Hero World Challenge – Betting Preview

​When I woke up and turned the highlights of the World Cup on on Sunday morning I saw Japan were -4 through 7 holes and just 3 shots behind Denmark. Stupidly I got a little excited but it was short lived as it soon became evident that Matsuyama was back to his old self on the putting greens and missing everything in sight. With the closing format being better ball, birdies were the order of the day and as the Japanese team’s dried up they were easily overtaken by several hot teams and they couldn’t even hold on for a Top 4 finish.

Another losing week leaves the totals looking like this;

Total points advised = 861.50

Total pts returned = 834.50

ROI = – 3.25 %

Given that this week sees the competitive return of the G.O.A.T at his own foundation’s event, it would be very easy to join the Tiger Woods circus and focus this week’s preview on the great man himself. So that’s exactly what I have done.

By Thursday morning 466 days will have passed since Tiger last played competitive golf at the Wyndham Championship, where he put 4 solid rounds together to finish in T10th place. The golfing landscape is a very different one to which he left but don’t be fooled into thinking it is one that won’t be improved by his presence. That’s not to say golf needs him as many in the media will no doubt try and claim this week but it would be nothing short of disrespectful, not to mention plain wrong, to claim his return isn’t a welcome one. During Woods’ career he single-handedly changed the modern golf game and while fans and journalists alike are spoiled by the number of world class athletes in the game now, most of them have Woods to thank for their massively inflated bank balances. You could argue that along with Michael Jordan in the years before him, they changed what being a modern sportsman is all about and they took being an elite sports star to another level.

Opinion is split on just what level Woods will get back to but where it really shouldn’t be split is the level that people hope he gets to. He is currently four majors shy of Nicklaus’ total of 18 and three PGA Tour wins shy of Sneed’s 82 and while this will be his first tournament back I would expect us to have a better idea of what might be possible come Sunday. I hope to see him put four decent rounds together this week, not finish a distant last and then hopefully push on in the New Year. There is no question that world golf is in a very healthy position right now but having a competitive Tiger Woods back on Tour would be the cherry on top of what already looks to be a very exciting 2017. Let’s hope that is the case.

As for the tournament itself, well the Hero World Challenge is a Tiger Woods Foundation benefit tournament and always used to be held at Sherwood Country Club until 2014 when it moved to Isleworth Golf and Country Club. It moved again last year as the 18-man elite field found themselves in the Bahamas on a new course in Albany. Last year we were going in a little blind with Ernie Els having only designed the course in 2010 and it had never hosted a professional tournament before. While there are no stats readily available for the 2015 leaderboard, we can still hopefully take a few pointers. There are also a number of pros that are members of the course and own a house on the resort but that didn’t appear to help Justin Rose last year as he struggled.

It looks a tournament where current form will be the most important factor this week as well as trying to work out whose game might be suited to the test. As we would expect with an 18 man field the odds are all very short so value will be a little tougher to find. Last year’s first two home had both been playing well with Bubba having finished 3rd last time out and Patrick Reed was on a run of 7th-2nd-10th. Although played on a different course we see the same with previous winners. In 2014 Spieth had just won the Australian Open the week before and Stenson (2nd) had scooped the DP World Championship two weeks prior. In 2013 Zach Johnson was having a very good season with Top 10s in the Open and PGA preceding a win during the Fed Ex Series at the BMW Championship and 3pts out of 4 at the Presidents Cup. Tiger Woods finished runner-up to him and he was back at World No. 1 and finishing up a year which included 5 PGA Tour wins. In 2012 Graeme McDowell had gone 12th -2nd -5th -11th in that season’s majors and 2nd placed Bradley had won the WGC Bridgestone and won 3pts on his Ryder Cup debut just weeks earlier. The World Challenge isn’t a tournament for turning around a bad year. 

The course is long (7400 yards) and the fairways are very wide with no rough to speak of at all. Instead the fairways are surrounded by lush white bunkers that resemble the sort of waste areas we have seen recently at Whistling Straits, Chambers Bay and Dove Mountain. The flat, wide and winding fairways also resemble Lake Malaren a little to me which along with Dove Mountain are Jack Nicklaus designs and Albany certainly has that second shot course appearance that you associate with Nicklaus courses. For the extremely errant off the tee there are some tall grasses growing in these waste areas but they appear to be another 10-15 yards back into the sand. The greens are quite well protected but are not too undulating and they are of a decent size so plenty birdies will be made as long as greens are hit and Bubba Watson’s winning score of -26 last year is testament to that. I’d expect more of the same this year so looking at current form and particularly recent GIR and birdie average numbers will be pertinent.

Additionally some players still have motivation in December but many of these will be treating this as the start of their Christmas holiday period with a nice family jaunt to The Bahamas. Previous evidence of still being motivated at this time of year and in particular this tournament will be a big plus in Albany this week.

Brooks Koepka maybe isn’t the best of prices in the Bahamas but he fits the profile of a World Challenge winner perfectly. While he hasn’t managed a PGA Tour win this year he has done everything but. The big hitting American has had two runner-up finishes and another six top 10s. Despite being forced to miss the Open through injury he will still look back on a very good year in the majors as he finished 21st at the Masters, 13th at the US Open and 4th at the US PGA. 

