Houston Open – Betting Preview

I broke the rule of not getting too involved in the Match Play last week so therefore I can’t really complain about losing all 8pts. Aphibarnrat very nearly made it to the semi-finals to get me out of a jam but despite the three previous events going to the favourites, it is worth remembering that these are 64 of the best players in the world and it really doesn’t take much to bring about an upset or 8. Small stakes next year!

GMac didn’t do much in the Dominican and Appleby fell away after starting well on Thursday. No European Tour event again this week so we just have the Masters warm-up in Houston but I’ve also had a look at the first Ladies’ major of the year.

Total 2018 pts advised =103pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 92.69

ROI = -18%


Houston Open

With one week to go until Augusta we stay in Texas and head along to Houston for the Shell Houston Open from Humble. There will be two schools of thought amongst the field this week, those who have qualified for the Masters will be looking to sharpen up their game and hone the skill set required for Augusta while those not qualified will be trying to punch their ticket up Magnolia Lane by winning this week. That makes for both an interesting narrative and betting heat as the motivation may well be greater for players further down the betting. It takes a seriously impressive mental attitude to win the week before a major and then follow-up in the big one. In recent times we have only seen McIlroy and Mickelson do so. So while much of this year’s schedule has been dominated by the upper echelons of the game, I’d be inclined to widen the net a little this week. Despite being a ball-strikers paradise, since moving to its slot the week before the Masters, only 2 of the 11 winners are major winners and you would be hard pushed to suggest any of the last 5 were top class even if the reigning champion Henley could still reach that level.

Shell

The Golf Club of Houston was Rees Jones’ first course that he designed from scratch and it has hosted since 2003. It is quite long at nearly 7500 yards but the fairways are very wide and the rough is minimal, meaning bombers have a good record in the event and the shorter hitters can struggle unless every other department of their game is firing. There is a lot of water in play around the greens¬† so an accurate approach game is required before they reach perhaps the biggest test of all. The greens are usually set up fast to mimic Augusta conditions next week and they are a bit of a mix with bermuda, bent and poa all popping up by all accounts.¬† Therefore 3 putts will be a plenty and holing out well will be key this week as the winner normally performs well with the putter.

There are quite a lot of players I like this week so with just one tournament I’m going to back a few to relatively low stakes, especially the more speculative ones.

Rees Jones also carried out a redesign of Torrey Pines and the course form generally correlates quite well. The Torrey greens are slick and while scoring is a lot tougher, driving distance and holing out are both very important. Harris English’s best finish of the season prior to last week in the Dominican was 8th at Torrey Pines and he is also a former runner-up there. He also has strong course form at the Sony Open where defending Houston champ Russell Henley got his first win, English has 3rd, 4th and 9th place finishes. He was 5th last week and ranked 6th in total driving and 11th in GIR so clearly he has found his game again. At his best English is a very strong putter and he drives it long and straight so I’m not sure why he has never done that well in Houston. The course should suit him and if he has turned a corner with last week’s confidence boosting 5th, then 80/1 could be quite a big price in a relatively weak field.

Benny An announced himself as a player to follow on ball-striker’s courses with quick greens when he won the BMW PGA Wentworth in 2015, although he is winless anywhere since then. That’s not to say he hasn’t played well though and he has been knocking on the door again this year on the PGA Tour. His putting can be quite hit or miss but when I noticed he was 2nd on Tour for putting inside 5ft I knew I had to back him here where holing out is difficult. I’m expecting a big week from young Korean.

Charles Howell III has form at Torrey Pines, Sony Open, Honda Classic and a good record here in Houston. He is famously one of the hardest to get over the line having not won since 2007 but with players like Chucky Three Sticks we have to look out for small things that might bring about improvement. Last week’s performance in qualifying from a WGC group with Phil Mickelson in it will have given him a huge lift and he perhaps let the pressure of qualifying for his home-town major get to him in the knock-out stages. That could well happen again this week but I think his each way price looks very good indeed. Howell is often criticised for his putting but this year he ranks 3rd in putting inside 5 feet and that will serve him well here while his extremely consistent tee-to-green game should be present.

Two very, very speculative punts to finish and Lanto Griffin seems over priced for someone who finished 12th at Torrey Pines. That is the height of my reasoning behind this bet. He is a PGA Tour rookie who is still finding his feet but to contend on a layout like that suggests there is maybe more to come. After a few missed cuts he managed a 28th last week where he was 8th in putting and at 300/1 I thought he was worth a small bet.

Jonas Blixt was a master on the greens a few years ago as he racked up 2 PGA Tour wins. He has been very quiet since but won the doubles event last year in New Orleans. He started 2018 fairly poorly again but he finished 41st on his last start at Riviera before 4 weeks off. Blixt isn’t much of a ball-striker to be fair but I think this course should suit him with some room to spray it off the tee. We shouldn’t forget Blixt finished 2nd at the 2014 Masters and he is capable of better ball-striking days. It’s a very speculative punt given he hasn’t shown much in this event to date but on the two occasions he has made the cut he returned top 30s and at his price it won’t cost much for a little interest.

