Dell Technologies Championship and D+D Real Czech Masters – Betting Preview

Chris Paisley finished 3rd in Denmark for another profitable week and Kuchar should have made things even better but for a very uncharacteristic shocker of a final round. I didn’t really expect him to ever trouble Johnson and Spieth on Sunday but I was surprised that he fell completely outside of the places. I can’t complain though as that is now 8 weeks out of the last 12 with returns and getting back into profit for 2017 is now firmly in the sights. With plenty high-class golf remaining hopefully another winner or two can be found yet.

Total 2017 pts advised = 388.50pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 329.84pts

ROI = -15%


Dell Technologies Championship

Fear not the brilliant TPC Boston is still in the Fed Ex Cup rotation, there has just been another change of name with Dell taking over sponsorship from Deutsche Bank. It means we still have 10 plus years of form around the modern Massachusetts course to look at. The original layout was an Arnold Palmer design in 2003 but Gil Hanse (Castle Stewart, Rio Olympic course) has been back twice since to renovate all 18 holes.

It’s of average length as a 7216 yard Par 71 and the one thing to focus on at TPC Boston year after year is ball-striking. Every year the course is all about hitting fairways and then difficult approach shots with water surrounding many of the greens. With tree-lined, dog-legged fairways the driving lines can be quite tight and  you need to be on the right side of the fairway to get close the flags. Despite all this its lack of length means it is highly scoreable with the average winning score being -18 over the 10 Fed Ex Cup events. But while that may suggest good putters can also thrive, they often do their scoring on the Par 5s so those with the best long games will be giving themselves short tap in birdie putts by over powering the three par 5s.

As I noted last week the Fed Ex events always have classy winners and if we look at the last five winners we have Rory McIlroy (x2), Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Chris Kirk (still a 4-timer PGA Tour winner). This tells us we need to look again to the elite players in the field in terms of a winner although there have been some more surprise players filling the places in recent times.

From a stats point of view, strokes gained: tee to green, GIR, par 5 scoring and birdie average all look to be good angles in this week.

Given their current run of form and the fact this is a ball-striking event, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler are the four who immediately stand out. Throw in two-time course winner Rory McIlroy and you have a very powerful head of the market in Boston. But it is no easy task to decide which one to side with here this week. Dustin Johnson v Jordan Spieth ended up a bit of a coin toss down the stretch on Sunday and that is what I would expect more often than not when the world’s two best players are at the top of the leaderboard. If Matsuyama finds his best stuff from a few weeks ago then he will contend again regardless of what others do. Fowler struggled on the poa annua last week but back at TPC Boston I would expect him to flourish again. McIlroy makes a little less appeal given his recent form troubles but at 18/1 he is certainly worth consideration as he can surely be expected to find extra improvement on a course he loves.

But ultimately this week I can’t pick between them so I’m leaving them all out for a player who has shown time and time again he can mix it with the best on courses like this and after finally getting the major win he craved for so long, I think Sergio Garcia is the value in the field this week. With a lack of recent golf he is in no way guaranteed to play well but that is more than factored into the dismissive price of 55/1. Garcia got married the week after The Open and so can be forgiven his poor showing just a week later at the US PGA. He hasn’t played competitively since but make no mistake that we will see a very different Garcia over the next few years. He can now relax having won his major and the confidence gained from his Masters triumph means he is likely to add to that major tally over the next 4 or 5 years.

Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates winning the 2017 Masters in Augusta

However beyond the general excellent value, Garcia also has a case on his course form. While he hasn’t yet won around TPC Boston his form figures read 24-4-31-26-5-17 but the most interesting angle was from comparing his career GIR and DA stats at the course with those around him in the market. Garcia has hit 74.77% of his greens around the course and 69.05% of his fairways. This is miles ahead of the market principles who can only boast the following; Dustin Johnson 70.04% GIR 64.80% DA, Jordan Spieth 65.28% GIR 66.96% DA, Hideki Matsuyama 64.81% GIR 63.10% DA, Rickie Fowler 65.48% GIR 67.09% DA, Rory McIlroy 69.91% GIR 64.29% DA. The only player who comes close to Garcia is Henrik Stenson who boasts equally impressive course clips of 74.17% GIR and 70.72% DA but he isn’t playing this week.

Basically what that tells me is that despite all the current hype about those players mentioned, we can’t afford to forget that Garcia belongs in that bracket when it comes to elite ball-striking, and he has been doing it for nearly 20 years!

He ranks 12th in strokes gained: tee to green, 10th in par 5 scoring and 15th in GIR this year so his game has been in right sort of shape for TPC Boston. The only question mark is whether he can shake off the rust but the price factors that in and Garcia looks a must bet at the disrespectful price of 55/1 (Betfred, Totesport) in what is only a 100 runner field. Anything down to 40/1 still looks a great price to be honest but hopefully the 55/1 or 50/1 with others holds firm. Unfortunately Betfred cut their 55/1 sometime this afternoon and rather pathetically went straight to 40/1. Quite a jump! He is now a best price general 40/1 and while it is quite a bit shorter I’m sticking with the bet.

I really don’t see a lot else that excites me in the outright market but at 300/1 I thought Luke List was worth a small play. He hasn’t had much of a year in truth but he has still snuck in to the top 100 to play here. List has been putting terribly for most of the year and that was the case again last week as he finished 34th on Long Island. But he ranked 4th in ball striking in a strong field and he currently sits 13th in strokes gained: tee to green and 3rd in par 5 scoring.  So at a course where putting usually takes a bit of a back seat I think List might go well at a huge price. Also adding a top 20 bet.

 


D+D Real Czech Masters

There have been three editions so far of the Czech Masters around the Albatross Course in Prague, so again we have a decent amount of course form to go on. Immediately a course where Thomas Pieters has finished 2nd and 1st the last two years tells us that power is important and if we look through the stats that is backed up to a degree but perhaps total driving is more important than just length alone as the three winners ranked 9th, 5th and 18th for the combined driving stat. However shorter hitters can still contend but they need the rest of their game to be firing on all cylinders. Paul Peterson came 2nd in the all-round ranking last year while Pieters and Donaldson were 2nd and 10th respectively when winning the first two editions.

Par 5 scoring is always important at the Albatross course and while there is more than one way to score on Par 5s, generally we associate that with length off the tee. The winning score has averaged -16 so just like in the US, birdie average will also be crucial in Prague.

Thomas Pieters is a very fair price to win again at around 8/1 but despite his suitability to the course and how poor the field is, he has missed his lat two cuts. I also tend to struggle to get the single figure odds favourites right so instead I have opted for two each way bets where just a place will pay out at better odds than a Pieters win.

I tipped Callum Shinkwin in this last year for his long, accurate tee-to green game but he didn’t fare too well. I’m not prepared to give up on him here though especially when we consider how much worse this field is compared to the one he so almost beat at the Scottish Open when he took a one shot lead down the last hole. It wasn’t to be as his short game unravelled a little but he didn’t do a great deal wrong losing to a surging Rafa Cabrera-Bello. A missed cut at Royal Birkdale followed but we can dismiss that and expect him to be all together more comfortable again at this level. Whether he can perform well enough on the greens to contend I don’t know but he will be fresher than most and high on confidence.

Dean Burmester isn’t a particularly confident pick but he has shown over the course of 2017 that he really shouldn’t be a 70/1 shot in this poor a European Tour field. The piece of form that gets him on the team this week is his 7th in Abu Dhabi in March. Jamie Donaldson is a winner there while Thomas Pieters has already finished 2nd and 4th at the course. There are several others who have gone well on both courses and the link might just be worth consideration.

Burmester ranks 7th in Par 5 scoring and hits it further than most, ranking 6th in driving distance over the last 3 months. While he is by no means as good a putter as Pieters he does fit a reasonably similar profile and he knows how to win having picked up the co-sanctioned Tshwane Open in March. That was on a winning score of -18 so he also knows how to go low when conditions suit. He played here last year and finished 35th so he should be looking to go well on his 2nd look at the course.

