WGC Mexico Championship – Betting Preview

A poor week last week with no returns and only Luke List really threatening to do anything after Kennedy went out in the 2nd round of the knock-out stage in Perth. List putted atrociously though and I counted 9 putts inside 7ft that he missed across the 4 rounds. I don’t think I’ll be backing him again in a hurry.

2019 points advised = 78.5

2019 points returned = 37.5


WGC Mexico

The first WGC of the season heads down to Mexico for the 3rd edition of this at Chapultepec, Nauculpan. Much like the first two years several of the world’s best have decided to give it a miss but we still have a very strong field of 72 to get stuck into. Both previous champions return with 2017 winner Dustin Johnson in average form by his standards but defending champion Mickelson returns in fine fettle having won at Pebble just two starts ago.

The 7330 yard, par 71 course was designed by two Scottish brothers, Willie and Alex Smith from Carnoustie, around the time when Scots were very much the talking point of US golf in the early 1900s. Donald Ross was at the fore front of that and he himself had links to Carnoustie with the first 3 club professionals at his East Lake design all hailing from the Angus town. The course certainly doesn’t look unlike some of Ross’ tree-lined courses in the US like East Lake and Sedgefield. Further course links include Crans which hosts the European Masters as it is at a similar altitude to the Mexico course. Woburn is another short tree-lined course that ties in with Crans while the Sauranja course in Malaysia which hosts the Maybank Championship is visually similar and has some cross-over form through a few players.

Stats wise Mickelson’s long game wasn’t exactly brilliant last year as he only ranked 60th in total driving and 25th in GIR but his short game was as strong as ever. He was 2nd in scrambling and 3rd in putting as he showed his love for slick poa annua surfaces. The 1st and 2nd ranked putters finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.  The year before DJ’s long game was a little better ranking 5th for GIR and 17th for total driving but his short game was also razor-sharp as he was 14th for scrambling and 5th in total putting.

Another thing of great interest is how important current form has been in both the Mexico events but also going back to Doral too. Four of the last six winners had already won that season while Mickelson came in with form figures of 5-2-6 last year and in 2015 DJ had finished 2nd at Riviera and 4th at Pebble Beach. I wouldn’t be expecting anyone to find their game from nowhere this week.

Given that strong cases can be made for the top 10 or so in the betting and they are all trading low enough I’m happier to chase the place money this week. It can almost be a guessing game which one of the elite are going to turn up on any given week and guessing at odds of 12/1 isn’t a lot of fun especially with so many of them having played a lot of golf already in California. In both editions so far we have seen some lesser names on the leaderboard and with that in mind I’ve got three outsiders at bigger odds. I’ve focussed on 3 main things, decent current form, a liking for tree-lined layouts and an excellent short game (be it scrambling or putting but preferably both!)

First up is Hao-Tong Li who has been playing at a seriously high level for some 6 months now. Going back to October his world-wide form reads 2-12-MC-30-5-2-11-9-5 and that missed cut was returning from an 8 week Christmas break. The 11th was at the previous WGC in Shanghai and he has the perfect game for championship layouts. He is a sneaky long driver and regularly gets it out past the 300 yard mark off the tee. When playing well his approaches are usually quite reliable but lately it has been his short game that has been on fire. On his last start in Saudi he ranked 1st in scrambling and 1st in putting finding only Dustin Johnson too good and beating Bryson by 6. He looks as assured holing out from inside 8ft as anyone in the game and that confidence will help him on these slick poa annua greens. We saw last week at Riviera the carnage that can ensue with fast, undulating poa annua greens and I think his flat stick prowess can help him go well this week. He only managed 63rd last year but a second look will be a big plus point for him. Li also has some form at a key course in Malaysia which hosts the Maybank Championship. Sharma won there last year and Zanotti the year before and they both would finish top 10 here in Mexico a few weeks later. Li was 5th there in 2017 on the tree-lined course with fiddly greens. Li looks comfortable in these elite fields and I think he is one to watch in the big events this year. I’m having an each way bet at 66/1 and also top 20 @ 5/2.

Shane Lowry’s Abu Dhabi win has been quickly forgotten about if the market is anything to go by. Lowry missed the cut at Pebble since then but he is a player who likes to enjoy himself and while he spent the first few weeks of the year grinding hard on his game, I’m sure he would have enjoyed celebrating his win too. I’d expect him to arrive in Mexico fully refocussed though and looking to join an elite group of just 14 players to have won multiple WGCs. It was his putting that he hadn’t been happy with as it had been letting him down the last couple of years. But the hard work paid off as he ranked 3rd on the greens in Abu Dhabi. His long game has been as solid as ever and he has plenty form on narrow tree-lined courses. Lowry should really have won at Wentworth already (six Top 15s), he was 2nd at Woburn while the highlight of his career was at Firestone when he won the WGC Bridgestone. He looks a very solid each way bet at 80/1.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat showed his suitability to the course last year when he finished 5th and I don’t see any good reason why he can’t have a good week again. The Thai is one of those erratic drivers who seems to be helped by playing on tree-lined fairways. It seems to either help him from a visual point of view or temper his aggressive play but either way a lot of his best results have come on courses with difficult driving lines. He was 5th at Woburn in 2015 and also 5th at Wentworth. He led the field for scrambling here last year and while he comes in off 3 missed cuts from his last 4 I think he will be more comfortable away from mainland U.S. He has been struggling to find his feet so far on the PGA Tour as he looks to try to gain his full PGA Tour card but he hasn’t played too much in California to date so I’m not overly worried by that. He finished his 2018 season well with a 4th in the elite field WGC HSBC and then 9th at the DP World Tour Championship. Looks a little over priced considering 4 of the top 10 in 2017 returned to record another top 10 last year, suggesting that having played here before might be a big advantage.

