Greenbrier Classic and Irish Open – Betting Preview

Last week was an exciting one on both Tours but there wasn’t a lot to shout about in terms of betting over the weekend. Storm and Luiten were both in a good position after Friday but went backwards over the weekend. Robert Garrigus upped his game as expected but despite starting his 2nd and 3rd rounds brilliantly he couldn’t maintain that through 18 holes. It was a good week for him though as he finished in the top 30 and he will be looking to push on now during the second half of the year.

Centre stage moves from the U.S. to Ireland this week as the build up to The Open begins with two links warm-ups. First up is the Irish Open this week which is followed by the Scottish Open next week. Both are on classic links layouts and that opportunity for the world’s best to have a links practice has brought about two fairly strong fields.

Total 2017 pts advised= 297pts

Total 2017 pts returned= 202.17pts

ROI = -31.93%

 


Irish Open

The chance for the game’s best to hone their links skills ahead of the Open has been available since the Scottish Open left Loch Lomond back in 2011 but it was only really after Phil Mickelson’s back to back wins at Castle Stuart and Muirfield in 2013 when players started to really see the benefits. Now with the Irish Open firmly in the calendar the week before the Scottish Open there is the potential for three brilliant weeks of links golf and with the venues we have this year, that is exactly what we should get.

Portstewart Golf Club has never hosted a professional tournament before but the timing for its debut couldn’t be much better. Visually it is almost a double of Royal Birkdale as both courses feature many holes with fairways winding through dunes and high fescue. It will be a great preparation for the players and with rain and wind forecast over the weekend it will be a chance for some of the seasoned British links players to qualify for the Open.

   Royal Birkdale          royal-birkdale-golf-club-2

    Portstewart             Portstewart

Rory McIlroy is the defending champion after winning last year at the K Club and he has helped to gather an all-star field here with Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose making the journey alongside many of the household European Tour names and it has given the tournament a great boost and also created a very interesting betting heat.

As ever with an out-and-out links test I’m looking at those proven on links courses and proven in the weather that we so often see across four days of golf on these shores. Luckily there seem to be more and more of these with the Scottish Open having been played on links layouts since 2011 as well as the Open every year. In addition to that we have the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship although it must be noted that those courses are set up considerably easier for the Pro-Am element of the competition but is also played in October when the weather is even worse.

For me the main stats to look at with links golf are GIR, scrambling and putting. A good combination of those together with the ability to shape shots and control distance with irons are what will be needed to go well over the next three weeks. With the weather set to get up and make things difficult over the weekend then scrambling will probably be the most important. It was interesting to see Alexander Bjork (tipped many times on the blog) at the top of the leaderboard in France last week and he sits 2nd in scrambling on Tour over the last 3 months. When conditions are tough, greens are missed and getting up and down on fast links greens can take a lot of skill and will make or break many a week in Ireland.

I saw enough from Thomas Pieters last week in France to convince me that he isn’t far away at all from being able to win on a links course in this strong a field. He fired 17 birdies on the week but was undone by 4 double-bogeys that were a result of finding water. A lot was said about his petulant attitude and while I agree that it looks more to his detriment at the moment, he came very close to winning in spite of this. His two doubles on Sunday were as a result of typically aggressive golf from Pieters, knowing that he had to make birdies to catch Fleetwood. However there won’t be any water in play this week and while there will still be trouble lurking in the rough, there is a little more space off the tee at Portstewart and even if he does hit the odd wayward drive he is likely to be looking at one dropped shot rather than two.

All three of his wins on Tour came on links layouts around Europe; Albatross Golf Club in Prague, Kennemer Links in Holland and Himmerland in Denmark. He is yet to do anything exceptional in Britain but that is surely just a matter of time. The Belgian powerhouse currently ranks 2nd on Tour this year for scrambling and with the addition of three even bigger names to the field, 25/1 looks to be a nice piece of value to me.

