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

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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

Memorial and Italian Open – Betting Preview

Kevin Na saved the day with a brilliant 61 on Sunday to finish 4th but at the same time left me (and him no doubt) cursing his shocking closing 9 holes on Friday when 3 shots clear. In truth it was very much in keeping with his recent career, capable of brilliance yet always susceptible to a wobble when that elusive win appears on his horizon. But he backed up the thinking that he remains a brilliant each way bet when conditions and price suit.

The BMW PGA was a hugely frustrating event as both Southgate and Westwood spent most of the tournament inside the top 20 only to fall down the leaderboard when it mattered. The outright bets fared worse although EVR and Hebert clearly enjoyed the test even if they never threatened the upper reaches of the leaderboard.

2018 pts advised = 225

2018 pts returned =306.24

ROI = 36%


Memorial

The PGA Tour heads to Jack’s place this week and there is certainly a fitting field strength for the legend of the game. I’m not sure I’ve seen this good a field for a regular Tour event since I’ve been following the PGA Tour. It’s absolutely chock-a-block rammed full of talent and 8 of the top 10 in the world are in the field. This makes it look like an absolute minefield in betting terms but with firms going to 7 and 8 places there may be some each way value further down the market.

Muirfield Village was opened in 1976 and has hosted The Memorial Tournament ever since producing an impressive roll call of winners. Named after the site of Nicklaus’ first Open Championship win the course itself is 7337 yards long and the fairways are of average width. There isn’t too much immediate trouble barring some lush green rough and it is very much a typical Nicklaus course as it is all about the approach shots and then what you do on and around the greens (the challenge usually increases the closer you get to the green on his courses) . Recent winners have been accurate drivers but a look at the stats confirm Muirfield Village’s increasing difficulty as you get nearer the hole. The last 5 winners have averaged just 23rd for total driving yet they have averaged 14th for GIR and 16th for scrambling. While putting is always important, Memorial is usually won with approach play but perhaps the most apparent stats information is how well those 5 winners have fared in the all-round ranking, suggesting the importance of doing nothing badly during the week rather than perhaps doing any one thing brilliantly. The average all round ranking for the last 5 winners is 3.8 and with such an elite field assembled here this week it looks a prudent play to side with someone whose whole game is decent order. With fast, undulating, elevated greens, Muirfield tests all aspects of the iron game and it is a ball striker’s course undoubtedly. Approach shots need to be kept on a string to score well and Matsuyama who won this three years ago has some of the best distance control in the game as does 2013 champion Kuchar.

In addition to previous form around Muirfield, other Nicklaus tracks are worth looking at too, Glen Abbey GC which hosted the Canadian Open in 2004, 2008, 2009, 20013, 2015, 2016 and 2017; Sherwood GC which hosted Tiger’s World Challenge from 2000-2013, Valhalla where Rory Mcilroy won the USPGA in 2014 and the Old White TPC which hosts the Greenbrier Classic and was redesigned by Nicklaus in 1976. The CareerBuilder Challenge has also featured a couple of his courses in recent years. There are a few more used in Europe but not too many of this field will have played them.

Patrick Reed very nearly backed up my faith in him at the Wells Fargo when he finished in the dreaded 8th and I can’t help but back him here again at the prices. This is a very strong field but he still appears to have been dismissed a little too easily again at 33/1. Reed has always enjoyed Jack Nicklaus designs and logically that sits nicely with his game as he also improves as the clubs get shorter through the bag. The Nicklaus form is sneakier than most however, Nicklaus’ PGA West was one of the courses in play when he won the Humana Challenge and he properly announced himself on the world stage at the Nicklaus designed Gleneagles in the 2014 Ryder Cup. He also came runner-up at the European Tour’s BMW Masters around yet another Nicklaus course, Lake Malaren. For good measure his only appearance at Glen Abbey produced a 9th place finish where he scrambled brilliantly around the tricky green complexes.

Muirfield Village is probably a little narrower than Reed would ideally like but he was 8th there in 2016 while hitting 66% of his fairways so he can handle the tee-shots well enough. In fact given that he ranked 72nd in total putting it’s amazing that he managed anywhere close to 8th.  Especially when we consider that 73rd, 74th and 75th in the field for putting that week finished 69th, 69th and 73rd respectively. But Reed is putting a lot better again this year and sits 58th in strokes gained: putting so looking at everything together I’m sure if he can keep the ball out of the trees he will go well again. He ranks 7th in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months and Muirfield Village is above everything else a very good all-round test. Again not being given the respect he deserves, he looks a must bet at 33/1 with 8 places.

RBC Canadian Open - Final Round

Jonny Vegas has won the last two events at Glen Abbey and to be honest I’m backing him mainly on that form. He hasn’t been doing much lately but that was the case last year when he defended his Canadian Open title after missing 4 straight cuts. Glen Abbey clearly suits therefore I’m assuming Muirfield Village should suit despite 3 poor efforts so far and I think he should improve on his best finish of 56th. Vegas is also a former winner of the Humana / CareerBuilder and that event has been a good fit recently with Memorial as Dufner and Lingmerth contested a play-off there in 2016. It’s a fairly speculative bet but we get a very juicy 200/1 here so what’s not to like?

