The Open – Betting Preview

With four golfers in the places it was another good week but with the way Zach Johnson and Ryan Fox finished their rounds it was a little annoying to have their place returns diluted. Ultimately it was another profitable week though and keeps confidence high ahead of arguably the highlight of the golf year, The Open Championship.

2017 pts advised =322 pts

2017 pts returned = 240.36pts

ROI = -25.36%

In case you missed it, to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the blog I’m running a competition this week for the grand prize of £10! To enter simply retweet the preview and reply with a guess of how many players will finish the tournament under par. Please add a winning score as a potential tie-breaker.


The Open

This is the third time that I have previewed The Open and on both the previous occasions I anticipated the usual Open weather resulting in a proper test of links golf. Despite two brilliant tournaments, that didn’t really materialise at either St. Andrews or Troon. The players were taken off the course during the only strong winds at St. Andrews while Stenson and Mickelson exchanged weekend blows on a sun-drenched yet rain-softened Ayrshire coast last year. With everything we have seen before at Royal Birkdale however, the traditional Open enthusiasts should get their wish this week.

royal-birkdale-golf-club-2

While not being a classic out and in links course, every other aspect of a traditional links course is present at Royal Birkdale. Fairways sculpted into the dunes with rugged fescue all around, strategic pot bunkers in the fairways, large green complexes with swales and run-offs and more often than not a stern breeze whistling through it. While there are some undulations it is one of the flatter courses on rotation and 2008 champion Harrington claims it to be a very strong but very fair course that isn’t tricked up at all. What you see is what you get with the course and the majority of tee-shots are elevated meaning a clear view of where the drives are going. That is in complete contrast with the U.S. Open at Erin Hills where the players were faced with several blind tee-shots and aspects of a course like this can be key for many. Some golfers will be far more relaxed with this week’s driving lines and we may see the likes of Johnson, Rahm and Pieters in a better light here. Although it is worth noting that Birkdale has been claimed to be one of the toughest driving courses on the rotation. The fairways are narrow enough and the bunkers are as penal as you will see. Unlike some shorter links courses the bunkers can’t just be flown so strategy will be required off the tee.

In 2008 the field scrambled at just 42.6% which is the 3rd lowest in the last 15 years. The greens were also very hard to hit as the field managed just 53.7% which is actually the lowest total in the last 15. It may sound like I’m stating the obvious but you really only want to consider players this week that can continue to hit greens in difficult conditions and also scramble well around tightly mown links run-offs when they do miss the greens. That is what I focussed on but there are also some other key elements to Royal Birkdale from a historical point of view.

Key trends from the previous 9 Royal Birkdale Opens;

7/9 were already Major champions prior to Birkdale win

6/9 were or would go on to be a multiple major winner (the 9 have 34 majors between them now!)

5/9 were from the U.S.A (13 of the last 22 Open winners too)

3/9 were already Open winners (another 3 would go on to win The Open again)

The finishing position of the 9 Birkdale winners in the previous year’s Open;

1954 Peter Thomson – 2nd in 1953

1961 Arnold Palmer – 2nd in 1960

1965 – Peter Thomson – 24th in 1964 (already won at Birkdale in 1954)

1971 – Lee Trevino – 3rd in 1970

1976 – Johnnie Lee Miller – 3rd in 1975

1983 – Tom Watson – 1st in 1982

1991 – Iain Baker-Finch – 6th in 1990

1998 – Mark O’Meara – 38th in 1997 (was 3rd at Birkdale in 1998 and also won the Lawrence Batley International there in 1987)

2008 – Padraig Harrington – 1st in 2007

Essentially all these just tell us that this week’s Open will be won by a classy golfer who is already a major winner (or expected to become a multiple winner) and has a very strong bank of Open form already. Where does that leave us then?

I have thought Rickie Fowler was going to win The Open every year since his impressive showing at Sandwich in 2011 in dire conditions when he finished 5th to Darren Clarke. Indeed I have bet on him every year since and therefore I can forgive anyone who dismisses my main tip this year on grounds of me becoming obsessive! But this looks like the most traditional combination of both course and weather that we have seen since 2011. Birkdale looks absolutely perfect for Fowler and it has also come at a time when he is in brilliant form.

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

Whether or not you subscribe to the theory that he is the best active player without a major, nobody can deny that he has paid his dues already at the relatively young age of 28. Yet until his final round at Augusta I had personally never seen him do much wrong in contention for one of the Majors. That Sunday round alongside Spieth was a concern but he flew out of the blocks at Erin Hills in a fashion that suggested he had already forgotten about it. The fact that he finished 5th that week was actually testament to his grinding skills. He clearly wasn’t playing his best from Friday onwards yet he managed to just about hang around most of the tournament when Koepka, Fleetwood and Harman were playing their very best golf. He has held his form nicely since with a 3rd place finish at the Quicken Loans before crossing the Atlantic for his links warm up at the Scottish Open.

Over the weekend in Scotland Fowler cut the figure of someone who was merely sharpening their game ahead of the real tournament. I got the impression that he wasn’t overly worried about being off the pace and was happy to avoid the mental strain that comes with being in contention. With regards to trying to peak for this week, I believe his 9th place finish was ideal preparation. His 2017 has not only been succesful from a results point of view but his stats are excellent yet again this year. Fowler ranks 9th in scrambling, 3rd in total driving, 8th in strokes gained: approaches and 3rd in strokes gained: putting. It is no coincidence that he has contended at both this year’s majors as his whole game is as good as it has ever been.

For me, Rickie is ready and I believe this is his time if he is to go on to be the outstanding links player of his generation that I think he can be. He has already won around Gullane and finished 6th at Royal Aberdeen which are two visually similar courses to Birkdale.

The recent trend of experienced Open winners is certainly relevant but at the same time the nine Birkdale winners were an average of 31 yrs old when they won. Given Fowler came on the scene so early he is probably as experienced at 28 as the average golfer at 31 as this is his 8th Open already. Indeed the last three Birkdale winners played in their 8th Open respectively at 31, 34 and 31. I’m going to have 3pts ew at 14/1 with Skybet’s 10 places offer and a further 2pts win at Betfair’s 18.0

I’m going to take three more proven links players as back up to Rickie Fowler. Firstly the reigning Champion Golfer of The Year, Henrik Stenson. I was gutted not be on last year after making him my main tip at St. Andrews the year before. I can’t even remember why I left him out now, possibly as I hadn’t forgiven him for an average showing the year before. This year he hasn’t been playing his best but things have picked up a little and his stats have improved over the last few weeks. Despite finishing down the field in 26th, he was 1st in the all-round ranking last week, let down only by his putter as he ranked 1st in fairways and 12th in GIR. But not making birdies won’t be too detrimental this week as the bulk of the field struggle their way to par. His slow start to the year means we can still get roughly the same price as last year. If we consider the relatively poor form of many of the world’s top players and that he is now a major winner, this looks to me like some value. Stenson was also tied 3rd here in 2008 as he shot the best round in the field on the windiest day we have seen for years at an Open. He also has a very strong record at Opens where scrambling is tough. In the last 10 years his finishes when the field got up and down less than 50% were as follows; 2nd-68th-3rd-13th-3rd (the 68th coming during his slump year of 2011). He is expected to put up a strong defence this week.

