WGC Bridgestone Invitational 2018 – Betting Preview

Last week was a huge disappointment with none of our guys in Europe doing anything after Thursday while in Canada Tony Finau fought back brilliantly on Friday and Saturday before having a shocker on Sunday. He was probably running on empty by then but he looks to me like a future Glen Abbey winner and I think he is also worth keeping a close eye on the next two weeks.

2018 pts advised = 341.50

2018 pts returned = 346.52

ROI = 1.5%


Bridgestone

WGC Bridgestone

Since 2007 the WGC event from Firestone has sat in the slot ahead of the US PGA on the schedule and in that time it has given the players a nice preparation week ahead of the year’s final major. The test is usually very similar, suiting big hitting, in-form golfers and that has given punters some nice trends to follow. Unfortunately that is all set to change as the PGA moves to May next year. So this is the final chance we get to survey the Firestone field ahead of the US PGA but it also looks to be the best pointer in some time.

Firestone Country Club is a Robert Trent Jones re-design and it sits as a 7400 yards Par 70 with some monstrous Par 4s and the longest Par 5 on Tour. The US PGA is always set up to play as long as possible and this year is no different with Bellerive at some 7500 yards. But the most important factor is that Bellerive is also a Robert Trent Jones design. Form at his courses normally carries over well as he generally sought to design a course where bogeys were easy to come by but pars were somewhat more difficult, That can be seen perhaps best of all at Valderrama in Spain where the winning score is usually single figures under par.

The similarity between the two events coupled with the tournaments being back-to back has brought about a telling stat where the last 10 US PGA winners have finished in the Top 28 at Firestone. Those who aren’t getting too involved from a betting point of view this week should pay close attention to their fancies for Bellerive next week as that trend looks to be as important as ever.

Firestone has been the host of this event in some capacity since 1962 so there is an abundance of course form and over the years a typical sort of winner has been established. The fairways are of average width but unlike most courses there are no dog legs and they all play perfectly straight. This puts straight, accurate drivers at an advantage even before the lush green rough is considered. The last 5 winners have averaged 17th for driving accuracy and while you can get away with missing fairways, you need to be a good long iron player from the rough to get anywhere near the greens. On the long par 4s a missed fairway can result in an approach shot of 200 yards + for most of the field and that is something that not all players are comfortable with.

The greens, while perceived by some to be small, average 7,600 ft in area so they are actually on the larger side. However many of them are elevated with steep slopes and different tiers which make them harder to hold. They also run towards 13″ on the stimpmeter so they should play very fast.

With a field average GIR of 58% over the last 5 years we can see how hard it is to hold the greens. That brings scrambling into the equation and while the likes of Mahan and Johnson don’t immediately stand out as excellent scramblers, they did very well around the greens during the week of their win.

Most winners of the WGC at Firestone are world-class and usually a major winner already. Since 1999 only Hideki Matsuyama (2017), Shane Lowry (2015), Hunter Mahan (2010) and Craig Parry (2002) haven’t won one of the main 4 tournaments and even then Matsuyama’s major win is very likely still to come. To further make the point about class, since 2005 every winner bar 3 has finished that season in the Top 3 of the PGA Tour’s All Round Ranking.

Since 2009 the worst that any winner has finished in that season’s total driving rank is 45th. Seven of the last 10 winners ranked inside the top 24 for strokes gained: off the tee while two of the outliers were Tiger Woods who was often the exception to rules. So they have to be fairly long and fairly accurate drivers to have any chance of winning at Firestone. Eight of the last 10 had already finished inside the top 10 at one of the years majors while 7 of them had already won that season. It isn’t a venue where players tend to just happen across some form and it is usually won by someone whose name has been at the top of the leaderboards most of the summer.

However with all that said the winner usually does most things well as 8 of the last 10 winners finished 1st in the all-round ranking during their win. The following is also their season end rankings in the same stat for the year they won 4-5-n/a-2-1-1-2-36-1-31. That is very impressive and while you certainly want to look at ball-strikers first, such is the test at Firestone it looks imperative that every part of the game is already in order.

Selections

Despite there being a couple of negatives, pretty much everything else screams Tommy Fleetwood to me this week here. His 2017 was so good that it looked like he might struggle to follow it up but so far 2018 hasn’t been too shabby either. While he hasn’t won since January it is his consistency at the big events that first put him in my head for Firestone. Four of the last five winners here had finished inside the top 32 at all five of the year’s big stroke play events up to that point (3 majors plus WGC Mexico and The Players). There are definitely attributes required to win here but more often than not it is won by one of the summer’s standout golfers and there is no doubting Tommy falls into that category. He was 14th in Mexico, 17th at the Masters, 7th at the Players, 2nd at the U.S. Open and 12th at the Open. So not only is he top 32 but he is top 20 in all 5 and his win is surely coming.

While he is probably ready to win a major already we often see players do these things gradually by winning a WGC event first. Rose, Day, DJ, Scott, Reed have all won WGCs recently on their way to Major success. We know Firestone rewards long and accurate ball-strikers and we know Tommy is just that. His stats are extremely impressive this year and back up his case further. The most intriguing one is the all-round ranking that we mentioned and Tommy sits in 3rd on the PGA Tour ranking below only Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. He is also 12th in strokes gained: tee to green and a rather surprising 13th in strokes gained: around the green. Tommy isn’t the best of putters but his lag putting has improved drastically and with a difficult week likely we should see two putt pars as a pretty good score on most holes. Lots of these slick greens will be missed and only the best ball strikers will be able to hold them. His odds of 28/1 aren’t fancy by any means but considering his profile they are perfectly fair. This is his 2nd look at the course where he came 28th on his debut last year.

