I suppose it was to be expected that I would have a poor week after the previous week but after day 1 there was still a small part of me that thought Brandt Snedeker and Erik Van Rooyen were both going to hose up. That didn’t last long though as Snedeker missed the cut and EVR played worse as the week wore on. None of the other picks fared too much better though so there were no returns for the week. We move on to two excellent events this week and two good betting heats where there is a lot of historical form to pour over.
2018 pts advised = 210
2018 pts returned = 296.11
ROI = 41%
Fort Worth Invitational
Now under another sponsor name change this event is more commonly just refered to as “Colonial” and it returns there yet again as Colonial Country Club has hosted since the first event back in 1946. It is a tree-lined, classical par 70 and remains one of the few regular stops on the PGA Tour that can’t be over-powered. Fairways need to be found as there are so many dog-legs that approach shots can be blocked out unless plotting around the course off the tee. But it is really a second shot course and the list of winners includes some of the best wedge players we have seen over the last 15 years. The key to Colonial is getting the ball as close to the hole as possible on as many holes as possible. The birdie count is usually high with the 3 of the last 5 winners topping the field in birdie numbers.
The formula is quite simple, you need a tactical player who keeps the ball in play and is very accurate with their short irons. They also need to be capable putters from the 10ft-25ft range as that is what everyone should be facing here. Even Boo Weekly and Adam Scott putted well when they won. Stats like scoring relative to par on approaches from 100-125 yards and 125-150 yards will be good indicators this week as well as the more general strokes gained: approach to the green. In terms of putting then one putt percentage and putting 10ft-25ft are worth looking at while scoring wise, par 4 scoring and birdie average are always key at Colonial.
While Colonial is probably a little too tight to suggest that it is perfect for Jordan Spieth, from the fairway onwards it certainly is. With it being a shorter, classical course he finds himself hitting more short irons than on many of the longer championship courses and that is music to Spieth fans’ ears. His putting has made the headlines on more than one occasion this year as he has struggled a little but I wrote ahead of the Masters how much that was over played. He had been putting most of the year on poa or bermuda and to see the best of Spieth’s putting he usually needs to be on bent grass greens. He putted very well at Augusta and not too badly at The Players before struggling on the massive greens last week. Back on bent grass this week his wedge game will give him enough looks that the putter will be forced to heat up. Spieth is 7th in strokes gained: approaches and that is good enough for third in this field. His last 3 appearances at Colonial read 2-1-2 and yet we can get around 9.4 on him in a field where the next two favourites aren’t even major-winners. He looks very close to winning again and I think the price makes him very backable here.
Along with many others I really liked Zach Johnson for The Masters this year and there were a few more that also liked him for The Players. He performed quite poorly to let a lot of punters down on both occasions but his stats for this year just scream that he is ready to win again on the PGA Tour. Zach is 18th in strokes gained: approaches, 6th in scoring relative to par from 125-150 yards and 17th in par 4 scoring. All of those suggest is game is in perfect shape for Colonial he just needs the putter to warm up. But he has averaged 28.5 putts per round at the course so I’m convinced the familiar greens will have him holing his normally very high share of 15ft putts and if he does then he will have yet another good week in Texas. He has only missed three cuts on the PGA Tour in The Lone Star State in his career. Throw in 4 wins and another 4 top 5s and it becomes clear that Zach has his price in the State and 40/1 looks to be too good to pass up.
I backed Kevin Na here two years ago and I’m still convinced that he can win here, if he ever does manage to win again that is! His last win was way back in 2011 but he remains a player to follow each way in excess of 40/1 given how often he places at courses that he likes when he is playing well. Last week’s course shouldn’t really have suited him but he just got on with it and continued to do the things he does so well, keep the ball in play, hit his short to mid-irons close and scramble well when he doesn’t. In fact Na ranked 4th for GIR, 6th in scrambling and 17th in total putting last week. A repeat of that will see him contend again on a course where he has returned two top 10s and only missed the cut once.
BMW PGA Championship
The European Tour’s flagship event takes its customary place in the last weekend of May and while last week’s event was quite interesting, the Tour is in much need of an elite field event with a run of low quality stuff over the last few months. While we don’t quite have all the Ryder Cup stars assembled this is about as good as we will see on European soil barring the open and as always it represents a pretty good betting heat. It is held at Wentworth every year so we have plenty of form to look at and over the years that has allowed us to build a fairly clear picture of what is required to win this week.
