I’m not talking too much about last week after Rose crumbled over the weekend and Coetzee’s triple bogey 7 at the 72nd hole scuppered his place chances. Very annoying. Finau landed the top 10 money however and Berger and Woodland both played well enough for top 10s but both threw in one bad round.
2017 pts advised = 429pts
2017 pts returned = 345.09
ROI = -19.6%
On paper and form this looks like a landslide win for the US team with the bulk of the star players for the International team having had poor 2017 seasons. But does it always work that way? In golf team events, it usually does I’m afraid. While the match play format can certainly bring about a change in fortune for some it is hard to see enough of the Internationals finding sufficient improvement to allow the team to be competitive as a whole across the 4 days, especially on U.S. soil. Two years ago many of the International team were in great form and they played brilliantly and still couldn’t win. Luckily though there are plenty of markets available so I have had a look at the course and individual markets to see if I can find any value.
The venue is Liberty National and it gets its name from its location sitting right behind the Statue of Liberty in Jersey City. It is a Tom Kite design and it has hosted two PGA Tour events previously, the 2009 and 2013 Barclays Championship. However it must be noted that a massive $250m renovation was carried out prior to the 2013 event with a view to hosting this very event. It was won by Australian Adam Scott who returns this week and will be expected to use his course knowledge to help his team this week.
Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen teamed up brilliantly two years ago to win all four of their matches and that very much set the foundation for the International team’s challenge across the week. I don’t expect to see returning Captain Nick Price split them up but they will find it a lot harder in the U.S. with so much expected from them. Instead I’m going for Jason Day in the top International market because of his incredible record in both New Jersey and indeed the neighbouring New York area. His recent results in New Jersey read 2-1-2, which is really amazing and his New York record is similarly impressive; 6-4-8. Day struggled in 2015 only winning a 0.5pt from his 5 games but his opening partner was Steve Bowditch and I’m not sure he would have been too pleased about that. I’d expect Price to find a more suitable pairing for him this time around knowing how crucial it will be to get his main man winning points. Day showed in 2013 what he can do with the right partner when he and Graeme Delaet won 2.5pts from 4.
We shouldn’t forget that Day is an accomplished match play exponent having won the WGC World Matchplay title twice already in his career. He has shown enough form lately to suggest he will play well this week and he has also played Liberty National twice before recording 12th and 25th place finishes. His price isn’t great but I think he looks like a solid enough bet in the Top International market at 9/2 as he may not have too much to beat, especially if he gets off to a good start with whoever he is paired with on Thursday morning. Additionally he will surely play all five matches which gives him a big advantage over most of his team.
The main player market bet I like though is Brooks Koepka to be the top scoring rookie in the competition. He is 2nd favourite in the market to Justin Thomas but there are two key factors at play here which makes him look like the more solid option. Thomas just won some $11m dollars on Sunday and that will have taken a bit of getting used to. He was already a rich man but we have seen plenty of Fed Ex winners struggle for form in the aftermath. While Thomas and Koepka are Presidents Cup rookies, Koepka played in last year’s Ryder Cup and played very well indeed taking 3 pts from 4. He relished the team format from the start and he has stated in interviews just how much he is looking forward to this week. Being new to professional team golf Thomas won’t be entirely sure of the atmosphere and given that he looks likely to play with his mate Rickie Fowler, its possible they might not be fully focussed from the word go.
There are nine others in the market but none of those can be expected to play in as many matches as Thomas and Koepka so they will have their work cut out to win this. Thomas will probably take to the event and win all 5 pts but from a betting angle it looks safer to side with the man proven in the elite team golf environment.
I’m also going to have two speculative plays on the correct score. Like everyone else I’m expecting a fairly comfortable U.S. win but it should stay competitive early on. With 30 pts up for grabs I like both the 17-13 and 16.5-13.5 scorelines so will have 0.5pt on both at 10/1.
We have had the Ian Poulter hosted event at Woburn in 2015 and then the Luke Donald hosted event last year at The Grove, this year it falls on European Tour stalwart Lee Westwood to host at Close House. Bringing the British Masters back has been a stroke of genius from The European Tour and getting Sky Sports on board has also really helped to capture the imagination of the fans. With the first two editions in the south of England they are now venturing north to Northumbria and I’d expect the crowds to be massive as they support their first regular European Tour event in quite some time.
The course itself holds Lee Westwood’s name and is known as the Lee Westwood Colt Course although neither he nor Harry Colt actually designed it. It was the work of Scott Macpherson who created it in 2011 but he based it very much on the great Harry Colt’s work. Macpherson is a scholar of the great British courses, particularly Colt’s work and he is even a published author on the topic having written “Golf’s Royal Clubs” about the courses in the world that have been given Royal approval.
