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.
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.
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.
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
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