Patrick Cantlay is finally showing himself to be the elite ball-striker that was promised after his brilliant amateur career. He has had some personal difficulties too so the fact that he is where he wants to be and still only 26 is impressive and still leaves him plenty time to make his mark. He got his maiden win in October and has pushed on well this year with his most recent outing being 12th at The Open. That was on the back of 30th in Mexico, 23rd at The Players and 45th at the US Open. Not spectacular but just the sort of steady performances that tells me his long game is in good shape for a test like Firestone. Cantlay also ranks highly in the all-round ranking in 12th spot while he is 9th in strokes gained: tee to green. It’s maybe a lot to expect him to win on his debut but I can see him getting involved at least and maybe nabbing a place. A bet on the criminally slow Cantlay also comes with the added bonus that if he struggles it means we don’t actually have to watch him play any shots!

Emiliano Grillo won on his very first start with a full PGA card way back in October 2015 at the Frys Open. His career hasn’t quite continued on the upward trajectory that many expected but again it was his all-round ranking that really perked my interest this week. We know he is a brilliant ball-striker and there are few better drivers in the game but his short game can let him down. Sitting 11th in the all-round ranking makes me think this sort of test is coming at the right time. He doesn’t have the bank of summer form that I would ideally be looking for but he was 14th here two years ago on his debut and I really like the course for him. Grillo also ranks 24th in strokes gained: off the tee and does have some ok form in 2018 with five top 10s so far. Ranked 2nd in total accuracy on his last US start so if we forgive his missed cut in the Open he looks a great bet at 125/1. The 4/1 for a top 20 also looks like a nice price.

It’s very possible that Firestone is too long for Andrew Landry but I can’t leave him out here at a monstrous price of 400/1. The main reason is the fact that he contended at Oakmont along with two Firestone winners Dustin Johnson and Shane Lowry and I looked into why that might be. The main reason seems to be that Landry is very proficient playing approach shots out of the rough. In 2016 he led the Tour in proximity from the rough while this year he sits 6th in the same stat.  The rough was lush green at Oakmont in 2016 and we see the same every year at Firestone. The two courses are just 2 hours away so climate and conditions will be similar with both courses being a mix of bentgrass and poa annua so I’m sure he will feel comfortable. Certainly comfortable enough to back each way at 400/1 with 6 places! Landry is also a steady driver and sits 43rd in strokes gained: off the tee which is impressive for a shorter hitter. That combined with his impressive approach play from the rough should help him go well around Firestone. I’d say the 300/1 would still be a decent price should the 400 dry up. I’m also having a back-up top 20 bet at 10/1 should he take to the course but just find a dozen or so too good.

Others that were close include Matsuyama who looks like some serious value at 45/1. I’m sure you could back that blind here at Firestone and make profit going forward but I just don’t think his long game is where it needs to be. Webb Simpson owes me nothing after The Players’ win and he is still playing very well but I think Firestone may just be a bit long for him. He has never won on a course longer than 7250 yards and even then that was a Par 71. A 7400 par 70 is probably pushing it for Webb but I’d expect another top 20 finish and I’m going to have a small play on that too.


Other bets

I’m not including full previews for the other events this week but a few bets caught my eye.

I stupidly backed Shane Lowry thinking that the Barracuda was played on another Robert Trent Jones track but I was muddling this up with another alternate event with a similar name. The Barbasol, held two weeks ago, was played at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail for 3 years while this week’s Barracuda is actually a Jack Nicklaus course. Anyway he returned to form last week at another Jack Nicklaus course in Canada and these alternate events are often won by someone with a bit of historical class perhaps motivated by not being in the week’s main event. Worth a small interest at 25/1.

I noticed a tweet from somebody over the weekend (I can’t remember who) stating that Ollie Schniederjans made more birdies than anyone over the first two days but he still managed to miss the cut. It might be that this Stableford type of event is exactly what he needs if he is racking up big numbers and this drop in grade should also help. Has some form on Nicklaus courses too as he lost a play-off at TPC Cartagena in Colombia on the Web.com two years ago.

I put Ariya Jutanugarn in a couple of different accumulators last week so watched a fair bit of the Ladies Scottish Open over the weekend. There was some pretty grim weather at times and her scrambling was out of this world, something that is always crucial in links golf. Gullane is a proper links test just like they face this week in the Ladies British Open at Royal Lytham. That week of acclimatising will have the best player in the ladies game 100% prepared for this week and to be honest I thought she would be a little shorter than 10/1. I’m going to have a small win bet on the brilliant Thai.


Summary of bets

WGC Bridgestone

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.5pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)

Patrick Cantlay – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Emiliano Grillo – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places) and 1pt top 20 @ 4/1

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 400/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Barracuda Champiomship

Shane Lowry – 0.75pt ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Ollie Schniederjans – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Women’s British Open

Ariya Jutanugarn – 2pts win @ 9.2 on Betfair Exchange

 

Weekly pts = 14

@theGreek82

 

 

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RBC Canadian Open and Porsche European Open – Betting Preview

Things got off to a great start last week with Erik Van Rooyen shooting an opening 67 which was good enough for 2nd place after round 1 and 11.5 pts returned. That was as good as it got though as the week got a little more frustrating as it went on. Several others couldn’t make enough birdies to ever get close with conditions playing easier than expected on the first three days. Then Fowler fell away on Saturday after one bad drive halted his progress up the leaderboard. Despite all that after Thorbjorn Olesen birdied his opening two holes on Sunday and the head of the leaderboard concertinaed I thought the top 10 bet and the play-off bet had a great chance of landing. It wasn’t to be though and ultimately it was another losing Major week although on the positive side we got to watch an exhilarating final round where Francesco Molinari ran out a more than deserving winner. I’m really going to have to up my game for the US PGA in two weeks although luckily it’s the major I’ve fared best in recently finding both Dufner and Day. Fingers crossed!

This week we have the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour while the brutish Green Eagle course in Germany hosts the Porsche European Open.

