It was an agonising final round in both Australia and South Africa on Sunday. After their respective 3rd rounds it looked like there was a strong possibility of Spieth and Schwartzel both winning, Scott and Grace both placing, along with Curlewis making at least the Top 20. Rumford even looked like he could make a run at the Top 5 as he started his final round strongly.
But despite playing some truly awful golf at times, combined with suspect decision-making, Matt Jones somehow managed to hold off two Masters champions to win his national Open. It’s a result that I think can be considered a bit of a one-off. Spieth and Scott finished one shot shy after both playing some fairly poor golf across the 4 days and I would certainly give them as much respect lining up in this again next year.
In South Africa Branden Grace appeared to have his whole family trading him on the Exchanges such was his up and down week. (obviously not serious!) He gave Schwartzel (and indeed the field) a huge head start prior to the weekend and never got close enough to mount a challenge. Annoyingly though he managed to find the water twice in his last three holes for two bogeys when par would have given him 4th place. Schwartzel never looked comfortable over the weekend and even admitted so in his post round interview. But as I mentioned in the preview, such is the gulf in class between the top 3 and the rest of the field last week, none of the chasers could even put the slightest pressure on Schwartzel and in the end he managed to wobble his way to a 4 shot victory even with some suspect tee shots. In truth his putter won him the tournament and should he recover his driving game then he should be able to pull himself back towards the World’s Top 10 in 2016. That said, he remains a player to think twice about steaming into at short prices.
Andrew Curlewis started the day inside the Top 20 and when he birdied the 2rd hole he was briefly inside the Top 10. Unfortunately that was a close as he got and his whole round unravelled from the 8th as he went bogey-double bogey to leave me cursing the lack of liquidity in the southern hemisphere exchange markets which meant I couldn’t trade any profit from his position on Saturday.
The returns weren’t great but it was an interesting week just to explore a different way of making profit from two very top-heavy markets. In hindsight I don’t think it was a bad way to go as it can be regarded as very low probability that both Spieth would find himself not chasing down a player of Matt Jones calibre and Grace wouldn’t maintain a placed finish with just a Par 5 to play. Either of which would have given a decent profit on the week. With 7.93 pts returned it leaves the running totals as follows;
Total pts advised – 300
Total pts returned – 443.71
ROI – 47.9%
This week we have a slightly different set of tournaments again with two short elite fields in both the Hero World Challenge and the Nedbank Golf Challenge. I’ll also be looking at The Australian PGA Championship and will be considering each way trebles this week given the low odds. Both the main events look extremely hard to call so while I’m using a similar staking plan as usual this week I wouldn’t want anyone blowing all their Christmas cash so it might be worth keeping overall stakes a little lower this week.
Hero World Challenge
The Hero World Challenge is a Tiger Wood’s Foundation benefit tournament and was always held at Sherwood Country Club. It moved to Isleworth Golf and Country Club last year and it is on the move again this week. The 18-man elite field find themselves in The Bahamas on a new course in Albany. With the course never having held a tournament before it looks highly likely to level the playing field of course form however it should be noted that several professionals are in fact members of the course.
It looks a tournament where current form will be the most important factor this week as well as trying to work out whose game might be suited to the test. As we would expect with an 18 man field the odds are all very short so value will be a little tougher to find.
From the photos I have seen and the descriptions I have found, the course is long (7400 yards) and looks to be links like in nature with plenty of hills and mounds helping to define each hole. The fairways however are flat and many are surrounded by sand waste areas. Hopefully Dustin Johnson reads the local rules this week!
Some players still have motivation in December but many of these will be treating this as the start of their Christmas holiday period with a nice family jaunt to The Bahamas. Patrick Reed is one player who is clearly still in the zone having played very well throughout the European Tour Final Series with 3 Top 10 finishes. An in form Reed can go well on almost any course such is his short game prowess and he looks primed to add a win to his recent strong form. Having savoured every minute of his Ryder Cup debut he will be keen to use this as a springboard to his 2016 season to make sure he doesn’t miss out on a first Ryder Cup on US soil. His iron game was in great shape in Europe (averaging well over 80% for GIR) and his confident attitude should help him around this new course. I’m expecting a big week from Reed.
There aren’t a lot of other players that jumped out at me. Spieth wasn’t striking the ball anywhere close to his best last week, Bubba Watson hasn’t been seen since the WGC HSBC where he had a poor week, Justin Rose closed out the DP World Championship with one of his worst rounds of the year. Dustin Johnson usually fares well at this time of year but given his high-profile collapses earlier this year he is hard to support at such low odds even if he does look very well suited to the course.
Last week in Australia Adam Scott finished in T2nd place after a very poor opening couple of rounds. On Thursday alone he hit 2 double bogeys and carded a further 7 bogeys throughout the week. The fact he managed to stay in touch with Spieth and Jones was very impressive and testament to the quality of his long game. Scott can demolish par 5s and he should love it here in Albany where he will face 5 of them each day. We have also seen how well he plays Links golf with the best Open record bar none over the last 4 years – 10th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd. Scott is at his best on tougher courses where his tee to green game can help him contend regardless of how his flat stick performs so I’m hoping Albany won’t play too easy this week. There is no question that the pending anchoring ban will be playing very strongly on his mind but I think his putting woes are factored into a rather juicy looking price of 16/1. It wasn’t long ago that he going off this price in full field Majors.