Nothing in Puerto Rico but I thought Amy Yang looked a little bit over priced (28/1) in the Honda LPGA Thailand. Yang loves the course and already at 29 years old she boasts course form of 14-1-3-1-45-12-4-7-10. She hasn’t missed a cut since June and with a lot of the bigger names not fully wound up yet this is a good chance for her to get her 4th LPGA win at a course she excels on.


Summary of bets

WGC Mexico

Hao-Tong Li – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 5/2

Shane Lowry – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 5/2

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 11/2

(all 1/5 odds 6 places general)

Honda LPGA Thailand

Amy Yang – 1pt ew @ 28/1 (1/4 odds 5 places)

 

Weekly points advised = 12

 

@theGreek82

 

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Pebble Beach Pro-Am and ISPS Handa Vic Open – Betting Preview

Matt Kuchar delivered the each way money, as he so often does, but despite a poor last round it could have been even better. As Fowler, Thomas and Grace faltered, Kuch found himself in the middle of the 15th fairway with a good chance of giving himself an eagle look when only two shots behind. He gave a nod to the Kuchar of old though as he wildly hooked the ball into the water with his normally trusty hybrid.

Over in Saudi Aaron Rai got himself into the Top 20 on the front 9 on Sunday but fell to bits on the back 9.

Two good interesting events this week with this year’s US Open venue Pebble Beach getting a warm up and the European Tour heads Down Under for a couple of weeks.

2019 pts advised = 53.50

2019 pts returned = 18pts


Pebble Beach Pro-Am

It’s back to California for the PGA Tour and one of the most scenic events of the year. It’s not for everyone though as it’s another 6 hour pro-am slog. Things could be even slower this year with some poor weather expected.

The challenge this week will be hitting a high number of greens and scrambling well when they are missed. The greens on the Pebble Beach course are some of the smaller they will face on Tour but with the amount of rain they have had in the last week holding them will be easier than usual. Pebble will probably play as close to target golf as it ever will and aggressive, accurate wedge play will be required this week. With the average winning score since 2009 being -17, it can become somewhat of a birdie-fest anyway but with slower, softer greens the winner might just scare -30 with the easy pro-am flags in play.

All three courses in play this week are short enough and without US Open style rough, driving isn’t usually too important. However with the course being so soft, driving distance may be a little more important than in a normal year. The general stats that I focus on each year at Pebble are GIR, scrambling and birdie average. Looking more closely though, the winners usually rank highly in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards and also scoring relative to par from that range. You really need a player who is capable of getting the ball close to the flag here and can make enough of the 10-20 footers to post 4 rounds in the 60s. Previous form counts for a lot in this event as does form at other short, seaside courses.

Andrew Putnam was all the rage in the first few events of the year but two events later he is out to a very backable price of 80/1. The fact he has missed both cuts here probably helped to elevate that price but I very much like his chances here given the skillset he has shown over the last 6 months. Putnam is 1st in scoring relative to par (RTP) from 100-125 yards, 7th from 125-150 yards, 19th in birdie average and 2nd in strokes gained: putting. From these stats alone Putnam should have an excellent chance but he was also on a brilliant run of form prior to last week’s missed cut and his figures dating back to his first PGA Tour win in July read; 34-2-14-17-4-29-50-16-49-78-59-1. Putnam ranks 37th in GIR and 35th in scrambling which should also be of use.

One further bonus is that he went to University in California further down the coast in L.A. Hopefully that means he is comfortable on poa annua and maybe knows the courses better than his 2 MCs suggest. The fact he has really stepped up his game this season takes the focus off those missed cuts and the world number 47 rates an excellent ew bet.

Adam Hadwin is another in form golfer whose odds have been pushed back out again following a 43rd place finish in Phoenix. The 50/1 still available seems quite high given that on his previous start he was runner-up in the Desert Classic. Hadwin has only played here once and he finished 39th but he has a very good record in California. He ranks 3rd in scoring (RTP) from 125-150 yards, 45th in birdie average and 41st in one putt percentage. These short courses with an emphasis away from power should suit him better than Scottsdale last week and he is back at a very sporting each way price.

Si-Woo Kim also ranks very highly in some of the key stats and with his talent we don’t need to think twice about backing him at 125/1. Kim is 9th in scoring (RTP) on approaches from 100-125 yards and 27th in the same category from 125-150 yards. Add in his 17th in birdie average, 7th in one putt percentage and 34th in strokes gained: putting and we can see that a potential birdie-fest at Pebble should suit him. Both his PGA Tour wins to date have come on relatively short courses where wedge play is crucial and a consistent 4 days is required with the putter. He doesn’t have the best of course form yet sandwiching a 35th with two MCs but he’s so inconsistent you never know what you’re going to get so I’m not going to read too much into that. Instead I’m going to continue to back him at dismissive prices on courses that suit just in case the real Si-Woo turns up.

A couple of small speculative plays to finish. Corey Conners isn’t someone I knew too much about until this season but he has a runner-up and a 3rd place finish already at Sanderson Farms and the Sony Open respectively. That 3rd was just two starts ago so he interests me from a value point of view but again he popped up in some key statistical areas. He sits 7th in GIR, 2nd in proximity to the hole and 10th in scoring (RTP) from 125-150 yards. He’s not the best of putters but I’m hoping the lack of bite in them might help him out. There won’t be too many firing the short irons closer so he should get plenty of chances to warm the putter up.

