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

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

 

 

Travelers Championship and BMW International Open – Some bets

While I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that Brooks Koepka wasn’t the right US Open winner I do think Stenson was a little unfortunate not to be a little closer. The only stretch that he struggled with was the back 9 on Saturday when conditions were very unfair and he played a few good shots that were punished. It was the same for the other leaders however it was clear Stenson was enjoying the hard and fast test up to that point. It’s always good to get a full place at a major but if you had told me that he was going to putt so well before they started then I’d have been counting my money before the off!

RCB was also left cursing the back 9 on Sunday as throughout most of the tournament he looked set for a top 10 nevermind the top 20 we needed. It wasn’t to be though and even with Stenson’s 13.2 pts returned there were some small losses on the week.

I’ve been a little short of time and good health this week so the picks will be brief for The Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour and the BMW International Open in Europe.

Updated results to follow


Travelers Championship

Despite some average form Brendan Steele’s price jumped out at me. You need to hit the greens around here and he still sits 11th for GIR and just last week at Shinnecock he was 12th in GIR. So his long game is in good enough shape and he is even making plenty of birdies. He sits 14th in Par 4 Birdie or Better which is a good indicator around here. Steele has been inside the top 25 on six of his seven visits with a 5th in 2014 being the pick of the bunch. Finished down the field at Shinnecock but there were plenty better players who missed the cut and he isn’t someone with a great record on poa annua greens. He will enjoy the return to bentgrass dominant greens and also having some rough to work with around the greens.

Nicholas Lindheim is pretty much just a stats hunch this week as his game looks suited to TPC River Highlands on paper if nothing else. He currently ranks 16th in Par 4 Birdie or Better, 20th in GIR from 150-175 yards and 32nd in putting from 5ft to 15ft. Missed his only cut here but was 12th on another Bobby Weed renovated course at Sawgrass’s Valley course in 2015. Could be over priced at 250/1.


BMW International Open

I wasn’t going to post anything for Germany but as I’ve backed them I thought I may as well squeeze in a few lines. Nothing too original about my main two bets here. Adrian Otaegui and Jorge Campillo have both been knocking on the door of a regular stroke-play win for the last couple of years. Neither man has good form here but Gut Larchenhof isn’t a terribly tough layout. It’s not tricked up, there is room off the tee and not too many dangers beyond bunkers for approach shots. As you would expect with a Nicklaus design it does get a little trickier as you approach the green but both men have been excelling in that area lately. With no big numbers to worry about they can just go out and make birdies as they rank 10th and 18th in birdie average over the last 3 months. I was surprised at the odds available and they both look worthwhile each way plays.

I have also backed a couple of veterans who enjoy the course and have shown glimpses in recent weeks.

Raphael Jacquelin was 4th here in 2016 and 3rd in 2004 so will be relishing a return. Especially after the brisk play at the Shot Clock Masters last time out seemed to bring back the beautiful rhythm to his swing. He finished 3rd there and to be honest I have no idea why this 4 time European Tour winner is 150/1 in this field having suggested he might have turned a corner.

Peter Hanson was 7th at the Shot Clock Masters also breaking a run of bad form and missed cuts. He was 3rd here back in 2009 while also 21st more recently in 2016. I’m hoping his performance last time out will also give him a lift and older players have a decent record around the course which bodes well for both the 40-somethings.


Summary of Bets

Travelers Championship

Brendan Steele – 0.75 pts ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Nicholas Lindheim – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1 (Skybet) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1 (general)

BMW International

Adrian Otaegui – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Jorge Campillo – 0.75pts ew @ 40/1 (Coral)

Raphael Jacquelin- 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Paddy Power)

Peter Hanson – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)

 

Weekly pts advised = 8.5pts

@theGreek82

2018 U.S. Open – Betting Preview

It was a blank last week on both Tours after Adam Bland gave up a great chance to place in the Shot Clock Masters while nobody else was really in contention. Bland was 3rd going in to the final round but he seemed to have used up all his birdies on Saturday and he fell down the leaderboard. No time to dwell though as it’s US Open and World Cup week!

2018 pts advised = 250

2018 pts returned = 314.49

ROI = 25.79%


US Open at Shinnecock Hills

The second major of the year is upon us and while it doesn’t have the glamour of the Masters or perhaps the same history as The Open, that doesn’t mean the excitement levels are any less and on the face of it the 2018 US Open should be an absolute cracker.

