Memorial and Italian Open – Betting Preview

Kevin Na saved the day with a brilliant 61 on Sunday to finish 4th but at the same time left me (and him no doubt) cursing his shocking closing 9 holes on Friday when 3 shots clear. In truth it was very much in keeping with his recent career, capable of brilliance yet always susceptible to a wobble when that elusive win appears on his horizon. But he backed up the thinking that he remains a brilliant each way bet when conditions and price suit.

The BMW PGA was a hugely frustrating event as both Southgate and Westwood spent most of the tournament inside the top 20 only to fall down the leaderboard when it mattered. The outright bets fared worse although EVR and Hebert clearly enjoyed the test even if they never threatened the upper reaches of the leaderboard.

2018 pts advised = 225

2018 pts returned =306.24

ROI = 36%


Memorial

The PGA Tour heads to Jack’s place this week and there is certainly a fitting field strength for the legend of the game. I’m not sure I’ve seen this good a field for a regular Tour event since I’ve been following the PGA Tour. It’s absolutely chock-a-block rammed full of talent and 8 of the top 10 in the world are in the field. This makes it look like an absolute minefield in betting terms but with firms going to 7 and 8 places there may be some each way value further down the market.

Muirfield Village was opened in 1976 and has hosted The Memorial Tournament ever since producing an impressive roll call of winners. Named after the site of Nicklaus’ first Open Championship win the course itself is 7337 yards long and the fairways are of average width. There isn’t too much immediate trouble barring some lush green rough and it is very much a typical Nicklaus course as it is all about the approach shots and then what you do on and around the greens (the challenge usually increases the closer you get to the green on his courses) . Recent winners have been accurate drivers but a look at the stats confirm Muirfield Village’s increasing difficulty as you get nearer the hole. The last 5 winners have averaged just 23rd for total driving yet they have averaged 14th for GIR and 16th for scrambling. While putting is always important, Memorial is usually won with approach play but perhaps the most apparent stats information is how well those 5 winners have fared in the all-round ranking, suggesting the importance of doing nothing badly during the week rather than perhaps doing any one thing brilliantly. The average all round ranking for the last 5 winners is 3.8 and with such an elite field assembled here this week it looks a prudent play to side with someone whose whole game is decent order. With fast, undulating, elevated greens, Muirfield tests all aspects of the iron game and it is a ball striker’s course undoubtedly. Approach shots need to be kept on a string to score well and Matsuyama who won this three years ago has some of the best distance control in the game as does 2013 champion Kuchar.

In addition to previous form around Muirfield, other Nicklaus tracks are worth looking at too, Glen Abbey GC which hosted the Canadian Open in 2004, 2008, 2009, 20013, 2015, 2016 and 2017; Sherwood GC which hosted Tiger’s World Challenge from 2000-2013, Valhalla where Rory Mcilroy won the USPGA in 2014 and the Old White TPC which hosts the Greenbrier Classic and was redesigned by Nicklaus in 1976. The CareerBuilder Challenge has also featured a couple of his courses in recent years. There are a few more used in Europe but not too many of this field will have played them.

Patrick Reed very nearly backed up my faith in him at the Wells Fargo when he finished in the dreaded 8th and I can’t help but back him here again at the prices. This is a very strong field but he still appears to have been dismissed a little too easily again at 33/1. Reed has always enjoyed Jack Nicklaus designs and logically that sits nicely with his game as he also improves as the clubs get shorter through the bag. The Nicklaus form is sneakier than most however, Nicklaus’ PGA West was one of the courses in play when he won the Humana Challenge and he properly announced himself on the world stage at the Nicklaus designed Gleneagles in the 2014 Ryder Cup. He also came runner-up at the European Tour’s BMW Masters around yet another Nicklaus course, Lake Malaren. For good measure his only appearance at Glen Abbey produced a 9th place finish where he scrambled brilliantly around the tricky green complexes.