If I’m right about the CareerBuilder then I simply have to give my man Andrew Landry another go again this week after delivering in Texas for us at 150/1 last month. He came 2nd at the CareerBuilder this year behind Jon Rahm but a further look at his Web.com career also suggests he should take to Muirfield Village on his debut. His first professional win was the Karibana Championship at TPC Cartagena which is another Nicklaus course down in Colombia and he routed the field by 5 shots. It is a wider course than Muirfield but we know Landry is a very accurate driver of the ball and the greens there are very fast. Landry also showed his ability on slick greens at Oakmont two years ago when he contended most of the way at the U.S. Open so he shouldn’t be phased by the speed of these greens. It would be a heck of an achievement to win in this company but at odds of 200/1 the each way portion makes a lot of appeal.

I felt I had to add a 4th this week when I saw Xander Schauffele’s price of 80/1. I can’t believe the over reaction to his missed cut last week when just two weeks prior to that he was finishing 2nd at TPC Sawgrass. Looking at his career so far he is a player who has to have played the week before in order to see him at his best. He teed it up the week before both his wins and also before his best major finish of 5th at last year’s U.S. Open. It was the scene of his first win though that first got me looking at him this week, the Greenbrier at the Old White TPC. Jack Nicklaus carried out a complete overhaul of the course back in 1976 and the over all test is quite similar to that of Muirfield Village. Schauffelle is also a player whose best asset is his all-round game, he doesn’t really do any one thing spectacularly well but there really isn’t a weakness to his game and he enjoys these sort of courses that test all aspects of the game. Looks massively over priced so I couldn’t leave him out despite this being his debut at the course.

 


Italian Open

After three editions at Golf Club Milano and a nice bank of course form, the Italian Open is on the move again so it’s back to square one for golf punters and probably most of the players too. Gardagolf Country Club near Brescia is the new host course and it hasn’t been seen on the main Tour since 2003. Mattias Gronberg took that title while Bernard Langer closed out his win in 1997 on the final hole against Olazabal. I’m not sure we will get that level of drama or quality golf this week but it looks like a great course even if the field isn’t what it would have been here 21 years ago.

The championship course is made up of two 9 hole courses named Rosso and Bianco and while both similar, Rosso is more open and undulating and Bianco is a bit tighter with lots of water in play. An immediate look at some photos of Gardagolf suggest the test won’t be too different from last week and both the winners confirm that. Gronberg is far from a household name but he did win 4 times on the European Tour, K Club, Crans and Randpark GC were the other three courses and he also lost in a play-off at Woburn. Langer obviously won on many different courses in his career but he is a 2-time winner around both Wentworth and Augusta while he has also won at the K Club. K Club isn’t quite as tight as Wentworth or Crans but all these courses look like being good pointers in this week on a course where there are some very abrupt dog-legs within the tree-lined fairways.

Gardagolf

When I think of tree-lined tracks one of the first names that pops into my head these days is Matt Fitzpatrick and after a decent showing last week he looks to be in with a great shout in Italy. Fitzpatrick has already won around Crans and Woburn in his short career confirming that he is happiest where finding the fairways is a bit of a challenge. Additionally his U.S. Amateur win came at tree-lined Brookline Country Club which is quite similar visually to Gardagolf. Fitzpatrick was 8th last week and will take confidence from his best performance since January. Looks ready to add to his 4 European Tour titles and he will know he has to lift his game through the summer to keep his Ryder Cup place. Not the fanciest of prices but looks a perfect course for a rejuvenated Fitzpatrick and we shouldn’t forget that his poorer run of form was at a far higher grade on the PGA Tour.

Fabrizio Zanotti is a 2-time winner on Tour with both having come in the last 4 years but he is far from consistent. He is the sort of player you want to back at three figures when in reasonable form and playing on a course where driving accuracy looks to be important. Few hit more fairways than the Paraguayan and he isn’t too shabby when it comes to getting over the line either. He won a 4-man play off for his first win defeating Henrik Stenson, Cabrera-Bello and Gregory Havret who had 14 European Tour wins between them at the time. His 2nd win was at the Maybank Championship around Saujana GC where finding the right area of the fairway is key. So it looks like the course should suit him and he comes in off a 15th place finish at Wentworth. He ranked 9th in total accuracy there and 10th in the all-round ranking so to me he looks an excellent piece of each way value at 100/1.

Rafa Cabrera Bello played the final three rounds last week better than everyone bar Molinari, Noren and Kinhult so he will be arriving full of confidence to a course that should suit his neat and tidy game perfectly. I mocked Jeremy Chapman last week for putting up 4 of the first 7 in the market but yet again his top-heavy approach yielded profit. I’m taking a leaf out of his book this week as I think this could be a course where the class-acts find themselves in contention on Sunday. He is one of the few who will have played an event here before back in 2006 and his record in Italy is decent with 6 top 10s from 15 events. Like Fitzpatrick he will be targeting these Rolex Series events as good chances to consolidate his Ryder Cup position so I’d expect another strong showing. He actually led the field in both putting and fairways hit at Wentworth so a slight improvement in his normally excellent approach play would make him hard to beat.