 


Summary of Bets

Dell Technologies Championship

Sergio Garcia – 1.5pts ew @ 40/1

Luke List – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Czech Masters

Callum Shinkwin – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Dean Burmester – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 396.50pts

@theGreek82

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The Northern Trust and Made in Denmark – Betting Preview

Fairly miserable week last week made all the worse by Johan Carlsson making the semi-finals of the Match Play. He was the first name on my short list last week but left him out due to being in a very strong quarter of the draw. In hindsight it was a stupid move and his strong showing again together with Anthony Wall’s impressive defence highlighted how important event form is even after just three editions.

Total pts advised = 380.5

Total 2017 pts returned = 300.96pts

ROI = -20%


The Northern Trust

The Fed Ex Cup Play-offs kick off this week with a new course to the PGA Tour. As is now customary the first event takes place in the greater New York area but Barclays have been replaced as the sponsor by Northern Trust. The course which the top 125 players head to this week is Glen Oaks Golf Club on Long Island.

It is a long Par 70 playing to some 7350 yards and while it hasn’t been used yet on Tour there are a couple of pointers we can take. It was renovated in 2012 by Craig Currier who was responsible for the works carried out at Bethpage Black prior to it staging the 2002 US Open. Bethpage held this tournament last year and both are in the NY area so form from last year and when BPB hosted in 2012 could be important.

They also both have poa annua greens which is a surface that always divides opinion. Some players thrive on the surface while others hate it. Glen Oaks is also said to have gone against the recent tide of new courses to the PGA rotation. We have seen Chambers Bay, Erin Hills, Pinehurst No. 2 and Whistling Straits all welcome majors in recent times due to their rugged use of natural terrain however Glen Oaks is very much the opposite. It is a lush green course with perfectly manufactured lines in the fairways, greens and bunkers. It is said to be similar visually to Augusta so form there could well be of interest and also Riviera which always ties in nicely with Augusta but it also has poa annua greens so form there could be key.

If we look at the list of winners at all the Fed Ex Play-off events since it began in 2007 we notice a pattern of very classy winners.

Of the 40 tournaments to date, 24 of those have been won by major winners and 36 of those by players who have played on either Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup teams. Of the 40 tournaments the only one which was won by a Tour maiden was Camillo Villegas’ 2008 BMW Championship.  While it makes sense that only world-class golfers would win the latter events where only 30/75 players are competing, the fact they have also dominated the first event tells us that the cream always rises and the weaker players in the field struggle as the better players start taking things more seriously.

With nothing else much to go on those look to be the pointers this week; form on poa annua greens, form in the NY area (specifically Bethpage is a bonus), form at Augusta/Rivera and already an accomplished winner on Tour.

Matt Kuchar is so often a player that has gone off too short a price over the last 5/6 years since he took his seat at the big boys table on the PGA Tour. This is nearly always due to the high chance of him playing well and placing rather than his chance of actually getting over the line and winning. This may sound a little unfair about a man with 7 PGA Tour titles, especially as it is almost knocking his consistency, but there is no question a player of his talents should have won more tournaments in recent times.

kuchar-630x420

A different Kuchar was witnessed at Royal Birkdale though as he pushed on to go toe to toe with Jordan Spieth during the final round. He didn’t wilt under the pressure or settle for 2nd place and it took Spieth’s best over the closing holes to beat him. All this makes me think he looks a little over priced here at 40/1. Kuchar hasn’t missed a cut since March, he has finished inside the top 16 in all 4 majors and inside the top 30 in all three WGC tournaments this year. He also has a very solid record in the New York area with two of his early wins having come at Atunyote Golf Club and Ridgewood Country Club. Ridgewood also has poa annua greens and is visually quite similar to Glen Oaks while Kuchar also has an impressive Augusta record with four top 8 finishes.

There have already been nine multiple winners of Fed Ex Play-off tournaments and I think Kuchar is a fair price to become the 10th with very few players in the field arriving in better form. Even if the 40/1 disappears I would suggest 33/1 is still a fair price.

Lucas Glover won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and he has shown enough glimpses of form in 2017 to suggest he can go well this week in similar conditions. He fits the classy profile of Fed Ex Cup winners and so looks a little over priced here at 125/1. He ranks 16th in strokes gained: off the tee which should help him on a 7350 yard par 70 layout. No more reasoning than that. Small each way bet at 150/1 and a top 20 bet at 8/1.

I was absolutely gutted to miss out on Jimmy Walker winning on the poa annua greens of Baltusrol at last year’s US PGA given how much I focussed on the putting surfaces and the fact he is known as the “prince of poa”. With his fatigue related illness at the moment it is proving hard for him to be competitive over four rounds but he showed glimpses at Firestone where he opened 68-65 to lead at half way. Despite his struggles his odds of 270 on Betfair look far too big so I’m advising 0.5pts win in the hope that he starts well. I’m also having 0.5pt ew at 125/1 in the first round leader market. Baltusrol is also a par 70 in the New York area and a return might see him find some extra energy levels this week.

 


Made in Denmark

This will be the 4th running of the MID at Himmerland Resort so we have a little bit of form to go on. The one thing that jumps out at me is how all the winners and leaderboard regulars are very strong putters. Not only in reputation but on the stats too and all three currently rank inside the top 27 for putts per round on Tour. Thomas Pieters won last year, ranking 3rd for putting and we know how good he can be on the greens. 2015 winner David Horsey regularly makes the top 20 in season putting stats and  2014 saw the silky putting stroke of Marc Warren triumph.

That evidence was enough for me to only consider very good putters this week but I have also given some consideration to a couple of courses that correlate well through the winners. Last year I mentioned how Doha Golf Club, Gleneagles, Crans, Tsleevo and Royal Golf Dar Es Salam all tied together with form here so I have had a look through recent leader boards at those events but didn’t really find anything too exciting from a betting angle.

Chris Paisley currently ranks 2nd for 2017 in putts per round and while he provided some returns for the blog earlier in the season, his game deserted him a little through the summer. But he looked to be playing well again last week as Alejandro Canizares needed extra holes to beat him in the quarter finals. He has played at the course twice before and finished 34th and 35th but that doesn’t tell the whole story as he shot a final round 78 in 2015 to fall away having been in contention after three rounds in the 60s. With putting looking crucial I think he can out play his odds given he arrives in decent form.

Johan Carlsson putted very well last week from the limited coverage that was available. He takes his time over them for sure but he seemed to roll in more 15-20 footers than he missed and while there is no doubt the stroke-play format suits his error strewn, aggressive game, he is a little bit of the Thomas Pieters mould in that respect and he won here last year. Across his 6 matches last week I make him around 31 under par and he made 4 eagles on Sunday alone. With confidence high he could be a little over priced here at 80/1 despite missing both his cuts here to date.

Other strong putters like Lagergren, Bertasio and Scrivener were all considered but none of those three have shown enough recently to suggest that they can contend here. Paul Dunne makes some appeal and should go well but he looks short enough at a general 25/1. Thomas Detry could easily have been included again this week having shown up well at the match play but again he hasn’t really done enough yet in the game to be odds of 40/1 in this sort of field.


Summary of Bets

The Northern Trust

Matt Kuchar – 1.5pt ew @ 40/1

Lucas Glover – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Jimmy Walker – 0.5pts win @ 270.0 and 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 first round leader

Made in Denmark

Chris Paisley – 0.75 pt ew @ 150/1

Johan Carlsson – 0.5pt ew @80/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 9pts

2017 pts advised =389.5pts

@theGreek82

Wyndham Championship and Paul Lawrie Match Play – Betting Preview

As Matsuyama shot up the leaderboard on Friday with a brilliant 64 to tie the lead I was starting to think maybe I knew what I was doing again and stupidly expected the Japanese star to push on and win comfortably. Unfortunately though his long game unravelled over the weekend and that allowed Thomas to catch up and win with an impressive, albeit a little lucky, back 9. I’m not sure how much of Matsuyama’s play could be attributed to nerves but considering he wasn’t playing well at all he actually did quite well to hang around and only play the weekend in +2. While he has many major top 10s already in his young career this was the first time where he found himself favourite heading into both the 3rd and final rounds. I’d expect him to be all the better for the experience in the same way that Thomas, and many others before him, said he had learned a lot from his U.S. Open final round 75 in June.

