George Coetzee flew through the field on Sunday with a 63 to land us a back door place and while that was most welcome, it made me all the more annoyed about his terrible front 9 he played on Thursday. After flying through the first 10 holes in 4 under he gave them all back in his last 8 holes and you have to think he would have pushed Rahm had he even played them in level par. The rest of Europe was a disappointment but Andrew Landry gave me a little bit of excitment threatening to get into contention on more than one occasion but I think ultimately his lack of birdies cost him before a very poor finish on Sunday.
2018 pts advised = 159pts
2018 pt returned = 108.94pts
ROI = -31.5%
Valero Texas Open
Again I’ve run out of time to write too much about this event but I did have time to study it and I didn’t manage to find too much of interest in a wide open betting heat. With Sergio Garcia the only elite player on show most players will be arriving at TPC San Antonio believing that they can win. But they will need to have their game firing as every year since the event moved there in 2010 it has been a ball-strikers dream. Kevin Chappell obliged for us last year ranking 3rd in GIR along the way but the course is usually a fairly complete test of the game and Chappell also ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking. Putting isn’t usually his forte however but he performed ok on the greens and with a winning score of just -12 that is all that is required. It’s all about the long game here so those are the stats to look at for assistance this week. Strokes gained: off the tee, strokes gained: approaches, approach proximity 175-200 yards and going for the green: birdie or better being four that are usually of interest to me here.
I’m struggling to see anything that I like too much here beyond last year’s champion Kevin Chappell as most of the early value has already been cut. In truth we have no idea how he will cope with defending but the course just suits him so perfectly that I’m willing to pay to find out at the prices. Chappell is all about championship style courses that require a long and accurate tee-to-green game and where par is a good score. He can get left behind when birdies are easy to come by yet stick him on a U.S. Open style ball-striking test and he thrives. His long game stats are actually even better than they were last year as he normally struggles in the first few months of the year. In 2018 however he racked up a run of numbers to open the year reading 21-6-31-8-20-30-7. We get a half decent price of 28/1 due to 2 missed cuts in last 2 tournaments but that isn’t something that has stopped him before. In his professional golf career he has posted 36 top 10 finishes and 10 of those came off the back of a missed cut. He withdrew from the WGC Match Play with an injury and that’s maybe why he struggled at The Masters but I’m hoping not playing last weekend will have given him time to get full ready for his first PGA Tour title defence. I certainly don’t think his course form and season long form warrant him being just 5th favourite in this field and while the 28/1 might not be to everyone’s tastes, it is just 5 points smaller than last year and I’m more than happy to take it. Lesser players than Chappell have succesfully defended before and he doesn’t strike me as the type to struggle with that side of the game but I guess only time will tell.
I wouldn’t like to miss out on a good week from Andrew Landry after he just about got into contention last week at 300/1 so I’m prepared to have another go at 150/1. The back 9 did for him at Harbour Town where playing his last 11 holes in level would have yielded us a place. Landry was brought up in Texas and currently lives just north of San Antonio in Austin so he will be used to golfing in the wind and he is a player who thrives in a difficult test of golf. Last week together with his excellent performance at 2016’s U.S. Open at Oakmont testified to that. He was 5th in ball-striking last week so his long game will be in fine fettle for TPC San Antonio.
Trophee Hassan II
The European Tour heads to Morocco for The Trophee Hassan II and it will be the 3rd time hosting in a row for Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Additionally it has also hosted the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open on the low-grade MENA Tour in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The field is probably of a similar standard to last week without the big local draw that Jon Rahm brought. That gives us Paul Dunne as the 12/1 favourite and that probably gives quite a clear picture of how open this is.
The course is a Robert Trent Jones track just like the previous host course from 2012-2015 so even the event form at Golf du Palais Royal is worth consideration. From what we have seen in the last two editions it is considerably harder than that course though and the two winning scores have been -9 and -5. It is an extremely tree-lined course with fairly small looking greens and that combined with its length (7487 yards) suggests that long, straight driving will be rewarded as will accurate approach shots. If someone brings both to the table then they will surely have a good week in Morocco. Despite the high scoring, the leaders here have also putted quite well and while that might not often be for birdie with greens being missed there will be a lot of putts in the 5-10ft region for par and making them is crucial to maintaining a score.
