WGC Bridgestone Invitational 2018 – Betting Preview

Last week was a huge disappointment with none of our guys in Europe doing anything after Thursday while in Canada Tony Finau fought back brilliantly on Friday and Saturday before having a shocker on Sunday. He was probably running on empty by then but he looks to me like a future Glen Abbey winner and I think he is also worth keeping a close eye on the next two weeks.

2018 pts advised = 341.50

2018 pts returned = 346.52

ROI = 1.5%


Bridgestone

WGC Bridgestone

Since 2007 the WGC event from Firestone has sat in the slot ahead of the US PGA on the schedule and in that time it has given the players a nice preparation week ahead of the year’s final major. The test is usually very similar, suiting big hitting, in-form golfers and that has given punters some nice trends to follow. Unfortunately that is all set to change as the PGA moves to May next year. So this is the final chance we get to survey the Firestone field ahead of the US PGA but it also looks to be the best pointer in some time.

Firestone Country Club is a Robert Trent Jones re-design and it sits as a 7400 yards Par 70 with some monstrous Par 4s and the longest Par 5 on Tour. The US PGA is always set up to play as long as possible and this year is no different with Bellerive at some 7500 yards. But the most important factor is that Bellerive is also a Robert Trent Jones design. Form at his courses normally carries over well as he generally sought to design a course where bogeys were easy to come by but pars were somewhat more difficult, That can be seen perhaps best of all at Valderrama in Spain where the winning score is usually single figures under par.

The similarity between the two events coupled with the tournaments being back-to back has brought about a telling stat where the last 10 US PGA winners have finished in the Top 28 at Firestone. Those who aren’t getting too involved from a betting point of view this week should pay close attention to their fancies for Bellerive next week as that trend looks to be as important as ever.

Firestone has been the host of this event in some capacity since 1962 so there is an abundance of course form and over the years a typical sort of winner has been established. The fairways are of average width but unlike most courses there are no dog legs and they all play perfectly straight. This puts straight, accurate drivers at an advantage even before the lush green rough is considered. The last 5 winners have averaged 17th for driving accuracy and while you can get away with missing fairways, you need to be a good long iron player from the rough to get anywhere near the greens. On the long par 4s a missed fairway can result in an approach shot of 200 yards + for most of the field and that is something that not all players are comfortable with.

The greens, while perceived by some to be small, average 7,600 ft in area so they are actually on the larger side. However many of them are elevated with steep slopes and different tiers which make them harder to hold. They also run towards 13″ on the stimpmeter so they should play very fast.

With a field average GIR of 58% over the last 5 years we can see how hard it is to hold the greens. That brings scrambling into the equation and while the likes of Mahan and Johnson don’t immediately stand out as excellent scramblers, they did very well around the greens during the week of their win.

Most winners of the WGC at Firestone are world-class and usually a major winner already. Since 1999 only Hideki Matsuyama (2017), Shane Lowry (2015), Hunter Mahan (2010) and Craig Parry (2002) haven’t won one of the main 4 tournaments and even then Matsuyama’s major win is very likely still to come. To further make the point about class, since 2005 every winner bar 3 has finished that season in the Top 3 of the PGA Tour’s All Round Ranking.

Since 2009 the worst that any winner has finished in that season’s total driving rank is 45th. Seven of the last 10 winners ranked inside the top 24 for strokes gained: off the tee while two of the outliers were Tiger Woods who was often the exception to rules. So they have to be fairly long and fairly accurate drivers to have any chance of winning at Firestone. Eight of the last 10 had already finished inside the top 10 at one of the years majors while 7 of them had already won that season. It isn’t a venue where players tend to just happen across some form and it is usually won by someone whose name has been at the top of the leaderboards most of the summer.

However with all that said the winner usually does most things well as 8 of the last 10 winners finished 1st in the all-round ranking during their win. The following is also their season end rankings in the same stat for the year they won 4-5-n/a-2-1-1-2-36-1-31. That is very impressive and while you certainly want to look at ball-strikers first, such is the test at Firestone it looks imperative that every part of the game is already in order.

Selections

Despite there being a couple of negatives, pretty much everything else screams Tommy Fleetwood to me this week here. His 2017 was so good that it looked like he might struggle to follow it up but so far 2018 hasn’t been too shabby either. While he hasn’t won since January it is his consistency at the big events that first put him in my head for Firestone. Four of the last five winners here had finished inside the top 32 at all five of the year’s big stroke play events up to that point (3 majors plus WGC Mexico and The Players). There are definitely attributes required to win here but more often than not it is won by one of the summer’s standout golfers and there is no doubting Tommy falls into that category. He was 14th in Mexico, 17th at the Masters, 7th at the Players, 2nd at the U.S. Open and 12th at the Open. So not only is he top 32 but he is top 20 in all 5 and his win is surely coming.

While he is probably ready to win a major already we often see players do these things gradually by winning a WGC event first. Rose, Day, DJ, Scott, Reed have all won WGCs recently on their way to Major success. We know Firestone rewards long and accurate ball-strikers and we know Tommy is just that. His stats are extremely impressive this year and back up his case further. The most intriguing one is the all-round ranking that we mentioned and Tommy sits in 3rd on the PGA Tour ranking below only Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. He is also 12th in strokes gained: tee to green and a rather surprising 13th in strokes gained: around the green. Tommy isn’t the best of putters but his lag putting has improved drastically and with a difficult week likely we should see two putt pars as a pretty good score on most holes. Lots of these slick greens will be missed and only the best ball strikers will be able to hold them. His odds of 28/1 aren’t fancy by any means but considering his profile they are perfectly fair. This is his 2nd look at the course where he came 28th on his debut last year.

Patrick Cantlay is finally showing himself to be the elite ball-striker that was promised after his brilliant amateur career. He has had some personal difficulties too so the fact that he is where he wants to be and still only 26 is impressive and still leaves him plenty time to make his mark. He got his maiden win in October and has pushed on well this year with his most recent outing being 12th at The Open. That was on the back of 30th in Mexico, 23rd at The Players and 45th at the US Open. Not spectacular but just the sort of steady performances that tells me his long game is in good shape for a test like Firestone. Cantlay also ranks highly in the all-round ranking in 12th spot while he is 9th in strokes gained: tee to green. It’s maybe a lot to expect him to win on his debut but I can see him getting involved at least and maybe nabbing a place. A bet on the criminally slow Cantlay also comes with the added bonus that if he struggles it means we don’t actually have to watch him play any shots!

Emiliano Grillo won on his very first start with a full PGA card way back in October 2015 at the Frys Open. His career hasn’t quite continued on the upward trajectory that many expected but again it was his all-round ranking that really perked my interest this week. We know he is a brilliant ball-striker and there are few better drivers in the game but his short game can let him down. Sitting 11th in the all-round ranking makes me think this sort of test is coming at the right time. He doesn’t have the bank of summer form that I would ideally be looking for but he was 14th here two years ago on his debut and I really like the course for him. Grillo also ranks 24th in strokes gained: off the tee and does have some ok form in 2018 with five top 10s so far. Ranked 2nd in total accuracy on his last US start so if we forgive his missed cut in the Open he looks a great bet at 125/1. The 4/1 for a top 20 also looks like a nice price.