He also made his Ryder Cup debut 2 months ago and he won 3 points out of 4 to help the US team to a comfortable victory. This helped him to fly out of the blocks in the 2017 wraparound season and he very nearly won the Shriners but again had to settle for 2nd place. Throughout his relatively short career he has shown a willingness to travel to improve his game. Coming through both the Challenge Tour and the European Tour he has shown himself to be able to play on all sorts of courses in all kinds of conditions. This was evident again when he travelled to Japan three weeks ago to take part in the Dunlop Phoenix Open. He finally got his 2016 win in what was actually a reasonably strong field for the Japanese Tour. His winning score in Miyazaki was -21 and that has been the norm with his professional wins as they have come at -16, -27, -24, -18, -21, -17 and -15. That ties in nicely with Bubba’s winning score of -26 at the Albany course last year so his game should be suited by the low scoring nature of the course. That was the case last year as Koepka himself got to -18 to finish in 7th place and with him playing as well as anyone in the field I think he has a good chance of winning this on his second look.

Koepka has also performed well on the two tracks that are visually similar as he finished T18th at Chambers Bay and then T5th at Whistling Straits. He currently ranks 18th in GIR from 175-200 yards and 10th in proximity to the hole from 200-225 yards and that long iron game together with his power off the tee is why he plays long courses like Albany so well. He also sits 27th in birdie average so we know the putter is behaving again after turning a little cold earlier in the year.

It’s an extremely strong field but I think he will have more motivation than most as he aims to lay a marker down for the 2017 season and with a strong year in the majors, a winning Ryder Cup debut, brilliant recent form as well as some course form, I think he looks the man to beat this year. 

I have had a quick look at the tournaments in both South Africa and Australia but they are both dominated by their home favourites and they both look very hard to oppose. So instead for an interest I’m having as solid a looking double as you will find in golf on Charl Schwartzel and Adam Scott at around 16/1.

                       Summary of bets

Hero World Challenge 

Brooks Koepka – 2pts ew @ 12/1

Other tournaments

Charl Schwartzel (Alfred Dunhill) + Adam Scott (Australia PGA) – 2pts win double at 16.5/1 

Weekly points advised – 6pts

Overall pts advised – 867.50 pts



World Cup of Golf – Betting Preview 

​While there were some returns last week it was yet another frustrating week. Dubuisson was the 3rd round leader in Dubai only to tread water on Sunday and find himself having to get up and down on 18 just to get us 2/5ths of the place money. Tyrell Hatton played brilliantly as expected and easily won the Top 10 bet but for the second year running at the DP World Championship I was left ruing the decision to only have a top 10 bet rather than go each way on the eventual runner-up.

On the PGA Tour Chris Kirk was one of the many fancied runners who somehow missed the cut and to be honest I’m quite looking forward to a the Christmas break on the 2017 PGA Tour season as it is proving even more difficult than 2016. Such is the depth on Tour now almost anyone in the field can come from nowhere and win these regular Tour events now and while that can throw up some tasty prices, if we look at last week’s play off protagonists then it feels like you might as well just pick a player at random at the moment!

Jamie Lovemark finished in the agonising 6th place last week but he was actually 3 shots adrift of 5th and never really looked like getting involved after a poor 3rd round.

The week returned 8.9 points which leaves things as follows with just three previews left this year;

Total pts advised = 856.50

Total pts returned = 834.46

ROI = -2.57%

This week we just have the one event and that is the World Cup of Golf in Australia.

                       WORLD CUP OF GOLF

If people looking in at Golf at the Olympics thought it odd how few of the golfing elite sought an Olympic Gold medal then they would be completely amazed at the even more blasé attitude towards the World Cup of Golf.  The football World Cup is probably the 2nd biggest sporting event in the world but yet Golf’s equivalent is usually nothing more than an end of season jolly and a chance to play competitively around a different course. Both those aspects apply perfectly this week as the list of those who have passed up the chance to play this week is a very long one but yet those who have committed get the chance to play on one of the best courses in the world – Kingston Heath. 

Played every two years around the world the competition is made up of 28 teams of two men representing their country. The highest ranking players from the first 28 countries are given the option to play with a teammate of their choice, should they not wish to take their chance then the next highest ranked is given the option and so on. In terms of format we will see a mix of better ball and alternate shot across the four days with the winning team being that with the best stroke-play score after four rounds on Sunday. The individual trophy has been scrapped this year after it overshadowed the team event somewhat in 2013.

The host course Kingston Heath is part of the famous Melbourne sandbelt and it’s often considered Australia’s finest design. These days it is used sparingly for tournaments so it’s great to see competitive golf back on the famous layout. Recent competitions held there include the 2009 and 2012 Australian Masters and the 2000 Australian Open.

The course was historically considered a brute and used to play to a par of 82 but these days it is just of average length as a 7087 yard Par 72. Its prestige comes from being a fantastically strategic course with fast fairways and greens as you would expect on a sandbelt course and it is expected to play very much like that this week. That will make avoiding the bunkers crucial as they are strategically placed and very deep but the sand itself is shallow. With Alistair Mackenzie having been responsible for their placement back in the 1920s they resemble classic links bunkers with high lips and greens falling away from the greenside traps. This will make par an extremely good score on any hole where a bunker is found. 

The previous edition of the World Cup was held at Royal Melbourne and was won by the best team on paper in Adam Scott and Jason Day. Given how tough a test we see on sandbelt courses I think it will be prudent to look towards the best ball-strikers again this year as you simply can’t hack it around Kingston Heath and hope to make a score. That is backed up even further by the two rounds of alternate shot where accurate players always prosper.

