WGC HSBC Champions – Betting Preview

There were no returns last week as we sided with the wrong former winner in Malaysia but it was nice to see course form hold up so strongly as I expected. What was a surprise was how brilliantly Thomas played given that he was defending his first PGA Tour title. Moore played ok for us as did Cejka and Curran but at no point did any of them really look giving us any returns.

The same can’t be said in Portugal however as Joakim Lagergren had another excellent week on the European Tour. Unfortunately though he threw in an untimely bogey just as things were heating up on Sunday and that resulted in a 15th place finish when a Top 5 looked a possibility as he started his back 9.

What all that means for the blog though is that it dips into negative ROI for the first time since the US PGA in 2015. It has been a tough year but that can all turn around with one win. With the co-sanctioned HSBC Champions event taking centre stage I’m focussing on that and leaving the Sandersons Championship alone until I have had sufficient time to cast an eye over the new batch of PGA Tour recruits.

Total pts advised – 824pts

Total pts returned – 819.89

ROI =  -0.5%


 

WGC HSBC Champions

With the exception of the 2012 running, Sheshan Golf Club has been the venue for the WGC HSBC Champions dating back to its inception in 2005 season so there is no shortage of course form this week. The tournament didn’t gain WGC status until 2009 however and it was only in 2013 when it became fully sanctioned by all three main Tours.

The course was designed by the renowned Asia based team of Nelson and Haworth and plays 7266 yards long with undulating, tree-lined fairways, elevated bent grass greens and plenty water in play particularly for approach shots. The design team are quoted as saying that they were influenced by Donald Ross’ Oak Hill course which has a lot of varied Par 4s with many elevation changes particularly on tee-shots.

Given that two recent winners were Bubba and Dustin Johnson you would think that length off the tee was a prerequisite but Bubba had to hole his bunker shot at 18 in 2014 to force a play-off with Tim Clark who is one of the shorter hitters on Tour. Just last year Russell Knox won his first PGA Tour title and in doing so became the first Scot to win a WGC. He is another short, accurate player very similar to 2010 winner Francesco Molinari. All three of those players are excellent with their long irons so while different types can prosper it would seem that distance control when trying to hit the greens and indeed getting the ball as close to the flag as possible are key to scoring at Sheshan. The Par 5s are usually key at Sheshan but there are two ways to play as we have seen the bombers overpower them but also the accurate types pepper the flags with their sharp wedge game.

Moreover, every part of the game has to be working to contend at Sheshan and that is evident when we look at the stats from the last three years. In both 2014 and 2015 the top four in the all-round ranking all finished inside the Top 5 on Sunday. In 2013 six of the top seven were all ranked in the top 7 in the all-round ranking.

A look at USPGA Oak Hill form would be of interest to me but there aren’t too many of those from the 2013 leaderboard teeing it up this week. The most recent Donald Ross course to have been played on Tour was East Lake which held the Tour Championship but perhaps a better guide to this week’s course is Sedgefield which hosts the Wyndham Championship. If Sheshan was based on Oak Hill then playing well in the Wyndham can only be a positive as the two courses have many similarities.

Both Knox and Kisner showed last year that course experience isn’t required at the HSBC Champions as they were making their debuts. It is far more important to still have a hunger at this stage of the season as several of the game’s best players are running on empty and perhaps aren’t as focussed as some of the lesser lights who haven’t played in that many WGC’s and are viewing this as a stepping stone in their career. Knox and Kisner certainly both did that last year as Kisner went on to win two weeks later and Knox won again in the summer. It is worth looking at players who fit a similar profile to them as last year, players who have had a very good year, are still in form and will be giving this tournament the respect it deserves as Asia’s primary golf event.

The market this week is headed by Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and few could argue that they aren’t deserving of their single figure quotes. Although I don’t think either of them will be motivated enough to come out on top this week. McIlroy is coming off an exhausting Ryder Cup and is apparently trialling new clubs this week while Dustin Johnson has already had a career year and it’s reasonable to assume he won’t be as focussed as he was earlier in the season. With them taking up so much of the market however, there are some value prices down the field.

I’m getting almost tired of writing about Patrick Reed but I’m desperate not to miss out on his next big win which I believe is on its way soon. Despite having a slow patch in the middle of the year, 2016 has been quite good to Reed. When he announced to the world in 2014 that he was a “top 5 player” he was largely mocked in the U.S.A but it was interesting to see the same pundits and fans come full circle in their opinion of Reed when he led their Ryder Cup charge last month.

I’ve watched him closely since that WGC win in March 2014 and I very quickly realised that he wasn’t joking around. We hear a lot about the talents of Spieth and Day on and around the greens but at his best Reed is every bit as good as them. I don’t remember seeing anyone else since Tiger chip the ball with such perfect weight from any sort of lie. His short game is as good on tight lies as it is in lush green rough and it’s a huge skill to have. His putting is also brilliant and he has the same ability to judge the pace perfectly from distance while also being aggressive enough from inside 15ft to make more than his share of putts. However it was his putting that was holding him back from February onwards until he turned it around gradually over the summer and got his win at Bethpage Black when he triumphed at the Barclays. He held that hot putter over to the Ryder Cup where he top scored for the U.S team with more magic around the greens and a very solid iron game. His game is in perfect all-round condition and with his warm-up in Kuala Lumpur last week he will be perfectly acclimatised for this event in China.

