Charles Schwab Challenge (Colonial) and Made In Denmark – Betting Preview

Patrick Cantlay finished T3rd and Kang and Scott both delivered Top 20s to give us a profitable week. The main two bets didn’t deliver but that’s why I think it’s important to get involved in the Top 20 markets at majors. Finding the winner is tough (unless you just back Koepka of course!) and I think it’s easier to find a bit of value in the top 20 market. You also get a run for your money the whole weekend if they make the cut and it provides a good chance to make the stakes back.

The 10 places that several firms offer on majors also gives punters a massive opportunity to at least break even on the week. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the blog has done better at majors since 10 places became the norm.

Koepka was brilliant and barring a slight wobble when the wind was at it’s strongest on the back 9 on Sunday he never really looked like losing. His dominance (4 majors from his last 8) will give everyone a real problem in a month”s time when the U.S. Open comes around. We probably won’t see double figures about him for a long time in majors yet he will be looking to become the first player in over 100 years to win 3 U.S. Opens in a row and the first since 1956 to win any major 3 times in a row. It really shouldn’t be easy for him but that’s not to say it won’t be!

Another profitable week makes it 5 weeks from the last 6 and leaves the results as follows;

2019 pts advised = 254

2019 pts returned = 274.96

ROI = 8.25%


Charles Schwab Challenge

Another name change here for what is essentially just called “Colonial” anyway as that’s where it’s been played since 1946. It’s a tree-lined, classical course with fairly tight, winding fairways, thick rough and it’s generally a course that can’t be over powered. You have to hit the right parts of the fairways in order to not be blocked out from going at the flags. It’s a short enough course at just over 7200 yards so from there onwards it becomes a battle of the short irons. Some of the best wedge players in the game have won here like Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth. Find fairways, attack the flags and make your share of putts. That’s the recipe year after year for Colonial. Useful stats are proximity to the hole, scoring relative to par from approaches in both the 100-125 yards and 125-150 yards ranges, putting from 10ft-25ft and one putt percentage. Being a par 70 Par 4 scoring is more important than usual and with the winning score usually nearer to -20 than -10, birdie average is also worth a look.

Corey Conners won around TPC San Antonio and that made a whole lot of sense as it’s an ideal course for him. Colonial also looks a great fit and I’ve got to side with him having missed out on tipping him in Texas due to him only Monday Qualifying and sneaking in under the radar. Conners was 8th here last year on his debut and seems to pop up at any ball-striker’s course where tee-to-green accuracy trumps power. I’ve seen a small backlash against some strokes gained stats recently and while they are by no means the be-all and end-all, used wisely they are a powerful tool. While nothing can predict how a player will play in any upcoming week it makes far more sense to side with someone who has been doing something well all season already. That is exactly what applies to Conners this week as he is 10th in strokes gained: tee to green. His numbers with the short irons are also strong as he is 4th in scoring relative to par from approaches at 150-175 yards, 9th from 125-150 yards and 1st in proximity to the hole. He was also 9th last week in strokes gained: off the tee which was better than McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay. Having made the weekend again for the 2nd major in a row I think his confidence will negate any fatigue and he should pitch up at Colonial raring to go. A decent putting week will surely see him out play his odds of 80/1. There is some 100/1 around still but I’d rather take the 8 places.

This course and Kevin Na are a match made in heaven. Fairways and wedges is what Na is all about and that’s perhaps why he has only missed the cut here once in 11 events returning 7 top 25s. He hasn’t been at his best this year but his numbers are still good in the relevant areas and he just can’t compete on the longer courses unless his whole game is at it’s best. Back here though I expect him to go well. Na is 5th in scoring relative to par from 125-150 yards and 12th in strokes gained: around the green. He missed the cut at Bethpage but that was far too long for him and prior to that he was going ok. His best strokeplay result this year was at the Heritage and if he takes that game here there is no reason he can’t improve on last year’s 4th place finish, especially since he now has that winning monkey off his back.

JT Poston has played here twice finishing 41st on his debut and then 20th last year but it’s his 6th at Heritage last month that gets him on the team here. He was 6th for total accuracy there and 2nd in the all-round and Harbour Town has always tied in nicely with Colonial as a similar skill-set is required at both courses. He was also 22nd at The Players which also correlates well as a more strategic course. There have been some missed cuts since but he played his first major weekend golf at Bethpage and I expect that experience to have a positive effect. Worth an each way go at 125/1.


Made In Denmark

Having left Himmerland GC last year we return again to the course that hosted from 2014-2017. I’m not sure whether that was a one-off or if they are alternating between the two but for now it gives us 4 year’s worth of course form and a fairly well constructed idea of what is required at Himmerland. It’s yet another links style course but it is also one of the shorter tracks on Tour at just 6881 yards and so far a sharp short game has been the order of the week. Everyone should be finding the fairways without the need for driver on lots of holes while the big greens are normally easy enough to hit. Depending on whether the wind blows scrambling can also be crucial as greens will be missed if it blows and it’s a very exposed course. Obviously hitting a high percentage of greens will help you contend at the majority of courses and for the most part the players on the leaderboards have also hit their fare share. However excelling on or around the greens looks like it might be the best way to come out on top this week.

Despite all that talk of short game my first pick is actually a tee-to-green merchant. Benjamin Hebert came agonisingly close yet again to his first ET win 3 weeks ago in China and given his course form here I’ll forgive the MC last time out at Hillside. While that course will share similarities with Himmerland, he will still probably have been gutted about his play-off defeat and traveling back from China to play will have only made that worse. His course form is trending and reads 6-13-14 so he looks an excellent each way bet with Betfair’s 45/1 and 7 places. Whether he will hole enough putts to win I’m not sure but the place portion just looks too good.

Thomas Detry has also been knocking on the door lately and the British Masters looked there for the taking for him two weeks ago. But he put in an uncharacteristically poor round of putting to finish T15th. Generally though he excels on links style layouts with grainy greens where his touch on and around the greens is important. He’s still chasing his first proper win but after winning the World Cup pairs event with Pieters, big things are expected from Detry in 2019. He also didn’t play last week in New York so will have had a week to get him absolutely right for this. He played here once in 2017 when he ranked 7th on the greens on his way to a 14th place finish. Coral’s standout 33/1 also comes with the standout 7 places and I think that looks more than fair with 7 of the 9 above him in the betting having played the US PGA.

Renato Paratore’s sole European Tour win was at Barseback GC where Marc Warren, Adam Scott, Joakim Haeggman and Ricardo Gonzalez have all won. They all have plenty of tie-in form at other similar courses, namely Gleneagles and Doha, and I think Himmerland is another similar course where recent leaderboards have shown the same kind of players with Marc Warren winning the first event back here in 2014. So Paratore would have been of interest this week anyway but the fact he was 8th last time out on a short, links course makes him properly stand out at 150/1 this week. He hasn’t played Gleneagles but he has been 4th at Doha. His two results here were a MC in 2015 but an 18th in 2016 where he ranked 9th on the greens and went 67-68 over the weekend, suggesting that he had got to grips with the course. His 2019 hasn’t really taken off yet but he will be looking to build on that British Masters performance and a course where he can leave the driver in the bag looks an ideal next stop for him.

