Quicken Loans National and Open De France – Betting Preview

In truth last week I really shouldn’t have bothered putting any bets up at all. I didn’t have the chance to do as much research as normal but as I backed a few I felt obliged to put them up. Another week where I only manage to stick the bets up I would recommend in advance that all readers just ignore me!

2018 pts advised = 277.50

2018 pts returned = 327.69

ROI = 18%


Quicken Loans National

Tiger’s event returns for its 12th running and after lots of venue changes luckily there isn’t another change of course and we return to TPC Potomac which came back on the schedule last year for the first time since 2006. Kyle Stanley pipped Charles Howell III to the title last year and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the course. It’s all about career ball-strikers. Fairways and greens then repeat. Stanley putted terribly but still won around a layout with narrow fairways and slick, hard to hit bentgrass greens. He ranked 1st in GIR along the way. With talk of the rough being up again this year that looks like the best route in again. Find someone who has the ball on a string from tee-to-green and don’t worry too much about the fact they have been putting like an 18 handicapper. The test of accuracy is enough that a hot putter should not be required. It obviously won’t hinder on any week but if they can’t find the short grass then it won’t matter. Stanley ranked 47th in total putting while Howell was 21st last year. A look at previous winners at TPC Potomac also flags up the need for hitting greens. Ben Curtis was 2nd in GIR in 2006 and Adam Scott was 1st in 2004.

Brilliant ball strikers who can’t putt? Step forward Keegan Bradley. He was 5th here last year but for some reason he isn’t playing this week. Most annoying as this would have been a great chance for him to get that rather elusive 4th win.

David Lingmerth’s 2018 hasn’t been going according to plan at all but he posted his first top 20 of the season last week at the Travelers. So his confidence might be boosted ahead of a return to a course where he was the 36 hole leader last year after opening with a pair of 65s. The weekend didn’t go to plan but it certainly tells us that he likes the course. Lingmerth is a regular for the blog and he maybe isn’t for everyone but I’m hoping last week might be a turnaround so Potomac looks the ideal course for him to continue his improvement.

Rory Sabbatini missed the cut last week but prior to that he had been playing some decent golf in 2018 and he has recorded 8 top 30 finishes. The highlight of those being a 5th at the Valspar in March. His stars aren’t particularly good for this but I’m having a speculative punt on him largely due to his dated course form. The course has undergone a major redesign since but Sabbatini won at Potomac in 2003 and he finished 3rd a year later when defending. The South African also ranked 1st in the all-round ranking both years so I’m putting some faith in the course still fitting his eye and perhaps bringing back some fond memories of a time when Sabbatini was a very accomplished PGA Tour player. There’s not much to get excited about here this week so it looks like an event where taking a chance on some historical class might be worthwhile.

Byeong-hun An looks as good an option as any for a 3rd pick. His ball-striking has been brilliant of late and he got involved for us for the first 2 days at the US Open. I backed him there for his ability to hit hard and hast greens and I think that makes him look like a sensible play again here. He very nearly got his first PGA Tour win a few weeks ago when he lost a 3 man play-off to Bryson Dechambeau. The 3rd man was none other than last year’s Quicken Loans winner Kyle Stanley, which further suggests the course should suit. Benny was 29th here last year but I’m expecting him to improve for another look and he is far more comfortable on Tour this year. He is another player that I keep backing but it is surely a case of when rather than if with him and there isn’t a great deal to beat this week.


Open De France

This week in France not only do we have one of the best courses on Tour and also one of the strongest events year after year, but there is an added interest. The host course Le Golf National is also hosting the Ryder Cup in late September which brings about a very intriguing aspect to an already exciting betting heat. Bizarrely only Justin Thomas has made the trip from the prospective U.S. team but pretty much everyone competing for a spot on the European team is in the field. With the exception of those that are pretty much locks; Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. This means that the 2nd tier of European players will be absolutely desperate to show Thomas Bjorn just how well they can play the course. Especially given how competitive the 4 captain picks will be at the end of the summer. Who will cope with that added pressure? Who might come through from under the radar to grab a Rolex Series win and throw their name in the hat? Which Ryder Cup veteran might return to form at a course they know better than most? It looks set to be an excellent event with many different stories unfolding as the week progresses.

The course is an exposed inland links but it also has lots of water in play. It’s a 7330 yard par 72 that generally tests most aspects of the game and it is a course that really can’t be overpowered. Such is the undulating nature of the ground, missing the fairways can be doubly punished. The rough has so many slopes and hillocks that not only can the golf ball be nestled in thick green rough but the player could be standing on a 30 degree incline while trying to gouge their ball out. Bubba Watson famously found this out when he appeared here back in 2011 and he struggled to a 74-74 missed cut. That requirement for accuracy off the tee is further boosted by a look at recent winners; Tommy Fleetwood, Graeme McDowell, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thongchai Jaidee and Bernd Weisberger. With relatively small, undulating and fast greens, accuracy is also paramount with the irons. The last 5 winners have ranked 1st, 18th, 2nd, 22nd and 1st in GIR. As like any course with an undulating, exposed links nature, scrambling is also hugely important. Fleetwood’s poor course form prior to winning last year can probably be attributed to his short game improvement. Again the last 5 winners ranked 9th, 2nd, 3rd, 15th and 2nd in scrambling.

