Memorial and Nordea Masters – Betting Preview

Another Sunday, another week of my picks tumbling down the leaderboard. Great fun.

What made matters worse was Kevin Kisner (tipped for Dean and Deluca last year and 11 times in total!) won in Texas in the evening albeit at the slightly restrictive price of 25/1. While his chance was obvious I still hadn’t forgiven him for his awful Sunday round at Harbour Town last month. But given that I had been waiting for his 2nd win it is annoying to miss out, especially as he is probably one of the few players who I’m still in profit on.

Total 2017 pts advised = 233 pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 130.97 pts

ROI =  -43.79pts

Two decent events this week and another chance to turn things around. The Memorial on the PGA and the Nordea Masters in Europe.


Memorial Tournament

Muirfield Village was opened in 1976 and has hosted The Memorial Tournament ever since producing an impressive roll call of winners. The course itself is 7337 Yards long and the fairways are of average width. There isn’t too much immediate trouble barring some lush green rough and it is very much a typical Nicklaus course as it is all about the approach shots and then what you do on and around the greens.

It has been a little while since I tipped top 10 money machine Matt Kuchar to win a tournament but lately he has looked like he is ready to win again and where better than Muirfield where he won in 2013. Accurate long iron approach play, good scrambling, par 4 scoring and steady putting are all hallmarks of Kuchar’s ultra consistent golf game. Without a win since 2014, Kuchar’s form took a little blip but so far in 2017 he has looked a lot like the Matty of old. He ranks 9th in scrambling, 14th in par 4 scoring and 41st in GIR.

The trouble with Kuchar isn’t trying to pick where he will play well, it is more so that it can be hard to get him inside the top 5 rather than the top 10. On his last 3 appearances on Jack Nicklaus designed courses he has finished 9th, 4th and 7th. After a back door 12th last week where only three men played the weekend lower he looks primed for a contending performance on one of his favourite courses.

I’m going to split stakes though so we still see a return should he finish in the all too familiar 6th-10th zone. I’m going 1pt ew and 2pts Top 10.

Brian Harman doesn’t have the greatest of records around Memorial but it should suit him and he looks over priced after winning just four weeks ago on a similar course at Eagle Point Golf Club. He won that with a solid approach game backed up by a brilliant short game display and that is what is required on a Jack Nicklaus layout. His course record isn’t a worry as his game has never been better and he got back to business nicely last week when finishing 7th at Colonial.

Harman ranks 25th for scrambling, 9th in Par 4 scoring, 30th in bogey avoidance and 21st in scoring relative to par on approaches from over 200 yards. The slight worry is that he doesn’t hit the sort of high numbers of greens that is usually required around Muirfield Village but given his short game form I think he is over priced here.

There are three others that I quite like this week, Patrick Cantlay, Sung-Hoon Kang and Ricky Barnes. I’m going to back Cantlay to win and the two others for a top 20.

Cantlay ranks 11th in GIR, 3rd in par 4 scoring and 7th in the all-round ranking. He is making his debut but I think he looks very well suited to Muirfield Village. Cantlay has been very impressive so far in 2017 having not finished outside the top 48 in his 6 appearances and returning a runner-up and 3rd place finish. He appears to have turned the corner following a tragic 2016 in which he witnessed his caddie and friend being killed in a hit and run. With a full PGA Tour  card secured again he is expected to go from strength to strength this year and hopefully he can contend here. The price isn’t fantastic for a non-winner but only Jon Rahm has spent longer as world amateur no. 1 and he looks to be able to play a bit!

Kang is a very solid stats pick this week and while he is making his debut he is having a brilliant 2017 so far finishing 6th at the Texas Open and 2nd at the Houston Open. Both those were a result of solid GIR and scrambling numbers which is the perfect combo here. He ranks 38th in GIR, 20th in scrambling, 9th in par 4 scoring and 12th in the all-round ranking. Surely over priced a little at 9/2 for a top 20.

Ricky Barnes is a bit of a phenomenon in that he can appear from nowhere on a leaderboard, usually in a rather high profile event on a proper golf course. Barnes is a former runner-up here and he goes well on Nicklaus courses in general having finished 5th and 11th on his last two efforts around Glen Abbey in Cananda. Barnes shot an opening 75 last week before going onto play the last three rounds better than everyone bar Spieth and Stricker. Odds of 11/1 for a top 20 look massive.


Nordea Masters

The Nordea Masters returns to Barseback Golf Club for the first time since 2009. It was a regular stop from the 1990s up to that point so there is a fair bit of course form albeit rather dated.

It is a fairly long course and can play up to 7729 yards with a combination of links style  and woodland holes. Visually that suggests it has similarities with Gleneagles, Celtic Manor and even last week’s Wentworth. I have written before about how form at Crans ties in well with Gleneagles and Celtic Manor while the Doha Golf Club, home of the Qatar Masters is another that looks relevant this week. Indeed the last winner here, Ricardo Gonzalez is a former winner at Crans, he also lost a play-off at Gleneagles, finished 4th at Celtic Manor and 4th at the Qatar Masters.

Marc Warren won the previous running in 2006 and he was won at Gleneagles, finished runner-up in Qatar, runner-up at Wentworth, 4th at Celtic Manor and 4th at Crans.

Luke Donald was the winner here in 2004 and he is a double winner at Wentworth, he has won around Crans and finished 3rd at Celtic Manor (as well as scoring 3pts there at the Ryder Cup).

2003 winner Adam Scott has won twice in Qatar and once at Gleneagles. Even going further back 2001 winner Colin Montgomerie has won around Crans and Wentworth, 1997 winner Joakim Haeggmann has won in Qatar, 1993 winner Jesper Parnevik at Gleneagles and 1992 winner Nick Faldo at Wentworth and Crans.

They all putted and scrambled very well during their win and those appear to be the standout attributes this week at Barseback. On exposed layouts, greens are very often missed and we see great scramblers thrive year after year on links layouts. They also all ranked very high on the par 3s which suggests they are maybe a fairly easy set of par 3s to hit with big greens where the better putters will prosper. The greens are also some of the faster on the European Tour which again will disadvantage those poorer with the flat stick.

Driving accuracy hasn’t been overly important in the past and despite several of the holes being tree-lined, the fairways are wide enough and the rough hasn’t been too penal in the past. Although we don’t know how it will be set up this week it is fair to assume they won’t venture too far from the set-up that saw the course prove very popular with players in the past.

Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren both have a very good record at most of the key courses listed especially the latter who has won at Celtic Manor, Crans and now Wentworth. I think they are both rightly single figure prices here and I think they will be hard to beat. Noren has proven in the last year just what he is capable of when he is fit and while the price of 8/1 is probably fair and we know he can go back to back, I think the enormity of winning the Tour’s flagship event may prevent us from seeing him at his best. As brilliant as Stenson is he has proven a costly player to follow at single figure prices and despite this being his home course I think he can be left out given his mixed course form.

The trouble with opposing two world-class, proven winners is that as well as finding someone suited to the course, we need to know they are capable of winning in what is a relatively strong field for the European Tour these days.

At his best Bradley Dredge was a multiple winner on Tour and he has a very solid bank of form at all the relevant courses this week. Dredge is a former winner around Crans, he was runner-up at Gleneagles, 4th in Qatar and he has also been 2nd twice at the visually similar Himmerland Golf Course where Marc Warren has won.

He played well for three rounds last week at Wentworth before a disappointing 4th round. Dredge has plenty length off the tee to cope with Barseback and despite not having played fantastically here before, he has played the course 4 times and made three cuts. The course should really suit this brilliant putter and he proved on Monday when qualifying for the US Open that his first three rounds at Wentworth were no fluke. With confidence high I’m expecting a good showing from the experienced Welshman.

George Coetzee is a favourite of the blog and I have mentioned several times what a great scrambler and putter he is on fast, links type courses. He hasn’t contended too much so far this year but he has been putting well as is to be expected. His driving has actually been a lot more consistent so far this year and it appears that he is trying to cut out the big numbers that we associate with the South African. Again he has some solid form at a couple of the key courses, he lost a play-off at Gleneagles in 2011 and has also been runner-up in Qatar. He currently ranks 2nd in birdie average and also 15th in driving distance so the long course will suit. Coetzee knows how to get over the winning line with three European Tour wins and he looks ready to add a 4th. This is a strong field but that is reflected in the odds of 50/1.

There were a few more that I could have included in the outright but with results having been poor lately I’m keen to try to persist with Top 20s as an alternative.

Marcel Siem has some of the best course form on show in this field as he finished 4th in 2006 and 8th in 2004. That was a long time ago but there have been recent signs that this 4 time winner may be finding his game again. He finished 8th two weeks ago in Italy but was let down by his putter. I’m not sure that he can contend if he is putting poorly but his course experience can help him continue along the comeback trail with another top 20.

