Another Sunday, another week of my picks tumbling down the leaderboard. Great fun.
What made matters worse was Kevin Kisner (tipped for Dean and Deluca last year and 11 times in total!) won in Texas in the evening albeit at the slightly restrictive price of 25/1. While his chance was obvious I still hadn’t forgiven him for his awful Sunday round at Harbour Town last month. But given that I had been waiting for his 2nd win it is annoying to miss out, especially as he is probably one of the few players who I’m still in profit on.
Total 2017 pts advised = 233 pts
Total 2017 pts returned = 130.97 pts
ROI = -43.79pts
Two decent events this week and another chance to turn things around. The Memorial on the PGA and the Nordea Masters in Europe.
Muirfield Village was opened in 1976 and has hosted The Memorial Tournament ever since producing an impressive roll call of winners. The course itself is 7337 Yards long and the fairways are of average width. There isn’t too much immediate trouble barring some lush green rough and it is very much a typical Nicklaus course as it is all about the approach shots and then what you do on and around the greens.
It has been a little while since I tipped top 10 money machine Matt Kuchar to win a tournament but lately he has looked like he is ready to win again and where better than Muirfield where he won in 2013. Accurate long iron approach play, good scrambling, par 4 scoring and steady putting are all hallmarks of Kuchar’s ultra consistent golf game. Without a win since 2014, Kuchar’s form took a little blip but so far in 2017 he has looked a lot like the Matty of old. He ranks 9th in scrambling, 14th in par 4 scoring and 41st in GIR.
The trouble with Kuchar isn’t trying to pick where he will play well, it is more so that it can be hard to get him inside the top 5 rather than the top 10. On his last 3 appearances on Jack Nicklaus designed courses he has finished 9th, 4th and 7th. After a back door 12th last week where only three men played the weekend lower he looks primed for a contending performance on one of his favourite courses.
I’m going to split stakes though so we still see a return should he finish in the all too familiar 6th-10th zone. I’m going 1pt ew and 2pts Top 10.
Brian Harman doesn’t have the greatest of records around Memorial but it should suit him and he looks over priced after winning just four weeks ago on a similar course at Eagle Point Golf Club. He won that with a solid approach game backed up by a brilliant short game display and that is what is required on a Jack Nicklaus layout. His course record isn’t a worry as his game has never been better and he got back to business nicely last week when finishing 7th at Colonial.
Harman ranks 25th for scrambling, 9th in Par 4 scoring, 30th in bogey avoidance and 21st in scoring relative to par on approaches from over 200 yards. The slight worry is that he doesn’t hit the sort of high numbers of greens that is usually required around Muirfield Village but given his short game form I think he is over priced here.
There are three others that I quite like this week, Patrick Cantlay, Sung-Hoon Kang and Ricky Barnes. I’m going to back Cantlay to win and the two others for a top 20.
Cantlay ranks 11th in GIR, 3rd in par 4 scoring and 7th in the all-round ranking. He is making his debut but I think he looks very well suited to Muirfield Village. Cantlay has been very impressive so far in 2017 having not finished outside the top 48 in his 6 appearances and returning a runner-up and 3rd place finish. He appears to have turned the corner following a tragic 2016 in which he witnessed his caddie and friend being killed in a hit and run. With a full PGA Tour card secured again he is expected to go from strength to strength this year and hopefully he can contend here. The price isn’t fantastic for a non-winner but only Jon Rahm has spent longer as world amateur no. 1 and he looks to be able to play a bit!
Kang is a very solid stats pick this week and while he is making his debut he is having a brilliant 2017 so far finishing 6th at the Texas Open and 2nd at the Houston Open. Both those were a result of solid GIR and scrambling numbers which is the perfect combo here. He ranks 38th in GIR, 20th in scrambling, 9th in par 4 scoring and 12th in the all-round ranking. Surely over priced a little at 9/2 for a top 20.
Ricky Barnes is a bit of a phenomenon in that he can appear from nowhere on a leaderboard, usually in a rather high profile event on a proper golf course. Barnes is a former runner-up here and he goes well on Nicklaus courses in general having finished 5th and 11th on his last two efforts around Glen Abbey in Cananda. Barnes shot an opening 75 last week before going onto play the last three rounds better than everyone bar Spieth and Stricker. Odds of 11/1 for a top 20 look massive.
The Nordea Masters returns to Barseback Golf Club for the first time since 2009. It was a regular stop from the 1990s up to that point so there is a fair bit of course form albeit rather dated.
It is a fairly long course and can play up to 7729 yards with a combination of links style and woodland holes. Visually that suggests it has similarities with Gleneagles, Celtic Manor and even last week’s Wentworth. I have written before about how form at Crans ties in well with Gleneagles and Celtic Manor while the Doha Golf Club, home of the Qatar Masters is another that looks relevant this week. Indeed the last winner here, Ricardo Gonzalez is a former winner at Crans, he also lost a play-off at Gleneagles, finished 4th at Celtic Manor and 4th at the Qatar Masters.
