The Northern Trust and Czech Masters – Betting Preview

More annoying than Marc Warren’s round on Sunday or Rafa Cabrera-Bello coming up a little short were my two short lists for both events last week. Paul Waring was one of the first on my list for his solid record around Gleneagles while Brian Gay and David Hearn were both on my Wyndham list for their proximity figures. It’s most frustrating to have found the players and then stupidly ignored my own process but I felt I was already on enough outsiders with Kodaira as my main bet. He was shocking and it was very strange to see a player who made cuts at Carnoustie and Bellerive struggle to make pars on one of the most straight-forward courses they will play all year.

Missing out on Waring is tough to take given he was literally the last man off the list and he would have given the figures a timely boost as I dip ever closer to negative ROI. But it shows I’m at least doing something right and perhaps just need to continue trusting the gut even if that ended badly with Kodaira this week. It’s important to remember that we can’t judge value with any degree of hindsight though and the price was still the best piece of value I’ve seen this year. Of course value is highly subjective but the 38th ranked player in the world just shouldn’t have been 200/1 in that field. Nevermind, on to this week.

2018 pts advised = 386pts

2018 pts returned = 391.05pts

ROI= 1.3%


Northern Trust

The Barclays is no more and after a name change the first play-off event now arrives packaged as The Northern Trust. As is now customary the venue has changed again and we are back to Ridgewood Country Club (7319y Par 71) in New Jersey. It hosted this event previously in 2008, 2010 and 2014 so there is a little course form to look at but with varying weather conditions and ongoing renovations they have played quite differently over the years. The course was designed by the legendary A.W. Tillinghast who was responsible for some of the most esteemed classical courses in the greater New York area and perhaps even the U.S. He designed Winged Foot, Baltusrol and Bethpage Black which have all hosted multiple majors over the years. The course has been reworked by Gill Hanse several times since 1995 as he sought to restore it back to Tillinghast’s original vision. He has widened the fairways, made the greens bigger, renovated the bunkering, removed some trees and since 2014 he has removed the semi-rough meaning that finding the fairways could be crucial this week. Anyone looking for Gill Hanse clues can look at the Olympic Golf leaderboard from Rio or the Scottish Open results at Castle Stuart as they are perhaps his two most famous original designs.

Ridgewood very much resembles the other New York Tillinghast designs in appearance as they are always lush green parkland layouts with heavily tree-lined fairways. Much like Winged Foot however, Ridgewood has an impressive variety of different types and lengths of holes. That helps create a course that tests every aspect of the game and that is evident when we consider Matt Kuchar (2010) and VJ Singh (2008) are both past winners. This year with all the recent rain it sounds like the rough might be even more lush than normal. That will benefit those that stay out of the rough but similarly there won’t be as much roll out so staying out of the rough should be easier in theory. The green complexes are poa annua and having been made bigger, lag-putting could well be crucial this year on greens that will be set-up as quick as possible.

Looking back at the three recent events just confirms this emphasis on doing everything well. Mahan and VJ were both 7th in the all-round ranking when they won while Kuchar ranked 1st during his win. This is something we have seen recently on Tour at other difficult, tree-lined courses as Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka both ranked 1st in the all-round at Firestone and Bellerive respectively. It could be that looking at the top 20 in the all-round ranking might just find you the winner again in a field of this strength on such varied and classic design as Ridgewood. From a scoring point of view the three winners all performed well on the Par 4s with Mahan and Kuchar both ranking 2nd in par 4 scoring and VJ ranking 6th. That is to be expected on a classic design where over powering the par 5s isn’t always possible so a look at recent par 4 scoring averages may also be worthwhile.

Jason Day is proving very hard to get away from this week. With course form of 1st-5th and having looked somewhere back to his best on his last few starts he looks like the man to beat, certainly at the price anyway. Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are ahead of him in the market and while they are probably considered better golfers right now it’s important that we don’t let recency bias cloud our judgement too much. Both those players have been excellent over the last couple of years but if we look at the last 3 years then DJ has 10 wins while Day is sitting alongside Justin Thomas on 9 wins a piece. He belongs up there in the market having found his form again this year. I’ve been guilty of following him unsuccessfully at times but with his brilliantly consistent Fed Ex Play-Off record I’m going to give him another go this week. The stat legend that is @JustinRayGC tweeted the best scores to par over the last 4 years of play-offs and Day is miles ahead.

Jason Day -128, PaulCasey -96, Dustin Johnson -94, Rickie Fowler -86.

He confirmed his suitability to Tillinghast courses with poa annua greens when he chased home Jimmy Walker at Baltusrol in 2016’s US PGA and then also finished 4th at Bethpage Black in that same year’s Barclays event. Back him to continue his play-off form on a course that he clearly loves.

Hideki Matsuyama looks to be a huge price on a ball-strikers course given that he looked to be getting back to form last week at the Wyndham. He put up his best GIR performance of the year hitting 83% and while we know Sedgefield isn’t the longest he still hit more greens than both Snedeker and CT Pan who came 1st and 2nd. It was back to the usual poor putting with Matsuyama but this looks like the sort of course that he will relish if he can keep the ball on the fairway. It’s tree-lined but with enough room so that he won’t feel too intimidated on the tee given his driving troubles this year. The right to left dog-legs will suit a player who thrives on similar shaped fairways at Augusta. There are definitely more in form players but there probably isn’t any better value if his long game is getting back in tune. Prior to his 11th at the Wyndham he was 39th at Firestone and a respectable 35th at the US PGA. A player of his ability has to bounce back at some point and the play-offs might just be ideal timing for him. A value play surely if nothing else.

I was very enthusiastic about Ryan Moore’s chances until I looked at his course form. But having regretted not backing Paul Waring last week on form reasons I’m not going to dwell on Moore’s 3 missed cuts at Ridgewood. Instead I’m focussing on his current form and the fact that the classic Tillinghast design looks custom-built for Moore. The course may well be dominated by a Dustin Johnson or Jason Day if they find their groove off the tee but I’ll be surprised if we don’t see some plotting ball-strikers up on the leaderboard too. Ryan Moore won his US Amateur on another Tillinghast course at Winged Foot and while all his courses differ a little they all have the classic Tillinghast trait of testing a golfer right through the bag. In another slightly tenuous link to Winged Foot, Geoff Ogilvy won the US Open there in 2006 and he has won around the only other course which Mahan and Kuchar have both won, the Golf Club at Dove Mountain. That hosted the WGC Match Play from 2009-2014 and it might also help confirm the type of player that could go well here. Winning the WGC Match Play at that course was often about who could consistently hit the most fairways and greens and Ogilvy, Mahan, Kuchar and indeed Moore all fall into that category. Moore ranks 6th on Tour in Par 4 scoring while he is 30th for strokes gained: off the tee, a very impressive number for a shorter driver. Having warmed up with a 6th at the Wyndham and 12th at Carnoustie in July I think he is rounding into form at just the right time for both the play-offs and perhaps a very late run at the Ryder Cup team.

This looks to me like Kevin Na’s sort of course and that might just be the case looking at his results here. His course form reads 31-36-9 with the 36th having come when the course was soaking wet and would have played too long. In 2008 he was 31st but led the field in GIR while the 9th was a very reasonable effort in 2014. For several years you had to back Na with the caveat that you would probably get a run for your each way money even if the win portion was very unlikely to come your way. But with Na having finally stopped the 8 year rot at The Greenbrier in July there is still plenty of time left for the 34 year old to enjoy the latter years of his PGA Tour career in a similar manner to Matt Kuchar and Jimmy Walker. Since that win his results have been trending again with a 51st at Carnoustie, a 31st at Firestone and an impressive 19th at Bellerive where the bombers dominated. He ranks 6th in Par 4 scoring over the last 3 months, 2nd in scoring relative to par for approaches from 150-175 yards and 41st in the same category from 175-200 yards. Na currently sits 6th in strokes gained: around the green too and is one of the best scramblers around. That will be important in the lush green side rough at Ridgewood. These should all serve him well around this classic layout. Na is in good enough form that 80/1 looks a fantastic each way price

I’m getting a little carried away here and wanted to back a 5th in the shape of Luke List but instead I’ll just have a top 20 bet on him. List has been showing up all year on ball-striking courses and he should enjoy Ridgewood given he ranks 5th in strokes gained: tee to green. The clincher for having to include List was that he lost in the US Amateur Final to Ryan Moore at Winged Foot. Looks a solid bet at 9/2.


