US PGA Championship 2019 – Betting Preview

Places for Aphibarnrat, Jones and Eddie Pepperell made it a good week and we are back in profit again heading into the second major of the year, or the third from last shot at glory as I’m going to call it…..Considering none of them were really in contention through the week it was pretty good to get three returns and boosts the confidence ahead of trying to pick apart the strongest field in golf. Results are as follows;

2019 pts advised = 228

2019 pts returned = 245.46

ROI = 7.66%


US PGA

As someone who doesn’t really like change, the new major schedule is going to take a lot of getting used to. Right now the thought of having another major this week is extremely exciting and then very quickly the U.S. Open will arrive. However the thought of having to wait some 9 months for the next major after Rickie Fowler lifts the Claret Jug in July isn’t such a pleasing proposition. Why dwell on that now though! Lets just enjoy what we have on the horizon and in this week’s case it’s a breathtaking event. With Tiger back on the major train, numerous world class players all with strong cases to be made and a US PGA with the deepest field in golf there should be no end of drama. The fact that Bethpage Black is hosting only boosts that idea as we get a long, tough U.S. Open style course but set up a little more favorably as is the US PGA norm.

Bethpage Black is a 7468 yard par 71 and is widely regarded as one of the toughest courses in the U.S. Opened in 1936 and designed by the famous A.W. Tillinghast it is a parkland course and features poa annua greens much like all his courses in the greater New York area. We have seen it in use a few times lately with it hosting the 2012 and 2016 Barclays Championship and going further back the 2002 and 2009 US Opens. The two US Opens saw winning scores of -3 and -4 while the Barclays were a little easier at -10 and -9 respectively. I’d expect to see a similar set up to the Barlcays events and anyone getting to double figures will surely be towards the top of the leaderboard come Sunday night. Form on other Tillinghast courses always stacks up and Phil Mickelson in particular boasts an impressive major record on them back in the 2000s when his courses were never far from the major rota. Baltusrol GC, Winged Foot, Bellerive and Ridgewood CC are perhaps his most famous courses away from Bethpage, while Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines are two other similar championship layouts with poa greens.

The underlying difficulty at Bethpage is just how relentless the course is and the players won’t be able to lose concentration for a second this week. It isn’t a tricked up course that will be unfair and everything is laid out in front of them, good shots will be rewarded and everything else punished. We won’t see the rough overly thick I don’t believe but courses in the New York area are always lush green so it still won’t be easy to hit greens out of the rough. As ever the bombers will be hitting their approach shots from considerably nearer the hole and this is a feature at every long championship course now despite even the “thick rough” US Open narratives we hear every June. Lately almost every name on a major leaderboard is someone that regularly gets it out there over 300 yards off the tee. That’s not to say shorter hitters can’t prevail but they will need to have their iron game seriously dialled in this week. The forecast rain early in the week is only going to compound that with fairway run-out probably minimal. The majority of the greens at Bethpage are also raised up and heavily protected by bunkers so a high-ball flight will be required to hold the greens. Everything about this week is suggesting to me that power will be the number one attribute yet again.

With these well protected and raised greens not only will approach shots be crucial but distance control in particular. Players will be forced to carry their numbers perfectly to reach and then hold greens and going at flags won’t be nearly as important as just finding greens in regulation. There is a reason Colin Montgomerie came closest to winning a major at Tillighast’s Winged Foot. The green complexes are similar and there were few better in the game at hitting their approaches pin high than Monty in his pomp. So players that can hit their irons consistently the right distance should go well this week, therefore GIR will be important but also some applied knowledge away from the stats. Players like Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia have always been superb at hitting their numbers so anyone that you consider to have that trait is probably worth a second look.

bethpage-black-18th-hole-pga-championship

While the rough might not present US Open style problems for approach shots it will be interesting with regards to scrambling around the greens. Last week at Trinity Forest we saw tightly mown links style aprons and run-offs which allowed lower bump and runs around the greens. Bethpage will be more like what we see at Augusta and Torrey Pines where touch and imagination will be required to save par when missing the greens.

Looking at past statistics at Bethpage only serves to confirm the importance of the long game. The four winners there (Reed 2016, Watney 2012, Glover 2008 and Woods 2002) have ranked 13th, 2nd, 4th and 1st in GIR while they were also 28th, 9th, 3rd and 2nd in total driving. Nick Watney scrambled terribly when he won but so did most of the field as they averaged just 45% success in getting up and down. The other three winners were 10th, 8th and 12th for scrambling. Obviously none of the 4 putted terribly but their averages for total putting were 45th, 21st, 9th and 43rd. Only 2016 has the full strokes gained breakdowns and Reed was 27th in strokes gained: putting while Scott managed to finish 4th despite ranking 76th that category! Reed ranked 3rd in strokes gained: tee to green. From a scoring point of view both Barclays winners came 1st for par 5 scoring but both Major winners were 1st in par 4 scoring. With one less par 5 in play for majors than normal I’d probably make the par 4s more important especially as the majority are rather long.

One additional observation from the stats is how the winners here didn’t do anything badly and the two Barclays winners were 8th and 4th in the all-round ranking while both Major winners ranked 1st. So you could just skip the rest and go straight to the all-round ranking stat on the PGA Tour website and back the first 3; Thomas, Koepka and McIlroy. Interestingly all three of those have won the US PGA in the last 5 years! This even further highlights the need to be doing most things well in the run-up to a PGA Championship. I have actually gone a little further down that all-round ranking and my main two picks sit 7th and 8th respectively.

Jon Rahm has delivered for me in the last two majors and I firmly believe he is trending towards a major so the calendar change looks ideal for him. While he enjoys Augusta there is no question that a US PGA looks his best chance of getting off the mark. So getting to play PGA-Masters-PGA is going to be of benefit to him and all the other bombers too. A long and difficult US Open course set up for a US PGA has Rahm written all over it for me.

When the US PGA followed the WGC Bridgestone in the schedule there was one of the strongest trends in golf relating to a high finish the week before. It made so much sense as it is almost impossible to come out on top of the deepest field in golf if you aren’t playing well coming in. Not only does Rahm tick the form box but he won his most recent start at the Zurich team affair alongside Ryan Palmer.

This season Rahm ranks 2nd in strokes gained: off the tee while he backs up that power with 62nd in strokes gained: approaches and 59th in strokes gained: putting. But for those who don’t like these modern stats approaches Rahm probably ranks close to 1st in the sarcastic “strokes gained: golf shots” category. There are very few in the game that seem to just always find a way of getting the ball in the hole, even when he is having a tantrum and behaving like an idiot he will follow a petulant double bogey with a run of birdies and his sheer determination seems to lift his game for the big events. His win on his debut at Torrey Pines in 2017 pretty much announced him as a future major winner. He took a little time to get used to major golf but I believe he now knows what it takes and is definitely managing to rein in the emotions a little. He has finished 9th-4th in his last two majors and I think that is a sign of things to come over the next 15-20 years. Even at just 24 there is a feeling that he is focussed mainly on the majors and I think he is a cracking each way bet at 18/1 to carry on his run and contend again.

I also put Jason Day up for the last two majors and I have to keep to the same theme again with him having also delivered at the Masters. Everything applies to Day that applies to Rahm pretty much but we get the added bonus of some course form and being a proven major winner. He played in both the Barclays events in 2012 and 2016 finishing 24th and 4th respectively and with the set up being similar I’m expecting a big week. Day absolutely loves Tillinghast courses even beyond Bethpage having finished runner-up at Baltusrol, contending for 3 rounds at Bellerive and he has three Top 20s at Ridgewood. He also knows how to win on poa greens as a two time winner at Torrey Pines and I really think that course could be a good marker for Bethpage (Watney and Woods have both won there and Glover has a 3rd and 4th). He has played just once since the Masters but kept things ticking over nicely with a 24th at Quail Hollow which will have been a fitting warm-up for Bethpage. As ever he is putting brilliantly this season ranking 11th in strokes gained: putting and he is 5th in strokes gained: off the tee. It has been his iron play that has held him back this year but he usually manages to up that for the big events. If he is injury free then everything else looks to be in his favour and we can expect another big week at a very fair 25/1.

