Fort Worth Invitational and BMW PGA Championship – Betting Preview

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.

spieth-colonial-win

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.

westwood

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

Forth Worth

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)

BMW PGA

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

@theGreek82

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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

The Wells Fargo Championsip and GolfSixes – Betting Preview

It was a poor week for the bets with nobody getting in contention and the fact that Alexander Bjork won the China Open made things even worse for me. Having followed him closely throughout his European Tour career I looked at him in detail last week but felt that his price had maybe gone by Tuesday afternoon. Not as annoying as missing Paisley earlier in the year though and we can’t back every player we like every week! But it did further highlight one of the most contentious subjects in golf betting though and that is “value”. Many shrewd professional sports bettors will never place a bet unless they perceive it to be value yet we see Jeremy Chapman churn out an impressive profit every week in the Racing Post, often making his selections blind before any prices come out and never worrying whether his players might be too short. I suppose for regular golf punters the answer lies somewhere in the middle and perhaps when the field is of lower strength there should be more flexibility given to what we think is value. This is very subjective however but I’m certainly regretting not tipping Bjork at 40/1 regardless of whether it was the right thing to do or not! But value and hindsight would make strange bedfellows in the sports betting game and in truth they should seldom be considered in the same thought process. So I’ll just forget about it, tell myself I made a shrewd judgement and move on to this week!

2018 pts advised = 177.50

2018 pts returned = 215.44pts

ROI = 21.37%


Wells Fargo

After a one year hiatus to allow the course to be set-up for last year’s US PGA Championship, the Wells Fargo returns to Quail Hollow this week which has been home since 2003. There is lots of form to look at although consideration must be given to the changes made ahead of last year, trees were removed, four holes were completely changed and new champion bermuda greens were laid. It’s hard to imagine that the feel of the whole course changed too much so consideration should be given to both last year’s PGA and historical Quail Hollow data. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Quail is still a ball-strikers course and it had long played like a championship course even before hosting the PGA last year. It rewarded long, accurate driving while approach shots were difficult with Thomas only hitting 63% on his way to winning.

However with bermuda greens added, last year’s PGA leaderboard included some bermuda experts but it’s hard to tell how much emphasis to put on that. It is interesting however that at that time, Thomas, Kisner, Reed, Molinari and DeLaet were all posting their best career major finishes to date. None of them had fantastic records at Quail Hollow or in major championships so the greens changing to their preferred surface together with a good ball-striking test looked like the ideal set-up for them. That is certainly the approach I’m taking this week. Neither Molinari or Matsuyama could be considered to be good putters but they ranked 8th and 7th respectively for putting at the PGA.

It’s foolish of me to assume that things are going to pan out as they did in August at the PGA but there are enough factors in play for me to pick two of those protagonists on value alone here. Patrick Reed finished runner-up at the US PGA long before he was seen donning the green jacket and perhaps that should have been a pointer that he was maybe getting to grips with playing majors. That would have no doubt given him plenty of confidence heading into the Masters and he finds himself arriving back at Quail Hollow on the crest of a wave and it’s difficult to know how he will play after that life changing event. But I’m backing him on price alone here as it’s my opinion that a player who finished 2nd at the course last time out and who won the Masters on their last start should be 3rd favourite here. Whatever factors are in play I struggle to see how there are 3 more likely winners this week. While Reed is possibly shorter than he might have been without winning the Masters I still don’t see how he is bigger than Fowler and I’m one of Fowler’s biggest fans. Lets not forget he was the one who got it done on Sunday and McIlroy had a shocker yet McIlroy’s price doesn’t seem to factor in that Sunday or indeed his struggles prior to his Bay Hill win. Again this is highly subjective but I would have Justin Thomas as favourite, McIlroy 2nd, Reed 3rd and Fowler 4th. Nothing that I have seen about Patrick Reed suggests that he is going to be less likely to win his next start because he won a Masters and if we think back to some of the fancy prices that Thomas was going off prior to being accepted as one of the best players around, there is scope for that here with Reed. I don’t know if he will ever become that prolific but if the Masters has announced him at the top table then 22/1 might just look a little silly in 2 months time. That’s certainly the view I’m taking and going to have a confident play on value alone.

