Shell Houston Open – Betting Preview

Last week it was a case of another tournament, another Dustin Johnson win and yet another poor betting week. With the Masters next week and confidence a little low I’m not planning on getting too involved this week as I save the stakes for Jordan Spieth (barring any torrential rain over the coming week at Augusta).

Total 2017 pts advised =135pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 77.66pts

ROI = -42.5%


Shell Houston Open

Last year I came to the conclusion that there were four key attributes to playing well at Humble Golf Club and they were par 4 scoring, driving distance, GIR and holing out well. While it didn’t help me find the rather left-field winner Jim Herman, I think the skill-set applied quite well. I’ve looked at the same attributes again as Herman did seem to conform even if he wasn’t an obvious winner.

Justin Rose hasn’t played a lot of golf this year due to injury so unlike some of the others at the top of the market, he will be eager to get the most out of Houston in order to prepare for Augusta. In recent times he has missed this tournament as he prefers a week off to prepare for a major however he was 14th in 2010. But with his relative lack of events I think it is telling that he is teeing it up on a course that doesn’t immediately jump out as one that will suit him.

Since Rose became the world-class force that he is, he has played well the week before his win. On his last 6 wins he has finished 22nd, 6th, 2nd, 1st, 8th and 5th in the tournaments preceding his win. He is good enough and experienced enough now to see no negatives in winning the week before and we have seen plenty of the game’s best players do it over the last 10-15 years.

Rose is no slouch off the tee and he ranked 26th in driving distance in 2016. Few players hit more greens on a consistent basis and over the last 3 months he ranks 15th for Par 4 scoring. While he isn’t the best of putters, it is usually more the 5ft-15ft range that he struggles with rather than holing out. He has always looked more assured on smoother bentgrass greens and 5 of his 7 PGA Tour wins have been on the surface. Ultimately though, Rose just looks a little forgotten about in this field and at 22/1 he looks a very solid each way play.

With Tony Finau just missing out on the match play there was a lot of talk about him last week and that has held over this week heading into Houston. Despite missing the cut last year, the wide open fairways and length of the course suggest that Finau should be suited to the layout. Last year, while he was playing very well at the time, he wasn’t hitting as many greens as he is this year and he was also coming off his first PGA Tour win the week before. That is never quite ideal as you only have three days to celebrate and prepare for the next week. This year he ranks 14th for GIR whereas he finished the 2016 season in 106th place. That improvement will help him on a second shot course like he faces here. Digging a little deeper into the GIR stats shows that Finau is performing even better from 175-200 yards as he is 3rd on Tour. A solid long iron game will always be helpful on a course where past winners include Hunter Mahan, Paul Casey and Adam Scott.

It’s very possible that Finau won’t putt well enough to win this but the switch over to bentgrass should be favourable for him. While he is beginning to look a little skinny at 40/1, he will have the added motivation of trying to qualify for the Masters next week and hopefully that will be enough to see him get competitive and give us a run for our money.

Last year I tipped Lydia Ko to win the first Women’s major of the year at 9/2 (almost the last winner on the blog!) and while she is in fairly poor form by her standards, I can’t resist the 18/1 on offer this time around at the ANA Inspiration. It is more of a suggestion on price alone as the odds make her 10th favourite this week and while the strength in-depth on the LPGA is by far and away the best it has ever been, I feel like her achievements have been dismissed a little too easily here. Ko did miss her last cut but prior to that she recorded 3 top 10s in a row. The New Zealander has changed clubs and coach since her last win in July so a transitional period was to be expected but it is surely just a matter of time before she turns things around. At odds of 18/1 it’s easy to play this week just incase last year’s major win inspires her again. Just 1pt win only though.


Summary of Bets

Houston Open

Justin Rose – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Tony Finau – 1pt ew @ 40/1

ANA Inspiration

Lydia Ko – 1pt win only at 18/1

Weekly points advised – 5pts

Total pts advised – 140pts

@theGreek82

WGC Dell Matchplay – Betting Preview

Henriks Stenson gave plenty of punters a surprise by playing terribly around Bay Hill last week and he missed the cut. I didn’t see much of the action but with his course and current form it was very unlike the ultra-consistent Swede. That lost us 7 points though nevertheless and unfortunately it’s a rather tough looking betting heat again this week with the WGC Match Play. I have also had a quick look at the alternate event in Puerto Rico.