Of further interest here will be how bad they decide to leave the rough this week. There is no question that letting it grow for the Ryder Cup will benefit the European team and with so few US players in the field it will probably pay to have it playing as similarly as they can to September.

Le Golf National is one of those classic tests that simply rewards well struck shots and while one big number can ruin a round there are enough birdie opportunities out there for a player willing to plot their way around the course. While the powerful Justin Thomas has more than enough ability to win here on his debut I’m certainly leaning to those who have experience of the course and perhaps the more patient types. Jon Rahm probably doesn’t quite have the temperament yet to win around here for me and I’m also happy to leave him out. With power taking a bit of a backseat many of the shorter hitters will be targeting Le Golf National as a chance to make some good money in a Rolex Series event.

Tommy Fleetwood returns looking to defend the title he won here last year and for me he looks the man to beat. Luckily the presence of Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas in the field gives us a decent price about Fleetwood and having thought about it I simply have to back him. He is in better form than anyone in the field and despite his previous poor form at the course, you would struggle to design a better course for Tommy than an exposed links course with a premium on accurate ball-striking. Tommy showed us in January that he is now not only comfortable winning but also defending titles as he successfully retained the Abu Dhabi Championship. His missed cut last week doesn’t worry me too much as he was no doubt still coming down from the excitement of being properly in contention at the US Open. Fleetwood is a player that I often shy away from backing as it took me a while to believe the hype as I really didn’t rate his short game. But while I still don’t think he is a great putter he has very much improved his scrambling and he does seem to at least hole his share of longer putts now. With his tee-to-green game currently being well inside the top 10 in world golf, he only needs to putt averagely to beat fields like this on a course like this. I really think he will contend again and I think we are getting a very fair each way price to have a confident bet on.

I did consider leaving it at that but I couldn’t resist a small play on somewhat course specialist Mike Lorenzo Vera. With so many repeat top 10 offenders at Le Golf National I think there is a good chance he can go well again on home turf. He looks to have improved again this year and has been threatening to win throughout 2018. It would be a hell of an effort to get his first European Tour win in his national Open but making the each way money looks well within his capabilities. Last year he finished 3rd and in 2015 he finished 6th. Having taken his game to a new level I think the 66/1 looks a shade too big.

I’m also struggling to leave Rafa Cabrera-Bello out here given his brilliant form and his 4th place in 2016. He has been threatening to win a bigger event than this so far in 2018 but he showed with last year’s Scottish Open win just what he can do at this time of year in these sort of fields. We backed him a few weeks ago and he delivered the place money to continue his run of impressive results on the European Tour. RCB ranks 3rd in scrambling on the ET for 2018 and he is another whose short game improvement has helped him perform on a consistent basis in any field in the world. At times earlier in his career he was difficult to watch such was the chasm between his tee-to-green game and his short game. With that no longer being the case it is possible to back him with the confidence that you should get a run for your money at a venue like Le Golf National. Much like Fleetwood an exposed links type course where accuracy is crucial should play to Rafa’s strengths.

Martin Kaymer has made the top 20 here 8 out of his 11 events with six of those being top 10s and of course one of those being his 2009 win. He has also posted top 20s in 4 of his last 6 European Tour events. He loves the course and it suits his all-round game. It has been well documented lately that his chipping yips have been holding him back a little but there were signs of improvement in that area last week as he finished runner-up to Matt Wallace in Germany. His odds are suggesting he has a 36% chance of posting a top 20 whereas his course form tells us that is more like a 73% chance. I think a player of his ability arriving in form looks massively over priced for a top 20 here and it ranks one of my more confident bets this year. I’m staking this to pay for the rest of the bets in the tournament should he oblige


Summary of bets

The National

David Lingmerth – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1.5 odds 6 places Betfred)

Rory Sabbatini – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Benny An – 0.75 pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Open De France

Tommy Fleetwood – 2pts ew @ 14/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Rafa Cabrera Bello – 1pt ew @ 20/1 (Skybet)

Mike Lorenzo Vera – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred)

Martin Kaymer – 4pts Top 20 @ 7/4

 

Weekly pts advised = 15pts

@theGreek82

 

 

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Travelers Championship and BMW International Open – Some bets

While I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that Brooks Koepka wasn’t the right US Open winner I do think Stenson was a little unfortunate not to be a little closer. The only stretch that he struggled with was the back 9 on Saturday when conditions were very unfair and he played a few good shots that were punished. It was the same for the other leaders however it was clear Stenson was enjoying the hard and fast test up to that point. It’s always good to get a full place at a major but if you had told me that he was going to putt so well before they started then I’d have been counting my money before the off!

