The Ryder Cup – Betting Preview

Last week’s Fed Ex Cup showdown at the Tour Championship was without a doubt the best finish we have seen since they revamped the season finale. The whole round was filled with excitement and McIlroy looked completely out of it right up until he holed out for eagle on the 16th. Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell both played amazing rounds and there wasn’t a great deal more that they could have done. It is surely just a matter of time before Kevin Chappell wins on Tour given the quality of his performances in contention. The one thing that is holding him back is the fact that he goes well on tougher courses which normally brings the best players to the top of the leaderboard. That shows with the calibre of player that he has finished runner-up to this season; Day x2, DJ and Rory McIlroy. Chappell should be watched closely during the Fall Series when the game’s leading lights will be taking a break after the Ryder Cup.

Castro and Berger improved as the week went on but they were never close enough to warrant any excitement and in Europe none of the Top 20 bets featured in the weather interrupted European Open.

This week its Ryder Cup time and if we can’t find a winning bet then the blog will dip into negative ROI for the first time since before last year’s US PGA Championship. Fingers crossed!

Total pts advised – 787.50

Total pts returned – 793.79

ROI – 0.8%


Ryder Cup

Whichever side of the “pond” you hail from there is something magical about the Ryder Cup and it truly transcends golf. Sports fans all around the world follow the Ryder Cup regardless of origin though and over the last decade it has firmly established itself as one of the great sporting events.

There are many reasons for this but for me the fact that it brings out the patriotic, team mentality of both the players and the fans, is the most important. With the game being such an individual one at times for the players, they all thrive on being part of a team again and that captures the imagination of the fans. (Or at least the European players do!)

Everyone will no doubt have their own favourite Ryder Cup moment from over the years but I’d wager the majority hold one of the famous pieces of sportsmanship as their most cherished. Despite some of the uglier scenes witnessed during the 90s, the Ryder Cup has become synonymous with sportsmanship and my own personal favourite was Phil Mickelson’s thumbs-up to Justin Rose at Medinah in 2012 after the Englishman had holed a monster-putt on the 17th to even the match up. Things were heating up massively and without thinking the American immediately congratulated Rose on his putt and it will stand in my memory as long as the comeback itself.

I was lucky enough to attend all three match days at Gleneagles two years ago and while it was brilliant to experience the atmosphere of a Ryder Cup first hand, you lose a little something at the same time. Anyone who has watched a Ryder Cup from start to finish can testify just how exciting it can be and yet when you are there you obviously miss a lot of shots. I’d recommend going to one Ryder Cup to everyone but just like Jason Day, I’m massively looking forward to watching this one from the comfort of my sofa. It will also make trading any bets a lot easier.

Whether we need to give too much consideration to this year’s course I’m not that sure, but certainly in my head I think Europe normally favour the more classic courses as they tend to play more narrow, fiddly courses on Tour. Hazeltine is by no means the toughest course you will see in the US but it isn’t normally one that can be overpowered. That is usually down to the narrow fairways and the rough being grown when hosting a championship but from the early pictures the rough doesn’t appear to be penal at all with a maximum of 3.5 inches in the primary. That will no doubt be a deliberate move from the US given that they have several bombers in their team and the course measures a lengthy 7600 yards. At both the 2002 and 2009 US PGA Championships held at the course, total driving and greens in regulation were of paramount importance and and with recent heavy rain I think long, accurate drivers should enjoy Hazeltine again this week. Indeed Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson all finished inside the Top 10 in 2009 and at their best they are brilliant off the tee.

On the whole however it is a course that rewards a good all-round game with plenty of birdies available and that always makes for a great Ryder Cup. While grinding out pars can be exciting in stroke-play formats, in order to engage the fans, putts have to be holed in this format. We can certainly expect that as the bent grass surfaces look absolutely perfect and will be set up to a fair 12.5 on the stimpmeter.

