Zurich Classic and Volvo China Open – Betting Preview

Kevin Chappell finally got over the line in his 180th PGA Tour start but that really doesn’t tell the full story of his last 18 months as he has been threatening to win and did very little wrong in his 4 runner-up finishes in 2016. Despite playing brilliantly on the whole on Sunday it looked like he was going to find one too good again as Brooks Koepka surged through the field with an amazing round of 65 (there were only 7 rounds under 70 on Sunday!). But Chappell showed great courage to shrug off his sloppy par on the short 17th hole to set up an 8ft birdie putt on the par 5 18th. I must admit I feared the worst and if he had missed it then surely Koepka had the momentum for the play-off. But Chappell took his time and rolled it in to win the trophy and his celebration was brilliant to see. He screamed and shouted and ran about as you would expect most winners to do but too many times we see a muted response to winning. Ultimately though, winning on the PGA Tour is very hard so it should be celebrated as such and the reaction will only have helped make Chappell more popular with fans (and punters!) who could see just what it meant to him.

Personally it was good to finally get the first outright winner of 2017 after several near misses and it was a shame Ross Fisher 3-putted on the 18th to miss a play-off in China as it could have been two winners!

With regards to Chappell I think he is a player that really needs to be watched closely as he could take off much like Jimmy Walker did in 2013/14 after his first win. His tee-to-green game is as steady as you get and his love of tough courses make him perfect for the US Open, something which he showed on his debut when he finished T3rd behind McIlroy in 2011 and then T10th the following year. He is very much a live outsider for this year at Erin Hills and I’d advise people to get him onside now. Anything 100/1 and over looks very fair all things considered.

Total 2017 pts advised – 179

Total 2017 pts returned – 127.97

ROI = -28.51%


Zurich Classic

This week on the PGA Tour we have the first fully sactioned team event in 36 years and so far it seems to have split opinion. I’m not overly fussed either way but the way I see it there are 30+ regular tournaments in a season so I don’t think it can hurt to try something different, after all the Perth Super 6s on the European Tour turned out to be a huge success after a lot of criticism leading into the week.

The format sees 80 teams of 2 play the regular four rounds of golf from Thursday to Sunday. The first and third rounds are alternate shot and the second and fourth rounds are best ball. The course is TPC Louisiana which is as we were with it having hosted since 2007. It’s a ball-strikers course with long game exponents such as Justin Rose, Billy Horschell, Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner all having won there in recent years. Despite not being renowned for their putting however they did perform well with the flat-stick during their win and TPC Louisiana presents a good all-round test.

It’s quite long at just over 7400 yards and with it being another Pete Dye design it makes sense that approach shots are key on the course. The greens are relatively small and are made even harder to hit by the their speed. The bermuda surfaces also feature typical Dye run-offs and clever bunkering .

Given the new format I will be looking mainly at those that are familiar with playing with a team-mate as it isn’t for everyone and in addition I would like to see players that have had some success in foursomes/fourballs. The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are the two main opportunities for PGA Tour pros to play team golf but we should also consider the amateur’s Walker Cup as many of the US players in the field cut their teeth in it.

There are two teams that stand out head and shoulders above the rest and to be honest I have no idea whether they represent any value with 80 teams here but I’m going to have a confident bet on both nevertheless.

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson are two of the best ball-strikers in the game and not only that but they have an excellent record when playing together in the Ryder Cup. They won 3 out of 3 together at Gleneagles in 2014 after barely putting a foot wrong and playing some of the best team golf I have ever seen. They followed that up with only 1 win out of 3 at Hazeltine last year but can be forgiven as the two losses were to possibly the only pairing that are in the same league, Spieth and Reed.

So they already look to have a great chance before we consider that Justin Rose won around the course in 2014. The only negative is that Stenson’s form took a bit of a shock nosedive in March and April as he missed 3 cuts in a row. It’s possible that we might not see the ever consistent player of the last three years since his resurgence. But Rose is at the very top of his game, is fresh after a light schedule so far in 2017 and is more than capable of carrying Stenson for the first round by which time I’d expect the Swede to be back to normal in the most comfortable of settings alongside his good friend. If they are in contention by Sunday they will be very hard to beat so at the short price I’m going to go win only.

