Houston Open – Betting Preview

I broke the rule of not getting too involved in the Match Play last week so therefore I can’t really complain about losing all 8pts. Aphibarnrat very nearly made it to the semi-finals to get me out of a jam but despite the three previous events going to the favourites, it is worth remembering that these are 64 of the best players in the world and it really doesn’t take much to bring about an upset or 8. Small stakes next year!

GMac didn’t do much in the Dominican and Appleby fell away after starting well on Thursday. No European Tour event again this week so we just have the Masters warm-up in Houston but I’ve also had a look at the first Ladies’ major of the year.

Total 2018 pts advised =103pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 92.69

ROI = -18%


Houston Open

With one week to go until Augusta we stay in Texas and head along to Houston for the Shell Houston Open from Humble. There will be two schools of thought amongst the field this week, those who have qualified for the Masters will be looking to sharpen up their game and hone the skill set required for Augusta while those not qualified will be trying to punch their ticket up Magnolia Lane by winning this week. That makes for both an interesting narrative and betting heat as the motivation may well be greater for players further down the betting. It takes a seriously impressive mental attitude to win the week before a major and then follow-up in the big one. In recent times we have only seen McIlroy and Mickelson do so. So while much of this year’s schedule has been dominated by the upper echelons of the game, I’d be inclined to widen the net a little this week. Despite being a ball-strikers paradise, since moving to its slot the week before the Masters, only 2 of the 11 winners are major winners and you would be hard pushed to suggest any of the last 5 were top class even if the reigning champion Henley could still reach that level.

Shell

The Golf Club of Houston was Rees Jones’ first course that he designed from scratch and it has hosted since 2003. It is quite long at nearly 7500 yards but the fairways are very wide and the rough is minimal, meaning bombers have a good record in the event and the shorter hitters can struggle unless every other department of their game is firing. There is a lot of water in play around the greens  so an accurate approach game is required before they reach perhaps the biggest test of all. The greens are usually set up fast to mimic Augusta conditions next week and they are a bit of a mix with bermuda, bent and poa all popping up by all accounts.  Therefore 3 putts will be a plenty and holing out well will be key this week as the winner normally performs well with the putter.

There are quite a lot of players I like this week so with just one tournament I’m going to back a few to relatively low stakes, especially the more speculative ones.

Rees Jones also carried out a redesign of Torrey Pines and the course form generally correlates quite well. The Torrey greens are slick and while scoring is a lot tougher, driving distance and holing out are both very important. Harris English’s best finish of the season prior to last week in the Dominican was 8th at Torrey Pines and he is also a former runner-up there. He also has strong course form at the Sony Open where defending Houston champ Russell Henley got his first win, English has 3rd, 4th and 9th place finishes. He was 5th last week and ranked 6th in total driving and 11th in GIR so clearly he has found his game again. At his best English is a very strong putter and he drives it long and straight so I’m not sure why he has never done that well in Houston. The course should suit him and if he has turned a corner with last week’s confidence boosting 5th, then 80/1 could be quite a big price in a relatively weak field.

Benny An announced himself as a player to follow on ball-striker’s courses with quick greens when he won the BMW PGA Wentworth in 2015, although he is winless anywhere since then. That’s not to say he hasn’t played well though and he has been knocking on the door again this year on the PGA Tour. His putting can be quite hit or miss but when I noticed he was 2nd on Tour for putting inside 5ft I knew I had to back him here where holing out is difficult. I’m expecting a big week from young Korean.

Charles Howell III has form at Torrey Pines, Sony Open, Honda Classic and a good record here in Houston. He is famously one of the hardest to get over the line having not won since 2007 but with players like Chucky Three Sticks we have to look out for small things that might bring about improvement. Last week’s performance in qualifying from a WGC group with Phil Mickelson in it will have given him a huge lift and he perhaps let the pressure of qualifying for his home-town major get to him in the knock-out stages. That could well happen again this week but I think his each way price looks very good indeed. Howell is often criticised for his putting but this year he ranks 3rd in putting inside 5 feet and that will serve him well here while his extremely consistent tee-to-green game should be present.