Upon a first look at the field the first thing that hit me was the disparity between the best teams here and the worst. We have seen lesser lights raise their game for the World Cup in the past but at one end we have the likes of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell and at the other end we have SSP Chawrasia and Seenappa Chikkarangappa and Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que. As a result I think we can dismiss a large number of teams from this event and instead focus on the teams with two players that regularly perform on the top two Tours.

The three teams mentioned already (US, Australia and Ireland) are the only three to have two players who have both won on the PGA Tour. On paper alone that puts them well ahead of the next group of teams which are those that include two players who have both won on either the PGA Tour or European Tour. These include England (Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan), Thailand (Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnat), Denmark (Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen), Sweden (Alex Noren and David Lingmerth), Italy (Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero), Belgium (Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Pieters) and China (Ashun Wu and Hai Tong Li). Away from those there are another two teams with one top class player and another solid pro who for the sake of these rankings can be considered along-side these teams. These are Japan (Hideki Matsuyama and Ryo Ishikawa) and South Korea (Benny An and KT Kim). Two other teams are deserving of an honourable mention as Jon Rahm has only just turned professional and he will play alongside the ever-improving Rafa Cabrera-Bello for Spain while Jaco-Van Zyl is a very accomplished player even if he hasn’t managed the elusive European Tour win that his teammate George Coetzee eventually got in 2014.

I find it very hard to see any of the rest having the combined ability to compete with these teams and therefore that gives me a rather long short-list of fourteen teams. If it were being played on an easier course then we might see a more competitive event but I’d expect the gap between first and last to be a substantial one after 72 holes around Australia’s finest test of golf. 

Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker are surely priced on reputation and their country alone as they have both been playing some fairly mediocre golf of late. In fact if we remove Walker’s leftfield US PGA win then he only has one other Top 10 since March. Fowler has picked his form up a little with a Top 10 in the WGC HSBC event but on the whole 2016 has been forgettable for him and we simply don’t know which Rickie will turn up in Melbourne.  Despite the layout no doubt suiting Fowler’s game they can be easily dismissed as 2nd favourites at just 8/1 and the bookmakers are beginning to agree as they are being pushed out slowly.

Adam Scott and Marc Leishman are harder to ignore as the home favourites. Scott is the world number 7 and won the Australian Masters around Kingston Heath in 2012 whereas Leishman’s game is perfectly suited to sandbelt golf and he was born in Victoria. But Leishman has been playing poorly lately and Scott was disappointing around Royal Sydney GC last week where he could only finish 14th in a fairly weak field. Again they are priced more on Scott’s lofty reputation in the game and probably shouldn’t be as short as 5/1 here.

But we don’t have to look much further down the market as the team I like most is the 3rd favourite Japan. For as long as the competition has existed they have taken it very seriously and with two wins and four runner-up finishes they are the 7th most successful country. They last won it in 2001 but they were T3rd last time out at Royal Melbourne in 2013 and Ryo Ishikawa finished T5th in the individual event. Ishikawa returns this year but he happens to have the most in-form player in world golf alongside him in Hideki Matsuyama. Matsuyama has current worldwide form figures of 5th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, and 1st, and since he found something with his putting stroke he has looked almost unbeatable. Ishikawa has been playing some fine golf himself with a win on the Japanese Tour followed by a 2nd, a 3rd and then a top 10 on the PGA Tour in the CIMB Classic last month.

With Ishikawa’s experience of sandbelt conditions together with Matsuyama’s almost peerless ball-striking this partnership will take a lot of stopping by the field gathered in Australia. As we enter summer down under you can expect conditions to be fairly hot but these two are one of the youngest teams in the competition with only France having a lower combined age. They won’t tire over four days in the heat and Matsuyama usually performs even better in warm, dry conditions. One of his PGA Tour wins was in the Arizona desert and he also performed admirably around a dried out Muirfield when finishing 6th at The Open as a 21 year old playing in just his 2nd professional Major.
The hard and fast conditions of the course will require accuracy in all parts of the game and Matsuyama has perhaps the best distance control in the world with his approaches. That will help him hit more of these slick greens than everyone else.

With top-class, in-form competition thin on the ground in Melbourne this week I’d expect the Japanese team to show their class and it wouldn’t surprise me if they won this going away such is the level that Matsuyama has been playing to lately.

It’s hard to be too confident given how difficult the 2017 PGA Tour season has been so far but Reed obliged last time we had a change of format at the Ryder Cup so let’s take advantage of another change and have a decent win bet on the Japanese at a very fair 10.5 on the exchange but also a place bet whereby we will get all stakes back for a Top 4 finish.

I might add an outsider to place later in the week but wanted to get the best price possible posted early on Japan.

                     Summary of bets

Japan – 3pts win @ 10.5, 2pts Top 4 @ 2.5

Weekly points advised – 5pts

Total pts advised – 861.50pts 


RSM Classic and DP World Championship – Betting Preview 

Another week on the PGA Tour and yet another long odds surprise winner. This time Pat Perez obliged after some 7 years without a win and having missed the bulk of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. In truth he had shown something having returned to Tour with a 33rd and 7th before Mexico but few could have predicted him winning in such fashion and it was another excellent PGA Tour week for the bookmakers. Bradley and Huh both played quite well without ever really threatening to do anything and finished inside the Top 25.
Events were a little more straight-forward in South Africa with Alexander Noren picking up his 4th win in his last 11 starts to fire himself to World No. 9 which is by some distance his career high. After Thursday I was actually feeling quite good about the Stenson bet as he was traded at a low of around 2.8 but that feeling was short lived as he struggled badly on Friday and was always just too far behind to mount a proper challenge to either his compatriot Noren or the impressive Wang while he was out in front.

