2018 Tour Championship and Portugal Masters – Betting Preview

I should be feeling refreshed after a week off the previews but I must admit I’m struggling to care too much about this week with the Ryder Cup looming and that might be the same for anyone finding themselves lagging behind off the pace at East lake this week. Despite my initial ambivalence though I’ve managed to get quite heavily involved!

Two weeks ago Nach Elvira grabbed us a place and that kept the blog creeping ever closer to being back in profit. One good week will turn it all around again…….

2018 pts advised = 424

2018 pts returned = 413.2

ROI = -2.55%


Tour Championship

I must admit despite my love of East Lake I really found it hard to get any excitement for this with Ryder Cup looming next week. To be honest I’m not sure why they have these back to back with the majority of players involved in both events. For some this will be a bit of a nuisance as those languishing down in 25th-30th can’t really have any significant impact on proceedings and would surely rather be in France preparing. For others towards the top of the Fed Ex rankings they will be dreaming of a $12m pay-day on Sunday but to be honest most of the guys wouldn’t even really notice it in their bank accounts. I’m struggling to find any sort of angle in from a motivational point of view and therefore this has all the makings of a damp squib of a tournament where the likes of Bryson, Rose and DJ could find themselves playing their own tournament over the weekend.

But we may as well look at the design as East Lake is a bit of a gem and one of designer Donald Ross’ finest efforts. It is a long and strategic par 70 with dog-legged fairways that wind their way through the trees and around the East Lake itself. The challenge is an all-round one as no aspect of the course is easy. The correct side of the fairways are required in order to again find the right area of the green and all this demands accuracy over power which is so often the case on Ross courses that stand the test of time better than most classical layouts. Rees Jones carried out a redesign in the late 90s to help bring it back to Ross’ original design while also allowing some future proofing. The result has been a course that has the held the Tour ending event ever since 2004 and it still presents a very fair challenge.

Greens in regulation is usually the name of the game at East Lake but as important is leaving the ball below the hole. Most of Ross’ courses have greens that slope back to front meaning that long is no use and distance control is paramount to ensure that you don’t short side yourself. Ball-strikers come to the fore which we can see not only from East Lake leaderboards but at most Donald Ross designs in general. The only other regular stop of his on the PGA Tour is Sedgefield and the form stacks up between the two, even more so now that they both have bermuda greens. Indeed the last two Wyndham winners have both won at East Lake. Other courses used recently include last week’s Aronimink GC, 2014 US Open venue Pinehurst No. 2 and 2013 US PGA host Oak Hill. Before Schauffele last year, the previous 8 Tour Championship winners were all inside the top 35 at Pinehurst while 4 of the top 10 at Oak Hill are now East Lake winners. As Justin Rose proved when he nearly doubled up at Aronimink, Donald Ross form nearly always repeats itself. Indeed that leaderboard wouldn’t be the worst starting place for research ahead of this week where 4 of the top 8 have won here before.

Brooks Koepka certainly has a point when he suggests he doesn’t get the credit he deserves and that looks to stand true with the bookmakers this week if nobody else. Koepka is 5th in the betting this week at 14/1 and behind Rose, McIlroy, DJ and JT. In the last two seasons those 4 men have 1 major between them while Brooks has 3. “But Koepka isn’t suited to East Lake!” I hear you shout. Well I’d maybe tend to agree with that but for someone who didn’t like it last year he did rather well by finishing 6th. The only one of those ahead of him here in the betting was JT who finished 2nd to lift the Fed Ex Cup. “But he’s in poor form!” Not really. Koepka signed off his first look at Aronimink with 65-66 over the weekend which followed a 12th and an 8th in the first two play-off events. Of course his previous event before the play-offs was the small matter of his US PGA win. On the season he ranks 10th in bogey avoidance which is always key here and he is 12th in strokes gained: tee to green.

Yet again Koepka is being massively under estimated and 14/1 looks a fantastic price. Koepka has stated himself that he often struggles to focus on some of the regular events, instead needing the intensity of a major to bring about the required concentration. I’d wager that lifting the Tour Championship, Fed Ex Cup and Player of the Year all in one swoop will have Koepka massively focussed heading to Atlanta. To me that makes him possibly the most dangerous player in the field and he really should be a lot closer to Rose in the betting. With it being the final event of the 2018 season I’m keen to secure a profitable season so I’m going in heavy on Brooks to try to take advantage of the value.