He has some very strong course form too with a 7th place finish last year and a 22nd on his debut in 2014. But if we look more closely at his results then we can see how well this course suits him; last year he had the best combined ranking for GIR and scrambling (10th +2nd= 12) but also the best combined ranking for GIR, scrambling and putting (10+2+23 = 35). That makes it very hard to work out how he was 5 shots behind the winner but what it does make clear is that he plays the course very, very well. That wasn’t just a one off either, on his debut he ranked 12th for GIR and 9th for scrambling but he just struggled on his first look at the greens.  Reed also lost in a play-off on his only other appearance in China so it is fair to expect him to play well there again.

A player like Patrick Reed is always hungry for big wins so he will be in China with only one thing on his mind. He finished down the field last week in Malaysia but he was coming off a well-earned rest after his Ryder Cup heroics. History tells us that it’s important to have had a warm-up prior to playing the HSBC so it will have been a good chance for him to fine tune his game. Ignoring that result he arrives in excellent form, he is putting brilliantly and he has played well on the course before. From a stats point of view then he should also be suited to the challenge again this year as he ranks 6th in birdie average, 7th in Par 5 scoring and 22nd in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months.

At 33/1 and only 9th favourite, Reed looks a great bet again this week as he tries to make it third time lucky at the course and bag his 2nd World Golf Championship at just 26 years of age. 

Paul Casey’s form has been so good lately that his price has been extremely short for someone who only has 1 win on US soil in 11 years on the PGA Tour. But the key here this week is that he is playing in China rather than the U.S.A. His record in China is a lot better having won there twice early in his career but also racking up another twelve top 10s from 24 career appearances. His form in the HSBC Champions at Sheshan in particular reads 23-20-4-6-w-11-9-6-7 so he is well suited to the course. His 2005 China Open win came at another Nelson and Hawarth design at Shenzhen so there is every reason to believe he will hold his form over for another week. Prior to his 21st place finish in Malaysia last week he returned the each-way money in four consecutive tournaments. He currently ranks 1st in the all-round ranking on the PGA Tour for the last 3 months and that will help him with the test that Sheshan brings. Back out to a reasonable price of 25/1 he looks a very solid each way bet.

I’m leaving it at two outright picks this week and instead I have included a few place bets. I can’t believe I’m actually tipping Richard Bland but as I’m focussing on the all-round golf game this week he has to be backed in some shape or form. Bland is the ultimate journey-man, never having won on the European Tour but over the last few years he has developed a remarkable consistency for finishing between 5th and 20th . But this season he has stepped it up and has been quoted as saying that he has taken a more aggressive approach, especially with his putting. That has paid off as he sits in 25th place in the Race To Dubai courtesy of seven Top 10s and amazingly this one-time awful putter sits in 14th in total putting over the last 3 months.

His tee-to green game has always been arrow straight and I think he could be suited to Sheshan. I’m not for a second suggesting he can win but I think a Top 20 at 9/2 looks to be some decent value given his recent run of form. He has finished in the Top 20 in his last six starts recording the following; 5th,16th, 5th, 7th, 18th and 4th two weeks ago at the British Masters. Having qualified for his first WGC he decided to give Portugal a miss last week so that he could give his full attention to China.

He has some decent form in Asia too with a 3rd place at the China Open earlier this year and also a 6th place finish in the Malaysian Maybank Championship in February. That was held at another Nelson and Hawarth design where he ranked 3rd for both GIR and scrambling suggesting that his neat and tidy game could be suited to the design team’s flagship course. In truth we don’t know how Bland will fare in this strong a field but there is something different about him this year and something tells me he won’t be phased. If not then 9/2 is a very fair price for a man playing the best golf of his career.

Bernd Wiesberger has been the model of consistency over the last 6 weeks and he carries with him form figures of 2nd-7th-5th-2nd. Perhaps then it shouldn’t be a surprise that he ranks 2nd in the all-round ranking, 3rd in Par 5 scoring and 4th in Par 4 scoring over the last 3 months. What is surprising though, is that he hasn’t won anywhere since July 2015 and it has often been his putting that has let him down. There has been anotable improvement in that department recently though and he sits 20th in total putting for the last 3 months. I was considering an outright wager on the Austrian until I saw firstly his price and then secondly his very average record playing in China.He is without a top 10 in 10 visits to the country but he does have progressive form figures of 28-17 from his two appearances around Sheshan. With his whole game in great shape a top 10 looks very achievable for him this week.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello looks to me to fit the perfect profile for a player that will be motivated to play well this week. He has had a brilliant 2016, finding success in both Europe and on the PGA Tour but he is still missing the win. I don’t think he is quite ready to get it in this company as his much improved putting still probably won’t stand up against the best on a nervy Sunday. But I expect him to put another 4 strong rounds together here to finish somewhere around 8th and therefore he looks like another worthwhile play in the Top 10 market.