Summary of bets

Memorial

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 17/2

Jonny Vegas – 0.75 pt ew @ 200/1

Xander Schauffele – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (all 1/5 odds 8 places Pady Power)

Italian Open

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1.5pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Fabrizio Zanotti – 0.75 pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Boylesports)

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1 ( 1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

Weekly points advised = 15 pts

2018 pts advised = 239pts

 

@theGreek82

 

AT & T Byron Nelson and Belgian Knockout – Betting Preview

Despite having had weeks with more points returned it was arguably the most successful week I have had since starting the blog in 2015 after finding both winners. It was a nervy Sunday as Lagergren looked to have blown his chance at one point but a brilliant birdie got him over the line at the first play-off hole against the unlucky Lorenzo-Vera. While he did very little wrong his attitude throughout the front 9 was far too careful and he didn’t really look to attack the course until the Swede had pulled two shots clear. It made it hard for him to properly change his approach having left most of putts short early on. Lagergren on the other hand went out to win the Tournament from the very start and while it ultimately came down to a 50-50 play-off, Joakim looked far more at ease chasing the birdie he needed. It was just rewards for the punters who had followed him closely over the last few years and a very good example of why we shouldn’t give up on young players if they struggle in contention the first one or two times on Tour.

If the European Tour was a nervy Sunday morning the evening should have been a lot less stresssful but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Webb Simpson was going to open the door to the chasing pack. He didn’t really do anything to suggest that all weekend though to be fair and despite my concerns he ran out a very comfortable winner to announce himself back on the world stage. It was an impressive performance and Simpson is worth watching throughout the rest of 2018 now he has properly sorted his putting out.

To top things off Rafa bagged two thirds of the Top 20 money as well to return 80.67 pts on the week and leave the results looking very healthy heading into the summer.

2018 pts advised = 199.50

2018 pts returned = 296.11

ROI = 48.43%


Byron Nelson

Having been hosted by TPC Las Colinas in some shape or other since 1986, the Byron Nelson is on the move and quite drastically so, if not geographically certainly in a golfing sense. Gone is the lush green ball-strikers paradise where Billy Horschel, Sergio Garcia, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley have triumphed in recent years and in its place is the brand new layout, Trinity Forest Golf Club. Don’t be fooled by the use of “forest” in the title however as Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s 2014 design is very far from a parkland course.

The course was built on an old land fill site and is a completely wide open, undulating links course. Looking at pictures it is quirky enough for an American links course but Coore and Crenshaw were said to have been trying to emulate the classic British links courses so perhaps more than quirky just think linksy. There are blind tee shots, blind approaches, forced carries, fescue grasses, strategic bunkering, hard and fast fairways and big, difficult green complexes. With nothing else to go on I’m very much adopting an Open championship type approach. I’m looking at good wind players, ability to control distance perfectly, shot-shaping, players who can flight the ball down and imagination on and around links greens. Initial reports suggested that the fairways had been watered to avoid players complaining about how hard they were but a tweet from Billy Horschel contradicted that so we might have to wait and see on that front. However I’ve picked three players who would likely be at an advantage should things firm up.

snedeker.625.petersen

Brandt Snedeker opened up at very different prices across the firms as he was as short as 33/1 in places yet as big as 60/1 in others. That often tells us there could be some value around as we seldom see one firm offering nearly twice the size of another. The discrepancy seems to revolve around how much importance to put on his current form since returning from injury. The 33/1 perhaps ignores his slow start since an extended lay-off due to a sternum injury while the 60/1 possibly focusses too much on it. I’d make a fully fit, normal Snedeker somewhere around 25/1 here and with a relatively poor field I think he looks a great bet on a new course that should suit him perfectly. Snedeker shot one of the all-time great PGA rounds to win at Torrey Pines in 2016 and that was one of the windiest rounds we have seen in the U.S. He was the only player under par, beat the 2nd best score by 4 shots and the field average by nearly 10 shots. Snedeker is also a two-time winner around Pebble Beach Links which is the only proper links layout on the permanent PGA schedule. He also came 9th in the 2014 U.S. Open around Pinehurst No.2, 8th around Chambers Bay and 9th at Erin Hills to further showcase his ability on U.S. links courses. Indeed he was the only player to finish inside the top 10 on all 3 of those U.S. Open links tests. His Open Championship record may be a modest one but he had a great chance to win in 2012 when he finished 3rd. His demise was ultimately overshadowed by Adam Scott’s late collapse but Snedeker was the half way leader and Royal Lytham is possibly one of the courses that best resembles Trinity Forest to my eye. Both have undulating fairways but are set on rather flat land with no big elevation changes. He comes in off two missed cuts but they aren’t of much concern to me as he has a very miserable record at Sawgrass having missed 7 of his 10 cuts and the other was in the novelty team event at TPC Louisiana. Prior to that he was seen finishing 15th at the Heritage where he ranked 5th in GIR which is very solid for someone who isn’t always the best of ball-strikers. He isn’t the most accurate of drivers either so these open fairways will suit him and allow his shot shaping and brilliant short game to come to the fore. With some nice profit last week we can afford to take a little chance here on Brandt and if he does play well then 50/1 is huge for an 8-time winner on a course that he will enjoy more than most.