I tipped Freddie Jacobson here in 2016 when he went on to finish 4th at 90/1. He’s had his fair share of trouble since then, most notably thumb surgery and family illness, but he has returned for 2019 with around 15 events remaining on a medical extension. So I took notice when he opened with a 68 in Phoenix to sit inside the top 20. He would go on to make the cut and finish down in 70th but it was his first weekend golf on the PGA since April 2017. In recent years we have seen the likes of Vaughan Taylor and Ted Potter come from nowhere to win this with a brilliant putting week. If there’s one thing Jacobsen can do it is putt so he might just go well returning to an event where he has finished inside the top 10 on two of his last three starts. As a further positive he sits 20th in scoring (RTP) for approaches from 125-150 yards and 7th from under 125 yards so he should be able to score on these short courses. I’m having a small interest in the outright and also a top 20 bet with Bet 365’s favourable 20/1.


Vic Open

The PGA Tour of Australasia’s regular event the Vic Open has become a European Tour event this year so the first stop down under is at a new venue. There are two courses in play to allow for the fact there is also a Ladies’ event being played at the same time. The courses are on the famous Melbourne Sandbelt and although they are a little different both will be running hard and fast and play very much like the courses we see each year when the ET pitches up. Usually those familiar with the test go well and perhaps play better than they should. The firm nature of the courses and the undulations make many of the courses play as links courses and fact that two of Australia’s best players, Greg Norman and Adam Scott, are both links experts isn’t a coincidence. Therefore I would advise anyone having a bet to look at both links golf records and form in Australia.

It’s probably no surprise to any regular reader that I’m tipping Ryan Fox again here but there is no getting away from him after last week’s 6th place . The courses are short links style layouts that will play firm and fast. That has been the hallmark of his game over the last two European Tour summers as he has destroyed several British links courses by wielding driver on practically every par 4 and par 5 in sight. Apart from the odd occasion where he would find some serious trouble, his imaginative wedge game helped him to record birdie after birdie. It’s a game plan that will surely see him win sooner rather than later on a links course and last week he did extremely well to finish 6th despite ranking 36th for putting. A return to the southern hemisphere and a very weak field could be the perfect opportunity for Fox. His odds may look short enough but he is an immensely talented player and I think he is going places that the bulk of this field aren’t. He also has some experience of the courses having played there 3 times when coming up through the ranks. You would expect several of the young Aussie/Kiwis playing on the European Tour to really fancy their chances but he makes the most appeal to me in a tough looking betting heat.

Just the one additional bet and it’s a bit of an outsider in Aussie veteran Terry Pilkadaris. Every time the Tour heads down under we see older local players playing well as they are so used to the style of golf required in the Melbourne Sandbelt. Pilkadaris looks massively over priced here considering he finished 4th the last time he played here in 2014. He missed his last cut of the year in Indonesia and his first start of 2019 in Singapore but prior to that he recorded two top 20s in the Australian PGA and the Australian Open. On that last Aus start he ranked 4th for driving accuracy, 3rd in GIR and 6th in scrambling. His comfort levels are high on home soil and while it’s a lot to ask I think we are getting a good price here.


Summary of bets

Pebble Beach

Andrew Putnam – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Adam Hadwin – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Si-Woo Kim – 0.75pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Corey Connners – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Freddie Jacobson – 0.25pt ew @ 500/1 (1/5 odds 8 places) and 0.5pt Top 20 @ 20/1
Vic Open

Ryan Fox – 2pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Paddy Power)

Terry Pilkadaris – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places general) and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

 

Weekly points = 13

 

@theGreek82

Phoenix Open – Betting Preview

Finally some returns for the year with Scrivener’s Top 20 but it was a real shame not to have a profitable week as both Scrivener and Olesen finished in the dreaded 7th place, one shot shy of the place money. Over on the PGA Finau threatened with a place over the weekend but ultimately didn’t putt well enough for what turned into a fairly low scoring event in the end. The greens were a little slower perhaps than we have seen so barring the down hill putts, there was certainly a chance to be a little more aggressive with the putting and that didn’t suit Finau. He ranked 3rd in strokes gained: tee to green though however so he has to remain firmly on the radar.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to bother with the Saudi International or not and I fully agree with Brandel Chamblee’s stance which he shared on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive earlier this week. Ultimately though I’m quite fickle when it comes to betting! There is absolutely no chance I’d ever be going to Saudi if I was a player but whether I have a few bets on the event isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference. I don’t think I’ll be watching however and I’m not going to write much about the event itself but I have found a couple of bets below. You know it’s a strange week when Paul Casey is coming out smelling of roses for being the highest profile player to take a stand.

2019 pts advised = 39.50

2019 pts returned = 7.50


Phoenix Open

When most fans think of the Phoenix Open they think of the famous 16th hole which features the stadium seating and raucous atmosphere but golf bettors are drawn to the type of player that goes well year after year at TPC Scottsdale. Anywhere that Matsuyama has figures of 1-1-2-4 and Kyle Stanley and Hunter Mahan have won obviously doesn’t put too much emphasis on being a brilliant putter. The course isn’t too long at 7266 yards but it is just a par 71. The greens used to be solely bermuda greens until 2015 but now they are overseeded with some bentgrass. Said greens are very large and they can play quite fast as can the fairways with the desert heat baking them out as the week continues. With the large greens comes the need for aggressive iron play in order to get near the flag. The only way to do that is to find the fairway or get the ball as close to the green as possible off the tee. Last year’s 1st and 2nd backed that up nicely, Woodland ranked 8th in driving distance while Reavie ranked 10th in driving accuracy. Those who can do both of these things will be at an immediate advantage! Stats to consider include the likes of total driving, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity to the hole figures from the 150-200 yard area.