Henrik

I badly wanted to include Justin Rose again but I still can’t get over his missed cut at Erin Hills so instead I’m going to include his good friend Ian Poulter. Poulter was runner-up here in 2008 as he handled the brutal winds better than everyone bar Harrington. His recent up-turn in form ahead of his return to the scene of his best Open performance is timely and it means he looks a shade of value, especially after faltering a little on Sunday to ease his price again. Despite the many that condescend to Poulter by criticising his sometimes average ball-striking, make no mistake that there are very few in the game who have maximised their talent quite like Poulter. He has had a similar career to Darren Clarke and I wouldn’t put it past Poulter to stick a cherry on top at the age of 41 much like his Ryder Cup captain did 7 years ago.

Regaining his PGA Tour card for this year when he thought he had lost it has given him a new lease of life and will have realigned his perspective. Playing without too much pressure he has managed a 2nd at the Players Championship and just last week his whole game was in excellent shape as he finished 9th at the Scottish Open on a proper links course in very typical Open weather. Some will be quick to point out how poorly he played in that final round but this was the first tournament in a while where he would have expected to win going into the final round. The refresher course can only have helped him with regards to next time he is in the final group and his record in contention in general is a good one. He ranked 9th in fairways at Dundonald and 20th in greens so that level of accuracy will help him at Birkdale. Skybet’s 60/1 doesn’t give us much juice on the win portion but again the 12/1 for a top 10 finish looks very nice given he has made the top 10 in three of his last eight Open appearances.

Steve Stricker fits the profile of a Birkdale winner absolutely perfectly, so much so that I’m going to get involved in several markets with the 50yr old Wisconsinite. The Open didn’t used to mean that much to Sticker and he has skipped it in the past. But now in his Senior years he relishes any chance to still play in a major and that has shown in his results. Amazingly he hasn’t missed a major cut since 2009’s US PGA Championship. That is 24 consecutive cuts which returned 13 Top 20 finishes. He was tied 16th at both this year’s Masters and Erin Hills so my main bet will be in the Top 20 market but I think there are plenty reasons to think he can go even better.

Stricker was 4th in last year’s Open at Troon as he minimised mistakes over the weekend and slowly crept up the leaderboard. But he was also 7th in 2008 when Harrington won and both those results align perfectly with previous Birkdale winners. If we also consider that the last 6 Open winners have been aged 40-39-25-43-42-41 then we can see that it isn’t just a myth that experienced players fare well in The Open. Stricker seems to tick so many boxes that I can’t believe the 230.0 that was available on Friday on Betfair. Hopefully some of you might have noticed my tweet and got on board but I still think the 170 is a good price and I also like Sky Bet’s 100/1 with 10 places on offer. That gives us 20/1 about a top 10 which seems like an absolute gift from a value point of view even if the win portion is probably about right. I’m advising 1pt win on the Exchange at 170, 1pt ew with Sky Bet @ 100/1 and also 2.5pts Top 20 @ 7/2. At the very worst we get the chance to cheer on one of the good guys in golf knowing that he should at least make the cut given his current streak of 24 not out. From there his experience and temperament could see him out stay plenty over a tough looking weekend.

I had been eyeing up a top 20 bet on Paul Waring for a few weeks so when he shot a 78 on Saturday I was a little bit miffed. But he closed with a 69 and I think he has the right sort of combination of steady tee-to-green game, solid putting stroke and a liking for tough conditions. Waring was 19th at Birkdale in 2008 but he is a far better player now and is enjoying his best year on Tour. I think he looks a solid bet for another Birkdale Top 20 at a general 10/1.

My last top 20 bet is quite a speculative one at the price but Paul Broadhurst perhaps shouldn’t be 33/1 for a top 20 considering he qualified for this by winning last year’s Senior Open at Carnoustie. Obviously it is a huge jump in class but Broadhurst was always a fine links player such was the quality of his short game. He is 51 yrs old now but we all remember how close Greg Norman and Tom Watson came to winning this so I see no reason why he can’t make the cut and if the wind gets up he should enjoy the test more than most.

Others who came close were Haas, Leishman and Snedeker but they haven’t repaid the faith shown in them over the last two years so instead I will monitor their progress and perhaps get on in-play if they start well.

First Round Leader

As well as winning The Open in 2015, Zach Johnson has built himself quite the Open record and he has made the last 10 cuts in a row dating back to 2006. I couldn’t say for sure but I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t the only player to have done that. His results in that time have been increasingly impressive too; 20-51-47-76-16-9-47-1-12. While his return to form at the John Deere Classic was interesting, I don’t think one performance on his favourite course is enough to suggest he has fully turned the corner, however, it will mean that he arrives at Birkdale full of confidence. It could be that he flies out of the blocks and continues where he left off so I was considering him for 1st round leader even before I looked at his recent Thursday knocks at The Open.

Starting with his most recent, Johnson’s run of ten consecutive Open weekends opened up with rounds of 67-66-71-66-65-72-72-70-73-73. The last five in particular are impressive but just two of those were over par in 10 years and he would have given some sort of each way returns in the first round leader market in four of the last five years. He looks a great each way bet to start well again even if his poor 2017 suggests he might fall away as he struggles to put four solid rounds together.

In most of the last 10 Opens we have seen an old head flirt with the leaderboard throughout the tournament but even on the occasions where they fell away quicker than Greg Norman or Tom Watson did, there has always been someone fighting the good fight for the older generation on day one. From last time at Birkdale in 2008 there has been an over 40 in the first five every year; Norman, Watson, Daly, Jimenez, Lawrie, O’Meara, Furyk, Goosen and last year both Stricker and Mickelson. So it looks perfectly fair to expect some senior representation again this year.

I’m not going to dive into another market with Steve Stricker although hopefully he can start well. Instead I am going to add Paul Broadhurst in the 1st round leader market too. He might not manage the physical exertions of 4 rounds at this level but he has an early tee-time and hopefully he can start strong.

Lastly I’m going to include Jason Dufner for no more reason than I have a feeling he could start well this week flying in completely under the radar. Dufner has missed his last two cuts since winning at Memorial but we can forgive that and prior to those his previous opening rounds read 74-69-73-69-68-71-68-68-70-71-71-65-68. He will enjoy the accuracy test off the tee and has a nice early tee time. With the weather forecast changing every hour I have stuck with the morning starters who will at least see the greens at their best.

For one last bet I’m going to have a double on what are for me the two outstanding candidates in the remaining majors, Fowler, as already covered, and Jon Rahm for the US PGA. His win in Ireland was excellent and he just keeps getting better. The Quail Hollow course will be set up perfectly for him and I think he will be the man to beat. The 20/1 currently available looks generous.


Summary of Bets

The Open

Rickie Fowler – 3pts ew @ 14/1 (Skybet 10 places at 1/5 odds) and a further 2pts win @ 18.0 on Betfair.

