WGC Bridgestone – Betting Preview

Having nearly accepted the demise of Stenson, Poulter and Fowler at Birkdale I’m just about ready for a preview again after a week off. It’s still very annoying as The Open looked like being very profitable at the turn on Saturday with all three sitting inside the top 11 at one point. In the end it there were no returns at all which stopped a profitable run over the last few months.

This week just the WGC from Firestone CC, Ohio as I’m not going to look too much at the Barracuda.

Results as follow;

2017 pts advised= 345.5

2017 pts returned= 240.36

ROI = -30.4%

 


WGC Bridgestone

The WGC Bridgestone is back in its usual spot the week before the US PGA after some scheduling changes last year to accommodate the Olympics. While it isn’t always an identical challenge the one constant with Firestone and whichever course is hosting the US PGA is length. Firestone Country Club is a Robert Trent Jones design and it sits as a 7360 yards Par 70 with some monstrous Par 4s and the longest Par 5 on Tour. Next week’s US PGA is always set up to play as long as possible and subsequently it has become a tournament that has been dominated by the longer hitters.

That similarity coupled with the tournaments being back-to back has brought about a telling stat where the last 10 US PGA winners have finished in the Top 22 at Firestone. Those who aren’t getting too involved from a betting point of view this week should pay close attention their fancies for Quail Hollow next week.

Firestone has been the host of this event in some capacity since 1962 so there is an abundance of course form and over the years a typical sort of winner has been established. The fairways are of average width but unlike most courses there are no dog legs and they all play perfectly straight. This puts straight, accurate drivers at an advantage even before the lush green rough is considered. The last 5 winners have averaged 14th for driving accuracy and while you can get away with missing fairways,  you need to be a good long iron player from the rough to get anywhere near the greens. On the long par 4s a missed fairway results in an approach shot of 200 yards + for most of the field and that is something that not all players are comfortable with.

The greens are relatively big at an average of 7,600 metres sq. but they play as some of the fastest on Tour at around 13″ on the stimp. So with a field average GIR of 55% over the last 5 years then we can see how hard it is to hold the greens. That brings scrambling into the equation and while the likes of Mahan and Johnson don’t immediately stand out as excellent scramblers, they did very well around the greens during the week of their win.

My first pick is someone who I backed regularly in the big tournaments for about 18 months prior to his excellent run, when he began delivering on his world-class promise with nearly flawless golf from November to January. Hideki Matsuyama was the best golfer in the world for two months before he went off the boil a little in 2017 and his putter began to cool down. But there have been plenty of signs in recent weeks that he is getting back to his best and a venue where poorer putters can thrive has arrived at the perfect time for him. His recent results have been very steady if not spectacular and they have helped him to 1st in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months. That complete game will help him around Firestone which is always a difficult test and the long game will have to be firing on all cylinders to win this week. Luckily that is what his game is built on and we can still get 20/1 on a player who arguably has the most consistent tee-to-green game in the field. Matsuyama ranks 7th in bogey avoidance, 10th in strokes gained: off the tee, 27th in strokes gained: around the green and 27th in scoring relative to par from approaches over 200 yards in the rough.

His Firestone results to date aren’t terribly impressive but I’m not really sure why as the venue should suit him perfectly. Matsuyama’s results in the big events this year eclipse virtually everyone except maybe Brooks Koepka. He has finished 11th, 2nd and 14th in the three majors so far while he has also thrown in a 25th in the WGC Mexico and 22nd in The Players. It looks highly likely we will at least get a run for our money and the odds look very fair for a player who is close to his best, where in turn his best can be close to unbeatable on the right course.

Kevin Chappell may turn into the big twitter gamble yet this week as he looks quite an obvious pick and could well let everyone down as he will be expecting to play well having finished 3rd last year on his debut. Chappell has built a reputation as being a bit of a specialist on courses that represent a tough challenge from tee-to-green. He was 3rd on his Open debut in 2011 and he followed that with a 10th at the Robert Trent Jones designed Olympic Club in 2012. Chappell’s long game was back to its best last week as he ranked 6th for total driving and 21st in GIR while interestingly he ranked 4th in total putting which so often holds him back. The clincher for me though was that he sits T2nd in scoring relative to par from 200 yards + approaches from the rough. That explains why he thrives on these types of courses and the last two course winners currently rank T2nd and 7th in this stat. Chappell definitely has the class to win an event of this size and now that he is a winner on Tour he should arrive confident of playing well again on his 2nd look at the course.