I really wanted to add Patrick Reed too and there is no question he is a good price at around 60/1. However I just don’t think he has shown enough recently despite being the last man to win around Bethpage. Instead I’ll add three more at bigger prices who should all be suited to the course.

Patrick Cantlay showed at the Masters just how good he is and his rock-solid tee-to-green game makes him another who could rack up top 10 finishes on these sort of courses for years to come. After nearly winning at Augusta he went on to contend again the very next week at The Heritage and he will arrive at Bethpage in a bullish mood. That Masters T9th was his first major top 10 and going straight to another suitable course there is a great chance of us seeing his 2nd top 10 arrive at the earliest opportunity. Cantlay is 10th in strokes gained: tee to green and leads the Tour in par 4 scoring but it’s his short to mid range putting that can let him down. However with Bethpage not really being focussed too much on the putting, another ball-striking clinic should see him towards the upper echelons of the leaderboard again come Sunday.

I will probably bet Hao Tong Li for a Top 20 finish in every major for the foreseeable future while we are still getting as good a price as 6/1. I’m also including him as an outright bet due to the 10 places on offer. Li’s power game off the tee together with his accurate mid to long iron game make long championship courses ideal for him so I expect him to rack up the high finishes in such events going forward. He is 12th in strokes gained: tee to green on the European Tour while his proximity numbers on the PGA are impressive. He is 1st for approaches from 175-200 yards while he is 16th from 150-175 yards in the rough. Li also holes out brilliantly under pressure and scrambles very well making him a far bigger threat than 125/1 suggests. He is also in fine form having finished 4th last time out in China.

I figured I might as well keep both of the Zurich winners on the team as Ryan Palmer loves Tillinghast courses and played superbly alongside Rahm. He has been 13th and 24th on his last two visits to Bethpage while he has been 5th on both his Ridgewood CC appearances. Considering he was having a quiet enough season some of his stats are also excellent for this. He ranks T3rd in Par 4 scoring and 32nd in strokes gained: approaches while he still retains a lot of his power and it’s his ability out of the rough that makes him look quite interesting. He ranks 5th in GIR from anywhere other than fairway and 16th in proximity to the hole from approaches from the rough. Both these will be crucial and arriving in confident mood after his win Palmer should enjoy himself here. I’m going to have a small play in the outright and the top 20 market.

A ball-striking test on a long, soft course where putting shouldn’t matter and Lucas Glover won the last major held there. If ever there was a course to play Keegan Bradley then this is surely it! Bradley’s putting woes are well broadcast these days but he remains one of the best tee-to-green operators on Tour. He is 10th in strokes gained: tee to green and 12th in total driving. He hits his irons higher than probably 99% of players in the game and he will relish the difficult ball-striking test. I’m not sure I can advise an outright bet on him but at the same time I couldn’t put anyone off a small play at 300+ on the Exchange. Instead I’ll go 1pt top 20 at a massive 6/1.

Sung Hoon Kang actually shot a low round of the week 64 at Bethpage in 2016 and with the form he has shown this season he looks worth a small play in the Top 20 market. Having got his maiden win last week I’d expect him to carry that form over and play well this week. He has played in 5 majors to date and never missed a cut so he shouldn’t be overawed by the occasion. The Sunday Bethpage 64 helped him to 18th and a repeat of something similar looks possible

Ryan Moore hasn’t done much lately but his course form is strong enough to side with here and he is another lover of Tillinghast designs having won his US Amateur around Winged Foot and he was 7th here at the Barlcays in 2016 and 10th at the US Open in 2009. Moore’s distance control is superb and that’s why we usually see him play par 3s so well. He is also a very straight driver of the ball and while he might struggle to contend with the bombers here I think a Top 20 is definitely achievable and he looks a little over priced to do so at 5/1.

I was going to leave it at that until I noticed Adam Scott’s price just before I was about to post. He is around 40-50/1 to win but also a general 2/1 for a Top 20 (3.45 on the Exchange!). Considering how solid his tee-to-green game is the 2/1 made me look closer. Scott has finished inside the top 20 at 28 of his 72 majors but looking more recently when he developed a real consistency at that level it gets even better. He has been in the top 20 on 22 of his last 37 majors working out at 59% or a 1.68 shot going on history alone. Even looking at all 72 majors he is 39% or a 2.57 shot. But if we consider how much better Scott is on a rain softened course and that he has been top 20 in 6 of his last 8 US PGAs then this really does look like a solid bet worth getting properly stuck into. But we’re still not done! Scott was also in the top 20 on his last two starts with a 12th at the Players and 18th at the Masters. He was also 4th the last time he played Bethpage Black! I’m going to finish with a confident 4 points @ 2/1 on value alone. (If you have a Betfair account he is currently 3.45 on the Exchange)

FRL bets

As ever a few small fun bets in the first round leader market. I could have ended up with 8 but have narrowed it down to 4 bets all at decent odds. I realise that’s maybe too many for people to be backing but I’ve backed them all so felt like I had to include them.

I don’t usually like to double up in this market by Ryan Palmer’s case looked a little too compelling. He sits 16th in 1st round scoring and has started quite quickly in the past on rain softened major courses, notably a 65 at Valhalla when McIlroy won his 2nd PGA. He opened with a 67 at Torrey Pines and a 68 at Ridgewood in September. He has a later tee-time of 12:32 but it might pay to spread it around a little as the weather could be changeable.

Emiliano Grillo was 2nd at Bethpage last time in 2016 and he opened with a 67 for 3rd place after round 1. In the two majors he has played on Tillinghast courses he has opened with a66 at Baltusrol in 2015 and a 69 at Bellerive last year. Grillo is a long and straight driver who chipping and putting on greens that don’t have too much bite. With so much rain forecast ahead of Thursday he should enjoy the conditions. He sits in 30th for 1st round scoring this year and from a tee-time of 12:32 he looks interesting.

Justin Harding started his Masters career well with an opening 69 and went on to finish in 12th position. He has maintained his form since then and most recently finished 10th last week at Trinity Forest. He drives the ball long and straight and currently sits 5th in total driving. His approach play isn’t quite up to the same standard as the rest of his game but he is actually very good from the rough currently ranking 1st in proximity to the hole from the rough. His ball flight might be a little too low to contend if things firm up over the weekend but he could start well on a receptive course from an early tee-time on Thursday (07:29).

Unfortunately another double up here with Adam Scott but conditions will just be too ideal on Thursday to leave him out. He has a habit of starting majors fast so looks worth siding with from a 7:40am tee time when the poa greens will be at their best.


Summary of Bets

US PGA

Jon Rahm – 3pts ew @ 18/1

Jason Day – 2pts ew @ 25/1 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Patrick Cantlay – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Hao Tong Li – 0.5pts ew @ 125/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 6/1

Ryan Palmer – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Keegan Bradley – 1pt Top 20 @ 6/1

Ryan Moore – 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Sung Hoon Kang – 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Adam Scott – 4pts Top 20 @ 2/1

FRL

Ryan Palmer – 0.25pts ew @ 110/1

Emiliano Grillo – 0.25pts ew @ 95/1

Justin Harding – 0.25pts ew @ 100/1

Adam Scott – 0.5pts ew @ 40/1

(all outrights are 1/5 odds 10 places with Betfair or Skybet, Top 20s general price. All 1RL are 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Weekly pts advised = 26.5pts

Advertisements

Byron Nelson and British Masters – Betting Preview

A pretty shitty week last week but I was probably due one after three profitable weeks in a row. I won’t dwell on things too long though as we have two excellent events this week both on proper links style courses and therefore lots of good angles in to the betting.