Richie Ramsay was close as were regular bets Ryan Fox, George Coetzee and Thorbjorn Olesen but ultimately they just didn’t quite tick enough boxes this week. I should probably be backing both Fox (80/1) and Coetzee (100/1) on value grounds alone here but they are both on the naughty step after MCs at Hillside two weeks ago so I can leave them out from the start.


Summary of bets

Charles Schwab

Corey Conners – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

Kevin Na – 1pt ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

JT Poston – 0.75pts ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Made In Denmark

Benjamin Hebert – 1pt ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair/PP)

Thomas Detry – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Renato Paratore – 1pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)
 

 

 

Weekly pts advised =

@theGreek82

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Wells Fargo Championship and Volvo China Open – A Betting Preview

Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer clicked as I hoped they would to record a relatively straight-forward win at the Zurich Classic. They parred the 18th for a 3 shot win and while others got close they never really looked like giving up their lead. It was great to see Palmer back with a win as he’s a likeable player who deserves some good fortune after his family issues. As for Jon Rahm he really is something else. Even when he doesn’t appear to have his best stuff like early in the final round he has an amazing knack of grinding out a score. Sometimes he doesn’t look like he is doing anything amazing but he seldom hits 2 bad shots in a row and usually hits a great recovery instead. He has also become very solid at holing out inside 10ft and it often looks like he gets the ball in the hole with sheer will and determination. If Bethpage Black sets up as a true US PGA course in two weeks time then the Spanish powerhouse is going to take a lot of beating.

As preperation for that we have the Wells Fargo this week which of course is played at the 2017 US PGA course, Quail Hollow. The European Tour heads back out to Asia again for the Volvo China Open. Two good events with plenty of recent course form.

Rahm and Palmer’s win puts the blog back into profit for the year;

2019 pts advised = 196

2019 pts returned = 216.86

ROI = 10.64%


Wells Fargo Championship

Back to regular PGA Tour stuff as we head north to Quail Hollow in North Carolina which has hosted since 2003 with the exception of 2017 when it held the US PGA. It is a long, 7600 yard championship style course with a premium on a powerful long game and all recent winners are players who sit in lofty positions in the strokes gained: tee to green rankings. When tee to green supremacy is so important it’s easy to go with some of the massively priced poor putters who strike the ball well. But you generally don’t get too many average players lifting this trophy and playing “the chalk” has been working well for me lately. So instead I’m playing three shorter price players who all still can’t putt!

For my main pick I’m going with Hideki Matsuyama who has been priced up here like he is hitting the ball sideways. That’s not really the case though and despite no win he hasn’t missed a cut since The Open in July. In that time he has returned 11 top 20s from 20 events with 4 of those being top 5s. He sits 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green sandwiched between 2 recent Quail winners in McIlroy and Thomas. He is also 22nd in strokes gained: around the green. His lack of being in contention this year has created a situation where Webb Simpson is the same price to win on a 7600 yard long course. Simpson has never won beyond 7250 yards with all 5 wins coming between 7100 and 7250. Maybe he is just a little short in the betting but I think it’s a combination of Hideki being a little big and Simpson being a little short. Matsuyama’s course form is very strong and was trending nicely until last year’s MC as he went 38-20-11-5  with the 5th coming in the best field of all at the US PGA. He is surely getting closer to a win and the last time he was seen on bermuda greens he finished 8th at TPC Sawgrass. Coral’s 20/1 with 7 places looks to be a great each way bet.

Benny An makes the team yet again and will continue to do so while he continues to return the place money. A tee to green test where scrambling is crucial is right up An’s street. He ranks 6th in strokes gained: tee to green and 1st in strokes gained: around the green. Poor putters can have done very well at Quail as the greens aren’t as difficult as other championship layouts. We know An is as poor as they come on the greens but that surely doesn’t warrant him being 55/1 here I don’t think. He hasn’t done much at the course yet but it should really suit and he was in fine form prior to his MC at the Heritage. He has had a week off and I’m happy to assume he has ironed out the driver problem that he had but the slightly wider fairways will also help.

If I’m placing putting ability down the list of attributes then I really have to side with Luke List at 80/1. His results haven’t been fantastic lately but Quail Hollow is a course that suits him where he has played well before and he finished 9th last year off the back of a MC, while this year he was 41st last time out. This season he ranks 14th in strokes gained: tee to green so he will be looking forward to the upcoming run of long, championship style courses that he can overpower. He’s not always the most reliable player when you think he is going to perform but with the stand out 80/1 we don’t have to get too involved stake wise.

Others who came close were Roberto Castro and Nick Watney and while I couldn’t put anyone off I think their general prices are just about right now since they have been cut. The 150/1 with 8 places very nearly tempted me to add Castro but while I can see him playing well I’d be surprised if he comes out on top of this field on such a long course. So I’ll stick with the three and hope that at least one of them can hole some putts!


Volvo China Open

The China Open returns to Genzon GC in Shangai after being away since 2014. It has hosted the Shenzhen International from 2015-2017 however so there are four events worth of form to look at. The four winners were Bernd Weisberger, Soomin Lee, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Alex Levy.

The course is a Nelson and Hawarth design like so many of the prominent championship courses in China and indeed Asia on the whole. They are responsible for Sheshan GC which hosts the WGC HSBC Champions event as well as Kuala Lumpur G&CC and Royal Selangor GC. They are similar courses and form stacks up nicely as does form in Asia in general. Some players love the consistently hot and humid conditions while others really aren’t suited at all. Don’t expect anyone with horrible form in Asia just to suddenly start enjoying themselves this week.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this layout is off the tee. There are lots of forced carries, elevation changes and dog-legs where the green can be blocked out on parts of the fairway. A quick look at the leaderboards show plenty of long and accurate drivers. Another aspect looking purely at the winners suggests that committed and aggressive iron play will prosper once the fairways are found. There are few more aggressive players on the European Tour than Levy and Aphibarnrat with their approaches. Both of them will seldom lay-up on a par 5 nor pass up the opportunity to go straight at a flag. Luckily they both have a good enough short game to get them out of trouble if they do short side themselves and that is another attribute that has been crucial so far at Genzon.

I really like Hao Tong Li a lot as a player and a person as he plays golf the right way and has an infectious enthusiasm about him. I’d love to back him to win here and he is definitely the right favourite and probably the best player in the field right now. But even if he is almost the right price I don’t think I want to be wading in at just 12/1 about a player who ultimately hasn’t won since early 2018.

I stupidly made my shortlist this week before I knew who was even in the field and that resulted in scoring out quite a few namely Olesen, Fox, Coetzee and Luiten. But there were still a few names remaining and I’ve sided with three all from the second tier.