Matt Kuchar looked like the best piece of value when the markets opened at 33/1 but unfortunately most of that is gone. I still like him at 25-28 however and it’s a price that I feel reflects how unfashionable a pick he is rather than his chance of winning or placing. Kuchar has been a top 10 machine in all sorts of fields for the last 10 years but it’s entirely possible that the two wins in his last 3 events might push him on to a different level with a new-found confidence. I’ll be following him closely from now until the Masters but in the mean time I think he rates a rock solid each way bet here. His course form is pretty solid and on his last two visits he fired a 64, that was the lowest round of the week last year and was only beaten by a 63 two years ago. It tells us that he is more than comfortable around TPC Scottsdale and I’m expecting him to hold his form. Without a Phoenix Open missed cut since 2004 this looks an ideal stop for Kuch to continue his 2019 season march.

TPC Scottsdale is always a course that rewards tee to green supremacy so it would be foolish of me to give up on last week’s headline tip Tony Finau after he ranked 3rd in the field for strokes gained: tee to green at Torrey Pines. With scoring lower than usual at Torrey he got a little left behind after a poor week on the greens where he ranked 112th. The big negative however is that he has missed his last three cuts at TPC Scottsdale which is a little surprising. The course really should be ideal and if you keep hitting greens  then putting doesn’t matter too much, statistically anyway. Poor short to mid-range putters are also capable of doing well on these greens as they are straight-forward enough without too many undulations or tiers. Finau also ranks highly in some key indicators for Scottsdale, he is 13th in proximity to hole from 175-200 yards and 5th in strokes gained: tee to green for 2019. Having thrown 3 points on him last week I’ll just take him 1pt ew as a back up to Kuchar as I really can’t leave him out when that win looks so close.

Austin Cook makes his first start of the year and I think he can be confident of going well on a course where he finished 31st on his debut. He opened the Fall Series 13-41-MC-11 with the 11th including a GIR clip of 86.1% and DA of 85.7% at Sea Island. He will be full refreshed and looking forward to taking that excellent long game into the new year. Cook ranks 4th in scoring relative to par from 150-175 yards and 20th in proximity to the hole from 175-200 yards. These are key metrics for the course and make him look like an interesting each way option here.

Keith Mitchell didn’t enjoy Torrey Pines too much last week but thick rough surrounding the fairways isn’t really to this bomber’s liking. While you can still find plenty trouble off the tee at Scottsdale there is a little more leeway and fairways are considerably wider. Mitchell ranks 4th in strokes gained: tee to green for the season so far but also 4th in strokes gained: around the green. Scrambling is usually important here so that combination of power and touch will help him. Up until last week Mitchell also ranked 8th in scoring relative to par for approaches from 150-175 yards and with his power he should be in that range plenty this week. 125/1 with 8 places at Paddy Power looks a very fair bet considering he was 16th on his previous start before the MC last week.


Saudi bets

A 7000 yard course in Saudi that plays as a par 70 with 12 par 4s. Appears much like any other desert course but perhaps even better maintained. Without much to go on I think the best plan for those wanting to get involved in a rather controversial event is to follow the recent desert form and perhaps bet without the world number 1, 2, 3 and 5!

Aaron Rai looks capable of contending here on a course measuring only 7000 yards (if The European Tour scorecard is to be believed). Rai has already won in Kenya and Hong Kong in his short career so he is obviously comfortable playing around the world. Rai’s tee-to-green game is still in great shape and his 29th last week came with a ranking of 9th in driving accuracy and 12th in GIR. These back up his figures from last season where he finished 21st in strokes gained: off the tee and 7th in GIR. Rai is also a very strong putter and was 21st in strokes gained: putting last year. It’s a bit of a guessing game in Saudi this week and with 4 rock solid favourites at the head of the market I think Betfair’s 80/1 with out Rose, Dechambeau, Koepka and Dustin Johnson could be a nice alternative. He should be primed after his season opener last week and is a player who I expect to push on in 2019 especially on the shorter courses.

Romain Langasque is slowly becoming a very fine desert golf exponent on Tour and with the similarities between that and links golf we perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised. Langasque won the Amateur Championship in 2015 around Carnoustie and he has shown an affinity for both types of golf on the Challenge Tour. The week before his first professional win in France in September he was 5th in Kazakhstan and he held his form after that win too. He recorded a 4th place in U.A.E in the Challenge Tour’s Grand Final before closing the season 23-2-15 in the South Africa swing. His 20th place in Dubai last week was a good first outing of the year and also kept up his remarkable desert figures in which he hasn’t missed a cut on either Tour. He will enjoy the 12 par 4s on the course  as he sits 7th in par 4 scoring so far in the 2019 season. I think the way to back him this week is in the Top 20 market although I wouldn’t put anyone off the “without favourites market” either.

Final bet is another player who performed brilliantly in the Middle East on the Challenge Tour and suggested so far in January that he is going to continue in that vein on the main Tour. Adria Arnaus won the Grand Final last year in Ras Al Khaimah which followed on from a 9th in Kazakhstan in September. He then started 2019 with a 22nd in Abu Dhabi and a 29th last week in Dubai. Like many Spaniards he loves playing in these warm conditions and I like the idea of backing him to improve a little and land a top 20. The elite field might just put him off his game but at 11/2 it still rates a decent bet.