Czech Masters

With the 7467 yard par 72 Albatross Golf Club now hosting for the 5th year we have a very clear picture of what is required to win this event. The course plays long and while there is plenty of water in play the majority of it only really becomes an issue on approaches. The landing areas are wide enough and both Thomas Pieters and Haydn Porteous were able to drive it as long as they liked without worrying too much about where the ball ended up. Paul Peterson was the opposite in 2016 when he won as he hit 83% if his fairways. What all 4 winners have done to date though is hit plenty of greens and putted brilliantly. There is no question that the bombers have an advantage here though as that extra loft in their hands allows them to attack the well protected greens. Don’t dwell on Paul Peterson and follow the profile of players like Porteous and Pieters would be my advice this week, even if I haven’t found too many options myself.

This means we should be looking at stats like birdie average, driving distance, par 5 scoring, strokes gained: approaches and also players who have been putting well lately.

Lucas Herbert has been having a very strong 2018 season and he has been doing that with limited status on the European Tour. Last week’s 5th in Sweden was his 4th top 10 of the year and it also continued a nice trend of results for the young Australian. He made the cut at Carnoustie before a 29th in Germany and 18th in Fiji heading into last week. I’m not sure he is ready to win just yet in the way that Porteous and Pieters were here but he fits a very similar profile. They are all young, aggressive golfers who hit the ball a mile and can score very well when the putter behaves. Granted that is more often than not with Pieters and Porteous while Herbert seems a little more streaky with the short stick. His long game wasn’t amazing last week but I think he looks very worth following here as he is scoring well. He is 18th in birdie average for the season, 26th in driving distance and 38th in strokes gained: approaches so statistically he should be a good fit.

I badly wanted to back Ryan Fox here this week and I’m a little surprised he isn’t playing as he has the perfect profile for this. Lucas Bjerregaard also appealed before I noticed that he withdrew last week. He should probably be monitored in play along with the always difficult to back Johan Carlsson. He is another who should be suited to the layout but given he has only finished MC or top 30 so far in 2018 it is probably worth waiting until the half-way point to see which version of the inconsistent Swede turns up. So I’ll just leave it at the one bet I think in a tough looking betting event where the favourite Pieters could hose up by 8 if he arrives with the right attitude.


Summary of bets

Northern Trust

Jason Day – 2.5pts ew @ 14/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Hideki Matsuyama – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Ryan Moore – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Kevin Na – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

Luke List – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

Czech Masters

Lucas Hebert – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly points advised – 14pts

@theGreek82

 

Advertisements

Tour Championship and Portugal Masters – Betting Preview

Both the headline picks in the US placed which meant it was a profitable week but only thanks to Dubuisson’s withdrawal which returned 1.5 pts. Day was 4th and Rahm 5th so I shouldn’t really be too disappointed with the week as I was right to avoid Spieth, Thomas and DJ. It just had a feeling of a tournament that Day could have won despite Leishman’s brilliance. His rustiness in contention meant he made too many mistakes but it has to be noted just how perfect Conway Farms is for the Aussie’s combination of power and touch. His course form now reads 4th-1st-4th and he is an amazing -49 in that time!

Total 2017 pts advised = 413pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 341.09pts

ROI = – 17.41%

 


Tour Championship

Now in its 11th edition, the Fed Ex Cup heads to Georgia for the final leg of the Fed Ex Cup Play-offs, the Tour Championship. East Lake is the host again as per the first 10 so there is plenty of form to look at. It’s a Donald Ross design and it is one of his longest at 7385 yards but it isn’t normally over powered. That is down to tree-lined fairways and subtle dog-legs which make it very much a strategical golf course off the tee. With his trademark greens, usually sloping from back to front, distance control is absolutely paramount at East Lake. If the approach shots aren’t hit perfectly the ball will run off down one of the shaved areas which always prove difficult to chip from.

Every year it provides a solid test of golf where anyone looking to win can’t afford to switch off for one second. Scoring is usually around the -7 to -13 bracket which to me always provide the most exciting tournaments. Birdies are out there to be made but only for those in complete control of their golf ball and come Sunday when the greens will have firmed up, par will be a good score on most holes.

From a stats point of view things at East Lake have been a bit of a mixed bag and perhaps a better gauge of attributes is simply to look at the list of winners; McIlroy, Spieth, Horschel, Stenson, Haas, Furyk, Mickelson, Woods, Scott. They are all brilliant performers tee-to-green, particularly with their approach shots. That is evident in the one strongest stat year after year which is GIR but to delve a little further the last four winners have finished the season ranked 2nd, 4th, 47th and 3rd in strokes gained: tee to green.

East Lake form can be quite important and we do see players repeatedly play well there however it has also been a happy hunting ground for debutants. What is perhaps more important is general form at Donald Ross designs as form ties in well with several of his courses. Sedgefield, host of the Wyndham Championship is the only regular Ross design on Tour but there have been several others used in recent times; Oak Hill, Oakland Hills, Aronimink and most interesting of all, Pinehurst No. 2. The latter hosted the 2014 U. S. Open and all of the last 8 winners at East Lake finished inside the top 35 at Pinehurst. The green complexes are very similar to East Lake with small, sloping greens and lots of run-off areas.

But perhaps the most consistent guide has been Sedgefield which has bermuda greens just like East Lake. The bouncier greens together with Ross’s open fronted greens/aprons allow links style bump and runs and that can give an extra dimension not always available on U.S. target golf courses.

I racked my brains with Jordan Spieth here this week as for my money he is far and away the man to beat however the bookies have also taken that view and he is a best price 11/2. It’s not the worst price I’ve ever seen by any means and we need to remember this is just a 30-runner market. But we have to weigh up just whether it’s worth firing into and I’m torn. His East Lake record is superb and his stats this year suggest his game is in ideal shape for taking on Donald Ross design again. Even when backing Spieth at that price he really has to be bomb-proof so I’m going to avoid him as a proper bet but advise a stake saving bet all the same.

For me the outstanding value in the field lay firmly with Justin Rose when he opened at 16/1. I managed to have a little of the 16.5 on Betfair and also tweeted about his price so hopefully any regular readers managed to get on. He has been cut now to a general 14/1 but I still think the price is fair. His season hasn’t been what he would have hoped for after his Masters loss in April, injury combined with the disappointment from the play-off defeat resulted in two MCs and a 54th from the next three majors. However he has bounced back in the play-offs and found a swing that takes the pressure off his back. This has allowed him to get his sharpness back and the result was a brilliant 2nd behind Marc Leishman last week at the BMW. While his season stats reflect his slump through the summer, last week’s were as good as you could wish for heading into East Lake. Rose ranked 1st in both GIR and scrambling while only five others hit more fairways.

justin-rose-zurich-classic_3295658

His recent record at the course is probably 2nd only to Spieth reading 2nd, 4th, 6th, 2nd. He has also won around the Donald Ross designed Aronimink and finished inside the all-important top 35 at Pinehurst in 2014 (12th), he was 9th at Oakland Hills and 5th on his only visit to Sedgefield where he hit a brilliant 91% of greens. He is clearly very comfortable on Ross designs and enjoys the strategic design elements involved.

