There were exciting finishes on both Tours last week but none of our players were quite on the premises down the stretch on Sunday. Matthew Southgate was on the leaderboard most of the weekend but a poor front nine on Sunday left him with too much to do and he could only finish 11th. On the PGA Tour it was annoying to miss out on Patrick Cantlay as his win has been coming and he looked to have a good chance however 20/1 about a maiden however talented isn’t a price for everyone. The outsiders I plumped for instead started very well as both Stegmaier and Fathauer sat in the top 20 after the first round but both struggled on Friday on what was a very strange 2nd round. They couldn’t get closer again over the weekend and it was annoying to see Hadley place as I left him out on price alone.
Total 2017 pts advised = 506pts
Total 2017 pts returned = 381.21pts
ROI = -24.67%
The penultimate event of the 2017 Fall Series takes place south of the border, down Mexico way. The course is El Camaleon at Mayakoba and has been a staple on the Tour since 2007. It is quite a unique event for a couple of reasons, firstly it was the only regular PGA Tour event outside the U.S. for a number of years and secondly it was one of the few courses they play annually that is less than 7000 yards long.
To allow for the lack of length the course is heavily tree-lined with very narrow fairways and some smaller, fairly tricky sea paspalum greens. Despite the fiddly nature of the course, scoring is usually very low and while it isn’t over powered, the accurate players in the field can make plenty of birdies, especially if they enjoy putting on the often quirky sea paspalum greens. Sea paspalum is said to grab the ball a lot more than other grasses so those with an aggressive short iron game are able to pepper the flag and make a score without having to hole a serious amount of distance. Experience of the grass is certainly advantageous and the strain of grass caused quite a stir back at the 2012 US PGA when very few players had seen sea paspalum on the PGA Tour. It is becoming increasingly more common now however and is used at lots of Web.com Tour venues.
While young rookies tend to do very well in these early season events, more experienced pros tend to enjoy the test at Mayakoba and we can see that if we look at the last three winners, Pat Perez, Graeme McDowell and Charlie Hoffman. I wouldn’t want to rule any of the younger players out but I will be focussing on the experienced players who will have the patience for a more considered test of golf.
I’d make accuracy the most important attribute this week, both off the tee and indeed with their irons. Having played well previously in the heat and humidity will be beneficial and proximity to the hole numbers are worth a look, especially with the wedges from 100 to 150 yards.
Chesson Hadley is one of the form players in the world right now and while I left him out at 28/1 last week I’m going to include him here as he has shown his liking for sea paspalum in the past and played well in the humid conditions. Hadley didn’t actually do a lot wrong last week as he bogeyed the 18th to miss out on the play-off but that was the only mistake he really made down the stretch and he wasn’t alone in bogeying the impossibly hard final hole.
His whole game has been in great shape for the last two months and he doesn’t really have too much of a weakness to his game. He was won before away from mainland U.S as his sole PGA Tour win came in Puerto Rico in similar climate and on similar paspalum greens. In all honesty I thought we would be looking at joint 2nd favourite here around 18/1 or 20/1 so I’ll gladly take the 25/1 on offer about the player who looks more likely than anyone in the field to play well. *Since initially writing this he has been cut to 22/1, it’s not brilliant but still the right side of 20s for me.
This layout should suit Kevin Chappell quite well as he enjoys a test of long game accuracy as much as anyone on Tour. I normally associate him with tougher courses as one of his main strengths is protecting his par on testing ball-striking layouts and his win came at TPC San Antonio on a score of -12. While scoring here is always a lot lower than that, it is the San Antonio link that I like here. It is another Greg Norman course with a premium on accuracy and the green complexes are similar. Chappell can eat up the Par 5s around here with his consistent tee-to-green game and that will allow some slack with the putter which doesn’t always behave.
His form is actually sneaky good coming in too despite not really appearing on any leaderboards. He hasn’t finished outside the Top 35 since The Open and his figures read a very positive 20-28-12-35-6-33-13-8. That 20th was last week at The Shriners and was an excellent result considering it was his first appearance since his successful Presidents Cup debut over a month ago. This is his debut at the course but he finished 9th and 11th in the Mexico Open on the Web.com Tour and the course should suit. I think we are getting a decent price given he is a winner earlier this year, arriving in good form and has pieces of form over the last couple of years as strong as anyone in the field bar Fowler or Reed.
