The 147th Open Championship – Betting Preview

Ryan Fox nabbed two thirds of the place money again with another strong links showing and Whee Kim looked like also returning some of the place money until he double bogeyed the 18th. It was his final few holes that did for him the whole week and if he hadn’t finished so poorly each day he may well have applied some pressure on his namesake Michael. It wasn’t to be though and we move on to one of the top 2 weeks of the golfing year with The Open at Carnoustie.

2018 pts advised = 302.50

2018 pts returned = 335.02

ROI = 10.75%


The Open Championship

History

While being one of the sterner tests on the Open rotation and always bringing with it plenty of drama, for some reason there has often been a long time between drinks from the Claret Jug at Carnoustie. This week will see just the 8th hosting of The Open at a course that was first opened in 1842. The first edition at Carnoustie was in 1931 and won by Tommy Armour. While they were held semi-regularly after that for a period there were none from Tom Watson’s win in 1975 until Paul Lawrie triumphed in 1999. There was then another 8 year gap to Padraig Harrington’s win in 2007 and it hasn’t been back since.

Paul Lawrie’s win was as dramatic as they come with Jean Van De Velde famously throwing his chance down the Barry Burn as he took a treble bogey down the last when a double would have seen him over the line. He would go on to lose the three man playoff and etch his name on the wrong side of history as he is now fondly remembered as the highest profile collapse in Open history.

There was similar excitement in 2007 when Harrington and Garcia went toe-to-toe with the Spaniard starting the day with a 3-shot lead before Harrington found himself with a 2 shot lead playing the 18th. He too would throw his chance away down the 18th before ultimately composing himself to beat Garcia in the 4 hole play-off.

Jordan Spieth defends this year after his brilliant win around Birkdale while Harrington returns to the scene of his greatest victory. Bernard Langer makes the field having won last year’s Senior Open and he is another course winner having also won the Senior Open here in 2010. Unfortunately Scotland’s last Open champion misses out through injury.

Course

Carnoustie is perhaps the most difficult course on the rotation and that reputation has only been enhanced on the other side of the Atlantic since they nicknamed it Car-nasty. The main reason behind that is the length as the Par 71 plays to some 7400 yards making it comfortably the longest Open venue. This means there are some brutally long par 4s and that isn’t something that we always associate with links golf. Three of the final four holes are par 4s in excess of 450 yards and that difficult closing stretch probably helps define Carnoustie. Whoever navigates their way through those holes best over the four days should find themselves on the leaderboard at worst.

Beyond the length, the deep pot bunkering and narrow enough fairways make it one of the more demanding Open venues off the tee and that will only be accentuated by how baked out the course is. Normally when England has a brilliant summer Scotland is somewhat left behind but that hasn’t been the case this year. Glorious sunshine has left Carnoustie a classic picture of bald brown fairways and sparse brown fescue rough. It will play as hard and fast as any venue since Muirfield in 2013 and while that will negate the length somewhat, it will also mean that driver will be left in the bag my many. The greens however still appear very lush green as they have clearly been watered and well maintained through the dry summer. This makes it a little harder to gauge exactly how the course will play once the greens have been reached. If the greens are still receptive enough for people to aim directly at flags then we could see quite a different sort of challenge and one that not too many will have faced. At Muirfield in 2013 the greens were rock hard along with the rest of the course. I suspect with the forecast that even if they are green on Thursday morning by Sunday they will likely be as brown as the rest of the course however. The weather brings us on to the most important aspect of any Open course and that is wind. Year after year links courses are defined by how hard the wind blows and with the current forecast of wind in the area being 12mph-18mph with gusts in the 20s I expect Carnoustie will show it’s teeth most of the week. The green complexes are tricky without wind so with a stiff enough breeze greens will be missed and only the best scramblers will survive till Sunday evening. Proven wind and links exponents will be at a huge advantage around one of the true classic links tests. Carnoustie is also used as one of the host courses at the Alfred Dunhill Links in October and while that is set up very easily for the amateurs and it also has no bite October, it certainly won’t be a negative to have shot a low round at the course and a perusal of recent editions is surely worthwhile.
What is needed to win?

While we know that it pays to follow good links players whichever the course, with Carnoustie hosting this year it is worth paying particular attention to its nuances. It is perhaps one of the most classic links courses on the rotation and famously the hardest. As mentioned above the last two Opens there were won by Paul Lawrie (1999) and Padraig Harrington (2007) and at their peak there were very few better around the greens. Lawrie was so good he was nicknamed “Chippy” while throughout Harrington’s career he has been among the very best chippers on both Tours. I have looked at both those Opens together with the two Senior Opens (2010 and 2016) to see if this was borne out in the stats.

From the 4 events at Carnoustie there were 3 huge standouts from looking at the more general stats. The first one I noticed was scrambling and that was obviously no surprise but it was particularly interesting just how well the top 5 scrambled in each event. in 1999 Lawrie ranked 2nd in scrambling but none of the top 5 ranked outside the top 12 for scrambling. In 2007 Harrington led the field in getting up and down while Garcia was 6th and 4th placed Ernie Els was 3rd. On the Seniors circuit Paul Broadhurst was 5th in scrambling when he won in 2016 and again runner-up McCarron was 3rd while 5th place Byrum led the field. In 2010 Langer was 2nd in scrambling while again everyone in the top 5 was inside the top 10 for getting up and down.

The second key area was bogey avoidance as Lawrie ranked 3rd, Harrington 1st, Broadhurst 3rd and Langer 1st in that area. While it makes sense that avoiding bogeys is going to be a positive their numbers for birdies are nothing like as impressive (20th, 17th, 2nd and 14th) confirming that being able to keep bogeys off the card is crucial at Carnoustie.

The 3rd and final stat of note was Par 4 scoring and again that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise on a tough, championship, par 71 layout. Harrington was 9th on the par 4s but each of the other 3 winners led the field in scoring on the medium holes. With so many long par 4s again it makes perfect sense that playing them well is important.

Obviously being strong in the other key areas like GIR and putting isn’t going to hurt but it does seem clear that these 3 are key attributes that will be required this week at Carnoustie. While looking at the stats rankings for the year can only tell us how players have fared to date in those areas, they are ultimately the best guide for trying to predict who might perform well in those areas again. I would recommend a look at all 3 stats for anyone looking to pick their own players this week. With the new European Tour stats area all three of these can be easily accessed for both Tours now.
The bets

It just so happens that these stats back up two of my favourite links players and repeat Major tips so that gives me two confident headline plays. If you can ever be confident about a major that is!

Rickie Fowler hasn’t so much been banging the door down to get into the major winner’s house as he has been knocking quite loudly and repeatedly. Until perhaps April at Augusta he was falling into the Kuchar sort of area where he was being unfairly criticised for consistently playing well yet not really managing to properly contend right up to the 72nd hole. Many believe that Fowler upped his game that day as he played his back 9 in 4 under par to post -14, a score that could easily have landed a play-off on another day. As one of his bigger fans I’ve been of the opinion that he will win multiple Open Championships for some time but for those who disagree he maybe isn’t the bet for you this week at a restrictive enough 18/1 given the strength of the field. For me he is the best links player out of the top bracket of golfers and I have backed him in some shape or form in the last 6 Opens. I can’t stop now! Fowler has absolutely everything required to dominate links golf, he normally drives it fairly long and fairly straight, hits plenty of greens, scrambles with the best of them and is also one of the better putters on Tour. Most importantly though he has the ability to flight the ball down and move it in the wind allowing him to run the ball into the greens as they firm up over the weekend. With the summer that Scotland has seen that will be crucial on this baked out course, even more so if the wind blows.

Over the last few years things have gone against him in the Open, namely being on the wrong side of the strong draw bias in 2015 and 2016 while perhaps courses didn’t play as tough as he would have liked on other years. This is why I think the difficult Carnoustie is absolutely perfect for him. Looking at 2018 stats Fowler ranks brilliantly in the main 3 departments. He is 5th in scrambling, 4th in bogey avoidance and 5th in par 4 scoring. He is already a links winner having won the Scottish Open in 2015 and his overall Open record is extremely good even if he hasn’t figured on the leaderboard at the last 3. While the 18/1 maybe isn’t the best of win prices the value on the place terms makes up for that. Fowler has returned the each way money in 7 of his last 18 majors which makes the 18/5 about a top 8 finish an excellent price. I think he is ready to win one and having prepared with a 6th place finish at Gullane last week his game will be in perfect shape and I expect him to contend again at Carnoustie.

My other main bet is my 2nd go-to Open bet and that is Henrik Stenson. I must get the negatives out of the way first and point out that he withdrew from last week’s Scottish Open with an elbow injury but I’m hoping that was more precautionary ahead of this week. As ever Stenson’s game sets up perfectly for Championship golf as he currently leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy and GIR. He also ranks highly in the strong Carnoustie stats as he is 5th in scrambling, 1st in bogey avoidance and 3rd in par 4 scoring. Despite his light schedule so far in 2018 he is one of only 3 men to finish inside the top 10 at both this year’s Majors. His 5th place at Augusta marked his best ever Masters finish while I thought he was a little unlucky at Shinnecock while carrying our money. He got himself to the front after 45 holes before throwing 5 shots away on the back 9 as conditions got very close to unplayable.

