Wells Fargo Championship and Volvo China Open – A Betting Preview

Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer clicked as I hoped they would to record a relatively straight-forward win at the Zurich Classic. They parred the 18th for a 3 shot win and while others got close they never really looked like giving up their lead. It was great to see Palmer back with a win as he’s a likeable player who deserves some good fortune after his family issues. As for Jon Rahm he really is something else. Even when he doesn’t appear to have his best stuff like early in the final round he has an amazing knack of grinding out a score. Sometimes he doesn’t look like he is doing anything amazing but he seldom hits 2 bad shots in a row and usually hits a great recovery instead. He has also become very solid at holing out inside 10ft and it often looks like he gets the ball in the hole with sheer will and determination. If Bethpage Black sets up as a true US PGA course in two weeks time then the Spanish powerhouse is going to take a lot of beating.

As preperation for that we have the Wells Fargo this week which of course is played at the 2017 US PGA course, Quail Hollow. The European Tour heads back out to Asia again for the Volvo China Open. Two good events with plenty of recent course form.

Rahm and Palmer’s win puts the blog back into profit for the year;

2019 pts advised = 196

2019 pts returned = 216.86

ROI = 10.64%


Wells Fargo Championship

Back to regular PGA Tour stuff as we head north to Quail Hollow in North Carolina which has hosted since 2003 with the exception of 2017 when it held the US PGA. It is a long, 7600 yard championship style course with a premium on a powerful long game and all recent winners are players who sit in lofty positions in the strokes gained: tee to green rankings. When tee to green supremacy is so important it’s easy to go with some of the massively priced poor putters who strike the ball well. But you generally don’t get too many average players lifting this trophy and playing “the chalk” has been working well for me lately. So instead I’m playing three shorter price players who all still can’t putt!

For my main pick I’m going with Hideki Matsuyama who has been priced up here like he is hitting the ball sideways. That’s not really the case though and despite no win he hasn’t missed a cut since The Open in July. In that time he has returned 11 top 20s from 20 events with 4 of those being top 5s. He sits 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green sandwiched between 2 recent Quail winners in McIlroy and Thomas. He is also 22nd in strokes gained: around the green. His lack of being in contention this year has created a situation where Webb Simpson is the same price to win on a 7600 yard long course. Simpson has never won beyond 7250 yards with all 5 wins coming between 7100 and 7250. Maybe he is just a little short in the betting but I think it’s a combination of Hideki being a little big and Simpson being a little short. Matsuyama’s course form is very strong and was trending nicely until last year’s MC as he went 38-20-11-5  with the 5th coming in the best field of all at the US PGA. He is surely getting closer to a win and the last time he was seen on bermuda greens he finished 8th at TPC Sawgrass. Coral’s 20/1 with 7 places looks to be a great each way bet.

Benny An makes the team yet again and will continue to do so while he continues to return the place money. A tee to green test where scrambling is crucial is right up An’s street. He ranks 6th in strokes gained: tee to green and 1st in strokes gained: around the green. Poor putters can have done very well at Quail as the greens aren’t as difficult as other championship layouts. We know An is as poor as they come on the greens but that surely doesn’t warrant him being 55/1 here I don’t think. He hasn’t done much at the course yet but it should really suit and he was in fine form prior to his MC at the Heritage. He has had a week off and I’m happy to assume he has ironed out the driver problem that he had but the slightly wider fairways will also help.

If I’m placing putting ability down the list of attributes then I really have to side with Luke List at 80/1. His results haven’t been fantastic lately but Quail Hollow is a course that suits him where he has played well before and he finished 9th last year off the back of a MC, while this year he was 41st last time out. This season he ranks 14th in strokes gained: tee to green so he will be looking forward to the upcoming run of long, championship style courses that he can overpower. He’s not always the most reliable player when you think he is going to perform but with the stand out 80/1 we don’t have to get too involved stake wise.

Others who came close were Roberto Castro and Nick Watney and while I couldn’t put anyone off I think their general prices are just about right now since they have been cut. The 150/1 with 8 places very nearly tempted me to add Castro but while I can see him playing well I’d be surprised if he comes out on top of this field on such a long course. So I’ll stick with the three and hope that at least one of them can hole some putts!


Volvo China Open

The China Open returns to Genzon GC in Shangai after being away since 2014. It has hosted the Shenzhen International from 2015-2017 however so there are four events worth of form to look at. The four winners were Bernd Weisberger, Soomin Lee, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Alex Levy.

The course is a Nelson and Hawarth design like so many of the prominent championship courses in China and indeed Asia on the whole. They are responsible for Sheshan GC which hosts the WGC HSBC Champions event as well as Kuala Lumpur G&CC and Royal Selangor GC. They are similar courses and form stacks up nicely as does form in Asia in general. Some players love the consistently hot and humid conditions while others really aren’t suited at all. Don’t expect anyone with horrible form in Asia just to suddenly start enjoying themselves this week.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this layout is off the tee. There are lots of forced carries, elevation changes and dog-legs where the green can be blocked out on parts of the fairway. A quick look at the leaderboards show plenty of long and accurate drivers. Another aspect looking purely at the winners suggests that committed and aggressive iron play will prosper once the fairways are found. There are few more aggressive players on the European Tour than Levy and Aphibarnrat with their approaches. Both of them will seldom lay-up on a par 5 nor pass up the opportunity to go straight at a flag. Luckily they both have a good enough short game to get them out of trouble if they do short side themselves and that is another attribute that has been crucial so far at Genzon.