The results are as follows;

Total pts advised =  846pts

Total pts returned = 825.56pts 

ROI = -2.5%

After 2016 is finished I plan to continue with the results over calendar years rather than ongoing. As ever though, I will make results available to anyone who might want them.

This week we have the final official PGA Tour event of the year with the RSM Classic and the 2016 European Tour season culminates with the DP World Championship in Dubai.

                          RSM CLASSIC

We cross back over the border this week for The RSM Classic which will take place at Sea Island Golf Club, Georgia. It is in its seventh running and it was previously known as The Mcgladrey Classic until last year due to a change of sponsor. The resort itself is very picturesque and has resulted in many Tour pros setting up home in the Sea Island area. Indeed this tournament was actually initiated by Davis Love III and Zach Johnson who are two of the biggest names to live there. There are several other players who reside there and it is definitely worth paying close attention to those who will be able to sleep in their own beds this week while playing on a course they know intimately. As well as possibly living in the area we should also take note of those who regularly play well in the area and indeed those that attended The University of Georgia. Last year’s winner Kevin Kisner was a “Georgia Bulldog”, he was born and bred just over the border in South Carolina and he had a fairly solid bank of form around the East coast area. Those were the heady of days of 2015 however when there seemed to be a little bit of logic to golf betting and Kisner was indeed a very obvious winner.

This week there are two courses in play as they all have a round on the Plantation Course (7,058 yard Par 70) as well as the main Seaside Course (7,055 yard Par 70) before those that make the cut continue over the Seaside at the weekend. Both courses are fairly short with a good spread of trees and water in play. Length off the tee isn’t really a huge advantage around Sea Island and therefore it is another week where the shorter hitters usually contend. The fairways aren’t overly narrow but finding the correct landing areas is imperative to getting close to the flags on the Seaside Course. The greens on both courses are on the larger side and are bermuda.

The last 5 winners are a mix of accurate drivers, neat and tidy wedge games but above all strong putters; Kevin Kisner, Robert Streb, Chris Kirk, Tommy Gainey and Ben Crane being those five men. A look at the stats from recent renewals backs that idea up. Kevin Kisner ranked 9th for GIR, 3rd for scrambling and 2nd for total putting last year. Robert Streb ranked 1st in total putting and Chris Kirk, while not putting as well as usual, ranked 15th for GIR and 5th for scrambling. Tommy Gainey and Ben Crane both won their titles with a brilliant display on the greens, each ranking 2nd for total putting.

Having watched Kisner’s win very closely last year the one thing that caught my eye was how he peppered the flags and then appeared to hole everything in the 5ft-20ft range. The same could often be said about an in-form Chris Kirk or Robert Streb which got me thinking whether there was any one stat that might link the Sea Island winners. To me, “Scoring relative to par from approaches 125-150 yards” looks pretty much perfect. It is better than simply looking at proximity as it also takes into account whether a player is actually taking advantage of repeatedly hitting their wedges in close to the pin. Streb, Kirk and Kisner all ranked inside the Top 10 for this stat in either the season of their win or the season just finished. Beyond the normal stats I think this looks to be a very important one this week and we should also consider the 100-125 and 150-175 yard categories to allow for the longer and shorter hitters. Kisner had also shown a liking for bermuda greens earlier in the year when finishing 2nd at both Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass.

With the way 2016 is going I should really know better than pick someone so obvious but I’ve been over this a few times and I simply can’t get away from Chris Kirk this week. I know he is probably too short a price but so too are most of the market leaders. Kirk is actually the slight favourite for this at around 18/1and while you could look at Jim Furyk at 35/1 and baulk at him being double the price, you could also look at Charles Howell III (35/1) and wonder how Kirk is only half of his price. Ultimately, the odds that someone is prepared to take on a player can be very personal and there will be many this week that will easily dismiss Kirk at the odds. But I have just about made peace with the fact that I’m going to back him as I actually think he might win. Kisner was similarly short last year and I still backed him and that worked out ok. It could just be that Sea Island is a good venue for those expected to go well and how badly we need one of those!

Chris Kirk has everything going for him this week and more. As the 2013 winner here we know he likes the course, he studied in Georgia, he lives nearby, and he followed up his win with a 4th place finish as defending champion. Another solid showing last year resulted in a T18th when he was in fairly poor form and still suffering from a slight President’s Cup hangover having made his U.S. team debut the previous month.

However this season he has three top 10s from just four tournaments with the pick of those a runner-up finish at The Sanderson Farms. When finishing 7th last week he ranked 5th for total driving and 2nd for GIR and when his long game is that strong he is a real danger, especially in this relatively week field. His putter actually let him down a little last week but there is no way he will let that happen again on these bermuda greens which he knows as well as anyone.

While I was keen on Kirk long before I saw his price, it was his stats that pushed me over the line and helped me to take the short price. After establishing that “Scoring – Approaches (RTP) from 125-150 yards” would be important I noticed that Kirk currently sits in 20th for that stat but also 31st for  the 100-25 yard category. We know he is keeping the ball in the fairway so with several short par 4s I’d expect to see him with plenty of birdie putts inside 20ft and there are normally very few better from that range, certainly in this field. Kirk currently ranks 10th for strokes gained: putting and a solid 45th for scrambling.

