the cut last week and this is a deep field but he has two wins in the last couple of seasons. He currently ranks 7th in both GIR and scrambling for the last 3 months and they are usually the two key stats here so a top 20 doesn’t look out of the question.


Summary of bets

WGC Bridgestone

Scott Piercy – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Louis Oosthuizen – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Open De France

Pablo Larrazabal – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Ashun Wu – 1.5 pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Piercy + Larrazabal 0.25pt ew double @ 6560/1

Weekly outlay – 7pts

@theGreek82

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U.S. Open – Betting Preview

It was yet another week with no returns last week as both Colt Knost and Gary Boyd’s fast starts didn’t materialise. Knost was still in 7th place entering the final round but he had a poor round to finish down the field. I’m not going to dwell on that too much as its US Open week and we look set for a very interesting Tournament.

As the blog approaches its 1 year mark it is still showing profit but only just.

Total pts advised – 655.80pts

Total pts returned – 722.80pts

ROI – 10.2%


U.S. Open

The 2nd Major of the season is finally upon us and things couldn’t be poised any better in the world game. All the world’s top 3 have won tournaments in recent weeks so they arrive in great form and there are numerous young, exciting players from both sides of the pond who will be relishing the challenge after seeing relative outsider Danny Willet don the green jacket earlier in the year.

We head to Pennsylvania this week and to Oakmont near Pittsburgh for the 116th US Open and by all accounts we are in for a grind at a course that is hosting a record 12th Major Championship having already been the venue for 8 US Opens and 3 US PGAs. Of those 11 Championships, 9 have been won by multiple major winners so I won’t be expecting a Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem or Todd Hamilton to be winning this week from nowhere.

In 1903 Henry Fownes set about designing a course where “par is an indisputable standard of excellence” and after this week’s US Open there won’t be a single player in the field questioning his success. US Opens are usually tough but it’s about as tough as it gets at Oakmont Country Club. Phil Mickelson, who has played a few tough courses in his time, declared after two practice days that Oakmont was “probably the hardest golf course we have ever played”.

From when the course opened, together with his son W.C. Fownes, Henry Fownes tweaked the course over the next 30 years, being the first designers to really take into account the equipment changes that were occurring at the time. They designed a course that was some 30% longer than all its other peers and from the word go it was a considered a brute of a course. They also began to add more slopes to the greens and added bunkers into the landing areas for the elite players.

Some of the biggest changes occurred after Gene Sarazen’s US PGA win in 1922 when W.C. Fownes was annoyed at how easily Sarazen played the course after the greens were watered due to a sun baked summer. The course was lengthened, trees were added to further narrow the fairways and I’d be surprised if the greens were ever watered again during a Championship week.

Indeed so notorious are the greens at Oakmont that it was actually the scene of the invention of the stimpmeter, the instrument used to measure the speed of the greens. In 1935 the greens were perceived to be so fast that a way of quantifying the speed was required in order to keep them fair. Over the next 70 years there would be many more tweaks to the course but for this week’s purposes it will pay to look at the most recent. They occurred prior to the 2007 US Open as Tom Fazio was tasked with bringing the course back to its original design which had been lost a little over time. Many trees were removed, undulations added to the fairways, bunkers were reshaped and deepened and an extra 250 yards was added.

oakmont061107.jpg

The course now stands at 7255 yards with narrow, undulating fairways. There is a secondary level of rough which looks quite lenient but if it is cleared then there is a mix of thick green rough and longer fescue grasses for the properly errant. Should the rough be avoided then there are still plenty hazards with some 210 bunkers on the course and the fall of the fairway usually ushers the ball in their direction. These are classic links pot bunkers and many of them will only allow a sand wedge back into play. The course has a number of blind tee-shots and approach shots so distance control will be paramount at Oakmont. Additionally either spin or height will be required on approach shots in order to hold the slick, undulating greens. Therefore if you aren’t long off the tee you had better be accurate because hitting 200 yard plus approaches from the rough will soon take its toll on even the best short games. When the greens are missed then some of the thickest green side rough we have ever seen awaits them and they better hope someone was watching their ball as they will be hard to find in many spots. The slick greens are poa annua and while they are as pure as the players will see all year, they are also as fast as they will see all year with the greens likely to be towards 15” on the stimpmeter by Sunday. For those that haven’t seen the videos then they are worth finding just to see the full extent.

