Phoenix Open and Dubai Desert Classic – Betting Preview

Gary Woodland got to within one shot of the lead on Sunday and got a lot of people quite excited as he was very well backed last week. Eventually though his horrendous week of driving (35% fairways hit) got the better of him and he fell away in dramatic fashion to finish down in 20th place.

Europe went a little more according to plan though and Chris Paisley obliged with the Top 20 after looking lke he would miss the cut on Friday. He closed his round with birdie-ace-birdie to make the cut and leave me wondering how well he might have fared with a better start on Thursday. Nobody took fewer shots than his 203 from from Friday to Sunday.

2017 totals are as follows;

Total points advised =43

Total points returned =38.54pts

ROI =-10.40%

This week the PGA Tour heads to Arizona for its usual raucous at TPC Scottsdale and the European Tour rounds off its Middle East Swing in Dubai.


Phoenix Open

On the biggest weekend of the year for US Sport it is perhaps fitting that Golf joins in the party and that is one way of describing the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. With its wraparound stadium seating the par 3 hole has a brilliant atmosphere and adds a little something different to the Tour. Some like it more than others but relaxing in the atmosphere can be crucial.

TPC Scottsdale has held this since 1987 and despite some renovations it has remained a ball-strikers course. The fairways are wider than last week so driving isn’t as crucial but Rickie Fowler found out to his cost that you still cant be too wreckless off the tee as he found water in the playoffs with an unkindly bounce. Contending in Phoenix usually comes down to getting the ball as close to the flag as possible on these large greens.

Jon Rahm was brilliant last week at Torrey Pines as he closed with a seven under par 65 to win by three shots. There can be an argument that he was playing more freely than those above him as he probably didn’t expect to win but his back 9 of 30 was simply incredible regardless and there was certainly pressure on his last few holes. It was a -6 back 9 and the next seven after him on the leaderboard only managed to play them in -9 combined.

Ever since he started making noises as an amateur he has been highly respected and when he finished 3rd on his first professional start his stock began to rise quickly. During the fall series he was tipped and bet regularly but over the Christmas period it seemed like people had forgotten about him as he went off at around 50/1 last week.

There have already been some different opinions regarding his price this week as he opened up at a general 25/1 which was much bigger than expected. While it is true that few players have gone back to back after their first win, it is becoming more and more common for players to win in consecutive weeks while they ride the high of the exceptional level of golf that they have discovered. Matsuyama did it towards the end of last year and Justin Thomas just the start of this year. Jason Day and Adam Scott both did it in the spring of 2016 and going back further Day also did it in 2015 and Billy Horschel before him to claim the 2014 Fed Ex Cup. While none of these were in fact their first wins, more crucially these consecutive wins seem to come after what could be called their break out win.

Both Thomas and Matsuyama had won previous Tournaments but their games hadn’t quite reached the heights that they have hit over the last few months. In order to try and gauge whether Rahm is a value price this week I guess it is important to think just what bracket of player you think he is going to become. If you think he falls into the Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy bracket then the 25/1 to go back to back must have looked very favourable. But if you think he falls more into the Justin Thomas category then you maybe think there are enough factors against him this week to leave him be just now.

I definitely think he is going to move towards the former group so there is no way I want to miss out on what looks like such an obvious play. There were still two important factors that forced my hand this week however. Firstly, Rahm was 5th in this tournament in 2015 as an amateur and he studied in Arizona so he knows the area well. Secondly, the nature of his comments after his round on Sunday. He said that something just clicked around the turn and he started feeling in complete control of his golf ball. He also said that he was finally getting to grips with the poa annua surfaces as he had been too cautious from Thursday-Saturday. That was his first appearance at Torrey Pines whereas this week he will know the TPC Scottsdale greens well.

Simply put if he manages to bring anything close to the level of golf he played on that back 9 he will be very hard to beat. That makes the 20/1 available still look like a brilliant each way price and one I would be very annoyed about missing if he were to win again unbacked.

There isn’t a great deal else that I like this week but given this is a ball-strikers paradise, there was one former tee-to-green machine that popped up last week on the leaderboard briefly. He fell away with an 80 on Sunday but it was only Hunter Mahan’s 2nd cut made in his last 14 tournaments. He has been in the doldrums now for the best part of 3 years but we have seen far poorer players than him come from nowhere to go well on their favourite courses. Mahan won here in 2010 and he also has a 4th place finish to his name.

He ranked 7th for total driving last week around the very difficult Torrey Pines. If he drives the ball that well again here then 300/1 might just look a little big come the weekend.


Dubai Desert Classic

It’s pretty much taking off from where we left off last week for the final stop on the Middle East Swing. The course in Dubai is another wide open course where the wind blows and links players prosper. It stands at 7319 yards with minimal rough but plenty of waste areas flanking the fairways. As I write the wind is forecast to be quite strong so solid ball-strikers will prosper and a tidy short game will help when inevitably greens will be missed.

You can make a case for many at the head of the market in Dubai but none of them look like much of a price. Instead I’m going to go with three bigger prices.