It’s very possible that Firestone is too long for Andrew Landry but I can’t leave him out here at a monstrous price of 400/1. The main reason is the fact that he contended at Oakmont along with two Firestone winners Dustin Johnson and Shane Lowry and I looked into why that might be. The main reason seems to be that Landry is very proficient playing approach shots out of the rough. In 2016 he led the Tour in proximity from the rough while this year he sits 6th in the same stat.  The rough was lush green at Oakmont in 2016 and we see the same every year at Firestone. The two courses are just 2 hours away so climate and conditions will be similar with both courses being a mix of bentgrass and poa annua so I’m sure he will feel comfortable. Certainly comfortable enough to back each way at 400/1 with 6 places! Landry is also a steady driver and sits 43rd in strokes gained: off the tee which is impressive for a shorter hitter. That combined with his impressive approach play from the rough should help him go well around Firestone. I’d say the 300/1 would still be a decent price should the 400 dry up. I’m also having a back-up top 20 bet at 10/1 should he take to the course but just find a dozen or so too good.

Others that were close include Matsuyama who looks like some serious value at 45/1. I’m sure you could back that blind here at Firestone and make profit going forward but I just don’t think his long game is where it needs to be. Webb Simpson owes me nothing after The Players’ win and he is still playing very well but I think Firestone may just be a bit long for him. He has never won on a course longer than 7250 yards and even then that was a Par 71. A 7400 par 70 is probably pushing it for Webb but I’d expect another top 20 finish and I’m going to have a small play on that too.


Other bets

I’m not including full previews for the other events this week but a few bets caught my eye.

I stupidly backed Shane Lowry thinking that the Barracuda was played on another Robert Trent Jones track but I was muddling this up with another alternate event with a similar name. The Barbasol, held two weeks ago, was played at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail for 3 years while this week’s Barracuda is actually a Jack Nicklaus course. Anyway he returned to form last week at another Jack Nicklaus course in Canada and these alternate events are often won by someone with a bit of historical class perhaps motivated by not being in the week’s main event. Worth a small interest at 25/1.

I noticed a tweet from somebody over the weekend (I can’t remember who) stating that Ollie Schniederjans made more birdies than anyone over the first two days but he still managed to miss the cut. It might be that this Stableford type of event is exactly what he needs if he is racking up big numbers and this drop in grade should also help. Has some form on Nicklaus courses too as he lost a play-off at TPC Cartagena in Colombia on the Web.com two years ago.

I put Ariya Jutanugarn in a couple of different accumulators last week so watched a fair bit of the Ladies Scottish Open over the weekend. There was some pretty grim weather at times and her scrambling was out of this world, something that is always crucial in links golf. Gullane is a proper links test just like they face this week in the Ladies British Open at Royal Lytham. That week of acclimatising will have the best player in the ladies game 100% prepared for this week and to be honest I thought she would be a little shorter than 10/1. I’m going to have a small win bet on the brilliant Thai.


Summary of bets

WGC Bridgestone

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.5pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)

Patrick Cantlay – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Emiliano Grillo – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places) and 1pt top 20 @ 4/1

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 400/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Barracuda Champiomship

Shane Lowry – 0.75pt ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Ollie Schniederjans – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Women’s British Open

Ariya Jutanugarn – 2pts win @ 9.2 on Betfair Exchange

 

Weekly pts = 14

@theGreek82

 

 

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DP World Championship and RSM Classic – A Betting Preview

After a 4th week with no returns and Fitzpatrick finishing just outside the places I must admit I’m looking forward to the winter break on the two main Tours. It hasn’t been a great 2017 but it feels like I was very close with a host of players placing throughout the year but most of them failing to get over the line. I might post some small previews with just the tips for anyone still reading these but I’m largely going to take a break until the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January.

It’s easy to think you have all the answers after the success I had in the first year but things have been a lot tougher in the last 18 months. I will look to evaluate my process over the break and may alter things in the New Year, possibly reducing the number of bets and looking more closely at the place markets. Too often have my outsiders played well, missed out on the front 5 but made the Top 20, amounting to a loss for the blog.

We sign off with two great events though, the European Tour season ending DP World Championship from Dubai and the RSM Classic from Sea Island, Georgia.

2017 pts advised = 518pts

2017 pts returned = 381.21pts

ROI = -26.4%

 


DP World Championship

The main story this week will be the battle between Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose and to a lesser extent Setgio Garcia, for the Race To Dubai title. While that will be intriguing we also have an elite European Tour event to try and find the winner of and that looks like no mean feat. The top 60 players through the season line up at the Jumeirah Estate (Earth course) in Dubai and as ever the course that awaits them will be absolutely perfect.

The Greg Norman design is a monster but other than length nobody can have any complaints about the quality course laid out in front of them. Lush green, wide fairways, minimal rough, perfectly manicured bunkers and slick bentgrass greens make for a great event even if it is a very scorable one for those who bring their A game. The winning score often reaches -20 and a quick look through the winners tells us how that is usually acheived. Matt Fitzpatrick stopped the Stenson-McIlroy benefit that was in place since 2012 and while the young Englishman isn’t the longest, he is usually one of the more accurate. Stenson and McIlroy both ate up the Par 4s and 5s with their combination of power, approach accuracy and towering ball flight and on the whole that’s a fairly decent angle in. The greens are heavily undulating and loft will be required to get anywhere near the flags here, many of which are protected by water or sand.

Despite knowing what is required it is a very difficult event to attempt to find any value in, or to have a very strong opinion on who might win. Justin Rose is very tempting as I figured he would be nearer 5/1 in this small 60 runner field. He is 8.2 on the exchange and he is playing superior golf to everyone in the field and is also probably the best golfer in the field (Rahm?!). There is part of me that thinks he might still be the best value in the field as he surely wins this more like 1 in 6 times rather than 1 in 8. The only thing putting me off is personal as I always seem to to struggle to get Rose right. I was convinced he was going to win the US Open this year at Erin Hills but he missed the cut and that has certainly left me with some scar tissue. But given it is the last event of the season I’m going to attempt to go out with a winner here and he is unquestionably the man to beat so I’m having 4pts win on the Exchange.

Martin Kaymer has been a conundrum for many throughout the 2017 season as he often appears over priced given how classy a performer he is. Then once backed at 66/1 he would maybe show enough to get his backers excited only to fall away as he reminded everyone that he is somewhat of a different beast now since throwing away the Abu Dhabi Championship in February 2015. His whole game has really suffered and since then last week is one of the few weeks where has contended on Sunday. That is enough for me to feel he is over priced here at 40/1 however as deep down we know how much ability he has. He doesn’t have the best of records around the course and I’m not even that confident of his chances but everyone has their price and 40/1 for Kaymer coming off a 5th place in SA just looks too big. Kaymer loves the desert and he has 3 wins in Abu Dhabi as well as a solid record in the Dubai Desert Classic and Qatar Masters. Despite never bettering 10th here he closed with two 67s last year and 40/1 is a solid each way price.