Summary of bets

Phoenix Open

Matt Kuchar – 1.75pt ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Paddy Power)

Tony Finau – 1pt ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 8 places PP)

Austin Cook – 0.75pt ew @ 90/1 (1/5 odds 8 places PP)

Keith Mitchell – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places PP)

Saudi International

Aaron Rai – 1pt ew @ 80/1 w/o Rose, Bryson, Koepka and DJ (1/4 odds 5 places) and 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Romain Langasque – 2pts Top 20 @ 10/3

Adria Arnaus – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

 

Weekly points advised = 14pts

 

@theGreek82

Farmers Insurance Open and Dubai Desert Classic – Betting Preview

It was a fairly rubbish week but yet we still had Thomas Pieters on the leaderboard going in to the final round with a chance to save us with some returns. Unfortunately he played like we know he can with wild errors thrown in at exactly the wrong time. He even managed to bogey 3 of the last 5 holes to fall out of the places.

That leaves the blog chasing its tail a little with no returns but as always one week can turn that around and there are two excellent events this week as the 2019 season really begins to take shape with two very deep fields.

2019 pts advised = 23.50pts

2019 pts returned = 0pts


Farmers Insurance Open

Torrey Pines is a long, championship course so obviously a strong tee-to-green game is going to be of use with plenty of trees and lush rough. However year after year it is the challenge of the greens that separates the field, especially over the weekend as they firm up and play the final two rounds on the demanding South course. The greens are very small, well protected and they are also surrounded by thick green rough with very little graduation at all from the green. To make matters worse the greens are also very hard and fast, more so over the weekend. This puts an emphasis on brilliant approach play and scrambling. Torrey always has some of the lower GIR numbers for the field with the last 5 events having a field average of 62% of greens hit. The South Course stands at a massive 7700 yards long so the more specific GIR numbers from 200 yards plus are also worth a look.

With Jason Day and Tiger Woods both multiple winners that tells us that finding fairways isn’t perhaps the be-all-and-end-all here. Indeed if we look at the last 5 winners here they averaged just 40th for driving accuracy. While the numbers for GIR are certainly better, the same 5 winners averaged 13th, it is probably scrambling that is the most important indicator with the last 5 winners also averaging 13th for the week in that department. When the wind blows on the this exposed layout this becomes even more vital with the small greens even harder to hit. Currently the forecast doesn’t look particularly windy however.

Many of these early season events see lots of PGA Tour rookies win or contend and that is down to a combination of some straight-forward courses and the elite players often taking an extended break. That all changes here at Torrey Pines though as experience is crucial at the course and with scoring a lot tougher we don’t often see too many 300/1 debutants on the leaderboard. Repeat winners are a regular occurrence here with Tiger Woods having famously won this event 7 times as well as a U.S. Open here while Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker are both dual winners in the last 7 years.

Despite knowing the sort of player that will prevail, it doesn’t make it any easier to find the winner. Scrambling figures are in their infancy this year but are worth a look at together with last year’s numbers. Or even better you can look at Tour Tips stats for free throughout January and they will show you stats over the last 3 months giving perhaps a better idea of where different parts of people’s games might be. The PGA Tour website’s stats pages have two important categories for the week; approach proximity over 200 yards and GIR from over 200 yards. A quick look at both these in any season often show up those who perform best on long, championship courses.

You hear people say “they did everything but win” quite a lot and often with varying degrees of accuracy. In 2018 Tony Finau really did do everything but win and usually without doing too much wrong either. No event more so than in Shanghai in October when he went toe-toe with Xander Schauffele down the stretch only to lose to a birdie at the first play-off hole. He would again finish second on his last start of the year in the Bahamas when only Jon Rahm got the better of him. A win for Finau would have capped a superb year that was arguably the most consistent on Tour. He posted five runner-up finishes, 13 top 10s (with 3 of those in majors) and finished 7th on the money list while also earning 2 points on his Ryder Cup debut. In fact his $5.6m haul is the second highest total in history for a player without winning an event. While the win never came it might actually have a positive effect in the early stages of 2019 as his hunger for that 2nd win will still be present. A tough championship style layout is exactly what this elite tee-to-green player needs and that has been apparent in his four starts to date. He has finished 6th-4th-18th-24th here and the only negative about backing him here is that its his first start of the year.

Stats wise he was 21st in GIR from 200 yards+ and 23rd for approach proximity 200 yards+ in 2018 while he currently ranks 4th in scrambling over the last 3 months. That isn’t always a positive with his game and might be that extra little improvement needed to get him over the line.

Kyle Stanley famously threw this event away in 2012 when giving up both a six shot 3rd round lead and a 3 shot lead standing on the 18th tee. He would amazingly rally the next week to get his 1st PGA Tour win at TPC Scottsdale but despite his reliable tee-to-green game he took 5 years to get his 2nd win. That came in the summer of 2017 and he has looked a far better player in the 18 months since.

This season so far he ranks 1st in GIR from approaches over 200 yards and 4th in proximity to hole from the same range. He also sits 5th in scrambling and these suggest he is primed for another go at Torrey Pines where he has made his last 4 cuts. With scoring difficult his often suspect putting shouldn’t matter too much as birdies will be a lot harder to come by than so far this season. I’m expecting a strong week so will double up with a top 20 bet.

CT Pan was 2nd here two years ago and is another whose strength is his long iron game which is handy as he isn’t the longest off the tee. He currently sits 7th in GIR for approaches over 200 yards and last season he ranked 6th. He was 51st last week but that birdie fest wouldn’t have suited him too much. His odds of 80/1 aren’t massive but they perhaps tell the story of how close he looked to winning last season on Tour. He bagged his 2nd runner-up finish as well as a 4th place at the Dell Technologies play-off event. Probably worth supporting here again.