I really like Hao Tong Li a lot as a player and a person as he plays golf the right way and has an infectious enthusiasm about him. I’d love to back him to win here and he is definitely the right favourite and probably the best player in the field right now. But even if he is almost the right price I don’t think I want to be wading in at just 12/1 about a player who ultimately hasn’t won since early 2018.

I stupidly made my shortlist this week before I knew who was even in the field and that resulted in scoring out quite a few namely Olesen, Fox, Coetzee and Luiten. But there were still a few names remaining and I’ve sided with three all from the second tier.

Bernd Wiesberger is slowly getting his game back if his last outing at the Indian Open is anything to go by. He ranked 5th in the all-round ranking with his long game showing signs of his best, which would be right at the very top of this field. His form in Asia has always been brilliant since he arrived on Tour. His first win in 2012 was in Korea and he has followed up with further ET trophies in Indonesia and on this very course in 2017. Looking more closely at just China, Wiesberger’s first MC there actually came in this event last year when playing with an injury but his results prior to that were 9-4-1-35-28-24-17-13-17-28-40-42-25-45. That 9th place was at the Nelson and Hawarth Sheshan course while he has been runner-up twice at their Kuala Lumpar course. The main downside this week is that he might still be a little too rusty in contention to get over the line again but conditions and course couldn’t be more suited. I think there is plenty of each way value with Boylesports’ stand-out 50/1 with 8 places.

Matsahiro Kawamura looks hugely over priced on recent form even if a lot of that has been reliant on the short game. His last two events he has finished 6th in Morocco and 2nd in India and both those events were at very difficult courses. Kawamura isn’t a player I know that much about just yet as we haven’t had too many chances to watch him on his rookie season on Tour. He is just 25 years old still but has racked up 28 top 10s world wide and his record of 7 top 20s in his first 12 ET events is a serious effort. The form just leaps out and I have to back him at 50/1 on value grounds alone.

The same applies to Scott Hend who everyone seems to forget very quickly about whenever he plays well or indeed wins like last month in Malaysia. We know ideally Hend wants a bit more space off the tee but that hasn’t stopped him before on courses with tight driving lines as he is a two-time runner-up at Crans and has won around Fanling. He can club down and find the fairways with 3 wood or long irons when needed and with his Asian form I think we are getting some value in this field. In particular he has form at the right courses too with three top 20s at KL G&CC and three top 25s at Sheshan in elite fields. That’s before we even look at his 4th and 15th at this very course.

Hend’s 3 ET wins have all came in Asia and his win in Malaysia in March was at Saujana G&CC which is a tight enough driving course with fiddly greens. The last two times he has won a tournament in March he has gone in again later that year and with him not getting any younger he will know he has to try to rack up the wins while he is playing well. For comparison’s sake price-wise, Ross Fisher is 28/1 and hasn’t won anywhere in 5 years while our main man Erik Van Rooyen is 20/1 and he hasn’t won anywhere full stop! How Hend can be 45/1 in this field is quite frankly a nonsense for me however he plays and he should be backed accordingly.


Summary of Bets

Wells Fargo

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Benny An – 1pt ew @ 55/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Luke List – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred/Betway)

Volvo China Open

Scott Hend – 1.5pts ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Boylesports)

Matsahiro Kawamura – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

Weekly pts advised = 14pts

 

@theGreek82

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Zurich Classic and Trophee Hassan II – Betting Preview

Patrick Cantlay showed a great mental attitude to bounce back to contend last week after his Augusta disappointment. Unfortunately there was a slight sense of deja vu for him as he threw in a double bogey early on in his final round once he hit the front. He rallied well though and played as well as anyone from that point on but he just couldn’t get close enough to an inspired CT Pan. His returns made for another profitable week but only just.

2019 pts advised =185

2019 pts returned = 179.76

ROI = -2.83%


Zurich Classic

This novelty team event isn’t for everyone betting wise but there are enough angles in to make it worthwhile, certainly from a fun, small stakes point of view. The course is the same every year as they play at TPC Louisiana, another Pete Dye layout, and the format has been the same recently allowing us to know what is required. They play two rounds of fourballs and two rounds of foursomes (alternate shot) across the four days.

Since they put the entries up to 80 teams I’m not convinced that it can be a very easy event to price up for the bookies. That means there must be some value around as each team has two players so in theory there is twice the margin for error in their price especially with the lesser names. That figure is perhaps even higher if you feel a certain team can prove greater than the sum of their parts. Ultimately though it can be a tricky event to predict so while some of the prices appeal it isn’t a week for huge stakes.

Form in similar team events is advantageous while Pete Dye form always stacks up nicely as we noted last week at Harbour Town. Other courses of his are TPC Sawgrass, TPC River Highlands, Whistling Straits and the PGA West Stadium Course at La Quinta.