After a slow start to the season Kevin Kisner has been playing brilliantly the last month and while this isn’t a Pete Dye course like he has been enjoying lately, it is on his preferred bermuda greens. Kisner led all the way to the 63rd hole of the U.S. PGA and in the end his lack of experience contending in majors probably did for him. But it more than suggested how suited he is to Quail Hollow in its new guise and with current form figures of 2-28-27-15 he looks far too big a price here even with a strong head of the market. There is still some 50/1 around with a few firms and that rates a very solid each way bet.

Sean O’Hair was 2nd on his last solo start at the Texas Open and he ranked 1st in ball-striking. That’s what led me to pick him and Walker last week but they never really got properly into contention. I’m giving O’Hair another chance this week though as a former winner at Quail Hollow and his last two Wells Fargo attempts have produced a 35th and a 20th. He also played well at the US PGA finishing 33rd and he ranked 4th for GIR. He didn’t quite get to grips with the new greens though and to be honest I have no real reason to think that will be different this time around as most of his winning has been on bentgrass greens. But he is playing well and is worth an each way go at 100/1.


GolfSixes

It’s the European Tour’s turn this week to take over in the novelty stakes with the 2nd edition of the GolfSixes. To be fair it seemed like a fun enough tournament last year and while these tournaments maybe should have a place in the modern game I’m not convinced that they should take place right in the middle of the season. I was going to say that the players seem to agree but to be fair to them this is quite a decent field assembled here once we consider that most of the Tour’s elite players are seldom seen in any ET field never mind one of this nature. Last year’s winners Lucas Bjerregaard and Thorbjorn Olesen return to defend this week and they do so as the 11/2 favourites of a 16-team field. This year there are three “wildcard” teams entered which consist of the Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn playing with 2019 Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew, an England Ladies’ team of the supremely talented Georgia Hall and Charley Hull and a European Ladies team of Carlota Ciganda and Mel Reid. The tournament should be applauded for bringing together the mens and ladies games but I’m not sure that the bookmakers were fully aware that the ladies were playing off the ladies’ tees when they priced this up initially. Hall and Hull opened at a general 50/1 which seemed very big. GolfSixes confirmed in a tweet however that they would be playing off their own tees. More about the England ladies team later though after we have looked a little more closely at the event.

The Centurion Club hosts again in Herefordshire and last year it resembled many of the other courses in the area such as London Club, The Grove and Woburn. However it also has some more exposed holes but generally it is a tree-lined parkland course. The European Tour website lists the yardages and pars for each hole but there is no indication as to which holes they are. There are 2 x par 3s, 2 x par 4s and 2 x par 5s for a good mix of holes. The fact that it was won last year by two bombers suggests initially that there isn’t much trouble off the tee but I think that is perhaps as much down to the format as anything. They play 6 holes of “greensomes” match play and that is basically foursomes but with one key difference, the best tee-shot is picked on each hole. That gives teams with a big hitter quite an advantage as they can choose to find the fairway with the first tee-shot and then take a more aggressive line once position in the fairway is assured. That allowance for aggression would be of benefit in 18 holes match-play but that is even more pertinent in just 6 holes where going 1 up can often be all that is required to win the match. The 16 teams are divided into 4 groups where they play round robin matches with the top two in each group advancing to the knockout stages.

The course wasn’t designed by a big name in the golf course design world which is perhaps surprising given the exclusive nature of the course and from what I’ve read it gets mixed reviews. There are no stats available for the week’s golf but given what we know about the two Danes I’d imagine approach play will be the most important aspect at Centurion. When they are on their games they both hit an impressive number of greens and their position on any leaderboard is usually defined by their iron game. Where one mistake could prove costly and with two chances off the tee, one missed green could be the difference between winning and losing a match.

