Last week’s tournaments were rather interesting and threw up one very obvious winner and one that was anything but. Russell Knox has a very solid bank of form on Pete Dye courses and I wouldn’t have been alone in kicking myself on Sunday night when he triumphed for his 2nd PGA Tour win and his first on American soil. Even more annoying was that he went off at a fairly good price (50/1) and he is someone who should definitely be considered on Dye tracks regardless of current form as he consistently hits greens even when the rest of his game might not be at its sharpest.
In the Paul Lawrie Match Play Anthony Wall was also picking up his 2nd win but while Knox’s came some 9 months after his first, Wall had a 16 year wait in between his trophies. With very average form he was difficult to fancy before the off but his win further highlights how difficult a betting format knockout match play can be.
The one interesting aspect of Wall’s win however was him showing the importance of scrambling in links golf. When the wind blows then greens will be missed and those with a great touch around the bumps and run-offs usually fare well. Year after year Wall is one of the best scramblers on Tour, as is runner-up Alexander Noren and I don’t think it was a coincidence that they played out the final after a very windy weekend of links golf.
Another week of no returns is leaving the profits very bare now but August and September were good months last year so hopefully I can turn it around and start pushing the ROI up again.
Total pts advised – 748.50
Total pts returned – 793.79
ROI – 6.05%
This week we have no action in Europe as the Olympic Golf Tournament just about takes centre stage over the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. I’ve focussed on the Rio action but have also had a brief look at the US golf.
There has been enough written about the Olympic golf debacle to thoroughly bore everyone already so I’m not going to get drawn into that and instead I have focussed solely on the golf tournament in question.
We have a 60 man field assembled down in Rio and while not being as strong as it could be there is a very nice mix of top-level PGA Tour players and those that have been lighting up the other lesser known Tours. I think that in itself will give an Olympic feel to the tournament and while a team event may have been more fitting, everyone that is playing is doing so because they want to win that gold medal for both themselves and their country.
The Olympic course in the Barra region of Rio is where the action will happen and it is a standard 72-hole stroke-play format running from Thursday to Sunday as normal. Gil Hanse designed the course specifically for the Olympics after being chosen ahead of some of the most respected modern-day designers in the game.
While being a very active designer, Hanse doesn’t have too many original designs that are in play on either the PGA Tour or the European Tour but he has been quoted saying that he based a lot of the design on his links course at Castle Stuart. Looking at the pictures that seems very fair as there is definitely a sprawling links nature to the fairways and they appear to be very wide just like his Scottish design. He has also carried out a few high-profile renovations and perhaps his most notable two are at Doral’s Blue Monster Course (host of the WGC Cadillac Championship from 2007-2016) and TPC Boston (home of the Deutsche Bank Championship)
The other narrative this week has been that the course has a Melbourne Sandbelt feel to it with the course being built on very sandy soil. That doesn’t give us too much to go on here with just the two Aussies in the field but it does suggest that the course could play hard and fast as it dries out over the four days with no rain forecast.
It is a 7128 yard Par 71 but it is quite different in that it still has four Par 5s but also has five Par 3s. There is very little in the way of rough and instead the fairways are lined with waste areas like we have seen at recent US Opens at Pinehurst and Chambers Bay. The greens are sea paspalum this week which we don’t see in use on the PGA Tour too much but there are a few courses with the grass in use; El Cameleon (OHL Classic), Kuala Lumpur GC (CIMB Classic), Trump International GC (Puerto Rico Open) and Sea Island (RSM Classic).
I have been through the field several times and while there is no doubt some value there I keep coming back to the same player and it is the most obvious pick and favourite Henrik Stenson.
For a couple of years now I have been banging the Stenson drum and it was a bit annoying to miss out on his Open win although he wasn’t the greatest of prices. I believe him to be the best player in the world from tee-to green and while many will say Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson, Stenson’s consistency is unrivalled and he showed at Royal Troon just what he is capable of if he has a good week on the greens.
The main thing pulling me in his direction however is his excellent record around Castle Stuart. He has played there three times and finished 8th, 3rd and then 13th last month when preparing for his Open win the following week. On those last two appearances he ranked 1st in total driving and this year he hit a best in field 91% of them. If the Olympic course does in fact play anything like Castle Stuart then it is certainly going to fit his eye.
Nobody in the field has putted on these greens before and that could be a great equaliser which would surely help the likes of Stenson who isn’t one of the better putters in the field.
There are a couple of other links that interest me too. He has shown that he can play Doral with a T4th there last year and his win at the 2007 WGC Match Play came on a course that is visually quite like the Olympic course, The Gallery Golf Club in Arizona. It is full of sand being in the desert and it also has lots of waste areas just like in Rio. He also has a win and 2nd place at TPC Boston since Hanse carried out his renovations in 2007.