Total 2017 pts advised = 129

Total 2017 pts returned = 77.66

ROI =  -39.8%


WGC Match Play

The WGC Match Play is back at Austin Country Club for a second year and we are now into the third edition of the round-robin group format. While proving popular with most players and indeed sponsors, there are some that preferred the old set-up as Stenson stays away for the second year running having not enjoyed the format change in 2014. He isn’t the only big player missing though as Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose join him in skipping the event this year but we still have 64 of the world’s best 69 players gathered.

The course sits at 7169 yards and from last year’s coverage it looks truly spectacular. It is a parkland course set along sprawling hills giving rise to some elevation changes and undulating fairways very akin to some British links courses. There are also a lot of deep,menacing bunkers that give it a further links appearance. While the fairways appear to be of average width they will certainly not feel that way standing on the tee. There are many hidden tee shots where the players are forced to carry valleys or shape the ball around trees. The numerous dog legs and elevation changes will also bring about some blind approaches and it appears that accuracy will be important this week. Whenever a course has elevation changes then distance control becomes absolutely paramount. Players will have to trust their yardages and commit to them in order to find both the right areas of the fairways and indeed the greens. As we have come to expect from a Pete Dye design (Sawgrass, RBC Heritage, Whistling Straits), the greens are relatively small and they are undulating and tiered. Accurate approach shots will be required to find the correct portion of the green to allow a makeable birdie putt. But there will be many flags that simply have to be avoided with run-offs and green side bunkers aplenty. There are lots of aggressive players that fare well in match play golf but this week I think it will very much need to be controlled aggression rather than firing at every single flag. Although it must be noted how many holes can be overpowered on the layout. The very first hole is a drivable Par 4 for the longest in the field and just like at Dove Mountain, length off the tee certainly helps in Austin.

So I’m looking for someone who hits plenty of fairways and greens but isn’t afraid to attack pins when the chance is there. They must also have a solid match play pedigree, be that from the World Match Play or strong showings in The Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup or perhaps The European Tour’s own match play events. With this being a Pete Dye design I’d certainly like them to have some form at his courses and perhaps also be a decent exponent of links golf. Form on similar TifEagle bermuda greens will also be useful and luckily that was in use last week at Bay Hill.

Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of Patrick Reed but I was surprised to see that I haven’t actually backed him to win this year yet. In fact the last time I think I tipped him was at the Ryder Cup when he handled the pressure brilliantly to deliver 3 1/2 pts as top US player. That was his 2nd top scoring Ryder Cup in just his 2nd event. That is quite a record and on both occasions he won his singles match, famously defeating McIlroy last year and also taking care of in-form Henrik Stenson in 2014. On his only Presidents Cup appearance he halved his singles match with Louis Oosthuizen. He is yet to properly set the WGC Match Play on fire but I’m sure that is only a matter of time. In 2014 he won his first game against Graeme Delaet but lost out to George Coetzee on the 3rd play-off hole. In 2015 the first time that they brought in the group stages, he won 2 and lost 1 which meant he was going home. Last year in his home state though was his best showing yet, winning all 3 of his group games only to meet Dustin Johnson in the knockout rounds where he went down 3&2.

So if we look at his professional match play golf in elite competition it makes for very impressive reading. He has played 12 matches and won 8 1/2 of them giving him a winning record of 70.83%. I would imagine only Jason Day can boast those sort of figures and while he should always be respected, Reed is twice the price here. We have seen over recent years how crucial scrambling skills can be in match play and there are few better around the greens than Reed. Even if his long game isn’t up to its best then his short game and strong mentality will make him very hard to beat this week.

Louis Oosthuizen really should have fared a little better in the Match Play in Perth last month eventually losing at about the 5th sudden-death hole in the quarter finals. Only eventual winner Brett Rumford played better golf than him and while he should have seen Adam Bland off in the regulation 6 holes he was still extremely impressive on the sudden-death 90 yard play-off hole. Bland had the honour and kept piling the pressure on Louis by knocking it in stiff. But completely unflustered, Louis kept firing it as close if not closer but it was just a matter of time before something gave. It was 5th time lucky for Bland as Oosty hit it in the bunker but it was yet another display of the South African’s ice cool demeanour in match play.