Sean O’Hair has the all-important mix of a strong long iron game and a good touch around the green so I’m not too sure why he has such an awful record here at Torrey Pines. He came 9th last week where he ranked 11th in ball-striking and I’m hoping he can go well at a huge price.


Dubai Desert Classic

With the exception of 1999 and 2000 every other edition of this event has been hosted at the Emirates Golf Club on the Majlis course. In all that time it has been both a bomber’s and ball striker’s dream with wide open sight lines off the tee, typical of a desert course. With heavily contoured, fast greens it ultimately turns into a battle of approaches where only those with the most dialled in irons will be able to contend. With fast greens and many different tiers, an imaginative short game also helps with lots of difficult up and downs. I’ve seen some talk this year of the fairways being harder and faster this year having not been over-seeded. This will probably put a little bit more of an emphasis on control of the ball off the tee however driving distance will still be crucial. Long and accurate drivers should prosper.

Jordan Smith has become rather consistent on ball-strikers courses but he tends to finish around 14th without threatening the leaderboard. I’m hoping things will be different this week having warmed up nicely with rounds of 72-66-70-70 for 11th place last week in Abu Dhabi and he ranked 4th in the all-round. He is someone who always ranks highly in total driving particularly in the desert and he ranked 1st in that department at the Dubai World Championship. That was during a run of 10 made cuts to close the year with the last time he sat out the weekend being the US PGA. So last week was just a continuation of really solid performances and I’m hoping he will peak in Dubai. Both his Challenge Tour wins were in the desert with them coming in Egypt and the U.A.E. The Al Hamra Golf Club in U.A.E in particular resembles this course with undulating, exposed fairways. He has been cut to 45/1 but I still think that is a nice each way price given how consistently he has been playing. Hopefully some readers picked up a better price in the week when I tweeted on Monday.

Jason Scrivener was 16th last week and he ranked 1st in driving accuracy and 10th in GIR. The harder and faster the conditions the happier Scrivener is so if the fairways do play as suggested he won’t be phased at all. These slick, grainy desert greens are ideal for him too as he grew up playing on similar back home in Australia. He is also an excellent scrambler I’m expecting a big week from one of my favourite outsiders. Scrivener can hold his form quite well once he is playing well so I’m going to include a Top 20 bet here in case the field ends up being a little too deep for him to worry the leaderboard. He was 6th here last year which confirms the theory and while he is proving to be popular this week I still think the 80/1 is fair.

I’ve looked long and hard at the head of the market to find a potentially more solid selection and there isn’t that much to like at the prices. I really wanted to include Rafa Cabrera-Bello as the 2012 winner absolutely loves it here. Unfortunately he is just too short as a single option at 18/1 given how seldom he wins. Thorbjorn Olesen always makes appeal in the desert though and he is probably a shade of value at 40/1. He is far more prolific than RCB and his course form reads 29-32-8-MC-5-3-42-MC. Last week will have blown the cobwebs off and if it has he should get back to the form he showed in the 2nd half of 2018 which was excellent. I’m going to add him as a bit of a saver from the head of the market similarly to how I backed Pieters last week. Hopefully he can have a better Sunday!


Summary of bets

Farmers

Tony Finau – 1.5pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Kyle Stanley – 0.75pt ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Skybet) and 2pts Top 20 @ 7/2

CT Pan – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 8 places PP)

Sean O’Hair – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Dubai Desert Classic

Jordon Smith – 0.75pt ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 6 places general)

Jason Scrivener – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet) and 2pts Top 20 @ 11/4

Thorbjorn Olesen – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly points = 16pts

 

@theGreek82

Desert Classic and Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – Betting preview

Spieth missed the cut last week and I knew it was a risk although his 2nd round 66 suggested that may have found something along the way. It was a value bet though if nothing else and I’ll always struggle not to back him at such a price in what proved to be a very weak field indeed. Thompson fared a lot better and actually found himself up as high as 4th during his front 9 on Friday. As is the norm though when backing him he slowly forgot how to play golf and had a stinker over the weekend.

The European Tour returns this week in Abu Dhabi while the PGA Tour heads to the West coast to begin its California swing.


Desert Classic

It’s yet another name change for what was named the CareerBuilder Challenge last year and we now have the Desert Classic which isn’t to be confused with next week’s European Tour event the Dubai Desert Classic. While the name has changed the courses remain the same 3 that have been in play since the 2016 renewal; PGA West Stadium, PGA West and La Quinta.

The event is a pro-am format where everyone plays each course once before a cut takes place prior to a final round at PGA West Stadium. It’s a Pete Dye designed course and is the toughest of the 3 although still fairly low scoring. It’s very much a birdie fest each year with conditions rather soft and easy for the amateurs in the field. Various different types of players have found success here as the short nature of the courses means that everyone can compete. Due to that competitive nature we see a lot of unfashionable plodder types take part as they know they can contend with a good putting week.

It’s pretty much that simple, keep the ball in play and then attack as many flags as possible. Classic PGA Tour target golf stuff. The winning score is always in excess of -20 so anyone looking to contend will have to make a whole load of birdies.

