Memorial and Italian Open – Betting Preview

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

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

2018 pts advised = 225

2018 pts returned =306.24

ROI = 36%


Memorial

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

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

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

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

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

RBC Canadian Open - Final Round

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

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

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

 


Italian Open

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

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

Gardagolf

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

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

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


Summary of bets

Memorial

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 33/1

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

Jonny Vegas – 0.75 pt ew @ 200/1

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

Italian Open

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

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

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

 

Weekly points advised = 15 pts

2018 pts advised = 239pts

 

@theGreek82

 

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Memorial and Nordea Masters – Betting Preview

Another Sunday, another week of my picks tumbling down the leaderboard. Great fun.

What made matters worse was Kevin Kisner (tipped for Dean and Deluca last year and 11 times in total!) won in Texas in the evening albeit at the slightly restrictive price of 25/1. While his chance was obvious I still hadn’t forgiven him for his awful Sunday round at Harbour Town last month. But given that I had been waiting for his 2nd win it is annoying to miss out, especially as he is probably one of the few players who I’m still in profit on.

Total 2017 pts advised = 233 pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 130.97 pts

ROI =  -43.79pts

Two decent events this week and another chance to turn things around. The Memorial on the PGA and the Nordea Masters in Europe.


Memorial Tournament

Muirfield Village 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.

It has been a little while since I tipped top 10 money machine Matt Kuchar to win a tournament but lately he has looked like he is ready to win again and where better than Muirfield where he won in 2013. Accurate long iron approach play, good scrambling, par 4 scoring and steady putting are all hallmarks of Kuchar’s ultra consistent golf game. Without a win since 2014, Kuchar’s form took a little blip but so far in 2017 he has looked a lot like the Matty of old. He ranks 9th in scrambling, 14th in par 4 scoring and 41st in GIR.

The trouble with Kuchar isn’t trying to pick where he will play well, it is more so that it can be hard to get him inside the top 5 rather than the top 10. On his last 3 appearances on Jack Nicklaus designed courses he has finished 9th, 4th and 7th. After a back door 12th last week where only three men played the weekend lower he looks primed for a contending performance on one of his favourite courses.

I’m going to split stakes though so we still see a return should he finish in the all too familiar 6th-10th zone. I’m going 1pt ew and 2pts Top 10.

Brian Harman doesn’t have the greatest of records around Memorial but it should suit him and he looks over priced after winning just four weeks ago on a similar course at Eagle Point Golf Club. He won that with a solid approach game backed up by a brilliant short game display and that is what is required on a Jack Nicklaus layout. His course record isn’t a worry as his game has never been better and he got back to business nicely last week when finishing 7th at Colonial.

Harman ranks 25th for scrambling, 9th in Par 4 scoring, 30th in bogey avoidance and 21st in scoring relative to par on approaches from over 200 yards. The slight worry is that he doesn’t hit the sort of high numbers of greens that is usually required around Muirfield Village but given his short game form I think he is over priced here.

There are three others that I quite like this week, Patrick Cantlay, Sung-Hoon Kang and Ricky Barnes. I’m going to back Cantlay to win and the two others for a top 20.

Cantlay ranks 11th in GIR, 3rd in par 4 scoring and 7th in the all-round ranking. He is making his debut but I think he looks very well suited to Muirfield Village. Cantlay has been very impressive so far in 2017 having not finished outside the top 48 in his 6 appearances and returning a runner-up and 3rd place finish. He appears to have turned the corner following a tragic 2016 in which he witnessed his caddie and friend being killed in a hit and run. With a full PGA Tour  card secured again he is expected to go from strength to strength this year and hopefully he can contend here. The price isn’t fantastic for a non-winner but only Jon Rahm has spent longer as world amateur no. 1 and he looks to be able to play a bit!

Kang is a very solid stats pick this week and while he is making his debut he is having a brilliant 2017 so far finishing 6th at the Texas Open and 2nd at the Houston Open. Both those were a result of solid GIR and scrambling numbers which is the perfect combo here. He ranks 38th in GIR, 20th in scrambling, 9th in par 4 scoring and 12th in the all-round ranking. Surely over priced a little at 9/2 for a top 20.

Ricky Barnes is a bit of a phenomenon in that he can appear from nowhere on a leaderboard, usually in a rather high profile event on a proper golf course. Barnes is a former runner-up here and he goes well on Nicklaus courses in general having finished 5th and 11th on his last two efforts around Glen Abbey in Cananda. Barnes shot an opening 75 last week before going onto play the last three rounds better than everyone bar Spieth and Stricker. Odds of 11/1 for a top 20 look massive.


Nordea Masters

The Nordea Masters returns to Barseback Golf Club for the first time since 2009. It was a regular stop from the 1990s up to that point so there is a fair bit of course form albeit rather dated.

It is a fairly long course and can play up to 7729 yards with a combination of links style  and woodland holes. Visually that suggests it has similarities with Gleneagles, Celtic Manor and even last week’s Wentworth. I have written before about how form at Crans ties in well with Gleneagles and Celtic Manor while the Doha Golf Club, home of the Qatar Masters is another that looks relevant this week. Indeed the last winner here, Ricardo Gonzalez is a former winner at Crans, he also lost a play-off at Gleneagles, finished 4th at Celtic Manor and 4th at the Qatar Masters.