Moreover I just get the impression that he is targeting majors and nothing else as he realises he probably only has another 4 or 5 years left at the very top. That makes him dangerous again this week and doubly so when we consider Carnoustie looks absolutely perfect for his game. Another confident selection and excellent back up to the main Fowler selection. An extra string to both player’s bows is that they are also more than capable of hanging around if the greens do somehow play softer all week. Adaptability is often an under rated attribute with regards to golfers but when conditions can not be trusted 100% in advance it becomes even more crucial.

I’m adding two more proven links types in the outright market. Firstly Tyrrell Hatton who came close last week and unfortunately ruined his price somewhat but he has won the last two Alfred Dunhill Links events and shot Carnoustie rounds of 65 and 67 while doing so. Everything about his game suggests he can win an Open at some point and a test like Carnoustie while playing well might just be his best chance at a major to date. That means I can forgive the price of 33/1 as we get 10 places with Skybet and the place value makes up for it.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello perhaps isn’t playing well enough to win this at the moment but that has also seen his price pushed out and I really like his game for Carnoustie so am going to take a chance that he enjoys the more difficult layout this week. He has missed his last 3 cuts so this bet might not be for everyone but last week he signed off with a 67 and it was more his inability to make birdies than making bogeys that cost him. If we forgive him this slight blip in form then he was playing excellent golf prior to the US Open. He ranks 7th in scrambling on the European Tour and 22nd in both bogey avoidance and par 4 scoring. I’m hoping Carnoustie can focus the mind a little and given that a wayward driver has been one of the main things holding him back, he may opt to leave it in the bag. If he does then his proven links ability will help him from the fairways and in.

My left-field outsider for this is Charl Schwartzel and I’m not entirely sure I can explain why without boring everyone to tears. Basically I’ve had a look through courses where Harrington, Lawrie, Langer and Broadhurst have played well and Schwartzel’s name kept coming up. Schwartzel is a solid links player despite not having a reputation as such, even more so when conditions are hard and fast. He was 22nd around Hoylake in 2006 as a 22 year old and then 15th at Muirfield in 2013. He returned a year later to Hoylake to record his first Open top 10.

As much as anything he just looks a massive price for someone who can still show plenty of flashes of his world-class ability. Just two months ago he was runner-up to Webb Simpson at the Players Championship and he has only played three events since. Coming in fresh might just be an advantage for someone like Schwartzel who can get very down about his game when things aren’t going well.

After seeing some chat on Twitter about the rough not being overly penal I’ve decided to squeeze Ryan Fox into the team even if he doesn’t really have much of a major pedigree yet. The New Zealand bomber has been brilliant on the links courses of Ireland and Scotland over the last two weeks and knowing he will probably let rip with his driver again this week I think I have to include him again. He drove the 18th green on Friday at Gullane and while everyone was getting it fairly close he hit that some 450 yards which is quite ridiculous. While he only hit 40% of his fairways he was making that distance count again as he still hit 78% of his greens. Carnoustie is obviously a different beast but I’d be gutted to miss out on another good showing so I’ll make him the 6th and final each way play.

I’ve also backed a few at big prices on the exchanges just because I expect they might play quite well and possibly trade somewhat lower. I wasn’t sure how to advise them but as I have backed them I felt I had to include them so I have just gone with 0.5pts win at their current Betfair price. I’ve also advised place bets on the same 3 players.

Cameron Smith was brought up on the hard and fast courses along the East coast of Australia and he has shown his enjoyment of difficult championship courses already in his early career. He finished 4th on his major debut at Chambers Bay in 2015 while he was 5th at this year’s Masters. His brilliant scrambling skills will be key this week and he looks over priced in most of the markets for me. Could really take to Carnoustie and if he does he should trade considerably lower than 360.0

Thorbjorn Olesen has had a very impressive 2018 to date and he went into my notebook when he led the field in scrambling at the Irish Open 2 weeks ago. That was good enough for 6th and it came just a month after his win in Sicily. Olesen has long been considered an Open Champion in waiting and he won the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2015 where he shot a 68 around Carnoustie. Had a solid major record early in his career posting top 10s at both The Open and The Masters. Looks to be back to somewhere near his best this year and its worth remembering he is still just 28 years old. Has everything required to win a major and looks over priced on the Exchange where we can get nearly double some of the bookmaker prices.

Hideto Tanihara was 6th at the Open around Hoylake in 2006 and that is one of the few hard and fast tests we have seen in recent times. He went off the radar for quite a while on the world stage until he popped up at the WGC Match Play in 2017 where he beat several big names on his way to the semi-finals. On his day Tanihara is a brilliant scrambler and with fairly recent form of such a high standard he just seems a bit over priced here at the maximum 1000.0 on Betfair. The Japanese star was in the World’s Top 50 just last year and he also finished inside the top 30 on the Race to Dubai. It should also be noted that he shot a 61 around Gullane on Friday! Under rated here so I’m also taking his generous top 20 price of 12/1

Finally, Skybet are offering 3/1 for this year’s Open to be decided by a play-off. That to me looks like a great piece of value when we consider the last 3 Opens at Carnoustie have all gone to a play-off. Looking at the wider picture 7 of the last 20 Opens have gone to extra holes. With the difficult 18th hole and no real bail-out area off the tee it is the sort of hole where a 4 shot lead is required to be truly safe and mentally it is one of the toughest finishing holes you will see in major golf. Makes me think this novelty bet is worth a go for 4 Carnoustie play-offs in a row!
First Round Leader Picks

Right now the forecast for Thursday is for the wind to pick up in the afternoon to around 13mph with gusts in the 20s. Therefore I have gone for three players with early tee-times.

Since Thomas Pieters’ last missed cut at Wentworth he has turned a bit of a corner and in his 5 events he has thrown in 10 rounds in the 60s with three of those coming in the first round. Overall in 2018 he sits 5th on the European Tour for 1st round scoring. He opened last week with a 68 and then signed off with 64-66 over the weekend for a 6th place finish. He has an early tee-time of 7:52am and if he is to get involved at all this week I imagine it will be from the start. The 66/1 looks very fair with 8 places.

Erik van Rooyen has being going very low lately in round 1 and throughout most of the year as he sits just below Pieters in 8th place. Missed the cut last week but still shot a Friday 64 in doing so and the week before he went 65-66 in Ireland on Friday and Saturday to get to the top of the leaderboard. So he clearly knows how to go low on links courses and with an early tee-time (6:46am) hopefully the nerves of his first Major won’t get to him until Friday when maybe he is sitting inside the top 8 after an opening 68! There is as big as 150/1 out there but I prefer the 110 with Betfair and 8 places.

There were several more that I liked including Tanihara, Martin Kaymer and Matthew Southgate but instead I have plumped for another fast starter and links expert in Paul Dunne. He sits in 14th position in round 1 scoring and opened with a 67 last week in Scotland before missing the cut on the number after a 70 on Friday. The cooler conditions in the morning won’t phase him at all and he will relish the chance to get out and make a score having fond memories of contending for 3 rounds at St. Andrews as an amateur in 2015. Take the 95/1 with Betfair and get 8 places.


Summary of bets

The Open

Rickie Fowler – 3pts ew @ 18/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

Henrik Stenson – 1.5pts ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Skybet)

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (Skybet)

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 10 places PP) and 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Charl Schwartzel – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (Skybet) and 2pts Top 20 @ 6/1

Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet)

Cameron Smith – 0.5pt win @ 360 Betfair and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Thorbjorn Olesen – 0.5pt win @ 130 Betfair and 1pt Top 10 @ 8/1

Hideto Tanihara – 0.5pt win @ 1000 Betfair and 1pt Top 20 @ 12/1

A Play-off to settle The Open – “Yes” – 2pts @ 3/1 (Skybet)
First Round Leader

Thomas Pieters – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair and Paddy Power)

Erik Van Rooyen – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1 (Betfair)

Paul Dunne – 0.5pt ew @ 95/1 (Betfair)

Weekly points advised = 26pts

@theGreek82

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Travelers Championship and BMW International Open – Some bets

While I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that Brooks Koepka wasn’t the right US Open winner I do think Stenson was a little unfortunate not to be a little closer. The only stretch that he struggled with was the back 9 on Saturday when conditions were very unfair and he played a few good shots that were punished. It was the same for the other leaders however it was clear Stenson was enjoying the hard and fast test up to that point. It’s always good to get a full place at a major but if you had told me that he was going to putt so well before they started then I’d have been counting my money before the off!

RCB was also left cursing the back 9 on Sunday as throughout most of the tournament he looked set for a top 10 nevermind the top 20 we needed. It wasn’t to be though and even with Stenson’s 13.2 pts returned there were some small losses on the week.