The other pairing is the 2015 Presidents Cup’s dream team that destroyed all before them in Korea. Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen won all four of their matches together in convincing style with only one of the matches making it beyond the 16th hole. That was quite a turnaround from both of their previous appearances where Grace lost all four matches in 2013 and Oostuizen only took 1.5pts from a possible 5pts that same year. They are clearly comfortable playing with each other and they are another two who excel tee to green. Just last week Grace led the field in Texas in strokes gained: tee to green and Oosthuizen was having a fine 2017 up until an unexpected poor showing at Augusta. Back alongside each other the fond memories of their partnership will have them very excited about the week ahead and with so much guesswork as to how 90% of these teams will perform together, they look like another solid bet.

I’m also going to have a small top 10 bet on Jason Bohn and Carl Pettersson at 16/1. Bohn is a former winner at the course and Pettersson loves playing on Pete Dye designs and finished 5th here just two years ago. He showed glimpses last week and with a 2 yr exemption on offer here they might just be taking things more serious than you would think. But they are good friends and there is a chance they can outplay those odds.


Volvo China Open

The China Open returns to the Topwin Golf and Country Club in Beijing for the second year with homegrown talent Hai Tong Li winning for the first time with a fair bit of ease last year.

One of the first things I had to do when looking at last year’s final leaderboard was to take a second look just to make sure I wasn’t actually looking at an Omega European Masters leaderboard given the names in the top 20!

Alex Noren, David Lipsky, Richie Ramsay have all won that title at Crans-Sur-Sierre and they were all inside the top 10 last year.  Bradley Dredge has also won there and he was 15th while Scott Hend lost a play-off to Noren there and was 6th in this last year. There seems to be a clear link between the two courses and interestingly there is also somewhat of a link with last week’s course which hosted the Shenzhen International. Last year’s Volvo China Open winner Hao-Tong Li had finished runner-up at the Shenzhen in 2015 so it was interesting to see so many Crans specialists go well last week to further compound the link.  Li’s other top 5 finish was at the Maybank Championship in February and alongside him were yet more Crans specialists so I’m basing a lot of my reasearch on the close connections of those four courses; Crans, Genzon Golf Course, Suajana GCC and this week’s host course at Topwin.

The downside is that the bookies have picked up on it and so they have slashed David Lipsky and Fabrizio Zanotti who both have solid form at the courses in question. This made me sceptical about including them but if we look through the field it isn’t really that strong and both have beaten better fields in the past.

Lipsky has been threatening to get his 2nd win recently after struggling for a while following his first win at Crans in 2014. But so far in 2017 he has played some good golf, he opened his year with a run of 39-41-42 in the Middle East Swing before finishing runner-up in the Maybank Championship. He then racked up some valuable top-class experience in the WGC Mexico before his T5th in the Shenzhen last week. He looks ready to win again and having gained his first professional win in Asia, he will be comfortable in the conditions that they will face this week. He finished in the top 10 last year when not in anything like the same form so another strong showing is expected.

Zanotti won just three starts ago so I suppose 33/1 isn’t really that short. His win was at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia where he finished one shot ahead of Lipsky. Zanotti fared better at the WGC Mexico however as he managed 12th place and he also finished 5th last week. On his way to 9th place last year he ranked 1st in fairways hit and 2nd in greens hit and another long game exhibition like that will see him go close. Both his wins have been at -19 so if we see the same birdie-fest as last year that shouldn’t present a problem.

Richie Ramsay is another winner of the European Masters and he also bounced back to form last week at the Shenzhen. The bookies haven’t clipped his price so much however, perhaps due to him having missed his two previous cuts. The 21st place finish was looking even better but he had a poor back 9 after getting himself right into contention early on. Looks a decent price at 70/1 given he was 6th in last year’s edition.