Marc Warren won the previous running in 2006 and he was won at Gleneagles, finished runner-up in Qatar, runner-up at Wentworth, 4th at Celtic Manor and 4th at Crans.

Luke Donald was the winner here in 2004 and he is a double winner at Wentworth, he has won around Crans and finished 3rd at Celtic Manor (as well as scoring 3pts there at the Ryder Cup).

2003 winner Adam Scott has won twice in Qatar and once at Gleneagles. Even going further back 2001 winner Colin Montgomerie has won around Crans and Wentworth, 1997 winner Joakim Haeggmann has won in Qatar, 1993 winner Jesper Parnevik at Gleneagles and 1992 winner Nick Faldo at Wentworth and Crans.

They all putted and scrambled very well during their win and those appear to be the standout attributes this week at Barseback. On exposed layouts, greens are very often missed and we see great scramblers thrive year after year on links layouts. They also all ranked very high on the par 3s which suggests they are maybe a fairly easy set of par 3s to hit with big greens where the better putters will prosper. The greens are also some of the faster on the European Tour which again will disadvantage those poorer with the flat stick.

Driving accuracy hasn’t been overly important in the past and despite several of the holes being tree-lined, the fairways are wide enough and the rough hasn’t been too penal in the past. Although we don’t know how it will be set up this week it is fair to assume they won’t venture too far from the set-up that saw the course prove very popular with players in the past.

Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren both have a very good record at most of the key courses listed especially the latter who has won at Celtic Manor, Crans and now Wentworth. I think they are both rightly single figure prices here and I think they will be hard to beat. Noren has proven in the last year just what he is capable of when he is fit and while the price of 8/1 is probably fair and we know he can go back to back, I think the enormity of winning the Tour’s flagship event may prevent us from seeing him at his best. As brilliant as Stenson is he has proven a costly player to follow at single figure prices and despite this being his home course I think he can be left out given his mixed course form.

The trouble with opposing two world-class, proven winners is that as well as finding someone suited to the course, we need to know they are capable of winning in what is a relatively strong field for the European Tour these days.

At his best Bradley Dredge was a multiple winner on Tour and he has a very solid bank of form at all the relevant courses this week. Dredge is a former winner around Crans, he was runner-up at Gleneagles, 4th in Qatar and he has also been 2nd twice at the visually similar Himmerland Golf Course where Marc Warren has won.

He played well for three rounds last week at Wentworth before a disappointing 4th round. Dredge has plenty length off the tee to cope with Barseback and despite not having played fantastically here before, he has played the course 4 times and made three cuts. The course should really suit this brilliant putter and he proved on Monday when qualifying for the US Open that his first three rounds at Wentworth were no fluke. With confidence high I’m expecting a good showing from the experienced Welshman.

George Coetzee is a favourite of the blog and I have mentioned several times what a great scrambler and putter he is on fast, links type courses. He hasn’t contended too much so far this year but he has been putting well as is to be expected. His driving has actually been a lot more consistent so far this year and it appears that he is trying to cut out the big numbers that we associate with the South African. Again he has some solid form at a couple of the key courses, he lost a play-off at Gleneagles in 2011 and has also been runner-up in Qatar. He currently ranks 2nd in birdie average and also 15th in driving distance so the long course will suit. Coetzee knows how to get over the winning line with three European Tour wins and he looks ready to add a 4th. This is a strong field but that is reflected in the odds of 50/1.

There were a few more that I could have included in the outright but with results having been poor lately I’m keen to try to persist with Top 20s as an alternative.

Marcel Siem has some of the best course form on show in this field as he finished 4th in 2006 and 8th in 2004. That was a long time ago but there have been recent signs that this 4 time winner may be finding his game again. He finished 8th two weeks ago in Italy but was let down by his putter. I’m not sure that he can contend if he is putting poorly but his course experience can help him continue along the comeback trail with another top 20.

Joakim Lagergren and Alexander Bjork are two young Swedes who both have brilliant short games. They will be looking to impress on home soil and this could be a good course for them. Lagergren finished runner-up this year at the Qatar Masters but went a little off the boil after that. He still sits 22nd in birdie average though and he can be expected to play well on any course that favours putters. His best results on Tour have all been on links type layouts with a 4th in the Alfred Dunhill Links last year and a 5th at the Made In Denmark on the Himmerland Course.

Alexander Bjork ranked 3rd for scrambling at Wentworth and 9th for putting along the way to finishing 14th. Only Tanihara and winner Noren had a better combination of short game stats and more of the same this week will surely see him crack the top 20 again.


Summary of Bets

Memorial

Matt Kuchar – 1pt ew @ 33/1 and 2pts Top 10 @ 3/1

Brian Harman – 0.5pt ew @ 75/1

Sung-Hoon Kang – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

Ricky Barnes – 1pt Top 20 @ 11/1

Patrick Cantlay – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Nordea Masters

Bradley Dredge – 1pt ew @ 80/1

George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Marcel Siem – 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Joakim Lagergren – 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Alexander Bjork – 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Weekly pts advised – 16pts

Total 2017 pts advised – 249pts

@theGreek82