Francesco Molinari looks worth a bet here as the course could almost be custom-built for the tee-to-green machine. Find the fairway, hit the green and two-putt for par will do no harm at East Lake especially as things firm up over the weekend. Molinari has held his Open winning form over and was 8th last time out at Aronimink. He will arrive for his Tour Championship debut oozing confidence and decent week with the putter should see him go well. For good measure he was 23rd at Pinehurst in 2014 and 33rd at Oak Hill where he ranked 1st in GIR and 2nd in fairways hit!

Despite nobody having won the Tour Championship twice in a row and only Phil having even won twice at East Lake, I think Xander Schauffele looks to be a nice enough price to do just that. He arrives off the back of a 3rd place finish at Aronimink where he ranked 3rd in the all-round ranking. When all parts of his game are working he usually goes close and in theory winning here on his debut should be a lot harder than winning again this time. His best results this season have again been at difficult championship layouts with a runner-up finish at the Players being followed by another 2nd at Carnoustie. He seems to enjoy a tee to green test and I don’t imagine last year’s performance was a fluke.


Portugal Masters

The Portugal Masters heads to Vilamoura and the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course for the 12th time, which gives us a very nice bank of form to look at. The course is a wide open, exposed par 71 where its relative lack of length and minimal rough allow low scoring and very straight forward conditions. Everyone in the field will find themselves hitting in excess of 65% of these huge greens and more often than not that results in a bit of a putting competition. The bombers have the advantage that they can let rip and not be penalised but they will also be able to be more aggressive with their approaches and find the right area of the greens.

Last year’s winner certainly isn’t what you would call a good putter but Bjerregaard gave himself so many looks with his brilliant approaches that he found the pace early on and went on to rank 1st in the greens. He was chased home by Marc Warren who hit 82% of his greens despite ranking 3rd last in fairways hit from those that made the cut. In 2016 Harrington was similarly wayward with both his driving and approaches yet his short game display rolled back the years as he averaged just 25 putts per round. The 2015 winner Andy Sullivan did most things well but perhaps most striking was the fact that he got up and down for par on all 13 occasions where he missed a green.

This helps confirm what we know about the Dom Pedro course and it is the sort of skill set required at similar events like the Qatar Masters and the Alfred Dunhill Links. There are many repeat offenders on those leaderboards and they are worth a look at to potentially help with angles in this week.

With just 4 regular season events left many of the players will find themselves looking at the Race To Dubai rankings to see what is required of them. This will differ greatly across the field as some simply look to secure their 2019 card while others aim to break into or consolidate their position in the top 60. Then of course we have the top tier of players who will be looking to take advantage of 10 of the 12 Ryder Cup players being absent as they jostle for position at the top of the rankings. The whole narrative begins to make for an interesting event, even if eyes are already being drawn to France and Le Golf National. This motivation angle has helped me find some attractive looking bets as those trading under 20/1 all look short enough to me. With as many as 8 places being paid this week I think there is definitely some each way value to be had.

There is simply no way for me to avoid backing my main man George Coetzee here at 50/1. Putting an indifferent summer aside it looks a massive price when we consider he was 7th here last year. Last week in Holland Coetzee was back to letting rip off the tee as he ranked 1st in driving distance. This is an aspect of his game that has been up and down as he has tried to find a balance between accuracy and distance off the tee. That won’t matter too much in Vilamoura as you can pretty much hit it sideways off the tee and still have a chance of finding the green. Coetzee will then be aggressive enough with his short irons to go flag-hunting and very few in the field putt better on these grainy types of greens. Coetzee is currently outside the top 60 on the Race To Dubai so he knows he has to finish the season strongly. Despite that position of 66th though he still ranks 9th in putts per round and 42nd in scrambling. If he has a decent week with the approach play I’d expect another contending performance on a course where his results read 7-31-21-6-3.

ryan_fox_photo_getty_images_577c1be068

My next bet is another repeat offender and one that I definitely want to be onboard for when he gets his first win. For Ryan Fox it is very much a matter of time and he fits a similar profile to last year’s winner Lucas Bjerregaard. Both had been posting plenty of top 10s and contending in very strong European Tour fields throughout the year. Fox was extremely unlucky not to win in Ireland when Knox scuppered him with consecutive 40ft putts on the 18th hole. The wider links fairways allowed Fox to let rip and he ranked 3rd in GIR for the week. Indeed Fox ranks 20th for the season in GIR and despite his missed cut here last year he should really be perfectly suited to the exposed course. I’m in danger of backing him at restrictive prices but I have to give him another go on a layout like this. Fox ranks 11th on the Race To Dubai rankings and the only man above him in this field is favourite Olesen. That suggests maybe 33/1 isn’t too bad at all with 8 places as he looks to break into the top 10.