Anirban Lahiri looks a bet on price alone this week. He has been playing a lot lately on the PGA Tour and while he hasn’t done a great deal yet his first 5 events of the 2017 read 3-28-13-MC-25. As we know from the current high standard of the PGA Tour, that is well above what most of this field have done lately. As a two-time European Tour winner he surely should be more like a 50/1 shot in this field. The 90/1 looks like a great piece of value.

He has only played here once before in 2010 when he missed the cut but his excellent short game should help him this week where the greens will be hard to hit.

Lucas Bjerregaard struggled to push on in 2016 after looking like a winner in waiting through out 2015. But there were signs last week that he is maybe getting back to his best so the 125/1 looks very big indeed.

He finished last week in 11th after closing with a 66 on Sunday. The Dane apeears to have a great game for links golf but hasn’t done that much in the UK yet. Notably however he has 9th and 12th place finishes around the Oceanico Victoria course which hosts the Portugal Masters. There are many players who have gone well at both of these long, exposed courses; Lee Westwood, Stephen Gallagher, Andy Sullivan, Alvaro Quiros to name but four.

If he has found something with his long game again then he should outplay his price this week.

I can’t believe Chris Paisley’s price has gone up this week from a general 200/1 last week to 250/1! As I said earlier nobody played the last 3 rounds better than him in Qatar and he ranked 15th for GIR and 6th for scrambling. There is an argument that this course could play a little too long for him but after giving us some profit last week I think he looks worth reinvesting in this week.


Summary of Bets

Phoenix Open

Jon Rahm – 2.5pts ew @ 20/1

Hunter Mahan – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Qatar Masters

Anirban Lahiri – 1pt ew @ 90/1

Lucas Bjerregaard – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Chris Paisley – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 9/1

Weekly pts advised = 13pts

Total pts advised = 56pts

@theGreek82

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Farmers Insurance Open and Qatar Masters – Betting Preview

It was a victory for a tee-to-green prowess last week as two of the game’s better ball-strikers both got it done despite their usual struggles on the greens. Unfortunately both players were tipped on the blog a few times last year and in hindsight neither were particulalrly surprising winners.

In the US Hudson Swafford has been playing some brilliant golf tee-to-green but never seemed to make any putts when it counted. He certainly hadn’t thrown any Tournaments away to date and was actually quite impressive down the stretch on Sunday even if he did have a wobble on Saturday.

Tommy Fleetwood was perhaps even more impressive in Abu Dhabi as he held off a host of top-class challengers to finally get his 2nd win after collecting his maiden victory at Gleneagles in 2013. The Southport man hit 66 out of 72 greens in Abu Dhabi and was giving himself putt after putt. Fleetwood is very similar to Westwood at his peak in that their below average putting is accentuated by their relentless approach play. It can seem like every time you see them on the TV they are missing a putt from 15ft but on some courses that is ok. Others were struggling to find the greens so just hitting them in the correct number was enough to come out on top as others made mistakes around him.

There were no returns last week despite Hatton being the 3rd round leader in Abu Dhabi.

That removes the early profits and 2017 is as follows;

2017 pts advised = 31

2017 pts returned = 29.54

ROI = -4.7%

 


Farmers Insurance Open

Tiger makes his much anticipated return to the PGA Tour this week and there couldn’t be a more fitting place for him to return than Torrey Pines. He has won this Tournament 7 times along with a US Open in 2008 which was his last major win. It’s anyone’s guess where he will finish but the signs were good in December so hopefully he will go well as it would be great to get to see a fit Tiger Woods compete again in 2017.

They will play two courses this week, with one round on the easier North and one round on the South course prior to the cut. After that it is two more rounds on the South course. The North course has undergone a substantial renovation since last year but with only one round to play and the South course being so much tougher, I’m not going to guess how this will effect things.

The South course is a classic US championsip layout, playing long at some 7600 yards with narrow fairways and fairly slick greens for a non major. The greens are poa annua whereas the new greens on the North are now bentgrass.

Being a coastal track in California, form can tie in well with Pebble Beach and many players go well at both courses.

Last year the wind played a major part in proceedings on the Sunday as Snedeker shot an early 69 only to see all the leaders fall by the wayside. By the time they completed on Monday they had all gone backwards and he came out on top for the 2nd time.

The forecast isn’t for anything like that level of wind but it is usually a factor at some point over the four days.

Previous course form stacks up very well around Torrey Pines and as well as Tiger’s 8 wins there are many others who crop up on the leaderboard again and again.

Both Snedeker and Woods are two of the best at avoiding bogeys so they always fair well on tough courses. That can often be attributed to both strong scrambling skills and good putting.

I’d make bogey avoidance, scrambling, three-putt avoidance and driving distance the key stats this week but course form is perhaps more crucial than anything.

Gary Woodland looks to me like the standout bet this week. At the head of the market we have the old dilemma of whether we want to take single figure prices about Jason Day and Dustin Johnson and I think there are enough reasons to look beyond their class at a tough Championship venue like Torrey Pines. Day still hasn’t quite shown us that he is fully over his back injury and DJ doesn’t have the best of records there despite him normally enjoying tough, coastal layouts. He has also flown back from Abu Dhabi this week and that has to be another negative.

