After landing two consecutive Top 20 bets Chris Paisley is fast becoming my new favourite golfer. Had he played better over the weekend he might have even landed a place at 250/1 after sitting in T5th at the halfway stage. But he fell away a little perhaps daunted somewhat by playing alongside Stenson on the Saturday.
Lahiri got to -5 on the Thursday but that was as good as it got for him and Bjerregaard was never really a threat at any point.
Jon Rahm divided opinion last week and those who dismissed him at his price might have been a little worried for an hour or so on Saturday when he raced through his first 8 holes in -6 to get within 1 shot of the lead. But a poor back 9 followed by an average final round left him down the field. Mahan played well and threatened with the top 20 at times but just couldn’t hole enough putts to keep any momentum going.
Paisley’s returns put the blog back into profit for 2017.
Total pts advised – 56pts
Total pts returned – 58.53pts
ROI = 4.5%
AT&T Pebble Beach
The Tour heads back over to California this week and specifically Pebble Beach which has long been regarded as one of the most scenic courses in world golf.
With this being a Pro-Am tournament the field will have plenty of opportunities to take in the views as rounds regularly take around 6 hours to complete. That means it isn’t for everyone but this year we have one of the strongest fields for quite a few years.
It’s another multi-course set up this week with rotation across Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula and Pebble Beach Golf Links over the first three days with the Top 60 and ties playing the final round on the more famous Pebble Beach course on the Sunday.
With the amateurs in tow we can expect another fairly low scoring week and all three of the courses measure under 7000 yards. To help aid the celebrities and money men further, the rough isn’t normally very penal, the flags won’t be hidden away and the greens will run quite slow.
The challenge this week will be hitting a high number of greens and scrambling well when they are missed. The greens on Pebble Beach are some of the smaller they will face on Tour so that will be particularly important come Sunday when the course will have firmed up. With the average winning score since 2009 being -17, it can become somewhat of a birdie-fest if weather conditions allow and Snedeker broke the Tournament record in 2015 with a -22 total.
That means lots of birdies are required to win this and therefore the man who made the most birdies in the field last week sticks out, JB Holmes. He managed 25 of them on his way to a 24th place finish. He also has a lot of course form and clearly enjoys playing in California. He has finished 10th and 11th here the last two years but was also runner-up in 2011.
From a stats point of view he is a great fit around these 3 short courses. We saw last year how important wedge play proximity was as Vaughan Taylor peppered the flagstick with great regularity. Holmes currently sits 3rd for approach proximity from 125-150 yards and also 2nd for scoring relative to par from that same range. That tells us not only is his wedge game on point but he is also making the most of his chances when he does hit it close. Being such a powerful hitter he will have a lot more approaches under 150 yards than most this week. He looks to have everything in his favour and is a very strong each way bet at 40/1.
I tipped Mickelson in this last year and despite a poor final round he should really have still made the play-off after failing to get up and down from a fairly easy position. He is without a win anywhere now since 2013 and while I remain a huge fan and he is still in great form, I am a little sceptical of playing him again at just 22/1. Should he start well I may look at him win only in-play but he just misses out from the off.
Instead I’m going to take a links specialist in Shane Lowry who has proven he has what it takes to compete in strong PGA fields with his win at the WGC Bridgestone event and contending at the US Open at Oakmont. He is comfortable on poa annua greens as he showed at Oakmont and he also plays well in the wind. Should he miss these small greens then he has an excellent short game yet he doesn’t often rank too well in that department in the US. He is far happier scrambling around links courses than he is in lush green rough as he likes to get the ball rolling on the green early and he has quite a shallow chipping stroke.
He finished 16th last week but that doesn’t tell the whole story as he ranked 2nd in GIR and 2nd in total driving he just putted terribly. We know that isn’t the norm for Lowry though and the move to poa annua will suit. He has finished 41st and 21st the last two years and having a 3rd look we should see the best of Lowry as he gets to grip with the links layout.
Having finished 3rd and 6th in the European Tour’s Pro-Am equivalent, the Alfred Dunhill Links, we know this laid back player is comfortable playing in this different format and if he starts well I’d expect him to have a good week.
I was very annoyed to miss out on Jimmy Walker’s win at the US PGA given that most of my research revolved around poa annua greens and he is arguably the best putter on the surface. So as a previous winner he looked very tempting at 40/1 but then I checked his current scrambling rank and he sits 2nd last in 219th position. With plenty of these small greens getting missed I’m not sure he will manage to keep up with the leaders if he can’t get up and down. But of course his scrambling can be expected to improve for being on poa annua as he will hole out more. He also sits 21st in GIR so that should also help him. In truth I’m very torn as to whether I should include him so I will just have a very small saver as it is hard to know which Jimmy Walker will turn up having missed his last two cuts.
