US PGA Championship – Betting Preview

A week that promised so much at the halfway stage with Fleetwood, Lowry and Schniederjans all in the hunt took a massive downward turn over the weekend. It looked like there would be no returns at all for a period over the weekend before a closing eagle pulled Ollie into the places and Cantlay grabbed a share of 6th place. This returned 11pts which nearly broke us even on another frustrating week.

But it’s quickly back on the horse again for the final major of the year and it looks like being a cracker even if nobody will be able to watch it on TV!

2018 pts advised =355.70

2018 pts returned = 357.30

ROI = 0.50%


US PGA Championship

The final major of the year for the final time, the US PGA takes place this week at Bellerive Country Club before a scheduling slot sees it moved to May next year. If that switch isn’t enough to irk metathesiophobes the world over then the decision to show the TV coverage on new online streaming site “Eleven Sports” could just be enough to send some over the edge!  Jordan Spieth stands over his 6ft putt to win the PGA and become the 6th man ever to win the career grand slam…..”buffering”. Improvements in the way we watch things have been fantastic over the last 10 years but they have to be as an addition to live TV and the fact we now have to stream a golf major isn’t for me and has to be considered a negative. It will make a nice change from criticising Sky Sports this week though!

Anyway I digress, even if people may struggle to watch it the US PGA is shaping up to be an excellent finale to the major season and we seem to have a fitting course for the brilliant field. Bellerive is said to be a very fair all round test and it looks a very difficult puzzle to solve with so many of the top players arriving in fine form.

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The course is in St. Louis, Missouri so we are 6 hours behind the UK and Bellerive COuntry Club is a potentially very long, 7317 yard par 70. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones back in 1960 with its first major arriving just 5 years later when the U.S. Open came to mind. It has only hosted 4 top professional events since with two of those being Seniors events. The other two events were the 1992 US PGA won by Nick Price and the 2008 BMW Championship which was won by Camillo Villegas. Robert Trent Jones’ son Rees Jones carried out an extensive redesign to bring the course up to modern standards ahead of that 2008 event. He aimed to bring it back to his father’s vision while making adjustments for longer distances players are hitting the ball.

The course is parkland with slightly below average width fairways and the reports are that the rough is up. The fairways wind through trees and water which is in play on 11 holes. Part of the redesign involved pushing the fairway bunkers up in line with the landing areas of current driving distances however the very longest will still look to fly these. One of the trademark features of this and indeed several of RTJ’s courses involve heavily tiered greens and with greens averaging 8200 sq feet they are in good use here. They also feature tightly mown fringes and heavily sloping run-offs so players will require their iron game to be on point if they wish to hold the appropriate area of the green. While the long game will be enough of a test it looks likely that these green complexes could well make or break the week. Other courses to have featured similar tightly mown run-offs recently are Pinehurst No. 2 and Shinnecock Hills.

Other Robert Trent Jones original courses include Hazeltine, Valderrama and Spyglass Hill while his redesigns include Baltusrol, Congressional, Oak Hill, Olympic Club and last week’s Firestone. His son Rees has redesigned plenty of championship courses recently including Atlanta Athletic Club, East Lake, Cog Hill and Torrey Pines. Perhaps the most important course correlation could be Hazeltine which was both a Robert Trent Jones original and redesigned by Rees just like Bellerive. Leaderboards from any of these courses are worth a look at to find potential angles in.

The greens this week are bentgrass so we would normally think lush green surfaces like Augusta, TPC Boston, Houston GC, Muirfield CC and again Hazeltine. However while the majority of the large greens should be perfect I have seen some photos of them looking a little weathered in places. The fairways are a different grass again with the slightly more peculiar zoysia grass in play. Three courses on Tour to feature this grass are East Lake, Trinity Forest and TPC Southwind, but this isn’t something I’d get overly hung up on myself.

It would be easy this week to fall into the trap that I have fallen into many times recently at the US majors and that is over playing the need to find fairways. Several times I have sided with straight drivers and shotmakers only to see the same bomber types sitting on the leaderboard. The 2016 US PGA at Bellerive was the most recent example of this as I went with steady shot makers. But Day and Walker hit it everywhere off the tee and still found a way of finding the green and letting their putters do the talking. Despite everything we are hearing about the course I’m not convinced this will be too big a test of accuracy off the tee. Firestone is supposed to be hugely demanding off the tee and yet look at the names that were still on the leaderboard all weekend, Thomas, McIlroy, Day and Dustin Johnson. Among them they hit an average of 50% of the fairways yet such is the quality of their recovery approach games it didn’t really matter. So while suitability to the course and form at similar venues will be key, I think the most important factor will indeed be current form and an iron game that has seen them play well all year long on the championship courses. That is often what gets it done at the final major of the year looking back at history and I’m expecting more of the same.

Some fairly random trends

The last 10 PGA winners had finished inside the top 28 at Firestone

The last 6 PGA winners ranked inside the top 36 in Strokes Gained: tee to green during that season.

The same 6 all finished inside the top 40 at that season’s Masters.

7 of the last 8 finished inside the top 32 of that season’s opening WGC event (Doral/Mexico)

4 of the last 6 winners led the Tour in “Par Breakers” that season.

The last 7 winners all finished the season inside the top 32 in Scoring Average.

5 of the last 6 winners finished the season inside the top 24 for Par 5 Scoring.

As a further aside to these trends I think it is also worth noting 2008 Bellerive winner Camillo Villegas’s stats that season; 3rd in scoring average, 8th in par breakers, 6th in strokes gained: tee to green, 2nd in par 5 scoring and 14th in 3-putt avoidance outside 25ft. There are only two par 5s at Bellerive but that stat tells us a lot more about the capabilities of a player and some of the longer par 4s will play closer to a par 5 yardage this week.

These trends all combine to give us quite an accurate profile of what is usually required to win a US PGA. A powerful, long off the tee, aggressive, low scoring player who is in form and has been there or thereabouts at several of the year’s big events. The first two names that are thrown up are the glaringly obvious Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. The cases for both are extremely compelling and I could just as easily have had 6pts win on both and left it at that. However in this size of a field I’m just about happy to let them both go at the prices. Those less happy could do worse than look at the 50/1 for the dual forecast as a saver bet. That would surely give you a good run through to the weekend at a decent price. Instead I’m going down the field a little with some each way options and some players with very similar profiles.

Jason Day is the perfect PGA Championship player and with his iron game looking back somewhere close to its best last week at Firestone he looks the pick at the prices for me. I think we can ignore the fact he lost 5 shots over the final 6 holes as he was only interested in chasing down Thomas for the win so he stayed aggressive right to the end. Firestone isn’t really a course where you can chase like that so we should instead focus on the fact he was 5th in strokes gained: approaches and 2nd to only Thomas for birdies. The improvement in his approach game is key as he has putted and scrambled as well as ever all year and he ranks 1st in strokes gained: putting and 2nd in strokes gained: around the green. The rest of his stats also back up his suitability for another contending PGA effort as he is 8th in par breakers, 8th in scoring average, 32nd in strokes gained: tee to green and he has the all important top 28 at Firestone (10th) and the top 40 at the Masters (20th). Day has as good a US PGA record as anyone lately with 4 top 10s in addition to his 2015 win. An excellent each way alternative to the two stand-outs at the head of the market.

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Jon Rahm also has the perfect combination of scoring power and touch to make him look like a future US PGA winner. He also fits the majority of stats and trends here as well as being one of the best players in 2018. That is a recipe for success at the final major of the year and he has been high up on my short list for this all year. Rahm had also been guilty of average iron play recently so it was very reassuring to see his numbers last week. He ranked 9th in strokes gained: approaches, 5th in strokes gained: around the green and 2nd in GIR. Throw in his impressive season long stats of 2nd in par breakers, 17th in par 5 scoring, 11th in strokes gained: tee to green and 8th in the all-round ranking and we have an excellent PGA winning profile. Rahm also has an impressive bank of form at the bigger events even if he did miss the cut at both the Opens. He posted top 20s at WGC Mexico, the Masters and most importantly last week so he is very much rounding back to form. If we are to see another first time major winner this week it could be Rahmbo that gets first blood. Another rock-solid each way pick at 25/1.

While it leaves me potentially open to Bellerive actually suiting the plodders, I can’t leave Tony Finau out such is his consistency in the big events this year. The 50/1 maybe isn’t fancy given we haven’t really seen him properly contend in any of them but it still looks a sound each way bet with 8 places. Finau has finished 27th in the WGC Mexico, 10th at Augusta, 5th at the US Open, 9th at the Open before his 10th place finish at Firestone last week. Above all it has been his powerful long game that has helped him but he also ranks 12th in the all-round ranking and I think a slightly tougher than normal US PGA layout could be perfect for Finau. He also ranks 13th in scoring average, 16th in par breakers and 15th in strokes gained: tee to green. His iron play was particularly strong last week as he was 6th in strokes gained: approaches. Given he has managed top 10s at all the other majors it looks highly likely he could add another at the venue that should suit him best of the four. Finau has been cut to 40/1 this afternoon. I’d make this price border line but as I’ve backed him already I will keep him in. His major record this year give us at least some nice each way terms if little value on the outright market.

Just in case it all goes horribly wrong and this event actually does require a strategic, plodding effort I think Matt Kuchar looks a little like the forgotten man here at 66/1 so I’ll add him to the team. Kuchar has had a steady if fairly unspectacular year but his last 2 results make him look hugely over priced here. He was 9th at the Open before 14th last week where he ranked 5th for scrambling and 11th in strokes gained: approaches. If these green complexes do become treacherous there aren’t too many more consistent short games on difficult courses than Kuch. A worthy each way back up to the bombers at 66/1.

I’m also going to give Thomas Pieters a chance at a huge price. I was slowly coming around to the idea that he might just not be that good earlier in the year as plenty persisted with backing him at what felt like value prices. He disappointed continuously but it seems like he has at least stopped the bleeding a little over the summer. He is on a run of 6 cuts made  and he returned top 40s in all of those. While he didn’t make the field at Firestone he was 28th at the Open and 6th at the Scottish Open before that. Pieters finest hour came at the Robert Trent Jones designed Hazeltine when he racked up 4 points out of 5 on his Ryder Cup debut. Hazeltine has also been reworked by Rees Jones and may be the best pointer in this week. It played long and there was lots of talk that the rough would be penal and fairways would need to be found. Pieters powered his way round the course aggressively attacking the flags on the similarly tiered greens. Has to be given one final chance here at 125/1 just in case that was the real Thomas Pieters rather than the one we have seen teeing it up most weeks since.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello keeps pulling me back in at majors due to the consistency of his long game on these sort of courses. Having turned a corner last week on a similar test he looks very likely to post another top 20.  Sits 27th in scoring average on Tour and 9th in strokes gained: approaches. The little bonus is that he ranks 1st in 3-putt avoidance from outside 25ft, highlighting how much his lag putting has improved. Enjoys Robert Trent Jones designs having scored 2.5 pts from 3 at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and he has recorded two top 20s at Vaderrama. Worth another go at 5/1.

Another value play in the top 20 market looks to be Ross Fisher. He posted a 17th at Firestone last week where he was 11th in strokes gained: tee to green. Fisher also plays well on RTJ tracks with a 19th at Hazeltine in 2009 and a very impressive record at Valderrama of 6-23-14-11-14. Probably doesn’t score well enough to trouble the leaderboard but another top 20 well within reach for his consistent tee to green game.

