Having nearly accepted the demise of Stenson, Poulter and Fowler at Birkdale I’m just about ready for a preview again after a week off. It’s still very annoying as The Open looked like being very profitable at the turn on Saturday with all three sitting inside the top 11 at one point. In the end it there were no returns at all which stopped a profitable run over the last few months.
This week just the WGC from Firestone CC, Ohio as I’m not going to look too much at the Barracuda.
Results as follow;
2017 pts advised= 345.5
2017 pts returned= 240.36
ROI = -30.4%
The WGC Bridgestone is back in its usual spot the week before the US PGA after some scheduling changes last year to accommodate the Olympics. While it isn’t always an identical challenge the one constant with Firestone and whichever course is hosting the US PGA is length. Firestone Country Club is a Robert Trent Jones design and it sits as a 7360 yards Par 70 with some monstrous Par 4s and the longest Par 5 on Tour. Next week’s US PGA is always set up to play as long as possible and subsequently it has become a tournament that has been dominated by the longer hitters.
That similarity coupled with the tournaments being back-to back has brought about a telling stat where the last 10 US PGA winners have finished in the Top 22 at Firestone. Those who aren’t getting too involved from a betting point of view this week should pay close attention their fancies for Quail Hollow next week.
Firestone has been the host of this event in some capacity since 1962 so there is an abundance of course form and over the years a typical sort of winner has been established. The fairways are of average width but unlike most courses there are no dog legs and they all play perfectly straight. This puts straight, accurate drivers at an advantage even before the lush green rough is considered. The last 5 winners have averaged 14th for driving accuracy and while you can get away with missing fairways, you need to be a good long iron player from the rough to get anywhere near the greens. On the long par 4s a missed fairway results in an approach shot of 200 yards + for most of the field and that is something that not all players are comfortable with.
The greens are relatively big at an average of 7,600 metres sq. but they play as some of the fastest on Tour at around 13″ on the stimp. So with a field average GIR of 55% over the last 5 years then we can see how hard it is to hold the greens. That brings scrambling into the equation and while the likes of Mahan and Johnson don’t immediately stand out as excellent scramblers, they did very well around the greens during the week of their win.
My first pick is someone who I backed regularly in the big tournaments for about 18 months prior to his excellent run, when he began delivering on his world-class promise with nearly flawless golf from November to January. Hideki Matsuyama was the best golfer in the world for two months before he went off the boil a little in 2017 and his putter began to cool down. But there have been plenty of signs in recent weeks that he is getting back to his best and a venue where poorer putters can thrive has arrived at the perfect time for him. His recent results have been very steady if not spectacular and they have helped him to 1st in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months. That complete game will help him around Firestone which is always a difficult test and the long game will have to be firing on all cylinders to win this week. Luckily that is what his game is built on and we can still get 20/1 on a player who arguably has the most consistent tee-to-green game in the field. Matsuyama ranks 7th in bogey avoidance, 10th in strokes gained: off the tee, 27th in strokes gained: around the green and 27th in scoring relative to par from approaches over 200 yards in the rough.
His Firestone results to date aren’t terribly impressive but I’m not really sure why as the venue should suit him perfectly. Matsuyama’s results in the big events this year eclipse virtually everyone except maybe Brooks Koepka. He has finished 11th, 2nd and 14th in the three majors so far while he has also thrown in a 25th in the WGC Mexico and 22nd in The Players. It looks highly likely we will at least get a run for our money and the odds look very fair for a player who is close to his best, where in turn his best can be close to unbeatable on the right course.
Kevin Chappell may turn into the big twitter gamble yet this week as he looks quite an obvious pick and could well let everyone down as he will be expecting to play well having finished 3rd last year on his debut. Chappell has built a reputation as being a bit of a specialist on courses that represent a tough challenge from tee-to-green. He was 3rd on his Open debut in 2011 and he followed that with a 10th at the Robert Trent Jones designed Olympic Club in 2012. Chappell’s long game was back to its best last week as he ranked 6th for total driving and 21st in GIR while interestingly he ranked 4th in total putting which so often holds him back. The clincher for me though was that he sits T2nd in scoring relative to par from 200 yards + approaches from the rough. That explains why he thrives on these types of courses and the last two course winners currently rank T2nd and 7th in this stat. Chappell definitely has the class to win an event of this size and now that he is a winner on Tour he should arrive confident of playing well again on his 2nd look at the course.
Kevin Kisner looks very overpriced on a course that should suit him despite his relative lack of length. His two results so far have been 37th in 2015 and 16th last year where he sat 6th at the half-way stage. Kisner hits it very straight off the tee and should find himself in the fairway more than most of the field this week. His iron game is in good shape too as he ranks 31st in GIR for the last 3 months. Recent results have been average but that has largely been due to a cold putter and hopefully with par a good score this week those missed birdie putts won’t be too crucial.
I looked at various different side markets here for a bet and settled on Ross Fisher for a Top 10 at a very tempting 10/1. Fisher finished 5th and 3rd at the first two WGC tournaments of the year and while his recent form hasn’t been fantastic, he gets in the staking plan thanks to his solid record around Valderrama, another difficult Robert Trent Jones design. Fisher has played there 5 times without ever being outside the top 25 and his best result was last year where he finished 6th. On his day Fisher is one of the longest, straightest drivers around and while his 3 appearances at Firestone haven’t yielded a top 25 yet, he hasn’t played it since 2010 and will be relishing the test this week.
Summary of Bets
Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts ew @ 20/1
Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 50/1
Kevin Kisner – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1
Ross Fisher – 1pt Top 10 @ 10/1
Weekly pts advised = 8pts
Total 2017 pts = 353.5pts