Branden Grace and Adam Scott are two links lovers but for me that looks to be represented in their price. While I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see either win, equally I could handle not being on at the prices. Jordan Spieth is obviously the right favourite here but despite being a member at the course I’d want bigger than the current 6/1 on a new course. He should be suited however and may be worth looking at in-play if conditions do end up firm and fast. Matt Kuchar is interesting at 16/1 as he looks like the classic older Open winner in waiting as he has gradually honed his links skills over the years. But he just doesn’t win enough to get excited about on a new course.

Instead I’m going with two outsiders who have both shown enough on links layouts over the years and are experienced wind players. There was a period some 8 to 10 years ago when I thought Ben Crane might win an Open Championship but then his game disappeared for a while. The Texan resident is used to playing in the wind and two of his wins have been at exposed venues like Torrey Pines and Sea Island while his last win was at TPC Southwind which is often true to its name. If we do see a tough test then it might pay to have good short game on side and Crane is still one of the better putters around with some good stats for this test. He is 12th in 3-putt avoidance from outside 25ft which is a very useful indicator of how players will fare on big, undulating links greens as lag putting will be crucial. He is also 11th in putting from 5ft to 10ft so saving par in the wind shouldn’t be a problem for a player so accomplished at holing out.

Greg Chalmers isn’t averse to playing in the wind having won two Australian PGA Championships and two Australian Opens, all on the coast which we know can get pretty windy. The first of those was in 1997 but it took him a while to get his first PGA Tour win, finally landing one at the Barracuda Championship in August 2016. He has hardly been seen on a leaderboard since, but again he has a very good short game which will help him around these tricky surfaces. He ranks 4th in 3-putt avoidance outside 25ft while he is 4th in strokes gained: putting. That’s not all though as he was striking the ball well two weeks ago at Quail Hollow where he ranked 4th in GIR on his way to a 21st place finish. He isn’t the longest of hitters but if the course is firm that won’t hinder him too much here. Could be over priced at 250/1 on a week where outsiders should have a great chance of getting in the mix. I’m also going to have top 20 bets on Crane and Chalmers.


Belgian Knockout

Even the name itself suggests a bit of a random crap shoot of a tournament and that is maybe what we will get with this new event hosted by Thomas Pieters and his family in  their hometown of Antwerp, Belgium. With The European Tour already having had two quirkier match play events so far in 2018 this is a further twist still. The field will play 36 holes of stroke-play before the top 64 qualify for the weekend and knock-out matches consisting of 9 holes of stroke-play. If that’s not enough then the course in use for stroke-play is a combination of 9 holes from the North course and 9 holes of the South course and from the little information available it would seem that 1/2 of the knock-out matches are played on one of the 9s and the other half on the other 9. So any angle in this week will surely involve more than a little guesswork.

Both courses are quite flat, parkland courses and they definitely resemble some of the places that we have seen the British Masters at in recent years. The South course looks to be more like the open Close House and The Grove while the North course is probably more like the tighter Woburn and Wentworth courses. The leaderboards at those British Masters and the BMW PGAs at Wentworth could well throw up some clues as to who might make the weekend if nothing else. Once they get to the knock-out stage I think the stroke-play format will require steady golf rather than the aggressive approach that often thrives in match-play. One big number early would put a player right up against it so I’d think twice about backing someone who is known to be too aggressive or incapable of strategising.

Erik-Van-Rooyen

Very much in keeping with the Lagergren pick last week I’m going with a player who has been threatening to win lately and despite a missed cut last time out in China he isn’t someone we should be forgetting about quickly. Erik Van Rooyen has exuded tee-to-green class in his debut season on the European Tour and he currently ranks 7th in strokes gained: tee to green (only Pedro Oriol is above him in this field). He is an extremely frustrating player on the greens as the majority of his putts never look like going in the hole at any point but his poor putting really is in direct contrast to his sublime tee to green game. The South African hits the ball long, straight and accurately so can be a threat almost anywhere but so far he has come a little unstuck with Sunday nerves and bad putting at key moments. With very flat greens this week in Belgium they could be a bit of an equaliser so that may not be critical. If he can make the weekend then his long game assurance will make him hard to beat over 9 holes of head to head stroke-play and he looks a nice bet at 50/1 with 4 places and also with 8 places at just 40/1. With us never having seen this event it is hard to gauge whether to play win only or each way but even in a normal week we run the risk of missing the cut so I will stick with each way and advise the 50/1 with the place money paying out on semi-finalists. I wouldn’t put anyone off the 40/1 with 8 places either.

I know Ryan Fox ideally likes a little more room off the tee than we are seeing here but he should enjoy the more open South course at least. I was very surprised he didn’t play last week as the course in Sicily looked custom-built for the bomber. But I’ll bow to his judgement and he must have mapped out a schedule that he is happy with and that includes the Belgium Knockout. It could be that he fancies the format but as I mentioned the other week when I backed him, this is getting to his time of year and if his irons are dialled in then I think we should see the Fox who finished 12th at the Trophee Hassan two starts ago rather than the lacklustre one who was 37th in China the week after. There really isn’t too much to beat here and his form last summer is a step above 95% of this field.