I’m not sure if Julien Quesne has shown enough lately to warrant an outright bet but his long game returned to form last week as he ranked 2nd in driving accuracy and 4th in GIR. Quesne is another with a good record around Crans (5th in 2016) and he also plays well in Asia. He missed the cut at the Maybank this year but was 4th there last year and with good results at all the relevant courses I think he is worth a Top 20 bet here.


Summary of Bets

Zurich Classic

Rose + Stenson – 3pts win @ 7.8

Grace + Oosthuizen – 1pt ew @ 16/1

Jason Bohn + Carl Pettersson – 1pt Top 10 @ 16/1

Volvo China Open

David Lipsky – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Fabrizio Zanotti – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Richie Ramsay – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1

Julien Quesne – 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 191pts

@theGreek82

Valero Texas Open and Shenzhen International

A combination of not being too excited about either of these tournaments and last week’s brutal Sunday has left me with very little enthusiasm for this week’s golf.

Going into the weekend I had 6 players inside their respective top 30s and even on Sunday Campillo was 11th with Simpson and Kisner T3rd in the US. To come away with no returns pretty much summed up the run I’m on at the moment.

To make matters worse all 3 of those started their rounds very well on Sunday. Campillo came flying out of the blocks to reach a tie for 3rd but for the second day running he fell apart on the back 9. It was worse in the US as both Simpson and Kisner held the lead during the first 6 holes and looked quite assured. That didn’t last very long however and they joined the rest of the leaderboard in throwing away their chance.

I must admit I was starting to get excited about turning the 2017 results around but instead confidence took another hit and I’m keeping things very straight-froward this week.

Total 2017 pts advised = 172

Total 217 pts returned = 79.72

ROI = -53.65%


Valero Texas Open

I had a more thorough look at this last year so have a read of that if you wish as much of the same applies regarding the course and profile of player. In short, it is a long course with plenty of trees although they are located a little further back off the fairway than last week. They are especially penal however as anyone who remembers Kevin Na’s score of 16 on the Par 9th hole a few years will testify. The greens are bigger so we will see a lot more hit but they are undulating so only the best ball-strikers will manage to hold the correct portions of the green and set-up birdie putts. The greens are a bit of a hybrid with bermuda underseeded with bent and poa. That mix of grasses together with the usual Texas winds are perhaps two of the reasons why Open champions and good links players have a strong record around TPC San Antonio.

On the whole though it is a course that usually tests most parts of the game and that is evident with the all-round rankings of the winners. The last 5 have ranked 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 2nd and 4th in the all-round.

Kevin Chappell has a good course record ( 2nd in 2011 and 4th in 2016) and he looked back to something close to his best when finishing 7th at The Masters. That left many searching for his name in last week’s field given his solid record on Pete Dye courses. But he didn’t play and while that was a shame it means he will be fresh this week. Chappell has looked like a winner in waiting over the last 2 years and with an average start to 2017 it means we can get a fair price of 33/1 this week. Ranked 19th in the all-round at Augusta and enjoys a tough test of golf which we normally see here at TPC San Antonio with the winning score usually around -10.

Ian Poulter’s interview after his final round was very interesting on Sunday and makes me think he will play well again this week. He was downbeat but very, very self-aware of what had gone wrong and he was happy with his long game. It was his putting that let him down and he believed that tee-to-green he had been good enough to win. Despite his long wait since his win, I’m not convinced he is one of these players that gets in his way.

Needing a top 30 finish to secure his Tour card I think we will see a typically clutch performance from the Englishman. There is no doubt that this normally brilliant putter will have been working on the flat-stick non-stop this week so if he can hold his form there is no reason he can’t go well. Poulter at his best was always comfortable in the wind and he enjoys shaping his ball both ways and keeping the ball-flight down. He finished 2nd at the 2008 Open Championship in some of the highest winds we have seen on Tour in recent times. He doesn’t have the greatest course form but he is mentally tough and I expect another good showing. If he is comfortably inside the top 30 by Sunday then we might see him relax which could bode well down the stretch.