2018 pts advised = 329.50

2018 pts returned = 346.52

ROI =5.16%


Canadian Open

The PGA Tour enters a 3 week period which I believe has the most correlated run of tournaments we see on the schedule. Glen Abbey hosts again this week and together with Firestone next week and the US PGA the week after we have 3 tournaments that reward long, towering ball flights and powerful driving. The follow-on form from Firestone into the US PGA is well documented each year with the PGA winner usually having finished inside the Top 20 at the WGC the week before. But since the Canadian Open found a more permanent residence at Glen Abbey it sits nicely as a similar but more straight forward test for the players to ease into two of the best fields of the year.

It plays as a 7273 yard par 72 course and with some fairly short par 5s it plays rather easy. The last 4 winning scores have been -21, -12, -16 and -18 so birdies and eagles are very much the order of the week. The course is a lush green parkland one with water in play and lots of elevation changes. The rough, while being green and lush, isn’t as deep as it used to be because those in charge decided a few years ago that 6” rough was removing some of the excitement so it is kept at a more playable 3”. That may help explain the success that bombers such as Jason Day, Bubba Watson and even Jonny Vegas have had in recent years. They repeatedly got their driver out as far as possible knowing that they would still be able to find the green with a wedge from the shorter rough.

That’s not the only recent change however as all the poa annua greens were replaced with bentgrass between the 2015 and 2016 events. The result was greens that matched the rest of the pristine course and this is probably another reason for seeing such a strong field again this year. They are set up just as quick though and that is another advantage for the bombers who are going in with wedges to so many holes and therefore holding the greens better than most.

Looking at the more recent four editions there isn’t really any standout stat other than driving distance. You used to have to putt well to win around Glen Abbey but Jonny Vegas ranked just 63rd in total putting two years ago when he got his first win. He improved a little on the greens when he succesfully defended last year but was still only 25th. Day and Snedeker before them both putted the lights out as you would expect from two of the best putters on Tour.

Two years ago I delved a little deeper into the stats and discovered that the one thing the winners all seemed to do well was get the ball close to the pin from the rough at both the 50-75 yards and 175-200 ranges. On first thought that seemed a little random when we have 4 fairly different winners but perhaps it is maybe not that strange. Bombers will be left with the 50-75 yard range a lot when letting rip on the Par 4s and the shorter hitters will be left with the same sort of distance for their 3rd shot on the Par 5s. Again the bombers will have the second range for their approaches into the shorter par 5s. While they are quite narrow ranges it more generally highlights that you have to be able to score from the rough at Glen Abbey. It isn’t overly penal but with narrow enough fairways there will be plenty of shots played from the longer cut this week.

Glen Abbey also has a couple of strong course correlations that come to mind for me; Riviera, home of the Northern Trust Open and Torrey Pines, home of the Farmers Insurance Open. Quite how much that has been down to the poa annua greens in the past I’m not sure but they also appear similar visually. Riviera also has some huge changes in elevation and some blind shots making distance control extremely important. Torrey Pines has lots of water in play and also features a rolling landscape with small greens. The most pertinent link comes from the list of winners as Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker have both won around Glen Abbey and Torrey Pines. Besides his win here Nathan Green only has one runner-up finish and that was at Torrey Pines in 2006. Chez Reavie very nearly won at Riviera in 2016  before giving way to some world-class players on the Sunday. There are other similar cases to be found through some leaderboard searching.

Tony Finau isn’t much of a price this week at all but what can we really expect for the only player to finish inside the top 10 at each major this year. Finau is becoming a tee-to-green colossus and if he had even putted averagely last week then he would surely have been closer to the hunt on Sunday evening. Finau was also 5th here last year on his third look and he fits the mould perfectly for Glen Abbey. Finau ranks 1st in GIR from off the fairway and that will serve him very well here again this year. He also has form at all the right courses and this looks like the perfect opportunity to get his 2nd win on Tour. Finau was 2nd at Riviera this year, 10th at Augusta on his debut and he has been 6th and 4th on his last two efforts around Torrey Pines. The only slight negative is his return from Scotland maybe doesn’t give him ideal preparation but this is no ordinary golfer in that respect. His 10th place at the Masters was done so after suffering a dislocated ankle in the par 3 event on the Wednesday. Perfect preparation doesn’t seem to be something that he requires. The Tour is entering a stretch where Finau should flourish and hopefully he can get off to the best possible start here. A confident play where the only downside is travel so I’m going 2.5 pts each way. The price won’t be for everyone and I’m certainly not going to suggest there is any value in it. But every now and then we have to mix it up and I really feel like he is trending towards a win. We will get bigger prices the next two weeks but this represents a very good chance for him and I don’t want to miss out.

Not much else of note for me here but I’m going to give Blayne Barber a go at 200/1 with 8 places. He was 12th last week at the Barbasol with the highlight being a 3rd round 63 and despite not being the longest off the tee I think he can go well here again after finishing 30th last year while ranking 7th in GIR. That is probably his main strength and he ranks 29th in that stat for the 2018 season. One of his best finishes to date on the PGA Tour is 3rd around another Jack Nicklaus course at PGA National. He has also finished 12th at Riviera and his accurate approach play should serve him well on these small greens. On a run of five consecutive weekends of golf I think he is maybe a shade over priced at 200s.


European Open

There is a huge drop off in excitement levels as the European Tour heads from Carnoustie over to Northern Germany and there is a fairly average field headed by a couple of key sponsors’ players. With plenty time to recover after just a short journey many of the lesser ET players will no doubt arrive in great condition having really enjoyed The Open and watched as one of the European Tour’s most cherished member’s lifted the Claret Jug. There will be a good atmosphere in Hamburg this week and I would mark down having played last week as a positive given how much the players seemed to enjoy it. With that said however those who have made the trip over from Angus aren’t the most inspiring bunch barring the 9/1 favourite Patrick Reed. But he struggled here last year to finish just 19th and can be opposed easily at single figure odds even in this weak European Tour field. Next come Paul Casey, Bryson Dechambeau, Pat Perez and Charl Schwartzel in the betting but again I can easily leave them out at the prices. Casey makes very little appeal at just 10/1 and while Dechambeau is playing well, I’ve not seen anything to suggest this sort of test in Europe is something he should be backed for at just 14/1. Perez might struggle with the length of the course as he isn’t getting any younger while Schwartzel was awful last week.