RCB was also left cursing the back 9 on Sunday as throughout most of the tournament he looked set for a top 10 nevermind the top 20 we needed. It wasn’t to be though and even with Stenson’s 13.2 pts returned there were some small losses on the week.

I’ve been a little short of time and good health this week so the picks will be brief for The Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour and the BMW International Open in Europe.

Updated results to follow


Travelers Championship

Despite some average form Brendan Steele’s price jumped out at me. You need to hit the greens around here and he still sits 11th for GIR and just last week at Shinnecock he was 12th in GIR. So his long game is in good enough shape and he is even making plenty of birdies. He sits 14th in Par 4 Birdie or Better which is a good indicator around here. Steele has been inside the top 25 on six of his seven visits with a 5th in 2014 being the pick of the bunch. Finished down the field at Shinnecock but there were plenty better players who missed the cut and he isn’t someone with a great record on poa annua greens. He will enjoy the return to bentgrass dominant greens and also having some rough to work with around the greens.

Nicholas Lindheim is pretty much just a stats hunch this week as his game looks suited to TPC River Highlands on paper if nothing else. He currently ranks 16th in Par 4 Birdie or Better, 20th in GIR from 150-175 yards and 32nd in putting from 5ft to 15ft. Missed his only cut here but was 12th on another Bobby Weed renovated course at Sawgrass’s Valley course in 2015. Could be over priced at 250/1.


BMW International Open

I wasn’t going to post anything for Germany but as I’ve backed them I thought I may as well squeeze in a few lines. Nothing too original about my main two bets here. Adrian Otaegui and Jorge Campillo have both been knocking on the door of a regular stroke-play win for the last couple of years. Neither man has good form here but Gut Larchenhof isn’t a terribly tough layout. It’s not tricked up, there is room off the tee and not too many dangers beyond bunkers for approach shots. As you would expect with a Nicklaus design it does get a little trickier as you approach the green but both men have been excelling in that area lately. With no big numbers to worry about they can just go out and make birdies as they rank 10th and 18th in birdie average over the last 3 months. I was surprised at the odds available and they both look worthwhile each way plays.

I have also backed a couple of veterans who enjoy the course and have shown glimpses in recent weeks.

Raphael Jacquelin was 4th here in 2016 and 3rd in 2004 so will be relishing a return. Especially after the brisk play at the Shot Clock Masters last time out seemed to bring back the beautiful rhythm to his swing. He finished 3rd there and to be honest I have no idea why this 4 time European Tour winner is 150/1 in this field having suggested he might have turned a corner.

Peter Hanson was 7th at the Shot Clock Masters also breaking a run of bad form and missed cuts. He was 3rd here back in 2009 while also 21st more recently in 2016. I’m hoping his performance last time out will also give him a lift and older players have a decent record around the course which bodes well for both the 40-somethings.


Summary of Bets

Travelers Championship

Brendan Steele – 0.75 pts ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Nicholas Lindheim – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1 (Skybet) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1 (general)

BMW International

Adrian Otaegui – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Jorge Campillo – 0.75pts ew @ 40/1 (Coral)

Raphael Jacquelin- 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Paddy Power)

Peter Hanson – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)

 

Weekly pts advised = 8.5pts

@theGreek82

2018 U.S. Open – Betting Preview

It was a blank last week on both Tours after Adam Bland gave up a great chance to place in the Shot Clock Masters while nobody else was really in contention. Bland was 3rd going in to the final round but he seemed to have used up all his birdies on Saturday and he fell down the leaderboard. No time to dwell though as it’s US Open and World Cup week!

2018 pts advised = 250

2018 pts returned = 314.49

ROI = 25.79%


US Open at Shinnecock Hills

The second major of the year is upon us and while it doesn’t have the glamour of the Masters or perhaps the same history as The Open, that doesn’t mean the excitement levels are any less and on the face of it the 2018 US Open should be an absolute cracker.

We go back to Shinnecock Hills for the first time since 2004 and while that was a bit too much of a slog with hot conditions and a completely baked out course, measures have been taken to try to make sure Shinnecock plays hard but fair. With the course being historically the first proper US links course a lot may depend on the weather but the course looks immaculate and we should hopefully witness a brilliant championship with hard and fast links golf.

The Charles Macdonald and Seth Raynor designed course (1890s) was a short 6996 yard par 70 back when Retief Goosen outstayed the field but after a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw redesign in 2012 the course was extended and now stands as a 7445 yard brute. The fairways were widened as part of that overhaul too but apparently the USGA have been growing the rough out into the fairway to make these more like the original narrow fairways. As it stands however they appear to be quite fair for US Open standards and they average about 40 yards wide by all accounts.