With 16 teams competing and the wide-open nature of this I thought my approach would be to just ignore the team’s trading below the pick-em odds of 15/1 but then when looking at the teams all the one’s I liked were below 15/1! That is of course until I saw the massive 50/1 about Georgia Hall and Charley Hull. I backed it straight away and tweeted that I thought it was a huge price so hopefully some of you got on. I appreciate that some of you will think the opposite here and with this the first event of its nature bringing both the European Tours together, essentially it is a game of opinions at this stage. They might be thrashed 4 and 2 in all three of their groups games and go home feeling a little bit gutted. But I really don’t think that will be the case. The Ladies game is so good at the moment that the only real difference is length and that is accounted for here with the separate tees. While it would be very hard to properly compare the standards of each, for my money the world rankings here simply make the English pairing far too big a price. Charley Hull is ranked 24th in the ladies game and Georgia Hall is ranked 35th so they combine for a team ranking of 59. The highest ranked man in the field is Kiradech Aphibarnrat (32nd) but he plays with world no. 306 Thongchai Jaidee. In fact the highest ranked mens team is also the English pairing of Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell who are ranked 91st and 100th respectively for a team combo of 191. It is never as simple as just looking at the world rankings but in the case of Hall and Hull we have two hungry 22-year-old Solheim Cup players who thrive in match play, have already played together and are on their way to the upper reaches of the game. Hull also arrives here off the back of a 3rd place finish on the LPGA where she hit 78% of her greens and she hasn’t missed a cut since July. She is also based down the road at Woburn GC and is used to this sort of course where the wind can be very hard to judge. Hall’s form is a little more modest but she is still acclimatising to the LPGA and she will be more comfortable back in England. The men lined up here don’t boast anything like their credentials and for my money that makes the ladies worth a speculative bet at 50/1. I’m a big fan of both Hall and Hull too so will happily cheer them on here as they attempt to further boost the ladies game in England this week. I honestly don’t know if I can see them winning this but it would be pretty exciting if they can get out of their group and they look the value play.

Despite just being 16 teams I thought I had better back one of the more favoured teams here this week too but I really don’t like any of them too much at all at these prices. If pushed to have one from the front I’d probably side with Aphibarnrat and Jaidee given how clutch Aphi is in match play. He won the Perth Golf Sixes for us in February getting up and down from practically every single spot around the 18th green. I can see him enjoying this format again and managing to bring Jaidee back to some sort of form. They played last year and got out of their group before losing to eventual runners-up, Australia. If they do get it going then they should take a bit of stopping so I’ll add them win only too where if they get to the final it’s probably better to trade out than waste 2 x the stake with the poor place terms available.


Summary of bets

Wells Fargo

Patrick Reed – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)

Sean O’Hair – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places general)
GolfSixes

Kiradech Aphibarnrat + Thongchai Jaidee – 1pt win @ 12/1

Georgia Hall and Charley Hull – 1pt win @ 50/1

@theGreek82

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 185.50pts

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

Valero Texas Open and Trophee Hassan – Betting Preview

George Coetzee flew through the field on Sunday with a 63 to land us a back door place and while that was most welcome, it made me all the more annoyed about his terrible front 9 he played on Thursday. After flying through the first 10 holes in 4 under he gave them all back in his last 8 holes and you have to think he would have pushed Rahm had he even played them in level par. The rest of Europe was a disappointment but Andrew Landry gave me a little bit of excitment threatening to get into contention on more than one occasion but I think ultimately his lack of birdies cost him before a very poor finish on Sunday.

2018 pts advised = 159pts

2018 pt returned = 108.94pts

ROI = -31.5%


Valero Texas Open

Again I’ve run out of time to write too much about this event but I did have time to study it and I didn’t manage to find too much of interest in a wide open betting heat. With Sergio Garcia the only elite player on show most players will be arriving at TPC San Antonio believing that they can win. But they will need to have their game firing as every year since the event moved there in 2010 it has been a ball-strikers dream. Kevin Chappell obliged for us last year ranking 3rd in GIR along the way but the course is usually a fairly complete test of the game and Chappell also ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking. Putting isn’t usually his forte however but he performed ok on the greens and with a winning score of just -12 that is all that is required. It’s all about the long game here so those are the stats to look at for assistance this week. Strokes gained: off the tee, strokes gained: approaches, approach proximity 175-200 yards and going for the green: birdie or better being four that are usually of interest to me here.