Such has been Europe’s domination in recent times, the US set up a “task force” team to get to the bottom of why they were performing so badly. That itself will surely put a lot of pressure on some of the players, especially the ones that were actually involved in the task force like Phil Mickelson. I’ve been expecting the US to win this throughout 2016 but the market favoured them so much that it was looking hard not to have a bet on Europe in the outright market. But as strongly as the price of 3.2 was pulling me towards a bet, my overall feeling that USA will prevail was pulling me away. So in all reality I was struggling to advise a bet in the outright market even before the odds changed at the start of the week. US are now around 1.7 with Europe 2.92 and that appears to have removed the bulk of the value on the away side.

However, given that I think it will be another close competition, it looks like a good play to get involved in some of the correct score markets. There are numerous possibilities but in the 18 tournaments since the event became USA v Europe, the score has been 14 ½ to 13 ½ on seven occasions. I’m expecting a tight contest so it makes sense to back the tightest of wins for both sides and also a little saver on 15-13 to the US side who are deserving favourites on home soil with the best team on paper.

Some players take to match play golf and some don’t and that is very much worth remembering when looking at the side markets this week in Minnesota. If we compare the records of two Ryder Cup stalwarts that aren’t actually present this week we can see that often a player will continue to play the same throughout their Ryder Cup career. In Ian Poulter’s case he has been a great Ryder Cup player right from the start of his career while Jim Furyk has never managed to turn his record around and has only ever had a winning record at 1 of his 9 Ryder Cups. Yet there is no question that the American major winner has had the better career. The format just isn’t for everyone and while it can be very hard to predict which rookies will play well, we shouldn’t ignore the information that we have to hand. Further still we should use it as a focal point in deciding which players to back.

Patrick Reed is exactly the sort of confident, aggressive golfer that you would expect to be suited to matchplay golf so perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise in 2014 when he top scored for the US team with 3 ½ pts from a possible 4. Reed has also been in good form of late with a win just four weeks ago at Bethpage Black, another championship course. His East Lake performance wasn’t great but in all reality once he knew he was beaten he would have been focussing on the Ryder Cup and certainly wouldn’t have been pushing himself over the weekend. Reed is capable of the sort of magic on and around the greens that we often see at Ryder Cups and while a solid tee-to green game will no doubt be more beneficial in winning matches, if you can’t make the pressure putts in the Ryder Cup powder keg atmosphere then tee-to-green prowess will only get you so far.

When you consider the abundance of talent that the US team possess it is possible to make a case for several of their superstars being top US points scorer, but I don’t believe any of the cases are as compelling as Reed’s. I think he could go on to be a Ryder Cup superstar in the mould of Ian Poulter and I’d expect him to play a minimum of 4 matches here. If he can get 3 ½ points then he should at least contend but if he is allowed to play 5 matches then he could prove very hard to beat in the market.

I’m adopting a similar approach to the top European market and given that only Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Segio Garcia and Henrik Stenson look guaranteed to play at least 4 matches, I’m focussing on them. At a silly short price and coming just 5 days after he won $11.5 million at the Fed Ex finale, I am happy to dismiss McIlroy. I know he has changed his tune lately but given the euphoria of winning on Sunday and that he once called the Ryder Cup an “exhibition match” he looks far too short at 4.6 for a player with a solid if not spectacular Ryder Cup record.

I found it harder to separate the other three though and while I would normally lean to the ice cool Swede, his recent withdrawal due to his knee flaring up is an issue. I think it will probably stop him playing 5 matches whereas Justin Rose looks almost certain to play every session. Rose has an absolutely brilliant Ryder Cup record, twice beating Mickelson in the singles in 2008 and 2012 and winning a half against Hunter Mahan in his other singles match. In his three appearances he has finished with 3pts (from 4) in 2008, 3pts (from 5) in 2012 and 4pts (from 5) in 2014 when going unbeaten. That gives him a winning percentage of 71% and with his buddy Poulter not being present that is a better record than any of his team mates. Garcia’s winning percentage of 64% is almost as impressive but when we look at his last two Ryder Cups in the USA then he appeals less than the Englishman. He won just 1 pt from 4 at Valhalla in 2008 and 2pts from 4 at Medinah. Furthermore I don’t see him as having an obvious partner and he doesn’t have the record of teaming up with rookies that you would expect for a player of his experience. Just once since 2004, when he accompanied Luke Donald to a couple of foursome points, has he even played with a rookie and that was in 2012 when he and Nicholas Colsaerts were beaten by Dufner and DJ. I’d expect Sergio to play his part given the year he has had but I don’t think he is as likely to play all five matches as Rose.