Close House is a rather short course playing under 7000 yards and it reminds me visually of a combination of Wentworth and Gleneagles. It has the winding tree-lined fairways of Wentworth but the rolling fairways and elevation changes of Gleneagles.
The course has been used on the 3rd tier Europro Tour from 2015-2017 and also hosted the Senior PGA in 2015. That Senior event was won by Peter Fowler and looking at the other four names who made up the places behind him, they are all golfers who play well on tree-lined UK courses with numerous top 5s around Woburn and Sunningdale.
Shane Lowry was on my radar for this given his form on Harry Colt designs and classic British tracks on the whole. Lowry has a very solid record at Colt’s Wentworth with a 2014 runner-up finish being the pick of four top 10 finishes. Lowry’s best Open finish was at Colt’s Hoylake in 2014 when he finished 9th and he actually equalled Faldo’s course record 62 around Colt’s redesigned Sunningdale layout on his way to qualifying for the 2010 Open. It’s very clear that Lowry enjoys the classic Colt layouts so it makes a lot of sense to me that he should take to Close House given it was designed with all those layouts in mind.
That might have been enough to make Lowry a bet anyway but his iron play has been back to its best lately and in Portugal he hit a rather brilliant 91.6% of the greens which means he missed just 6 all week. Granted they are huge greens but the most important attribute to take to a new course is solid approach play. Confidently committing to a number and target on a new layout will give Lowry a big advantage over those who are struggling to control their ball. Lowry has also played well in this event before at Woburn which is another similar course. We know he can beat better fields than this as he showed when winning the WGC Bridgestone, at another tree-lined, classic design, so returning to form he looks a rock solid each way bet here.
Marc Warren played brilliantly last week and therefore I was surprised to see 100/1 about him this week on a course that would suit a peak Marc Warren perfectly. Warren is a Wentworth specialist with 7 top 30s and he is a winner around Gleneagles. His best major finish is at the classical, Donald Ross designed Oak Hill where he came 12th and his best Open finish was around Hoylake. The only downside to Warren this week is that he still isn’t driving the ball close to his best since his injury. The rest of his game was in great shape in Portugal though as he ranked 4th in GIR and 14th in putting. With Close House being a short course he should be able to leave the driver in the bag on plenty of tee shots and flourish again on another suitable course.
One of the main disadvantages that rookies face on Tour is that they are playing a course for the first time while most of the field have seen it before numerous times. Not only is that not the case this week but several of the rookies have actually played Close House before. This completely turns things on its head and while it is still a huge step up in class from the Challenge Tour, it’s fair to think those rookies who have already shown up well on the European Tour can take advantage of their superior course knowledge to outplay their odds this week.
Aaron Rai doesn’t exactly fly in under the radar having won three times on the Challenge Tour this year to gain his card but he is a decent price given the field strength here. His form has been up and down so far on the main Tour but his talent is very evident and I like his chances of playing well this week. He came 5th at Close House in the 2015 Euro Pro event so given this is the first course he will have played before I’m going to have a top 20 bet on him here.
Marcus Armitage was 20th last week in Portugal and that’s the same bet I’m having this week. Armitage won around Close House in 2015 and hasn’t looked out-of-place so far on the European Tour. He ranked 8th in total driving and 5th in scrambling last week and both those attributes should help him here.
Ashley Chesters is another who has seen the course before having finished 4th there last year. Chesters plays well on these shores as he showed when he arrived on the scene at St Andrews’ 2015 Open when he finished 12th as an amateur. A few weeks later he would go on to take 3.5pts out of 4 at the Walker Cup around Royal Lytham. Chesters has shown glimpses on the main Tour so far and currently ranks 3rd for total accuracy this year. He has managed 6 top 20s from 19 events so far and looks over priced for another.
Summary of Bets
Jason Day – Top International – 1pt @ 5/1
Brooks Koepka – Top Overall Rookie – 2pts @ 9/2
US 17-13 Internationals Correct Score – 0.5pt @ 10/1
US 16.5-13.5 Internationals Correct Score – 0.5pt @ 10/1
Shane Lowry – 2pts ew @ 25/1
Marc Warren – 0.75pts ew 100/1
Aaron Rai – 1.5pts Top 20 @ 11/2
Marcus Armitage – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/1
Ashley Chesters – 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1
Weekly pts advised = 13pts
2017 pts advised = 442pts