RSM Classic and DP World Championship – Betting Preview

Having been on holiday for a couple of weeks in October I missed quite a bit of golf so I was keen to try to get a handle on what was happening again before advising any more bets. I think I’m back up to speed and we have good events on both Tours this week so it feels like a good time to jump back in. There are also a few other decent events as we hit that stretch of the year where it’s fun to play small stake trebles, four-folds and even five folds for the hopeful.

2018 pts advised = 461.50

2018 pts returned = 415.18

ROI = -10%


RSM Classic

The RSM Classic has long been a standing dish for the accurate plodders on the PGA Tour as it is one of the few remaining stops that isn’t over-powered. Both courses at Sea Island are fairly narrow and tree-lined with small, well protected bermuda greens. That combined with the excellent resort facilities make it a must stop for some of the older family orientated pros as they look to take advantage of an event that the young powerhouses normally stay away from. The last two events however have gone the way of young Tour maidens so you shouldn’t be put off if you fancy one of the new crop of Web.com graduates. Every year they come flying out of the blocks in the Fall Series and that has been no different this year with Cameron Champ already notching up his first win. But for my money this event will probably revert back to the norm and I definitely want to be with the more strategic, accurate sorts who have seen the course before in some capacity.

Jim Furyk received quite a hard time in the aftermath of the Ryder Cup, most of which was a little harsh. While it will have been a great privilege for the 2003 US Open winner to lead his country, there is no doubt that it will have been a long year with all the commitments involved. Coming off a decent rest it was interesting to see him play so well last week as he shot four rounds in the 60s to finish T6th. I think he will be looking to take advantage of another short, suitable course this week in Georgia. I’m surprised he never won here at his peak as Sea Island very much falls into Furyk’s wheelhouse, along with Harbour Town, East Lake and Copperhead where he has won. His course form is predictably solid though having finished 11th, 3rd and 6th on his only 3 appearances. He averaged 81% of fairways hit and 83% of greens in regulation on those 3 starts so the courses are clearly ones that fit his eye. Those same areas of his game were as strong as ever last week in Mexico where he ranked 1st in driving accuracy and 2nd in GIR. I’m expecting a strong performance and anything around 40/1 looks like a great bet to me.

Roberto Castro will be well worth following on these shorter courses this year. He confirmed that on just his 2nd start of the season where he overcame a poor start to post a 5th place finish at the Sanderson Farms. Castro gained his 2019 Tour card with a solid if unspectacular campaign but it was back in 2013 that he really announced himself with an opening 63 at Sawgrass to lead the Players Championship after day 1. He would finish down the field but it flagged him up as a player to watch on short courses where you have to keep the ball in play. In August of that year he also posted his best major finish of 12th at the US PGA around the ultimate plotters course at Oak Hill. (Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and David Toms were 3 of those ahead of him!) I know there are plenty of people watching him closely this season and I’m expecting his price to be cut here so I tweeted this bet on Monday in the hope of people getting the best price possible. Castro’s event form isn’t great but his last start in Georgia was a 2nd place finish on the Web.com in April. He should be comfortable in the area given he studied at Georgia Tech and their former students have a good record in the state.

Chesson Hadley completes the PGA line-up this week as he remains a player that is hard to get away from when applying a stats based approach. It is surely just a matter of time before he wins again and last year he played the fall series brilliantly, doing everything but win. He has started similarly well again over the last month with a 2nd place in Kuala Lumpur and a 7th place at the Shriners. While his event form also isn’t fantastic he is another Georgia Tech alumni so should feel at home and his current stats match up perfectly for this test providing he is in control of his stock draw off the tee. He is 7th in ball striking and 1st in proximity to the hole and both should help him to another contending performance.


DP World Championship

For several years this was a benefit for the Tour’s best two players, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. From 2012 to 2015 nobody else got their hands on the trophy as McIlroy’s two wins sandwiched the Swede’s back to back triumphs. While that made it a difficult betting heat with strong single figure favourites, at least it helped to build a profile of what it takes to win around the Earth Course. Elite ball strikers who hit lots of greens and often miss plenty of putts. Despite neither being consistently great putters, they usually putted well here which tells me that perhaps the greens aren’t overly challenging. Matt Fitzpatrick was the next winner in 2016 and while he is normally a decent putter he is another brilliant tee-to-green player. Jon Rahm continued this mould again last year as another world-class iron player who isn’t always assured with the flat stick.

The Earth Course is one of the longer on Tour measuring nearly 7700 yards. It’s a Greg Norman design so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by that as he was consistently one of the longest and straightest drivers on Tour before technology changed the landscape.

Eight of the last nine winners had already won that season heading in but with only the top 60 players qualifying that perhaps shouldn’t be a big surprise.

Two of the last seven winners were doing the Dubai double having won the Desert Classic earlier in the year.

Rory McIlroy heads the market here at what would have been an unthinkable price (9/1) two years ago. That is gathering quite a bit of interest and there is no question it looks appealing on first look. However I can’t quite get his recent performances on suitable courses out of my mind. Yes he loves it here but he doesn’t appeal to me as a single bet. Those wishing to cover him could do worse than fire him in to some accumulators as the golfing world reaches silly season with multiple events.