I’ve been a little short of time and good health this week so the picks will be brief for The Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour and the BMW International Open in Europe.

Updated results to follow


Travelers Championship

Despite some average form Brendan Steele’s price jumped out at me. You need to hit the greens around here and he still sits 11th for GIR and just last week at Shinnecock he was 12th in GIR. So his long game is in good enough shape and he is even making plenty of birdies. He sits 14th in Par 4 Birdie or Better which is a good indicator around here. Steele has been inside the top 25 on six of his seven visits with a 5th in 2014 being the pick of the bunch. Finished down the field at Shinnecock but there were plenty better players who missed the cut and he isn’t someone with a great record on poa annua greens. He will enjoy the return to bentgrass dominant greens and also having some rough to work with around the greens.

Nicholas Lindheim is pretty much just a stats hunch this week as his game looks suited to TPC River Highlands on paper if nothing else. He currently ranks 16th in Par 4 Birdie or Better, 20th in GIR from 150-175 yards and 32nd in putting from 5ft to 15ft. Missed his only cut here but was 12th on another Bobby Weed renovated course at Sawgrass’s Valley course in 2015. Could be over priced at 250/1.


BMW International Open

I wasn’t going to post anything for Germany but as I’ve backed them I thought I may as well squeeze in a few lines. Nothing too original about my main two bets here. Adrian Otaegui and Jorge Campillo have both been knocking on the door of a regular stroke-play win for the last couple of years. Neither man has good form here but Gut Larchenhof isn’t a terribly tough layout. It’s not tricked up, there is room off the tee and not too many dangers beyond bunkers for approach shots. As you would expect with a Nicklaus design it does get a little trickier as you approach the green but both men have been excelling in that area lately. With no big numbers to worry about they can just go out and make birdies as they rank 10th and 18th in birdie average over the last 3 months. I was surprised at the odds available and they both look worthwhile each way plays.

I have also backed a couple of veterans who enjoy the course and have shown glimpses in recent weeks.

Raphael Jacquelin was 4th here in 2016 and 3rd in 2004 so will be relishing a return. Especially after the brisk play at the Shot Clock Masters last time out seemed to bring back the beautiful rhythm to his swing. He finished 3rd there and to be honest I have no idea why this 4 time European Tour winner is 150/1 in this field having suggested he might have turned a corner.

Peter Hanson was 7th at the Shot Clock Masters also breaking a run of bad form and missed cuts. He was 3rd here back in 2009 while also 21st more recently in 2016. I’m hoping his performance last time out will also give him a lift and older players have a decent record around the course which bodes well for both the 40-somethings.


Summary of Bets

Travelers Championship

Brendan Steele – 0.75 pts ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Nicholas Lindheim – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1 (Skybet) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1 (general)

BMW International

Adrian Otaegui – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Jorge Campillo – 0.75pts ew @ 40/1 (Coral)

Raphael Jacquelin- 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Paddy Power)

Peter Hanson – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)

 

Weekly pts advised = 8.5pts

@theGreek82

Fed Ex St. Jude Classic and The Shot Clock Masters

Rafa Cabrera Bello came up just short in Italy but he grabbed the place money for returns of 8.25pts on the week. Three of the four picks in the US went quite well but could never quite get to the upper reaches of the leaderboard to get anywhere near a place. With the US Open next week we don’t have too much to get excited about as most of the top players take a week off to prepare for Shinnecock. With major fever beginning to hit I will try to have next week’s preview up as early as I can on Monday.

2018 pts advised = 240pts

2018 pts returned = 314.49pts

ROI = 31%


Fed Ex St Jude Classic

While TPC Southwind is hardly the exhausting challenge of a US Open at least the PGA Tour prepares for the slog with a difficult test this week. This event regularly sits in the top 10 most difficult courses on the schedule and that is reflected with winning score usually around the -10 mark. It is a technical, tree-lined par 70 with slightly narrower than average fairways and some thick rough awaiting those that do stray a little too far off the tee. Being a par 70 there only 2 par 5s so for those not finding the fairway it can be a long round. There are several long par 4s and trying to find these small greens from the rough isn’t going to be easy. Therefore it is often a course that rewards steady, accurate play from tee-to-green. With small bermuda greens usually running quick enough plenty of greens will be missed and scrambling skills will be tested. Daniel Berger has found the key to Southwind having won the last two events and he did so by driving the ball long and straight and hitting greens. A pretty good recipe for success on most courses but with difficult to hit greens, a hot putter and maximising birdies isn’t required this week as Berger ranked just 26th and 27th on the greens.

As the name suggests the wind is liable to blow through the course and therefore there a number of courses where form correlates nicely. Other windy, tree-lined tracks with small greens include PGA National (Honda Classic), Waialae GC (Sony Open) and El Camaleon GC (OHL Classic).

Tom Hoge has been on my radar for this since his 3rd place finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He was the 54 hole leader there in January and with the correlation between Waialae and TPC Southwind he went in the notebook. So when he finished 13th at Memorial my interest was already perked but I became even more confident when I noticed that he ranked 1st in putting. He isn’t always the best with the flat-stick and when he can put everything together he has a pretty impressive all-round game. That was the case in Hawaii as he ranked 1st in the all-round ranking. A look through his other PGA Tour top 10s shows a 10th at the Puerto Open which is another similar course with good correlating form. Hoge also has a little course form with a 12th place finish back in 2015. With several long par 4s around the course the players will require the mid-long irons to be firing in order to hit these small greens and Hoge’s stats in that area are very impressive as he ranks 10th in proximity to the hole from 175-200 yards. As well as putting brilliantly last week he also sits 8th in one-putt percentage so he has been doing some things well all season with the putter. With his impressive performance last week I’m surprised to see 110/1 about him and it rates a very solid each way play.

hoge

Matt Jones was going to be my main pick at Memorial but for one small detail, he wasn’t actually playing! There was a fairly specific stat in particular that I really liked for Memorial and Jones was ranked no. 1. Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what it was. However luckily this week gives me another chance to get with the Aussie on a course where he has recent form figures of 18-26-3. A windy course where greens are hard to hit and scrambling is key suits the short game wizard perfectly and despite not really contending yet in 2018 he is racking up some solid results while building a decent stats profile along the way. Jones ranks 6th in GIR from 175-200 yards and 15th in proximity to the hole from the same distance. He was 13th on his last appearance and he also qualified for the U.S. Open yesterday showing he is in good form. He will arrive full of confidence and looks a little over priced with many of the market leaders probably looking at honing their game ahead of next week.

At first I was a little hard pushed to find another bet but then I saw one of my favourite outsiders sitting in a lofty position in several key metrics. Michael Thompson is 23rd in GIR from 175-200 yards and 11th in scoring relative to par from the same distance. He is also putting as well as normal as he ranks 23rd in putting from 5ft-10ft which is crucial on any difficult course where length par saves are required. His recent results have been ok but he should enjoy this course as he was 3rd in 2015 and his only win on Tour has come at the Honda Classic where there are also small bermuda greens and wind is a factor. At 200/1 it won’t cost much to have an each way interest with Skybet’s favourable 8 places as they fight for the U.S. Open stakes next week


Shot Clock Masters

The Lyoness Open as we knew it has disappeared and in its place we have another Keith Pelley gimmick, the Shot Clock Masters. It’s hard to say how this one will pan out but as with the other different types of event this year we have to keep an open mind and give it a chance. One thing we do know is that Patrick Cantlay, Bryson Dechambeau and Kyle Stanley won’t be lining up in it any time soon!

The course is the same as the event stays at the Diamond Country Club near Vienna and the format is almost the same with the one key difference alluded to by the name. They will play their usual 72-hole stroke play but every single shot will be played under the shot clock. The first player away will have 50 seconds to hit their shot with the next in line getting 40 seconds. Each time a player runs over they will be handed a 1 shot penalty and everyone will have 2 time-outs a round which will double their time for their shot when used. It’s an interesting idea and with slow play a very topical issue at the moment many golfing eyes will be on Austria this week in some capacity. With round times getting out of control on the PGA Tour you would hope that they will be watching closely.

The sponsors will be glad that something will draw attention to Diamond CC this week as the field strength doesn’t look like doing that. The combination of the shot clock and being the week before the U.S. Open has left this resembling a Challenge Tour event but that gives someone the chance to make a name for themself in a high-profile event and that makes it appear like a decent betting event. The course has long been one that favours ball-strikers and in particular Diamond CC is another second shot course. It actually resembles a PGA Tour venue perhaps more so than any other course on the European Tour, certainly the ones on European soil. It is a lush green venue with water in play practically wherever you look as lakes wind themselves through the course. However there is still plenty width off the tee as these water hazards mainly come into play around the greens. There are plenty of fairway bunkers though and while they remove the bombers aspect of the course, players largely won’t be punished for taking driver as the landing areas are generous. Year after year this is won by a player who pounds the greens and the last 5 winners have averaged 9th in GIR. They have also scrambled well averaging 9th but the all-round ranking suggests that most aspects will need to be in good order as the same 5 winners have averaged just 6th in that area.