Romain Wattel opened up a huge price for someone who looked to be playing very well at the GolfSixes event. The 80/1 should really have gone but there is still plenty around and with that he will complete this week’s team. Wattel finally got his first European Tour win last year at the KLM and while that was quite an open, linksy course, Wattel also has some solid form on tighter, parkland courses. He was 4th at Wentworth in 2016, 22nd at Woburn and also 6th around Lake Karrinyup which resembles the more open South course. He hit some clutch approach shots and putts from what I saw in the team match-play event and I think he has been too readily dismissed here. At his best he has a solid enough all-round game and although he maybe lacks a little on the mental side of the game, that KLM win could yet be a turning point for a player who is still young (27!) despite having been on Tour since 2010. I think most would find him a formidable opponent in the 9-hole stroke-play format it’s just a case of getting there but at the price we have enough wiggle room to get him onboard.


Summary of bets

 

Byron Nelson

Brandt Snedeker – 1.25pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Ben Crane – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places) and 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

Greg Chalmers – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 (1/5 odds 8 places ) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Belgian Knockout

Erik Van Rooyen – 1.25 pts ew @ 50/1 (1/4 odds 4 places)

Ryan Fox – 0.75 pt ew @ 50/1 (1/4 odds 4 places)

Romain Wattel – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/4 odds 4 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 11.5pts

2018 pts advised = 211pts

 

@theGreek82

The Players Championship and Rocce Forte Sicilian Open – Betting Preview

A close call week last week that showed no returns but plenty of positives to take from the week. The English Women’s team proved that they were indeed hugely over priced as they qualified from their group before losing out to the eventual winners, Ireland. We certainly won’t see prices like 50/1 around for quality women teams in the event next year. Over on the PGA Tour Patrick Reed played very well too which also justified backing him on value alone. Unfortunately though despite his weekend 67-69 scoring he finished up in the dreaded 8th position. I thought we were going to get half the place money when Phil found the hazard on 18 but he did what Phil does and found a shot off the rocks before draining a 25ft par putt. Far better to have a nearly week like that though where the angles were sound than an absolute shocker. We have two excellent betting heats this week with some added confidence after a close week.

2018 pts advised = 185.50

2018 ots returned = 215.44

ROI = 16.14%


The Players Championship

The golf season finds itself halfway between the first two majors of the year and for the last time that means it’s Players Championship week. It has been played in May for as long as I remember but after next year’s re-jig of the calendar it will be played in March. Quite how that will affect the conditions of the event I’m not sure but we don’t need to worry about that until next year. For now we can just focus on this year’s renewal which sees the strongest field assembled so far in 2018 gather at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

At just 7215 yards, TPC Sawgrass isn’t a long course by modern standards but that is perhaps fitting of what Pete Dye was attempting to do with his Florida gem. In 1980 he sought to design a course that tested all aspects of a player’s game and favoured no particular type of player. He has certainly achieved that as the recent list of winners includes some of the most varied players you could imagine. Tiger Woods has overpowered it on just two occasions but even then that was as much down to his touch on and around the greens. Short, accurate types like Fred Funk and Matt Kuchar have won. Ball striking machines Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson both won there in their youth and the enigmatic Mickelson also managed a win. Fowler won with his excellent all-round game while Day’s combination of power and touch landed him the title in 2016. While this does indeed tell us that any type of player can win I still had a look at the stats for the last 10 winners to see if there was anything that they happened to all do well during the week of their win.

The least important aspect at TPC Sawgrass would appear to be off the tee as the 10 winners have averaged 32nd for driving distance and 21st for driving accuracy. That’s not to say that you can afford to drive the ball wildly as it is undoubtedly easier to hold the small, bermuda greens from the fairway. But statistically anyway, the Players Championship isn’t usually won or lost with the driver.

The lowest average appears in scrambling and that is usually the main attribute that I consider for Sawgrass so that makes perfect sense. The 10 winners ranked 10th but that improves to just 6th if you remove Garcia’s rather bizarre ranking of 57th when he won in 2008. Kaymer scrambled brilliantly to win in 2014 but he did so largely with the putter and it is worth noting the tight run-off areas at Sawgrass allow the players different options around the green. Imagination is important and it is perhaps no coincidence that Kaymer also won the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst No. 2. It is one of the few U.S. Open venues that has tightly mown run-off areas and a look at that leader board is nothing more than a list of recent winners at TPC Sawgrass!

Just pushed into 2nd was greens in regulation as the same 10 averaged 14th place for greens hit but again removing Fowler’s abnormally high-ranking from 2015 then this becomes an average ranking of just 7.

Looking instead at trends for a moment there is an interesting pattern of the last 10 winners all having recorded a top 23 finish previously at TPC Sawgrass and also having plenty of experience as they won their title at an average attempt of 7. This isn’t a course that beginners tend to fare too well on and even when 26-year-old Fowler won in 2015 he was having his 6th look at the course while shock winner Kim finished 23rd the year before. Four of Fowler’s first five attempts were missed cuts but the one time that he did make the weekend he finished 2nd. While backing debutants is maybe not a solid option if looking for the winner with short price players, there are plenty recent examples of players contending and placing on their first look.