With no Shinnecock form since 2004 there are two courses of great interest to me here this week. Coore and Crenshaw have had their hands on two other courses that we have seen recently on Tour. Their original design, Trinity Forest, was used for the Byron Nelson just last month and that was an out-and-out links course. The players didn’t seem to enjoy it but the leaderboard still showed up plenty of US Open and links specialists. The most important course link for me however is Pinehurst No. 2 which hosted the 2014 US Open won by Martin Kaymer. The team went in and carried out a redesign prior to that US Open and it appeared very similar to Shinnecock even before their tweaks. Retief Goosen was actually the 54 hole leader when defending at Pinehurst in 2005 before throwing in a shocker on Sunday. They are also the only two US Open venues to feature tightly mown fringes and aprons. We saw the havoc that wreaked in 2014 and Kaymer was the only man to really get to grips with them as he ranked 1st in scrambling. What was most interesting about that was that Kaymer is a well documented poor chipper and so he putted up the run-off areas and had the pace of both fringes and greens perfectly all week. With run-offs a plenty there will be more than one way to get up and down at Shinnecock and a sharp scrambling game coming in will be crucial. Kaymer’s lag putting from the fringes helped him to win at TPC Sawgrass just 5 weeks prior so it is well worth a look at who has been scrambling well on similar greens. The tricky upturned saucers at Sawgrass or the undulating links greens at Trinity Forest are two good examples.

The greens will be hard and fast poa annua and they will get even trickier as the week goes on but while there will be lots of talk about what a nightmare they will be to putt on, the need for a silky stroke on the greens will be somewhat exaggerated. Obviously you aren’t going to win a U.S. Open 3-putting every green but time and time again when we see hard and fast greens it is a great ball-striker that comes out on top. Hitting greens on a long championship course is difficult enough but when the greens are hard only the best approach shots will stay on the green. Those with a laser like approach game and a towering ball-flight will be sure to go well this week. Even a hot putter will struggle to cover up mistakes for 4 days around this course. In 2016 at Oakmont DJ won ranking 1st for GIR and 51st for total putting and those greens were close to 15 on the stimp meter by Sunday.

With the course being completely exposed to the elements good wind players could well be advantaged should things get breezy. While a high ball-flight will be important in mild conditions those who are capable of shaping their ball to suit might just be best suited to Shinnecock if the weather is changeable as the forecast suggests currently.

 

Shinnecock

 

Looking back at the 2004 U.S. Open for a moment, it has one of the highest retrospective percentages of major champions inside the Top 40 this century for US Opens. A massive 49% of the players had either won a major or would go on to win one. This is obviously no exact science as the more recent events will obviously not post as high a number but it was still interesting. The rest of these are included in a table below;

2018 US Open stats

You can see that 2 of the highest 4 percentages belong to Retief Goosen and that tells us quite a lot about Shinnecock Hills. The winner will surely be high-class and probably a major winner already if not one in waiting. Despite the recent trend of first time major winners unless someone looks like a nailed on future major winner I’d give second thoughts to backing them for this particular test. That doesn’t make things easy though as the first 10 in the market all fall into one of these categories and several of them arrive in fine form. But a hard and fast US Open test is unlike anything else and therefore I’m not convinced that playing the shorter prices is the way to go despite their claims. Dustin Johnson is the correct favourite and the man to beat after last week but I don’t want to be a backer at just 8/1. Of the chasing pack Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler have unrivalled levels of consistency in majors these days and represent some solid value in the place portion. Again though I can just about pass at the prices with both having let me down in the past when everything seemed in their favour. Rory McIlroy’s recent form makes him of interest but if this plays firm, fast and windy I couldn’t possibly have him on my mind. Jason Day has an excellent US Open record and is considerably harder to ignore here but again I’m just not sure I want to be taking 16/1. Spieth will always have a chance but his putting has been poor enough to put me off even if he is sneaking up to a tempting a price. Tiger Woods can obviously never be written off and it would be typical for him to make his return to winning ways at the U.S. Open. But I’m not sure 20/1 fully takes into consideration the strength in depth of today’s game. That takes me down to the next tier of players and my first outright bet.

Henrik

I’ve liked Henrik Stenson for this for quite a few weeks but I was sort of hoping he might have posted more inspiring finishes over the last month than he has. However I still think Shinnecock should suit him perfectly so I’m making him the headline bet. Despite not really threatening to win this year he ranks 1st in strokes gained: approaches, 1st in GIR by a distance and 6th in scrambling. That approach play prowess will be crucial at Shinnecock as will his ability to get up and down when he does miss. As the greens firm up only the best ball-strikers will still be able to hold the greens and on his day Stenson is as good a ball-striker as there is. He has plenty of form on hard and fast courses too, he was 2nd to Mickelson around Muirfield which is probably the only true hard and fast links test we have seen recently at The Open. He has also won at TPC Sawgrass, Eastlake, TPC Boston, Golf Club Eichenried and Doha GC which all have firm green complexes.

His best US Open finish to date was at Pinehurst No. 2 where he finished 4th and again ranked 1st in GIR. His current form is very close to simmering but I just don’t think we have had the right test for him so far this season. At the Players again he ranked 1st in GIR but putted poorly all week while that was the same last week at the St Jude Classic where he was 1st in driving accuracy and 2nd in GIR. I don’t see his putting woes being that much of an issue as 2 putt pars will keep him ahead of most of the field this week. It’s also highly likely that he was just preparing for the U.S. Open as he usually likes to play the week before a major and did so before his Open triumph in 2016.