Aaron Wise was close to an each way bet but his price has been battered in since his 6th place at Firestone. Has all the tools to go well here at Bellerive but contending is maybe asking a bit much. Sits 11th in par breakers so he has been scoring well all year and his 14th place in the all-round reminds us he is capable through the bag. This turnaround in form following 6 missed cuts should be followed with a top 20 bet at 11/2.

1st round leader

Keegan Bradley would have been gutted to miss out on one of his favourite stops last week especially after signing off with a 64 at Glen Abbey the week before. That followed a Friday 63 and brought about a 4th place finish where he actually ranked 2nd in total putting for the week. If he has found a stroke he is comfortable with then he could be a massive danger during the rest of the season. Bradley is a former PGA winner and looks suited to this course where approach accuracy is key. If he can keep that hot putting streak going then he could post another low one from a nice early tee time. 11 of his last 14 opening rounds have been in the 60s with a 65 the pick of the bunch at the Greenbrier. He also ranks 6th in early round scoring for the season. There is some 80/1 with 8 places or 100/1 with 6 places available and both look excellent bets. I’m siding with Betfair’s 80/1 and 8 places as general scoring looks like it might be low in perfect golfing conditions.

Troy Merritt won’t have had the ideal preparation that most of the field have had. He had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a blood clot at the start of the week but retained hopes of teeing it up here. If he does he might be playing rather care free and he has been going low quite a bit on Thursdays already this season. He shot a 62 on his way to winning the Barbasol just 3 weeks ago and that is just one of many opening rounds in the 60s. He can be very hit or miss but when he is playing well his approach play can be immense as he confidently fires at flags. His opening PGA Tour win was around Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in 2015 so he clearly likes his courses. If he is fit to play then he has a nice tee time of 8:51 and could do some damage freewheeling. If he’s not we will get our money back.

Finally I’m taking a massive punt on YE Yang getting off to a good start here. Largely through the Hazeltine link having won his US PGA there in 2009 but he has also had a solid season in Japan. He won just 8 starts ago and is coming in off a 12th place finish on his last start in July. He shot an opening 66 that week which was preceded by opening knocks of 70, 70 and 69. He hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since last August but we know he is capable. Worth a very small bet at 200/1 with 8 places.


Summary of Bets

US PGA

Jason Day – 2.5pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Jon Rahm – 2pts ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet and Betfair)

Tony Finau – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet and Betfair)

Matt Kuchar – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Thomas Pieters – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Rafa Cabrera Bello – 2pts Top 20 @ 5/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1 (Betfair)

Aaron Wise – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

1st Round Leader Bets

Keegan Bradley – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Troy Merritt – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

YE Yang – 0.25pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 21pts

@theGreek82

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WGC Match Play – Betting preview

Apologies to any regular readers as Cheltenham took up most of my time last week so I didn’t get a chance to have a look too closely at the golf. I did manage to watch the final round though and McIlroy was extremely impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him putt that well and it couldn’t have come at a better time for him with just over 2 weeks to go before the Masters. It really couldn’t be set up any better with the majority of the game’s best players all in fine form. Before then we still have the 2nd WGC of the season with the match play event in Texas

2018 pts advised = 103pts

2018 pts returned = 92.69pts

ROI = -10%


WGC Match Play

The WGC Match Play is back at Austin Country Club for a third year and we are now into the fourth edition of the round-robin group format. Some players have enjoyed the move away from straight knockout while others aren’t quite as taken and again there are a few of the world’s best missing here; Rose, Fowler, Koepka and Stenson all sit out of a tournament that still hosts 64 of the world’s top ranked 70 players. Unfortunately that still means no Tiger who has only managed to get to no. 105 despite his recent form in elite fields.

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The course was designed by Pete Dye and the par 72 course sits at 7169 yards while being rather spectacular to the eye. It is a parkland course set along sprawling hills giving rise to some elevation changes and undulating fairways very akin to some British links courses. There are also a lot of deep, menacing bunkers that give it a further links appearance. While the fairways appear to be of average width they will certainly not feel that way standing on the tee. There are many hidden tee shots where the players are forced to carry valleys or shape the ball around trees. The numerous dog legs and elevation changes will also bring about some blind approaches and it appears that accuracy will be important this week with the irons. Whenever a course has elevation changes then distance control becomes absolutely paramount. As we have come to expect from Pete Dye designs (Sawgrass, RBC Heritage, Whistling Straits, PGA West), the greens are relatively small and they are undulating and tiered. Accurate approach shots will be required to find the correct portion of the green to allow a makeable birdie putt. But there will be many flags that simply have to be avoided with run-offs and green side bunkers aplenty. There are several examples of very aggressive players who play well in match play but similarly steady players that keep mistakes to a minimum can also thrive in the format.  The greens are TifEagle bermuda which was also in use last week at Bay Hill.

Just like stroke-play there are often different ways to succeed on a course but from what we have seen in the two editions in Austin so far, aggression and power are very advantageous indeed. When we look at the 2 winners to date at Austin Country Club (Dustin Johnson and Jason Day) there are a few things that jump out. Firstly they are two of the best players in the world, who were both on extremely hot winning runs at the time, each playing the best golf of their career. Secondly, they are two of the biggest hitters in the game and they used that length to dominate their matches on the relatively short course, attacking the flags and driving the greens wherever possible. Thirdly, they both had plenty of form on Pete Dye courses, particularly Whistling Straits where Day won his PGA and DJ should have won his in 2010. Johnson had also already won around Dye’s Crooked Stick course in 2016 while Day would go on to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass just 2 months later.

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It is that profile of the two winners that led me to my main bet this week and that is Jon Rahm. I’d expect him to be popular this week so I’ve tried to post this a little earlier than usual to try to get a good price but it’s also worth noting that it is a Wednesday start this week in Texas. Rahm is another powerhouse off the tee and he is probably the only player that can compete with DJ and McIlroy in terms of power and “strokes gained: off the tee”. Rahm has already won this year in February but perhaps the most interesting thing about that win with regards to this week is where he got his win. It was at the Careerbuilder Challenge which involves two rounds at Pete Dye’s PGA West Course and also involves bermuda greens. Rahm’s form has tailed off a little since that win but he has still finished inside the top 30 on all 4 starts. There has been quite a bit of discussion about Rahm already this week as he apparently hit a 59 in a practice round at Austin Country Club on Monday (Note: sounds like it wasn’t actually at Austin CC after all). We also know he can do that in competition as he made the final last year only to lose 1 up to a red-hot Dustin Johnson. He has shown already in his short career that he thrives on the same sort of courses as both Johnson and Day so he looks the absolute standout candidate to follow them as winners of the WGC Match Play. With a win this calendar year and already having won on a Dye design he is also a great trends pick and looks like the best bet in Texas this week. But an extra little sweetener is that the form of those at the head of the market has resulted in recency bias probably giving us a price that is perhaps two or three ticks bigger than it should be. Obviously anything can happen in match play but in recent times this event has gone to one of the very best players so let’s have a confident each way bet on the world number 3 at 14/1.

I didn’t want to get too involved in this prior to the draw but there are two others that I quite like and I’m going to have a small bet on them both and hope they are all in different groups. As annoying as Paul Casey is, a confident PC in a match play tournament is a massive threat and he will be absolutely buzzing coming into this event after finally getting his 2nd PGA Tour win. We know he won’t be in the slightest bit phased by taking on the big names here and with his match play pedigree he could go deep in this tournament. Last year he won all three of his group games but lost to an inspired Tanihara in the first knockout match. Given how cocky Casey is you wonder whether he gave Tanihara the respect he deserved last year and I don’t think we will see him make the same mistake again this year. Casey is a two-time runner-up in this event while he has also won the European Tour’s Volvo Match Play event. He also has a very decent Ryder Cup record having won 56% of his available points. He doesn’t have a win around a Pete Dye course but he has been runner-up at both Crooked Stick and TPC River HIghlands. Worth a nice back up ew bet at 22/1.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat owes us nothing after winning the Perth Super 6s in February but he is playing some of the best golf of his career right now. He has won again since then when playing back on the Asia Tour and he also recorded his best WGC finish to date in Mexico where he was T5th. With all his travelling I’m not too worried about his missed cut at Bay Hill last week and he will be fully prepared having made the shorter journey from Florida. With two match play titles already we know he enjoys the format where he can be his ultra aggressive self knowing that he has the short game to back it up should he find trouble. That can be demoralising for opponents in the match play format and two years ago the only game he didn’t win in the group stages was against DJ, only exiting after a further play-off hole against the world no. 1. In most editions of this event we see a slightly left-field European Tour player make good progress and with the way Kiradech is playing that could easily be him this week. (Aphibarnrat has now been drawn in the same group as Jon Rahm, typical!! Anyway for those who don’t think it makes any sense backing them both just leave Aphi out or lower the stakes even more, I’ve stupidly backed them both already)

Adding one more Group stage bet for a further interest. With the form that Casey and McIlroy are in together with their confidence levels and match play pedigree, I expect them to come flying out of the blocks and win all 3 matches. Matt Fitzpatrick and Brian Harman are potential banana skins but I think the double looks rock solid at around 4.35.


Corales Puntacana Championship

I’ve not spent a great deal of time on this but I do like to follow players that have gone well in similar tournaments before when the PGA Tour leaves mainland U.S. The Web.com has several tournaments on their schedule down in both Central and South America. This week the location is the Dominican Republic which lies opposite Puerto Rico to the west and the course is stunning. It’s a cliff side resort course and it doesn’t look too dissimilar to the likes of Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Kapalua. The course has been used twice before on the Web.com with Dominic Bozelli winning in 2016 and Nate Lashley in 2017. Neither man lines up this week however.

The course is a Tom Fazio design and being by the sea it is obviously very exposed. The fairways look wide enough and the rough isn’t overly penal either which suggests that when the wind blows the course can be testing enough. That looks further highlighted by a lack of green side bunkers and most of the greens appear to have an open route in allowing the more imaginative players to flight the ball down and run the ball in should the wind blow. There is a lot of sand in play off the tee however with many fairway bunkers and also sandy waste areas. The greens are sea paspalum as is often found in PGA Tournaments played in climates closer to the equator.

Graeme McDowell looks the absolute standout bet to me here this week and it’s no surprise that the early 33s disappeared fast. GMac should absolutely love conditions at Corales Golf Club with some of his finest results having been recorded on similar set-ups. He won his 2010 U.S. Open around Pebble Beach while he has also won the OHL Classic which played on sea paspalum down in Mexico on another resort course by the sea. He also has 4 top 10s around Fazio’s PGA National course and his home U.S. course, Lake Nona, is another Fazio design. The only thing that might go against him this week is the length of the course but at his best McDowell is miles better than the majority of these and if he plays well I’d expect him to push on over the weekend and show everyone that he really belongs in Austin this week.