James Hahn managed to oblige with a Top 20 for us but annoyingly Tony Finau had a final round shocker after sitting in the Top 20 for the bulk of the tournament. It returned just 6.6 pts which leaves the results as follows.

Total 2017 pts advised = 374.5pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 300.96pts

ROI = – 19.6%

I was going to sit this week out again but then I noticed it was the Wyndham which is usually a good horses for courses type event with a lot of form to go on. The Paul Lawrie Match Play didn’t look that exciting but it takes place at Bad Griesbach in Germany which has hosted a few tournaments already so there may be an angle in. The preview will be relatively short but hopefully still some bets.


Wyndham Championship

The Wyndham Championship takes place at its usual host course, Sedgefield Country Club and there is very much an established type of player that goes well here which often makes it a very good betting heat. The out of sorts Henrik Stenson is here chasing his quota of PGA Tour starts and his presence has thrown up a lot of very fair prices across the board.

Sedgefield is a fairly average length Par 70 designed by Donald Ross and repeatedly the same sort of attributes are required to go well. It is a tree-lined course with wide enough fairways but the bermuda greens are small so the more accurate drivers who can find the appropriate parts of the fairway tend to enjoy the lay-out as they give themselves the best chance of hitting the green. The last 5 winners have averaged 16th for driving accuracy while they have averaged 32nd for driving distance. The small bermuda greens generally slope from back to front as per the Donald Ross template but they also have lots of undulations and can be difficult to hold. The test around Ross’s courses is very much accuracy and that is the main attribute to consider this week. The greens are bermuda grass as per last week and we saw how uncomfortable many of the players were on the surface. The ball tends to break heavily at the death on bermuda and this can make the combination of pace and line difficult to deal with. Any picks should have shown a liking for bermuda greens in the past.

Form on Donald Ross courses also tends to stack up very well with Sedgefield correlating nicely with East Lake (Tour Championship), Oak Hill (2013 US PGA), Aronomink (2010 & 2011 AT & T National) and Pinehurst No. 2 (2014 US Open). There are lots of players who enjoy the test his layouts present and therefore have strong banks of form on several of these courses.

I really like Keegan Bradley for this as he should be suited to Sedgefield but yet he only played it for the first time last year when he finished 46th. Bradley currently sits in 5th position for Par 4 scoring and that combined with this 4th place finish at Pinehurst in 2014 are the two main points of interest for me but he also won his US PGA on bermuda greens in 2011. Despite struggling the last few years it really is just his putting that is letting him down since the anchoring ban. He has made his last six cuts, returning two top 10s in that time and I’m confident he can take advantage of the lack of depth this week. Bradley ranked 12th for total accuracy last week in the PGA and with other snippets of Donald Ross and bermuda form I expect a strong showing.

Trey Mullinax was one of the many players to congratulate Justin Thomas on twitter after his US PGA win but he is probably closer to the man who lifted the Wanamaker Trophy than most. Mullinax went to the University of Alabama with Thomas and played on the golf team with him for two years. It’s perfectly plausible that Mullinax gives himself a kick up the arse this week when he thinks of how well his mate is doing. However I’m not going to put him up on that alone, more so that he is a very talented golfer!

Mullinax currently ranks 11th in par 4 scoring and he finished 9th at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, which was actually his first PGA Tour top 10. But it is some of his solid Web.com Tour form that interests me this week. His win came at the Rex Hospital Open last year some 80 miles to the east of Sedgefield at TPC Wakefield Plantation. Another of his best results in the second tier was when he was 4th behind Si Woo Kim at the Ellie Mae Classic in 2015. Kim would go on to win the Wyndham last year and with all these factors combined I think Mullinax is worth a play at a sporting 150/1. I’m also having a top 20 bet on him as I only have the 2 outright picks this week.

I wanted to back both Bill Haas and Jason Dufner here but neither of them have been quite at their best over the last 2 months so I’m reluctantly leaving them both out.

 


Paul Lawrie Match Play

Paul Lawrie takes his match play event outside the UK for the first time as the Bad Griesbach Resort in Germany hosts the 3rd edition of a tournament that has failed to capture the imagination of most golf fans so far. What it does do though is give the 2nd tier of European Tour players some valuable match play experience and while some criticise the need for it at all, it does at least stick to a simple knock-out draw which makes for a nice change from all the bracket nonsense we see at the WGC match play event. (I think, nobody really has a clue!!)

The Bad Griesbach course has hosted the 2015 and 2016 Porsche European Open as well as the Challenge Tour’s Aegean Airlines Open from 2013-2015 so while the format is different there is some course form to go on.

2016’s edition was a weather shorted one and Alex Levy powered his way to a win in three rounds on a soaking wet course. That is in direct contrast to 2015 Champion Thonghai Jaidee who has a more subtle approach to his game. Both players however have very accurate approach play when on their game and can be good putters if conditions are right, Levy thrives on slow greens whereas Jaidee is a proficient putter who excels on faster greens. This suggests that knowing the weather in advance could be important this week, at present it is a mix of rain and sun which doesn’t tell us too much.

With that said however if you can’t find fairways and greens in match play golf it can be very hard to apply any pressure so with relatively wide fairways I make accurate approach play the most important aspect here. Secondly I would say that a previous look at the course could be important as there is no chance to ease into the tournament as the straight knockout format means that all day 1 losers will be going home early. I’d also prefer to see at least some sort of match play pedigree in their careers to date.

I had a fairly big shortlist for this but annoyingly 5 of them have ended up in the same quarter of the draw. I thought Matthew Southgate, Max Kieffer, Johan Carlsson, Magnus Carlsson and Jamie Donaldson could go all go well but four of them are actually in the same 1/8th of the draw so I am leaving that minefield well alone!

Instead I have gone to the other half of the draw for my first pick and despite Robert Karlsson’s opening match against Edoardo Molinari, I think he looks a fair price at 50/1. That is a tough match but both those men have achieved more than pretty much anyone else in the field and despite Karlsson not having done much at all in recent years he makes some appeal. That was the same back in 2015 when he made the Semi-Final of the first edition of the tournament at the tricky Murcar Links course in Aberdeen. The match play format allowed him a nice change from his stroke-play struggles and I was thinking he might just have a good run again even before I saw his course form. Karlsson was 3rd at Bad Griesbach in 2016 and it’s a draw that could open up nicely for the winner of the first round match. With this format looking a bit of a lottery at this level I will just go small stakes and have 0.5pt ew @ 50/1.

I did like Richard Bland a lot for this but his price is short enough for someone yet to win on Tour and he also has a fairly tough draw that could see him face a couple of Ryder Cup players before even making the Quarter Finals. I also liked 2014 WGC Match Play finalist Victor Dubuisson but he is in the same quarter as Karlsson now and also has a tricky opener against Bradley Dredge. Marc Warren is a proven match play exponent and when fully fit he is a far better player than most of these so his odds certainly appeal. However he has missed most of the season through injury. I took a chance on him at the World Cup where he played quite well until the semi-finals when fatigue kicked in and his injury prevented him from swinging freely. Worth keeping an eye on should he appear fully fit.

In truth you could make a case for most of the 64-man field but I’ve decided to opt for a youngster in the hope that he takes to the format. Thomas Detry sits 20th on tour for total accuracy over the last three months and his best finish to date was runner-up in Germany earlier in the year at the BMW International Open. He ranked 2nd for putting that week and finished 2nd again in the flat stick ranks on his last outing. It seems like his whole game is in decent shape and he certainly has the talent to scare a few of these more exposed European Tour types. There are a few very good players in his quarter but on the whole it looks to be the weakest in terms of recent form. He looked like he was taking to the match play format in the Perth Super Sixes but eventually lost his first match at the 2nd play-off hole to eventual finalist Adam Bland. His odds of 33/1 aren’t fantastic but I’m hoping he will enjoy his return to the south-east of Germany and with the possibility of a relatively easy path should he win his first game, I think he looks worth the risk.

The draw looks a little bit too trappy to bother with a 3rd pick from the off but I will be paying close attention to who goes well in the competitive first quarter and I may add one more in play.