However it is a link with 2004 Shinnecock champion Retief Goosen that really got me interested in Stenson for this.. They are both multiple winners but not as prolific that we can’t still look at the courses which they have both thrived. Indeed there are actually 3 which they have both won around; Gut Larchenhoff, Doha GC and East Lake. Goosen also came runner-up to Stenson at Golf Club Eichenreid in 2006 which has some of the fastest greens on the European Tour. Above all else both are long and accurate ball-strikers who are suited to difficult championship style courses. With his often peerless tee-to-green game and form at all the right types of courses I think he looks like an excellent value alternative to those at the head of the market.

As I mentioned already I think Pinehurst No.2 looks a very good guide this week at Shinnecock. This makes me think that the 2014 US Open form will be crucial but I’ve also looked at Trinity Forest which hosted the Byron Nelson a few weeks ago as that is a Coore and Crenshaw original design. Adam Scott and Jimmy Walker featured in the Top 10 at both events and to me that suggests that they will go well at Shinnecock. Kevin Na was also 12th at Pinehurst and 4th at Trinity Forest. None of these 3 were players that I was expecting to back this week so I wasn’t really sure how to play them (luckily Kevin Na isn’t in field!). This Pinehurst link also brings in Martin Kaymer and gives me a huge conundrum. Besides Stenson however there were no other players that I particularly liked for this, so I have decided just to add these 3 to my team and back them all each way. The downside is that I have none of the market leaders onside and I’m probably putting most of my eggs into one basket but they look like rock solid each way options.

Adam Scott’s career has been a rather weird one in recent years. He has played a very light schedule with a view to focussing more on the majors as he searches for his 2nd of the big events. While that didn’t seem to affect his form too much until this year, he only has one top 10 from 12 events and that isn’t what we have come to expect from Aussie. That top 10 was the afore-mentioned Trinity Forest though and he was absolutely brilliant bar his poor putting as he ranked 3rd in GIR and 11th in scrambling. Despite the mixed results he ranks 12th in strokes gained: approaches in 2018. Scott is now a very accomplished links player and he should really have won at least one Open by now. But he is also building a good bank of US Open form with 4 top 20s in the last 6 years. As we all know his tee-to-green game is as good as anyone given the right test and a links layout in the US couldn’t be a better fit for Scott. I had already been backing him before the news broke at the weekend that he had brought back his old coach and was also going to be using a local caddie from Shinnecock. At first that worried me a little but after hearing some direct quotes I think it will surely be a positive and he looks a good bet at 60/1 with ten places.

Jimmy Walker looks to finally be over the worst of his Lyme disease and is starting to post the sort of finishes we have associated with him since he reinvented himself as a prolific winner in 2013/2014. He was runner-up at the Players Championship and 6th at Trinity Forest so he is clearly in some good form while on his last start he ranked 9th for GIR. As he proved with his US PGA win in 2016 he can mix it with the best when his whole game is working. I think the extra little bit of width will be crucial to helping Walker keep it in the fairway and after that he will relish the test. Another excellent wind player Walker is equally happy towering his irons in the air or flighting the ball down as required which will make him adaptable to the weather. He has missed his last 2 US Open cuts but he was ill last year and Oakmont’s narrow fairways were never likely to suit. The 9th place finish at Pinehurst is the key piece of US Open form for me and we should remember he is also one of the best poa annua putters in the world. His US PGA win was on the slick poa annua greens at Baltusrol in the New York area and that is what he has got again this week 100 miles along the coast. I think we will see a strong showing from the in-form major winner and again he looks over-priced given his form.

Martin Kaymer makes the team this week largely off the back of that 2014 win at Pinehurst but he has also shown glimpses of his class in recent weeks and I think he is too big a price on a course that should suit him perfectly. After that win it would have been impossible to think that he would go some 4 years without another win but through injury, loss of form and a questionable back 9 in Abu Dhabi that is exactly what has happened. The odds of 100/1 have pulled me in though and as well as Pinehurst he has won at several links courses and was considered an Open winner in waiting throughout much of his early career. He has taken a while to recover from a wrist injury but there were signs on his last start in Italy that he might be back somewhere close to full fitness. He ranked 1st in GIR on his way to posting an 8th place finish in Brescia and that should have him ready for this.

