Zurich Classic and China Open – Betting Preview

With so many disappointing Sundays over the last couple of years I was fearing the worst when Mullinax closed to within one shot of Andrew Landry but luckily for Landry backers, Mullinax was feeling the nerves even more than our 150/1 shot. When he chunked a chip into the bunker on 17 I thought that was just about it but there was further drama still when Landry chased his first putt on 18 some 8ft past the hole. That presented Mullinax the chance to pile the pressure on with his own 9 ft birdie putt. But when he couldn’t make his that was all she wrote as Landry, with the pressure off, sent his par putt into the middle of the cup for his first PGA Tour win. It topped off a brilliant day that saw 100 pts of returns cleared for the 4th time but the first since late 2015. Andrea Pavan had earlier claimed a full place in Morocco and it could have been even better as he bogeyed the 17th and a -7 clubhouse total might just have applied some extra pressure to Levy. But given the back door nature of his high Sunday finish it was good to just get the place money. I’m also not sure how I would have coped watching the PGA Tour coverage had he won as I had a small each way bet on the double at around 15,875/1. While I stopped advising the double bets they are always worth throwing some small amounts at in the quest for the big win. Thanks to Landry and Pavan the blog is now into profit again for the 2018 season. Just shows what one good week can do.

Total 2018 pts advised = 168.50

Total 2018 pts returned = 215.44

ROI = 27.86%


Zurich Classic

No huge interest in this rather gimmicky event to be honest. Last year when the team event made its debut I took the method of picking the two best players in Rose and Stenson and they never really got it going. But I’m having a small interest this time with Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair. Current form looks like it will count for a lot in what will be a low-scoring ball-striking test. Both Walker and O’Hair showed glimpses of their best at the weekend as they finished 4th and 2nd respectively. Walker ranked 1st in putting while O’Hair ranked 1st in ball-striking. That could be a very handy combination in the two rounds of foursomes while Walker’s aggressive iron play will complement the steadier ball-striking of O’Hair in the four balls. Walker finished 8th here in 2013 while O’Hair has 3 top 15 finishes at TPC Louisiana. This could be decent partnership and with both full of confidence and form they look worth a bet for an interest in a trappy looking event. There is still a little 28/1 around but 25/1 looks fair enough too.


Volvo China Open

This week’s China Open is all about Alexander Levy as he returns to defend the title he won last year. But he is also looking to go back to back after his win last week in Morocco and unsurprisingly he is the 10/1 favourite. It is perhaps as hard to argue with as it is to back him at those prices however. There is no question he will be looking to take his Ryder Cup position out of the hands of Thomas Bjorn by qualifying automatically and another win would go a long way to securing that. Despite having plenty in his favour though it will surely be difficult for him to play his best again this week. All the extra media work involved in defending and the pressure he will now be putting on himself to make his home Ryder Cup team make him opposable. But who should we oppose him with? The field looks wide open again at Topwin Golf Club so there were plenty of options on my short list this week.

The course is of average length at 7261 yards and looking at the two renewals so far, I think it represents a very all-round challenge. The fairways are pretty wide but with lots of elevation changes, trees, water in play and dog-legs, the driving lines will look a lot more intimidating standing on the tee and there will be preferred landing areas for finding the greens. While the scoring has been low to date, Levy won on -17 and Li with -22, the players will have to remain focussed as there is still a lot of trouble out there for those who aren’t in control of their distances.

Stats wise last year 5 of the first 6 in the all-round ranking finished inside the top 7 and the year before 5 of the first 8 in the all-round ranking finished inside the top 8. This confirms that while scoring is low, every aspect of the game is needed to contend at Topwin. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect but if any part of their game is in poor nick then they surely won’t manage to contend this week. Therefore I’m looking closely at the recent all-round stats rankings, previous form at Topwin and previous form in Asia on similar courses. If pushed for one stat to focus on it would probably be scrambling. Many of the courses on the Asian Tour involve fiddly green complexes and that was noticeable when watching last year. As things heated up on Sunday, the sharper short games thrived on a relatively packed leader board.

Pablo Larrazabal is a player who I really struggle to get right but I think there seems to have been a massive over reaction to his missed cut last week. Prior to that he was in fine form with results reading 21-4-4-44-3 with the 3rd coming at the Maybank Championship at Saujana Golf Club where form has tied in very nicely with Topwin over the last couple of years. Topwin winners Levy and Li were both inside the top 5 there in 2017. Pablo was also 3rd here last year and despite him not always being the most solid in contention these days, he is still a 4-time European Tour winner and I’m a little shocked that he is double the price of Bernd Wiesberger and Joost Luiten among others. They may be a little more consistent but are no better in contention and I believe we are getting a little bit of value with the Spaniard as I’d have had him around the 28/1 mark in this field. If we forgive him his missed cut in Morocco then his whole game had been in decent shape and during that 3rd at the Maybank he ranked 1st in the all-round stat. On a course he clearly likes and with a winning total in line with his 4 titles to date I expect this to be a good week for him. He is often feast or famine these days with 3 missed cuts and 3 top 5s so far in 2018 but at 40/1 that is probably factored in and I like his chances if he can get off to a good start.

Ryan Fox doesn’t have a great record at the course (MC-63) but two things are in his favour for me here this week. Firstly his whole game has been improving gradually back to its best in 2018 and last week on his way to finishing 12th in Morocco he ranked 1st in the all-round ranking. Secondly he was 3rd at the Maybank earlier this year where form ties in nicely with this event and he was 6th in the all-round ranking. When his game clicks he usually contends such is the quality he possesses. Last year Fox found his form in the summer so we know he takes a little time to get going in the season but after last week I think we might be about to see another strong period of form and he looks worth following closely over the coming months, starting here at 66/1.