Ryan Fox makes the team this week despite not yet having had the chance to impress in proper links conditions but he is just too big a price to leave out. There are plenty of things in his favour however that suggest he should go well. Firstly he is in great form having shot a final round 67 to finish 6th at Le Golf National. Only Peter Uihlein had a better combined ranking for GIR, scrambling and total putting as Fox ranked 6th, 11th and 34th respectively. Fox has also won up in Northern Ireland previously on the Challenge Tour and although that was a parkland course there would almost have certainly been some typical British weather. He also has a 2nd around the Spey Valley course in Aviemore which plays very much as an inland links course. Some of his best results over the last year were on the Australian swing where he finished 9th and 4th at the Australian PGA and Open respectively and they were both played on hard, fast, exposed layouts as is typical of the area. He is a very talented player who is expected to go on to big things on the European Tour so he looks a little over priced at the available 150/1.

Max Kieffer also performed well last week in France ranking 12th in GIR and 3rd for scrambling. He has some decent finishes on links type courses and finished 5th in last year’s Irish Open, albeit not on a links course, but he was 8th in 2015 at Royal County Down. He reached the Quarter Finals of the Paul Lawrie Match Play last year in Scotland which was played on a very exposed Archerfield course on the East Lothian coast. He has always seemed to me like a player who should be suited to links golf so with him in good form I think he looks worth a chance here as he returns to Ireland with fond memories of the last two years.

I’m adding Bernd Ritthammer here purely on his record in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. Last year he won the Volopa Irish Challenge in the south and also finished runner-up to Fox in the Northern Ireland Open. He hasn’t had a great start to his year but he looks massively over priced for a top 20 given that he clearly enjoys playing on these shores. He has missed his last 3 cuts but his stats aren’t awful for this test as he ranks 20th for scrambling and 12th for total putting over the last 3 months.

 


The Greenbrier Classic

If the Irish Open is an attractive betting heat this looks to be the opposite so I’m going to keep stakes small as it really does appear to be the sort of event where anyone in the field could win. The course is the Old White TPC and unlike last week’s tee-to-green grind, this is one of the easier courses on Tour. Stuart Appleby shot a final round 59 here in the first event in 2010 to stop Jeff Overton getting his maiden win and while they have tried to make things a little tougher since, the winning score has still been comfortably in double figures under par.

The course is reasonably long for a Par 70 at 7287 yards and the fairways are wide enough. This suggests that we should look at some of the bigger hitters who play par 4s well and can really rack up the birdies. However the list of winners isn’t quite a who’s who of bombers so I had a look at the stats for the six editions do far.

Most of the winners rank highly in birdie average and strokes gained: putting but perhaps the single most relevant stat recently has been Par 4 Birdie or Better in which the last two winners have ranked 14th and 18th during the year of their win. This backs up what I expected from the course so I have used these as my main criteria for the week.

Russell Henley looks to be the pick at the prices here as his 40/1 looks very fair compared to those just ahead of him in the betting. It seems everyone has forgotten that he was in contention at the U.S. Open until the back 9 on Sunday and that he was a winner just three months ago. In fact that win was at the Houston Open which has some form lines with the Greenbrier as several players have very strong records in both and they can often come down to who performs on the greens. He also has a win at the Sony Open in Hawaii which was designed by Seth Raynor who helped Charles B Macdonald design the Old White TPC.

Henley ranks 14th on Tour in strokes gained: putting and he finished 5th here in 2015. He will enjoy the birdie fest and rates a confident bet now he has managed to shake off the disappointment of Erin Hills with four rounds at the tricky TPC Potomac last week.

Sung-Hoon Kang was very close to being bet this week even before I noticed that he was 2nd at the Houston Open behind Henley in April.  At the Quicken Loans he was extremely unfortunate to be on the 16th green with a short birdie putt on Sunday when the torrential rain arrived. Kang and his caddie were unprepared and he was absolutely drenched prior to taking his putt. He missed it and would then go on to double bogey the 17th to ruin his chances, still clearly unsettled from a downpour that was nowhere to be seen in the forecast. He spoke well afterwards with Sky and he didn’t give the impression he would be dwelling on the missed opportunity for too long.