Finally I’ve added Byeong-Hun An after I only noticed today that he had been added to the field. I tried to back him last week assuming he had qualified but he only got in last-minute due to his World Ranking. Benny has been in great form of late and we know this ball-striking test should suit. He announced himself on the main circuit with his BMW PGA win in 2015 and that course is a great indicator for future major winners given they are some of the fastest greens on the European Tour. He has gradually become more comfortable on the PGA Tour and posted his best result to date just two weeks ago when Bryson Dechambeau beat him in a play-off at Muirfield Village. In truth he was the most impressive of the leading pack on Sunday and winning a big event doesn’t appear like something that would phase him too much. However the main reason for me backing him this week is the course which he won his US Amateur Championship at, Southern Hills. That was the scene of Retief Goosen’s other US Open win and the other two Shinnecock winners have also done well there. Raymond Floyd won the US PGA there in 1982 while Corey Pavin was runner-up in the US PGA in 1994. To me it looks a very strong link and with everything else we know about An I think he is a great each way price. For good measure he also sits 30th in strokes gained: approaches and 46th in scrambling.

I’m playing all the outrights with 10 places given how strong this field is but for the braver there are still some better prices around than those I have advised.

Other markets

Rafa Cabrera-Bello’s all-round game is so good right now that he looks set to rack up top 20 finishes everywhere he plays regardless of the field strength. Since 2016, only looking at WGCs, majors and The Players, RCB has racked up 10 top 20s from 21 appearances. He has also posted top 20s in each of his last 3 events. His approach game is at a career best (8th in strokes gained: approaches) as is his scrambling and putting. The markets don’t yet reflect how comfortable the Spaniard is in these types of events and the 7/2 looks a standout piece of value in the place markets.

Aaron Wise looks a fantastic prospect and after his win at Trinity Forest I have to include him in some shape or form for a test that will be similar. It will be only his 2nd major however so I’m not sure how clever a win bet would be. Instead I’m going to have a top 20 bet at a very generous 4/1. With his talent I’m not sure I need to write too much more.

Richy Werenski posted a 4th place finish last week and it was comfortably his best finish of the season. He was also 23rd at the Players where he ranked 2nd in GIR and it makes me think he might be suited to a more diffcult course. We often see a few random young US players pop up on these leaderboards and it could be Richy’s turn this week. Looks worth a small play at a generous 14/1 given we know he is playing well.

Keegan Bradley’s name often appears whenever difficult approaches are the key to a course and I don’t expect anything different here at Shinnecock. He was 7th just two starts ago at the Players Championship and Bradley is yet another player from the top 10 at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014. Sits 2nd in strokes gained: approaches and I can see another solid 4 days for him resulting in a never quite in contention 13th place.

First Round Leader

Steve Stricker is having a great year playing on both the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour with 2 wins and 2 runner-ups arriving on the latter. But his recent form has been very strong on the PGA Tour reading 18-32-23 and especially his fast starts. His recent run of first round scores on both Tours reads 66-65-67-67-67-67-68-70-66-68-69-68. Even those who got bored reading that will notice how low he is going on day 1. He has improved on links layouts over time and that culminated with a best ever 4th at Troon in 2016. Given he is now 51 years old it is perfectly fair that he might start to tire as the week goes on at some of the longer PGA Tour courses. Therefore it looks like backing him when he is at his freshest on a Thursday is the way to go.

For my second bet in this market I’m taking an absolute flyer with Harold Varner III. Varner is proven on hard and fast courses in Australia as he finished runner-up at Royal Pines in the 2015 Australian PGA before going one better in 2016 to win it. That is still his only professional win and he has struggled to really push on from that in the US. However this test might just suit him and bring about a revival. There have been some signs recently though and none more so than when he finished 7th in the Players last month. He led the field in putting on the slick Sawgrass greens and a good putter is always handy for this market. I actually had him picked out before I even noticed he has the first tee time at 6:45am. With some rain forecast on Wednesday and the wind looking like getting up as Thursday progresses, those out early might just get the best of it. At a massive 200/1 with Betfred and Boylesports it’s worth an interest.

Jason Scrivener is quite probably out of his depth here but he is another who thrives on hard and fast courses and has a brilliant record at Lake Karrinyup in particular where greens are hard to hit with shaved run-offs and fast grainy grass. His first professional win came around Twin Creeks Golf course in November and that is another hard and fast links course with similar bunkering and rough. Scrivener is a brilliant scrambler but his iron game improves for playing on firm courses too and it’s not impossible to see him firing one good round in at Shinnecock. Given he qualified for this last week we know he is in decent form and in his last event he finished 21st in a good field in Italy. Also has an early 6:56am tee time and is worth a speculative punt at 300/1.


Summary of bets

US Open

Henrik Stenson – 2pts ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Paddy Power)

Adam Scott – 1pt ew @ 60/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Paddy Power)

Martin Kaymer – 1pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Coral)

Jimmy Walker – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Paddy Power)

Byeong-Hun An – 1pt ew @ 90/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Paddy Power)

Other markets

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 2pts Top 20 @ 7/2

Aaron Wise – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Keegan Bradley – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

Richy Werenski – 1pt Top 20 @ 14/1

1st Round Leader

Steve Stricker – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 1RL market (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet)

Harold Varner III – 0.25pt ew @ 200/1 1RL market (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred and Boylesports)

Jason Scrivener 0.25pt ew @ 300/1 1RL market (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports)

 

Weekly pts advised = 20

208 pts advised = 270

@theGreek82

Fed Ex St. Jude Classic and The Shot Clock Masters

Rafa Cabrera Bello came up just short in Italy but he grabbed the place money for returns of 8.25pts on the week. Three of the four picks in the US went quite well but could never quite get to the upper reaches of the leaderboard to get anywhere near a place. With the US Open next week we don’t have too much to get excited about as most of the top players take a week off to prepare for Shinnecock. With major fever beginning to hit I will try to have next week’s preview up as early as I can on Monday.