We go back to Shinnecock Hills for the first time since 2004 and while that was a bit too much of a slog with hot conditions and a completely baked out course, measures have been taken to try to make sure Shinnecock plays hard but fair. With the course being historically the first proper US links course a lot may depend on the weather but the course looks immaculate and we should hopefully witness a brilliant championship with hard and fast links golf.

The Charles Macdonald and Seth Raynor designed course (1890s) was a short 6996 yard par 70 back when Retief Goosen outstayed the field but after a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw redesign in 2012 the course was extended and now stands as a 7445 yard brute. The fairways were widened as part of that overhaul too but apparently the USGA have been growing the rough out into the fairway to make these more like the original narrow fairways. As it stands however they appear to be quite fair for US Open standards and they average about 40 yards wide by all accounts.

With no Shinnecock form since 2004 there are two courses of great interest to me here this week. Coore and Crenshaw have had their hands on two other courses that we have seen recently on Tour. Their original design, Trinity Forest, was used for the Byron Nelson just last month and that was an out-and-out links course. The players didn’t seem to enjoy it but the leaderboard still showed up plenty of US Open and links specialists. The most important course link for me however is Pinehurst No. 2 which hosted the 2014 US Open won by Martin Kaymer. The team went in and carried out a redesign prior to that US Open and it appeared very similar to Shinnecock even before their tweaks. Retief Goosen was actually the 54 hole leader when defending at Pinehurst in 2005 before throwing in a shocker on Sunday. They are also the only two US Open venues to feature tightly mown fringes and aprons. We saw the havoc that wreaked in 2014 and Kaymer was the only man to really get to grips with them as he ranked 1st in scrambling. What was most interesting about that was that Kaymer is a well documented poor chipper and so he putted up the run-off areas and had the pace of both fringes and greens perfectly all week. With run-offs a plenty there will be more than one way to get up and down at Shinnecock and a sharp scrambling game coming in will be crucial. Kaymer’s lag putting from the fringes helped him to win at TPC Sawgrass just 5 weeks prior so it is well worth a look at who has been scrambling well on similar greens. The tricky upturned saucers at Sawgrass or the undulating links greens at Trinity Forest are two good examples.

The greens will be hard and fast poa annua and they will get even trickier as the week goes on but while there will be lots of talk about what a nightmare they will be to putt on, the need for a silky stroke on the greens will be somewhat exaggerated. Obviously you aren’t going to win a U.S. Open 3-putting every green but time and time again when we see hard and fast greens it is a great ball-striker that comes out on top. Hitting greens on a long championship course is difficult enough but when the greens are hard only the best approach shots will stay on the green. Those with a laser like approach game and a towering ball-flight will be sure to go well this week. Even a hot putter will struggle to cover up mistakes for 4 days around this course. In 2016 at Oakmont DJ won ranking 1st for GIR and 51st for total putting and those greens were close to 15 on the stimp meter by Sunday.

With the course being completely exposed to the elements good wind players could well be advantaged should things get breezy. While a high ball-flight will be important in mild conditions those who are capable of shaping their ball to suit might just be best suited to Shinnecock if the weather is changeable as the forecast suggests currently.

 

Shinnecock

 

Looking back at the 2004 U.S. Open for a moment, it has one of the highest retrospective percentages of major champions inside the Top 40 this century for US Opens. A massive 49% of the players had either won a major or would go on to win one. This is obviously no exact science as the more recent events will obviously not post as high a number but it was still interesting. The rest of these are included in a table below;

2018 US Open stats

You can see that 2 of the highest 4 percentages belong to Retief Goosen and that tells us quite a lot about Shinnecock Hills. The winner will surely be high-class and probably a major winner already if not one in waiting. Despite the recent trend of first time major winners unless someone looks like a nailed on future major winner I’d give second thoughts to backing them for this particular test. That doesn’t make things easy though as the first 10 in the market all fall into one of these categories and several of them arrive in fine form. But a hard and fast US Open test is unlike anything else and therefore I’m not convinced that playing the shorter prices is the way to go despite their claims. Dustin Johnson is the correct favourite and the man to beat after last week but I don’t want to be a backer at just 8/1. Of the chasing pack Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler have unrivalled levels of consistency in majors these days and represent some solid value in the place portion. Again though I can just about pass at the prices with both having let me down in the past when everything seemed in their favour. Rory McIlroy’s recent form makes him of interest but if this plays firm, fast and windy I couldn’t possibly have him on my mind. Jason Day has an excellent US Open record and is considerably harder to ignore here but again I’m just not sure I want to be taking 16/1. Spieth will always have a chance but his putting has been poor enough to put me off even if he is sneaking up to a tempting a price. Tiger Woods can obviously never be written off and it would be typical for him to make his return to winning ways at the U.S. Open. But I’m not sure 20/1 fully takes into consideration the strength in depth of today’s game. That takes me down to the next tier of players and my first outright bet.

