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.

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


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


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


Hong Kong Open – Betting Preview

​Brooks Koepka never seems to perform with my money behind him and that was certainly the case last week as he played very poorly, particularly the Par 5s where he normally excels. In the end he finished well down the small field but it was still an exciting week with Tiger Woods performing so well. Granted there were a lot of errors too but the fact he made more birdies than anyone in the field after a 15 month lay-off has to be a massive positive and bodes well for his 2017 season especially if he can iron out some of the mistakes. They were undoubtedly with the driver on the whole though as he made very few unforced errors with his irons. We don’t know yet when he will be back but there is a strong chance that it will be around his beloved Torrey Pines course in January.

Just the one Tournament this week as the 2017 European Tour signs off for a Christmas break with the Hong Kong Open.

The overall results for the blog are as follows

Total pts advised = 867.50pts 

Total pts returned = 834.50pts

ROI =  -3.95%

In the new year I am going to focus on results for the calendar year but I will still be keeping track of the overall results.


                      Hong Kong Open

The last four titles at the Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling have been won by Justin Rose, Scott Hend and Miguel Angel JImenez (2) and those three are very different players so there must be more than one way to score at the course. Looking further back we have the likes of McIlroy, Montgomerie and Harrington winning here so usually one of the classier players gets to the front by Sunday.

The 6699 yard course is very short and can be quite fiddly off the tee. The greens aren’t the easiest to hit as they can often be blocked out by trees and are slightly elevated while they usually firm up over the weekend with the hot conditions. The one common factor between Rose, Jimenez and Hend was their ability to find the greens at Fanling; Hend with his power off the tee allowing him lots of wedges, Jimenez with his excellent long iron game and Rose with his relentless tee-to-green ability. This is strengthened by Monty and McIlroy being former winners as their distance control with their approaches is as good as anyone to have played on the European Tour. Perhaps Jimenez’s greatest strength over the years however was his touch around the greens and that is crucial as getting up and down is a very fair test at Fanling.

Last year Patrick Reed was 4th favourite for this and looked to be the best piece of value in the field. While the course was unknown to him he still managed to finish 4th so it is no surprise to see him favourite here. But given how poorly he played last week in the Bahamas and all the promotional work he has done this week after travelling across the world, I think he can be left out at a single figure price. Second favourite Rose would normally appeal in a field like this but given his lack of golf and the back injury that forced him to withdraw after one round last week, he too can be dismissed at just 9/1. Those wanting to get with the Englishman should at least see how he fares in the opening round. If his back is ok he will be as honest as ever after his first round and unless he sits on top of the leaderboard I don’t think his odds will collapse too much.

Fanling has some course links with other tree-lined tracks and while Miguel Angel Jimenez throws up a couple of other courses where he has won like Wentworth and Crans, the course that interests me most is Lake Karrinyup in Perth, Australia. It is another tree-lined course where somehow bombers have prospered like Thorbjorn Olesen in 2014. Visually I would say it comes closest to resembling the Hong Kong Golf Club and they both tend to play hard and fast with hitting greens crucial to scoring. Last year’s runner-up in Hong Kong, Lucas Bjerregard finished 4th at the Perth International in 2015, Ernie Els won there in 2002 and he virtually owned Wentworth during the 90s and has also won around Crans. Good links players have prevailed at both Lake Karrinyup, Fanling, Wentworth and Crans and while I don’t think we can put Jason Scrivener in that bracket as he hasn’t played too much links golf, he interests me this week.

Scrivener finished 3rd at Lake Karrinyup earlier this year when playing well and there have been signs recently that the young Australian could be coming back to some form. Interestingly he also finished 3rd here last year which to me confirms a nice link between the courses. His last start was poor as he could only finish 62nd in the Australian PGA but prior to that he was 4th at the Australian Open at Royal Sydney, another tree-lined course.

