Dell Technologies Championship and Made in Denmark – Betting Preview

Another disappointing week as Herbert did nothing in Czech Republic at a course that really should have suited his game perfectly. Over on the PGA Tour it was close but no cigar with 3 of the picks finishing inside the top 20 without managing to ever really make a run at the places. Luke List started the final round inside the top 30 but had a shocker to ruin the last chance of any returns. Both Tours have hit quite a difficult period and therefore I’m not planning on getting hugely involved this week, especially as the profits are now wiped out. In order to get back into profit for the year I’m going to have to be a little more selective and perhaps think about tweaking the strategy somewhat.

2018 pts advised = 400pts

2018 pts returned = 391.05

ROI = -2.2%


Dell Technologies Championship

No time for too much of a write-up for TPC Boston this week but I’ve found a few bets. Every year the course plays like a very scoreable championship course. It rewards mid to long irons and that is shown by the quality of players who have won here. Thomas, McIlroy (x2), Fowler and Stenson are among the recent winners. The score has been in the region of -20 but that is only usually out there for the most in form long games. While the winners don’t all stand out as great putters they all putted well during their win. This tells me that the 12.5 ft stimp, bentgrass greens suit most of the field and are rather straight-forward.

With plenty of trees around the correct placement in the fairway can be important and that often leaves lengthy approach shots. I’ve focussed on approach play between 175-225 yards as that is usually key to scoring in Boston. I’ve also given the all-round ranking a lot of consideration as these are the ARR figures for the season of their win for the last 9 champions here; 5-1-8-27-5-2-1-6-6.

Jon Rahm placed 2 starts ago at the US PGA and I think he can go even better here. It feels like following Rahm on courses like this will pay dividends just as long as he remains calm early on. Rahm ranks 1st for scoring relative to par for approaches over 200 yards and that will serve him well on the Par 5s here which are always crucial to scoring here. While Rahm’s first win was on poa annua greens and his 2nd on bermuda, he has shown a liking for bentgrass as he ranked 5th on the greens at Augusta this year. I’m forgiving him last week’s missed cut and with a better start this week I think he can go well here at a course that will reward his excellent long iron game. Rahm this season has largely either contended or missed the cut so any bet on the Spaniard comes with that risk. However that is factored into his price and with 4 top 5s in his last 8 events he looks a great each way bet again at 25/1.

Patrick Cantlay has also played very well in recent weeks and TPC Boston couldn’t come at a better time for this brilliant ball-striker who was 3rd in the all-round last week. Cantlay ranks 8th in scoring RTP for approaches over 200 yards. The fact he ranked 18th for putting last week is very interesting as that is often his achilles heel. If he keeps that going this week then this long game test looks an ideal place top get his 2nd win. He also ranks 7th on the season in the all-round ranking so he passes that trend nicely too. Cantlay is having his 2nd look at the course having finished 13th last year where he ranked 5th for GIR. His price has come in a little but I like his chances here even if it’s hard to argue there is any value left in the 30/1.

Tommy Fleetwood ranks 2nd in the all-round ranking and that should mean he can go well on his first look at TPC Boston. It is surely only a matter of time before he bags his first PGA Tour win and he would have probably placed last week if it weren’t for an uncharacteristically poor 3rd round. Fleetwood’s long and straight driving will leave him in the ideal spots to reach these greens and he ranks 3rd in the crucial scoring RTP for approaches over 200 yards. With the Ryder Cup looming I don’t expect Fleetwood to be feeling that much pressure here and maybe he can freewheel a little with his Fed Ex Cup expectations lower than that of his American peers. That could be the small difference that helps get him over the line.

Chris Kirk is having a decent enough season and looks over priced as a 200/1 rag here. Kirk won here in 2014 when he was 27th in the all round ranking for the season. This year he is in a similar position at 32nd and I think he warrants a small bet despite his game not quite firing on all cylinders. He hasn’t missed a cut in 10 events so a return to the scene of his biggest win might just get him up the leaderboard again.


Made in Denmark

The Made In Denmark moves courses this year having made its home at Himmerland Golf Course. The new venue is Silkebork Ry Golfklub the home golf course of Thomas Bjorn. The course is quite short at under 7000 yards and it is a tree-lined one again in the mould of Wentworth, Woburn, Crans etc.

With there being a lot of guesswork I’m going to plump for another 1st time winner as my main bet here. The last 4 European Tour winners were getting their maiden win and across the 29 regular ET events this year, 11 of those were won by first-timers. There was a similar theme last year with the 8 ET events following on from the US PGA throwing up 6 first time winners. With the Ryder Cup looming heavily that may be different this week as the market principals are fighting to show Bjorn what they can do. But with that comes extra pressure and Olesen and Pieters have both let down favourite backers on courses that suit in recent weeks.