The shock winners can’t continue all season and while it didn’t work last week with Bradley, this method did work very well at the RSM Classic last year so with the only negative being his price, Kirk is a confident selection to win his 5th PGA Tour title playing in his own back yard.

As an alternative to the favourite, Jamie Lovemark looks an excellent each way bet at 80/1 off the back of his 9th place finish on his debut last year, but if we explore further then the value looks to be standout this week. He drove it further than everyone that week but he also hit more greens than anyone else which can normally be a very hard thing to do around Sea Island. His stats are looking good again this year for this test as he sits 39th in strokes gained: putting, 17th in scrambling and 23rd in “Scoring RTP from 100-125 yards”. That will be the range that he will find himself having left for his approach on a lot of these Par 4s given his length off the tee.

Lovemark is another player who was threatening to win last season but so far he has eased into the 2017 season. He is playing well though and with a 35th place finish last week I think he will arrive at Sea Island with fond memories of the course from last year and hopefully he can improve on his second look. 

Trey Mullinax is yet another in the long list of 2017 exciting young rookies and while he hasn’t performed as well as the likes of Cody Gribble or Seamus Power yet he is of interest this week at a course that suits. The best part of Mullinax’s game is his putting so he was on my shortlist before I discovered he was one of the many PGA Tour players that practice regularly at the Sea Island Performance Centre. This means he will be familiar with the course and might help explain how he finished 25th last year on just his 3rd PGA Tour start. Mullinax ranks 6th for birdie average over the last 3 months and 9th in Par 4 scoring over the same time so this probably looks the best course for him so far this season. He looks well worth an each way interest this week at 150/1.

             DP World Championship

The Final Series on The European Tour has taken a bit of a bashing lately but the Tour has definitely been helped out by the way events have panned out on the Race to Dubai. It’s still relatively open with Henrik Stenson, Danny Willet, Alex Noren and Rory McIlroy all still in with a mathematical chance of winning the 2016 title. This should make for an exciting tournament and hopefully the finale that the European Tour deserves.

The course is the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Estate in Dubai as has been the norm since 2009. It is an extremely long course at 7675 yards and subsequently over the years it has always been won by some of the best ball strikers the European Tour has to offer.

Two of those lead the way this week in Rory McIlroy and Henri Stenson and few could argue with that given we have to go back to 2011 to find a different name on the trophy. They are both very short prices and while either one of them could win by 10 strokes here it certainly looks worthwhile trying to find some each way alternatives in a market that they dominate.

With Victor Dubuisson hovering on the leaderboard in South Africa on Sunday I’m sure there were many waiting on his price on Monday morning given his strong form at the Earth Course here in Dubai. He has finished 9th, 2nd and 3rd on his three appearances to date so when some firms opened at 90/1 then people must have thought Christmas had come early and he was very quickly cut. Unfortunately I missed that and now there is only a little bit of 45/1 around but with his whole game looking sharp last week that still rates a bet for me.

His long game in particular was in fantastic shape last week as he ranked 2nd for total driving and 4th in GIR, which is generally the skillset that wins this. The brutally long course demands distance off the tee and accurate long irons into the heavily undulating greens which are well protected by bunkers and water. 

Away from McIlroy and Stenson, Dubuisson probably has the best course form and is a very obvious pick so even at 45/1 he looks a solid each way prospect. He has had a poor 2016 but at his best he is top class and we know he can win in this strong a field having twice won a Final Series tournament in Turkey. Hopefully last week was the enigmatic Frenchman returning to somewhere near his best and if that is the case he should contend again on a course that suits his eye.

Last year I was ruing not backing Andy Sullivan in the outright market at around 50/1. I fancied he would go well but only backed him in the Top 10 market. After chasing McIlroy home last year his price is nowhere near as fancy this time around but all the same logic applies. His long game has been back to its best over the last couple of months and despite appearing to have a poor Ryder Cup, Sullivan actually played as well as McIlroy in the opening session, if not better than, and was a little unlucky not to play again until the Sunday.

Last week in South Africa he ranked 4th in total driving and 21st in GIR which helped to 2nd in the all-round ranking and a 3rd place finish overall.

I didn’t love his price when he first opened on the Exchange but there is still some 25/1 around and that looks like a perfectly fair price. The same names always appear on the leaderboard in Dubai each year and after a brilliant debut last year I’m sure we will see the smiling Nuneaton man in contention again this year.

With Stenson and McIlroy no doubt set to fill two of the places I’m keeping my outright bets at two and instead having a small Top 10 bet on someone who is having an excellent year. I’ve had a little success with Tyrell Hatton this year despite missing out on his win. He started badly in the feature group last week alongside Stenson and Willet but away from the spotlight he rallied well to finish 25th and his driving was on point as he finished 11th for total driving. He is another player with a good record around the course despite his tee-to-green game not being anywhere close to this year’s standard in the past. He finished 6th on his debut immediately getting to grips with the greens and he then returned a 13th last year. Hatton is a far more accomplished player now and has his European Tour win to prove it. He plays his best stuff on links and desert tracks with an 8th place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic in February this year before his excellent Links performances this summer culminated in a St Andrews win at the Alfred Dunhill. At 3/1 he looks a rock solid Top 10 bet this week in a field of just 60.