Henrik

I’ve liked Henrik Stenson for this for quite a few weeks but I was sort of hoping he might have posted more inspiring finishes over the last month than he has. However I still think Shinnecock should suit him perfectly so I’m making him the headline bet. Despite not really threatening to win this year he ranks 1st in strokes gained: approaches, 1st in GIR by a distance and 6th in scrambling. That approach play prowess will be crucial at Shinnecock as will his ability to get up and down when he does miss. As the greens firm up only the best ball-strikers will still be able to hold the greens and on his day Stenson is as good a ball-striker as there is. He has plenty of form on hard and fast courses too, he was 2nd to Mickelson around Muirfield which is probably the only true hard and fast links test we have seen recently at The Open. He has also won at TPC Sawgrass, Eastlake, TPC Boston, Golf Club Eichenried and Doha GC which all have firm green complexes.

His best US Open finish to date was at Pinehurst No. 2 where he finished 4th and again ranked 1st in GIR. His current form is very close to simmering but I just don’t think we have had the right test for him so far this season. At the Players again he ranked 1st in GIR but putted poorly all week while that was the same last week at the St Jude Classic where he was 1st in driving accuracy and 2nd in GIR. I don’t see his putting woes being that much of an issue as 2 putt pars will keep him ahead of most of the field this week. It’s also highly likely that he was just preparing for the U.S. Open as he usually likes to play the week before a major and did so before his Open triumph in 2016.

However it is a link with 2004 Shinnecock champion Retief Goosen that really got me interested in Stenson for this.. They are both multiple winners but not as prolific that we can’t still look at the courses which they have both thrived. Indeed there are actually 3 which they have both won around; Gut Larchenhoff, Doha GC and East Lake. Goosen also came runner-up to Stenson at Golf Club Eichenreid in 2006 which has some of the fastest greens on the European Tour. Above all else both are long and accurate ball-strikers who are suited to difficult championship style courses. With his often peerless tee-to-green game and form at all the right types of courses I think he looks like an excellent value alternative to those at the head of the market.

As I mentioned already I think Pinehurst No.2 looks a very good guide this week at Shinnecock. This makes me think that the 2014 US Open form will be crucial but I’ve also looked at Trinity Forest which hosted the Byron Nelson a few weeks ago as that is a Coore and Crenshaw original design. Adam Scott and Jimmy Walker featured in the Top 10 at both events and to me that suggests that they will go well at Shinnecock. Kevin Na was also 12th at Pinehurst and 4th at Trinity Forest. None of these 3 were players that I was expecting to back this week so I wasn’t really sure how to play them (luckily Kevin Na isn’t in field!). This Pinehurst link also brings in Martin Kaymer and gives me a huge conundrum. Besides Stenson however there were no other players that I particularly liked for this, so I have decided just to add these 3 to my team and back them all each way. The downside is that I have none of the market leaders onside and I’m probably putting most of my eggs into one basket but they look like rock solid each way options.

Adam Scott’s career has been a rather weird one in recent years. He has played a very light schedule with a view to focussing more on the majors as he searches for his 2nd of the big events. While that didn’t seem to affect his form too much until this year, he only has one top 10 from 12 events and that isn’t what we have come to expect from Aussie. That top 10 was the afore-mentioned Trinity Forest though and he was absolutely brilliant bar his poor putting as he ranked 3rd in GIR and 11th in scrambling. Despite the mixed results he ranks 12th in strokes gained: approaches in 2018. Scott is now a very accomplished links player and he should really have won at least one Open by now. But he is also building a good bank of US Open form with 4 top 20s in the last 6 years. As we all know his tee-to-green game is as good as anyone given the right test and a links layout in the US couldn’t be a better fit for Scott. I had already been backing him before the news broke at the weekend that he had brought back his old coach and was also going to be using a local caddie from Shinnecock. At first that worried me a little but after hearing some direct quotes I think it will surely be a positive and he looks a good bet at 60/1 with ten places.