Erik Van Rooyen will have none of that pressure and he will be arriving rather fresh having only played once since his excellent major debut at Carnoustie. That was a missed cut but if we forgive that for a little rustiness then he was very much trending towards a win through the rest of the year. On a course that should reward tee to green accuracy this set-up should suit Van Rooyen perfectly. He was 20th this year on his Wentworth debut and 7th at the Trophee Hassan around another tree-lined track. At 50/1 there might even be a shade of value there too.

I’m going to supplement the main bet with a small play on an outsider. David Drysdale looks very over priced on a short course like this. The veteran Scot can usually only really contend on shorter courses and the price seems to be a little bit of an over reaction to 2 MCs at courses where bombers had a huge advantage. Prior to that he contended in Germany while he has the made the weekend on all 4 editions of this event. No reason he shouldn’t play well again at a massive 200/1.


Summary of bets

Dell Technologies

Jon Rahm – 1.5pt ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.25pt ew @ 35/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Patrick Cantlay – 1.25pt ew @ 30/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Chris Kirk – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred)

Made In Denmark

Erik Van Rooyen – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

David Drysdale – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82

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The Northern Trust and Czech Masters – Betting Preview

More annoying than Marc Warren’s round on Sunday or Rafa Cabrera-Bello coming up a little short were my two short lists for both events last week. Paul Waring was one of the first on my list for his solid record around Gleneagles while Brian Gay and David Hearn were both on my Wyndham list for their proximity figures. It’s most frustrating to have found the players and then stupidly ignored my own process but I felt I was already on enough outsiders with Kodaira as my main bet. He was shocking and it was very strange to see a player who made cuts at Carnoustie and Bellerive struggle to make pars on one of the most straight-forward courses they will play all year.

Missing out on Waring is tough to take given he was literally the last man off the list and he would have given the figures a timely boost as I dip ever closer to negative ROI. But it shows I’m at least doing something right and perhaps just need to continue trusting the gut even if that ended badly with Kodaira this week. It’s important to remember that we can’t judge value with any degree of hindsight though and the price was still the best piece of value I’ve seen this year. Of course value is highly subjective but the 38th ranked player in the world just shouldn’t have been 200/1 in that field. Nevermind, on to this week.

2018 pts advised = 386pts

2018 pts returned = 391.05pts

ROI= 1.3%


Northern Trust

The Barclays is no more and after a name change the first play-off event now arrives packaged as The Northern Trust. As is now customary the venue has changed again and we are back to Ridgewood Country Club (7319y Par 71) in New Jersey. It hosted this event previously in 2008, 2010 and 2014 so there is a little course form to look at but with varying weather conditions and ongoing renovations they have played quite differently over the years. The course was designed by the legendary A.W. Tillinghast who was responsible for some of the most esteemed classical courses in the greater New York area and perhaps even the U.S. He designed Winged Foot, Baltusrol and Bethpage Black which have all hosted multiple majors over the years. The course has been reworked by Gill Hanse several times since 1995 as he sought to restore it back to Tillinghast’s original vision. He has widened the fairways, made the greens bigger, renovated the bunkering, removed some trees and since 2014 he has removed the semi-rough meaning that finding the fairways could be crucial this week. Anyone looking for Gill Hanse clues can look at the Olympic Golf leaderboard from Rio or the Scottish Open results at Castle Stuart as they are perhaps his two most famous original designs.

Ridgewood very much resembles the other New York Tillinghast designs in appearance as they are always lush green parkland layouts with heavily tree-lined fairways. Much like Winged Foot however, Ridgewood has an impressive variety of different types and lengths of holes. That helps create a course that tests every aspect of the game and that is evident when we consider Matt Kuchar (2010) and VJ Singh (2008) are both past winners. This year with all the recent rain it sounds like the rough might be even more lush than normal. That will benefit those that stay out of the rough but similarly there won’t be as much roll out so staying out of the rough should be easier in theory. The green complexes are poa annua and having been made bigger, lag-putting could well be crucial this year on greens that will be set-up as quick as possible.

Looking back at the three recent events just confirms this emphasis on doing everything well. Mahan and VJ were both 7th in the all-round ranking when they won while Kuchar ranked 1st during his win. This is something we have seen recently on Tour at other difficult, tree-lined courses as Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka both ranked 1st in the all-round at Firestone and Bellerive respectively. It could be that looking at the top 20 in the all-round ranking might just find you the winner again in a field of this strength on such varied and classic design as Ridgewood. From a scoring point of view the three winners all performed well on the Par 4s with Mahan and Kuchar both ranking 2nd in par 4 scoring and VJ ranking 6th. That is to be expected on a classic design where over powering the par 5s isn’t always possible so a look at recent par 4 scoring averages may also be worthwhile.