Gagli

I wanted to side with brisk players who wouldn’t be phased by the timing restrictions but to be honest the field strength is so poor there aren’t too many here that are famously slow or quick. So instead I have stuck with the regular M.O. for Diamond Country Club and gone with a ball-striker as my main pick. Nobody in the field ranks higher than Lorenzo Gagli in ball-striking over the last 3 months as he sits 3rd on Tour. That is made up from 4th in total driving and 9th in GIR so it is clear that he is in full control of his long game. That is exactly what is needed here so I’m trying not to worry too much about his price as there isn’t much to beat here. With scoring usually low, birdie average is another key metric and again Gagli is doing well there as he sits 22nd over the last 3 months. That is good enough for 2nd in this field however.

Gagli has struggled for much of his European Tour career usually ending up bouncing between it and the Challenge Tour but something seems to have improved drastically over the last 6 months. His new-found tee-to-green assurance has seen him not only win on the Challenge Tour for the first time but also find more consistency on the main Tour. His last 4 starts on the ET read 14-20-20-36 and that is a step above what 95% of this field have been doing so in reality 28/1 isn’t the worst price I have seen. I’d be hard pushed to suggest there is much value in there but he seems like a player who has properly turned a corner with his game and I think he is worth keeping an eye on throughout 2018. He was 10th here in 2013 so can play the course and a poor field like this could be just what he needs to get his first European Tour win. He has been cut again since the withdrawal of Burmester and Van Rooyen but while that makes the 20/1-22/1 obviously feel even shorter we need to focus on the fact that the field is even weaker now and the favourite is a 54 year old, albeit a very talented and in-form one!

The only man in this field above Gagli in birdie average over the last 3 months is Jeff Winther and that seems good enough reason to back the Dane at 50/1. He actually sits 8th on Tour and is making 4.44 birdies per round. He has missed his last 2 cuts but a closer look at his form tells us that he isn’t usually too comfortable on tight, tree-lined courses so if we ignore Wentworth and Italy his 2 results prior were a 17th at the Belgian Knockout and 14th in the Sicilian Open. In Belgium he actually finished 3rd after the 2 stroke-play rounds and led the field in GIR. He is yet to have a European Tour top 10 and he has missed both his cuts at the course but this event looks like a good opportunity for a wildcard and with some sneaky form I think he rates a good each way play at 66/1.

Adam Bland closed with a 65 last week and he sits 10th scrambling over the last 3 months. With greens being missed and fairways wide enough, this looks ideal for the power packed Aussie. He hasn’t played in too many European Tour events so far in his career but when he has he has performed rather well. In the Perth Sixes last year he made it all the way to the semi-finals on a course where scrambling is always crucial. It’s a speculative play but he might just be over priced in this calibre of field.

Gavin Moynihan makes up the team at a whopping 400/1 for no reason other than he looked pretty impressive alongside Paul Dunne at the Golf Sixes and he didn’t seem to have any issue with the shot clock hole. Indeed he actually performed better than his more esteemed team-mate that week in England so I’m surprised that he missed his next cut on the Challenge Tour. Although that was his first start since that win and it really should be a catalyst for a player who was a top class amateur, playing the Walker Cup twice. With a poor field this gives him another chance to push on in the quest for his European Tour card.


Summary of bets

St Jude Classic

Tom Hoge – 1pt ew @ 110/1 (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Matt Jones – 1pt ew @ 125/1  (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Michael Thompson – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places SkyBet)

Shot Clock Masters

Lorenzo Gagli – 1.25pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Jeff Winther – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Adam Bland – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Gavin Moynihan – 0.25pt ew @ 400/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral ) and 0.5pt Top 20 @ 12/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 11pts

@theGreek82

Memorial and Italian Open – Betting Preview

Kevin Na saved the day with a brilliant 61 on Sunday to finish 4th but at the same time left me (and him no doubt) cursing his shocking closing 9 holes on Friday when 3 shots clear. In truth it was very much in keeping with his recent career, capable of brilliance yet always susceptible to a wobble when that elusive win appears on his horizon. But he backed up the thinking that he remains a brilliant each way bet when conditions and price suit.

The BMW PGA was a hugely frustrating event as both Southgate and Westwood spent most of the tournament inside the top 20 only to fall down the leaderboard when it mattered. The outright bets fared worse although EVR and Hebert clearly enjoyed the test even if they never threatened the upper reaches of the leaderboard.

2018 pts advised = 225

2018 pts returned =306.24

ROI = 36%


Memorial

The PGA Tour heads to Jack’s place this week and there is certainly a fitting field strength for the legend of the game. I’m not sure I’ve seen this good a field for a regular Tour event since I’ve been following the PGA Tour. It’s absolutely chock-a-block rammed full of talent and 8 of the top 10 in the world are in the field. This makes it look like an absolute minefield in betting terms but with firms going to 7 and 8 places there may be some each way value further down the market.

Muirfield Village was opened in 1976 and has hosted The Memorial Tournament ever since producing an impressive roll call of winners. Named after the site of Nicklaus’ first Open Championship win the course itself is 7337 yards long and the fairways are of average width. There isn’t too much immediate trouble barring some lush green rough and it is very much a typical Nicklaus course as it is all about the approach shots and then what you do on and around the greens (the challenge usually increases the closer you get to the green on his courses) . Recent winners have been accurate drivers but a look at the stats confirm Muirfield Village’s increasing difficulty as you get nearer the hole. The last 5 winners have averaged just 23rd for total driving yet they have averaged 14th for GIR and 16th for scrambling. While putting is always important, Memorial is usually won with approach play but perhaps the most apparent stats information is how well those 5 winners have fared in the all-round ranking, suggesting the importance of doing nothing badly during the week rather than perhaps doing any one thing brilliantly. The average all round ranking for the last 5 winners is 3.8 and with such an elite field assembled here this week it looks a prudent play to side with someone whose whole game is decent order. With fast, undulating, elevated greens, Muirfield tests all aspects of the iron game and it is a ball striker’s course undoubtedly. Approach shots need to be kept on a string to score well and Matsuyama who won this three years ago has some of the best distance control in the game as does 2013 champion Kuchar.

In addition to previous form around Muirfield, other Nicklaus tracks are worth looking at too, Glen Abbey GC which hosted the Canadian Open in 2004, 2008, 2009, 20013, 2015, 2016 and 2017; Sherwood GC which hosted Tiger’s World Challenge from 2000-2013, Valhalla where Rory Mcilroy won the USPGA in 2014 and the Old White TPC which hosts the Greenbrier Classic and was redesigned by Nicklaus in 1976. The CareerBuilder Challenge has also featured a couple of his courses in recent years. There are a few more used in Europe but not too many of this field will have played them.

Patrick Reed very nearly backed up my faith in him at the Wells Fargo when he finished in the dreaded 8th and I can’t help but back him here again at the prices. This is a very strong field but he still appears to have been dismissed a little too easily again at 33/1. Reed has always enjoyed Jack Nicklaus designs and logically that sits nicely with his game as he also improves as the clubs get shorter through the bag. The Nicklaus form is sneakier than most however, Nicklaus’ PGA West was one of the courses in play when he won the Humana Challenge and he properly announced himself on the world stage at the Nicklaus designed Gleneagles in the 2014 Ryder Cup. He also came runner-up at the European Tour’s BMW Masters around yet another Nicklaus course, Lake Malaren. For good measure his only appearance at Glen Abbey produced a 9th place finish where he scrambled brilliantly around the tricky green complexes.

Muirfield Village is probably a little narrower than Reed would ideally like but he was 8th there in 2016 while hitting 66% of his fairways so he can handle the tee-shots well enough. In fact given that he ranked 72nd in total putting it’s amazing that he managed anywhere close to 8th.  Especially when we consider that 73rd, 74th and 75th in the field for putting that week finished 69th, 69th and 73rd respectively. But Reed is putting a lot better again this year and sits 58th in strokes gained: putting so looking at everything together I’m sure if he can keep the ball out of the trees he will go well again. He ranks 7th in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months and Muirfield Village is above everything else a very good all-round test. Again not being given the respect he deserves, he looks a must bet at 33/1 with 8 places.

RBC Canadian Open - Final Round

Jonny Vegas has won the last two events at Glen Abbey and to be honest I’m backing him mainly on that form. He hasn’t been doing much lately but that was the case last year when he defended his Canadian Open title after missing 4 straight cuts. Glen Abbey clearly suits therefore I’m assuming Muirfield Village should suit despite 3 poor efforts so far and I think he should improve on his best finish of 56th. Vegas is also a former winner of the Humana / CareerBuilder and that event has been a good fit recently with Memorial as Dufner and Lingmerth contested a play-off there in 2016. It’s a fairly speculative bet but we get a very juicy 200/1 here so what’s not to like?