Just six weeks ago Rose was winning Olympic Gold in Rio so we know his game is as good as ever. He also didn’t play last week and he missed a large chunk of the year through injury. That means he will be fresher than most and everything looks to be in his favour for another strong showing. In typical Rose fashion he ranked 1st in total driving on his last start at the BMW Championship and we know that will serve him well at Hazeltine. He looks a very solid bet at 7.6 especially when we consider the likelihood of him rekindling his perfect partnership with Stenson.

Given Rose and Reed were the two winners at Gleneagles it looks like a very obvious couple of plays but in recent times that is exactly what has happened in these markets. The last four Top European Points scorers have been Rose, Poulter, Poulter, Poulter and while the US team have been a little less obvious their best player has always been one with a strong match play record.

I fancy them both strongly in their respective Top US/EUR markets so it makes sense to back them both in the Top Overall Points Scorer market too, perhaps for smaller stakes though given only one of them can win. In a sense it is making a very similar bet twice and if both players should struggle then they will obviously lose two bets rather than one. But I’m happy to take the chance and back them twice where an early point on Friday will surely bring with it some trading potential should anyone wish to exit the bet early.

There are two other bets that I like here this week and they are the Top Rookie Points Scorer and also the Top Wildcard Points Scorer.

With all the talk about Ryan Moore on Sunday evening, once he was finally announced it was hard to fathom that he is still a Ryder Cup rookie. He is a 4 time winner on Tour with a wealth of experience in both stroke-play and match-play in his Amateur days. When going toe to toe with McIlroy at the Tour Championship he showed just how tough he is and I think Davis Love would be foolish not to fully utilise his form player. If he can play 3 or 4 matches then he should be able to accumulate more points than most of the rookies and I see Willet and Koepka as his only real dangers. While Koepka’s aggressive style could help him rack up a few wins and Willet is a former WGC match Play semi-finalist, I’m not convinced just how many matches they will play. If the US task force have picked up on anything from their last three defeats it is surely the need to play their form players and I’m hoping Ryan Moore will benefit from a more logical US approach. If he does then he looks a cracking bet at 11/2.

The problem with my wildcard fancy is that Ryan Moore is also in this market which complicates matters but hopefully Moore can outscore his fellow rookies and still fall ½ a point short of Lee’s total and therefore both bets will win!

There are a host of reasons why Lee Westwood may well play 4 matches, being rested only for Saturday’s four balls I would imagine. He is in decent form, he has a great Ryder Cup record, he has the experience required to help out rookie team mates but most importantly Darren Clarke trusts him 100%. During the last three Ryder Cups Westwood has played six matches with rookies, winning 4 ½ points from them. With six rookies on the team it’s imperative that they find their feet early and Clarke knows he can rely on Westwood to bring out the best of them. I can see him taking Danny Willet under his wing on Friday and if they start well then it could be a fruitful partnership for Europe. Three points could do it in the wildcard market and that looks more than possible for a player with a 61% record in foursomes.


Summary of Bets

Patrick Reed Top US Points Scorer – 1pt @ 7.6

Patrick Reed Top Overall Points Scorer – 0.5pt @ 15.5

Justin Rose Top European Points Scorer – 1.5pts @ 7.2

Justin Rose Top Overall Points Scorer – 0.5pt @ 15

Back USA 15-13 EUR (10.5), USA 14.5-13.5 EUR (12.0) and EUR 14.5-13.5 USA (12.5) all 0.5pt

Back Ryan Moore Top Rookie Points Scorer – 1pt @ 11/2

Back Lee Westwood Top Wildcard Points Scorer – 1pt @ 6/1

Weekly pts advised – 7pts

Total pts advised – 794.50

Tour Championship and European Open – Betting Preview

I’ve missed a few weeks due to holidays so apologies to anyone that might have been looking for a preview. Back to normal this week for the PGA Tour finale and the European Open before the much-anticipated Ryder Cup next weekend.