He isn’t always the most accurate of drivers but the presence of trees seems to help him either straighten up or, around short courses like Fanling, take driver out of the equation. He ranked 15th for GIR last year and while he only ranks 60th in GIR over the last 3 months he sits 11th in Par 4 scoring. He also ranks 2nd in scrambling which is always crucial here. In a market dominated by the classy favourites he looks a good each way alternative this week.

Gregory Bourdy won around Hong Kong Golf Club in 2009 and is another who has gone well at Lake Karrinyup finishing one place behind Scrivener in February. He missed the cut in South Africa last week but his GIR numbers were good and prior to that he hadn’t missed a European Tour cut since July. He had a brilliant summer in fact as he finished 18th at both the US Open and US PGA Championship and his form had been ok with a 31st in Turkey, a 20th at the Nedbank and a 35th at the DP World Championship. All those courses are too long for the short hitting Frenchman however and he is far more suited to this week’s challenge as he proved in 2009 when he beat a very strong field including McIlroy, Poulter, McDowell and Westwood.

Bourdy is a 4 time winner on Tour and should be respected on courses like this where his accuracy and brilliant short game can help him contend. Currently ranking 17th in the all-round and 19th in GIR over the last 3 months he looks to have a good chance on a course he enjoys.

Siddikur Rahman is one of the shortest hitters on any Tour but he is extremely accurate and is also a brilliant scrambler. He finished 18th here last year and has popped up a few times in co-sanctioned events over the last few years, his best performance being a 2nd in Mauritius in May on the European Tour.

I think he has possibly been dismissed too easily at 250/1 in a field lacking any real depth. He looks worth a small each way play as well as a top 20 bet.

                       Summary of Bets

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Jason Scrivener – 1pt ew @ 90/1

Siddikur Rahman – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Weekly pts advised – 6 pts

Total pts advised – 873.50pts 

Merry Christmas to all readers and I’ll be back with a preview of the Tournament of Champions in the New Year.


RSM Classic and DP World Championship – Betting Preview 

Another week on the PGA Tour and yet another long odds surprise winner. This time Pat Perez obliged after some 7 years without a win and having missed the bulk of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. In truth he had shown something having returned to Tour with a 33rd and 7th before Mexico but few could have predicted him winning in such fashion and it was another excellent PGA Tour week for the bookmakers. Bradley and Huh both played quite well without ever really threatening to do anything and finished inside the Top 25.
Events were a little more straight-forward in South Africa with Alexander Noren picking up his 4th win in his last 11 starts to fire himself to World No. 9 which is by some distance his career high. After Thursday I was actually feeling quite good about the Stenson bet as he was traded at a low of around 2.8 but that feeling was short lived as he struggled badly on Friday and was always just too far behind to mount a proper challenge to either his compatriot Noren or the impressive Wang while he was out in front.

The results are as follows;

Total pts advised =  846pts

Total pts returned = 825.56pts 

ROI = -2.5%

After 2016 is finished I plan to continue with the results over calendar years rather than ongoing. As ever though, I will make results available to anyone who might want them.

This week we have the final official PGA Tour event of the year with the RSM Classic and the 2016 European Tour season culminates with the DP World Championship in Dubai.

                          RSM CLASSIC

We cross back over the border this week for The RSM Classic which will take place at Sea Island Golf Club, Georgia. It is in its seventh running and it was previously known as The Mcgladrey Classic until last year due to a change of sponsor. The resort itself is very picturesque and has resulted in many Tour pros setting up home in the Sea Island area. Indeed this tournament was actually initiated by Davis Love III and Zach Johnson who are two of the biggest names to live there. There are several other players who reside there and it is definitely worth paying close attention to those who will be able to sleep in their own beds this week while playing on a course they know intimately. As well as possibly living in the area we should also take note of those who regularly play well in the area and indeed those that attended The University of Georgia. Last year’s winner Kevin Kisner was a “Georgia Bulldog”, he was born and bred just over the border in South Carolina and he had a fairly solid bank of form around the East coast area. Those were the heady of days of 2015 however when there seemed to be a little bit of logic to golf betting and Kisner was indeed a very obvious winner.