Nedbank Golf Challenge
On paper this should be an easier Tournament to find a betting angle into. The Gary Player Country Club course in Sun City has hosted this since 1981 and so we have plenty course form to go on. In addition to that many of these players have been playing plenty of golf lately so we know who is arriving with their game in top shape. The course is long at 7800 yards but it is at altitude so it doesn’t play all of that. The fairways are Kikuyu grass which is the norm down in South Africa and it can play as a slightly specialist grass, boosting the chances of those who play well in South Africa. The greens this week are bentgrass and will play around medium speed, getting faster as we approach Sunday.
There is a case to be made for a few of the players at the head of the market and I did consider them for the each way trebles. But two players stand out for me on current form and course form. Ross Fisher finished the 2015 season strongly with a 3rd place finish at the WGC HSBC and then a decent enough T13 at the BMW Masters. On both those occasions he had his usually impressive GIR figures with rankings of 10th and 2nd. Fisher has a strong record not only in this tournament but in SA on the whole. He finished 2nd last year at Sun City and that is no surprise on a long, tight course where finding the fairways and greens is a tough test. His last win also came in South Africa in 2014’s Tshwane Open and he has several other Top 10s in South Africa over the years. Fisher is top class when on form and playing on a course that suits, so he looks to be about the best value in the field this week.
Thongchai Jaidee has been playing some excellent golf not only the last three months but largely throughout 2015. His recent form reads 31st (a final round 77 dropping him off the DP World Championship leaderboard), 3rd, 11th and throughout that time the bookmakers have been consistently showing the 46yr old Thai very little respect. Again this week we find him at odds of 33/1 and that looks more than fair when we see he finished 7th and 9th on his last two shots at Sun City and won as recently as September on the European Tour. On paper you could dismiss him on such a long course but Jaidee’s accuracy with his woods and hybrids is excellent so he will still find plenty of greens this week which will allow his brilliant putting to keep up with the pack.
Although having his first look at the course there is one more that interests me. Byeong Hun An finished the season better than anyone, playing the Final Series in a total of 59 under par. He is long off the tee and usually straight but he has been quite wayward of late. His win at Wentworth showed that he can keep the ball in play off the tee when required and it may be that he is one of those players who actually enjoys having the tree-lined fairways dictate his shot shape to him. His approach play and putting were consistently excellent over the last 6 weeks so I’d expect him to contend again. His price looked a little short when he opened but I see he has drifted to 20/1 which looks very fair. I wasn’t really looking for a 3rd pick in this but I don’t think I can leave any of them out and if just one of the three place then we will see stakes returned on the tournament.
With the Australian PGA Championship taking place and two restricted fields I’m going to go with each way trebles this week. Obviously it is hard enough to get winning doubles but with a recent winner and two placed efforts last week I think it’s worth some small stakes, each way cross trebles for something different.
I won’t go into much detail about the Australian PGA Championship but one thing we notice time after time in these Triple Crown events is that they are usually won by a top class player who is proven on the hard, fast, Australian conditions. I wanted to back Brandt Snedeker here but I have been stung by him before when travelling to Asia or Australia. In theory he should take very well to these sorts of courses as he is one of the best putters around on fast greens. However his ball striking can let him down and there is nothing to suggest that his game is in good enough shape to warrant a restrictive looking price of 12/1.
Rod Pampling (33/1) and Brett Rumford (20/1) both played well last week and are experienced on these types of courses. Pampling is a native Queenslander and hails from just 50 miles north of this week’s Gold Coast course. He closed with a course record 61 last week to give the leading pack a little bit of a scare but ultimately he came up just short to finish 4th. That will leave him oozing with confidence and at 46 years old he will take inspiration from Peter Senior’s (aged 56!) win two weeks ago at The Australian Masters. Rumford was striking the ball excellently last week and it was bizarrely his normally razor-sharp short game that was letting him down. That won’t happen two weeks in a row and without any of the world’s elite here this week he will be confident of getting his 2nd win in Australia of the year.
Summary of Bets
Hero World Challenge
Adam Scott – 1.5pt ew @16/1
Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 12/1
Nedbank Golf Challenge
Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 30/1
Thongchai Jaidee – 1pt ew 33/1
Byeong Hun An – 1pt ew @ 20/1
12 x 0.15pt Each way trebles – (Reed, Scott) x (Fisher, Jaidee, An) x (Pampling, Rumford) = 3.6pts
Additional 0.45pt ew double – Adam Scott and Byeong Hun An = 0.9pt
NOTE: Both the Hero World Challenge and Nedbank Golf Challenge only pay 4 places this week due to restricted fields.
Weekly Pts advised – 15.5pts
Total pts advised 314.5