I did look at a few of the Web.com players who are used to the climate and the sea paspalum but ultimately we don’t really know how a lot of them will fare here so instead I have gone with the historical class angle. We often see older PGA winners finding some form again at the alternate events, most recently Aaron Baddeley when winning the Barbasol Championship in 2016 and before that Geoff Ogilvy at the 2014 Barracuda Championship. Notice that they were both multiple PGA Tour winners and they are both Australian. Stuart Appleby is a little older than both at 46 years old but his last top 5 on the PGA Tour happened to arrive at an alternate event last July. So given he has such strong form at Kapalua, where he won three times in a row from 2004-2006, it seems fair to think his form could pick up again on another exposed resort course. Appleby was always a strong wind player and he had a fine Open Championship record. It could be complete coincidence but I’d wager it is more likely the spike in confidence that such players get from not having any of the current elite players in the field. That makes them believe they can win again and at odds of 200/1 I’m happy to believe too, at least until Thursday night!


Summary of Bets

WGC Match Play

Jon Rahm – 2pts ew @ 14/1

Paul Casey – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Group Winner Double – McIlroy Group 6 + Casey Group 10 – 2pts @ 4.35

Corales

Graeme McDowell – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (1/4 odds 5 places)

Stuart Appleby – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82

 

 

The Open Championship – Betting Preview

It was a good week last week but it was still hard not to be a little gutted with another 2nd place, even if it was accompanied by a 3rd place too. Tyrrell Hatton was one of a whole host of players who played their final round like a seasoned winner and he can be very proud of the fight that he put up against Alexander Noren. If he continues in that vein then it is just a matter of time before he gets his first win.

It was also good to see Nicolas Colsaerts keep his form going as expected with a couple of 66s on the weekend. He is another that will be looking to get back to winning ways this year but he might have to wait a couple of weeks as I don’t see this week quite suiting him.

Hatton on the other hand could go well after ranking 2nd in the all-round ranking and should certainly be given some consideration.

Their combined return of 31 pts helps to finish the 1st year with a profitable week and it leaves the totals as follows.

Total pts advised in first year – 692.50

Total pts returned – 780.79

ROI for one year – 12.75%

 


 

The Open

In April most golf fans will tell you their sporting highlight of the year is The Masters but as soon as we reach July that narrative changes somewhat and The Open becomes the focal point of the golfing year. They are tough to separate and while both are completely brilliant in their own way, they are two very different tournaments and there is nothing quite like an Open Championship.

Having finally attended my first Open three years ago at Muirfield I can now appreciate the buzz of the early morning tee offs and 15 hours of solid golf (weather permitting of course). I had heard people talk about it before but it was truly amazing spending time on the 1st tee and listening to the dulcet tones of Ivor Robson announce world-class golfer after world-class golfer. Sadly Mr Robson is retired now but everything else is as we were and Royal Troon is the lucky host this year of what is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the Sporting calendar.

It is twelve years since the course last hosted although Troon has held seven previous Opens after being a bit of a latecomer to the rotation in 1923. To my mind it is a quintessential links course and while St Andrews carries with it all the history and glamour, Royal Troon is far more of a links course’s links course and features the classic 9 holes out and 9 holes back. Despite its classic appearance however there is very much a feeling within the game that Troon is one of the more boring courses on the rotation with too many holes that lack any character. While that may well be true everyone in the field still plays the same 18 holes and I don’t believe that will detract too much from the excitement this week.

Visually to me the course resembles both Royal Birkdale and Gullane and that is very welcome as last year’s Open never really took the form of a proper Open due to both the perfect conditions for the last two rounds and it being held at St Andrews. Louis Oosthuizen is a prime example of the different test presented by St Andrews. He has finished 1st and 2nd around The Old Course but elsewhere he can only boast a 19th, 36th, 54th and three missed cuts. It looks all about links golf exponents in Ayrshire this week.

Despite apparent one-hit wonder Todd Hamilton winning in 2004, Troon is normally won by one of the game’s elite; Justin Leonard in 1997, Marc Calcavecchia in 1989, Tom Watson in 1982, Tom Weiskopf in 1973 and Bobby Locke in 1950. Not only that but you have to go back to Locke’s 1950 win to find a winner that didn’t hail from the USA.

Troon

The fairways at Troon meander up and down and around and if you see a flat lie anywhere this week then pause your TV and take a photo. There are hillocks and undulations as many of the holes are framed by dunes, fescue and gorse. There are deep bunkers galore as you would expect both on the fairways and protecting the greens, many of which are elevated. When they get to the greens however they will be met with some of the best surfaces in the whole of the UK. They are a blend of poa annua, bent grass and fescue and as long as the wind doesn’t blow too hard there should be absolutely no complaints about them whatsoever. (the USGA should take note!)

The forecast currently suggests that the wind will be steady all week (10-15mph) but as someone who lives at the Scottish coast I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see something a bit stronger. Just last week at Castle Stuart we saw the mild forecast winds turn in to 40mph winds. With quite horrid rough I expect driving accuracy to be important this week as you certainly don’t have double fairways to hit like St Andrews. The course isn’t the longest at 7175 yards but as ever the further you can get off the tee the closer you are to the green. So total driving was on my mind even before I took a look at the stats from Hamilton’s win in 2004.

The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th , 9th,10th, 13th and 16th ranked players in total driving for the week all finished inside the Top 10 and it is rare to see such a strong attribute for any tournament never mind a host course for a major.

The next most pertinent attribute looks to be scrambling as the 1st and 2nd ranked scramblers finished 3rd and 7th respectively. Who can forget Hamilton’s bump and run with his 3 wood to set up his 2ft putt to win the Claret Jug? Imagination around the greens is very important in links golf but especially so at Royal Troon.

With the greens being immaculate the better putters would normally be expected to thrive on them but they obviously need to get there first. The greens are average in size and well protected but relatively flat. That might take away some of the advantage that the likes of Spieth and Day have at reading the breaks on undulating greens, however lag putting will be crucial to avoid 3-putts.

I expect hitting greens and indeed proximity to the hole to be very important this week, particularly from the tougher 175-200 yard range and if we look at 2004 season’s final rankings then that is backed up. Hamilton finished the season ranked 18th in GIR from 175-200 yards and 12th in approaches from 175-200 in the rough. Many others from the leaderboard also finished the season in lofty positions in this area and while there are a number of short holes at Troon it will certainly test their longer irons too, even more so if the wind does get up.

Other stats in which Hamilton ranked highly that season were 3-putt avoidance, putting inside 10ft and approach putt performance and that just confirms the need to keep the three-putts to a minimum. While Justin Leonard’s win in 1997 came before such an array of stats were available he did rank 2nd in scrambling and 3rd in putts per round during that season and he was regularly one of the better drivers on Tour.

I think on the whole this gives us a decent idea of the attributes that will help win this week. A decent links pedigree, proven in high-class fields, long and accurate driving, good GIR numbers from distance, strong scrambling ability and solid lag-putting.

With Dustin Johnson having won his last two tournaments, the US Open and WGC Bridgestone, he has firmly pushed himself into the World’s top 4 players and the market here can barely separate them with Day, Spieth, McIlroy and Johhson all trading at around the 10.0-12.0 mark. Their chances must be respected but I don’t really like any of them at the prices this week on a course like Troon. Day has been very wild off the tee lately and will probably find himself in trouble too many times to finish on top this week. Spieth’s game just hasn’t been at its best in 2016 and while he was one putt away from the play-off at St Andrews last year I think he would need to be playing better to win here and doesn’t make much appeal to me at the prices. McIlroy also hasn’t been playing his best stuff and has struggled for consistency across four rounds since returning from injury last year. With his well-known aversion to poor weather I can’t consider him at single figures when it looks like we could be in for proper links golf conditions.

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

But I don’t have to look much further down the market for my idea of the best bet in Ayrshire. I have backed Rickie Fowler in most Open Championships since 2010 when he finished in 14th place at St Andrews after an opening 79. He played the last three rounds better than anyone and firmly announced himself as an Open specialist (5 shots better than the 3rd lowest!). I probably won’t stop until he wins one as he is surely an Open Championship winner in waiting and possibly the next Tom Watson if he can win one soon.

Fowler is a self-confessed lover of links golf and that is clear every year with the number of different shots he plays. He has every type of links shot in his locker and at the age of 27 that is quite impressive. He can shape the ball both ways in the wind and has the imagination to flight the ball down and use the lie of the land to his advantage. That is something that took the likes of Phil Mickelson years to appreciate and then a few more to master before winning his Claret Jug in 2013.

But it isn’t just links potential with Fowler any more as he won the Scottish Open at Gullane’s hybrid Championship course last July. That is a classic links course and as I have already alluded to, it more than resembles Troon with its narrow fairways sculpted into the land. Fowler won that with an exquisite week on and around the greens ranking 5th for scrambling and 3rd in total putting. He didn’t drive the ball well but Fowler handled playing out of the rough perfectly. He was able to get the ball out and get it running on the firm fairways and that is yet another important aspect of links golf as there will be some nasty lies in the rough where hitting a towering 7 iron just isn’t possible. He can also play the bump and run around the green that is so important in links golf. Anyone that was watching the Scottish Open at the weekend will have noticed the number of times that the players were forced to utilise that shot given the undulating nature of the ground around the greens.

At the start of this season it was actually his long game that was standing out and through the first few months of the year he was right at the top of total driving and GIR but struggling to get the putter going. He still ranks 26th for total driving and an impressive 4th in GIR. Throw in the fact he is sitting 13th in scrambling from the rough, 21st in 3-putt avoidance and 4th in GIR from 175-200 we can see how well his game should suit from a statistical point of view too. I have touched on the important attributes this week but moreover at Troon every aspect of the game is tested so it also worth having a look at the all-round ranking. Fowler at the top of his game has very few weaknesses and that is perhaps another reason that he goes so well on links courses.

If we look exclusively at his Open record then it is very solid for one so young. The 14th place finish at St Andrews was his debut and he followed that with a T5th in 2011 (Royal St. Georges), a T31st in 2012 (Lytham), a missed cut in 2013 (sun-baked Muirfield), a T2nd in 2014 (Hoylake) and then a T30th last year when crucially on the wrong side of the draw at St. Andrews.

His form in 2016 has been quite up and down so far but he did win in January in Abu Dhabi and he still has some high finishes with a proper return to form two weeks ago at the WGC Bridgestone where he finished in a tie for 10th. His 2016 results read 5-1-MC-2-6-8-38-10-MC-20-4-MC-MC-MC-44-10 and that is a lot of golf with trips to Hawaii and Abu Dhabi in there so it is fair to think that he was maybe just running on empty by the time he missed his three consecutive cuts. The lack of weekend golf will have helped him re-energise however and he also arrives after a week off. I’m expecting to see the Rickie Fowler of 2015 and early 2016 rather than the one that we witnessed during May and June. If that proves to be the case then he will take the world of stopping and at 33/1 he looks a solid alternative to the front 4 in the betting.

 

Graeme McDowell has always been a very good links player and as soon as I saw him on the leaderboard at Castle Stuart I knew I would be backing him for Troon if his price held. His accuracy off the tee will help this week and he ranked 3rd in the all-round ranking at the Scottish Open. He isn’t the longest of drivers but he makes up for that with a very accurate long iron and hybrid game when playing at his best. The 80/1 for such a classy major winner is frankly a bit strange. Not only did he finish in the Top 10 last week but he won earlier in the season in the US and he also finished T18th at the US Open so his game is pretty close to its best.

He currently ranks 8th for driving accuracy so will be finding more fairways than the majority of the field and should he miss the green he is an excellent scrambler on links layouts, ranking 4th in that department last week.