Having noted the potential value down the field the first team I’m backing here is actually one from the top and that is Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer. The first point to note is that they are 20th and 6th respectively in birdie average and that is important in this event as you have to make plenty to contend. I’d doubt there is a team here with a lower cumulative ranking for birdies this season. But beyond that they seem quite a good fit as Palmer’s laid back ways could rub off on Rahm and they are both aggressive, flag hunters. Rahm’s arrogant and petulant ways don’t immediately look suited to team golf but this looks a pairing with potential. Palmer has struggled lately to get over the line and you have to go back to 2010 for his last win. He is a 3-time winner on Tour though and this is the sort of event I can see him bouncing back in. Both players have some form on other Pete Dye courses with Palmer having finished 5th at Sawgrass and Rahm is a winner at the PGA West Stadium course. Rahm has missed his only cut here but Palmer has finished 4th in both the team event and the individual stroke-play event so knows the course well. Many will have their doubts about backing teams shorter than 20/1 in such an event and that is perfectly fair, but the way Rahm’s form has been simmering lately he looks close to a win and there is just something I quite like about this pairing.

Kevin Streelman + Vaughan Taylor – Kevin Streelman led the field in strokes gained: approaches last week at Harbour Town and that makes him very interesting here as we know what a streaky putter he can be. His results in both the individual format and team format here aren’t great but seldom has he arrived with his approach game in such fine fettle. He has lots of Pete Dye form elsewhere though with one of his wins coming at TPC River Highlands while he has a runner-up at Sawgrass and three top 10s at Harbour Town. Vaughan Taylor often pops up from nowhere when a hot putter is required and he could compliment Streelman nicely here as he ranks 11th in strokes gained: putting this year. Whether they can be consistent enough across 4 rounds I don’t know but I can definitely see them going very low at least once.

Dominic Bozzelli + Peter Uihlein – Uihlein hasn’t been in much form at all since he won on the Web.com Tour in late 2017. But we know he is a very gifted iron player who can often struggle off the tee and on the greens. The fourball format will help take the pressure off his driving and they could out play their odds if they start well. Bozzelli is one of the best putters on Tour and currently sits 1st in the rankings for strokes gained in that department. He has also shown some decent form in low scoring events on Dye courses as he has been 5th the last two years at the Desert Classic. His best result on the PGA Tour was a 3rd at the Valspar which is played on another technical test much like Dye’s layouts. Bozzelli has played in this once before alongside JT Poston in 2017 and the two rookies did well to make the cut and finish 32nd.

Uihlein has shown his liking for team formats having had a good record at the Alfred Dunhill when he played on the European Tour. He also took 6 points out of 8 from his two Walker Cup appearances as an amateur. He played here for the first time last year with Emiliano Grillo but they were never going to hole enough putts to compete and missed the cut. Both Uihlein and Bozzelli are Florida based and 3 of the last 4 players to win at TPC Louisiana also lived in Florida. Similar conditions and bermuda greens should make them feel right at home. It’s risky but at 150/1 what is there to lose!


Trophee Hassan II

The Trophee Hassan II returns to Royal Golf Dar Es Salam for the 4th year in a row and we have seen mixed results so far in terms of the type of players that have contended. The main reason for that I think is that the course is a decent all-round test of golf and whoever turns up with their whole game in good order should contend. That is especially the case in this level of field with no real superstars or ruthless winners. This leaves it looking like quite an open event and perhaps a good chance for maidens to pick up their first win. The favourite Joost Luiten obviously has to be respected but I’ve been stung backing him sub 20/1 too many times.

The course is very much a typical Robert Trent Jones’ one as it’s a classical tree-lined track that looks to test most aspects of the game. It can be a challenge off the tee and the new greens are rather undulating and tricky to hold. Jones doesn’t have too many other courses on the European Tour but Valderrama is perhaps his most famous work and it has hosted two recent Andalusian Masters as well as the Open De Espana. He also designed the other course that was used for the Trophee Hassan between 2011 and 2015.

Adri Arnaus opened at 60/1 which was far too big in this field considering his talent but also the fact he was 2nd just two starts ago. It’s his debut at the course and there is a chance it will be a little narrow for him but you could have said that about last year’s first two home Alex Levy and Alvaro Quiros, and there are plenty of similarities between him and Quiros. If he uses some strategy off the tee and finds enough fairways then he could really take to the course. He sits 10th in strokes gained: off the tee and 30th in GIR and the higher scoring nature of this event should mean that his fairly average putting doesn’t hold him back too much. He has been cut to 50/1 but that’s still a decent price with Skybet’s 8 places.

Jason Scrivener is back out to a very fair price now all just because of 1 missed cut and a little bit of time off. It was a well deserved break though as he played in some of Australia’s big events as well as most of the European Tour’s Asian swing. It meant a lot of golf and for Scrivener a lot of top 20 finishes. From last year’s Turkish Airlines Open he went 23-16-3-6-16-7-5-26-39 before that missed cut in Malaysia. Returning here off a break I think he has the right sort of steady all-round game required to go well this week. Scrivener was actually 10th here in 2016 and he is a considerably better player now. He has also shown a liking for Robert Trent Jones’ most famous course Valderrama as he has posted finishes of 22nd and 27th there.

His stats also back him up nicely for this test as he ranks 8th in bogey avoidance for the season, 12th in strokes gained: approaches and 52nd in strokes gained: around the green. He has always looked like a player who enjoys a difficult test of golf and he looks well worth siding with here at 70/1 with 8 places.