A case could be made for the other 5 market principals but Rahm has only been seen once since an average Ryder Cup and he could only finish 22nd in the HSBC. Garcia is in brilliant form but at 10/1 I’d want to know that he wasn’t dwelling on last week’s loss. Fleetwood will probably play well but he just doesn’t win enough to side with at 11/1 at a course where he has never bettered 9th in 5 attempts. This all takes me down the market a little and to one of the most in form players in the European game.

Hao Tong Li will probably be quite popular this week despite not being the greatest of prices. Such is his level of current form and talent it would be no surprise to see him win a title this big. He has been knocking on the door heavily over the last month (5-2-11-9-5) and he has already shown his fondness of playing in Dubai when beating McIlroy head to head to win the Dubai Desert Classic. His event form is improving having finished 30th on his debut and then 13th last year. The Earth course should suit him perfectly with a bit of room off the tee for the sometimes erratic but powerful driver. His iron play has been excellent recently and that is usually what separates the field here. Li is so good that when he is putting well he should contend every week at this level and that explains the short odds as the bookmakers know what he is all about. His touch on and around the greens has been superb lately as he has been seen holing out lots of chips in recent weeks. On his last two starts he has ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking confirming just how well every part of his game is operating. With question marks about several around him in the market I see no reason why he can’t lift this title to cap off a career year for one of the most promising youngsters in the game.

Henrik Stenson hasn’t been seen since the Ryder Cup so there are both health and rust issues regarding his game. But they are more than factored into his price and to be frank that’s what has drawn me to the Swede this week. The fact that we can back him here at 25/1 is too good an opportunity to pass up for me. It’s not like he has played poorly this year either he has just suffered heavily from his elbow injury. He still ranked 1st on the PGA Tour in GIR, 4th in strokes gained: approaches and 8th in strokes gained: tee to green so his tee-to-green game has been as superb as ever when he has played. He laughed off those injury concerns at the Ryder Cup winning all 3 of his matches and he has had minor surgery since then which will hopefully have sorted the problem out. Lack of competitive golf is certainly a worry especially as he has to find his swing again after the surgery but this is one of his favourite courses and he will surely have been preparing to give it his best shot this week. I’d be annoyed at myself to miss out at this price so I must have a small bet on him.

Dean Burmester looks over priced in all the markets here this week given his course and current form. He was 11th last week where his whole game was in great shape bar his normally reliable putter. The powerful South African came 4th here last year on his debut and while I’d be surprised to see him come out on top this week I think he has a good chance of landing some place bets so I’ll play him in both the top 10 and top 20 markets.

Elsewhere I’ll be playing some fun small stakes accumulators across the 5 big events this week. The Dunlop Phoenix will surely be a shoot-out between Koepka and Matsuyama while Matt Kuchar looks the man to beat in the Australian Open. He said himself how well he was swinging it during last week’s win and there are few players in the world more suited to the hard and fast sandbelt courses in Australia. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t contend despite the jet-lag and emotions from last week.


Summary of Bets

RSM Classic

Jim Furyk – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Roberto Castro – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Chesson Hadley – 1pt ew @ 35/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair Sportsbook)
DP World Championship

Hao Tong Li – 2pts ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 5 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Henrik Stenson – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (1/4 odds 5 places)

Dean Burmester – 1pt Top 10 @ 9/1 and 1.5pts Top 20 @ 7/2

Weekly points advised = 14pts

2018 pts advised = 475.50pts

@theGreek82

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Dell Technologies Championship and Made in Denmark – Betting Preview

Another disappointing week as Herbert did nothing in Czech Republic at a course that really should have suited his game perfectly. Over on the PGA Tour it was close but no cigar with 3 of the picks finishing inside the top 20 without managing to ever really make a run at the places. Luke List started the final round inside the top 30 but had a shocker to ruin the last chance of any returns. Both Tours have hit quite a difficult period and therefore I’m not planning on getting hugely involved this week, especially as the profits are now wiped out. In order to get back into profit for the year I’m going to have to be a little more selective and perhaps think about tweaking the strategy somewhat.

2018 pts advised = 400pts

2018 pts returned = 391.05

ROI = -2.2%


Dell Technologies Championship

No time for too much of a write-up for TPC Boston this week but I’ve found a few bets. Every year the course plays like a very scoreable championship course. It rewards mid to long irons and that is shown by the quality of players who have won here. Thomas, McIlroy (x2), Fowler and Stenson are among the recent winners. The score has been in the region of -20 but that is only usually out there for the most in form long games. While the winners don’t all stand out as great putters they all putted well during their win. This tells me that the 12.5 ft stimp, bentgrass greens suit most of the field and are rather straight-forward.

With plenty of trees around the correct placement in the fairway can be important and that often leaves lengthy approach shots. I’ve focussed on approach play between 175-225 yards as that is usually key to scoring in Boston. I’ve also given the all-round ranking a lot of consideration as these are the ARR figures for the season of their win for the last 9 champions here; 5-1-8-27-5-2-1-6-6.