Bernd Wiesberger is slowly getting his game back if his last outing at the Indian Open is anything to go by. He ranked 5th in the all-round ranking with his long game showing signs of his best, which would be right at the very top of this field. His form in Asia has always been brilliant since he arrived on Tour. His first win in 2012 was in Korea and he has followed up with further ET trophies in Indonesia and on this very course in 2017. Looking more closely at just China, Wiesberger’s first MC there actually came in this event last year when playing with an injury but his results prior to that were 9-4-1-35-28-24-17-13-17-28-40-42-25-45. That 9th place was at the Nelson and Hawarth Sheshan course while he has been runner-up twice at their Kuala Lumpar course. The main downside this week is that he might still be a little too rusty in contention to get over the line again but conditions and course couldn’t be more suited. I think there is plenty of each way value with Boylesports’ stand-out 50/1 with 8 places.

Matsahiro Kawamura looks hugely over priced on recent form even if a lot of that has been reliant on the short game. His last two events he has finished 6th in Morocco and 2nd in India and both those events were at very difficult courses. Kawamura isn’t a player I know that much about just yet as we haven’t had too many chances to watch him on his rookie season on Tour. He is just 25 years old still but has racked up 28 top 10s world wide and his record of 7 top 20s in his first 12 ET events is a serious effort. The form just leaps out and I have to back him at 50/1 on value grounds alone.

The same applies to Scott Hend who everyone seems to forget very quickly about whenever he plays well or indeed wins like last month in Malaysia. We know ideally Hend wants a bit more space off the tee but that hasn’t stopped him before on courses with tight driving lines as he is a two-time runner-up at Crans and has won around Fanling. He can club down and find the fairways with 3 wood or long irons when needed and with his Asian form I think we are getting some value in this field. In particular he has form at the right courses too with three top 20s at KL G&CC and three top 25s at Sheshan in elite fields. That’s before we even look at his 4th and 15th at this very course.

Hend’s 3 ET wins have all came in Asia and his win in Malaysia in March was at Saujana G&CC which is a tight enough driving course with fiddly greens. The last two times he has won a tournament in March he has gone in again later that year and with him not getting any younger he will know he has to try to rack up the wins while he is playing well. For comparison’s sake price-wise, Ross Fisher is 28/1 and hasn’t won anywhere in 5 years while our main man Erik Van Rooyen is 20/1 and he hasn’t won anywhere full stop! How Hend can be 45/1 in this field is quite frankly a nonsense for me however he plays and he should be backed accordingly.


Summary of Bets

Wells Fargo

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Benny An – 1pt ew @ 55/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Luke List – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred/Betway)

Volvo China Open

Scott Hend – 1.5pts ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Boylesports)

Matsahiro Kawamura – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

Weekly pts advised = 14pts

 

@theGreek82

The Masters 2019 – Betting Preview

Benny An returned a very small share of the place money but it was a frustrating week having to watch Correy Conners win without having tipped him. Regular readers will know I’ve put him up twice this year due to his immaculate tee to green game but when I looked for him on Monday he wasn’t in the field and I never even thought anything more about it until I saw him on the leaderboard after Monday Qualifying. I can only hope some readers remembered me banging on about his accurate tee to green game and backed him. This week we have the best golfing week of the year with The Masters and its shaping up to be as good as ever.

2019 pts advised= 154

2019 pts returned = 144.63

ROI = -6%


The Masters

I was going to waffle on like I have done the last 3 years about Augusta and The Masters but I’d only be regurgitating the same stuff and I’d rather get this published before the odds get slashed further! So instead I’ll just leave a link for people wanting some proper in-depth analysis as most of it is still pertinent now for The Masters and I did a fairly thorough job in 2016. For those that just want a quick summary and the picks just read on below.

https://thegreek82.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/the-masters-betting-preview/

Onto 2019; everyone reading this will probably already know the case for Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy and they are rightfully at the head of the market but neither are for me at the prices. Both are playing very well and while their long games will no doubt have them in the conversation over the weekend I’m still not convinced by either putting inside 10ft on fast greens.

So I’ve gone down the field a little for my main pick and that is the Spanish powerhouse Jon Rahm. He has a tee to green game built for Augusta and that was evident when he finished 4th last year. He has been on my list all winter so his recent form started pushing him further up that list but the clincher for me was looking at his putting stats for the season. He is only 63rd in strokes gained: putting but he is 10th in putting inside 10ft and 15th in 3-putt avoidance. Rahm has always been a very strong lag putter and the fact he is holing out so well is a huge bonus. It is probably the mid range putts that normally let him down but that shouldn’t be too much of a factor as long as he isn’t missing short ones or 3 putting.

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His game off the tee benefits from the huge landing areas at Augusta and given he is 2nd in strokes gained: off the tee he has the capacity to really over power the course much like Bubba Watson does. His natural drive is a big cut although he is capable of hitting a draw on the holes that require one. His big high fade with his irons is absolutely ideal for these hard, fast greens. It will be a huge advantage this week and he will be able stop the ball nearer the flag than most.

Already in his short career he has shown a love for difficult championship courses and his first professional win came at Torrey Pines which has long been a good indicator for the Masters as it requires a similar skill set. As well as his 4th here last year he also rounded off his major season with a 4th place at Quail Hollow and that would have left him hungry to properly launch an assault on this year’s majors. His preparation so far in 2019 couldn’t have set him up much better for that either as he has done everything but win. His stroke-play form this year reads 6-12-45-9-10-5-6-8. That’s extremely consistent golf but it has pretty much what he has been about ever since arriving on Tour. In just 74 events he has finished in the top 10 on 33 occasions.

Seven of the last 8 Masters winners were winning their first major and on the whole 11 of the last 16 major winners were also first timers. There are perhaps only a couple of names that are more deserving than Rahm of winning their first major and that is high praise considering both Fowler and Matsuyama have been professional for nearly three times as long as Rahm. I’m expecting a big week from him and a fairly chunky each way bet with Betfair’s 16/1 and 10 places looks the way to go.

Everyone’s favourite pantomime villain Matt Kuchar looks set for a massive week at Augusta and with his new-found status it means we can get a great price about him. Kuch was always a slightly dismissed player in the betting anyway such is his fairly dull, Furyk style of play. However with his bad press this year the market has gone mad. Kuchar was available to back at 50/1 with 10 places and I don’t see how anyone barring Mexico’s biggest Sergio Garcia fan could have seen that as anything but the standout value in the field. Unfortunately he was cut on Monday and he is now a best price 35/1 with 10 places. However Kuchar has made the last 9 cuts at Augusta returning 4 top 10s while in the 52 majors he has played to date he has 11 Top 10s. But if we look only at the period since 2010 when he raised his game to a new level then all 11 of those top 10s came in just 35 majors. When you are recording major top 10s at a rate of 31% then being able to back him at odds suggesting a 12.5% chance you have to jump at it. Even if you think he can’t win and are writing off the win portion then you are still backing the place at 22% which is considerably lower than his strike rate over the last 9 years.

Even Kuch’s biggest haters would be hard pushed to suggest he hasn’t looked a little more ruthless in the 2019 season having picked up 2 wins already and he marched all the way to the WGC Match Play final. So given how many attempts people normally require to win The Masters (average is around 8 but Garcia took 19!) it seems foolish to write off a Masters specialist with a new-found ability to get over the line again.