There are a couple that I like towards the top of the market in Fabrizio Zanotti and Nacho Elvira but it’s hard to believe that a profit could be made backing either of them long-term at just 25/1 even in this field.

Instead I’ll throw a bit of a dart with Ashley Chesters as the 3rd pick. He was 8th here two years ago and has excellent Valderrama form having been 12th and 4th on his two visits. While his short game isn’t always the sharpest his accurate tee to green game will always give him a chance on a course like this. He was 25th on his last start in India and he looks a fair each way price with Betfair’s 100/1 and their 7 places.


Summary of bets

Zurich Classic

Jon Rahm + Ryan Palmer – 1.75pts ew @ 16/1

Kevin Streelman + Vaughan Taylor 0.75pts ew @ 80/1

Dominic Bozzelli + Peter Uihlein – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 (all 1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)
Trophee Hassan II

Adri Arnaus – 1pt ew @ 50/1 – (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Jason Scrivener – 1pt ew @ 70/1 – (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Ashley Chesters – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Weekly pts advised = 10pts

@theGreek82

RBC Heritage – Betting Preview

A second profitable major in a row was very welcome but it could have been even better had Kuchar not fallen out of the top 10 on Sunday. That would have resulted in all 3 outright picks placing as well as landing the Molinari top 10. With Tiger Woods winning that would have almost been the perfect Masters Sunday!

It was great to watch and makes the remaining three majors all the more mouthwatering. Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka both looked to have been nowhere near their best and yet both had putts for what would ultimately have been a play-off. Those two together with Woods look the men to beat at the next two US majors with Woods having won at both layouts and DJ and Brooks appearing to still have another gear if playing their best. Just 30 days until Bethpage Black!

2019 pts advised = 175

2019 pts returned = 167.61

ROI = -4.22


RBC Heritage

Rather hard to get up for this event after Sunday and I imagine most of the players who were still around Augusta for the weekend will be feeling the same.

The course at Harbour Town is most unlike Augusta in that there is very little margin for error off the tee and the ball simply must be kept in play. Recent winners include Jim Furyk, Graeme Mcdowell, Matt Kuchar and last year’s play-off winner Satoshi Kodaira. That is very much the profile that you want, a short hitting, accurate plodder who finds fairways and greens but also has an excellent short game when the small fiddly greens are missed. Almost the exact opposite of what we were looking for last week when power was crucial. It won’t get you too far this week at Hilton Head!

It’s a Pete Dye creation just like three weeks ago at the WGC Match Play and it plays to a very similar yardage at just 7099 yards. But that’s where the similarities stop and Harbour Town is more like Dye’s most famous layout TPC Sawgrass. Numerous players have won at both layouts and Players Championship leaderboards as well as RBC Heritage ones are worth a look at. Perhaps not this year’s however as it was very soft and not as challenging as Dye intended.

From a stats point of view players with good proximity figures obviously tend to go well here as putting can often take a back seat to those who hit a high number of the small greens. While driving accuracy numbers are worth a look there are lots of holes where driver won’t be used so it is worth considering those who have thrived on similar layouts and shown an ability to plot their way around a course by taking long irons off the tee to leave them in the best spot on the fairway to attack the green.

Patrick Cantlay could very well be an awful pick this week so if anyone has any doubts then obviously ignore this as always, but I backed him on Monday so it’s only fair to mention the bet. In all the the Woods excitement I had forgotten just how much Cantlay was in the thick of it before he bogeyed two of his last three holes. That probably isn’t something that he can shake off in just three days but Cantlay hasn’t had it easy since he first turned pro in 2012 and I think he might just have more perspective about his final round than most would so I’m willing to take a risk.

Cantlay’s form figures here are brilliant having finised 3rd back in 2017 before returning last year to post a 7th. Beyond that his form at Pete Dye courses is very solid, he has a 22nd and 23rd at Sawgrass and was 15th last year at TPC River Highlands while also setting the course record there in 2011. His solitary PGA Tour win came at TPC Summerlin which was designed by Pete Dye protege Bobby Weed.

This season he ranks 10th in strokes gained: tee to green, 14th in scrambling and 3rd in proximity to the hole from 150-175 yards. That range of approach shots is key as the players have to lay back slightly to avoid tree trouble and getting up and down is crucial with such small fiddly greens. Often Cantlay’s putting lets him down but it was interesting that it was the best part of his game last week at Augusta as he ranked 1st in total putting averaging just 26.5 putts per round. He also led the field in par 4 scoring which isn’t easy at the Masters. It is a skill that is always important at Harbour Town with the last 4 winners having ranked 2nd-1st-1st-2nd-1st in that department.

History tells us to avoid anyone near the Masters leaderboard the week after but we normally don’t see such a strong field and I don’t know if ignoring them all is wise. It is a bit of a risk and we aren’t getting a great price about a man with just 1 PGA Tour win but he loves the course and is in excellent form. He arrives off the back of the best week of his career and I’m hoping he sees that as a positive rather than a negative. When he misses the cut feel free to heckle me though!