Jon Rahm placed 2 starts ago at the US PGA and I think he can go even better here. It feels like following Rahm on courses like this will pay dividends just as long as he remains calm early on. Rahm ranks 1st for scoring relative to par for approaches over 200 yards and that will serve him well on the Par 5s here which are always crucial to scoring here. While Rahm’s first win was on poa annua greens and his 2nd on bermuda, he has shown a liking for bentgrass as he ranked 5th on the greens at Augusta this year. I’m forgiving him last week’s missed cut and with a better start this week I think he can go well here at a course that will reward his excellent long iron game. Rahm this season has largely either contended or missed the cut so any bet on the Spaniard comes with that risk. However that is factored into his price and with 4 top 5s in his last 8 events he looks a great each way bet again at 25/1.

Patrick Cantlay has also played very well in recent weeks and TPC Boston couldn’t come at a better time for this brilliant ball-striker who was 3rd in the all-round last week. Cantlay ranks 8th in scoring RTP for approaches over 200 yards. The fact he ranked 18th for putting last week is very interesting as that is often his achilles heel. If he keeps that going this week then this long game test looks an ideal place top get his 2nd win. He also ranks 7th on the season in the all-round ranking so he passes that trend nicely too. Cantlay is having his 2nd look at the course having finished 13th last year where he ranked 5th for GIR. His price has come in a little but I like his chances here even if it’s hard to argue there is any value left in the 30/1.

Tommy Fleetwood ranks 2nd in the all-round ranking and that should mean he can go well on his first look at TPC Boston. It is surely only a matter of time before he bags his first PGA Tour win and he would have probably placed last week if it weren’t for an uncharacteristically poor 3rd round. Fleetwood’s long and straight driving will leave him in the ideal spots to reach these greens and he ranks 3rd in the crucial scoring RTP for approaches over 200 yards. With the Ryder Cup looming I don’t expect Fleetwood to be feeling that much pressure here and maybe he can freewheel a little with his Fed Ex Cup expectations lower than that of his American peers. That could be the small difference that helps get him over the line.

Chris Kirk is having a decent enough season and looks over priced as a 200/1 rag here. Kirk won here in 2014 when he was 27th in the all round ranking for the season. This year he is in a similar position at 32nd and I think he warrants a small bet despite his game not quite firing on all cylinders. He hasn’t missed a cut in 10 events so a return to the scene of his biggest win might just get him up the leaderboard again.


Made in Denmark

The Made In Denmark moves courses this year having made its home at Himmerland Golf Course. The new venue is Silkebork Ry Golfklub the home golf course of Thomas Bjorn. The course is quite short at under 7000 yards and it is a tree-lined one again in the mould of Wentworth, Woburn, Crans etc.

With there being a lot of guesswork I’m going to plump for another 1st time winner as my main bet here. The last 4 European Tour winners were getting their maiden win and across the 29 regular ET events this year, 11 of those were won by first-timers. There was a similar theme last year with the 8 ET events following on from the US PGA throwing up 6 first time winners. With the Ryder Cup looming heavily that may be different this week as the market principals are fighting to show Bjorn what they can do. But with that comes extra pressure and Olesen and Pieters have both let down favourite backers on courses that suit in recent weeks.

Erik Van Rooyen will have none of that pressure and he will be arriving rather fresh having only played once since his excellent major debut at Carnoustie. That was a missed cut but if we forgive that for a little rustiness then he was very much trending towards a win through the rest of the year. On a course that should reward tee to green accuracy this set-up should suit Van Rooyen perfectly. He was 20th this year on his Wentworth debut and 7th at the Trophee Hassan around another tree-lined track. At 50/1 there might even be a shade of value there too.

I’m going to supplement the main bet with a small play on an outsider. David Drysdale looks very over priced on a short course like this. The veteran Scot can usually only really contend on shorter courses and the price seems to be a little bit of an over reaction to 2 MCs at courses where bombers had a huge advantage. Prior to that he contended in Germany while he has the made the weekend on all 4 editions of this event. No reason he shouldn’t play well again at a massive 200/1.


Summary of bets

Dell Technologies

Jon Rahm – 1.5pt ew @ 25/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.25pt ew @ 35/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Patrick Cantlay – 1.25pt ew @ 30/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Chris Kirk – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred)

Made In Denmark

Erik Van Rooyen – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

David Drysdale – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82

The Northern Trust and Czech Masters – Betting Preview

More annoying than Marc Warren’s round on Sunday or Rafa Cabrera-Bello coming up a little short were my two short lists for both events last week. Paul Waring was one of the first on my list for his solid record around Gleneagles while Brian Gay and David Hearn were both on my Wyndham list for their proximity figures. It’s most frustrating to have found the players and then stupidly ignored my own process but I felt I was already on enough outsiders with Kodaira as my main bet. He was shocking and it was very strange to see a player who made cuts at Carnoustie and Bellerive struggle to make pars on one of the most straight-forward courses they will play all year.

Missing out on Waring is tough to take given he was literally the last man off the list and he would have given the figures a timely boost as I dip ever closer to negative ROI. But it shows I’m at least doing something right and perhaps just need to continue trusting the gut even if that ended badly with Kodaira this week. It’s important to remember that we can’t judge value with any degree of hindsight though and the price was still the best piece of value I’ve seen this year. Of course value is highly subjective but the 38th ranked player in the world just shouldn’t have been 200/1 in that field. Nevermind, on to this week.