The most recent tournaments held at Oakmont and indeed the only ones that anyone in this field has played were the 1994 and 2007 US Opens and the 2003 US Amateur Championship. They were won respectively by Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera and Nick Flanagan (who incidentally is on the bag for fellow Aussie Aron Price at Oakmont).

The most pertinent form would be to look at Cabrera’s win in 2007 when the greens were firm and +5 was the winning score. It is expected to be more of the same this week. I looked in-depth to see what aspects of Els and Cabrera’s game make them suited to the unique Oakmont test and considered the 2007 leaderboard as a whole to find any strong common attributes.

I picked out the following stats to try to gauge whose game might be suited to the test. Driving distance, greens in regulation (GIR), GIR from fairway bunkers, 3-putt avoidance, scrambling, proximity to hole from 200 yards +, bogey avoidance, scoring relative to par from 175-200 yards in the rough, putting inside 10ft and strokes gained:putting. When a test is this tough then there is an argument that stats go out the window especially as Cabrera has never been one to shine in that department. But they are still a valuable indicator of who is performing in certain areas and for me these give a good all round picture of what will be required to grind out a score at Oakmont.

Additionally I looked at courses where Els, Cabrera or others in the Top 10 in 2007 had won. There were obviously a few that cropped up but by far the two most interesting were Golf Club Eichenried in Germany, which has hosted the BMW International Open, and Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Illinois host of the BMW Championship in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and prior to that the Western Open. Amazingly 6 of the Top 13 from 2007’s Oakmont leaderboard have all won around Cog Hill GCC. While Ernie Els has won at Eichenried so too has Niclas Fasth and Nick Dougherty who finished 4th and 7th at Oakmont in 2007 respectively. That could seem a little tenuous but Dougherty and Fasth didn’t exactly make a habit of contending at Majors. That was Dougherty’s only Top 10 in 14 Majors and Fasth only managed 3 from 24 attempts. It was certainly enough to get me to look closer at the course and Eichenried actually has poa annua greens that play quite fast at 12” on the stimp if weather conditions allow. Unfortunately being a European Tour course most of this field have never played it but it might still be of interest to help throw up some place bets at decent prices.

A case could be made for many of the top players in the field this week. Jordan Spieth is the reigning US Open Champion and arrives having beaten a decent field two starts ago in the Dean and Deluca Invitational when much of the media had written him off after his Masters disaster. Obviously the young Texan is one of the toughest players mentally that we have seen since Tiger and I don’t expect it will have much bearing on him this week. I’m more worried by the fact his long game hasn’t quite been firing in 2016 like it did in 2015 and he ranks a rather lowly 112th in GIR for the last 3 months. While he will probably contend he isn’t quite for me this week at a course that will demand every aspect of the game to be razor-sharp.

Rory McIlroy’s tee to green excellence will no doubt have him on the leaderboard this week but backing him to win tournaments on fast greens is an absolute no-no for me. His scrambling and putting just aren’t good enough and I’d expect to see him cut the now familiar agitated figure on the greens over the weekend as he fails to combine line and pace on the glass-like poa annua surfaces.

Adam Scott won the WGC at Doral in March on fast greens but it is a bombers paradise these days where it is very hard to compete unless you drive it 300 yards plus. He is another I couldn’t consider this week when the short game will be so important.

Dustin Johnson looks to have a great chance and he was probably the last one-off my shortlist this week. He has been in excellent form so far in 2016 but has just failed to get the win. His form figures of 5-3-12-28-4-3-5-14-4 stand up against anyone in the field and that 5th place finish last week was about the most Dustin Johnson performance you will ever see. Some of his golf was unbelievably good and he hit 19 birdies and 3 eagles across the 4 days but still managed to only finish on -9 due to some terrible shots which all seemed to fall on precisely the wrong hole and he found water 4 or 5 times I think. The most interesting thing about DJ this week is how much better he is putting this year, ranking 47th in strokes gained:putting. But I couldn’t quite pull the trigger given his major woes last year. As usual he could be one to follow in the 1st round leader market having shot a 63 on Sunday but I’m happy to leave him out until he gets his first Major under his belt.

Phil Mickelson’s game looks in good order and his putter has been on fire in 2016, ranking 5th in Strokes gained:putting. I’m expecting a huge week from Lefty but he puts so much pressure on himself to win his national Open that unfortunately it is easy to be against him this week. Being a huge Mickelson fan I will be pleased enough if he does get it done.