Joakim Lagergren and Alexander Bjork are two young Swedes who both have brilliant short games. They will be looking to impress on home soil and this could be a good course for them. Lagergren finished runner-up this year at the Qatar Masters but went a little off the boil after that. He still sits 22nd in birdie average though and he can be expected to play well on any course that favours putters. His best results on Tour have all been on links type layouts with a 4th in the Alfred Dunhill Links last year and a 5th at the Made In Denmark on the Himmerland Course.

Alexander Bjork ranked 3rd for scrambling at Wentworth and 9th for putting along the way to finishing 14th. Only Tanihara and winner Noren had a better combination of short game stats and more of the same this week will surely see him crack the top 20 again.


Summary of Bets

Memorial

Matt Kuchar – 1pt ew @ 33/1 and 2pts Top 10 @ 3/1

Brian Harman – 0.5pt ew @ 75/1

Sung-Hoon Kang – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

Ricky Barnes – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/1

Patrick Cantlay – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Nordea Masters

Bradley Dredge – 1pt ew @ 80/1

George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Marcel Siem – 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Joakim Lagergren – 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Alexander Bjork – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Weekly pts advised – 16pts

Total 2017 pts advised – 249pts

@theGreek82

Byron Nelson and Rocce Forte Open – Betting Preview

Si-Woo Kim ran out a very deserving if very surprise winner at The Players Championsip. It was clear he had talent when he got his first win last summer at The Wyndham but his form this year had been nothing short of terrible. It transpired that he had been playing with an injury most of the year however which explains a lot. I guess in hindsight the 1000.0 that was matched on Betfair is far too high a price for such a talented young player but ultimately it throws the whole golf betting game into disarray if we start ignoring the fundamentals. For next year I think it is safe to look at it as a bit of an anomaly in terms of form and stats but as ever it probably pays to heed the often repeated line “beware the injured golfer!”.

Even in an awful tournament like the Open De Portugal I managed to find a way of picking 6th place and that was extremely annoying as he raced to his finishing score through just 6 holes. One shot better would have returned the place money.

Another tough week means the results aren’t looking any better.

Total 2017 pts advised – 213

Total 2017 pts returned – 130.97

ROI = -38.5%

I’m low on time and confidence this week so I’m not getting too involved with a long preview and I will keep stakes low.


Byron Nelson Championship

Last year I wrote about a suspected course link between the Atlanta Athletic Club, host of the 2011 US PGA, and the TPC Las Colinas course here in Irving, Texas. Four of the top 7 players on that PGA Leaderboard are winners of the Byron Nelson and last year’s winner Garcia was 12th at that same US PGA. I’m going to stick with that approach to have a few speculative punts on some outsiders.

The 2014 US Amateur Championship was also held at the Atlanta Athletic Club and I’m going with the two players who shot the joint lowest round of 68 in their qualifying round at the Highlands Course; C.T. Pan and Robby Shelton.

C.T. Pan finished 2nd around Torrey Pines on his debut which was somewhat overshadowed by Rahm winning on his debut. But that was some effort and while he has gone off the boil a little lately he actually hit a fan in the face with the ball at the Honda Classic. Incidents like that can affect a player and it may have taken a little time to get over it. He has missed his last few cuts but given such a strong course link he looks worth a little dabble at 250/1. After all he is ranked 150th in the world and he is priced up here with a group of players outside the top 300.

Robby Shelton is another young player finding his feet on Tour but he already has a 3rd place finish from when he was an amateur in 2015. But just last month he finished 16th in Texas and he looks a decent price at 175/1 given his lofty reputation.

D.A. Points returned to form when winning in Puerto Rico in March before missing a few cuts but he bounced back again two weeks ago with a 12th in the Wells Fargo. It’s easy to think of him as a bit of a journeyman but with 7 professional wins (3 PGA Tour) he knows how to get the job done. Points was 10th at the 2011 US PGA and at odds of 200/1 the bookmakers seem to have quickly forgotten about his win this year.

With three outsiders I’m also going to include a more favoured runner in Jason Dufner, who enjoys shorter Par 70 layouts and is a former winner here. He has been performing well on the par 4s all year and ranks 7th in Par 4 scoring. He actually somehow ranks 47th in strokes gained: putting too which suggests win number 5 might not be too far away.


Rocce Forte Open

The Sicilian Open returns in everything but name this week and it also sees the European Tour back at Verdura Golf Course in Sicily after it hosted the last running in 2012. Some changes have been made but it still looks a lot like it did 5 years ago when Thorbjorn Olesen claimed his maiden win. It is practically a links course which seems a little strange for Italy but some of the pictures show it running along the coast and most of the descriptions reference a links style layout. The designer was Kyle Phillips who is responsible for several of the modern links courses we see on Tour including Kingsbarns and PGA National in Sweden.

Chris Paisley doesn’t immediately strike me as a player favoured to Links golf but he looks a very good price here. His best finish of the season was a 13th in Qatar which is actually a course where Olesen has finished 2nd and Chris Wood, who chased Olesen home here in 2012, has won. Branden Grace is also a two-time winner there and he holds the course record at Kingsbarns which compounds the link. Paisley also has a 13th around PGA National in Sweden and while it may be a slightly tenuous link, Paisley hasn’t missed a cut since January and this isn’t the deepest of fields.

Eduardo De La Riva has some sneaky links form and he has been on my radar for links tests ever since his 15th around Muirfield in very tough conditions. Since then he has a 2nd around Kennemer Links in Holland and a 3rd at the windy Portugal Masters. He had been struggling this season until last time out in China when he finished 14th and he ranked 5th for driving accuracy and 9th for GIR. Very speculative but it looks like that sort of tournament.


Summary of Bets

Byron Nelson

Jason Dufner – 1pt ew @ 40/1

C.T. Pan – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Robby Shelton – 0.5pt ew @ 175/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

D.A. Points – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

Rocco Forte Open

Chris Paisley – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Eduardo De La Riva – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Weekly points advised = 10pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 223pts

@theGreek82

Wells Fargo Championship and GolfSixes – Betting Preview

There was a fairly obvious winner in Alexander Levy last week who had been playing well without quite contending over the last month or so. Julien Quesne played well and while he didn’t manage to get a full top 20 his finish of T18th did provide some small returns on the week.

On the PGA Tour while Cameron Smith has been playing well of late his partner Jonas Blixt hasn’t been doing much so they were a bit more of a surprise winner in the new team format at the Zurich Classic. I didn’t see a great deal so I’m not sure how much of a success it was but the players all seemed to enjoy it even if golf fans and punters struggled to get onboard.

This week it is another difficult one with a course change for the Wells Fargo due to Quail Hollow hosting the US PGA later in the year and another kooky format on the European Tour with the “Golf Sixes”. Neither look like fantastic betting heats so I may not get too involved.

Total 2017 pts advised = 191

Total 2017 pts returned = 130.97

ROI = -31.43%

 


Wells Fargo Championship

The new course this week is Eagle Point in North Carolina and like the normal host course Quail Hollow, it is a Tom Fazio design. Nobody knows a great deal about it with it being new to the Tour but PGA Tour pro Zac Blair was tweeting photos from the course over the weekend so his twitter is worth a follow for pictures of the course.

With very little to go on I have focussed on form on other Tom Fazio designed courses. One of his trademarks is difficult green complexes so with wide enough looking fairways and perfect bentgrass greens I think the better putters may be at a slight advantage this week.

Daniel Berger has been threatening to get his second win lately and I think this course should suit him. The fairways appear wide and forgiving so approach shots and short game will be more key than driving this week and that will suit Berger. He is currently 19th in strokes gained:putting for the season but as high as 3rd in total putting over the last three months. He also sits 24th in scrambling and has a runner-up finish at another Fazio design at the Honda Classic.

Berger has shown in the past that he can adapt quickly to new courses as his 10th place at Augusta on his Masters debut and his 16th place finish in the WGC Mexico testify. You could argue that 33/1 was a little on the skinny side but when you look at the depth of the field you can see it isn’t fantastic and he is the world number 38 with a win under his belt already at 24.

Zac Blair looks worth a small interest given how excited he appears by the course. Not all pros care as much about the appearance and details of every course but before Blair took so many photos of his rounds at Eagle Point he is obviously a scholar of golf course design. With very little to go on I think it is fair to assume the advantage that he will get from being so prepared will help him out play his odds of 250/1. Blair has been putting very well lately, ranks 2nd on Tour for scrambling and has played well on windy courses before.

