Honda Classic and Joburg Open – Betting Preview

Jason Scrivener provided some each way money in the Super 6 event but it looked to be the minimum returns when both he and Oosthuizen were in commanding positions in their Quarter Finals and playing very well. I recorded the action on Sunday morning to watch “as live” and the format proved to be quite exciting. Oosthuizen had a putt to go 2 up against Adam Bland and effectively win his match but somehow he knocked it 6 ft past, missed the return putt and allowed his opponent to take it into extra holes. Again Oosthuizen had a putt to win but missed from around 8ft and then he found the bunker on the 3rd play-off hole and that was that for the tournament favourite.

Over in the US all four picks found themselves on the wrong side of the draw and so had to play the bulk of their 2nd rounds in the wind and rain. Once back on a level playing field though Bill Haas stormed through the field and nobody played the final two rounds better than him as he finished T11th. It’s doubtful that he would have got anywhere near our new World No. 1 but I’m sure he would have placed given how close he came even from the worse side of the draw.

It was another week of place money as the next win continues to prove elusive and the 2017 results are as follows.

2017 pts advised – 83pts

2017 pts returned – 68.66pts

ROI – -17.8%

Honda Classic

After a very succesful California swing the Tour heads East to begin the Florida swing and that begins with the Honda Classic at PGA National. The last three winners on Tour have been Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson so the punters are faced with the same problem as this time last year when the big names started a period of dominance. Despite them appearing obvious picks it can still be difficult to gauge when they are ready to win. Luckily this week none of the world’s top 6 are playing so that should make for a more interesting betting heat.

PGA National is a short 7140 yard, coastal layout that was designed by Tom and George Fazio in 1981 but has since had a couple of renovations carried out by Jack Nicklaus. The fairways are of average width and are exposed to the coastal winds. There is plenty of water in play and the greens are well protected with bunkering and run-offs as is the norm for Jack Nicklaus designs.

With average width fairways and fairly big greens at 5500 square ft it isn’t immediately obvious why this should be such a tough course and the wind is certainly its number one defence. If the fairways are missed then the ball will find itself in lush green rough. It will be hard enough to to control distance out of that sort of lie but when we add in the potential 15mph winds then you can begin to see why even these larger greens can be missed. Doing so isn’t advisable at PGA National however as getting up and down is in no way straight-forward. That is backed up by the stats from the last 5 editions where the winners have averaged 9th for scrambling compared to 17th for GIR and 31st for driving accuracy. But as you would expect on a tough layout, anyone looking to contend will need all aspects of their game to be in good shape and the last 5 winners ranked 1-3-3-4-4 for the all-round ranking. I’d make scrambling the most important factor this week closely followed by current form as despite Harrington’s surprise win in 2015, it is difficult to find your game on a demanding layout such as PGA National unless you possess the talent of the multiple major winner.

I really liked Kevin Kisner for this last year but it wasn’t to be as he had a poor week. But I’m still convinced the course should suit him perfectly and with only mild winds forecast, I’m going to stick with him. He owes me nothing after more profit at the Sony Open and it was that 4th place that had him back in my thoughts for the Honda. Both courses are short, coastal layouts with bermuda greens and there are several players with strong form at both. Russell Henley, Mark Wilson and Ernie Els have all won around both in recent times.

I’m at risk of repeating myself with Kisner so will keep things brief. He putts brilliantly on bermuda, he is a great scrambler (9th in scrambling over the last 3 months) and he drives the ball straight (16th in driving accuracy).

He also plays well on the east coast and enjoys tougher tests of golf. He has looked back to his best so far in 2017 with form figures of 4th – 25th -10th . I had hoped for a bigger price but without any of the worlds top 6 here 45/1 is probably fair.

There are a host of other players around the 30/1-80/1 range that I quite like but Daniel Berger has yet to perform with my money on and despite how much the course should suit Tyrrell Hatton, he looks to be a poor price at just 33/1. Fitzpatrick, Willett, Grace and Donald all made the shortlist but there was a niggling feeling that they were also a little shorter than I would have liked. So instead I have gone for two smaller bets on a couple of three-figure prices.

William McGirt finished 8th last year here and his price seems to be focussing a little too much on last week’s missed cut rather than his course form which also boasts a 22nd from 2015. His long game is in perfect condition for the test at PGA National with him ranking 4th in driving accuracy and 6th in GIR over the last 3 months. He also sits 7th in par 4 scoring which is always key here.

The one downside is his short game maybe isnt as sharp as you would like but he usually goes well on bermuda grass and his only PGA Tour win came on another Jack Nicklaus layout at Muirfield Village. He still ranks 58th in scrambling however so hopefully the switch to bermuda will have him back at his best and he looks to carry a little value at 100/1.

I tipped Zac Blair at a big price at the Sony Open in January given he was 3rd there in 2016 and 6th in 2015, but he didn’t play very well. I’ve been holding that thought however for courses that suit and as we have mentioned the Sony Open correlates nicely with the Honda Classic.

He sits 7th in scrambling, 12th in driving accuracy and 37th in par 4 scoring and I think he should enjoy the test and hopefully give us a run for our money at a speculative 250/1. I will also throw 1pt on him in the top 20 market.