Henrik Stenson – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (Skybet)

Ian Poulter – 1pt ew 60/1 (Skybet)

Steve Stricker – 1pt win @ 170 on Betfair Exchange, 1pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet) and 2.5pts Top 20 @ 7/2

Paul Waring – 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Paul Broadhurst – 0.5pt Top 20 @ 33/1

 

Zach Johnson – 1pt ew @ 80/1 – 1st Round Leader

Paul Broadhurst – 0.25pt ew @ 300/1 – 1st Round Leader

Jason Dufner – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 – 1st Round Leader

0.5pt ew double Rickie Fowler to win The Open and Jon Rahm to win US PGA @ 356/1 (10 places and 5 places with Sky Bet)

 

Weekly pts advised =  23.5pts

2017 pts advised = 342pts

 

@theGreek82

Scottish Open and John Deere Classic – Betting Preview

It was a profitable week and therefore I can’t really complain, especially with the way Ryan Fox holed two lengthy par putts on 17 and 18 to hold onto 3/4 of the place money. But Russell Henley was a little disappointing on the Sunday given he was surrounded by less experienced players and he never really mounted a challenge. Kelly Kraft birdied the 17th to tie for 5th and that halved our returns. Michael Kim also did all the hard work for a back door top 20 only to go and double bogey the straight-forward 18th hole to fall one shot out of the top 20.

There were 19.94 pts returned and hopefully the next winner isn’t far away. The European Tour continues its links trail this week and hops over the Irish Sea to Ayrshire for The Scottish Open and the PGA Tour holds its customary pre-Open John Deere Classic.

Total 2017 pts advised =309pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 222.11

ROI = – 28.12%


The Scottish Open

After very little wind to speak of last week in Ireland and a soft, receptive course, scoring was very low and players and fans alike will be hoping for more of an Open warm-up this week in Ayrshire. But I’m not convinced that we will get one here although higher winds are forecast than in Ireland last week. They are coupled with rain though and it sounds like we will see another soft course where links specialists may have their advantage removed somewhat. While Jon Rahm won last week with his combination of power and touch around the greens he didn’t really have to change too much of his game as the soft greens and minimal wind allowed more of a target golf tournament. There was plenty of trouble off the tee at Portstewart but the course was short enough that Rahm could still muscle his way out of the fescue. This was highlighted by him hitting 82% of the greens despite only finding half the fairways.

This week’s course is a new one to the rotation but it is on the much trodden Ayrshire golf coast just north of Turnberry and Troon. It is relatively short at just over 7000 yards so if the wind doesn’t get up we could see another birdie-fest this week.

It is a Kyle Phillips design and in keeping with his mantra the fairways are very wide with the focus on tactical approach shots. The greens are huge allowing for lots of different pin placements which will give the organisers the chance to toughen things up should the weather stay benign. Phillips has designed several courses currently used on Tour but perhaps the most pertinent this week will be Kingsbarns. It is used on the Alfred Dunhill Links rotation and every year it plays as the easiest of the 3 courses. Its fairways are some of the biggest you will see on a links course and while Dundonald’s don’t appear quite so wide, I think the bomber types will be well suited to the relatively new Ayrshire track. The greens are well protected and have some undulations so it appears to be all about getting close to the flags, lag-putting well when they end up 60ft across the green and scrambling from tight lies at the bottom of run-offs. If the wind doesn’t materialise then again the best way of getting close will be with as much loft as possible, just like Jon Rahm managed last week. However if it does blow then the links specialists will feature on the leaderboard and must be given respect. Therefore it may well pay to side with players who are adaptable and can thrive in both environments.

Other Kyle Phillips designs to note are PGA National (Nordea Masters 2014, 2015), The Grove (British Masters 2016), Verdura Golf Resort (Sicilian Open 2012, 2017) and Hilverschume (KLM Open 2010, 2011, 2012). He also helped with remodelling works at Celtic Manor and Valderama. A look through these leaderboards repeatedly throw up the same sort of players. Long drivers who hit high numbers of greens in regulation in windy/tough conditions and scramble well when they miss. This has given me a specific skill set to focus on and I have found two at the head of the market to focus on.

I have left Rickie Fowler out this week largely due to the price and the fact that he might want tougher driving conditions to be seen at his best. Additionally I think he will be using this as a stepping stone to Birkdale where I make him the man to beat barring a horror show here. Despite leaving Fowler out I feel like I have still gone a little Jeremy Chapman here by picking two out of the front 6 but then again it is hard to argue with his record so I’ll crack on.

I haven’t tipped Alex Noren for a while but his chance of going back to back looks very strong. Noren won last year around Castle Stewart and that is another links course with wide open fairways. He has won at two other Phillips courses already with his win at The Grove last year following up his 2015 win around his home PGA National course. He also finished 3rd in the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2012 and reached the final of the Paul Lawrie Match Play around Archerfield Links last year. Add to this the fact he has won 6 of his last 28 regular European Tour events and you realise that the price of 16/1 isn’t actually a bad one at all. Simply put Noren is one of the best players on the European Tour, he has become a prolific winner and he is suited to this test perfectly. Room off the tee, a windy course and tricky green complexes where scrambling is key, this is what Noren is all about and therefore he rates a solid each way bet in his quest to defend his title.

Five years ago for Alex Noren you could have read Branden Grace. He was winning lots of regular Tournaments on exposed courses where his then deadly short game helped him to excel in the wind. But Grace has actually worked very hard on his long game and his most recent win at Harbour Town on the PGA Tour required a great deal of accuracy both off the tee and with approach shots. Unlike Noren however, Grace has built up a strong Major record over the last few years, so much so that in the U.S. he is perceived as a steady major type who enjoys a difficult tee-to-green test. But this is a far cry from the deadly putter who first came on the scene back in 2011 and in his 7 wins on the European Tour he has averaged -18. Three of those have been on links courses with his 2012 Alfred Dunhill win (including a course record 60 around Kingsbarns!) preceding two Qatar Masters titles. There is no question that his short game is at its best on slick, grainy greens like he was brought up playing on in South Africa. Grace finished 2nd at Castle Stuart when Mickelson won in 2013 and that was further proof that he will enjoy this sort of test. He has also been dismissed a little in the market and I think he looks to be a nice price at 25/1.

George Coetzee probably gets tipped a little too often in this blog so some may want to leave him out this week but I can’t at odds of 100/1. He has missed his last two cuts but this test is right up Coetzee’s street. He excels on wide open links layouts like this where his wild tee shots go unpunished and he can show off his short game skills. Coetzee shares the course record of 62 at the Old Course at St. Andrews and has also gone low at Kingsbarns which helped him finish 3rd in the Alfred Dunhill in 2012. He also came 3rd at Castle Stuart in 2011 and lost in a play-off at Gleneagles that same year. That form in Scotland shows just what he is capable of with a little room off the tee helping to keep the big numbers of his card. Those who think he is a little out of his depth in this sort of field are pointed to his 7th around Whistling Straits in the 2015 U.S. PGA. It is hard to know which Coetzee will turn up this week but at the price he looks to be excellent value to me.

Ryan Fox deserves another shot this week as he played superbly in Ireland to finish in a tie for 4th. Most of his mistakes came from his wayward tee shots so the big-hitting New Zealander will relish the extra space here. The rest of game was strong last week as he ranked 9th in GIR and he looked comfortable adapting his game to links conditions.