Jimmy Walker looks to finally be over the worst of his Lyme disease and is starting to post the sort of finishes we have associated with him since he reinvented himself as a prolific winner in 2013/2014. He was runner-up at the Players Championship and 6th at Trinity Forest so he is clearly in some good form while on his last start he ranked 9th for GIR. As he proved with his US PGA win in 2016 he can mix it with the best when his whole game is working. I think the extra little bit of width will be crucial to helping Walker keep it in the fairway and after that he will relish the test. Another excellent wind player Walker is equally happy towering his irons in the air or flighting the ball down as required which will make him adaptable to the weather. He has missed his last 2 US Open cuts but he was ill last year and Oakmont’s narrow fairways were never likely to suit. The 9th place finish at Pinehurst is the key piece of US Open form for me and we should remember he is also one of the best poa annua putters in the world. His US PGA win was on the slick poa annua greens at Baltusrol in the New York area and that is what he has got again this week 100 miles along the coast. I think we will see a strong showing from the in-form major winner and again he looks over-priced given his form.

Martin Kaymer makes the team this week largely off the back of that 2014 win at Pinehurst but he has also shown glimpses of his class in recent weeks and I think he is too big a price on a course that should suit him perfectly. After that win it would have been impossible to think that he would go some 4 years without another win but through injury, loss of form and a questionable back 9 in Abu Dhabi that is exactly what has happened. The odds of 100/1 have pulled me in though and as well as Pinehurst he has won at several links courses and was considered an Open winner in waiting throughout much of his early career. He has taken a while to recover from a wrist injury but there were signs on his last start in Italy that he might be back somewhere close to full fitness. He ranked 1st in GIR on his way to posting an 8th place finish in Brescia and that should have him ready for this.

Finally I’ve added Byeong-Hun An after I only noticed today that he had been added to the field. I tried to back him last week assuming he had qualified but he only got in last-minute due to his World Ranking. Benny has been in great form of late and we know this ball-striking test should suit. He announced himself on the main circuit with his BMW PGA win in 2015 and that course is a great indicator for future major winners given they are some of the fastest greens on the European Tour. He has gradually become more comfortable on the PGA Tour and posted his best result to date just two weeks ago when Bryson Dechambeau beat him in a play-off at Muirfield Village. In truth he was the most impressive of the leading pack on Sunday and winning a big event doesn’t appear like something that would phase him too much. However the main reason for me backing him this week is the course which he won his US Amateur Championship at, Southern Hills. That was the scene of Retief Goosen’s other US Open win and the other two Shinnecock winners have also done well there. Raymond Floyd won the US PGA there in 1982 while Corey Pavin was runner-up in the US PGA in 1994. To me it looks a very strong link and with everything else we know about An I think he is a great each way price. For good measure he also sits 30th in strokes gained: approaches and 46th in scrambling.

I’m playing all the outrights with 10 places given how strong this field is but for the braver there are still some better prices around than those I have advised.

Other markets

Rafa Cabrera-Bello’s all-round game is so good right now that he looks set to rack up top 20 finishes everywhere he plays regardless of the field strength. Since 2016, only looking at WGCs, majors and The Players, RCB has racked up 10 top 20s from 21 appearances. He has also posted top 20s in each of his last 3 events. His approach game is at a career best (8th in strokes gained: approaches) as is his scrambling and putting. The markets don’t yet reflect how comfortable the Spaniard is in these types of events and the 7/2 looks a standout piece of value in the place markets.

Aaron Wise looks a fantastic prospect and after his win at Trinity Forest I have to include him in some shape or form for a test that will be similar. It will be only his 2nd major however so I’m not sure how clever a win bet would be. Instead I’m going to have a top 20 bet at a very generous 4/1. With his talent I’m not sure I need to write too much more.

Richy Werenski posted a 4th place finish last week and it was comfortably his best finish of the season. He was also 23rd at the Players where he ranked 2nd in GIR and it makes me think he might be suited to a more diffcult course. We often see a few random young US players pop up on these leaderboards and it could be Richy’s turn this week. Looks worth a small play at a generous 14/1 given we know he is playing well.