Erik Van Rooyen’s chance is an obvious one but unfortunately his price has just about gone. He opened as big as 55/1 and that was an excellent price. But despite him perhaps arriving as the most consistently in-form player over the last 3 months, it is hard to make a case for him being any kind of price at 40/1. While he has been brilliant lately his golf has tailed off over the weekend more often than not as the occasion of chasing his first European Tour looked to get on top of him. He looks very much a winner in waiting this season but possibly not at this track and I can just about let him go unbacked at his current price. Maybe one for the multiples this week.

Benjamin Hebert and Alexander Bjork are two more European Tour maidens who look to have a good chance but have been cut since Monday. So I’ll complete this week’s team with a rank outsider who I’m also going to back for a top 20. Poom Saksansin hasn’t had any fantastic results so far in 2018 but some of his stats suggest that his game is in good order as he ranks 24th in strokes gained: tee to green and 17th in strokes gained: around the green. I think he should enjoy this test providing it doesn’t play too long for one of the shorter hitters on Tour. The young Thai is still finding his feet in these bigger events but he proved just what he was capable of at the Eurasia Cup at the start of the year when he took down Paul Casey in the singles to finish with a record of 2pts out of 3. He also finished 24th on his only start in China to date which happened to be the WGC HSBC Champions event. With top 20s in similar strength fields like the Hong Kong Open and Singapore Open I think we might see him outplay his odds of 300/1 and if he doesn’t find himself on the leaderboard we might manage to get a run at the top 20 money.


Summary of Bets

Zurich Classic

Jimmy Walker + Sean O’Hair – 1pt ew @ 28/1

China Open

Pablo Larrazabal – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral, general 33/1 ok)

Ryan Fox – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places BetVictor and Sunbets)

Poom Saksansin – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 6 places) and 2pts Top 20 @ 9/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 9pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 177.5pts

@theGreek82

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Valero Texas Open and Trophee Hassan – Betting Preview

George Coetzee flew through the field on Sunday with a 63 to land us a back door place and while that was most welcome, it made me all the more annoyed about his terrible front 9 he played on Thursday. After flying through the first 10 holes in 4 under he gave them all back in his last 8 holes and you have to think he would have pushed Rahm had he even played them in level par. The rest of Europe was a disappointment but Andrew Landry gave me a little bit of excitment threatening to get into contention on more than one occasion but I think ultimately his lack of birdies cost him before a very poor finish on Sunday.

2018 pts advised = 159pts

2018 pt returned = 108.94pts

ROI = -31.5%


Valero Texas Open

Again I’ve run out of time to write too much about this event but I did have time to study it and I didn’t manage to find too much of interest in a wide open betting heat. With Sergio Garcia the only elite player on show most players will be arriving at TPC San Antonio believing that they can win. But they will need to have their game firing as every year since the event moved there in 2010 it has been a ball-strikers dream. Kevin Chappell obliged for us last year ranking 3rd in GIR along the way but the course is usually a fairly complete test of the game and Chappell also ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking. Putting isn’t usually his forte however but he performed ok on the greens and with a winning score of just -12 that is all that is required. It’s all about the long game here so those are the stats to look at for assistance this week. Strokes gained: off the tee, strokes gained: approaches, approach proximity 175-200 yards and going for the green: birdie or better being four that are usually of interest to me here.

I’m struggling to see anything that I like too much here beyond last year’s champion Kevin Chappell as most of the early value has already been cut. In truth we have no idea how he will cope with defending but the course just suits him so perfectly that I’m willing to pay to find out at the prices. Chappell is all about championship style courses that require a long and accurate tee-to-green game and where par is a good score. He can get left behind when birdies are easy to come by yet stick him on a U.S. Open style ball-striking test and he thrives. His long game stats are actually even better than they were last year as he normally struggles in the first few months of the year. In 2018 however he racked up a run of numbers to open the year reading 21-6-31-8-20-30-7. We get a half decent price of 28/1 due to 2 missed cuts in last 2 tournaments but that isn’t something that has stopped him before. In his professional golf career he has posted 36 top 10 finishes and 10 of those came off the back of a missed cut. He withdrew from the WGC Match Play with an injury and that’s maybe why he struggled at The Masters but I’m hoping not playing last weekend will have given him time to get full ready for his first PGA Tour title defence. I certainly don’t think his course form and season long form warrant him being just 5th favourite in this field and while the 28/1 might not be to everyone’s tastes, it is just 5 points smaller than last year and I’m more than happy to take it. Lesser players than Chappell have succesfully defended before and he doesn’t strike me as the type to struggle with that side of the game but I guess only time will tell.

I wouldn’t like to miss out on a good week from Andrew Landry after he just about got into contention last week at 300/1 so I’m prepared to have another go at 150/1. The back 9 did for him at Harbour Town where playing his last 11 holes in level would have yielded us a place. Landry was brought up in Texas and currently lives just north of San Antonio in Austin so he will be used to golfing in the wind and he is a player who thrives in a difficult test of golf. Last week together with his excellent performance at 2016’s U.S. Open at Oakmont testified to that. He was 5th in ball-striking last week so his long game will be in fine fettle for TPC San Antonio.


Trophee Hassan II

The European Tour heads to Morocco for The Trophee Hassan II and it will be the 3rd time hosting in a row for Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Additionally it has also hosted the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open on the low-grade MENA Tour in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The field is probably of a similar standard to last week without the big local draw that Jon Rahm brought. That gives us Paul Dunne as the 12/1 favourite and that probably gives quite a clear picture of how open this is.