 


John Deere Classic

With focus very much on the Scottish Open I haven’t had too much of a look at the John Deere. The short course at Deere Run always comes down to who combines their wedge play and putting best of all and that is why Stricker, Zach Johnson and Spieth have had somewhat of a monopoly over the last 10 years. They are three of the best wedge players and putters we have seen in recent times so those are certainly the attributes to focus on this week. In terms of stats then strokes gained: putting, one putt percentage, proximity to hole and scoring relative to par from approaches 100-125 yards and 125-150 yards all look key this week.

With a relatively weak looking field I have decided to keep this very simple and back both Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson. As everyone knows their records around Deere Run are immense and while Johnson is in fairly poor form, Stricker has actually been playing very well this year. He finished 16th at both the Masters and U.S. Open making him one of only five men to return top 20s in both majors. The other four are Koepka, Matsuyama, Kuchar and Fowler which is lofty company to be keeping at 50 years old. Stricker has three wins and two other places at the course, most of these coming after his 40 birthday when he was already playing a fairly limited schedule. So arriving off a light 2017 won’t have too much of an impact and he should play well. Davis Love III showed just last week how the seniors can still contend when conditions allow and I expect Stricker to continue to fly the flag for the veterans this week.

Zach Johnson is harder to make a case for but with little else taking my eye here I decided he was worth a go due to the ridiculous course record he owns. His recent results are 34-3-2-2-1-3-21-2 and while he hasn’t been at his best this year he has gone off sub 20/1 here ever since his win and I think given his record the 28/1 still has some value in it with no Jordan Spieth in the field. He also ranks 25th in one putt percentage so if he can give himself chances then he should manage to get competitive on greens he knows better than anyone.

Finally I have added Wesley Bryan as a back-up to the two course horses incase neither are quite at it this week. Bryan is an excellent putter and I didn’t expect him to get his first win around such a fiddly track like Harbour Town. However it is another short course where he would have been using a lot of wedges for his approaches. Despite a recent drop off in his form, his stats are still excellent for this sort of test. Bryan is 5th in one putt percentage, 7th in scoring relative to par from 125-150 yards and 25th for the same stat at 100-125 yards. Deere Run should play to his strengths and as a winner just 10 weeks ago I thought he looked a fair price at 80/1 although I’m not so excited about the general 66/1 around now. However I had already decided to back him so I’m still going to have a small each way interest.


Summary of Bets

Scottish Open

Alex Noren – 2pts ew @ 16/1

Branden Grace – 1pt ew @ 25/1

George Coetzee – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Ryan Fox – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

John Deere Classic

Steve Stricker 1.25pt ew @ 28/1

Zach Johnson – 0.75pt ew @ 28/1

Wes Bryan – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 13pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 322pts

@theGreek82

 

Genesis Open and ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth – Betting Preview

Last week was rather miserable on the whole as none of the players figured at any point really. J.B Holmes started and finished well but seemed to have suffered from playing alongside Bill Murray. In Europe Jaidee and Meesawat played ok but Jaidee was never really threatening the places while Meesawat got himself on the verge of the Top 20 at the start of his final round before throwing away 7 shots in last 8 holes.

It puts the blog back into negative numbers and it looks like I’m going to have to find a winner to keep it in positive figures for any period of time.

Total pts advised – 70pts

Total pts returned – 58.53

ROI – -16.39%

This week we are at one of my favourite courses in the US, Riviera Country Club, while the European Tour heads down under.

 


Genesis Open

The PGA Tour stays in California this week for one of the best stops on Tour, Riviera. It’s a classical, tree lined course with lots of elevation changes and plenty of long par 4s. Unlike most of the other courses in the US, the fairways and rough around Riviera are kikuyu grass which is more common in the southern hemisphere. The greens are small, fast and poa annua with many of them raised above fairway level.

The rough is said to be minimal but there is a lot of rain forecast so it won’t be much fun to try and get out of. It will be easier with a degree of loft however so length off the tee will be a huge advantage.

That is the name of the game in general around Riviera as the greens can be difficult to hold. A high ball flight helps and if we look at Bubba (winner of 2 of the last 3 at Riviera) then these are things he excels at. He gets his drives out there further than anyone and has the imagination to still fire at the flag from anywhere should he miss the fairway.

In addition to length off the tee and a high ball flight the 3rd key atrribute is scrambling. With so many greens usually missed, getting up and down is crucial. While the rough may not be up around the fairways, around the greens is a different matter. The greens at Riviera have a very definite fringe and with the rough being wet a delicate touch will be required this week to scramble well from the kikuyu. Putting isn’t usually too important as the undulating, poa annua greens make it very hard to hole putts.

Two strong course links that I mentioned in detail last year were Augusta and Glen Abbey which hosts the Canadian Open.

This is the strongest field assembled so far in 2017 but I don’t think that is any reason for course specialist Bill Haas to be available at 66/1. Last year’s field wasn’t too shabby and I tipped him at 33/1, I’m not sure he has done too much wrong to warrant being double the price. Normally a very long and accurate driver, an in-form Bill Hass doesn’t really have any glaring weakness to his game. If anything he is probably only held back by the fact he also doesn’t quite do anything brilliantly. But he does scramble very well indeed and it is that area of his game that convinced me to back him at 66/1. He currently ranks 1st over the last 3 months, getting up and down an impressive 76.9% of the time. But the fact he is also sitting in 9th for GIR over the same period makes me wonder why he is such a price. Especially when his only two appearances so far this calendar year yielded a 17th at the CareerBuilder Challenge and a 13th at the Sony Open. The 66/1 suggests that he is maybe putting poorly but that isn’t the case as he is 20th in total putting over the last 3 months. Granted these 3 month stats don’t represent a whole lot of tournaments for Haas but they still tell us that his game is very close to where he wants it. As a former winner it makes the 66/1 look an excellent each way bet.

Having tipped Charl Schwartzel last year at 28/1 I don’t think I can leave him out at 66/1. Since last year he finally won his 2nd PGA Tour title at the Travellers Championship and you would expect him to push on from there. He has gone well here before and claims to be his favourite course on Tour. He was brought up playing on kikuyu so he will handle the scrambling better than most. He also prefers putting on fast greens and while he has travelled from Malaysia this week I think that negative is more than factored into his price.

The other two players I like probably aren’t quite worthy of an outright bet so instead I’m going to play them in both the Top 10 and Top 20 markets.

Chez Reavie agonisingly finished 7th last year at 250/1 after sitting 2nd through 54 holes. I stupidly didn’t have a place bet on and I’m not going to make that mistake this year. Given he couldn’t even place last year from a great position I’m not convinced that he can win this in a stronger field at a shorter price but I was right about the course being a good fit. He is scrambling well again this year currently ranking 4th and his form figures so far in the 2017 season read 4-8-12-MC-MC but neither Scottsdale or Pebble Beach suit Reavie so those missed cuts can be forgiven. After proving.last year that the course suits I think both his Top 10 and Top 20 prices look to be represent some value.

Keegan Bradley is another player who loves Riviera thanks to his brilliant tee-to-green game. Few hit the ball higher, longer and straighter than Bradley and that has always helped him here and his form figures read MC-2-16-20-4-MC. He has recently threatened to be getting back to somewhere near his best and he finished 4th at Torrey Pines which is another tough, classical layout. I think that probably explains why he is as short as 80/1 but his price in the Top 10 market still looks very fair. He tends to be feast or famine at the course as he has a mix of missed cuts and top 20s but given he is playing well I think he looks far more likely to go well again than miss the cut this week. Which, on all evidence, makes 7/1 for a Top 10 look a great bet. I’m adding him for a Top 20 too just incase.

