There were returns last week on both Tours as Hadley and Warren both grabbed full places. That very nearly made for a profitable week but not quite (16.5pts) and we really need winners to get back into profit for 2017. Hadley looked like he was going to oblige as he started the final round as favourite but could only manage to shoot level par on a tricky day where Steele rallied with a few timely (and lucky!) birdies.
In Scotland we were in a great position early on but I’m not sure what happened to Coetzee and Fox after Thursday. I followed them around St Andrews and they were both playing very well on the whole. Warren did the opposite though finishing strongly after starting slowly on Carnoustie. Lagergren looked like he might have snagged a place again but a double bogey on the 14th did for his chances on Sunday.
2017 pts advised = 460
2017 pts returned = 376.35
ROI = -18.2%
I’m a little bit rushed for time this week having been away so will focus on the picks. Both tournaments are on the same course so a lot of last year’s info will still be key.
The CIMB Classic takes its usual position at the Kuala Lumpur Golf Club and we have a strong bank of form to look at with just two men having won the last four editions as both Ryan Moore and then Justin Thomas doubled up. That further confirms how important course form is this week as it’s played in serious humidity in Malaysia and there are quirky sea paspalum greens like those on Tour at El Cameleon and Puerto Rico. The course was designed by Nelson and Haworth who are responsible for several championship courses in Asia and the form often stacks up. It is an early start this week through the night in Malaysia and conditions are hot and humid. Both Thomas and Moore putted the lights out during their wins despite neither men being considered consistently great putters. Sea paspalum is a tricky surface and comfort levels need to be high in order to contend.
Rafa Cabrera Bello had some excellent form at the course even before his 10th place finish on the PGA Tour in this event last year. In the Malaysian Open he was 3rd and 4th in 2011 and 2012. For years the Spaniard threatened to become a bit of a journeyman on Tour always failing to maximise his brilliant ball-striking by falling short on Sundays. Gradually over the last two years though he has moved his game to another level and he got his reward with a slightly back-door win at the Scottish Open as Shinkwin himself struggled to get over the line in July. Rafa has also recorded some strong results in elite company recently, making the semi-finals of the World Match Play in 2016 before his best ever Major finish at this year’s Birkdale Open where he was 4th. I think the market has under estimated him this week so he is largely getting backed on a value basis. His tee-to-green game is better than the majority of this field but as ever it’s his very average short game that can hold him back. Having said that it has improved significantly lately and therefore he contends more often than not now as he only needs to perform slightly above average on the greens to do so. The slight worry with regards to winning this week is how prevalent putting has been for the winner. But there is enough value in the each way price for that not to concern me and he has putted well on these sea paspalum greens before. A solid looking bet at 40/1.
Chris Stroud looks a little over priced here despite his run of poor form. Stroud finally got his first PGA Tour win this summer at the Barracuda Championship and chased that with his first Major Top 10 at Quail Hollow the week after. Having secured his card and had his best ever two results in the space of two weeks it’s easy to see why he lost a little intensity and missed his next three cuts in strong fields. He has had a month off since then and would have got rid of any rust last week in California so will be relishing his return to both Malaysia and sea paspalum greens. Stroud finished 3rd at Kuala Lumpur GC in 2013 and followed that up with another 3rd two weeks later on Mayakoba’s sea paspalum. He ranked 2nd and 10th for putting those two weeks and thrives on the different surface as two further Top 10s in Puerto Rico testify. Stroud has also finished runner-up in the Alfred Dunhill and 8th in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, showing he isn’t your typical PGA Tour pro who can struggle when playing on the other side of the world. May well miss the cut again but I think he has been a little bit too easily dismissed at the 200/1 available with Betfred. Top 20 too at 5/1
James Hahn’s claims are very obvious being the only man bar Thomas to finish inside the top 10 the last two years. He was the first name on the shortlist but his price is a bit of a joke now around the 40/1 mark. We know how good he can be in contention but he is so inconsistent that it is very hard to know when he will play well. There are a few other prices that I cannot get on board with this week. Yes, Lahiri loves the course but should he really only be 3 times the price of Matsuyama, or the same price as last week’s winner Brendan Steele? I don’t think so. In fact I’m going to leave it at just the two picks here as Thomas should really win this again but is completely unbackable at just 4/1.
The Italian Open returns to Golf Club De Milano for the third time in a row. Francesco Molinari returns to defend and Jon Rahm tees it up as favourite looking to get his quota in for Ryder Cup eligibility. His presence together with the always too short Molinari have set the tournament up as a strong looking betting heat.