                  SUMMARY OF BETS

RSM Classic

Chris Kirk – 1.5pt ew @ 18/1

Jamie Lovemark – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Trey Mullinax – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

DP World Championship

Victor Dubuisson – 1pt ew @ 45/1

Andy Sullivan – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Tyrell Hatton – 1pt Top 10 @ 3/1

Weekly pts advised – 10.5pts

Total advised pts – 856.5pts


OHL Mayakoba Classic – Betting Preview

Molinari got us a share of the each way money last week and with a closing -10 par he showed us that the course did suit but it was a little too late to trouble Pampling who was yet another massive shock on the PGA Tour.

John Huh did most of his best work on the Thursday but rallied to finish in T10th after a solid enough weekend.

Leaves the results as follows

Total points advised = 840

Total points returned = 825.56

ROI = -1.75%

OHL Mayakoba Classic

It’s been a bit rushed this week due to being ill the last couple of days but still like the look of a couple in this.

The PGA Tour takes its now regular jaunt down to Mexico this week and the El Cameleon Golf Club in Playa Del Carmen. Let’s hope they can all make it back safely before Trump builds his wall!

The course is a short, fiddly, tree-lined Par 71 at 6987 yards long. The greens are sea paspalum again as we were in Kuala Lumpur 3 weeks ago. This is the 5th running at this course and the previous four winners are John Huh, Harris English , Charley Hoffmann and Graeme McDowell. All four are good drivers of the ball and when you look at photos of the narrow fairways with fairly lush rough you can see why the course generally suits the more accurate types. There are no doubt some very accurate 2017 rookies so there is no reason to think another fearless rookie can’t go in again this week but generally the new batch tend to be more of the grip it and rip it ranks these days. I think there are just about enough tricks at the El Cameleon course to make it very hard for anyone to turn up and contend while spraying their ball around. So without ruling them out I tried to look more closely at those that have played here before and know exactly the type of test they face. There have been a couple of debut winners but it is far more a place where plodding, experienced players go well.

Keegan Bradley is one of the best drivers in the game so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he finished 8th here on his debut last year nor that he currently ranks 8th for total driving over the last 3 months. Since the anchoring ban he has really struggled to find a stroke that works for him but this week the sea paspalum may be a bit of an equaliser. After a tough 2016 season where he only managed two Top 10s he has already equalled that after just 3 tournaments. On his last two starts he finished 6th on the sea paspalum greens at the CIMB Classic and then 7th last week at the Shriners. His putting wasn’t exactly amazing but he is finding a way to be competitive again and he currently ranks 96th for total putting over the last 3 months which is a massive improvement on 256th over the last year. While his price might look a little skinny we shouldn’t forget that this is a major champion who was a solid enough putter when he first arrived on Tour.

With yet another shock winner last week in Rod Pampling, 2016 has been the year to ignore the tried and tested combo of current form + course form but that can surely only be short term. Golf punters will be hoping things revert back to normal on Tour sooner rather than later and I’m hoping it starts this week with Keegan Bradley.

John Huh flew out of the blocks last week and he looked all set to contend at a rather hefty 200/1. He followed his opening 62 however with a 73 and although he rallied a little over the weekend he couldn’t finish any better than T10th. But for me that was a huge hint that his game is getting back to somewhere near its best. If that’s the case then where better for him to visit than the scene of his first PGA Tour win in 2012.I would be annoyed if he contended having tipped him lat week so despite his odds crashing a little I think 80/1 is just about fair for an in-form course winner.


Nedbank Challenge

I’ve spent even less time on this as it looks a bit of a conundrum with the vastly superior Henrik Stenson going off as a short price favourite in South Africa. While he looks a little short it is a restricted field tournament and the next players in the market also look a bit short. There is probably a little bit of each way value to be had down the field but without the time to research instead I’m going to have a win only bet on one of my favourite players. Stenson is always an enjoyable bet and he was only outdone by an inspired Leishman here last year. He is definitely the man to beat here and with the chance to win the Race of Dubai this year that extra momentum should see him take control.

Summary of Bets

OHL Classic

Keegan Bradley – 1pt ew @ 28/1

John Huh – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Nedbank Challenge

Henrik Stenson – 3pts win @ 4.8

Weekly points advised – 6pts

Total points advised – 846pts


Shriners Open and Turkish Airlines Open – Betting Preview

Thanks to an awful weekend performance from Richard Bland, we are firmly in the red figures now unfortunately. After starting brilliantly in China with a pair of 68s, he went backwards and subsequently reminded me of the golden rule of golf betting – never place any money on Richard Bland!

Paul Casey hung around close enough to the leaders to give me a little hope over the four days but ultimately he also just served to remind me why I never back him!

Having tipped Hideki Matsuyama in a couple of WGCs over the last 18 months I felt a little foolish to miss out on his 7 shot win. Although such is his ability I won’t be alone in thinking that and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to putt well over the next year. If he can then surely a major awaits for a player whose iron game stands up against anyone else in the world.

The blog results now read;

Total points advised = 833pts

Total points returned = 819.89pts

ROI = -1.6%

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Rewind to August 1996 and a certain young amateur golfer had just turned professional, it would take Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods only a matter of weeks to get his first win as a pro and this week in Las Vegas we mark the 20th anniversary of that momentous occasion at TPC Summerlin. Despite his impressive amateur career, few expected the great man to have quite the impact on modern sport that he has had over the last 20 years. He has barely hit a ball over the last three years and he still takes up as many column inches as any other golfer which is testament to his achievements and the way in which he changed the game. It’s a great shame that he isn’t playing this week to celebrate but we will hopefully still see him before the end of the year.