Keegan Bradley’s name often appears whenever difficult approaches are the key to a course and I don’t expect anything different here at Shinnecock. He was 7th just two starts ago at the Players Championship and Bradley is yet another player from the top 10 at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014. Sits 2nd in strokes gained: approaches and I can see another solid 4 days for him resulting in a never quite in contention 13th place.

First Round Leader

Steve Stricker is having a great year playing on both the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour with 2 wins and 2 runner-ups arriving on the latter. But his recent form has been very strong on the PGA Tour reading 18-32-23 and especially his fast starts. His recent run of first round scores on both Tours reads 66-65-67-67-67-67-68-70-66-68-69-68. Even those who got bored reading that will notice how low he is going on day 1. He has improved on links layouts over time and that culminated with a best ever 4th at Troon in 2016. Given he is now 51 years old it is perfectly fair that he might start to tire as the week goes on at some of the longer PGA Tour courses. Therefore it looks like backing him when he is at his freshest on a Thursday is the way to go.

For my second bet in this market I’m taking an absolute flyer with Harold Varner III. Varner is proven on hard and fast courses in Australia as he finished runner-up at Royal Pines in the 2015 Australian PGA before going one better in 2016 to win it. That is still his only professional win and he has struggled to really push on from that in the US. However this test might just suit him and bring about a revival. There have been some signs recently though and none more so than when he finished 7th in the Players last month. He led the field in putting on the slick Sawgrass greens and a good putter is always handy for this market. I actually had him picked out before I even noticed he has the first tee time at 6:45am. With some rain forecast on Wednesday and the wind looking like getting up as Thursday progresses, those out early might just get the best of it. At a massive 200/1 with Betfred and Boylesports it’s worth an interest.

Jason Scrivener is quite probably out of his depth here but he is another who thrives on hard and fast courses and has a brilliant record at Lake Karrinyup in particular where greens are hard to hit with shaved run-offs and fast grainy grass. His first professional win came around Twin Creeks Golf course in November and that is another hard and fast links course with similar bunkering and rough. Scrivener is a brilliant scrambler but his iron game improves for playing on firm courses too and it’s not impossible to see him firing one good round in at Shinnecock. Given he qualified for this last week we know he is in decent form and in his last event he finished 21st in a good field in Italy. Also has an early 6:56am tee time and is worth a speculative punt at 300/1.


Summary of bets

US Open

Henrik Stenson – 2pts ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Paddy Power)

Adam Scott – 1pt ew @ 60/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Paddy Power)

Martin Kaymer – 1pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Coral)

Jimmy Walker – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Paddy Power)

Byeong-Hun An – 1pt ew @ 90/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Paddy Power)

Other markets

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 2pts Top 20 @ 7/2

Aaron Wise – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Keegan Bradley – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

Richy Werenski – 1pt Top 20 @ 14/1

1st Round Leader

Steve Stricker – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 1RL market (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet)

Harold Varner III – 0.25pt ew @ 200/1 1RL market (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred and Boylesports)

Jason Scrivener 0.25pt ew @ 300/1 1RL market (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports)

 

Weekly pts advised = 20

208 pts advised = 270

@theGreek82

Fed Ex St. Jude Classic and The Shot Clock Masters

Rafa Cabrera Bello came up just short in Italy but he grabbed the place money for returns of 8.25pts on the week. Three of the four picks in the US went quite well but could never quite get to the upper reaches of the leaderboard to get anywhere near a place. With the US Open next week we don’t have too much to get excited about as most of the top players take a week off to prepare for Shinnecock. With major fever beginning to hit I will try to have next week’s preview up as early as I can on Monday.

2018 pts advised = 240pts

2018 pts returned = 314.49pts

ROI = 31%


Fed Ex St Jude Classic

While TPC Southwind is hardly the exhausting challenge of a US Open at least the PGA Tour prepares for the slog with a difficult test this week. This event regularly sits in the top 10 most difficult courses on the schedule and that is reflected with winning score usually around the -10 mark. It is a technical, tree-lined par 70 with slightly narrower than average fairways and some thick rough awaiting those that do stray a little too far off the tee. Being a par 70 there only 2 par 5s so for those not finding the fairway it can be a long round. There are several long par 4s and trying to find these small greens from the rough isn’t going to be easy. Therefore it is often a course that rewards steady, accurate play from tee-to-green. With small bermuda greens usually running quick enough plenty of greens will be missed and scrambling skills will be tested. Daniel Berger has found the key to Southwind having won the last two events and he did so by driving the ball long and straight and hitting greens. A pretty good recipe for success on most courses but with difficult to hit greens, a hot putter and maximising birdies isn’t required this week as Berger ranked just 26th and 27th on the greens.