I’m struggling to see anything that I like too much here beyond last year’s champion Kevin Chappell as most of the early value has already been cut. In truth we have no idea how he will cope with defending but the course just suits him so perfectly that I’m willing to pay to find out at the prices. Chappell is all about championship style courses that require a long and accurate tee-to-green game and where par is a good score. He can get left behind when birdies are easy to come by yet stick him on a U.S. Open style ball-striking test and he thrives. His long game stats are actually even better than they were last year as he normally struggles in the first few months of the year. In 2018 however he racked up a run of numbers to open the year reading 21-6-31-8-20-30-7. We get a half decent price of 28/1 due to 2 missed cuts in last 2 tournaments but that isn’t something that has stopped him before. In his professional golf career he has posted 36 top 10 finishes and 10 of those came off the back of a missed cut. He withdrew from the WGC Match Play with an injury and that’s maybe why he struggled at The Masters but I’m hoping not playing last weekend will have given him time to get full ready for his first PGA Tour title defence. I certainly don’t think his course form and season long form warrant him being just 5th favourite in this field and while the 28/1 might not be to everyone’s tastes, it is just 5 points smaller than last year and I’m more than happy to take it. Lesser players than Chappell have succesfully defended before and he doesn’t strike me as the type to struggle with that side of the game but I guess only time will tell.

I wouldn’t like to miss out on a good week from Andrew Landry after he just about got into contention last week at 300/1 so I’m prepared to have another go at 150/1. The back 9 did for him at Harbour Town where playing his last 11 holes in level would have yielded us a place. Landry was brought up in Texas and currently lives just north of San Antonio in Austin so he will be used to golfing in the wind and he is a player who thrives in a difficult test of golf. Last week together with his excellent performance at 2016’s U.S. Open at Oakmont testified to that. He was 5th in ball-striking last week so his long game will be in fine fettle for TPC San Antonio.


Trophee Hassan II

The European Tour heads to Morocco for The Trophee Hassan II and it will be the 3rd time hosting in a row for Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Additionally it has also hosted the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open on the low-grade MENA Tour in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The field is probably of a similar standard to last week without the big local draw that Jon Rahm brought. That gives us Paul Dunne as the 12/1 favourite and that probably gives quite a clear picture of how open this is.

The course is a Robert Trent Jones track just like the previous host course from 2012-2015 so even the event form at Golf du Palais Royal is worth consideration. From what we have seen in the last two editions it is considerably harder than that course though and the two winning scores have been -9 and -5. It is an extremely tree-lined course with fairly small looking greens and that combined with its length (7487 yards) suggests that long, straight driving will be rewarded as will accurate approach shots. If someone brings both to the table then they will surely have a good week in Morocco. Despite the high scoring, the leaders here have also putted quite well and while that might not often be for birdie with greens being missed there will be a lot of putts in the 5-10ft region for par and making them is crucial to maintaining a score.

With Kikuyu collars and bentgrass greens, the tricky nature of chipping from kikuyu lies will make scrambling difficult. The grass also restricts the run out of the ball on the fairway so that will further highlight the need for length off the tee. It is also found mainly on South African golf courses so perhaps consideration should be given to those who regularly play well down in those co-sanctioned events.

There are very strong course form ties with last week’s course in Spain which is a little strange as the test doesn’t appear to be very similar at all. Last week’s was a grip it and rip it type birdie fest of a course where you would struggle to find trouble even if you were looking for it. While this week the winning score has been in single figures on both recent editions and par has generally been a good score. Yet Paul Dunne and Nacho Elvira have lost the last two play-offs here and they were your 2nd and 3rd last week. Further to that Ross McGowan has won on both courses and he is very far from prolific. On further inspection of the green complexes both courses feature very definite fringes rather than the sometimes more graded edges that we see. I wouldn’t have thought something like that can make too much difference but both Dunne and Elvira are excellent scramblers so it could be that the difficult combination of thick green side rough and fast greens are prevalent at both courses. So while current form is always key I’d make last week’s form doubly important this week.