Kevin Kisner looks very overpriced on a course that should suit him despite his relative lack of length. His two results so far have been 37th in 2015 and 16th last year where he sat 6th at the half-way stage. Kisner hits it very straight off the tee and should find himself in the fairway more than most of the field this week. His iron game is in good shape too as he ranks 31st in GIR for the last 3 months. Recent results have been average but that has largely been due to a cold putter and hopefully with par a good score this week those missed birdie putts won’t be too crucial.

I looked at various different side markets here for a bet and settled on Ross Fisher for a Top 10 at a very tempting 10/1. Fisher finished 5th and 3rd at the first two WGC tournaments of the year and while his recent form hasn’t been fantastic, he gets in the staking plan thanks to his solid record around Valderrama, another difficult Robert Trent Jones design. Fisher has played there 5 times without ever being outside the top 25 and his best result was last year where he finished 6th. On his day Fisher is one of the longest, straightest drivers around and while his 3 appearances at Firestone haven’t yielded a top 25 yet, he hasn’t played it since 2010 and will be relishing the test this week.

 


Summary of Bets

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts ew @ 20/1

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Kevin Kisner – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Ross Fisher – 1pt Top 10 @ 10/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2017 pts = 353.5pts

@theGreek82

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Wells Fargo Championship and Trophee Hassan II – Betting Preview

Another poor week with no returns last week. Annoyingly there were long rain delays on the PGA Tour and you can’t help but feel a little hard done by when a Tournament is reduced to 54 holes. While I didn’t have anyone properly in contention to win the interruptions prevented all three players gaining any momentum and Garrigus looked very good for a Top 20 finish before the reduction to 54 holes was announced.

In China Wiesberger looked the most likely winner during the first two rounds but he never recovered from a terrible 3rd round and finished down the field knowing his chance had gone on Sunday.

That leaves the overall results still in profit but dwindling a little;

Total points advised – 584.5pts

Total points returned – 714.67pts

ROI – 22.27%

Hopefully things will get back on track this week with the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina and The European Tour arrives in Morocco for The Trophee Hassan II.


Wells Fargo Championship

The PGA Tour moves north this week as players and punters alike search for sunnier climes. The weather delays on Tour recently have been a nightmare and if last week’s Zurich Classic wasn’t already ruined by the weather then it certainly was by Sky Sport’s ridiculous decision not to show the perfectly poised final round on Monday morning. It went to a three-man play off and by all accounts it was a pulsating finish. This isn’t the first time Sky Sports has let their golf fans down and it does make you wonder just what you are paying for sometimes.

Unfortunately the forecast is more of the same for Thursday before clearing up for the rest of the week so fingers crossed the Wells Fargo Championship is uninterrupted this week.

quail hollow

Rory Mcilroy arrives in town as defending champion and the short priced favourite and he is rightly the man to beat in Charlotte, North Carolina. The course is Quail Hollow and it is one that appears to suit him perfectly as his form figures suggest, 1-8-10-2-MC-1. But it’s definitely of interest that his only missed cut was as defending champion.

It is 7575 Yards long and lately it has been a bit of a bombers paradise. After the 2013 edition brought with it many complaints about the quality of the greens, they were changed from bent grass to bermuda and a lot of trees were removed to allow more light to hit the greens. In addition to the removal of trees by the greens the fairways trees were also reduced in numbers somewhat. This has created a more open course that can really be attacked with driver and on the two renewals since, Rory Mcilroy and JB Holmes both ranked 1st in driving distance during the week of their win. But if we look further at the last 5 renewals then driving distance was already crucial as the 5 winners averaged 10th which is lower than any of the other main stats. It was closely followed by scrambling (12th) and GIR (14th).