This week there are two courses in play as they all have a round on the Plantation Course (7,058 yard Par 70) as well as the main Seaside Course (7,055 yard Par 70) before those that make the cut continue over the Seaside at the weekend. Both courses are fairly short with a good spread of trees and water in play. Length off the tee isn’t really a huge advantage around Sea Island and therefore it is another week where the shorter hitters usually contend. The fairways aren’t overly narrow but finding the correct landing areas is imperative to getting close to the flags on the Seaside Course. The greens on both courses are on the larger side and are bermuda.

The last 5 winners are a mix of accurate drivers, neat and tidy wedge games but above all strong putters; Kevin Kisner, Robert Streb, Chris Kirk, Tommy Gainey and Ben Crane being those five men. A look at the stats from recent renewals backs that idea up. Kevin Kisner ranked 9th for GIR, 3rd for scrambling and 2nd for total putting last year. Robert Streb ranked 1st in total putting and Chris Kirk, while not putting as well as usual, ranked 15th for GIR and 5th for scrambling. Tommy Gainey and Ben Crane both won their titles with a brilliant display on the greens, each ranking 2nd for total putting.

Having watched Kisner’s win very closely last year the one thing that caught my eye was how he peppered the flags and then appeared to hole everything in the 5ft-20ft range. The same could often be said about an in-form Chris Kirk or Robert Streb which got me thinking whether there was any one stat that might link the Sea Island winners. To me, “Scoring relative to par from approaches 125-150 yards” looks pretty much perfect. It is better than simply looking at proximity as it also takes into account whether a player is actually taking advantage of repeatedly hitting their wedges in close to the pin. Streb, Kirk and Kisner all ranked inside the Top 10 for this stat in either the season of their win or the season just finished. Beyond the normal stats I think this looks to be a very important one this week and we should also consider the 100-125 and 150-175 yard categories to allow for the longer and shorter hitters. Kisner had also shown a liking for bermuda greens earlier in the year when finishing 2nd at both Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass.

With the way 2016 is going I should really know better than pick someone so obvious but I’ve been over this a few times and I simply can’t get away from Chris Kirk this week. I know he is probably too short a price but so too are most of the market leaders. Kirk is actually the slight favourite for this at around 18/1and while you could look at Jim Furyk at 35/1 and baulk at him being double the price, you could also look at Charles Howell III (35/1) and wonder how Kirk is only half of his price. Ultimately, the odds that someone is prepared to take on a player can be very personal and there will be many this week that will easily dismiss Kirk at the odds. But I have just about made peace with the fact that I’m going to back him as I actually think he might win. Kisner was similarly short last year and I still backed him and that worked out ok. It could just be that Sea Island is a good venue for those expected to go well and how badly we need one of those!

Chris Kirk has everything going for him this week and more. As the 2013 winner here we know he likes the course, he studied in Georgia, he lives nearby, and he followed up his win with a 4th place finish as defending champion. Another solid showing last year resulted in a T18th when he was in fairly poor form and still suffering from a slight President’s Cup hangover having made his U.S. team debut the previous month.

However this season he has three top 10s from just four tournaments with the pick of those a runner-up finish at The Sanderson Farms. When finishing 7th last week he ranked 5th for total driving and 2nd for GIR and when his long game is that strong he is a real danger, especially in this relatively week field. His putter actually let him down a little last week but there is no way he will let that happen again on these bermuda greens which he knows as well as anyone.

While I was keen on Kirk long before I saw his price, it was his stats that pushed me over the line and helped me to take the short price. After establishing that “Scoring – Approaches (RTP) from 125-150 yards” would be important I noticed that Kirk currently sits in 20th for that stat but also 31st for  the 100-25 yard category. We know he is keeping the ball in the fairway so with several short par 4s I’d expect to see him with plenty of birdie putts inside 20ft and there are normally very few better from that range, certainly in this field. Kirk currently ranks 10th for strokes gained: putting and a solid 45th for scrambling.

The shock winners can’t continue all season and while it didn’t work last week with Bradley, this method did work very well at the RSM Classic last year so with the only negative being his price, Kirk is a confident selection to win his 5th PGA Tour title playing in his own back yard.