 

 


Summary of Bets

Wyndham Championship

Keegan Bradley – 1pt ew @ 45/1

Trey Mullinax – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

Paul Lawrie Match Play

Robert Karlsson – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Thomas Detry – 0.5pt ew @ 33/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 6pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 380.5pts

 

@theGreek82

2017 US PGA Championship – Betting Preview

Matsuyama turned the clocks back 10 months to produce one of the great final rounds at Firestone on Sunday to win comfortably and give me a much needed 20/1 winner. His ball-striking was near perfect as he fought off a stellar leaderboard and despite all the noise about McIlroy this week Matsuyama has to be considered the man to beat. More about that shortly.

That leaves the results creeping slowly back to a positive ROI but I still need a strong finish to the year so hopefully we can find some more profit this week at the final major.

2017 pts advised = 353.5pts

2017 pts returned = 294.36pts

ROI = -16.7%

 


 

US PGA Championship

For the last two years I have spoken about this being the least exciting of the majors and also “glory’s last shot” but given how excited I am about it I’m going to forget those tired clichés. Yes we will have to wait 8 months for the next major and yes it probably is the least significant of the four but this week we have the best field of the year assembled at a very fair, classical golf course where the bulk of the field have had a chance to play before. It’s a level playing field, a great course and most of the game’s big names arrive in good form, can we ask for much more? …….a Tiger Woods’ return maybe……

The course is Quail Hollow which has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship since 2003 so many of the field will have played it but not quite in its current guise. It was originally designed by George Cobb in 1961 but Tom Fazio has been back a couple of times recently to help tweak the course to get it set up to host the US PGA. Normally the course has played as quite a long Par 72 but the course has been lengthened in the last year and will play as a 7600 yard Par 71 brute this week. The greens changed from bentgrass to bermuda in 2014 and at the same time they removed lots of trees from around the greens in order to help look after the putting surfaces. Some trees were also removed from the fairways so a course that always suited long drivers is set up even more for the bombers this week.

Recent champions include Rory McIroy, James Hahn, JB Holmes and Rickie Fowler while Phil Mickelson has a host of top 10 finishes and considers the course to be one of his favourites.

One of the telling stats at recent PGA’s is that the winners of the last 10 have all finished in the top 22 of the WGC Bridgestone at Firestone. In 9 of those it was played the week before with last year being the exception due to the Olympics. While stats like that are obviously there to be broken, it is one of the more robust. It makes perfect sense that the winner is arriving in good form and also a classy enough player that they were in the restricted WGC field the week before. I haven’t followed it with every selection but when you look at the big names who meet that requirement there are plenty who are expected to go well this week. To add a little extra excitement Jordan Spieth bids for the career grand slam for the first time here too.

I’ve been back and forth with whether or not to put Hideki Matsuyama up again this week and I can see both sides of the argument here. He hasn’t yet won a major and he will have a lot of pressure on him here to win having romped home last week. His price of 12/1 looks to not really take much of that into account and it does feel a little restrictive. But on his side is how brilliantly he holds his form and the knowledge that if he plays like he did on Sunday he will win. There aren’t too many in the field that arrive here in that position and in truth we still don’t really know how good Hideki is going to be as he is still just 25 years old. I can’t leave him out but if you are struggling with the price just watch the highlights from Sunday again! I won’t repeat any of the stats from last week regarding his exquisite long game but I will add in that he has progressive form figures at Quail Hollow of 38-20-11 and as Dave Tindall pointed out in his excellent preview, Matsuyama has won twice already on bermuda greens in Phoenix.

If we look at Betfair we can still get 14.0 and I’m going win only as if he plays to his best and contends, I don’t expect anyone to get the better of him on Sunday with such positive recent final round memories for the Japanese star.

I’m not at all happy about it but after quite some consideration I decided I have to back Adam Scott here at 45/1. I know he is a terrible putter inside 10ft but he was a terrible putter inside 10ft at the Masters in 2013, just not quite as terrible because he had the long putter. But with any player there has to be a point where they can be backed regardless of such things and I think the 45/1 more than factors in his frailties on the greens. When he won the Masters it poured with rain a lot of the week and the greens were as soft as we have seen them. That certainly removes some of the advantage that good putters have on the greens and it also heightens the advantage that long drivers get off the tee. That is why we so often see the likes of McIlroy, Scott, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson go well when it rains as they carry the ball so far with their towering ball flights.

Scott has the all important Top 22 finish last week as he snuck into 13th after firing 3 rounds in the 60s. Scott also has an impressive bank of form in the year’s final major with 10 career top 25s, 4 of those being top 10s. The bulk of that is recent form too with top 25s in 5 of the last 6 US PGAs. Scott also has some strong Quail Hollow form with 3rd, 8th, 16th and 17th place finishes mixed together with three missed cuts. Despite him not being at his best this year he still ranks 17th in the all-round ranking on Tour and also 17th in strokes gained: tee to green. Scott might not hole enough putts to come out on top but 45/1 on a rain softened, 7600 yard course is just too generous an each way price to pass up.

I have no better idea than anyone else which Si-Woo Kim will turn up this week or how fit he might be but while markets rightly focus more heavily on form, they can sometimes be too quick to dismiss class, which, as Bill Shankly fans will tell us, is permanent. Kim, who is still just 22, has already won The Players Championship on bermuda greens and his other PGA Tour win was just 100 miles up the road at Sedgefield Greensboro. That win in the Wyndham was also on bermuda greens so it’s clear he putts better on that surface. Quite what gets his long game going I don’t know but he ranked 6th in GIR at Firestone and the last cut he made was at the US Open where he finished 13th. Kim clearly enjoys playing on the big stage and he looks massively over priced here at a general 200/1. He may well miss the cut but the price is just too big for someone who beat the best field assembled so far in 2017 just three months ago.

Tony Finau looks an interesting outsider this week given his solid record early on in his major career. He has only played in 6 to date but he has returned four top 30s with his first two yielding a 14th in the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay and a T10th later that year at Whistling Straits. He missed a couple of cuts last year but also has an 18th and 27th at the last two Opens. Finau is one of the longer drivers on Tour (6th in DD) but he is also very aggressive which is probably reflected in the fact that he is 14th for Birdie average. What is perhaps more surprising though is that he is 6th in GIR  as someone who fires at almost every flag would be expected to short side himself and miss quite a lot of the trickier greens. The big hitter also sits in very good company in strokes gained: off the tee as he is 4th behind Rahm, Garcia and Dustin Johnson. Finau certainly appears to have the perfect game for a US PGA set-up and given his results in other majors he appears to thrive in major conditions in general. Unfortunately the bookies have also picked up on this and he has been cut into 80/1.

With his preference being for bent grass greens it could be that he doesn’t make enough birdies this week on the trickier bermuda surfaces but with rain forecast that could be an equaliser on the greens and his profile looks bang on for this test. Furthermore while he may well be better on bent grass greens, he has decent results on other surfaces with a 3rd on the bermuda greens at TPC San Antonio, a 5th on bermuda at the Valspar, a 4th on poa annua at Torrey Pines and his win in Puerto Rico was on sea paspalum greens. Finau may be just be versatile enough where greens are considered.

He has also finished 28th and 16th on his two looks at Quail Hollow. Granted it has changed a bit but with the main change being added length, he will be inconvenienced less than most.  He hasn’t been out of the top 40 in his last 8 starts and two of his last three results have been top 10s so with form simmering he looks a solid enough betting proposition. I’m having a small each way bet and also a larger Top 20.

James Hahn has two wins on Tour so far in his career, at Riviera and here at Quail Hollow. Having won on two classical, championship layouts he is firmly on the minds of punters for majors but the trouble is he hasn’t played in enough to be comfortable yet in the big events. Hahn has played in nine to date and while he missed his first four cuts, he made his next five so there is definitely progress. There is no doubt he has the all-round game for majors and he looks worth a small play here in the outright and top 20 markets.

Brendan Steele obliged with a top 20 at the US Open and he actually looked like he might place for a while. Steele has a great skill set for US majors and as ever he stands out on the stats front this week. Steele ranks 18th in birdie average, 16th in strokes gained: tee to green and 33rd in driving distance.

