Fabrizio Zanotti saved the week for me and in truth his presence on the leaderboard was one of few that signalled they were playing a tight, tree-lined course. Despite a brilliant tournament, the bigger hitters still managed to overpower the course and the top 10 featured 5 of the game’s very longest. It really wasn’t to be expected but in the current golfing landscape it feels like there isn’t a course around that can’t be somewhat tamed by sheer power. Of course the USGA would beg to differ and they may serve to remind us at Erin Hills in June at the US Open just what they can do with 7800 yards and 12″ rough!
In South Africa George Coetzee had an absolute shocker in the rain on Friday to miss the cut and while not overly surprising, it was a little annoying having kept the faith at a short price.
Zanotti’s Top 20 keeps some small returns ticking over but only an outright win will bring 2017 back into profit.
2017 pts advised = 110pts
2017 pts returned = 78.66pts
ROI = -28.5%
This week the PGA Tour heads back over the border to Florida and the European Tour moves north to India.
With the WGC Mexico out of the way all roads lead to Magnolia Drive and The Masters now. With just 4 weeks to go the elite players will be trying to perfect their schedule to allow for the correct balance between being prepared and yet still relatively fresh for Augusta. This leaves us trying to work out whether to plump for the big names again or “fade the chalk” as I have seen several US Fantasy Golf players talk about in recent weeks. (a term used for leaving out the big players)
Dustin Johnson won again last week for the second time in a row and on both occasions he was an obvious favourite. From the 9 tournaments in this calendar year, Justin Thomas has won 2, Dustin Johnson has won 2, with Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Hudson Swafford taking home the others. With Rahm’s already lofty reputation, only Swafford’s win could be described as left-field and the game’s best players have completely dominated so far in 2017.
The course itself at the Valspar, The Copperhead at Innisbrook, also lends itself to big name winners with Charl Schwartzel and Jordan Spieth having won the last two but moreover 7 of the 16 champions are major winners with KJ Choi a Players Champion and Luke Donald a WGC Champion and ex World No. 1 on top of those seven.
The course is a 7340 yard Par 71 and it usually plays quite tough. The last 5 winning scores average around -9 and while it was always a tough track before 2015’s renovations, the greens were somewhat harder to hit last year. The fairways are tree-lined and while they are not as tight as last week, the short grass itself is narrower than the average tour fairway. There isn’t usually one attribute that stands out more than others here as Copperhead normally plays as a fair but tough course that tests all aspects of the game. With last year’s edition being the only one since the changes I suppose it should warrant closer scrutiny than it’s predecessors. If pushed for one important stat I suppose GIR looked just about the standout last year.
Chris Kirk looks to be the best piece of value in the field to my eyes at 80/1. Kirk is a 4-time winner on Tour and while he is without one since 2015 at Colonial, he is always a threat on shorter, tree-lined courses in the south-east. Out of his 6 wins as a professional, 5 of those have come in the south east and a big part of that is his love for bermuda greens which are more prevalent in the east.
Kirk made his debut here back in 2011 but then never appeared again until last year where he finished 42nd. That will have given him a good reminder of the course and on a 2nd successive look I think we can expect him to get competitive given what we saw from him last time out. That was a month ago at Pebble Beach and he ranked 2nd in driving accuracy and 5th in GIR while only managing to finish 39th and struggling on the poa annua surfaces. If he brings that long game prowess to bermuda greens then 80/1 could look big over the weekend for this excellent putter. From a scoring point of view his 2017 season also makes for good reading as he ranks 12th for birdie average and 7th for bogey avoidance. Being ranked so highly in both of those surely means his game is right where he wants it to be with another win not too far away.
There are several that appeal in the 40-80/1 bracket but most of these haven’t been kind to me lately. Most notably Jason Dufner last week in Mexico. Yet I keep being led back to the two big names that share favouritism, Henrik Stenson and Justin Thomas. As big a fan as I am of Henrik Stenson, it’s hard to know how well he will have recovered from his illness in Mexico. Justin Thomas is a far bigger headache as virtually everything he has done this year has been brilliant up until his final round on Sunday. I think that can easily be forgiven as that was his first time in the heat of the battle in a WGC but there is still something in the back of my mind that tells me Thomas’ time at the very top will be short-lived. I can’t put my finger on it but I see him more as a Top 20 player rather than a Top 6 going on long-term.
However he showed last week that right now he is very much an elite player and that will make him hard to beat here. I’m going 2 points win only at 13.5 on the exchange. If he fancies it this week he may be hard to stop on Sunday without the likes of DJ and McIlroy chasing him down.