Two very, very speculative punts to finish and Lanto Griffin seems over priced for someone who finished 12th at Torrey Pines. That is the height of my reasoning behind this bet. He is a PGA Tour rookie who is still finding his feet but to contend on a layout like that suggests there is maybe more to come. After a few missed cuts he managed a 28th last week where he was 8th in putting and at 300/1 I thought he was worth a small bet.

Jonas Blixt was a master on the greens a few years ago as he racked up 2 PGA Tour wins. He has been very quiet since but won the doubles event last year in New Orleans. He started 2018 fairly poorly again but he finished 41st on his last start at Riviera before 4 weeks off. Blixt isn’t much of a ball-striker to be fair but I think this course should suit him with some room to spray it off the tee. We shouldn’t forget Blixt finished 2nd at the 2014 Masters and he is capable of better ball-striking days. It’s a very speculative punt given he hasn’t shown much in this event to date but on the two occasions he has made the cut he returned top 30s and at his price it won’t cost much for a little interest.

 

LPGA – ANA Inspiration

The first Ladies major arrives this week and Brittany Lincicome looks somewhat over priced to me. She has already won this event twice in 2009 and 2015 and came runner-up in 2007. Lincicome is very much a horses for courses type of golfer and thrives on courses where she can use her powerful game to her advantage. She defended her Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and if she were out of form then I could perhaps see the reason behind a few firms having her as a 33/1 shot this week. But she sits in 2nd on the 2018 money list and I think she has been overlooked in the market here perhaps in favour of some of the more fashionable and popular picks. Yet a lot of those above her in the betting have been a little out of form while Brittany hasn’t missed a cut since last July and her 2018 form figures read 10-16-54-7-1. She looks a very solid each way bet at anything around 28/1 to 33/1.


Summary of Bets

Houston Open

Harris English – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Charles Howell III – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Benny An – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Lanto Griffin – 0.25 pts ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Jonas Blixt – 0.25pts ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

LPGA – ANA Inspiration

Brittany Lincicome – 1 pt ew @ 33/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 121pts

@theGreek82

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WGC Match Play – Betting preview

Apologies to any regular readers as Cheltenham took up most of my time last week so I didn’t get a chance to have a look too closely at the golf. I did manage to watch the final round though and McIlroy was extremely impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him putt that well and it couldn’t have come at a better time for him with just over 2 weeks to go before the Masters. It really couldn’t be set up any better with the majority of the game’s best players all in fine form. Before then we still have the 2nd WGC of the season with the match play event in Texas

2018 pts advised = 103pts

2018 pts returned = 92.69pts

ROI = -10%


WGC Match Play

The WGC Match Play is back at Austin Country Club for a third year and we are now into the fourth edition of the round-robin group format. Some players have enjoyed the move away from straight knockout while others aren’t quite as taken and again there are a few of the world’s best missing here; Rose, Fowler, Koepka and Stenson all sit out of a tournament that still hosts 64 of the world’s top ranked 70 players. Unfortunately that still means no Tiger who has only managed to get to no. 105 despite his recent form in elite fields.

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The course was designed by Pete Dye and the par 72 course sits at 7169 yards while being rather spectacular to the eye. It is a parkland course set along sprawling hills giving rise to some elevation changes and undulating fairways very akin to some British links courses. There are also a lot of deep, menacing bunkers that give it a further links appearance. While the fairways appear to be of average width they will certainly not feel that way standing on the tee. There are many hidden tee shots where the players are forced to carry valleys or shape the ball around trees. The numerous dog legs and elevation changes will also bring about some blind approaches and it appears that accuracy will be important this week with the irons. Whenever a course has elevation changes then distance control becomes absolutely paramount. As we have come to expect from Pete Dye designs (Sawgrass, RBC Heritage, Whistling Straits, PGA West), the greens are relatively small and they are undulating and tiered. Accurate approach shots will be required to find the correct portion of the green to allow a makeable birdie putt. But there will be many flags that simply have to be avoided with run-offs and green side bunkers aplenty. There are several examples of very aggressive players who play well in match play but similarly steady players that keep mistakes to a minimum can also thrive in the format.  The greens are TifEagle bermuda which was also in use last week at Bay Hill.