Steele didn’t quite get the all important top 22 at Firestone although he wasn’t far away finishing 24th. But the lanky Texan hit more greens than anybody else on the week and his last three efforts at Quail Hollow have been 14-9-30 so he is clearly comfortable on the course. He putted poorly at Firestone but I’m hoping the switch to bermuda greens will get him back on track. One of his wins was on bermuda at TPC San Antonio and his other was on poa annua so he may prefer putting away from slick bent grass carpets.

With his lofty position at the US Open until the back 9, Steele showed that he isn’t out of his depth in majors so I’m going to play him in the outright and the top 20 again.

Webb Simpson’s form has been very up and down the last few years and despite not being the longest hitters, his form at Quail Hollow together with being a North Carolina native, make me think he will play well this week. An outright bet might well be wasted given his lack of length and his putting woes since the anchoring ban but a Top 20 looks a possibility for a player who has had 5 in his last 9 starts.

My main 1st round leader bet is a little tenuous but at the same time Alexander Levy makes a habit of starting fast in Europe and I think he could take to Quail Hollow this week. I quite like him for two other reasons here though as he has a habit of excelling on rain-soaked courses as he is one of the most aggressive flag hunters around on either Tour. He only knows one way to play and he is a big hitter too so he won’t find the course too long. The tenuous part is that one of his wins came at the Portugal Masters which seems to tie in a little with Quail Hollow for the Europeans. Lee Westwood and David Lynn have both finished runner-up at Quail and won in Portugal while Robert Karlsson has a top 5 at Quail and two runners-up in Portugal. It’s maybe a bit silly but I’m having a go nevertheless at a sporting 175/1 despite him having a later tee-time.

As we all know Alex Noren can get pretty hot and put up some low numbers and he looks primed to go low again in round 1 here with an early tee time. Noren ranks 5th in round 1 scoring over the last 3 months and his final round 68 at Firestone on Sunday threatened to be even better as he raced to -5 on his front 9. For some reason Swedes have a history of starting fast at the US PGA. Of the 41 players to sit in the top 5 after day one in the last 5 years, 5 of them were Swedish. That is quite a high number given their representation in the field. The rest of the breakdown was 17 US, 6 English, 5 Australian, 2 Northern Ireland and one each from Spain, Italy, Germany, Canada, New Zealand and Argentina. A completely irrelevant stat really but makes the 66/1 about Noren look generous to me.

One final go at the 1st round leader with Patrick Reed who loves bermuda greens and has been playing ok of late. Nothing more than a bit of a hunch but it also gets an American on the Thursday team.


Summary of Bets

Hideki Matsuyama – 5pts win @ 13.5 on Betfair Exchange

Adam Scott – 1pt ew @ 45/1 (8 places, 1/5 odds Betfair Sportsbook)

Si Woo Kim – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Tony Finau – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 7/2

James Hahn – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

Brendan Steele – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 11/2

Webb Simpson – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

1st Round Leader

Alexander Levy – 0.5pt ew @ 175/1

Alex Noren – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Patrick Reed – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 21pts

2017 pts advised = 374.5

@theGreek82

 

WGC Bridgestone – Betting Preview

Having nearly accepted the demise of Stenson, Poulter and Fowler at Birkdale I’m just about ready for a preview again after a week off. It’s still very annoying as The Open looked like being very profitable at the turn on Saturday with all three sitting inside the top 11 at one point. In the end it there were no returns at all which stopped a profitable run over the last few months.

This week just the WGC from Firestone CC, Ohio as I’m not going to look too much at the Barracuda.

Results as follow;

2017 pts advised= 345.5

2017 pts returned= 240.36

ROI = -30.4%

 


WGC Bridgestone

The WGC Bridgestone is back in its usual spot the week before the US PGA after some scheduling changes last year to accommodate the Olympics. While it isn’t always an identical challenge the one constant with Firestone and whichever course is hosting the US PGA is length. Firestone Country Club is a Robert Trent Jones design and it sits as a 7360 yards Par 70 with some monstrous Par 4s and the longest Par 5 on Tour. Next week’s US PGA is always set up to play as long as possible and subsequently it has become a tournament that has been dominated by the longer hitters.

That similarity coupled with the tournaments being back-to back has brought about a telling stat where the last 10 US PGA winners have finished in the Top 22 at Firestone. Those who aren’t getting too involved from a betting point of view this week should pay close attention their fancies for Quail Hollow next week.

Firestone has been the host of this event in some capacity since 1962 so there is an abundance of course form and over the years a typical sort of winner has been established. The fairways are of average width but unlike most courses there are no dog legs and they all play perfectly straight. This puts straight, accurate drivers at an advantage even before the lush green rough is considered. The last 5 winners have averaged 14th for driving accuracy and while you can get away with missing fairways,  you need to be a good long iron player from the rough to get anywhere near the greens. On the long par 4s a missed fairway results in an approach shot of 200 yards + for most of the field and that is something that not all players are comfortable with.

The greens are relatively big at an average of 7,600 metres sq. but they play as some of the fastest on Tour at around 13″ on the stimp. So with a field average GIR of 55% over the last 5 years then we can see how hard it is to hold the greens. That brings scrambling into the equation and while the likes of Mahan and Johnson don’t immediately stand out as excellent scramblers, they did very well around the greens during the week of their win.

My first pick is someone who I backed regularly in the big tournaments for about 18 months prior to his excellent run, when he began delivering on his world-class promise with nearly flawless golf from November to January. Hideki Matsuyama was the best golfer in the world for two months before he went off the boil a little in 2017 and his putter began to cool down. But there have been plenty of signs in recent weeks that he is getting back to his best and a venue where poorer putters can thrive has arrived at the perfect time for him. His recent results have been very steady if not spectacular and they have helped him to 1st in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months. That complete game will help him around Firestone which is always a difficult test and the long game will have to be firing on all cylinders to win this week. Luckily that is what his game is built on and we can still get 20/1 on a player who arguably has the most consistent tee-to-green game in the field. Matsuyama ranks 7th in bogey avoidance, 10th in strokes gained: off the tee, 27th in strokes gained: around the green and 27th in scoring relative to par from approaches over 200 yards in the rough.

His Firestone results to date aren’t terribly impressive but I’m not really sure why as the venue should suit him perfectly. Matsuyama’s results in the big events this year eclipse virtually everyone except maybe Brooks Koepka. He has finished 11th, 2nd and 14th in the three majors so far while he has also thrown in a 25th in the WGC Mexico and 22nd in The Players. It looks highly likely we will at least get a run for our money and the odds look very fair for a player who is close to his best, where in turn his best can be close to unbeatable on the right course.

Kevin Chappell may turn into the big twitter gamble yet this week as he looks quite an obvious pick and could well let everyone down as he will be expecting to play well having finished 3rd last year on his debut. Chappell has built a reputation as being a bit of a specialist on courses that represent a tough challenge from tee-to-green. He was 3rd on his Open debut in 2011 and he followed that with a 10th at the Robert Trent Jones designed Olympic Club in 2012. Chappell’s long game was back to its best last week as he ranked 6th for total driving and 21st in GIR while interestingly he ranked 4th in total putting which so often holds him back. The clincher for me though was that he sits T2nd in scoring relative to par from 200 yards + approaches from the rough. That explains why he thrives on these types of courses and the last two course winners currently rank T2nd and 7th in this stat. Chappell definitely has the class to win an event of this size and now that he is a winner on Tour he should arrive confident of playing well again on his 2nd look at the course.

Kevin Kisner looks very overpriced on a course that should suit him despite his relative lack of length. His two results so far have been 37th in 2015 and 16th last year where he sat 6th at the half-way stage. Kisner hits it very straight off the tee and should find himself in the fairway more than most of the field this week. His iron game is in good shape too as he ranks 31st in GIR for the last 3 months. Recent results have been average but that has largely been due to a cold putter and hopefully with par a good score this week those missed birdie putts won’t be too crucial.

I looked at various different side markets here for a bet and settled on Ross Fisher for a Top 10 at a very tempting 10/1. Fisher finished 5th and 3rd at the first two WGC tournaments of the year and while his recent form hasn’t been fantastic, he gets in the staking plan thanks to his solid record around Valderrama, another difficult Robert Trent Jones design. Fisher has played there 5 times without ever being outside the top 25 and his best result was last year where he finished 6th. On his day Fisher is one of the longest, straightest drivers around and while his 3 appearances at Firestone haven’t yielded a top 25 yet, he hasn’t played it since 2010 and will be relishing the test this week.