If I’m right about the CareerBuilder then I simply have to give my man Andrew Landry another go again this week after delivering in Texas for us at 150/1 last month. He came 2nd at the CareerBuilder this year behind Jon Rahm but a further look at his Web.com career also suggests he should take to Muirfield Village on his debut. His first professional win was the Karibana Championship at TPC Cartagena which is another Nicklaus course down in Colombia and he routed the field by 5 shots. It is a wider course than Muirfield but we know Landry is a very accurate driver of the ball and the greens there are very fast. Landry also showed his ability on slick greens at Oakmont two years ago when he contended most of the way at the U.S. Open so he shouldn’t be phased by the speed of these greens. It would be a heck of an achievement to win in this company but at odds of 200/1 the each way portion makes a lot of appeal.

I felt I had to add a 4th this week when I saw Xander Schauffele’s price of 80/1. I can’t believe the over reaction to his missed cut last week when just two weeks prior to that he was finishing 2nd at TPC Sawgrass. Looking at his career so far he is a player who has to have played the week before in order to see him at his best. He teed it up the week before both his wins and also before his best major finish of 5th at last year’s U.S. Open. It was the scene of his first win though that first got me looking at him this week, the Greenbrier at the Old White TPC. Jack Nicklaus carried out a complete overhaul of the course back in 1976 and the over all test is quite similar to that of Muirfield Village. Schauffelle is also a player whose best asset is his all-round game, he doesn’t really do any one thing spectacularly well but there really isn’t a weakness to his game and he enjoys these sort of courses that test all aspects of the game. Looks massively over priced so I couldn’t leave him out despite this being his debut at the course.

 


Italian Open

After three editions at Golf Club Milano and a nice bank of course form, the Italian Open is on the move again so it’s back to square one for golf punters and probably most of the players too. Gardagolf Country Club near Brescia is the new host course and it hasn’t been seen on the main Tour since 2003. Mattias Gronberg took that title while Bernard Langer closed out his win in 1997 on the final hole against Olazabal. I’m not sure we will get that level of drama or quality golf this week but it looks like a great course even if the field isn’t what it would have been here 21 years ago.

The championship course is made up of two 9 hole courses named Rosso and Bianco and while both similar, Rosso is more open and undulating and Bianco is a bit tighter with lots of water in play. An immediate look at some photos of Gardagolf suggest the test won’t be too different from last week and both the winners confirm that. Gronberg is far from a household name but he did win 4 times on the European Tour, K Club, Crans and Randpark GC were the other three courses and he also lost in a play-off at Woburn. Langer obviously won on many different courses in his career but he is a 2-time winner around both Wentworth and Augusta while he has also won at the K Club. K Club isn’t quite as tight as Wentworth or Crans but all these courses look like being good pointers in this week on a course where there are some very abrupt dog-legs within the tree-lined fairways.

Gardagolf

When I think of tree-lined tracks one of the first names that pops into my head these days is Matt Fitzpatrick and after a decent showing last week he looks to be in with a great shout in Italy. Fitzpatrick has already won around Crans and Woburn in his short career confirming that he is happiest where finding the fairways is a bit of a challenge. Additionally his U.S. Amateur win came at tree-lined Brookline Country Club which is quite similar visually to Gardagolf. Fitzpatrick was 8th last week and will take confidence from his best performance since January. Looks ready to add to his 4 European Tour titles and he will know he has to lift his game through the summer to keep his Ryder Cup place. Not the fanciest of prices but looks a perfect course for a rejuvenated Fitzpatrick and we shouldn’t forget that his poorer run of form was at a far higher grade on the PGA Tour.

Fabrizio Zanotti is a 2-time winner on Tour with both having come in the last 4 years but he is far from consistent. He is the sort of player you want to back at three figures when in reasonable form and playing on a course where driving accuracy looks to be important. Few hit more fairways than the Paraguayan and he isn’t too shabby when it comes to getting over the line either. He won a 4-man play off for his first win defeating Henrik Stenson, Cabrera-Bello and Gregory Havret who had 14 European Tour wins between them at the time. His 2nd win was at the Maybank Championship around Saujana GC where finding the right area of the fairway is key. So it looks like the course should suit him and he comes in off a 15th place finish at Wentworth. He ranked 9th in total accuracy there and 10th in the all-round ranking so to me he looks an excellent piece of each way value at 100/1.

Rafa Cabrera Bello played the final three rounds last week better than everyone bar Molinari, Noren and Kinhult so he will be arriving full of confidence to a course that should suit his neat and tidy game perfectly. I mocked Jeremy Chapman last week for putting up 4 of the first 7 in the market but yet again his top-heavy approach yielded profit. I’m taking a leaf out of his book this week as I think this could be a course where the class-acts find themselves in contention on Sunday. He is one of the few who will have played an event here before back in 2006 and his record in Italy is decent with 6 top 10s from 15 events. Like Fitzpatrick he will be targeting these Rolex Series events as good chances to consolidate his Ryder Cup position so I’d expect another strong showing. He actually led the field in both putting and fairways hit at Wentworth so a slight improvement in his normally excellent approach play would make him hard to beat.


Summary of bets

Memorial

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 17/2

Jonny Vegas – 0.75 pt ew @ 200/1

Xander Schauffele – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (all 1/5 odds 8 places Pady Power)

Italian Open

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1.5pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Fabrizio Zanotti – 0.75 pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Boylesports)

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1 ( 1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

Weekly points advised = 15 pts

2018 pts advised = 239pts

 

@theGreek82

 

AT & T Byron Nelson and Belgian Knockout – Betting Preview

Despite having had weeks with more points returned it was arguably the most successful week I have had since starting the blog in 2015 after finding both winners. It was a nervy Sunday as Lagergren looked to have blown his chance at one point but a brilliant birdie got him over the line at the first play-off hole against the unlucky Lorenzo-Vera. While he did very little wrong his attitude throughout the front 9 was far too careful and he didn’t really look to attack the course until the Swede had pulled two shots clear. It made it hard for him to properly change his approach having left most of putts short early on. Lagergren on the other hand went out to win the Tournament from the very start and while it ultimately came down to a 50-50 play-off, Joakim looked far more at ease chasing the birdie he needed. It was just rewards for the punters who had followed him closely over the last few years and a very good example of why we shouldn’t give up on young players if they struggle in contention the first one or two times on Tour.

If the European Tour was a nervy Sunday morning the evening should have been a lot less stresssful but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Webb Simpson was going to open the door to the chasing pack. He didn’t really do anything to suggest that all weekend though to be fair and despite my concerns he ran out a very comfortable winner to announce himself back on the world stage. It was an impressive performance and Simpson is worth watching throughout the rest of 2018 now he has properly sorted his putting out.

To top things off Rafa bagged two thirds of the Top 20 money as well to return 80.67 pts on the week and leave the results looking very healthy heading into the summer.

2018 pts advised = 199.50

2018 pts returned = 296.11

ROI = 48.43%


Byron Nelson

Having been hosted by TPC Las Colinas in some shape or other since 1986, the Byron Nelson is on the move and quite drastically so, if not geographically certainly in a golfing sense. Gone is the lush green ball-strikers paradise where Billy Horschel, Sergio Garcia, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley have triumphed in recent years and in its place is the brand new layout, Trinity Forest Golf Club. Don’t be fooled by the use of “forest” in the title however as Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s 2014 design is very far from a parkland course.

The course was built on an old land fill site and is a completely wide open, undulating links course. Looking at pictures it is quirky enough for an American links course but Coore and Crenshaw were said to have been trying to emulate the classic British links courses so perhaps more than quirky just think linksy. There are blind tee shots, blind approaches, forced carries, fescue grasses, strategic bunkering, hard and fast fairways and big, difficult green complexes. With nothing else to go on I’m very much adopting an Open championship type approach. I’m looking at good wind players, ability to control distance perfectly, shot-shaping, players who can flight the ball down and imagination on and around links greens. Initial reports suggested that the fairways had been watered to avoid players complaining about how hard they were but a tweet from Billy Horschel contradicted that so we might have to wait and see on that front. However I’ve picked three players who would likely be at an advantage should things firm up.

snedeker.625.petersen

Brandt Snedeker opened up at very different prices across the firms as he was as short as 33/1 in places yet as big as 60/1 in others. That often tells us there could be some value around as we seldom see one firm offering nearly twice the size of another. The discrepancy seems to revolve around how much importance to put on his current form since returning from injury. The 33/1 perhaps ignores his slow start since an extended lay-off due to a sternum injury while the 60/1 possibly focusses too much on it. I’d make a fully fit, normal Snedeker somewhere around 25/1 here and with a relatively poor field I think he looks a great bet on a new course that should suit him perfectly. Snedeker shot one of the all-time great PGA rounds to win at Torrey Pines in 2016 and that was one of the windiest rounds we have seen in the U.S. He was the only player under par, beat the 2nd best score by 4 shots and the field average by nearly 10 shots. Snedeker is also a two-time winner around Pebble Beach Links which is the only proper links layout on the permanent PGA schedule. He also came 9th in the 2014 U.S. Open around Pinehurst No.2, 8th around Chambers Bay and 9th at Erin Hills to further showcase his ability on U.S. links courses. Indeed he was the only player to finish inside the top 10 on all 3 of those U.S. Open links tests. His Open Championship record may be a modest one but he had a great chance to win in 2012 when he finished 3rd. His demise was ultimately overshadowed by Adam Scott’s late collapse but Snedeker was the half way leader and Royal Lytham is possibly one of the courses that best resembles Trinity Forest to my eye. Both have undulating fairways but are set on rather flat land with no big elevation changes. He comes in off two missed cuts but they aren’t of much concern to me as he has a very miserable record at Sawgrass having missed 7 of his 10 cuts and the other was in the novelty team event at TPC Louisiana. Prior to that he was seen finishing 15th at the Heritage where he ranked 5th in GIR which is very solid for someone who isn’t always the best of ball-strikers. He isn’t the most accurate of drivers either so these open fairways will suit him and allow his shot shaping and brilliant short game to come to the fore. With some nice profit last week we can afford to take a little chance here on Brandt and if he does play well then 50/1 is huge for an 8-time winner on a course that he will enjoy more than most.