In keeping with players who teed it up at Augusta I’m going for another at the top of the market. Matt Fitzpatrick was yet again tweeting about this being his favourite course and I’m hoping to take notice of that this year. After a horrible start on Thursday Fitz actually played the final three rounds in -11, which was better than everyone bar Xander Schauffele. A tight, tree lined course with fiddly small greens is basically what he is all about and I was surprised he opened as big as 50/1 in places. Already in his short career he has won twice around Crans in Switzerland and Woburn GC and he thrives on these sort of courses. He has played here four times to date with mixed results but given how much he loves it I’m sure he is treating it as a learning curve and his 14th last year was his best yet. Considering how much he improved throughout last week he will no doubt in a good state of mind for this and having been dismissed a little in the market he looks a very fair price for the world number 35 who is suited perfectly to the course.

Danny Lee was 7th on his last appearance at the Valero Texas Open two weeks ago. With a similar skillset required this week I think he could be over priced at 125/1. Lee can often pop up in high quality fields when everything clicks as he did at last years Players Championship where he finished 7th. He was also 3rd at TPC River Highlands in 2017 and 5th that same year at the Careerbuilder which uses another Dye course. Lee’s only PGA Tour win came on another TPC course at the Greenbrier while. Unfortunately for him these results don’t happen too often and his career has been littered sporadically with very good performances only to then struggle to push on. His Harbour Town form isn’t very good having not broken the top 30 in five tries but in keeping with his inconsistent form he has shot a couple of 66s at the course. His 2019 stats suggests he can go well here as he ranks 3rd in GIR from 150-175 yards and 30th from 125-150 yards. A bit of a hunch pick but big enough odds at 125/1 to get away with it.

Two more outsiders and they are Beau Hossler and Chesson Hadley. Hossler is a little bit of a bomber and to be honest not someone who I would immediately associate with this sort of course. But he finished 16th here last year and runner-up at TPC River Highlands while he bounced back to some kind of form with a 36th at the Texas Open two weeks ago. All 4 rounds were level par or better and that should have boosted his confidence. An interesting each way bet at 100/1

Hadley has had brilliant proximity to the hole numbers for the last few seasons and you sometimes wonder how he can still throw in such bad results when he is getting the ball so consistentyl close to the flag. But he is firmly marked down as a go to name for me on Pete Dye courses so I’m going to give him a chance at a big price. He hasn’t done much latey but yet sits 3rd in proximity to the hole and he was 7th here last year. His short game isn’t great but maybe the expected slower conditions will help him with his scrambling.


Summary of bets

RBC Heritage

Patrick Cantlay – 2.25pts ew @ 22/1

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Danny Lee – 0.75pt ew @ 125/1

Beau Hossler – 0.5pts ew @ 100/1

Chesson Hadley – 0.5pts ew @ 125/1 (all 1/5 odds 8 places with Betfair Sportsbook)

 

Weekly pts advised = 10

 

@theGreek82

The Masters 2019 – Betting Preview

Benny An returned a very small share of the place money but it was a frustrating week having to watch Correy Conners win without having tipped him. Regular readers will know I’ve put him up twice this year due to his immaculate tee to green game but when I looked for him on Monday he wasn’t in the field and I never even thought anything more about it until I saw him on the leaderboard after Monday Qualifying. I can only hope some readers remembered me banging on about his accurate tee to green game and backed him. This week we have the best golfing week of the year with The Masters and its shaping up to be as good as ever.

2019 pts advised= 154

2019 pts returned = 144.63

ROI = -6%


The Masters

I was going to waffle on like I have done the last 3 years about Augusta and The Masters but I’d only be regurgitating the same stuff and I’d rather get this published before the odds get slashed further! So instead I’ll just leave a link for people wanting some proper in-depth analysis as most of it is still pertinent now for The Masters and I did a fairly thorough job in 2016. For those that just want a quick summary and the picks just read on below.

https://thegreek82.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/the-masters-betting-preview/

Onto 2019; everyone reading this will probably already know the case for Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy and they are rightfully at the head of the market but neither are for me at the prices. Both are playing very well and while their long games will no doubt have them in the conversation over the weekend I’m still not convinced by either putting inside 10ft on fast greens.

So I’ve gone down the field a little for my main pick and that is the Spanish powerhouse Jon Rahm. He has a tee to green game built for Augusta and that was evident when he finished 4th last year. He has been on my list all winter so his recent form started pushing him further up that list but the clincher for me was looking at his putting stats for the season. He is only 63rd in strokes gained: putting but he is 10th in putting inside 10ft and 15th in 3-putt avoidance. Rahm has always been a very strong lag putter and the fact he is holing out so well is a huge bonus. It is probably the mid range putts that normally let him down but that shouldn’t be too much of a factor as long as he isn’t missing short ones or 3 putting.

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His game off the tee benefits from the huge landing areas at Augusta and given he is 2nd in strokes gained: off the tee he has the capacity to really over power the course much like Bubba Watson does. His natural drive is a big cut although he is capable of hitting a draw on the holes that require one. His big high fade with his irons is absolutely ideal for these hard, fast greens. It will be a huge advantage this week and he will be able stop the ball nearer the flag than most.