Woodland was in 2nd place there last year heading into the final round but along with 99% of the field he struggled as the wind got up and made the course extremely difficult.

He is an immense talent and has been with Butch Harmon for some time now. At his peak he doesn’t have any real weakness and given Harmon’s track record I would assume they will be leaving no stone unturned in trying to maximise Woodland’s unquestionable talent. His substantial length off the tee will always help him on tough Championship layouts and despite the fairways being narrow at Torrey Pines, history tells us that it pays to get as close to the green as possible. The last five winners have ranked 48th, 1st, 24th, 2nd and 1st for driving distance and that 48th was Snedeker last year which may be a little skewed by the brutal wind.

The greens are slick and it will certainly pay to attack them with as much loft as possible. Jimmy Walker proved this around another championship layout at Baltusrol when winning the US PGA Championship in August. He missed more fairways than most but such was his ability to find the greens with his short irons, he was still able to putt his way to victory.

Woodland is by no means anywhere near as good a putter as Walker but like Walker he generally goes better on Poa Annua greens. That is what he will face on 3 of his rounds this week and hopefully that will bring about the improvement needed on the greens. Last time out at the Sony his game was in fantastic shape as he finished in 6th place. He ranked 4th for GIR and 9th for scrambling which helped him finish 2nd in the all-round ranking.  All this was continuing where he left off in 2016 as he made it to the Tour Championship where he finished 10th and he rounded the year off with a 2nd place at the OHL Classic. He hit more greens than anyone that week and ranked 1st in the all-round. For the 2017 season he currently sits 18th in bogey avoidance and 22nd in scrambling.

It’s clear this is a player whose game has been firing on all cylinders for some time now and that was exactly the case with Hudson Swafford last week who finished up the 2016 season ranked 10th in the all-round ranking. Gary Woodland finished in 23rd and it can be a very good indication of future winners.  They have both maintained that into 2017 as they rank 16th and 29th respectively.

To me Gary Woodland’s game is in the perfect place to tackle Torrey Pines. There won’t be as many putts holed so he won’t have to all of a sudden start putting the lights out. A small improvement on a more suitable surface should see him go close.

There are a few other decent outright each way prices but I’ve sided with John Huh this week. He is a very solid player who enjoys tougher tests of golf. He finished 8th in this last year while ranking 2nd in total accuracy.

While he hasn’t exactly flown out of the blocks in 2017, prior to last week’s missed cut he did have back to back 27th place finishes. He currently ranks 15th in scrambling and 31st in bogey avoidance and at 150/1 I think he looks over priced thanks to last week’s missed cut.

Another player who I can’t leave out at 200/1 is Cameron Smith. He showed at the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay how much enjoys a proper test of golf as he finished 4th in his very first Major. He has had some mixed results but always looks more comfortable where par is a good score. He also missed the cut last week but he should be suited far more to this test and before the Christmas break he signed off with a runner-up finish in the Australian Open and a 15th in the Australian PGA. He has missed the cut on both his appearances here but I’m still convinced it should suit him so he is worth a small play.
The final bet is a rather left field Top 20 bet on New Zealander Steve Alker. He is a bit of a journey man but has shown a liking for windy courses in the past when he finished 19th at The Open in 2012 around Royal Lytham. Having gained his 2017 Tour card he has performed ok so far and finished 25th last week at the CareerBuilder. It’s entirely possible that Torrey Pines will be too long for him but if conditions do become difficult he looks over priced for a Top 20 at 20/1 in places.

 


Qatar Masters

The Qatar Masters is played around Doha Golf Club and it is an exposed course that has historically been a course where good links players prosper. The course correlates well with Gleneagles, The Portugal Masters, Alfred Dunhill Links and The Open itself.

I don’t really like the front of the market with so many of the players that will probably play well all looking too short. So instead I’m going to play three longer prices to small stakes but include a bigger bet on a them in the place markets.

First up is the Challenge Tour graduate Alexander Bjork who finished 7th on the Road to Oman to gain his 2017 card. During that successful campaign the highlight was winning the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in France in July.

He hasn’t played Qatar before, in fact he has only made 6 European Tour starts but that hasn’t held him back so far. He missed the cut on his first start when playing at the Madeira Open in 2014 but in his next 5 starts he didn’t finish worse than 45th. Indeed 4 of them have been this season and he arrives with form figures of 17-45-7-13 which stands up against most of this field.

He did visit the Emirates twice last year on Challenge Tour duty finishing 32nd in U.A.E before confirming his card by placing 7th in the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman.

Most Swedish players tend to enjoy links courses due to being familiar with playing on exposed, windy courses. I’m hoping that will be the case with Bjork and so far in his career he already has an 8th place finish in Scotland at Aviemore which is an exposed course not too dissimilar to Gleneagles.

In his four starts so far he has struggled to put all aspects of his game together in any one week but he led the field in South Africa in GIR and was 3rd in fairways hit. He followed that up by ranking 11th in scrambling and 29th in total putting last week in Abu Dhabi.