Matt Fitzpatrick threw in one bad round last week which cost us an each way payout and possibly better. A Friday 77 left him playing catch up all weekend but he rallied for 8th place and his 7th consecutive Top 15. That is some serious form that has been overshadowed a little by Hatton and Rose both winning back to back during that run. I think I need to give him a chance to recoup last week’s money and given he won here last year, he looks fairly priced at 16/1. Normally defending might be an issue but I expect Rose and Fleetwood to take a considerable amount of the attention away from Fitzpatrick and he put up an excellent defence of the Nordea Masters in the summer when finding only an inspired Renato Paratore too good. He has absolutely no need to fear anyone in this field as this is firmly his level now. Looks sure to go close as long as he can avoid that one bad round.

Ryan Fox did very well for me through the summer and he spent the bulk of the autumn playing on courses that didn’t suit his game. The one exception was the Alfred Dunhill  where I went in again as I thought it would be ideal, he started well but a poor Friday combined with the slow 6hr rounds seemed to throw him and he ended up missing the 54 hole cut. This is right back in the bombers wheelhouse though and given all the courses he has gone well on this year I’m convinced he can outplay his price but maybe not quite threaten the places. So instead of an each way bet I’m going to play him in the top 10 market.

Despite not loving the tournament as a betting proposition I’ve managed to find 4 bets, this might be exactly where I’ve gone wrong in 2017. Finding a bet in each event just for the sake of it!

 


RSM Classic

The final PGA Tour event of the year takes us back over to the US and to the East coast of Georgia. This week there are two courses in play at Sea Island, the Seaside course and the Plantation course. Everyone will play one course on each before the Plantation takes a back seat over the weekend. Both courses are relatively short at around the 7000 yard mark and the test isn’t too dissimilar to last week as the Seaside course is another fiddly course where accuracy is at a premium. Finding the fairway is required in order to be able to fire approaches at the flags and after that a hot putter will be needed on the undulating bermuda greens. When Kisner racked up the record low score of -22 in 2015 he did so with this exact formula, every time the camera cut to him over the weekend he seemed to be sending a short iron inside 15ft from the middle of the fairway. If we look back at the last 3 editions, the winners have ranked 1st, 2nd 1st for putting.

2015 U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying

I backed Jamie Lovemark here last year at 80/1 and he fell one spot shy in the agonising 6th place. Unfortunately he is a lot shorter this week but I really like his chances here of getting his maiden win. The last three RSM winners were all winning for the first time on the PGA Tour. Lovemark missed the cut in Mexico last week but prior to that he was last seen finishing 5th in the CJ Cup where he ranked 5th for driving accuracy and 7th for GIR. Returning to Sea Island where he has played well I’m hoping he can find that level of long game to go with his always assured putting stroke (24th in Strokes Gained: Putting). His best two finishes last season were a 3rd at Greenbrier and 4th at the Sony Open, two courses which often correlate well with Sea Island. They were both partly designed by Seth Raynor who used classic British links characteristics on lots of his holes. Sea Island was designed by the great Harry Colt who is responsible for some of the best links courses in the world. There might just be something about these classic tracks that fit the eye for Lovemark and although the 40/1 isn’t a price to get excited about I do like his chances this week.

I’ve backed Si-Woo Kim a few times lately on price alone and I think he looks a must bet again here, especially as he arrives in good form this week. The bookmakers continue to forget that he has won The Players Championship and that piece of form places him way ahead of the majority of this field. But he has also won around the tree-lined Sedgefield and is still just 22 years old. Both those wins were on bermuda greens and this streaky putter clearly performs better on that surface. He missed the cut last year but was 18th on his debut the year before. Kim looks to me like the sort of player that has his price and almost needs to be followed in whenever he isn’t given the respect he deserves. He opened at various prices towards 80/1 which was really far too big, he is now 50/1 and to be honest that still feels very big coming in off a 3rd place in Mexico.

Blayne Barber was high on my list even before I looked at his course form which included a runner-up finish last year. That meant he had to be backed just as long as his price was ok and we are getting three figures across the board on the young Floridian. Barber hails from just over the border in Tallahassee and he has already won the South Georgian Classic on the Web.com Tour. He is clearly comfortable in these conditions and I think he looks a very solid bet to go contend here again. His best finish other than his 2nd here last year is a 3rd at the Honda Classic. That is another short, exposed course designed by Tom Fazio (Fazio redesigned the Seaside course) and they seem to be the sort of courses where it could pay to follow Barber in his early career. He is another strong putter who ranked 23rd in strokes gained: putting last year but it was actually his long game that clicked here last year as he hit 80% of the fairways and 87% of the greens. He missed his first cut of the season but finished 45th last week in Mexico which will set him up nicely for his return to Sea Island.


Summary of Bets

RSM Classic

Jamie Lovemark – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Si-Woo Kim – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Blayne Barber – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1

DP World Championship

Justin Rose – 4pts win @ 8.2

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1.5pt ew @ 16/1

Martin Kaymer – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Ryan Fox – 1pt Top 10 @ 16/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 15pts

2017 pts advised = 533pts

@theGreek82

Presidents Cup and British Masters – Betting Preview

I’m not talking too much about last week after Rose crumbled over the weekend and Coetzee’s triple bogey 7 at the 72nd hole scuppered his place chances. Very annoying. Finau landed the top 10 money however and Berger and Woodland both played well enough for top 10s but both threw in one bad round.

2017 pts advised = 429pts

2017 pts returned = 345.09

ROI = -19.6%


Presidents Cup

On paper and form this looks like a landslide win for the US team with the bulk of the star players for the International team having had poor 2017 seasons. But does it always work that way? In golf team events, it usually does I’m afraid. While the match play format can certainly bring about a change in fortune for some it is hard to see enough of the Internationals finding sufficient improvement to allow the team to be competitive as a whole across the 4 days, especially on U.S. soil. Two years ago many of the International team were in great form and they played brilliantly and still couldn’t win. Luckily though there are plenty of markets available so I have had a look at the course and individual markets to see if I can find any value.

The venue is Liberty National and it gets its name from its location sitting right behind the Statue of Liberty in Jersey City. It is a Tom Kite design and it has hosted two PGA Tour events previously, the 2009 and 2013 Barclays Championship. However it must be noted that a massive $250m renovation was carried out prior to the 2013 event with a view to hosting this very event. It was won by Australian Adam Scott who returns this week and will be expected to use his course knowledge to help his team this week.

Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen teamed up brilliantly two years ago to win all four of their matches and that very much set the foundation for the International team’s challenge across the week. I don’t expect to see returning Captain Nick Price split them up but they will find it a lot harder in the U.S. with so much expected from them. Instead I’m going for Jason Day in the top International market because of his incredible record in both New Jersey and indeed the neighbouring New York area. His recent results in New Jersey read 2-1-2, which is really amazing and his New York record is similarly impressive; 6-4-8. Day struggled in 2015 only winning a 0.5pt from his 5 games but his opening partner was Steve Bowditch and I’m not sure he would have been too pleased about that. I’d expect Price to find a more suitable pairing for him this time around knowing how crucial it will be to get his main man winning points. Day showed in 2013 what he can do with the right partner when he and Graeme Delaet won 2.5pts from 4.