Kang ranked 14th in total putting last week and that boosted him to 65th on tour in strokes: gained putting so the low scoring nature shouldn’t bother him. Given that his two best performances so far on Tour have been on a course with good form links to TPC Old White and just last week I think he looks a great bet at 66/1.

One final dart here at Michael Kim who figures highly in a couple of key stats and also finished 12th at the Houston Open and 20th at the Sony Open this year. Kim ranks 38th in par 4 birdies or better and 33rd in strokes gained: putting. Could be overpriced at 150/1 and also looks worth a top 20 bet.


Summary of bets

Irish Open

Thomas Pieters – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Ryan Fox – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Max Kieffer – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Bernd Ritthammer – 1pt Top 20 @ 16/1

Greenbrier Classic

Russell Henley – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Sung-Hoon Kang – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Michael Kim – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 309pts

@theGreek82

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AT & T Byron Nelson and Irish Open – Betting Preview

Another poor week leaves the profits at a low for the year and without having seen much golf over the weekend I can only go on the highlights package. From what I saw Day’s length off the tee combined with accurate approach play, laser putting and a field leading 85% scrambling was just too much for everyone else. It was simply more of the same from the Aussie and when all aspects of his game are working that well then I’m not sure anyone will be able to keep up with him this year.

It was annoying to see Day hose up just 1 month after we backed him for The Masters but so far it has been a very tough season with as many 1000.0 shots winning as favourites. I fully expected Day to carry on his brilliant form into 2016 but so far he has proven tricky to catch on the right week. He obviously had the short game to go well at Sawgrass but his course form was distinctly average. With yet more lightning greens at the US Open venue at Oakmont next month he will surely be the favourite to win and add to his US PGA Championship from August.

In Europe it another difficult week that involved so much guess-work with regards the course and the low-grade field. That is why I kept stakes low though so while The Players was a bit of a disaster there was very little harm done with a few small bets in Mauritius.

The results are now as follows;

Total points advised – 606.5

Total points returned – 722.80

ROI (since July 2015) – 19.2%

This week the PGA Tour returns to normality with the AT & T Byron Nelson from TPC Fours Seasons Las Colinas in Texas and The European Tour finally returns to Europe for some of the higher quality tournaments with the Irish Open from K Club near Dublin


AT & T Byron Nelson

Jason Day himself is a former winner here but doesn’t tee it up this week and a quick look at all the recent winners of the Byron Nelson seems to throw up a combination of strong drivers of the ball, good wind players and great putters. From a stats perspective total driving is in fact the standout with the last 5 winners having averaged 10th in total driving. While putting wasn’t overly crucial in 2011 and 2012 the last 3 winners have ranked 2nd, 2nd and 3rd which backs up my original thoughts.

A further look into how those 5 winners have done their scoring at TPC Four Seasons throws up another valuable trend as the 5 have all been excellent on the Par 4s. That is to be expected on a Par 70 but nevertheless they have ranked 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd and 2nd on the Par 4s during the week of their win and it looks like another handy string to the bow this week.

The course is a long Par 70 layout and at 7160 yards with just two of the longer holes then it makes perfect sense that long, straight driving helps to get it done at TPC Four Seasons.

johnson-dustin-OK

Dustin Johnson is without a win since March 2015 but some of the quality golf that he played during 2015 was overshadowed by his high-profile collapses. DJ took apart most of the Major courses over the first two days with his power game and when he is driving it even remotely straight and putting ok he is a threat no matter who is in the field.