Already in his short career he has shown a love for difficult championship courses and his first professional win came at Torrey Pines which has long been a good indicator for the Masters as it requires a similar skill set. As well as his 4th here last year he also rounded off his major season with a 4th place at Quail Hollow and that would have left him hungry to properly launch an assault on this year’s majors. His preparation so far in 2019 couldn’t have set him up much better for that either as he has done everything but win. His stroke-play form this year reads 6-12-45-9-10-5-6-8. That’s extremely consistent golf but it has pretty much what he has been about ever since arriving on Tour. In just 74 events he has finished in the top 10 on 33 occasions.

Seven of the last 8 Masters winners were winning their first major and on the whole 11 of the last 16 major winners were also first timers. There are perhaps only a couple of names that are more deserving than Rahm of winning their first major and that is high praise considering both Fowler and Matsuyama have been professional for nearly three times as long as Rahm. I’m expecting a big week from him and a fairly chunky each way bet with Betfair’s 16/1 and 10 places looks the way to go.

Everyone’s favourite pantomime villain Matt Kuchar looks set for a massive week at Augusta and with his new-found status it means we can get a great price about him. Kuch was always a slightly dismissed player in the betting anyway such is his fairly dull, Furyk style of play. However with his bad press this year the market has gone mad. Kuchar was available to back at 50/1 with 10 places and I don’t see how anyone barring Mexico’s biggest Sergio Garcia fan could have seen that as anything but the standout value in the field. Unfortunately he was cut on Monday and he is now a best price 35/1 with 10 places. However Kuchar has made the last 9 cuts at Augusta returning 4 top 10s while in the 52 majors he has played to date he has 11 Top 10s. But if we look only at the period since 2010 when he raised his game to a new level then all 11 of those top 10s came in just 35 majors. When you are recording major top 10s at a rate of 31% then being able to back him at odds suggesting a 12.5% chance you have to jump at it. Even if you think he can’t win and are writing off the win portion then you are still backing the place at 22% which is considerably lower than his strike rate over the last 9 years.

Even Kuch’s biggest haters would be hard pushed to suggest he hasn’t looked a little more ruthless in the 2019 season having picked up 2 wins already and he marched all the way to the WGC Match Play final. So given how many attempts people normally require to win The Masters (average is around 8 but Garcia took 19!) it seems foolish to write off a Masters specialist with a new-found ability to get over the line again.

Several of stats this year are also in great shape for the test as he ranks 6th in strokes gained: approaches, 1st in GIR, 14th in par scoring and 5th in par 5 scoring. The improvement this year in some of these are perhaps why he is playing so well and definitely indicate that he could be set for his best ever Masters result. Kuch hasn’t been overly strong in GIR or par 5 scoring in recent years. He ranked just 94th in GIR last year while the two previous years weren’t a whole lot better at 64th and 43rd. He was a lowly 119th in Par 5 scoring last year and 49th-24th the 2 years prior to that. Approach play and over powering the Par 5s are perhaps two of the most important attributes at Augusta and these improvements give him a live chance and he should surely be priced nearer 25/1 this week so the 35/1 still looks like an excellent bet with 10 places.

I badly wanted to put Jordan Spieth up this week and I would have been steaming in at anything over 30/1. Unfortunately though the bookies are staying a little cagey and given his brilliant Masters record that is probably wise. He has been most erratic off the tee this year and we know Augusta is forgiving in that area. But the rest of his game isn’t nearly sharp enough to warrant a bet. Although Betway are apparently paying out as a winner on any outright bet that leads after any round. He might make appeal in that for some given how fast he usually start at Augusta. You could almost see him firing a Thursday 66 to lead only to go backwards the rest of the week.

Instead I’m completing my 3 pronged outright attack with another man whose game has always looked purpose-built for Augusta. Jason Day is very far from the popular, positive player he used to be given all the drama that normally follows him. He is forever moaning about injury or illness and while that is all fine and well if he is injured, he then goes and tees it up injured only to withdraw during the 1st round. That isn’t going to make you too popular with golf fans and particularly punters but at 28/1 with Betfair’s 10 places I can’t leave him out. His form here reads 20-22-10-28-20-3-WD-2 which is extremely impressive even if he hasn’t properly pushed on from nearly winning on his debut. While Day’s tee to green game hasn’t been anywhere near his best this year he still ranks 5th in strokes gained: off the tee despite seemingly never finding a fairway. That is absolutely fine at Augusta though as he can get the ball out there as far as possible without worrying too much where it ends up with the wide fairways on so many holes. The approach play is somewhat more worrying however as he ranks a lowly 125th in strokes gained: approaches. But Day has perhaps the best short game in golf so he shouldn’t need that much of an improvement to get competitive here and it is a long time since we saw him at 28/1 to win The Masters, snap it up and then just hope he doesn’t withdraw! (he has said that his back feels fine ahead of the week…..)

Aside from the main outrights I’ve got my usual major place market bets starting with a couple of ultra consistent tee-to- green players who should go on to post plenty more Augusta Top 10s. Hideki Matsuyama is another whose long game is literally perfect for the course. His putting has always let him down at the business end but only in terms of winning. His recent Masters form is absolutely rock solid reading 19-11-7-5 the last 4 years. He really should have won it in 2016 but he putted terribly on Sunday after giving himself eagle or birdie looks on every hole. That’s what you get however with Hideki but you also get an often peerless iron game and he sits 2nd in strokes gained: approaches this year. Another top 10 could well be looming even if he can’t make those crucial putts on Sunday.