We shouldn’t forget that Day is an accomplished match play exponent having won the WGC World Matchplay title twice already in his career. He has shown enough form lately to suggest he will play well this week and he has also played Liberty National twice before recording 12th and 25th place finishes. His price isn’t great but I think he looks like a solid enough bet in the Top International market at 9/2 as he may not have too much to beat, especially if he gets off to a good start with whoever he is paired with on Thursday morning. Additionally he will surely play all five matches which gives him a big advantage over most of his team.

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The main player market bet I like though is Brooks Koepka to be the top scoring rookie in the competition. He is 2nd favourite in the market to Justin Thomas but there are two key factors at play here which makes him look like the more solid option. Thomas just won some $11m dollars on Sunday and that will have taken a bit of getting used to. He was already a rich man but we have seen plenty of Fed Ex winners struggle for form in the aftermath. While Thomas and Koepka are Presidents Cup rookies, Koepka played in last year’s Ryder Cup and played very well indeed taking 3 pts from 4. He relished the team format from the start and he has stated in interviews just how much he is looking forward to this week. Being new to professional team golf Thomas won’t be entirely sure of the atmosphere and given that he looks likely to play with his mate Rickie Fowler, its possible they might not be fully focussed from the word go.

There are nine others in the market but none of those can be expected to play in as many matches as Thomas and Koepka so they will have their work cut out to win this. Thomas will probably take to the event and win all 5 pts but from a betting angle it looks safer to side with the man proven in the elite team golf environment.

I’m also going to have two speculative plays on the correct score. Like everyone else I’m expecting a fairly comfortable U.S. win but it should stay competitive early on. With 30 pts up for grabs I like both the 17-13 and 16.5-13.5 scorelines so will have 0.5pt on both at 10/1.


British Masters

We have had the Ian Poulter hosted event at Woburn in 2015 and then the Luke Donald hosted event last year at The Grove, this year it falls on European Tour stalwart Lee Westwood to host at Close House. Bringing the British Masters back has been a stroke of genius from The European Tour and getting Sky Sports on board has also really helped to capture the imagination of the fans. With the first two editions in the south of England they are now venturing north to Northumbria and I’d expect the crowds to be massive as they support their first regular European Tour event in quite some time.

The course itself holds Lee Westwood’s name and is known as the Lee Westwood Colt Course although neither he nor Harry Colt actually designed it. It was the work of Scott Macpherson who created it in 2011 but he based it very much on the great Harry Colt’s work. Macpherson is a scholar of the great British courses, particularly Colt’s work and he is even a published author on the topic having written “Golf’s Royal Clubs” about the courses in the world that have been given Royal approval.

Close House is a rather short course playing under 7000 yards and it reminds me visually of a combination of Wentworth and Gleneagles. It has the winding tree-lined fairways of Wentworth but the rolling fairways and elevation changes of Gleneagles.

The course has been used on the 3rd tier Europro Tour from 2015-2017 and also hosted the Senior PGA in 2015. That Senior event was won by Peter Fowler and looking at the other four names who made up the places behind him, they are all golfers who play well on tree-lined UK courses with numerous top 5s around Woburn and Sunningdale.

Shane Lowry was on my radar for this given his form on Harry Colt designs and classic British tracks on the whole. Lowry has a very solid record at Colt’s Wentworth with a 2014 runner-up finish being the pick of four top 10 finishes. Lowry’s best Open finish was at Colt’s Hoylake in 2014 when he finished 9th and he actually equalled Faldo’s course record 62 around Colt’s redesigned Sunningdale layout on his way to qualifying for the 2010 Open. It’s very clear that Lowry enjoys the classic Colt layouts so it makes a lot of sense to me that he should take to Close House given it was designed with all those layouts in mind.

Lowry.jpg

That might have been enough to make Lowry a bet anyway but his iron play has been back to its best lately and in Portugal he hit a rather brilliant 91.6% of the greens which means he missed just 6 all week. Granted they are huge greens but the most important attribute to take to a new course is solid approach play. Confidently committing to a number and target on a new layout will give Lowry a big advantage over those who are struggling to control their ball. Lowry has also played well in this event before at Woburn which is another similar course. We know he can beat better fields than this as he showed when winning the WGC Bridgestone, at another tree-lined, classic design, so returning to form he looks a rock solid each way bet here.

Marc Warren played brilliantly last week and therefore I was surprised to see 100/1 about him this week on a course that would suit a peak Marc Warren perfectly. Warren is a Wentworth specialist with 7 top 30s and he is a winner around Gleneagles. His best major finish is at the classical, Donald Ross designed Oak Hill where he came 12th and his best Open finish was around Hoylake. The only downside to Warren this week is that he still isn’t driving the ball close to his best since his injury. The rest of his game was in great shape in Portugal though as he ranked 4th in GIR and 14th in putting. With Close House being a short course he should be able to leave the driver in the bag on plenty of tee shots and flourish again on another suitable course.

One of the main disadvantages that rookies face on Tour is that they are playing a course for the first time while most of the field have seen it before numerous times. Not only is that not the case this week but several of the rookies have actually played Close House before. This completely turns things on its head and while it is still a huge step up in class from the Challenge Tour, it’s fair to think those rookies who have already shown up well on the European Tour can take advantage of their superior course knowledge to outplay their odds this week.

Aaron Rai doesn’t exactly fly in under the radar having won three times on the Challenge Tour this year to gain his card but he is a decent price given the field strength here. His form has been up and down so far on the main Tour but his talent is very evident and I like his chances of playing well this week. He came 5th at Close House in the 2015 Euro Pro event so given this is the first course he will have played before I’m going to have a top 20 bet on him here.

Marcus Armitage was 20th last week in Portugal and that’s the same bet I’m having this week. Armitage won around Close House in 2015 and hasn’t looked out-of-place so far on the European Tour. He ranked 8th in total driving and 5th in scrambling last week and both those attributes should help him here.

Ashley Chesters is another who has seen the course before having finished 4th there last year. Chesters plays well on these shores as he showed when he arrived on the scene at St Andrews’ 2015 Open when he finished 12th as an amateur. A few weeks later he would go on to take 3.5pts out of 4 at the Walker Cup around Royal Lytham. Chesters has shown glimpses on the main Tour so far and currently ranks 3rd for total accuracy this year. He has managed 6 top 20s from 19 events so far and looks over priced for another.

 


Summary of Bets

Presidents Cup

Jason Day – Top International  – 1pt @ 5/1

Brooks Koepka – Top Overall Rookie – 2pts @ 9/2

US 17-13 Internationals Correct Score – 0.5pt @ 10/1

US 16.5-13.5 Internationals Correct Score – 0.5pt @ 10/1

British Masters

Shane Lowry – 2pts ew @ 25/1

Marc Warren – 0.75pts ew 100/1

Aaron Rai – 1.5pts Top 20 @ 11/2

Marcus Armitage – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/1

Ashley Chesters – 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 13pts

2017 pts advised = 442pts

@theGreek82

Dell Technologies Championship and D+D Real Czech Masters – Betting Preview

Chris Paisley finished 3rd in Denmark for another profitable week and Kuchar should have made things even better but for a very uncharacteristic shocker of a final round. I didn’t really expect him to ever trouble Johnson and Spieth on Sunday but I was surprised that he fell completely outside of the places. I can’t complain though as that is now 8 weeks out of the last 12 with returns and getting back into profit for 2017 is now firmly in the sights. With plenty high-class golf remaining hopefully another winner or two can be found yet.