Year upon year East Lake is all about ball-striking as we mentioned earlier. There are very few better ball–strikers around than Rose and the fact he is scrambling well is a further bonus. We know he isn’t always the best of putters but he has won on quick bermuda greens at Doral and generally the short stick takes a bit of a back seat at the Tour Championship. Certainly you can’t contend by throwing in 3-putts galore but two putt pars are more than acceptable on greens that plenty of the field will be missing. On last week’s showing Rose will be peppering the flags and giving himself more looks than most. Even an average putting week can see him contend and he looks an absolutely knocking each way bet at 14/1.

The two outsiders I like this week are Gary Woodland and Daniel Berger. While I think they should both go well, the nature of the tournament makes it very hard to work out how to back them. I think they will have their work cut out to make the each way places but that is more than reflected in their respective prices of 66/1 and 55/1. So I will have small each way plays and also two top 10 bets.

Gary Woodland’s long game stats are superb this year and while he doesn’t seem to have cropped up on too many leaderboards it is that tee to green consistency that got him to the Tour Championship. Woodland ranks 5th in ball-striking and 17th in strokes gained: tee to green and his approach play was as good as ever last week when he ranked 3rd in GIR. He hasn’t set East Lake on fire so far but he has finished in the top 10 on his last two appearances here including last year. So often putting can be his downfall but that shouldn’t hold him back here and he usually scrambles well at East Lake. Should really go well again at a generous price.

I tipped Daniel Berger here last year and I think he warrants another go at the prices. He relishes bermuda greens and his iron play has been superb this year, ranking 8th in strokes gained: approaches. I’m convinced East Lake should suit him and this is already his 3rd look at the course having qualified in all three of his pro seasons, quite an achievement.

Tony Finau’s wild driving doesn’t make him an obvious bet this week but I can’t help but be impressed by his long game stats. Finau is 7th in strokes gained: tee to green and 6th in the all-round ranking. If he keeps the ball in play off the tee I think he might just be this year’s surprise package so I’m also having a top 10 bet on him.


Portugal Masters

Once again we arrive at a staple of the European Tour season with the Portugal Masters at Villamoura in the Algarve. It has hosted since 2007 and in that time there has been a very clear picture develop of what is required to win around the Victoria golf course.

It is a wide open, sprawling, undulating course with very little in the way of rough so it sets up very much for the “grip it and rip it” types. The greens are also huge and undulating and it is basically a links course in that respect. So while getting as close to the green as possible off the tee is certainly an advantage, everyone will be hitting the greens with regularity so the tournament is usually won with the putter. Last year the player who hit the fewest greens across the 4 days still made an impressive 67% while in 2015 that figure was 65%. That’s quite a high total and confirms how easily they can be found. Aggressive iron play followed by a deadly putter is the recipe. The last 3 winners have all performed brilliantly around the greens; Harrington was 2nd in scrambling, 1st in putting, Sullivan was 1st in scrambling, 2nd in putting and Levy was 1st in both. Therefore that has been my main focus this week.

 

Chris Paisley’s missed cut in Switzerland can be ignored as the fiddly Crans course was never going to suit the Englishman. Paisley isn’t the most accurate of players from either the tee or the fairway and he is all about short game brilliance. The start before Crans he came 3rd at the Made in Denmark which is far more suited to his game. Back at the Victoria course in Villamoura he will get the sort of short game test he relishes. Everyone will be hitting greens so he can let his short stick do the talking. Paisley ranks 5th in one putts, 2nd in putts per round and 15th in total putting over the last 3 months while his scrambling is also amongst the best on Tour, currently ranking 13th for the season. I had him earmarked for this even before I noticed he was 5th last year and while that means his price is a little shorter than I expected, it also further backs up how suited he should be to the course. This will be his 4th look at the course in fact and his results are trending with a 72nd followed by a 37th at the course. For some reason Betfred really don’t like Chris at all and again they were a massive standout 100/1 on Monday. That has gone now but the general 80/1 is more than fair about someone with his standard of short game around a course like this.

Justin Walters is a bit of a course specialist here so I was intrigued to see him work his way through the leaderboard over the weekend with a 65-67 to finish T3rd. In truth I’m not too sure why he likes the course as he isn’t someone you could class as a great putter but he enjoys the lack of trouble off the tee that’s for sure and the links style greens play very grainy, much like he is used to in South Africa. Last week he ranked 3rd in putting and 19th in scrambling and that is exactly the sort of short game combination we are looking for this week. His event form reads 17-37-21-2 so off the back of that 3rd place finish he looks an obvious yet solid play again here at 100/1.

I’m getting into a bit of difficulty with my backing of George Coetzee now and my judgement is starting to get a little clouded where he is concerned so by all means write this bet off as a bout of cliff-following. He is one of my favourite golfers and I have been on for all three of his wins so far, meaning he doesn’t owe me anything.  He finished 3rd last week where he ranked 6th in scrambling and 14th in putting. It is his putting that provides the source of my problem as I firmly believe him to be the best putter on the European Tour and probably close to the top 10 in the world. The trouble is he is so prone to mistakes that he will often throw in two double bogeys in a week to go with his 20+ birdies. Luckily this week the Victoria course isn’t one that punishes errant drives or approaches which is probably why Alvaro Quiros is on the list of winners!

I really like Coetzee for the Alfred Dunhill in two week’s time but I don’t think I can leave him out at a course where he normally plays well. The 33/1 isn’t fantastic after his 3rd place last week but I can’t leave him out.

 


Summary of Bets

Tour Championship

Justin Rose – 2pts ew @ 14/1

Jordan Spieth – 2pts win @ 6.0

Gary Woodland – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 and 1.5pts Top 10 @ 7/2

Daniel Berger – 0.5pt ew @ 60/1 and 1pt Top 10 @ 3/1

Tony Finau – 1pt Top 10 @ 3/1

Portugal Masters

George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Chris Paisley – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Justin Walters – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

 

Weekly pts = 16pts

Total 2017 = 429pts

@theGreek82

 

BMW Championship and KLM Open

A bit of a washout at Crans last week as 250/1 shot Gouveia finished best of the 5 picks. The winner was the fairly obvious Matt Fitzpatrick who I looked at for quite a while but I really didn’t think he was playing well enough to win despite his strong course record. It’s a further reminder however just how much better the top-tier of European Tour players are than the rest even when we see a reasonably deep field. Alex Noren, Matt Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters and Tommy Fleetwood are a class above right now and while they maybe still can’t be followed at single figure prices, similarly they shouldn’t be readily dismissed when out of form either.

Total 2017 pts advised = 402.50 pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 329.84 pts

ROI = -18.05%

 


BMW Championship

I have had a look into this week’s course as the BMW returns to Conway Farms, host of the 2013 and 2015 tournaments. However with the current form of the world’s best players, trying to find even each way value could prove futile given those trading under 20/1 could easily fill all five places! This means we should really only be looking at the head of the market for the remaining tournaments, certainly this week as East Lake next week can prove a horses for courses sort of week. The trouble with deciding between the top 4 or 5 players is that it can basically be pot luck as it often comes down to factors that even the shrewdest of tipsters can’t foresee. I certainly struggle with separating “the chalk” in situations like this so I’ve tried not to get heavily involved. (But largely failed!)

Jason Day and Zach Johnson are the previous champions here and that suggests touch on around the greens is required at Conway. That is reflected in the stats too as the first five home averaged 10th (2015) and 18th (2013) in scrambling and 7th (2015) and 8th (2013) in total putting. What does conflict between the two events was how important driving distance was, in 2015 it was crucial with the first five averaging 6th, yet in 2013 when Zach won the top 5 averaged just 45th in driving distance. I’m not too sure what the weather was like during those events but I’d still imagine the short game will be crucial at Conway Farms again this week.