Summary of Bets

WGC HSBC Champions

Patrick Reed – 1.5pts ew @ 33/1

Paul Casey – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Richard Bland – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt Top 10 @ 5/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 1pt Top 10 @ 5/1

 

Weekly points advised – 9pts

Total points advised – 833pts

@theGreek82

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CIMB Classic and Portugal Masters – Betting Preview

Well I’m certainly never backing Romain Wattel ever again! After shooting the 2nd lowest three round score from Friday onwards at the Dunhill Links I assumed he had maybe found something in his game again but he was simply awful last week and lived up to his usual inconsistent reputation. He is definitely staying on the naughty step for the foreseeable future.

Richard Sterne fared a lot better and was bang in contention heading into the final round but a poor back 9 on Sunday meant he couldn’t even hold on to a place. Things were equally bad on the PGA Tour and there were no returns for the week.

The overall results are as follows;

Total pts advised – 814.50

Total pts returned – 819.89

ROI – 0.7%

This week the PGA Tour heads east for a couple of weeks with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the European Tour heads back to the continent for the Portugal Masters.

 


CIMB Classic

As expected last week at the Safeway Open it was a near impossible tournament to find the winner. A few of the fancied players went well but both 1st and 2nd home were rank outsiders as Brendan Steele closed with three birdies to overcome 3rd round leader Patton Kazzire. Both went off well into triple figure prices and while Steele was actually winning for the 2nd time, some 141 events after his first win, the leader board was full of maidens.

This week while non-winners must be respected again, the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur is somewhat of a specialist event as the heat and humidity can give those who have played there before a significant advantage. This is the just the 4th running of the CIMB as a PGA Tour sanctioned event it but the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club has also hosted the Malaysian Open on the Asian Tour so there is some course form to look at.

Last year I was amazed that Ryan Moore wasn’t in the first 5 in the betting when he was looking for a hat-trick of wins and amazingly, despite being the 2nd most in-form player in the field, he opened up at around 6th in the betting again this week. This is one of the strongest fields assembled to date in Malaysia but I’m not entirely convinced that there should have been be so many ahead of him on a course that suits him perfectly. The market agreed though and there is now very little between the front 6 in the market.

KLGCC is a short, tree-lined track with narrow fairways and small greens and this year it is set to play to around 7000 yards. While bomber Gary Woodland arguably has some of the best form at the track besides Moore, and the wild Justin Thomas won here last year, it is normally a course that requires accuracy off the tee and with approaches. Plenty of tee shots can result in approaches being blocked out from green and there is water in play on nearly half the holes.

With Thomas’s win it’s clear that bombers can prosper on the course and his recovery game was excellent last year as he missed a lot of fairways. He also played the Par 5s extremely well which maybe suggests that as they learn the course, the longer players will start to prevail. But he also ranked 1st for total putting on the week and ultimately that was why he won last year rather than his power. He actually ranked just 29th for GIR and that is a bit of an anomaly compared with other recent winners at the course. Ryan Moore ranked 8th for greens hit during both his wins while in the Malaysian Open Anirban Lahiri ranked 6th and Lee Westwood 8th.

The long and accurate Adam Scott finished 2nd behind Thomas last year and Kevin Na was 3rd so I would certainly still favour those that know where the ball is going off the tee. Although the one constant is undoubtedly GIR and despite them being small you have to hit a high number to compete around KLGC as the field averaged 77% last year. The rain helped the greens receive approach shots so aggression was rewarded perhaps more than previous years. Close attention should be paid to the weather as the tournament unfolds. If there are thunderstorms again then KLGCC may allow the longer hitters to prosper.

Another aspect that sets this course apart from many on Tour is the Sea Isle Supreme greens (basically a sea paspalum I believe). Other courses to feature sea paspalum greens for reference are El Cameleon (Mayakoba Classic and OHL Classic), Trump International (Puerto Rico Open up until 2016) and Kiawah Island (2012 USPGA). It’s a different sort of grass that many of the top players don’t play on too often so it is worth considering whether players have performed on sea paspalum in the past. With the heat, humidity and rainfall in KL it can be difficult to get the greens up to the normal PGA Tour speed so subsequently we have seen poorer putters perform well at the course as slower greens are generally a bit of an equaliser. So rather than being an excellent putter all-round, it looks important to have shown a liking for paspalum previously and to be able to putt confidently on the surface. The ball can turn very abruptly at the hole so putts will need to be struck with conviction.

The field gathered this week looks very strong at the head of the market and I don’t think we need to look too far down it. With a limited field of 78 it is important to note that when we are considering the prices as they will be shorter than usual.

Despite his fourth top 4 finish in a row I believe Paul Casey can be dismissed again at just 14/1 especially when we consider he could only hit 45% of the greens here last year. In truth he never looked like winning last week and only shot 3 closing birdies once he was out of the event and 5 shots back. This test should probably be right up Hideki Matsuyma’s street but while he won his home Open last week in Japan he putted poorly so odds of 15/1 don’t tempt me at all where in excess of 15 birdies will be required. Justin Thomas putted poorly on Sunday and winning again as defending champion is so hard for even the most seasoned pros. Adam Scott missed the cut in Japan last week while only hitting 32% of fairways and 52% of greens so he too can be ruled out at the prices.