Shenzhen International

Last year I really fancied Ross Fisher for this long course and he finished inside the top 20 despite putting terribly. So far in 2017 we have seen a huge improvement in his putting and he used that to help him finish 3rd in the WGC Mexico and he also made the Quarter Finals of the WGC Matchplay. He has a great record in Asia and in particular at Nelson and Haworth designed courses such as this. He is a short price but that is perfectly fair for such a classy golfer dropping back to this grade. If the putting improvement is something long-term then he looks sure to play well having had a week off since a solid 41st at the Masters.

Renato Paratore had one of his best results on Tour last week as he finished 8th in Morocco for his 5th Top 10 on Tour. He seems to have been around for ages yet he is still only 20 years old. Unlike many of the field however he has played the course twice and while he didn’t exactly light it up, he made both cuts and finished 68th and 44th. He actually led the field in putting on his debut in 2015 so he obviously likes the greens. Last week he ranked 7th in the all-round ranking so his whole game is in better shape than when previously arriving in Shenzhen. The length of the course will be no problem as he is a big hitter and currently ranks 20th in driving distance. Hopefully he can push on from last week on a course he is familiar with and he looks an ok price to do so at 100/1.


Summary of results

Valero Texas Open

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Ian Poulter – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Shenzhen International

Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 16/1

Renato Paratore – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Weekly pts advised = 7pts

Tootal 2017 pts advised = 179pts

@theGreek82

RBC Heritage and Trophee Hassan

Limited time this week so I’ll not bore you with my take on a brilliant Masters finale and another losing week on the blog. Mainly just the picks this week and a little bit of reasoning.

Total pts advised 2017 = 162

Total pts returned 2017 = 79.72

ROI = -50.79

 


RBC Heritage

The RBC Heritage at Hilton Head normally has a fairly clear type of player that wins. They are normally very tactical players that like to plot their way round golf courses. The course was designed by Pete Dye so some of his other courses can be a good guide. The last five winners were Branden Grace, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell and Carl Pettersson.

With narrow, tree-lined fairways a lot of care is required off the tee and despite the course being short at just under 7,000 yards, there a lot of tee-shots where an iron will be taken to allow position. This means there will still be a lot of approaches around 200 yards and upwards and Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar and Graeme McDowell all excel with their long irons and hybrids.

The greens are small and tough to hit so as well as approach accuracy, scrambling is key at Hilton Head. Those 5 winners ranked 3rd, 1st, 11th, 1st and 15th in scrambling and 14th, 11th, 1st, 7th and 1st in GIR.

My first pick is the fairly obvious Kevin Kisner but as long as he keeps providing me with returns on courses that clearly suit then I’m going to keep backing him when we can still get 25/1. In short there isn’t too much more to say about him than the last time I tipped him. He loves bermuda greens and plays well on Pete Dye courses where accuracy is favoured over distance. Kisner ranks 18th in driving accuracy, 8th in strokes gained: approaches to the green and 47th in scrambling. The strokes gained: approaches is a handy indicator at Hilton Head as it gives a clear indication of who is taking advantage of their close proximity to the flag. The last 5 winners all ranked inside the top 65 for this stat during the season of their win.

He hasn’t quite been hitting as many greens as usual but his form is trending and his finish of 43rd last week at the Masters is the perfect non-contending warm up for one of his favourite courses where he lost in a play-off to Furyk in 2015.

Webb Simpson jumped off the page at me at 80/1 this week as he fits the Furyk/Kuchar/GMac mould perfectly and he is playing better of late. He missed the cut at the Masters by two shots last week but three of the last 5 winners here also missed the cut the week before their win by either one or two shots.

Simpson sits 9th in strokes gained : approaches to the green and 14th in scrambling and it was only a few weeks ago that he came runner-up to Matsuyama in Phoenix. He has finished down the field on his last two starts here but in 2013 he came 2nd, proof that the course does suit. At 80/1 he looks decent value this week in a field lacking any great depth.