He is flying under the radar a little and I think subsequently we are getting quite a good price about someone with his form figures. He looks to have a great chance of another Top 20 even if he can’t contend.

A little low on time to cover the others here so it will be brief.

Benjamin Herbert has played well here twice before finishing 20th last year and 10th in 2015. He has a game very well suited to a links challenge and he also fisnished 10th at the Portugal Masters which ties in well with Doha Golf Course.

He has been threatening to win on The European Tour but hasn’t quite contended down the stretch yet. His prolific career on the Challenge Tour tells he isn’t afraid to win though and he remains a player worth watching through out 2017.

Chris Paisley finished his 2016 season very well with a 3rd place finish in Italy and a 5th place at the Portugal Masters.

He has missed both his Qatar Masters cuts to date but he looked a far more confident player last year and has a 12th place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Links which is another tournament that links well with Qatar. He warmed up nicely last week finishing 29th in Abu Dhabi where he putted very well. That well help him around the Doha course where putting is always crucial.

As a final little point, Paisley was part of the same Walker Cup team as Fleetwood in 2009 so hopefully he may take some extra motivation from Fleetwood’s win last week.

I’m also going to have a Top 10 double on last week’s two winners as they should both enjoy their respective tests and I don’t see winning as any sort of reason to halt their brilliant form.

 
                          Summary of Bets

Farmers Insurance Open

Gary Woodland – 1pt ew @ 40/1

John Huh – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Cameron Smith – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Steve Alker – Top 20 – 1pt @ 20/1

Qatar Masters

Alexander Bjork – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1

Benjamin Hebert – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1

Chris Paisley 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Hudson Swafford and Tommy Fleetwood – 1pt Top 10 double @ 19.25 


Weekly pts advised – 12pts

Total pts advised – 43

@theGreek82 

CareerBuilder Challenge and Abu Dhabi Championship – Betting Preview

Things didn’t go at all according to plan in South Africa but it was a good week in Hawaii as 90/1 shot Kevin Kisner returned a full place. He probably looked the least likely of my three at the halfway stage but he shot a brilliant 60 on Saturday to fly up the leaderboard. With Thomas so far in front Kisner obviously had very little chance of winning but he played well again on the course as expected.

It was Thomas’ 2nd win in a row and he is the first person since Tiger Woods to win two consecutive PGA Tour events by 3 shots or more. Just when it appears that the upper echelons of the game appear to have formed some sort of leading pack away from the rest, another golfer throws their hat in the ring. Firstly Jason Day joined Spieth and McIlroy, then Dustin Johnson, closely followed by Matsuyama and now Justin Thomas has entered the conversation. I’m not sure if he will quite be able to match them over time but he has some serious ability and he is now in the Top 10 in the world for the first time. Luckily he takes a rest this week along with some other big names and that leaves us with a very attractive betting heat.

Kisner’s place leaves the 2017 results in healthy profit early on;

2017 points advised = 18 pts

2017 pts returned = 29.54 pts

ROI = +64%

But that might very well be short-lived as there are a lot of players I like this week on both Tours!


CareerBuilder Challenge

Previously called the Humana Challenge, the CareerBuilder Challenge made it’s bow last year and along with the sponsor change came a couple of new courses. So it will pay to be a little weary of overall form prior to last year. One of the new courses brought in was Pete Dye’s PGA West Stadium course and as that is played twice by all those making the cut so it is probably the most important to look at. Especially given that the other two courses play a little easier.

That was the method I adopted last year and it found me David Lingmerth who came agonisingly close to giving the blog a 60/1 winner but he lost out thanks to a couple of outrageous pieces of luck that fell Jason Dufner’s way. I picked Lingmerth due to the form shown on Pete Dye tracks and given the other names on the leaderboard, Dye form will be of the utmost importance yet again this week. Courses of his that are currently on rotation are TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship), Harbour Town (RBC Heritage), TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic), Crooked Stick (2012 & 2016 BMW Championship) and Whistling Straits (2010 & 2015 US PGA Championships).

Despite Dufner and Lingmerth being the two play-off protagonists, driving accuracy wasn’t all that important from a statistical point of view but finding the correct area of the fairways is important in order to get near the flags . They both hit lots of greens and holed more than their fair share of putts which is usually a good combination anywhere but especially on Dye courses.  The flags can find themselves in difficult places on his often small, undulating greens so the field tend to miss plenty of greens and rack up three-putts.

Jamie Lovemark could well be the big Twitter gamble this week with his combination of course and current form. Last week he finished T4th and in this Tournament last year he was 6th. He has also looked like a winner in waiting over the last 18 months and those factors combine to give us a fairly miserable 35/1. His whole game looked quite sharp last week as he ranked 7th in the all-round ranking. However there is no question that his strength lies on and around the greens and if it wasn’t for last year’s high finish I might not have been convinced this was the best event to back him in. But a further look at his results shows that his best finish to date on Tour came around TPC Lousiana when he was runner-up to Brian Stroud last year in the Zurich Classic. As previously mentioned that is another Pete Dye layout with water in play where accuracy is also crucial.