After the last preview the returns are creeping ever closer to losses but for now the blog is still in the positive;

Total pts advised – 778.50 pts

Total pts returned – 793.79 pts

ROI – 1.96%

 


 Tour Championship

It has been an eventful couple of weeks on the PGA Tour despite there not having been any golf played for 10 days. Davis Love III has picked his first three Ryder Cup wild cards and there has been no end of analysis and speculation. Darren Clarke also picked his three but to a more muted response. Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood were virtually certainties and while Russell Knox can certainly feel hard done by, Thomas Pieters was equally deserving of a place after his high pressure win alongside Darren Clarke in Denmark.

The hysteria looks set to continue now as the top 30 in the Fed-Ex Cup Points List head to Georgia for the Tour Championship. There were a few high-profile casualties at the BMW and that means we won’t be seeing Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka or Justin Rose at East Lake but with the Ryder Cup starting on Friday of next week they will surely relish the break.

It’s not all doom and gloom however as we still have plenty of the game’s best chasing the $10m Fed Ex bonus. Whether anyone outside the current top 5 will actually have a clue what to do in order to win that bonus is another matter!

Every year there are numerous different permutations and while the format has probably helped to create some end of season excitement, it could no doubt be better still were it a little clearer to the players what is going on down the stretch on Sunday. That isn’t a problem for Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Paul Casey though as they occupy the first five respective positions and they know that if they win the Tour Championship they will also win the Fed Ex Cup. That has been the case the last 6 years regardless where the winner started the week though as Spieth, Horschel, Stenson, Snedeker, Haas and Furyk all earned the $10m bonus by winning the Tour Championship.

The course at East Lake has been the host for every Tour Championship dating back to 2004 and therefore it has seen all 9 Fed Ex finales to date. One important change this year however is that the front 9 and back 9 have been flipped. Previously the course finished on a Par 3 but with that said to be lacking excitement, the 18th will now be a Par 5.

The course is another Donald Ross design as per four weeks ago at Sedgefield. It is a 7385 yard long Par 70 and while the rough isn’t too penal, its tree-lined nature together with fairways that are below average in width creates a difficult driving course. You need to be in the correct areas of the fairway in order to hit Ross’s trademark sloping bermuda greens. That suggests experience of the course is crucial but there is some hope for the debutants as 2 of the last 8 winners were seeing the course for the first time . To further muddy the picture, the list of winners is quite a varied one without any obvious attributes linking them beyond arriving in very good form.

That led me to have a thorough look through the stats for all recent Tour Championships to see if any pattern developed. The last eight winners averaged 5th for GIR, 5th for total accuracy and 3rd in the all-round ranking. But perhaps the most interesting was that the last four winners have ranked 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 1st in bogey avoidance for the week. While that might appear obvious for the winner, it reinforces the fact that East Lake is the sort of course where par is usually a good score.

Looking beyond the stats for the week in which they won I also wanted to see how the players fared in some of the year-long stats and that highlighted another key attribute. The last eight winners have averaged 26th for strokes gained:tee to green and that was by far the best that I found, further confirming that it is a ball-strikers course.

I expected to find myself backing one of the big names this week but throughout 2016 it has been very hard to predict which one of the market leaders is going to perform on any given week. Throw into the mix the number of winners going off at 1000.0 and it has made for a very tricky 2016 indeed.

With just 30 players in the field this week there appears to be a lot of value further down the field. Despite this being the best 30 players of the season and usually being won by players in form, the Tour Championship is prone to outsiders contending. Bill Haas was hardly the household name he is now when winning in 2011 and last year Danny Lee ran Jordan Spieth very close over the weekend. This has led me to pick out two outsiders at very fair prices.