The course is a Robert Trent Jones track just like the previous host course from 2012-2015 so even the event form at Golf du Palais Royal is worth consideration. From what we have seen in the last two editions it is considerably harder than that course though and the two winning scores have been -9 and -5. It is an extremely tree-lined course with fairly small looking greens and that combined with its length (7487 yards) suggests that long, straight driving will be rewarded as will accurate approach shots. If someone brings both to the table then they will surely have a good week in Morocco. Despite the high scoring, the leaders here have also putted quite well and while that might not often be for birdie with greens being missed there will be a lot of putts in the 5-10ft region for par and making them is crucial to maintaining a score.

With Kikuyu collars and bentgrass greens, the tricky nature of chipping from kikuyu lies will make scrambling difficult. The grass also restricts the run out of the ball on the fairway so that will further highlight the need for length off the tee. It is also found mainly on South African golf courses so perhaps consideration should be given to those who regularly play well down in those co-sanctioned events.

There are very strong course form ties with last week’s course in Spain which is a little strange as the test doesn’t appear to be very similar at all. Last week’s was a grip it and rip it type birdie fest of a course where you would struggle to find trouble even if you were looking for it. While this week the winning score has been in single figures on both recent editions and par has generally been a good score. Yet Paul Dunne and Nacho Elvira have lost the last two play-offs here and they were your 2nd and 3rd last week. Further to that Ross McGowan has won on both courses and he is very far from prolific. On further inspection of the green complexes both courses feature very definite fringes rather than the sometimes more graded edges that we see. I wouldn’t have thought something like that can make too much difference but both Dunne and Elvira are excellent scramblers so it could be that the difficult combination of thick green side rough and fast greens are prevalent at both courses. So while current form is always key I’d make last week’s form doubly important this week.

I was just going to tip George Coetzee again when he opened at around 22/1 but sensibly he has been cut to a more realistic figure. That makes it hard for me to recommend a wager even if he did deliver the place money last week. I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off but with this almost turning into some sort of George Coetzee Appreciation column I think I have to leave him out given this his debut at the course.

Renato Paratore had the lowest round in the field here last year with a 3rd round 66 on his way to finishing 8th. He was also 10th the year before again firing 1 of only 22 rounds in the 60s. This is more than enough to suggest that he likes the course and he is of interest returning now as a European Tour winner. He warmed up nicely last week in Spain with a 21st and we know form correlates nicely. Prior to that he had a little bit of a break but before a missed cut in India he was 4th in Qatar, again another tournament where the form ties in with Wang having won around both. His 23rd around Valderrama last year confirms he is capable when presented with a sterner test of golf. Looks a huge price at 66/1 in this field and for me he has to be backed with most things in his favour and not a lot to beat.

Sebastian Gros was on my list after his closing 64 last week so I was pleased to see that I also tipped him here in 2016 for the first event back at RGDES. It was his long, straight driving that interested me 2 years ago as well as previous strong performances on kikuyu grass in South Africa. Both those apply again this week as he has ranked 14th, 7th and 1st in total driving on his last 3 starts. The most recent of those was last week’s 12th in Spain courtesy of said closing 64 and he ranked 10th in the all round stat. Three starts ago was another good result in South Africa where he was 4th at Pretoria Country Club on the kikuyu fairways. For good measure he ranked 1st in GIR here last year and he looks to be worth an interest in the hope that his putter behaves.

I couldn’t decide whether to side with Benjamin Hebert here after two mediocre results but he has had a good break since so I’m hoping he arrives prepared for a course he enjoyed last year. Along with Paul Dunne they were the only two players to shoot two rounds in the 60s and while Dunne has obviously moved to a new level since, Hebert has long looked like a player who has been threatening to win and also one who prefers a difficult test. He shot two poor rounds to go with the 68-69 last year but if he can limit those big numbers (2 doubles and a triple) then he should play well again. Hebert is 9th for total driving this season and 35th in GIR so the test should suit.

Andrea Pavan currently sits 1st in strokes gained: approaches on the European Tour so I was giving him some thought even before I saw his stats for last week. He ranked 2nd in GIR and 6th in scrambling and having touched on how the scrambling test may be similar, that is enough for me to add him in to my team this week. Throw in a 13th at Qatar last month and this test should really suit the young Italian.


Summary of bets

Valero Texas Open

Kevin Chappell – 1.5pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral and Boylesports)

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred, Unibet and Betway)

Trophee Hassan

Renato Paratore – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Sebastian Gros – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1

Benjamin Herbert – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Andrea Pavan – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

(all 1/5 odds 6 places various)

 

Weekly pts advised = 10pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 169pts

RBC Heritage and Open De Espana – Betting Preview

After thinking myself to be some sort of golf tipster on Friday morning with 3 of my picks inside the top 11 and two of those 1st and 2nd, things took a turn for the worse on Friday as all three of Spieth, Kuchar and Zach Johnson struggled. That was compounded by all three not being suited to the target golf that we saw on Saturday after the rain softened up the course and in truth their race was run……or was it.

Spieth’s charge through the field was simply brilliant on Sunday and went a long way to saving the tournament for me both financially and as a spectacle. I’m not suggesting this wasn’t a greatly enjoyable tournament, but for me it was no Masters. I appreciate I’m in the minority here as most fans want to see birdies and low-scoring but I prefer them to have to earn it. For as long as I remember Augusta has been a scoring course but one where you have to have complete control of your golf ball from your second shot onwards in order to do so. The target golf that we saw on Saturday was great to watch but the rain had taken all the bite out of the course.  Roll on Shinnecock for the U.S. Open where we witnessed some of the most dried out greens ever seen on Tour in 2001. There shouldn’t be any 64s or 65s that week and it will be all the more an intriguing event for it. Anyway, well done to Patrick Reed who was the deserving winner having easily played the best golf across the 4 days. On to this week where we have the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour and after a 4 week hiatus the European Tour returns with the Open de Espana.