Several of stats this year are also in great shape for the test as he ranks 6th in strokes gained: approaches, 1st in GIR, 14th in par scoring and 5th in par 5 scoring. The improvement this year in some of these are perhaps why he is playing so well and definitely indicate that he could be set for his best ever Masters result. Kuch hasn’t been overly strong in GIR or par 5 scoring in recent years. He ranked just 94th in GIR last year while the two previous years weren’t a whole lot better at 64th and 43rd. He was a lowly 119th in Par 5 scoring last year and 49th-24th the 2 years prior to that. Approach play and over powering the Par 5s are perhaps two of the most important attributes at Augusta and these improvements give him a live chance and he should surely be priced nearer 25/1 this week so the 35/1 still looks like an excellent bet with 10 places.

I badly wanted to put Jordan Spieth up this week and I would have been steaming in at anything over 30/1. Unfortunately though the bookies are staying a little cagey and given his brilliant Masters record that is probably wise. He has been most erratic off the tee this year and we know Augusta is forgiving in that area. But the rest of his game isn’t nearly sharp enough to warrant a bet. Although Betway are apparently paying out as a winner on any outright bet that leads after any round. He might make appeal in that for some given how fast he usually start at Augusta. You could almost see him firing a Thursday 66 to lead only to go backwards the rest of the week.

Instead I’m completing my 3 pronged outright attack with another man whose game has always looked purpose-built for Augusta. Jason Day is very far from the popular, positive player he used to be given all the drama that normally follows him. He is forever moaning about injury or illness and while that is all fine and well if he is injured, he then goes and tees it up injured only to withdraw during the 1st round. That isn’t going to make you too popular with golf fans and particularly punters but at 28/1 with Betfair’s 10 places I can’t leave him out. His form here reads 20-22-10-28-20-3-WD-2 which is extremely impressive even if he hasn’t properly pushed on from nearly winning on his debut. While Day’s tee to green game hasn’t been anywhere near his best this year he still ranks 5th in strokes gained: off the tee despite seemingly never finding a fairway. That is absolutely fine at Augusta though as he can get the ball out there as far as possible without worrying too much where it ends up with the wide fairways on so many holes. The approach play is somewhat more worrying however as he ranks a lowly 125th in strokes gained: approaches. But Day has perhaps the best short game in golf so he shouldn’t need that much of an improvement to get competitive here and it is a long time since we saw him at 28/1 to win The Masters, snap it up and then just hope he doesn’t withdraw! (he has said that his back feels fine ahead of the week…..)

Aside from the main outrights I’ve got my usual major place market bets starting with a couple of ultra consistent tee-to- green players who should go on to post plenty more Augusta Top 10s. Hideki Matsuyama is another whose long game is literally perfect for the course. His putting has always let him down at the business end but only in terms of winning. His recent Masters form is absolutely rock solid reading 19-11-7-5 the last 4 years. He really should have won it in 2016 but he putted terribly on Sunday after giving himself eagle or birdie looks on every hole. That’s what you get however with Hideki but you also get an often peerless iron game and he sits 2nd in strokes gained: approaches this year. Another top 10 could well be looming even if he can’t make those crucial putts on Sunday.

Francesco Molinari’s last 12 months have been incredible and his form is so good now that he looks nailed on to play well in the majors this season. His Masters record isn’t great so far as he is yet to break the top 20 but with the improvement in his putting and the extra 15 yards off the tee that he has found there is a good chance we will see him on the leaderboard this week. I’d still be a little concerned about the 8ft putts on these greens though so a top 10 bet looks the way to play Moli here.

Hao Tong Li has been having a fairly good 2019 season but it’s largely been his form when stepping up in class that makes me think he can finish in the top 20 here. Li is extremely long off the tee and he ranks 3rd in strokes gained on the ET in that area. The rest of his game is suited to this test as well as he hits towering irons and when confident he is very competent holing out his short putts. That short game touch has helped him to 2nd in scrambling on the ET and 3rd in putts per round. He finished 32nd on his debut last year but I think a 2nd look can bring about an improvement and a top 20 looks very possible.

For a little while a few weeks ago I was convinced Charles Howell III was going to win The Masters so I must admit to throwing a few pounds on him to win on the exchange. I have since seen the light though and while I can’t quite advise a win bet I wouldn’t want to put anyone off having a small nibble such are his stats and form this year. Chucky Three Sticks ranks 1st in par 4 scoring, 2nd in bogey avoidance and 2nd in GIR. His results since his Fall Series win read 24-35-15-14-6-20-34-8-14 and he has a solid bank of Augusta form dating back to his early days on Tour (5 top 30s from 8 appearances). A top 20 should be well within reach for him the way he is swinging.

Given how well Rory McIlroy is playing there is a very good chance he is on the leaderboard all week this year. Last year he was in the last group with Patrick Reed going into the final round and this year he is playing considerably better. He is 7/1 to win the Masters but is also 7/1 to lead after round 3. Given his final round exploits to date at the Masters and all his recent Sunday wobbles bar The Players three weeks ago, I far prefer the price to lead after round 3. Despite his brilliance at Sawgrass it’s important to remember how soft it was and the greens were the most receptive we have seen there in years. The stimpmeter rated 15 greens at Augusta are entirely different and we have seen his confidence disappear on them on Sunday before. I can see him flying out of the blocks and finding himself in the final group again this year. After that I wouldn’t be so confident but with this bet you wouldn’t have to worry. So I’ll add a slightly novelty 1pt bet at 7/1 for McIlroy to lead after round 3.

1st round leader

Keegan Bradley is a bit of an obvious pick in the first round leader market as he so often shows up on the leaderboard on Thursday only to go “full Keegan” and miss the cut. He ranks 2nd in 1st round scoring over the last 3 months averaging a brutally low 65.73 for his 8 opening rounds in that period. But he is a considerably less obvious pick to lead after round 1 at Augusta. The (possibly) sound reasoning behind liking him this week at the Masters is the weather. With a rain softened course expected on Thursday I think the longer hitters’ advantage will be strongest on day 1 and while a few have overtaken him Bradley still gets the ball out there plenty far enough with his driver and finds more fairways than pretty much everyone that does out-drive him as he is 6th in total driving. The soft, receptive greens will also aid Bradley who is a horrible putter and only slightly better around the greens. He has a rather poor record at Augusta mainly because he can’t handle the bite in the greens but perhaps only the likes of McIlroy and Adam Scott enjoy a soft golf course more than Bradley. It’s taking a leap of faith to think that he can post a 65 or 66 given he only has 2 rounds in the 60s from his 18 career rounds and 5 rounds of 77 or worse! But one of those came in the final round when Adam Scott won in 2013 and the course was as soft as we have seen it in recent times. Worth a small go at 80/1 with Betfair/Paddy Power’s 8 places.

Keeping with the theme of big hitters, Lucas Bjerregaard couldn’t have wished for better conditions for his debut Masters round. Another ball striker who often struggles on the greens he will be arriving full of confidence after his WGC Match Play exploits. That coupled with the slower greens could see him really enjoy himself on Thursday and he as a fairly early tee-time with just 7 groups ahead of him. Take the 100/1 again with 8 places.

