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

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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

 

 

RBC Canadian Open and Porsche European Open – Betting Preview

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

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

2018 pts advised = 329.50

2018 pts returned = 346.52

ROI =5.16%


Canadian Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


European Open

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

Canadian Open

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

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

European Open

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

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

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

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

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82

The 147th Open Championship – Betting Preview

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

2018 pts advised = 302.50

2018 pts returned = 335.02

ROI = 10.75%


The Open Championship

History

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

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

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

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

Course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of bets

The Open

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly points advised = 26pts

@theGreek82

John Deere Classic and Scottish Open – Betting Preview

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

2018 pts advised = 292.50

2018 pts returned = 327.69

ROI = 12%


John Deere Classic

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scottish Open

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of bets

John Deere Classic

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

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

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

Scottish Open

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

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

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

 

Weekly points advised = 10pts

@theGreek82

 

Quicken Loans National and Open De France – Betting Preview

In truth last week I really shouldn’t have bothered putting any bets up at all. I didn’t have the chance to do as much research as normal but as I backed a few I felt obliged to put them up. Another week where I only manage to stick the bets up I would recommend in advance that all readers just ignore me!

2018 pts advised = 277.50

2018 pts returned = 327.69

ROI = 18%


Quicken Loans National

Tiger’s event returns for its 12th running and after lots of venue changes luckily there isn’t another change of course and we return to TPC Potomac which came back on the schedule last year for the first time since 2006. Kyle Stanley pipped Charles Howell III to the title last year and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the course. It’s all about career ball-strikers. Fairways and greens then repeat. Stanley putted terribly but still won around a layout with narrow fairways and slick, hard to hit bentgrass greens. He ranked 1st in GIR along the way. With talk of the rough being up again this year that looks like the best route in again. Find someone who has the ball on a string from tee-to-green and don’t worry too much about the fact they have been putting like an 18 handicapper. The test of accuracy is enough that a hot putter should not be required. It obviously won’t hinder on any week but if they can’t find the short grass then it won’t matter. Stanley ranked 47th in total putting while Howell was 21st last year. A look at previous winners at TPC Potomac also flags up the need for hitting greens. Ben Curtis was 2nd in GIR in 2006 and Adam Scott was 1st in 2004.

Brilliant ball strikers who can’t putt? Step forward Keegan Bradley. He was 5th here last year but for some reason he isn’t playing this week. Most annoying as this would have been a great chance for him to get that rather elusive 4th win.

David Lingmerth’s 2018 hasn’t been going according to plan at all but he posted his first top 20 of the season last week at the Travelers. So his confidence might be boosted ahead of a return to a course where he was the 36 hole leader last year after opening with a pair of 65s. The weekend didn’t go to plan but it certainly tells us that he likes the course. Lingmerth is a regular for the blog and he maybe isn’t for everyone but I’m hoping last week might be a turnaround so Potomac looks the ideal course for him to continue his improvement.

Rory Sabbatini missed the cut last week but prior to that he had been playing some decent golf in 2018 and he has recorded 8 top 30 finishes. The highlight of those being a 5th at the Valspar in March. His stars aren’t particularly good for this but I’m having a speculative punt on him largely due to his dated course form. The course has undergone a major redesign since but Sabbatini won at Potomac in 2003 and he finished 3rd a year later when defending. The South African also ranked 1st in the all-round ranking both years so I’m putting some faith in the course still fitting his eye and perhaps bringing back some fond memories of a time when Sabbatini was a very accomplished PGA Tour player. There’s not much to get excited about here this week so it looks like an event where taking a chance on some historical class might be worthwhile.

Byeong-hun An looks as good an option as any for a 3rd pick. His ball-striking has been brilliant of late and he got involved for us for the first 2 days at the US Open. I backed him there for his ability to hit hard and hast greens and I think that makes him look like a sensible play again here. He very nearly got his first PGA Tour win a few weeks ago when he lost a 3 man play-off to Bryson Dechambeau. The 3rd man was none other than last year’s Quicken Loans winner Kyle Stanley, which further suggests the course should suit. Benny was 29th here last year but I’m expecting him to improve for another look and he is far more comfortable on Tour this year. He is another player that I keep backing but it is surely a case of when rather than if with him and there isn’t a great deal to beat this week.


Open De France

This week in France not only do we have one of the best courses on Tour and also one of the strongest events year after year, but there is an added interest. The host course Le Golf National is also hosting the Ryder Cup in late September which brings about a very intriguing aspect to an already exciting betting heat. Bizarrely only Justin Thomas has made the trip from the prospective U.S. team but pretty much everyone competing for a spot on the European team is in the field. With the exception of those that are pretty much locks; Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. This means that the 2nd tier of European players will be absolutely desperate to show Thomas Bjorn just how well they can play the course. Especially given how competitive the 4 captain picks will be at the end of the summer. Who will cope with that added pressure? Who might come through from under the radar to grab a Rolex Series win and throw their name in the hat? Which Ryder Cup veteran might return to form at a course they know better than most? It looks set to be an excellent event with many different stories unfolding as the week progresses.