I couldn’t decide between Jordan Smith and Nino Bertasio for a 3rd pick so instead I’ve added them both. Smith showed a glimpse of his 2017 form again last week as he ranked 10th at the KLM Open. That was another trending performance as he had been 36th in Czech Republic before a 20th place finish in Denmark. Smith ranked 1st in the all-round ranking last week and while this is his debut at the course he has a 6th at the Qatar Masters where form always ties in nicely with the Vilamoura course. He looks a very solid each way prospect at 50/1.

Bertasio was 12th here last year and that makes sense as you would expect him to enjoy the extra space off the tee. He was tipped to go well last week in KLM but he didn’t hit enough fairways or greens. Both of those will be considerably easier to hit this week with wide open fairways and big undulating greens. Bertasio is a deadly putter who will thrive on the well maintained grainy surfaces and enjoy the difficult lag-putting from distance. As ever he is in a lofty position in most of the short stick stats; 15th in putts per round, 12th in one putts and 29th in strokes gained: putting. He will be confident of improving on last year’s result and is worth a small each way play at 80/1.


Summary of Bets

Tour Championship

Brooks Koepka – 3pts ew @ 14/1 (1/5 odds 5 places general)

Francesco Molinari – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 5 places)

Xander Schauffele – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odd 5 places)

Portugal Masters

George Coetzee – 1.25pt ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Ryan Fox – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (Skybet)

Jordan Smith – 0.75 pt ew @ 45/1 (Skybet)

Nino Bertasio – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (Skybet)

 

Weekly points advised – 17pts

 

@theGreek82

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2018 Omega European Masters and BMW Championship – Betting Preview

Erik Van Rooyen grabbed us a full place with a brilliant closing round of -7 but it could have been so much better. He failed to birdie both the par 5s on the back 9 as well as the driveable par 4 so while it was a great round it was a bit gutting that he missed out on the play-off by 1 shot. I was hoping there would be more returns on the PGA Tour with Fleetwood sitting 4th at the half way stage. But he played fairly poorly on Sunday and Monday to let us down again. I’m starting to think for all his talent that he might just be falling into the Rickie Fowler category of being regularly under priced due to his popularity.

This week on the PGA Tour we have the penultimate Play-Off event in Pennsylvania while the European Tour takes its traditional September visit to Switzerland.

2018 advised points = 412

2018 points returned = 404.5

ROI = -1.8%


European Masters

This week for some reason I thought there was a week’s break on the PGA Tour so I spent most of my time on the European Tour. But unfortunately I’ve not had time for much of a write up for either after noticing the BMW Championship was actually this week.

The Tour heads to Switzerland and the world-famous Crans resort where the pros enjoy one of the more relaxing stops on Tour. The course is a tree-lined fiddly one where keeping it in play off the tee is crucial to allow full visibility of the flags. From there it often resembles a wedge off as there are so many short holes. With fiddly greens though the aggressive flag-hunters will miss some of these and a look through the stats tells us that most winners here scramble brilliantly.

Erik Van Rooyen has to stay in the team after last week. He simply has to win sometime soon as the level of golf he is playing is quite brilliant for a rookie. On another tree-lined layout his accurate game will help him and from the limited action available last week his short game looked to be quite solid too. He ranked 26th in scrambling and 12th in putting which backs that up. Every year it’s all about hitting greens at Crans and Van Rooyen ranks 4th on the European Tour in GIR but that’s good enough for 1st in this field. If the short game improvement remains around the fiddly course then he surely contends yet again.

Ryan Fox is another player like EVR who has played some brilliant golf in 2018 and his win has to be on the horizon. He missed a few events over the last month that looked custom-built for him so he must have needed the rest for whatever reason. Crans doesn’t immediately stand out as a venue that will suit the bomber but you would have said the same about dual-runner up Scott Hend. The course is short enough that they can get the ball in play with an iron on the tighter holes and demolish some of the more forgiving ones. Fox’s short to mid irons have been very impressive this year and he ranks 14th in GIR and 5th in strokes gained: tee to green. He finished 9th here last year and is still improving. He should hopefully pepper these flags with his wedges so if he has a decent week with the putter then he could get that maiden win.

I was surprised to see Alexander Bjork leading the ET in strokes gained: approaches for the season and that pretty much made him an auto pick at 50/1. Everyone knows how brilliant a short game he has but his iron play isn’t always what it needs to be to contend. He is coming in off two missed cuts but they were at the US PGA and then the Nordea Masters in his homeland which brings about extra pressure. He has had a rest since and will be confident of improving on his debut finish of 16th last year. That was all about his putting though and with the approach play improvement we have seen this year then he might go even better.