The course is the Green Eagle North course just to the south of Hamburg and it was remodelled for last year’s event which was won by Jordan Smith. He gained his maiden ET victory by overcoming Alexander Levy in a play-off after both men finished on -13. The course is tough enough with its main defence being the fact it can play to some 7800 yards long and there is water in play on most holes. Even as a par 73 that is quite substantial and the course has five par 5s to allow for that number. The rough was also relatively lush last year and those who drove it long and straight had a decent week. Despite not being a birdie fest, putting was very important last year. The greens are immaculate but they are quite heavily undulating and both Smith and Levy performed well with the short stick. With the summer having been a very good one the course probably won’t play as long as it did last year so there might not quite be the same requirement for the straight driving but with a lot of water in play it’s probably still a useful angle to take in and one I have used, my main pick aside.

That first pick is a fairly obvious one as Zander Lombard has the all important mix of current and course form and his opening price of 100/1 was very surprising and also long gone. He was 5th here last year and enjoyed surely the best week of his life at Carnoustie where he contended for 54 holes before ending with a bit of shocker on Sunday. He isn’t a player that I particularly like as he is often quite wild and erratic but if he enjoyed the course last year I’m sure he will enjoy it again this year with confidence high despite the Sunday 82. We can forgive that as he was in with a legitimate chance of winning the Open and better players than him have shot worse rounds in easier conditions when in similar situations. As the commentators told us repeatedly, he had missed 13 of his previous 18 cuts heading into The Open but he must have found something with his swing in Ireland 2 weeks prior when he finished 6th. That was such a marked improvement and anything close to last week’s 54 hole form would give him a great chance here. It’s a value play really based on that up turn in form and if he keeps that going he doesn’t have an awful lot to beat here beyond the Masters champ. He has been heavily cut since Monday but there is still plenty of 66/1 around which is still ok for me.

Adrian Otaegui is the classy in-form European Tour pick here this week. He has been creeping ever closer to his first stroke-play event but in the process he has racked up 2 match play titles which has propelled him to 79th in the world. He is a long and accurate driver at his best and while not always the best of putters you certainly wouldn’t have noticed that during his two wins as he appeared to hole everything that mattered. With those two strengths you would expect he would be suited to the test here and that was exactly the case when he finished 5th last year. One of his two wins actually came in Germany so returning to the country and to a course where he has played well before should be very positive. He will be fresh after a much needed rest week as he played the previous 4 weeks in a row and that may have been partly responsible for his missed cut in Scotland. Prior to that he was 28th in Ireland and 12th in France and should play well again.

Richard Sterne played brilliantly from tee-to-green two weeks ago in Scotland and was only let down by a cold putter. He was 3rd in total driving, 2nd in ball-striking and 1st in total accuracy. It was almost the opposite here last year where he ranked 6th in total putting on the way to a 19th place finish. The undulating surfaces would have suited the South African who had a fantastic touch on the greens when he was at his peak. If he can marry both the long game and putting together then this test is ideal and we know he can still mix it at this level when fully fit. Back problems have dogged him severely over the last few years but he looks worth following this week in the hope that he maybe turned a corner in Scotland.

Pedro Oriol is a huge price for someone who sits 24th in strokes gained: tee to green on the European Tour. That is good enough for 2nd in this field behind only Patrick Reed but the American has only played 8 rounds to contribute to his figure. Oriol also ranks 7th in ball striking over the last 3 months. Most of his better results come on mainland Europe and his only professional win was in Switzerland. He was 2nd in total driving on his last start and 6th in the all-round ranking so he could be over priced here in a field lacking any real depth.


Summary of Bets

Canadian Open

Tony Finau – 2.5pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 7 places several)

Blayne Barber – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

European Open

Zander Lombard – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Adrian Otaegui – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Richard Sterne – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Pedro Oriol – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82

The 147th Open Championship – Betting Preview

Ryan Fox nabbed two thirds of the place money again with another strong links showing and Whee Kim looked like also returning some of the place money until he double bogeyed the 18th. It was his final few holes that did for him the whole week and if he hadn’t finished so poorly each day he may well have applied some pressure on his namesake Michael. It wasn’t to be though and we move on to one of the top 2 weeks of the golfing year with The Open at Carnoustie.

2018 pts advised = 302.50

2018 pts returned = 335.02

ROI = 10.75%


The Open Championship

History

While being one of the sterner tests on the Open rotation and always bringing with it plenty of drama, for some reason there has often been a long time between drinks from the Claret Jug at Carnoustie. This week will see just the 8th hosting of The Open at a course that was first opened in 1842. The first edition at Carnoustie was in 1931 and won by Tommy Armour. While they were held semi-regularly after that for a period there were none from Tom Watson’s win in 1975 until Paul Lawrie triumphed in 1999. There was then another 8 year gap to Padraig Harrington’s win in 2007 and it hasn’t been back since.

Paul Lawrie’s win was as dramatic as they come with Jean Van De Velde famously throwing his chance down the Barry Burn as he took a treble bogey down the last when a double would have seen him over the line. He would go on to lose the three man playoff and etch his name on the wrong side of history as he is now fondly remembered as the highest profile collapse in Open history.

There was similar excitement in 2007 when Harrington and Garcia went toe-to-toe with the Spaniard starting the day with a 3-shot lead before Harrington found himself with a 2 shot lead playing the 18th. He too would throw his chance away down the 18th before ultimately composing himself to beat Garcia in the 4 hole play-off.

Jordan Spieth defends this year after his brilliant win around Birkdale while Harrington returns to the scene of his greatest victory. Bernard Langer makes the field having won last year’s Senior Open and he is another course winner having also won the Senior Open here in 2010. Unfortunately Scotland’s last Open champion misses out through injury.