As the name suggests the wind is liable to blow through the course and therefore there a number of courses where form correlates nicely. Other windy, tree-lined tracks with small greens include PGA National (Honda Classic), Waialae GC (Sony Open) and El Camaleon GC (OHL Classic).

Tom Hoge has been on my radar for this since his 3rd place finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He was the 54 hole leader there in January and with the correlation between Waialae and TPC Southwind he went in the notebook. So when he finished 13th at Memorial my interest was already perked but I became even more confident when I noticed that he ranked 1st in putting. He isn’t always the best with the flat-stick and when he can put everything together he has a pretty impressive all-round game. That was the case in Hawaii as he ranked 1st in the all-round ranking. A look through his other PGA Tour top 10s shows a 10th at the Puerto Open which is another similar course with good correlating form. Hoge also has a little course form with a 12th place finish back in 2015. With several long par 4s around the course the players will require the mid-long irons to be firing in order to hit these small greens and Hoge’s stats in that area are very impressive as he ranks 10th in proximity to the hole from 175-200 yards. As well as putting brilliantly last week he also sits 8th in one-putt percentage so he has been doing some things well all season with the putter. With his impressive performance last week I’m surprised to see 110/1 about him and it rates a very solid each way play.

hoge

Matt Jones was going to be my main pick at Memorial but for one small detail, he wasn’t actually playing! There was a fairly specific stat in particular that I really liked for Memorial and Jones was ranked no. 1. Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what it was. However luckily this week gives me another chance to get with the Aussie on a course where he has recent form figures of 18-26-3. A windy course where greens are hard to hit and scrambling is key suits the short game wizard perfectly and despite not really contending yet in 2018 he is racking up some solid results while building a decent stats profile along the way. Jones ranks 6th in GIR from 175-200 yards and 15th in proximity to the hole from the same distance. He was 13th on his last appearance and he also qualified for the U.S. Open yesterday showing he is in good form. He will arrive full of confidence and looks a little over priced with many of the market leaders probably looking at honing their game ahead of next week.

At first I was a little hard pushed to find another bet but then I saw one of my favourite outsiders sitting in a lofty position in several key metrics. Michael Thompson is 23rd in GIR from 175-200 yards and 11th in scoring relative to par from the same distance. He is also putting as well as normal as he ranks 23rd in putting from 5ft-10ft which is crucial on any difficult course where length par saves are required. His recent results have been ok but he should enjoy this course as he was 3rd in 2015 and his only win on Tour has come at the Honda Classic where there are also small bermuda greens and wind is a factor. At 200/1 it won’t cost much to have an each way interest with Skybet’s favourable 8 places as they fight for the U.S. Open stakes next week


Shot Clock Masters

The Lyoness Open as we knew it has disappeared and in its place we have another Keith Pelley gimmick, the Shot Clock Masters. It’s hard to say how this one will pan out but as with the other different types of event this year we have to keep an open mind and give it a chance. One thing we do know is that Patrick Cantlay, Bryson Dechambeau and Kyle Stanley won’t be lining up in it any time soon!

The course is the same as the event stays at the Diamond Country Club near Vienna and the format is almost the same with the one key difference alluded to by the name. They will play their usual 72-hole stroke play but every single shot will be played under the shot clock. The first player away will have 50 seconds to hit their shot with the next in line getting 40 seconds. Each time a player runs over they will be handed a 1 shot penalty and everyone will have 2 time-outs a round which will double their time for their shot when used. It’s an interesting idea and with slow play a very topical issue at the moment many golfing eyes will be on Austria this week in some capacity. With round times getting out of control on the PGA Tour you would hope that they will be watching closely.