Muirfield Village is probably a little narrower than Reed would ideally like but he was 8th there in 2016 while hitting 66% of his fairways so he can handle the tee-shots well enough. In fact given that he ranked 72nd in total putting it’s amazing that he managed anywhere close to 8th.  Especially when we consider that 73rd, 74th and 75th in the field for putting that week finished 69th, 69th and 73rd respectively. But Reed is putting a lot better again this year and sits 58th in strokes gained: putting so looking at everything together I’m sure if he can keep the ball out of the trees he will go well again. He ranks 7th in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months and Muirfield Village is above everything else a very good all-round test. Again not being given the respect he deserves, he looks a must bet at 33/1 with 8 places.

RBC Canadian Open - Final Round

Jonny Vegas has won the last two events at Glen Abbey and to be honest I’m backing him mainly on that form. He hasn’t been doing much lately but that was the case last year when he defended his Canadian Open title after missing 4 straight cuts. Glen Abbey clearly suits therefore I’m assuming Muirfield Village should suit despite 3 poor efforts so far and I think he should improve on his best finish of 56th. Vegas is also a former winner of the Humana / CareerBuilder and that event has been a good fit recently with Memorial as Dufner and Lingmerth contested a play-off there in 2016. It’s a fairly speculative bet but we get a very juicy 200/1 here so what’s not to like?

If I’m right about the CareerBuilder then I simply have to give my man Andrew Landry another go again this week after delivering in Texas for us at 150/1 last month. He came 2nd at the CareerBuilder this year behind Jon Rahm but a further look at his Web.com career also suggests he should take to Muirfield Village on his debut. His first professional win was the Karibana Championship at TPC Cartagena which is another Nicklaus course down in Colombia and he routed the field by 5 shots. It is a wider course than Muirfield but we know Landry is a very accurate driver of the ball and the greens there are very fast. Landry also showed his ability on slick greens at Oakmont two years ago when he contended most of the way at the U.S. Open so he shouldn’t be phased by the speed of these greens. It would be a heck of an achievement to win in this company but at odds of 200/1 the each way portion makes a lot of appeal.

I felt I had to add a 4th this week when I saw Xander Schauffele’s price of 80/1. I can’t believe the over reaction to his missed cut last week when just two weeks prior to that he was finishing 2nd at TPC Sawgrass. Looking at his career so far he is a player who has to have played the week before in order to see him at his best. He teed it up the week before both his wins and also before his best major finish of 5th at last year’s U.S. Open. It was the scene of his first win though that first got me looking at him this week, the Greenbrier at the Old White TPC. Jack Nicklaus carried out a complete overhaul of the course back in 1976 and the over all test is quite similar to that of Muirfield Village. Schauffelle is also a player whose best asset is his all-round game, he doesn’t really do any one thing spectacularly well but there really isn’t a weakness to his game and he enjoys these sort of courses that test all aspects of the game. Looks massively over priced so I couldn’t leave him out despite this being his debut at the course.

 


Italian Open

After three editions at Golf Club Milano and a nice bank of course form, the Italian Open is on the move again so it’s back to square one for golf punters and probably most of the players too. Gardagolf Country Club near Brescia is the new host course and it hasn’t been seen on the main Tour since 2003. Mattias Gronberg took that title while Bernard Langer closed out his win in 1997 on the final hole against Olazabal. I’m not sure we will get that level of drama or quality golf this week but it looks like a great course even if the field isn’t what it would have been here 21 years ago.

The championship course is made up of two 9 hole courses named Rosso and Bianco and while both similar, Rosso is more open and undulating and Bianco is a bit tighter with lots of water in play. An immediate look at some photos of Gardagolf suggest the test won’t be too different from last week and both the winners confirm that. Gronberg is far from a household name but he did win 4 times on the European Tour, K Club, Crans and Randpark GC were the other three courses and he also lost in a play-off at Woburn. Langer obviously won on many different courses in his career but he is a 2-time winner around both Wentworth and Augusta while he has also won at the K Club. K Club isn’t quite as tight as Wentworth or Crans but all these courses look like being good pointers in this week on a course where there are some very abrupt dog-legs within the tree-lined fairways.