I have had one player in mind for this for a while and unfortunately it is rather boring, but the same player came out on top of my stats model so if picking one player to win this week it simply has to be the best player in the world and US Open favourite, Jason Day. His 2016 has been absolutely brilliant and while Mcilroy and Spieth have been good in spells, Day is playing to a higher level and he has 3 wins to his name already, with two of those coming at the high-class Players Championship and WGC Matchplay. If he hadn’t hit a triple bogey on the 15th at Augusta on the opening day then who knows what might have happened at The Masters. Crucially he ranks 1st for strokes gained:putting, 15th for GIR from fairway bunkers, 25th in bogey avoidance and 32nd in scrambling.

I was very keen on him for the US PGA last year and he won convincingly at a course that was set up perfectly for his mix of towering irons and brilliant touch on and around the green. I don’t think this is quite as perfect for the sometimes erratic driver but he has proven already in his short career that he can adapt when faced with US Open conditions. He finished 2nd on his US Open debut and while he followed that with a poor 59th place finish at Olympic Club, he has since gone 2nd, 4th, 9th with his 9th having come while suffering from vertigo during his 3rd round last year at Chambers Bay. There isn’t a player teeing it up with a better recent US Open record and for those concerned about him off the tee, he has hit 75% and 73% of fairways on his last two US Open appearances.

Day has won 7 of his last 17 starts and while comparisons to Tiger Woods are completely pointless, the facts alone tell us that he is the first person since Woods to start putting up the same sort of numbers in terms of wins. If he is to start racking up the Majors then he will have to continue winning them when arriving in form. His Masters week while disappointing was yet another Major Top 10 and I was already more than keen on his chances before I heard this little snippet on a European Tour magazine programme a few weeks ago on Sky Sports. Day’s agent Bud Martin is a member at Oakmont and Day played there as a young man when he first moved over from Australia. That is another key factor this week for me and given how meticulous he is in his preparation for all tournaments, I’m sure he will have gathered as much member’s knowledge as possible leading into this and with a week off he will arrive 100% ready and probably with more practice rounds under his belt than most of the field.

Patrick Reed showed how he thrives on quick greens when winning the WGC Cadillac in 2014 when they were as quick as we have seen them and only 3 players finished under Par. For me Reed is in the top 3 or 4 scramblers in world golf and he will relish the testing conditions this week. He hasn’t quite been at his best since chasing Spieth home in Hawaii in January and that has largely been down to a cold putter. However when I have seen him play this year he hasn’t appeared to be putting poorly, more often than not just struggling to get anything to drop. Reed himself has been on record several times stating how enjoys a tough test of golf. Ranks 14th for scrambling and 4th in bogey avoidance for 2016.

Brandt Snedeker has a solid US Open record not least due to his brilliant putting ability. He is one of the best putters around on poa annua greens and finished 8th at pebble Beach in 2010, 9th at Torrey pines in 2008 and he was 23rd at Oakmont back in 2007. His record tailed off a little but at Chambers bay last year when there was some poa present in the greens he grabbed another 8th place finish. As well as his US Open exploits on the surface he has 4 wins on poa annua and it seems to suit his short, stabbing putting stroke. Snedeker is also usually a good scrambler and I think he looks over priced for a player with 8 Top 10s in his last 30 Major starts.

JB Holmes has a similar liking for slick greens and showed everyone just that when shooting an opening 62 at Doral in 2015 on a day when only six others broke 70. He also led the stroke play section of the US Amateur Championship in 2003 shooting a 71 on his round at Oakmont and he then gained further experience of the course as he played two rounds of the Match Play section of the competition. He arrives in decent form with a 4th place finish last month at Memorial where the scrambling was tough with similar lush grass around the greens. He drives it longer than pretty much everyone and he can clear a lot of these fairway bunkers to leave himself shorter approaches in. As another player with towering irons he should be able to hold the slick greens.

Marc Leishman likes tricky conditions and he is another excellent scrambler who goes well on fast greens. He has a 2nd place finish at Cog Hill and he ranked 2nd in my stats model for this. I backed him a few times earlier in 2016 with no rewards but I still feel he has a huge performance in a Major in him and if that is to happen it will surely be on a tough track. He ranks 9th in 3-putt avoidance and 6th in bogey avoidance so he will surely keep mistakes to a minimum.

Paul Casey shot the lowest round of the week at Oakmont in 2007 on his way to a 7th place finish. With his recent upturn in form the last two years he will be looking forward to his return. He arrives with some impressive results so far in 2016 as he finished 4th at the Masters, 7th at the WGC Cadillac and 9th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. All 3 of those were on fast greens and while I think a Major is probably beyond him now he has a great chance of a Top 10 here.

