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%
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
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