Total 2018 pts advised = 149pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 101.69pts

ROI = -31.75%


RBC Heritage

The Masters hangover has resulted in limited time to write much of a preview this week so I will just give a very brief summary to Harbour Town Links. Another full preview can be found on The Golf Family page – https://thegolffamily.com/rbc-heritage-preview-2/

It’s a short-tree lined course in South Carolina with some of the smallest greens on Tour. Many of them are raised up or blocked out by trees and year after year this is won by shorter more methodical players who are brilliant short iron players and scramblers. Despite the lack of width at the course, many use irons for position as yu often have to be in the right portion of the fairway to have a chance of hitting the greens. Luke Donald and Jim Furyk both have an excellent record at the course and that perhaps tells you as much as you need to know.

Bud Cauley is a player that I haven’t backed all that much at all but he leapt out at me this week. Cauley is suited to a test of accuracy and 2nd (or maybe even 3rd?) time around on Tour he is showing signs of his amazing amateur talent again. He has 4 top 20s from just 9 starts this season. He is yet to win on Tour but is still just 28 yrs old and those results so far in 2018 have been encouraging. He was 14th at the CareerBuilder on the Pete Dye layout at PGA West and more recently he finished 14th at the Arnold Palmer and 18th in Houston before a week to freshen up ahead of the scene of his first ever PGA Tour event back in 2010. Cauley finished 9th here last year but he led after the first round with a brilliant 63 and I’m expecting more of the same this week. Cauley is good friends with Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler and while he will have been delighted with their finishes last week in Augusta, it surely won’t have gone unnoticed just how far behind his friends he has fallen. That might give him the extra little push required this week to help turn a top 10 into a contending performance. He ranks 26th in the key metric “scoring relative to par from Approaches 150-175 yards” and also 37th in strokes gained: around the green. Looks to have a good chance and he rates a reasonably confident bet in what feels like a wide open event.

Every year I look at this event and think how perfect it is for Zach Johnson and then I look at his form here. Bar a 2nd in 2012 and a 6th way back in 2007 his form has been atrocious despite the fact that the course should suit him absolutely perfectly. I’d recommend watching him to see how he starts as he could be worth siding with in play if he starts well and is putting better.

There were a lot of players I liked on Monday but the time I was looking to finalise these picks they had all been cut. Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner and Adam Hadwin all appealed at their opening prices but with all 3 firmly in the 28/1 to 33/1 range now I’m not sure I can advise them. I think that also tells us a fair bit about this field and Dustin Johnson aside there aren’t a lot of in-form proven winners at the top of the market.

Therefore I’m going to suggest two more at bigger odds and Andrew Landry makes it in this week on his last Pete Dye start alone when he finished 2nd behind Jon Rahm at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Unfortunately that makes him a very speculative pick indeed as he has missed all four of his cuts since! But he prefers these plodding shorter courses where it pays to plot your way around and those four appearances were on courses that would have played too long for him. Ranks 17th on Tour in proximity to the hole so with that approach accuracy he might manage to get competitive at a big price on another Dye course.

Brandon Harkins also finished inside the Top 10 at the CareerBuilder and while course designer links aren’t for everyone, Pete Dye form really does stack up. Just three events  at Dye’s Austin Country Club WGC finalists were Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner who regularly perform very well on Dye courses. But Harkins he also sits 11th in “scoring rtp from 150-175 yards” and as I mentioned above that is crucial at Harbour Town. Worth a small interest at 125/1.

 


Open de Espana

We’re faced with a fairly new course this week with the return of the European Tour as we also see the return of the Open de Espana, one of the oldest events in golf. The course is essentially at the Spanish golf headquarters much like The Belfry in the U.K. and therefore it is quite aptly named Centro Nacional de Golf. It was the brainchild of the late, great Seve and was only opened in 2006, quickly hosting 3 events but then nothing of note since 2009. I’m not sure why that was the case, maybe lack of money as the whole thinking behind the course was to have a good quality public course in Madrid, that possibly becoming less financially viable after the recession. Anyway, there is a little course form although quite dated, it held the Challenge de Espana in 2006, this event in 2007 and the Madrid Masters in 2009. They were won by Adrien Mork, Charl Schwartzel and Ross McGowan.

A look down those leaderboards reveal a lot of links types of players and a look at photos and videos of the course tell us why. It is a wide open, completely exposed course with plenty of undulations on the fairway and the rough looks almost non-existent. Reports of a particularly dry spell in the area suggest that the course will play firm and fast and I think it could be a case of bombs away off the tee and then trying to hold the slippery greens with as lofted a club as possible. It definitely looks like a second shot golf course and both McGowan and Schwartzel hit plenty of greens in regulation at 88.9% (2nd) and 84.7% (2nd) respectively. That’s a pretty high clip and tells us the greens are either very big, easy to hit from anywhere or a combination of both. Regardless of which I think aggressive iron play will be required to get a jump on the field with everyone hitting greens. I’ve looked at some wide open Scottish links courses where lots of greens are hit as my angle in here and have found 4 decent looking bets. Jon Rahm is the short price jolly here at 4/1 and while that seems to be a very fair price, I’d like to see him convert at those sort of prices at least once before we part with money on him to do so. Travelling back from Augusta gives just about enough question marks about Rahm even at a course where he studied for two years. On a week where it looks like a case of either having one big win bet on the Spaniard or looking at some each way options, I’m siding with the latter.

George Coetzee will be too short for some here but this is a very weak field when you remove Jon Rahm and I think the course will suit him perfectly. After doing us a favour last month why not go in again at double the price. Coetzee’s biggest downfall is usually his erratic driving that can rack up some big numbers but with the space available here that shouldn’t be a problem. We know how brilliant a putter he is even if strangely the new European Tour stats don’t back that up. But what they have done is told me that George sits 12th in strokes gained: approaches which is a far loftier position that I expected. With his brilliant touch on the greens he can usually get to grips with new greens quicker than most (ranked 1st in putting at 2015 U.S. PGA at Whistling Straits) and if he is striking it well I’d expect him to carry his form over from March.