Gardagolf

When I think of tree-lined tracks one of the first names that pops into my head these days is Matt Fitzpatrick and after a decent showing last week he looks to be in with a great shout in Italy. Fitzpatrick has already won around Crans and Woburn in his short career confirming that he is happiest where finding the fairways is a bit of a challenge. Additionally his U.S. Amateur win came at tree-lined Brookline Country Club which is quite similar visually to Gardagolf. Fitzpatrick was 8th last week and will take confidence from his best performance since January. Looks ready to add to his 4 European Tour titles and he will know he has to lift his game through the summer to keep his Ryder Cup place. Not the fanciest of prices but looks a perfect course for a rejuvenated Fitzpatrick and we shouldn’t forget that his poorer run of form was at a far higher grade on the PGA Tour.

Fabrizio Zanotti is a 2-time winner on Tour with both having come in the last 4 years but he is far from consistent. He is the sort of player you want to back at three figures when in reasonable form and playing on a course where driving accuracy looks to be important. Few hit more fairways than the Paraguayan and he isn’t too shabby when it comes to getting over the line either. He won a 4-man play off for his first win defeating Henrik Stenson, Cabrera-Bello and Gregory Havret who had 14 European Tour wins between them at the time. His 2nd win was at the Maybank Championship around Saujana GC where finding the right area of the fairway is key. So it looks like the course should suit him and he comes in off a 15th place finish at Wentworth. He ranked 9th in total accuracy there and 10th in the all-round ranking so to me he looks an excellent piece of each way value at 100/1.

Rafa Cabrera Bello played the final three rounds last week better than everyone bar Molinari, Noren and Kinhult so he will be arriving full of confidence to a course that should suit his neat and tidy game perfectly. I mocked Jeremy Chapman last week for putting up 4 of the first 7 in the market but yet again his top-heavy approach yielded profit. I’m taking a leaf out of his book this week as I think this could be a course where the class-acts find themselves in contention on Sunday. He is one of the few who will have played an event here before back in 2006 and his record in Italy is decent with 6 top 10s from 15 events. Like Fitzpatrick he will be targeting these Rolex Series events as good chances to consolidate his Ryder Cup position so I’d expect another strong showing. He actually led the field in both putting and fairways hit at Wentworth so a slight improvement in his normally excellent approach play would make him hard to beat.


Summary of bets

Memorial

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 17/2

Jonny Vegas – 0.75 pt ew @ 200/1

Xander Schauffele – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (all 1/5 odds 8 places Pady Power)

Italian Open

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1.5pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Fabrizio Zanotti – 0.75 pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Boylesports)

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1 ( 1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

Weekly points advised = 15 pts

2018 pts advised = 239pts

 

@theGreek82

 

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CIMB Classic and Italian Open – Betting Preview

There were returns last week on both Tours as Hadley and Warren both grabbed full places. That very nearly made for a profitable week but not quite (16.5pts) and we really need winners to get back into profit for 2017. Hadley looked like he was going to oblige as he started the final round as favourite but could only manage to shoot level par on a tricky day where Steele rallied with a few timely (and lucky!) birdies.

In Scotland we were in a great position early on but I’m not sure what happened to Coetzee and Fox after Thursday. I followed them around St Andrews and they were both playing very well on the whole. Warren did the opposite though finishing strongly after starting slowly on Carnoustie. Lagergren looked like he might have snagged a place again but a double bogey on the 14th did for his chances on Sunday.

2017 pts advised = 460

2017 pts returned = 376.35

ROI = -18.2%

I’m a little bit rushed for time this week having been away so will focus on the picks. Both tournaments are on the same course so a lot of last year’s info will still be key.