He already has a win in Scotland to his name further north at Loch Lomond and he has a solid Open record with the pick being a T5th at Royal Lytham in 2012. He also has a win at Celtic Manor where the weather is usually miserable and two wins on Le Golf National layout in Paris which plays very much as a links track. If the wind blows and Troon doesn’t play too easy then GMac should make a mockery of his price this week.

 

One of the interesting course links that I found when researching Troon was through the Honda Classic. The last two winners at Troon, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton both won the Honda Classic around Country Club Mirasol in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Now I guess that might not be that interesting unless you take into account the fact that it was Hamilton’s only other win on Tour.

This told me that there must be some sort of link so I looked a little deeper. The other two winners at CCM were Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald which gives an impression of both short game prowess but also some sort of correlation with links conditions.

Looking at pictures of the course doesn’t make anything immediately obvious however the fairways are undulating, it is exposed, there are plenty of bunkers and the green complexes don’t look too dissimilar. It may be a rather tenuous link but the Honda Classic in general has always thrown up good Open players and it is interesting that Harrington went on to win his 2nd Honda Classic at the new host course which is located in the same area as Mirasol at Palm Beach Gardens. Marc Calcavecchia and Tom Weiskopf have also won the Honda as well as a Troon Open so while I can’t fully explain it I’m going to take the hint and back Luke Donald accordingly.

I backed him last week at 50/1 and he had an ok week finishing in 45th place as he struggled to get anything going but it will have been good preparation all the same . For someone who doesn’t have the best of major records his Open results are actually a little bit better than you might think. Since 2009 he has 4 Top 12 finishes and Donald is probably another that has taken some time to get used to the unique challenges of an Open Championship. Two of those were T5th finishes and they both occurred on proper links layouts, Turnberry and Royal Lytham.

He currently ranks 6th for scrambling and if his short game is anywhere near its best then Troon should play to Donald’s strengths. If the wind gets too severe then he might struggle but he has always coped well in light winds having won at Castle Stuart and Wentworth.

He also has the advantage of having played Troon competitively 12 years ago even if he did miss the cut when a far less accomplished player. Over the last few years we have seen a few older winners that have perhaps arrived not expecting too much. Playing without that pressure can surely only be an advantage and when Donald was at his peak it appeared to often be the expectations that ruined his chances with a poor opening round. I’m expecting him to have a good week and his price has more than a touch of value at 150/1.

 

Given the nature of Hamilton’s win and a couple of other left field American winners this century, I was keen to get an outsider from the US onside. The Honda Classic link has thrown up Russell Henley who won it in 2014 and given that we know his two main strengths are long, accurate driving and putting it seems fair to part with some cash at a massive 250/1. He also had his best Open finish in three attempts last year finishing T20th.

He hasn’t been at his best in 2016 missing a lot of cuts but yet he still ranks 4th in total driving, 36th in scrambling and 12th in 3-putt avoidance. He also pulled out a 7th place finish from nowhere at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic a few weeks ago so it hasn’t been all bad for him. His stats combined with the Honda link and a tasty price make him look like the sort of dark horse who could come alive on a course like Troon that clearly suits players from the USA.

With the short prices of the front 4 and most bookies paying 6 places there is a lot of value around so I have added a couple of late picks just on price alone.

 

Patrick Reed and Kevin Kisner are no strangers to this blog and I rate them both very highly. Reed is one of the best scramblers in the world game but it has been his putter that has stopped him from pushing on in 2016. He arrives fresh from two closing 67s in Scotland last week and if he can keep that going then he should go well. His price probably reflects how poorly he has done in the bigger tournaments this year but I think he has a chance on any course where scrambling is vital. It could be that his driving gets him into trouble this week but 66/1 for a proven winner who excels in the wind looks too good to pass up.

Kevin Kisner could just have the perfect profile for the week and I must admit he wasn’t really on my radar for this until I saw his price. He is a general 200/1 and that seems far too high and surely must be backed. His form has dropped off a little in 2016 after closing 2015 brilliantly with his 1st win. His stats still look very solid for this week’s test though as he ranks 32nd for total driving, 20th in 3-putt avoidance and 10th in putting inside 10ft. It isn’t even like he is in terrible form right now with a 16th place finish at Firestone last time out. That is another tough driving course and with his long game clearly in good nick I’d expect a strong showing in Scotland from Kisner.

Lee Westwood has a brilliant record at Troon having finished T10th in 1997 and then T4th in 2004. We know he is in excellent form having been in contention at both 2016’s majors so  far. Unfortunately he played poorly again when properly in the heat of battle and so it is hard to recommend a win bet this week despite the fact he is sure to play well. Instead I will back him for his 19th major Top 10 at his 74th attempt. A stat which makes the 5/1 available look great value even without considering his brilliant course form.

monty

There is just no way I can get away from having some sort of bet on Colin Montgomerie this week at his home course as he returns to The Open after 6 years away. It is just a question of how to back him. With his recent success in Senior majors he will be confident of a good showing here and I’m going to have a small play on the 1st round leader and the Top 20 markets. Betfred are offering a huge standout price of 14/1 for the Top 20 and that looks like perhaps the best piece of value around this week.

Dustin Johnson came good with a place in the 1st round leader market at the US Open and backing him to be leading on the Thursday would have yielded some serious profits over the last 18 months. I don’t see any reason to stop despite how obvious a bet it is.

I’m also going to play Callum Shinkwin in the 1st round leader market. He will be arriving full of confidence having qualified for this with a 9th place finish at the Open De France before firing a closing 65 in Scotland last week on his way to another Top 10. Countless times we have seen young, relative unknowns surge up the leaderboard at the Open on a Thursday. Shinkwin currently ranks 2nd in total driving and 18th in GIR over the last three months and finished 7th in the all-round ranking last week so I think he could easily take to Troon. It’s a tall ask for him to even contend but if he carries on from that final round at Castle Stuart then he could outplay his odds of 150/1

 


Summary of Bets

Rickie Fowler – 3pts ew @ 33/1

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Graeme Mcdowell – 1pt ew @ 90/1

Kevin Kisner – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Luke Donald – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 5/1

Russel Henley – 0.5pt ew @250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Lee Westwood – 2pts Top 10 @ 5/1

Colin Montgomerie – 1pt Top 20 @ 14/1 with Betfred and 0.5pts ew 1st round leader @ 150/1

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 16/1

Calum Shinkwin – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @ 150/1

Outright winner bets are 6 places this week.

Weekly outlay 23pts

@theGreek82

U.S. Open – Betting Preview

It was yet another week with no returns last week as both Colt Knost and Gary Boyd’s fast starts didn’t materialise. Knost was still in 7th place entering the final round but he had a poor round to finish down the field. I’m not going to dwell on that too much as its US Open week and we look set for a very interesting Tournament.

As the blog approaches its 1 year mark it is still showing profit but only just.

Total pts advised – 655.80pts

Total pts returned – 722.80pts

ROI – 10.2%


U.S. Open

The 2nd Major of the season is finally upon us and things couldn’t be poised any better in the world game. All the world’s top 3 have won tournaments in recent weeks so they arrive in great form and there are numerous young, exciting players from both sides of the pond who will be relishing the challenge after seeing relative outsider Danny Willet don the green jacket earlier in the year.

We head to Pennsylvania this week and to Oakmont near Pittsburgh for the 116th US Open and by all accounts we are in for a grind at a course that is hosting a record 12th Major Championship having already been the venue for 8 US Opens and 3 US PGAs. Of those 11 Championships, 9 have been won by multiple major winners so I won’t be expecting a Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem or Todd Hamilton to be winning this week from nowhere.

In 1903 Henry Fownes set about designing a course where “par is an indisputable standard of excellence” and after this week’s US Open there won’t be a single player in the field questioning his success. US Opens are usually tough but it’s about as tough as it gets at Oakmont Country Club. Phil Mickelson, who has played a few tough courses in his time, declared after two practice days that Oakmont was “probably the hardest golf course we have ever played”.

From when the course opened, together with his son W.C. Fownes, Henry Fownes tweaked the course over the next 30 years, being the first designers to really take into account the equipment changes that were occurring at the time. They designed a course that was some 30% longer than all its other peers and from the word go it was a considered a brute of a course. They also began to add more slopes to the greens and added bunkers into the landing areas for the elite players.

Some of the biggest changes occurred after Gene Sarazen’s US PGA win in 1922 when W.C. Fownes was annoyed at how easily Sarazen played the course after the greens were watered due to a sun baked summer. The course was lengthened, trees were added to further narrow the fairways and I’d be surprised if the greens were ever watered again during a Championship week.

Indeed so notorious are the greens at Oakmont that it was actually the scene of the invention of the stimpmeter, the instrument used to measure the speed of the greens. In 1935 the greens were perceived to be so fast that a way of quantifying the speed was required in order to keep them fair. Over the next 70 years there would be many more tweaks to the course but for this week’s purposes it will pay to look at the most recent. They occurred prior to the 2007 US Open as Tom Fazio was tasked with bringing the course back to its original design which had been lost a little over time. Many trees were removed, undulations added to the fairways, bunkers were reshaped and deepened and an extra 250 yards was added.

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The course now stands at 7255 yards with narrow, undulating fairways. There is a secondary level of rough which looks quite lenient but if it is cleared then there is a mix of thick green rough and longer fescue grasses for the properly errant. Should the rough be avoided then there are still plenty hazards with some 210 bunkers on the course and the fall of the fairway usually ushers the ball in their direction. These are classic links pot bunkers and many of them will only allow a sand wedge back into play. The course has a number of blind tee-shots and approach shots so distance control will be paramount at Oakmont. Additionally either spin or height will be required on approach shots in order to hold the slick, undulating greens. Therefore if you aren’t long off the tee you had better be accurate because hitting 200 yard plus approaches from the rough will soon take its toll on even the best short games. When the greens are missed then some of the thickest green side rough we have ever seen awaits them and they better hope someone was watching their ball as they will be hard to find in many spots. The slick greens are poa annua and while they are as pure as the players will see all year, they are also as fast as they will see all year with the greens likely to be towards 15” on the stimpmeter by Sunday. For those that haven’t seen the videos then they are worth finding just to see the full extent.

The most recent tournaments held at Oakmont and indeed the only ones that anyone in this field has played were the 1994 and 2007 US Opens and the 2003 US Amateur Championship. They were won respectively by Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera and Nick Flanagan (who incidentally is on the bag for fellow Aussie Aron Price at Oakmont).

The most pertinent form would be to look at Cabrera’s win in 2007 when the greens were firm and +5 was the winning score. It is expected to be more of the same this week. I looked in-depth to see what aspects of Els and Cabrera’s game make them suited to the unique Oakmont test and considered the 2007 leaderboard as a whole to find any strong common attributes.

I picked out the following stats to try to gauge whose game might be suited to the test. Driving distance, greens in regulation (GIR), GIR from fairway bunkers, 3-putt avoidance, scrambling, proximity to hole from 200 yards +, bogey avoidance, scoring relative to par from 175-200 yards in the rough, putting inside 10ft and strokes gained:putting. When a test is this tough then there is an argument that stats go out the window especially as Cabrera has never been one to shine in that department. But they are still a valuable indicator of who is performing in certain areas and for me these give a good all round picture of what will be required to grind out a score at Oakmont.