It’s the next five players that interest me most of all this week; Patick Reed and Segio Garcia arrive off the back of inspired Ryder Cup performances and must be respected on that form. The other three, Ryan Moore, Gary Woodland and Kevin Na, have the best course form on show by quite some way and will expect to contend again.

To win for a third time in a row was a seriously difficult task last year for Ryan Moore and to be fair to him finishing T10th was a good result. There is just no getting away from him this week and he simply has to be backed at 16/1 in this restricted field.

Since his win at the John Deere Classic in August there aren’t many that have played better golf than Ryan Moore and his 2nd place to McIlroy at the Tour Championship is the best piece of recent stroke-play form in this field. Just two weeks ago Moore was playing in his first Ryder Cup and given his lack of preparation he performed admirably. You could tell from his interviews just what that meant to him and with age still on his side at 33 years old I expect that to have a very positive effect on his career. He is already a 5 time winner on Tour but over the next few years we may see him live up to the huge reputation that he had as an amateur.

Undoubtedly that will only happen on courses that suit this short but accurate ball-striker and that is the key factor this week. Moore has shown us how well suited to KLGCC he is with his two wins and going back for a 4th time full of confidence I think he is easily the man to beat. That makes him a standout bet this week at 16/1 and although it is a very obvious pick, he should be backed accordingly.

I backed Alex Cejka here last year mainly because of his win in Puerto Rico on sea paspalum greens and in similarly humid conditions. He played ok but finished 17th although he ranked 3rd on the greens which confirmed his love of the surface. He was a bit of a journey man on the PGA Tour until last year when he finally got his first win at the age of 43. He is a multiple winner on other Tours but had always came up short on the main Tour.

Cejka arrives in ok form having finished 18th last week at the Macau Open and prior to that he had figures of 21-11-5 so is playing well. He also has form in Malaysia albeit a long time ago as he finished 3rd and 2nd in the Malaysian Open in 1999 and 2002 respectively. He was playing the course for the first time last year so I’d expect this accurate driver of the ball to have learned where he has to hit his tee shots for his 2nd look this week.

I’m also going to give Jon Curran another go this week after performing ok last week when finishing 26th. He ranked 8th for total accuracy and as usual he was very solid on and around the greens. He is another player who has performed very well on sea paspalum and he actually finished 2nd behind Cejka when he won in Puerto Rico.

Curran’s only win came on the Web.com Tour down in Brazil so he clearly favours the more tropical climates. That course in Sao Paulo also resembles the KLGCC with both featuring lots of trees, water and small greens.

He played in this last year finishing down the field in 53rd but he ranked 23rd for putting so hopefully he can also improve this time around with some course knowledge.

 


The Portugal Masters

As the 2016 European Tour season nears its finish we have the last regular tournament before the Final Series gets underway in two weeks’ time in Turkey. The Portugal Masters takes place every year at the Oceanico Victoria Golf Course at the most exclusive area of the Algarve in Villamoura.

When we look at previous types of players to go well in this tournament then we see a lot of aggressive bombers taking advantage of the wide fairways and lenient rough. Alvaro Quiros and Alexander Levy are two previous winners while Nicholas Colsaerts also has a credible record. They love nothing more than to unleash driver and then go flag hunting, subsequently going very low when their putters are hot.

But while that is the case it is hitting greens that is the most important factor at the course year after year. The scoring is always low so in order to contend they will have to give themselves as many birdie opportunities as possible. The winning scores recently have been 23, -18 (just two rounds!) and -18.

I’m a little low on time for this preview and with Thomas Pieters heading the market I’m not wanting to stake too much on the event as I think there is every chance he will win even if he plays to 80% of his recent level of form. Despite him threatening to be a world-class talent I’m still not sure that I can go backing him at single figures just yet. But his presence together with Alex Noren’s has created some interesting each way prices so there is maybe still a value angle to be had with regard to the places.

Joakim Lagergren was excellent for us two weeks ago in Scotland as he finished 4th. I left him out last week as he had never played The Grove before and he opened with a 78 but he quickly got to grips with the course and shot 65-68-69 for his next three rounds to finish 18th. In truth the bulk of his game was quite poor but he is an excellent putter and he ranks 1st for birdie average over the last 3 months. That’s good enough for consideration at any course but with there being plenty of room off the tee here a slight improvement in his iron game can see him continue his strong form. He looks a very fair price at 66/1.

I’ve followed both Tyrrel Hatton and Eddie Pepperell very closely the last couple of years and given how annoying it was to miss out on Hatton’s win two week’s ago, I’m determined not to miss out with Pepperell. He has been playing poorly most of the year and that was largely down to his erratic driving but he is a very talented golfer. After blowing a lead in Asia in the summer he stated how much he didn’t trust his driving and that he had no idea which way the ball was going.

He nearly always putts and scrambles well so the course in Portugal should set up well for Pepperell and he showed glimpses of his best last week at The Grove where he finished 22nd to stop the rot of five missed cuts. I’m hoping he can push on again this week and if he does have his long game back on an even keel then we know he can go low with the putter. Another tasty looking each way price at 110/1.