Jason Day is proving very hard to get away from this week. With course form of 1st-5th and having looked somewhere back to his best on his last few starts he looks like the man to beat, certainly at the price anyway. Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are ahead of him in the market and while they are probably considered better golfers right now it’s important that we don’t let recency bias cloud our judgement too much. Both those players have been excellent over the last couple of years but if we look at the last 3 years then DJ has 10 wins while Day is sitting alongside Justin Thomas on 9 wins a piece. He belongs up there in the market having found his form again this year. I’ve been guilty of following him unsuccessfully at times but with his brilliantly consistent Fed Ex Play-Off record I’m going to give him another go this week. The stat legend that is @JustinRayGC tweeted the best scores to par over the last 4 years of play-offs and Day is miles ahead.

Jason Day -128, PaulCasey -96, Dustin Johnson -94, Rickie Fowler -86.

He confirmed his suitability to Tillinghast courses with poa annua greens when he chased home Jimmy Walker at Baltusrol in 2016’s US PGA and then also finished 4th at Bethpage Black in that same year’s Barclays event. Back him to continue his play-off form on a course that he clearly loves.

Hideki Matsuyama looks to be a huge price on a ball-strikers course given that he looked to be getting back to form last week at the Wyndham. He put up his best GIR performance of the year hitting 83% and while we know Sedgefield isn’t the longest he still hit more greens than both Snedeker and CT Pan who came 1st and 2nd. It was back to the usual poor putting with Matsuyama but this looks like the sort of course that he will relish if he can keep the ball on the fairway. It’s tree-lined but with enough room so that he won’t feel too intimidated on the tee given his driving troubles this year. The right to left dog-legs will suit a player who thrives on similar shaped fairways at Augusta. There are definitely more in form players but there probably isn’t any better value if his long game is getting back in tune. Prior to his 11th at the Wyndham he was 39th at Firestone and a respectable 35th at the US PGA. A player of his ability has to bounce back at some point and the play-offs might just be ideal timing for him. A value play surely if nothing else.

I was very enthusiastic about Ryan Moore’s chances until I looked at his course form. But having regretted not backing Paul Waring last week on form reasons I’m not going to dwell on Moore’s 3 missed cuts at Ridgewood. Instead I’m focussing on his current form and the fact that the classic Tillinghast design looks custom-built for Moore. The course may well be dominated by a Dustin Johnson or Jason Day if they find their groove off the tee but I’ll be surprised if we don’t see some plotting ball-strikers up on the leaderboard too. Ryan Moore won his US Amateur on another Tillinghast course at Winged Foot and while all his courses differ a little they all have the classic Tillinghast trait of testing a golfer right through the bag. In another slightly tenuous link to Winged Foot, Geoff Ogilvy won the US Open there in 2006 and he has won around the only other course which Mahan and Kuchar have both won, the Golf Club at Dove Mountain. That hosted the WGC Match Play from 2009-2014 and it might also help confirm the type of player that could go well here. Winning the WGC Match Play at that course was often about who could consistently hit the most fairways and greens and Ogilvy, Mahan, Kuchar and indeed Moore all fall into that category. Moore ranks 6th on Tour in Par 4 scoring while he is 30th for strokes gained: off the tee, a very impressive number for a shorter driver. Having warmed up with a 6th at the Wyndham and 12th at Carnoustie in July I think he is rounding into form at just the right time for both the play-offs and perhaps a very late run at the Ryder Cup team.

This looks to me like Kevin Na’s sort of course and that might just be the case looking at his results here. His course form reads 31-36-9 with the 36th having come when the course was soaking wet and would have played too long. In 2008 he was 31st but led the field in GIR while the 9th was a very reasonable effort in 2014. For several years you had to back Na with the caveat that you would probably get a run for your each way money even if the win portion was very unlikely to come your way. But with Na having finally stopped the 8 year rot at The Greenbrier in July there is still plenty of time left for the 34 year old to enjoy the latter years of his PGA Tour career in a similar manner to Matt Kuchar and Jimmy Walker. Since that win his results have been trending again with a 51st at Carnoustie, a 31st at Firestone and an impressive 19th at Bellerive where the bombers dominated. He ranks 6th in Par 4 scoring over the last 3 months, 2nd in scoring relative to par for approaches from 150-175 yards and 41st in the same category from 175-200 yards. Na currently sits 6th in strokes gained: around the green too and is one of the best scramblers around. That will be important in the lush green side rough at Ridgewood. These should all serve him well around this classic layout. Na is in good enough form that 80/1 looks a fantastic each way price

I’m getting a little carried away here and wanted to back a 5th in the shape of Luke List but instead I’ll just have a top 20 bet on him. List has been showing up all year on ball-striking courses and he should enjoy Ridgewood given he ranks 5th in strokes gained: tee to green. The clincher for having to include List was that he lost in the US Amateur Final to Ryan Moore at Winged Foot. Looks a solid bet at 9/2.