Matt Kuchar rewarded his Top 10 backers on numerous ocassions from 2010 to 2014 such was his consistency. After a poor 2015 he appears to be back to his best with current form figures of 4-6-3-3. He ranks 19th in strokes gained:putting, 31st in scrambling and has seven Major top 10s since 2010. He should be backed for another here where he won’t be phased by the testing conditions. He also won his U.S. Amateur at Cog Hill back in 1997.

Retief Goosen used to be the main man on fast greens 10-15 years ago and both his U.S. Open wins came on lightning quick  surfaces. While it is a long time since he has won he has cropped up a few times over the last couple of years where conditions suit. He finished 4th last year at Eichenried and he actually arrives in sneaky form having finished 12th, 12th and 14th on his last three outings. When others will be tearing their hair out the laid back South African will be right at home on the greens and can surely crack the Top 20 again.

Chris Wood won the prestigious BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and it is usually played on some of the faster greens we see  in Europe. It is also a course that both Els and Cabrera have won on and it can be a tough test that is normally won by a classy player. Wood has clearly had a touch of class about him ever since he finished 5th at Royal Birkdale as an amateur. It took him a little while to fully get to grips with life on the European Tour but he is a 3 time winner now and he followed up his win at Wentworth with a solid 6th place last week in Austria where he ranked 2nd in scrambling. At Wentworth he ranked 4th for GIR so if he can bring both those aspects this week a Top 20 looks well within his reach.

Dustin Johnson was a cash machine last year on day one of the Majors, leading after 3 of them. Arriving in brilliant form after a 63 on Sunday I would expect him to come flying out of the blocks on Thursday again and looks a decent play in the 1st round leader market.

Aron Price has the 2003 US Amateur Champion, Nick Flanagan on his bag this week and that could help him save a few shots. I quite like silly links like this for 1st round leader bets so I’m going to try him at a big price. He qualified last week so his game must be in ok shape and hailing from Sydney he is used to slick greens. He actually finished 8th at the Australian Open in November at The Australian Golf Club and those greens are extremely fast and the whole course is very testing. He might just take to Oakmont.

 

Summary of bets

Jason Day – 5pts win @ 8.2

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Brandt Snedeker – 1pt ew @ 70/1

Marc Leishman -0.5pt ew @ 90/1

JB Holmes – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Matt Kuchar – 2.5pts Top 10 @ 7/2

Paul Casey – 1pt Top 10 @ 7/1

Retief Goosen – 2pts Top 20 @ 6/1

Chris Wood – 1pt Top 20 – 9/2 

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 20/1

Aron Price – 0.25pts ew 1st round leader @500/1 

Weekly outlay – 20pts

Total outlay – 673.50pts

@theGreek82

Fed Ex St. Jude Classic and Lyoness Open – Betting Preview

If last week’s Memorial Tournament highlighted what a brilliant time 2016 is to be a golf fan, it also reminded us just how difficult a time it is to be a golf punter (and tipster!). The change of tactics to dutching the three market leaders didn’t work despite them all showing flashes of magic over the four days. The strength in-depth on the PGA Tour must truly be at an all-time high and even on a course like Muirfield Village that usually throws up top-class winners, a 36 year old maiden managed to beat an exceptionally strong field.

In Sweden our 200/1 pick Manassero played brilliantly over the majority of the four days and he actually recorded his best finish in nearly two years but unfortunately that was only a 12th place and it left me wishing I had also bet on a Top 20. Tyrrell Hatton also threatened a good week but couldn’t quite get close enough to land a blow before finishing double bogey-double bogey to fall down the field.

The profits are now disappearing at an alarming rate and as is the case with golfers, when you lose a little confidence in betting you start to find it even harder and question yourself more than normal. Certainly to be going on with I’m going to leave out the doubles and probably try to cap the weekly outlay at 10pts.

Total pts advised –648.5

Total pts returned – 722.80

ROI (11 months) – 11.5%

 


Fed Ex St Jude Classic

It is proving very hard to know which weeks Day, Spieth and McIlroy are going to fire but luckily this week they have all chosen to sharpen up their game away from competitive golf and they sit this one out. It’s the Fed Ex St Jude Classic from Memphis this week and it’s now in its 10th year as the US Open warm up event. Despite the lack of the World No. 1, 2 and 3 there is still a decent field assembled as players look for either some momentum heading into next week’s US Open or indeed a place in the field with anyone breaking into the world’s top 60 this week getting a tee time at Oakmont for the season’s 2nd Major.