Looking at my bets I realised I have tipped exactly the same 4 players as last year! I’m hoping they can repay the loyalty.


ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth

A lot has been said so far about what a nonsense this tournament is and while I’m loathe to disagree, I’m not convinced that we should write it off completely just yet. The mix of stroke-play and mini 6 hole match-play certainly has a novelty ring to it and were it an aside to a main tournament it would probably be met with more positivity. The fact that it takes over from a regular 72-hole strokeplay event seems to be a source of negativity but what seems to be lost is that we still have 75% of a normal tournament before all the fun and games begin.

With a normal 36 hole cut those that don’t finish in the top 65 might as well have been playing a regular event and you could argue the same for those who don’t make the top 24 after 54 holes. Ultimately the challenge laid out in front of the players is very much the same as usual. That in itself is forcing me to focus on those who have gone well before on the course. Lake Karrinyup is a a relatively short (approx 7100 yards), tree lined course that features some links style bunkering with hard and fast conditions as we have come to expect in Australia.

Despite the trees, driving accuracy isn’t normally that important and both Jeong and Olesen sprayed the ball around off the tee during the week of their win. Far more crucial is GIR as all the course winners featured prominently in this area. Ability to play in the wind and a familiarity with slick, grainy, Australian greens will also be beneficial this week.

Despite Louis Oosthuizen only being 12/1 I’m still loathe to leave him out. I realise it doesn’t sound sensible backing someone at those odds in this sort of tournament but given he won around the course last year hitting 93% of greens, he must surely make the top 24 in this field. After that his reputation alone could beat some of this field on the first tee, even in the shortened 6 hole format. But if we add his current form and his match-play pedigree into the equation, he looks a very deserving favourite. His only two starts in 2017 saw him shake the rust off around Torrey Pines where he finished a respectable 41st on his debut and then follow up with a 3rd at the Phoenix Open. That is quite some way ahead of anything else on show in Perth. He ranked 2nd in GIR around TPC Scottsdale and with that being another ball-strikers course his game should be in good shape for his defence at Lake Karrinyup.

His recent match-play record is also immense as he has slowly found his way in the format. On his last President’s Cup appearance he won 4.5 pts out of 5. His record at the WGC Match-play is also very solid. In 2014 and 2016 he lost to the eventual winner Jason Day in the quarter finals and final respectively. In between those was another quarter-final defeat to Jim Furyk. Since the introduction of the round robin groups in 2015 he has won all three of his matches in the group stages which on the whole gives him a record of played 16 and won 13 over the last three editions. In that period he has also beaten Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler.

With a week off last week and time to acclimatise he looks to have at very worst a favourites chance but should he make the last 24 he will (rightly or wrongly) be a very strong favourite come the knockout stages. That will give people the chance to cover their bets should they decide the fickle nature of match-play is too risky.

After doing this blog for 18 months now I notice that I’m tending to fancy the same players as I did first time round when previewing tournaments. It might not be a sound betting plan in terms of those that didn’t deliver any returns but it could yet prove to be prudent with regards those who did. Last year I backed Jason Scrivener in this at 50/1 due to his strong record in his home country. He fnished 3rd which means his course form now reads 28th-15th-3rd which I would imagine is as good as anyone in the field. As we noted the key stat around Lake Karrinyup is GIR and on his last two visits he has hit 81% of his greens.

Further to that his results in Australia in general over the last 2 1/2 years also make good viewing; 64-4-14-3-28-3-11-18-38-15-18. As we can see he would have made the top 24 in 7 of those 11 tournaments. Given that all we can really hope for is a top 24 and then some luck in the match-play rounds, he again looks to be a value play at 50/1.

A look at his Middle East swing results doesn’t do a great deal to boost confidence but that was his debut on all three courses so 39th-MC-39th isn’t all that bad on very long courses where course experience is vital.

Lasse Jensen simply looks overpriced in this field off the face of his 3rd two weeks ago in Dubai. He finished down the field in 55th in Malaysia last week but that course was a little bit too tight for Jense who prefers a bit of room off the tee. We don’t really know how he might fare at the course or the in match-play but sometimes it just pays to pick in form golfers.His 3rd place finish is streets ahead of what the majority of this field have acheived in 2017 so despite his two missed cuts here he shouldn’t be a three figure price. At 32 years old he is by no means an improving youngster but he has been playing lately with an increased confidence at this level and can hopefully outplay his odds by making the top 24 and the match-play stages.

If any of these three do make the top 24 after 3 rounds then consideration should be given to trading/partial cashing out. Match-play can throw up plenty of surprises over 18 holes so you would imagine the likelihood of upsets will be even greater over 6 holes.


Summary of bets

Genesis Open

Bill Haas – 1pt ew @66/1

Charl Schwartzel – 0.75pts ew @ 66/1 

Chez Reavie – 1pt Top 10 @ 12/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 11/2

Keegan Bradley – 1pt Top 10 @ 7/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1

Perth Super 6

 Louis Oosthuizen – 1.5pts ew @ 12/1

Jason Scrivener – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1

Lasse Jensen – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Weekly pts advised – 13pts

Total pts advised – 83pts

@theGreek82

The Scottish Open – Betting Preview

Last week we came extremely close to a winner with Scott Piercy and it was a bit agonising to see Dustin Johnson saunter through the field to pip him by 1 shot. But as expected Piercy massively outplayed his odds and he managed to make it a profitable week with 21 pts returned. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come as we enter the start of the summer golf season and it leaves the results as follows.

Total points advised – 682.50pts

Total points returned – 749.79pts

ROI – 9.86%

This means that with just one week to go until the 1st anniversary of the blog, it is guaranteed to finish in profit. It has been a little tougher in 2016 with the winners drying up but there have been enough places and I would certainly have taken a +ve ROI when I started out last July. Thanks to everyone that has read this over the year, it is certainly most appreciated.


The Scottish Open

This week we just have the one tournament with the Greenbrier Classic literally being a washout in West Virginia, but it’s a cracker as the European Tour takes us to the Scottish Open. Not only is it a tournament used to help prepare players for The Open Championship the following week, but it could help from a punting point of view given the conditions in Scotland will be quite similar. Five of the last six Open winners have played the Scottish Open the week before so it is definitely worth keeping an eye on proceedings in Inverness.

After a couple of years away visiting Aberdeen and East Lothian, The Scottish Open returns to the Inverness area and to Castle Stuart which hosted from 2011 to 2013. While the course is definitely a links course and exposed to the Moray Firth coastal conditions, it doesn’t represent the stiff test that Royal Troon will next week and it is usually a bit of a birdie fest.

The three winning scores were -17 (Phil Mickelson 2013), -17 (Jeev-Milkha Singh 2012) and -19 (Luke Donald in just 3 rounds due to torrential rain) so unless the weather takes a turn for the worse then I would expect more of the same this year.

Castle Stuart stands as a 7193 yard Par 72 and that average length combined with some of the widest fairways you will see on a Scottish Championship standard links course, means the layout is there for the taking for some of the bigger hitters. It makes hitting greens easier for them with the shorter clubs in hand especially given the number of elevated greens at the course. There is still the chance to play knock down shots into some of the greens but ultimately getting the ball out there off the tee appears to be an advantage around Castle Stuart.