Additionally I looked at courses where Els, Cabrera or others in the Top 10 in 2007 had won. There were obviously a few that cropped up but by far the two most interesting were Golf Club Eichenried in Germany, which has hosted the BMW International Open, and Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Illinois host of the BMW Championship in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and prior to that the Western Open. Amazingly 6 of the Top 13 from 2007’s Oakmont leaderboard have all won around Cog Hill GCC. While Ernie Els has won at Eichenried so too has Niclas Fasth and Nick Dougherty who finished 4th and 7th at Oakmont in 2007 respectively. That could seem a little tenuous but Dougherty and Fasth didn’t exactly make a habit of contending at Majors. That was Dougherty’s only Top 10 in 14 Majors and Fasth only managed 3 from 24 attempts. It was certainly enough to get me to look closer at the course and Eichenried actually has poa annua greens that play quite fast at 12” on the stimp if weather conditions allow. Unfortunately being a European Tour course most of this field have never played it but it might still be of interest to help throw up some place bets at decent prices.

A case could be made for many of the top players in the field this week. Jordan Spieth is the reigning US Open Champion and arrives having beaten a decent field two starts ago in the Dean and Deluca Invitational when much of the media had written him off after his Masters disaster. Obviously the young Texan is one of the toughest players mentally that we have seen since Tiger and I don’t expect it will have much bearing on him this week. I’m more worried by the fact his long game hasn’t quite been firing in 2016 like it did in 2015 and he ranks a rather lowly 112th in GIR for the last 3 months. While he will probably contend he isn’t quite for me this week at a course that will demand every aspect of the game to be razor-sharp.

Rory McIlroy’s tee to green excellence will no doubt have him on the leaderboard this week but backing him to win tournaments on fast greens is an absolute no-no for me. His scrambling and putting just aren’t good enough and I’d expect to see him cut the now familiar agitated figure on the greens over the weekend as he fails to combine line and pace on the glass-like poa annua surfaces.

Adam Scott won the WGC at Doral in March on fast greens but it is a bombers paradise these days where it is very hard to compete unless you drive it 300 yards plus. He is another I couldn’t consider this week when the short game will be so important.

Dustin Johnson looks to have a great chance and he was probably the last one-off my shortlist this week. He has been in excellent form so far in 2016 but has just failed to get the win. His form figures of 5-3-12-28-4-3-5-14-4 stand up against anyone in the field and that 5th place finish last week was about the most Dustin Johnson performance you will ever see. Some of his golf was unbelievably good and he hit 19 birdies and 3 eagles across the 4 days but still managed to only finish on -9 due to some terrible shots which all seemed to fall on precisely the wrong hole and he found water 4 or 5 times I think. The most interesting thing about DJ this week is how much better he is putting this year, ranking 47th in strokes gained:putting. But I couldn’t quite pull the trigger given his major woes last year. As usual he could be one to follow in the 1st round leader market having shot a 63 on Sunday but I’m happy to leave him out until he gets his first Major under his belt.

Phil Mickelson’s game looks in good order and his putter has been on fire in 2016, ranking 5th in Strokes gained:putting. I’m expecting a huge week from Lefty but he puts so much pressure on himself to win his national Open that unfortunately it is easy to be against him this week. Being a huge Mickelson fan I will be pleased enough if he does get it done.

I have had one player in mind for this for a while and unfortunately it is rather boring, but the same player came out on top of my stats model so if picking one player to win this week it simply has to be the best player in the world and US Open favourite, Jason Day. His 2016 has been absolutely brilliant and while Mcilroy and Spieth have been good in spells, Day is playing to a higher level and he has 3 wins to his name already, with two of those coming at the high-class Players Championship and WGC Matchplay. If he hadn’t hit a triple bogey on the 15th at Augusta on the opening day then who knows what might have happened at The Masters. Crucially he ranks 1st for strokes gained:putting, 15th for GIR from fairway bunkers, 25th in bogey avoidance and 32nd in scrambling.

I was very keen on him for the US PGA last year and he won convincingly at a course that was set up perfectly for his mix of towering irons and brilliant touch on and around the green. I don’t think this is quite as perfect for the sometimes erratic driver but he has proven already in his short career that he can adapt when faced with US Open conditions. He finished 2nd on his US Open debut and while he followed that with a poor 59th place finish at Olympic Club, he has since gone 2nd, 4th, 9th with his 9th having come while suffering from vertigo during his 3rd round last year at Chambers Bay. There isn’t a player teeing it up with a better recent US Open record and for those concerned about him off the tee, he has hit 75% and 73% of fairways on his last two US Open appearances.

Day has won 7 of his last 17 starts and while comparisons to Tiger Woods are completely pointless, the facts alone tell us that he is the first person since Woods to start putting up the same sort of numbers in terms of wins. If he is to start racking up the Majors then he will have to continue winning them when arriving in form. His Masters week while disappointing was yet another Major Top 10 and I was already more than keen on his chances before I heard this little snippet on a European Tour magazine programme a few weeks ago on Sky Sports. Day’s agent Bud Martin is a member at Oakmont and Day played there as a young man when he first moved over from Australia. That is another key factor this week for me and given how meticulous he is in his preparation for all tournaments, I’m sure he will have gathered as much member’s knowledge as possible leading into this and with a week off he will arrive 100% ready and probably with more practice rounds under his belt than most of the field.

Patrick Reed showed how he thrives on quick greens when winning the WGC Cadillac in 2014 when they were as quick as we have seen them and only 3 players finished under Par. For me Reed is in the top 3 or 4 scramblers in world golf and he will relish the testing conditions this week. He hasn’t quite been at his best since chasing Spieth home in Hawaii in January and that has largely been down to a cold putter. However when I have seen him play this year he hasn’t appeared to be putting poorly, more often than not just struggling to get anything to drop. Reed himself has been on record several times stating how enjoys a tough test of golf. Ranks 14th for scrambling and 4th in bogey avoidance for 2016.

Brandt Snedeker has a solid US Open record not least due to his brilliant putting ability. He is one of the best putters around on poa annua greens and finished 8th at pebble Beach in 2010, 9th at Torrey pines in 2008 and he was 23rd at Oakmont back in 2007. His record tailed off a little but at Chambers bay last year when there was some poa present in the greens he grabbed another 8th place finish. As well as his US Open exploits on the surface he has 4 wins on poa annua and it seems to suit his short, stabbing putting stroke. Snedeker is also usually a good scrambler and I think he looks over priced for a player with 8 Top 10s in his last 30 Major starts.

JB Holmes has a similar liking for slick greens and showed everyone just that when shooting an opening 62 at Doral in 2015 on a day when only six others broke 70. He also led the stroke play section of the US Amateur Championship in 2003 shooting a 71 on his round at Oakmont and he then gained further experience of the course as he played two rounds of the Match Play section of the competition. He arrives in decent form with a 4th place finish last month at Memorial where the scrambling was tough with similar lush grass around the greens. He drives it longer than pretty much everyone and he can clear a lot of these fairway bunkers to leave himself shorter approaches in. As another player with towering irons he should be able to hold the slick greens.

Marc Leishman likes tricky conditions and he is another excellent scrambler who goes well on fast greens. He has a 2nd place finish at Cog Hill and he ranked 2nd in my stats model for this. I backed him a few times earlier in 2016 with no rewards but I still feel he has a huge performance in a Major in him and if that is to happen it will surely be on a tough track. He ranks 9th in 3-putt avoidance and 6th in bogey avoidance so he will surely keep mistakes to a minimum.

Paul Casey shot the lowest round of the week at Oakmont in 2007 on his way to a 7th place finish. With his recent upturn in form the last two years he will be looking forward to his return. He arrives with some impressive results so far in 2016 as he finished 4th at the Masters, 7th at the WGC Cadillac and 9th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. All 3 of those were on fast greens and while I think a Major is probably beyond him now he has a great chance of a Top 10 here.

Matt Kuchar rewarded his Top 10 backers on numerous ocassions from 2010 to 2014 such was his consistency. After a poor 2015 he appears to be back to his best with current form figures of 4-6-3-3. He ranks 19th in strokes gained:putting, 31st in scrambling and has seven Major top 10s since 2010. He should be backed for another here where he won’t be phased by the testing conditions. He also won his U.S. Amateur at Cog Hill back in 1997.

Retief Goosen used to be the main man on fast greens 10-15 years ago and both his U.S. Open wins came on lightning quick  surfaces. While it is a long time since he has won he has cropped up a few times over the last couple of years where conditions suit. He finished 4th last year at Eichenried and he actually arrives in sneaky form having finished 12th, 12th and 14th on his last three outings. When others will be tearing their hair out the laid back South African will be right at home on the greens and can surely crack the Top 20 again.

Chris Wood won the prestigious BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and it is usually played on some of the faster greens we see  in Europe. It is also a course that both Els and Cabrera have won on and it can be a tough test that is normally won by a classy player. Wood has clearly had a touch of class about him ever since he finished 5th at Royal Birkdale as an amateur. It took him a little while to fully get to grips with life on the European Tour but he is a 3 time winner now and he followed up his win at Wentworth with a solid 6th place last week in Austria where he ranked 2nd in scrambling. At Wentworth he ranked 4th for GIR so if he can bring both those aspects this week a Top 20 looks well within his reach.

Dustin Johnson was a cash machine last year on day one of the Majors, leading after 3 of them. Arriving in brilliant form after a 63 on Sunday I would expect him to come flying out of the blocks on Thursday again and looks a decent play in the 1st round leader market.

Aron Price has the 2003 US Amateur Champion, Nick Flanagan on his bag this week and that could help him save a few shots. I quite like silly links like this for 1st round leader bets so I’m going to try him at a big price. He qualified last week so his game must be in ok shape and hailing from Sydney he is used to slick greens. He actually finished 8th at the Australian Open in November at The Australian Golf Club and those greens are extremely fast and the whole course is very testing. He might just take to Oakmont.

 

Summary of bets

Jason Day – 5pts win @ 8.2

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Brandt Snedeker – 1pt ew @ 70/1

Marc Leishman -0.5pt ew @ 90/1

JB Holmes – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Matt Kuchar – 2.5pts Top 10 @ 7/2

Paul Casey – 1pt Top 10 @ 7/1

Retief Goosen – 2pts Top 20 @ 6/1

Chris Wood – 1pt Top 20 – 9/2 

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 20/1

Aron Price – 0.25pts ew 1st round leader @500/1 

Weekly outlay – 20pts

Total outlay – 673.50pts

@theGreek82

Memorial Tournament and Nordea Masters – Betting Preview

Last week at Wentworth seemed to sum up 2016’s betting so far. Going into the final round Hatton was 2nd, Westwood was 3rd and Cabrera-Bello was 7th so it looked almost unthinkable that none of them would finish in the Top 6. That’s exactly what happened though and if that wasn’t hard enough to take, David Toms bogeyed two holes late on in the US to fall out of the Top 20 for another week with no returns.

I have limited time this week so unfortunately this will be quite brief. In the US we have a brilliant looking field assembled for The Memorial Tournament but it’s all a bit dull again in Europe with a weaker looking field at the Nordea Masters in Sweden.