I was just going to tip George Coetzee again when he opened at around 22/1 but sensibly he has been cut to a more realistic figure. That makes it hard for me to recommend a wager even if he did deliver the place money last week. I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off but with this almost turning into some sort of George Coetzee Appreciation column I think I have to leave him out given this his debut at the course.

Renato Paratore had the lowest round in the field here last year with a 3rd round 66 on his way to finishing 8th. He was also 10th the year before again firing 1 of only 22 rounds in the 60s. This is more than enough to suggest that he likes the course and he is of interest returning now as a European Tour winner. He warmed up nicely last week in Spain with a 21st and we know form correlates nicely. Prior to that he had a little bit of a break but before a missed cut in India he was 4th in Qatar, again another tournament where the form ties in with Wang having won around both. His 23rd around Valderrama last year confirms he is capable when presented with a sterner test of golf. Looks a huge price at 66/1 in this field and for me he has to be backed with most things in his favour and not a lot to beat.

Sebastian Gros was on my list after his closing 64 last week so I was pleased to see that I also tipped him here in 2016 for the first event back at RGDES. It was his long, straight driving that interested me 2 years ago as well as previous strong performances on kikuyu grass in South Africa. Both those apply again this week as he has ranked 14th, 7th and 1st in total driving on his last 3 starts. The most recent of those was last week’s 12th in Spain courtesy of said closing 64 and he ranked 10th in the all round stat. Three starts ago was another good result in South Africa where he was 4th at Pretoria Country Club on the kikuyu fairways. For good measure he ranked 1st in GIR here last year and he looks to be worth an interest in the hope that his putter behaves.

I couldn’t decide whether to side with Benjamin Hebert here after two mediocre results but he has had a good break since so I’m hoping he arrives prepared for a course he enjoyed last year. Along with Paul Dunne they were the only two players to shoot two rounds in the 60s and while Dunne has obviously moved to a new level since, Hebert has long looked like a player who has been threatening to win and also one who prefers a difficult test. He shot two poor rounds to go with the 68-69 last year but if he can limit those big numbers (2 doubles and a triple) then he should play well again. Hebert is 9th for total driving this season and 35th in GIR so the test should suit.

Andrea Pavan currently sits 1st in strokes gained: approaches on the European Tour so I was giving him some thought even before I saw his stats for last week. He ranked 2nd in GIR and 6th in scrambling and having touched on how the scrambling test may be similar, that is enough for me to add him in to my team this week. Throw in a 13th at Qatar last month and this test should really suit the young Italian.


Summary of bets

Valero Texas Open

Kevin Chappell – 1.5pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral and Boylesports)

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred, Unibet and Betway)

Trophee Hassan

Renato Paratore – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Sebastian Gros – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1

Benjamin Herbert – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Andrea Pavan – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

(all 1/5 odds 6 places various)

 

Weekly pts advised = 10pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 169pts

RBC Heritage and Open De Espana – Betting Preview

After thinking myself to be some sort of golf tipster on Friday morning with 3 of my picks inside the top 11 and two of those 1st and 2nd, things took a turn for the worse on Friday as all three of Spieth, Kuchar and Zach Johnson struggled. That was compounded by all three not being suited to the target golf that we saw on Saturday after the rain softened up the course and in truth their race was run……or was it.

Spieth’s charge through the field was simply brilliant on Sunday and went a long way to saving the tournament for me both financially and as a spectacle. I’m not suggesting this wasn’t a greatly enjoyable tournament, but for me it was no Masters. I appreciate I’m in the minority here as most fans want to see birdies and low-scoring but I prefer them to have to earn it. For as long as I remember Augusta has been a scoring course but one where you have to have complete control of your golf ball from your second shot onwards in order to do so. The target golf that we saw on Saturday was great to watch but the rain had taken all the bite out of the course.  Roll on Shinnecock for the U.S. Open where we witnessed some of the most dried out greens ever seen on Tour in 2001. There shouldn’t be any 64s or 65s that week and it will be all the more an intriguing event for it. Anyway, well done to Patrick Reed who was the deserving winner having easily played the best golf across the 4 days. On to this week where we have the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour and after a 4 week hiatus the European Tour returns with the Open de Espana.