Total 2017 pts advised = 388.50pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 329.84pts

ROI = -15%


Dell Technologies Championship

Fear not the brilliant TPC Boston is still in the Fed Ex Cup rotation, there has just been another change of name with Dell taking over sponsorship from Deutsche Bank. It means we still have 10 plus years of form around the modern Massachusetts course to look at. The original layout was an Arnold Palmer design in 2003 but Gil Hanse (Castle Stewart, Rio Olympic course) has been back twice since to renovate all 18 holes.

It’s of average length as a 7216 yard Par 71 and the one thing to focus on at TPC Boston year after year is ball-striking. Every year the course is all about hitting fairways and then difficult approach shots with water surrounding many of the greens. With tree-lined, dog-legged fairways the driving lines can be quite tight and  you need to be on the right side of the fairway to get close the flags. Despite all this its lack of length means it is highly scoreable with the average winning score being -18 over the 10 Fed Ex Cup events. But while that may suggest good putters can also thrive, they often do their scoring on the Par 5s so those with the best long games will be giving themselves short tap in birdie putts by over powering the three par 5s.

As I noted last week the Fed Ex events always have classy winners and if we look at the last five winners we have Rory McIlroy (x2), Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Chris Kirk (still a 4-timer PGA Tour winner). This tells us we need to look again to the elite players in the field in terms of a winner although there have been some more surprise players filling the places in recent times.

From a stats point of view, strokes gained: tee to green, GIR, par 5 scoring and birdie average all look to be good angles in this week.

Given their current run of form and the fact this is a ball-striking event, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler are the four who immediately stand out. Throw in two-time course winner Rory McIlroy and you have a very powerful head of the market in Boston. But it is no easy task to decide which one to side with here this week. Dustin Johnson v Jordan Spieth ended up a bit of a coin toss down the stretch on Sunday and that is what I would expect more often than not when the world’s two best players are at the top of the leaderboard. If Matsuyama finds his best stuff from a few weeks ago then he will contend again regardless of what others do. Fowler struggled on the poa annua last week but back at TPC Boston I would expect him to flourish again. McIlroy makes a little less appeal given his recent form troubles but at 18/1 he is certainly worth consideration as he can surely be expected to find extra improvement on a course he loves.

But ultimately this week I can’t pick between them so I’m leaving them all out for a player who has shown time and time again he can mix it with the best on courses like this and after finally getting the major win he craved for so long, I think Sergio Garcia is the value in the field this week. With a lack of recent golf he is in no way guaranteed to play well but that is more than factored into the dismissive price of 55/1. Garcia got married the week after The Open and so can be forgiven his poor showing just a week later at the US PGA. He hasn’t played competitively since but make no mistake that we will see a very different Garcia over the next few years. He can now relax having won his major and the confidence gained from his Masters triumph means he is likely to add to that major tally over the next 4 or 5 years.

Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates winning the 2017 Masters in Augusta

However beyond the general excellent value, Garcia also has a case on his course form. While he hasn’t yet won around TPC Boston his form figures read 24-4-31-26-5-17 but the most interesting angle was from comparing his career GIR and DA stats at the course with those around him in the market. Garcia has hit 74.77% of his greens around the course and 69.05% of his fairways. This is miles ahead of the market principles who can only boast the following; Dustin Johnson 70.04% GIR 64.80% DA, Jordan Spieth 65.28% GIR 66.96% DA, Hideki Matsuyama 64.81% GIR 63.10% DA, Rickie Fowler 65.48% GIR 67.09% DA, Rory McIlroy 69.91% GIR 64.29% DA. The only player who comes close to Garcia is Henrik Stenson who boasts equally impressive course clips of 74.17% GIR and 70.72% DA but he isn’t playing this week.

Basically what that tells me is that despite all the current hype about those players mentioned, we can’t afford to forget that Garcia belongs in that bracket when it comes to elite ball-striking, and he has been doing it for nearly 20 years!

He ranks 12th in strokes gained: tee to green, 10th in par 5 scoring and 15th in GIR this year so his game has been in right sort of shape for TPC Boston. The only question mark is whether he can shake off the rust but the price factors that in and Garcia looks a must bet at the disrespectful price of 55/1 (Betfred, Totesport) in what is only a 100 runner field. Anything down to 40/1 still looks a great price to be honest but hopefully the 55/1 or 50/1 with others holds firm. Unfortunately Betfred cut their 55/1 sometime this afternoon and rather pathetically went straight to 40/1. Quite a jump! He is now a best price general 40/1 and while it is quite a bit shorter I’m sticking with the bet.

I really don’t see a lot else that excites me in the outright market but at 300/1 I thought Luke List was worth a small play. He hasn’t had much of a year in truth but he has still snuck in to the top 100 to play here. List has been putting terribly for most of the year and that was the case again last week as he finished 34th on Long Island. But he ranked 4th in ball striking in a strong field and he currently sits 13th in strokes gained: tee to green and 3rd in par 5 scoring.  So at a course where putting usually takes a bit of a back seat I think List might go well at a huge price. Also adding a top 20 bet.

 


D+D Real Czech Masters

There have been three editions so far of the Czech Masters around the Albatross Course in Prague, so again we have a decent amount of course form to go on. Immediately a course where Thomas Pieters has finished 2nd and 1st the last two years tells us that power is important and if we look through the stats that is backed up to a degree but perhaps total driving is more important than just length alone as the three winners ranked 9th, 5th and 18th for the combined driving stat. However shorter hitters can still contend but they need the rest of their game to be firing on all cylinders. Paul Peterson came 2nd in the all-round ranking last year while Pieters and Donaldson were 2nd and 10th respectively when winning the first two editions.

Par 5 scoring is always important at the Albatross course and while there is more than one way to score on Par 5s, generally we associate that with length off the tee. The winning score has averaged -16 so just like in the US, birdie average will also be crucial in Prague.

Thomas Pieters is a very fair price to win again at around 8/1 but despite his suitability to the course and how poor the field is, he has missed his lat two cuts. I also tend to struggle to get the single figure odds favourites right so instead I have opted for two each way bets where just a place will pay out at better odds than a Pieters win.

I tipped Callum Shinkwin in this last year for his long, accurate tee-to green game but he didn’t fare too well. I’m not prepared to give up on him here though especially when we consider how much worse this field is compared to the one he so almost beat at the Scottish Open when he took a one shot lead down the last hole. It wasn’t to be as his short game unravelled a little but he didn’t do a great deal wrong losing to a surging Rafa Cabrera-Bello. A missed cut at Royal Birkdale followed but we can dismiss that and expect him to be all together more comfortable again at this level. Whether he can perform well enough on the greens to contend I don’t know but he will be fresher than most and high on confidence.