Course

Carnoustie is perhaps the most difficult course on the rotation and that reputation has only been enhanced on the other side of the Atlantic since they nicknamed it Car-nasty. The main reason behind that is the length as the Par 71 plays to some 7400 yards making it comfortably the longest Open venue. This means there are some brutally long par 4s and that isn’t something that we always associate with links golf. Three of the final four holes are par 4s in excess of 450 yards and that difficult closing stretch probably helps define Carnoustie. Whoever navigates their way through those holes best over the four days should find themselves on the leaderboard at worst.

Beyond the length, the deep pot bunkering and narrow enough fairways make it one of the more demanding Open venues off the tee and that will only be accentuated by how baked out the course is. Normally when England has a brilliant summer Scotland is somewhat left behind but that hasn’t been the case this year. Glorious sunshine has left Carnoustie a classic picture of bald brown fairways and sparse brown fescue rough. It will play as hard and fast as any venue since Muirfield in 2013 and while that will negate the length somewhat, it will also mean that driver will be left in the bag my many. The greens however still appear very lush green as they have clearly been watered and well maintained through the dry summer. This makes it a little harder to gauge exactly how the course will play once the greens have been reached. If the greens are still receptive enough for people to aim directly at flags then we could see quite a different sort of challenge and one that not too many will have faced. At Muirfield in 2013 the greens were rock hard along with the rest of the course. I suspect with the forecast that even if they are green on Thursday morning by Sunday they will likely be as brown as the rest of the course however. The weather brings us on to the most important aspect of any Open course and that is wind. Year after year links courses are defined by how hard the wind blows and with the current forecast of wind in the area being 12mph-18mph with gusts in the 20s I expect Carnoustie will show it’s teeth most of the week. The green complexes are tricky without wind so with a stiff enough breeze greens will be missed and only the best scramblers will survive till Sunday evening. Proven wind and links exponents will be at a huge advantage around one of the true classic links tests. Carnoustie is also used as one of the host courses at the Alfred Dunhill Links in October and while that is set up very easily for the amateurs and it also has no bite October, it certainly won’t be a negative to have shot a low round at the course and a perusal of recent editions is surely worthwhile.
What is needed to win?

While we know that it pays to follow good links players whichever the course, with Carnoustie hosting this year it is worth paying particular attention to its nuances. It is perhaps one of the most classic links courses on the rotation and famously the hardest. As mentioned above the last two Opens there were won by Paul Lawrie (1999) and Padraig Harrington (2007) and at their peak there were very few better around the greens. Lawrie was so good he was nicknamed “Chippy” while throughout Harrington’s career he has been among the very best chippers on both Tours. I have looked at both those Opens together with the two Senior Opens (2010 and 2016) to see if this was borne out in the stats.

From the 4 events at Carnoustie there were 3 huge standouts from looking at the more general stats. The first one I noticed was scrambling and that was obviously no surprise but it was particularly interesting just how well the top 5 scrambled in each event. in 1999 Lawrie ranked 2nd in scrambling but none of the top 5 ranked outside the top 12 for scrambling. In 2007 Harrington led the field in getting up and down while Garcia was 6th and 4th placed Ernie Els was 3rd. On the Seniors circuit Paul Broadhurst was 5th in scrambling when he won in 2016 and again runner-up McCarron was 3rd while 5th place Byrum led the field. In 2010 Langer was 2nd in scrambling while again everyone in the top 5 was inside the top 10 for getting up and down.

The second key area was bogey avoidance as Lawrie ranked 3rd, Harrington 1st, Broadhurst 3rd and Langer 1st in that area. While it makes sense that avoiding bogeys is going to be a positive their numbers for birdies are nothing like as impressive (20th, 17th, 2nd and 14th) confirming that being able to keep bogeys off the card is crucial at Carnoustie.

The 3rd and final stat of note was Par 4 scoring and again that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise on a tough, championship, par 71 layout. Harrington was 9th on the par 4s but each of the other 3 winners led the field in scoring on the medium holes. With so many long par 4s again it makes perfect sense that playing them well is important.

Obviously being strong in the other key areas like GIR and putting isn’t going to hurt but it does seem clear that these 3 are key attributes that will be required this week at Carnoustie. While looking at the stats rankings for the year can only tell us how players have fared to date in those areas, they are ultimately the best guide for trying to predict who might perform well in those areas again. I would recommend a look at all 3 stats for anyone looking to pick their own players this week. With the new European Tour stats area all three of these can be easily accessed for both Tours now.
The bets

It just so happens that these stats back up two of my favourite links players and repeat Major tips so that gives me two confident headline plays. If you can ever be confident about a major that is!

Rickie Fowler hasn’t so much been banging the door down to get into the major winner’s house as he has been knocking quite loudly and repeatedly. Until perhaps April at Augusta he was falling into the Kuchar sort of area where he was being unfairly criticised for consistently playing well yet not really managing to properly contend right up to the 72nd hole. Many believe that Fowler upped his game that day as he played his back 9 in 4 under par to post -14, a score that could easily have landed a play-off on another day. As one of his bigger fans I’ve been of the opinion that he will win multiple Open Championships for some time but for those who disagree he maybe isn’t the bet for you this week at a restrictive enough 18/1 given the strength of the field. For me he is the best links player out of the top bracket of golfers and I have backed him in some shape or form in the last 6 Opens. I can’t stop now! Fowler has absolutely everything required to dominate links golf, he normally drives it fairly long and fairly straight, hits plenty of greens, scrambles with the best of them and is also one of the better putters on Tour. Most importantly though he has the ability to flight the ball down and move it in the wind allowing him to run the ball into the greens as they firm up over the weekend. With the summer that Scotland has seen that will be crucial on this baked out course, even more so if the wind blows.