Total 2018 pts advised = 149pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 101.69pts

ROI = -31.75%


RBC Heritage

The Masters hangover has resulted in limited time to write much of a preview this week so I will just give a very brief summary to Harbour Town Links. Another full preview can be found on The Golf Family page – https://thegolffamily.com/rbc-heritage-preview-2/

It’s a short-tree lined course in South Carolina with some of the smallest greens on Tour. Many of them are raised up or blocked out by trees and year after year this is won by shorter more methodical players who are brilliant short iron players and scramblers. Despite the lack of width at the course, many use irons for position as yu often have to be in the right portion of the fairway to have a chance of hitting the greens. Luke Donald and Jim Furyk both have an excellent record at the course and that perhaps tells you as much as you need to know.

Bud Cauley is a player that I haven’t backed all that much at all but he leapt out at me this week. Cauley is suited to a test of accuracy and 2nd (or maybe even 3rd?) time around on Tour he is showing signs of his amazing amateur talent again. He has 4 top 20s from just 9 starts this season. He is yet to win on Tour but is still just 28 yrs old and those results so far in 2018 have been encouraging. He was 14th at the CareerBuilder on the Pete Dye layout at PGA West and more recently he finished 14th at the Arnold Palmer and 18th in Houston before a week to freshen up ahead of the scene of his first ever PGA Tour event back in 2010. Cauley finished 9th here last year but he led after the first round with a brilliant 63 and I’m expecting more of the same this week. Cauley is good friends with Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler and while he will have been delighted with their finishes last week in Augusta, it surely won’t have gone unnoticed just how far behind his friends he has fallen. That might give him the extra little push required this week to help turn a top 10 into a contending performance. He ranks 26th in the key metric “scoring relative to par from Approaches 150-175 yards” and also 37th in strokes gained: around the green. Looks to have a good chance and he rates a reasonably confident bet in what feels like a wide open event.

Every year I look at this event and think how perfect it is for Zach Johnson and then I look at his form here. Bar a 2nd in 2012 and a 6th way back in 2007 his form has been atrocious despite the fact that the course should suit him absolutely perfectly. I’d recommend watching him to see how he starts as he could be worth siding with in play if he starts well and is putting better.

There were a lot of players I liked on Monday but the time I was looking to finalise these picks they had all been cut. Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner and Adam Hadwin all appealed at their opening prices but with all 3 firmly in the 28/1 to 33/1 range now I’m not sure I can advise them. I think that also tells us a fair bit about this field and Dustin Johnson aside there aren’t a lot of in-form proven winners at the top of the market.

Therefore I’m going to suggest two more at bigger odds and Andrew Landry makes it in this week on his last Pete Dye start alone when he finished 2nd behind Jon Rahm at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Unfortunately that makes him a very speculative pick indeed as he has missed all four of his cuts since! But he prefers these plodding shorter courses where it pays to plot your way around and those four appearances were on courses that would have played too long for him. Ranks 17th on Tour in proximity to the hole so with that approach accuracy he might manage to get competitive at a big price on another Dye course.

Brandon Harkins also finished inside the Top 10 at the CareerBuilder and while course designer links aren’t for everyone, Pete Dye form really does stack up. Just three events  at Dye’s Austin Country Club WGC finalists were Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner who regularly perform very well on Dye courses. But Harkins he also sits 11th in “scoring rtp from 150-175 yards” and as I mentioned above that is crucial at Harbour Town. Worth a small interest at 125/1.

 


Open de Espana

We’re faced with a fairly new course this week with the return of the European Tour as we also see the return of the Open de Espana, one of the oldest events in golf. The course is essentially at the Spanish golf headquarters much like The Belfry in the U.K. and therefore it is quite aptly named Centro Nacional de Golf. It was the brainchild of the late, great Seve and was only opened in 2006, quickly hosting 3 events but then nothing of note since 2009. I’m not sure why that was the case, maybe lack of money as the whole thinking behind the course was to have a good quality public course in Madrid, that possibly becoming less financially viable after the recession. Anyway, there is a little course form although quite dated, it held the Challenge de Espana in 2006, this event in 2007 and the Madrid Masters in 2009. They were won by Adrien Mork, Charl Schwartzel and Ross McGowan.

