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
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