With Kikuyu collars and bentgrass greens, the tricky nature of chipping from kikuyu lies will make scrambling difficult. The grass also restricts the run out of the ball on the fairway so that will further highlight the need for length off the tee. It is also found mainly on South African golf courses so perhaps consideration should be given to those who regularly play well down in those co-sanctioned events.
There are very strong course form ties with last week’s course in Spain which is a little strange as the test doesn’t appear to be very similar at all. Last week’s was a grip it and rip it type birdie fest of a course where you would struggle to find trouble even if you were looking for it. While this week the winning score has been in single figures on both recent editions and par has generally been a good score. Yet Paul Dunne and Nacho Elvira have lost the last two play-offs here and they were your 2nd and 3rd last week. Further to that Ross McGowan has won on both courses and he is very far from prolific. On further inspection of the green complexes both courses feature very definite fringes rather than the sometimes more graded edges that we see. I wouldn’t have thought something like that can make too much difference but both Dunne and Elvira are excellent scramblers so it could be that the difficult combination of thick green side rough and fast greens are prevalent at both courses. So while current form is always key I’d make last week’s form doubly important this week.
I was just going to tip George Coetzee again when he opened at around 22/1 but sensibly he has been cut to a more realistic figure. That makes it hard for me to recommend a wager even if he did deliver the place money last week. I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off but with this almost turning into some sort of George Coetzee Appreciation column I think I have to leave him out given this his debut at the course.
Renato Paratore had the lowest round in the field here last year with a 3rd round 66 on his way to finishing 8th. He was also 10th the year before again firing 1 of only 22 rounds in the 60s. This is more than enough to suggest that he likes the course and he is of interest returning now as a European Tour winner. He warmed up nicely last week in Spain with a 21st and we know form correlates nicely. Prior to that he had a little bit of a break but before a missed cut in India he was 4th in Qatar, again another tournament where the form ties in with Wang having won around both. His 23rd around Valderrama last year confirms he is capable when presented with a sterner test of golf. Looks a huge price at 66/1 in this field and for me he has to be backed with most things in his favour and not a lot to beat.
Sebastian Gros was on my list after his closing 64 last week so I was pleased to see that I also tipped him here in 2016 for the first event back at RGDES. It was his long, straight driving that interested me 2 years ago as well as previous strong performances on kikuyu grass in South Africa. Both those apply again this week as he has ranked 14th, 7th and 1st in total driving on his last 3 starts. The most recent of those was last week’s 12th in Spain courtesy of said closing 64 and he ranked 10th in the all round stat. Three starts ago was another good result in South Africa where he was 4th at Pretoria Country Club on the kikuyu fairways. For good measure he ranked 1st in GIR here last year and he looks to be worth an interest in the hope that his putter behaves.
I couldn’t decide whether to side with Benjamin Hebert here after two mediocre results but he has had a good break since so I’m hoping he arrives prepared for a course he enjoyed last year. Along with Paul Dunne they were the only two players to shoot two rounds in the 60s and while Dunne has obviously moved to a new level since, Hebert has long looked like a player who has been threatening to win and also one who prefers a difficult test. He shot two poor rounds to go with the 68-69 last year but if he can limit those big numbers (2 doubles and a triple) then he should play well again. Hebert is 9th for total driving this season and 35th in GIR so the test should suit.
Andrea Pavan currently sits 1st in strokes gained: approaches on the European Tour so I was giving him some thought even before I saw his stats for last week. He ranked 2nd in GIR and 6th in scrambling and having touched on how the scrambling test may be similar, that is enough for me to add him in to my team this week. Throw in a 13th at Qatar last month and this test should really suit the young Italian.
Summary of bets
Valero Texas Open
Kevin Chappell – 1.5pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral and Boylesports)
Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred, Unibet and Betway)
Renato Paratore – 1pt ew @ 50/1
Sebastian Gros – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1
Benjamin Herbert – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1
Andrea Pavan – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1
(all 1/5 odds 6 places various)
Weekly pts advised = 10pts
Total 2018 pts advised = 169pts