Anirban Lahiri has a few similarities to last year’s winner Branden Grace. Both arrived with a bang on the European Tour, quickly becoming a multiple winner after initial success in their homelands. They are both also blessed with an excellent touch and short game which helped establish them on Tour. While Grace wasn’t an obvious pick to win at Hilton Head, neither is Lahiri. Both are known to be a little erratic off the tee but having trees around them seem to force them to develop more of a strategy off the tee. They both have excellent long iron games so being a little further back in the fairway isn’t too much of a hindrance. Lahiri has already won on a tight track in Malaysia and I think he should be well suited to this course on his 2nd look after finishing 44th on his debut here in 2015.

Lahiri also has some excellent form on Pete Dye’s Whistling Straits course when he finished 5th in the US PGA Championship. The course isn’t too similar visually but the green complexes aren’t too dissimilar and Grace also went well in that tournament contending all the way to the 16th on the final round.

My final pick is Brian Stuard after giving a very decent showing at the Masters last week when finishing 36th on his debut. He came 5th here in 2014 and has the exactly the sort of steady, accurate game required around Hilton Head. Stuard leads the Tour in driving accuracy, is 56th in strokes gained: approach to the green and 41st in scrambling. With his confidence flying after the Masters he should play well here again on a far shorter course that will play to his strengths.

 


Trophee Hassan II

This is an altogether trappier looking event with a pretty basic field and the fact that the market is headed by recent European Tour winner Dean Burmester tells you everything you need to know. That said, the next three players in the betting are actually pretty good and it feels like we have a false favourite. Joost Luiten, Jeunghun Wang and Brandon Stone are all proven, multiple winners and they must be respected this week even if they don’t make much appeal at the prices.

The player I like here is actually one that I usually smirk at when I see others tip him but that is normally when he is a very short price as he is still a European Tour maiden. Jaco Van Zyl is the man in question and in truth I’m not sure if he will ever get over the line on the main Tour but he has certainly looked a lot more likely in recent times. He lost in a playoff to Wang in Qatar in February and it is actually that piece of form that prompted me to look at him this week. At his best Van Zyl is an excellent iron player that can sometimes get in his own way on the greens. But I think he will be comfortable on the course as it will play a lot like the South African courses with kikuyu grass in play and the field is of similar strength to those that he often contends in when playing in co-sanctioned events.

Given the first (Wang) and second (Elvira) here last year both rank in the top 10 for putting on Tour over the last 3 months, it is fair to conclude that putting is quite important at Royal Golf Club Dar Es Salam. So having backed a ball-striker already I’m going to go with a putter for my 2nd pick. Jorge Campillo has been tipped a few times already on the blog for that same reason and he currently ranks 2nd in total putting. It surely can’t hurt that his fellow countryman just won the Masters at the weekend. Campillo finished 2nd in South Africa just two starts ago and should be comfortable again in similar conditions.

I’m also going to have a small bet on Adrien Saddier for a couple of reasons. Rhys Davies won at this course back in 2010 and while struggling on the main Tour recently he has won several times on the Challenge Tour. Two of those came at the Challenge de Espana around Tecina Golf Club. Saddier won around there last year so he might just take to the course. That alone wouldn’t have made him a bet but he  finished 2nd on his last start on the Challenge Tour down in Kenya. He also came 16th here last year and improvement can be expected on his 2nd look.


Summary of Bets

RBC Heritage

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Webb Simpson – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Anirban Lahiri – 0.5pt ew @ 90/1

Brian Stuard – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Trophee Hassan II

Jaco Van Zyl – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Jorge Campillo – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1

Adrien Saddier – 0.5 pt ew @ 150/1

Weekly pts advised = 10pts

2017 pts advised = 172

@theGreek82

The Masters 2017

There were no returns last week as Justin Rose treaded water over the weekend, surely just freewheeling and sharpening up his game for this week.

It leaves the 2017 totals looking rather grim ahead of the first major but confidence is high after a lot of hard work so hopefully we can get back into profit with a good week.

