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
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.
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
Jon Rahm – 2.5pts ew @ 20/1
Hunter Mahan – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1
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