Rory does look the most likely winner this week and while I was very close to recommending him as the bet, I’m not sure his game is in good enough shape to win this. Brian Stuard proved just last week how much strength in-depth there is this season on The PGA Tour and while the Northern Irishman won last year by 7 shots, his single figure price this week has resulted in a lot of value elsewhere for some very good players that will also be suited to the test.

Given Kevin Chappell’s recent form an argument could be made that his price is a little big this week and that is the view I’m taking. His recent form reads 4-9-MC-2 and in some pretty decent fields too. Not that Chappell has ever been one to be scared of going up against the best. When I tipped him a few weeks ago I highlighted his love of Championship style layouts, supported by his 3rd on his US Open debut and a 10th the following year. While Quail Hollow isn’t quite the difficult test that the US Open brings, it is definitely a long, Championship style layout and The PGA Championship is actually booked in at Quail Hollow for 2017.

chappell

A further look at the list of winners of The Wells Fargo shows several Major winners and since 2003 only shock winner Derek Ernst doesn’t boast a minimum of one finish in the Top 10 of a major. That tells us that it is generally a classy player that wins here and usually one that can play well on long courses. Chappell isn’t quite amongst the longest of hitters but he is very accurate with his long irons which can more than compensate. However he did rank 16th in driving distance on his last start, averaging 293 yards off the tee. While that is still some way short of Mcilroy, it is long enough to go well at Quail Hollow and he has had some decent finishes here. He finished 16th last year where he ranked 4th for par 5 scoring and he was 11th the year before where only Jason Bohn performed better on the par 5s.

The last 5 winners here have averaged 2nd in the all-round ranking so every part of the game needs to be working for Chappell but that doesn’t look to be an issue as he ranks 24th in the ARR for the last 3 months and encouragingly he was 2nd last time out in the same stat.

Chappell has looked a winner in waiting throughout this season and given four of the last eight winners of The Wells Fargo were winning for the first time (Kim, Mcilroy, Fowler and Ernst) I think this presents another excellent opportunity for Chappell to record his first win. Rory won’t give up his title without a fight but Chappell beat him by 10 shots last time they were in the same field so that shouldn’t phase him unless Mcilroy brings his A game. We really can’t be sure of that so Chappell looks like a very solid alternative at around 8 times the price.

Given how much I have backed Byeong Hun An recently in Europe there was a small tear in my eye on Monday when it looked like he might win on just his 3rd regular PGA Tour start. I must admit to being a little relieved as I would have hated to miss out on his first US win at odds of 66/1, especially as I don’t actually think I was aware he was playing until the Tournament started. Unfortunately his odds have been cut this week and the field is considerably stronger than last week too. But given I am such a big fan and we know how well he holds his form (his figures from November – February read 4-19-3-4-8-4-5-38-4) I don’t want to miss out when he does win and I’m going to take the hint from last week.

With an excellent all-round game if he continues to progress then I think he could well be a future major winner. That is exactly the type of player that goes well at Quail Hollow and An seems like he goes well on most of the same layouts as Mcilroy. He won at Wentworth last year where Rory had won the year before and he chased him home in the DP World Championship towards the end of the 2015 season finishing in 4th position. He also finished above him in the Dubai Desert Classic and one shot behind him in Abu Dhabi.

If there is a weakness to An’s game it is probably his chipping but the same has been said about Mcilroy in the past so it could be that scrambling is quite straight forward at Quail Hollow. His scrambling is also improving as he ranked 5th in that department in New Orleans. He currently ranks 31st in driving distance and 21st in GIR but a more telling idea of his current game was that he ranked 1st in the all round ranking last week.

While his price doesn’t have too much value based solely on what he has done in the game so far, if we factor in his potential then I think 45/1 is just about fair for Benny this week.

Patrick Rodgers was expected to have a big 2016 season but that hasn’t materialised yet. He finished 6th on his first start at The Fry’s Open but since then he has missed 6 out of 14 cuts returning nothing better than a 17th in the calendar year. It has mainly been his putting that has been letting him down though as some of his long game stats are still strong.