Over the last few years things have gone against him in the Open, namely being on the wrong side of the strong draw bias in 2015 and 2016 while perhaps courses didn’t play as tough as he would have liked on other years. This is why I think the difficult Carnoustie is absolutely perfect for him. Looking at 2018 stats Fowler ranks brilliantly in the main 3 departments. He is 5th in scrambling, 4th in bogey avoidance and 5th in par 4 scoring. He is already a links winner having won the Scottish Open in 2015 and his overall Open record is extremely good even if he hasn’t figured on the leaderboard at the last 3. While the 18/1 maybe isn’t the best of win prices the value on the place terms makes up for that. Fowler has returned the each way money in 7 of his last 18 majors which makes the 18/5 about a top 8 finish an excellent price. I think he is ready to win one and having prepared with a 6th place finish at Gullane last week his game will be in perfect shape and I expect him to contend again at Carnoustie.

My other main bet is my 2nd go-to Open bet and that is Henrik Stenson. I must get the negatives out of the way first and point out that he withdrew from last week’s Scottish Open with an elbow injury but I’m hoping that was more precautionary ahead of this week. As ever Stenson’s game sets up perfectly for Championship golf as he currently leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy and GIR. He also ranks highly in the strong Carnoustie stats as he is 5th in scrambling, 1st in bogey avoidance and 3rd in par 4 scoring. Despite his light schedule so far in 2018 he is one of only 3 men to finish inside the top 10 at both this year’s Majors. His 5th place at Augusta marked his best ever Masters finish while I thought he was a little unlucky at Shinnecock while carrying our money. He got himself to the front after 45 holes before throwing 5 shots away on the back 9 as conditions got very close to unplayable.

Moreover I just get the impression that he is targeting majors and nothing else as he realises he probably only has another 4 or 5 years left at the very top. That makes him dangerous again this week and doubly so when we consider Carnoustie looks absolutely perfect for his game. Another confident selection and excellent back up to the main Fowler selection. An extra string to both player’s bows is that they are also more than capable of hanging around if the greens do somehow play softer all week. Adaptability is often an under rated attribute with regards to golfers but when conditions can not be trusted 100% in advance it becomes even more crucial.

I’m adding two more proven links types in the outright market. Firstly Tyrrell Hatton who came close last week and unfortunately ruined his price somewhat but he has won the last two Alfred Dunhill Links events and shot Carnoustie rounds of 65 and 67 while doing so. Everything about his game suggests he can win an Open at some point and a test like Carnoustie while playing well might just be his best chance at a major to date. That means I can forgive the price of 33/1 as we get 10 places with Skybet and the place value makes up for it.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello perhaps isn’t playing well enough to win this at the moment but that has also seen his price pushed out and I really like his game for Carnoustie so am going to take a chance that he enjoys the more difficult layout this week. He has missed his last 3 cuts so this bet might not be for everyone but last week he signed off with a 67 and it was more his inability to make birdies than making bogeys that cost him. If we forgive him this slight blip in form then he was playing excellent golf prior to the US Open. He ranks 7th in scrambling on the European Tour and 22nd in both bogey avoidance and par 4 scoring. I’m hoping Carnoustie can focus the mind a little and given that a wayward driver has been one of the main things holding him back, he may opt to leave it in the bag. If he does then his proven links ability will help him from the fairways and in.

My left-field outsider for this is Charl Schwartzel and I’m not entirely sure I can explain why without boring everyone to tears. Basically I’ve had a look through courses where Harrington, Lawrie, Langer and Broadhurst have played well and Schwartzel’s name kept coming up. Schwartzel is a solid links player despite not having a reputation as such, even more so when conditions are hard and fast. He was 22nd around Hoylake in 2006 as a 22 year old and then 15th at Muirfield in 2013. He returned a year later to Hoylake to record his first Open top 10.

As much as anything he just looks a massive price for someone who can still show plenty of flashes of his world-class ability. Just two months ago he was runner-up to Webb Simpson at the Players Championship and he has only played three events since. Coming in fresh might just be an advantage for someone like Schwartzel who can get very down about his game when things aren’t going well.

After seeing some chat on Twitter about the rough not being overly penal I’ve decided to squeeze Ryan Fox into the team even if he doesn’t really have much of a major pedigree yet. The New Zealand bomber has been brilliant on the links courses of Ireland and Scotland over the last two weeks and knowing he will probably let rip with his driver again this week I think I have to include him again. He drove the 18th green on Friday at Gullane and while everyone was getting it fairly close he hit that some 450 yards which is quite ridiculous. While he only hit 40% of his fairways he was making that distance count again as he still hit 78% of his greens. Carnoustie is obviously a different beast but I’d be gutted to miss out on another good showing so I’ll make him the 6th and final each way play.

I’ve also backed a few at big prices on the exchanges just because I expect they might play quite well and possibly trade somewhat lower. I wasn’t sure how to advise them but as I have backed them I felt I had to include them so I have just gone with 0.5pts win at their current Betfair price. I’ve also advised place bets on the same 3 players.

Cameron Smith was brought up on the hard and fast courses along the East coast of Australia and he has shown his enjoyment of difficult championship courses already in his early career. He finished 4th on his major debut at Chambers Bay in 2015 while he was 5th at this year’s Masters. His brilliant scrambling skills will be key this week and he looks over priced in most of the markets for me. Could really take to Carnoustie and if he does he should trade considerably lower than 360.0

Thorbjorn Olesen has had a very impressive 2018 to date and he went into my notebook when he led the field in scrambling at the Irish Open 2 weeks ago. That was good enough for 6th and it came just a month after his win in Sicily. Olesen has long been considered an Open Champion in waiting and he won the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2015 where he shot a 68 around Carnoustie. Had a solid major record early in his career posting top 10s at both The Open and The Masters. Looks to be back to somewhere near his best this year and its worth remembering he is still just 28 years old. Has everything required to win a major and looks over priced on the Exchange where we can get nearly double some of the bookmaker prices.