I have backed Jamie Lovemark a couple of times here and I like his price of 125/1 having put him up at just 35/1 two years ago. Despite his often erratic driving there is something I like about him on short Pete Dye courses as they face here for two rounds. He was 6th here on his only visit with the current course rotation. On his second visit to Dye’s Sawgrass he finished 17th but closed 67-68-67 having opened with a 76. Lovemark was also runner-up  with team-mate Benny An around Dye’s TPC Louisiana in 2016. He had 5 top 20s last season with 3 of those coming on Pete Dye layouts. His iron play is generally better the more loft that he has and with his power off the tee he should be attacking most of these easy pro-am flags. He has looked like a future winner the last couple of seasons  and while he missed the cut last week I’m not overly concerned as his 17th at the Players also followed a MC so he can find his form quickly. The Hawaii missed cut was his first start since November and it means we get a very nice each way price.

Pat Perez used to be a golfer I didn’t take too seriously until he won a couple of times within a year in 2016/2017. I started paying more attention to him on shorter courses and it was very interesting to see him contend for a couple of rounds at Carnoustie last summer. I remember listening to post round interview in which he said he loved the set up as the baked fairways meant he could get the ball out there and was hitting a lot of wedges which suits his game. He also noted how the slower greens suited him as he felt he was a confident putter when he could give the ball a run at the hole. So I immediately noted him down for events like this, not even realising that he is a former event winner. He is also a runner-up at TPC Louisiana and has a top 20 at Sawgrass. The easy flags and slower greens in play here for the amateurs will be ideal for Perez as will the fact that the 3 courses are fairly short par 72s. Perez is also coming off a missed cut in Hawaii so again we get a very solid each way price of 80/1.

Charley Hoffman fits a similar mould to Perez but he is probably an even better player. Hoffman has a solid record in this event too and is also a former winner back in 2007. It hasn’t taken the bookies too long to forget how solid a player Hoffman is these days and I think he has to be backed at the 100-125/1 that is available. He has finished in the top 22 of 6 of the last 8 majors and has really taken his game to a new consistent level in that time. Things tailed off for him a little after the Open last year but he has had a decent break and will enjoy getting back to his native California. In fact the desert event is pretty much halfway between where he lives now and San Diego where he was born. Few will be as comfortable in this environment so lets just hope he has been working hard over the last 2 weeks and if he has he can make his price look very silly.


Abu Dhabi

The European Tour returns after it’s winter break and the first stop is the starting point of the Middle East Swing in Abu Dhabi. Normally we have three great events in a row from the area with form usually tying in nicely across all three. But this year the Qatar Masters has been moved back to March so it’s just the two in a row which doesn’t feel too much like a swing. The first point to note is that it’s a Wednesday start this week so that gives us one less day to prepare.

The Abu Dhabi Championship has been a staple on the Tour since 2006 and is always held at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, giving us plenty form to look at. It is form very much worth looking at too as 3 men account for 7 of the 13 events to date and the same names crop up on the leaderboard year after year. Tommy Fleetwood returns looking for a three-peat having won here in 2017 and 2018. The fairways are wide with plenty of water in play but generally the rough is playable, certainly for the longer hitters and that gives them a bit of an advantage on a course that already measures 7600 yards. Only the truly errant who find the water off the tee are punished and it sets up very much as a 2nd shot course. The layout is also quite exposed which sets up well for an attacking game and unless the wind blows we can expect the winning score to be somewhere around -20.

Statistically GIR has always been the best pointer in with the last 4 winners having an average GIR ranking for their win of just 6th. Unexpectedly they all scored highly in driving accuracy too averaging 7th. So while finding the fairway isn’t imperative it clearly helps to be playing from the fairways if you want to get close enough to the flag to make the required number of birdies.

The field is as strong as we have seen for some time on the European Tour with the event having been added to the Rolex Series this year. Dustin Johnson is in town as the 7/1 favourite and while he is suited to the event he doesn’t make too much appeal to me. With many of the players returning from their festive break the same can be said about most of the market leaders. With so much guesswork to do I’m far happier going after the juicier each way prices this week and with so many of the Tour’s big names playing there are plenty of those.

Big things have been expected from Thomas Detry for some time and having won the World Cup in November with Thomas Pieters I think the confidence gained from that will bring about his first European Tour title in 2019. There is no question that he is at his best on links style layouts as his excellent short game comes to the fore around hard, fast and undulating green complexes. If he can hold his form over I think this looks like the perfect place for Detry to get off the mark. He was 9th here last year on his debut with the highlight being a Saturday 64. The young Belgian has exactly the right combination of strong iron play and a silky touch that prospers in Abu Dhabi. This was evident throughout 2018 as he ranked 27th in GIR, 19th in strokes gained: putting and 28th in scrambling. With him having played so well in that World Cup win alongside Pieters I was a little surprised that he opened as big as 50/1. Hopefully readers took that after I tweeted on Monday but there is still a little bit around although 40/1 is probably still ok.

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of both Erik Van Rooyen and Ryan Fox and I’m determined not to miss out when they do get their win. I’m in profit on both however as generally the market misses them most of the time. Abu Dhabi Golf Club should very much suit them both.

Ryan Fox has played here twice and finished 19th on his debut in 2017 before a 31st last year. Fox’s game is all about hitting greens and he ranked 10th for GIR on Tour last year. That meant that more often than not when playing on a links style course he contended. The relatively wide fairways and lack of trees will help Fox off the tee as he tends to relax when he has an open view in front of him on the tee-box. If his putter behaves I’m hopeful he can improve on his two finishes to date.

Erik Van Rooyen makes his debut here this week but that didn’t stop him recording Top 10s at numerous venues last season in his rookie year. In fact it’s a season that the bookies seem to have ignored by pricing him up at 110/1 here. There haven’t been too many more consistent debut seasons in Europe in recent times which saw him finish 22nd in stroke average and 38th on the Race To Dubai. He also ranked 12th in GIR and I think he will take to this ball-strikers course. He showed his enjoyment of links golf when he contended for 3 rounds at Carnoustie last summer and with the emphasis here on approaches the South African will surely be relishing a test that also includes grainy greens similar to back home. Looks an excellent each way price.