Dean Burmester isn’t a particularly confident pick but he has shown over the course of 2017 that he really shouldn’t be a 70/1 shot in this poor a European Tour field. The piece of form that gets him on the team this week is his 7th in Abu Dhabi in March. Jamie Donaldson is a winner there while Thomas Pieters has already finished 2nd and 4th at the course. There are several others who have gone well on both courses and the link might just be worth consideration.

Burmester ranks 7th in Par 5 scoring and hits it further than most, ranking 6th in driving distance over the last 3 months. While he is by no means as good a putter as Pieters he does fit a reasonably similar profile and he knows how to win having picked up the co-sanctioned Tshwane Open in March. That was on a winning score of -18 so he also knows how to go low when conditions suit. He played here last year and finished 35th so he should be looking to go well on his 2nd look at the course.

 


Summary of Bets

Dell Technologies Championship

Sergio Garcia – 1.5pts ew @ 40/1

Luke List – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Czech Masters

Callum Shinkwin – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Dean Burmester – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 396.50pts

@theGreek82

The Players Championship and Open De Portugal – Betting Preview

Yet again another disappointing Sunday as Scotland came up shy in their semi-finals against Australia and 200/1 shot Zac Blair had a nightmare front 9 after starting his final round T8th and 3 shots back.

Scotland played better golf than anyone en route to the semis but they were quite flat against the Aussies. Despite that they had more than enough chances to beat Scott Hend and Sam Brazel as they were playing even worse than the Scots. But ultimately a bit of rust about Warren’s game and Ramsay’s putter going cold meant they lost it at the 6th and final hole.

Blair would have had his work cut out to win the event but it’s a shame that he didn’t manage to contend at all on the Sunday even after an opening birdie. It is refreshing to see such a positive Twitter feed from Blair at a time when the likes of Grayson Murray are making all the social media headlines for the wrong reasons. The preparation Blair put into the week helped him to play well and if he continues in that vein then we may well see him on more leaderboards throughout the year.

Total 2017 pts advised = 197pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 130.97pts

ROI = -33.5%


The Players Championship

I’ve done a preview again for Matchbook this week so please see that below. I’m not going to bother repeating too much so just the picks and the staking plan.

https://insights.matchbook.com/players-championship-betting-guide/

I like Justin Thomas. Jon Rahm, Russell Henley, Kevin Chappell and Matt Kuchar this week each way.

Also going to include Matt Kuchar as a Top 10 bet as he really seems to enjoy playing well but only finishing 6th-10th!

David Lingmerth looks over priced for a top 20 here given his fondness for Pete Dye courses. He finished 2nd on his debut at TPC Sawgrass and he has a 6th and a 3rd on Dye’s Valley course at Sawgrass. Lingmerth was also beaten in a play-off last February by Dufner at the CareerBuilder Challenge which is played on two different Pete Dye designs. The tougher it plays the more he will enjoy the test and with recent finishes of 14th and 18th a 3rd top 20 in a row looks more likely than the 8/1 suggests.


Open De Portugal

This looks as poor a betting heat as The Players looks a good one. A new course and a co-sanctioned event with the Challenge Tour gives us a very poor field. The course is Morgado Golf Course in the Algarve and from the little I can find it is said to be a links style course in a parkland setting. A google search of images would back that up and it looks a lot like Gleneagles which I always think of as the archetypical inland links course. With little to go on I have found two speculative punts.

Mark Foster won the Alfred Dunhill Links way back in 2003 and he lost in a play-off at Gleaneagles in 2011. He hasn’t done a great deal recently but this is the sort of tournament that is usually won by someone with a historical piece of class or a hungry young maiden. At 50/1 he looks worth a small interest.

Jens Fahbring probably couldn’t be considered young any more but he is still just finding his feet on the main Tour. He arrives in Portugal following two 13th place finishes and also managed 12th in Portugal in October in a far better field than this. He is a proven winner on the Challenge Tour with two wins, both at courses that are  visually similar to Morgado. Also looks a fair price at 50/1.


Summary of Bets

The Players

Justin Thomas – 2pts ew @ 30/1

Jon Rahm – 2pts ew @ 22/1

Russell Henley – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Kevin Chappell – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Matt Kuchar – 0.5pt ew @ 60/1 & 2pts Top 10 @ 9/2

David Lingmerth – 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Open De Portugal

Mark Foster – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Jens Fahrbring – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Weekly pts advised = 16pts

@theGreek82

Phoenix Open and Dubai Desert Classic – Betting Preview

Gary Woodland got to within one shot of the lead on Sunday and got a lot of people quite excited as he was very well backed last week. Eventually though his horrendous week of driving (35% fairways hit) got the better of him and he fell away in dramatic fashion to finish down in 20th place.

Europe went a little more according to plan though and Chris Paisley obliged with the Top 20 after looking lke he would miss the cut on Friday. He closed his round with birdie-ace-birdie to make the cut and leave me wondering how well he might have fared with a better start on Thursday. Nobody took fewer shots than his 203 from from Friday to Sunday.

2017 totals are as follows;

Total points advised =43

Total points returned =38.54pts

ROI =-10.40%

This week the PGA Tour heads to Arizona for its usual raucous at TPC Scottsdale and the European Tour rounds off its Middle East Swing in Dubai.


Phoenix Open

On the biggest weekend of the year for US Sport it is perhaps fitting that Golf joins in the party and that is one way of describing the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. With its wraparound stadium seating the par 3 hole has a brilliant atmosphere and adds a little something different to the Tour. Some like it more than others but relaxing in the atmosphere can be crucial.

TPC Scottsdale has held this since 1987 and despite some renovations it has remained a ball-strikers course. The fairways are wider than last week so driving isn’t as crucial but Rickie Fowler found out to his cost that you still cant be too wreckless off the tee as he found water in the playoffs with an unkindly bounce. Contending in Phoenix usually comes down to getting the ball as close to the flag as possible on these large greens.

Jon Rahm was brilliant last week at Torrey Pines as he closed with a seven under par 65 to win by three shots. There can be an argument that he was playing more freely than those above him as he probably didn’t expect to win but his back 9 of 30 was simply incredible regardless and there was certainly pressure on his last few holes. It was a -6 back 9 and the next seven after him on the leaderboard only managed to play them in -9 combined.

Ever since he started making noises as an amateur he has been highly respected and when he finished 3rd on his first professional start his stock began to rise quickly. During the fall series he was tipped and bet regularly but over the Christmas period it seemed like people had forgotten about him as he went off at around 50/1 last week.

There have already been some different opinions regarding his price this week as he opened up at a general 25/1 which was much bigger than expected. While it is true that few players have gone back to back after their first win, it is becoming more and more common for players to win in consecutive weeks while they ride the high of the exceptional level of golf that they have discovered. Matsuyama did it towards the end of last year and Justin Thomas just the start of this year. Jason Day and Adam Scott both did it in the spring of 2016 and going back further Day also did it in 2015 and Billy Horschel before him to claim the 2014 Fed Ex Cup. While none of these were in fact their first wins, more crucially these consecutive wins seem to come after what could be called their break out win.