2018 pts advised = 240pts

2018 pts returned = 314.49pts

ROI = 31%


Fed Ex St Jude Classic

While TPC Southwind is hardly the exhausting challenge of a US Open at least the PGA Tour prepares for the slog with a difficult test this week. This event regularly sits in the top 10 most difficult courses on the schedule and that is reflected with winning score usually around the -10 mark. It is a technical, tree-lined par 70 with slightly narrower than average fairways and some thick rough awaiting those that do stray a little too far off the tee. Being a par 70 there only 2 par 5s so for those not finding the fairway it can be a long round. There are several long par 4s and trying to find these small greens from the rough isn’t going to be easy. Therefore it is often a course that rewards steady, accurate play from tee-to-green. With small bermuda greens usually running quick enough plenty of greens will be missed and scrambling skills will be tested. Daniel Berger has found the key to Southwind having won the last two events and he did so by driving the ball long and straight and hitting greens. A pretty good recipe for success on most courses but with difficult to hit greens, a hot putter and maximising birdies isn’t required this week as Berger ranked just 26th and 27th on the greens.

As the name suggests the wind is liable to blow through the course and therefore there a number of courses where form correlates nicely. Other windy, tree-lined tracks with small greens include PGA National (Honda Classic), Waialae GC (Sony Open) and El Camaleon GC (OHL Classic).

Tom Hoge has been on my radar for this since his 3rd place finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He was the 54 hole leader there in January and with the correlation between Waialae and TPC Southwind he went in the notebook. So when he finished 13th at Memorial my interest was already perked but I became even more confident when I noticed that he ranked 1st in putting. He isn’t always the best with the flat-stick and when he can put everything together he has a pretty impressive all-round game. That was the case in Hawaii as he ranked 1st in the all-round ranking. A look through his other PGA Tour top 10s shows a 10th at the Puerto Open which is another similar course with good correlating form. Hoge also has a little course form with a 12th place finish back in 2015. With several long par 4s around the course the players will require the mid-long irons to be firing in order to hit these small greens and Hoge’s stats in that area are very impressive as he ranks 10th in proximity to the hole from 175-200 yards. As well as putting brilliantly last week he also sits 8th in one-putt percentage so he has been doing some things well all season with the putter. With his impressive performance last week I’m surprised to see 110/1 about him and it rates a very solid each way play.

hoge

Matt Jones was going to be my main pick at Memorial but for one small detail, he wasn’t actually playing! There was a fairly specific stat in particular that I really liked for Memorial and Jones was ranked no. 1. Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what it was. However luckily this week gives me another chance to get with the Aussie on a course where he has recent form figures of 18-26-3. A windy course where greens are hard to hit and scrambling is key suits the short game wizard perfectly and despite not really contending yet in 2018 he is racking up some solid results while building a decent stats profile along the way. Jones ranks 6th in GIR from 175-200 yards and 15th in proximity to the hole from the same distance. He was 13th on his last appearance and he also qualified for the U.S. Open yesterday showing he is in good form. He will arrive full of confidence and looks a little over priced with many of the market leaders probably looking at honing their game ahead of next week.

At first I was a little hard pushed to find another bet but then I saw one of my favourite outsiders sitting in a lofty position in several key metrics. Michael Thompson is 23rd in GIR from 175-200 yards and 11th in scoring relative to par from the same distance. He is also putting as well as normal as he ranks 23rd in putting from 5ft-10ft which is crucial on any difficult course where length par saves are required. His recent results have been ok but he should enjoy this course as he was 3rd in 2015 and his only win on Tour has come at the Honda Classic where there are also small bermuda greens and wind is a factor. At 200/1 it won’t cost much to have an each way interest with Skybet’s favourable 8 places as they fight for the U.S. Open stakes next week


Shot Clock Masters

The Lyoness Open as we knew it has disappeared and in its place we have another Keith Pelley gimmick, the Shot Clock Masters. It’s hard to say how this one will pan out but as with the other different types of event this year we have to keep an open mind and give it a chance. One thing we do know is that Patrick Cantlay, Bryson Dechambeau and Kyle Stanley won’t be lining up in it any time soon!

The course is the same as the event stays at the Diamond Country Club near Vienna and the format is almost the same with the one key difference alluded to by the name. They will play their usual 72-hole stroke play but every single shot will be played under the shot clock. The first player away will have 50 seconds to hit their shot with the next in line getting 40 seconds. Each time a player runs over they will be handed a 1 shot penalty and everyone will have 2 time-outs a round which will double their time for their shot when used. It’s an interesting idea and with slow play a very topical issue at the moment many golfing eyes will be on Austria this week in some capacity. With round times getting out of control on the PGA Tour you would hope that they will be watching closely.