With place bets having been kinder to me lately I’m completing this week’s line up with two who players that like the course but never, ever win. Graeme Delaet isn’t someone I have backed all that much but I know he has frustrated many. His tee-to-green game is excellent but over the last few years he has putted like a drunk Lee Westwood. That doesn’t stop him from being competitive on trickier courses and while the greens won’t be as slow as they were last year, his approach game will help him again on a course where his ranking of 1st for GIR last year was accomplished with just 69%, which is on the low side for a regular Tour stop. He is in good form with recent finishes reading 9th-17th-10th and having finished 5th here last year and 8th in 2014, I think he looks a good bet for another Top 10 this week.
Charles Howell III hasn’t won since 2007 but he sits 21st in the career money list on the PGA Tour. That tells you everything you need to know about him and he is a cash cow on the courses he likes. Copperhead is one of those with form figures the last three years of 5th-10th-14th. Having not missed a cut since October he looks nailed on for a Top 20 here but I’m going to be a little bit more bold and go with a Top 10 at a better looking 7/2.
Hero Indian Open
At first glance this week’s Hero Indian Open looks a nightmare, on second glance it still looks a nightmare. Five of the top seven in the market are streets ahead of the field on pure talent and the other two were 1st and 2nd last week in Pretoria. But none of the five bigger names; Lahiri, Cabrera-Bello, Uihlein, Coetzee and Aphibarnrat appeal at these prices. With the exception of Rafa, they are among some of the most inconsistent players around on the European Tour. While the other 4 have shown they have what it takes to win, they can be as likely to miss the cut as contend and that makes them hard to like at such low odds. Coetzee would normally appeal at 25/1 in this field but there is just no way I can back him for a 3rd week in a row, even if he has been good to me the last 3 years. Rafa on the other hand is the model of consistency but backing him to win at any price is frustrating enough, nevermind just 11/1 having travelled from Mexico. Just like with the silly short Dean Burmester last week (14/1), I’m happy to miss out if RCB does finally get his 3rd win some five years after his 2nd win
Speaking of Burmester, he finds himself toward the head of the market with the others this week and while we have seen several back to back winners recently, the travel from SA together with the celebrations of his first win will surely prevent him from turning up at 100% and can be easily overlooked.
So the event looks a little tricky before we factor in the fact that we are on a new course at the DLF Golf and Country Club resort. On top of that come conflicting reports of its length so I’m not going to get too bogged down with the course this week. We know it is long, wide open and in India and that is good enough for me.
Jorge Campillo also looks a little short but he really is knocking very loudly on the door and he didn’t do much wrong last week when finishing runner-up. That was his second runner-up finish on Tour with the other one coming at this resort on the Arnold Palmer course which apparently uses some of the same holes as this week’s Gary Player design. While last week’s course was a little bit fiddlier, it was also a Player design so he would appear to enjoy his courses. This week’s apparently favours the longer hitters and that won’t stop Campillo as he ranks 49th in driving distance. Most courses in India feature difficult green complexes so I’m sure we can expect the same here but Campillo ranks 24th in putts per round in 2017 and very few of those above him are teeing it up here.
It’s not an original pick but he is a player that I have followed closely the last 2 years and I’d be annoyed to miss out on his maiden win here so I’m going to have a small bet despite his odds of 25/1 feeling a little restrictive. With lots of recent short price winners on both Tours sometimes we have to move the goal posts a little.
There really isn’t a lot else to get me too excited here as the field is a mix of relative unknown Indian players, Asian Tour members and European Tour journey men. The likes of Marcel Siem and Edoardo Molinari look overpriced but in truth their terrible form probably allows for that and makes it hard to fancy them. Jason Scrivener interest me again but most of his best results are in his homeland but I may look to get him onside in play should he start well.
The only other player that interests me is Dylan Frittelli who closed out the Tshwane Open with 65-68 over the weekend to suggest that he could well be rounding back to form. He hasn’t done too well yet in his career on the main European Tour stage and his best results have tended to come in either South Africa or Australia. Worth a small top 10 play here in India where he will be more relaxed out of the spotlight.
Summary of Bets
Chris Kirk – 1pt ew @ 80/1
Justin Thomas – 2pts win @ 13.5 on Betfair Exchange
Graeme Delaet – 2pts Top 10 @ 9/2
Charles Howell III – 2pts Top 10 @ 7/2
Hero Indian Open
Jorge Campillo – 1pt ew @ 25/1
Dylan Frittelli – 2pt Top 10 @ 5/1
Weekly pts advised – 12pts
Total 2017 pts advised – 122pts