 


Summary of Bets

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts ew @ 20/1

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Kevin Kisner – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt Top 10 @ 10/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2017 pts = 353.5pts

@theGreek82

The Open – Betting Preview

With four golfers in the places it was another good week but with the way Zach Johnson and Ryan Fox finished their rounds it was a little annoying to have their place returns diluted. Ultimately it was another profitable week though and keeps confidence high ahead of arguably the highlight of the golf year, The Open Championship.

2017 pts advised =322 pts

2017 pts returned = 240.36pts

ROI = -25.36%

In case you missed it, to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the blog I’m running a competition this week for the grand prize of £10! To enter simply retweet the preview and reply with a guess of how many players will finish the tournament under par. Please add a winning score as a potential tie-breaker.


The Open

This is the third time that I have previewed The Open and on both the previous occasions I anticipated the usual Open weather resulting in a proper test of links golf. Despite two brilliant tournaments, that didn’t really materialise at either St. Andrews or Troon. The players were taken off the course during the only strong winds at St. Andrews while Stenson and Mickelson exchanged weekend blows on a sun-drenched yet rain-softened Ayrshire coast last year. With everything we have seen before at Royal Birkdale however, the traditional Open enthusiasts should get their wish this week.

royal-birkdale-golf-club-2

While not being a classic out and in links course, every other aspect of a traditional links course is present at Royal Birkdale. Fairways sculpted into the dunes with rugged fescue all around, strategic pot bunkers in the fairways, large green complexes with swales and run-offs and more often than not a stern breeze whistling through it. While there are some undulations it is one of the flatter courses on rotation and 2008 champion Harrington claims it to be a very strong but very fair course that isn’t tricked up at all. What you see is what you get with the course and the majority of tee-shots are elevated meaning a clear view of where the drives are going. That is in complete contrast with the U.S. Open at Erin Hills where the players were faced with several blind tee-shots and aspects of a course like this can be key for many. Some golfers will be far more relaxed with this week’s driving lines and we may see the likes of Johnson, Rahm and Pieters in a better light here. Although it is worth noting that Birkdale has been claimed to be one of the toughest driving courses on the rotation. The fairways are narrow enough and the bunkers are as penal as you will see. Unlike some shorter links courses the bunkers can’t just be flown so strategy will be required off the tee.

In 2008 the field scrambled at just 42.6% which is the 3rd lowest in the last 15 years. The greens were also very hard to hit as the field managed just 53.7% which is actually the lowest total in the last 15. It may sound like I’m stating the obvious but you really only want to consider players this week that can continue to hit greens in difficult conditions and also scramble well around tightly mown links run-offs when they do miss the greens. That is what I focussed on but there are also some other key elements to Royal Birkdale from a historical point of view.

Key trends from the previous 9 Royal Birkdale Opens;

7/9 were already Major champions prior to Birkdale win

6/9 were or would go on to be a multiple major winner (the 9 have 34 majors between them now!)

5/9 were from the U.S.A (13 of the last 22 Open winners too)

3/9 were already Open winners (another 3 would go on to win The Open again)

The finishing position of the 9 Birkdale winners in the previous year’s Open;

1954 Peter Thomson – 2nd in 1953

1961 Arnold Palmer – 2nd in 1960

1965 – Peter Thomson – 24th in 1964 (already won at Birkdale in 1954)

1971 – Lee Trevino – 3rd in 1970

1976 – Johnnie Lee Miller – 3rd in 1975

1983 – Tom Watson – 1st in 1982

1991 – Iain Baker-Finch – 6th in 1990

1998 – Mark O’Meara – 38th in 1997 (was 3rd at Birkdale in 1998 and also won the Lawrence Batley International there in 1987)

2008 – Padraig Harrington – 1st in 2007

Essentially all these just tell us that this week’s Open will be won by a classy golfer who is already a major winner (or expected to become a multiple winner) and has a very strong bank of Open form already. Where does that leave us then?

I have thought Rickie Fowler was going to win The Open every year since his impressive showing at Sandwich in 2011 in dire conditions when he finished 5th to Darren Clarke. Indeed I have bet on him every year since and therefore I can forgive anyone who dismisses my main tip this year on grounds of me becoming obsessive! But this looks like the most traditional combination of both course and weather that we have seen since 2011. Birkdale looks absolutely perfect for Fowler and it has also come at a time when he is in brilliant form.

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

Whether or not you subscribe to the theory that he is the best active player without a major, nobody can deny that he has paid his dues already at the relatively young age of 28. Yet until his final round at Augusta I had personally never seen him do much wrong in contention for one of the Majors. That Sunday round alongside Spieth was a concern but he flew out of the blocks at Erin Hills in a fashion that suggested he had already forgotten about it. The fact that he finished 5th that week was actually testament to his grinding skills. He clearly wasn’t playing his best from Friday onwards yet he managed to just about hang around most of the tournament when Koepka, Fleetwood and Harman were playing their very best golf. He has held his form nicely since with a 3rd place finish at the Quicken Loans before crossing the Atlantic for his links warm up at the Scottish Open.

Over the weekend in Scotland Fowler cut the figure of someone who was merely sharpening their game ahead of the real tournament. I got the impression that he wasn’t overly worried about being off the pace and was happy to avoid the mental strain that comes with being in contention. With regards to trying to peak for this week, I believe his 9th place finish was ideal preparation. His 2017 has not only been succesful from a results point of view but his stats are excellent yet again this year. Fowler ranks 9th in scrambling, 3rd in total driving, 8th in strokes gained: approaches and 3rd in strokes gained: putting. It is no coincidence that he has contended at both this year’s majors as his whole game is as good as it has ever been.

For me, Rickie is ready and I believe this is his time if he is to go on to be the outstanding links player of his generation that I think he can be. He has already won around Gullane and finished 6th at Royal Aberdeen which are two visually similar courses to Birkdale.

The recent trend of experienced Open winners is certainly relevant but at the same time the nine Birkdale winners were an average of 31 yrs old when they won. Given Fowler came on the scene so early he is probably as experienced at 28 as the average golfer at 31 as this is his 8th Open already. Indeed the last three Birkdale winners played in their 8th Open respectively at 31, 34 and 31. I’m going to have 3pts ew at 14/1 with Skybet’s 10 places offer and a further 2pts win at Betfair’s 18.0

I’m going to take three more proven links players as back up to Rickie Fowler. Firstly the reigning Champion Golfer of The Year, Henrik Stenson. I was gutted not be on last year after making him my main tip at St. Andrews the year before. I can’t even remember why I left him out now, possibly as I hadn’t forgiven him for an average showing the year before. This year he hasn’t been playing his best but things have picked up a little and his stats have improved over the last few weeks. Despite finishing down the field in 26th, he was 1st in the all-round ranking last week, let down only by his putter as he ranked 1st in fairways and 12th in GIR. But not making birdies won’t be too detrimental this week as the bulk of the field struggle their way to par. His slow start to the year means we can still get roughly the same price as last year. If we consider the relatively poor form of many of the world’s top players and that he is now a major winner, this looks to me like some value. Stenson was also tied 3rd here in 2008 as he shot the best round in the field on the windiest day we have seen for years at an Open. He also has a very strong record at Opens where scrambling is tough. In the last 10 years his finishes when the field got up and down less than 50% were as follows; 2nd-68th-3rd-13th-3rd (the 68th coming during his slump year of 2011). He is expected to put up a strong defence this week.

Henrik

I badly wanted to include Justin Rose again but I still can’t get over his missed cut at Erin Hills so instead I’m going to include his good friend Ian Poulter. Poulter was runner-up here in 2008 as he handled the brutal winds better than everyone bar Harrington. His recent up-turn in form ahead of his return to the scene of his best Open performance is timely and it means he looks a shade of value, especially after faltering a little on Sunday to ease his price again. Despite the many that condescend to Poulter by criticising his sometimes average ball-striking, make no mistake that there are very few in the game who have maximised their talent quite like Poulter. He has had a similar career to Darren Clarke and I wouldn’t put it past Poulter to stick a cherry on top at the age of 41 much like his Ryder Cup captain did 7 years ago.