It is a Tom Fazio design so form at Firestone may well be worth a look, Day and Johnson both hold very solid records there as do several of the names on the two final Conway Farms leaderboards; Scott Piercy, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan.

I think the course should suit Jon Rahm perfectly given the locations he has gone well at so far in his short professional career. A winner of the Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines and runner-up around Glen Abbey, it appears Rahm usually plays well at the same courses as Jason Day and that makes me think he could be set for his 2nd win here at Conway. Both have powerful, towering ball flights, an excellent touch around the greens and make plenty of birdies so I guess that shouldn’t really shock us. Rahm is still expected to reach the very top of the game, even with the current crop of stars around and while he might not represent any great value on a course he hasn’t seen before, we might be looking back at 14/1 on Rahm this time next year and thinking “wow”. Of course that’s not to say Rahm wont have an awful 2018 and end up being more like 40/1 next year but such is the make-up of these Fed-Ex events now that I’d rather take a slight chance on him at a more juicy price than try to find any reasoning for splitting those above him in the market.

I’m also going to have Jason Day onside here as my other main outright bet. He has firmly turned the corner lately with recent results reading 25-6-9-24-27 . He won here in 2015 and his US PGA win was a just a little further north along Lake Michigan. He was also 9th just last month on the Fazio designed Quail Hollow and he has a good record around Fazio’s Firestone course. This should arrive at just the right time for him to step up his season with a contending performance. Day ranks 5th in birdie average over the last 3 months and he looks another good alternative to the front three.

I’m also going to have a few place bets starting with Daniel Berger for a top 10. Berger was 2nd here in 2015 and having gone from strength to strength since and become a two-time winner, I think he has been dismissed a little too easily on his return to Conway Farms. While I could easily advise an each way bet I prefer the top 10 bet here this week with Berger.

Jhonattan Vegas gets in because of two wins at Glen Abbey and I think that together with a 3rd place just two starts ago makes him over priced at 125/1 for the win. But I’m not really prepared to back him in the outright as he isn’t someone I trust in contention, instead I will have a top 20 bet on the Venezuelan.

Despite him not usually being the best of putters, Bryson Dechambeau showed what he can do when his short iron game is on point at the John Deere Classic in Illinois just two months ago. The science based scholar of the game also won his U.S. Amateur in Illinois so he is obviously comfortable in that part of the country. Given Zach Johnson is a former winner here and also loves the John Deere I thought Bryson looked a little over priced here at 250/1 in a couple of places. I’m not sure whether he can trouble this leaderboard but I will have a small each way bet and a top 20 bet too.

 


KLM Open

After years of being a golf bettor’s dream, the KLM moved away from its two regular courses (Hilverschume and Kennemer) to The Dutch last year and left everyone with a bit of a headache. It turned out there needn’t have been any fuss as local favourite and event specialist Joost Luiten won the event for the 2nd time. The leaderboard also contained several with strong KLM Open records so The Dutch seemed to play much the same as the two previous courses. It wasn’t as exposed as the other two but it is described as an inland links course so that shouldn’t surprise.

The course is a short Colin Montgomerie design (6893 yards) and the emphasis last year was very much iron play with there being plenty room off the tee as most of the fairways have wide open landing areas. There is water in play on many approaches so it looks worth following those with solid GIR numbers as missing too many proved detrimental last year with Luiten ranking 2nd in GIR. Scoring was good at -19 so the putter will need to behave even if  short stick prowess isn’t the first thing you would associate with Luiten or runner-up Weisberger. They ranked 16th and 6th respectively on the greens.

The forecast this week isn’t good at all with plenty wind and rain on the way. That is usually the case at the KLM Open so event form shouldn’t be taken lightly as Luiten proved last year.

Victor Dubuisson is very much the enigmatic Frenchman but despite his troubles over the last couple of years he retains a lot of ability. Both his European Tour wins have come on another Montgomerie course at the Turkish Airlines Open. The reason he enjoys it so much is there is plenty of room off the tee and that suits Dubuisson whose talents start to shine from the fairway onwards. On his day he can drive the ball well but too often he his erratic and can find himself in trouble. With more fairways being found here he can let his approach play shine and despite a poor year that area of his game is still quite sharp, he ranks 10th in GIR over the last 3 months and he can be quite a streaky putter. However we often see him at his best on grainy links greens and he jointly holds the St Andrews course record of 62 while he also took brilliantly to Gleneagles at the 2014 Ryder Cup which plays very much as an inland links. The downside is that he is in no way certain to enjoy the bad weather that is forecast for much of the week. However when backing a class-act like Dubuisson in a poor field at a price like this, everything isn’t going to be in our favour. I’m taking the price and crossing my fingers we see the best of him this week.

Jamie Donaldson and Padraig Harrington are two who should enjoy the poor weather and links conditions but it’s proving very difficult to be able to follow either with much confidence. Both men have thrown in a couple of good performances this year but far more often they have disappointed.

I really like Ryan Fox for this test but I couldn’t believe the opening price of 22/1. He has been pushed out to a general 25/1 but that is still very skinny. Fox spent most of the summer being under rated by the bookies but it seems they have more than caught up with him now and despite another top 10 last week his price is far too short for someone who hasn’t even really properly contended in a European Tour event nevermind won one yet. He is very talented and I don’t think a win is too far away for the New Zealander but he can easily be left out here at he price. I am all over him for the Alfred Dunhill Links however and hopefully he can hold off until then and we might get 50/1 again in three week’s time.

Instead I’m going to take another speculative punt on Robert Rock who has often shown he can handle playing in bad weather. Rock has three top 5 finishes at the Irish Open in miserable weather and he also came 7th at Oosthuizen’s weather hit Open at St Andrews in 2010. Rock is one of very few in this field to have won a tournament with Tiger Woods  competing in it and that does remind you that he has a touch of class and this isn’t the deepest of fields. Rock has been playing better this summer and prior to a missed cut around Crans last week his form was promising; 10th-5th-71st-9th. That 9th was in poor weather at the Scottish Open and the venue was the Kyle Phillips designed Dundonald Links. It has huge landing areas and places the emphasis on iron play much like The Dutch will this week. He ranks 17th for GIR over the last 3 months and as others toil in the wind and rain he should enjoy the test.

 


Summary of bets

BMW

Jon Rahm – 1.5pt ew @ 14/1

Jason Day – 1pt ew @ 18/1

Daniel Berger – 1pt Top 10 @ 5/1

Jonny Vegas – 1pt Top 20 @ 7/2

Bryson Dechambeau – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

KLM

Victor Dubuisson – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Robert Rock – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

Total pts advised = 414.50pts

 

@theGreek82

The Northern Trust and Made in Denmark – Betting Preview

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

Total pts advised = 380.5

Total 2017 pts returned = 300.96pts

ROI = -20%


The Northern Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kuchar-630x420

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

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

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

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

 


Made in Denmark

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

The Northern Trust

Matt Kuchar – 1.5pt ew @ 40/1

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

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

Made in Denmark

Chris Paisley – 0.75 pt ew @ 150/1

Johan Carlsson – 0.5pt ew @80/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 9pts

2017 pts advised =389.5pts

@theGreek82

Tour Championship and European Open – Betting Preview

I’ve missed a few weeks due to holidays so apologies to anyone that might have been looking for a preview. Back to normal this week for the PGA Tour finale and the European Open before the much-anticipated Ryder Cup next weekend.

