Just as Bill Haas got himself into contention for the each way places he completely blew it with two out-of-bounds drives on the Par 5 15th. It was pretty hard to take especially as that is relatively out of character for a multiple winner who is usually accurate enough off the tee.
I must admit I was starting to think it pretty much summed up my 2016 so far but it is all too easy to get down on yourself in the difficult golf betting game. I must remember that one good week can quickly turn it all around. It had just better arrive soon!!
Results stand as follows
Total points advised – 766.50
Total points returned – 793.79
ROI – 3.5%
This week it’s the start of the Fed Ex Cup play-off series on the PGA Tour and the European Tour heads to Denmark for an event which unfortunately won’t be spice up by Ryder Cup qualification as all 9 of the points qualifiers have already been decided. Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters will be looking to stake their claim for a wildcard pick however and Darren Clarke has picked Pieters to play with for the opening two rounds. No pressure then!
The top 125 in the Fed Ex Cup list head back to New York this week for the first of the play-off events. Knowing that only the top 100 continue to the following week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, many of those towards the bottom will be playing with the pressure of trying to progress. While that could well inspire, the Barclays is normally won by one of the game’s best as the recent roll of honour includes Jason Day, Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott, Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and VJ Singh.
I don’t expect that to change given the host course this week. The Barclays has taken to rotating around some of New York’s finest courses and this week it’s the turn of the intimidating Bethpage Black Course. It is famously one of the hardest courses in the world and in the 2002 US Open when Tiger Woods won he was the only man to finish under par. Things picked up a little for the 2009 US Open but there were still only five players in the red when Lucas Glover claimed the trophy. All that despite the course being very receptive with a rain-softened course hosting both editions.
There is some respite for the field this week however as the course played a little easier when hosting the Barclays in 2012. The par 4 7th hole was lengthened and turned into a Par 5 creating a slightly more favourable Par 71. That allowed Nick Watney to win on a figure of -10 and I would imagine we can expect a similar winning score again this year.
The course is another A.W. Tillinghast brute just like Baltusrol and it stands at 7468 yards long. Another similarity with the US PGA host course is the greens as Bethpage features a bentgrass/poa annua mix just like at Baltusrol. That leaderboard looks a good pointer along with 2012’s Barclays leaderboard and the 2009 US Open.
I have found some recent reviews that suggest they have grown the fescue rough up for the Barclays so when considered together with the below average width fairways it is very easy to think that driving accuracy will be important. But I don’t want to fall into the same trap as many did at Baltusrol where it was thought that finding fairways would be vital. Moreover it was actually the ability to hit it close from the rough that separated the field that week. So while long, accurate drivers can certainly prosper, a player should still be able to contend with good proximity figures from the rough.
Bethpage Black sits in a sprawling landscape with lots of elevation changes and that only adds to the difficulty. A look at the last three winners shows a list of fit, relatively young golfers and with the difficulty level, length of course and the physical challenge, I would think twice about backing a golfer who isn’t perhaps one of the more athletic this week as temperatures look set to hit 30 degrees.
Another aspect of the course that might not make driving accuracy the be-all-and-end-all is the size of these greens. They are on the larger side and that will mean that it will be possible to hit them even from 175 yards away in the rough. Approaches from the rough might not quite hold the green however which will make scrambling from the fringe important.
With Lucas Glover having won around the course you wouldn’t imagine holing putts to be too crucial. Although 3-putts will need to be avoided on these large greens so perhaps lag putting is the most important short stick aspect to consider this week.
When looking at the US PGA Championship, putting on poa annua greens was one of the things I considered most and yet Jimmy Walker’s form was poor enough to not even consider a player dubbed “the prince of poa”. So while holing lots of birdie putts might not be crucial this week I’d certainly want anyone I was backing to have some form on the trickier surfaces. One of the main attributes of poa infested greens is the ability for the ball to break sharply at the hole. That resulted in a lot of short putts being missed so if you were looking for another putting stat then holing out from inside 5ft could well be worth a look as that together with lag putting will help keep the 3-putts to a minimum.
While there is some Bethpage Black form to look at there also seems to be a bit of a correlation with Torrey Pines in California, home of the Farmers Insurance Open. Tiger Woods won there numerous times, Nick Watney has won there , 2012 runner-up Brandt Snedeker has two wins there and Lucas Glover has a 3rd and a 4th place finish. It maybe isn’t a rock solid link as they could just be two courses where the best players tend to win but it should be noted that both courses have poa annua present in their greens.