The host course is TPC Southwind and while it won’t be too similar to the test faced next week, at least it is one of the tougher regular Tour stops so they will be able to get into the thinking of saving par rather than trying to make birdie. The average winning score over the last 5 years is -11 and it usually ranks amongst the 10 hardest courses on Tour so patience will be required.

TPC-Southwind

It is a 7241 yard Par 70 and as the name suggests there is usually a breeze whistling around the trees and that helps to keep the scoring down. As does the abundance of water around the course and that highlights the need for an accurate iron game this week. One similarity to Oakmont next week will be the number of fairway bunkers and there are 94 here this week to give them plenty of practice for Oakmont’s famously testing set of bunkers.

The greens are small and bermuda grass which combined with the windy, narrow, tree-lined nature of the course helps throw up a few others that correlate nicely with TPC Southwind. The Waialae course in Hawaii is one and Fabian Gomez (2015 St Jude winner) won there earlier this year with Greg Owen, who finished runner-up here last year, finishing in behind him in 5th. Others include El Cameleon, Harbour Town and Copperhead, which host the OHL Classic, RBC Heritage and Valspar Championship respectively.

If we look back at the calibre of player that has won recent Major warm up events then the last 10 were Jim Herman, JJ Henry, Jordan Spieth, Fabian Gomez (2015 St Jude), JB Holmes, Geoff Ogilvy, Brian Harman, Ben Crane (2014 St Jude), Matt Jones. This hardly jumps out as a list of greats with only Spieth and Ogilvy being major champions. In fact if we look further back at just this event since it first held its pre US Open slot, the only major winner to lift the trophy was Justin Leonard way back in 2008. This suggests that it could be a week to side with the outsiders again as the market leaders look to sharpen up their game for the bigger challenge ahead at the US Open next week.

Additionally three of the last five winners were winning their first PGA Tour title so after Mcgirt’s exploits last week there will be plenty of players arriving here fancying their chances of getting their own first win.

The one I like this week is Colt Knost, despite him not being quite the price I was hoping for. Knost first came onto my radar in 2012 when researching Olympic Club form for the US Open. He won his US Amateur there in 2007 beating Michael Thompson in the final. Thompson would go onto finish 2nd at the US Open and rightly or wrongly I have linked the two players together as ones that enjoy a tougher test. They are certainly both good putters (Knost ranks 28th in strokes gained:putting) and that will be helpful this week but it is Knost’s all-round improvement over the last few months that has suggested he could be finding the form again that made him the Number 1 ranked amateur in the world in 2007.

He recorded his best ever result at Sawgrass last month when finishing 3rd behind Jason Day and Kevin Chappell and he hit a best in field 80.6% of greens in regulation on another set of small, fast, bermuda greens. That was no one-off either as he went onto hit 75% in his next two performances which resulted in a 4th place finish at the Byron Nelson before a poorer 67th place finish last week when he struggled in the thick rough around the greens. There isn’t the same sort of lush rough at TPC Southwind this week though and I would expect him to revert back to the norm as he ranks 28th for scrambling over the last 3 months.

When playing on fiddly greens that are hard to hit, proximity to the hole is always a crucial stat and Knost ranks 11th in this category for the 2016 season. He also has some reasonable course form with a 12th place last season being preceded by finishes of MC-15-MC. He seems to go well in the St Jude Classic when arriving in form and he is probably in the best form of his professional career at the moment. He also has some form on the courses that link well with TPC Southwind as he has finished 3rd at both the OHL Classic and RBC Heritage. Knost is definitely more of a patient golfer that likes to plot his way around a golf course and with his strong greens in regulation and scrambling numbers together with his liking of bermuda greens I think he looks to have a good chance this week on a course where he has played well before.

As I mentioned earlier odds of 40.0 look a little restrictive but when we look at those in front of him then we see there aren’t that many top class players to beat and TPC Southwind should be an ideal place for this classy maiden to get his first win.

Given that I think Colt Knost will go well I also think Michael Thompson will be suited by the test but he doesn’t arrive in quite the same sort of form. Fortunately that is factored into his price and he was also out of form when he finished 3rd from nowhere last year. The reasons were touched on above as he is an excellent putter who thrives in tougher conditions. His only win came at PGA National where he scooped the 2013 Honda Classic and that is another windy track with tough greens and limited birdie opportunities. Two weeks ago he stopped a run of three missed cuts with an 18th at the Byron Nelson so he may have turned the corner.