2019 pts advised = 210

2019 pts returned = 216.86

ROI = 3.27%


Byron Nelson

The move to Trinity Forest last year was met with mixed reviews but I’m all for Tournaments at courses that don’t convene to the normal PGA Tour target golf. The old course, TPC Las Colinas, was a fairly traditional ball-strikers paradise and it was also situated at a rather swanky resort so you can see why so many of the seasoned Tour players enjoyed their visit.

Trinity Forest is a modern links course located on an old land fill site and the contrast between it and the previous course is rather strong. The course was designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore and it plays to some 7450 yards but last year it was quite wet so there wasn’t too much run out. It was designed to play hard and fast like a British links course and if that was to be the case this week I think scoring would be tougher than Aaron Wise’s winning score of -23. Unfortunately recent weather in the Dallas area suggests that the course will play quite soft again and therefore we maybe can’t quite take the full-on links player approach.

The course is a wide open one with ample room off the tee, undulating fairways and huge greens. With firm conditions you could probably all but ignore what players do off the tee but with less than ideal roll-out, driving distance will be important again this year as it was last year. From there it becomes very much a second shot course but with big greens a brilliant short game can also get it done. If we can find a player who is getting the ball close to the flags and showing a good touch on and around the greens then even better.

There are five Par 4s under 450 yards and with very little holding them back off the tee we will see a lot of wedges on these holes after the players unleash driver. Therefore an aggressive wedge game will be important this week especially considering the low scoring nature of the event last year. Aaron Wise led the field in Par 4 scoring last year on his way to winning so that’s worth a look too.

Patrick Reed has a stellar record at Coore and Crenshaw’s Kapalua layout in Hawaii and this looks another ideal layout for him even on his debut. Anywhere that wayward drives aren’t punished suits Reed and with his approach game having looked somewhere back to its best last week (10th in GIR) I think he should go well. There are few better short games around than Reed’s and he will handle the long lag putts and lengthy chip shots better than most. He is also an accomplished Texas wind player having been born in San Antonio and he currently lives just outside Houston. He is a fairly determined character who won’t think twice about going all out to win the week before a major if given half a chance. A solid looking each way bet at 28/1 with 8 places.

Charles Howell III was 9th here last year and he started this season very well indeed. Two missed cuts recently have pushed his price out to a very interesting 40/1 with 8 places. Howell sits 2nd in Par 4 scoring and while he isn’t a player with a great bank of links form by any means his relentless hitting of greens should be suited to the course. The lack of bite in the course will suit him if it does play soft and the fact he is putting far better this year should make him a a big player this week. He is 3rd in GIR and 26th in strokes gained: putting and that is exactly the sort of combination you want any week but particularly on this layout.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat’s form has tailed off a little since the WGC Mexico but this looks ideal for him and I think he has to be backed with Betfair’s stand-out 100/1 with 8 places. With lots of space off the tee he won’t find too much trouble and his wedge game has been excellent so far this year. He leads the Tour in scoring relative to par from approaches inside 125 yards and with the short par 4s and huge greens this range will be in play a lot. He withdrew two weeks ago in an event in Brunei due to a knee injury but I think 100/1 is a massive over reaction to that and he looks a very fair each way bet.

Matt Jones was 13th here last year and has actually been playing quite sneaky well with 6 top 40 finishes in a row. A wide open course will suit this Aussie who is an excellent wind player but possesses an even better short game and sits 26th in strokes gained: around the green this year. His only PGA Tour win to date was in Texas at the Houston Open and if things do firm up over the weekend then few are more suited to hard and fast conditions than this Sydney native who won the Australian Open back in 2015.

Colt Knost jumped off the page at me as he studied at SMU which now uses Trinity Forest as it’s University course. Unfortunately it wasn’t even designed when he graduated in 2007 but he still lives nearby and I’m hoping the local ties might mean he knows more about the course than others. He missed the second half of 2018 through injury and returned in January on a Medical Extension. He missed his first four cuts but there were signs of improvement last week when he finished 38th at Quail Hollow. Knost has always been a good putter and if he does have a little inside knowledge of the huge greens then 300/1 could look big.


British Masters

With the move from May to September of the PGA at Wentworth and an apparent lack of sponsor it looked for a while like we might lose this event. That would have an absolute travesty for the European Tour and particularly British golf. The event has been hugely succesful so far in boosting interest in the game and the interactive nature of what Sky Sports have done so far has been excellent. Thankfully they have managed to bring it forward to May, find a sponsor and also get the brilliant Hillside GC links layout onboard as host. The result is that Tommy Fleetwood hosts the 5th event in a row since its return to the schedule in 2015 at Woburn.

While the first four visited some of south England’s finest parkland courses this time we get a chance to see a lesser known links gem of the north-west in Hillside. It backs up on to Royal Birkdale on the coast and it’s that sort of course with sculpted fairways into the dunes and undulating terrain. A proper links course requires proven links players and that usually helps the punters out even if we are about 2 months ahead of the usual links golf in July. It’s well worth looking at leaderboards from recent Scottish Opens, Irish Opens and Opens as well as the Qatar Masters, Portugal Masters and events from Australia.

Eddie Pepperell and Tyrrell Hatton slot right in behind host and tournament favourite Tommy Fleetwood in the betting. They are both 18/1 here but that doesn’t bother me at all as for me they are the best two links players in the field right now and a chunky each way bet on both of them makes the best betting sense here this week.

Pepperell has been playing quite a bit of golf over on the PGA Tour so far this year and with a fair bit of success. That explains the apparent short price here but this is a massive step-down from the fields he was playing in when he posted 3rd at The Players Championship and 16th at The Heritage. His sometimes suspect putting has been particularly strong so far in the US as he ranks 16th in strokes gained: putting. When you combine that with his always reliable approach play and ability to play in the wind, you get a very smart prospect here this week. Pepperell was 2nd in the Scottish Open last year, 6th in the Open and he won the Qatar Masters which has long been a good guide to links golf. He also has an Alfred Dunhill top 10 and a 2nd and 3rd at the Portugal Masters which is played on another exposed links style course. Defending a tournament is never easy but with it being at a different course that might take away some of the pressure. Although his laid back nature will also help him. The 18/1 might not be for everyone but with Betfred’s 10 places the each way portion looks very solid indeed.

Tyrrell Hatton keeps popping up on links layouts and his Alfred Dunhill Championship record in particular is immense, reading 1-1-2. He hasn’t been playing his best so far this year but he really does come alive on links courses. His imagination and putting touch allow him to play with the utmost of confidence on links courses knowing he will handle whatever comes his way should he miss the greens. But his approach play also seems to improve for being on tight links turf. He likes to flight his ball down and let his approaches run out which is a huge advantage when trying to gauge distance in the wind on links courses. That helps explain why he hit 85% and 83% of greens in regulation when he won his two Alfred Dunhills. There’s not too much more to say, he just loves links golf and I’m willing to take a chance that he finds his form again as soon as he sees the course.

I was just going to leave it at the two chunky each way bets but it wouldn’t be a links event with out adding a couple more proven exponents of the traditional British style of golf. I expected Ryan Fox to be backed in given the bank of links form he has built up over the last two summers but Betfred’s 40/1 with 10 places is far too good to pass up. He has gone 4-4 and 6-2 in the Irish Open and Scottish Open the last two years and those were exactly the sort of field that he faces here. He hasn’t disgraced himself in his Open appearances either but he is still finding his feet in the Majors. I expect him to win on a links course sooner rather than later now he has got off the mark in the World Super 6 Perth event. It is played at Lake Karrinyup which is a typical hard and fast Aussie course where good links players thrive. With Fox it is hard to pin point why he is so good on links but it certainly has a lot to do with his fearless approach off the tee which so often means he is going in to the greens with nothing more than a wedge. He is also a very creative player from inside 100 yards and the familiar links turf allows him to flourish in that area. The 40/1 with 10 places looks rock solid even with him coming in off a break.