As an alternative to the favourite, Jamie Lovemark looks an excellent each way bet at 80/1 off the back of his 9th place finish on his debut last year, but if we explore further then the value looks to be standout this week. He drove it further than everyone that week but he also hit more greens than anyone else which can normally be a very hard thing to do around Sea Island. His stats are looking good again this year for this test as he sits 39th in strokes gained: putting, 17th in scrambling and 23rd in “Scoring RTP from 100-125 yards”. That will be the range that he will find himself having left for his approach on a lot of these Par 4s given his length off the tee.

Lovemark is another player who was threatening to win last season but so far he has eased into the 2017 season. He is playing well though and with a 35th place finish last week I think he will arrive at Sea Island with fond memories of the course from last year and hopefully he can improve on his second look. 

Trey Mullinax is yet another in the long list of 2017 exciting young rookies and while he hasn’t performed as well as the likes of Cody Gribble or Seamus Power yet he is of interest this week at a course that suits. The best part of Mullinax’s game is his putting so he was on my shortlist before I discovered he was one of the many PGA Tour players that practice regularly at the Sea Island Performance Centre. This means he will be familiar with the course and might help explain how he finished 25th last year on just his 3rd PGA Tour start. Mullinax ranks 6th for birdie average over the last 3 months and 9th in Par 4 scoring over the same time so this probably looks the best course for him so far this season. He looks well worth an each way interest this week at 150/1.

             DP World Championship

The Final Series on The European Tour has taken a bit of a bashing lately but the Tour has definitely been helped out by the way events have panned out on the Race to Dubai. It’s still relatively open with Henrik Stenson, Danny Willet, Alex Noren and Rory McIlroy all still in with a mathematical chance of winning the 2016 title. This should make for an exciting tournament and hopefully the finale that the European Tour deserves.

The course is the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Estate in Dubai as has been the norm since 2009. It is an extremely long course at 7675 yards and subsequently over the years it has always been won by some of the best ball strikers the European Tour has to offer.

Two of those lead the way this week in Rory McIlroy and Henri Stenson and few could argue with that given we have to go back to 2011 to find a different name on the trophy. They are both very short prices and while either one of them could win by 10 strokes here it certainly looks worthwhile trying to find some each way alternatives in a market that they dominate.

With Victor Dubuisson hovering on the leaderboard in South Africa on Sunday I’m sure there were many waiting on his price on Monday morning given his strong form at the Earth Course here in Dubai. He has finished 9th, 2nd and 3rd on his three appearances to date so when some firms opened at 90/1 then people must have thought Christmas had come early and he was very quickly cut. Unfortunately I missed that and now there is only a little bit of 45/1 around but with his whole game looking sharp last week that still rates a bet for me.

His long game in particular was in fantastic shape last week as he ranked 2nd for total driving and 4th in GIR, which is generally the skillset that wins this. The brutally long course demands distance off the tee and accurate long irons into the heavily undulating greens which are well protected by bunkers and water. 

Away from McIlroy and Stenson, Dubuisson probably has the best course form and is a very obvious pick so even at 45/1 he looks a solid each way prospect. He has had a poor 2016 but at his best he is top class and we know he can win in this strong a field having twice won a Final Series tournament in Turkey. Hopefully last week was the enigmatic Frenchman returning to somewhere near his best and if that is the case he should contend again on a course that suits his eye.

Last year I was ruing not backing Andy Sullivan in the outright market at around 50/1. I fancied he would go well but only backed him in the Top 10 market. After chasing McIlroy home last year his price is nowhere near as fancy this time around but all the same logic applies. His long game has been back to its best over the last couple of months and despite appearing to have a poor Ryder Cup, Sullivan actually played as well as McIlroy in the opening session, if not better than, and was a little unlucky not to play again until the Sunday.

Last week in South Africa he ranked 4th in total driving and 21st in GIR which helped to 2nd in the all-round ranking and a 3rd place finish overall.

