Last week we came extremely close to a winner with Scott Piercy and it was a bit agonising to see Dustin Johnson saunter through the field to pip him by 1 shot. But as expected Piercy massively outplayed his odds and he managed to make it a profitable week with 21 pts returned. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come as we enter the start of the summer golf season and it leaves the results as follows.
Total points advised – 682.50pts
Total points returned – 749.79pts
ROI – 9.86%
This means that with just one week to go until the 1st anniversary of the blog, it is guaranteed to finish in profit. It has been a little tougher in 2016 with the winners drying up but there have been enough places and I would certainly have taken a +ve ROI when I started out last July. Thanks to everyone that has read this over the year, it is certainly most appreciated.
The Scottish Open
This week we just have the one tournament with the Greenbrier Classic literally being a washout in West Virginia, but it’s a cracker as the European Tour takes us to the Scottish Open. Not only is it a tournament used to help prepare players for The Open Championship the following week, but it could help from a punting point of view given the conditions in Scotland will be quite similar. Five of the last six Open winners have played the Scottish Open the week before so it is definitely worth keeping an eye on proceedings in Inverness.
After a couple of years away visiting Aberdeen and East Lothian, The Scottish Open returns to the Inverness area and to Castle Stuart which hosted from 2011 to 2013. While the course is definitely a links course and exposed to the Moray Firth coastal conditions, it doesn’t represent the stiff test that Royal Troon will next week and it is usually a bit of a birdie fest.
The three winning scores were -17 (Phil Mickelson 2013), -17 (Jeev-Milkha Singh 2012) and -19 (Luke Donald in just 3 rounds due to torrential rain) so unless the weather takes a turn for the worse then I would expect more of the same this year.
Castle Stuart stands as a 7193 yard Par 72 and that average length combined with some of the widest fairways you will see on a Scottish Championship standard links course, means the layout is there for the taking for some of the bigger hitters. It makes hitting greens easier for them with the shorter clubs in hand especially given the number of elevated greens at the course. There is still the chance to play knock down shots into some of the greens but ultimately getting the ball out there off the tee appears to be an advantage around Castle Stuart.
With some reasonably steady winds forecast then distance control will be paramount but inevitably greens will be missed and scrambling will be important as it always seems to be on any links course. With tighter lies around the greens than on parkland courses, a lot more imagination is required to get up and down on links courses and those can play the lower bump and runs from 40 yards and in will fare well.
If we look at the three previous renewals then we see these two attributes are backed up somewhat. Mickelson ranked 7th in driving distance, Singh was 13th but Donald only ranked 67th. In terms of scrambling then Mickelson ranked 3rd and Singh 2nd but again Donald was the slight anomaly only ranking 33rd. But given we know what a great scrambler Donald is then we can perhaps ignore that as he ranked 2nd for GIR so he would have had far fewer opportunities to get up and down.
It does also suggest that there is more than one way to win at Castle Stuart but I’d certainly want anyone I was backing to be prominent in at least two out of the three key attributes (driving distance, scrambling and GIR)
So where do we start with our search for an in-form links exponent that is reasonably priced?
Well given the high-profile of this tournament there is no shortage of talent on show and a case can be made for nearly half the field as there are plenty that have shown form in Scotland, be it here or the Alfred Dunhill, Johnnie Walker or The Open itself. I’d certainly think twice about backing anyone that doesn’t have at least a Top 10 in Scotland but I’d also go a little further and ideally want experience of the course itself. With this being an easier links course than normal I think knowing when to be aggressive from previous editions will be beneficial this week.
The market is headed deservedly by Henrik Stenson fresh off a win in Germany 9 days ago and with him having the taste of victory again, the assured links player can be expected to go well on a course where he has finished 3rd and 8th on his two appearances. His odds of 9/1 are almost appealing too, but I’d imagine that he is using this as a chance to reacclimatise to links golf ahead of The Open as he continues his quest for his 1st major. That’s not to say he can’t and won’t win but I’d expect there are others hungrier for a week in the heat of the battle than Stenson.
Branden Grace and Phil Mickelson are the next two up and they have both shown plenty at Castle Stuart before and the course undoubtedly suits them. Mickelson won in 2013 before famously going on to win at Muirfield the week after and Grace chased him home that year. Their chances must be respected but they both appear maybe a tiny bit short for not quite being bang on their game at the minute. With such a deep field there are a lot of decent prices about further down the field.
Four years ago Nicolas Colsaerts would have probably been 4th in the betting here as a 22.0 chance in this quality of field. We all know the plummet that his game took however after his 2012 Ryder Cup appearance and he has spent a considerable amount of time in the golfing wilderness. Given the Belgian’s well reported enjoyment of life, it was hard to tell just how much hard work he was putting in to attempt to get his game back. However gradually over the course of this season there has been an improvement and he arrives in Scotland with some very decent form.
His strong start last week in France ended up in a T22nd but that course doesn’t really play to his strengths. Prior to that was a missed cut, again on a fiddlier course than he really wants. But his form before that was 3rd-22nd-23rd-3rd and that gives a better long-term picture of how well he has been playing. The 3rd place finish was at The Nordea Masters on an exposed, long course that favours the bombers.