Just like stroke-play there are often different ways to succeed on a course but from what we have seen in the two editions in Austin so far, aggression and power are very advantageous indeed. When we look at the 2 winners to date at Austin Country Club (Dustin Johnson and Jason Day) there are a few things that jump out. Firstly they are two of the best players in the world, who were both on extremely hot winning runs at the time, each playing the best golf of their career. Secondly, they are two of the biggest hitters in the game and they used that length to dominate their matches on the relatively short course, attacking the flags and driving the greens wherever possible. Thirdly, they both had plenty of form on Pete Dye courses, particularly Whistling Straits where Day won his PGA and DJ should have won his in 2010. Johnson had also already won around Dye’s Crooked Stick course in 2016 while Day would go on to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass just 2 months later.

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It is that profile of the two winners that led me to my main bet this week and that is Jon Rahm. I’d expect him to be popular this week so I’ve tried to post this a little earlier than usual to try to get a good price but it’s also worth noting that it is a Wednesday start this week in Texas. Rahm is another powerhouse off the tee and he is probably the only player that can compete with DJ and McIlroy in terms of power and “strokes gained: off the tee”. Rahm has already won this year in February but perhaps the most interesting thing about that win with regards to this week is where he got his win. It was at the Careerbuilder Challenge which involves two rounds at Pete Dye’s PGA West Course and also involves bermuda greens. Rahm’s form has tailed off a little since that win but he has still finished inside the top 30 on all 4 starts. There has been quite a bit of discussion about Rahm already this week as he apparently hit a 59 in a practice round at Austin Country Club on Monday (Note: sounds like it wasn’t actually at Austin CC after all). We also know he can do that in competition as he made the final last year only to lose 1 up to a red-hot Dustin Johnson. He has shown already in his short career that he thrives on the same sort of courses as both Johnson and Day so he looks the absolute standout candidate to follow them as winners of the WGC Match Play. With a win this calendar year and already having won on a Dye design he is also a great trends pick and looks like the best bet in Texas this week. But an extra little sweetener is that the form of those at the head of the market has resulted in recency bias probably giving us a price that is perhaps two or three ticks bigger than it should be. Obviously anything can happen in match play but in recent times this event has gone to one of the very best players so let’s have a confident each way bet on the world number 3 at 14/1.

I didn’t want to get too involved in this prior to the draw but there are two others that I quite like and I’m going to have a small bet on them both and hope they are all in different groups. As annoying as Paul Casey is, a confident PC in a match play tournament is a massive threat and he will be absolutely buzzing coming into this event after finally getting his 2nd PGA Tour win. We know he won’t be in the slightest bit phased by taking on the big names here and with his match play pedigree he could go deep in this tournament. Last year he won all three of his group games but lost to an inspired Tanihara in the first knockout match. Given how cocky Casey is you wonder whether he gave Tanihara the respect he deserved last year and I don’t think we will see him make the same mistake again this year. Casey is a two-time runner-up in this event while he has also won the European Tour’s Volvo Match Play event. He also has a very decent Ryder Cup record having won 56% of his available points. He doesn’t have a win around a Pete Dye course but he has been runner-up at both Crooked Stick and TPC River HIghlands. Worth a nice back up ew bet at 22/1.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat owes us nothing after winning the Perth Super 6s in February but he is playing some of the best golf of his career right now. He has won again since then when playing back on the Asia Tour and he also recorded his best WGC finish to date in Mexico where he was T5th. With all his travelling I’m not too worried about his missed cut at Bay Hill last week and he will be fully prepared having made the shorter journey from Florida. With two match play titles already we know he enjoys the format where he can be his ultra aggressive self knowing that he has the short game to back it up should he find trouble. That can be demoralising for opponents in the match play format and two years ago the only game he didn’t win in the group stages was against DJ, only exiting after a further play-off hole against the world no. 1. In most editions of this event we see a slightly left-field European Tour player make good progress and with the way Kiradech is playing that could easily be him this week. (Aphibarnrat has now been drawn in the same group as Jon Rahm, typical!! Anyway for those who don’t think it makes any sense backing them both just leave Aphi out or lower the stakes even more, I’ve stupidly backed them both already)