After the last preview the returns are creeping ever closer to losses but for now the blog is still in the positive;

Total pts advised – 778.50 pts

Total pts returned – 793.79 pts

ROI – 1.96%

 


 Tour Championship

It has been an eventful couple of weeks on the PGA Tour despite there not having been any golf played for 10 days. Davis Love III has picked his first three Ryder Cup wild cards and there has been no end of analysis and speculation. Darren Clarke also picked his three but to a more muted response. Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood were virtually certainties and while Russell Knox can certainly feel hard done by, Thomas Pieters was equally deserving of a place after his high pressure win alongside Darren Clarke in Denmark.

The hysteria looks set to continue now as the top 30 in the Fed-Ex Cup Points List head to Georgia for the Tour Championship. There were a few high-profile casualties at the BMW and that means we won’t be seeing Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka or Justin Rose at East Lake but with the Ryder Cup starting on Friday of next week they will surely relish the break.

It’s not all doom and gloom however as we still have plenty of the game’s best chasing the $10m Fed Ex bonus. Whether anyone outside the current top 5 will actually have a clue what to do in order to win that bonus is another matter!

Every year there are numerous different permutations and while the format has probably helped to create some end of season excitement, it could no doubt be better still were it a little clearer to the players what is going on down the stretch on Sunday. That isn’t a problem for Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Paul Casey though as they occupy the first five respective positions and they know that if they win the Tour Championship they will also win the Fed Ex Cup. That has been the case the last 6 years regardless where the winner started the week though as Spieth, Horschel, Stenson, Snedeker, Haas and Furyk all earned the $10m bonus by winning the Tour Championship.

The course at East Lake has been the host for every Tour Championship dating back to 2004 and therefore it has seen all 9 Fed Ex finales to date. One important change this year however is that the front 9 and back 9 have been flipped. Previously the course finished on a Par 3 but with that said to be lacking excitement, the 18th will now be a Par 5.

The course is another Donald Ross design as per four weeks ago at Sedgefield. It is a 7385 yard long Par 70 and while the rough isn’t too penal, its tree-lined nature together with fairways that are below average in width creates a difficult driving course. You need to be in the correct areas of the fairway in order to hit Ross’s trademark sloping bermuda greens. That suggests experience of the course is crucial but there is some hope for the debutants as 2 of the last 8 winners were seeing the course for the first time . To further muddy the picture, the list of winners is quite a varied one without any obvious attributes linking them beyond arriving in very good form.

That led me to have a thorough look through the stats for all recent Tour Championships to see if any pattern developed. The last eight winners averaged 5th for GIR, 5th for total accuracy and 3rd in the all-round ranking. But perhaps the most interesting was that the last four winners have ranked 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 1st in bogey avoidance for the week. While that might appear obvious for the winner, it reinforces the fact that East Lake is the sort of course where par is usually a good score.

Looking beyond the stats for the week in which they won I also wanted to see how the players fared in some of the year-long stats and that highlighted another key attribute. The last eight winners have averaged 26th for strokes gained:tee to green and that was by far the best that I found, further confirming that it is a ball-strikers course.

I expected to find myself backing one of the big names this week but throughout 2016 it has been very hard to predict which one of the market leaders is going to perform on any given week. Throw into the mix the number of winners going off at 1000.0 and it has made for a very tricky 2016 indeed.

With just 30 players in the field this week there appears to be a lot of value further down the field. Despite this being the best 30 players of the season and usually being won by players in form, the Tour Championship is prone to outsiders contending. Bill Haas was hardly the household name he is now when winning in 2011 and last year Danny Lee ran Jordan Spieth very close over the weekend. This has led me to pick out two outsiders at very fair prices.

Daniel Berger has had a very impressive first couple of years on Tour even if his exploits have been overshadowed by the likes of Spieth, Day and Johnson. Berger won the Rookie of the Year award last year after making it to The Tour Championship and he played quite well finishing 12th.

Berger is normally a long and accurate driver of the ball but he has been below his best in that department lately which has resulted in a less consistent year than his debut year on Tour. However his strong all-round game allowed him to get his first win at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic and that together with a few other high finishes means he is now 2 from 2 in reaching the Fed Ex finale.

While his 12th at East Lake last year no doubt brought him to my attention this week it is his general liking of Donald Ross designs and bermuda greens that make me think he could go well this week. If we look at the 2014 US Open leaderboard around Donald Ross’s Pinehurst No. 2 course then there is quite a close link to East Lake. The last 7 winners of the Tour Championship all finished inside the top 35 at Pinehurst; Spieth (17th), Horschel (23rd), Stenson (4th), Snedeker (9th), Haas (35th), Furyk (12th), Mickelson (28th). Daniel Berger finished 28th there in what was his first ever major aged just 21. He also closed with a 66 on Sunday which was the lowest round of the day and actually the 3rd best of the week after Kaymer’s opening pair of 65s.

His win at TPC Southwind was on bermuda greens as was his play-off defeat to Harrington in the Honda Classic at PGA National. He goes well on shot-makers courses that have bermuda greens and that is exactly why he finished 12th here last year. With the Tour Championship always being won by a form player it is important to be playing well and after a difficult summer Berger is back to somewhere near his best and he arrives with progressive play-off form figures of 71st, 41st and 10th.

He also sits nicely in a few of the main stats for East Lake; 10th in Par 4 scoring, 35th in bogey avoidance and 30th in strokes gained: tee to green.

Berger is expected to go to the very top of the game and he knows that a win here would be a huge stepping stone in his career and very likely land him the final spot on the US Ryder Cup team. I think that extra motivation will only spur on this confident young player and I expect a good performance.

Robert Castro has been playing some fantastic golf lately and to me he fits the East Lake profile perfectly. The only downside is that he is without a PGA Tour win but that seems to be factored into his rather dismissive price this week. His recent form figures are strong as he arrives on a run of 20th (Wyndham), MC, 24th, 3rd. On both those last two starts he ranked 1st for total accuracy in the field.

Castro also has the all-important experience of the course having previously made the final 30 in 2013, ranking 6th in fairways hit and 4th in GIR on his way to a 9th place finish. He is another that is usually seen at his best on courses that favour accuracy and it is no coincidence that his best year on Tour lines up with some very impressive stats for the year. He currently ranks 5th in Par 4 scoring, 5th in bogey avoidance, 12th in GIR and 5th for driving accuracy. If he keeps that up then he will surely just require a solid putting week in order to contend around East Lake.

Luckily some of his best performances have come on bermuda greens. Castro equalled the course record of 63 at TPC Sawgrass in 2013 on his way to a 12th place finish.

He also has plenty of Donald Ross form as he finished 12th at the 2013 US PGA which was held at the Oakland Hills course and very much favoured ball-strikers with Jason Dufner and Jim Furyk putting on an approach play clinic. His 20th place finish last month at Sedgefield was his 4th Top 20 on Ross courses from just 8 appearances.

With his long game in great shape I think Castro will take to East Lake again and I don’t see any reason why he can’t contend this week.

While Dustin Johnson could obliterate the field here he looks plenty short in the betting for East Lake and Spieth hasn’t been at his best in 2016 despite a recent upturn. Adam Scott and Paul Casey have very solid claims but the bookmakers are only too aware of those. Of the leading candidates Patrick Reed makes most appeal but he is still on the naughty step having let me down this year on a couple of occasions. So with the prices on show I’m happy to side with two relative outsiders on a course that suits them both perfectly.

 


European Open

After a brilliant tournament last week in Italy and with the Ryder Cup happening in Minnesota next week you could be forgiven for dismissing the European Tour this week just as most of the Tour’s better players have done. But with the backing of Porsche, the organisers have attempted to create some sort of buzz at least and they welcome multiple major winners Martin Kaymer, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington to the Bavaria region this week.