I wanted to add a proper outsider but then I saw returning blog regular George Coetzee at 70/1 with Betfred’s 10 places. Coetzee is another player who I have long expected to win on a British links course but it hasn’t happened yet. He probably wouldn’t want the weather too miserable but there are few better putters on grainy links greens than Coetzee and for me that is always worth including him at odds like this. He took April off to spend relaxing back home in South Africa with his girlfriend and the fact that she is now his fiance makes me think the break will have had a positive effect (he was also at Anfield on Tuesday night!). If he isn’t too rusty then the 70/1 looks a fantastic price as he was in great form during March finishing 2nd in Qatar on the links course at Doha and then signing off for his holiday with a 6th in India.


Summary of bets

Byron Nelson

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Charles Howell III – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.75pts ew @ 100/1

Matt Jones – 0.5pts ew @ 80/1

Colt Knost – 0.25pts ew @ 300/1 (all Betfair 1/5 odds 8 places)

British Masters

Eddie Pepperell – 2pts ew @ 18/1

Tyrrell Hatton – 2pts ew @ 18/1

Ryan Fox – 1pt ew @ 40/1

George Coetzee – 0.5pts ew @ 70/1 (all Betfred 1/5 odds 10 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 18pts

@theGreek82

Wells Fargo Championship and Volvo China Open – A Betting Preview

Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer clicked as I hoped they would to record a relatively straight-forward win at the Zurich Classic. They parred the 18th for a 3 shot win and while others got close they never really looked like giving up their lead. It was great to see Palmer back with a win as he’s a likeable player who deserves some good fortune after his family issues. As for Jon Rahm he really is something else. Even when he doesn’t appear to have his best stuff like early in the final round he has an amazing knack of grinding out a score. Sometimes he doesn’t look like he is doing anything amazing but he seldom hits 2 bad shots in a row and usually hits a great recovery instead. He has also become very solid at holing out inside 10ft and it often looks like he gets the ball in the hole with sheer will and determination. If Bethpage Black sets up as a true US PGA course in two weeks time then the Spanish powerhouse is going to take a lot of beating.

As preperation for that we have the Wells Fargo this week which of course is played at the 2017 US PGA course, Quail Hollow. The European Tour heads back out to Asia again for the Volvo China Open. Two good events with plenty of recent course form.

Rahm and Palmer’s win puts the blog back into profit for the year;

2019 pts advised = 196

2019 pts returned = 216.86

ROI = 10.64%


Wells Fargo Championship

Back to regular PGA Tour stuff as we head north to Quail Hollow in North Carolina which has hosted since 2003 with the exception of 2017 when it held the US PGA. It is a long, 7600 yard championship style course with a premium on a powerful long game and all recent winners are players who sit in lofty positions in the strokes gained: tee to green rankings. When tee to green supremacy is so important it’s easy to go with some of the massively priced poor putters who strike the ball well. But you generally don’t get too many average players lifting this trophy and playing “the chalk” has been working well for me lately. So instead I’m playing three shorter price players who all still can’t putt!

For my main pick I’m going with Hideki Matsuyama who has been priced up here like he is hitting the ball sideways. That’s not really the case though and despite no win he hasn’t missed a cut since The Open in July. In that time he has returned 11 top 20s from 20 events with 4 of those being top 5s. He sits 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green sandwiched between 2 recent Quail winners in McIlroy and Thomas. He is also 22nd in strokes gained: around the green. His lack of being in contention this year has created a situation where Webb Simpson is the same price to win on a 7600 yard long course. Simpson has never won beyond 7250 yards with all 5 wins coming between 7100 and 7250. Maybe he is just a little short in the betting but I think it’s a combination of Hideki being a little big and Simpson being a little short. Matsuyama’s course form is very strong and was trending nicely until last year’s MC as he went 38-20-11-5  with the 5th coming in the best field of all at the US PGA. He is surely getting closer to a win and the last time he was seen on bermuda greens he finished 8th at TPC Sawgrass. Coral’s 20/1 with 7 places looks to be a great each way bet.

Benny An makes the team yet again and will continue to do so while he continues to return the place money. A tee to green test where scrambling is crucial is right up An’s street. He ranks 6th in strokes gained: tee to green and 1st in strokes gained: around the green. Poor putters can have done very well at Quail as the greens aren’t as difficult as other championship layouts. We know An is as poor as they come on the greens but that surely doesn’t warrant him being 55/1 here I don’t think. He hasn’t done much at the course yet but it should really suit and he was in fine form prior to his MC at the Heritage. He has had a week off and I’m happy to assume he has ironed out the driver problem that he had but the slightly wider fairways will also help.

If I’m placing putting ability down the list of attributes then I really have to side with Luke List at 80/1. His results haven’t been fantastic lately but Quail Hollow is a course that suits him where he has played well before and he finished 9th last year off the back of a MC, while this year he was 41st last time out. This season he ranks 14th in strokes gained: tee to green so he will be looking forward to the upcoming run of long, championship style courses that he can overpower. He’s not always the most reliable player when you think he is going to perform but with the stand out 80/1 we don’t have to get too involved stake wise.

Others who came close were Roberto Castro and Nick Watney and while I couldn’t put anyone off I think their general prices are just about right now since they have been cut. The 150/1 with 8 places very nearly tempted me to add Castro but while I can see him playing well I’d be surprised if he comes out on top of this field on such a long course. So I’ll stick with the three and hope that at least one of them can hole some putts!


Volvo China Open

The China Open returns to Genzon GC in Shangai after being away since 2014. It has hosted the Shenzhen International from 2015-2017 however so there are four events worth of form to look at. The four winners were Bernd Weisberger, Soomin Lee, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Alex Levy.

The course is a Nelson and Hawarth design like so many of the prominent championship courses in China and indeed Asia on the whole. They are responsible for Sheshan GC which hosts the WGC HSBC Champions event as well as Kuala Lumpur G&CC and Royal Selangor GC. They are similar courses and form stacks up nicely as does form in Asia in general. Some players love the consistently hot and humid conditions while others really aren’t suited at all. Don’t expect anyone with horrible form in Asia just to suddenly start enjoying themselves this week.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this layout is off the tee. There are lots of forced carries, elevation changes and dog-legs where the green can be blocked out on parts of the fairway. A quick look at the leaderboards show plenty of long and accurate drivers. Another aspect looking purely at the winners suggests that committed and aggressive iron play will prosper once the fairways are found. There are few more aggressive players on the European Tour than Levy and Aphibarnrat with their approaches. Both of them will seldom lay-up on a par 5 nor pass up the opportunity to go straight at a flag. Luckily they both have a good enough short game to get them out of trouble if they do short side themselves and that is another attribute that has been crucial so far at Genzon.

I really like Hao Tong Li a lot as a player and a person as he plays golf the right way and has an infectious enthusiasm about him. I’d love to back him to win here and he is definitely the right favourite and probably the best player in the field right now. But even if he is almost the right price I don’t think I want to be wading in at just 12/1 about a player who ultimately hasn’t won since early 2018.

I stupidly made my shortlist this week before I knew who was even in the field and that resulted in scoring out quite a few namely Olesen, Fox, Coetzee and Luiten. But there were still a few names remaining and I’ve sided with three all from the second tier.