TPC Sawgrass clearly isn’t his track however and it was interesting to see him record his highest finish at the course last week (28th). He ranked 8th for driving distance and that will set him up nicely for TPC Four Seasons where the softer, slower greens will help cover up his relatively weak short game and allow him to attack the flags with more wedges than most. Despite the brown greens being almost impossible to hold last week he still hit 68% of the greens and that isn’t too shabby around Sawgrass.

Johnson also happens to be one the best wind players around and that is important on any Texas course where the wind blows more often than not. Indeed he has four Top 10s in 6 efforts here and it clearly fits his eye.

Although there hasn’t been a win for a while Johnson still sits in 9th place for the all-round ranking over the last 3 months so his game can’t be far off and perhaps the most encouraging aspect is that he ranks 9th for total putting over that same period. Day’s win stopped the run of huge price winners on The PGA Tour and when that last happened in February the next few Tournaments were shared out amongst the game’s top table.

A similar thing could happen again this week as the first few players in the market will be determined to try to keep pace with the World Number 1 player. With Spieth having missed the cut last week I think 2nd favourite DJ looks to be the most likely winner and while 10.0 may appear short it shouldn’t be forgotten that he is a 9 time winner on Tour capable of blowing most fields away when at his best. It will be important for him to get over the line again sooner rather than later given last year’s woes but when he does win again it will no doubt be away from fast greens like Chambers Bay and this looks like the perfect set-up for him to get back in the winners enclosure.

The last two weeks have provided very differently priced winners on the Exchange. James Hahn went off at 1000.0 and Jason Day was around 13.0 last week. So as we have one from the head of the market I have decided to compliment Johnson with two outsiders.

Andrew Loupe finished 4th two weeks ago at The Wells Fargo and I think he has the right combination of power and putting that could see him go well on his 2nd look at the course. He currently sits 6th in driving distance for the last 3 months and 11th in total putting. He is rather wayward off the tee but with that not having been quite as crucial recently I think 150/1 is huge for a player that finished 4th last time out and is putting that well.

Hudson Swafford stopped a run of 3 missed cuts with a 57th at The Players Championship but it was his opening 66 that got my attention as we haven’t seen him on a leaderboard for a little while. He fell away as the greens firmed up over the weekend but it’s possible that he found something before the Thursday as prior to that 66 only 2 of his last 16 rounds were in the 60s with nothing better than a 69. Although scoring was low on the Thursday that is still quite a place to shoot your lowest round in months and he finished 7th in total driving for the week. If he found something off the tee at Sawgrass then the slower greens could be exactly what he needs this week and he looks to be a big price at 250/1.

One final thing of interest I found was a course link to Atlanta Athletic Club which hosted the 2011 US PGA Championship. Four of the first seven players home there have all won the Byron Nelson which seemed quite pertinent. Unfortunately that hasn’t thrown up anything too interesting but I did see David Toms at 690 on Betfair and that seemed quite high. He won his US PGA around Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001 and then also finished 4th there in 2011. Given he was seen finishing 14th at the RBC Heritage a few weeks ago and the recent high price winners I thought he was worth a small win bet with a view to trading out should he start well.


Irish Open

As soon as I noticed that the Irish Open was moving to K Club this year one player jumped out at me such is his connection with the course. Lee Westwood will be hoping that this connection can have a positive influence on the latter stages of his career. Having had a poor 2015, Westwood will be desperate to try to qualify for his great friend Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine in September.

I don’t think there could be a better place for Westwood to lay down a marker than the K Club. Firstly he has won around the course twice, in 1999 and 2000 with Clarke himself winning the following year. This began Westwood’s affinity for the course but it was the emotional 2006 Ryder Cup that has firmly etched this Golf course into the careers and lives of both Westwood and Clarke.

Clarke’s wife lost her battle with cancer just 6 weeks prior to the Ryder Cup and Clarke bravely decided to still take up his wild card spot, with Westwood being Woosnam’s other pick. They teamed up for a perfect record winning both their four-balls matches. Westwood would also half both his foursomes before winning his singles match to leave himself as the top scoring player with 4 points out of 5. Europe earned a resounding 18 ½ -9 ½ win and the scenes at the K Club were some of the most emotional we have witnessed in the Ryder Cup.