The course is an exposed inland links but it also has lots of water in play. It’s a 7330 yard par 72 that generally tests most aspects of the game and it is a course that really can’t be overpowered. Such is the undulating nature of the ground, missing the fairways can be doubly punished. The rough has so many slopes and hillocks that not only can the golf ball be nestled in thick green rough but the player could be standing on a 30 degree incline while trying to gouge their ball out. Bubba Watson famously found this out when he appeared here back in 2011 and he struggled to a 74-74 missed cut. That requirement for accuracy off the tee is further boosted by a look at recent winners; Tommy Fleetwood, Graeme McDowell, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thongchai Jaidee and Bernd Weisberger. With relatively small, undulating and fast greens, accuracy is also paramount with the irons. The last 5 winners have ranked 1st, 18th, 2nd, 22nd and 1st in GIR. As like any course with an undulating, exposed links nature, scrambling is also hugely important. Fleetwood’s poor course form prior to winning last year can probably be attributed to his short game improvement. Again the last 5 winners ranked 9th, 2nd, 3rd, 15th and 2nd in scrambling.

Of further interest here will be how bad they decide to leave the rough this week. There is no question that letting it grow for the Ryder Cup will benefit the European team and with so few US players in the field it will probably pay to have it playing as similarly as they can to September.

Le Golf National is one of those classic tests that simply rewards well struck shots and while one big number can ruin a round there are enough birdie opportunities out there for a player willing to plot their way around the course. While the powerful Justin Thomas has more than enough ability to win here on his debut I’m certainly leaning to those who have experience of the course and perhaps the more patient types. Jon Rahm probably doesn’t quite have the temperament yet to win around here for me and I’m also happy to leave him out. With power taking a bit of a backseat many of the shorter hitters will be targeting Le Golf National as a chance to make some good money in a Rolex Series event.

Tommy Fleetwood returns looking to defend the title he won here last year and for me he looks the man to beat. Luckily the presence of Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas in the field gives us a decent price about Fleetwood and having thought about it I simply have to back him. He is in better form than anyone in the field and despite his previous poor form at the course, you would struggle to design a better course for Tommy than an exposed links course with a premium on accurate ball-striking. Tommy showed us in January that he is now not only comfortable winning but also defending titles as he successfully retained the Abu Dhabi Championship. His missed cut last week doesn’t worry me too much as he was no doubt still coming down from the excitement of being properly in contention at the US Open. Fleetwood is a player that I often shy away from backing as it took me a while to believe the hype as I really didn’t rate his short game. But while I still don’t think he is a great putter he has very much improved his scrambling and he does seem to at least hole his share of longer putts now. With his tee-to-green game currently being well inside the top 10 in world golf, he only needs to putt averagely to beat fields like this on a course like this. I really think he will contend again and I think we are getting a very fair each way price to have a confident bet on.

I did consider leaving it at that but I couldn’t resist a small play on somewhat course specialist Mike Lorenzo Vera. With so many repeat top 10 offenders at Le Golf National I think there is a good chance he can go well again on home turf. He looks to have improved again this year and has been threatening to win throughout 2018. It would be a hell of an effort to get his first European Tour win in his national Open but making the each way money looks well within his capabilities. Last year he finished 3rd and in 2015 he finished 6th. Having taken his game to a new level I think the 66/1 looks a shade too big.

I’m also struggling to leave Rafa Cabrera-Bello out here given his brilliant form and his 4th place in 2016. He has been threatening to win a bigger event than this so far in 2018 but he showed with last year’s Scottish Open win just what he can do at this time of year in these sort of fields. We backed him a few weeks ago and he delivered the place money to continue his run of impressive results on the European Tour. RCB ranks 3rd in scrambling on the ET for 2018 and he is another whose short game improvement has helped him perform on a consistent basis in any field in the world. At times earlier in his career he was difficult to watch such was the chasm between his tee-to-green game and his short game. With that no longer being the case it is possible to back him with the confidence that you should get a run for your money at a venue like Le Golf National. Much like Fleetwood an exposed links type course where accuracy is crucial should play to Rafa’s strengths.

Martin Kaymer has made the top 20 here 8 out of his 11 events with six of those being top 10s and of course one of those being his 2009 win. He has also posted top 20s in 4 of his last 6 European Tour events. He loves the course and it suits his all-round game. It has been well documented lately that his chipping yips have been holding him back a little but there were signs of improvement in that area last week as he finished runner-up to Matt Wallace in Germany. His odds are suggesting he has a 36% chance of posting a top 20 whereas his course form tells us that is more like a 73% chance. I think a player of his ability arriving in form looks massively over priced for a top 20 here and it ranks one of my more confident bets this year. I’m staking this to pay for the rest of the bets in the tournament should he oblige


Summary of bets

The National

David Lingmerth – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1.5 odds 6 places Betfred)

Rory Sabbatini – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Benny An – 0.75 pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Open De France

Tommy Fleetwood – 2pts ew @ 14/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Rafa Cabrera Bello – 1pt ew @ 20/1 (Skybet)

Mike Lorenzo Vera – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred)

Martin Kaymer – 4pts Top 20 @ 7/4

 

Weekly pts advised = 15pts

@theGreek82