I wasn’t sure about including Zach Johnson as he hasn’t played that well so far in 2017 but he does have a history of performing on Tom Fazio courses. Johnson won the BMW Championship at Fazio’s Conway Farms in 2013 and he finished 8th at Oakmont in last year’s US Open. Fazio reworked Oakmont prior to the 2007 edition and it famously has some of the toughest greens in the world. Even if Johnson’s long game isn’t quite where he wants it to be, this short game wizard looks over priced at 80/1.


Golf Sixes

This is another new venture from The European Tour and much like the new event in Perth earlier in the year it has had a fair amount of criticism already. I think it could be quite a fun event again however as I enjoyed the Perth Super 6 event.

Having said that though it really doesn’t look like an event to get very involved in from a betting point of view. Just 16 teams all priced between 8/1 and 33/1 with match-play greensomes over just 6 holes suggests utter carnage and an argument could be made for just backing the four outsiders win only in an attempt to get some value. I did consider that but instead I have plumped for just one pick for an interest and that is the Scottish team of Richie Ramsay and Marc Warren. They both have plenty of experience playing in the UK and also lots of positive match-play experience. Ramsay won the 2006 US Amateur Championship and Marc Warren has won around Gleneagles and made the sem-finals of the Paul Lawrie Match Play in 2015. Warren has a very good record around nearby Wentworth and visually they are quite similar courses. Ramsay has some decent finishes in the UK also with 8 top 10s over the years.

While the greensomes format (both players hit a drive and then alternate shot from their best effort) is new to Tour competitively, it seems like hitting fairways will be key, especially over just 6 holes where one mistake could lose the match. Ramsay has always been a very accurate driver of the ball whereas Warren usually does his best work on and around the greens but he does boast one of the best swings on Tour. They may just make a solid team this week and at 16/1 they look a fair price considering they are both proven winners on Tour with 6 titles between them. (Only the Thai and French teams combine for more)


Summary of Bets

Wells Fargo

Daniel Berger – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Zach Johnson – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Zac Blair – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1

Golf Sixes

Scotland (Ramsay and Warren) – 1pt ew @ 16/1

Weekly pts advised = 6pts

2017 pts advised = 197pts

@theGreek82

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – Betting Preview

Minnesota witnessed one of the most rowdy and high profile Ryder Cups we have seen for some time over the weekend and Patrick Reed stole the show on his way to landing our Top US Points Scorer bet. That was about the only thing to sing about though as US ran out comfortable 17-11 winners and while I enjoyed it immensely, I think the Reed/Mcilroy and Mickelson/Garcia contests masked a slightly uneventful Friday and Saturday. I may be in the minority but for me the opening two days just didn’t have the back and forth battles that we have seen in recent times and I think only four matches made it to the 18th in the first four sessions. That, together with a feeling that Europe were always facing an uphill task after losing the first session 4-0, resulted in a tournament that lacked any real excitement for me. Of course the atmosphere through-out and the two epic singles battles will probably mark Hazeltine down in history as one of the great editions but for me it wasn’t a patch on Medinah. Although that is probably just because Europe got so comprehensively beaten!

The Patrick Reed bet has helped keep the blog in profit but its only slight and an outright winner is required sooner rather than later. The results are now standing at;

Total points advised – 794.50

Total points returned – 801.39

ROI – 0.86%

This week we don’t have any action on the PGA Tour as they take a week’s break before returning with the 2017 season. That leaves us with just the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.


Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

With no fewer than six of the European team scheduled to tee it up in Fife and Angus on Thursday, the tournament may well prosper from a US Ryder Cup win. A couple of days’ worth of partying wouldn’t have been the ideal preparation for Clarke’s men and given the manner of their defeat we can probably expect most of them to arrive in Scotland keen to banish those memories and get back to their normal Tour schedule.

Unfortunately though it isn’t quite your normal stroke-play event this week as the Dunhill Links takes the form of a pro-am and each player plays a round at all three of the links courses along with their often “celebrity” amateur of choice. The cut then falls after three rounds with those who make it continuing on to a final round at St. Andrews on Sunday. The other two courses on rotation the first two days are Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. They all play to a Par 72 with Kingsbarns playing the easiest, Carnoustie always playing the toughest and St Andrews somewhere in between.

There will be numerous American amateurs taking part and that will no doubt involve a lot of ribbing directed at the Europeans so while in recent times players have played well after being involved (Kaymer won this the week after his Ryder Cup debut in 2010) I’m not convinced that we will see those six men in the right sort of head space to be winning this week. The only one that would appeal in any shape or form would be Thomas Pieters who played superbly last week to top score across both teams. His putting in particular was brilliant and I only recall seeing him miss about three putts inside 20ft from Fri evening onwards. Given this is always a birdie fest then he would normally be expected to go well but with a heightened profile his price is down to 16.0 and I think he can be left alone.

With the action taking part in autumn on Scottish links courses you would probably expect scoring to be tougher than in the summer but the courses are all set up quite short with easy pin locations and slow greens to allow the amateurs to enjoy themselves. That’s not to say that they don’t all play like links courses however and the tournament is always won by a proven links exponent. That will be even more crucial should the wind get up as forecast this week.

Looking at recent winners we can get an idea of the type of player that has won here. The last two winners, Thorbjorn Olesen and Oliver Wilson, both had runner-up finishes in the event previously and when David Howell won the year before that he was confirming the long standing opinion that he is a great links player. He also had finishes here of 3rd, 6th, 8th and 5th earlier in his career.

Historically the home players do well with 11 of the 15 winners hailing from Great Britain or Ireland so they would make a good starting point here.

What they do off the tee this week is of very little consequence as recent winners have ranked well down driving distance and driving accuracy. It is all about hitting as many greens as possible and then holing as many of the chances as you can. Normally a birdie fest would favour the stronger putters and while the list of winners does throw up some excellent putters, the slow, easy greens allow poorer putters to contend as long as their short stick gets a little hot.

The last 5 winners have averaged 24th for GIR and 27th for total putting. They also finished 1st, 12th, 4th, 1st and 2nd for total birdies during the week and for those looking at a stats approach I would suggest those three to be the main players. I’m also not going to look too far beyond the home-grown players with plenty of in –form options to choose from.

A very strong field is assembled and the market is dominated this week by the European Ryder Cup team along with class-acts Branden Grace, Louis Oostuizen, Bernd Wiesberger and Alexander Noren. I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see any of them win but none of them appeal as a betting proposition. While I have touched on the fact that Kaymer won here the week after 2010’s Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, that was a short journey from Wales and he was also making it as a member of a winning team. A case could be made for Thomas Pieters and Cabrera-Bello this week but it is asking a lot for them to be ready to fly out of the blocks on Thursday and a good start is usually required here.

There are two players that I really like this week and I can’t separate them so I’m splitting stakes and taking two Englishmen against the field this week.

I’ve had Tommy Fleetwood marked down for this for a little while such has been the quality of his iron play over the last 2 months. It’s just a shame the bookmakers have taken all the juice out of his price given his strong event form. His results here read 13th -2nd -5th -55th -5th so you can see why they fear him this week. Fleetwood has long been touted as a future Open champion given his ability on links courses. He hails from Southport and was brought up around some of the best links in England. His only win so far has been down the road in Perthshire when he won the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. That has always been a title that has gone to solid links players given the undulating and exposed course plays a lot like its neighbours on the coast.

Fleetwood’s last three tournaments yielded finishes of 10th, 7th and 13th and they were the result of some improved numbers as he now sits 3rd for GIR over the last 3 months. He also ranks 37th for birdie average and handles the wind very well indeed.

His 2nd win on Tour has been a long time coming but his recent upturn of form makes him a huge player this week and he might take some inspiration from seeing his peers playing at Hazeltine. His price is shorter than I would have liked but he still looks an excellent each way bet here at 30/1 with the best bank of course form on offer.

Ross Fisher turned his form around completely last time out in Germany as he finished 2nd to Alexander Levy. The Englishman fits the profile of previous Dunhill winners perfectly as he has a previous Top 5 in the event and he also used to be top-class reaching the World’s Top 10 if I remember correctly during his career year in 2009. Two years ago this was won the week after the Ryder Cup by an ex member of the European team in 2008, Oliver Wilson. He came from nowhere to win and it looked like he maybe got a bit of a kick up the rear end due to where his career had ended up relative to those who he played alongside in 2008.

It’s possible Fisher might have a similar reaction to last week’s tournament in Hazeltine but even if he doesn’t he looks a great bet coming off his recent play-off defeat. In that European Open he ranked 1st for total driving, 1st for total accuracy and 1st in the all-round ranking. It was only his ranking of 20th for total putting that prevented him winning but if it hadn’t been cut to 54 holes then I have no doubt his long game prowess would have got the better of Levy whose own game was beginning to unravel. That was still a putting improvement however for a player who has always been held back by his limitations on the greens. If he can keep that level of putting going this week then he will be very dangerous.