I didn’t love his price when he first opened on the Exchange but there is still some 25/1 around and that looks like a perfectly fair price. The same names always appear on the leaderboard in Dubai each year and after a brilliant debut last year I’m sure we will see the smiling Nuneaton man in contention again this year.

With Stenson and McIlroy no doubt set to fill two of the places I’m keeping my outright bets at two and instead having a small Top 10 bet on someone who is having an excellent year. I’ve had a little success with Tyrell Hatton this year despite missing out on his win. He started badly in the feature group last week alongside Stenson and Willet but away from the spotlight he rallied well to finish 25th and his driving was on point as he finished 11th for total driving. He is another player with a good record around the course despite his tee-to-green game not being anywhere close to this year’s standard in the past. He finished 6th on his debut immediately getting to grips with the greens and he then returned a 13th last year. Hatton is a far more accomplished player now and has his European Tour win to prove it. He plays his best stuff on links and desert tracks with an 8th place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic in February this year before his excellent Links performances this summer culminated in a St Andrews win at the Alfred Dunhill. At 3/1 he looks a rock solid Top 10 bet this week in a field of just 60.

                  SUMMARY OF BETS

RSM Classic

Chris Kirk – 1.5pt ew @ 18/1

Jamie Lovemark – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Trey Mullinax – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

DP World Championship

Victor Dubuisson – 1pt ew @ 45/1

Andy Sullivan – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Tyrell Hatton – 1pt Top 10 @ 3/1

Weekly pts advised – 10.5pts

Total advised pts – 856.5pts


WGC HSBC Champions – Betting Preview

There were no returns last week as we sided with the wrong former winner in Malaysia but it was nice to see course form hold up so strongly as I expected. What was a surprise was how brilliantly Thomas played given that he was defending his first PGA Tour title. Moore played ok for us as did Cejka and Curran but at no point did any of them really look giving us any returns.

The same can’t be said in Portugal however as Joakim Lagergren had another excellent week on the European Tour. Unfortunately though he threw in an untimely bogey just as things were heating up on Sunday and that resulted in a 15th place finish when a Top 5 looked a possibility as he started his back 9.

What all that means for the blog though is that it dips into negative ROI for the first time since the US PGA in 2015. It has been a tough year but that can all turn around with one win. With the co-sanctioned HSBC Champions event taking centre stage I’m focussing on that and leaving the Sandersons Championship alone until I have had sufficient time to cast an eye over the new batch of PGA Tour recruits.

Total pts advised – 824pts

Total pts returned – 819.89

ROI =  -0.5%


WGC HSBC Champions

With the exception of the 2012 running, Sheshan Golf Club has been the venue for the WGC HSBC Champions dating back to its inception in 2005 season so there is no shortage of course form this week. The tournament didn’t gain WGC status until 2009 however and it was only in 2013 when it became fully sanctioned by all three main Tours.

The course was designed by the renowned Asia based team of Nelson and Haworth and plays 7266 yards long with undulating, tree-lined fairways, elevated bent grass greens and plenty water in play particularly for approach shots. The design team are quoted as saying that they were influenced by Donald Ross’ Oak Hill course which has a lot of varied Par 4s with many elevation changes particularly on tee-shots.

Given that two recent winners were Bubba and Dustin Johnson you would think that length off the tee was a prerequisite but Bubba had to hole his bunker shot at 18 in 2014 to force a play-off with Tim Clark who is one of the shorter hitters on Tour. Just last year Russell Knox won his first PGA Tour title and in doing so became the first Scot to win a WGC. He is another short, accurate player very similar to 2010 winner Francesco Molinari. All three of those players are excellent with their long irons so while different types can prosper it would seem that distance control when trying to hit the greens and indeed getting the ball as close to the flag as possible are key to scoring at Sheshan. The Par 5s are usually key at Sheshan but there are two ways to play as we have seen the bombers overpower them but also the accurate types pepper the flags with their sharp wedge game.