Czech Masters

With the 7467 yard par 72 Albatross Golf Club now hosting for the 5th year we have a very clear picture of what is required to win this event. The course plays long and while there is plenty of water in play the majority of it only really becomes an issue on approaches. The landing areas are wide enough and both Thomas Pieters and Haydn Porteous were able to drive it as long as they liked without worrying too much about where the ball ended up. Paul Peterson was the opposite in 2016 when he won as he hit 83% if his fairways. What all 4 winners have done to date though is hit plenty of greens and putted brilliantly. There is no question that the bombers have an advantage here though as that extra loft in their hands allows them to attack the well protected greens. Don’t dwell on Paul Peterson and follow the profile of players like Porteous and Pieters would be my advice this week, even if I haven’t found too many options myself.

This means we should be looking at stats like birdie average, driving distance, par 5 scoring, strokes gained: approaches and also players who have been putting well lately.

Lucas Herbert has been having a very strong 2018 season and he has been doing that with limited status on the European Tour. Last week’s 5th in Sweden was his 4th top 10 of the year and it also continued a nice trend of results for the young Australian. He made the cut at Carnoustie before a 29th in Germany and 18th in Fiji heading into last week. I’m not sure he is ready to win just yet in the way that Porteous and Pieters were here but he fits a very similar profile. They are all young, aggressive golfers who hit the ball a mile and can score very well when the putter behaves. Granted that is more often than not with Pieters and Porteous while Herbert seems a little more streaky with the short stick. His long game wasn’t amazing last week but I think he looks very worth following here as he is scoring well. He is 18th in birdie average for the season, 26th in driving distance and 38th in strokes gained: approaches so statistically he should be a good fit.

I badly wanted to back Ryan Fox here this week and I’m a little surprised he isn’t playing as he has the perfect profile for this. Lucas Bjerregaard also appealed before I noticed that he withdrew last week. He should probably be monitored in play along with the always difficult to back Johan Carlsson. He is another who should be suited to the layout but given he has only finished MC or top 30 so far in 2018 it is probably worth waiting until the half-way point to see which version of the inconsistent Swede turns up. So I’ll just leave it at the one bet I think in a tough looking betting event where the favourite Pieters could hose up by 8 if he arrives with the right attitude.


Summary of bets

Northern Trust

Jason Day – 2.5pts ew @ 14/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Hideki Matsuyama – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Ryan Moore – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Kevin Na – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

Luke List – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

Czech Masters

Lucas Hebert – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly points advised – 14pts

@theGreek82

 

Wyndham Championship and Nordea Masters – Betting Preview

It was the first profitable Major for the blog for some time so I really should be quite pleased. But with 3 players all poised to make a run at Koepka on Sunday it was a little annoying that only Pieters managed half a charge and both Rahm and Day were rather tame. Rahm and Pieters both placed though and Rafa returned the top 20 money so with 33pts returned it was a good week. With the usual major hangover I’ve not had the time to write too much but I did manage some research so have found a few bets.

Total 2018 pts advised = 376.50

Total 2018 pts returned = 391.05

ROI = 3.9%


Wyndham Championhip

The test this week is one we have become quite accustomed to since this event was moved back here in 2007. It is a short, narrow, tree-lined course with some thick enough rough and small bermdua greens. The test suits the plodding shot makers and after two long courses on Tour at Firestone and Bellerive, Sedgefield is a great equaliser. Form at similar courses like TPC Sawgrass, East Lake and Harbour Town always ties in nicely while the stats to look at are usually driving accuracy, approach proximity (particularly the short and mid irons) and par 4 scoring. Given that the course doesn’t suit the bombers it is perhaps no surprise that there aren’t too many in the field. Instead the market is headed by Sedgefield leaderboard regular Webb Simpson at just 12/1. Despite his brilliant current and course form, any event with him as the favourite is going to be open enough and with many bookmakers paying up to 8 places there is a lot of each way value around.

kodaira

Sotashi Kodaira’s price of 200/1 looks completely wrong and I’m going to advise my biggest potential win ever here. Obviously you can’t eat value and for whatever reason he might miss the cut but from everything we know about player and course this is far too big. For starters he is ranked 38th in the world and has just made the weekend at both Carnoustie and Bellerive in recent majors. He won the RBC Heritage in April beating 2016 Wyndham winner Si-Woo Kim in a play-off. That event has always been a very good indicator for Sedgefield with both courses suiting shorter, tactical players and strong wedge players. That win came the week after a major where he would have been in good spirits and that is how we find him again. His 59th at the PGA wasn’t nearly as impressive as his 28th at Augusta but the rain-soaked Bellerive will have played long enough for him. He ranked 15th in scrambling and 29th in strokes gained: putting telling us his short game is in typically good order. A shorter course where he can plot his way round will be far more to his liking this week. He ranks 9th in approach proximity from 125-150 yards and 69th from 150-175 yards. These are very much the scoring ranges around Sedgefield however long you are off the tee. The price is just too big and given I’d say it’s nearly twice as big as I’d make it I’m advising 1.25pts ew.