I expect him to play well again on a set of courses he knows and with question marks about a lot of the market leaders I think there is a fair bit of value in his odds of 40/1.

I’m a huge fan of George Coetzee and given his excellent putting ability on links greens I will probably continue to back him whenever he plays in Scotland. I will certainly continue to back him when the price is right and after some injuries and loss of form he is priced up like a nobody in Scotland this week. (He actually confirmed on Twitter today that is ankle is back to full strength) Let’s not forget that since he finally got his first European Tour win in February 2014, only Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett have more ET wins. He also shares the St. Andrews course record (62) from 2012 when he finished 5th in this event and he has finished 15th and 18th in the Open. Not to mention a play-off defeat in 2011 at Gleneagles so he is comfortable playing in the UK. Odds of 13/2 don’t accurately reflect his top 20 chances in my opinion and he looks well worth getting onside.

Joakim Lagergren finished 4th here last year and sits in 6th place in birdie average over the last 3 months. That alone was enough to interest me but the youngster’s only win actually came in Northern Ireland on the Challenge Tour. It wasn’t on a links course but it confirms that he is comfortable playing in the cooler, windier conditions in the UK. His recent finishes haven’t been great but that was the same last year so he has probably been waiting for conditions to suit. He also ranks 6th in Par 4 scoring average over the last 3 months so his game must be in decent shape.  Looks to have a good chance of another Top 20 and is probably over priced to get one on last year’s showing.

 


Summary of Bets

Dunhill Links

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.5pts ew @ 30/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 40/1

George Coetzee – Top 20 – 2pts @ 13/2

Joakim Lagergren – Top 20 – 1pt @ 13/2

Weekly pts advised – 8pts

Total pts advised – 802.50pts

@theGreek82

Olympic Golf and John Deere Classic

Last week’s tournaments were rather interesting and threw up one very obvious winner and one that was anything but. Russell Knox has a very solid bank of form on Pete Dye courses and I wouldn’t have been alone in kicking myself on Sunday night when he triumphed for his 2nd PGA Tour win and his first on American soil. Even more annoying was that he went off at a fairly good price (50/1) and he is someone who should definitely be considered on Dye tracks regardless of current form as he consistently hits greens even when the rest of his game might not be at its sharpest.

In the Paul Lawrie Match Play Anthony Wall was also picking up his 2nd win but while Knox’s came some 9 months after his first, Wall had a 16 year wait in between his trophies. With very average form he was difficult to fancy before the off but his win further highlights how difficult a betting format knockout match play can be.

The one interesting aspect of Wall’s win however was him showing the importance of scrambling in links golf. When the wind blows then greens will be missed and those with a great touch around the bumps and run-offs usually fare well. Year after year Wall is one of the best scramblers on Tour, as is runner-up Alexander Noren and I don’t think it was a coincidence that they played out the final after a very windy weekend of links golf.

Another week of no returns is leaving the profits very bare now but August and September were good months last year so hopefully I can turn it around and start pushing the ROI up again.

Total pts advised – 748.50

Total pts returned – 793.79

ROI – 6.05%

This week we have no action in Europe as the Olympic Golf Tournament just about takes centre stage over the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. I’ve focussed on the Rio action but have also had a brief look at the US golf.


Olympic Golf

There has been enough written about the Olympic golf debacle to thoroughly bore everyone already so I’m not going to get drawn into that and instead I have focussed solely on the golf tournament in question.

We have a 60 man field assembled down in Rio and while not being as strong as it could be there is a very nice mix of top-level PGA Tour players and those that have been lighting up the other lesser known Tours. I think that in itself will give an Olympic feel to the tournament and while a team event may have been more fitting, everyone that is playing is doing so because they want to win that gold medal for both themselves and their country.

The Olympic course in the Barra region of Rio is where the action will happen and it is a standard 72-hole stroke-play format running from Thursday to Sunday as normal. Gil Hanse designed the course specifically for the Olympics after being chosen ahead of some of the most respected modern-day designers in the game.

While being a very active designer, Hanse doesn’t have too many original designs that are in play on either the PGA Tour or the European Tour but he has been quoted saying that he based a lot of the design on his links course at Castle Stuart. Looking at the pictures that seems very fair as there is definitely a sprawling links nature to the fairways and they appear to be very wide just like his Scottish design. He has also carried out a few high-profile renovations and perhaps his most notable two are at Doral’s Blue Monster Course (host of the WGC Cadillac Championship from 2007-2016) and TPC Boston (home of the Deutsche Bank Championship)

The other narrative this week has been that the course has a Melbourne Sandbelt feel to it with the course being built on very sandy soil. That doesn’t give us too much to go on here with just the two Aussies in the field but it does suggest that the course could play hard and fast as it dries out over the four days with no rain forecast.

It is a 7128 yard Par 71 but it is quite different in that it still has four Par 5s but also has five Par 3s. There is very little in the way of rough and instead the fairways are lined with waste areas like we have seen at recent US Opens at Pinehurst and Chambers Bay. The greens are sea paspalum this week which we don’t see in use on the PGA Tour too much but there are a few courses with the grass in use; El Cameleon (OHL Classic), Kuala Lumpur GC (CIMB Classic), Trump International GC (Puerto Rico Open) and Sea Island (RSM Classic).

I have been through the field several times and while there is no doubt some value there I keep coming back to the same player and it is the most obvious pick and favourite Henrik Stenson.

For a couple of years now I have been banging the Stenson drum and it was a bit annoying to miss out on his Open win although he wasn’t the greatest of prices. I believe him to be the best player in the world from tee-to green and while many will say Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson, Stenson’s consistency is unrivalled and he showed at Royal Troon just what he is capable of if he has a good week on the greens.

The main thing pulling me in his direction however is his excellent record around Castle Stuart. He has played there three times and finished 8th, 3rd and then 13th last month when preparing for his Open win the following week. On those last two appearances he ranked 1st in total driving and this year he hit a best in field 91% of them. If the Olympic course does in fact play anything like Castle Stuart then it is certainly going to fit his eye.

Nobody in the field has putted on these greens before and that could be a great equaliser which would surely help the likes of Stenson who isn’t one of the better putters in the field.

There are a couple of other links that interest me too. He has shown that he can play Doral with a T4th there last year and his win at the 2007 WGC Match Play came on a course that is visually quite like the Olympic course, The Gallery Golf Club in Arizona. It is full of sand being in the desert and it also has lots of waste areas just like in Rio. He also has a win and 2nd place at TPC Boston since Hanse carried out his renovations in 2007.

The ice-cool Swede is extremely patriotic and he has already won golf’s World Cup in 2008 alongside Robert Karlsson. Becoming Sweden’s first ever male major winner was a huge deal for him and Sweden, in the subsequent weeks after his Open win there were several other performances around the world from Swedish golfers who claimed to be inspired by Stenson’s win. He knows that he is perhaps Sweden’s biggest star in Rio and also one of their best medal hopes. He will thrive under that pressure and will be determined to add a gold medal to what is already a career year for him.

It is perhaps a boring pick but as long as he shows no signs of fatigue I think he will take all the stopping and even if he just has an above average week on the greens then he could find himself pulling away from the pack again and bagging himself the first golfing gold medal since 1904.

On first glance odds of 6/1 might appear short but we must remember that it is a reduced field of 60 and there are only another 5 major winners besides Stenson so we can’t really expect much better odds for the Champion Golfer of The Year.

With a lot of the bookmakers only paying the medalists it doesn’t  look like a great each way betting prospect so I’m going to play another win only and then two very small stakes on a couple of outsiders with firms that are paying slightly lower odds but the usual each way terms. I quite like Patrick Reed for this but his odds have shortened this week after being tipped up by some of the bigger players. Reed has had a fairly impressive 2016 even if he hasn’t managed a win and it’s his pair of 67s at Castle Stuart over the weekend that makes him a bet here. That was his first look at the course and after getting to grips with it on the first two days he played the weekend lower than everyone bar Nicolas Colsaerts. He followed that up at Troon by getting himself into contention early on at The Open before the draw bias left him with too much to do.

Reed showed us on his Ryder Cup debut just how much he enjoys representing his country and this will mean a lot him. His biggest win to date was at Doral in 2014 and with form on two of the key Hanse courses I think he should take to the course in Rio and he is definitely due a win.

Nicholas Colsaerts weekend score was two shots better with a couple of 66s and it’s that piece of form that gets him into the staking plan. He was playing some very consistent golf up to that point and he is another patriotic golfer who should be suited to the course. Looks a little over priced here.