Moreover, every part of the game has to be working to contend at Sheshan and that is evident when we look at the stats from the last three years. In both 2014 and 2015 the top four in the all-round ranking all finished inside the Top 5 on Sunday. In 2013 six of the top seven were all ranked in the top 7 in the all-round ranking.

A look at USPGA Oak Hill form would be of interest to me but there aren’t too many of those from the 2013 leaderboard teeing it up this week. The most recent Donald Ross course to have been played on Tour was East Lake which held the Tour Championship but perhaps a better guide to this week’s course is Sedgefield which hosts the Wyndham Championship. If Sheshan was based on Oak Hill then playing well in the Wyndham can only be a positive as the two courses have many similarities.

Both Knox and Kisner showed last year that course experience isn’t required at the HSBC Champions as they were making their debuts. It is far more important to still have a hunger at this stage of the season as several of the game’s best players are running on empty and perhaps aren’t as focussed as some of the lesser lights who haven’t played in that many WGC’s and are viewing this as a stepping stone in their career. Knox and Kisner certainly both did that last year as Kisner went on to win two weeks later and Knox won again in the summer. It is worth looking at players who fit a similar profile to them as last year, players who have had a very good year, are still in form and will be giving this tournament the respect it deserves as Asia’s primary golf event.

The market this week is headed by Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and few could argue that they aren’t deserving of their single figure quotes. Although I don’t think either of them will be motivated enough to come out on top this week. McIlroy is coming off an exhausting Ryder Cup and is apparently trialling new clubs this week while Dustin Johnson has already had a career year and it’s reasonable to assume he won’t be as focussed as he was earlier in the season. With them taking up so much of the market however, there are some value prices down the field.

I’m getting almost tired of writing about Patrick Reed but I’m desperate not to miss out on his next big win which I believe is on its way soon. Despite having a slow patch in the middle of the year, 2016 has been quite good to Reed. When he announced to the world in 2014 that he was a “top 5 player” he was largely mocked in the U.S.A but it was interesting to see the same pundits and fans come full circle in their opinion of Reed when he led their Ryder Cup charge last month.

I’ve watched him closely since that WGC win in March 2014 and I very quickly realised that he wasn’t joking around. We hear a lot about the talents of Spieth and Day on and around the greens but at his best Reed is every bit as good as them. I don’t remember seeing anyone else since Tiger chip the ball with such perfect weight from any sort of lie. His short game is as good on tight lies as it is in lush green rough and it’s a huge skill to have. His putting is also brilliant and he has the same ability to judge the pace perfectly from distance while also being aggressive enough from inside 15ft to make more than his share of putts. However it was his putting that was holding him back from February onwards until he turned it around gradually over the summer and got his win at Bethpage Black when he triumphed at the Barclays. He held that hot putter over to the Ryder Cup where he top scored for the U.S team with more magic around the greens and a very solid iron game. His game is in perfect all-round condition and with his warm-up in Kuala Lumpur last week he will be perfectly acclimatised for this event in China.

He has some very strong course form too with a 7th place finish last year and a 22nd on his debut in 2014. But if we look more closely at his results then we can see how well this course suits him; last year he had the best combined ranking for GIR and scrambling (10th +2nd= 12) but also the best combined ranking for GIR, scrambling and putting (10+2+23 = 35). That makes it very hard to work out how he was 5 shots behind the winner but what it does make clear is that he plays the course very, very well. That wasn’t just a one off either, on his debut he ranked 12th for GIR and 9th for scrambling but he just struggled on his first look at the greens.  Reed also lost in a play-off on his only other appearance in China so it is fair to expect him to play well there again.

A player like Patrick Reed is always hungry for big wins so he will be in China with only one thing on his mind. He finished down the field last week in Malaysia but he was coming off a well-earned rest after his Ryder Cup heroics. History tells us that it’s important to have had a warm-up prior to playing the HSBC so it will have been a good chance for him to fine tune his game. Ignoring that result he arrives in excellent form, he is putting brilliantly and he has played well on the course before. From a stats point of view then he should also be suited to the challenge again this year as he ranks 6th in birdie average, 7th in Par 5 scoring and 22nd in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months.