TPC Sawgrass’ iconic hole is the island green, par 3 17th and it completes a very tough set of par 3s. Indeed of the last 10 winners, 6 have played them under par so I would expect minimising bogeys on the short holes to be crucial again. Beyond the more broad stats I also like proximity to the hole each year at TPC Sawgrass as it is crucial to have an accurate iron game to find the small greens. With all the new categories that the PGA Tour has now though we can look even more closely. Approaches 150-175 yards Scoring Relative To Par is a very good indicator as is the same stat for the 175-200 yard range. They tell us not only who is repeatedly getting the ball close from those distances but also who is taking advantage when they do get close.

So we are looking for someone who can hit a lot of greens, is excellent at getting up and down, plays Par 3s well, and is a strong putter on fast bermuda greens. The course itself backs that up as Sawgrass has some of the smallest greens on Tour at 4500 sq ft. They are surrounded by sand and water hazards throughout so accuracy and particularly distance control is needed to hold the greens. The tight run-offs allow the ball to easily fall off the green so each approach shot has to be struck with authority.

With the head of the market struggling to be split here and nobody trading under 14/1 not only do we have the strongest field of the year but we also have one of the best betting heats. Historically this was a great event for outsiders given the patience and strategy required but with Fowler and Day winning in 2015 and 2016 respectively that looked like it was maybe changing. However Si-Woo Kim’s left field win last year confirmed that bigger prices can still prosper here. I think that looks to be the angle this week with bookmakers all competing for business with some great each way terms and I’d certainly shop around to get at least 7 places this week.

As mentioned above, I put a huge emphasis on proximity to the hole at TPC Sawgrass and particularly from the 150-200 yards range. Hao-Tong Li makes the squad this week due partly to his strong stats in those areas but also just because he looks over priced for a player of his talent on a course that should suit him. Li ranks 10th in scoring RTP from 150-175 yards and 13th in the 175-200 category. It is his debut but it was also his Royal Birkdale debut when he finished 4th behind Spieth and Kuchar at the Open last summer. While that course is miles away from Birkdale in location and style, they are both difficult courses that require accurate approach play, excellent scrambling skills and minimising bogeys. Li’s results haven’t been fantastic lately but he is another example of a European Tour player moving to play on both Tours and just struggling a little with what that entails. But he has had a week off and is a winner already this year on slick greens at the Dubai Desert Classic. If he can keep the ball in play off the tee with a sound strategy then I’d expect a good week. While debutants can struggle to win here I think the 200/1 gives us a brilliant each way bet and I’m also adding him for a Top 20.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello looked like an obvious candidate this week after his 4th last year but having missed three out of four cuts he actually opened up at a nice price here of 110. There is still a little bit of that around but I rate him a bet at anything 80/1 or bigger. Rafa ranks 1st in proximity to the hole on the PGA Tour and that is enough for me to want to back him alone but factor that 4th place in and he looks a really solid bet. His driving hasn’t quite been up to his usual standards this year but we know that can change as historically he has been one of the better drivers on the European Tour over the last few years. If we look solely at Rafa’s recent performances in the WGCs, Majors or the “5th Major” then we see just how far he has come as he finished 4th at the 2017 Players, 4th at The Open, 5th at the WGC HSBC Champions and 3rd at the WGC Mexico. He seems to have really found a way to peak for the bigger events and there is no question that his goal this season will be to make the Ryder Cup team again. The best way for a player who struggles to get over the line is to rack up high finishes in events like this. Should play well again and is a decent price to do so.

Rafa

I’m always reluctant to back Webb Simpson so when I started getting a little excited about him for this on Sunday, you would think a simple look at his TPC Sawgrass form would have put me off; MC-MC-69-MC-15-MC-66-16. Not a chance. Those two top 20s just about kept me interested and to be honest Simpson’s all round game is as good as it as been since 2010-2012 era when he was legitimately one of the world’s best on suitable courses. As most readers will know the anchor putter ban really threw him but his 2018 stats are just perfect for this and his putting is back to somewhere near it’s best. Simpson ranks 2nd in scrambling, 6th in bogey avoidance and 10th in strokes gained: putting and he is comfortable on bermuda greens. Every chance he can post his best Sawgrass finish to date this week at 70/1.

It’s very easy to plan to leave out the head of the market in an event like this but it’s a lot harder to fully commit to it in practice! I really thought Justin Thomas would go well here last year given the state of his game and that he signed off with a 65 in 2016.  But he never really got going and missed the cut. Thomas seems to have the perfect game for Sawgrass though as he has established himself as one of the best around with his short irons and he currently ranks 3rd in scrambling over the last 3 months and 12th in bogey avoidance for the season. If he doesn’t get too adventurous off the tee then I’d expect him to go well again and perhaps enjoy some of the spotlight having been removed. I think he is worth an each way bet here in order to have an interest at the head of the market.