The course is a very narrow one as I covered in greater detail last year. But unlike so many tree-lined narrow tracks, this is also fairly long and has some very small greens. So perhaps it’s a little surprising how low the scoring has been to date.
Anywhere that Molinari wins you would imagine can’t put much emphasis on putting and despite some of the stats conflicting with that a little (Moli ranked 18th for putting, Karlberg 17th in 2015), I’m happy to assume it isn’t overly important this week despite the need for birdies as the greens aren’t too difficult. Many of the holes wind through the trees with dog-legs and as such it is an extremely strategic course off the tee. Not only will they have to be on the correct side of the fairway but more often than not they will only be able to take an iron off the tee, resulting in lots of long iron approaches, especially on the front 9. That sits very well with Molinari having won as he hits his long irons and hybrids as well as anyone on the European Tour.
It’s all about the tee-to-green at Golf Club De Milano and then trying to get the putter hot by giving themselves plenty of chances.
Tommy Fleetwood was the massive standout at the prices on Monday when they came out and subsequently everyone jumped on. I did tweet about the 25s along with many others so hopefully readers managed to get involved. The dilemma then for me was at what price I can still advise him in the blog. The 25s came and went and unfortunately so did most of the 22s about the new father this week but there is still a little bit around and 20/1 is still just about fair too.
We all know what a fantastic long game Fleetwood has and he showed that throughout the summer. An argument could be made for him being in the top 12 or so in the world in terms of ball-striking alone but I must admit I still don’t rate him as much of a putter which usually means I still struggle to back him at short prices. However, in this field, on a tight course with small greens, he probably won’t need to putt too well to get into contention. The fact that he is still a bigger price than Molinari and Tyrell Hatton is to ignore Fleetwood’s rise to the top golfing table in 2017. Therefore with a 7th place last year, where he ranked 1st in GIR, and having broken the Carnoustie course record last Friday, I’ve decided he is still a worthwhile play at 20/1 even if some of the early juice has gone.
Anyone following Martin Kaymer will have had an interesting time to say the least since his meltdown in Abu Dhabi in 2015. It has been very odd to see a double major winner’s form take such an abrupt downturn but even still there have been instances where he has looked backable due to course form and disrespectful prices. This looks like one of those opportunities but this week we also have the added bonus of the fact his long game is very much back to it’s best. He ranked 4th for total driving and 9th for total accuracy last week in Scotland.
So if we see more of the same from him this week he surely has to go well on a course that he was 2nd at in 2015, again throwing away a lead as he led by three at the turn on Sunday. The 40/1 might take into account the fact that hasn’t been able to close them out lately but for me it hasn’t factored in his combination of class, course form and current ball-striking level. Anything much over 28/1 looks generous for the German this week.
There are a host of outsiders I liked this week at the prices and I’ve decided to plump for three more. I’m backing them in the Top 20 market too.
Chris Hanson recorded a top 20 here last year on his first look and I think he is over priced here on his return. Hanson ranks 2nd in total accuracy over the last three months and that combination will be ideal this week on such a narrow course. He hit 79% of the greens at the course last year which ranked 10th for the week. His current form is good if we ignore his missed cut last week in Scotland in the pro-am slog. His results prior to that read 11-25-37-14 with the 11th coming at the tree-lined Close House layout. If his long game remains as sharp as it has been then he should play well again.
Ricardo Gouveia got my attention after last week as he actually ranked 3rd in total driving and 5th in total accuracy. Obviously that was playing three rounds on wide open fairways where comfort levels would have been high for the young Portuguese on the tee. So when I saw that he missed the cut here last year my enthusiasm was tempered a little. However when I delved a little further I noticed that one of his Challenge Tour wins was in Italy on an old-fashioned, tree-lined course with a premium on accuracy. He backed that up with a 6th place finish the year after when defending. I put him up a few weeks ago and he played well so I’m going to give him another go here but just a very small win bet and a bigger top 20 bet.
Jason Scrivener ranked 1st in total accuracy last week but still finished down the field in Scotland as he was let down by his putter. That’s not often the case so if he can improve on the greens he should go well. He was 5th on his last trip to Italy earlier this year at the Rocco Forte Open and has course form of 36-14 so he looks a little over priced.
Summary of Bets
Rafa Cabrera Bello – 1.5pt ew @ 40/1
Chris Stroud – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1
Tommy Fleetwood – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1
Martin Kaymer – 1pt ew @ 40/1
Chris Hanson – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 6/1
Jason Scrivener – 0.25pt ew @ 175/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1
Ricardo Gouveia – 0.25pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1
Weekly pts advised = 15pts
Total 2017 pts advised = 475pts