Branden Grace and Adam Scott are two links lovers but for me that looks to be represented in their price. While I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see either win, equally I could handle not being on at the prices. Jordan Spieth is obviously the right favourite here but despite being a member at the course I’d want bigger than the current 6/1 on a new course. He should be suited however and may be worth looking at in-play if conditions do end up firm and fast. Matt Kuchar is interesting at 16/1 as he looks like the classic older Open winner in waiting as he has gradually honed his links skills over the years. But he just doesn’t win enough to get excited about on a new course.

Instead I’m going with two outsiders who have both shown enough on links layouts over the years and are experienced wind players. There was a period some 8 to 10 years ago when I thought Ben Crane might win an Open Championship but then his game disappeared for a while. The Texan resident is used to playing in the wind and two of his wins have been at exposed venues like Torrey Pines and Sea Island while his last win was at TPC Southwind which is often true to its name. If we do see a tough test then it might pay to have good short game on side and Crane is still one of the better putters around with some good stats for this test. He is 12th in 3-putt avoidance from outside 25ft which is a very useful indicator of how players will fare on big, undulating links greens as lag putting will be crucial. He is also 11th in putting from 5ft to 10ft so saving par in the wind shouldn’t be a problem for a player so accomplished at holing out.

Greg Chalmers isn’t averse to playing in the wind having won two Australian PGA Championships and two Australian Opens, all on the coast which we know can get pretty windy. The first of those was in 1997 but it took him a while to get his first PGA Tour win, finally landing one at the Barracuda Championship in August 2016. He has hardly been seen on a leaderboard since, but again he has a very good short game which will help him around these tricky surfaces. He ranks 4th in 3-putt avoidance outside 25ft while he is 4th in strokes gained: putting. That’s not all though as he was striking the ball well two weeks ago at Quail Hollow where he ranked 4th in GIR on his way to a 21st place finish. He isn’t the longest of hitters but if the course is firm that won’t hinder him too much here. Could be over priced at 250/1 on a week where outsiders should have a great chance of getting in the mix. I’m also going to have top 20 bets on Crane and Chalmers.


Belgian Knockout

Even the name itself suggests a bit of a random crap shoot of a tournament and that is maybe what we will get with this new event hosted by Thomas Pieters and his family in  their hometown of Antwerp, Belgium. With The European Tour already having had two quirkier match play events so far in 2018 this is a further twist still. The field will play 36 holes of stroke-play before the top 64 qualify for the weekend and knock-out matches consisting of 9 holes of stroke-play. If that’s not enough then the course in use for stroke-play is a combination of 9 holes from the North course and 9 holes of the South course and from the little information available it would seem that 1/2 of the knock-out matches are played on one of the 9s and the other half on the other 9. So any angle in this week will surely involve more than a little guesswork.

Both courses are quite flat, parkland courses and they definitely resemble some of the places that we have seen the British Masters at in recent years. The South course looks to be more like the open Close House and The Grove while the North course is probably more like the tighter Woburn and Wentworth courses. The leaderboards at those British Masters and the BMW PGAs at Wentworth could well throw up some clues as to who might make the weekend if nothing else. Once they get to the knock-out stage I think the stroke-play format will require steady golf rather than the aggressive approach that often thrives in match-play. One big number early would put a player right up against it so I’d think twice about backing someone who is known to be too aggressive or incapable of strategising.

Erik-Van-Rooyen

Very much in keeping with the Lagergren pick last week I’m going with a player who has been threatening to win lately and despite a missed cut last time out in China he isn’t someone we should be forgetting about quickly. Erik Van Rooyen has exuded tee-to-green class in his debut season on the European Tour and he currently ranks 7th in strokes gained: tee to green (only Pedro Oriol is above him in this field). He is an extremely frustrating player on the greens as the majority of his putts never look like going in the hole at any point but his poor putting really is in direct contrast to his sublime tee to green game. The South African hits the ball long, straight and accurately so can be a threat almost anywhere but so far he has come a little unstuck with Sunday nerves and bad putting at key moments. With very flat greens this week in Belgium they could be a bit of an equaliser so that may not be critical. If he can make the weekend then his long game assurance will make him hard to beat over 9 holes of head to head stroke-play and he looks a nice bet at 50/1 with 4 places and also with 8 places at just 40/1. With us never having seen this event it is hard to gauge whether to play win only or each way but even in a normal week we run the risk of missing the cut so I will stick with each way and advise the 50/1 with the place money paying out on semi-finalists. I wouldn’t put anyone off the 40/1 with 8 places either.

I know Ryan Fox ideally likes a little more room off the tee than we are seeing here but he should enjoy the more open South course at least. I was very surprised he didn’t play last week as the course in Sicily looked custom-built for the bomber. But I’ll bow to his judgement and he must have mapped out a schedule that he is happy with and that includes the Belgium Knockout. It could be that he fancies the format but as I mentioned the other week when I backed him, this is getting to his time of year and if his irons are dialled in then I think we should see the Fox who finished 12th at the Trophee Hassan two starts ago rather than the lacklustre one who was 37th in China the week after. There really isn’t too much to beat here and his form last summer is a step above 95% of this field.

Romain Wattel opened up a huge price for someone who looked to be playing very well at the GolfSixes event. The 80/1 should really have gone but there is still plenty around and with that he will complete this week’s team. Wattel finally got his first European Tour win last year at the KLM and while that was quite an open, linksy course, Wattel also has some solid form on tighter, parkland courses. He was 4th at Wentworth in 2016, 22nd at Woburn and also 6th around Lake Karrinyup which resembles the more open South course. He hit some clutch approach shots and putts from what I saw in the team match-play event and I think he has been too readily dismissed here. At his best he has a solid enough all-round game and although he maybe lacks a little on the mental side of the game, that KLM win could yet be a turning point for a player who is still young (27!) despite having been on Tour since 2010. I think most would find him a formidable opponent in the 9-hole stroke-play format it’s just a case of getting there but at the price we have enough wiggle room to get him onboard.


Summary of bets

 

Byron Nelson

Brandt Snedeker – 1.25pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Ben Crane – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 8 places) and 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

Greg Chalmers – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 (1/5 odds 8 places ) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Belgian Knockout

Erik Van Rooyen – 1.25 pts ew @ 50/1 (1/4 odds 4 places)

Ryan Fox – 0.75 pt ew @ 50/1 (1/4 odds 4 places)

Romain Wattel – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/4 odds 4 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 11.5pts

2018 pts advised = 211pts

 

@theGreek82

The Players Championship and Rocce Forte Sicilian Open – Betting Preview

A close call week last week that showed no returns but plenty of positives to take from the week. The English Women’s team proved that they were indeed hugely over priced as they qualified from their group before losing out to the eventual winners, Ireland. We certainly won’t see prices like 50/1 around for quality women teams in the event next year. Over on the PGA Tour Patrick Reed played very well too which also justified backing him on value alone. Unfortunately though despite his weekend 67-69 scoring he finished up in the dreaded 8th position. I thought we were going to get half the place money when Phil found the hazard on 18 but he did what Phil does and found a shot off the rocks before draining a 25ft par putt. Far better to have a nearly week like that though where the angles were sound than an absolute shocker. We have two excellent betting heats this week with some added confidence after a close week.

2018 pts advised = 185.50

2018 ots returned = 215.44

ROI = 16.14%


The Players Championship

The golf season finds itself halfway between the first two majors of the year and for the last time that means it’s Players Championship week. It has been played in May for as long as I remember but after next year’s re-jig of the calendar it will be played in March. Quite how that will affect the conditions of the event I’m not sure but we don’t need to worry about that until next year. For now we can just focus on this year’s renewal which sees the strongest field assembled so far in 2018 gather at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

At just 7215 yards, TPC Sawgrass isn’t a long course by modern standards but that is perhaps fitting of what Pete Dye was attempting to do with his Florida gem. In 1980 he sought to design a course that tested all aspects of a player’s game and favoured no particular type of player. He has certainly achieved that as the recent list of winners includes some of the most varied players you could imagine. Tiger Woods has overpowered it on just two occasions but even then that was as much down to his touch on and around the greens. Short, accurate types like Fred Funk and Matt Kuchar have won. Ball striking machines Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson both won there in their youth and the enigmatic Mickelson also managed a win. Fowler won with his excellent all-round game while Day’s combination of power and touch landed him the title in 2016. While this does indeed tell us that any type of player can win I still had a look at the stats for the last 10 winners to see if there was anything that they happened to all do well during the week of their win.

