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.
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.
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
Jhonattan Vegas – 1tp ew @ 50/1
Daniel Summerhays – 0.5pt ew @ 90/1
Jon Curran – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1
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