They are also putting up a decent purse to attract players back to the scene of Thonghai Jaidee’s one shot win over Graeme Storm last year. That was the first running of the European Open since 2009 and the first ever European Tour event at Bad Griesbach. The resort features several courses but it’s the Beckenbauer course in question here and it also hosted a tournament on the Challenge Tour from 2013-2015 for those wanting a proper look through the form book. It was a bit of a guessing game last year and with the course completely water-logged in the run-up to the event this week it could be more of the same again this year. It doesn’t look like an event to get too involved in but having had a few weeks off I’m perhaps a bit too eager to have a bet.

Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters look a little short at the head of the betting given that they will surely have one eye on the Ryder Cup. Further down the market the only players I like are in no way guaranteed to play well so I’m going to take a different approach this week.

I’m going to back four players in the Top 20 market instead.

I really wanted to back Jens Fahrbring in this last year but he didn’t play. He has a 6th and a 12th from his two Challenge Tour appearances at the course and has actually turned the corner after a run of dismal form. After missing 8 cuts in a row he stopped the rot with a 34th at the KLM and followed that up with a 30th last week in Italy. He could be coming back into some sort of form and looks a huge price just to crack the Top 20.

A top 20 bet on Chris Hanson would have won the last 3 weeks on Tour as he finished 18th, 8th and 20th. He is having a fairly solid season and can continue his good form at a course where he finished 3rd in 2014 on the Challenge Tour.

Bernd Ritthammer has won two of his last eight starts on the Challenge Tour and he will relish the chance to play on the European Tour in his homeland. He has also played all four tournaments at the course, missing the cut at last year’s European Open but finishing 38th, 3rd and 28th on his three appearances in the lower grade. He was without a professional win last year though and arrives now with more confidence and he currently sits on top of the Challenge Tour’s Road to Oman points list. A top 20 shouldn’t be beyond him this week on a course he knows better than most.

Sebastian Gros has been on my radar for most of the season after winning twice on the Challenge Tour last year. He is one of the longest drivers in the world so if the course remains soaking wet all week then it will suit him better than the narrow course in Milan last week where he missed the cut. Prior to that he ranked 5th in the all-round ranking in Holland when finishing 28th so his game is probably in better shape than his odds suggest. Gros was 3rd at the course last year on the Challenge Tour and he looks overpriced for a Top 20.

The first thing that hit me about last year’s winner and runner-up was that they have both won the Open De France. I don’t believe the courses are particularly similar but if there is something in it then Pablo Larrazabal can be expected to go well here. He is a player that I always struggle to get right and he hasn’t been in the greatest of form lately. But he did finish 7th three weeks ago in Switzerland so he looks quite over priced at 66/1 considering he is a four-time winner on Tour. I couldn’t resist a small interest in the outright market!


Summary of Bets

Tour Championship

Daniel Berger – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (4 places)

Roberto Castro – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (4 places)

European Open

Jens Fahrbring – 1pt Top 20 @ 12/1

Chris Hanson – 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1

Bernd Ritthammer – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Sebastian Gros – 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

Pablo Larrazabal – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Weekly pts advised – 9pts

Total pts advised – 787.50 pts

@theGreek82

The Barclays and Made in Denmark – Betting Preview

Just as Bill Haas got himself into contention for the each way places he completely blew it with two out-of-bounds drives on the Par 5 15th. It was pretty hard to take especially as that is relatively out of character for a multiple winner who is usually accurate enough off the tee.

I must admit I was starting to think it pretty much summed up my 2016 so far but it is all too easy to get down on yourself in the difficult golf betting game. I must remember that one good week can quickly turn it all around. It had just better arrive soon!!

Results stand as follows

Total points advised – 766.50

Total points returned – 793.79

ROI – 3.5%

This week it’s the start of the Fed Ex Cup play-off series on the PGA Tour and the European Tour heads to Denmark for  an event which unfortunately won’t be spice up by Ryder Cup qualification as all 9 of the points qualifiers have already been decided. Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters will be looking to stake their claim for a wildcard pick however and Darren Clarke has picked Pieters to play with for the opening two rounds. No pressure then!


The Barclays

The top 125 in the Fed Ex Cup list head back to New York this week for the first of the play-off events. Knowing that only the top 100 continue to the following week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, many of those towards the bottom will be playing with the pressure of trying to progress. While that could well inspire, the Barclays is normally won by one of the game’s best as the recent roll of honour includes Jason Day, Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott, Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and VJ Singh.

I don’t expect that to change given the host course this week. The Barclays has taken to rotating around some of New York’s finest courses and this week it’s the turn of the intimidating Bethpage Black Course. It is famously one of the hardest courses in the world and in the 2002 US Open when Tiger Woods won he was the only man to finish under par. Things picked up a little for the 2009 US Open but there were still only five players in the red when Lucas Glover claimed the trophy. All that despite the course being very receptive with a rain-softened course hosting both editions.

There is some respite for the field this week however as the course played a little easier when hosting the Barclays in 2012. The par 4 7th hole was lengthened and turned into a Par 5 creating a slightly more favourable Par 71. That allowed Nick Watney to win on a figure of -10 and I would imagine we can expect a similar winning score again this year.

The course is another A.W. Tillinghast brute just like Baltusrol and it stands at 7468 yards long. Another similarity with the US PGA host course is the greens as Bethpage features a bentgrass/poa annua mix just like at Baltusrol. That leaderboard looks a good pointer along with 2012’s Barclays leaderboard and the 2009 US Open.

I have found some recent reviews that suggest they have grown the fescue rough up for the Barclays so when considered together with the below average width fairways it is very easy to think that driving accuracy will be important. But I don’t want to fall into the same trap as many did at Baltusrol where it was thought that finding fairways would be vital. Moreover it was actually the ability to hit it close from the rough that separated the field that week. So while long, accurate drivers can certainly prosper, a player should still be able to contend with good proximity figures from the rough.

Bethpage Black sits in a sprawling landscape with lots of elevation changes and that only adds to the difficulty. A look at the last three winners shows a list of fit, relatively young golfers and with the difficulty level, length of course and the physical challenge, I would think twice about backing a golfer who isn’t perhaps one of the more athletic this week as temperatures look set to hit 30 degrees.

Another aspect of the course that might not make driving accuracy the be-all-and-end-all is the size of these greens. They are on the larger side and that will mean that it will be possible to hit them even from 175 yards away in the rough. Approaches from the rough might not quite hold the green however which will make scrambling from the fringe important.

With Lucas Glover having won around the course you wouldn’t imagine holing putts to be too crucial. Although 3-putts will need to be avoided on these large greens so perhaps lag putting is the most important short stick aspect to consider this week.

When looking at the US PGA Championship, putting on poa annua greens was one of the things I considered most and yet Jimmy Walker’s form was poor enough to not even consider a player dubbed “the prince of poa”. So while holing lots of birdie putts might not be crucial this week I’d certainly want anyone I was backing to have some form on the trickier surfaces. One of the main attributes of poa infested greens is the ability for the ball to break sharply at the hole. That resulted in a lot of short putts being missed so if you were looking for another putting stat then holing out from inside 5ft could well be worth a look as that together with lag putting will help keep the 3-putts to a minimum.

While there is some Bethpage Black form to look at there also seems to be a bit of a correlation with Torrey Pines in California, home of the Farmers Insurance Open. Tiger Woods won there numerous times, Nick Watney has won there , 2012 runner-up Brandt Snedeker has two wins there and Lucas Glover has a 3rd and a 4th place finish. It maybe isn’t a rock solid link as they could just be two courses where the best players tend to win but it should be noted that both courses have poa annua present in their greens.

I’d expect Jason Day and Dustin Johnson both to go well this week with their impressive record on US Open layouts but I’m not prepared to fire into either at the prices when lining up against this strong a field, most of which by the nature of the play-offs, are in very good form. But as usual their price leaves some juicy exchange prices around and none more so than the player who I had in mind for this even before his excellent finish last week.