I’d expect Jason Day and Dustin Johnson both to go well this week with their impressive record on US Open layouts but I’m not prepared to fire into either at the prices when lining up against this strong a field, most of which by the nature of the play-offs, are in very good form. But as usual their price leaves some juicy exchange prices around and none more so than the player who I had in mind for this even before his excellent finish last week.
Hideki Matsuyama has been putting poorly of late so it is actually quite amazing that he has finished 4th at the US PGA Championship and 3rd at the Wyndham Championship in his last two starts. What is most impressive about that however is that they both virtually turned into glorified putting contests for most of the leaderboard. As we have mentioned already the US PGA was played on a Tillinghast design and it was a brilliant effort to contend while ranking 60th in total putting.
Despite him putting poorly again at the Wyndham last week there was a slight improvement as he ranked 23rd for total putting. He has some decent results on poa annua greens in addition to Baltusrol last month. His last two performances at the Northern Trust have yielded a 4th and an 11th and the rolling hills of Riviera aren’t too dissimilar to Bethpage Black. He also finished 3rd at Silverado in the 2014 Frys Open open which features poa annua greens.
He fits the mould of recent Barclays winners perfectly this week and given what a brilliant ball-striker he is I was quite surprised by his odds this week. The course certainly looks to be less about putting than the last two that he has played on and given that he only finished 5 and 6 shots behind the respective winners, that could be enough to see him over the line. The rest of his game is in absolutely perfect order as he ranked 1st in total driving, 1st in ball -striking, 2nd in scrambling and even 1st in the all-round ranking despite his misfiring putter. He even ranks a respectable 37th on Tour for putting inside 5ft which will no doubt help him here.
We know he has the game to win big events on Tour and if Bethpage Black rewards ball-striking as I expect it will this week then he might just have ranked up win number three by Sunday night.
Ricky Barnes stormed onto the scene in 2009 taking the 3rd round US Open lead (with a 3rd round 65) at Bethpage Black. He shot a 76 to blow his chances but he still hung on to 2nd place in just his 2nd major start as a professional. It is fairly certain to say that his career hasn’t quite panned out as anyone thought since then and he is still looking for his first PGA Tour win after some 200 odd starts.
But there has been a noted improvement this year from Ricky with two 5th places in his last three starts and he has always been someone who has played well on poa annua surfaces. He grew up on the surface in Northern California and he has some decent results with a 3rd at Pebble Beach and a 9th at Riviera.
He led the Valero Texas Open earlier this year before going on to finish in 4th place and while it was a closing 74 he wasn’t terrible in contention. All that adds up to him sitting at 66th in the Fed Ex List and he knows that a good performance this week could see him right through to the Tour Championship.
From a stats point of view Barnes is also a good match for Bethpage Black as he ranks 4th for GIR over the last 3 months and 5th in 3-putt avoidance. He might not be the proven, multiple winner we are looking for but he won the US Amateur in 2002 and he certainly has ability. At 35 years old he still has plenty of time left to get his win, after all Jimmy Walker took until 34 and he is now a major winner. If he is to get a win then a tough championship layout with poa annua greens looks the place to do it and he is a sporting each way price at 150/1.
Graeme Delaet is a name that sounds the alarm bells with many a punter and subsequently a lot have written him off. But to hark back to Jimmy Walker again, he was a player that was also written off until he got his first win. Granted, Walker was always a good putter whereas Delaet often appears one of the worst on Tour. That’s not quite the case though and he falls into the Lee Westwood category whereby they hit the ball so close, so often that they end up having more birdie putts inside 20ft than most.
I’m not suggesting Delaet is a good putter at all but he is ok at holing out and he is also ok from long-range, he is just very poor from 5ft-20ft. However if my reading of the Bethpage Course is right, I think par will be a good score away from the Par 5s so his short stick woes could be factored out somewhat.
The Canadian also has some course form at Bethpage Black as he was 5th there in 2012. Throw in a 2nd and 9th at Torrey Pines and an 8th at Riviera and you can see that a lot of his better results come at ball-strikers courses with poa on the greens.
As ever he ranks very well in GIR and total driving and if he continues to hit more fairways and greens than the majority this is exactly the sort of track where he could pop up with his first win. All things considered 200/1 for a player of his quality looks like an excellent piece of value.