 


Summary of Bets

CIMB  Classic

Ryan Moore – 2pts ew @ 16/1

Alex Cejka – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Jon Curran – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Portugal Masters

Joakim Lagergren – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Eddie Pepperell – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1

Ryan Moore + Thomas Pieters ew double – 0.25pt ew @ 135/1

Weekly pts advised – 9.5pts

Total pts advised – 824 pts

@theGreek82

Safeway Open and British Masters – Betting Preview

It was a second profitable week in a row but there was still a feeling that it could have been better. Although it was clear early on Sunday that nobody was catching Tyrrell Hatton such was the confidence he was playing with. A defenceless St. Andrews is also one of the easier courses to protect a healthy lead too and once he reached the tougher finishing holes he had enough shots in hand to make it a formality. It was a great performance from the young Englishman but it was very annoying to miss out given that I have tipped him several times on Links courses over the last 18 months. In truth he was a little harder to find coming off a 45th and two missed cuts but given that I knew how brilliantly he played links courses he should still have been given more consideration at 66/1. Another point against him was his poor record in the event but from what we have seen and heard from Hatton this season, he has made a very conscious effort to sort out his temperament. It could be that previously the format wasn’t for him but he looks a far more relaxed player on the course now and that had been evident throughout the summer. He should definitely be watched going forward whenever he is a decent price on a links course. But moreover when he is swinging well he has shown he can compete with the very best on most courses as he has an absolutely brilliant short game, a quality that all great links players share.

Ross Fisher didn’t really do anything wrong in 2nd place but was just beaten by an inspired couple of rounds from Hatton. Joakim Lagergren also came good and he actually played so well that I was regretting not being a little braver with him and going for a top 10 or each way bet. But it’s hard to be confident about outsiders when I’m not on a great run so I really shouldn’t complain. After all it was 18.5pts returned for the week and that’s the best week since early July.

That leaves the overall results as follows;

Total pts advised – 802.50

Total pts returned – 819.89

ROI – 2.17%

This week the European Tour stays in the UK for the British Masters and in the US the PGA Tour starts its new season with the Safeway Open.


Safeway Open

 As the sporting world waited for the much anticipated return of Tiger Woods, on Monday afternoon the news broke that he was withdrawing from this week’s Safeway Open. While it maybe shouldn’t overshadow the season pipe-opener, there is a slight feeling of an anti-climax, especially given that just two weeks ago we saw such an enthusiastic and re-energised Woods as part of the Ryder Cup team. But I guess it wasn’t to be and we can only hope that he’s back sooner rather than later.

Luckily for us however we have the new batch of Web.com recruits all set to tackle the season, many of which are doing so for the first time. It makes for an exciting time of year on Tour, for none more so than the golf bettor. With many of the game’s leading lights playing a restricted schedule now through to February, it gives both the rookies and the more experienced maidens the chance to get over the line in some weaker fields.

That is certainly the case this week as we only have a handful of the world’s top 30 playing and just like last year when Emiliano Grillo was winning on his first proper start, this looks the perfect place for the class of 2017 to get started.

There have only been two previous editions of this Tournament here recently so course experience won’t matter as much as it does most weeks where the seasoned pros may have played the course 10-12 times before. The course itself is a fairly average 7203 yards Par 72 with fairways of average width. It doesn’t usually play too tough but at the same time it’s not quite a birdie fest either. Last year Kevin Na chased Grillo home and they are two of the straightest drivers on Tour which suggests that finding fairways is crucial around Silverado. However Sang Moon Bae and Steve Bowditch were the first two home in 2014 and they are by no means the straightest, with Bowditch being one of the wilder players off the tee, even when he is playing well. The course wasn’t as soft and receptive that year so the weather can alter the skill-set required somewhat.

If we delve deeper it’s apparent that finding fairways isn’t of any huge importance here, the course features plenty of shorter holes and the bulk of the field will be able to reach the par 5s in two. It’s more important not to have your approach shot blocked out by the trees lining the fairways.

With tricky, sloping poa annua greens, it appears to be very much a second shot golf course. Emiliano Grillo isn’t renowned for his putting ability and it was his accurate approach play that helped him to his first victory. He did actually putt reasonably well but that was aided by excellent proximity figures allowing him to have shorter putts. As the course firms up though the undulating greens are harder to hold even for the more accurate which brings scrambling to the fore. Grillo ranked 5th last year and Bowditch and Bae were 2nd and 3rd in that area respectively. Proximity to the hole and scrambling look to be the key stats this week.

The opening few weeks of the season are usually quite hard to get a handle on and last year the first five tournaments were won by maidens so huge respect must be given to the non-winners this week. The lack of field depth has resulted in some terrible prices at the head of the market. Paul Casey and Matt Kuchar are the two favourites and at 12.0 and 14.0 respectively, they can very easily be dismissed given their poor win records. Their price together with a few other surprisingly short ones has created a lot of value from 40.0 and down in the market so for me it definitely feels like a week where the market leaders should be taken on. Therefore I’m advising two larger prices again and suggesting stakes are split between the two. Despite me highlighting proximity to the hole and scrambling, I haven’t actually adopted too much of a stats based approach this week after all.