Foolishly I started my research for this by assuming it was being held at the Royal Selangor Golf Club again. After all last year was the inaugural running and it seemed to be a success. It’s very annoying when Tournaments move around year to year but there is actually a little bit more course to go on at this year’s venue, the Saujana Golf Club. It has previously held six Malaysian Opens; in 1999, 2001, 2004, 005, 2007 and 2009.
The winners of those are a mixed bag but worth noting nevertheless. In chronological order they are Gerry Norqvist, VJ Singh, Thonghai Jaidee (x2), Peter Hedblom and Anthony Kang.
The course in question at the Saujana Golf Club is the Palm Course which is nicknamed The Cobra, suggesting that it has a fair bit of defence. But that’s not entirely in keeping with its scoring where those six events had an average winning score of -14. Visually it is a sprawling, undulating course with several elevated green complexes which are well protected by both water and bunkers. The fairways are tree-lined in parts but they still retain a decent width and with the course measuring around 7,000 yards, I don’t think driving accuracy or distance will be that crucial this week. That is backed up by the stats for several of the past events at Saujana where putting has been far and away the most important factor. The leaderboards are also full of players who racked up good GIR figures but on the whole they appear to have been beaten by a hot putter.
As is the case whenever they venture to the co-sanctioned Asian Tour events, previous form playing in the humid climate is a huge advantage and it is worth noting that several of the players in the field will have played the course before.
Course links this week may be a little tedious but when looking through photos the big elevation changes reminded me of Gleneagles and Peter Hedblom also has a win there while Miles Tunnicliff has a runner-up finish here as well as his Gleneagles win.
Thongchai Jaidee will be a very popular bet this week and rightly so. He is a relatively short price but when we study those in front of him in the market then he looks to be the standout bet at the head of the market. The Thai veteran has won 8 times on the European Tour with the last four of those coming in fully sanctioned European events over the last 5 years. Cabrera-Bello and Wiesberger, who are fighting for favouritism with Schwartzel, have only won two and three times respectively and are almost always under-priced. They are very consistent but struggle in the heat of battle on the back 9 on Sunday whereas Jaidee usually thrives in such an environment. While Schwartzel does indeed have 11 European Tour titles to his name, you have to go back to 2008 to find the last time he won one outside of South Africa (excluding his 2011 Masters win). He is the best player in the field but he hasn’t played for two months and struggles these days to win outside of his homeland so he can be left out easily enough at the price.
So on strike-rate alone you could argue that Jaidee should be closer to them in the market but when you consider that Jaidee has won around the course twice it makes it even harder to leave him out this week. He also finished a very respectable 15th last week in Dubai where he ranked 8th for GIR but the normally excellent putter was actually let down by his short stick. A return to the type of greens that he is more accomplished on should see the improvement required to contend again.
Jorge Campillo was going to be a confident bet until I realised that there was a change of course. He finished 4th last year and has been playing well with Middle East swing results of 39-13-23. But a further look at his Asian form in general suggests that he is becoming fond of these co-sanctioned events as he has form figures of 10-10-19-4.
Over the last 3 months he ranks 2nd in total putting and 21st in scrambling so he should take to the course well and continue his good recent form.
Raphael Jacquelin hasn’t done a great deal lately on Tour but should still be respected on shorter courses like this. Especially when his short game is as sharp as it was last week. He ranked 1st for scrambling and 5th for total putting to finish in a tie for 13th around a course that is too long for him. That has always been the case for him on the Middle East Swing so it looks to me like a very positive finish for a player who has always been more about accuracy and touch than power.
The Frenchman has a respectable enough record in Asia with one of his four European Tour wins coming in China and he has another six top 10 finishes. He also has some very solid form around Gleneagles earlier in his career with a 3rd and three other top 10s. If he turns up with his short game in the same fettle as last week then he should go well and another top 20 looks very achievable.
There are a couple of other Top 20 bets that I like after the market being kind to me recently. I was very tempted to include Chris Paisley for a hat-trick of Top 20s but I think the bookmakers finally have him priced up correctly this week. Instead I’m going to go with a couple of players who have played the course well several times before and arrive in decent form. Prom Meesawat finished 15th last week and he is another short hitter who enjoys tests like this more than the long desert tracks in the Middle East. He finished 6th in 2005 and 7th in 2007 and has the required short game ability to go well again at the course.
Jyoti Randhawa has amassed 8 Asian Tour titles but he hasn’t won since 2009 and at 44 years old he is now a veteran but I think he looks capable of a Top 20 this week. He was the runner-up here in 2005 and 2009 and that level of course form will surely benefit him this week.
Summary of bets
JB Holmes – 1.5pt ew @ 40/1
Shane Lowry – 1pt ew 50/1
Jimmy Walker – 0.5pt ew @ 40/1
Thongchai Jaidee – 1pt ew @ 25/1
Jorge Campillo – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1
Raphael Jacquelin – 2pt Top 20 @ 6/1
Prom Meesawat – 2pt Top 20 @ 4/1
Jyoti Randhawa – 1pt Top 20 @ 6/1
Weekly pts advised – 14pts
Total pts advised – 70pts