The sponsors will be glad that something will draw attention to Diamond CC this week as the field strength doesn’t look like doing that. The combination of the shot clock and being the week before the U.S. Open has left this resembling a Challenge Tour event but that gives someone the chance to make a name for themself in a high-profile event and that makes it appear like a decent betting event. The course has long been one that favours ball-strikers and in particular Diamond CC is another second shot course. It actually resembles a PGA Tour venue perhaps more so than any other course on the European Tour, certainly the ones on European soil. It is a lush green venue with water in play practically wherever you look as lakes wind themselves through the course. However there is still plenty width off the tee as these water hazards mainly come into play around the greens. There are plenty of fairway bunkers though and while they remove the bombers aspect of the course, players largely won’t be punished for taking driver as the landing areas are generous. Year after year this is won by a player who pounds the greens and the last 5 winners have averaged 9th in GIR. They have also scrambled well averaging 9th but the all-round ranking suggests that most aspects will need to be in good order as the same 5 winners have averaged just 6th in that area.

Gagli

I wanted to side with brisk players who wouldn’t be phased by the timing restrictions but to be honest the field strength is so poor there aren’t too many here that are famously slow or quick. So instead I have stuck with the regular M.O. for Diamond Country Club and gone with a ball-striker as my main pick. Nobody in the field ranks higher than Lorenzo Gagli in ball-striking over the last 3 months as he sits 3rd on Tour. That is made up from 4th in total driving and 9th in GIR so it is clear that he is in full control of his long game. That is exactly what is needed here so I’m trying not to worry too much about his price as there isn’t much to beat here. With scoring usually low, birdie average is another key metric and again Gagli is doing well there as he sits 22nd over the last 3 months. That is good enough for 2nd in this field however.

Gagli has struggled for much of his European Tour career usually ending up bouncing between it and the Challenge Tour but something seems to have improved drastically over the last 6 months. His new-found tee-to-green assurance has seen him not only win on the Challenge Tour for the first time but also find more consistency on the main Tour. His last 4 starts on the ET read 14-20-20-36 and that is a step above what 95% of this field have been doing so in reality 28/1 isn’t the worst price I have seen. I’d be hard pushed to suggest there is much value in there but he seems like a player who has properly turned a corner with his game and I think he is worth keeping an eye on throughout 2018. He was 10th here in 2013 so can play the course and a poor field like this could be just what he needs to get his first European Tour win. He has been cut again since the withdrawal of Burmester and Van Rooyen but while that makes the 20/1-22/1 obviously feel even shorter we need to focus on the fact that the field is even weaker now and the favourite is a 54 year old, albeit a very talented and in-form one!

The only man in this field above Gagli in birdie average over the last 3 months is Jeff Winther and that seems good enough reason to back the Dane at 50/1. He actually sits 8th on Tour and is making 4.44 birdies per round. He has missed his last 2 cuts but a closer look at his form tells us that he isn’t usually too comfortable on tight, tree-lined courses so if we ignore Wentworth and Italy his 2 results prior were a 17th at the Belgian Knockout and 14th in the Sicilian Open. In Belgium he actually finished 3rd after the 2 stroke-play rounds and led the field in GIR. He is yet to have a European Tour top 10 and he has missed both his cuts at the course but this event looks like a good opportunity for a wildcard and with some sneaky form I think he rates a good each way play at 66/1.

Adam Bland closed with a 65 last week and he sits 10th scrambling over the last 3 months. With greens being missed and fairways wide enough, this looks ideal for the power packed Aussie. He hasn’t played in too many European Tour events so far in his career but when he has he has performed rather well. In the Perth Sixes last year he made it all the way to the semi-finals on a course where scrambling is always crucial. It’s a speculative play but he might just be over priced in this calibre of field.

Gavin Moynihan makes up the team at a whopping 400/1 for no reason other than he looked pretty impressive alongside Paul Dunne at the Golf Sixes and he didn’t seem to have any issue with the shot clock hole. Indeed he actually performed better than his more esteemed team-mate that week in England so I’m surprised that he missed his next cut on the Challenge Tour. Although that was his first start since that win and it really should be a catalyst for a player who was a top class amateur, playing the Walker Cup twice. With a poor field this gives him another chance to push on in the quest for his European Tour card.


Summary of bets

St Jude Classic

Tom Hoge – 1pt ew @ 110/1 (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Matt Jones – 1pt ew @ 125/1  (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Michael Thompson – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Shot Clock Masters

Lorenzo Gagli – 1.25pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Jeff Winther – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Adam Bland – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Gavin Moynihan – 0.25pt ew @ 400/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral ) and 0.5pt Top 20 @ 12/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 11pts

@theGreek82