Every year the winner pounds the greens here and they aren’t the easiest of greens to hit as they are well protected by bunkers and water, so anyone looking to contend will need to have their approach game very finely honed coming in. The greens are slick too with lots of quirky little run-offs like we see at Augusta and when greens are missed a good touch and imagination will be needed. Being tree-lined, a certain amount of care is required off the tee but if Luke Donald can win twice here it is clearly a second shot course even if some of the tighter tee-shots will catch the player’s attention. When the wind blows at Wentworth experience of the course tends to be crucial as the wind whistles around the trees and those who don’t know how it behaves can often struggle for distance control. The flag may be still yet 60ft in the air the wind can be whistling away at 15mph. It is no coincidence excellent wind players like Jimenez and Lowry have such a good record in the event. While there are plenty of additional stats to look at, historically a simple combination of GIR and scrambling is a very good starting point.
I came across an additional course link this year that makes Benjamin Hebert look a great bet at 125/1 this week. Alexander Noren and Benny An both won the Rolex Trophy at Golf Club de Geneve so I started having a closer look at that event. Further to those two Marc Warren has won there and he has an excellent Wentworth record, Julien Quesne won there in 2010 and has a 4th and 8th at Wentworth while 2013 PGA Champ Manassero was runner-up in Geneva in 2010. I really liked Hebert for this anyway after making the final last week in Belgium but this potential link made him a stronger selection. We saw how well Lorenzo Vera and Lagergren played after a positive showing in the GolfSixes and Hebert should get a similar boost. That course in Geneva is a tree-lined parkland course with water running through it and it was designed by Robert Trent Jones who is responsible for Firestone and Valderrama which are another two solid gauges for Wentworth. Hebert has the long and accurate tee-to-green game required these days at Wentworth and while he has a missed cut and a 58th here they sandwiched a 12th position from 2016. Looks a little over priced and makes a lot of appeal as an each way bet at 125/1 with Skybet’s 8 places.
Tyrrell Hatton has been struggling of late on the PGA Tour but a drop in grade here to the European Tour should result in a continuation of his excellent form prior to taking up his PGA Tour card. His results at this level read 3-15-8-19-16-1-1-8-3 since his slump last summer and having backed him for this last year at 25/1 I don’t think I can leave him out at 33/1. The case is that simple for me, he looks priced up on his slow start to the year in vastly superior fields. He is one of the best players on the European Tour and his 7th place finish in 2016 tells me that he can play the course. His accurate driving and brilliant short game should mean a decent week with the irons will see him go close.
Erik Van Rooyen is becoming my cliff player but I need to remember how things paid off with Lagergren. There isn’t much more to say on top of last week to be honest. There aren’t many in the field with a better tee-to-green game than the young South African so at a ball-striking test like Wentworth I think 150/1 looks huge even if it is his debut at the course. He only lost last week to inspired eventual winner Otaegui and as long as he scrambles ok on the few occasions he does miss the greens I would expect him to outplay his price again. Quite whether he can make the top 8 on his debut I don’t know but he definitely looks a value price to do so.
Matthew Southgate has missed both his cuts here and he normally prefers an open links layout but we have seen many Open winners thrive at Wentworth so I think he might improve for his 3rd look. Southgate played well last week to make it to the last 16 and I’m hoping that can give him a boost similar to Hebert. That course last week was tree-lined and he was 18th at Woburn in 2015. He has shown he has the talent and he could be set for a big summer of golf now he is close to full fitness again. Looks over priced at 200/1 but instead I’m going to have a more realistic top 20 bet at a huge 10/1.
Lee Westwood should really have won this event a couple of times in his pomp, none more so that when he spun his wedge back into the water in a play-off against Ryder Cup buddy Luke Donald. Very few players know the course better than Westwood who is playing in his 29th event at the course and the last time his name wasn’t in the field for the PGA was 1993! I’m not sure that I quite want to back him each way but looking at even the last 3 years here something struck me as quite interesting. Last year he ranked 1st in scrambling, in 2016 he ranked 1st in GIR and in 2015 he ranked 3rd in total putting. He will know that his Ryder Cup campaign has to start here this week with the additional weighting given to the summer tournaments. If he can even begin to put those 3 attributes together then he looks nailed on for another top 20. He has finished inside the top 20 here on 14 of his 28 events at Wentworth, winning the Volvo Match Play once. Looking at just this event he is 10 from 24 inside the Top 20 including the last two years. Obviously his powers are on the wane but another Top 20 looks very manageable and I’m having a confident bet on him doing so at 10/3.
Others who were very close to making the team were Martin Kaymer and Pablo Larrazabal but I struggle to get them right so while they look to be big prices I’ll just keep an eye on them in-play instead.
Summary of bets
Jordan Spieth – 3pts win @ 9.4 (Betfair Exchange)
Zach Johnson – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)
Kevin Na – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)
Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 30/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)
Benjamin Hebert – 1pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)
Erik van Rooyen – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)
Matthew Southgate – 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Lee Westwood – 3pts Top 20 @ 10/3 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Weekly pts advised = 15pts
Total 2018 pts advised = 225pts