2017 points advised = 140

2017 points returned = 77.66

ROI = -44.5%


The Masters

I have written an extensive preview for Matchbook so I won’t be including a preview as such here. The link to that will appear below when it is published.

https://articles.matchbook.com/the-masters-2017/

 

So instead I will just include my tips this week with maybe a little reasoning. I have been back and forth with betting Jordan Spieth as a single but today Rory Mcilroy has shortened up on the exchange and Spieth has been pushed out to almost double figures at 9.6. I don’t believe McIlroy has a better chance than Spieth and I’m not sure there should be such a difference between Spieth and Dustin Johnson. Therefore with Masters form figures of 2-1-2 I simply have to back him at 9.6.

He looks nailed on for another top 5 and while I was tempted to go in heavy on the 2.65, instead I’m going to include that in a slightly novelty double and save the stakes for my other bets. I will play 4pts win on Matchbook’s standout exchange price of 9.6.

There are three solid each way bets that I like all with a good Masters pedigree and also excellent stats/trends; Bill Haas, Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen. I am also backing Bill Haas for a top 20.

I have found a couple of huge prices that I like on the exchange too. While I am not tipping them as such, they may well be good trading options. Instead I will include them as top 20 bets here; Brendan Steele and James Hahn.

Adam Hadwin sits in 14th for 1st round scoring over the last 3 months and he has what looks to be a favourable morning tee-time. Right now the forecast is for the wind to be edging towards 40km/h in the afternoon compared to around 20km/h in the morning. He is a debutant which meant I all but dismissed him from the outright market but his stats are very impressive too for Augusta. He is 7th in strokes gained: putting, 1st in bogey avoidance and 2nd in scrambling. Back him each way for first round leader @ 66/1

Russell Henley got the last entry for this by winning in Houston at the weekend and he will be delighted as he comes from Georgia. His stats are also brilliant and he virtually holed everything he looked at on Saturday and Sunday. I think he can start quickly here before the pressure and mental fatigue kick in later in the week. Playing so well that he has to be given respect this week but recency bias has him a little short here. Looks another nice bet in the 1st round leader market though again at 66/1 as he ranks 10th in first round scoring in the last 3 months. Tees off first at 8am in just a two-ball with Daniel Summerhays. Having the whole course empty in front of them will be ideal for these two great putters and they might just feed off each other if they start rolling the putts in.

Whenever The Masters and Grand National fall on the same weekend it can be a very enjoyable betting angle to find a double. In the Grand National I very much like the favourite Vieux Lion Rouge who finished 7th last year as a 7yr old and has improved an awful lot with two excellent wins this season. Winning twice isn’t always ideal preperation for a race that you have to be campaigned at all year. But last year he was run in the 4 miler at Cheltenham just 4 weeks before the Grand National which would hardly have been ideal so he will be fresher this year and the handicapper has only put him up 3lb since last year which seems very fair indeed. He is a brilliant jumper and while he appeared to tire in the run in last year he has looked this year like his stamina is improving still as an 8 yr old. I think he has a great chance of winning but as always with the Grand National he may be susceptible to another well handicapped horse. So I’m going to advise a place double of Vieux Lion Rouge and Jordan Spieth at around 8/1 or whatever price you can get once the Grand National place markets open. It looks very solid indeed.


Summary of bets

Jordan Spieth – 4pts win @ 9.6

Bill Haas – 1pt ew @ 100/1 and 4pts Top 20 @ 11/4

Marc Leishman – 1pt ew @ 70/1

Louis Oosthuizen – 1pt ew @ 55/1

Brendan Steele – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

James Hahn – 2pts Top 20 @ 8/1

Adam Hadwin – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @ 66/1 (1/4 odds first 5)

Russell Henley – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @ 66/1 (1/4 odds first 5)

4pts Place Double – Jordan Spieth (1st-5th) and Vieux Lion Rouge (1st-5th) @ 8.625/1

 

Weekly points advised – 24pts

Total 2017 pts advised – 164pts

@theGreek82