Castle-Stuart-Golf-Scottish-Open-2012-40

With some reasonably steady winds forecast then distance control will be paramount but inevitably greens will be missed and scrambling will be important as it always seems to be on any links course. With tighter lies around the greens than on parkland courses, a lot more imagination is required to get up and down on links courses and those can play the lower bump and runs from 40 yards and in will fare well.

If we look at the three previous renewals then we see these two attributes are backed up somewhat. Mickelson ranked 7th in driving distance, Singh was 13th but Donald only ranked 67th. In terms of scrambling then Mickelson ranked 3rd and Singh 2nd but again Donald was the slight anomaly only ranking 33rd. But given we know what a great scrambler Donald is then we can perhaps ignore that as he ranked 2nd for GIR so he would have had far fewer opportunities to get up and down.

It does also suggest that there is more than one way to win at Castle Stuart but I’d certainly want anyone I was backing to be prominent in at least two out of the three key attributes (driving distance, scrambling and GIR)

So where do we start with our search for an in-form links exponent that is reasonably priced?

Well given the high-profile of this tournament there is no shortage of talent on show and a case can be made for nearly half the field as there are plenty that have shown form in Scotland, be it here or the Alfred Dunhill, Johnnie Walker or The Open itself. I’d certainly think twice about backing anyone that doesn’t have at least a Top 10 in Scotland but I’d also go a little further and ideally want experience of the course itself. With this being an easier links course than normal I think knowing when to be aggressive from previous editions will be beneficial this week.

The market is headed deservedly by Henrik Stenson fresh off a win in Germany 9 days ago and with him having the taste of victory again, the assured links player can be expected to go well on a course where he has finished 3rd and 8th on his two appearances. His odds of 9/1 are almost appealing too, but I’d imagine that he is using this as a chance to reacclimatise to links golf ahead of The Open as he continues his quest for his 1st major. That’s not to say he can’t and won’t win but I’d expect there are others hungrier for a week in the heat of the battle than Stenson.

Branden Grace and Phil Mickelson are the next two up and they have both shown plenty at Castle Stuart before and the course undoubtedly suits them. Mickelson won in 2013 before famously going on to win at Muirfield the week after and Grace chased him home that year. Their chances must be respected but they both appear maybe a tiny bit short for not quite being bang on their game at the minute. With such a deep field there are a lot of decent prices about further down the field.

Four years ago Nicolas Colsaerts would have probably been 4th in the betting here as a 22.0 chance in this quality of field. We all know the plummet that his game took however after his 2012 Ryder Cup appearance and he has spent a considerable amount of time in the golfing wilderness. Given the Belgian’s well reported enjoyment of life, it was hard to tell just how much hard work he was putting in to attempt to get his game back. However gradually over the course of this season there has been an improvement and he arrives in Scotland with some very decent form.

His strong start last week in France ended up in a T22nd but that course doesn’t really play to his strengths. Prior to that was a missed cut, again on a fiddlier course than he really wants. But his form before that was 3rd-22nd-23rd-3rd and that gives a better long-term picture of how well he has been playing. The 3rd place finish was at The Nordea Masters on an exposed, long course that favours the bombers.

The upturn of form is also reflected in his stats as he ranks 6th for GIR over the last 3 months. His length off the tee has never been in question and he currently ranks 2nd in driving distance. That has helped him go well at Castle Stuart in the past and there are very few in the field that will have better course form as he finished 8th in 2013, 36th in 2012 and 3rd in 2011. When finishing 8th at the last running he ranked 4th for GIR and while a lot will depend on how Colsaerts putts this week, having his irons dialled in should give him plenty of opportunities to get the putter hot on greens that he knows well.

Golf betting can be difficult enough at the best of times but perhaps one of the trickier aspects can be trying to work out when a previous class-act like Colsaerts is ready to strike again. It has happened time and time again that players have had a few years in the doldrums before getting back to winning ways seemingly from nowhere. But the one common theme is that it tends to be on a course where they are comfortable and have performed well before.

With others in the field perhaps focussed on Royal Troon next week or trying desperately to gain crucial Ryder Cup points, Colsaerts will tee it up at Castle Stuart in his usual laid-back style but most importantly with his game back on track. His only stroke-play win was in China at -24 so he enjoys a low scoring tournament and if he can have an average week with the short stick then I think he will contend on a course that sets up perfectly for him off the tee.

Luke Donald is a bit of a horses-for-courses type and some of his stats this year are extremely good , suggesting that his short game could be back to its best. He currently ranks 8th in scrambling and 13th in 3-putt avoidance.

If that is the case then an open track like Castle Stuart where he has won before looks to be a great place for him to get back to winning ways. He very nearly won the RBC Heritage in April on The PGA Tour when just getting beaten into 2nd by Branden Grace. That is another course where scrambling can be key. He finished down the field in 45th last week but he ranked 5th in scrambling and 26th in GIR so he isn’t far away from another big week. I’m going with a small outright play but given how much he used to love a top 10 finish in his prime, I will also have a dabble in that market.

Tyrrell Hatton was on a great run of form before he missed the cut in Germany two weeks ago but that result came after three weeks off for the young Englishman. Prior to that his form figures read 20-7-5-13-12 in some decent fields. The 5th place finish was in Ireland in similar conditions to this week and the 7th was at the BMW PGA Championship which was a field of the same stature he faces this week and always features blustery conditions. He got back on track last week with a T33rd finish but this looks more suited to his game.

Hatton has always had the appearance of a good links player not least because of his brilliant scrambling skills and he currently ranks 1st in that department. He is especially good at getting up and down from tight lies on fast greens and that will help him this week.

He hasn’t actually played Castle Stuart competitively yet but he already has an impressive bank of Scottish Open form. A 5th place finish at Royal Aberdeen was followed by a 22nd at Gullane last year. Throw in a 5th place finish at Paul Lawrie’s Match Play Tournament at Murcar Links and a 10th place finish at The Scottish Challenge down the road at Aviemore and you can see that this is a player completely at home on a links golf course.

If that wasn’t enough he also finished top of my stats model where I considered driving distance, GIR, scrambling and total putting over the last 3 months. So with odds of 66/1 he simply has to be backed here this week on a course that he will surely enjoy.

Padraig Harrington played last week in France and it isn’t a tournament that he usually attends with just four career starts there. So if that wasn’t interesting enough the fact that his putter was behaving (16th in total putting) and he was driving it well (5th in total driving) really jumped out at me. He finished 30th but that should have his game in great shape for two weeks of links golf and he ranked 6th in the all-round ranking. The two-time Open champion is one of the best links players of his generation so odds of 10/1 for a Top 10 finish when his whole game is in good order look hard to pass up.

Matthew Southgate ranked 4th in GIR and 3rd in scrambling on his way to a T11th finish in France and that combination makes him a big player again this week. It’s another strong field but a Top 20 looks very achievable again and the 15/2 available looks very fair.