Rocce Forte Sicilian Open

Last year I looked at links players for this given the wide open, coastal nature of the course in Sicily at the Verdura Golf Club. While that didn’t find the impossible to find Quiros (his form was terrible) it was certainly the right line of thought. The list of courses where the powerful Spaniard has won is basically a list of wide open links style courses, and I particularly noted Doha Golf Club where he has won and finished runner-up twice. The other winner around Verdura in 2012, Thorbjorn Olesen, generally wins on the same sort of courses. I’m taking that approach again while also maybe giving further consideration to some of the historically classy players in the field as per Quiros last year. The course here in Sicily is a Kyle Phillips design and big wide open fairways are very much his ethos as they can be seen on his other courses like Kingsbarns, Dundonald Links and PGA National in Sweden. He also tends to favour large greens and again they can be seen at Kingsbarns and Dundonald. A further example of some of his work can be seen on 9 holes of Celtic Manor where he was involved with the old Wentwood Hills course which went on to make up 1/2 of the Twenty Ten course. Given these strong features we tend to see Phillips course form stand up well so I’ve had a look through those leader boards as well as other links courses.

Bourdy

Gregory Bourdy has some decent form at Kyle Phillips designs despite actually being quite short and accurate off the tee. However he does have a good approach game and an excellent touch around the greens which also helps on these links style lay-outs. Bourdy’s last win was around Celtic Manor in 2013 and he has top 5s at several other links courses where form ties in. He was 4th last year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (Olesen won in 2015), 5th in Qatar in 2015 and 4th at Lake Karrinyup in Perth in 2016, which is another course that Thorbjorn Olesen won around in 2014. His form hasn’t been anything great in 2018 but a player of his class looks a very big price at anything near to three figures in this field. Therefore the 125/1 is a must bet for me at a course that should suit part of his game at least.

Tom Lewis has some nice pieces of historical links form and he has won at Oceanico Victoria in Portugal where Quiros has won. He hasn’t done much of any note on the main Tour lately but he stopped a run of missed cuts with a 9th place last time out on the Challenge Tour. If he found something with his game in Turkey then he could be a big price on a course like this where he finished 11th last year.

Anthony Wall tends to go well on a lot of links courses and particularly on the same sort of ones as Alex Noren who is a bit of a Kyle Phillips expert. He was 4th at Dundonald Links last year and he won around Archerfield Links in the Paul Lawrie Match play and that was another wide open links layout. Wall isn’t the sort of player who finds sustained periods of form and is more likely to pop up at layouts like this where his excellent short game can get him competitive in windy conditions. He withdrew from his last event in April but has had a couple of weeks off to recover and if he is fit he should go well on a course where he was 6th in 2012.

My final pick is an old favourite in Joakim Lagergren. Throughout his relatively short European Tour career he has been seen at his best on open courses where his short game skills can be shown off. That is exactly what we have here and I don’t think he should be 50/1 in this field considering he was 3rd just a couple of starts ago in Morocco.


Summary of Bets

Players Championship

Justin Thomas – 1.5pts ew – 16/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Hao Tong Li – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred) and 2pts Top 20 @ 4/1

Webb Simpson – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Rocce Forte Open

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports)

Tom Lewis – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Anthony Wall – 0.5pt ew @ 90/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Joakim Lagergren – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 14pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 199.50pts

 

@theGreek82

Zurich Classic and China Open – Betting Preview

With so many disappointing Sundays over the last couple of years I was fearing the worst when Mullinax closed to within one shot of Andrew Landry but luckily for Landry backers, Mullinax was feeling the nerves even more than our 150/1 shot. When he chunked a chip into the bunker on 17 I thought that was just about it but there was further drama still when Landry chased his first putt on 18 some 8ft past the hole. That presented Mullinax the chance to pile the pressure on with his own 9 ft birdie putt. But when he couldn’t make his that was all she wrote as Landry, with the pressure off, sent his par putt into the middle of the cup for his first PGA Tour win. It topped off a brilliant day that saw 100 pts of returns cleared for the 4th time but the first since late 2015. Andrea Pavan had earlier claimed a full place in Morocco and it could have been even better as he bogeyed the 17th and a -7 clubhouse total might just have applied some extra pressure to Levy. But given the back door nature of his high Sunday finish it was good to just get the place money. I’m also not sure how I would have coped watching the PGA Tour coverage had he won as I had a small each way bet on the double at around 15,875/1. While I stopped advising the double bets they are always worth throwing some small amounts at in the quest for the big win. Thanks to Landry and Pavan the blog is now into profit again for the 2018 season. Just shows what one good week can do.

Total 2018 pts advised = 168.50

Total 2018 pts returned = 215.44

ROI = 27.86%


Zurich Classic

No huge interest in this rather gimmicky event to be honest. Last year when the team event made its debut I took the method of picking the two best players in Rose and Stenson and they never really got it going. But I’m having a small interest this time with Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair. Current form looks like it will count for a lot in what will be a low-scoring ball-striking test. Both Walker and O’Hair showed glimpses of their best at the weekend as they finished 4th and 2nd respectively. Walker ranked 1st in putting while O’Hair ranked 1st in ball-striking. That could be a very handy combination in the two rounds of foursomes while Walker’s aggressive iron play will complement the steadier ball-striking of O’Hair in the four balls. Walker finished 8th here in 2013 while O’Hair has 3 top 15 finishes at TPC Louisiana. This could be decent partnership and with both full of confidence and form they look worth a bet for an interest in a trappy looking event. There is still a little 28/1 around but 25/1 looks fair enough too.