There are a few that I like at the top the market without really loving them but I’m going to give Rafa Cabrera Bello another go after returning 12pts last week. While Kodaira gives us plenty of value, Rafa gives us a very solid profile for Sedgefield and if he is ever going to win a PGA event this looks the perfect opportunity. Sedgefield has seen 6 out of 10 non US winners and it is not a one-dimensional course that can be overpowered by the powerful young Americans. Rafa is fresh from his best ever finish in a stateside major when he shot a closing 64 at Bellerive on Sunday and will be in confident mood. He was 11th in scrambling and 9th in putts per GIR so if he marries that with his usually sound iron game he could improve on 2016’s 5th place here. This season he ranks 1st in approach proximity from 150-175 yards while he is 6th in birdie or better from 125-150 yards. Again these are the scoring ranges at Sedgefield and Rafa looks set to play well here again.

Finally I’m adding Sam Ryder who also seems to have been forgotten after a 78th place in Canada on his last start. Glen Abbey is a bit of a bombers paradise these days and wouldn’t have suited while he was 7th and 2nd before that at Barbasol and the John Deere Classic respectively. The John Deere is far more like the test we will see here this week as it is another fairways and wedges course. Ryder put together three rounds of 66 and a 67 which is very low scoring for someone who isn’t the greatest of putters. Getting the ball in tight to the flags is far more what Ryder is about and he ranks 4th in GIR and 36th in proximity to the hole from the fairway. Ryder is also 20th on Tour in driving accuracy while over the last 3 months he is 5th in total accuracy. His Web.com win last year was done with a -21 total which gave him an 8 shot win so he knows to go low and win. A nice enough each way bet at 100/1.


Nordea Masters

Another new venue for the Nordea Masters this year and with a very poor field it becomes a bit of a guessing game. I’ve looked at photos and descriptions and decided to go with a few players who have gone well on layouts that appear visually similar to the host venue, Hills Golf Club outside Gothenburg.

The rolling terrain together with the wide landing areas and elevation changes off the tee resemble Gleneagles to me while the parkland nature of some holes appear like the tree-lined courses that we see outside London like Wentworth, Walton Heath, Sunningdale, Woburn and The Grove. Form around these sort of layouts together with form in Sweden looks the best sort of angle in.

hills-golf-club_081334_full

Jens Dantorp seems to have been forgotten about a little by the bookies and stands out to me at 66/1 here. He missed the cut last time out at The Open but that was his first ever major so a fairer reflection of current form is the 3rd place at the Scottish Open that got him into the Carnoustie field. That is a better recent piece of form than most of those who are ahead of him in the betting.

He’s not a player that I know what to make of as he is quite streaky in most areas of the game. Like most Swedes he has been brought up playing on exposed courses so can often be a good wind player and scrambler. Yet on other occasions his short game can be poor while his approach game is often a little below what is required too. But what interests me most about that Scottish Open 3rd was that he ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking which included hitting 78% of his fairways and 83% of his greens. Returning home to Sweden, where he also finished 3rd in 2015, he should be confident enough to rise to the challenge and contend again. The course is just an hour along the coast from his home club so he should be comfortable in the area. With 10 professional wins he shouldn’t be afraid to win should he get into contention in this sort of field.

Any course that has aspects of both Gleneagles and Wentworth will always immediately have me scrambling to see if Marc Warren is in the field. He has suffered over the last couple of years through injury and the related loss of form but there have been enough positive signs when conditions suit. Lately that has been where there is some room off the tee as he is a little more erratic with driver than he was at his peak. This was apparent only last October where the wide fairways of Kingsbarns and St Andrews allowed him to finish 4th at the Alfred Dunhill Links. There has been nothing that good in 2018 however but there were more signs of encouragement on his last start at the European Open. His finish of 22nd was decent but he ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking, suggesting that he is maybe starting to feel back to full health after his ongoing shoulder injury. Warren is a former winner at Gleneagles while he famously lost a play-off at Wentworth in 2013 and he also racked up another 6 top 30s at the Surrey course. Warren’s other two European Tour wins both came in Scandinavia with his first being in this very tournament back in 2006 and his most recent win came across the sea in Denmark. Further evidence of his liking for the English style parkland courses can be seen with his results at the British Masters since it was resurrected in 2015. They are currently trending along nicely and improving as the fairways got wider. He was 33rd at the tight Woburn course in 2015, 22nd around the more open Grove course and then 15th last year at the wide open Close House course. The wide landing areas will suit this week and hopefully his sweet swing should help him with the main test which looks like being the approaches. Worth an each way play at 80/1 as he should be comfortable here.

Just the two outright picks here as it feels like quite a trappy low-key event this year. But I’m having one very speculative first round leader pick. The European Tour website always lists the home golf course of every entrant for each tournament. It’s always worthwhile having a look to see who is listed as being based at a new course when it arrives on Tour. Joel Sjoholm used to make a habit of shooting fairly low rounds when he had a European Tour card, especially on day 1. If he is playing this course regularly he might just be able to put one good round together. Lets hope its day 1 and have a small play on Skybet’s 175/1 for First Round Leader.