The profits have taken another hit and are now sitting as follows

Total pts advised – 636

Total pts returned – 722.80

ROI – 13.6%


Memorial Tournament

This week its Jack’s turn as the Tour heads to Muirfield Village in Ohio for The Memorial Tournament. The Muirfield course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and named after the scene of his first Open win in East Lothian. I’m not sure Nicklaus would have agreed with Muirfield’s recent decision to vote against Women members such is his willingness to promote the Ladies game but nevertheless it was a favourite of his and he created a course in Ohio of similar status in the game as it now heralded as one of the best stops on Tour.

It was opened in 1976 and has hosted The Memorial Tournament ever since producing an impressive roll call of winners. 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. 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 22nd for total driving yet they have averaged 14th for GIR and 12th for scrambling. While putting is always important, Memorial is usually won with approach play but perhaps the most apparent stats information is how well the 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 3.6 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 tricky, 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 two years ago has some of the best distance control in the game.

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, 208, 2009, 20013 and 2015, Sherwood GC which hosted Tiger’s World Challenge from 2000-2013, Valhalla where Rory Mcilroy won the USPGA in 2014 and Greenbrier which hosts the Greenbrier Classic and was redesigned by Nicklaus in 1977.

The top 3 ranked players in the world are all here and to make things even more interesting they all arrive looking for their 2nd win in a row. Over the last few years they have all shown their ability to hold their form and win back-to-back so it would take an exceptional effort for anyone to finish above Day, Mcilroy and Spieth, but if they did they would surely be top of the leaderboard come Sunday evening.

There aren’t a lot of players capable of staying with them if they hit their best form but the bookies are very aware of this and this has thrown up a lot of apparent value down the field (only 9 players trading below 50/1) but I’m not convinced that these juicy prices would be anything more than value losers. Should any of the market leaders start well then all trading potential will be lost on the bigger prices and it looks like a week to side with one of “the big three”. Between them they have won 16 of the last 62 PGA Tour events but there were plenty of those Tournaments where none of them actually played so a more accurate figure would be 16 in 48 or a 33% strike rate. That makes dutching Mcilroy, Spieth and Day at odds of 2.76 look like a worthwhile play here. I really can’t separate them this week but with the form they are in I expect one of them to win.

With the media having been very quick to label them the big three, each of them will be hugely motivated to win this week to set a marker down to the other two with the US Open just two weeks away. Over the last few years since Tiger’s dominance we have seen many of the game’s best players attempt to peak for Major Tournaments. But these three are playing to a level beyond that and they won’t be in the slightest bit worried about heading to Oakmont in two weeks having won both of their previous two starts.

Not only are they in form but unsurprisingly they all rank highly in the relevant stats and in the all-round ranking Mcilroy is 1st, Day 3rd and Spieth 5th over the last 3 months. Rose (2nd) and Stenson (4th) aren’t even here this week. They each have plenty of form either at Muirfield Village or other Nicklaus courses with Mcilroy having won at Valhalla, Day having won at Glen Abbey last summer and Spieth finishing 3rd in this last year.

In fact the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of the combined bet. Unfortunately it isn’t much of a price but given how hard it has been to pick a winner this year having all 3 running for us could be a welcome change. A 2.76 winner is better than a 60/1 loser and some returns are badly needed so a different strategy for a difficult looking week may pay off.

Ricky Barnes looks worth a small interest this week given his approach play last week. He ranked 2nd in GIR and he has 3 Top 25s from 4 appearances here with an impressive 3rd place finish on his debut in 2010 being the pick of those.

 


 Nordea Masters

The European Tour moves north to Sweden this week for The Nordea Masters and it returns to Bro Hof Slot GC (Robert Trent Jones Jnr design) after two years away at PGA National. There is plenty of course form with Bro Hof having hosted from 2010-2013 and the list of winners suggests that it is another ball-strikers course. I haven’t had a great deal of time to look at this so I’m just including a few small plays.

Tyrrell Hatton had a poor final round last week to fall out of the places but I don’t want to give up on him just yet. His price isn’t fantastic this week but again his stats look a good fit for the course and he arrives in better form than anyone in the field. He is 14th in driving distance, 3rd in GIR and 1st in scrambling. Last weekend was one of the few times where he has been in with a proper chance of winning going to bed on Saturday night and I would expect him to have learned a lot from the experience. We have seen many players on both Tours win the week after such a disappointment and even at 25/1 I think he looks the best play in this field with Stenson and Westwood looking very short at 7/1 and 14/1 respectively.

While you usually have to be a long hitter to prosper around the 7500 yard plus Bro Hof Slott course there are a few instances where other types of players have prospered. This week’s US Open Qualifying threw up some interesting results with Mikael Lundberg and Matteo Manassero qualifying in 2nd and 9th place respectively. Both players are short hitters but they have also won multiple European Tour titles and it is interesting that they have both returned to form.

Manassero finished 4th at Bro Hof Slott in 2013 on his only appearance so with him arriving here on a high I think he looks over priced this week. He ranks 3rd in GIR for the last 3 months so if he can get the putter going then he could outplay his odds of 200/1 which are surely too high in this field for a player of his class.

Mikael Lungberg interests me on Robert Trent Jones Jnr courses after winning twice at Jones’ Moscow Country Club early in his career. So it was a timely return to form for the Swede as he qualified with rounds of 68 and 69. He has been playing recently on the Challenge Tour and not doing an awful lot but with his Major debut to look forward to, a return home to Sweden might just see him go well on a course he has played competitively 3 times before.

 


 

Summary of Bets

Memorial

Jason Day 3pts @ 7.6

Rory Mcilroy 2.75pts @ 8.6

Jordan Spieth 2.75pts @ 8.8

Ricky Barnes 0.25pt ew @ 300/1

Nordea Masters

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Matteo Manassero – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Mikael Lundberg – 0.25pt ew @ 250/1

No doubles this week.

Weekly outlay – 12.5pts

Total outlay – 648.5 pts

@theGreek82

The Masters – Betting Preview

A good week last week as Lydia Ko made history by becoming the youngest golfer to win two modern-day majors. Very impressive stuff and she will surely go on to win many more.

On the PGA Tour it was another frustrating Sunday as Lovemark collapsed to fall from co-leader to 18th place but Daniel Berger managed to sneak us a place with a good finishing round. That returned 32 pts for the week and gives the overall returns a nice boost ahead of the biggest week of the year. They now stand at;

Total pts advised 510

Total pts returned – 655.37

ROI – 28.5%

This week we just have the one tournament again but it’s kind of a big deal…..

 


 

 

Magnolia Lane, Amen Corner, Rae’s Creek, Butler Cabin, even just hearing some of these terms can get most sports fans excited, never mind the golf obsessed punters that might be reading this. (Or that wrote this)

For many, The Masters is the sporting show of the year and Augusta National the finest theatre in the world. Be it the history they share, the perfectly manicured golf course, the guaranteed brilliant tournament year after year, the wonderful array of colours sprayed throughout or simply the traditions upheld, there is something truly magical about this place. Throughout 2016 so far, Georgia has firmly been on my mind.

magnolia lane

Augusta National stands at an ever-increasing 7,435 yards with many measures taken to try to “Tiger-proof” the course in the early 2000s. Subsequently the general opinion is that short hitters cannot win and that any potential winner needs to average around 290 yards off the tee. The layout was opened in 1933 and was designed by local amateur golfer Bobby Jones and esteemed Scottish golf course designer, Alister Mackenzie. The first Masters was held the year after and it has remained there ever since.

As most readers will be aware it is heavily tree-lined right through the course but with that the fairways are still relatively wide and while the rough is penal, there are many situations where you can fly the rough and find a decent lie in the mulch under the trees. Over the years we have seen several famous recovery shots from such lies and consequently driving accuracy has never been overly important at Augusta, highlighted by the success that Woods and Mickelson have had there. Both of which were partial to missing a fairway or nine during a round even in their pomp.

A lot will be said of the importance in moving the ball from right to left off the tee this week and while it’s not essential it is certainly advantageous. There are many dog leg holes to the left and those that can shape the ball around the corner can gain a lot of yardage on those that can’t. So while the majority of the field are right handers and will need to draw the ball to achieve this, the left handers will have to fade the ball. This is thought to be one reason that left handers have had so much success recently at The Masters. It is easier to consistently control distance on hard fairways with a fade than it is a draw as the ball has less run-out on landing. Both Mickelson and Watson have used this to their advantage but being power hitters too there are some holes in which they not only shape it right to left but also cut the corner by driving it high over the trees. The yardage difference between approach shots from Bubba Watson and a short hitter incapable of drawing the ball is quite startling. Bubba could be going in with a 9 iron while his playing partner has a 4 iron and you can begin to see why power can be so crucial.

The biggest test however at Augusta is surely the fast, undulating bent grass greens and there are many players that would surely have green jackets by now if it weren’t for succumbing to the perfectly maintained green carpets (In 2012 Westwood had 128 putts for the week compared to Mickelson’s 107 and both tied 3rd). As mentioned above, length off the tee is crucial here to allow the players to attack the greens with as much loft as possible. All the game’s best will expect to regularly put their wedge to within 15ft but it’s the setting up of a wedge rather than a 7 iron that can be crucial in holding these greens and getting close to the flags.

If they miss the greens then they are in trouble as there are no easy up and downs on the course. More often than not they will find their ball lying in lush green rough and unless they are blessed with the touch of Phil Mickelson, getting any real control is hard enough before any consideration is given to the chances of being short sided and above the flag. If there has been a winner at Augusta that couldn’t chip then I definitely don’t remember them.

It doesn’t get any easier when on the greens as they tend to run at around 12.5-13.0 on the stimp meter so they are around the fastest they face all year. With so many undulations, lag putting is extremely crucial at Augusta and is one of the most important attributes. Two key stats that highlight good lag putters are 3-putt avoidance from 25 yards+ and approach putt performance. Holing out is also tough so putting from inside 6ft can be a handy indicator. Jordan Spieth also showed last year that you have to hole plenty of putts so additionally I’d want someone who sits towards the upper reaches of the 15ft-25ft category too.

From a stats perspective all this is backed up if we look at the last 10 champions. The average rankings are as follows; 19th driving distance, 29th driving accuracy, 6th in GIR, 9th in scrambling, 13th in ball-striking, 10th in total putting and 5th in the all-round ranking. The winner will have to do pretty much everything well apart from hit every fairway. Further to these main stats, Par 5 scoring is always crucial as that’s where the winner usually does the bulk of their scoring.

Augusta-National-HD-Wallpaper

Augusta National lies just minutes away from Georgia’s boundary with South Carolina and some 80 miles to the east of its capital, Atlanta. Every single Masters has been held there since the first in 1934 and across these 79 previous editions it is the age-old traditions that give the tournament so much of its wonderful charm.

The defending champion picks the dinner menu on Wednesday, the caddies still wear all white onesies, family and friends join together for the Par 3 competition, the previous year’s champion places the green jacket on the back of his successor. All these little quirks contribute to the unique charm of the Masters. It is also the only Major that is played on the same course every year so above all that is perhaps the golf punter’s favourite tradition.

One of the key factors in gathering statistical information is quantity of data. If an event happens once then obviously  we can analyse what has happened but in order to place any great significance on how and why things have happened, it is better to have as much data as possible. So naturally in Golf terms, the more tournaments held on the same course, the more reliable the stats and trends.

