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.
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
Francesco Molinari – 1pt ew @ 30/1
John Huh – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1
Colt Knost – 0.25pt ew @ 300/1
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