Hideki

Hideki Matsuyama has been putting poorly of late so it is actually quite amazing that he has finished 4th at the US PGA Championship and 3rd at the Wyndham Championship in his last two starts. What is most impressive about that however is that they both virtually turned into glorified putting contests for most of the leaderboard. As we have mentioned already the US PGA was played on a Tillinghast design and it was a brilliant effort to contend while ranking 60th in total putting.

Despite him putting poorly again at the Wyndham last week there was a slight improvement as he ranked 23rd for total putting. He has some decent results on poa annua greens in addition to Baltusrol last month. His last two performances at the Northern Trust have yielded a 4th and an 11th and the rolling hills of Riviera aren’t too dissimilar to Bethpage Black. He also finished 3rd at Silverado in the 2014 Frys Open open which features poa annua greens.

He fits the mould of recent Barclays winners perfectly this week and given what a brilliant ball-striker he is I was quite surprised by his odds this week. The course certainly looks to be less about putting than the last two that he has played on and given that he only finished 5 and 6 shots behind the respective winners, that could be enough to see him over the line. The rest of his game is in absolutely perfect order as he ranked 1st in total driving, 1st in ball -striking, 2nd in scrambling and even 1st in the all-round ranking despite his misfiring putter. He even ranks a respectable 37th on Tour for putting inside 5ft which will no doubt help him here.

We know he has the game to win big events on Tour and if Bethpage Black rewards ball-striking as I expect it will this week then he might just have ranked up win number three by Sunday night.

Ricky Barnes stormed onto the scene in 2009 taking the 3rd round US Open lead (with a 3rd round 65) at Bethpage Black. He shot a 76 to blow his chances but he still hung on to 2nd place in just his 2nd major start as a professional. It is fairly certain to say that his career hasn’t quite panned out as anyone thought since then and he is still looking for his first PGA Tour win after some 200 odd starts.

But there has been a noted improvement this year from Ricky with two 5th places in his last three starts and he has always been someone who has played well on poa annua surfaces. He grew up on the surface in Northern California and he has some decent results with a 3rd at Pebble Beach and a 9th at Riviera.

He led the Valero Texas Open earlier this year before going on to finish in 4th place and while it was a closing 74 he wasn’t terrible in contention. All that adds up to him sitting at 66th in the Fed Ex List and he knows that a good performance this week could see him right through to the Tour Championship.

From a stats point of view Barnes is also a good match for Bethpage Black as he ranks 4th for GIR over the last 3 months and 5th in 3-putt avoidance. He might not be the proven, multiple winner we are looking for but he won the US Amateur in 2002 and he certainly has ability. At 35 years old he still has plenty of time left to get his win, after all Jimmy Walker took until 34 and he is now a major winner. If he is to get a win then a tough championship layout with poa annua greens looks the place to do it and he is a sporting each way price at 150/1.

Graeme Delaet is a name that sounds the alarm bells with many a punter and subsequently a lot have written him off. But to hark back to Jimmy Walker again, he was a player that was also written off until he got his first win. Granted, Walker was always a good putter whereas Delaet often appears one of the worst on Tour. That’s not quite the case though and he falls into the Lee Westwood category whereby they hit the ball so close, so often that they end up having more birdie putts inside 20ft than most.

I’m not suggesting Delaet is a good putter at all but he is ok at holing out and he is also ok from long-range, he is just very poor from 5ft-20ft. However if my reading of the Bethpage Course is right, I think par will be a good score away from the Par 5s so his short stick woes could be factored out somewhat.

The Canadian also has some course form at Bethpage Black as he was 5th there in 2012. Throw in a 2nd and 9th at Torrey Pines and an 8th at Riviera and you can see that a lot of his better results come at ball-strikers courses with poa on the greens.

As ever he ranks very well in GIR and total driving and if he continues to hit more fairways and greens than the majority this is exactly the sort of track where he could pop up with his first win. All things considered 200/1 for a player of his quality looks like an excellent piece of value.

I’m also going to play Barnes and Delaet in the Top 20 markets as even if they play well they could find a few just too good at this level.

 


Made in Denmark

Now in its third edition, The Made in Denmark will be held again at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort in Farso near Aalborg. During the first two years it has been a massive success with some of the highest crowds seen for a regular European Tour event. This year Martin Kaymer has joined the field to give it a little bit of class at the head of the market and overall the field does look a little deeper than last year. The course is a short, exposed 6,851 yard Par 71 layout and with two runnings now under its belt there is a little bit more to go on than last year. They were won by Marc Warren in 2014 and then David Horsey last year.

Prior to last year’s tournament I used a few course links through Marc Warren and while the players that I tipped up didn’t do too well, I think those on the leaderboard did back them up a little. I focussed a lot of my work on the two other courses where Marc Warren had won and I’m not seeing too much wrong with the approach although I have also expanded that to look at the courses where David Horsey has gone well.

Despite not being right by the coast, the course plays very much like a links course as the wind usually blows and it has undulating fairways with a sandy soil that can play quite fast if conditions allow. That coupled with Warren’s win made me think of a few similar courses like Barseback, Gleneagles and Doha Golf Club. Another course that would appear to bee a good guide would be Archerfield Links, host course of last month’s Paul Lawrie Match Play. The wind blew all weekend there on the parkland/links mix and visually it is another course that is similar.

David Horsey throws up a slightly different set of courses as he often goes well on fiddlier, shorter tracks and his other three wins have come at Eichenried Golf Club, Golf Club Du Palais Royal and Tseleevo Golf Club. Looking at the list of winners at those tracks we see yet more strong links players like Michael Hoey, Ernie Els and Martin Kaymer.

It seems like that has been the criteria quite a lot this summer and yet it hasn’t yielded much in the way of returns. I suppose it could be that with more and more links type courses on Tour, players are getting used to playing on them. However I’m going to stick with this method for at least one more week in the hope that it can pay dividends.

Marc Warren

Marc Warren was favourite last year to defend his title and we know how hard even the world’s best can find that so in hindsight tipping him at just 11/1 wasn’t the wisest of plays. But he was arriving in great form and the field was fairly poor. But after a quiet 2016 he has actually perked up a little in recent weeks with a 9th in the Match Play and then an 11th in the Czech Masters. He ranked 9th in total putting last time out and it was his putter that won this for him in 2014 so he looks hard to pass up this year at 45/1.

Warren is also a good wind player which is backed up by where he has won. Barseback GC in Sweden and Gleneagles are both tracks that play very much like links courses with the former also being exposed to the elements. On price alone he must be a bet on a course where has already won.

This is all starting to feel like déjà vu as I also tipped Robert Karlsson last year but again he arrives off the back of a good performance and the course should suit him perfectly. His 7th place finish in the Czech Masters was a turn-around in form as he hadn’t done a great deal in the previous few months.

He has won at Qatar, Crans and finished 2nd at Barseback and they are all courses which have thrown up similar winners over the years, often solid links golf exponents. His game was in good order last week but particularly off the tee and putting as he ranked 5th in total driving and 6th in total putting.

He finished down the field last year with our money on but I’m happy to give him another go on a course that I’m convinced suits him.

Richie Ramsay looks to be another excellent piece of value when you consider both his recent form and the courses that he has won and played well on. Odds of 45/1 appear to forget that he made it to the 3rd round of the Paul Lawrie Matchpaly with some brilliant golf on the first two days before ultimately being knocked out by an inspired Oliver Fisher. Prior to that was a missed cut at The Open but that is a grade above the level where the Scot is comfortable and the week before that he finished 6th in Scotland at Castle Stuart.

He has won both the Omega European Masters (Crans) and the Trophee Hassan (Golf Club Du Palais Royal, where David Horsey won in 2011) and this looks like a course that he will enjoy as he usually plays well in the wind. Odds of 45/1 make him a very solid looking each way pick.