Given Lovemark isn’t always the most accurate player there must be something about Dye designs that he enjoys and maybe the more difficult nature helps focus his mind. This year his stats are good so far though as he ranks 43rd in strokes gained: approach to the green and 19th in strokes gained: putting. His iron game is not overly strong however the more loft he has in his hands the better he is. That helped him here last year around the TPC Stadium course as it is a fairly short course. Dufner and Lingmerth are both excellent wedge players which confirms how important the short irons will be this week.

The final clincher which made me brush off the 35/1 was how he usually holds his form and last year when he finished 7th at the Sony Open he followed it up with another top 10 so it looks very likely that he will play well again.

Kevin Kisner has been good to the blog and after returning the each way money last week I can’t leave him out. He has been cut into 40/1 but that is more the sort of price we should expect on this classy performer. Last week I alluded to his love of bermuda greens but he also has a very impressive CV on Pete Dye courses. In the space of 1 month in 2015 he lost two play-offs on Dye courses. Firstly to Jim Furyk at Harbour Town and then to the red hot Rickie Fowler at The Player’s Championship.

I normally think of Kisner as a player who goes well in high scoring events yet his only PGA Tour win was on -22. He didn’t play here last year but I think the combination of two easier courses together with a tougher Dye course will suit him perfectly. Last week he didn’t do anything brilliantly but he also didn’t do anything poorly ranking 10th in the all-round. The highlight was a 3rd round 60 and he kept that going on Sunday so hopefully his putter can stay hot this week.

So far in his career he has 17 PGA Tour top 10s and 8 of those have come together in sequence so he is another that is very capable of holding his form.

I’m not sure I can leave Lingmerth out after playing so well last year. He hasn’t done much lately but he was 60/1 last year and odds of 66/1 are just too tempting. This course seems to suit his accurate game perfectly and he is a good putter on bermuda greens as he has shown both here and at TPC Sawgrass. I’ll be gutted if he wins so I’m going to have a small bet on him just incase.

I’m going to complete my line-up with yet another player who performed well last week, Chez Reavie. There is every chance it will be the last ever time I back him as he is a player that can promise so much before ultimately letting you down. But the truth his he is playing too well to leave out in an event that should suit him.

He finished 8th last week in Hawaii despite a poor week with the putter but the rest of his game was on point as he ranked 1st for driving accuracy and 3rd for GIR. Reavie finished 17th in this last year where again his tee to green game was excellent but he was let down by the putter. A slight improvement with the short stick will hopefully see him in the mix again come Sunday.

 


 

Abu Dhabi Championship

The European Tour leaves South Africa this week for the start of the Middle East Swing and the Abu Dhabi Championship. Now in its 12th running at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship there is lots of form to go and it is usually a course where the same sort of players do well year after year. Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer are both multiple winners and Rory McIlroy has 5 runner-up finishes in a tournament that is usually his first of the calendar year.

The course is a long one at some 7600 yards and while it’s by no means a wide open bombers paradise, there is some margin for error off the tee as long as the water is avoided. The biggest challenge lies with hitting the often elevated and undulating greens. Once on them, the greens are as pure as the players will see on the European Tour but they do have that desert grain which can play a lot like links greens.

The first week back of 2017 on the PGA Tour I completely ignored late 2016 form and I’m not prepared to make the same mistake twice. Therefore I have gone with three players who are all in the 2nd tier of players this week. While Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler must all be respected, there are enough reasons to look beyond them this week at their prices. Dustin Johnson has never even been to Abu Dhabi before this week never mind played the course. Henrik Stenson has fairly poor record here despite the course appearing to suit the Swede’s game. Rickie Fowler was in poor form throughout the end of 2016 and as defending champion he will do well to contend this week.

First up is the precocious talent of Thomas Pieters. Even after his back-to-back wins towards the end of 2015, few people could have imagined that he would reach such levels as quickly as he has done. To finish up his Ryder Cup debut as the top overall points scorer was an immense effort and highlighted him as someone to watch very closely again this year.

With his power game not every course will suit the Belgian bomber but he has shown that he loves the Abu Dhabi Golf Course with form figures of 2-4-MC. It is a very straight forward pick but with the presence of DJ, Stenson and Fowler at the head of the market we can get 22/1 about Pieters and I think that looks a very fair price. His form after the Ryder Cup wasn’t great but that is more than understandable. During the summer he probably wasn’t even expecting to be on Darren Clarke’s team so to have the experience that he did at Hazeltine must have been somewhat overwhelming. He goes well fresh though having placed here on his first start in both the last two years and given his status in the game now, his 2017 will be all about winning titles and performing in majors. He looks to have a great chance of the former this week.

Matt Fitzpatrick won the DP World Championship in Dubai in November and that course has many similarities with this week’s course in Abu Dhabi. Both are set in desert conditions with plenty of water in play and they suit quality links golfers perfectly. He missed the cut on his debut and could only finish 26th last year but if we delve into that 2016 performance we can see that he was only held back by the putter as he ranked 4th for GIR and 1st in scrambling. He has always been a streaky putter but he has improved a great deal in that department over the last year. So much so that he ranked 1st for total putting during that World Championship win and the greens he faces this week are very similar.