My final pick is another fairly unoriginal one as many are keen on Alex Cejka‘s chances. To put things simply he is in very good form and he putts well on Sea Paspalum greens. Worth a small stakes play here.


John Deere Classic

This tournament has been somewhat of a benefit for Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth lately. Since 2008 only Brian Harman has managed to stop their monopoly here and while Stricker and Spieth have been doing the bulk of the winning with 3 wins and 2 wins respectively, Johnson hasn’t been outside the top 3 since 2009.

Luckily the profile of those 3 is a fairly obvious one. They are all excellent wedge players but more importantly 3 of the best putters that we have seen on Tour over the last 15 years.

That tells me not to look into too much detail and pick someone who is scoring well from 150 yards and in. So with limited time I’m not going to go into too much detail about the course at Deere Run, suffice to say that what you do from the tee isn’t overly important, it’s all about the greens and getting it close so that enough birdies can be made to get well into double figures under par.

Unfortunately for most of the field, Johnson and Stricker both line up here again and they look very hard to oppose. The only real angle in seems to be taking some of the value that their short prices have created in the each way market.

Stuart Appleby is one of those that seems a little over priced in this weak a field. Over his career he is a proven winner and while he hasn’t been playing brilliantly he popped up in a couple of the key stats here this week. He sits in 7th place for one putt percentage and 13th in approach performance relative to par from 125-150 yards. Both those have been key indicators around Deere Run so I’m going to have a small speculative play on the 9-time winner.

I expect Kevin Na to play well but I still haven’t forgiven him for last year and he surely can’t be backed to win at just 22/1.

Prior to his missed cut last week Steve Wheatcroft was last seen finishing 5th in Canada when he thinned his sand wedge out of the bunker on the Par 5 18th hole at Glen Abbey. That was a cruel blow when he had played so well during the round but that piece of form looks well ahead of those in the same odds bracket this week. He also ranks 16th in one putt percentage and finished 8th here in 2015. Another who looks a very fair each way price at 80/1

 

Summary of Bets

Olympic Golf

Henrik Stenson 3 pts win @ 6.6 on Exchange

Patrick Reed 1pt win @ 19.0 on Exchange

Nicolas Colsaerts – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 (1/4 odds 1st-5th)

Alex Cejka – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/4 odds 1st – 5th)

John Deere Classic

Stuart Appleby – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Steve Wheatcroft – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Weekly points advised – 8pts

Total points advised – 756.50

@theGreek82

The Open Championship – Betting Preview

It was a good week last week but it was still hard not to be a little gutted with another 2nd place, even if it was accompanied by a 3rd place too. Tyrrell Hatton was one of a whole host of players who played their final round like a seasoned winner and he can be very proud of the fight that he put up against Alexander Noren. If he continues in that vein then it is just a matter of time before he gets his first win.

It was also good to see Nicolas Colsaerts keep his form going as expected with a couple of 66s on the weekend. He is another that will be looking to get back to winning ways this year but he might have to wait a couple of weeks as I don’t see this week quite suiting him.

Hatton on the other hand could go well after ranking 2nd in the all-round ranking and should certainly be given some consideration.

Their combined return of 31 pts helps to finish the 1st year with a profitable week and it leaves the totals as follows.

Total pts advised in first year – 692.50

Total pts returned – 780.79

ROI for one year – 12.75%

 


 

The Open

In April most golf fans will tell you their sporting highlight of the year is The Masters but as soon as we reach July that narrative changes somewhat and The Open becomes the focal point of the golfing year. They are tough to separate and while both are completely brilliant in their own way, they are two very different tournaments and there is nothing quite like an Open Championship.

Having finally attended my first Open three years ago at Muirfield I can now appreciate the buzz of the early morning tee offs and 15 hours of solid golf (weather permitting of course). I had heard people talk about it before but it was truly amazing spending time on the 1st tee and listening to the dulcet tones of Ivor Robson announce world-class golfer after world-class golfer. Sadly Mr Robson is retired now but everything else is as we were and Royal Troon is the lucky host this year of what is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the Sporting calendar.

It is twelve years since the course last hosted although Troon has held seven previous Opens after being a bit of a latecomer to the rotation in 1923. To my mind it is a quintessential links course and while St Andrews carries with it all the history and glamour, Royal Troon is far more of a links course’s links course and features the classic 9 holes out and 9 holes back. Despite its classic appearance however there is very much a feeling within the game that Troon is one of the more boring courses on the rotation with too many holes that lack any character. While that may well be true everyone in the field still plays the same 18 holes and I don’t believe that will detract too much from the excitement this week.

Visually to me the course resembles both Royal Birkdale and Gullane and that is very welcome as last year’s Open never really took the form of a proper Open due to both the perfect conditions for the last two rounds and it being held at St Andrews. Louis Oosthuizen is a prime example of the different test presented by St Andrews. He has finished 1st and 2nd around The Old Course but elsewhere he can only boast a 19th, 36th, 54th and three missed cuts. It looks all about links golf exponents in Ayrshire this week.

Despite apparent one-hit wonder Todd Hamilton winning in 2004, Troon is normally won by one of the game’s elite; Justin Leonard in 1997, Marc Calcavecchia in 1989, Tom Watson in 1982, Tom Weiskopf in 1973 and Bobby Locke in 1950. Not only that but you have to go back to Locke’s 1950 win to find a winner that didn’t hail from the USA.

Troon

The fairways at Troon meander up and down and around and if you see a flat lie anywhere this week then pause your TV and take a photo. There are hillocks and undulations as many of the holes are framed by dunes, fescue and gorse. There are deep bunkers galore as you would expect both on the fairways and protecting the greens, many of which are elevated. When they get to the greens however they will be met with some of the best surfaces in the whole of the UK. They are a blend of poa annua, bent grass and fescue and as long as the wind doesn’t blow too hard there should be absolutely no complaints about them whatsoever. (the USGA should take note!)

The forecast currently suggests that the wind will be steady all week (10-15mph) but as someone who lives at the Scottish coast I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see something a bit stronger. Just last week at Castle Stuart we saw the mild forecast winds turn in to 40mph winds. With quite horrid rough I expect driving accuracy to be important this week as you certainly don’t have double fairways to hit like St Andrews. The course isn’t the longest at 7175 yards but as ever the further you can get off the tee the closer you are to the green. So total driving was on my mind even before I took a look at the stats from Hamilton’s win in 2004.

The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th , 9th,10th, 13th and 16th ranked players in total driving for the week all finished inside the Top 10 and it is rare to see such a strong attribute for any tournament never mind a host course for a major.

The next most pertinent attribute looks to be scrambling as the 1st and 2nd ranked scramblers finished 3rd and 7th respectively. Who can forget Hamilton’s bump and run with his 3 wood to set up his 2ft putt to win the Claret Jug? Imagination around the greens is very important in links golf but especially so at Royal Troon.

With the greens being immaculate the better putters would normally be expected to thrive on them but they obviously need to get there first. The greens are average in size and well protected but relatively flat. That might take away some of the advantage that the likes of Spieth and Day have at reading the breaks on undulating greens, however lag putting will be crucial to avoid 3-putts.

I expect hitting greens and indeed proximity to the hole to be very important this week, particularly from the tougher 175-200 yard range and if we look at 2004 season’s final rankings then that is backed up. Hamilton finished the season ranked 18th in GIR from 175-200 yards and 12th in approaches from 175-200 in the rough. Many others from the leaderboard also finished the season in lofty positions in this area and while there are a number of short holes at Troon it will certainly test their longer irons too, even more so if the wind does get up.

Other stats in which Hamilton ranked highly that season were 3-putt avoidance, putting inside 10ft and approach putt performance and that just confirms the need to keep the three-putts to a minimum. While Justin Leonard’s win in 1997 came before such an array of stats were available he did rank 2nd in scrambling and 3rd in putts per round during that season and he was regularly one of the better drivers on Tour.

I think on the whole this gives us a decent idea of the attributes that will help win this week. A decent links pedigree, proven in high-class fields, long and accurate driving, good GIR numbers from distance, strong scrambling ability and solid lag-putting.

With Dustin Johnson having won his last two tournaments, the US Open and WGC Bridgestone, he has firmly pushed himself into the World’s top 4 players and the market here can barely separate them with Day, Spieth, McIlroy and Johhson all trading at around the 10.0-12.0 mark. Their chances must be respected but I don’t really like any of them at the prices this week on a course like Troon. Day has been very wild off the tee lately and will probably find himself in trouble too many times to finish on top this week. Spieth’s game just hasn’t been at its best in 2016 and while he was one putt away from the play-off at St Andrews last year I think he would need to be playing better to win here and doesn’t make much appeal to me at the prices. McIlroy also hasn’t been playing his best stuff and has struggled for consistency across four rounds since returning from injury last year. With his well-known aversion to poor weather I can’t consider him at single figures when it looks like we could be in for proper links golf conditions.