 

LPGA – ANA Inspiration

The first Ladies major arrives this week and Brittany Lincicome looks somewhat over priced to me. She has already won this event twice in 2009 and 2015 and came runner-up in 2007. Lincicome is very much a horses for courses type of golfer and thrives on courses where she can use her powerful game to her advantage. She defended her Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and if she were out of form then I could perhaps see the reason behind a few firms having her as a 33/1 shot this week. But she sits in 2nd on the 2018 money list and I think she has been overlooked in the market here perhaps in favour of some of the more fashionable and popular picks. Yet a lot of those above her in the betting have been a little out of form while Brittany hasn’t missed a cut since last July and her 2018 form figures read 10-16-54-7-1. She looks a very solid each way bet at anything around 28/1 to 33/1.


Summary of Bets

Houston Open

Harris English – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Charles Howell III – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Benny An – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Lanto Griffin – 0.25 pts ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Jonas Blixt – 0.25pts ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

LPGA – ANA Inspiration

Brittany Lincicome – 1 pt ew @ 33/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 121pts

@theGreek82

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Shell Houston Open – Betting Preview

Last week it was a case of another tournament, another Dustin Johnson win and yet another poor betting week. With the Masters next week and confidence a little low I’m not planning on getting too involved this week as I save the stakes for Jordan Spieth (barring any torrential rain over the coming week at Augusta).

Total 2017 pts advised =135pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 77.66pts

ROI = -42.5%


Shell Houston Open

Last year I came to the conclusion that there were four key attributes to playing well at Humble Golf Club and they were par 4 scoring, driving distance, GIR and holing out well. While it didn’t help me find the rather left-field winner Jim Herman, I think the skill-set applied quite well. I’ve looked at the same attributes again as Herman did seem to conform even if he wasn’t an obvious winner.

Justin Rose hasn’t played a lot of golf this year due to injury so unlike some of the others at the top of the market, he will be eager to get the most out of Houston in order to prepare for Augusta. In recent times he has missed this tournament as he prefers a week off to prepare for a major however he was 14th in 2010. But with his relative lack of events I think it is telling that he is teeing it up on a course that doesn’t immediately jump out as one that will suit him.

Since Rose became the world-class force that he is, he has played well the week before his win. On his last 6 wins he has finished 22nd, 6th, 2nd, 1st, 8th and 5th in the tournaments preceding his win. He is good enough and experienced enough now to see no negatives in winning the week before and we have seen plenty of the game’s best players do it over the last 10-15 years.

Rose is no slouch off the tee and he ranked 26th in driving distance in 2016. Few players hit more greens on a consistent basis and over the last 3 months he ranks 15th for Par 4 scoring. While he isn’t the best of putters, it is usually more the 5ft-15ft range that he struggles with rather than holing out. He has always looked more assured on smoother bentgrass greens and 5 of his 7 PGA Tour wins have been on the surface. Ultimately though, Rose just looks a little forgotten about in this field and at 22/1 he looks a very solid each way play.

With Tony Finau just missing out on the match play there was a lot of talk about him last week and that has held over this week heading into Houston. Despite missing the cut last year, the wide open fairways and length of the course suggest that Finau should be suited to the layout. Last year, while he was playing very well at the time, he wasn’t hitting as many greens as he is this year and he was also coming off his first PGA Tour win the week before. That is never quite ideal as you only have three days to celebrate and prepare for the next week. This year he ranks 14th for GIR whereas he finished the 2016 season in 106th place. That improvement will help him on a second shot course like he faces here. Digging a little deeper into the GIR stats shows that Finau is performing even better from 175-200 yards as he is 3rd on Tour. A solid long iron game will always be helpful on a course where past winners include Hunter Mahan, Paul Casey and Adam Scott.

It’s very possible that Finau won’t putt well enough to win this but the switch over to bentgrass should be favourable for him. While he is beginning to look a little skinny at 40/1, he will have the added motivation of trying to qualify for the Masters next week and hopefully that will be enough to see him get competitive and give us a run for our money.

Last year I tipped Lydia Ko to win the first Women’s major of the year at 9/2 (almost the last winner on the blog!) and while she is in fairly poor form by her standards, I can’t resist the 18/1 on offer this time around at the ANA Inspiration. It is more of a suggestion on price alone as the odds make her 10th favourite this week and while the strength in-depth on the LPGA is by far and away the best it has ever been, I feel like her achievements have been dismissed a little too easily here. Ko did miss her last cut but prior to that she recorded 3 top 10s in a row. The New Zealander has changed clubs and coach since her last win in July so a transitional period was to be expected but it is surely just a matter of time before she turns things around. At odds of 18/1 it’s easy to play this week just incase last year’s major win inspires her again. Just 1pt win only though.


Summary of Bets

Houston Open

Justin Rose – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Tony Finau – 1pt ew @ 40/1

ANA Inspiration

Lydia Ko – 1pt win only at 18/1

Weekly points advised – 5pts

Total pts advised – 140pts

@theGreek82