I’m also going to play Barnes and Delaet in the Top 20 markets as even if they play well they could find a few just too good at this level.
Made in Denmark
Now in its third edition, The Made in Denmark will be held again at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort in Farso near Aalborg. During the first two years it has been a massive success with some of the highest crowds seen for a regular European Tour event. This year Martin Kaymer has joined the field to give it a little bit of class at the head of the market and overall the field does look a little deeper than last year. The course is a short, exposed 6,851 yard Par 71 layout and with two runnings now under its belt there is a little bit more to go on than last year. They were won by Marc Warren in 2014 and then David Horsey last year.
Prior to last year’s tournament I used a few course links through Marc Warren and while the players that I tipped up didn’t do too well, I think those on the leaderboard did back them up a little. I focussed a lot of my work on the two other courses where Marc Warren had won and I’m not seeing too much wrong with the approach although I have also expanded that to look at the courses where David Horsey has gone well.
Despite not being right by the coast, the course plays very much like a links course as the wind usually blows and it has undulating fairways with a sandy soil that can play quite fast if conditions allow. That coupled with Warren’s win made me think of a few similar courses like Barseback, Gleneagles and Doha Golf Club. Another course that would appear to bee a good guide would be Archerfield Links, host course of last month’s Paul Lawrie Match Play. The wind blew all weekend there on the parkland/links mix and visually it is another course that is similar.
David Horsey throws up a slightly different set of courses as he often goes well on fiddlier, shorter tracks and his other three wins have come at Eichenried Golf Club, Golf Club Du Palais Royal and Tseleevo Golf Club. Looking at the list of winners at those tracks we see yet more strong links players like Michael Hoey, Ernie Els and Martin Kaymer.
It seems like that has been the criteria quite a lot this summer and yet it hasn’t yielded much in the way of returns. I suppose it could be that with more and more links type courses on Tour, players are getting used to playing on them. However I’m going to stick with this method for at least one more week in the hope that it can pay dividends.
Marc Warren was favourite last year to defend his title and we know how hard even the world’s best can find that so in hindsight tipping him at just 11/1 wasn’t the wisest of plays. But he was arriving in great form and the field was fairly poor. But after a quiet 2016 he has actually perked up a little in recent weeks with a 9th in the Match Play and then an 11th in the Czech Masters. He ranked 9th in total putting last time out and it was his putter that won this for him in 2014 so he looks hard to pass up this year at 45/1.
Warren is also a good wind player which is backed up by where he has won. Barseback GC in Sweden and Gleneagles are both tracks that play very much like links courses with the former also being exposed to the elements. On price alone he must be a bet on a course where has already won.
This is all starting to feel like déjà vu as I also tipped Robert Karlsson last year but again he arrives off the back of a good performance and the course should suit him perfectly. His 7th place finish in the Czech Masters was a turn-around in form as he hadn’t done a great deal in the previous few months.
He has won at Qatar, Crans and finished 2nd at Barseback and they are all courses which have thrown up similar winners over the years, often solid links golf exponents. His game was in good order last week but particularly off the tee and putting as he ranked 5th in total driving and 6th in total putting.
He finished down the field last year with our money on but I’m happy to give him another go on a course that I’m convinced suits him.
Richie Ramsay looks to be another excellent piece of value when you consider both his recent form and the courses that he has won and played well on. Odds of 45/1 appear to forget that he made it to the 3rd round of the Paul Lawrie Matchpaly with some brilliant golf on the first two days before ultimately being knocked out by an inspired Oliver Fisher. Prior to that was a missed cut at The Open but that is a grade above the level where the Scot is comfortable and the week before that he finished 6th in Scotland at Castle Stuart.
He has won both the Omega European Masters (Crans) and the Trophee Hassan (Golf Club Du Palais Royal, where David Horsey won in 2011) and this looks like a course that he will enjoy as he usually plays well in the wind. Odds of 45/1 make him a very solid looking each way pick.
Summary of bets
Hideki Matsuyama – 1.5pts ew @ 30/1
Ricky Barnes – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1
Graeme Delaet – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1
Made in Denmark
Marc Warren – 1pt ew @ 50/1
Richie Ramsay – 1pt ew @ 45/1
Robert Karlsson – 0.5pt ew @ 75/1
Weekly pts advised – 12pts
Total pts advised – 778.50