Regaining his PGA Tour card for this year when he thought he had lost it has given him a new lease of life and will have realigned his perspective. Playing without too much pressure he has managed a 2nd at the Players Championship and just last week his whole game was in excellent shape as he finished 9th at the Scottish Open on a proper links course in very typical Open weather. Some will be quick to point out how poorly he played in that final round but this was the first tournament in a while where he would have expected to win going into the final round. The refresher course can only have helped him with regards to next time he is in the final group and his record in contention in general is a good one. He ranked 9th in fairways at Dundonald and 20th in greens so that level of accuracy will help him at Birkdale. Skybet’s 60/1 doesn’t give us much juice on the win portion but again the 12/1 for a top 10 finish looks very nice given he has made the top 10 in three of his last eight Open appearances.

Steve Stricker fits the profile of a Birkdale winner absolutely perfectly, so much so that I’m going to get involved in several markets with the 50yr old Wisconsinite. The Open didn’t used to mean that much to Sticker and he has skipped it in the past. But now in his Senior years he relishes any chance to still play in a major and that has shown in his results. Amazingly he hasn’t missed a major cut since 2009’s US PGA Championship. That is 24 consecutive cuts which returned 13 Top 20 finishes. He was tied 16th at both this year’s Masters and Erin Hills so my main bet will be in the Top 20 market but I think there are plenty reasons to think he can go even better.

Stricker was 4th in last year’s Open at Troon as he minimised mistakes over the weekend and slowly crept up the leaderboard. But he was also 7th in 2008 when Harrington won and both those results align perfectly with previous Birkdale winners. If we also consider that the last 6 Open winners have been aged 40-39-25-43-42-41 then we can see that it isn’t just a myth that experienced players fare well in The Open. Stricker seems to tick so many boxes that I can’t believe the 230.0 that was available on Friday on Betfair. Hopefully some of you might have noticed my tweet and got on board but I still think the 170 is a good price and I also like Sky Bet’s 100/1 with 10 places on offer. That gives us 20/1 about a top 10 which seems like an absolute gift from a value point of view even if the win portion is probably about right. I’m advising 1pt win on the Exchange at 170, 1pt ew with Sky Bet @ 100/1 and also 2.5pts Top 20 @ 7/2. At the very worst we get the chance to cheer on one of the good guys in golf knowing that he should at least make the cut given his current streak of 24 not out. From there his experience and temperament could see him out stay plenty over a tough looking weekend.

I had been eyeing up a top 20 bet on Paul Waring for a few weeks so when he shot a 78 on Saturday I was a little bit miffed. But he closed with a 69 and I think he has the right sort of combination of steady tee-to-green game, solid putting stroke and a liking for tough conditions. Waring was 19th at Birkdale in 2008 but he is a far better player now and is enjoying his best year on Tour. I think he looks a solid bet for another Birkdale Top 20 at a general 10/1.

My last top 20 bet is quite a speculative one at the price but Paul Broadhurst perhaps shouldn’t be 33/1 for a top 20 considering he qualified for this by winning last year’s Senior Open at Carnoustie. Obviously it is a huge jump in class but Broadhurst was always a fine links player such was the quality of his short game. He is 51 yrs old now but we all remember how close Greg Norman and Tom Watson came to winning this so I see no reason why he can’t make the cut and if the wind gets up he should enjoy the test more than most.

Others who came close were Haas, Leishman and Snedeker but they haven’t repaid the faith shown in them over the last two years so instead I will monitor their progress and perhaps get on in-play if they start well.

First Round Leader

As well as winning The Open in 2015, Zach Johnson has built himself quite the Open record and he has made the last 10 cuts in a row dating back to 2006. I couldn’t say for sure but I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t the only player to have done that. His results in that time have been increasingly impressive too; 20-51-47-76-16-9-47-1-12. While his return to form at the John Deere Classic was interesting, I don’t think one performance on his favourite course is enough to suggest he has fully turned the corner, however, it will mean that he arrives at Birkdale full of confidence. It could be that he flies out of the blocks and continues where he left off so I was considering him for 1st round leader even before I looked at his recent Thursday knocks at The Open.

Starting with his most recent, Johnson’s run of ten consecutive Open weekends opened up with rounds of 67-66-71-66-65-72-72-70-73-73. The last five in particular are impressive but just two of those were over par in 10 years and he would have given some sort of each way returns in the first round leader market in four of the last five years. He looks a great each way bet to start well again even if his poor 2017 suggests he might fall away as he struggles to put four solid rounds together.

In most of the last 10 Opens we have seen an old head flirt with the leaderboard throughout the tournament but even on the occasions where they fell away quicker than Greg Norman or Tom Watson did, there has always been someone fighting the good fight for the older generation on day one. From last time at Birkdale in 2008 there has been an over 40 in the first five every year; Norman, Watson, Daly, Jimenez, Lawrie, O’Meara, Furyk, Goosen and last year both Stricker and Mickelson. So it looks perfectly fair to expect some senior representation again this year.

I’m not going to dive into another market with Steve Stricker although hopefully he can start well. Instead I am going to add Paul Broadhurst in the 1st round leader market too. He might not manage the physical exertions of 4 rounds at this level but he has an early tee-time and hopefully he can start strong.

Lastly I’m going to include Jason Dufner for no more reason than I have a feeling he could start well this week flying in completely under the radar. Dufner has missed his last two cuts since winning at Memorial but we can forgive that and prior to those his previous opening rounds read 74-69-73-69-68-71-68-68-70-71-71-65-68. He will enjoy the accuracy test off the tee and has a nice early tee time. With the weather forecast changing every hour I have stuck with the morning starters who will at least see the greens at their best.

For one last bet I’m going to have a double on what are for me the two outstanding candidates in the remaining majors, Fowler, as already covered, and Jon Rahm for the US PGA. His win in Ireland was excellent and he just keeps getting better. The Quail Hollow course will be set up perfectly for him and I think he will be the man to beat. The 20/1 currently available looks generous.


Summary of Bets

The Open

Rickie Fowler – 3pts ew @ 14/1 (Skybet 10 places at 1/5 odds) and a further 2pts win @ 18.0 on Betfair.

Henrik Stenson – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (Skybet)

Ian Poulter – 1pt ew 60/1 (Skybet)

Steve Stricker – 1pt win @ 170 on Betfair Exchange, 1pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet) and 2.5pts Top 20 @ 7/2

Paul Waring – 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Paul Broadhurst – 0.5pt Top 20 @ 33/1

 

Zach Johnson – 1pt ew @ 80/1 – 1st Round Leader

Paul Broadhurst – 0.25pt ew @ 300/1 – 1st Round Leader

Jason Dufner – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 – 1st Round Leader

0.5pt ew double Rickie Fowler to win The Open and Jon Rahm to win US PGA @ 356/1 (10 places and 5 places with Sky Bet)

 

Weekly pts advised =  23.5pts

2017 pts advised = 342pts

 

@theGreek82

Scottish Open and John Deere Classic – Betting Preview

It was a profitable week and therefore I can’t really complain, especially with the way Ryan Fox holed two lengthy par putts on 17 and 18 to hold onto 3/4 of the place money. But Russell Henley was a little disappointing on the Sunday given he was surrounded by less experienced players and he never really mounted a challenge. Kelly Kraft birdied the 17th to tie for 5th and that halved our returns. Michael Kim also did all the hard work for a back door top 20 only to go and double bogey the straight-forward 18th hole to fall one shot out of the top 20.

There were 19.94 pts returned and hopefully the next winner isn’t far away. The European Tour continues its links trail this week and hops over the Irish Sea to Ayrshire for The Scottish Open and the PGA Tour holds its customary pre-Open John Deere Classic.