Hideto Tanihara was 6th at the Open around Hoylake in 2006 and that is one of the few hard and fast tests we have seen in recent times. He went off the radar for quite a while on the world stage until he popped up at the WGC Match Play in 2017 where he beat several big names on his way to the semi-finals. On his day Tanihara is a brilliant scrambler and with fairly recent form of such a high standard he just seems a bit over priced here at the maximum 1000.0 on Betfair. The Japanese star was in the World’s Top 50 just last year and he also finished inside the top 30 on the Race to Dubai. It should also be noted that he shot a 61 around Gullane on Friday! Under rated here so I’m also taking his generous top 20 price of 12/1

Finally, Skybet are offering 3/1 for this year’s Open to be decided by a play-off. That to me looks like a great piece of value when we consider the last 3 Opens at Carnoustie have all gone to a play-off. Looking at the wider picture 7 of the last 20 Opens have gone to extra holes. With the difficult 18th hole and no real bail-out area off the tee it is the sort of hole where a 4 shot lead is required to be truly safe and mentally it is one of the toughest finishing holes you will see in major golf. Makes me think this novelty bet is worth a go for 4 Carnoustie play-offs in a row!
First Round Leader Picks

Right now the forecast for Thursday is for the wind to pick up in the afternoon to around 13mph with gusts in the 20s. Therefore I have gone for three players with early tee-times.

Since Thomas Pieters’ last missed cut at Wentworth he has turned a bit of a corner and in his 5 events he has thrown in 10 rounds in the 60s with three of those coming in the first round. Overall in 2018 he sits 5th on the European Tour for 1st round scoring. He opened last week with a 68 and then signed off with 64-66 over the weekend for a 6th place finish. He has an early tee-time of 7:52am and if he is to get involved at all this week I imagine it will be from the start. The 66/1 looks very fair with 8 places.

Erik van Rooyen has being going very low lately in round 1 and throughout most of the year as he sits just below Pieters in 8th place. Missed the cut last week but still shot a Friday 64 in doing so and the week before he went 65-66 in Ireland on Friday and Saturday to get to the top of the leaderboard. So he clearly knows how to go low on links courses and with an early tee-time (6:46am) hopefully the nerves of his first Major won’t get to him until Friday when maybe he is sitting inside the top 8 after an opening 68! There is as big as 150/1 out there but I prefer the 110 with Betfair and 8 places.

There were several more that I liked including Tanihara, Martin Kaymer and Matthew Southgate but instead I have plumped for another fast starter and links expert in Paul Dunne. He sits in 14th position in round 1 scoring and opened with a 67 last week in Scotland before missing the cut on the number after a 70 on Friday. The cooler conditions in the morning won’t phase him at all and he will relish the chance to get out and make a score having fond memories of contending for 3 rounds at St. Andrews as an amateur in 2015. Take the 95/1 with Betfair and get 8 places.


Summary of bets

The Open

Rickie Fowler – 3pts ew @ 18/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

Henrik Stenson – 1.5pts ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Skybet)

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (Skybet)

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 10 places PP) and 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Charl Schwartzel – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (Skybet) and 2pts Top 20 @ 6/1

Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet)

Cameron Smith – 0.5pt win @ 360 Betfair and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Thorbjorn Olesen – 0.5pt win @ 130 Betfair and 1pt Top 10 @ 8/1

Hideto Tanihara – 0.5pt win @ 1000 Betfair and 1pt Top 20 @ 12/1

A Play-off to settle The Open – “Yes” – 2pts @ 3/1 (Skybet)
First Round Leader

Thomas Pieters – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair and Paddy Power)

Erik Van Rooyen – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1 (Betfair)

Paul Dunne – 0.5pt ew @ 95/1 (Betfair)

Weekly points advised = 26pts

@theGreek82

John Deere Classic and Scottish Open – Betting Preview

While there were no proper tips last week I did tweet some bets and they were going quite well in Ireland before Ryan Fox took one of the worst beats you will see. Hopefully some readers managed to make a little money out of his and Lagergren’s performances. After managing to watch a decent amount of golf over the weekend I’m hoping I’m ready to go again as I was feeling a little out of touch during the middle of the World Cup

2018 pts advised = 292.50

2018 pts returned = 327.69

ROI = 12%


John Deere Classic

The John Deere has been the PGA Tour warm up event to the Open for some time now and slowly those entered in teh season’s 3rd major are realising it isn’t the best preparation at all for links golf. TPC Deere Run is very much a short target golf course where neat and tidy players with strong wedge games and deadly putters have thrived. Spieth, Stricker, Zach Johnson and Ryan Moore have all won there and fall into that category while the course is almost purpose-built for someone like 3-time winner Stricker.

Last year I managed to get all three picks in the places but I can’t take too much credit given Stricker and Zach Johnson were two of those and their chance is obvious for all to see. The same applies this year but Zach is approximately half the price while not in much better form. Stricker has been playing very well this year with two wins on the Champions Tour and while both have to be respected he probably appeals more at 20/1. Despite their quite staggering course form though I’m going to leave them out. Instead I’ve applied the same sort of stats approach that worked last year to find three alternative each way picks.

I also backed Wesley Bryan here last year and he very nearly won before having to settle for 3rd place. The same reasoning applies here again this year. Bryan isn’t the longest of players and so there are many courses on the PGA Tour where he simply can’t compete. But put him on a shorter course where he will have inside 150 yards for most of his approaches and he is a different player. A course where putting and wedge play are paramount is exactly what Bryan needs and that’s what he gets at Deere Run. His stats are absolutely brilliant for this again this year. He ranks 3rd in approach proximity from 125-150 yards and 5th for the same stat for 100-125 yards. Throw in 8th in one putt percentage and a general 23rd in strokes gained: putting and we can see why the course suits him so well.

The price isn’t fantastic but that is perhaps down to some sneaky enough form as he hasn’t missed a cut in his last 5 events, with results in that time reading 26-47-12-52-71. Doesn’t have too much to beat here and will be relishing a return to a course where he has finished inside the top 10 on both his visits.