Both Thomas and Matsuyama had won previous Tournaments but their games hadn’t quite reached the heights that they have hit over the last few months. In order to try and gauge whether Rahm is a value price this week I guess it is important to think just what bracket of player you think he is going to become. If you think he falls into the Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy bracket then the 25/1 to go back to back must have looked very favourable. But if you think he falls more into the Justin Thomas category then you maybe think there are enough factors against him this week to leave him be just now.

I definitely think he is going to move towards the former group so there is no way I want to miss out on what looks like such an obvious play. There were still two important factors that forced my hand this week however. Firstly, Rahm was 5th in this tournament in 2015 as an amateur and he studied in Arizona so he knows the area well. Secondly, the nature of his comments after his round on Sunday. He said that something just clicked around the turn and he started feeling in complete control of his golf ball. He also said that he was finally getting to grips with the poa annua surfaces as he had been too cautious from Thursday-Saturday. That was his first appearance at Torrey Pines whereas this week he will know the TPC Scottsdale greens well.

Simply put if he manages to bring anything close to the level of golf he played on that back 9 he will be very hard to beat. That makes the 20/1 available still look like a brilliant each way price and one I would be very annoyed about missing if he were to win again unbacked.

There isn’t a great deal else that I like this week but given this is a ball-strikers paradise, there was one former tee-to-green machine that popped up last week on the leaderboard briefly. He fell away with an 80 on Sunday but it was only Hunter Mahan’s 2nd cut made in his last 14 tournaments. He has been in the doldrums now for the best part of 3 years but we have seen far poorer players than him come from nowhere to go well on their favourite courses. Mahan won here in 2010 and he also has a 4th place finish to his name.

He ranked 7th for total driving last week around the very difficult Torrey Pines. If he drives the ball that well again here then 300/1 might just look a little big come the weekend.


Dubai Desert Classic

It’s pretty much taking off from where we left off last week for the final stop on the Middle East Swing. The course in Dubai is another wide open course where the wind blows and links players prosper. It stands at 7319 yards with minimal rough but plenty of waste areas flanking the fairways. As I write the wind is forecast to be quite strong so solid ball-strikers will prosper and a tidy short game will help when inevitably greens will be missed.

You can make a case for many at the head of the market in Dubai but none of them look like much of a price. Instead I’m going to go with three bigger prices.

Anirban Lahiri looks a bet on price alone this week. He has been playing a lot lately on the PGA Tour and while he hasn’t done a great deal yet his first 5 events of the 2017 read 3-28-13-MC-25. As we know from the current high standard of the PGA Tour, that is well above what most of this field have done lately. As a two-time European Tour winner he surely should be more like a 50/1 shot in this field. The 90/1 looks like a great piece of value.

He has only played here once before in 2010 when he missed the cut but his excellent short game should help him this week where the greens will be hard to hit.

Lucas Bjerregaard struggled to push on in 2016 after looking like a winner in waiting through out 2015. But there were signs last week that he is maybe getting back to his best so the 125/1 looks very big indeed.

He finished last week in 11th after closing with a 66 on Sunday. The Dane apeears to have a great game for links golf but hasn’t done that much in the UK yet. Notably however he has 9th and 12th place finishes around the Oceanico Victoria course which hosts the Portugal Masters. There are many players who have gone well at both of these long, exposed courses; Lee Westwood, Stephen Gallagher, Andy Sullivan, Alvaro Quiros to name but four.

If he has found something with his long game again then he should outplay his price this week.

I can’t believe Chris Paisley’s price has gone up this week from a general 200/1 last week to 250/1! As I said earlier nobody played the last 3 rounds better than him in Qatar and he ranked 15th for GIR and 6th for scrambling. There is an argument that this course could play a little too long for him but after giving us some profit last week I think he looks worth reinvesting in this week.


Summary of Bets

Phoenix Open

Jon Rahm – 2.5pts ew @ 20/1

Hunter Mahan – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Qatar Masters

Anirban Lahiri – 1pt ew @ 90/1

Lucas Bjerregaard – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Chris Paisley – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 9/1

Weekly pts advised = 13pts

Total pts advised = 56pts

@theGreek82

Farmers Insurance Open and Qatar Masters – Betting Preview

It was a victory for a tee-to-green prowess last week as two of the game’s better ball-strikers both got it done despite their usual struggles on the greens. Unfortunately both players were tipped on the blog a few times last year and in hindsight neither were particulalrly surprising winners.

In the US Hudson Swafford has been playing some brilliant golf tee-to-green but never seemed to make any putts when it counted. He certainly hadn’t thrown any Tournaments away to date and was actually quite impressive down the stretch on Sunday even if he did have a wobble on Saturday.

Tommy Fleetwood was perhaps even more impressive in Abu Dhabi as he held off a host of top-class challengers to finally get his 2nd win after collecting his maiden victory at Gleneagles in 2013. The Southport man hit 66 out of 72 greens in Abu Dhabi and was giving himself putt after putt. Fleetwood is very similar to Westwood at his peak in that their below average putting is accentuated by their relentless approach play. It can seem like every time you see them on the TV they are missing a putt from 15ft but on some courses that is ok. Others were struggling to find the greens so just hitting them in the correct number was enough to come out on top as others made mistakes around him.

There were no returns last week despite Hatton being the 3rd round leader in Abu Dhabi.

That removes the early profits and 2017 is as follows;

2017 pts advised = 31

2017 pts returned = 29.54

ROI = -4.7%

 


Farmers Insurance Open

Tiger makes his much anticipated return to the PGA Tour this week and there couldn’t be a more fitting place for him to return than Torrey Pines. He has won this Tournament 7 times along with a US Open in 2008 which was his last major win. It’s anyone’s guess where he will finish but the signs were good in December so hopefully he will go well as it would be great to get to see a fit Tiger Woods compete again in 2017.

They will play two courses this week, with one round on the easier North and one round on the South course prior to the cut. After that it is two more rounds on the South course. The North course has undergone a substantial renovation since last year but with only one round to play and the South course being so much tougher, I’m not going to guess how this will effect things.

The South course is a classic US championsip layout, playing long at some 7600 yards with narrow fairways and fairly slick greens for a non major. The greens are poa annua whereas the new greens on the North are now bentgrass.

Being a coastal track in California, form can tie in well with Pebble Beach and many players go well at both courses.

Last year the wind played a major part in proceedings on the Sunday as Snedeker shot an early 69 only to see all the leaders fall by the wayside. By the time they completed on Monday they had all gone backwards and he came out on top for the 2nd time.

The forecast isn’t for anything like that level of wind but it is usually a factor at some point over the four days.

Previous course form stacks up very well around Torrey Pines and as well as Tiger’s 8 wins there are many others who crop up on the leaderboard again and again.

Both Snedeker and Woods are two of the best at avoiding bogeys so they always fair well on tough courses. That can often be attributed to both strong scrambling skills and good putting.

I’d make bogey avoidance, scrambling, three-putt avoidance and driving distance the key stats this week but course form is perhaps more crucial than anything.