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

But I don’t have to look much further down the market for my idea of the best bet in Ayrshire. I have backed Rickie Fowler in most Open Championships since 2010 when he finished in 14th place at St Andrews after an opening 79. He played the last three rounds better than anyone and firmly announced himself as an Open specialist (5 shots better than the 3rd lowest!). I probably won’t stop until he wins one as he is surely an Open Championship winner in waiting and possibly the next Tom Watson if he can win one soon.

Fowler is a self-confessed lover of links golf and that is clear every year with the number of different shots he plays. He has every type of links shot in his locker and at the age of 27 that is quite impressive. He can shape the ball both ways in the wind and has the imagination to flight the ball down and use the lie of the land to his advantage. That is something that took the likes of Phil Mickelson years to appreciate and then a few more to master before winning his Claret Jug in 2013.

But it isn’t just links potential with Fowler any more as he won the Scottish Open at Gullane’s hybrid Championship course last July. That is a classic links course and as I have already alluded to, it more than resembles Troon with its narrow fairways sculpted into the land. Fowler won that with an exquisite week on and around the greens ranking 5th for scrambling and 3rd in total putting. He didn’t drive the ball well but Fowler handled playing out of the rough perfectly. He was able to get the ball out and get it running on the firm fairways and that is yet another important aspect of links golf as there will be some nasty lies in the rough where hitting a towering 7 iron just isn’t possible. He can also play the bump and run around the green that is so important in links golf. Anyone that was watching the Scottish Open at the weekend will have noticed the number of times that the players were forced to utilise that shot given the undulating nature of the ground around the greens.

At the start of this season it was actually his long game that was standing out and through the first few months of the year he was right at the top of total driving and GIR but struggling to get the putter going. He still ranks 26th for total driving and an impressive 4th in GIR. Throw in the fact he is sitting 13th in scrambling from the rough, 21st in 3-putt avoidance and 4th in GIR from 175-200 we can see how well his game should suit from a statistical point of view too. I have touched on the important attributes this week but moreover at Troon every aspect of the game is tested so it also worth having a look at the all-round ranking. Fowler at the top of his game has very few weaknesses and that is perhaps another reason that he goes so well on links courses.

If we look exclusively at his Open record then it is very solid for one so young. The 14th place finish at St Andrews was his debut and he followed that with a T5th in 2011 (Royal St. Georges), a T31st in 2012 (Lytham), a missed cut in 2013 (sun-baked Muirfield), a T2nd in 2014 (Hoylake) and then a T30th last year when crucially on the wrong side of the draw at St. Andrews.

His form in 2016 has been quite up and down so far but he did win in January in Abu Dhabi and he still has some high finishes with a proper return to form two weeks ago at the WGC Bridgestone where he finished in a tie for 10th. His 2016 results read 5-1-MC-2-6-8-38-10-MC-20-4-MC-MC-MC-44-10 and that is a lot of golf with trips to Hawaii and Abu Dhabi in there so it is fair to think that he was maybe just running on empty by the time he missed his three consecutive cuts. The lack of weekend golf will have helped him re-energise however and he also arrives after a week off. I’m expecting to see the Rickie Fowler of 2015 and early 2016 rather than the one that we witnessed during May and June. If that proves to be the case then he will take the world of stopping and at 33/1 he looks a solid alternative to the front 4 in the betting.

 

Graeme McDowell has always been a very good links player and as soon as I saw him on the leaderboard at Castle Stuart I knew I would be backing him for Troon if his price held. His accuracy off the tee will help this week and he ranked 3rd in the all-round ranking at the Scottish Open. He isn’t the longest of drivers but he makes up for that with a very accurate long iron and hybrid game when playing at his best. The 80/1 for such a classy major winner is frankly a bit strange. Not only did he finish in the Top 10 last week but he won earlier in the season in the US and he also finished T18th at the US Open so his game is pretty close to its best.

He currently ranks 8th for driving accuracy so will be finding more fairways than the majority of the field and should he miss the green he is an excellent scrambler on links layouts, ranking 4th in that department last week.

He already has a win in Scotland to his name further north at Loch Lomond and he has a solid Open record with the pick being a T5th at Royal Lytham in 2012. He also has a win at Celtic Manor where the weather is usually miserable and two wins on Le Golf National layout in Paris which plays very much as a links track. If the wind blows and Troon doesn’t play too easy then GMac should make a mockery of his price this week.

 

One of the interesting course links that I found when researching Troon was through the Honda Classic. The last two winners at Troon, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton both won the Honda Classic around Country Club Mirasol in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Now I guess that might not be that interesting unless you take into account the fact that it was Hamilton’s only other win on Tour.

This told me that there must be some sort of link so I looked a little deeper. The other two winners at CCM were Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald which gives an impression of both short game prowess but also some sort of correlation with links conditions.

Looking at pictures of the course doesn’t make anything immediately obvious however the fairways are undulating, it is exposed, there are plenty of bunkers and the green complexes don’t look too dissimilar. It may be a rather tenuous link but the Honda Classic in general has always thrown up good Open players and it is interesting that Harrington went on to win his 2nd Honda Classic at the new host course which is located in the same area as Mirasol at Palm Beach Gardens. Marc Calcavecchia and Tom Weiskopf have also won the Honda as well as a Troon Open so while I can’t fully explain it I’m going to take the hint and back Luke Donald accordingly.

I backed him last week at 50/1 and he had an ok week finishing in 45th place as he struggled to get anything going but it will have been good preparation all the same . For someone who doesn’t have the best of major records his Open results are actually a little bit better than you might think. Since 2009 he has 4 Top 12 finishes and Donald is probably another that has taken some time to get used to the unique challenges of an Open Championship. Two of those were T5th finishes and they both occurred on proper links layouts, Turnberry and Royal Lytham.

He currently ranks 6th for scrambling and if his short game is anywhere near its best then Troon should play to Donald’s strengths. If the wind gets too severe then he might struggle but he has always coped well in light winds having won at Castle Stuart and Wentworth.

He also has the advantage of having played Troon competitively 12 years ago even if he did miss the cut when a far less accomplished player. Over the last few years we have seen a few older winners that have perhaps arrived not expecting too much. Playing without that pressure can surely only be an advantage and when Donald was at his peak it appeared to often be the expectations that ruined his chances with a poor opening round. I’m expecting him to have a good week and his price has more than a touch of value at 150/1.

 

Given the nature of Hamilton’s win and a couple of other left field American winners this century, I was keen to get an outsider from the US onside. The Honda Classic link has thrown up Russell Henley who won it in 2014 and given that we know his two main strengths are long, accurate driving and putting it seems fair to part with some cash at a massive 250/1. He also had his best Open finish in three attempts last year finishing T20th.

He hasn’t been at his best in 2016 missing a lot of cuts but yet he still ranks 4th in total driving, 36th in scrambling and 12th in 3-putt avoidance. He also pulled out a 7th place finish from nowhere at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic a few weeks ago so it hasn’t been all bad for him. His stats combined with the Honda link and a tasty price make him look like the sort of dark horse who could come alive on a course like Troon that clearly suits players from the USA.

With the short prices of the front 4 and most bookies paying 6 places there is a lot of value around so I have added a couple of late picks just on price alone.

 

Patrick Reed and Kevin Kisner are no strangers to this blog and I rate them both very highly. Reed is one of the best scramblers in the world game but it has been his putter that has stopped him from pushing on in 2016. He arrives fresh from two closing 67s in Scotland last week and if he can keep that going then he should go well. His price probably reflects how poorly he has done in the bigger tournaments this year but I think he has a chance on any course where scrambling is vital. It could be that his driving gets him into trouble this week but 66/1 for a proven winner who excels in the wind looks too good to pass up.

Kevin Kisner could just have the perfect profile for the week and I must admit he wasn’t really on my radar for this until I saw his price. He is a general 200/1 and that seems far too high and surely must be backed. His form has dropped off a little in 2016 after closing 2015 brilliantly with his 1st win. His stats still look very solid for this week’s test though as he ranks 32nd for total driving, 20th in 3-putt avoidance and 10th in putting inside 10ft. It isn’t even like he is in terrible form right now with a 16th place finish at Firestone last time out. That is another tough driving course and with his long game clearly in good nick I’d expect a strong showing in Scotland from Kisner.