Whee Kim also ticks both the boxes this week with strong wedge game stats and a deadly putter in 2018. I actually had him picked even before I noticed he was 3rd here in 2016 so I suppose that should make him a confident pick! He ranks 6th in putting from 5ft-15ft and 15th in approach proximity from 125-150 yards. He also sits 24th in the more general strokes gained: putting category. While his form on the PGA Tour has been fairly average he did win in Korea just 3 starts ago so confidence should be fairly high returning to a course where he has played well before.

Finally I’m going with a big outsider in Dominic Bozzelli as he also sits in some fairly lofty positions in the relevant stats. Bozzelli is 9th in one putt percentage, 6th in scoring relative to par on approaches from 100-125 yards and 16th in putting from 5ft to 15ft. His form hasn’t been great at all but at odds of 250/1 it doesn’t really matter too much for a speculative bet.


Scottish Open

Following on from an absolutely fantastic host course for the Irish Open we have another out-and-out links test ahead of next week’s Open Championship. With the European Tour now having seemingly settled into having 3 weeks in a row of links golf we are really getting spoilt at this time of year. While the composite course at Gullane isn’t quite at the same level as Ballyliffin, it’s still impressive in its own right. It was last seen on Tour when it made its bow in 2015 as part of the rotation for this very tournament and it was links specialist Rickie Fowler that came out on top. I have played Gullane No. 1 course and on that day the wind was gusting in excess of 25mph but it was still a hugely enjoyable day. It is undoubtedly another proper links test and together with the No. 2 course they have managed to achieve a brilliant mix of holes that will keep the whole field honest this week.

Rickie Fowler returns to defend and his chance is accurately reflected by his odds of 10/1 as joint favourite. I’d just question whether he will really be looking to win this week or just post 4 good rounds under the radar in preparation for Carnoustie next week. In 2015 the week after he won at Gullane he found himself on the wrong side of the draw at St. Andrews and I think he could have done with the mental side of his game being fresher for the stop-start nature that they endured over the weekend. It’s hard to suggest that he won’t be trying to win but with even a slight doubt it makes the 10/1 look a little skinny and I’d rather back him at 20/1 next week as I see the Carnoustie test as absolutely perfect for him.

Ryan Fox has done very well for me in his short time on the European Tour and particularly last year when he went on a brilliant run at this very point in the schedule. He finished 6th in France, 4th in Ireland and then 4th in Scotland. Unfortunately his play-off loss last week will only have further telegraphed his love of links golf and therefore I didn’t think we would get the best of prices. However the presence of so many big names still gives us some 50/1 and with him in such good form I simply can’t pass it up. Last year his profile wasn’t quite big enough for the cameras to follow on every hole so we didn’t manage to get a full appreciation of his links ability despite those high finishes. That was different in Ireland as he led after Thursday so we saw most of his shots over the weekend. What was clear was his unrelenting strategy for the links course. He simply took driver on every hole where he saw his thundering 350 yard drive as an advantage over the field. He even commented to Tim Barter on the course about his plan and mentioned how driver completely took the penal bunkers out of play. He also noted how generally the big galleries meant that someone was probably going to find his ball should he veer too far off the fairway. Generally his driving was quite straight though and on so many of the par 4s he found himself with less than 100 yards left. He was then able to show off his prowess for links golf by playing a series of exquisite little bump and run pitches over the weekend. This left him with countless putts inside 15ft while the rest of the leaderboard were leaving themselves with 25-40 footers from having 150 yard approaches left. We normally associate having a strategy for a golf course with the neat and tidy, plodding sort of golfers but Fox proved that doesn’t always have to be the case. While Gullane perhaps feels a little tighter off the tee with more blind tee shots and dunes lining the fairways driving accuracy didn’t really matter too much in 2015. Fowler only hit 52% of his fairways (63rd in the field) while the two runner-ups only hit 57% and 50%. Indeed only one player in the top 10 actually ranked inside the top 30 for fairways hit. The 2015 edition actually became a bit of a putting contest and while Fox is a solid enough putter I’d expect him to be attacking the course again and getting his approaches closer to the hole than the majority of the field. On these big greens where 3-putts will be plentiful that could well be enough to contend again.

Ryan Fox simply enjoys a links test and while the cat is very much out of the bag now, he looks like a links winner in waiting and I’m going to continue to back him until his price reflects his links prowess.

Peter Uihlein’s form over the last few months is probably as good as 98% of this field so arriving off the back of a very solid 12th place in Ireland I think he is over priced here at 50/1. He has two 5th place finishes on the PGA Tour in the last 2 months and he has made his last 6 cuts. Uihlein has always been a decent links performer as long as he has a little room off the tee so I’m hoping the tee-shots fit his eye here a little more than in 2015 when he missed the cut by just one shot. Uihlein was runner-up at the Dunhill Links in 2013 and he really should have won at Castle Stuart in that same year. His only European Tour win to date is at the exposed Madeira Islands Open and one of his great strengths is still being able to hit a high number of greens even when the wind blows and the course runs hard and fast. Whether the short game behaves I don’t know but he looks to be one of the best pieces of value for me this week.

While it’s probably a little silly to expect things to pan out exactly like 2015, runner-up Raphael Jacquelin showed enough in his 10th place finish last week to suggest he should go well again. Throughout his career Jacquelin has been a consistent wind player largely down to his beautiful lazy swing that oozes rhythm. He flights the ball down well and will handle the 20mph winds again just like he did in 2015. He led the field in greens hit last week in Ireland and I think he looks worth siding with at huge 175/1. Just been cut to 125/1, still just about fair.


Summary of bets

John Deere Classic

Wes Bryan – 1pt ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 6 places general)

Whee Kim – 1pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 7 places general)

Dominic Bozzelli – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 (1/5 odds 7 places general)

Scottish Open

Ryan Fox – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred)

Peter Uihlein – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Raphael Jacquelin – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

 

Weekly points advised = 10pts

@theGreek82