Adding one more Group stage bet for a further interest. With the form that Casey and McIlroy are in together with their confidence levels and match play pedigree, I expect them to come flying out of the blocks and win all 3 matches. Matt Fitzpatrick and Brian Harman are potential banana skins but I think the double looks rock solid at around 4.35.


Corales Puntacana Championship

I’ve not spent a great deal of time on this but I do like to follow players that have gone well in similar tournaments before when the PGA Tour leaves mainland U.S. The Web.com has several tournaments on their schedule down in both Central and South America. This week the location is the Dominican Republic which lies opposite Puerto Rico to the west and the course is stunning. It’s a cliff side resort course and it doesn’t look too dissimilar to the likes of Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Kapalua. The course has been used twice before on the Web.com with Dominic Bozelli winning in 2016 and Nate Lashley in 2017. Neither man lines up this week however.

The course is a Tom Fazio design and being by the sea it is obviously very exposed. The fairways look wide enough and the rough isn’t overly penal either which suggests that when the wind blows the course can be testing enough. That looks further highlighted by a lack of green side bunkers and most of the greens appear to have an open route in allowing the more imaginative players to flight the ball down and run the ball in should the wind blow. There is a lot of sand in play off the tee however with many fairway bunkers and also sandy waste areas. The greens are sea paspalum as is often found in PGA Tournaments played in climates closer to the equator.

Graeme McDowell looks the absolute standout bet to me here this week and it’s no surprise that the early 33s disappeared fast. GMac should absolutely love conditions at Corales Golf Club with some of his finest results having been recorded on similar set-ups. He won his 2010 U.S. Open around Pebble Beach while he has also won the OHL Classic which played on sea paspalum down in Mexico on another resort course by the sea. He also has 4 top 10s around Fazio’s PGA National course and his home U.S. course, Lake Nona, is another Fazio design. The only thing that might go against him this week is the length of the course but at his best McDowell is miles better than the majority of these and if he plays well I’d expect him to push on over the weekend and show everyone that he really belongs in Austin this week.

I did look at a few of the Web.com players who are used to the climate and the sea paspalum but ultimately we don’t really know how a lot of them will fare here so instead I have gone with the historical class angle. We often see older PGA winners finding some form again at the alternate events, most recently Aaron Baddeley when winning the Barbasol Championship in 2016 and before that Geoff Ogilvy at the 2014 Barracuda Championship. Notice that they were both multiple PGA Tour winners and they are both Australian. Stuart Appleby is a little older than both at 46 years old but his last top 5 on the PGA Tour happened to arrive at an alternate event last July. So given he has such strong form at Kapalua, where he won three times in a row from 2004-2006, it seems fair to think his form could pick up again on another exposed resort course. Appleby was always a strong wind player and he had a fine Open Championship record. It could be complete coincidence but I’d wager it is more likely the spike in confidence that such players get from not having any of the current elite players in the field. That makes them believe they can win again and at odds of 200/1 I’m happy to believe too, at least until Thursday night!


Summary of Bets

WGC Match Play

Jon Rahm – 2pts ew @ 14/1

Paul Casey – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Group Winner Double – McIlroy Group 6 + Casey Group 10 – 2pts @ 4.35

Corales

Graeme McDowell – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (1/4 odds 5 places)

Stuart Appleby – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82

 

 

Valspar Championship and Hero Indian Open – Preview

Georgie boy’s win very nearly took the blog into profit for 2018 and if the European Tour picks were good, my WGC Mexico picks were equally as bad. To be fair to Dufner, Luiten and Chappell, none of them played terribly but scoring was too low for three players who are better suited to a proper championship layout. I’ll be keeping all three in mind for the likes of Augusta and Shinnecock though later in the year.