2018 pts advised = 386pts

2018 pts returned = 391.05pts

ROI= 1.3%


Northern Trust

The Barclays is no more and after a name change the first play-off event now arrives packaged as The Northern Trust. As is now customary the venue has changed again and we are back to Ridgewood Country Club (7319y Par 71) in New Jersey. It hosted this event previously in 2008, 2010 and 2014 so there is a little course form to look at but with varying weather conditions and ongoing renovations they have played quite differently over the years. The course was designed by the legendary A.W. Tillinghast who was responsible for some of the most esteemed classical courses in the greater New York area and perhaps even the U.S. He designed Winged Foot, Baltusrol and Bethpage Black which have all hosted multiple majors over the years. The course has been reworked by Gill Hanse several times since 1995 as he sought to restore it back to Tillinghast’s original vision. He has widened the fairways, made the greens bigger, renovated the bunkering, removed some trees and since 2014 he has removed the semi-rough meaning that finding the fairways could be crucial this week. Anyone looking for Gill Hanse clues can look at the Olympic Golf leaderboard from Rio or the Scottish Open results at Castle Stuart as they are perhaps his two most famous original designs.

Ridgewood very much resembles the other New York Tillinghast designs in appearance as they are always lush green parkland layouts with heavily tree-lined fairways. Much like Winged Foot however, Ridgewood has an impressive variety of different types and lengths of holes. That helps create a course that tests every aspect of the game and that is evident when we consider Matt Kuchar (2010) and VJ Singh (2008) are both past winners. This year with all the recent rain it sounds like the rough might be even more lush than normal. That will benefit those that stay out of the rough but similarly there won’t be as much roll out so staying out of the rough should be easier in theory. The green complexes are poa annua and having been made bigger, lag-putting could well be crucial this year on greens that will be set-up as quick as possible.

Looking back at the three recent events just confirms this emphasis on doing everything well. Mahan and VJ were both 7th in the all-round ranking when they won while Kuchar ranked 1st during his win. This is something we have seen recently on Tour at other difficult, tree-lined courses as Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka both ranked 1st in the all-round at Firestone and Bellerive respectively. It could be that looking at the top 20 in the all-round ranking might just find you the winner again in a field of this strength on such varied and classic design as Ridgewood. From a scoring point of view the three winners all performed well on the Par 4s with Mahan and Kuchar both ranking 2nd in par 4 scoring and VJ ranking 6th. That is to be expected on a classic design where over powering the par 5s isn’t always possible so a look at recent par 4 scoring averages may also be worthwhile.

Jason Day is proving very hard to get away from this week. With course form of 1st-5th and having looked somewhere back to his best on his last few starts he looks like the man to beat, certainly at the price anyway. Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are ahead of him in the market and while they are probably considered better golfers right now it’s important that we don’t let recency bias cloud our judgement too much. Both those players have been excellent over the last couple of years but if we look at the last 3 years then DJ has 10 wins while Day is sitting alongside Justin Thomas on 9 wins a piece. He belongs up there in the market having found his form again this year. I’ve been guilty of following him unsuccessfully at times but with his brilliantly consistent Fed Ex Play-Off record I’m going to give him another go this week. The stat legend that is @JustinRayGC tweeted the best scores to par over the last 4 years of play-offs and Day is miles ahead.

Jason Day -128, PaulCasey -96, Dustin Johnson -94, Rickie Fowler -86.

He confirmed his suitability to Tillinghast courses with poa annua greens when he chased home Jimmy Walker at Baltusrol in 2016’s US PGA and then also finished 4th at Bethpage Black in that same year’s Barclays event. Back him to continue his play-off form on a course that he clearly loves.

Hideki Matsuyama looks to be a huge price on a ball-strikers course given that he looked to be getting back to form last week at the Wyndham. He put up his best GIR performance of the year hitting 83% and while we know Sedgefield isn’t the longest he still hit more greens than both Snedeker and CT Pan who came 1st and 2nd. It was back to the usual poor putting with Matsuyama but this looks like the sort of course that he will relish if he can keep the ball on the fairway. It’s tree-lined but with enough room so that he won’t feel too intimidated on the tee given his driving troubles this year. The right to left dog-legs will suit a player who thrives on similar shaped fairways at Augusta. There are definitely more in form players but there probably isn’t any better value if his long game is getting back in tune. Prior to his 11th at the Wyndham he was 39th at Firestone and a respectable 35th at the US PGA. A player of his ability has to bounce back at some point and the play-offs might just be ideal timing for him. A value play surely if nothing else.