Bernd Wiesberger is slowly getting his game back if his last outing at the Indian Open is anything to go by. He ranked 5th in the all-round ranking with his long game showing signs of his best, which would be right at the very top of this field. His form in Asia has always been brilliant since he arrived on Tour. His first win in 2012 was in Korea and he has followed up with further ET trophies in Indonesia and on this very course in 2017. Looking more closely at just China, Wiesberger’s first MC there actually came in this event last year when playing with an injury but his results prior to that were 9-4-1-35-28-24-17-13-17-28-40-42-25-45. That 9th place was at the Nelson and Hawarth Sheshan course while he has been runner-up twice at their Kuala Lumpar course. The main downside this week is that he might still be a little too rusty in contention to get over the line again but conditions and course couldn’t be more suited. I think there is plenty of each way value with Boylesports’ stand-out 50/1 with 8 places.

Matsahiro Kawamura looks hugely over priced on recent form even if a lot of that has been reliant on the short game. His last two events he has finished 6th in Morocco and 2nd in India and both those events were at very difficult courses. Kawamura isn’t a player I know that much about just yet as we haven’t had too many chances to watch him on his rookie season on Tour. He is just 25 years old still but has racked up 28 top 10s world wide and his record of 7 top 20s in his first 12 ET events is a serious effort. The form just leaps out and I have to back him at 50/1 on value grounds alone.

The same applies to Scott Hend who everyone seems to forget very quickly about whenever he plays well or indeed wins like last month in Malaysia. We know ideally Hend wants a bit more space off the tee but that hasn’t stopped him before on courses with tight driving lines as he is a two-time runner-up at Crans and has won around Fanling. He can club down and find the fairways with 3 wood or long irons when needed and with his Asian form I think we are getting some value in this field. In particular he has form at the right courses too with three top 20s at KL G&CC and three top 25s at Sheshan in elite fields. That’s before we even look at his 4th and 15th at this very course.

Hend’s 3 ET wins have all came in Asia and his win in Malaysia in March was at Saujana G&CC which is a tight enough driving course with fiddly greens. The last two times he has won a tournament in March he has gone in again later that year and with him not getting any younger he will know he has to try to rack up the wins while he is playing well. For comparison’s sake price-wise, Ross Fisher is 28/1 and hasn’t won anywhere in 5 years while our main man Erik Van Rooyen is 20/1 and he hasn’t won anywhere full stop! How Hend can be 45/1 in this field is quite frankly a nonsense for me however he plays and he should be backed accordingly.


Summary of Bets

Wells Fargo

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Benny An – 1pt ew @ 55/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Luke List – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred/Betway)

Volvo China Open

Scott Hend – 1.5pts ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Boylesports)

Matsahiro Kawamura – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

Weekly pts advised = 14pts

 

@theGreek82

Valspar Championship and Maybank Championship – Betting Preview

Kevin Kisner looked likely to contend for 53 holes until he double bogeyed the last on Saturday. That seemed to take the wind out of his sails and then he stuttered to 22nd place on Sunday. Kuchar treaded water all weekend while in Kenya Erik Van Rooyen threw in a very unexpected howler to miss the cut. Jensen probably out played his odds but every time he got close to contention he made a timely bogey. No returns for the week as we get ever closer to Augusta and the PGA Tour prepares with a really solid test of golf at the Valspar.

2019 pts advised = 122

2019 pts returned = 122.75

ROI = 0.60%


Valspar Championship

The PGA Tour’s next Florida stop is Copperhead GC at Innisbrook, Palm Harbour and it is quite a fitting venue with Augusta just 3 weeks away. While the greens won’t play quite as firm and fast as Augusta, the Copperhead course does have some difficult green complexes itself. They were some of the hardest to hit on Tour last year and the similarities don’t stop there. Both are lush green, tree-lined courses with several dog-leg left holes and plenty of the elite players in the field will be teeing up with a view to some Masters preparation.

The course is a little narrower than Augusta though without the huge landing areas off the tee. This makes it a rather classic course and it is usually a course that takes plenty of learning with an underlying strategic element. Scoring is also similar to the Masters with the winning mark having been between -7 and -14 the last 7 years. The winners often tend to be top class and if they aren’t a major winner then they are usually players who enjoy a difficult championship style course where par is a good score on any given hole.

Gary Woodland isn’t really the sort of tactical plodder that I’m looking for but there is no question that he is learning to control his aggressive style a little as he enters his 11th year on Tour. His long-game numbers are the best they have ever been this year as he ranks 3rd in GIR with an impressive clip of 74.5%. In previous years Woodland would aim at pretty much every flag but it seems like he is taking a more considered approach recently. With such an impressive approach game I think he will be relishing a return to the course where he won his first PGA Tour event.

The odds aren’t flashy at 25/1 but he looks to me like the sort of level of player who will really be here to win this week rather than hone their game for bigger weeks that follow. Always heralded as a future major winner Woodland would be in keeping with the big name winners at Copperhead and appeals as a solid each way bet with 8 places.

Michael Thompson went off a silly short price three weeks ago at the Honda Classic and twitter did it’s thing and mocked anyone taking 40/1 about the 1-time PGA Tour winner. It’s obviously no exact science at what odds any player can be backed on any given week but with a 33-year old journeyman like Thompson perhaps the picture is somewhat less muddied. Backing him at 40/1 is simply not a route to long-term profit. However off the back of two poorer efforts he is pushed out to 100/1 here and I’m just about ok with backing him at that price as all the positive criteria from prior to the Honda remains applicable.

Thompson is normally renowned for his excellent putting ability but this year it has been his ball-striking that has been impressing and lifting him up leaderboards. He ranks 31st in driving accuracy, 50th in strokes gained: approaches and 44th in proximity to the hole. Jim Furyk noted that holing out was very difficult around Copperhead with lots of breaks around the hole. Thompson ranks 28th in putting inside 10ft so he should also handle those difficult par saves this week.

I noted last year how lots of the Valspar winners had finished inside the top 20 at the 2012 US Open at Olympia Club and Thompson was runner-up there, very nearly surprising everyone and winning. It is a short, narrow classical layout where everyone really had to plot their way around and choose their battles with regards attacking the flags on small undulating greens. The test is somewhat similar at Copperhead and I believe it gives him another chance to try to grab his 2nd PGA Tour win.

I was just going to post two bets but I noticed Scott Langley at odds of 250/1 just at the last minute. Considering his early season form that seems a bit ridiculous even if he has missed two of his last three cuts. He made the cut at the Players last week though and while he hasn’t played here for a few years he was 3rd in 2014. The clincher for me was that he finished 29th at the 2012 US Open too. Too big a price to ignore even if he does miss the cut.


Maybank Championship

After the second part of the Middle East swing concluded in Qatar the European Tour jumped down to Kenya last week and it is on the move again to conclude it’s Asian swing. The first stop is Malaysia and the Maybank Championship from the Saujana G&CC in Kuala Lumpur.

The Maybank Championship has had just two previous editions in its current guise at this course and they were won by Shubhankar Sharma and Fabrizio Zanotti. Saujana has hosted previous Malaysian Opens however with Thongchai Jaidee (2x), Vijay Singh and Peter Hedblom being among the winners.

The course is a very fiddly one with the majority of holes having their fairways carved out of the jungle so we won’t see drivers on every hole and a degree of strategy will be required off the tee. After finding the correct portion of the fairway the test doesn’t stop there as the green complexes are said to be some of the toughest in Asian golf. They are small, undulating, fast and well protected by a mix of water and sand. This week it’s all about accurate types with brilliant short games and that is exactly what the inaugural winner is all about. Zanotti is a short hitter who struggles to compete on lots of the modern courses. But throw him on a more strategic layout where touch is required around the greens and he can compete with the best on the European Tour. Thongchai Jaidee would usually fall into that category too so we can be fairly confident that a sharp short game is an important attribute around Saujana. If looking at just one stat however, greens in regulation would be the way to go this week.