Nacho Elvira is another who has been threatening to win but for a longer period than Van Rooyen or Fox. He came the closest yet at his home Open earlier this year when he led Jon Rahm briefly down the stretch. He finished 3rd and hasn’t really contended since but his results have been OK with just 2 missed cuts. He comes in off two consecutive top 25s and last week in Denmark he ranked 2nd for GIR. His course results are 59-MC-20 with the 20th coming last year when I backed him at a similar price. With his iron-play in great shape I think he should go well here again.


BMW Championship

I’m taking a break from backing the consistent, season long tee-to-green machines this week despite Matsuyama and Finau placing one week too late in Boston. This probably means Fleetwood or Cantlay will go on to win but they were nowhere near good enough last week so why should it be different on another classical ball-strikers course this week.

The course is Aronimink and its an out-and-out Donald Ross design. It hosted the AT&T National in 2010 and 2011 but hasn’t been seen since. It is a 7230 yard par 70 and on both those occasions it played tough enough for a regular PGA tour stop with Justin Rose winning in 2010 on -10 and Nick Watney reaching -13 a year later.

Nick Watney has only won 5 times on the PGA Tour with Justin Rose having won 9 times. But they still have 3 common courses on which they have won. As well as Aronimink they both won the WGC Cadillac at Doral and both won the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana. Cameron Smith won the new team event at the Zurich Classic last year for his first PGA Tour win and he looked back to his best when finishing 3rd last week. Watney and Rose both ranked 1st in the all-round ranking when they won at Aronimink and last week Smith was 3rd in the ARR. The list of winners at TPC Louisiana has more Donald Ross experts beyond just Rose and Watney and form at his courses always carries over. Despite not being a Ross design, the link looks solid and I think we can expect Smith to continue his fine play this week. We have seen plenty of younger, hungry players play well throughout the play-offs in recent years and Smith might be the man this year.

Pat Perez withdrew after 54 holes last week as his wife was due to give birth. He is now a proud father of a baby girl and he looks massively over priced with Paddy Power here if he does tee it up. That’s before we even consider the nappy factor! Perez has been playing steady enough since he contended at the Open in July, missing just the one cut when playing out of his comfort zone in Germany. Perez was runner-up at the Zurich with Jason Dufner this year and one of his wins came at the CIMB Classic where Watney has won and Overton (two 3rd places at Aronomink) has finished runner-up. If it plays too long then Perez may struggle but driving distance certainly wasn’t too crucial in 2011 with KJ Choi finishing 2nd so Perez should have enough short to mid irons to be able to compete. He at least has a good knowledge of the course as he made the cut in both 2010 and 2011.

Kevin Kisner has always struck me as someone who should thrive on Donald Ross courses and he did just that last year. He came 10th at Sedgefield before finishing 3rd at East Lake in the Tour Championship. Throw in a runner-up finish at TPC Louisiana and I think he looks massively over price here at 100/1. Kisner has had a couple of slower weeks possibly struggling with the pressure of trying to make the Ryder Cup team. There will still be a little bit of that but with 3 picks already announced he probably realises there are a few ahead of him in the pecking order. That will hopefully allow him to refocus and return to the form we saw in the summer where he came 2nd at the Open and 12th at the US PGA. That surely warrants him being a shorter price in just a 70 man field.

It’s a slightly different strategy this week with a few outsiders but we have seen plenty of unheralded players go well deep into the play-offs so a slight change might just pay dividends.


Summary of Bets

European Masters

Erik van Rooyen – 1.25pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Ryan Fox – 1.25pt ew @ 30/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Alexander Bjork – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Nacho Elvira – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

BMW Championship

Cameron Smith – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Pat Perez – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Paddy Power)

Kevin Kisner – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly pts = 12pts

 

@theGreek82

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

WGC Bridgestone Invitational 2018 – Betting Preview

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

2018 pts advised = 341.50

2018 pts returned = 346.52

ROI = 1.5%


Bridgestone

WGC Bridgestone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selections

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

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

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

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

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

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


Other bets

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

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

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

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


Summary of bets

WGC Bridgestone

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

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

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

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

Barracuda Champiomship

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

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

Women’s British Open

Ariya Jutanugarn – 2pts win @ 9.2 on Betfair Exchange

 

Weekly pts = 14

@theGreek82