I was very enthusiastic about Ryan Moore’s chances until I looked at his course form. But having regretted not backing Paul Waring last week on form reasons I’m not going to dwell on Moore’s 3 missed cuts at Ridgewood. Instead I’m focussing on his current form and the fact that the classic Tillinghast design looks custom-built for Moore. The course may well be dominated by a Dustin Johnson or Jason Day if they find their groove off the tee but I’ll be surprised if we don’t see some plotting ball-strikers up on the leaderboard too. Ryan Moore won his US Amateur on another Tillinghast course at Winged Foot and while all his courses differ a little they all have the classic Tillinghast trait of testing a golfer right through the bag. In another slightly tenuous link to Winged Foot, Geoff Ogilvy won the US Open there in 2006 and he has won around the only other course which Mahan and Kuchar have both won, the Golf Club at Dove Mountain. That hosted the WGC Match Play from 2009-2014 and it might also help confirm the type of player that could go well here. Winning the WGC Match Play at that course was often about who could consistently hit the most fairways and greens and Ogilvy, Mahan, Kuchar and indeed Moore all fall into that category. Moore ranks 6th on Tour in Par 4 scoring while he is 30th for strokes gained: off the tee, a very impressive number for a shorter driver. Having warmed up with a 6th at the Wyndham and 12th at Carnoustie in July I think he is rounding into form at just the right time for both the play-offs and perhaps a very late run at the Ryder Cup team.

This looks to me like Kevin Na’s sort of course and that might just be the case looking at his results here. His course form reads 31-36-9 with the 36th having come when the course was soaking wet and would have played too long. In 2008 he was 31st but led the field in GIR while the 9th was a very reasonable effort in 2014. For several years you had to back Na with the caveat that you would probably get a run for your each way money even if the win portion was very unlikely to come your way. But with Na having finally stopped the 8 year rot at The Greenbrier in July there is still plenty of time left for the 34 year old to enjoy the latter years of his PGA Tour career in a similar manner to Matt Kuchar and Jimmy Walker. Since that win his results have been trending again with a 51st at Carnoustie, a 31st at Firestone and an impressive 19th at Bellerive where the bombers dominated. He ranks 6th in Par 4 scoring over the last 3 months, 2nd in scoring relative to par for approaches from 150-175 yards and 41st in the same category from 175-200 yards. Na currently sits 6th in strokes gained: around the green too and is one of the best scramblers around. That will be important in the lush green side rough at Ridgewood. These should all serve him well around this classic layout. Na is in good enough form that 80/1 looks a fantastic each way price

I’m getting a little carried away here and wanted to back a 5th in the shape of Luke List but instead I’ll just have a top 20 bet on him. List has been showing up all year on ball-striking courses and he should enjoy Ridgewood given he ranks 5th in strokes gained: tee to green. The clincher for having to include List was that he lost in the US Amateur Final to Ryan Moore at Winged Foot. Looks a solid bet at 9/2.


Czech Masters

With the 7467 yard par 72 Albatross Golf Club now hosting for the 5th year we have a very clear picture of what is required to win this event. The course plays long and while there is plenty of water in play the majority of it only really becomes an issue on approaches. The landing areas are wide enough and both Thomas Pieters and Haydn Porteous were able to drive it as long as they liked without worrying too much about where the ball ended up. Paul Peterson was the opposite in 2016 when he won as he hit 83% if his fairways. What all 4 winners have done to date though is hit plenty of greens and putted brilliantly. There is no question that the bombers have an advantage here though as that extra loft in their hands allows them to attack the well protected greens. Don’t dwell on Paul Peterson and follow the profile of players like Porteous and Pieters would be my advice this week, even if I haven’t found too many options myself.

This means we should be looking at stats like birdie average, driving distance, par 5 scoring, strokes gained: approaches and also players who have been putting well lately.

Lucas Herbert has been having a very strong 2018 season and he has been doing that with limited status on the European Tour. Last week’s 5th in Sweden was his 4th top 10 of the year and it also continued a nice trend of results for the young Australian. He made the cut at Carnoustie before a 29th in Germany and 18th in Fiji heading into last week. I’m not sure he is ready to win just yet in the way that Porteous and Pieters were here but he fits a very similar profile. They are all young, aggressive golfers who hit the ball a mile and can score very well when the putter behaves. Granted that is more often than not with Pieters and Porteous while Herbert seems a little more streaky with the short stick. His long game wasn’t amazing last week but I think he looks very worth following here as he is scoring well. He is 18th in birdie average for the season, 26th in driving distance and 38th in strokes gained: approaches so statistically he should be a good fit.

I badly wanted to back Ryan Fox here this week and I’m a little surprised he isn’t playing as he has the perfect profile for this. Lucas Bjerregaard also appealed before I noticed that he withdrew last week. He should probably be monitored in play along with the always difficult to back Johan Carlsson. He is another who should be suited to the layout but given he has only finished MC or top 30 so far in 2018 it is probably worth waiting until the half-way point to see which version of the inconsistent Swede turns up. So I’ll just leave it at the one bet I think in a tough looking betting event where the favourite Pieters could hose up by 8 if he arrives with the right attitude.


Summary of bets

Northern Trust

Jason Day – 2.5pts ew @ 14/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Hideki Matsuyama – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Ryan Moore – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Kevin Na – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

Luke List – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

Czech Masters

Lucas Hebert – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly points advised – 14pts

@theGreek82

 

WGC Bridgestone Invitational 2018 – Betting Preview

Last week was a huge disappointment with none of our guys in Europe doing anything after Thursday while in Canada Tony Finau fought back brilliantly on Friday and Saturday before having a shocker on Sunday. He was probably running on empty by then but he looks to me like a future Glen Abbey winner and I think he is also worth keeping a close eye on the next two weeks.