It’s also a shame that the field isn’t up to the sort of standards that Tiger used to regularly maul on Tour as many haven’t rushed back from China to play. That leaves us with a weak looking market headed by Ryan Moore at just 20/1 and that probably tells us just how open it is as we seldom see the favourite for any tournament trading at over 16/1.

But who is to say that the next Tiger Woods isn’t teeing it up this week (hhhhm) and this is yet another chance for the rookies to get off the market early in the Fall Series. Indeed 9 of the last 12 winners at TPC Summerlin were doing so for the first time on the PGA Tour. Some of those were a lot less fancied than last year’s winner Smylie Kaufman who despite being a 250/1 shot was advised by several shrewd tipsters. Cody Gribble showed us just last week what a young, hungry rookie can do when up against more established players. His aggression on the back 9 was refreshing to see and is something that a player often tends to lose over time as nerves start to prevail. While he was firing at flags and racing his putts to the hole, the likes of Delaet, Glover and even Kirk were playing it safe and allowing Gribble to win comfortably in the end. So the in-form rookies must be given the utmost respect again here this week especially Xander Schaufelle and Ryan Blaum who both recorded a top 12 finish last week just as Kaufman did last year.

TPC Summerlin is a Par 72 course designed by Pete Dye protégé, Bobby Weed and while it plays at 7243 yards long it is at altitude so the ball will fly a little bit further for everyone. The fairways are quite wide and while inaccurate drivers can prosper, the winner generally finds a lot of fairways. The greens are bent grass and are some of the larger faced on Tour at 7500 square feet. Weed also designed TPC River Highlands, home of the Travelers Championship so it worth having a look at those leaderboards as there are a lot of players who play well on both. Despite having small, bent grass greens, Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass is another course worth consideration as most of the recent winners here have all performed well at The Players Championship. A strong short game is required on most Pete Dye courses and while that used to be the case at TPC Summerlin, the last two winners have actually performed poorly around the greens. Prior to that Simpson, Moore and Na ranked 3rd, 5th and 5th respectively for scrambling but with Kaufman and Martin ranking just 49th and 71st, it could be that getting up and down is less important when scoring is a little tougher as it was in 2014 and 2015. Scoring is usually very low and the with no wind forecast the winner will probably have to get to at least 20 under par.

On the whole I believe the most relevant attribute this week will be accuracy. During the week of their win the last seven winners averaged 10th for driving accuracy and while that alone could be misleading, especially with the often wayward Kaufman winning last year, Simpson, Moore and Na are generally considered to be among the straighter drivers on Tour. Further to driving accuracy, GIR looks to be very important so perhaps total accuracy (a hybrid of driving accuracy and GIR) should be the leading stat to focus on this week where again the last seven winners averaged 7th for total accuracy on the week of their win. With the size of the greens, proximity to the hole looks key this week too. A high number of greens will be hit by the field so getting the ball close to the flag looks to be the way to score and Moore and Na regularly sit in lofty positions for proximity to the hole.

Whenever large greens are a feature then lag –putting becomes crucial to scoring so 3-putt avoidance is definitely worth consideration here. I would also give a little more weight than usual to Par 3 scoring this week, any course where Ryan Moore and Kevin Na have both won suggests a tough set of Par 3s and that is backed up by the stats as the last five winners ranked 3rd, 1st, 1st, 5th and 1st on the shorter holes.

I’m surprising myself this week by tipping Francesco Molinari as I’m usually one of his biggest critics on account of his fairly average short game. The rest of his game however is never in doubt so it was particularly noticeable to see him rank 4th in total putting last week on the bent grass greens at Sheshan on his way to yet another Top 10. With Molinari it is easy to think that was just a fluke but his putting has actually been very strong this year, especially over the last few months. The under achieving Italian currently ranks 1st on the European Tour for putts/GIR and 3rd for one putts. That is quite a turnaround and it is no coincidence that it resulted in his first win in over four years just two starts ago. It is evident when you watch him on the greens as he used to always leave makeable birdie putts short (0 % of putts left short go in the hole!) and he is now attacking them with a little more aggression.

The rest of his brilliant tee-to-green game is perfectly suited to TPC Summerlin as he has built his career on hitting fairways and greens. The fact the greens are large this week will help negate his relatively poor chipping as a large percentage of greens will be hit by the field. Molinari can thrive on any course where proximity to the hole is paramount and that can be seen by his last two appearances at TPC Sawgrass where he finished 7th and 6th in elite company.

As you would expect for one of the straightest drivers in the game, only Stenson sits above him in driving accuracy for the European Tour season. His last start prior to the WGC he was seen winning his home Open which is no easy task and if we combine those results then he has the best form in the field. Over on the PGA Tour his putting would normally put me off given so many of the tournaments are essentially birdie-fests. But his short-stick improvements and his current form make me think he has a great chance this week at a tournament where he won’t feel intimidated by any big names. If he is ever going to win a PGA Tour title, this looks to be one of his better chances and although he hasn’t seen the course before (that didn’t stop Kaufman last year) I think he looks a very fair price indeed at 28/1.

The one downside to backing Molinari is that he is far from reliable, certainly in contention. So I think it is worthwhile to have a couple of other picks this week and while John Huh is a quite a left field pick, he has shown glimpses that he may be coming back to the kind of form that saw him named 2012 Rookie of The Year.