One final bomber and that is another guy who impressed at the Match Play and that is JB Holmes. He beat Jon Rahm and Si-Woo Kim but lost his opening match to Kuchar and that was enough to send him packing. Holmes will also enjoy putting and chipping on slower greens but like Bradley he doesn’t have the best of records at the course despite having a great record at Riviera, Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow. Those courses all have good form links with Augusta and with conditions to suit I think he should thrive off an early tee-time. It is easy to forget that he won around Riviera just 2 months ago so there is plenty mileage in the 80/1 although I’m siding with the 66/1 again for the 8 places..

There has been quite a lot of rain at Augusta the last couple of days and there was more forecast. If you are reading this on Wednesday then these might lose some of their appeal if there has been no more rain and the sub-air systems have dried the greens out. Worth a forecast check.

I’ve gone with a 4th pick as a bit of potential cover for the weather but they are all to very small stakes given how tricky it can be to predict. Charles Howell III sits 15th in round 1 scoring this season and I went over how well he is playing this year above. He has an early tee-time again here and has been in the 60s in 11 of his last 14 opening rounds. If the putter behaves, which it has been so far this season, he could go low enough to scare the leaderboard.

Anyone looking for one from the head of the market should probably consider Justin Thomas whose Masters form is improving every year and he sits 2nd in 1st round scoring for the season. I prefer to play the bigger prices in this market however even if there are usually at least 2 or 3 of the favourites right up there after day 1.


Summary of Bets

Jon Rahm – 3pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Betfair)

Matt Kuchar – 1.5pts ew @ 35/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Skybet)

Jason Day – 1pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Betfair)

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts Top 10 @ 11/4

Francesco Molinari – 3pts Top 10 @ 7/4

Hao-Tong Li – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Charles Howell III – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Rory McIlroy to Lead After Round 3 – 1pt @ 7/1 (Betfair)

1st round leader bets

Keegan Bradley – 0.25pts ew @ 80/1

Lucas Bjerregaard – 0.25pts ew @ 100/1

JB Holmes – 0.25pts ew @ 66/1

Charles Howell III – 0.25pt ew @ 70/1 (all 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

 

Weekly points advised = 21pts

@theGreek82

Valspar Championship and Maybank Championship – Betting Preview

Kevin Kisner looked likely to contend for 53 holes until he double bogeyed the last on Saturday. That seemed to take the wind out of his sails and then he stuttered to 22nd place on Sunday. Kuchar treaded water all weekend while in Kenya Erik Van Rooyen threw in a very unexpected howler to miss the cut. Jensen probably out played his odds but every time he got close to contention he made a timely bogey. No returns for the week as we get ever closer to Augusta and the PGA Tour prepares with a really solid test of golf at the Valspar.

2019 pts advised = 122

2019 pts returned = 122.75

ROI = 0.60%


Valspar Championship

The PGA Tour’s next Florida stop is Copperhead GC at Innisbrook, Palm Harbour and it is quite a fitting venue with Augusta just 3 weeks away. While the greens won’t play quite as firm and fast as Augusta, the Copperhead course does have some difficult green complexes itself. They were some of the hardest to hit on Tour last year and the similarities don’t stop there. Both are lush green, tree-lined courses with several dog-leg left holes and plenty of the elite players in the field will be teeing up with a view to some Masters preparation.

The course is a little narrower than Augusta though without the huge landing areas off the tee. This makes it a rather classic course and it is usually a course that takes plenty of learning with an underlying strategic element. Scoring is also similar to the Masters with the winning mark having been between -7 and -14 the last 7 years. The winners often tend to be top class and if they aren’t a major winner then they are usually players who enjoy a difficult championship style course where par is a good score on any given hole.

Gary Woodland isn’t really the sort of tactical plodder that I’m looking for but there is no question that he is learning to control his aggressive style a little as he enters his 11th year on Tour. His long-game numbers are the best they have ever been this year as he ranks 3rd in GIR with an impressive clip of 74.5%. In previous years Woodland would aim at pretty much every flag but it seems like he is taking a more considered approach recently. With such an impressive approach game I think he will be relishing a return to the course where he won his first PGA Tour event.

The odds aren’t flashy at 25/1 but he looks to me like the sort of level of player who will really be here to win this week rather than hone their game for bigger weeks that follow. Always heralded as a future major winner Woodland would be in keeping with the big name winners at Copperhead and appeals as a solid each way bet with 8 places.

Michael Thompson went off a silly short price three weeks ago at the Honda Classic and twitter did it’s thing and mocked anyone taking 40/1 about the 1-time PGA Tour winner. It’s obviously no exact science at what odds any player can be backed on any given week but with a 33-year old journeyman like Thompson perhaps the picture is somewhat less muddied. Backing him at 40/1 is simply not a route to long-term profit. However off the back of two poorer efforts he is pushed out to 100/1 here and I’m just about ok with backing him at that price as all the positive criteria from prior to the Honda remains applicable.

Thompson is normally renowned for his excellent putting ability but this year it has been his ball-striking that has been impressing and lifting him up leaderboards. He ranks 31st in driving accuracy, 50th in strokes gained: approaches and 44th in proximity to the hole. Jim Furyk noted that holing out was very difficult around Copperhead with lots of breaks around the hole. Thompson ranks 28th in putting inside 10ft so he should also handle those difficult par saves this week.

I noted last year how lots of the Valspar winners had finished inside the top 20 at the 2012 US Open at Olympia Club and Thompson was runner-up there, very nearly surprising everyone and winning. It is a short, narrow classical layout where everyone really had to plot their way around and choose their battles with regards attacking the flags on small undulating greens. The test is somewhat similar at Copperhead and I believe it gives him another chance to try to grab his 2nd PGA Tour win.

I was just going to post two bets but I noticed Scott Langley at odds of 250/1 just at the last minute. Considering his early season form that seems a bit ridiculous even if he has missed two of his last three cuts. He made the cut at the Players last week though and while he hasn’t played here for a few years he was 3rd in 2014. The clincher for me was that he finished 29th at the 2012 US Open too. Too big a price to ignore even if he does miss the cut.


Maybank Championship

After the second part of the Middle East swing concluded in Qatar the European Tour jumped down to Kenya last week and it is on the move again to conclude it’s Asian swing. The first stop is Malaysia and the Maybank Championship from the Saujana G&CC in Kuala Lumpur.

The Maybank Championship has had just two previous editions in its current guise at this course and they were won by Shubhankar Sharma and Fabrizio Zanotti. Saujana has hosted previous Malaysian Opens however with Thongchai Jaidee (2x), Vijay Singh and Peter Hedblom being among the winners.

The course is a very fiddly one with the majority of holes having their fairways carved out of the jungle so we won’t see drivers on every hole and a degree of strategy will be required off the tee. After finding the correct portion of the fairway the test doesn’t stop there as the green complexes are said to be some of the toughest in Asian golf. They are small, undulating, fast and well protected by a mix of water and sand. This week it’s all about accurate types with brilliant short games and that is exactly what the inaugural winner is all about. Zanotti is a short hitter who struggles to compete on lots of the modern courses. But throw him on a more strategic layout where touch is required around the greens and he can compete with the best on the European Tour. Thongchai Jaidee would usually fall into that category too so we can be fairly confident that a sharp short game is an important attribute around Saujana. If looking at just one stat however, greens in regulation would be the way to go this week.