For designer links the course was the work of Ronald Fream who also designed the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club. It hosts the Singapore Open and was seen just two weeks ago when Jazz Janewattananond beat a strong Asian Tour field. It is a more open course but it also has difficult greens and the same hot and humid conditions. That leaderboard is worth a look given the two events’ close proximity to each other in the schedule.

It is worth remembering that playing in Asia doesn’t suit everyone at all and there are lots of golfers who feel more comfortable in certain parts of the world. Some European Tour golfers play well in the U.K., some play well in the desert or South Africa while some play their best anywhere away from Europe. Form in the humid conditions of Asia is certainly a worthy string to the bow this week so if your fancy has never recorded a Top 10 or even a Top 20 in this part of the world then it is probably unlikely they are going to suddenly take to the often stifling conditions and more strategic courses. The course also features lots of elevation changes and with all the difficult terrain I expect the less fit and perhaps older players might well struggle.

The young Thai Jazz Janewattananond turned professional at just 15 back in 2010 and his early career had plenty of hype along with it. However it was his Singapore Open win in January that suggested he might be ready to get his break out European Tour win. Jazz beat a fairly strong field that included Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Matt Fitzpatrick. Those 3 have forged their careers out of accurate tee-to-green games and that is required at both Sentosa GC, which hosts the Singapore Open, and here at Saujana GC. He is a player that has enough power when needed but now in his 9th season as a professional he is learning to harness it as required and therefore doesn’t bomb it off the tee. The week of that win he ranked 3rd in driving accuracy, 1st in GIR and 11th in scrambling. He has held his form well since then going 27-13-4 and his season stats are also excellent for this test; he ranks 31st in DA, 18th in GIR and 26th in scrambling. Jazz has played here twice before and his form is at least trending having missed the cut on his debut before a 39th last year. With confidence booming I’m expecting another big week from him providing he manages a half decent week with the putter which is often his weakness. Neither of the previous winners ranked inside the top 20 in putting however so if he hits his usual high percentage of fairways and greens that could be enough to contend. I did think we might get better odds than 40/1 but it seems the bookies are giving that Singapore Open win a lot of respect and to be honest as a single piece of form it is better than a lot of those above him in the market. Therefore he’s probably a solid enough bet when we factor in his potential too.

Max Kieffer has some trending course form as well as impressive recent form and that makes the German of interest here even at just 50/1. Kieffer has been a pro now for 9 years but is still relatively young at just 28 so there is still lots of time for him to fulfill his potential. It looked like just a matter of time as to when he would get his first ET win when he lost an Open De Espana play-off in 2013. But as we have seen so many times, injury and loss of form saw him plummet down the rankings as he became one of the many forgotten names on the European Tour. Kieffer has come flying back however over the last 6 months or so and his game is very consistent at the moment. His last 8 results are 14-2-57-MC-22-60-54-5 and having finished 11th at Saujana last year he should be confident of continuing his form. Again his season stats set up very well for this sort of test ranking 24th in GIR, 20th in DA and 11th in scrambling. Betfair are paying 7 places with their 50/1 and that looks a good each way bet.


Summary of bets

Valspar

Gary Woodland – 1.5pts ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Michael Thompson – 1pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair and Skybet)

Scott Langley – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Maybank

Jazz Janewattananond – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Max Kieffer – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

 

Weekly pts advised = 10pts

 

@theGreek82

The Players Championship and Kenya Open – A few bets

Coetzee and Van Rooyen both repaid my stubborn faith in them as they finished in a huge tie for 2nd place. Van Rooyen in particular though should really have done better. Unlike Harding, who only upped his game after he surely though he was out of it at -8 around the turn, EVR actually played very well the whole round and was right in contention. He just putted very, very poorly and I don’t even remember a putt on the back 9 that even looked like going in at any point. While it was annoying he showed a very impressive long game down the stretch while others were all over the shop. The win can’t be far away.

None of the guys in Florida ever looked like winning but the 3 who made the cut all flirted with a place, none more so than Benny An who finished T10th. Stenson showed plenty of signs that he is getting slowly back into form and will be worth keeping an eye on this week at Sawgrass.

2019 pts advised = 112

2019 pts returned = 122.75

ROI = 9.6%

I’m very low on time this week with Cheltenham and a couple of other things going on so just the bets again this week sorry.


The Players Championship

Kevin Kisner has had 3 poor Sawgrass results after losing a play-off on his debut in 2015 but the 2nd place makes a lot more sense to me though as Kisner is a bit of a Pete Dye specialist. He isn’t the longest of hitters but is usually very accurate through the bag, much like last year’s runaway winner Webb Simpson. Both his win’s have come on strategic layouts and he also has another runner-up at Dye’s Hilton Head.

Kisner fell away on Sunday in Florida but conditions were a little brutal by then. He ranked 3rd in GIR for the week though and that will have him in good shape for a return to Sawgrass. The last 3 visits he has arrived having missed the cut in his previous start but in 2015 he finished 28th the week before. Kisner was 23rd last week and looks a solid ew bet at 100/1 with Skybet’s 8 places. I also couldn’t put anyone off the 66/1 with Betfair due to the 10 places they are paying this week.

Matt Kuchar has won twice this season already and is playing some superb golf. He will be very confident of going well again as a former winner here. The one slight concern is that Kuchar often excels when there is plenty of bite in a golf course and the switch to March might not fully suit him. He scrambles as well as anyone on slick greens but his long game is also in fine fettle so hopefully it won’t make too much difference. Kuchar leads the Tour in total accuracy over the last 3 months as he sits 11th in driving accuracy and 6th in GIR. That is a potent combination around Sawgrass and yet again we can pick Kuch up at a very sporting price due to his unfashionable profile. There is as big as 60/1 around which is mad but given how much he loves a Top 10 I’m going to take the Betfair Sportsbook offer of 40/1 with 10 places.

 


Kenya Open

It’s broken record time again but given Erik Van Rooyen is one of the golfers I am in profit on I’m going to reinvest some of his returns from last week. I’ve not had a chance to look too closely at the course but from the pictures I’ve seen it does look quite narrow and tree-lined with smallish greens. That is what EVR is all about and this is a terrible field. It could be a painful watch on the greens again over the weekend but he also has the ability to win this by 6 with even just an average putting performance. It’s easy to forget this is just his 2nd year on Tour and it is that potential that means I’m just about happy enough to back him at a fairly shortish price here. Betfair are 16/1 with 7 places though and that is definitely worth a bet.

I’m also going to throw a few quid on a player who has impressed in small bursts on the European Tour over the last couple of years in Lasse Jensen. He has had 3 top 5s in some decent events and makes his 2019 ET bow here. He has played 2 events so far this year on the Nordic League but makes appeal here after his runner-up finish at the course in 2014. Worth a go at 80/1 given the little bits of class he has shown previously.

 

Summary of bets

Players

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Matt Kuchar – 2pts ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Betfair SB)

Kenya

Erik Van Rooyen – 1.5pt ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair SB)

Lasse Jensen – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

 

Weekly points advised = 10pts

 

@thegreek82

Honda Classic and Oman Open – Betting Preview

It was the best week so far in 2019 as 4 out of 7 bets landed in some form or other. Aphibarnrat got the full place money and the top 20 while Li bagged a small share of the top 20 money. Best performer was Amy Yang however who won in Thailand at 28/1. In total 72.83 pts were returned to take the year into profit and boost confidence ahead of the main part of the season.

This week the PGA Tour heads back north to Florida while the European Tour is back in the Middle East with the Oman Open.