If we ignore Kaufman and Martin then the previous 4 winners all played poorly in Vegas the year before but owned a Top 15 finish from earlier in their careers. Huh fits that profile nicely as he missed the cut last year but had form figures of 28-30-13 from his first three efforts at TPC Summerlin. That on its own wouldn’t be enough but it was actually his total accuracy ranking of 10th over the last 3 months that alerted me to a possible turnaround. He also ranked 36th for proximity to hole, 3rd in par 3 scoring and 21st in putting 15’ – 25’ for the 2016 season which will help him here. After a fairly miserable run early in the summer of 8 missed cuts from 11 tournaments he is currently on a run of 6 consecutive weekends and on his last two efforts he ranked 3rd and 5th for total accuracy. They aren’t the sort of figures you see for someone playing poorly so hopefully a return to TPC Summerlin can bring about the slight improvement required on the greens and he can contend again at 150/1.

My third pick is a player that I tipped for this last year but the logic still applies and while he is in fairly poor form I think he is perfectly suited to this course so I’ wiling to give him another go at a big each way price. With huge greens this week then 3-putt avoidance will be crucial and Colt Knost ranked 23rd in 2016 for this while also ranking 1st for driving accuracy. Knost is a former US Amateur Champion and World No. 1 ranked amateur so we know he has ability. Since his 2007 Walker Cup appearance he has had to sit back and watch many of his team mates go onto far bigger things (Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk) and I’m hoping that he might have taken some inspiration from his foursomes partner that week, Dustin Johnson, who has just had a career year. Knost’s best performance to date came at TPC Sawgrass in May (3rd) which further highlights how much this test should suit him. It’s very speculative but he made his first cut in five starts at the CIMB Classic so with a week off he will be ready yo go again and at odds of 300/1 a small bet won’t hurt.

Turkish Open

This week sees the start of the European Tour Final Series run that will culminate as usual in Dubai in two weeks time. Annoyingly after accumulating three years of course form at the Montgomerie Maxx course the Turkish Open switches to a relatively unknown course this week; the Regnum Carya Golf Club. That makes things very tricky as we can only go on course descriptions to try to ascertain who might go well this week. The fact that several of the better players have withdrawn doesn’t help matters asthe result is a very congested betting market with 15 or so of the next tier of European Tour players all trading between 12/1 and 33/1.

That tells me that it isn’t a tournament to be getting heavily involved in but as ever it is still worth a look at to see if there is a value angle in.

Regnum Carya Golf Club was designed by Thomson, Perrett & Lobb Golf Course Architects which was founded by 5-time Open Champion Peter Thomson and it was said to have been designed with the heathland courses around about London. These include the likes of Wentworth, Walton Heath, Sunningdale and Woburn and having managed to find a video of the course (albeit a floodlit night golf video) that is clear. I don’t ever remember seeing so many trees on a course and it looks to be a very narrow driving course. The rough doesn’t appear to be a problem but if the fairways are missed then the chances of having a clear route to the green look very slim. Which is very much how Woburn and Wentworth appear and I think those two probably look to be the most similar to the Carya Golf Club. I often mention how many good links players tend to play well at Wentworth and with Peter Thomson being one of the all time great links players it makes sense that he would incorporate as many links features as he can to a heathland course.

I have found three well priced players who should all enjoy the tight tree-lined track this week. Matthew Southgate is on a very sneaky run of strong form and after missing 5 cuts earlier on in the year he has ten top 22 finishes from his last twenty tournaments. In fact only twice when making the cut did he not convert his chance into a top 22 finish. His last tow tournaments resulted in 17th and 18th place finishes with his tee to green game particularly strong as he ranked 14th and 10th for total accuracy. He even finished 11th for total putting last time out so I would expect him to go well on a course that looks set to reward accurate driving.

Benjamin Hebert looks a solid each way bet this week arriving off a 10th place finish in Portugal where he ranked 5th for total accuracy. Hebert has some form around tree-lined tracks near London having won around The Stoke on the Challenge Tour in 2011. He also finished 12th at Wentworth earlier this year so the Carya course should fit his eye off the tee. Further to the course suiting he has also performed well on both his trips to Turkey with an 18th place finish in this tournament last year and a 22nd when visiting on the Challenge Tour. The Frenchman isn’t afraid to win having racked up 6 wins in 3 years on the lower grade Tour so should he find himself in contention on Sunday he won’t go backwards like so many.

When accuracy off the tee is at a premium then Fabrizio Zanotti is usually expected to go well and he completes the line-up here. He is arrow straight off the tee and he finished 2nd behind Matt Fitzpatrick around Woburn this time last year and then 7th around Wentworth in May. His form has been no better than fair of late but at odds of 66/1 he has to be included due to his recent form around English tree-lined courses alone.

Andy Sullivan looks to have a great chance this week as he brings the best form to the event and he has been striking the ball brilliantly over the last few months. But his price has been cut and I don’t think I can back him at just 12/1 on a course that he hasn’t seen before. Instead I will include him in a small each way double with Francesco Molinari.


Summary of Bets

Shriners Open

Francesco Molinari – 1pt ew @ 30/1

John Huh – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Colt Knost – 0.25pt ew @ 300/1

Turkish Open

Matthew Southgate – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Benjamin Hebert – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Fabrizio Zanotti – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

0.25 ew double @ 402/1 – Molinari + Sullivan


Weekly points advised – 7pts

Total pts advised – 840pts