Summary of bets

Wyndham

Satoshi Kodaira – 1.25pts ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Rafa Cabrera Bello – 1pt ew @ 22/1 (Skybet)

Sam Ryder – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet)

Nordea

Jens Dantorp – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Marc Warren – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Joel Sjoholm – 0.25pts ew @ 175/1 First Round Leader

Weekly pts advised = 9.5 pts

@theGreek82

US PGA Championship – Betting Preview

A week that promised so much at the halfway stage with Fleetwood, Lowry and Schniederjans all in the hunt took a massive downward turn over the weekend. It looked like there would be no returns at all for a period over the weekend before a closing eagle pulled Ollie into the places and Cantlay grabbed a share of 6th place. This returned 11pts which nearly broke us even on another frustrating week.

But it’s quickly back on the horse again for the final major of the year and it looks like being a cracker even if nobody will be able to watch it on TV!

2018 pts advised =355.70

2018 pts returned = 357.30

ROI = 0.50%


US PGA Championship

The final major of the year for the final time, the US PGA takes place this week at Bellerive Country Club before a scheduling slot sees it moved to May next year. If that switch isn’t enough to irk metathesiophobes the world over then the decision to show the TV coverage on new online streaming site “Eleven Sports” could just be enough to send some over the edge!  Jordan Spieth stands over his 6ft putt to win the PGA and become the 6th man ever to win the career grand slam…..”buffering”. Improvements in the way we watch things have been fantastic over the last 10 years but they have to be as an addition to live TV and the fact we now have to stream a golf major isn’t for me and has to be considered a negative. It will make a nice change from criticising Sky Sports this week though!

Anyway I digress, even if people may struggle to watch it the US PGA is shaping up to be an excellent finale to the major season and we seem to have a fitting course for the brilliant field. Bellerive is said to be a very fair all round test and it looks a very difficult puzzle to solve with so many of the top players arriving in fine form.

Bellerive-Country-Club-PGA-Wanamaker-lead-1

The course is in St. Louis, Missouri so we are 6 hours behind the UK and Bellerive COuntry Club is a potentially very long, 7317 yard par 70. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones back in 1960 with its first major arriving just 5 years later when the U.S. Open came to mind. It has only hosted 4 top professional events since with two of those being Seniors events. The other two events were the 1992 US PGA won by Nick Price and the 2008 BMW Championship which was won by Camillo Villegas. Robert Trent Jones’ son Rees Jones carried out an extensive redesign to bring the course up to modern standards ahead of that 2008 event. He aimed to bring it back to his father’s vision while making adjustments for longer distances players are hitting the ball.

The course is parkland with slightly below average width fairways and the reports are that the rough is up. The fairways wind through trees and water which is in play on 11 holes. Part of the redesign involved pushing the fairway bunkers up in line with the landing areas of current driving distances however the very longest will still look to fly these. One of the trademark features of this and indeed several of RTJ’s courses involve heavily tiered greens and with greens averaging 8200 sq feet they are in good use here. They also feature tightly mown fringes and heavily sloping run-offs so players will require their iron game to be on point if they wish to hold the appropriate area of the green. While the long game will be enough of a test it looks likely that these green complexes could well make or break the week. Other courses to have featured similar tightly mown run-offs recently are Pinehurst No. 2 and Shinnecock Hills.

Other Robert Trent Jones original courses include Hazeltine, Valderrama and Spyglass Hill while his redesigns include Baltusrol, Congressional, Oak Hill, Olympic Club and last week’s Firestone. His son Rees has redesigned plenty of championship courses recently including Atlanta Athletic Club, East Lake, Cog Hill and Torrey Pines. Perhaps the most important course correlation could be Hazeltine which was both a Robert Trent Jones original and redesigned by Rees just like Bellerive. Leaderboards from any of these courses are worth a look at to find potential angles in.

The greens this week are bentgrass so we would normally think lush green surfaces like Augusta, TPC Boston, Houston GC, Muirfield CC and again Hazeltine. However while the majority of the large greens should be perfect I have seen some photos of them looking a little weathered in places. The fairways are a different grass again with the slightly more peculiar zoysia grass in play. Three courses on Tour to feature this grass are East Lake, Trinity Forest and TPC Southwind, but this isn’t something I’d get overly hung up on myself.

It would be easy this week to fall into the trap that I have fallen into many times recently at the US majors and that is over playing the need to find fairways. Several times I have sided with straight drivers and shotmakers only to see the same bomber types sitting on the leaderboard. The 2016 US PGA at Bellerive was the most recent example of this as I went with steady shot makers. But Day and Walker hit it everywhere off the tee and still found a way of finding the green and letting their putters do the talking. Despite everything we are hearing about the course I’m not convinced this will be too big a test of accuracy off the tee. Firestone is supposed to be hugely demanding off the tee and yet look at the names that were still on the leaderboard all weekend, Thomas, McIlroy, Day and Dustin Johnson. Among them they hit an average of 50% of the fairways yet such is the quality of their recovery approach games it didn’t really matter. So while suitability to the course and form at similar venues will be key, I think the most important factor will indeed be current form and an iron game that has seen them play well all year long on the championship courses. That is often what gets it done at the final major of the year looking back at history and I’m expecting more of the same.