He is young and hungry for success with an old head and while he will have no doubt enjoyed his Christmas break he will be more than ready for his first start of 2017. At first look 30/1 might seem a little skinny in this company but Fitzpatrick shouldn’t be taken lightly this year. Two European Tour wins last year alongside a 7th place at the Masters suggest he is very much here to stay as one of the leading lights on the European Tour. If he putts well then I expect him to contend for the first time in Abu Dhabi and start a successful Middle East swing where all three courses should suit his game.

Tyrrell Hatton should have won the DP World Championship but Fitzpatrick managed to pip him after Hatton found water off the tee on the 18th. It was a shame for Hatton who had played brilliantly all day until that point. After marking him down as a great links golfer, I was annoyed to miss out on his placed effort at The Open and his first win at the Alfred Dunhill. He continued his form throughout 2016 and he looks another to look out for in 2017.

He finished down the field in 46th in Abu Dhabi last year after he was also let down by his putter. But he ranked 1st in total driving and ball-striking and the two previous years he finished 6th and 10th. Both the years that he finished in the Top 10 this event was actually his first of the year whereas last year he had played in South Africa the week before. The extra preperation time should help him continue where he left off last year.

They are 3 fairly obvious picks at odds that maybe won’t excite the more speculative punter, and with three of the last four winners in Abu Dhabi being surprise winners, they may have a point. But they are all still relatively young and with all three on upward curves in their careers I think they represent very solid each way bets.


Summary of Bets

CareerBuilder Challenge

Jamie Lovemark – 1pt ew @ 35/1

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 40/1

David Lingmerth – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Chez Reavie – 0.5pt ew @ 75/1

Abu Dhabi Championship

Thomas Pieters – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1pt ew @ 30/1

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 28/1

 

Weekly points advised = 13pts

Total points advised = 31pts

@theGreek82

Sony Open and South African Open – Betting Preview

The Tournament of Champions was a week of ups and downs with Spieth and Reed both threatening to get involved at times before falling back after some untimely mistakes. In the end Spieth managed a backdoor T3rd to get a small return on the week. The blog would have broken even if it wasn’t for Ryan Moore’s 12 ft birdie putt on the 18th but I can’t complain too much given Spieth looked out well out of it after 3 rounds.

With the whole field having been off for at least a month I decided not to give too much credence to October-November form and ultimately that proved to be a mistake. Hideki Matsuyama was the best player in the world during the close of 2016 and Thomas was the only player to beat him worldwide in 5 starts. So it really shouldn’t have been a surprise to see them fighting it out again last week.

The 6.03 pts returned leaves the 2017 results as follows after one week;

2017 pts advised = 9pts

2017 pts returned = 6.03pts

This week the PGA Tour stays in Hawaii for the first full field tournament of the year, the Sony Open. The European Tour begins its long run of Tournaments outside Europe with the South African Open.


The Sony Open

The rest of the gang make their way down to Hawaii for the first full field of 2017. Unfortunately for them Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama are teeing it up again so anyone looking to add their name to the Sony Open trophy may well have their work cut out.

Fabian Gomez returns to defend for the second time in his PGA Tour career and there are another 9 former winners in the field; Jimmy Walker, Russell Henley, Johnson Wagner, Ryan Palmer, Zach Johnson, KJ Choi, VJ Singh, Jerry Kelly and David Toms.

Despite some players having won at both last week’s venue and the host course this week, Waialae, the two courses are very different. Whereas last week the Kapalua course features wide open fairways and huge greens, Waialae has far more subtleties. It is a tree-lined coastal course with small, bermuda greens and despite Walker’s two wins, it is normally won by a neat and tidy, accurate sort.

Although being tree-lined the course can be prone to winds sweeping through the course. Whenever wind and trees are mixed together on a golf course it becomes very hard to gauge the wind 150 yards away. I would expect similar problems here so a strong wind game and excellent distance control will be paramount.

In the last four editions of this the winner has ranked 3rd, 1st , 2nd and 1st in the all-round ranking. Jimmy Walker ranked 3rd and 5th for total driving in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

I tipped Daniel Berger for this last year at 45/1 as I thought he would be suited perfectly to the course. He played ok finishing in 42nd but I’m still convinced that he should enjoy Waialae. He finished middle of the pack in 13th last week but that was his first look at the course and if we delve further into his performance it was actually quite good as he was solid in all departments of his game. It was a more a case of him learning the greens and the correct areas to hit it, something that is always tough for debutants at Kapalua. Prior to last week he finished his 2016 year off with a 2nd place finish at the HSBC Champions event which is arguably his best piece of form to date.

En route to finishing 42nd last year Berger actually ranked 2nd for total driving and that is one of the main reasons I thought he would prosper around the course. He also enjoys bermuda greens but the clincher for me this year is his link through last year’s winner Fabian Gomez. Gomez’s other win came at the St. Jude Classic in 2015 which Berger actually went on to win last year. That is played at TPC Southwind and it is also a classical, tree-lined course with bermuda greens. As the name suggests it can also be prone to some wind so it makes perfect sense that if a player goes well on TPC Southwind then they can go well at Waialae.