The least important aspect at TPC Sawgrass would appear to be off the tee as the 10 winners have averaged 32nd for driving distance and 21st for driving accuracy. That’s not to say that you can afford to drive the ball wildly as it is undoubtedly easier to hold the small, bermuda greens from the fairway. But statistically anyway, the Players Championship isn’t usually won or lost with the driver.

The lowest average appears in scrambling and that is usually the main attribute that I consider for Sawgrass so that makes perfect sense. The 10 winners ranked 10th but that improves to just 6th if you remove Garcia’s rather bizarre ranking of 57th when he won in 2008. Kaymer scrambled brilliantly to win in 2014 but he did so largely with the putter and it is worth noting the tight run-off areas at Sawgrass allow the players different options around the green. Imagination is important and it is perhaps no coincidence that Kaymer also won the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst No. 2. It is one of the few U.S. Open venues that has tightly mown run-off areas and a look at that leader board is nothing more than a list of recent winners at TPC Sawgrass!

Just pushed into 2nd was greens in regulation as the same 10 averaged 14th place for greens hit but again removing Fowler’s abnormally high-ranking from 2015 then this becomes an average ranking of just 7.

Looking instead at trends for a moment there is an interesting pattern of the last 10 winners all having recorded a top 23 finish previously at TPC Sawgrass and also having plenty of experience as they won their title at an average attempt of 7. This isn’t a course that beginners tend to fare too well on and even when 26-year-old Fowler won in 2015 he was having his 6th look at the course while shock winner Kim finished 23rd the year before. Four of Fowler’s first five attempts were missed cuts but the one time that he did make the weekend he finished 2nd. While backing debutants is maybe not a solid option if looking for the winner with short price players, there are plenty recent examples of players contending and placing on their first look.

TPC Sawgrass’ iconic hole is the island green, par 3 17th and it completes a very tough set of par 3s. Indeed of the last 10 winners, 6 have played them under par so I would expect minimising bogeys on the short holes to be crucial again. Beyond the more broad stats I also like proximity to the hole each year at TPC Sawgrass as it is crucial to have an accurate iron game to find the small greens. With all the new categories that the PGA Tour has now though we can look even more closely. Approaches 150-175 yards Scoring Relative To Par is a very good indicator as is the same stat for the 175-200 yard range. They tell us not only who is repeatedly getting the ball close from those distances but also who is taking advantage when they do get close.

So we are looking for someone who can hit a lot of greens, is excellent at getting up and down, plays Par 3s well, and is a strong putter on fast bermuda greens. The course itself backs that up as Sawgrass has some of the smallest greens on Tour at 4500 sq ft. They are surrounded by sand and water hazards throughout so accuracy and particularly distance control is needed to hold the greens. The tight run-offs allow the ball to easily fall off the green so each approach shot has to be struck with authority.

With the head of the market struggling to be split here and nobody trading under 14/1 not only do we have the strongest field of the year but we also have one of the best betting heats. Historically this was a great event for outsiders given the patience and strategy required but with Fowler and Day winning in 2015 and 2016 respectively that looked like it was maybe changing. However Si-Woo Kim’s left field win last year confirmed that bigger prices can still prosper here. I think that looks to be the angle this week with bookmakers all competing for business with some great each way terms and I’d certainly shop around to get at least 7 places this week.

As mentioned above, I put a huge emphasis on proximity to the hole at TPC Sawgrass and particularly from the 150-200 yards range. Hao-Tong Li makes the squad this week due partly to his strong stats in those areas but also just because he looks over priced for a player of his talent on a course that should suit him. Li ranks 10th in scoring RTP from 150-175 yards and 13th in the 175-200 category. It is his debut but it was also his Royal Birkdale debut when he finished 4th behind Spieth and Kuchar at the Open last summer. While that course is miles away from Birkdale in location and style, they are both difficult courses that require accurate approach play, excellent scrambling skills and minimising bogeys. Li’s results haven’t been fantastic lately but he is another example of a European Tour player moving to play on both Tours and just struggling a little with what that entails. But he has had a week off and is a winner already this year on slick greens at the Dubai Desert Classic. If he can keep the ball in play off the tee with a sound strategy then I’d expect a good week. While debutants can struggle to win here I think the 200/1 gives us a brilliant each way bet and I’m also adding him for a Top 20.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello looked like an obvious candidate this week after his 4th last year but having missed three out of four cuts he actually opened up at a nice price here of 110. There is still a little bit of that around but I rate him a bet at anything 80/1 or bigger. Rafa ranks 1st in proximity to the hole on the PGA Tour and that is enough for me to want to back him alone but factor that 4th place in and he looks a really solid bet. His driving hasn’t quite been up to his usual standards this year but we know that can change as historically he has been one of the better drivers on the European Tour over the last few years. If we look solely at Rafa’s recent performances in the WGCs, Majors or the “5th Major” then we see just how far he has come as he finished 4th at the 2017 Players, 4th at The Open, 5th at the WGC HSBC Champions and 3rd at the WGC Mexico. He seems to have really found a way to peak for the bigger events and there is no question that his goal this season will be to make the Ryder Cup team again. The best way for a player who struggles to get over the line is to rack up high finishes in events like this. Should play well again and is a decent price to do so.

Rafa

I’m always reluctant to back Webb Simpson so when I started getting a little excited about him for this on Sunday, you would think a simple look at his TPC Sawgrass form would have put me off; MC-MC-69-MC-15-MC-66-16. Not a chance. Those two top 20s just about kept me interested and to be honest Simpson’s all round game is as good as it as been since 2010-2012 era when he was legitimately one of the world’s best on suitable courses. As most readers will know the anchor putter ban really threw him but his 2018 stats are just perfect for this and his putting is back to somewhere near it’s best. Simpson ranks 2nd in scrambling, 6th in bogey avoidance and 10th in strokes gained: putting and he is comfortable on bermuda greens. Every chance he can post his best Sawgrass finish to date this week at 70/1.

It’s very easy to plan to leave out the head of the market in an event like this but it’s a lot harder to fully commit to it in practice! I really thought Justin Thomas would go well here last year given the state of his game and that he signed off with a 65 in 2016.  But he never really got going and missed the cut. Thomas seems to have the perfect game for Sawgrass though as he has established himself as one of the best around with his short irons and he currently ranks 3rd in scrambling over the last 3 months and 12th in bogey avoidance for the season. If he doesn’t get too adventurous off the tee then I’d expect him to go well again and perhaps enjoy some of the spotlight having been removed. I think he is worth an each way bet here in order to have an interest at the head of the market.


Rocce Forte Sicilian Open

Last year I looked at links players for this given the wide open, coastal nature of the course in Sicily at the Verdura Golf Club. While that didn’t find the impossible to find Quiros (his form was terrible) it was certainly the right line of thought. The list of courses where the powerful Spaniard has won is basically a list of wide open links style courses, and I particularly noted Doha Golf Club where he has won and finished runner-up twice. The other winner around Verdura in 2012, Thorbjorn Olesen, generally wins on the same sort of courses. I’m taking that approach again while also maybe giving further consideration to some of the historically classy players in the field as per Quiros last year. The course here in Sicily is a Kyle Phillips design and big wide open fairways are very much his ethos as they can be seen on his other courses like Kingsbarns, Dundonald Links and PGA National in Sweden. He also tends to favour large greens and again they can be seen at Kingsbarns and Dundonald. A further example of some of his work can be seen on 9 holes of Celtic Manor where he was involved with the old Wentwood Hills course which went on to make up 1/2 of the Twenty Ten course. Given these strong features we tend to see Phillips course form stand up well so I’ve had a look through those leader boards as well as other links courses.

Bourdy

Gregory Bourdy has some decent form at Kyle Phillips designs despite actually being quite short and accurate off the tee. However he does have a good approach game and an excellent touch around the greens which also helps on these links style lay-outs. Bourdy’s last win was around Celtic Manor in 2013 and he has top 5s at several other links courses where form ties in. He was 4th last year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (Olesen won in 2015), 5th in Qatar in 2015 and 4th at Lake Karrinyup in Perth in 2016, which is another course that Thorbjorn Olesen won around in 2014. His form hasn’t been anything great in 2018 but a player of his class looks a very big price at anything near to three figures in this field. Therefore the 125/1 is a must bet for me at a course that should suit part of his game at least.