Jhonattan Vegas finished the 2016 season very strongly with a win in the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in July. He has always had a lot of talent but does tend to struggle up against the best the game has to offer. That’s why he looks like the perfect candidate to carry on his run of form and maybe strike again in a weak field. His Fed Ex play-off form was decent as he went 22-33-24 to qualify for the Tour Championship where in truth he was probably a little out of his depth and finished down in 24th. I think he looks quite over-priced here as an in-form, two-time winner on Tour. One of those even came in California so he would appear to be comfortable on the west coast. He also has some recent form on poa annua greens as he recorded his best ever major finish with a 22nd at Baltusrol in the US PGA Championship this summer. When playing well his short game is solid enough and he ranked 10th in scrambling here on his way to finishing 10th last year. He also ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking so arriving in better form he should play well again.

Daniel Summerhays finished 8th in the U.S. Open this year and bettered that with a 3rd at the U.S. PGA Championship. That is quite impressive for a man without a win on the PGA Tour and even more so when we consider he had only played three majors before this year. When Jimmy Walker won the PGA I was so annoyed because I based all my research around players that performed well on poa annua greens, leaving the Texan out due to a poor run of form. I’m not making that mistake again and Summerhays looks a standout bet this week on tricky poa annua greens. He ranked 6th in strokes gained: putting on Tour last year and while his proximity stats aren’t great he is a competent scrambler and ranks 78th in that department over the last 3 months.

He played here in both 2014 and 2015 and recorded progressive results of 46th and 32nd. As a more accomplished player he should be able to use his course experience to his advantage this week and hopefully contend at a big price.

After abandoning the stats approach for my two main picks, I’m going to complete my line-up with short game wizard Jon Curran. He ranks 9th in scrambling over the last 3 months and for the 2016 season he ranked 19th in strokes gained:around the green and 22nd in strokes gained:putting.  Throw in an 8th at Silverado in 2014 and he looks a good each way price at 150/1.

 


British Masters

After Ian Poulter hosted a hugely successful comeback edition of the British Masters last autumn at Woburn, it’s now Luke Donald’s turn to host at the exclusive Grove Resort. He has another strong field assembled and it looks like we will be treated to another great tournament.

The Grove is a relatively new course having been designed in 2003 by Kyle Phillips and it only has one piece of course form, the 2006 World Golf Championship event won in convincing style by Tiger Woods. Given his ability to win on almost any course that maybe doesn’t tell us too much but if we use that leaderboard together with some videos of The Grove and take a look at some of Phillips’ other designs then we can try to build a picture of what type of player will take to The Grove.

There are certainly plenty of Phillips courses as he either designed or renovated the following; Kingsbarns, Hilverschum (2009,2010, 2011 KLM Open), PGA National (2013 and 2014 Nordea Masters), Celtic Manor Twenty Twelve (2010-2014 Welsh Open), Verdura GC (2012 Sicilian Open) and Valderrama which hosted the Spanish Open again earlier this year. The same names crop up again and again at these courses with Alexander Noren, Thongchai Jaidee and Graeme Mcdowell all having strong form on his courses to name a few. They are all excellent putters and if we look in depth through the stats of these tournaments there is one stand out aspect and that is that they are all short game tests. More often than not the leaders have performed well in scrambling and putting and I think we will see more of the same this week.

Despite talk of Phillips having created a strategic course, from the flyover videos of the course on youtube the thing that I immediately noticed was just how wide the fairways are. I think even Phil Mickelson could hit these blindfolded at the moment. The second thing I noticed was just how undulating the ground becomes nearer the greens. There are lots of strategic, man-made bumps and mounds around the greens and lots of borrows on the greens. These greens will undoubtedly be missed and getting up and down looks extremely tough and will require some imagination.

So this week we should be looking for strong short games together with some decent form on Kyle Phillips courses. Form in the UK is probably required also as we are well into October now and I’d be surprised if we see weather conditions as favourable as Scotland last week.

Romain Wattel is a frustrating player as he can be quite inconsistent. He has been on Tour since 2010 and I dread to think how many tournaments he has played without a win. He is still young though and it’s surely a matter of when will he win rather than if he will win. It was his 66 around Kingsbarns last week that got me interested in him for The Grove. The two courses were built around the same time and both required a lot of imagination with the original landscape. Kingsbarns is generally the easiest course on rotation at the Alfred Dunhill but there are unquestionably some players that just don’t like it. He went on to finish in 18th place and that was another UK Top 20 for him and his best finish in the event. In May this year he finished 4th just 30 miles south at Wentworth and he also finished 22nd at Woburn in this event last year.

Wattell has a nice solid bank of form on Phillips’ courses with an 8th and 9th at Celtic Manor and an 11th at PGA National. He currently sits in 27th in the all-round ranking over the last three months so he is playing decent golf. It’s hard to be too confident about him getting the win any week but there is no question that he can prove profitable from an each way point of view when he is a decent price and conditions suit. At 80/1 he is my idea of the best piece of value this week providing he can keep the putter hot.

In terms of the worst piece of value, Ross Fisher was in the running for that when he opened at 16/1 but I still can’t get away from him coming off two runner-up finishes and playing so brilliantly. I would be horrified if he won this week and I wasn’t on given his strong record around the London area. With some high finishes also on Phillips courses I think I’m going to play him as a saver especially as there is now some 20/1 around.