Lee Westwood has a brilliant record at Troon having finished T10th in 1997 and then T4th in 2004. We know he is in excellent form having been in contention at both 2016’s majors so  far. Unfortunately he played poorly again when properly in the heat of battle and so it is hard to recommend a win bet this week despite the fact he is sure to play well. Instead I will back him for his 19th major Top 10 at his 74th attempt. A stat which makes the 5/1 available look great value even without considering his brilliant course form.

monty

There is just no way I can get away from having some sort of bet on Colin Montgomerie this week at his home course as he returns to The Open after 6 years away. It is just a question of how to back him. With his recent success in Senior majors he will be confident of a good showing here and I’m going to have a small play on the 1st round leader and the Top 20 markets. Betfred are offering a huge standout price of 14/1 for the Top 20 and that looks like perhaps the best piece of value around this week.

Dustin Johnson came good with a place in the 1st round leader market at the US Open and backing him to be leading on the Thursday would have yielded some serious profits over the last 18 months. I don’t see any reason to stop despite how obvious a bet it is.

I’m also going to play Callum Shinkwin in the 1st round leader market. He will be arriving full of confidence having qualified for this with a 9th place finish at the Open De France before firing a closing 65 in Scotland last week on his way to another Top 10. Countless times we have seen young, relative unknowns surge up the leaderboard at the Open on a Thursday. Shinkwin currently ranks 2nd in total driving and 18th in GIR over the last three months and finished 7th in the all-round ranking last week so I think he could easily take to Troon. It’s a tall ask for him to even contend but if he carries on from that final round at Castle Stuart then he could outplay his odds of 150/1

 


Summary of Bets

Rickie Fowler – 3pts ew @ 33/1

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Graeme Mcdowell – 1pt ew @ 90/1

Kevin Kisner – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Luke Donald – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 5/1

Russel Henley – 0.5pt ew @250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Lee Westwood – 2pts Top 10 @ 5/1

Colin Montgomerie – 1pt Top 20 @ 14/1 with Betfred and 0.5pts ew 1st round leader @ 150/1

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 16/1

Calum Shinkwin – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @ 150/1

Outright winner bets are 6 places this week.

Weekly outlay 23pts

@theGreek82

U.S. Open – Betting Preview

It was yet another week with no returns last week as both Colt Knost and Gary Boyd’s fast starts didn’t materialise. Knost was still in 7th place entering the final round but he had a poor round to finish down the field. I’m not going to dwell on that too much as its US Open week and we look set for a very interesting Tournament.

As the blog approaches its 1 year mark it is still showing profit but only just.

Total pts advised – 655.80pts

Total pts returned – 722.80pts

ROI – 10.2%


U.S. Open

The 2nd Major of the season is finally upon us and things couldn’t be poised any better in the world game. All the world’s top 3 have won tournaments in recent weeks so they arrive in great form and there are numerous young, exciting players from both sides of the pond who will be relishing the challenge after seeing relative outsider Danny Willet don the green jacket earlier in the year.

We head to Pennsylvania this week and to Oakmont near Pittsburgh for the 116th US Open and by all accounts we are in for a grind at a course that is hosting a record 12th Major Championship having already been the venue for 8 US Opens and 3 US PGAs. Of those 11 Championships, 9 have been won by multiple major winners so I won’t be expecting a Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem or Todd Hamilton to be winning this week from nowhere.

In 1903 Henry Fownes set about designing a course where “par is an indisputable standard of excellence” and after this week’s US Open there won’t be a single player in the field questioning his success. US Opens are usually tough but it’s about as tough as it gets at Oakmont Country Club. Phil Mickelson, who has played a few tough courses in his time, declared after two practice days that Oakmont was “probably the hardest golf course we have ever played”.

From when the course opened, together with his son W.C. Fownes, Henry Fownes tweaked the course over the next 30 years, being the first designers to really take into account the equipment changes that were occurring at the time. They designed a course that was some 30% longer than all its other peers and from the word go it was a considered a brute of a course. They also began to add more slopes to the greens and added bunkers into the landing areas for the elite players.

Some of the biggest changes occurred after Gene Sarazen’s US PGA win in 1922 when W.C. Fownes was annoyed at how easily Sarazen played the course after the greens were watered due to a sun baked summer. The course was lengthened, trees were added to further narrow the fairways and I’d be surprised if the greens were ever watered again during a Championship week.

Indeed so notorious are the greens at Oakmont that it was actually the scene of the invention of the stimpmeter, the instrument used to measure the speed of the greens. In 1935 the greens were perceived to be so fast that a way of quantifying the speed was required in order to keep them fair. Over the next 70 years there would be many more tweaks to the course but for this week’s purposes it will pay to look at the most recent. They occurred prior to the 2007 US Open as Tom Fazio was tasked with bringing the course back to its original design which had been lost a little over time. Many trees were removed, undulations added to the fairways, bunkers were reshaped and deepened and an extra 250 yards was added.

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The course now stands at 7255 yards with narrow, undulating fairways. There is a secondary level of rough which looks quite lenient but if it is cleared then there is a mix of thick green rough and longer fescue grasses for the properly errant. Should the rough be avoided then there are still plenty hazards with some 210 bunkers on the course and the fall of the fairway usually ushers the ball in their direction. These are classic links pot bunkers and many of them will only allow a sand wedge back into play. The course has a number of blind tee-shots and approach shots so distance control will be paramount at Oakmont. Additionally either spin or height will be required on approach shots in order to hold the slick, undulating greens. Therefore if you aren’t long off the tee you had better be accurate because hitting 200 yard plus approaches from the rough will soon take its toll on even the best short games. When the greens are missed then some of the thickest green side rough we have ever seen awaits them and they better hope someone was watching their ball as they will be hard to find in many spots. The slick greens are poa annua and while they are as pure as the players will see all year, they are also as fast as they will see all year with the greens likely to be towards 15” on the stimpmeter by Sunday. For those that haven’t seen the videos then they are worth finding just to see the full extent.

The most recent tournaments held at Oakmont and indeed the only ones that anyone in this field has played were the 1994 and 2007 US Opens and the 2003 US Amateur Championship. They were won respectively by Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera and Nick Flanagan (who incidentally is on the bag for fellow Aussie Aron Price at Oakmont).

The most pertinent form would be to look at Cabrera’s win in 2007 when the greens were firm and +5 was the winning score. It is expected to be more of the same this week. I looked in-depth to see what aspects of Els and Cabrera’s game make them suited to the unique Oakmont test and considered the 2007 leaderboard as a whole to find any strong common attributes.

I picked out the following stats to try to gauge whose game might be suited to the test. Driving distance, greens in regulation (GIR), GIR from fairway bunkers, 3-putt avoidance, scrambling, proximity to hole from 200 yards +, bogey avoidance, scoring relative to par from 175-200 yards in the rough, putting inside 10ft and strokes gained:putting. When a test is this tough then there is an argument that stats go out the window especially as Cabrera has never been one to shine in that department. But they are still a valuable indicator of who is performing in certain areas and for me these give a good all round picture of what will be required to grind out a score at Oakmont.

Additionally I looked at courses where Els, Cabrera or others in the Top 10 in 2007 had won. There were obviously a few that cropped up but by far the two most interesting were Golf Club Eichenried in Germany, which has hosted the BMW International Open, and Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Illinois host of the BMW Championship in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and prior to that the Western Open. Amazingly 6 of the Top 13 from 2007’s Oakmont leaderboard have all won around Cog Hill GCC. While Ernie Els has won at Eichenried so too has Niclas Fasth and Nick Dougherty who finished 4th and 7th at Oakmont in 2007 respectively. That could seem a little tenuous but Dougherty and Fasth didn’t exactly make a habit of contending at Majors. That was Dougherty’s only Top 10 in 14 Majors and Fasth only managed 3 from 24 attempts. It was certainly enough to get me to look closer at the course and Eichenried actually has poa annua greens that play quite fast at 12” on the stimp if weather conditions allow. Unfortunately being a European Tour course most of this field have never played it but it might still be of interest to help throw up some place bets at decent prices.

A case could be made for many of the top players in the field this week. Jordan Spieth is the reigning US Open Champion and arrives having beaten a decent field two starts ago in the Dean and Deluca Invitational when much of the media had written him off after his Masters disaster. Obviously the young Texan is one of the toughest players mentally that we have seen since Tiger and I don’t expect it will have much bearing on him this week. I’m more worried by the fact his long game hasn’t quite been firing in 2016 like it did in 2015 and he ranks a rather lowly 112th in GIR for the last 3 months. While he will probably contend he isn’t quite for me this week at a course that will demand every aspect of the game to be razor-sharp.

Rory McIlroy’s tee to green excellence will no doubt have him on the leaderboard this week but backing him to win tournaments on fast greens is an absolute no-no for me. His scrambling and putting just aren’t good enough and I’d expect to see him cut the now familiar agitated figure on the greens over the weekend as he fails to combine line and pace on the glass-like poa annua surfaces.