Total 2017 pts advised =309pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 222.11

ROI = – 28.12%


The Scottish Open

After very little wind to speak of last week in Ireland and a soft, receptive course, scoring was very low and players and fans alike will be hoping for more of an Open warm-up this week in Ayrshire. But I’m not convinced that we will get one here although higher winds are forecast than in Ireland last week. They are coupled with rain though and it sounds like we will see another soft course where links specialists may have their advantage removed somewhat. While Jon Rahm won last week with his combination of power and touch around the greens he didn’t really have to change too much of his game as the soft greens and minimal wind allowed more of a target golf tournament. There was plenty of trouble off the tee at Portstewart but the course was short enough that Rahm could still muscle his way out of the fescue. This was highlighted by him hitting 82% of the greens despite only finding half the fairways.

This week’s course is a new one to the rotation but it is on the much trodden Ayrshire golf coast just north of Turnberry and Troon. It is relatively short at just over 7000 yards so if the wind doesn’t get up we could see another birdie-fest this week.

It is a Kyle Phillips design and in keeping with his mantra the fairways are very wide with the focus on tactical approach shots. The greens are huge allowing for lots of different pin placements which will give the organisers the chance to toughen things up should the weather stay benign. Phillips has designed several courses currently used on Tour but perhaps the most pertinent this week will be Kingsbarns. It is used on the Alfred Dunhill Links rotation and every year it plays as the easiest of the 3 courses. Its fairways are some of the biggest you will see on a links course and while Dundonald’s don’t appear quite so wide, I think the bomber types will be well suited to the relatively new Ayrshire track. The greens are well protected and have some undulations so it appears to be all about getting close to the flags, lag-putting well when they end up 60ft across the green and scrambling from tight lies at the bottom of run-offs. If the wind doesn’t materialise then again the best way of getting close will be with as much loft as possible, just like Jon Rahm managed last week. However if it does blow then the links specialists will feature on the leaderboard and must be given respect. Therefore it may well pay to side with players who are adaptable and can thrive in both environments.

Other Kyle Phillips designs to note are PGA National (Nordea Masters 2014, 2015), The Grove (British Masters 2016), Verdura Golf Resort (Sicilian Open 2012, 2017) and Hilverschume (KLM Open 2010, 2011, 2012). He also helped with remodelling works at Celtic Manor and Valderama. A look through these leaderboards repeatedly throw up the same sort of players. Long drivers who hit high numbers of greens in regulation in windy/tough conditions and scramble well when they miss. This has given me a specific skill set to focus on and I have found two at the head of the market to focus on.

I have left Rickie Fowler out this week largely due to the price and the fact that he might want tougher driving conditions to be seen at his best. Additionally I think he will be using this as a stepping stone to Birkdale where I make him the man to beat barring a horror show here. Despite leaving Fowler out I feel like I have still gone a little Jeremy Chapman here by picking two out of the front 6 but then again it is hard to argue with his record so I’ll crack on.

I haven’t tipped Alex Noren for a while but his chance of going back to back looks very strong. Noren won last year around Castle Stewart and that is another links course with wide open fairways. He has won at two other Phillips courses already with his win at The Grove last year following up his 2015 win around his home PGA National course. He also finished 3rd in the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2012 and reached the final of the Paul Lawrie Match Play around Archerfield Links last year. Add to this the fact he has won 6 of his last 28 regular European Tour events and you realise that the price of 16/1 isn’t actually a bad one at all. Simply put Noren is one of the best players on the European Tour, he has become a prolific winner and he is suited to this test perfectly. Room off the tee, a windy course and tricky green complexes where scrambling is key, this is what Noren is all about and therefore he rates a solid each way bet in his quest to defend his title.

Five years ago for Alex Noren you could have read Branden Grace. He was winning lots of regular Tournaments on exposed courses where his then deadly short game helped him to excel in the wind. But Grace has actually worked very hard on his long game and his most recent win at Harbour Town on the PGA Tour required a great deal of accuracy both off the tee and with approach shots. Unlike Noren however, Grace has built up a strong Major record over the last few years, so much so that in the U.S. he is perceived as a steady major type who enjoys a difficult tee-to-green test. But this is a far cry from the deadly putter who first came on the scene back in 2011 and in his 7 wins on the European Tour he has averaged -18. Three of those have been on links courses with his 2012 Alfred Dunhill win (including a course record 60 around Kingsbarns!) preceding two Qatar Masters titles. There is no question that his short game is at its best on slick, grainy greens like he was brought up playing on in South Africa. Grace finished 2nd at Castle Stuart when Mickelson won in 2013 and that was further proof that he will enjoy this sort of test. He has also been dismissed a little in the market and I think he looks to be a nice price at 25/1.

George Coetzee probably gets tipped a little too often in this blog so some may want to leave him out this week but I can’t at odds of 100/1. He has missed his last two cuts but this test is right up Coetzee’s street. He excels on wide open links layouts like this where his wild tee shots go unpunished and he can show off his short game skills. Coetzee shares the course record of 62 at the Old Course at St. Andrews and has also gone low at Kingsbarns which helped him finish 3rd in the Alfred Dunhill in 2012. He also came 3rd at Castle Stuart in 2011 and lost in a play-off at Gleneagles that same year. That form in Scotland shows just what he is capable of with a little room off the tee helping to keep the big numbers of his card. Those who think he is a little out of his depth in this sort of field are pointed to his 7th around Whistling Straits in the 2015 U.S. PGA. It is hard to know which Coetzee will turn up this week but at the price he looks to be excellent value to me.

Ryan Fox deserves another shot this week as he played superbly in Ireland to finish in a tie for 4th. Most of his mistakes came from his wayward tee shots so the big-hitting New Zealander will relish the extra space here. The rest of game was strong last week as he ranked 9th in GIR and he looked comfortable adapting his game to links conditions.

 


John Deere Classic

With focus very much on the Scottish Open I haven’t had too much of a look at the John Deere. The short course at Deere Run always comes down to who combines their wedge play and putting best of all and that is why Stricker, Zach Johnson and Spieth have had somewhat of a monopoly over the last 10 years. They are three of the best wedge players and putters we have seen in recent times so those are certainly the attributes to focus on this week. In terms of stats then strokes gained: putting, one putt percentage, proximity to hole and scoring relative to par from approaches 100-125 yards and 125-150 yards all look key this week.

With a relatively weak looking field I have decided to keep this very simple and back both Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson. As everyone knows their records around Deere Run are immense and while Johnson is in fairly poor form, Stricker has actually been playing very well this year. He finished 16th at both the Masters and U.S. Open making him one of only five men to return top 20s in both majors. The other four are Koepka, Matsuyama, Kuchar and Fowler which is lofty company to be keeping at 50 years old. Stricker has three wins and two other places at the course, most of these coming after his 40 birthday when he was already playing a fairly limited schedule. So arriving off a light 2017 won’t have too much of an impact and he should play well. Davis Love III showed just last week how the seniors can still contend when conditions allow and I expect Stricker to continue to fly the flag for the veterans this week.

Zach Johnson is harder to make a case for but with little else taking my eye here I decided he was worth a go due to the ridiculous course record he owns. His recent results are 34-3-2-2-1-3-21-2 and while he hasn’t been at his best this year he has gone off sub 20/1 here ever since his win and I think given his record the 28/1 still has some value in it with no Jordan Spieth in the field. He also ranks 25th in one putt percentage so if he can give himself chances then he should manage to get competitive on greens he knows better than anyone.

Finally I have added Wesley Bryan as a back-up to the two course horses incase neither are quite at it this week. Bryan is an excellent putter and I didn’t expect him to get his first win around such a fiddly track like Harbour Town. However it is another short course where he would have been using a lot of wedges for his approaches. Despite a recent drop off in his form, his stats are still excellent for this sort of test. Bryan is 5th in one putt percentage, 7th in scoring relative to par from 125-150 yards and 25th for the same stat at 100-125 yards. Deere Run should play to his strengths and as a winner just 10 weeks ago I thought he looked a fair price at 80/1 although I’m not so excited about the general 66/1 around now. However I had already decided to back him so I’m still going to have a small each way interest.


Summary of Bets

Scottish Open

Alex Noren – 2pts ew @ 16/1

Branden Grace – 1pt ew @ 25/1

George Coetzee – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Ryan Fox – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

John Deere Classic

Steve Stricker 1.25pt ew @ 28/1

Zach Johnson – 0.75pt ew @ 28/1

Wes Bryan – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 13pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 322pts

@theGreek82