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

 

The Scottish Open – Betting Preview

Last week we came extremely close to a winner with Scott Piercy and it was a bit agonising to see Dustin Johnson saunter through the field to pip him by 1 shot. But as expected Piercy massively outplayed his odds and he managed to make it a profitable week with 21 pts returned. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come as we enter the start of the summer golf season and it leaves the results as follows.

Total points advised – 682.50pts

Total points returned – 749.79pts

ROI – 9.86%

This means that with just one week to go until the 1st anniversary of the blog, it is guaranteed to finish in profit. It has been a little tougher in 2016 with the winners drying up but there have been enough places and I would certainly have taken a +ve ROI when I started out last July. Thanks to everyone that has read this over the year, it is certainly most appreciated.


The Scottish Open

This week we just have the one tournament with the Greenbrier Classic literally being a washout in West Virginia, but it’s a cracker as the European Tour takes us to the Scottish Open. Not only is it a tournament used to help prepare players for The Open Championship the following week, but it could help from a punting point of view given the conditions in Scotland will be quite similar. Five of the last six Open winners have played the Scottish Open the week before so it is definitely worth keeping an eye on proceedings in Inverness.

After a couple of years away visiting Aberdeen and East Lothian, The Scottish Open returns to the Inverness area and to Castle Stuart which hosted from 2011 to 2013. While the course is definitely a links course and exposed to the Moray Firth coastal conditions, it doesn’t represent the stiff test that Royal Troon will next week and it is usually a bit of a birdie fest.

The three winning scores were -17 (Phil Mickelson 2013), -17 (Jeev-Milkha Singh 2012) and -19 (Luke Donald in just 3 rounds due to torrential rain) so unless the weather takes a turn for the worse then I would expect more of the same this year.

Castle Stuart stands as a 7193 yard Par 72 and that average length combined with some of the widest fairways you will see on a Scottish Championship standard links course, means the layout is there for the taking for some of the bigger hitters. It makes hitting greens easier for them with the shorter clubs in hand especially given the number of elevated greens at the course. There is still the chance to play knock down shots into some of the greens but ultimately getting the ball out there off the tee appears to be an advantage around Castle Stuart.

Castle-Stuart-Golf-Scottish-Open-2012-40

With some reasonably steady winds forecast then distance control will be paramount but inevitably greens will be missed and scrambling will be important as it always seems to be on any links course. With tighter lies around the greens than on parkland courses, a lot more imagination is required to get up and down on links courses and those can play the lower bump and runs from 40 yards and in will fare well.

If we look at the three previous renewals then we see these two attributes are backed up somewhat. Mickelson ranked 7th in driving distance, Singh was 13th but Donald only ranked 67th. In terms of scrambling then Mickelson ranked 3rd and Singh 2nd but again Donald was the slight anomaly only ranking 33rd. But given we know what a great scrambler Donald is then we can perhaps ignore that as he ranked 2nd for GIR so he would have had far fewer opportunities to get up and down.

It does also suggest that there is more than one way to win at Castle Stuart but I’d certainly want anyone I was backing to be prominent in at least two out of the three key attributes (driving distance, scrambling and GIR)

So where do we start with our search for an in-form links exponent that is reasonably priced?

Well given the high-profile of this tournament there is no shortage of talent on show and a case can be made for nearly half the field as there are plenty that have shown form in Scotland, be it here or the Alfred Dunhill, Johnnie Walker or The Open itself. I’d certainly think twice about backing anyone that doesn’t have at least a Top 10 in Scotland but I’d also go a little further and ideally want experience of the course itself. With this being an easier links course than normal I think knowing when to be aggressive from previous editions will be beneficial this week.

The market is headed deservedly by Henrik Stenson fresh off a win in Germany 9 days ago and with him having the taste of victory again, the assured links player can be expected to go well on a course where he has finished 3rd and 8th on his two appearances. His odds of 9/1 are almost appealing too, but I’d imagine that he is using this as a chance to reacclimatise to links golf ahead of The Open as he continues his quest for his 1st major. That’s not to say he can’t and won’t win but I’d expect there are others hungrier for a week in the heat of the battle than Stenson.

Branden Grace and Phil Mickelson are the next two up and they have both shown plenty at Castle Stuart before and the course undoubtedly suits them. Mickelson won in 2013 before famously going on to win at Muirfield the week after and Grace chased him home that year. Their chances must be respected but they both appear maybe a tiny bit short for not quite being bang on their game at the minute. With such a deep field there are a lot of decent prices about further down the field.

Four years ago Nicolas Colsaerts would have probably been 4th in the betting here as a 22.0 chance in this quality of field. We all know the plummet that his game took however after his 2012 Ryder Cup appearance and he has spent a considerable amount of time in the golfing wilderness. Given the Belgian’s well reported enjoyment of life, it was hard to tell just how much hard work he was putting in to attempt to get his game back. However gradually over the course of this season there has been an improvement and he arrives in Scotland with some very decent form.