2018 pts advised = 341.50

2018 pts returned = 346.52

ROI = 1.5%


Bridgestone

WGC Bridgestone

Since 2007 the WGC event from Firestone has sat in the slot ahead of the US PGA on the schedule and in that time it has given the players a nice preparation week ahead of the year’s final major. The test is usually very similar, suiting big hitting, in-form golfers and that has given punters some nice trends to follow. Unfortunately that is all set to change as the PGA moves to May next year. So this is the final chance we get to survey the Firestone field ahead of the US PGA but it also looks to be the best pointer in some time.

Firestone Country Club is a Robert Trent Jones re-design and it sits as a 7400 yards Par 70 with some monstrous Par 4s and the longest Par 5 on Tour. The US PGA is always set up to play as long as possible and this year is no different with Bellerive at some 7500 yards. But the most important factor is that Bellerive is also a Robert Trent Jones design. Form at his courses normally carries over well as he generally sought to design a course where bogeys were easy to come by but pars were somewhat more difficult, That can be seen perhaps best of all at Valderrama in Spain where the winning score is usually single figures under par.

The similarity between the two events coupled with the tournaments being back-to back has brought about a telling stat where the last 10 US PGA winners have finished in the Top 28 at Firestone. Those who aren’t getting too involved from a betting point of view this week should pay close attention to their fancies for Bellerive next week as that trend looks to be as important as ever.

Firestone has been the host of this event in some capacity since 1962 so there is an abundance of course form and over the years a typical sort of winner has been established. The fairways are of average width but unlike most courses there are no dog legs and they all play perfectly straight. This puts straight, accurate drivers at an advantage even before the lush green rough is considered. The last 5 winners have averaged 17th for driving accuracy and while you can get away with missing fairways, you need to be a good long iron player from the rough to get anywhere near the greens. On the long par 4s a missed fairway can result in an approach shot of 200 yards + for most of the field and that is something that not all players are comfortable with.

The greens, while perceived by some to be small, average 7,600 ft in area so they are actually on the larger side. However many of them are elevated with steep slopes and different tiers which make them harder to hold. They also run towards 13″ on the stimpmeter so they should play very fast.

With a field average GIR of 58% over the last 5 years we can see how hard it is to hold the greens. That brings scrambling into the equation and while the likes of Mahan and Johnson don’t immediately stand out as excellent scramblers, they did very well around the greens during the week of their win.

Most winners of the WGC at Firestone are world-class and usually a major winner already. Since 1999 only Hideki Matsuyama (2017), Shane Lowry (2015), Hunter Mahan (2010) and Craig Parry (2002) haven’t won one of the main 4 tournaments and even then Matsuyama’s major win is very likely still to come. To further make the point about class, since 2005 every winner bar 3 has finished that season in the Top 3 of the PGA Tour’s All Round Ranking.

Since 2009 the worst that any winner has finished in that season’s total driving rank is 45th. Seven of the last 10 winners ranked inside the top 24 for strokes gained: off the tee while two of the outliers were Tiger Woods who was often the exception to rules. So they have to be fairly long and fairly accurate drivers to have any chance of winning at Firestone. Eight of the last 10 had already finished inside the top 10 at one of the years majors while 7 of them had already won that season. It isn’t a venue where players tend to just happen across some form and it is usually won by someone whose name has been at the top of the leaderboards most of the summer.

However with all that said the winner usually does most things well as 8 of the last 10 winners finished 1st in the all-round ranking during their win. The following is also their season end rankings in the same stat for the year they won 4-5-n/a-2-1-1-2-36-1-31. That is very impressive and while you certainly want to look at ball-strikers first, such is the test at Firestone it looks imperative that every part of the game is already in order.

Selections

Despite there being a couple of negatives, pretty much everything else screams Tommy Fleetwood to me this week here. His 2017 was so good that it looked like he might struggle to follow it up but so far 2018 hasn’t been too shabby either. While he hasn’t won since January it is his consistency at the big events that first put him in my head for Firestone. Four of the last five winners here had finished inside the top 32 at all five of the year’s big stroke play events up to that point (3 majors plus WGC Mexico and The Players). There are definitely attributes required to win here but more often than not it is won by one of the summer’s standout golfers and there is no doubting Tommy falls into that category. He was 14th in Mexico, 17th at the Masters, 7th at the Players, 2nd at the U.S. Open and 12th at the Open. So not only is he top 32 but he is top 20 in all 5 and his win is surely coming.

While he is probably ready to win a major already we often see players do these things gradually by winning a WGC event first. Rose, Day, DJ, Scott, Reed have all won WGCs recently on their way to Major success. We know Firestone rewards long and accurate ball-strikers and we know Tommy is just that. His stats are extremely impressive this year and back up his case further. The most intriguing one is the all-round ranking that we mentioned and Tommy sits in 3rd on the PGA Tour ranking below only Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. He is also 12th in strokes gained: tee to green and a rather surprising 13th in strokes gained: around the green. Tommy isn’t the best of putters but his lag putting has improved drastically and with a difficult week likely we should see two putt pars as a pretty good score on most holes. Lots of these slick greens will be missed and only the best ball strikers will be able to hold them. His odds of 28/1 aren’t fancy by any means but considering his profile they are perfectly fair. This is his 2nd look at the course where he came 28th on his debut last year.