Gary Woodland looks to me like the standout bet this week. At the head of the market we have the old dilemma of whether we want to take single figure prices about Jason Day and Dustin Johnson and I think there are enough reasons to look beyond their class at a tough Championship venue like Torrey Pines. Day still hasn’t quite shown us that he is fully over his back injury and DJ doesn’t have the best of records there despite him normally enjoying tough, coastal layouts. He has also flown back from Abu Dhabi this week and that has to be another negative.

Woodland was in 2nd place there last year heading into the final round but along with 99% of the field he struggled as the wind got up and made the course extremely difficult.

He is an immense talent and has been with Butch Harmon for some time now. At his peak he doesn’t have any real weakness and given Harmon’s track record I would assume they will be leaving no stone unturned in trying to maximise Woodland’s unquestionable talent. His substantial length off the tee will always help him on tough Championship layouts and despite the fairways being narrow at Torrey Pines, history tells us that it pays to get as close to the green as possible. The last five winners have ranked 48th, 1st, 24th, 2nd and 1st for driving distance and that 48th was Snedeker last year which may be a little skewed by the brutal wind.

The greens are slick and it will certainly pay to attack them with as much loft as possible. Jimmy Walker proved this around another championship layout at Baltusrol when winning the US PGA Championship in August. He missed more fairways than most but such was his ability to find the greens with his short irons, he was still able to putt his way to victory.

Woodland is by no means anywhere near as good a putter as Walker but like Walker he generally goes better on Poa Annua greens. That is what he will face on 3 of his rounds this week and hopefully that will bring about the improvement needed on the greens. Last time out at the Sony his game was in fantastic shape as he finished in 6th place. He ranked 4th for GIR and 9th for scrambling which helped him finish 2nd in the all-round ranking.  All this was continuing where he left off in 2016 as he made it to the Tour Championship where he finished 10th and he rounded the year off with a 2nd place at the OHL Classic. He hit more greens than anyone that week and ranked 1st in the all-round. For the 2017 season he currently sits 18th in bogey avoidance and 22nd in scrambling.

It’s clear this is a player whose game has been firing on all cylinders for some time now and that was exactly the case with Hudson Swafford last week who finished up the 2016 season ranked 10th in the all-round ranking. Gary Woodland finished in 23rd and it can be a very good indication of future winners.  They have both maintained that into 2017 as they rank 16th and 29th respectively.

To me Gary Woodland’s game is in the perfect place to tackle Torrey Pines. There won’t be as many putts holed so he won’t have to all of a sudden start putting the lights out. A small improvement on a more suitable surface should see him go close.

There are a few other decent outright each way prices but I’ve sided with John Huh this week. He is a very solid player who enjoys tougher tests of golf. He finished 8th in this last year while ranking 2nd in total accuracy.

While he hasn’t exactly flown out of the blocks in 2017, prior to last week’s missed cut he did have back to back 27th place finishes. He currently ranks 15th in scrambling and 31st in bogey avoidance and at 150/1 I think he looks over priced thanks to last week’s missed cut.

Another player who I can’t leave out at 200/1 is Cameron Smith. He showed at the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay how much enjoys a proper test of golf as he finished 4th in his very first Major. He has had some mixed results but always looks more comfortable where par is a good score. He also missed the cut last week but he should be suited far more to this test and before the Christmas break he signed off with a runner-up finish in the Australian Open and a 15th in the Australian PGA. He has missed the cut on both his appearances here but I’m still convinced it should suit him so he is worth a small play.
The final bet is a rather left field Top 20 bet on New Zealander Steve Alker. He is a bit of a journey man but has shown a liking for windy courses in the past when he finished 19th at The Open in 2012 around Royal Lytham. Having gained his 2017 Tour card he has performed ok so far and finished 25th last week at the CareerBuilder. It’s entirely possible that Torrey Pines will be too long for him but if conditions do become difficult he looks over priced for a Top 20 at 20/1 in places.

 


Qatar Masters

The Qatar Masters is played around Doha Golf Club and it is an exposed course that has historically been a course where good links players prosper. The course correlates well with Gleneagles, The Portugal Masters, Alfred Dunhill Links and The Open itself.

I don’t really like the front of the market with so many of the players that will probably play well all looking too short. So instead I’m going to play three longer prices to small stakes but include a bigger bet on a them in the place markets.

First up is the Challenge Tour graduate Alexander Bjork who finished 7th on the Road to Oman to gain his 2017 card. During that successful campaign the highlight was winning the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in France in July.

He hasn’t played Qatar before, in fact he has only made 6 European Tour starts but that hasn’t held him back so far. He missed the cut on his first start when playing at the Madeira Open in 2014 but in his next 5 starts he didn’t finish worse than 45th. Indeed 4 of them have been this season and he arrives with form figures of 17-45-7-13 which stands up against most of this field.

He did visit the Emirates twice last year on Challenge Tour duty finishing 32nd in U.A.E before confirming his card by placing 7th in the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman.

Most Swedish players tend to enjoy links courses due to being familiar with playing on exposed, windy courses. I’m hoping that will be the case with Bjork and so far in his career he already has an 8th place finish in Scotland at Aviemore which is an exposed course not too dissimilar to Gleneagles.

In his four starts so far he has struggled to put all aspects of his game together in any one week but he led the field in South Africa in GIR and was 3rd in fairways hit. He followed that up by ranking 11th in scrambling and 29th in total putting last week in Abu Dhabi.

He is flying under the radar a little and I think subsequently we are getting quite a good price about someone with his form figures. He looks to have a great chance of another Top 20 even if he can’t contend.

A little low on time to cover the others here so it will be brief.

Benjamin Herbert has played well here twice before finishing 20th last year and 10th in 2015. He has a game very well suited to a links challenge and he also fisnished 10th at the Portugal Masters which ties in well with Doha Golf Course.

He has been threatening to win on The European Tour but hasn’t quite contended down the stretch yet. His prolific career on the Challenge Tour tells he isn’t afraid to win though and he remains a player worth watching through out 2017.

Chris Paisley finished his 2016 season very well with a 3rd place finish in Italy and a 5th place at the Portugal Masters.

He has missed both his Qatar Masters cuts to date but he looked a far more confident player last year and has a 12th place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Links which is another tournament that links well with Qatar. He warmed up nicely last week finishing 29th in Abu Dhabi where he putted very well. That well help him around the Doha course where putting is always crucial.

As a final little point, Paisley was part of the same Walker Cup team as Fleetwood in 2009 so hopefully he may take some extra motivation from Fleetwood’s win last week.

I’m also going to have a Top 10 double on last week’s two winners as they should both enjoy their respective tests and I don’t see winning as any sort of reason to halt their brilliant form.

 
                          Summary of Bets

Farmers Insurance Open

Gary Woodland – 1pt ew @ 40/1

John Huh – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Cameron Smith – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Steve Alker – Top 20 – 1pt @ 20/1

Qatar Masters

Alexander Bjork – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1

Benjamin Hebert – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1

Chris Paisley 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Hudson Swafford and Tommy Fleetwood – 1pt Top 10 double @ 19.25 


Weekly pts advised – 12pts

Total pts advised – 43

@theGreek82