CIMB Classic

 

The CIMB Classic takes its usual position at the Kuala Lumpur Golf Club and we have a strong bank of form to look at with just two men having won the last four editions as both Ryan Moore and then Justin Thomas doubled up. That further confirms how important course form is this week as it’s played in serious humidity in Malaysia and there are quirky sea paspalum greens like those on Tour at El Cameleon and Puerto Rico. The course was designed by Nelson and Haworth who are responsible for several championship courses in Asia and the form often stacks up. It is an early start this week through the night in Malaysia and conditions are hot and humid. Both Thomas and Moore putted the lights out during their wins despite neither men being considered consistently great putters. Sea paspalum is a tricky surface and comfort levels need to be high in order to contend.

Rafa

Rafa Cabrera Bello had some excellent form at the course even before his 10th place finish on the PGA Tour in this event last year. In the Malaysian Open he was 3rd and 4th in 2011 and 2012. For years the Spaniard threatened to become a bit of a journeyman on Tour always failing to maximise his brilliant ball-striking by falling short on Sundays. Gradually over the last two years though he has moved his game to another level and he got his reward with a slightly back-door win at the Scottish Open as Shinkwin himself struggled to get over the line in July. Rafa has also recorded some strong results in elite company recently, making the semi-finals of the World Match Play in 2016 before his best ever Major finish at this year’s Birkdale Open where he was 4th. I think the market has under estimated him this week so he is largely getting backed on a value basis. His tee-to-green game is better than the majority of this field but as ever it’s his very average short game that can hold him back. Having said that it has improved significantly lately and therefore he contends more often than not now as he only needs to perform slightly above average on the greens to do so. The slight worry with regards to winning this week is how prevalent putting has been for the winner. But there is enough value in the each way price for that not to concern me and he has putted well on these sea paspalum greens before. A solid looking bet at 40/1.

Chris Stroud looks a little over priced here despite his run of poor form. Stroud finally got his first PGA Tour win this summer at the Barracuda Championship and chased that with his first Major Top 10 at Quail Hollow the week after. Having secured his card and had his best ever two results in the space of two weeks it’s easy to see why he lost a little intensity and missed his next three cuts in strong fields. He has had a month off since then and would have got rid of any rust last week in California so will be relishing his return to both Malaysia and sea paspalum greens. Stroud finished 3rd at Kuala Lumpur GC in 2013 and followed that up with another 3rd two weeks later on Mayakoba’s sea paspalum. He ranked 2nd and 10th for putting those two weeks and thrives on the different surface as two further Top 10s in Puerto Rico testify. Stroud has also finished runner-up in the Alfred Dunhill and 8th in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, showing he isn’t your typical PGA Tour pro who can struggle when playing on the other side of the world. May well miss the cut again but I think he has been a little bit too easily dismissed at the 200/1 available with Betfred. Top 20 too at 5/1

James Hahn’s claims are very obvious being the only man bar Thomas to finish inside the top 10 the last two years. He was the first name on the shortlist but his price is a bit of a joke now around the 40/1 mark. We know how good he can be in contention but he is so inconsistent that it is very hard to know when he will play well. There are a few other prices that I cannot get on board with this week. Yes, Lahiri loves the course but should he really only be 3 times the price of Matsuyama, or the same price as last week’s winner Brendan Steele? I don’t think so. In fact I’m going to leave it at just the two picks here as Thomas should really win this again but is completely unbackable at just 4/1.

 


Italian Open

The Italian Open returns to Golf Club De Milano for the third time in a row. Francesco Molinari returns to defend and Jon Rahm tees it up as favourite looking to get his quota in for Ryder Cup eligibility. His presence together with the always too short Molinari have set the tournament up as a strong looking betting heat.

The course is a very narrow one as I covered in greater detail last year. But unlike so many tree-lined narrow tracks, this is also fairly long and has some very small greens. So perhaps it’s a little surprising how low the scoring has been to date.

Anywhere that Molinari wins you would imagine can’t put much emphasis on putting and despite some of the stats conflicting with that a little (Moli ranked 18th for putting, Karlberg 17th in 2015),  I’m happy to assume it isn’t overly important this week despite the need for birdies as the greens aren’t too difficult. Many of the holes wind through the trees with dog-legs and as such it is an extremely strategic course off the tee. Not only will they have to be on the correct side of the fairway but more often than not they will only be able to take an iron off the tee, resulting in lots of long iron approaches, especially on the front 9. That sits very well with Molinari having won as he hits his long irons and hybrids as well as anyone on the European Tour.