Patrick Cantlay is finally showing himself to be the elite ball-striker that was promised after his brilliant amateur career. He has had some personal difficulties too so the fact that he is where he wants to be and still only 26 is impressive and still leaves him plenty time to make his mark. He got his maiden win in October and has pushed on well this year with his most recent outing being 12th at The Open. That was on the back of 30th in Mexico, 23rd at The Players and 45th at the US Open. Not spectacular but just the sort of steady performances that tells me his long game is in good shape for a test like Firestone. Cantlay also ranks highly in the all-round ranking in 12th spot while he is 9th in strokes gained: tee to green. It’s maybe a lot to expect him to win on his debut but I can see him getting involved at least and maybe nabbing a place. A bet on the criminally slow Cantlay also comes with the added bonus that if he struggles it means we don’t actually have to watch him play any shots!

Emiliano Grillo won on his very first start with a full PGA card way back in October 2015 at the Frys Open. His career hasn’t quite continued on the upward trajectory that many expected but again it was his all-round ranking that really perked my interest this week. We know he is a brilliant ball-striker and there are few better drivers in the game but his short game can let him down. Sitting 11th in the all-round ranking makes me think this sort of test is coming at the right time. He doesn’t have the bank of summer form that I would ideally be looking for but he was 14th here two years ago on his debut and I really like the course for him. Grillo also ranks 24th in strokes gained: off the tee and does have some ok form in 2018 with five top 10s so far. Ranked 2nd in total accuracy on his last US start so if we forgive his missed cut in the Open he looks a great bet at 125/1. The 4/1 for a top 20 also looks like a nice price.

It’s very possible that Firestone is too long for Andrew Landry but I can’t leave him out here at a monstrous price of 400/1. The main reason is the fact that he contended at Oakmont along with two Firestone winners Dustin Johnson and Shane Lowry and I looked into why that might be. The main reason seems to be that Landry is very proficient playing approach shots out of the rough. In 2016 he led the Tour in proximity from the rough while this year he sits 6th in the same stat.  The rough was lush green at Oakmont in 2016 and we see the same every year at Firestone. The two courses are just 2 hours away so climate and conditions will be similar with both courses being a mix of bentgrass and poa annua so I’m sure he will feel comfortable. Certainly comfortable enough to back each way at 400/1 with 6 places! Landry is also a steady driver and sits 43rd in strokes gained: off the tee which is impressive for a shorter hitter. That combined with his impressive approach play from the rough should help him go well around Firestone. I’d say the 300/1 would still be a decent price should the 400 dry up. I’m also having a back-up top 20 bet at 10/1 should he take to the course but just find a dozen or so too good.

Others that were close include Matsuyama who looks like some serious value at 45/1. I’m sure you could back that blind here at Firestone and make profit going forward but I just don’t think his long game is where it needs to be. Webb Simpson owes me nothing after The Players’ win and he is still playing very well but I think Firestone may just be a bit long for him. He has never won on a course longer than 7250 yards and even then that was a Par 71. A 7400 par 70 is probably pushing it for Webb but I’d expect another top 20 finish and I’m going to have a small play on that too.


Other bets

I’m not including full previews for the other events this week but a few bets caught my eye.

I stupidly backed Shane Lowry thinking that the Barracuda was played on another Robert Trent Jones track but I was muddling this up with another alternate event with a similar name. The Barbasol, held two weeks ago, was played at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail for 3 years while this week’s Barracuda is actually a Jack Nicklaus course. Anyway he returned to form last week at another Jack Nicklaus course in Canada and these alternate events are often won by someone with a bit of historical class perhaps motivated by not being in the week’s main event. Worth a small interest at 25/1.

I noticed a tweet from somebody over the weekend (I can’t remember who) stating that Ollie Schniederjans made more birdies than anyone over the first two days but he still managed to miss the cut. It might be that this Stableford type of event is exactly what he needs if he is racking up big numbers and this drop in grade should also help. Has some form on Nicklaus courses too as he lost a play-off at TPC Cartagena in Colombia on the Web.com two years ago.

I put Ariya Jutanugarn in a couple of different accumulators last week so watched a fair bit of the Ladies Scottish Open over the weekend. There was some pretty grim weather at times and her scrambling was out of this world, something that is always crucial in links golf. Gullane is a proper links test just like they face this week in the Ladies British Open at Royal Lytham. That week of acclimatising will have the best player in the ladies game 100% prepared for this week and to be honest I thought she would be a little shorter than 10/1. I’m going to have a small win bet on the brilliant Thai.