For designer links the course was the work of Ronald Fream who also designed the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club. It hosts the Singapore Open and was seen just two weeks ago when Jazz Janewattananond beat a strong Asian Tour field. It is a more open course but it also has difficult greens and the same hot and humid conditions. That leaderboard is worth a look given the two events’ close proximity to each other in the schedule.

It is worth remembering that playing in Asia doesn’t suit everyone at all and there are lots of golfers who feel more comfortable in certain parts of the world. Some European Tour golfers play well in the U.K., some play well in the desert or South Africa while some play their best anywhere away from Europe. Form in the humid conditions of Asia is certainly a worthy string to the bow this week so if your fancy has never recorded a Top 10 or even a Top 20 in this part of the world then it is probably unlikely they are going to suddenly take to the often stifling conditions and more strategic courses. The course also features lots of elevation changes and with all the difficult terrain I expect the less fit and perhaps older players might well struggle.

The young Thai Jazz Janewattananond turned professional at just 15 back in 2010 and his early career had plenty of hype along with it. However it was his Singapore Open win in January that suggested he might be ready to get his break out European Tour win. Jazz beat a fairly strong field that included Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Matt Fitzpatrick. Those 3 have forged their careers out of accurate tee-to-green games and that is required at both Sentosa GC, which hosts the Singapore Open, and here at Saujana GC. He is a player that has enough power when needed but now in his 9th season as a professional he is learning to harness it as required and therefore doesn’t bomb it off the tee. The week of that win he ranked 3rd in driving accuracy, 1st in GIR and 11th in scrambling. He has held his form well since then going 27-13-4 and his season stats are also excellent for this test; he ranks 31st in DA, 18th in GIR and 26th in scrambling. Jazz has played here twice before and his form is at least trending having missed the cut on his debut before a 39th last year. With confidence booming I’m expecting another big week from him providing he manages a half decent week with the putter which is often his weakness. Neither of the previous winners ranked inside the top 20 in putting however so if he hits his usual high percentage of fairways and greens that could be enough to contend. I did think we might get better odds than 40/1 but it seems the bookies are giving that Singapore Open win a lot of respect and to be honest as a single piece of form it is better than a lot of those above him in the market. Therefore he’s probably a solid enough bet when we factor in his potential too.

Max Kieffer has some trending course form as well as impressive recent form and that makes the German of interest here even at just 50/1. Kieffer has been a pro now for 9 years but is still relatively young at just 28 so there is still lots of time for him to fulfill his potential. It looked like just a matter of time as to when he would get his first ET win when he lost an Open De Espana play-off in 2013. But as we have seen so many times, injury and loss of form saw him plummet down the rankings as he became one of the many forgotten names on the European Tour. Kieffer has come flying back however over the last 6 months or so and his game is very consistent at the moment. His last 8 results are 14-2-57-MC-22-60-54-5 and having finished 11th at Saujana last year he should be confident of continuing his form. Again his season stats set up very well for this sort of test ranking 24th in GIR, 20th in DA and 11th in scrambling. Betfair are paying 7 places with their 50/1 and that looks a good each way bet.


Summary of bets

Valspar

Gary Woodland – 1.5pts ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Michael Thompson – 1pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair and Skybet)

Scott Langley – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Maybank

Jazz Janewattananond – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Max Kieffer – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

 

Weekly pts advised = 10pts

 

@theGreek82

The Players Championship and Kenya Open – A few bets

Coetzee and Van Rooyen both repaid my stubborn faith in them as they finished in a huge tie for 2nd place. Van Rooyen in particular though should really have done better. Unlike Harding, who only upped his game after he surely though he was out of it at -8 around the turn, EVR actually played very well the whole round and was right in contention. He just putted very, very poorly and I don’t even remember a putt on the back 9 that even looked like going in at any point. While it was annoying he showed a very impressive long game down the stretch while others were all over the shop. The win can’t be far away.

None of the guys in Florida ever looked like winning but the 3 who made the cut all flirted with a place, none more so than Benny An who finished T10th. Stenson showed plenty of signs that he is getting slowly back into form and will be worth keeping an eye on this week at Sawgrass.

2019 pts advised = 112

2019 pts returned = 122.75

ROI = 9.6%

I’m very low on time this week with Cheltenham and a couple of other things going on so just the bets again this week sorry.


The Players Championship

Kevin Kisner has had 3 poor Sawgrass results after losing a play-off on his debut in 2015 but the 2nd place makes a lot more sense to me though as Kisner is a bit of a Pete Dye specialist. He isn’t the longest of hitters but is usually very accurate through the bag, much like last year’s runaway winner Webb Simpson. Both his win’s have come on strategic layouts and he also has another runner-up at Dye’s Hilton Head.

Kisner fell away on Sunday in Florida but conditions were a little brutal by then. He ranked 3rd in GIR for the week though and that will have him in good shape for a return to Sawgrass. The last 3 visits he has arrived having missed the cut in his previous start but in 2015 he finished 28th the week before. Kisner was 23rd last week and looks a solid ew bet at 100/1 with Skybet’s 8 places. I also couldn’t put anyone off the 66/1 with Betfair due to the 10 places they are paying this week.

Matt Kuchar has won twice this season already and is playing some superb golf. He will be very confident of going well again as a former winner here. The one slight concern is that Kuchar often excels when there is plenty of bite in a golf course and the switch to March might not fully suit him. He scrambles as well as anyone on slick greens but his long game is also in fine fettle so hopefully it won’t make too much difference. Kuchar leads the Tour in total accuracy over the last 3 months as he sits 11th in driving accuracy and 6th in GIR. That is a potent combination around Sawgrass and yet again we can pick Kuch up at a very sporting price due to his unfashionable profile. There is as big as 60/1 around which is mad but given how much he loves a Top 10 I’m going to take the Betfair Sportsbook offer of 40/1 with 10 places.

 


Kenya Open

It’s broken record time again but given Erik Van Rooyen is one of the golfers I am in profit on I’m going to reinvest some of his returns from last week. I’ve not had a chance to look too closely at the course but from the pictures I’ve seen it does look quite narrow and tree-lined with smallish greens. That is what EVR is all about and this is a terrible field. It could be a painful watch on the greens again over the weekend but he also has the ability to win this by 6 with even just an average putting performance. It’s easy to forget this is just his 2nd year on Tour and it is that potential that means I’m just about happy enough to back him at a fairly shortish price here. Betfair are 16/1 with 7 places though and that is definitely worth a bet.

I’m also going to throw a few quid on a player who has impressed in small bursts on the European Tour over the last couple of years in Lasse Jensen. He has had 3 top 5s in some decent events and makes his 2019 ET bow here. He has played 2 events so far this year on the Nordic League but makes appeal here after his runner-up finish at the course in 2014. Worth a go at 80/1 given the little bits of class he has shown previously.