The sponsors will be glad that something will draw attention to Diamond CC this week as the field strength doesn’t look like doing that. The combination of the shot clock and being the week before the U.S. Open has left this resembling a Challenge Tour event but that gives someone the chance to make a name for themself in a high-profile event and that makes it appear like a decent betting event. The course has long been one that favours ball-strikers and in particular Diamond CC is another second shot course. It actually resembles a PGA Tour venue perhaps more so than any other course on the European Tour, certainly the ones on European soil. It is a lush green venue with water in play practically wherever you look as lakes wind themselves through the course. However there is still plenty width off the tee as these water hazards mainly come into play around the greens. There are plenty of fairway bunkers though and while they remove the bombers aspect of the course, players largely won’t be punished for taking driver as the landing areas are generous. Year after year this is won by a player who pounds the greens and the last 5 winners have averaged 9th in GIR. They have also scrambled well averaging 9th but the all-round ranking suggests that most aspects will need to be in good order as the same 5 winners have averaged just 6th in that area.

Gagli

I wanted to side with brisk players who wouldn’t be phased by the timing restrictions but to be honest the field strength is so poor there aren’t too many here that are famously slow or quick. So instead I have stuck with the regular M.O. for Diamond Country Club and gone with a ball-striker as my main pick. Nobody in the field ranks higher than Lorenzo Gagli in ball-striking over the last 3 months as he sits 3rd on Tour. That is made up from 4th in total driving and 9th in GIR so it is clear that he is in full control of his long game. That is exactly what is needed here so I’m trying not to worry too much about his price as there isn’t much to beat here. With scoring usually low, birdie average is another key metric and again Gagli is doing well there as he sits 22nd over the last 3 months. That is good enough for 2nd in this field however.

Gagli has struggled for much of his European Tour career usually ending up bouncing between it and the Challenge Tour but something seems to have improved drastically over the last 6 months. His new-found tee-to-green assurance has seen him not only win on the Challenge Tour for the first time but also find more consistency on the main Tour. His last 4 starts on the ET read 14-20-20-36 and that is a step above what 95% of this field have been doing so in reality 28/1 isn’t the worst price I have seen. I’d be hard pushed to suggest there is much value in there but he seems like a player who has properly turned a corner with his game and I think he is worth keeping an eye on throughout 2018. He was 10th here in 2013 so can play the course and a poor field like this could be just what he needs to get his first European Tour win. He has been cut again since the withdrawal of Burmester and Van Rooyen but while that makes the 20/1-22/1 obviously feel even shorter we need to focus on the fact that the field is even weaker now and the favourite is a 54 year old, albeit a very talented and in-form one!

The only man in this field above Gagli in birdie average over the last 3 months is Jeff Winther and that seems good enough reason to back the Dane at 50/1. He actually sits 8th on Tour and is making 4.44 birdies per round. He has missed his last 2 cuts but a closer look at his form tells us that he isn’t usually too comfortable on tight, tree-lined courses so if we ignore Wentworth and Italy his 2 results prior were a 17th at the Belgian Knockout and 14th in the Sicilian Open. In Belgium he actually finished 3rd after the 2 stroke-play rounds and led the field in GIR. He is yet to have a European Tour top 10 and he has missed both his cuts at the course but this event looks like a good opportunity for a wildcard and with some sneaky form I think he rates a good each way play at 66/1.

Adam Bland closed with a 65 last week and he sits 10th scrambling over the last 3 months. With greens being missed and fairways wide enough, this looks ideal for the power packed Aussie. He hasn’t played in too many European Tour events so far in his career but when he has he has performed rather well. In the Perth Sixes last year he made it all the way to the semi-finals on a course where scrambling is always crucial. It’s a speculative play but he might just be over priced in this calibre of field.

Gavin Moynihan makes up the team at a whopping 400/1 for no reason other than he looked pretty impressive alongside Paul Dunne at the Golf Sixes and he didn’t seem to have any issue with the shot clock hole. Indeed he actually performed better than his more esteemed team-mate that week in England so I’m surprised that he missed his next cut on the Challenge Tour. Although that was his first start since that win and it really should be a catalyst for a player who was a top class amateur, playing the Walker Cup twice. With a poor field this gives him another chance to push on in the quest for his European Tour card.


Summary of bets

St Jude Classic

Tom Hoge – 1pt ew @ 110/1 (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Matt Jones – 1pt ew @ 125/1  (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Michael Thompson – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Shot Clock Masters

Lorenzo Gagli – 1.25pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Jeff Winther – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Adam Bland – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Gavin Moynihan – 0.25pt ew @ 400/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral ) and 0.5pt Top 20 @ 12/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 11pts

@theGreek82