I wasn’t sure whether to back Thomas Pieters as you never really know what you’re going to get with him. But his form figures here are excellent and there is every chance that his World Cup win has had a good effect on him as well as Detry. The 25/1 looks very fair and I’ll throw him in as a bit of a saver from the front of the market.

 

Summary of bets

Desert Classic

Jamie Lovemark – 0.75pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Pat Perez – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Charley Hoffman – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Skybet)

Abu Dhabi Championship

Thomas Detry – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Unibet/888)

Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet)

Erik Van Rooyen – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet)

Thomas Pieters – 1pt ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Paddy Power)

 

Weekly points = 11.5pts

@theGreek82

Sony Open – Some bets

Patrick Reed had a stinker last week but I didn’t really see enough to know why. Judging by the scorecard just too many mistakes as he made a lot of bogeys across the 4 days. No regrets with the bet though as he opened at a proper stand out price, even if the 16/1 he went off was about right.

I might try and start posting blog bets on Twitter as I’m unlikely to manage to get a preview up before Tuesday nights. Although the main thing is people getting the odds rather than the price that I’m recording.

The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii this week with the Sony Open from Waialae GC. The test is an altogether different one even if there have been plenty players to hold their form during the Hawaii fortnight.

The one I can’t get away from is Jordan Spieth at 18/1 in this field. I expect a big 2019 from him and surely at some point he gets back into his groove on the putting green. At this time of year it can be a bit of a guessing game anyway. Therefore I’m happy to assume he has been working hard over the festive period after his first disappointing year on Tour. If he has then I think we are at least getting some potential value, if that makes any sense whatsoever! If he has been grinding hard and starts well then the bookies won’t take long to remember how good he is and he will be appropriately cut like the 3-time major winner he is. Spieth has played here 3 times with a missed cut in 2014 preceding a 3rd and an 18th the last 2 years. On both the most recent efforts he led the field in GIR. It’s not hard for me to imagine him flying out of the blocks with a good putting week. If he can marry those together then at just 7000 yards this is a course that suits Spieth down to the ground.

With Reed performing so poorly last week I’m going to take an outisder as well incase Spieth blows out.

Something seems to have gone wrong with my WordPress account and not really sure what. It’s removed a lot of text and maybe reverted back to a previous draft. The second bet was Michael Thompson ew at 350/1 and also 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2. I had lots of great reasoning I’m sure but not going to type it out again!


Summary of bets

Sony Open

Jordan Spieth 2pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Michael Thompson – 0.5pt ew @ 350/1 (1/5 odds 6 places) and 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

 

Weekly pts = 6pts

@theGreek82

Alfred Dunhill Championship and Indonesian Masters – A few bets

A poor week last week with almost everyone proving a disappointment. Van Zyl again played well in spells but Champ and Kisner had an absolute shocker in the Shootout. Stakes were returned on Van Rooyen as he withdrew before the first tee on Thursday morning.

I was going to leave it this week as I was low on time but then I noticed that the blog was back in the negative by 5pts for 2018. So while I haven’t managed a full preview for either event, I have a couple of bets in a (desperate!?) attempt to get back in to the black for the year.

2018 pts advised =- 500.50

2018 pts returned = 495.74

ROI = -0.95%


Alfred Dunhill Championship

Louis and Charl head the betting here after winning and finishing 3rd last week respectively. Seems perfectly fair and I’d expect one of them to win, with preference probably for Schwartzel given his unrivalled course form (3 wins and several other top 10s). I think Louis will probably have peaked last week and having finally won the South African Open I’m sure he will be on auto-pilot this week. The reverse forecast is more than likely to give you a run through the weekend though and he played some excellent golf last week and they are a class above here.

David Drysdale looks a little over priced here given his course form. His results at Leopard Creek read 11-8-6-11-25-mc-8-mc-29-28-25. He withdrew last week after an opening 73 on the easy layout and then a double bogey on the 3rd hole of his 2nd round. I can’t find any information on his injury so I’m going to assume he was just saving himself for Leopard Creek. I’ll have a very small play each way on the outright as we know he has struggled to win his whole career. I’m also going to have a bet on a Top 20 finish, something that he has managed on his last 4 visits. I’m staking this with a view to finishing the year in profit should he oblige.


Indonesian Masters

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson should really have this covered between them given the drop in class to the next best player. I did consider backing them both combined at 2.1 but there are probably just about enough young, unexposed talents in the field to put me off. I’d expect it to give you a run for your money all week at the absolute worst but I’m not going to put it up given it’s such a short price. I’m surprised it’s not odds on to be honest but the unknown potential in the field maybe make it just about right.

Instead I’m going to have a rock-solid each way double on Rose and Schwartzel. Rose has won on his only appearance at the course and Schwartzel has placed 9 times from 14 at Leopard Creek. If they both place then we still double our money taking 1/4 odds and 5 places with the best prices, 7/4 and 15/2 respectively. The win portion is 179/8 or 23.38 decimal.

Happy holidays to all readers and I’ll be back for the Tournament of Champions in the New Year. Hopefully we can find an early Christmas present in the meantime…..come on David!


Summary of bets

Alfred Dunhill Championship

David Drysdale – 0.5pts ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

David Drysdale – 3pts Top 20 @ 7/2

Other bets

Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel – 2pts ew double @ 4.13 place and 23.38 win

(bet365)

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

 

@theGreek82