However sometimes in sport we hear stats banded around year upon year, at no event more so than The Masters, that have no great logic to them. For example “nobody has won the Masters after winning the Par 3 contest on the Wednesday.” While this is true it is as much down to chance as anything and there is very little preventing the man who plays best on the Wednesday continuing to do so and donning the green jacket in Butler’s Cabin on Sunday night. If anything the fact they are playing so well should boost their chances.

Conversely, the one stat that stands out most to me is that of the defending champion. In the entire history of the Masters only three men have managed to win back to back at Augusta and those just happen to be the two must successful golfers ever and one of the best golfing minds we have seen; Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo. That speaks volumes for just how difficult a task Jordan Spieth faces this week.

Arriving as the Champion brings so much media attention and extra work off the course that they must be physically and emotionally shattered even before they tee-off on Thursday. This puts them at a huge disadvantage compared to someone who is in form, has a solid record at Augusta and can fly in under the radar to a certain extent.

But the task looks even harder when we consider the on-course side of Augusta. Winning a tournament in golf is hard anyway so defending any tournament is already very tough. Forget the fact that they have to shoot a lower score than every single man in the field for a moment. Turning up to a venue where they won the year before they are not only expected to play well by everyone else, but they expect to play well themselves and probably win. This for me is the main reason why only three of the steeliest, most driven golfers ever to play the game have managed to successfully defend their green jacket.

Luckily for Spieth he has mental strength well beyond his years and experience. It wouldn’t surprise anyone should he laugh off the challenge and win by 4 again. But I simply can’t back him to win again this year at a similar price when he has all that to deal with in addition to his game not being where it was last year. There is just too much against him, history included.

Rory Mcilroy doesn’t have the best of records at Augusta and last year’s 4th place finish was his first Top 5. Despite the media constantly telling us how well suited he is to the course, I don’t think he putts or chips well enough on fast greens to win at Augusta. While I’m sure he will manage to sort this out over time and bag himself a green jacket, it won’t ever be with my money down at single figures.

This takes me to third of the market leaders and the winner of the last major in August, Jason Day. The Aussie has long been thought of as a future Masters Champion and his game could not be more suited to the venue, backed up by his two near misses when he just lost out in 2011 and 2013 finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. In fact such is his recent form, he is now the slight favourite this week.

Jason Day

 

Day has the perfect combination of power, high ball flight and excellent touch on and around the greens that is required around Augusta and after a couple of years of carrying an injury in April, he did look like he was going to arrive in absolutely perfect condition having won just three starts ago. But he seemed to tweak his back last week at the Match Play and while that was a concern for me initially, it didn’t prevent him from winning the tournament so I’m not fully convinced by the seriousness of it. Day can sometimes have the appearance of a bit of a drama queen and I’m confident his week off will have sorted any minor problem that he might have had.

To my mind the only thing that stopped him winning in 2013 was the fact that he hadn’t yet developed the knack of closing out big tournaments. After chasing his US PGA win with another in the Fed-Ex Series that is no longer the case. I started backing Day for this straight away and while I was a little concerned with his form at the beginning of the season he came back with a bang to win The Arnold Palmer Invitational three weeks ago before going back to back at the WGC Match Play. The likeable Aussie can drive the ball with the best of them and this season he ranks 44th in total driving despite a poor start to the season. While en route to his USPGA win he ranked 1st for total driving and he looked to be almost back to his best off the tee at times over the last two weeks. His irons have also been improving as the year has gone on and at the Match Play some of his approaches were simply brilliant.

During 2015 there was a lot written about Spieth’s excellent putting but Jason Day wasn’t far behind and appeared to hole a similar number of long-range putts from June through to September. Throughout the season he actually ranked 6th for Strokes:Gained Putting and this year he sits in 4th. Last week in Texas his scrambling and putting was about as good as we have seen since Tiger at his best and if he stays that sharp around the greens then he could lap the field this week.

The average ranking of the last 10 winners the year prior to their win is 26th so while Spieth was runner-up in 2013, generally the winner was not in contention the year before. They do usually give a hint though by shooting at least one under par round, often in the 60s. In the last 10 years, the lowest rounds shot by the winner the year before read; 70-70-66-67-69-67-72-74-70-69. This gives an average low round of 69. Last year Day finished in 28th place and shot an opening 67 which looks like exactly the sort of non-contending performance required to keep his own level of expectations down (although his success since last April might have the opposite effect!)

The Masters winner has often played well at the WGC Cadillac Championship and with that being the highest profile tournament of the year prior to Augusta then this makes sense. Both are elite fields, long layouts and firm and fast greens. The average finishing position for the winners is 14th and while Day only finished 23rd that is close enough for me as it obviously isn’t an exact science.

You have to go back to 2008 and Trevor Immelman to find a winner that wasn’t properly top class and with the strength of the top-level of players at the moment I would certainly expect this year’s winner to come from the head of the market. With that in mind I don’t see any need to look beyond Jason Day this week. It may be a little obvious but that is generally how majors go when the overall quality is so high. Spieth and Day won three of last year’s four between them and Zach Johnson really shouldn’t have been a surprise at St Andrews. Day arrives in brilliant form, his game is suited to the course, he has course form and he looks by far the most likely winner for me.


 

There is an argument to be made that perhaps Day and Mcilroy’s odds are too short when compared with Spieth and Bubba Watson given the first two named have never won here yet. But the argument for Watson’s odds being too high is one I’d give more credence to. This is a man who has won 2 of the last 4 Masters and whose game is almost custom designed for Augusta. Bubba is, and has been for some time, one of the most under rated golfers in the US and this dismissive attitude must be taken advantage of by the punter. I’m not sure what more he can do to highlight his chances of winning his 3rd jacket. He arrives in very good form having won already this season which is more than can be said for Mcilroy who trades at nearly half his price.Bubba also ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-green.

So far Bubba has followed up his wins here with a poorer showing as defending champion and that explains his 38th last year. But interestingly he finished 38th the year before his first Masters win, so while that is of no real significance it does mean that he will arrive with less pressure. In 2012 and 2014 when he won, he also finished runner-up at the WGC Cadillac Championship, again this year he came 2nd to Adam Scott at Doral.

I make Bubba the 2nd most likely winner this week so I’m going to have him as my saver outright bet as well as two decent each way options.

Brandt Snedeker has threatened to win around Augusta on more than one occasion with the most recent of these coming in 2013 when he led after 54 holes before going on to finish 6th to save the bookies a small fortune as he had been severely backed from around 66/1 into 25/1 in the weeks prior to the tournament. This wasn’t the first time that he was in contention as he was 2nd after 3 rounds before firing a 77 to finish in 3rd on just his 2nd appearance in 2008.

While he is a decent ball-striker when playing well it is his consistently brilliant short game that is his main weapon at Augusta. Over the last 8 years on Tour there have been few better on and around the greens and this is a course that allows him to show his skills off. In the Masters cuts that he has made he has gone onto rank 4-12-6-22-1-29 for putting average and you can count on him to fare well on the greens again this week. But it is his tee to green game that will make or break his Masters week and so far in 2016 we have seen a big improvement from the American after an out of sorts 2015. Snedeker is already off the mark for the year with a win at his beloved Torrey Pines resort. His stats are also good as he ranks 14th in GIR for the last 3 months, 45th in ball-striking and 5th in Strokes Gained: Putting. But perhaps the most pertinent difference is the extra yardage that he has gained this year after some hard work through the off-season. He is averaging a further 5 yards off the tee and that could well be the crucial factor in helping him over the line this year. Previously he fell just short of the supposed magic number of 290 yards with 288.4 averaged for 2015. So far in the 2016 season he is averaging 293.5 yards and this will help him to attack more flags, potentially allowing him more looks at makeable putts.

He looks to have a great chance of playing well again at one of his favourite courses and with his all-round game in good shape he looks a huge each way price at 55/1.

 

kirk

While it was no doubt more about selective camera work, Chris Kirk appeared to hole everything he looked at inside 20ft at the WGC Matchplay. On his day there are few better putters than Kirk and he is a player I have long thought of as suited to Augusta. I backed him here last year and he had a decent week finishing 33rd on what was just his 2nd masters appearance after finishing 20th the year before. He is still just learning the course but that is some pretty solid form for his first two efforts. Kirk was raised in Georgia, he studied in Georgia and he is now one of the many professionals that reside at Sea Island on the Georgia coast. One of his 4 PGA Tour wins came there in 2013 and he obviously feels at home in these conditions. His natural shot shape is a draw and while he isn’t always the best ball-striker, he can hold his own when playing well as his 4 wins suggest. Two of those wins have come on bentgrass greens as well so he has a liking for the consistent surface. Prior to his 5th in the Match Play he had brushed off two missed cuts with a 42nd at The Valspar and then a 12th at Bay Hill. At 200/1 he looks well worth a small play in the outright market in the hope that his hot putter can keep his results moving in the same direction.

Top 10s

Hideki Matsuyama is making a habit of playing well in the Majors with 6 Top 25s already in just 13 attempts. He has also turned three of those into Top 10s including one here last year when finishing 5th behind the elite company of Spieth, Mcilroy, Mickelson and Rose. His superb approach play helps him to hit more of these fast greens than most and while he may not be the best putter on fast greens, we have seen many superb iron players gather Top 10 after Top 10 at Augusta even if their short stick limitations prevent them from winning.

He is in great form having won this season already in Phoenix and he ranks 13th in GIR and 4th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Matsuyama is expected to go onto be a multiple major winner in the future and while there are no arguments from me on that front I’m not sure he will win a green jacket. However I think he has the game to rack up a lot of Top 10s and hopefully at the very generous price of 10/3. He has finished in the Top 10 here on 50% of his efforts (albeit just 1 out of 2). That is obviously simplifying things somewhat but to look deeper at his Major record he is 3/11 for professional top 10s. That should really suggest that a fair maximum price is 11/3 but perhaps closer to 3/1 when we consider he is improving all the time. This makes 10/3 look very tasty and I’m happy to make it a strong bet with 2.5pts.

Matt Kuchar loves Augusta and when he was at his peak 3/4 years ago he looked like a Masters winner in waiting. It wasn’t to be though as there was always something holding him back from winning but he did have 3 consecutive Top 10 finishes from 2012-2014. He was down the field last year but recently he has shown glimpses of the same ultra consistent player that seemed permanently fixed to the leaderboard from 2010-2014. With his short game looking sharp at the WGC Matchplay I think the chances of him making a Top 10 are slightly under rated at 5/1 so he looks worth a bet on a course where his short game thrives.

Top 20s

Chris Kirk looks worthy of a Top 20 bet in addition to the each way. If he doesn’t go quite as well as expected then there is still money to be made from another solid showing.

Nobody played the weekend at Augusta better than Ian Poulter last year as he closed with two 67s for a share of 6th place. Poulter finished 2nd two weeks in Puerto Rico and then took a week off to prepare for the Masters. His game was in fine fettle south of the border as he ranked 4th in total driving, 3rd in GIR and 2nd in scrambling . As Poulter announced on Twitter last week, this is the only 2016 Major that he has qualified for thus far. Nobody will be more annoyed by that than him and he will be determined to change all that as quickly as possible. In his last 9 efforts at Augusta he has finished inside the Top 20 on six occasions so while his overall form appears to be on the decline, he is actually performing better in the US. With him arriving in form the odds of 4/1 simply look too big.