Rodgers was the number one ranked Amateur in the world as recently as 2014 and given the quality of the Amateur game recently he is still expected to go onto great things in the game.

Rodgers would have gone down in a lot of notebooks for Quail Hollow this year after finishing 2nd to Mcilroy last year. So it was particularly interesting to see just how good his long game was last week. He ranked 1st in total driving, 1st in ball striking and 1st in total accuracy but his putter left him down in 31st place. Having ranked 15th in total putting at the course last year it’s fair to think that his putting might improve this week on familiar greens. If he brings last week’s tee to green game then even an average week on the greens will hopefully see him contend again.

 


Trophee Hassan II

The European Tour gets a little bit closer to mainland Europe this week as we land in Morocco for The Trophee Hassan II. While this has been a fully sanctioned Tour event since 2010 there has been a change of venue this week as we return to the 2010 host venue Royal Golf Dar Es Salam after 5 runnings at Golf Du Palais Royal. It doesn’t appear to be a popular switch however as there is a very weak field lining up in Rabat. Aside from the 2010 renewal there is some old form from the course as it was used for the Moroccan Open at the turn of the century with Ian Poulter last winning in 2001. Additionally it has also hosted the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open on the low-grade MENA Tour in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

p17

The course is another Robert Trent Jones track just like the previous host course so recent form might not be entirely useless here. From the abundance of youtube videos showing highlights of the MENA Tour we can see what the course has to offer and it is extremely well tree-lined with fairly small looking greens. That combined with its length (7487 yards) suggests that long, straight driving will be beneficial here together with a hot putter as the highlights packages seem to show the main protagonists holing lots of mid-long range putts.

With Kikuyu collars and bentgrass greens it appears that scrambling will be important given the tricky nature of chipping from kikuyu lies. The grass also restricts the run out of the ball on the fairway so that will further highlight the need for length off the tee. It is also found mainly on South African golf courses so perhaps consideration should be given to in form South Africans. Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Aiken both finished inside the Top 10 in 2010.

While there will be many in the field that have never seen the course before, Ross Mcgowan has played here several times on the MENA Tour. Not only that but he has won there and also finished runner-up the year prior when he blew a lead. So with such strong course form in a relatively weak field I was surprised to get odds of 110/1. Ross is a former winner on The European Tour so while he is having to make a living on a lower tier tour he does know what it’s like to compete with the bigger names. He doesn’t arrive in the greatest of form recently but earlier in 2016 he finished 12th, 3rd and 10th all in South Africa. He simply has to be backed where his course knowledge could give him a huge advantage over field this week.

With course form covered I wanted to find the long, straight driver that should hopefully be suited to the test. Sebastian Gros finished 1st in total driving last week and that was nearly enough on its own given how weak this field is. But he also finished 4th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on another kikuyu + bent combo at Leopard Creek CC. Throw in recent form of 34-19-45-20 together with the fact that he finished 1st in the all-round ranking last week and he looks a solid each way bet at odds of 50/1. While he is still relatively inexperienced on The European Tour he has won twice in the last 12 months on the Challenge Tour so getting over the line in this company shouldn’t present a problem if he does take to the course.

Nino Bertasio finished 11th at Valderrama and that was the first time I really took notice of him. He ranked 1st for putting and that will surely serve him well around here. The rest of his game doesn’t appear to be too great but you don’t finish 11th around that course without doing something right. Robert Trent Jones also designed that track so while it’s definitely a bit of a risk his other high finish was 9th at the Australian PGA Championship so there might just be enough about him that he can make a mockery of his 125/1 odds.

 


Summary of bets

Wells Fargo

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Byeong Hun An – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Patrick Rodgers – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Trophee Hassan II

Ross Mcgowan – 1pt ew @ 110/1

Sebastian Gros – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Nino Bertasio – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

No doubles advised this week due to limited confidence in Europe.

Weekly outlay – 10pts

Total outlay – 594.5pts

@theGreek82