2019 pts advised = 88.50

2019 pts returned = 110.33

ROI = 24.67%


Honda Classic

The Florida swing gets underway at PGA National in Palm Beach and it is the first of 4 events in the Sunshine State. The course is a 7140 yard par 70 with water in play and a mix of open holes and tree-lined ones. The fairways are wide enough however and driving accuracy hasn’t been too crucial recently.

Links players tend to play very well here given the similar skill-set. The greens are small and the course is exposed to the elements so a tidy short game is perhaps the most important attribute here and one I have paid close attention to. The lowest winning score we have seen at the course since the switch in 2007 is -13 back in 2010 but only twice since has it been in double figures. This is a coastal resort course but not like the others on Tour, this is a tough test where avoiding bogeys is far more important than racking up birdies. This will require a different mindset compared to many of the events we have seen this year. Mexico last week was pretty tough so while traveling back to the US maybe wasn’t the best preparation, those who teed it up at Chapultepec should arrive with their games primed for PGA National.

Stats wise bogey avoidance and strokes gained: around the green are key. The last 5 winners ranked 1st, 9th, 6th,6th and 9th in scrambling for the week. The last 3 winners finished their winning season 12th, 11th and 21st in bogey avoidance respectively.

I have to go in again on Kiradech Aphibarnrat after landing T3rd place last week. He was under rated last week and on opening show appears to be again. It makes a lot of sense that European Tour players aren’t given immediate respect in the markets for PGA events but the likeable Thai has shown time and time again what a great player he is and beyond just last week’s finish there was a lot to like about his game for PGA National. More often lauded for his short game skills he ranked 5th in strokes gained: tee to green and in elite company that has to make him of interest stepping back down to a fairly average PGA Tour field. Aphi also led the field in scrambling however so his short game was as good as ever, even if we didn’t get to see any of it over the weekend! He has won before on a links course as he took the inaugural Paul Lawrie Match Play title at Murcar Links in 2015 while his win last year at Lake Karrinyup requires similar skills. His Open record isn’t great but a warm weather links course in his current form looks perfect. There is still some 60/1 around but Skybet’s 50/1 with 8 places makes most appeal to me.

Again the first 4 or 5 players in the betting have solid claims but I’ve gone a little further down the market for my next pick. Billy Horschel’s career stalled a little after he won the Fed Ex Cup in 2014 but he has had a win in each of the last 2 seasons so is gradually getting back to where he was. Horschel is Florida born and bred and none of his five wins have come west of Dallas so he will be happy to be back on Eastern Time. With that said though he hasn’t been in bad form at all in the early part of the year with his results reading 45-38-8-25. The 45th in Mexico was let down by a Friday 76 as he opened with a 68 and closed 70-71 over the weekend. Horschel is 42nd in bogey avoidance and he was 7th for scrambling last week, which is impressive as plenty struggled around the tricky green complexes. We know his tee-to-green game is usually pretty reliable and he has been putting fairly well so far this year, ranking 58th with the short stick. Horschell also sits 26th in scoring relative to par from 150-175 yards and that range will be in-play a lot this week. The main reason for the bet however is some strong recent course form. He missed the cut last year but prior to that he went 4th-8th in 2017 and 2016. I think that makes the 40/1 look very fair in this field but I’m probably going to side with Coral’s 33/1 and 7 places.

I’ve been paying close attention to Harold Varner III over the last year or so and I’m convinced he is going to have a good year in 2019. He hasn’t done much at this course in 3 attempts but his last start in Florida was 7th at the Players Championship and he currently ranks 10th in bogey avoidance. For me that should make him a good fit for another course with small, bermuda greens. He has been a little up and down so far in 2019 but there has been plenty to like, namely his 10th at the Phoenix Open when he ranked 4th in GIR. The last two winners of this were ahead of him in 1st and 3rd so I’m hoping we see that HVIII rather than the one who missed the cut at the Genesis. That is entirely possible though as he is another who is more comfortable on the East Coast and is yet to post a top 10 in California. Very little harm can be done backing him at up to 125/1 in this field.

A good previous finish is usually an advantage at this difficult layout so I thought I’d add one more with Sung-Hoon Kang looking a little over priced. He was 10th in 2016 here and some of his best results have come at courses where previous Honda Champions have had success. He was 3rd at the CIMB Classic in 2017, 2nd at the Houston Open in 2017 and 8th at Riviera in 2016. Kang isn’t setting the world on fire stats wise this year but he has been posting some decent finishes. He was 10th at the Sony Open, 20th at Torrey Pines and 14th at Pebble Beach. Skybet’s 125/1 with 8 places is just too tempting.

 


Oman Open

This is just the European Tour’s 2nd stop in Oman but the course was also in use on the Challenge Tour from 2015-2017. That course is the Al Mouj GC in Muscat and it was met with very favourable reviews from the players last year. It is a beautiful links style course that measures 7365 yards and sits looking out across the Gulf of Oman. As with most of the links style layouts in the Middle East it is exposed to the wind, heavily bunkered and has undulating fairways. However this perhaps more so than any of the others on rotation properly resembles a links course. Several holes really hug the coast line and some of the holes wind there way through big dunes covered in tall grasses. You could be forgiven for thinking that it is actually a UK course but they get to play in wall to wall sunshine so you can see why it is so popular. Last year’s winner Joost Luiten has a very solid bank of links form even if he doesn’t yet have much of an Open record.

While Luiten isn’t renowned for his putting he actually led the field last year in total putting with runner-up Chris Wood ranking 3rd with the putter. Wood is another links specialist however and there were another 3 UK players in the top 10. There are no stats available for the Challenge Tour event so last year’s analysis is pretty much all we have in that department. The course was designed by Greg Norman and while he doesn’t have too many courses on rotation on the European Tour he did design Golf Club El Prat in Barcelona which hosted the 2011 and 2015 Open De Espana. The course is inland but the bunkering and green complexes are very similar.

Mathieu Pavon recorded a 65 last year and also shot 65 and a 66 to finish 3rd around the course on the Challenge Tour in 2015. Last year’s was only good enough for him to finish 31st but he was let down by the putter. That shouldn’t be the case this year though as he ranks 7th in strokes gained: putting. His form hasn’t been great this year so far in similar events but he has shown lots of promise over the last 2 years on Tour so I’m hoping a return to a more familiar course might bring about an improvement. He does have some solid links form with top 10s in the Nordea Masters and the Scottish Open. Worth a go at 80/1 in this sort of field.

I’ve been looking for an opportunity to back Zander Lombard on a proper links course since he showed his hand early on at Carnoustie last year when sitting 6th at half way. He scrambles brilliantly on fast, grainy links greens and despite only finishing 65th here last year I think he should enjoy the course. He was in very poor form last year while his whole game is in great shape this year. That hasn’t always been borne out in his results though but he does have three top 5s world-wide in his last 9 events. The highlight of those being a 3rd place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. It is his stats that really stand out this year though and they suggest that it is just a matter of time before he begins to fulfil his potential. For the 2019 season Lombard is 4th in strokes gained: tee to green and 9th in strokes gained: around the green. Add in the fact he was 1st in putting when during that 3rd at Leopard Creek and he looks to have an excellent chance here if he can put that all together for 4 rounds.

George Coetzee has to get backed this week on value alone. I know he has been in horrid form since winning for the blog early last season but I can’t see how he is as big as 100/1. He shot an opening 67 last week in Mexico and then scared the leaderboard further on Friday with a front 9 of 35. He fell away to finish down in 56th place but it should have given him a boost and this isn’t a very good field at all. At his best he would be somewhere around 25/1 here so I’m happy to take 4x that and just cross my fingers. If conditions weren’t ideal then maybe I’d leave him out but links style desert courses are what Coetzee is all about. He has racked up 9 top 10s in the Middle East already and should go well on his first look at Al Mouj GC.