Ryan Fox has been a little quiet of late but he did us a few favours last summer and we are reaching that sort of time of the year again. Fox is another who likes to let rip with the driver and then let his approach play do the talking. He finished 4th at the wide Dundonald Links last summer and was also 4th in the Irish Open on another relatively wide links course. That same run of form included a 6th at Le Golf National which is course where you have to hit greens. He missed his last cut in his home Open but prior to that he averaged 82% for GIR on his previous 2 starts. That sort of approach play makes him of interest here and I think he could take to the course at a nice price.

I wanted to get a player who has played here before onside too and while he doesn’t fall into the bomber type I think Mike Lorenzo-Vera should very much enjoy this test on and around the fast greens. He came 10th in the 2009 Madrid Masters playing very solidly to rank 9th in the all-round ranking. He also ranked 3rd in putting and experience of these greens, however dated, certainly won’t be a bad thing. Moreover though MLV is just a player that plays well in Spain, he has made 8 of his last cuts returning 4 Top 15s. His last trip was to Valderrama where he finished 6th on the brilliantly tough layout. He arrives in good form too finishing 10th on his last outing in Qatar where the greens are also quick and exposed.

One last value play and that is in the shape of Ollie Fisher. He finished 2nd on his last full tournament in Qatar but is marked with a WD on his next start in India. I can’t find much injury news so he maybe just came down with food poisoning and barring injury I think he is a huge price with that form. Ollie is another who will enjoy the lack of rough and trouble off the tee which will allow this formerly brilliant iron player to show off his strengths. He hit 77% of the greens in Qatar on the way to finishing behind only Eddie Pepperell and similar control of his golf ball should result in another decent showing.

 


Summary of bets

RBC Heritage

Bud Cauley – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Brandon Harkins – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Open de Espana

George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Mike Lorenzo-Vera – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1

Ollie Fisher – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 10pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 159pts

@theGreek82

The Masters 2018 – Betting Preview

Last week’s Houston Open was a bit of a washout but Howell did threaten to get involved on his front 9 on Sunday but in the end he confirmed that he really should never be a betting proposition until someone invents a market where you can back them to finish between 8th and 23rd!

It was a brilliant tournament though and Hossler’s birdie run combined with Poulter’s resolve created a truly fitting appetiser for Augusta and I’d question anyone’s credentials as a sports fan if they didn’t enjoy that. To think there are sports fans out there who don’t like watching golf will always baffle me. It has absolutely everything and provides a test of technique, skill and mental fortitude quite unlike anything else. But for those of us who do love it we have the tournament of all tournaments this week with the 2018 Masters threatening to go down in history even before a ball has been struck.

Total 2018 pts advised = 123pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 92.69pts

ROI= -24.6%


The Masters

With a returning Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson having won again for the first time since 2013, this year’s Masters is poised like no other golf tournament I remember and the only hope is that it lives up to its billing. As well as the two esteemed veterans we have all of the new kids on the block looking to hang tough over four testing days in the most beautiful of surroundings. It is hard to even accuse people of hyperbole with regard to this year’s Masters such is the state of play but just incase everything goes to pot and the event is somehow a stinker, what better way to enjoy the final round than by having money on the surprise 6 shot winner! So lets proceed to trying to find an angle into this year’s glorious first major.

Sergio Garcia defends this year after finally breaking his major duck and he was a prime example of the old adage that you must have paid your dues around Augusta before you win. Experience is certainly vital and I would want to see strong evidence that anyone I was backing can play well at Augusta. The test isn’t for everyone and several players struggle year after year.

Off the tee things are never too testing with wide open landing areas awaiting those tee balls but as everyone testifies to every year, shaping the ball from right to left is a huge positive on several of the tee-shots. It can be the difference between having 180 yards or 230 yards left on the par 5 13th and there are other similar examples. But generally no matter where the drive ends up, Augusta is a course that allows the players to recover with skill and that is perhaps one of the reasons why we love it so much. From almost anywhere off the tee the players will have a chance to still find the green with a brilliant 2nd shot and that in itself will be a crucial factor this week, finding a way to keep hitting greens.

Putting is obviously important but with regards to a normal Masters with a winning score of -8, then lag putting from distance is perhaps more crucial than being able to hole birdie putts from 15-25ft. In recent times the two most important stats than can sometimes be overlooked are Par 4 Scoring and Bogey Avoidance. With four reachable par 5s, the par 5 scoring often overshadows the par 4s but that is all about the big-hitting side of the game that Sky Sports love to go on and on about. Of course they can play a huge part in any round with the risk/ reward nature but ultimately there are only four of them and there are 10 par 4 holes. Two years ago Danny Willett played the long holes in level par which was 54th best from the 57 who made the cut. He ranked 1st in par 4 scoring and comparing the last 10 winners makes for interesting reading. They averaged 11th for par 3 scoring, 4th for par 4 scoring and just 15th for par 5 scoring. While it is true that most winners rack up a good score on the par 5s, they are some of the easiest holes on the course so the majority of the field will be going low on them. There is a far bigger differential on the par 4s and therefore being able to score on the long difficult par 4s is of the utmost importance.

On most championship courses where greens are difficult to hold scrambling becomes even more important and that is especially the case at Augusta. If greens are missed on the wrong side then only the most silky of touches will be able to get up and down. But it’s usually even better to just not miss the greens in the first place and year after year hitting greens in regulation is probably the single most important aspect of the week, especially if the course plays firm and fast.