Francesco Molinari’s last 12 months have been incredible and his form is so good now that he looks nailed on to play well in the majors this season. His Masters record isn’t great so far as he is yet to break the top 20 but with the improvement in his putting and the extra 15 yards off the tee that he has found there is a good chance we will see him on the leaderboard this week. I’d still be a little concerned about the 8ft putts on these greens though so a top 10 bet looks the way to play Moli here.

Hao Tong Li has been having a fairly good 2019 season but it’s largely been his form when stepping up in class that makes me think he can finish in the top 20 here. Li is extremely long off the tee and he ranks 3rd in strokes gained on the ET in that area. The rest of his game is suited to this test as well as he hits towering irons and when confident he is very competent holing out his short putts. That short game touch has helped him to 2nd in scrambling on the ET and 3rd in putts per round. He finished 32nd on his debut last year but I think a 2nd look can bring about an improvement and a top 20 looks very possible.

For a little while a few weeks ago I was convinced Charles Howell III was going to win The Masters so I must admit to throwing a few pounds on him to win on the exchange. I have since seen the light though and while I can’t quite advise a win bet I wouldn’t want to put anyone off having a small nibble such are his stats and form this year. Chucky Three Sticks ranks 1st in par 4 scoring, 2nd in bogey avoidance and 2nd in GIR. His results since his Fall Series win read 24-35-15-14-6-20-34-8-14 and he has a solid bank of Augusta form dating back to his early days on Tour (5 top 30s from 8 appearances). A top 20 should be well within reach for him the way he is swinging.

Given how well Rory McIlroy is playing there is a very good chance he is on the leaderboard all week this year. Last year he was in the last group with Patrick Reed going into the final round and this year he is playing considerably better. He is 7/1 to win the Masters but is also 7/1 to lead after round 3. Given his final round exploits to date at the Masters and all his recent Sunday wobbles bar The Players three weeks ago, I far prefer the price to lead after round 3. Despite his brilliance at Sawgrass it’s important to remember how soft it was and the greens were the most receptive we have seen there in years. The stimpmeter rated 15 greens at Augusta are entirely different and we have seen his confidence disappear on them on Sunday before. I can see him flying out of the blocks and finding himself in the final group again this year. After that I wouldn’t be so confident but with this bet you wouldn’t have to worry. So I’ll add a slightly novelty 1pt bet at 7/1 for McIlroy to lead after round 3.

1st round leader

Keegan Bradley is a bit of an obvious pick in the first round leader market as he so often shows up on the leaderboard on Thursday only to go “full Keegan” and miss the cut. He ranks 2nd in 1st round scoring over the last 3 months averaging a brutally low 65.73 for his 8 opening rounds in that period. But he is a considerably less obvious pick to lead after round 1 at Augusta. The (possibly) sound reasoning behind liking him this week at the Masters is the weather. With a rain softened course expected on Thursday I think the longer hitters’ advantage will be strongest on day 1 and while a few have overtaken him Bradley still gets the ball out there plenty far enough with his driver and finds more fairways than pretty much everyone that does out-drive him as he is 6th in total driving. The soft, receptive greens will also aid Bradley who is a horrible putter and only slightly better around the greens. He has a rather poor record at Augusta mainly because he can’t handle the bite in the greens but perhaps only the likes of McIlroy and Adam Scott enjoy a soft golf course more than Bradley. It’s taking a leap of faith to think that he can post a 65 or 66 given he only has 2 rounds in the 60s from his 18 career rounds and 5 rounds of 77 or worse! But one of those came in the final round when Adam Scott won in 2013 and the course was as soft as we have seen it in recent times. Worth a small go at 80/1 with Betfair/Paddy Power’s 8 places.

Keeping with the theme of big hitters, Lucas Bjerregaard couldn’t have wished for better conditions for his debut Masters round. Another ball striker who often struggles on the greens he will be arriving full of confidence after his WGC Match Play exploits. That coupled with the slower greens could see him really enjoy himself on Thursday and he as a fairly early tee-time with just 7 groups ahead of him. Take the 100/1 again with 8 places.

One final bomber and that is another guy who impressed at the Match Play and that is JB Holmes. He beat Jon Rahm and Si-Woo Kim but lost his opening match to Kuchar and that was enough to send him packing. Holmes will also enjoy putting and chipping on slower greens but like Bradley he doesn’t have the best of records at the course despite having a great record at Riviera, Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow. Those courses all have good form links with Augusta and with conditions to suit I think he should thrive off an early tee-time. It is easy to forget that he won around Riviera just 2 months ago so there is plenty mileage in the 80/1 although I’m siding with the 66/1 again for the 8 places..

There has been quite a lot of rain at Augusta the last couple of days and there was more forecast. If you are reading this on Wednesday then these might lose some of their appeal if there has been no more rain and the sub-air systems have dried the greens out. Worth a forecast check.

I’ve gone with a 4th pick as a bit of potential cover for the weather but they are all to very small stakes given how tricky it can be to predict. Charles Howell III sits 15th in round 1 scoring this season and I went over how well he is playing this year above. He has an early tee-time again here and has been in the 60s in 11 of his last 14 opening rounds. If the putter behaves, which it has been so far this season, he could go low enough to scare the leaderboard.