There isn’t a single doubt that Westwood will be part of Clarke’s team in September, it’s just a matter of whether he can qualify, do enough for a Captain’s pick or have to make do with being one of Clarke’s vice captains. But any win between now and August would probably be enough for the Ryder Cup stalwart and I think he has a great chance this week.

While not a links course there will be plenty of similar weather in store for them and Westwood won’t be phased by that at all. In addition to his 2 wins at the course he has another 5 European Tour wins in England and Scotland so he is right at home in the cold, damp, windy conditions that are forecast for the week.

Although his K Club history was what highlighted Westwood, he also arrives in fairly decent form having last been seen finishing 2nd at The Masters. Only Danny Willett can boast a better piece of form in the field so he looks a great price at 33/1 to go well on a course that suits him perfectly.

K-Club-Golf-Resort-Ireland-10.jpg.w=1600&h=990

The K Club course is an inland parkland course and it was designed by Arnold Palmer. It stands at 7350 yards long but yielded some fairly low scoring when it hosted The European Open from 1995 to 2003 and again in 2005. A look at those leaderboards together with the Ryder Cup and it seems that keeping the ball in play off the tee is crucial. That will only be accentuated some 10 years on with the growth of many trees on the course.

With Westwood a strong fancy based on course form I wanted to make the other two picks about current form and suitability to the course.

Joost Luiten has been playing some brilliant golf so far in 2016 with form figures of 44-2-2-MC-6-15-18-13-5 and the only thing missing is the win. Luiten is used to playing in the wind and one of his 4 wins was on the exposed Kennemer Links course in Holland. He also has a win in Wales in fairly miserable conditions so he will be relishing this opportunity with his game in such good order. That Wales Open win was around another Ryder Cup venue at Celtic Manor and with Luiten desperate to make his debut in September it won’t be lost on him that he has the chance to win around the 2006 host course too.

Luiten has been going off at fairly restrictive prices lately such is his form but with the strong field gathered in Ireland this week he looks a fair each way price at 33/1 where his 2016 ranking of 6th for total driving should help him considerably.

I’m going with another poor weather specialist in Ross Fisher at what looks to be a great piece of value. Fisher won this title in 2010 at Killarney Golf Club and like Luiten he also has a KLM Open title amongst his European Tour wins. Fisher hits the ball long and straight (4th in 2016 total driving) and that helps him in the wind. His home course is Wentworth and he can handle swirling winds through tree-lined courses better than most.

He was last seen in China where he finished in 44th after struggling to get to grips with the quirky nature of the greens. But two starts before that he played at the tough Valderrama course where he contended with his excellent ball-striking but ultimately his putting wasn’t quite up to scratch and he finished in a tie for 6th place. He led the field in the all-round ranking however and I think that is a better idea of where his game is at.

With his strong record playing in poor weather, his proven ability and his current form, 50/1 looks fairly decent despite this field strength. Fisher is a former World No 15 player and he has  already played in a Ryder Cup so he will also relish a chance to fire himself up the European Points list with a contending performance in a country where he already has a win to his name.

I will just go with 2×3 doubles this week as Swafford is a bit more of a hunch pick and a player I think could win soon at a big price rather than one that I definitely expect to play well this week.

Summary of bets

AT & T National

Dustin Johnson – 2.5pts win @ 10.0 on Matchbook exchange

Andrew Loupe – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Hudson Swafford – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1

David Toms 0.5pt win on Betfair Exchange @ 690

Irish Open

Lee Westwood – 1.5pt ew @ 33/1

Joost Luiten – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt ew @ 50/1

2×3 0.25 ew doubles (DJ 9/1, Loupe) + (Westwood, Luiten, Fisher)

Weekly outlay – 15pts

Total outlay – 621.5pts

@theGreek82