Some fairly random trends

The last 10 PGA winners had finished inside the top 28 at Firestone

The last 6 PGA winners ranked inside the top 36 in Strokes Gained: tee to green during that season.

The same 6 all finished inside the top 40 at that season’s Masters.

7 of the last 8 finished inside the top 32 of that season’s opening WGC event (Doral/Mexico)

4 of the last 6 winners led the Tour in “Par Breakers” that season.

The last 7 winners all finished the season inside the top 32 in Scoring Average.

5 of the last 6 winners finished the season inside the top 24 for Par 5 Scoring.

As a further aside to these trends I think it is also worth noting 2008 Bellerive winner Camillo Villegas’s stats that season; 3rd in scoring average, 8th in par breakers, 6th in strokes gained: tee to green, 2nd in par 5 scoring and 14th in 3-putt avoidance outside 25ft. There are only two par 5s at Bellerive but that stat tells us a lot more about the capabilities of a player and some of the longer par 4s will play closer to a par 5 yardage this week.

These trends all combine to give us quite an accurate profile of what is usually required to win a US PGA. A powerful, long off the tee, aggressive, low scoring player who is in form and has been there or thereabouts at several of the year’s big events. The first two names that are thrown up are the glaringly obvious Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. The cases for both are extremely compelling and I could just as easily have had 6pts win on both and left it at that. However in this size of a field I’m just about happy to let them both go at the prices. Those less happy could do worse than look at the 50/1 for the dual forecast as a saver bet. That would surely give you a good run through to the weekend at a decent price. Instead I’m going down the field a little with some each way options and some players with very similar profiles.

Jason Day is the perfect PGA Championship player and with his iron game looking back somewhere close to its best last week at Firestone he looks the pick at the prices for me. I think we can ignore the fact he lost 5 shots over the final 6 holes as he was only interested in chasing down Thomas for the win so he stayed aggressive right to the end. Firestone isn’t really a course where you can chase like that so we should instead focus on the fact he was 5th in strokes gained: approaches and 2nd to only Thomas for birdies. The improvement in his approach game is key as he has putted and scrambled as well as ever all year and he ranks 1st in strokes gained: putting and 2nd in strokes gained: around the green. The rest of his stats also back up his suitability for another contending PGA effort as he is 8th in par breakers, 8th in scoring average, 32nd in strokes gained: tee to green and he has the all important top 28 at Firestone (10th) and the top 40 at the Masters (20th). Day has as good a US PGA record as anyone lately with 4 top 10s in addition to his 2015 win. An excellent each way alternative to the two stand-outs at the head of the market.

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Jon Rahm also has the perfect combination of scoring power and touch to make him look like a future US PGA winner. He also fits the majority of stats and trends here as well as being one of the best players in 2018. That is a recipe for success at the final major of the year and he has been high up on my short list for this all year. Rahm had also been guilty of average iron play recently so it was very reassuring to see his numbers last week. He ranked 9th in strokes gained: approaches, 5th in strokes gained: around the green and 2nd in GIR. Throw in his impressive season long stats of 2nd in par breakers, 17th in par 5 scoring, 11th in strokes gained: tee to green and 8th in the all-round ranking and we have an excellent PGA winning profile. Rahm also has an impressive bank of form at the bigger events even if he did miss the cut at both the Opens. He posted top 20s at WGC Mexico, the Masters and most importantly last week so he is very much rounding back to form. If we are to see another first time major winner this week it could be Rahmbo that gets first blood. Another rock-solid each way pick at 25/1.

While it leaves me potentially open to Bellerive actually suiting the plodders, I can’t leave Tony Finau out such is his consistency in the big events this year. The 50/1 maybe isn’t fancy given we haven’t really seen him properly contend in any of them but it still looks a sound each way bet with 8 places. Finau has finished 27th in the WGC Mexico, 10th at Augusta, 5th at the US Open, 9th at the Open before his 10th place finish at Firestone last week. Above all it has been his powerful long game that has helped him but he also ranks 12th in the all-round ranking and I think a slightly tougher than normal US PGA layout could be perfect for Finau. He also ranks 13th in scoring average, 16th in par breakers and 15th in strokes gained: tee to green. His iron play was particularly strong last week as he was 6th in strokes gained: approaches. Given he has managed top 10s at all the other majors it looks highly likely he could add another at the venue that should suit him best of the four. Finau has been cut to 40/1 this afternoon. I’d make this price border line but as I’ve backed him already I will keep him in. His major record this year give us at least some nice each way terms if little value on the outright market.