Anyone looking for one from the head of the market should probably consider Justin Thomas whose Masters form is improving every year and he sits 2nd in 1st round scoring for the season. I prefer to play the bigger prices in this market however even if there are usually at least 2 or 3 of the favourites right up there after day 1.


Summary of Bets

Jon Rahm – 3pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Betfair)

Matt Kuchar – 1.5pts ew @ 35/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Skybet)

Jason Day – 1pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Betfair)

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts Top 10 @ 11/4

Francesco Molinari – 3pts Top 10 @ 7/4

Hao-Tong Li – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Charles Howell III – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Rory McIlroy to Lead After Round 3 – 1pt @ 7/1 (Betfair)

1st round leader bets

Keegan Bradley – 0.25pts ew @ 80/1

Lucas Bjerregaard – 0.25pts ew @ 100/1

JB Holmes – 0.25pts ew @ 66/1

Charles Howell III – 0.25pt ew @ 70/1 (all 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

 

Weekly points advised = 21pts

@theGreek82

Valero Texas Open

Last week was a bit of a disaster and I really need to remember for next year that neither the WGC Match Play or the Indian Open are events to get too involved in. I’m still not sure how both Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm got eliminated at the group stage but those are the perils of match play golf I guess.

We just have the one event this week on the PGA Tour as everything builds towards The Masters next week. Unfortunately last week puts us back into the red but hopefully I can sort that this week having found Andrew Landry and Kevin Chappell the last 2 years in this event.

2019 pts advised = 146

2019 pts returned = 142.75

ROI = -2.2%


Valero Texas Open

The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio is very much one that plays to accurate tee to green games. We probably shouldn’t expect much else from Greg Norman’s most famous course given he was one of the best drivers of a ball the game has seen prior to all the modern equipment changes.

With The Masters next week not everyone’s focus will be solely on winning here so it might pay to avoid those at the very top of the market. When Kevin Chappell won this 2 years ago he was very much a winner in waiting with several near misses. Last year Andrew Landry wasn’t perhaps quite so ready to win but he too had come close on a couple of occasions.

So the Texas Open is very much an event where you can give that player one more chance to get that win. If it’s been putting that’s been holding them back then you don’t have to worry too much as performance on the greens isn’t usually the deciding factor here.

This brings me on to Benny An and I’m going to give him one more go. Despite his group stage exit at the WGC Match Play An was his usually brilliant self from to tee to green but unfortunately he was also his usual awful self on the greens. An ranks 6th in strokes gained: tee to green for the season and this looks an ideal stop for him on current form.

He has only played here once and finished 40th but there was a 2nd round 69 so there is something to build on. The obvious downside is his putting but he has been scrambling better than most on the PGA Tour and that is usually more important on a course where plenty of greens are missed. Worth one more go at 33/1 with 8 places.

Joost Luiten is one of the very best tee to green on the European Tour and he will be looking to take advantage of his PGA invite in Texas. His record to date on U.S. soil isn’t very good but most of those have been in very strong fields for majors or the Players Championship. A fairly weak field like we have here should be a good chance for him to show the PGA Tour what he can do. With a Masters spot up for grabs as well Luiten will have plenty of motivation and appeals as a nice each way bet at 50/1

Andrew Landry hasn’t been in the best of form but sometimes course form is crucial with certain players. Defending a title isn’t easy even for the best players in the world but Matt Every has managed though so I think Landry can be backed to small stakes at least each way. Despite the results not being great he still ranks 12th in total accuracy over the last 3 months. It could just be that this is his course and at 100/1 it’s worth finding out.


ANA Inspiration

Having had a successful foray into the LPGA earlier in the year I thought I’d have a pop at the first Ladies major of the year. It’s not a particularly imaginative pick but I think Sung-Hyun Park’s form this year has been so good she is worthy of her place at the head of the market. The Ladies game is extremely competitive right now but at her best Park can still look almost unbeatable. Her current form this year reads 2-14-1-21 with the 2nd place coming on Sunday when she was beaten by Hataoka. That was also in California so she will be feeling comfortable going in to this week and also hungry having came up short. Her form in the event is strong reading 9-14-6 and if she continues playing the way she is I’d expect her to contend in every major this year. Consistency hasn’t always been her strongest suit to date in her career but she is maturing all the time and looks very much the player to beat this week as she chases her 3rd major. The general 10/1 isn’t fancy at all but I’m going to go win only with 2 points for a little interest elsewhere from Texas. Even if she doesn’t win it means we get to watch one of the best swings in golf for 4 days while cheering her on!

Speaking of sweet swings I’ve got to have a small bet on Anne Van Dam after her recent exploits in Europe. The young Dutch player has won 3 times since September on the European Tour with the most recent coming 3 starts ago. I’m not sure how long we will be able to back her at odds of 100/1 so I guess it’s more about her potential here than anything else. Her major record to date isn’t great but she hasn’t played in too many and this will be her first as a winner on Tour. Nothing too much can go wrong at 100/1.


Summmary of Bets

Valero

Benny An – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Joost Luiten – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Andrew Landry 0.5pt ew @ 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (All 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

ANA Inspiration

Sung Hyun Park – 2pts win @ 10/1

Anne Van Dam – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly pts = 8

@theGreek82