Richard Sterne came flying back to form last week with a runner-up finish in Scotland. He is always dangerous on courses that suit when he is actually fit. So it was interesting to hear Andrew Coltart say on Sunday that Richard told him at the turn that he was planning on letting rip on every hole and attacking the back 9. He wouldn’t be doing that if he wasn’t over his back injury that has plagued him throughout most of his career.

He also has some strong form on the relevant courses with a 2nd at Celtic Manor, a 7th at PGA National and a 2nd at the Open De France. His odds maybe don’t appear too appealing at first look but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Sterne is a top-class performer and we don’t know what he might have achieved in the game had he not suffered so badly with injuries. If his back is feeling better then he still has plenty of time to make up the lost ground.

Graeme Storm also played well last week and fired two eagles around Kingsbarns on his way to finishing in 25th. He has quite a bit of form on Phillips’ designs but it’s his record down the road at Sunningdale that interests me here. Twice in three years he led Open Qualifying around the course and that is no mean feat. It is a parkland course that plays very much like a links course with sandy soil and plenty of undulations around the green. That looks to be quite a lot like The Grove to me so I think he should enjoy this test. He has also won around Le Golf National where Mcdowell has won twice and Jaidee won just this year. Arriving in form I think he looks a decent bet this week at 200/1.

I’m also including a Top 20 bet on another Swede this week. Johan Edfors played at The Grove in 2006 when he was playing some serious golf and he finished 22nd. That tournament was also held in October and he won this title that year also at The Belfry. He won again last week on the Challenge Tour and although it’s a big step up in class  I think he looks over priced at 8/1.

 

Summary of bets

Safeway Open

Jhonattan Vegas – 1tp ew @ 50/1

Daniel Summerhays – 0.5pt ew @ 90/1

Jon Curran – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

British Masters

Romain Wattel – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Richard Sterne – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Graeme Storm – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 20/1

Johan Edfors – 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Weekly pts advised – 12pts

Total pts advised – 814.50

@theGreek82

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – Betting Preview

Minnesota witnessed one of the most rowdy and high profile Ryder Cups we have seen for some time over the weekend and Patrick Reed stole the show on his way to landing our Top US Points Scorer bet. That was about the only thing to sing about though as US ran out comfortable 17-11 winners and while I enjoyed it immensely, I think the Reed/Mcilroy and Mickelson/Garcia contests masked a slightly uneventful Friday and Saturday. I may be in the minority but for me the opening two days just didn’t have the back and forth battles that we have seen in recent times and I think only four matches made it to the 18th in the first four sessions. That, together with a feeling that Europe were always facing an uphill task after losing the first session 4-0, resulted in a tournament that lacked any real excitement for me. Of course the atmosphere through-out and the two epic singles battles will probably mark Hazeltine down in history as one of the great editions but for me it wasn’t a patch on Medinah. Although that is probably just because Europe got so comprehensively beaten!

The Patrick Reed bet has helped keep the blog in profit but its only slight and an outright winner is required sooner rather than later. The results are now standing at;

Total points advised – 794.50

Total points returned – 801.39

ROI – 0.86%

This week we don’t have any action on the PGA Tour as they take a week’s break before returning with the 2017 season. That leaves us with just the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.


Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

With no fewer than six of the European team scheduled to tee it up in Fife and Angus on Thursday, the tournament may well prosper from a US Ryder Cup win. A couple of days’ worth of partying wouldn’t have been the ideal preparation for Clarke’s men and given the manner of their defeat we can probably expect most of them to arrive in Scotland keen to banish those memories and get back to their normal Tour schedule.

Unfortunately though it isn’t quite your normal stroke-play event this week as the Dunhill Links takes the form of a pro-am and each player plays a round at all three of the links courses along with their often “celebrity” amateur of choice. The cut then falls after three rounds with those who make it continuing on to a final round at St. Andrews on Sunday. The other two courses on rotation the first two days are Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. They all play to a Par 72 with Kingsbarns playing the easiest, Carnoustie always playing the toughest and St Andrews somewhere in between.

There will be numerous American amateurs taking part and that will no doubt involve a lot of ribbing directed at the Europeans so while in recent times players have played well after being involved (Kaymer won this the week after his Ryder Cup debut in 2010) I’m not convinced that we will see those six men in the right sort of head space to be winning this week. The only one that would appeal in any shape or form would be Thomas Pieters who played superbly last week to top score across both teams. His putting in particular was brilliant and I only recall seeing him miss about three putts inside 20ft from Fri evening onwards. Given this is always a birdie fest then he would normally be expected to go well but with a heightened profile his price is down to 16.0 and I think he can be left alone.

With the action taking part in autumn on Scottish links courses you would probably expect scoring to be tougher than in the summer but the courses are all set up quite short with easy pin locations and slow greens to allow the amateurs to enjoy themselves. That’s not to say that they don’t all play like links courses however and the tournament is always won by a proven links exponent. That will be even more crucial should the wind get up as forecast this week.

Looking at recent winners we can get an idea of the type of player that has won here. The last two winners, Thorbjorn Olesen and Oliver Wilson, both had runner-up finishes in the event previously and when David Howell won the year before that he was confirming the long standing opinion that he is a great links player. He also had finishes here of 3rd, 6th, 8th and 5th earlier in his career.