Daniel Berger has had a very impressive first couple of years on Tour even if his exploits have been overshadowed by the likes of Spieth, Day and Johnson. Berger won the Rookie of the Year award last year after making it to The Tour Championship and he played quite well finishing 12th.

Berger is normally a long and accurate driver of the ball but he has been below his best in that department lately which has resulted in a less consistent year than his debut year on Tour. However his strong all-round game allowed him to get his first win at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic and that together with a few other high finishes means he is now 2 from 2 in reaching the Fed Ex finale.

While his 12th at East Lake last year no doubt brought him to my attention this week it is his general liking of Donald Ross designs and bermuda greens that make me think he could go well this week. If we look at the 2014 US Open leaderboard around Donald Ross’s Pinehurst No. 2 course then there is quite a close link to East Lake. The last 7 winners of the Tour Championship all finished inside the top 35 at Pinehurst; Spieth (17th), Horschel (23rd), Stenson (4th), Snedeker (9th), Haas (35th), Furyk (12th), Mickelson (28th). Daniel Berger finished 28th there in what was his first ever major aged just 21. He also closed with a 66 on Sunday which was the lowest round of the day and actually the 3rd best of the week after Kaymer’s opening pair of 65s.

His win at TPC Southwind was on bermuda greens as was his play-off defeat to Harrington in the Honda Classic at PGA National. He goes well on shot-makers courses that have bermuda greens and that is exactly why he finished 12th here last year. With the Tour Championship always being won by a form player it is important to be playing well and after a difficult summer Berger is back to somewhere near his best and he arrives with progressive play-off form figures of 71st, 41st and 10th.

He also sits nicely in a few of the main stats for East Lake; 10th in Par 4 scoring, 35th in bogey avoidance and 30th in strokes gained: tee to green.

Berger is expected to go to the very top of the game and he knows that a win here would be a huge stepping stone in his career and very likely land him the final spot on the US Ryder Cup team. I think that extra motivation will only spur on this confident young player and I expect a good performance.

Robert Castro has been playing some fantastic golf lately and to me he fits the East Lake profile perfectly. The only downside is that he is without a PGA Tour win but that seems to be factored into his rather dismissive price this week. His recent form figures are strong as he arrives on a run of 20th (Wyndham), MC, 24th, 3rd. On both those last two starts he ranked 1st for total accuracy in the field.

Castro also has the all-important experience of the course having previously made the final 30 in 2013, ranking 6th in fairways hit and 4th in GIR on his way to a 9th place finish. He is another that is usually seen at his best on courses that favour accuracy and it is no coincidence that his best year on Tour lines up with some very impressive stats for the year. He currently ranks 5th in Par 4 scoring, 5th in bogey avoidance, 12th in GIR and 5th for driving accuracy. If he keeps that up then he will surely just require a solid putting week in order to contend around East Lake.

Luckily some of his best performances have come on bermuda greens. Castro equalled the course record of 63 at TPC Sawgrass in 2013 on his way to a 12th place finish.

He also has plenty of Donald Ross form as he finished 12th at the 2013 US PGA which was held at the Oakland Hills course and very much favoured ball-strikers with Jason Dufner and Jim Furyk putting on an approach play clinic. His 20th place finish last month at Sedgefield was his 4th Top 20 on Ross courses from just 8 appearances.

With his long game in great shape I think Castro will take to East Lake again and I don’t see any reason why he can’t contend this week.

While Dustin Johnson could obliterate the field here he looks plenty short in the betting for East Lake and Spieth hasn’t been at his best in 2016 despite a recent upturn. Adam Scott and Paul Casey have very solid claims but the bookmakers are only too aware of those. Of the leading candidates Patrick Reed makes most appeal but he is still on the naughty step having let me down this year on a couple of occasions. So with the prices on show I’m happy to side with two relative outsiders on a course that suits them both perfectly.