Andrew Putnam looks a great outsider here largely due to his results in the South American/Caribbean swing on the Web.com earlier this year. He went on a run of 8th-11th-5th-1st in the Bahamas, Colombia and Panama and all of those were played in similarly hot and humid conditions. The most interesting point however is that they all feature sea paspalum greens and the Panama GC where he won is also tree-lined and considered a difficult test tee to green. He isn’t the most accurate of drivers but given he has won on tight courses before we can assume he is capable of a strategic game off the tee.
He has played Mayakoba just once and he made the cut but finished down in 72nd last year. He struggled with his long game but yet he ranked 1st for putting which is a big positive. He hasn’t done much lately but his form in similar climates and on sea paspalum greens makes the 250/1 look huge. I’ll also have an interest in the Top 20 market.
Kyle Thompson has missed all three cuts so far in the 2017 season and after last week’s wash out I probably shouldn’t have such a speculative bet but he is another with very good form from the Web.com tournaments played outside the U.S. He won the Great Exuma Classic in January at the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course in the Bahamas which is another Greg Norman design with sea paspalum greens. It isn’t quite as tight a driving course but the green complexes and bunkering look very similar as is the climate. He is a massive price and quite out of form but I’m still having a very small interest each way and Top 20.
This is played at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City in South Africa and it plays about as long as the multiple major winner’s self-indulgent stories. That figure is around 7800 yards and while it is at altitude it is still one of the longer courses on Tour. Unlike many of those though, the players aren’t able to completely let rip with the driver as the fairways are very narrow, tree-lined and feature quite sticky kikuyu rough. Additionally the greens are quite small and are intricately shaped to allow several difficult pin positions. This has seen many of the European Tour’s best ball-strikers win the title over the years and the long-game has to be fully on point to compete in this 72 hole slog in the blistering heat. We have seen many rounds crumble away into the 80s and without a cut this week there will be a huge disparity between the winner and the player in last place. The course will reward good shots but heavily punish those not on their game, especially as the greens firm up over the weekend.
Matt Fitzpatrick has been top of my list for this ever since he won the European Masters at Crans. To say that Crans and the Gary Player CC are exactly the same test would be inaccurate given the huge difference in length, however there are definitely some crossovers and for me the two have some sort of link. Five of the last seven Nedbanks have been won by players who have also won around Crans and I suppose the two common attributes are finding fairways and being in form. Neither course is one where a player can compete without finding the short stuff or arriving without their game in a good place.
Fitzpatrick is a supremely accurate driver of the ball and although he is quite short, his long iron game is also very accurate meaning he will still be able to hit these smallish greens. His two efforts to date in the Nedbank haven’t been spectacular but he has made the top 20 on both occasions. He hasn’t quite threatened to win in recent weeks but his form has still been good with results of 11-9-15-15-11 since his win in Switzerland. If he starts well then I expect him to contend this week.
Tommy Fleetwood should enjoy this test but I’m a little unsure how he might perform with the pressure that Justin Rose heaped on him last week. He will be very much the focus at the course during the build up and having played so much golf lately, that might just take its toll after a long flight from Turkey. Instead I’m looking at two outsiders for an added interest.
Paul Waring drives the ball very long and very straight and he bounced back to form last week as he finished 14th in Turkey. His whole game was very strong as he ranked 11th in the all-round, 5th in total driving and 7th in ball-striking. His best finish to date on Tour was a runner-up finish in the Joburg Open in February so I’m hoping he will be comfortable in these conditions. Had this been a star-studded field he might have struggled but given the number of big names now missing he shouldn’t be overawed.
I wanted to include Romain Wattel again but it was proving hard to forgive him his opening round last week where I really fancied him to go well. But at 150/1 I think he is worth another go as he ranked 7th for total driving, 8th for GIR and closed with rounds of 68-69-67. It was just a poor start and a cold putter that prevented him contending and I’m hoping a trip to SA and the grainy putting greens might sort the latter out. He already has three placed efforts in the country so should go well now he is returning as a European Tour winner.
Summary of bets
Chesson Hadley – 1pt ew @ 22/1
Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 30/1
Andrew Putnam – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1
Kyle Thompson – 0.25pt ew @ 500/1 and 0.5pt Top 20 @ 20/1
Matt Fitzpatrick – 1.5pts ew @ 18/1
Paul Waring – 0.5pt ew @ 175/1
Romain Wattel – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1
Weekly pts advised = 12pts
2017 pts advised = 518pts