Historically the home players do well with 11 of the 15 winners hailing from Great Britain or Ireland so they would make a good starting point here.

What they do off the tee this week is of very little consequence as recent winners have ranked well down driving distance and driving accuracy. It is all about hitting as many greens as possible and then holing as many of the chances as you can. Normally a birdie fest would favour the stronger putters and while the list of winners does throw up some excellent putters, the slow, easy greens allow poorer putters to contend as long as their short stick gets a little hot.

The last 5 winners have averaged 24th for GIR and 27th for total putting. They also finished 1st, 12th, 4th, 1st and 2nd for total birdies during the week and for those looking at a stats approach I would suggest those three to be the main players. I’m also not going to look too far beyond the home-grown players with plenty of in –form options to choose from.

A very strong field is assembled and the market is dominated this week by the European Ryder Cup team along with class-acts Branden Grace, Louis Oostuizen, Bernd Wiesberger and Alexander Noren. I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see any of them win but none of them appeal as a betting proposition. While I have touched on the fact that Kaymer won here the week after 2010’s Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, that was a short journey from Wales and he was also making it as a member of a winning team. A case could be made for Thomas Pieters and Cabrera-Bello this week but it is asking a lot for them to be ready to fly out of the blocks on Thursday and a good start is usually required here.

There are two players that I really like this week and I can’t separate them so I’m splitting stakes and taking two Englishmen against the field this week.

I’ve had Tommy Fleetwood marked down for this for a little while such has been the quality of his iron play over the last 2 months. It’s just a shame the bookmakers have taken all the juice out of his price given his strong event form. His results here read 13th -2nd -5th -55th -5th so you can see why they fear him this week. Fleetwood has long been touted as a future Open champion given his ability on links courses. He hails from Southport and was brought up around some of the best links in England. His only win so far has been down the road in Perthshire when he won the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. That has always been a title that has gone to solid links players given the undulating and exposed course plays a lot like its neighbours on the coast.

Fleetwood’s last three tournaments yielded finishes of 10th, 7th and 13th and they were the result of some improved numbers as he now sits 3rd for GIR over the last 3 months. He also ranks 37th for birdie average and handles the wind very well indeed.

His 2nd win on Tour has been a long time coming but his recent upturn of form makes him a huge player this week and he might take some inspiration from seeing his peers playing at Hazeltine. His price is shorter than I would have liked but he still looks an excellent each way bet here at 30/1 with the best bank of course form on offer.

Ross Fisher turned his form around completely last time out in Germany as he finished 2nd to Alexander Levy. The Englishman fits the profile of previous Dunhill winners perfectly as he has a previous Top 5 in the event and he also used to be top-class reaching the World’s Top 10 if I remember correctly during his career year in 2009. Two years ago this was won the week after the Ryder Cup by an ex member of the European team in 2008, Oliver Wilson. He came from nowhere to win and it looked like he maybe got a bit of a kick up the rear end due to where his career had ended up relative to those who he played alongside in 2008.

It’s possible Fisher might have a similar reaction to last week’s tournament in Hazeltine but even if he doesn’t he looks a great bet coming off his recent play-off defeat. In that European Open he ranked 1st for total driving, 1st for total accuracy and 1st in the all-round ranking. It was only his ranking of 20th for total putting that prevented him winning but if it hadn’t been cut to 54 holes then I have no doubt his long game prowess would have got the better of Levy whose own game was beginning to unravel. That was still a putting improvement however for a player who has always been held back by his limitations on the greens. If he can keep that level of putting going this week then he will be very dangerous.

I expect him to play well again on a set of courses he knows and with question marks about a lot of the market leaders I think there is a fair bit of value in his odds of 40/1.

I’m a huge fan of George Coetzee and given his excellent putting ability on links greens I will probably continue to back him whenever he plays in Scotland. I will certainly continue to back him when the price is right and after some injuries and loss of form he is priced up like a nobody in Scotland this week. (He actually confirmed on Twitter today that is ankle is back to full strength) Let’s not forget that since he finally got his first European Tour win in February 2014, only Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett have more ET wins. He also shares the St. Andrews course record (62) from 2012 when he finished 5th in this event and he has finished 15th and 18th in the Open. Not to mention a play-off defeat in 2011 at Gleneagles so he is comfortable playing in the UK. Odds of 13/2 don’t accurately reflect his top 20 chances in my opinion and he looks well worth getting onside.

Joakim Lagergren finished 4th here last year and sits in 6th place in birdie average over the last 3 months. That alone was enough to interest me but the youngster’s only win actually came in Northern Ireland on the Challenge Tour. It wasn’t on a links course but it confirms that he is comfortable playing in the cooler, windier conditions in the UK. His recent finishes haven’t been great but that was the same last year so he has probably been waiting for conditions to suit. He also ranks 6th in Par 4 scoring average over the last 3 months so his game must be in decent shape.  Looks to have a good chance of another Top 20 and is probably over priced to get one on last year’s showing.

 


Summary of Bets

Dunhill Links

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.5pts ew @ 30/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 40/1

George Coetzee – Top 20 – 2pts @ 13/2

Joakim Lagergren – Top 20 – 1pt @ 13/2

Weekly pts advised – 8pts

Total pts advised – 802.50pts

@theGreek82