The ice-cool Swede is extremely patriotic and he has already won golf’s World Cup in 2008 alongside Robert Karlsson. Becoming Sweden’s first ever male major winner was a huge deal for him and Sweden, in the subsequent weeks after his Open win there were several other performances around the world from Swedish golfers who claimed to be inspired by Stenson’s win. He knows that he is perhaps Sweden’s biggest star in Rio and also one of their best medal hopes. He will thrive under that pressure and will be determined to add a gold medal to what is already a career year for him.
It is perhaps a boring pick but as long as he shows no signs of fatigue I think he will take all the stopping and even if he just has an above average week on the greens then he could find himself pulling away from the pack again and bagging himself the first golfing gold medal since 1904.
On first glance odds of 6/1 might appear short but we must remember that it is a reduced field of 60 and there are only another 5 major winners besides Stenson so we can’t really expect much better odds for the Champion Golfer of The Year.
With a lot of the bookmakers only paying the medalists it doesn’t look like a great each way betting prospect so I’m going to play another win only and then two very small stakes on a couple of outsiders with firms that are paying slightly lower odds but the usual each way terms. I quite like Patrick Reed for this but his odds have shortened this week after being tipped up by some of the bigger players. Reed has had a fairly impressive 2016 even if he hasn’t managed a win and it’s his pair of 67s at Castle Stuart over the weekend that makes him a bet here. That was his first look at the course and after getting to grips with it on the first two days he played the weekend lower than everyone bar Nicolas Colsaerts. He followed that up at Troon by getting himself into contention early on at The Open before the draw bias left him with too much to do.
Reed showed us on his Ryder Cup debut just how much he enjoys representing his country and this will mean a lot him. His biggest win to date was at Doral in 2014 and with form on two of the key Hanse courses I think he should take to the course in Rio and he is definitely due a win.
Nicholas Colsaerts weekend score was two shots better with a couple of 66s and it’s that piece of form that gets him into the staking plan. He was playing some very consistent golf up to that point and he is another patriotic golfer who should be suited to the course. Looks a little over priced here.
My final pick is another fairly unoriginal one as many are keen on Alex Cejka‘s chances. To put things simply he is in very good form and he putts well on Sea Paspalum greens. Worth a small stakes play here.
John Deere Classic
This tournament has been somewhat of a benefit for Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth lately. Since 2008 only Brian Harman has managed to stop their monopoly here and while Stricker and Spieth have been doing the bulk of the winning with 3 wins and 2 wins respectively, Johnson hasn’t been outside the top 3 since 2009.
Luckily the profile of those 3 is a fairly obvious one. They are all excellent wedge players but more importantly 3 of the best putters that we have seen on Tour over the last 15 years.
That tells me not to look into too much detail and pick someone who is scoring well from 150 yards and in. So with limited time I’m not going to go into too much detail about the course at Deere Run, suffice to say that what you do from the tee isn’t overly important, it’s all about the greens and getting it close so that enough birdies can be made to get well into double figures under par.
Unfortunately for most of the field, Johnson and Stricker both line up here again and they look very hard to oppose. The only real angle in seems to be taking some of the value that their short prices have created in the each way market.
Stuart Appleby is one of those that seems a little over priced in this weak a field. Over his career he is a proven winner and while he hasn’t been playing brilliantly he popped up in a couple of the key stats here this week. He sits in 7th place for one putt percentage and 13th in approach performance relative to par from 125-150 yards. Both those have been key indicators around Deere Run so I’m going to have a small speculative play on the 9-time winner.
I expect Kevin Na to play well but I still haven’t forgiven him for last year and he surely can’t be backed to win at just 22/1.
Prior to his missed cut last week Steve Wheatcroft was last seen finishing 5th in Canada when he thinned his sand wedge out of the bunker on the Par 5 18th hole at Glen Abbey. That was a cruel blow when he had played so well during the round but that piece of form looks well ahead of those in the same odds bracket this week. He also ranks 16th in one putt percentage and finished 8th here in 2015. Another who looks a very fair each way price at 80/1
Summary of Bets
Henrik Stenson 3 pts win @ 6.6 on Exchange
Patrick Reed 1pt win @ 19.0 on Exchange
Nicolas Colsaerts – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 (1/4 odds 1st-5th)
Alex Cejka – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/4 odds 1st – 5th)
John Deere Classic
Stuart Appleby – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1
Steve Wheatcroft – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1
Weekly points advised – 8pts
Total points advised – 756.50