Marc Warren won the previous running in 2006 and he was won at Gleneagles, finished runner-up in Qatar, runner-up at Wentworth, 4th at Celtic Manor and 4th at Crans.
Luke Donald was the winner here in 2004 and he is a double winner at Wentworth, he has won around Crans and finished 3rd at Celtic Manor (as well as scoring 3pts there at the Ryder Cup).
2003 winner Adam Scott has won twice in Qatar and once at Gleneagles. Even going further back 2001 winner Colin Montgomerie has won around Crans and Wentworth, 1997 winner Joakim Haeggmann has won in Qatar, 1993 winner Jesper Parnevik at Gleneagles and 1992 winner Nick Faldo at Wentworth and Crans.
They all putted and scrambled very well during their win and those appear to be the standout attributes this week at Barseback. On exposed layouts, greens are very often missed and we see great scramblers thrive year after year on links layouts. They also all ranked very high on the par 3s which suggests they are maybe a fairly easy set of par 3s to hit with big greens where the better putters will prosper. The greens are also some of the faster on the European Tour which again will disadvantage those poorer with the flat stick.
Driving accuracy hasn’t been overly important in the past and despite several of the holes being tree-lined, the fairways are wide enough and the rough hasn’t been too penal in the past. Although we don’t know how it will be set up this week it is fair to assume they won’t venture too far from the set-up that saw the course prove very popular with players in the past.
Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren both have a very good record at most of the key courses listed especially the latter who has won at Celtic Manor, Crans and now Wentworth. I think they are both rightly single figure prices here and I think they will be hard to beat. Noren has proven in the last year just what he is capable of when he is fit and while the price of 8/1 is probably fair and we know he can go back to back, I think the enormity of winning the Tour’s flagship event may prevent us from seeing him at his best. As brilliant as Stenson is he has proven a costly player to follow at single figure prices and despite this being his home course I think he can be left out given his mixed course form.
The trouble with opposing two world-class, proven winners is that as well as finding someone suited to the course, we need to know they are capable of winning in what is a relatively strong field for the European Tour these days.
At his best Bradley Dredge was a multiple winner on Tour and he has a very solid bank of form at all the relevant courses this week. Dredge is a former winner around Crans, he was runner-up at Gleneagles, 4th in Qatar and he has also been 2nd twice at the visually similar Himmerland Golf Course where Marc Warren has won.
He played well for three rounds last week at Wentworth before a disappointing 4th round. Dredge has plenty length off the tee to cope with Barseback and despite not having played fantastically here before, he has played the course 4 times and made three cuts. The course should really suit this brilliant putter and he proved on Monday when qualifying for the US Open that his first three rounds at Wentworth were no fluke. With confidence high I’m expecting a good showing from the experienced Welshman.
George Coetzee is a favourite of the blog and I have mentioned several times what a great scrambler and putter he is on fast, links type courses. He hasn’t contended too much so far this year but he has been putting well as is to be expected. His driving has actually been a lot more consistent so far this year and it appears that he is trying to cut out the big numbers that we associate with the South African. Again he has some solid form at a couple of the key courses, he lost a play-off at Gleneagles in 2011 and has also been runner-up in Qatar. He currently ranks 2nd in birdie average and also 15th in driving distance so the long course will suit. Coetzee knows how to get over the winning line with three European Tour wins and he looks ready to add a 4th. This is a strong field but that is reflected in the odds of 50/1.
There were a few more that I could have included in the outright but with results having been poor lately I’m keen to try to persist with Top 20s as an alternative.
Marcel Siem has some of the best course form on show in this field as he finished 4th in 2006 and 8th in 2004. That was a long time ago but there have been recent signs that this 4 time winner may be finding his game again. He finished 8th two weeks ago in Italy but was let down by his putter. I’m not sure that he can contend if he is putting poorly but his course experience can help him continue along the comeback trail with another top 20.
Joakim Lagergren and Alexander Bjork are two young Swedes who both have brilliant short games. They will be looking to impress on home soil and this could be a good course for them. Lagergren finished runner-up this year at the Qatar Masters but went a little off the boil after that. He still sits 22nd in birdie average though and he can be expected to play well on any course that favours putters. His best results on Tour have all been on links type layouts with a 4th in the Alfred Dunhill Links last year and a 5th at the Made In Denmark on the Himmerland Course.
Alexander Bjork ranked 3rd for scrambling at Wentworth and 9th for putting along the way to finishing 14th. Only Tanihara and winner Noren had a better combination of short game stats and more of the same this week will surely see him crack the top 20 again.
Summary of Bets
Matt Kuchar – 1pt ew @ 33/1 and 2pts Top 10 @ 3/1
Brian Harman – 0.5pt ew @ 75/1
Sung-Hoon Kang – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2
Ricky Barnes – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/1
Patrick Cantlay – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1
Bradley Dredge – 1pt ew @ 80/1
George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 50/1
Marcel Siem – 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2
Joakim Lagergren – 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1
Alexander Bjork – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1
Weekly pts advised – 16pts
Total 2017 pts advised – 249pts