Tom Lewis has some nice pieces of historical links form and he has won at Oceanico Victoria in Portugal where Quiros has won. He hasn’t done much of any note on the main Tour lately but he stopped a run of missed cuts with a 9th place last time out on the Challenge Tour. If he found something with his game in Turkey then he could be a big price on a course like this where he finished 11th last year.

Anthony Wall tends to go well on a lot of links courses and particularly on the same sort of ones as Alex Noren who is a bit of a Kyle Phillips expert. He was 4th at Dundonald Links last year and he won around Archerfield Links in the Paul Lawrie Match play and that was another wide open links layout. Wall isn’t the sort of player who finds sustained periods of form and is more likely to pop up at layouts like this where his excellent short game can get him competitive in windy conditions. He withdrew from his last event in April but has had a couple of weeks off to recover and if he is fit he should go well on a course where he was 6th in 2012.

My final pick is an old favourite in Joakim Lagergren. Throughout his relatively short European Tour career he has been seen at his best on open courses where his short game skills can be shown off. That is exactly what we have here and I don’t think he should be 50/1 in this field considering he was 3rd just a couple of starts ago in Morocco.


Summary of Bets

Players Championship

Justin Thomas – 1.5pts ew – 16/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Hao Tong Li – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred) and 2pts Top 20 @ 4/1

Webb Simpson – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Rocce Forte Open

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports)

Tom Lewis – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Anthony Wall – 0.5pt ew @ 90/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Joakim Lagergren – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 14pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 199.50pts

 

@theGreek82

Zurich Classic and China Open – Betting Preview

With so many disappointing Sundays over the last couple of years I was fearing the worst when Mullinax closed to within one shot of Andrew Landry but luckily for Landry backers, Mullinax was feeling the nerves even more than our 150/1 shot. When he chunked a chip into the bunker on 17 I thought that was just about it but there was further drama still when Landry chased his first putt on 18 some 8ft past the hole. That presented Mullinax the chance to pile the pressure on with his own 9 ft birdie putt. But when he couldn’t make his that was all she wrote as Landry, with the pressure off, sent his par putt into the middle of the cup for his first PGA Tour win. It topped off a brilliant day that saw 100 pts of returns cleared for the 4th time but the first since late 2015. Andrea Pavan had earlier claimed a full place in Morocco and it could have been even better as he bogeyed the 17th and a -7 clubhouse total might just have applied some extra pressure to Levy. But given the back door nature of his high Sunday finish it was good to just get the place money. I’m also not sure how I would have coped watching the PGA Tour coverage had he won as I had a small each way bet on the double at around 15,875/1. While I stopped advising the double bets they are always worth throwing some small amounts at in the quest for the big win. Thanks to Landry and Pavan the blog is now into profit again for the 2018 season. Just shows what one good week can do.

Total 2018 pts advised = 168.50

Total 2018 pts returned = 215.44

ROI = 27.86%


Zurich Classic

No huge interest in this rather gimmicky event to be honest. Last year when the team event made its debut I took the method of picking the two best players in Rose and Stenson and they never really got it going. But I’m having a small interest this time with Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair. Current form looks like it will count for a lot in what will be a low-scoring ball-striking test. Both Walker and O’Hair showed glimpses of their best at the weekend as they finished 4th and 2nd respectively. Walker ranked 1st in putting while O’Hair ranked 1st in ball-striking. That could be a very handy combination in the two rounds of foursomes while Walker’s aggressive iron play will complement the steadier ball-striking of O’Hair in the four balls. Walker finished 8th here in 2013 while O’Hair has 3 top 15 finishes at TPC Louisiana. This could be decent partnership and with both full of confidence and form they look worth a bet for an interest in a trappy looking event. There is still a little 28/1 around but 25/1 looks fair enough too.


Volvo China Open

This week’s China Open is all about Alexander Levy as he returns to defend the title he won last year. But he is also looking to go back to back after his win last week in Morocco and unsurprisingly he is the 10/1 favourite. It is perhaps as hard to argue with as it is to back him at those prices however. There is no question he will be looking to take his Ryder Cup position out of the hands of Thomas Bjorn by qualifying automatically and another win would go a long way to securing that. Despite having plenty in his favour though it will surely be difficult for him to play his best again this week. All the extra media work involved in defending and the pressure he will now be putting on himself to make his home Ryder Cup team make him opposable. But who should we oppose him with? The field looks wide open again at Topwin Golf Club so there were plenty of options on my short list this week.

The course is of average length at 7261 yards and looking at the two renewals so far, I think it represents a very all-round challenge. The fairways are pretty wide but with lots of elevation changes, trees, water in play and dog-legs, the driving lines will look a lot more intimidating standing on the tee and there will be preferred landing areas for finding the greens. While the scoring has been low to date, Levy won on -17 and Li with -22, the players will have to remain focussed as there is still a lot of trouble out there for those who aren’t in control of their distances.

Stats wise last year 5 of the first 6 in the all-round ranking finished inside the top 7 and the year before 5 of the first 8 in the all-round ranking finished inside the top 8. This confirms that while scoring is low, every aspect of the game is needed to contend at Topwin. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect but if any part of their game is in poor nick then they surely won’t manage to contend this week. Therefore I’m looking closely at the recent all-round stats rankings, previous form at Topwin and previous form in Asia on similar courses. If pushed for one stat to focus on it would probably be scrambling. Many of the courses on the Asian Tour involve fiddly green complexes and that was noticeable when watching last year. As things heated up on Sunday, the sharper short games thrived on a relatively packed leader board.

Pablo Larrazabal is a player who I really struggle to get right but I think there seems to have been a massive over reaction to his missed cut last week. Prior to that he was in fine form with results reading 21-4-4-44-3 with the 3rd coming at the Maybank Championship at Saujana Golf Club where form has tied in very nicely with Topwin over the last couple of years. Topwin winners Levy and Li were both inside the top 5 there in 2017. Pablo was also 3rd here last year and despite him not always being the most solid in contention these days, he is still a 4-time European Tour winner and I’m a little shocked that he is double the price of Bernd Wiesberger and Joost Luiten among others. They may be a little more consistent but are no better in contention and I believe we are getting a little bit of value with the Spaniard as I’d have had him around the 28/1 mark in this field. If we forgive him his missed cut in Morocco then his whole game had been in decent shape and during that 3rd at the Maybank he ranked 1st in the all-round stat. On a course he clearly likes and with a winning total in line with his 4 titles to date I expect this to be a good week for him. He is often feast or famine these days with 3 missed cuts and 3 top 5s so far in 2018 but at 40/1 that is probably factored in and I like his chances if he can get off to a good start.

Ryan Fox doesn’t have a great record at the course (MC-63) but two things are in his favour for me here this week. Firstly his whole game has been improving gradually back to its best in 2018 and last week on his way to finishing 12th in Morocco he ranked 1st in the all-round ranking. Secondly he was 3rd at the Maybank earlier this year where form ties in nicely with this event and he was 6th in the all-round ranking. When his game clicks he usually contends such is the quality he possesses. Last year Fox found his form in the summer so we know he takes a little time to get going in the season but after last week I think we might be about to see another strong period of form and he looks worth following closely over the coming months, starting here at 66/1.

Erik Van Rooyen’s chance is an obvious one but unfortunately his price has just about gone. He opened as big as 55/1 and that was an excellent price. But despite him perhaps arriving as the most consistently in-form player over the last 3 months, it is hard to make a case for him being any kind of price at 40/1. While he has been brilliant lately his golf has tailed off over the weekend more often than not as the occasion of chasing his first European Tour looked to get on top of him. He looks very much a winner in waiting this season but possibly not at this track and I can just about let him go unbacked at his current price. Maybe one for the multiples this week.

Benjamin Hebert and Alexander Bjork are two more European Tour maidens who look to have a good chance but have been cut since Monday. So I’ll complete this week’s team with a rank outsider who I’m also going to back for a top 20. Poom Saksansin hasn’t had any fantastic results so far in 2018 but some of his stats suggest that his game is in good order as he ranks 24th in strokes gained: tee to green and 17th in strokes gained: around the green. I think he should enjoy this test providing it doesn’t play too long for one of the shorter hitters on Tour. The young Thai is still finding his feet in these bigger events but he proved just what he was capable of at the Eurasia Cup at the start of the year when he took down Paul Casey in the singles to finish with a record of 2pts out of 3. He also finished 24th on his only start in China to date which happened to be the WGC HSBC Champions event. With top 20s in similar strength fields like the Hong Kong Open and Singapore Open I think we might see him outplay his odds of 300/1 and if he doesn’t find himself on the leaderboard we might manage to get a run at the top 20 money.


Summary of Bets

Zurich Classic

Jimmy Walker + Sean O’Hair – 1pt ew @ 28/1

China Open

Pablo Larrazabal – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral, general 33/1 ok)

Ryan Fox – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places BetVictor and Sunbets)

Poom Saksansin – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 6 places) and 2pts Top 20 @ 9/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 9pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 177.5pts

@theGreek82