Trends wise there are lots of interesting angles and perhaps the two that seem most relevant to me are as follows;

  • 37 of the last 38 winners had played the weekend the year before their win. There seems no real logic to suggest why this stands up but given the only exception is Tiger Woods in 1997 it is pretty rock solid!
  • All of the last 8 winners had finished inside the Top 24 in the WGC Championship earlier that year. The exact finishing place maybe isn’t that important but this tells us that their game has been test driven already on a long, difficult championship course.

 

THE LEADING CONTENDERS

Dustin Johnson (Odds to win – 12/1) – Masters Record: 30-38-38-13-MC-6-4-WD, 2018 form: 1-2-16-7-59

Arguably the best player on the planet over the last two years and will be looking to make amends for missing this last year through a back injury sustained just days before. Not perfectly suited to the test for me and would need to be back somewhere near his best to win. With form having taken a slight dip that’s not a given.

Jordan Spieth (10/1) – Masters Record: 2-1-2-11, 2018 form: 9-18-MC-20-9-14-MC-17-3

Just 12 men have beaten him to date over his 4 Masters events. Absolutely loves the place. A lot of very premature talk of the demise of his putting was proven to be just that as his putter warmed up across the week in Houston. Hasn’t been at his best in 2018 but perfectly fair to think everything is coming together at the right time having finished 3rd in Houston ranking 1st in strokes gained: approach along the way.

Rory McIlroy (10/1) – Masters record: 20-MC-15-40-25-8-4-10, 2018 form: MC-2-59-MC-1-36

McIlroy pitches up to Augusta chasing the Career Grand Slam for a 4th time and he will be the most confident yet to do so. With the perfect tee-to-green game for the Masters it has always been his short game that has held him back from a green jacket. However his brilliant putting performance at Bay Hill is worrying for the rest of the field. If he maintains anything like that putting stroke he will be very hard to beat.

Justin Thomas (12/1) – Masters record: 39-22, 2018 form: 22-14-17-9-1-2-4

Arguably the best player in the world over the last year or so but doesn’t have the greatest of records yet at Augusta. That’s nothing to worry too much about long-term for a player who surely possesses all the tools required. Despite his current winning ratio though this might still be a year or two too early for Thomas at a course that generally takes a lot of learning.

Jason Day (18/1) – Masters record: 2-WD-3-20-28-10-22, 2017 form: 12-MC-5-64-23-WD

Despite his win at Torrey Pines in February the form of others means Day is sneaking in under the radar a little. If there was one player in the field that Augusta was almost custom-built for it is Jason Day. Put a difficult 2017 behind him with his first win in over 18 months but his approach play hasn’t been up to its usual standard. Leads the tour in strokes gained: putting however.

Justin Rose (12/1) – Masters record: 39-22-5-36-20-11-8-25-14-2-10-2, 2018 form: 8-37-5-3-52

Just like last year Mr Consistent has everything in his favour and looks the most likely of the all the market leaders to play his game and contend yet again. Has never failed to make the weekend at Augusta and confidence will be high returning to a venue where he has been runner-up twice in the last three years. But I’m usually unsure of players returning who contended right to the end the previous year. Often a slow starter at majors he will have to put all those negative memories behind him if he is to keep the pace early on.

Tiger Woods (14/1) – Masters record: 41 (Am) – MC-1-8-18-5-1-1-15-22-1-3-2-2 -6-4-4-40-4-17, 2018 form: 23-MC-12-2-5

The great one is back and the event is about 5 times better for it. His game has looked superb over the last 8 weeks and he will be absolutely buzzing for his return to the scene of his first major win 21 years ago. It is easy to forget though that has hasn’t donned the green jacket since 2005 and has played 9 Masters since. Seven of those returned top 6 finishes confirming how much he loves the course but also telling us that he is beatable. If you’re on at the fancy prices then he is a fantastic each way bet but even for Tiger 14/1 looks plenty short enough in this company.

Rickie Fowler (20/1) – Masters record: 38-27-38-5-12-MC-11, 2018 form: 4-MC-11-MC-37-14-43

Fowler’s odds and indeed narrative has changed perhaps more than any player barring Tiger or Phil in the weeks building up to Augusta. As recently as Friday he was sat on top of the leaderboard in Houston with his game purring. But another poor weekend leaves plenty of question marks about his mental toughness. However his major record is rock solid and while he didn’t look backable at 14/1 he will have plenty of takers now having drifted out as high as 22/1 in places.

Bubba Watson (16/1) – Masters record: 20-42-38-1-50-1-38-37-MC, 2018 form: MC-4-35-1-9-66-1

The enigma that is Bubba Watson came storming back to the top table of golf and to be honest I’m not sure his story has garnered enough column inches. (Perhaps testament to just how amazing 2018 has been so far!). He was a joy to watch at both the Genesis and WGC Match Play and his combination of power, imagination and touch can be devastating at Augusta as he proved in 2012 and 2014. A live contender but his price has possibly gone.

Phil Mickelson (18/1) – Masters record: 46 (Am)- 34-7-3-MC-12-6-7-3-3-3-1-10-1-24-5-5-1- 27-3-54-MC-2-MC-22

The enigma that is Phil Mickelson came storming back to the top table of golf and to be honest I’m not sure his story garned enough column inches. Ok that would be a lie as Phil’s WGC win has never been far from the headlines ahead of the Masters and he has to have a great chance given his sheer will to win and where his game is at. Like Tiger though it is several years since he won here and while he is another with a great chance, I’d say he is also another who the bookies are onto at just 18/1.

Hideki Matsuyama (33/1) – Masters record: 27-54-MC-5-7-11 2018 form: 4-12-WD-49-36

Odds pushed out as high as 40/1 due to some indifferent form and a uncharacteristally wayward driver at times so far in 2018. But his often peerless iron game marks him down as a repeat top 10 offender here for the next 15 years. Hard to fancy on the greens on the back 9 on Sunday though but few would be too surprised if he deemed that irrelevant by having a 6 shot lead standing on the 10th tee having put on a ball-striking clinic for 63 holes.