With strong market leaders this week hard to separate I think this PGA Tour winner represents some value down the field. Surely Matsuyama and Thomas’ motivation will have to drop at some point and if that is the case hopefully another of the game’s young stars can take full advantage. Thomas last week hinted at a touch of jealousy towards his friend Spieth’s lofty status in the game and with Berger having played on the same Palmer Cup team as Thomas in 2013, it’s entirely possible he will be feeling the same after Thomas’ win last week. Let’s hope that extra motivation could give Berger a push towards his 2nd PGA Tour title.

Another piece of value to me is Kevin Kisner who is available at 90/1. I suppose that is down to a relatively poor finish to his 2016 season but I still think he is over-priced on a course that suits his game as he finished 5th last year ranking 1st in the all-round ranking. He showed us throughout 2015 that he likes a test of accuracy and bermuda greens as he racked up three 2nd place finishes on similar courses.

He missed the cut at the RSM Classic in November but that was his first time as defending champion on the PGA Tour and I think it is fair to dismiss that as he would have placed a lot of pressure on himself expecting to play well. Similar logic could be applied to his 70th place finish in China at the HSBC Champions as he was runner-up the year before. Of course it could just be that his game has fallen away dramatically but he was so consistent for 18 months that coming off a festive break I think he looks worth chancing here at 90/1.

Zach Blair seems like quite a random pick as he hasn’t exactly been playing well of late. But his best performance on the PGA Tour is a 3rd place finish at the Sony Open and his 2nd best performance is a 6th place in the Sony Open. He only has one other top 10 away from Waialae and given how well he plays there I think the 125/1 on offer looks a little big. Blair was largely held back in 2016 by his putting but he is an accurate driver of the ball and possesses a solid iron game. This early in the year it can sometimes be guess-work but at least with Blair we are getting a player at a good price with course form better than most of the field.

 


 

South African Open

The South African Open returns to Glendower Golf Club for the 4th consecutive year with Brandon Stone last year stopping the rot of 3 non South African winners. That was very much against the norm as these con-sanctioned events are usually dominated by the classier home players.

This year however even the best SA players will be overshadowed by Rory Mcilroy who has decided to tee it up in SA for the first time in over 8 years. It’s a very welcome addition to the first tournament of the year especially as the tour often lacks sparkle at this time of year. Unfortunately however his entry wreaks havoc with the market and despite his hiatus from this part of the world and his relative inexperience on the kikuyu fairways, he is still easily the best player on show and we should expect him to win if not go very close.

But even with his immense talent, backing odds of 5/2 in a full field event is surely a non-stop, do not pass Go route to the poor house. Even more so when we consider this is his first start with his new clubs and when he switched to Nike in 2013 it took him a long time to adjust. This means yet again it looks like a tournament to find some long odds each way plays and perhaps some Top 10 bets. We only need to find an each way alternative greater than 10/1 to get a better pay out for 5th place than a Mcilroy win. Sullivan is 2nd favourite at 15/1 so that leaves us with the whole field to pick from.

The Glendower Golf Club is 7564 yards long but it is at quite an altitude so it won’t play to all of that. Despite the narrow appearance of the tree-lined fairways, driving accuracy is by no means the be all and end all around Glendower. In fact the last few winners have gone about matters in  different ways. Brandon Stone won last year with a steady all round game and a hot putter, Sullivan putted brilliantly in 2015 and Madsen sprayed it everywhere off the tee in 2013 but still hit an excellent 80% of the greens.

I think more important than excelling in any one area it is key to have no area of the game struggling. Experience in South African conditions is always an advantage too as time again on the SA swing we see the home players dominating leaderboards due to their familiarity with both the kikuyu fairways and grainier greens than they tend to see in Europe. Last year 8 of the first 10 home were South Africans.

I remember last year the commentators discussing how difficult the wind was at Glendower and that is another form of protection the course has. At present however there is little more than a very slight breeze forecast but there is actually a lot of thunder storms. That may result in some delays but will also mean that the course plays longer so perhaps extra consideration should be given if looking to back shorter hitters.

With this being the first tournament in over a month it is hard to be confident about the state of any of the player’s games so a decent each way price together with form in South Africa (preferably Glendower) looks the best angle in this week.

The last two winners follow McIlroy in the betting at 14/1 and 15/1 and I am happy to leave Andy Sullivan out at 14/1 but Brandon Stone is a little harder to dismiss. He has since gone on to win again at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on just his last start. He is a far more accomplished player now than this time last year and his confidence will be soaring after winning by 7 shots. It is hard to forget that he won here at close to 3 figures but in truth, McIlroy aside, he doesn’t have a great deal to beat this week. To coin a horse racing term, Stone is still relatively unexposed as we don’t actually know how good he might yet be. That makes it very hard to write off 15/1 as a bad value bet. Who would you rather back, the young and exciting Brandon Stone at 15/1 or relative journey men Thomas Aiken (28/1) and Richard Bland (30/1)?