Thompson’s stats aren’t overly impressive and it is more of a hunch bet this week but he is a player that owes me nothing after the 2012 US Open and I’m happy to have a small play on him here at a price that could look big if he performs anything like last year.

 


Lyoness Open

Very seldom will you see three players starting at single figure odds on the European Tour but that is the case this week as 3 of last 4 winners of the Lyoness Open tee it up here all in decent enough form and deserving of their place at the head of the market (Bernd Wiesberger, Joost Luiten and Chris Wood). This gives us a similar conundrum to last week in the US and while all three are proven winners in these sorts of field, they aren’t quite consistent enough to make a strong argument for them easily beating ET fields at such short prices.

But in order to oppose them we have to find players who are capable of competing with them should they find their best stuff. That doesn’t look too easy in this field but is probably worth a bit of a search.

The course is Diamond Country Club near Vienna, Austria and at 7458 yards it is reasonably long with wide fairways and small raised greens with water in play on 13 of the holes. It appears to be all about the approach shot here this week with the rough staggered into 3 cuts and the fairways said to be in excellent condition on the European Tour website.

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A quick look at recent results backs this up as the last 5 winners have ranked 6th-20th-1st-11th-4th for greens in regulation and even when they did miss they got it up and down well as the same 5 ranked 3rd-4th-31st-3rd-1st for scrambling. They didn’t hit it too far the last couple of years either which is surprising for last year’s winner Chris Wood. This tells me that it’s all about setting up the 2nd shot and with no great emphasis off the tee I’d side with accuracy over distance. Three of the last four winners all ranked 1st for birdies so you are going to need a hot putter this week in Austria.

Out of the front three in the market I prefer Joost Luiten. Chris Wood is not only looking to go back to back but also defend his title here and I think that makes it hard to side with him at a single figure price. Wiesberger clearly loves this course and playing in his home country but he hasn’t played a great deal of golf lately in Europe and again he looks very short without a Top 10 anywhere in 2016.

Luiten’s form is far better and he has had a brilliant 2016 so far, doing everything but win. He has been difficult to back too though throwing in the odd poor performance when everything seemed to be in his favour.But I’d be very annoyed if I missed out here given how obvious his chance is. His course form is 3-1-3 and over the last 3 months he ranks 3rd for GIR. But I’m still just not sure that he is putting or scrambling well enough to back at the price. To go in at 7/1 you need to know that they can ruthlessly take care of the field if they play their best golf. I’m still not sure Luiten  (nor Wiesberger or Wood) falls into that category yet so instead I’ve found a couple of others who might just represent a little bit of value.

Nino Bertasio probably hasn’t done enough in the game to warrant going off at 40/1 in a European Tour event but he has already given the blog some returns so I’m happy to reinvest some in the young Italian this week. Luckily there is still some 80/1 out there with a few firms which seems a lot fairer.

He struggled in Mauritius after his 5th place finish in Morocco but bounced back to form with a 12th place finish at the Nordea Masters last week. His game was in great shape as he ranked 9th for GIR and 2nd in scrambling. When we combine that with the fact he currently ranks 1st for total putting over the last 3 months then he starts to look a very nice each way price. With form figures of 12-41-5-11 you can see why some of the more shrewd bookies have cut his price and 80/1 in this field looks more than fair for an up and coming talent.

Gary Boyd closed last week with a 67 and that was his lowest round in a European Tour event on European soil in nearly 4 years. The Englishman has been out of form for a while now and hasn’t had a Top 10 since 2012 either. That was at the Italian Open on the Royal Park GCC track near Turin and he also finished 2nd there the previous year. The course is another one that requires a great deal of accuracy and the leaderboard was always littered with high GIR numbers. It also reminds me visually of Diamond Country Club as both have plenty water in play, tree-lined fairways and small greens. Boyd is in no way guaranteed to play well this week but it could be that he found something prior to Sunday’s 67 and he sits 20th in GIR for the last 3 months so he looks worth a small play on a course that should suit despite modest course form of MC-40-45.

Given how obvious Dustin Johnson and Joost Luiten’s chances are this week I’m going to have a small bet on the win double just in case.


Summary of Bets

St Jude Classic

Colt Knost – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Michael Thompson – 0.5pt ew @ 175/1

Lyoness Open

Nino Bertasio – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Gary Boyd – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Johnson + Luiten 1pt win double @ 62.75/1

 

Weekly outlay – 6pts

Total outlay – 654.6pts

@theGreek82