Just in case it all goes horribly wrong and this event actually does require a strategic, plodding effort I think Matt Kuchar looks a little like the forgotten man here at 66/1 so I’ll add him to the team. Kuchar has had a steady if fairly unspectacular year but his last 2 results make him look hugely over priced here. He was 9th at the Open before 14th last week where he ranked 5th for scrambling and 11th in strokes gained: approaches. If these green complexes do become treacherous there aren’t too many more consistent short games on difficult courses than Kuch. A worthy each way back up to the bombers at 66/1.

I’m also going to give Thomas Pieters a chance at a huge price. I was slowly coming around to the idea that he might just not be that good earlier in the year as plenty persisted with backing him at what felt like value prices. He disappointed continuously but it seems like he has at least stopped the bleeding a little over the summer. He is on a run of 6 cuts made  and he returned top 40s in all of those. While he didn’t make the field at Firestone he was 28th at the Open and 6th at the Scottish Open before that. Pieters finest hour came at the Robert Trent Jones designed Hazeltine when he racked up 4 points out of 5 on his Ryder Cup debut. Hazeltine has also been reworked by Rees Jones and may be the best pointer in this week. It played long and there was lots of talk that the rough would be penal and fairways would need to be found. Pieters powered his way round the course aggressively attacking the flags on the similarly tiered greens. Has to be given one final chance here at 125/1 just in case that was the real Thomas Pieters rather than the one we have seen teeing it up most weeks since.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello keeps pulling me back in at majors due to the consistency of his long game on these sort of courses. Having turned a corner last week on a similar test he looks very likely to post another top 20.  Sits 27th in scoring average on Tour and 9th in strokes gained: approaches. The little bonus is that he ranks 1st in 3-putt avoidance from outside 25ft, highlighting how much his lag putting has improved. Enjoys Robert Trent Jones designs having scored 2.5 pts from 3 at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and he has recorded two top 20s at Vaderrama. Worth another go at 5/1.

Another value play in the top 20 market looks to be Ross Fisher. He posted a 17th at Firestone last week where he was 11th in strokes gained: tee to green. Fisher also plays well on RTJ tracks with a 19th at Hazeltine in 2009 and a very impressive record at Valderrama of 6-23-14-11-14. Probably doesn’t score well enough to trouble the leaderboard but another top 20 well within reach for his consistent tee to green game.

Aaron Wise was close to an each way bet but his price has been battered in since his 6th place at Firestone. Has all the tools to go well here at Bellerive but contending is maybe asking a bit much. Sits 11th in par breakers so he has been scoring well all year and his 14th place in the all-round reminds us he is capable through the bag. This turnaround in form following 6 missed cuts should be followed with a top 20 bet at 11/2.

1st round leader

Keegan Bradley would have been gutted to miss out on one of his favourite stops last week especially after signing off with a 64 at Glen Abbey the week before. That followed a Friday 63 and brought about a 4th place finish where he actually ranked 2nd in total putting for the week. If he has found a stroke he is comfortable with then he could be a massive danger during the rest of the season. Bradley is a former PGA winner and looks suited to this course where approach accuracy is key. If he can keep that hot putting streak going then he could post another low one from a nice early tee time. 11 of his last 14 opening rounds have been in the 60s with a 65 the pick of the bunch at the Greenbrier. He also ranks 6th in early round scoring for the season. There is some 80/1 with 8 places or 100/1 with 6 places available and both look excellent bets. I’m siding with Betfair’s 80/1 and 8 places as general scoring looks like it might be low in perfect golfing conditions.

Troy Merritt won’t have had the ideal preparation that most of the field have had. He had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a blood clot at the start of the week but retained hopes of teeing it up here. If he does he might be playing rather care free and he has been going low quite a bit on Thursdays already this season. He shot a 62 on his way to winning the Barbasol just 3 weeks ago and that is just one of many opening rounds in the 60s. He can be very hit or miss but when he is playing well his approach play can be immense as he confidently fires at flags. His opening PGA Tour win was around Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in 2015 so he clearly likes his courses. If he is fit to play then he has a nice tee time of 8:51 and could do some damage freewheeling. If he’s not we will get our money back.

Finally I’m taking a massive punt on YE Yang getting off to a good start here. Largely through the Hazeltine link having won his US PGA there in 2009 but he has also had a solid season in Japan. He won just 8 starts ago and is coming in off a 12th place finish on his last start in July. He shot an opening 66 that week which was preceded by opening knocks of 70, 70 and 69. He hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since last August but we know he is capable. Worth a very small bet at 200/1 with 8 places.


Summary of Bets

US PGA

Jason Day – 2.5pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Jon Rahm – 2pts ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet and Betfair)

Tony Finau – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet and Betfair)

Matt Kuchar – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Thomas Pieters – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Rafa Cabrera Bello – 2pts Top 20 @ 5/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1 (Betfair)

Aaron Wise – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

1st Round Leader Bets

Keegan Bradley – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Troy Merritt – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

YE Yang – 0.25pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 21pts

@theGreek82