 


Summary of bets

Barclays

Hideki Matsuyama – 1.5pts ew @ 30/1

Ricky Barnes – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Graeme Delaet – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

Made in Denmark

Marc Warren – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Richie Ramsay – 1pt ew @ 45/1

Robert Karlsson – 0.5pt ew @ 75/1

Weekly pts advised – 12pts

Total pts advised – 778.50

@thGreek82

Wyndham Championship and D+D Real Czech Masters – Betting Preview

After all the hype and nonsense regarding the Olympic Golf it turned out to be a complete success and it had a fitting winner in Justin Rose, one of the few elite players that had supported it right from the start. It was just a shame that it came at the expense of our pick Henrik Stenson! Although the Swede traded as low as 1.40 I believe so hopefully those that were on managed to at least trade their stakes back.

It was another frustrating week as Stenson was too short to back each way so there were no returns for the blog. That leaves the results as follows;

Total points advised – 756.50

Total points returned – 793.79

ROI -4.9%

Not pretty reading as the ROI falls ever closer to a negative number but August – October was a very good period last year so hopefully my fortunes will change again soon.

This week we return to the PGA Tour and also have the Czech Masters on the European Tour.


Wyndham Championship

After the buzz of the Olympics its back to the norm again and the final tournament before the Fed Ex Series. That usually makes it quite an exciting week as players jostle in and out of the Top 125 as the weekend takes shape. Ever since the first Fed Ex Play-offs in 2007, The Wyndham Championship has been the final regular tournament and not only that but since 2008 it has been held at Sedgefield CC in North Carolina.

Sedgefield is a Donald Ross design and was opened in 1926. It plays as a 7130 yard long Par 70 course with tree-lined, average width fairways and, typically of a Ross design, relatively small greens. They were bent grass until 2012 when it was decided that scoring was too low so they were replaced with bermuda grass. Subsequently it might be best to focus on the last 4 editions rather than 2008-2011.

The winner is usually an accurate sort that hits plenty of fairways and greens and that certainly helps at Sedgefield. Patrick Reed maybe doesn’t quite fall into that category but he scrambles brilliantly and that is another key attribute at Sedgefield where, despite the low scoring, the small greens will be missed.

Further to the accuracy though there a couple of other key elements at Sedgefield. Most of those that have played well since the 2012 renovation of the greens have got form on bermuda greens with all of the four winners now having multiple PGA Tour wins on the surface.

They also have strong form on Donald Ross courses which include East Lake (Tour Championship), Aronimink GC (AT and T National 2010, 2011), Pinehurst No. 2 ( 2012 US Open), Oak Hill Country Club (2013 US PGA) and Oakland Hills (2008 US PGA Championship).

I backed Bill Haas in this last year and he played very well and finished just out of the places in 6th. It is a perfect course for the North Carolina native and he has been playing quite well again lately. The 6-time winner on Tour has always shown his best golf when the field strength is a little bit below top-class so it was very interesting to see him get his first ever major top 10 last month at Royal Troon. That will have given him a lot of confidence as he arrives at a course where his recent form figures read 6-2-20-7 since the renovations in 2012.

Three of his wins have come on bermuda greens and he has also won on Donald Ross’ East Lake course, when he announced himself properly on Tour scooping the Fed Ex bonus in 2011. Everything is in his favour this week and prior to his 56th at the US PGA his form has been decent this year with 6 Top 10s and he has given the impression that he is building towards his 7th win.

While he isn’t setting the world alight with his stats this year he is normally a good fit around Sedgefield where a solid all-round game is required. Indeed the last 5 winners have ranked 2nd, 1st, 10th, 1st and 1st in the all-round during the week of their win. Haas himself has ranked 4th, 6th, 15th and 7th so it is definitely a course that brings out his best golf.

He also sits in 21st position for strokes gained:tee to green which I think probably gives a better idea of where his game is at than some of the other more specific stats. The price isn’t fantastic but given his strong course form I think he looks the most likely to play well from those at the head of the market.

Webb Simpson is another North Carolinan that loves it around Sedgefield. So much so in fact that he called his daughter Wyndham! His form figures may have something to do with that as they read 6th-5th-11th-22nd-1st-8th-MC. That win in 2011 was his first on Tour so you can see why he has such a fondness for the event but it also suits his game perfectly.

Simpson hasn’t been at his best the last couple of years and at the start of 2016 he struggled with the anchoring ban. He has putted ok in spells though and a return to the bermuda greens that he knows well should see him prosper. He has also been threatening to win again this season and although the bookies are also aware of that, this looks to be his best chance of winning this year.For the last 3 months he ranks joint 1st in Par 4 scoring and that is always crucial around this Par 70 layout.

A couple of obvious picks this week but I like their each way chances a lot and there isn’t much more that stands out at the longer prices.


D+D Real Czech Masters

I’m a little too short on time to look into this in great detail but I have found a couple of small bets. This is the 3rd edition of this so we have two others to look back on.

I really wanted to back Sebastian Gros for this but for some reason he isn’t teeing it up this week. It looked perfect for him but I guess he may be injured.

I tipped Eddie Pepperell last year at just 18/1 on the strength of his 6th place finish in 2014. He did ok but finished down the field a little in 22nd. He hadn’t been in the best of form over the summer and a couple of weeks ago he had his back 9 collapse that saw him throw a 3 or 4 shot lead away in Asia at The King’s Cup. He then wrote quite an open blog entry about his troubles over the closing holes and he stated that he found it hard to keep his ball in play off the tee. That isn’t overly important at Albatross Golf Club and that could be why he has gone well at the course before.

He got a bit of a hard time on twitter for his blog comments but ultimately I think being so aware of himself will help him and I’d expect that he will have been working very hard on his swing in the two weeks since. The rest of his game is still in fine shape so the fact we can get 50/1 about him this week looks to be a nice piece of value.

I’m not sure that Calum Shinkwin is necessarily ready to win on the European Tour but he ranks highly in the relevant stats this week. He is 2nd in ball-striking, 28th in the all-round ranking, 43rd in Par 5 scoring and 44th in birdie average over the last three months.

Prior to his understandable missed cut at Royal Troon he was in very good form with a couple of top 10s in very strong fields in Scotland and France. That was his 1st ever major championship so it can probably be ignored and that was followed by his first professional match play tournament so I’m not too concerned by his 1st round exit there either.

I think both those have pushed his price out nicely and this course should suit him perfectly despite missing the cut on his only appearance last year. Shinkwin has improved massively in the 12 months since and he looks a good each way bet this week.

The Women’s Olympics takes place on the same Gil Hanse designed course that the men played on last week and while it could well be another shoot-out between Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn I think the fact that Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson pulled away from the field can tell us something about the course. Neither of those are the greatest of putters and while both putted quite well during the week, the Olympic course looks very much like a ball-strikers course. That makes me think that Lexi Thompson looks to be a reasonable piece of value given her recent 8th at the Women’s Open and a good 2016 on the whole. She sits 4th in ball striking and I don’t think the greens can be the toughest so it might help Thompson close the gap with Ko and AJ. The presence of Thomas Pieters and Bubba Watson on the leaderboard also suggested that length off the tee was quite crucial and Lexi sits in 2nd for driving distance.


Summary of Bets

Wyndham Championship

Bill Haas – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Webb Simpson – 1pt ew @ 25/1

D+D Real Czech Masters

Eddie Pepperell – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Calum Shinkwin – 1pt ew @ 45/1

Women’s Olympic Event

Lexi Thompson – 1pt ew @ 14/1 (1/4 1st-5th with Betfair Sportsbook)

Weekly pts advised – 10pts

Total pts advised – 766.50pts