Erik Van Rooyen nearly gave us even more returns in Pretoria but again he disappointed on Sunday. One thing worth noting though was how brilliant he was tee-to-green for 63 holes before his putting woes seemed to frustrate him so much they effected the rest of his game. Every time the camera cut to him he seemed to either be in the centre of the fairway 40 yards in front of his playing partners or on the green with a 20ft putt. EVR is definitely worth following through 2018 on ball-striking courses.

Total 2018 pts advised = 92pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 89.94pts

ROI = -2.2%


Valspar Championship

Ran out of time for much in the way of course details this week. It’s tree-lined, narrow, about 7300 yards long and requires accuracy and a good putting touch. Bombers don’t usually carry much of an advantage and the course is quite testing, rewarding those who enjoy a more technical test. The greens are bermuda and the course is in Tampa Bay, Florida. Canadian Adam Hadwin defends and Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy head a relatively strong field. For those wishing to dig a little deeper, I’m sure I covered the Copperhead course in better detail last year.

Webb Simpson looks my idea of the best bet here this week and I’ve been looking for a chance to back him since his putting improved somewhere back to its best. When Webb first came on Tour he was a very strong putter with his long, anchored putter but the ban really ruined his game. This year however he sits 6th in strokes gained: putting and he has had two Top 5s this year already. They both came on bermuda greens (Sony Open and Honda Classic) and there is no question that he performs better away from poa annua as his 4 wins have been split between bermuda and bentgrass greens. So he will relish the return to the surface and to an event where he recorded 4 consecutive Top 20s between 2010 and 2013, the best of which being a runner-up finish in 2011. He then struggled for a few years but you usually have to putt well to compete on the Copperhead course so his resurgence with the short stick should see another contending performance. He also ranks 37th in strokes gained: approaches which is another key indicator for the course. So often we have seen a major winner triumph here given the championship nature of the course and a fairly high winning score (average of -11). Webb ticks that box with his 2012 U.S. Open win and a quick look at that leaderboard gave me extra confidence that he should play well this week. Five Valspar champions recorded a Top 20 around Olympic Club that week and both courses are visually similar and provide the same sort of test where birdies have to be earned. There is still some 45/1 around which I think looks a fantastic each way bet but he is more of a general 40/1 now.  That’s a bit of a shame but he is still very much worth a bet, especially with Sky Bet’s 8 places on offer this week.

Luke List may well not have recovered from his play-off defeat to Justin Thomas yet but there was so much to like about his game at the Honda. If he can take the positives out of that performance then he looks a very fair price at 55/1. The shot tracker visuals for List’s approaches were absolutely amazing such were the height of his irons and his 100% commitment to his slight draw. This meant he was taking the ball in well over water on several holes under huge amounts of pressure on the back 9. Yet he delivered with the large majority and this was a player in complete control of golf ball. With his power he won’t even need to get the driver out too much around Innisbrook and if he can stay in play off the tee then there is no reason that he won’t enjoy another good week. His form isn’t fantastic around Innisbrook but he was 26th last year and with way his irons are performing  he should certainly improve on that.

There isn’t really much else that I fancy here but I think Gary Woodland looks over priced considering he won just 4 starts ago. Woodland won this back in 2011 so we know it suits and the power packed American has been putting brilliantly of late, particularly on his favoured bermuda greens. There isn’t much more to say really, I expect that win to propel Woodland to the sort of level that everyone expected when he first appeared on Tour and that could well mean multiple wins in a year. I’m more than happy to back him at 40/1 while in form at a course where he has already won. (there might even still be some 50/1 around with a few of the smaller bookies

 


Hero Indian Open

Link to The Golf Family preview;

https://thegolffamily.com/hero-indian-open/


Summary of Bets

Valspar Championship

Webb Simpson – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Sky Bet)

Luke List – 1pt ew @ 55/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Gary Woodland – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Sky Bet)

Hero Indian Open

Scott Jamieson – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Ashun Wu – 0.75pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Renato Paratore – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 11pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 103pts

 

@theGreek82