His strong start last week in France ended up in a T22nd but that course doesn’t really play to his strengths. Prior to that was a missed cut, again on a fiddlier course than he really wants. But his form before that was 3rd-22nd-23rd-3rd and that gives a better long-term picture of how well he has been playing. The 3rd place finish was at The Nordea Masters on an exposed, long course that favours the bombers.

The upturn of form is also reflected in his stats as he ranks 6th for GIR over the last 3 months. His length off the tee has never been in question and he currently ranks 2nd in driving distance. That has helped him go well at Castle Stuart in the past and there are very few in the field that will have better course form as he finished 8th in 2013, 36th in 2012 and 3rd in 2011. When finishing 8th at the last running he ranked 4th for GIR and while a lot will depend on how Colsaerts putts this week, having his irons dialled in should give him plenty of opportunities to get the putter hot on greens that he knows well.

Golf betting can be difficult enough at the best of times but perhaps one of the trickier aspects can be trying to work out when a previous class-act like Colsaerts is ready to strike again. It has happened time and time again that players have had a few years in the doldrums before getting back to winning ways seemingly from nowhere. But the one common theme is that it tends to be on a course where they are comfortable and have performed well before.

With others in the field perhaps focussed on Royal Troon next week or trying desperately to gain crucial Ryder Cup points, Colsaerts will tee it up at Castle Stuart in his usual laid-back style but most importantly with his game back on track. His only stroke-play win was in China at -24 so he enjoys a low scoring tournament and if he can have an average week with the short stick then I think he will contend on a course that sets up perfectly for him off the tee.

Luke Donald is a bit of a horses-for-courses type and some of his stats this year are extremely good , suggesting that his short game could be back to its best. He currently ranks 8th in scrambling and 13th in 3-putt avoidance.

If that is the case then an open track like Castle Stuart where he has won before looks to be a great place for him to get back to winning ways. He very nearly won the RBC Heritage in April on The PGA Tour when just getting beaten into 2nd by Branden Grace. That is another course where scrambling can be key. He finished down the field in 45th last week but he ranked 5th in scrambling and 26th in GIR so he isn’t far away from another big week. I’m going with a small outright play but given how much he used to love a top 10 finish in his prime, I will also have a dabble in that market.

Tyrrell Hatton was on a great run of form before he missed the cut in Germany two weeks ago but that result came after three weeks off for the young Englishman. Prior to that his form figures read 20-7-5-13-12 in some decent fields. The 5th place finish was in Ireland in similar conditions to this week and the 7th was at the BMW PGA Championship which was a field of the same stature he faces this week and always features blustery conditions. He got back on track last week with a T33rd finish but this looks more suited to his game.

Hatton has always had the appearance of a good links player not least because of his brilliant scrambling skills and he currently ranks 1st in that department. He is especially good at getting up and down from tight lies on fast greens and that will help him this week.

He hasn’t actually played Castle Stuart competitively yet but he already has an impressive bank of Scottish Open form. A 5th place finish at Royal Aberdeen was followed by a 22nd at Gullane last year. Throw in a 5th place finish at Paul Lawrie’s Match Play Tournament at Murcar Links and a 10th place finish at The Scottish Challenge down the road at Aviemore and you can see that this is a player completely at home on a links golf course.

If that wasn’t enough he also finished top of my stats model where I considered driving distance, GIR, scrambling and total putting over the last 3 months. So with odds of 66/1 he simply has to be backed here this week on a course that he will surely enjoy.

Padraig Harrington played last week in France and it isn’t a tournament that he usually attends with just four career starts there. So if that wasn’t interesting enough the fact that his putter was behaving (16th in total putting) and he was driving it well (5th in total driving) really jumped out at me. He finished 30th but that should have his game in great shape for two weeks of links golf and he ranked 6th in the all-round ranking. The two-time Open champion is one of the best links players of his generation so odds of 10/1 for a Top 10 finish when his whole game is in good order look hard to pass up.

Matthew Southgate ranked 4th in GIR and 3rd in scrambling on his way to a T11th finish in France and that combination makes him a big player again this week. It’s another strong field but a Top 20 looks very achievable again and the 15/2 available looks very fair.

While I like the chances of the three outright picks they are by no means guaranteed to play well so I would like a small saver on Henrik Stenson just incase. He will surely figure over the weekend so should things go wrong he will hopefully give us a chance of recouping our stakes.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat is a player that likes to start fast and he has quite a few low rounds in him. He managed to win the Paul Lawrie Matchplay around a very narrow Murcar Links and I’m not sure how as his driving was very wayward. He scrambled and putted superbly though and with the extra room off the tee at Castle Stuart he could shoot a 64/65 if he finds his silky putting stroke. If he can do that on the Thursday then he might prove to be a worthwhile play in the 1st round leader market at 66/1.


Summary of bets

Nicolas Colsaerts – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Luke Donald – 0.5pt ew @ 55/1 and 1pt Top 10 @ 9/2

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Padraig Harrington – 1pt Top 10 @ 10/1

Matthew Southgate – 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @ 66/1

Henrik Stenson – 1pt win saver @ 9/1

Weekly outlay – 10pts

Total outlay – 692.50

@theGreek82