I normally don’t like backing too many but I got a bit carried away with some of the big prices on Monday so I have 2 more this week for small stakes.

Ashun Wu has form at lots of key courses namely winning at The Dutch Golf Club when he scopped the KLM Open in September (Luiten won there in 2016). His other win came at the Lyoness Open where both Chris Wood and Joost Luiten have won. Wu has a brilliant short game and that proved to be crucial last year here. He is currently 8th in scrambling and 2nd in one putts this year. His results haven’t been brilliant so far in 2019 but this should be right up his street so I’m expecting an improvement on last year’s missed cut.

Romain Wattel is another winner at The Dutch and has lots of links form over his 8 seasons on Tour. He is a very frustrating player to back as he is so inconsistent. It is hard to know whether we will see the player who missed the cut in Saudi or the player who posted a 16th in the Dubai Desert Classic but I don’t think I can leave him out given Betfair’s standout 150/1 with 7 places.


Summary of bets

Honda Classic

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 1pt ew 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Billy Horschel – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Sung-hoon Kang – 0.75pt ew @ 125/1 (Skybet)

Harold Varner III – 0.75 pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet)

Oman Open

Mathieu Pavon – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Zander Lombard – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

George Coetzee – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Ashun Wu – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Romain Wattel – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (Betfair)

 

Weekly points advised = 13.5 pts

 

@theGreek82

WGC Mexico Championship – Betting Preview

A poor week last week with no returns and only Luke List really threatening to do anything after Kennedy went out in the 2nd round of the knock-out stage in Perth. List putted atrociously though and I counted 9 putts inside 7ft that he missed across the 4 rounds. I don’t think I’ll be backing him again in a hurry.

2019 points advised = 78.5

2019 points returned = 37.5


WGC Mexico

The first WGC of the season heads down to Mexico for the 3rd edition of this at Chapultepec, Nauculpan. Much like the first two years several of the world’s best have decided to give it a miss but we still have a very strong field of 72 to get stuck into. Both previous champions return with 2017 winner Dustin Johnson in average form by his standards but defending champion Mickelson returns in fine fettle having won at Pebble just two starts ago.

The 7330 yard, par 71 course was designed by two Scottish brothers, Willie and Alex Smith from Carnoustie, around the time when Scots were very much the talking point of US golf in the early 1900s. Donald Ross was at the fore front of that and he himself had links to Carnoustie with the first 3 club professionals at his East Lake design all hailing from the Angus town. The course certainly doesn’t look unlike some of Ross’ tree-lined courses in the US like East Lake and Sedgefield. Further course links include Crans which hosts the European Masters as it is at a similar altitude to the Mexico course. Woburn is another short tree-lined course that ties in with Crans while the Sauranja course in Malaysia which hosts the Maybank Championship is visually similar and has some cross-over form through a few players.

Stats wise Mickelson’s long game wasn’t exactly brilliant last year as he only ranked 60th in total driving and 25th in GIR but his short game was as strong as ever. He was 2nd in scrambling and 3rd in putting as he showed his love for slick poa annua surfaces. The 1st and 2nd ranked putters finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.  The year before DJ’s long game was a little better ranking 5th for GIR and 17th for total driving but his short game was also razor-sharp as he was 14th for scrambling and 5th in total putting.

Another thing of great interest is how important current form has been in both the Mexico events but also going back to Doral too. Four of the last six winners had already won that season while Mickelson came in with form figures of 5-2-6 last year and in 2015 DJ had finished 2nd at Riviera and 4th at Pebble Beach. I wouldn’t be expecting anyone to find their game from nowhere this week.

Given that strong cases can be made for the top 10 or so in the betting and they are all trading low enough I’m happier to chase the place money this week. It can almost be a guessing game which one of the elite are going to turn up on any given week and guessing at odds of 12/1 isn’t a lot of fun especially with so many of them having played a lot of golf already in California. In both editions so far we have seen some lesser names on the leaderboard and with that in mind I’ve got three outsiders at bigger odds. I’ve focussed on 3 main things, decent current form, a liking for tree-lined layouts and an excellent short game (be it scrambling or putting but preferably both!)

First up is Hao-Tong Li who has been playing at a seriously high level for some 6 months now. Going back to October his world-wide form reads 2-12-MC-30-5-2-11-9-5 and that missed cut was returning from an 8 week Christmas break. The 11th was at the previous WGC in Shanghai and he has the perfect game for championship layouts. He is a sneaky long driver and regularly gets it out past the 300 yard mark off the tee. When playing well his approaches are usually quite reliable but lately it has been his short game that has been on fire. On his last start in Saudi he ranked 1st in scrambling and 1st in putting finding only Dustin Johnson too good and beating Bryson by 6. He looks as assured holing out from inside 8ft as anyone in the game and that confidence will help him on these slick poa annua greens. We saw last week at Riviera the carnage that can ensue with fast, undulating poa annua greens and I think his flat stick prowess can help him go well this week. He only managed 63rd last year but a second look will be a big plus point for him. Li also has some form at a key course in Malaysia which hosts the Maybank Championship. Sharma won there last year and Zanotti the year before and they both would finish top 10 here in Mexico a few weeks later. Li was 5th there in 2017 on the tree-lined course with fiddly greens. Li looks comfortable in these elite fields and I think he is one to watch in the big events this year. I’m having an each way bet at 66/1 and also top 20 @ 5/2.

Shane Lowry’s Abu Dhabi win has been quickly forgotten about if the market is anything to go by. Lowry missed the cut at Pebble since then but he is a player who likes to enjoy himself and while he spent the first few weeks of the year grinding hard on his game, I’m sure he would have enjoyed celebrating his win too. I’d expect him to arrive in Mexico fully refocussed though and looking to join an elite group of just 14 players to have won multiple WGCs. It was his putting that he hadn’t been happy with as it had been letting him down the last couple of years. But the hard work paid off as he ranked 3rd on the greens in Abu Dhabi. His long game has been as solid as ever and he has plenty form on narrow tree-lined courses. Lowry should really have won at Wentworth already (six Top 15s), he was 2nd at Woburn while the highlight of his career was at Firestone when he won the WGC Bridgestone. He looks a very solid each way bet at 80/1.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat showed his suitability to the course last year when he finished 5th and I don’t see any good reason why he can’t have a good week again. The Thai is one of those erratic drivers who seems to be helped by playing on tree-lined fairways. It seems to either help him from a visual point of view or temper his aggressive play but either way a lot of his best results have come on courses with difficult driving lines. He was 5th at Woburn in 2015 and also 5th at Wentworth. He led the field for scrambling here last year and while he comes in off 3 missed cuts from his last 4 I think he will be more comfortable away from mainland U.S. He has been struggling to find his feet so far on the PGA Tour as he looks to try to gain his full PGA Tour card but he hasn’t played too much in California to date so I’m not overly worried by that. He finished his 2018 season well with a 4th in the elite field WGC HSBC and then 9th at the DP World Tour Championship. Looks a little over priced considering 4 of the top 10 in 2017 returned to record another top 10 last year, suggesting that having played here before might be a big advantage.

Nothing in Puerto Rico but I thought Amy Yang looked a little bit over priced (28/1) in the Honda LPGA Thailand. Yang loves the course and already at 29 years old she boasts course form of 14-1-3-1-45-12-4-7-10. She hasn’t missed a cut since June and with a lot of the bigger names not fully wound up yet this is a good chance for her to get her 4th LPGA win at a course she excels on.


Summary of bets

WGC Mexico

Hao-Tong Li – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 5/2

Shane Lowry – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 5/2

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 11/2

(all 1/5 odds 6 places general)

Honda LPGA Thailand

Amy Yang – 1pt ew @ 28/1 (1/4 odds 5 places)

 

Weekly points advised = 12

 

@theGreek82