Volvo China Open

This week’s China Open is all about Alexander Levy as he returns to defend the title he won last year. But he is also looking to go back to back after his win last week in Morocco and unsurprisingly he is the 10/1 favourite. It is perhaps as hard to argue with as it is to back him at those prices however. There is no question he will be looking to take his Ryder Cup position out of the hands of Thomas Bjorn by qualifying automatically and another win would go a long way to securing that. Despite having plenty in his favour though it will surely be difficult for him to play his best again this week. All the extra media work involved in defending and the pressure he will now be putting on himself to make his home Ryder Cup team make him opposable. But who should we oppose him with? The field looks wide open again at Topwin Golf Club so there were plenty of options on my short list this week.

The course is of average length at 7261 yards and looking at the two renewals so far, I think it represents a very all-round challenge. The fairways are pretty wide but with lots of elevation changes, trees, water in play and dog-legs, the driving lines will look a lot more intimidating standing on the tee and there will be preferred landing areas for finding the greens. While the scoring has been low to date, Levy won on -17 and Li with -22, the players will have to remain focussed as there is still a lot of trouble out there for those who aren’t in control of their distances.

Stats wise last year 5 of the first 6 in the all-round ranking finished inside the top 7 and the year before 5 of the first 8 in the all-round ranking finished inside the top 8. This confirms that while scoring is low, every aspect of the game is needed to contend at Topwin. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect but if any part of their game is in poor nick then they surely won’t manage to contend this week. Therefore I’m looking closely at the recent all-round stats rankings, previous form at Topwin and previous form in Asia on similar courses. If pushed for one stat to focus on it would probably be scrambling. Many of the courses on the Asian Tour involve fiddly green complexes and that was noticeable when watching last year. As things heated up on Sunday, the sharper short games thrived on a relatively packed leader board.

Pablo Larrazabal is a player who I really struggle to get right but I think there seems to have been a massive over reaction to his missed cut last week. Prior to that he was in fine form with results reading 21-4-4-44-3 with the 3rd coming at the Maybank Championship at Saujana Golf Club where form has tied in very nicely with Topwin over the last couple of years. Topwin winners Levy and Li were both inside the top 5 there in 2017. Pablo was also 3rd here last year and despite him not always being the most solid in contention these days, he is still a 4-time European Tour winner and I’m a little shocked that he is double the price of Bernd Wiesberger and Joost Luiten among others. They may be a little more consistent but are no better in contention and I believe we are getting a little bit of value with the Spaniard as I’d have had him around the 28/1 mark in this field. If we forgive him his missed cut in Morocco then his whole game had been in decent shape and during that 3rd at the Maybank he ranked 1st in the all-round stat. On a course he clearly likes and with a winning total in line with his 4 titles to date I expect this to be a good week for him. He is often feast or famine these days with 3 missed cuts and 3 top 5s so far in 2018 but at 40/1 that is probably factored in and I like his chances if he can get off to a good start.

Ryan Fox doesn’t have a great record at the course (MC-63) but two things are in his favour for me here this week. Firstly his whole game has been improving gradually back to its best in 2018 and last week on his way to finishing 12th in Morocco he ranked 1st in the all-round ranking. Secondly he was 3rd at the Maybank earlier this year where form ties in nicely with this event and he was 6th in the all-round ranking. When his game clicks he usually contends such is the quality he possesses. Last year Fox found his form in the summer so we know he takes a little time to get going in the season but after last week I think we might be about to see another strong period of form and he looks worth following closely over the coming months, starting here at 66/1.

Erik Van Rooyen’s chance is an obvious one but unfortunately his price has just about gone. He opened as big as 55/1 and that was an excellent price. But despite him perhaps arriving as the most consistently in-form player over the last 3 months, it is hard to make a case for him being any kind of price at 40/1. While he has been brilliant lately his golf has tailed off over the weekend more often than not as the occasion of chasing his first European Tour looked to get on top of him. He looks very much a winner in waiting this season but possibly not at this track and I can just about let him go unbacked at his current price. Maybe one for the multiples this week.

Benjamin Hebert and Alexander Bjork are two more European Tour maidens who look to have a good chance but have been cut since Monday. So I’ll complete this week’s team with a rank outsider who I’m also going to back for a top 20. Poom Saksansin hasn’t had any fantastic results so far in 2018 but some of his stats suggest that his game is in good order as he ranks 24th in strokes gained: tee to green and 17th in strokes gained: around the green. I think he should enjoy this test providing it doesn’t play too long for one of the shorter hitters on Tour. The young Thai is still finding his feet in these bigger events but he proved just what he was capable of at the Eurasia Cup at the start of the year when he took down Paul Casey in the singles to finish with a record of 2pts out of 3. He also finished 24th on his only start in China to date which happened to be the WGC HSBC Champions event. With top 20s in similar strength fields like the Hong Kong Open and Singapore Open I think we might see him outplay his odds of 300/1 and if he doesn’t find himself on the leaderboard we might manage to get a run at the top 20 money.


Summary of Bets

Zurich Classic

Jimmy Walker + Sean O’Hair – 1pt ew @ 28/1

China Open

Pablo Larrazabal – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral, general 33/1 ok)

Ryan Fox – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places BetVictor and Sunbets)

Poom Saksansin – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 6 places) and 2pts Top 20 @ 9/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 9pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 177.5pts

@theGreek82