In fact I’ve talked myself into a bet here on Brandon Stone despite my insistence to find some chunkier each way prices. I’m going to have 1.5pts each way on him to double up here, something that we have seen several young South Africans do in the past in low-grade, co-sanctioned events.

We can back that up with a nice each way bet in the form of up and coming home player, Christiaan Bezuidenhout. He has put himself firmly on the radar with a few good performances in these co-sanctioned tournaments the last couple of years. Namely at this very course last year when he finished runner-up to Stone. Seldom does it work out as easily where the top two come back again and perform at the same course, but I need to reiterate just how lacking in depth this field is. If he turns up and plays his game again there surely won’t be too many that finish above him.

Since last year’s Tournament he has won for the first time on the Sunshine Tour (in October) and then he held his form over going 21st, 15th, 2nd in the following weeks. A poor showing at the Alfred Dunhill was more than likely the case of a young golfer running on empty and desperate for a break after playing 26 times on his first proper year on Tour.

He hit 75% of greens at Glendower last year and ranked 1st in the all-round ranking. As is the case with Stone, Bezuidenhout is another young player whose talent is still not quantified. The each way price of 50/1 looks very fair even just to follow some of the bigger names home. But with very little scar tissue in his short career, if he finds himself in contention again this week he might just be able to take advantage of any slip ups from the 3 at the head of the market.

There are a couple of others that came close but ultimately so early in the season I don’t want to get carried away in a tournament that doesn’t look too exciting as a betting prospect. So I’ll leave it at the two South Africans this week.


Summary of Bets

Sony Open

Daniel Berger – 1pts ew @ 45/1

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 90/1

Zac Blair – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

South African Open

Brandon Stone – 1.5pts ew @ 15/1

Christiaan Bezuidenhout – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Weekly pts advised = 9pts

2017 pts advised = 18pts

@theGreek82

SBS Tournament of Champions – Betting Preview

As golf enters one of the most exciting years that I recall, it’s a shame the world is in such a perilous state but luckily golf fans can use the game as a small escape from the constant Trump and Brexit pantomime. There will be plenty of chances to do so during the year as there is a steady flow from now until October.

I’ll be posting my results with regards the calendar year from now on so they have been reset for 2017. I will still be keeping a cumulative record too if anyone ever wants to see it.

SBS Tournament of Champions

Twelve drummers drumming are not exactly the most exciting of Christmas presents although come to think of it, neither is 11 pipers piping or 10 lords a-leaping and so on.  Luckily we don’t have to worry about any of those rather dated gifts tomorrow as this year for the twelfth day of Christmas we get the start of the new PGA year with the Tournament of Champions! This year the field is stronger than ever as the Tour heads to Hawaii for its usual January jaunt to the Kapalua Resort.

With very little recent golf to go on, it seems logical to focus purely on course form this week and if we do that there is one very straight-forward selection.

Last year Jordan Spieth won this by 8 strokes while recording the second best under par score (-30) recorded on the PGA Tour. It was a performance that suggested he was all set to continue his dominance of 2015 but that didn’t quite transpire. He did however continue to play well at all the courses where he was expected to and but for one bad shot at Augusta then it would still be a case in the US of Danny who?

Spieth’s price last year was very similar to this year and that seems perfectly fair. The field is stronger this year but that is balanced by his emphatic win and a runner-up finish on his other start. It is usually short-game brilliance that gets it done around Kapalua as there is plenty room off the tee and it isn’t that long a course playing as a par 73. The greens are bermuda with lots of grain that can be misleading as several of the breaks are in direct conflict with their respective backdrops. This seems to be the main reason that there are so many repeat winners as it is a huge advantage just to have putted on the greens before never mind having mastered them.

A case can be made for the other two market leaders; Matsuyama has won four of his last five starts and Dustin Johnson is coming of a career year. But despite both having played well there in the past their short games just aren’t up to the same standard as Spieth and I suspect they may struggle to stay with him. Matsuyama’s putting was excellent throughout November but I’m yet to be convinced as to whether that will be a long-term improvement. Patrick Reed looks to have a great chance again this year after chasing home Spieth last year with my money on. But he looked to throw everything at Spieth last year and still came up well short. The wind is supposed to be more of a problem than last year but Spieth has shown that he can handle the wind having already won twice at the blustery John Deere Classic.

With it being the first tournament in over a month it makes sense to lead out with the most solid-looking bet in the hope of starting the season strong. Spieth is a confident if very unoriginal pick!

With Reed expected to go well I will also have a Top 5 bet on him.

Next week the blog will be back to normal with the European Tour starting in South Africa and the PGA Tour remaining in Hawaii for its first full field tournmant of the year.

 

Summary of Bets

Jordan Spieth – 3pts win @ 6.2 and 4pts Top 4 @2.26

Patrick Reed – 2pts Top 5 @ 3.45

 

Weekly pts advised – 9pts

2017 pts advised – 9pts

 

@theGreek82