While I like the chances of the three outright picks they are by no means guaranteed to play well so I would like a small saver on Henrik Stenson just incase. He will surely figure over the weekend so should things go wrong he will hopefully give us a chance of recouping our stakes.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat is a player that likes to start fast and he has quite a few low rounds in him. He managed to win the Paul Lawrie Matchplay around a very narrow Murcar Links and I’m not sure how as his driving was very wayward. He scrambled and putted superbly though and with the extra room off the tee at Castle Stuart he could shoot a 64/65 if he finds his silky putting stroke. If he can do that on the Thursday then he might prove to be a worthwhile play in the 1st round leader market at 66/1.


Summary of bets

Nicolas Colsaerts – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Luke Donald – 0.5pt ew @ 55/1 and 1pt Top 10 @ 9/2

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Padraig Harrington – 1pt Top 10 @ 10/1

Matthew Southgate – 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @ 66/1

Henrik Stenson – 1pt win saver @ 9/1

Weekly outlay – 10pts

Total outlay – 692.50

@theGreek82

 

The Open 2015 – Betting Preview

The Open – St Andrews

History

Golf returns home this week to The Old Course at St Andrews as part of it’s now customary five-year rotation. South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen ran away with it in 2010, cruising to a 7 shot win from England’s Lee Westwood. This will be the 29th hosting at St Andrews and most of the twenty-eight prior have produced winners of the highest calibre. Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods amongst the recent players to have tasted claret success there in recent times. But it was as long ago as 1860 that the very first Open Championship was contested at Prestwick, won by Willie Park Snr. Now we reach the 144th Open and while the late withdrawal of World No.1 Rory Mcilroy may detract for the everyman, golfing enthusiasts around the globe are anticipating Jordan Spieth’s attempts to continue his Grand Slam chase around The Old Course.

Course

While the Old Course at St Andrews is the home of golf and indeed a classic links course with 9 holes going out and 9 holes coming in, it doesn’t quite play like some of the sterner tests such as Carnoustie or Royal Birkdale. Playing as a Par 72 at 7305 yards St Andrews is no more than average in length compared to the modern golf course.

With its wide fairways, many of which run alongside each other, St Andrews can be forgiving off the tee, especially for those with a tendency to miss to the left. So while solace can be found for the wayward driver, there is still plenty punishment for those who are careless off the tee. St Andrews has 112 bunkers waiting to accept those long bounding drives. Oosthuizen only found 1 bunker in 2010 and Tiger famously avoided all 112 on way to his 2000 rout.

Once on the lush green fairways (Scotland has had a very wet summer!) more often than not they will be presented with an approach to a very large green. St Andrews has 7 double greens, each pairing adding up to 18. Given these large green complexes, 3 putts will be plentiful. The average green size is around 13,000 ft² compared to around 5,500 ft² on Tour.

The greens play to a rather slow stimpmeter reading of 10.5 due their exposed nature, meaning that they yield many birdies in calm conditions. This helps explain the low scoring Opens of 2000, 2005 and 2010.

Unlike most Par 72 golf courses where you have four par 5s and four Par 3s, St Andrews only has 2 short and 2 long holes giving rise to 14 assorted par 4s.

What do you need to do to win?

Well, while every winner has been world class, that’s not to say we can’t try to delve into the type of player that does well on Links courses, especially the slightly different test of St Andrews. An all round game certainly helps at any major but perhaps more so at St Andrews.

What strikes me immediately about the last 4 Open winners at St Andrews (John Daly, Tiger Woods twice and Louis Oosthuizen) is that they are all big hitters off the tee. So this suggests that St Andrews, with its afore-mentioned wide fairways, suits the bombers. Additionally, many of the fairway bunkers can be cleared by those who can carry the ball 280-290 yards off the tee which essentially removes the main dangers of many of the Par 4s. Furthermore the course also has a few short par 4s, again allowing the big hitters to find the large greens in 1, setting up long eagle putts.

So if driving distance is certainly a positive, so too is finding the right spot in the fairway to allow aggressive approach shots to the large undulating greens. In normal summer conditions the fairways play hard and fast resulting in any tee shot lacking control to run off into the rough or indeed one of the deep fairway pot bunkers. If you must back a wayward driver then at least make sure that they miss the ball left. Due to the out and back nature of the course, many of the fairways have another one running alongside on the left meaning a right hander’s huge hook could find itself a better lie than a straight drive that lands with an unlucky bounce.

Once in the fairways (correct or otherwise!) the players will be faced with a great variety of pin positions due to the size of the greens. Most of these, however well guarded, can still be attacked with a degree of loft in the players hands. Again this hints at the importance of driving distance but many of the back pin positions can still be attacked by the shortest of hitters providing they are accurate with their longer irons. If you do miss these large greens then scrambling can be very tough. Even from the greenside bunkers they could be faced with 40 yard bunker shots to try to save par. Not to mention many tricky valleys and run offs only too willing to accept errant approach shots. This highlights how important distance control will be with their irons in trying to hit the greens in the correct number, especially with the windy conditions (of which there isn’t a great deal forecast, but trust me, it is always windy by the sea in Scotland. Always!)

While hitting these greens in regulation is great, it by no means sets up the worst case scenario of a straight forward par like so many of the modern US courses. The players will be faced with many long, double breaking lag putts where a 2 putt will feel like a birdie/eagle. But if they can get the ball close with their approaches (inside 20ft) they will be rewarded with very makeable putts on some of the truest greens they will see all year.

So in summary, I’m looking for someone who plays Par 4s well, enjoys links golf, drives the ball long and accurately, staying out of trouble off the tee.  They must be a true ball striker allowing them to tackle the winds and control the distance of their iron shots, keeping their proximity to the hole high and missed greens low. A great touch is needed from distance so as to keep 3 putts to a minimum in addition to the ability to hole at least their share of putts from 20ft and in and scrambling efficiently when they do miss. If pushed for the most important attribute this week, I would say putting just edges it.

Players I’m backing

Firstly, I think Jordan Spieth has a great chance and couldn’t put anyone off backing the best player in the world. But with his lack of links experience, his price of around 13/2 is a little bit short to be just assuming he will enjoy St Andrews. Happy (ish) to leave him out and back him for the Slam at US PGA if he does win this week.

 

Henrik Stenson          Henrik

One player jumps out at me when I think of the skill set required at St Andrews.

Henrik was 3rd there in 2010 so we know he can play The Old Course. He leads the ball striking stats on PGA Tour (for the non stats geeks, a hybrid stat made up of Driving Distance, Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation). This backs up my own opinion that an in form Stenson is the best player tee to green in the world. On many occasions where accuracy is at a premium, he will take out his trusty 3 wood which he can hit as far as most of the field hit their drivers. The extra loft he gets will allow him greater control while plotting his way around the fairways at St Andrews. Stenson also ranks 1st in Greens in Reg. on the European Tour so we know that he is striking the ball more consistently than anyone in world golf.

But as with so many ball strikers, his putting can let him down. Not so much this season though as he sits 15th in Strokes Gained Putting on the PGA Tour. He also ranks 12th in putting inside 5ft meaning he will be assured over those testing par saves in the cold wind. The slower greens will also play to his strengths as he doesn’t always fare so well putting on hard and fast greens.