The upturn of form is also reflected in his stats as he ranks 6th for GIR over the last 3 months. His length off the tee has never been in question and he currently ranks 2nd in driving distance. That has helped him go well at Castle Stuart in the past and there are very few in the field that will have better course form as he finished 8th in 2013, 36th in 2012 and 3rd in 2011. When finishing 8th at the last running he ranked 4th for GIR and while a lot will depend on how Colsaerts putts this week, having his irons dialled in should give him plenty of opportunities to get the putter hot on greens that he knows well.
Golf betting can be difficult enough at the best of times but perhaps one of the trickier aspects can be trying to work out when a previous class-act like Colsaerts is ready to strike again. It has happened time and time again that players have had a few years in the doldrums before getting back to winning ways seemingly from nowhere. But the one common theme is that it tends to be on a course where they are comfortable and have performed well before.
With others in the field perhaps focussed on Royal Troon next week or trying desperately to gain crucial Ryder Cup points, Colsaerts will tee it up at Castle Stuart in his usual laid-back style but most importantly with his game back on track. His only stroke-play win was in China at -24 so he enjoys a low scoring tournament and if he can have an average week with the short stick then I think he will contend on a course that sets up perfectly for him off the tee.
Luke Donald is a bit of a horses-for-courses type and some of his stats this year are extremely good , suggesting that his short game could be back to its best. He currently ranks 8th in scrambling and 13th in 3-putt avoidance.
If that is the case then an open track like Castle Stuart where he has won before looks to be a great place for him to get back to winning ways. He very nearly won the RBC Heritage in April on The PGA Tour when just getting beaten into 2nd by Branden Grace. That is another course where scrambling can be key. He finished down the field in 45th last week but he ranked 5th in scrambling and 26th in GIR so he isn’t far away from another big week. I’m going with a small outright play but given how much he used to love a top 10 finish in his prime, I will also have a dabble in that market.
Tyrrell Hatton was on a great run of form before he missed the cut in Germany two weeks ago but that result came after three weeks off for the young Englishman. Prior to that his form figures read 20-7-5-13-12 in some decent fields. The 5th place finish was in Ireland in similar conditions to this week and the 7th was at the BMW PGA Championship which was a field of the same stature he faces this week and always features blustery conditions. He got back on track last week with a T33rd finish but this looks more suited to his game.
Hatton has always had the appearance of a good links player not least because of his brilliant scrambling skills and he currently ranks 1st in that department. He is especially good at getting up and down from tight lies on fast greens and that will help him this week.
He hasn’t actually played Castle Stuart competitively yet but he already has an impressive bank of Scottish Open form. A 5th place finish at Royal Aberdeen was followed by a 22nd at Gullane last year. Throw in a 5th place finish at Paul Lawrie’s Match Play Tournament at Murcar Links and a 10th place finish at The Scottish Challenge down the road at Aviemore and you can see that this is a player completely at home on a links golf course.
If that wasn’t enough he also finished top of my stats model where I considered driving distance, GIR, scrambling and total putting over the last 3 months. So with odds of 66/1 he simply has to be backed here this week on a course that he will surely enjoy.
Padraig Harrington played last week in France and it isn’t a tournament that he usually attends with just four career starts there. So if that wasn’t interesting enough the fact that his putter was behaving (16th in total putting) and he was driving it well (5th in total driving) really jumped out at me. He finished 30th but that should have his game in great shape for two weeks of links golf and he ranked 6th in the all-round ranking. The two-time Open champion is one of the best links players of his generation so odds of 10/1 for a Top 10 finish when his whole game is in good order look hard to pass up.
Matthew Southgate ranked 4th in GIR and 3rd in scrambling on his way to a T11th finish in France and that combination makes him a big player again this week. It’s another strong field but a Top 20 looks very achievable again and the 15/2 available looks very fair.
While I like the chances of the three outright picks they are by no means guaranteed to play well so I would like a small saver on Henrik Stenson just incase. He will surely figure over the weekend so should things go wrong he will hopefully give us a chance of recouping our stakes.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat is a player that likes to start fast and he has quite a few low rounds in him. He managed to win the Paul Lawrie Matchplay around a very narrow Murcar Links and I’m not sure how as his driving was very wayward. He scrambled and putted superbly though and with the extra room off the tee at Castle Stuart he could shoot a 64/65 if he finds his silky putting stroke. If he can do that on the Thursday then he might prove to be a worthwhile play in the 1st round leader market at 66/1.
Summary of bets
Nicolas Colsaerts – 1pt ew @ 50/1
Luke Donald – 0.5pt ew @ 55/1 and 1pt Top 10 @ 9/2
Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 66/1
Padraig Harrington – 1pt Top 10 @ 10/1
Matthew Southgate – 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2
Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @ 66/1
Henrik Stenson – 1pt win saver @ 9/1
Weekly outlay – 10pts
Total outlay – 692.50