A look down those leaderboards reveal a lot of links types of players and a look at photos and videos of the course tell us why. It is a wide open, completely exposed course with plenty of undulations on the fairway and the rough looks almost non-existent. Reports of a particularly dry spell in the area suggest that the course will play firm and fast and I think it could be a case of bombs away off the tee and then trying to hold the slippery greens with as lofted a club as possible. It definitely looks like a second shot golf course and both McGowan and Schwartzel hit plenty of greens in regulation at 88.9% (2nd) and 84.7% (2nd) respectively. That’s a pretty high clip and tells us the greens are either very big, easy to hit from anywhere or a combination of both. Regardless of which I think aggressive iron play will be required to get a jump on the field with everyone hitting greens. I’ve looked at some wide open Scottish links courses where lots of greens are hit as my angle in here and have found 4 decent looking bets. Jon Rahm is the short price jolly here at 4/1 and while that seems to be a very fair price, I’d like to see him convert at those sort of prices at least once before we part with money on him to do so. Travelling back from Augusta gives just about enough question marks about Rahm even at a course where he studied for two years. On a week where it looks like a case of either having one big win bet on the Spaniard or looking at some each way options, I’m siding with the latter.

George Coetzee will be too short for some here but this is a very weak field when you remove Jon Rahm and I think the course will suit him perfectly. After doing us a favour last month why not go in again at double the price. Coetzee’s biggest downfall is usually his erratic driving that can rack up some big numbers but with the space available here that shouldn’t be a problem. We know how brilliant a putter he is even if strangely the new European Tour stats don’t back that up. But what they have done is told me that George sits 12th in strokes gained: approaches which is a far loftier position that I expected. With his brilliant touch on the greens he can usually get to grips with new greens quicker than most (ranked 1st in putting at 2015 U.S. PGA at Whistling Straits) and if he is striking it well I’d expect him to carry his form over from March.

Ryan Fox has been a little quiet of late but he did us a few favours last summer and we are reaching that sort of time of the year again. Fox is another who likes to let rip with the driver and then let his approach play do the talking. He finished 4th at the wide Dundonald Links last summer and was also 4th in the Irish Open on another relatively wide links course. That same run of form included a 6th at Le Golf National which is course where you have to hit greens. He missed his last cut in his home Open but prior to that he averaged 82% for GIR on his previous 2 starts. That sort of approach play makes him of interest here and I think he could take to the course at a nice price.

I wanted to get a player who has played here before onside too and while he doesn’t fall into the bomber type I think Mike Lorenzo-Vera should very much enjoy this test on and around the fast greens. He came 10th in the 2009 Madrid Masters playing very solidly to rank 9th in the all-round ranking. He also ranked 3rd in putting and experience of these greens, however dated, certainly won’t be a bad thing. Moreover though MLV is just a player that plays well in Spain, he has made 8 of his last cuts returning 4 Top 15s. His last trip was to Valderrama where he finished 6th on the brilliantly tough layout. He arrives in good form too finishing 10th on his last outing in Qatar where the greens are also quick and exposed.

One last value play and that is in the shape of Ollie Fisher. He finished 2nd on his last full tournament in Qatar but is marked with a WD on his next start in India. I can’t find much injury news so he maybe just came down with food poisoning and barring injury I think he is a huge price with that form. Ollie is another who will enjoy the lack of rough and trouble off the tee which will allow this formerly brilliant iron player to show off his strengths. He hit 77% of the greens in Qatar on the way to finishing behind only Eddie Pepperell and similar control of his golf ball should result in another decent showing.

 


Summary of bets

RBC Heritage

Bud Cauley – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Brandon Harkins – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Open de Espana

George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Mike Lorenzo-Vera – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1

Ollie Fisher – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 10pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 159pts

@theGreek82