Jon Rahm (25/1) – Masters record: 27 , 2018 form: 1-29-11-26-20-52

Perhaps an even more surprising storyline than Tiger, Phil, Casey or Ian Poulter is how Rahm has proven himself to be very human indeed. There were times in 2017 and early 2018 where his frightening level of golf threatened to have him as world no. 1 and the favourite for every major this year. How that has changed for the big Spaniard though and after an indifferent period of form his odds have rocketed as high as 25/1. Hard to write-off but perhaps equally hard to back.


The bets

The last few Masters have been built up even more than usual due to how many of the game’s best players were playing well heading in to the event and this year with Tiger and Phil thrown in the mix that has been accentuated even more. The 2018 Masters is threatening to be perhaps one of the greatest golf tournaments in history and you could make an equally compelling case for any of the leading 12 players or so in the market. For me this makes it one of the hardest Masters in recent times to get a confident handle on. Therefore I have decided to attempt to simplify things for my main bet and ignore as much of the hype as I can. Jordan Spieth has only been beaten by 12 players at Augusta in his 4 events. This of course means he has beaten the other 364 players teeing it up. Tiger Woods was beaten by 25 players in his first 4 professional Masters and those came at a slightly older age and at a time where he was beginning to dominate golf. I’m not suggesting Spieth will ever get close to Tiger Woods’ standing in the game but I do believe this particular comparison is relevant. Especially when we consider that Spieth’s odds this week are 10/1 and Tiger’s were probably somewhere in the region of 3/1 in 2001. (Obviously Tiger had won the previous 3 majors which will have had a massive effect on his price too!).

Spieth

With very little to separate the market leaders I think his superb Masters record has to make him the bet. While his putting might not have been anywhere near its best so far in 2018 he has largely been putting on poa annua or bermuda greens. Spieth has always stated how he struggles on poa annua and we know he is at his best on slick bentgrass greens. Last week in Houston his putting improved across the week as the greens hardened and that is one of the reasons he does so well at Augusta. I’ve liked Spieth most of the winter for this to be honest but like many I was just waiting to see how he signed off in Houston. It couldn’t have gone much better as he ranked 1st in strokes gained: approaches while he holed a 30 footer on the 18th green to leave him with nothing but positive thoughts. Very much the man to beat and for my money looks the most sensible bet in an event that looks set to be dominated by the market principals. I’m going to advise a nice chunky each way bet and also a further win only bet on the exchange. The each way portion will be weighted to pay for the win bets.

In an event where the those leading 12 players or so are taking up so much of the market I want to have another one onside so I’m taking a slightly Jeremy Chapman approach this week (to be fair I’d happily settle for his sort of profit on the week!) and also backing Jason Day. The general 18/1 is just too tempting for someone who ticks so many of the right Augusta boxes. He has a top 5 already, he made the cut last year shooting 2 under par rounds along the way without contending. Day also has the all important calendar year win which unfortunately Spieth doesn’t have. But above all the course just sets up perfectly for Day who has both power and touch in abundance. While not all his stats are strong this year he does rank 1st in strokes gained: putting and 4th in par 4 scoring and I’m sure his whole 2018 campaign so far will have been geared to peaking this week.

He is going to win one eventually and having had a light schedule he comes in 100% fit and focussed and that hasn’t been the case with Day too often lately. If he can start well I think he will hang around all week and with generous place terms he looks worth an each way bet as back up to Spieth. I’ve tweaked my staking plan to get all the stakes back and still make a small profit should he win.

Matt Kuchar was 45/1 for this up to the weekend and I hope some readers saw me tweeting about how good a price that was with Skybet’s 10 places offer. Annoyingly he has been cut to 35/1 with Skybet after playing well in Houston. I considered leaving him out and to be honest if he had been cut any further I probably would but the 10 places for a top 10 machine still make this value in my eyes. Kuchar has finished inside the top 10 in 4 of the last 6 Masters and he really does come alive on hard and fast courses where his combination of approach accuracy and touch on and around the greens will always give him a chance. But away from the place part of the bet giving us value I also think we might see a more assured Kuchar this year after his Royal Birkdale exploits last summer. I think he will have learned a lot from that battle with Spieth and this is obviously his first appearance back at Augusta since. If the likeable Georgia resident is ever going to win a major it will surely be this one and having regained his form I think he is a very solid each way bet.

I ran a few basic stats models for this year’s Masters to perhaps help me find some outsiders and I was pleased with what I found. My main 4 stats were GIR, bogey avoidance, par 4 scoring and strokes gained: off the tee and then I added a few others; strokes gained: putting, approach proximity 125-150 yards, GIR 175-200, scrambling, approach putt performance, par 5 scoring and finally strokes gained: approaches. I then took an average for my main 4 stats, all of them together and then finally I weighted all the stats to give me three averages for every player, nothing too fancy at all. Zach Johnson was the absolute standout and he came 1st in two of them. To highlight some of his key stats he ranks 32nd in GIR, 2nd in 3-putt avoidance, 3rd in bogey avoidance, 15th in par 4 scoring, 13th in par 5 scoring and 9th in strokes gained: approaches. We can’t rely wholly on stats so if this was a player who had a poor record at Augusta, had never played there before or wasn’t a world-class talent then I may not have given it much credence. But this is the 2007 Masters Champion who was 9th just three years ago and also won The Open in 2015. So I had to have a little of the 240 on Betfair last week as it was just silly and I wouldn’t put anyone off jumping in north of 200.0 but it’s Skybet’s 100/1 ew with 10 places that I really like for Zach here. He mas missed his last two Masters cuts and he may well make that a hat-trick but the numbers don’t lie, or at least they can’t tell that big a whopper! His results have been fairly solid without being spectacular this year but he has made all his cuts and his figures read 14-20-57-16-26-36. He just needs his putter to revert back to the norm but where better to do that as he knows the greens better than everyone in the field bar Tiger and Phil. As long as the course stays relatively hard and fast through the week I think his game is in good enough shape to out play his odds.