 

Summary of bets

Players

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Matt Kuchar – 2pts ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Betfair SB)

Kenya

Erik Van Rooyen – 1.5pt ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair SB)

Lasse Jensen – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

 

Weekly points advised = 10pts

 

@thegreek82

Arnold Palmer Invitational and Qatar Masters – Betting Preview

A grim week last week as conditions were terrible in Oman with severe winds and we got a fairly random looking leaderboard. Over at the Honda the picks fared a little better and both Kang and Varner III were inside the top 25 going into the final round. The excitement didn’t last long though as they were both over par early on for their final round and things carried on in that vein.

2019 pts advised = 102

2019 pts returned = 110.33

ROI = 8.17%


Arnold Palmer

Very little time this week so just the picks.

I pretty much back Henrik Stenson here every year so despite indifferent form I think the normally reliable Swede looks huge at 55/1 with 8 places. His recent form at Bay Hill is sublime and it is almost the perfect course for him. It is all about tee-to-green and there were no more consistent golfers in that department from 2013 to 2018. This showed in his results here which read 4-MC-3-2-5-8 in that period. He has missed three of his last 4 cuts but hopefully that was just shaking off some rust. Another missed cut may well be on the way but I have to back him at this price, especially with Tiger having withdrawn now. His results coming in prior to his 4th here last year were MC-60 so seeing Bay Hill again should bring about an improvement again.

I wanted to back Patrick Cantlay here but for some reason he isn’t playing again despite it being an absolutely perfect track for him. Another relentless tee to green player who can struggle on the greens is Benny An and I think he looks like a great piece of value at 80/1 with 8 places. An has been playing very solidly for a while now and he hasn’t missed a PGA Tour cut since June. His Bay Hill form is very good reading 14-49-36 but I can see further improvement this year as his long game numbers are even better than usual. He has ranked in the top 20 the last 3 years for strokes gained: tee to green but this year sits in his best position of 11th having gained an average of 1.455 strokes per round tee to green. The putter will probably mis-fire again this week but Bay Hill is a course where poor putters can go well on fairly straight-forward greens, certainly compared to PGA National last week. They will be a lot slower and the event is going to surely be decided by the long game rather than putting.

Adam Hadwin’s stats don’t suggest he is performing all that well this year but he has made his last 7 cuts with the highlight being a runner-up finish at the Desert Classic. He skipped this last year but was 6th in 2016 when he led the field in total driving and ball striking as well as scrambling. Ranks 18th in par 5 scoring this year which is a definite plus point as the long holes are crucial at Bay Hill. Looks a shade of value at 80/1 considering the silly price he was going off a month ago.

I backed Correy Conners earlier in the season off the back of his stellar long game stats and I’m taking a chance again here at 350/1. It’s a big number on a course like this for a player who sits 10th in strokes gained: tee to green. It is often famine or feast with the Canadian as he has 7 missed cuts in his last 10 starts but also a 2nd and 3rd. Being a Florida resident I’m hoping that a return to the area and to bermuda greens can possibly result in a going week for him at a big number.

 


Qatar Masters

Qatar follows on from Oman last week and the skill-set will be very similar although I’d expect winds to be less severe. If you like a good wind player with solid links form who perhaps didn’t fare that well in Oman i wouldn’t be too disheartened however. There was a big draw bias which massively disadvantaged those who had to play 45 minutes of their 2nd rounds in quite brutal winds. Many players lost 4 or 5 shots during that spell which scuppered their chances and in several cases brought about a missed cut when going ok up to that point.

I’ve gone with a couple of my favourites again here and also kept faith with two from last week. Regular readers may well be getting bored of seeing these names but I’m stubborn if nothing else!

George Coetzee didn’t have to play in the worst of the wind last week but he chucked in a triple bogey on his last hole on Friday to fall to +3 and couldn’t recover in the breeze on Saturday. That was his first look at the course though and returning to Qatar I’m going to fire again. He has course form of 8-MC-7-12-5-2-35 and I really don’t see this slump of his continuing now that he has been injury free again for several months. He led the field in putting here last year just like he did in 2013 and 2014. He absolutely loves these grainy greens and with plenty room off the tee hopefully a good putting week will have him back at the right end of the leaderboard.

Erik Van Rooyen showed glimpses of a return to form in MExico and he makes a lot of appeal here at 60/1 with 7 places. I’ve written plenty of times in the last year that I expect him to win soon and he suggested last summer that it could well be on a links course. He was excellent for 3 rounds at Carnoustie on his way to finishing 17th on his major debut. Qatar has long been a good indicator for Carnoustie and I think it looks the ideal place for him to get his season back on track. It’s his second look at the course having opened 68-66 last year but he faded away on the weekend perhaps getting a nosebleed having not had much experience of being on a European Tour leaderboard. He is far more experienced this year and will be looking to push on from Mexico’s 36th place finish.

Zander Lombard stays on the team this week and completes my all South African line-up. That’s no bad thing though as they have accounted for 6 of the 22 wins at Doha GC. The reasoning is much the same as last week despite him not getting involved on a course that should have suited. Qatar should perhaps be even more suitable and again he has that Carnoustie form when he opened 67-71 at The Open to sit 6th at half way. Having watched his short game several times this season he is another South African that looks set to start winning on links courses at some point. His touch around the greens is brilliant and with wind forecast that will be crucial. He also ranks 8th in strokes gained: tee to green. I’m giving him a pass given the extreme conditions in Oman and will give him one more go at 66/1 with 7 places.

 


Summary of bets

Arnold Palmer

Benny An – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Henrik Stenson – 0.75pt ew @ 55/1

Adam Hadwin – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 – (all 3 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Correy Conners – 0.5pt ew @ 350/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Qatar Masters

George Coetzee – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Erik Van Rooyen – 0.75 pt ew @ 60/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Zander Lombard – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

 

Weekly points advised = 10pts

Desert Classic and Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – Betting preview

Spieth missed the cut last week and I knew it was a risk although his 2nd round 66 suggested that may have found something along the way. It was a value bet though if nothing else and I’ll always struggle not to back him at such a price in what proved to be a very weak field indeed. Thompson fared a lot better and actually found himself up as high as 4th during his front 9 on Friday. As is the norm though when backing him he slowly forgot how to play golf and had a stinker over the weekend.

The European Tour returns this week in Abu Dhabi while the PGA Tour heads to the West coast to begin its California swing.


Desert Classic

It’s yet another name change for what was named the CareerBuilder Challenge last year and we now have the Desert Classic which isn’t to be confused with next week’s European Tour event the Dubai Desert Classic. While the name has changed the courses remain the same 3 that have been in play since the 2016 renewal; PGA West Stadium, PGA West and La Quinta.

The event is a pro-am format where everyone plays each course once before a cut takes place prior to a final round at PGA West Stadium. It’s a Pete Dye designed course and is the toughest of the 3 although still fairly low scoring. It’s very much a birdie fest each year with conditions rather soft and easy for the amateurs in the field. Various different types of players have found success here as the short nature of the courses means that everyone can compete. Due to that competitive nature we see a lot of unfashionable plodder types take part as they know they can contend with a good putting week.