Joburg Open

After a succesful foray into the unknown in Australia last week, the European Tour stays in the southern hemisphere but moves to South Africa. We are at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club (RJKGC) where there are two courses in play this week as they face both the East and West courses before the cut with two further rounds at the weekend on the tougher East championship course.

They were both designed by Bob Grimsdell and subsequently both present a similar type of challenge. Tight, tree-lined fairways appear on both courses with the rough normally being more penal on the Championship layout. The East course also plays considerably longer at 7658 yards compared to the West course’s 7203 yards. As normal in SA the players will be on kikuyu fairways but this week there is some poa mixed through the bentgrass greens which means they will be even harder to read than usual in SA.

In the ten editions of this tournament there have been seven South African winners and for a while they really did dominate these co-sanctioned events. But since the likes of Schwartzel, Oosthuizen and now Branden Grace are spending more time on the PGA Tour, their dominance isn’t what it was. However they are still at a distinct advantage in the conditions but the field strength should always be the first aspect considered when trying to assess these tournaments. Two years ago Andy Sullivan made the journey to South Africa and won twice in quick succession and Graeme Storm held off Rory McIlroy  to win the South African Open in January. If there is enough quality in the field then some of the classier European contingent always have a chance.

Despite all that I have plumped for one of the local market leaders for my main bet. As regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of George Coetzee and I think he seems to be over his injuries that have plagued him a lot over the last 18 months. He made changes to his game to attempt to be less erratic off the tee and his driving distance was noticeably a lot shorter in 2015 and 2016 but he seems to have gone back to his usual method which is getting driver out there as far as possible and then letting his aggressive iron game and brilliant short game do the rest. It does mean that not all courses suit him but he won here in 2013 and at the top of his game I make him the best player in the field (although Stone may well overtake him soon), especially down in the SA area where all three of his ET wins have come.

He warmed up for this by playing in the Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data event where he could only finish 14th but notably he ranked 1st for putting. He is boasting 2017 form figures of 14-MC-7 while he sits 10th in the all-round ranking on Tour over the last 3 months. An argument could probably be made for his price being a little short but he has won 3 of his last 12 tournaments in SA so with him appearing fit again I’m happy to take the 18/1 about one of the best putters on Tour. The clinching factor for me was seeing that it has been raining all week and that looks set to continue through to Sunday. That will put the bigger hitters at an advantage and will hopefully stop Coetzee’s wilder drives from running out of fairway. He also has a strong Open Championship record playing in the wind and rain so he will handle conditions better than most.

I’m going back to Chris Paisley again this week in the hope that he can follow in Andy Sullivan’s footsteps by landing his first title in SA. Having recorded back to back Top 20s in the Middle East this is a step down in class and his Portugal Masters 5th place makes him very interesting this week given the course link between its host course, Oceanico Victoria, and RJKGC. Paisley is a brilliant putter but has also been hitting more greens lately and he actually ranks 24th for GIR over the last 3 months and 18th in the all-round. He played alongside Sullivan in the 2011 Walker Cup and he will have noticed how Sullivan was rewarded for repeatedly making the trip to SA.

Paisley has missed his last three cuts in the Joburg Open but Sullivan himself went MC-60th on his first two appearances and I think his persistence can pay off as it does take time to learn how to play in SA. He has improved massively over the last year and again we get a very nice price about Paisley this week so I’m going to back him each way and also Top 20 again.

Paul Dunne first appeared in the limelight when he led the 2015 Open after three rounds at St Andrews. He was still an amateur then but turned pro later on in the year. He has had a decent first year on Tour without properly contending but he does have 12 top 25s from 34 pro starts. His only top 10 arrived in this very tournament last year so it looks an ideal chance for him to go after his first pro title.

It took Justin Rose four years to get his break through win after his brilliant amateur showing at Birkdale in 1998. So while Dunne appears to not have made too much of an impact on Tour, you just have to look at how Rose’s career has panned out to see that there is no rush once they enter the professional ranks.

Dunne is a deadly putter and he showed at St Andrews that he can handle playing in wind and rain so he shouldn’t be affected by the forecast conditions. Lots of golfers map out the bulk of their campaigns at the very start of the year and there is no doubt that Dunne will have highlighted this as a good chance to contend for his first title. He was last seen missing the cut in Malaysia but conditions would not have suited and a better gauge of his current form is how he fared on the Middle East Swing. Those courses have always been suited to links players and considering he was making his debut at all three, figures of 39-21-42 are encouraging.

At 55/1 he looks worth a small each way play and I’m also backing him to get another top 10 at a venue he clearly likes.

Summary of Bets

Honda Classic

Kevin Kisner – 1.5pts ew @ 45/1

William Mcgirt – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Zac Blair – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 

Joburg Open

George Coetzee – 1.5pts ew @ 18/1

Chris Paisley – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 7/2

Paul Dunne – 0.5pt ew @ 55/1 and 1pt Top 10 @ 5/1

Weekly pts advised – 14pts

2017 total pts advised – 97pts



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