Last week was rather miserable on the whole as none of the players figured at any point really. J.B Holmes started and finished well but seemed to have suffered from playing alongside Bill Murray. In Europe Jaidee and Meesawat played ok but Jaidee was never really threatening the places while Meesawat got himself on the verge of the Top 20 at the start of his final round before throwing away 7 shots in last 8 holes.
It puts the blog back into negative numbers and it looks like I’m going to have to find a winner to keep it in positive figures for any period of time.
Total pts advised – 70pts
Total pts returned – 58.53
ROI – -16.39%
This week we are at one of my favourite courses in the US, Riviera Country Club, while the European Tour heads down under.
The PGA Tour stays in California this week for one of the best stops on Tour, Riviera. It’s a classical, tree lined course with lots of elevation changes and plenty of long par 4s. Unlike most of the other courses in the US, the fairways and rough around Riviera are kikuyu grass which is more common in the southern hemisphere. The greens are small, fast and poa annua with many of them raised above fairway level.
The rough is said to be minimal but there is a lot of rain forecast so it won’t be much fun to try and get out of. It will be easier with a degree of loft however so length off the tee will be a huge advantage.
That is the name of the game in general around Riviera as the greens can be difficult to hold. A high ball flight helps and if we look at Bubba (winner of 2 of the last 3 at Riviera) then these are things he excels at. He gets his drives out there further than anyone and has the imagination to still fire at the flag from anywhere should he miss the fairway.
In addition to length off the tee and a high ball flight the 3rd key atrribute is scrambling. With so many greens usually missed, getting up and down is crucial. While the rough may not be up around the fairways, around the greens is a different matter. The greens at Riviera have a very definite fringe and with the rough being wet a delicate touch will be required this week to scramble well from the kikuyu. Putting isn’t usually too important as the undulating, poa annua greens make it very hard to hole putts.
Two strong course links that I mentioned in detail last year were Augusta and Glen Abbey which hosts the Canadian Open.
This is the strongest field assembled so far in 2017 but I don’t think that is any reason for course specialist Bill Haas to be available at 66/1. Last year’s field wasn’t too shabby and I tipped him at 33/1, I’m not sure he has done too much wrong to warrant being double the price. Normally a very long and accurate driver, an in-form Bill Hass doesn’t really have any glaring weakness to his game. If anything he is probably only held back by the fact he also doesn’t quite do anything brilliantly. But he does scramble very well indeed and it is that area of his game that convinced me to back him at 66/1. He currently ranks 1st over the last 3 months, getting up and down an impressive 76.9% of the time. But the fact he is also sitting in 9th for GIR over the same period makes me wonder why he is such a price. Especially when his only two appearances so far this calendar year yielded a 17th at the CareerBuilder Challenge and a 13th at the Sony Open. The 66/1 suggests that he is maybe putting poorly but that isn’t the case as he is 20th in total putting over the last 3 months. Granted these 3 month stats don’t represent a whole lot of tournaments for Haas but they still tell us that his game is very close to where he wants it. As a former winner it makes the 66/1 look an excellent each way bet.
Having tipped Charl Schwartzel last year at 28/1 I don’t think I can leave him out at 66/1. Since last year he finally won his 2nd PGA Tour title at the Travellers Championship and you would expect him to push on from there. He has gone well here before and claims to be his favourite course on Tour. He was brought up playing on kikuyu so he will handle the scrambling better than most. He also prefers putting on fast greens and while he has travelled from Malaysia this week I think that negative is more than factored into his price.
The other two players I like probably aren’t quite worthy of an outright bet so instead I’m going to play them in both the Top 10 and Top 20 markets.
Chez Reavie agonisingly finished 7th last year at 250/1 after sitting 2nd through 54 holes. I stupidly didn’t have a place bet on and I’m not going to make that mistake this year. Given he couldn’t even place last year from a great position I’m not convinced that he can win this in a stronger field at a shorter price but I was right about the course being a good fit. He is scrambling well again this year currently ranking 4th and his form figures so far in the 2017 season read 4-8-12-MC-MC but neither Scottsdale or Pebble Beach suit Reavie so those missed cuts can be forgiven. After proving.last year that the course suits I think both his Top 10 and Top 20 prices look to be represent some value.
Keegan Bradley is another player who loves Riviera thanks to his brilliant tee-to-green game. Few hit the ball higher, longer and straighter than Bradley and that has always helped him here and his form figures read MC-2-16-20-4-MC. He has recently threatened to be getting back to somewhere near his best and he finished 4th at Torrey Pines which is another tough, classical layout. I think that probably explains why he is as short as 80/1 but his price in the Top 10 market still looks very fair. He tends to be feast or famine at the course as he has a mix of missed cuts and top 20s but given he is playing well I think he looks far more likely to go well again than miss the cut this week. Which, on all evidence, makes 7/1 for a Top 10 look a great bet. I’m adding him for a Top 20 too just incase.
Looking at my bets I realised I have tipped exactly the same 4 players as last year! I’m hoping they can repay the loyalty.
ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth
A lot has been said so far about what a nonsense this tournament is and while I’m loathe to disagree, I’m not convinced that we should write it off completely just yet. The mix of stroke-play and mini 6 hole match-play certainly has a novelty ring to it and were it an aside to a main tournament it would probably be met with more positivity. The fact that it takes over from a regular 72-hole strokeplay event seems to be a source of negativity but what seems to be lost is that we still have 75% of a normal tournament before all the fun and games begin.
With a normal 36 hole cut those that don’t finish in the top 65 might as well have been playing a regular event and you could argue the same for those who don’t make the top 24 after 54 holes. Ultimately the challenge laid out in front of the players is very much the same as usual. That in itself is forcing me to focus on those who have gone well before on the course. Lake Karrinyup is a a relatively short (approx 7100 yards), tree lined course that features some links style bunkering with hard and fast conditions as we have come to expect in Australia.
Despite the trees, driving accuracy isn’t normally that important and both Jeong and Olesen sprayed the ball around off the tee during the week of their win. Far more crucial is GIR as all the course winners featured prominently in this area. Ability to play in the wind and a familiarity with slick, grainy, Australian greens will also be beneficial this week.
Despite Louis Oosthuizen only being 12/1 I’m still loathe to leave him out. I realise it doesn’t sound sensible backing someone at those odds in this sort of tournament but given he won around the course last year hitting 93% of greens, he must surely make the top 24 in this field. After that his reputation alone could beat some of this field on the first tee, even in the shortened 6 hole format. But if we add his current form and his match-play pedigree into the equation, he looks a very deserving favourite. His only two starts in 2017 saw him shake the rust off around Torrey Pines where he finished a respectable 41st on his debut and then follow up with a 3rd at the Phoenix Open. That is quite some way ahead of anything else on show in Perth. He ranked 2nd in GIR around TPC Scottsdale and with that being another ball-strikers course his game should be in good shape for his defence at Lake Karrinyup.
His recent match-play record is also immense as he has slowly found his way in the format. On his last President’s Cup appearance he won 4.5 pts out of 5. His record at the WGC Match-play is also very solid. In 2014 and 2016 he lost to the eventual winner Jason Day in the quarter finals and final respectively. In between those was another quarter-final defeat to Jim Furyk. Since the introduction of the round robin groups in 2015 he has won all three of his matches in the group stages which on the whole gives him a record of played 16 and won 13 over the last three editions. In that period he has also beaten Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler.
With a week off last week and time to acclimatise he looks to have at very worst a favourites chance but should he make the last 24 he will (rightly or wrongly) be a very strong favourite come the knockout stages. That will give people the chance to cover their bets should they decide the fickle nature of match-play is too risky.
After doing this blog for 18 months now I notice that I’m tending to fancy the same players as I did first time round when previewing tournaments. It might not be a sound betting plan in terms of those that didn’t deliver any returns but it could yet prove to be prudent with regards those who did. Last year I backed Jason Scrivener in this at 50/1 due to his strong record in his home country. He fnished 3rd which means his course form now reads 28th-15th-3rd which I would imagine is as good as anyone in the field. As we noted the key stat around Lake Karrinyup is GIR and on his last two visits he has hit 81% of his greens.
Further to that his results in Australia in general over the last 2 1/2 years also make good viewing; 64-4-14-3-28-3-11-18-38-15-18. As we can see he would have made the top 24 in 7 of those 11 tournaments. Given that all we can really hope for is a top 24 and then some luck in the match-play rounds, he again looks to be a value play at 50/1.
A look at his Middle East swing results doesn’t do a great deal to boost confidence but that was his debut on all three courses so 39th-MC-39th isn’t all that bad on very long courses where course experience is vital.
Lasse Jensen simply looks overpriced in this field off the face of his 3rd two weeks ago in Dubai. He finished down the field in 55th in Malaysia last week but that course was a little bit too tight for Jense who prefers a bit of room off the tee. We don’t really know how he might fare at the course or the in match-play but sometimes it just pays to pick in form golfers.His 3rd place finish is streets ahead of what the majority of this field have acheived in 2017 so despite his two missed cuts here he shouldn’t be a three figure price. At 32 years old he is by no means an improving youngster but he has been playing lately with an increased confidence at this level and can hopefully outplay his odds by making the top 24 and the match-play stages.
If any of these three do make the top 24 after 3 rounds then consideration should be given to trading/partial cashing out. Match-play can throw up plenty of surprises over 18 holes so you would imagine the likelihood of upsets will be even greater over 6 holes.
Summary of bets
Bill Haas – 1pt ew @66/1
Charl Schwartzel – 0.75pts ew @ 66/1
Chez Reavie – 1pt Top 10 @ 12/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2
Keegan Bradley – 1pt Top 10 @ 7/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1
Perth Super 6
Louis Oosthuizen – 1.5pts ew @ 12/1
Jason Scrivener – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1
Lasse Jensen – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1
Weekly pts advised – 13pts
Total pts advised – 83pts