 


European Open

After a brilliant tournament last week in Italy and with the Ryder Cup happening in Minnesota next week you could be forgiven for dismissing the European Tour this week just as most of the Tour’s better players have done. But with the backing of Porsche, the organisers have attempted to create some sort of buzz at least and they welcome multiple major winners Martin Kaymer, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington to the Bavaria region this week.

They are also putting up a decent purse to attract players back to the scene of Thonghai Jaidee’s one shot win over Graeme Storm last year. That was the first running of the European Open since 2009 and the first ever European Tour event at Bad Griesbach. The resort features several courses but it’s the Beckenbauer course in question here and it also hosted a tournament on the Challenge Tour from 2013-2015 for those wanting a proper look through the form book. It was a bit of a guessing game last year and with the course completely water-logged in the run-up to the event this week it could be more of the same again this year. It doesn’t look like an event to get too involved in but having had a few weeks off I’m perhaps a bit too eager to have a bet.

Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters look a little short at the head of the betting given that they will surely have one eye on the Ryder Cup. Further down the market the only players I like are in no way guaranteed to play well so I’m going to take a different approach this week.

I’m going to back four players in the Top 20 market instead.

I really wanted to back Jens Fahrbring in this last year but he didn’t play. He has a 6th and a 12th from his two Challenge Tour appearances at the course and has actually turned the corner after a run of dismal form. After missing 8 cuts in a row he stopped the rot with a 34th at the KLM and followed that up with a 30th last week in Italy. He could be coming back into some sort of form and looks a huge price just to crack the Top 20.

A top 20 bet on Chris Hanson would have won the last 3 weeks on Tour as he finished 18th, 8th and 20th. He is having a fairly solid season and can continue his good form at a course where he finished 3rd in 2014 on the Challenge Tour.

Bernd Ritthammer has won two of his last eight starts on the Challenge Tour and he will relish the chance to play on the European Tour in his homeland. He has also played all four tournaments at the course, missing the cut at last year’s European Open but finishing 38th, 3rd and 28th on his three appearances in the lower grade. He was without a professional win last year though and arrives now with more confidence and he currently sits on top of the Challenge Tour’s Road to Oman points list. A top 20 shouldn’t be beyond him this week on a course he knows better than most.

Sebastian Gros has been on my radar for most of the season after winning twice on the Challenge Tour last year. He is one of the longest drivers in the world so if the course remains soaking wet all week then it will suit him better than the narrow course in Milan last week where he missed the cut. Prior to that he ranked 5th in the all-round ranking in Holland when finishing 28th so his game is probably in better shape than his odds suggest. Gros was 3rd at the course last year on the Challenge Tour and he looks overpriced for a Top 20.

The first thing that hit me about last year’s winner and runner-up was that they have both won the Open De France. I don’t believe the courses are particularly similar but if there is something in it then Pablo Larrazabal can be expected to go well here. He is a player that I always struggle to get right and he hasn’t been in the greatest of form lately. But he did finish 7th three weeks ago in Switzerland so he looks quite over priced at 66/1 considering he is a four-time winner on Tour. I couldn’t resist a small interest in the outright market!


Summary of Bets

Tour Championship

Daniel Berger – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (4 places)

Roberto Castro – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (4 places)

European Open

Jens Fahrbring – 1pt Top 20 @ 12/1

Chris Hanson – 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1

Bernd Ritthammer – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Sebastian Gros – 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

Pablo Larrazabal – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Weekly pts advised – 9pts

Total pts advised – 787.50 pts

@theGreek82

No preview this week

I’m still on my holidays so no blog this week but will hopefully be back to normal next week.

My preview of the BMW Championship will be on http://www.matchbook.com though.

As well as McIlroy I will be backing Russell Knox this week who always does well on Pete Dye courses. It may be a little long for him but 70/1 looks fair.

I haven’t had a chance to look at the KLM but with Pieters in great form he will be hard to beat if there is a little space off the tee at Holland’s new host course.