In his earlier years he didn’t have a great record in this competition but the new group-stage format seems to have really turned his fortunes around. In both 2015 and 2016 he won all 3 of his group games and he only lost out to Jim Furyk (QF) and Jason Day (Final) respectively. Indeed he also lost to Jason Day in 2014 when the Aussie was winning it first time round so it usually takes some inspired play to get rid of him.

Year after year we see the saw the same names excelling in this when it was a straight-knockout event and I’d expect to see a similar pattern occur in the new format. In the two editions so far Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen were the only two men to make both quarter-finals. I think both players will go well again this week but McIlroy is at single figures and Oosthuizen can be backed at 50/1. He is in the same group as Matsuyama which means one of them will be going home early but Matsuyama’s form has tailed off a little and Oosthuizen won’t be phased by Matsuyama’s tee-to-green accuracy.

McIlroy is no doubt the man to beat this week and while you can’t eat value, I think both Oosty and Reed look overpriced in a format they enjoy on a course that suits them. They are drawn to meet in the semi-finals should they both progress and while you normally see people pick from different halves, at least they can both yield returns unlike if they were to meet earlier.

For something a little different I’ve included a match winner treble for Day 1 (Wednesday, its an early start this week!).

Tyrrell Hatton is currently one of the most in-form golfers in the world and while things are bound to take a nose-dive sooner or later, I think the adrenaline of all these big tournaments will keep him going at least through the Masters. Charles Howell’s form hasn’t been great over the last few weeks and he has a poor record in the WGC Matchplay. I think Hatton’s game is better suited to one on one golf and expect him to get off to a good start here.

Ryan Moore made the quarter-finals here last year and arrives in decent form. He knows he will need to win this to have any chance of getting to the knockout stages as he is in the same group as Jordan Spieth. Yuti Ikeda has been in woeful form so far in 2017 missing the cut in both his Asian Tour starts. He would have missed the cut last time out in Mexico too but for it being a 4 round tournament and he finished down the field in 61st. If Moore plays anywhere near his best he should win.

Matt Fitzpatrick faces a tougher task against Kevin Na but he is a far more accomplished player now than this time last year when he was a little steam-rollered by a tough group including Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson. He finished 7th on his first professional Masters start, made his debut in the Ryder Cup and collected two more European Tour titles. He will be confident of a good showing this week unlike Na whose game isn’t where he wants it to be with form figures of MC-MC-52.


Puerto Rico Open

Danny Lee rounded off last week with the lowest round in the field on Sunday and that highlighted him as a player to watch this week. Unfortunately the bookmakers are also onto him but that finish of 17th arrived after a 22nd the week before and interestingly they were preceded by 5 missed cuts. It looks like Lee has found something again with his game and if thats the case then there aren’t too many in Puerto Rico with more ability. Lee had an excellent Amateur career which culminated in winning the US Amateur and the Johnnie Walker Classic on the European Tour. He has won on the main Tour before at the Greenbrier in 2015 and also finished runner-up at this very tournament in 2014. He looks worth an interest here now he is playing well again.


Summary of bets

WGC Matchplay

Louis Oosthuizen – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Puerto Rico

Danny Lee – 1pt ew @ 30/1

Match winner treble – 2pts @ 5.65 (Hatton, Moore, Na)

Weely pts advised – 8pts

2017 total pts advised – 135pts

@theGreek82

Arnold Palmer Invitational

Very short on time with it being Cheltenham and not in the best of moods having seen Yanworth run so poorly so I will save you all the review of last week. It was a poor one.

I’m not going to go into much detail as there is just one Tournament this week and there is one standout bet. It’s all about GIR usually at Bay Hill and that might explain why Henrik Stenson does so well there. His last 4 starts there have gone 3rd-2nd-5th-8th and he ranked 1st-5th-1st-2nd in GIR in those events. He loves it there and has done everything but win. His world-wide form is brilliant as he hasn’t been out of the top 10 since September (7th-2nd-8th-9th-8th). After starting well last week he stuttered over the weekend and I think that was a combination of a cold putter and him still not 100% fit following illness in Mexico. He will have used this week to recover and despite a strong field here, 2016’s Champion Golfer of The Year looks the man to beat.

Henrik Stenson – 3pts win @ 10.0 on Betfair, 4pts Top 5 @ 3.1 on Betfair.

Will update the increasingly miserable results next week.

 

Valspar Championship and Hero Indian Open – Betting Preview

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.


Valspar Championship

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

Valspar Championship

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

@theGreek82