Benny An as any regular readers will know is a big favourite of mine. He was amazingly consistent alst year and won the blog a lot of each way money. I missed out on his first win at Wentworth last May when he won in impressive fashion on the normally tough tree-lined course. There are many players that have gone well at both Wentworth and Augusta due to the championship layout and fast greens. Palmer, Langer, Faldo, Woosnam, Seve, Olazabal and Angel Cabrera have all won around both and there are several others to have played well on both. He missed the cut in 2010 as an amateur but he has improved a great deal since then. With 9 Top 20s in his last 12 starts I think odds of 10/3 are a little dismissive of the Korean’s talent and he should be backed accordingly.

1st Round Leader.

Dustin Johnson tends to fly out of the blocks on a Major Thursday and while I can’t really see him winning a green jacket, he is definitely improving around Augusta National and made the Top 10 for the first time last year when he finished 6th. He has actually only missed the cut once here and has a couple of 67s, a 68 and a 69 already at Augusta. He led every major apart from the Masters after Thursday last year and I don’t see any reason to stop backing him to do so this year (70-65-65-66 for those 4 Thurday rounds) . It definitely makes for a less stressful experience than backing him to win and his odds are even higher due to the more random nature of 1 round.

I like to have at least two 1st round leader bets at the Majors, one fancied player and one outsider. The outsiders have been kind to me over the years having been on both Michael Thompson at the 2013 US Open and Carl Pettersson at 2012 USPGA. Both those high odds wins were through course links but unfortunately everything at Augusta is laid out in front of us. So I’ve gone with a player who has previously played very well there but is flying in very much under the radar this year and looks a big price given how fast he started last year. Ernie Els shot a 67 to tie for 2nd after Thursday and his form was nothing exceptional coming in. That is the same this year but Els is one of his generation’s greats and didn’t finish out of the Top 6 at Augusta when at his peak from 2000-2004. His Open win in 2012 and his decent showing at Augusta last year (finished 22nd) are proof that he still has the long game to go well on tracks he likes and I can’t resist a small bet on his 200/1 price.

I’m also going to have a little interest in the forecasts as they are big prices even for the favourites and I don’t expect too many surprises at the top end of the leaderboard come Sunday. All six combinations involving Day, Spieth and Watson.


 

Summary of Bets

Outright

Jason Day – 6pts win @ 7.8 and 4pts Top 5 @ 2.7 (both Betfair) 

Bubba Watson – 2pts ew @ 12/1 (6 places – general)

Brandt Snedeker – 1pt ew @55/1 (Sky Bet 8 places)

Chris Kirk – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (Sky Bet 8 places)

Other markets

Hideki Matsuyama – 2.5pts Top 10 @ 10/3

Matt Kuchar – 2pt Top 10 @ 5/1

Ian Poulter – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Chris Kirk – 2pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Benny An – 1pt Top 20 @ 10/3

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 22/1

Ernie Els – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @200/1

All 6 forecast possibilities (1st and 2nd) with Day, Spieth and Bubba – 0.25pts on each = 1.5pts

Weekly outlay – 30pts

Total outlay – 540

@theGreek82

Tour Championship and Porsche European Open – Betting Preview

Last week didn’t come as a huge shock with Jason Day running away with the BMW Championship at Conway Farms. So amazing has his form been that once he hit the front that was the end of the tournament. I stated last week that I expected Day and Mcilroy to contend (hardly groundbreaking insight, I know!) so I was essentially chasing the each way money. Unfortunately when Jim Furyk withdrew after 6 holes (stakes returned as most bookmakers voided the bet) on Thursday that left Zach Johnson and Robert Streb to lead the fight and while they both performed well to finish in the Top 20 neither really looked like placing at any point. There was more joy in Europe however with Matt Fitzpatrick charging on Sunday to finish T3rd and nick a share of the place money. This also brought up the each way portion of the Mcilroy/Fitzpatrick double although at reduced stakes due to Mcilroy only having 2/3rds of the place and Fitzpatrick 3/7ths. All in it meant returns of 8.71pts on the week and so not a good week but happy to get some of the stakes back.

Total points advised – 146

Points returned – 217.20

ROI – 48.7%

This week we have the Fed Ex Cup finale as the Tour Championship takes place at East Lake and The European Open returns to the European Tour schedule in Germany.


Henrik

The Tour Championship

The Fed Ex Cup finale is here and as usual the players head to East Lake this week for the end of what will seem like a very long season for some players. With most of the Top 30 that have qualified for this week taking an extended break afterwards there will be mixed levels of motivation here. For the top 5 in the rankings they know if they win here they will scoop the $10m Fed Ex bonus. For some further down the field they will be looking to secure a big bonus cheque and finish their breakthrough season on a high. However for several of these 30 players this will be one tournament too far and with money no longer being a factor they will struggle to lift themselves for this, even more so if they are out of contention early on. So in addition to the usual course and current form I think it’s important to go with guys that will still be focussed to produce something this week.

East Lake is 7300 yards long and plays as a long but not overly tough Par 70. It’s yet another Donald Ross designed course and for some it brings a welcome return to bermuda greens. Of course there is plenty course form with East Lake having hosted this since it’s inception in 2008 but with only 30 players qualifying every year there aren’t too many that have played it more than a couple of times. With this in mind the Wyndham Championship is a useful course correlation as it is also a bermuda green Ross design. The fact that it was only last month helps also for the sake of current form. Other Ross tracks have been mentioned before and a full list can be found quite easily through any reputable search engine but I will probably list a few that relate to my picks.

Generally long and straight driving is required with some fairly lush rough and tree lined fairways. Recent winners such as Horschel, Stenson and Furyk back up the need to find fairways. The last 5 winners have all ranked inside the Top 11 for Greens in Regulation so accurate types tend to prosper at East Lake. With the bermuda grass presenting testing greens it’s important to putt well here. As with any Donald Ross course there are tight runoff areas a plenty so good scrambling skills will be required to save par when the greens are missed.

Given Jason Day’s form it was going to have to be all or nothing with him this week. At odds of 7/2 I decided he is simply too short at a course where he might just be a bit wayward off the tee to win. His form figures at East Lake are good but at 7/2 you can’t have any doubts and while I won’t be surprised in the slightest if he wins, I’m happy to take him on.

I always give Henrik Stenson the utmost respect on any Donald Ross design such is his record on DR tracks in the biggest tournaments (Won here in 2013, T4th at US Open at Pinehurst in 2014, 3rd at Oak Hill in 2013 US PGA and T4th at Oakland Hills in 2008). In fact given that he has only played once at East Lake he has never been out of the places when including only Donald Ross Majors and the Tour Championship. Now this looks impressive enough as it is but I’m after the full package this week in order to oppose Day so can Stenson putt on bermuda? Yes, Henrik won both the Players Championship in 2009 and the WGC Cadillac in 2007 on bermuda greens. When we factor in that his current form reads 2nd at the Deutsche Bank and 10th last week at the BMW then he looks a stand out pick. Stenson also hasn’t won this season yet and unlike many of these PGA Tour players Henrik will be turning his attention to The European Tour’s Final Series after this so will be hugely motivated to switch Tours coming off a confidence boosting win. At odds of 10/1 (12s on Betfair) even just a Top 4 finish this week gives us similar odds to a Jason Day win so I’m happy to have Stenson as my no. 1 pick on a course that is custom-built for the accurate Swede.

My 2nd pick is another Donald Ross lover and also a former winner at East Lake in 2011. When Bill Haas got up and down from the east lake itself to grab the $10m bonus four years ago he was a relative unknown to many golf fans. But Haas is now a proven winner with 6 PGA titles to his name and 4 of those coming on bermuda greens. He also has a fantastic record at the Wyndham Championship with recent form figures of T6, T2, T20 and T7. Haas returned to some form last week with a Top 20 and having received a President’s Cup wild card pick from none other than his dad Jay, he will be more motivated than most this week as he aims to further justify his pick. Odds of 66/1 look generous in a field that has only 8 more prolific PGA Tour winners.

I’m only going with two picks for the singles due to the restricted field and subsequent prices but the 3rd selection for the 3×3 ew doubles is Rickie Fowler. He is in great form, goes well on bermuda greens (Won The Players Championship in May) and has the added motivation of knowing a win will secure him the Fed Ex title. Which wouldn’t be a bad year for “the most over rated player on Tour”!


The Porsche European Open

We have another new course this week as The European Open returns to Tour having been absent since 2009. The course in question is the Golf Resort Bad Greisbach and while having never gathered the ET elite it has held the last 3 runnings of the Challenge Tour’s  Aegean Airlines Tournament. However with no stats available from those tournaments there isn’t a lot to go on. Pictures of the course suggest that it is relatively open off the tee and at 7188 yards long the Par 71 course is of average length. With a lot of water on the course, especially around the greens, it looks like approach play will be an important factor. There is also quite a strong field assembled so it doesn’t look like a week where we can expect players to find some form from nowhere and therefore I’ll be looking at players who are at the top of their game.

The first objective this week in Europe was to decide whether there was any value in the front three in the market with Weisberger, Schwartzel and Mahan all trading under 20/1. So often we see elite players winning events like this easily, even without great recent form. But with the new course being a leveller and a better than average field I’m not convinced by any of them. In fact it was quite hard to finalise my picks this week so in the end I have simply chosen three players who are in good form and hitting a lot of greens.

Fabrizio Zanotti led the field last week in Greens in Regulation with an impressive 83% helping him finish T3rd. Less impressive was his 29.25 putts per round average and anyone who watched the final round on Sunday would say that figure flatters him. But with approach play appearing so important it looks sensible to lead with last week’s best iron player. Zanotti also got his first win in Germany last year at the BMW International Open so a hopefully a return can bring about his zweiten sieg.

Byeong Hun An is a player I have been watching very carefully since his impressive win at Wentworth in May. Amazingly after a quite ridiculous ball striking display “Benny” went off the boil through the summer with some very mediocre finishes. His win got him into some big tournaments so after The Open he flew out to the US but failed to take the US PGA Championship by storm like he did the European Tour equivalent. He hasn’t been seen in Europe since but after an eye-catching win back home in Korea last week it seems like he is back in some sort of form. Granted it was a weak field but he did manage to get the better of proven PGA Tour winner Seung Yul Noh. If he is hitting the ball anywhere near to his Wentworth standard then he can contend every week in Europe so I’d expect him to go well coming off another win.

I really wanted to pick Jens Farhbring this week as he has played in all 3 Challenge Tour events at Bad Greisbach but he isn’t in the field. So instead I’ve picked Lucas Bjerregaard who finished alongside him at T3rd last week in Italy ranking 9th in GIR along the way. The Dane has a T12th here in 2013 so will bring some course form as well as current form and looks huge at 150/1 this week.


Summary of bets

Tour Championship

Henrik Stenson – 3pts win @ 12s, 2 pts Top 4 @ 3.55 both on Betfair Exchange

Bill Haas – 1pt win @ 95s, 1pt Top 4 @ 13.5 both on Betfair Exchange

Porsche European Open

Fabrizio Zanotti – 1.5pt ew 40/1

Byeong Hun An – 1pt ew 25/1

Lucas Bjerregaard – 0.25pt ew 150/1

3×3 0.25pts ew doubles (Stenson, Haas, Fowler 11/1) x (Zanotti, An, Bjerregard)

1pt Top 10 double 35.75/1 – Scott Piercy in US and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in Europe

Total Outlay = 18pts