With so many of the game’s elite in such strong form there aren’t a lot of outsiders who make appeal this year, even with Skybet’s 10 places offer. As ever there are a lot of good options in the place markets though but Brendan Steele stands out to me as one of the few real live outsiders and he also performed well in my model. His game is perfectly suited to championship golf and I can see him landing one of the U.S. based majors at some point as a classic left field U.S. major winner. Steele has a recent win to his name having successfully defended his Safeway Open title in October and he has been in fine form since. Last year he finished 27th but that was even more impressive as it was his first appearance since 2012. I’m expecting further improvement this year as he will have learned a lot from that and he closed with a 69 giving him the all-important round in the 60s. Steele also finished inside the top 20 in the WGC Mexico which is always a good pointer to where the long-game is at for a tilt at the Masters. That long game assurance is backed up by a very impressive stats profile as he ranks 7th in GIR, 19th in bogey avoidance, 10th in par 4 scoring, 7th in strokes gained: off the tee and 35th in strokes gained: approaches. We know the green jacket isn’t won with stats but this is a profile worthy of one of the best players on Tour and I’m going to continue to keep him onside in majors while he is priced alongside those who simply aren’t as suited to championship courses. Steele is a streaky putter who is usually better on consistently fast surfaces so if he putts well there is no reason he can’t contend. But one of my favourite bets of the week is for him to make the top 20 and hopefully if he can’t stay on the leaderboard that bet will pay for the more speculative win and each way bets.

I’m going to back Hideki Matsuyama for a Masters Top 10 every year until he stops playing the game I think. Despite us not having seen him at his best this year it has largely been his driving that has been poor and his iron game has been nearly as good as ever. The wide fairways will mean a lot of those wild tee-shots won’t be overly punished and he still ranks 20th in strokes gained: approaches and 18th in bogey avoidance. While I’m not sure he will ever win this I am sure he will rack up the top 10s with his towering, accurate approach play ideal for holding these fast greens. The stand-out 10/3 looks very tempting indeed for a player who hasn’t finished outside the top 11 the last three years.

1st Round Leader bets

I’m struggling to cut down my short list for 1st round leaders so given that it’s the first Major of the year I’m going to just back them all to a small 0.25pts stake each way and then at least I won’t be kicking myself if someone I leave out gets involved on day one. If the slightly gimmicky first round leader market isn’t for you then just ignore these but I always think it adds an extra level of excitement to the opening day and worth throwing 2pts at.

Bryson Dechambeau was the first name that jumped out at me looking at the draw. He has an early tee-time and is playing with Bernd Weisberger and Matt Fitzpatrick. That’s a nice low -key group where all three will be capable of shooting a good score with just 4 groups ahead of them. Bryson to me has exactly the sort of profile and story that I can see leading a Masters after Thursday. So call it a hunch pick more than anything but he is also playing very well with a couple of notable 1st round knocks lately. He shot an opening 66 in Phoenix and a 67 last time out at Bay Hill. Further to that opening 67 he went on to rank 1st in ball-striking so his game is in great shape for the Augusta test. He did ok on his debut with 3 rounds of 72 and I can see him starting strongly before possible fading away over the weekend as things heat up.

Chez Reavie has been scoring well in round one all year and he ranks 5th in round 1 scoring. Unfortunately he missed his last two stroke-play cuts and all three of his Masters cuts but he is a far better player now and he played some good golf over the first three days at the WGC Match Play. Again with Reavie he just seems like the type of player that could pop up on a day one leaderboard and his neat and tidy game should be suited to the test as he has proven he can handle long courses with a 2nd at Torrey Pines in February and he also has a strong record at Riviera where form always ties in nicely with Augusta.

Brian Harman is one of the outsiders fancied to go well given his exceptionally consistent 2018 form but I’d want to be on at the early three figure prices rather than his current price of around 80/1. Harman also sits in a lofty position of 13th in the season’s 1st round scoring but it was looking at his starts in the big events that impressed me. His last 5 WGC or Major first rounds read 68-68-69-70-67 so he is clearly a player who is starting to feel more and more comfortable playing with the very best. Personally I don’t see him scaring the leaderboard too much on Sunday but another low opening round looks to be on the cards.

Finally Thomas Pieters looks worth siding with in this market just because of his immense talent and how well he played last year to finish 4th on his debut. His form has been poor so it is hard to expect him to string 4 good rounds together but he made a habit of starting fast on the European Tour and 4 of his last 5 opening rounds have been in the 60s. It might just be the best way to play the Belgian powerhouse this week.

 


Summary of Bets

The Masters

Jordan Spieth – 3pts ew @ 10/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair SB) and 3pts win @ 12.0 on Betfair Exchange

Jason Day – 1.5pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Skybet)

Matt Kuchar – 1pt ew @ 35/1 (SkyBet) and 2pts Top 10 @ 5.0 on Betfair

Brendan Steele – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (Skybet) and 3pts Top 20 @ 11/2

Zach Johnson – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet)

Hideki Matsuyama – 3pts Top 10 @ 10/3

1st Round Leader bets

Bryson Dechambeau – 0.25pts ew @ 66/1

Chez Reavie – 0.25pts ew @ 150/1

Brian Harman – 0.25 pts ew @ 55/1

Thomas Pieters – 0.25pts ew @ 50/1

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 26pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 149pts

@theGreek82