At 33/1 and only 9th favourite, Reed looks a great bet again this week as he tries to make it third time lucky at the course and bag his 2nd World Golf Championship at just 26 years of age. 

Paul Casey’s form has been so good lately that his price has been extremely short for someone who only has 1 win on US soil in 11 years on the PGA Tour. But the key here this week is that he is playing in China rather than the U.S.A. His record in China is a lot better having won there twice early in his career but also racking up another twelve top 10s from 24 career appearances. His form in the HSBC Champions at Sheshan in particular reads 23-20-4-6-w-11-9-6-7 so he is well suited to the course. His 2005 China Open win came at another Nelson and Hawarth design at Shenzhen so there is every reason to believe he will hold his form over for another week. Prior to his 21st place finish in Malaysia last week he returned the each-way money in four consecutive tournaments. He currently ranks 1st in the all-round ranking on the PGA Tour for the last 3 months and that will help him with the test that Sheshan brings. Back out to a reasonable price of 25/1 he looks a very solid each way bet.

I’m leaving it at two outright picks this week and instead I have included a few place bets. I can’t believe I’m actually tipping Richard Bland but as I’m focussing on the all-round golf game this week he has to be backed in some shape or form. Bland is the ultimate journey-man, never having won on the European Tour but over the last few years he has developed a remarkable consistency for finishing between 5th and 20th . But this season he has stepped it up and has been quoted as saying that he has taken a more aggressive approach, especially with his putting. That has paid off as he sits in 25th place in the Race To Dubai courtesy of seven Top 10s and amazingly this one-time awful putter sits in 14th in total putting over the last 3 months.

His tee-to green game has always been arrow straight and I think he could be suited to Sheshan. I’m not for a second suggesting he can win but I think a Top 20 at 9/2 looks to be some decent value given his recent run of form. He has finished in the Top 20 in his last six starts recording the following; 5th,16th, 5th, 7th, 18th and 4th two weeks ago at the British Masters. Having qualified for his first WGC he decided to give Portugal a miss last week so that he could give his full attention to China.

He has some decent form in Asia too with a 3rd place at the China Open earlier this year and also a 6th place finish in the Malaysian Maybank Championship in February. That was held at another Nelson and Hawarth design where he ranked 3rd for both GIR and scrambling suggesting that his neat and tidy game could be suited to the design team’s flagship course. In truth we don’t know how Bland will fare in this strong a field but there is something different about him this year and something tells me he won’t be phased. If not then 9/2 is a very fair price for a man playing the best golf of his career.

Bernd Wiesberger has been the model of consistency over the last 6 weeks and he carries with him form figures of 2nd-7th-5th-2nd. Perhaps then it shouldn’t be a surprise that he ranks 2nd in the all-round ranking, 3rd in Par 5 scoring and 4th in Par 4 scoring over the last 3 months. What is surprising though, is that he hasn’t won anywhere since July 2015 and it has often been his putting that has let him down. There has been anotable improvement in that department recently though and he sits 20th in total putting for the last 3 months. I was considering an outright wager on the Austrian until I saw firstly his price and then secondly his very average record playing in China.He is without a top 10 in 10 visits to the country but he does have progressive form figures of 28-17 from his two appearances around Sheshan. With his whole game in great shape a top 10 looks very achievable for him this week.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello looks to me to fit the perfect profile for a player that will be motivated to play well this week. He has had a brilliant 2016, finding success in both Europe and on the PGA Tour but he is still missing the win. I don’t think he is quite ready to get it in this company as his much improved putting still probably won’t stand up against the best on a nervy Sunday. But I expect him to put another 4 strong rounds together here to finish somewhere around 8th and therefore he looks like another worthwhile play in the Top 10 market.

Summary of Bets

WGC HSBC Champions

Patrick Reed – 1.5pts ew @ 33/1

Paul Casey – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Richard Bland – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt Top 10 @ 5/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 1pt Top 10 @ 5/1


Weekly points advised – 9pts

Total points advised – 833pts


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