It’s all about the tee-to-green at Golf Club De Milano and then trying to get the putter hot by giving themselves plenty of chances.

Tommy Fleetwood was the massive standout at the prices on Monday when they came out and subsequently everyone jumped on. I did tweet about the 25s along with many others so hopefully readers managed to get involved. The dilemma then for me was at what price I can still advise him in the blog. The 25s came and went and unfortunately so did most of the 22s about the new father this week but there is still a little bit around and 20/1 is still just about fair too.

We all know what a fantastic long game Fleetwood has and he showed that throughout the summer. An argument could be made for him being in the top 12 or so in the world in terms of ball-striking alone but I must admit I still don’t rate him as much of a putter which usually means I still struggle to back him at short prices. However, in this field, on a tight course with small greens, he probably won’t need to putt too well to get into contention. The fact that he is still a bigger price than Molinari and Tyrell Hatton is to ignore Fleetwood’s rise to the top golfing table in 2017. Therefore with a 7th place last year, where he ranked 1st in GIR, and having broken the Carnoustie course record last Friday, I’ve decided he is still a worthwhile play at 20/1 even if some of the early juice has gone.

Anyone following Martin Kaymer will have had an interesting time to say the least since his meltdown in Abu Dhabi in 2015. It has been very odd to see a double major winner’s form take such an abrupt downturn but even still there have been instances where he has looked backable due to course form and disrespectful prices. This looks like one of those opportunities but this week we also have the added bonus of the fact his long game is very much back to it’s best. He ranked 4th for total driving and 9th for total accuracy last week in Scotland.

So if we see more of the same from him this week he surely has to go well on a course that he was 2nd at in 2015, again throwing away a lead as he led by three at the turn on Sunday. The 40/1 might take into account the fact that hasn’t been able to close them out lately but for me it hasn’t factored in his combination of class, course form and current ball-striking level. Anything much over 28/1 looks generous for the German this week.

There are a host of outsiders I liked this week at the prices and I’ve decided to plump for three more. I’m backing them in the Top 20 market too.

Chris Hanson recorded a top 20 here last year on his first look and I think he is over priced here on his return. Hanson ranks 2nd in total accuracy over the last three months and that combination will be ideal this week on such a narrow course. He hit 79% of the greens at the course last year which ranked 10th for the week. His current form is good if we ignore his missed cut last week in Scotland in the pro-am slog. His results prior to that read 11-25-37-14 with the 11th coming at the tree-lined Close House layout. If his long game remains as sharp as it has been then he should play well again.

Ricardo Gouveia got my attention after last week as he actually ranked 3rd in total driving and 5th in total accuracy. Obviously that was playing three rounds on wide open fairways where comfort levels would have been high for the young Portuguese on the tee. So when I saw that he missed the cut here last year my enthusiasm was tempered a little. However when I delved a little further I noticed that one of his Challenge Tour wins was in Italy on an old-fashioned, tree-lined course with a premium on accuracy. He backed that up with a 6th place finish the year after when defending. I put him up a few weeks ago and he played well so I’m going to give him another go here but just a very small win bet and a bigger top 20 bet.

Jason Scrivener ranked 1st in total accuracy last week but still finished down the field in Scotland as he was let down by his putter. That’s not often the case so if he can improve on the greens he should go well. He was 5th on his last trip to Italy earlier this year at the Rocco Forte Open and has course form of 36-14 so he looks a little over priced.

 


Summary of Bets

CIMB Classic

Rafa Cabrera Bello – 1.5pt ew @ 40/1

Chris Stroud – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Italian Open

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1

Martin Kaymer – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Chris Hanson – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 6/1

Jason Scrivener – 0.25pt ew @ 175/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

Ricardo Gouveia – 0.25pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 15pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 475pts

@theGreek