It’s pretty much that simple, keep the ball in play and then attack as many flags as possible. Classic PGA Tour target golf stuff. The winning score is always in excess of -20 so anyone looking to contend will have to make a whole load of birdies.

I have backed Jamie Lovemark a couple of times here and I like his price of 125/1 having put him up at just 35/1 two years ago. Despite his often erratic driving there is something I like about him on short Pete Dye courses as they face here for two rounds. He was 6th here on his only visit with the current course rotation. On his second visit to Dye’s Sawgrass he finished 17th but closed 67-68-67 having opened with a 76. Lovemark was also runner-up  with team-mate Benny An around Dye’s TPC Louisiana in 2016. He had 5 top 20s last season with 3 of those coming on Pete Dye layouts. His iron play is generally better the more loft that he has and with his power off the tee he should be attacking most of these easy pro-am flags. He has looked like a future winner the last couple of seasons  and while he missed the cut last week I’m not overly concerned as his 17th at the Players also followed a MC so he can find his form quickly. The Hawaii missed cut was his first start since November and it means we get a very nice each way price.

Pat Perez used to be a golfer I didn’t take too seriously until he won a couple of times within a year in 2016/2017. I started paying more attention to him on shorter courses and it was very interesting to see him contend for a couple of rounds at Carnoustie last summer. I remember listening to post round interview in which he said he loved the set up as the baked fairways meant he could get the ball out there and was hitting a lot of wedges which suits his game. He also noted how the slower greens suited him as he felt he was a confident putter when he could give the ball a run at the hole. So I immediately noted him down for events like this, not even realising that he is a former event winner. He is also a runner-up at TPC Louisiana and has a top 20 at Sawgrass. The easy flags and slower greens in play here for the amateurs will be ideal for Perez as will the fact that the 3 courses are fairly short par 72s. Perez is also coming off a missed cut in Hawaii so again we get a very solid each way price of 80/1.

Charley Hoffman fits a similar mould to Perez but he is probably an even better player. Hoffman has a solid record in this event too and is also a former winner back in 2007. It hasn’t taken the bookies too long to forget how solid a player Hoffman is these days and I think he has to be backed at the 100-125/1 that is available. He has finished in the top 22 of 6 of the last 8 majors and has really taken his game to a new consistent level in that time. Things tailed off for him a little after the Open last year but he has had a decent break and will enjoy getting back to his native California. In fact the desert event is pretty much halfway between where he lives now and San Diego where he was born. Few will be as comfortable in this environment so lets just hope he has been working hard over the last 2 weeks and if he has he can make his price look very silly.


Abu Dhabi

The European Tour returns after it’s winter break and the first stop is the starting point of the Middle East Swing in Abu Dhabi. Normally we have three great events in a row from the area with form usually tying in nicely across all three. But this year the Qatar Masters has been moved back to March so it’s just the two in a row which doesn’t feel too much like a swing. The first point to note is that it’s a Wednesday start this week so that gives us one less day to prepare.

The Abu Dhabi Championship has been a staple on the Tour since 2006 and is always held at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, giving us plenty form to look at. It is form very much worth looking at too as 3 men account for 7 of the 13 events to date and the same names crop up on the leaderboard year after year. Tommy Fleetwood returns looking for a three-peat having won here in 2017 and 2018. The fairways are wide with plenty of water in play but generally the rough is playable, certainly for the longer hitters and that gives them a bit of an advantage on a course that already measures 7600 yards. Only the truly errant who find the water off the tee are punished and it sets up very much as a 2nd shot course. The layout is also quite exposed which sets up well for an attacking game and unless the wind blows we can expect the winning score to be somewhere around -20.

Statistically GIR has always been the best pointer in with the last 4 winners having an average GIR ranking for their win of just 6th. Unexpectedly they all scored highly in driving accuracy too averaging 7th. So while finding the fairway isn’t imperative it clearly helps to be playing from the fairways if you want to get close enough to the flag to make the required number of birdies.

The field is as strong as we have seen for some time on the European Tour with the event having been added to the Rolex Series this year. Dustin Johnson is in town as the 7/1 favourite and while he is suited to the event he doesn’t make too much appeal to me. With many of the players returning from their festive break the same can be said about most of the market leaders. With so much guesswork to do I’m far happier going after the juicier each way prices this week and with so many of the Tour’s big names playing there are plenty of those.

Big things have been expected from Thomas Detry for some time and having won the World Cup in November with Thomas Pieters I think the confidence gained from that will bring about his first European Tour title in 2019. There is no question that he is at his best on links style layouts as his excellent short game comes to the fore around hard, fast and undulating green complexes. If he can hold his form over I think this looks like the perfect place for Detry to get off the mark. He was 9th here last year on his debut with the highlight being a Saturday 64. The young Belgian has exactly the right combination of strong iron play and a silky touch that prospers in Abu Dhabi. This was evident throughout 2018 as he ranked 27th in GIR, 19th in strokes gained: putting and 28th in scrambling. With him having played so well in that World Cup win alongside Pieters I was a little surprised that he opened as big as 50/1. Hopefully readers took that after I tweeted on Monday but there is still a little bit around although 40/1 is probably still ok.

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of both Erik Van Rooyen and Ryan Fox and I’m determined not to miss out when they do get their win. I’m in profit on both however as generally the market misses them most of the time. Abu Dhabi Golf Club should very much suit them both.

Ryan Fox has played here twice and finished 19th on his debut in 2017 before a 31st last year. Fox’s game is all about hitting greens and he ranked 10th for GIR on Tour last year. That meant that more often than not when playing on a links style course he contended. The relatively wide fairways and lack of trees will help Fox off the tee as he tends to relax when he has an open view in front of him on the tee-box. If his putter behaves I’m hopeful he can improve on his two finishes to date.

Erik Van Rooyen makes his debut here this week but that didn’t stop him recording Top 10s at numerous venues last season in his rookie year. In fact it’s a season that the bookies seem to have ignored by pricing him up at 110/1 here. There haven’t been too many more consistent debut seasons in Europe in recent times which saw him finish 22nd in stroke average and 38th on the Race To Dubai. He also ranked 12th in GIR and I think he will take to this ball-strikers course. He showed his enjoyment of links golf when he contended for 3 rounds at Carnoustie last summer and with the emphasis here on approaches the South African will surely be relishing a test that also includes grainy greens similar to back home. Looks an excellent each way price.

I wasn’t sure whether to back Thomas Pieters as you never really know what you’re going to get with him. But his form figures here are excellent and there is every chance that his World Cup win has had a good effect on him as well as Detry. The 25/1 looks very fair and I’ll throw him in as a bit of a saver from the front of the market.

 

Summary of bets

Desert Classic

Jamie Lovemark – 0.75pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Pat Perez – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Charley Hoffman – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Skybet)

Abu Dhabi Championship

Thomas Detry – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Unibet/888)

Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet)

Erik Van Rooyen – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet)

Thomas Pieters – 1pt ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Paddy Power)

 

Weekly points = 11.5pts

@theGreek82