A 2nd place finish at Muirfield 2 years ago further bolsters his Open pedigree, losing out only to an inspired finish from Phil Mickelson. For me Ice Man Henrik ticks every single box to win at St Andrews and his only negative is that he still hasn’t won a Major at 39 years of age. But I prefer to focus on the fact that he hasn’t yet had a high profile collapse and he can most definitely get the job done down the back 9 if contention on Sunday.

3pts EW @ 22/1 and a further 2pts win @25s on Betfair Exchange.


Rickie Fowler

Rickie comes here off the back of a great win across the Firth of Forth at Gullane last week in the Scottish Open. While this has done nothing for his price, it has further strengthened the opinion that he is one of the finest links golf exponents around. He also has a 2nd, 5th and 14th (St Andrews!) already from his 5 Open appearances.

He has also shown over the last 18 months how much he relishes peaking for the bigger tournaments. In 2014 he finished in the Top 5 of all the majors and in May this year he played one of the greatest closing stretches ever seen to lift The Players Championship. A self-confessed Links golf lover, Fowler will handle St Andrews however it plays next week and while his odds of 22/1 may appear skinny at first, he is in the form of his life and looks sure to contend again come Sunday. Ok, his 22/1 has now gone since I first wrote this and 18/1 is very short but I can’t leave him out.

2pts EW @ 18/1 + 1pt win @21 on Betfair Ex and 1pt Top 5 Betfair Ex


Martin Kaymer

Another links lover who finished 7th at St Andrews in 2010 and won the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2010. Now a 2 time major winner, we know he has the right mentality for the test he will face at The Open. Kaymer also has a great all round game when on form with the exception of his chipping. However in winning his US Open in 2014 he putted superbly from all the run off areas at Pinehurst and can certainly utilise that touch again on these greens. While I think he will go well he makes the list as much on price as anything but a 4th place finish last time out will set him up nicely.

1pt ew @ 40/1


Brandt Snedeker

I also wanted some putters in my team. Snedeker has been one of the very best around for many years. Long lag putting, holing 20fters and also holing out from inside 5ft, Brandt excels at all aspects. His short stabbing putting stroke helps him in windy conditions and he has recent Open finishes of 3rd and 11th which tells us he has learned how to play links golf. His laid back attitude on the course will be a huge help too and I think he is a decent ball striking week away from contending in yet another major. But with 3 consecutive Top 10s leading in to the Open, one of which at the tough Chambers Bay links layout, his whole game is in great shape which makes the 45/1 look like stand out EW value

1pt EW @45/1 and 2pts Top 10 @ 5.8


George Coetzee

Now for my main longshot bet. While I’m not convinced he can definitely win The Open yet, I do believe the 400ish odds on Betfair are far too big for a player that has won twice this season and also jointly holds the course record at St Andrews with a 62 at the Alfred Dunhill. Add to that George being one of the best putters in the game and an impressive scrambler and you can begin to see why he has a couple of Top 20 Open finishes already.

This Pretoria resident was brought up on grainy, links greens in South Africa and tweeted only on Sunday how much he loves St Andrews. The extra wide fairways will allow the erratic but long driver some leeway where he will enjoy firing at the pins with his aggressive iron play, knowing that he has the short game to get him out of trouble should he miss the green. With his 2 wins this season George will come into this years Open with the belief that he can get the job done over the weekend should he start well.

While longshots are always just that at Majors, especially St Andrews, his price is too good for me to ignore and if he can keep the big numbers off his card then he can certainly make enough birdies on a course that suits his game perfectly.

3 pts win @390 , 1pt Top 10 @ 17/1, 2pt Top 20 @ 8/1


In addition to these main bets, I’m also going to have small win bets on a few proven Links players at rather inflated prices.

Ben Martin –  Great ballstriker, in superb form and has shown a liking for Links golf as well as Majors and could outplay his price. 1/2 pt win @ 410s (Betfair Ex)

Victor Dubuisson – Another who shares the St Andrews course record, Victor has slowly came back to form and fitness in 2015 and had a Top 10 last week at the Scottish Open. He is a great putter and one of the most aggressive iron players around. VDub will attack every flag and with a hot putter could go very well. 1/2 pt win @ 100s (Betfair Ex)

Thomas Aiken – Nobody on the European Tour consistently drives it straighter and hits more greens than Aiken. Another South African who is suited to Links golf, Thomas just needs to start holing a few putts to remind everyone of his solid Open record. 1/2 pt win @590s (Betfair Ex)

JB Holmes – Great form this year with a win and a couple of other Top 5s. Finished 14th at St Andrews in 2010 and has the game to go better this year. 1/2 pt win @100s (Betfair Ex)


I also like to throw a few pounds at the 1st Round Leader market, especially on Major weeks. For this the weather forecast is paramount in Scotland when you could have a lovely warm summers morning followed by it “blowing a hoolie ” in the afternoon. Luiten and Petersson both have early tee times which looks more favourable and Holmes, Moore and Jiminez are well known for their fast starts.

Joost Luiten 1/2 pt win @ 100/1 1RL market

Carl Petersson  1/2 pt win @ 250/1 1RL market

Ryan Moore 1/2 pt win @ 125/1 1RL market

Miguel Angel Jiminez 1/2 pt win @ 125/1 1RL market.

JB Holmes 1/2 pt EW @80 1RL market

I will also have a few Top 10/20 bets for when all my outrights miss the cut!

JB Holmes Top 10 – Reasons above! 1pt @ 8/1

Tommy Fleetwood Top 10 – He is 26 under par for his last 4 rounds at St Andrews. Great links player but faultered on Sunday at Scottish Open so not getting any outright money. 1pt @ 7/1

Joost Luiten Top 20 – One of the best players on European Tour now and a multiple winner on Links type courses. Contended last week at Scottish Open and sure to take to St Andrews with no real weakness to his game. 1pt @ 11/2

Retief Goosen Top 20 – At his peak he was one of the best 5 golfers in the World and regularly showed up on Open leaderboards recording a 5th place at St Andrews in 2005. 2015 has seen Goosen’s recurring back injury improve and he has posted some decent results. He will enjoy the greens with his classy putting stroke and 9/1 looks too good simply for a Top 20 finish. 1pt @ 9/1


                                    £

Summary of Bets –

Stenson 3pts EW @ 22/1 plus 2pts win @ 25 (Betfair Ex)

Fowler 2pts EW @ 18/1 and 1pt win @21s, 1pt Top 5 @6s

Kaymer 1pt EW @ 40/1

Snedker 1pt EW @ 45/1 and 2pt Top 10 @5.8

Coetzee 3pts win @390, 1pt Top 10 @17/1, 2pts Top 20 @8/1


Martin 1/2 pt win @ 410

Dubuisson 1/2 pt win @ 100

Aiken 1/2 pt win @ 590

Holmes 1/2 pt win @100

1/2 pt win 1st RL on Luiten @100/1 , MAJ @125/1, Moore @125/1 and Pettersson @250/1. JB Holmes 1/2pt EW @100/1

JB Holmes Top 10 – 1pt @8/1

Tommy Fleetwood  Top 10  1pt @7/1

Joost Luiten – Top 20 1pt @11/2

Retief Goosen – Top 20  1pt @ 9/1

Total outlay – 35pts

Ideally I will have the 1st 5 home but that’s not realistic so my main goal is to make a profit while having the chance to win a substantial amount if the week pans out as hoped.