Adam Scott won the WGC at Doral in March on fast greens but it is a bombers paradise these days where it is very hard to compete unless you drive it 300 yards plus. He is another I couldn’t consider this week when the short game will be so important.

Dustin Johnson looks to have a great chance and he was probably the last one-off my shortlist this week. He has been in excellent form so far in 2016 but has just failed to get the win. His form figures of 5-3-12-28-4-3-5-14-4 stand up against anyone in the field and that 5th place finish last week was about the most Dustin Johnson performance you will ever see. Some of his golf was unbelievably good and he hit 19 birdies and 3 eagles across the 4 days but still managed to only finish on -9 due to some terrible shots which all seemed to fall on precisely the wrong hole and he found water 4 or 5 times I think. The most interesting thing about DJ this week is how much better he is putting this year, ranking 47th in strokes gained:putting. But I couldn’t quite pull the trigger given his major woes last year. As usual he could be one to follow in the 1st round leader market having shot a 63 on Sunday but I’m happy to leave him out until he gets his first Major under his belt.

Phil Mickelson’s game looks in good order and his putter has been on fire in 2016, ranking 5th in Strokes gained:putting. I’m expecting a huge week from Lefty but he puts so much pressure on himself to win his national Open that unfortunately it is easy to be against him this week. Being a huge Mickelson fan I will be pleased enough if he does get it done.

I have had one player in mind for this for a while and unfortunately it is rather boring, but the same player came out on top of my stats model so if picking one player to win this week it simply has to be the best player in the world and US Open favourite, Jason Day. His 2016 has been absolutely brilliant and while Mcilroy and Spieth have been good in spells, Day is playing to a higher level and he has 3 wins to his name already, with two of those coming at the high-class Players Championship and WGC Matchplay. If he hadn’t hit a triple bogey on the 15th at Augusta on the opening day then who knows what might have happened at The Masters. Crucially he ranks 1st for strokes gained:putting, 15th for GIR from fairway bunkers, 25th in bogey avoidance and 32nd in scrambling.

I was very keen on him for the US PGA last year and he won convincingly at a course that was set up perfectly for his mix of towering irons and brilliant touch on and around the green. I don’t think this is quite as perfect for the sometimes erratic driver but he has proven already in his short career that he can adapt when faced with US Open conditions. He finished 2nd on his US Open debut and while he followed that with a poor 59th place finish at Olympic Club, he has since gone 2nd, 4th, 9th with his 9th having come while suffering from vertigo during his 3rd round last year at Chambers Bay. There isn’t a player teeing it up with a better recent US Open record and for those concerned about him off the tee, he has hit 75% and 73% of fairways on his last two US Open appearances.

Day has won 7 of his last 17 starts and while comparisons to Tiger Woods are completely pointless, the facts alone tell us that he is the first person since Woods to start putting up the same sort of numbers in terms of wins. If he is to start racking up the Majors then he will have to continue winning them when arriving in form. His Masters week while disappointing was yet another Major Top 10 and I was already more than keen on his chances before I heard this little snippet on a European Tour magazine programme a few weeks ago on Sky Sports. Day’s agent Bud Martin is a member at Oakmont and Day played there as a young man when he first moved over from Australia. That is another key factor this week for me and given how meticulous he is in his preparation for all tournaments, I’m sure he will have gathered as much member’s knowledge as possible leading into this and with a week off he will arrive 100% ready and probably with more practice rounds under his belt than most of the field.

Patrick Reed showed how he thrives on quick greens when winning the WGC Cadillac in 2014 when they were as quick as we have seen them and only 3 players finished under Par. For me Reed is in the top 3 or 4 scramblers in world golf and he will relish the testing conditions this week. He hasn’t quite been at his best since chasing Spieth home in Hawaii in January and that has largely been down to a cold putter. However when I have seen him play this year he hasn’t appeared to be putting poorly, more often than not just struggling to get anything to drop. Reed himself has been on record several times stating how enjoys a tough test of golf. Ranks 14th for scrambling and 4th in bogey avoidance for 2016.

Brandt Snedeker has a solid US Open record not least due to his brilliant putting ability. He is one of the best putters around on poa annua greens and finished 8th at pebble Beach in 2010, 9th at Torrey pines in 2008 and he was 23rd at Oakmont back in 2007. His record tailed off a little but at Chambers bay last year when there was some poa present in the greens he grabbed another 8th place finish. As well as his US Open exploits on the surface he has 4 wins on poa annua and it seems to suit his short, stabbing putting stroke. Snedeker is also usually a good scrambler and I think he looks over priced for a player with 8 Top 10s in his last 30 Major starts.

JB Holmes has a similar liking for slick greens and showed everyone just that when shooting an opening 62 at Doral in 2015 on a day when only six others broke 70. He also led the stroke play section of the US Amateur Championship in 2003 shooting a 71 on his round at Oakmont and he then gained further experience of the course as he played two rounds of the Match Play section of the competition. He arrives in decent form with a 4th place finish last month at Memorial where the scrambling was tough with similar lush grass around the greens. He drives it longer than pretty much everyone and he can clear a lot of these fairway bunkers to leave himself shorter approaches in. As another player with towering irons he should be able to hold the slick greens.

Marc Leishman likes tricky conditions and he is another excellent scrambler who goes well on fast greens. He has a 2nd place finish at Cog Hill and he ranked 2nd in my stats model for this. I backed him a few times earlier in 2016 with no rewards but I still feel he has a huge performance in a Major in him and if that is to happen it will surely be on a tough track. He ranks 9th in 3-putt avoidance and 6th in bogey avoidance so he will surely keep mistakes to a minimum.

Paul Casey shot the lowest round of the week at Oakmont in 2007 on his way to a 7th place finish. With his recent upturn in form the last two years he will be looking forward to his return. He arrives with some impressive results so far in 2016 as he finished 4th at the Masters, 7th at the WGC Cadillac and 9th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. All 3 of those were on fast greens and while I think a Major is probably beyond him now he has a great chance of a Top 10 here.

Matt Kuchar rewarded his Top 10 backers on numerous ocassions from 2010 to 2014 such was his consistency. After a poor 2015 he appears to be back to his best with current form figures of 4-6-3-3. He ranks 19th in strokes gained:putting, 31st in scrambling and has seven Major top 10s since 2010. He should be backed for another here where he won’t be phased by the testing conditions. He also won his U.S. Amateur at Cog Hill back in 1997.

Retief Goosen used to be the main man on fast greens 10-15 years ago and both his U.S. Open wins came on lightning quick  surfaces. While it is a long time since he has won he has cropped up a few times over the last couple of years where conditions suit. He finished 4th last year at Eichenried and he actually arrives in sneaky form having finished 12th, 12th and 14th on his last three outings. When others will be tearing their hair out the laid back South African will be right at home on the greens and can surely crack the Top 20 again.

Chris Wood won the prestigious BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and it is usually played on some of the faster greens we see  in Europe. It is also a course that both Els and Cabrera have won on and it can be a tough test that is normally won by a classy player. Wood has clearly had a touch of class about him ever since he finished 5th at Royal Birkdale as an amateur. It took him a little while to fully get to grips with life on the European Tour but he is a 3 time winner now and he followed up his win at Wentworth with a solid 6th place last week in Austria where he ranked 2nd in scrambling. At Wentworth he ranked 4th for GIR so if he can bring both those aspects this week a Top 20 looks well within his reach.

Dustin Johnson was a cash machine last year on day one of the Majors, leading after 3 of them. Arriving in brilliant form after a 63 on Sunday I would expect him to come flying out of the blocks on Thursday again and looks a decent play in the 1st round leader market.

Aron Price has the 2003 US Amateur Champion, Nick Flanagan on his bag this week and that could help him save a few shots. I quite like silly links like this for 1st round leader bets so I’m going to try him at a big price. He qualified last week so his game must be in ok shape and hailing from Sydney he is used to slick greens. He actually finished 8th at the Australian Open in November at The Australian Golf Club and those greens are extremely fast and the whole course is very testing. He might just take to Oakmont.

 

Summary of bets

Jason Day – 5pts win @ 8.2

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Brandt Snedeker – 1pt ew @ 70/1

Marc Leishman -0.5pt ew @ 90/1

JB Holmes – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Matt Kuchar – 2.5pts Top 10 @ 7/2

Paul Casey – 1pt Top 10 @ 7/1

Retief Goosen – 2pts Top 20 @ 6/1

Chris Wood – 1pt Top 20 – 9/2 

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 20/1

Aron Price – 0.25pts ew 1st round leader @500/1 

Weekly outlay – 20pts

Total outlay – 673.50pts

@theGreek82