Summary of bets

WGC Bridgestone

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.5pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)

Patrick Cantlay – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Emiliano Grillo – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places) and 1pt top 20 @ 4/1

Andrew Landry – 0.5pt ew @ 400/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Barracuda Champiomship

Shane Lowry – 0.75pt ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Ollie Schniederjans – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Women’s British Open

Ariya Jutanugarn – 2pts win @ 9.2 on Betfair Exchange

 

Weekly pts = 14

@theGreek82

 

 

RBC Canadian Open and Porsche European Open – Betting Preview

Things got off to a great start last week with Erik Van Rooyen shooting an opening 67 which was good enough for 2nd place after round 1 and 11.5 pts returned. That was as good as it got though as the week got a little more frustrating as it went on. Several others couldn’t make enough birdies to ever get close with conditions playing easier than expected on the first three days. Then Fowler fell away on Saturday after one bad drive halted his progress up the leaderboard. Despite all that after Thorbjorn Olesen birdied his opening two holes on Sunday and the head of the leaderboard concertinaed I thought the top 10 bet and the play-off bet had a great chance of landing. It wasn’t to be though and ultimately it was another losing Major week although on the positive side we got to watch an exhilarating final round where Francesco Molinari ran out a more than deserving winner. I’m really going to have to up my game for the US PGA in two weeks although luckily it’s the major I’ve fared best in recently finding both Dufner and Day. Fingers crossed!

This week we have the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour while the brutish Green Eagle course in Germany hosts the Porsche European Open.

2018 pts advised = 329.50

2018 pts returned = 346.52

ROI =5.16%


Canadian Open

The PGA Tour enters a 3 week period which I believe has the most correlated run of tournaments we see on the schedule. Glen Abbey hosts again this week and together with Firestone next week and the US PGA the week after we have 3 tournaments that reward long, towering ball flights and powerful driving. The follow-on form from Firestone into the US PGA is well documented each year with the PGA winner usually having finished inside the Top 20 at the WGC the week before. But since the Canadian Open found a more permanent residence at Glen Abbey it sits nicely as a similar but more straight forward test for the players to ease into two of the best fields of the year.

It plays as a 7273 yard par 72 course and with some fairly short par 5s it plays rather easy. The last 4 winning scores have been -21, -12, -16 and -18 so birdies and eagles are very much the order of the week. The course is a lush green parkland one with water in play and lots of elevation changes. The rough, while being green and lush, isn’t as deep as it used to be because those in charge decided a few years ago that 6” rough was removing some of the excitement so it is kept at a more playable 3”. That may help explain the success that bombers such as Jason Day, Bubba Watson and even Jonny Vegas have had in recent years. They repeatedly got their driver out as far as possible knowing that they would still be able to find the green with a wedge from the shorter rough.

That’s not the only recent change however as all the poa annua greens were replaced with bentgrass between the 2015 and 2016 events. The result was greens that matched the rest of the pristine course and this is probably another reason for seeing such a strong field again this year. They are set up just as quick though and that is another advantage for the bombers who are going in with wedges to so many holes and therefore holding the greens better than most.

Looking at the more recent four editions there isn’t really any standout stat other than driving distance. You used to have to putt well to win around Glen Abbey but Jonny Vegas ranked just 63rd in total putting two years ago when he got his first win. He improved a little on the greens when he succesfully defended last year but was still only 25th. Day and Snedeker before them both putted the lights out as you would expect from two of the best putters on Tour.

Two years ago I delved a little deeper into the stats and discovered that the one thing the winners all seemed to do well was get the ball close to the pin from the rough at both the 50-75 yards and 175-200 ranges. On first thought that seemed a little random when we have 4 fairly different winners but perhaps it is maybe not that strange. Bombers will be left with the 50-75 yard range a lot when letting rip on the Par 4s and the shorter hitters will be left with the same sort of distance for their 3rd shot on the Par 5s. Again the bombers will have the second range for their approaches into the shorter par 5s. While they are quite narrow ranges it more generally highlights that you have to be able to score from the rough at Glen Abbey. It isn’t overly penal but with narrow enough fairways there will be plenty of shots played from the longer cut this week.

Glen Abbey also has a couple of strong course correlations that come to mind for me; Riviera, home of the Northern Trust Open and Torrey Pines, home of the Farmers Insurance Open. Quite how much that has been down to the poa annua greens in the past I’m not sure but they also appear similar visually. Riviera also has some huge changes in elevation and some blind shots making distance control extremely important. Torrey Pines has lots of water in play and also features a rolling landscape with small greens. The most pertinent link comes from the list of winners as Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker have both won around Glen Abbey and Torrey Pines. Besides his win here Nathan Green only has one runner-up finish and that was at Torrey Pines in 2006. Chez Reavie very nearly won at Riviera in 2016  before giving way to some world-class players on the Sunday. There are other similar cases to be found through some leaderboard searching.

Tony Finau isn’t much of a price this week at all but what can we really expect for the only player to finish inside the top 10 at each major this year. Finau is becoming a tee-to-green colossus and if he had even putted averagely last week then he would surely have been closer to the hunt on Sunday evening. Finau was also 5th here last year on his third look and he fits the mould perfectly for Glen Abbey. Finau ranks 1st in GIR from off the fairway and that will serve him very well here again this year. He also has form at all the right courses and this looks like the perfect opportunity to get his 2nd win on Tour. Finau was 2nd at Riviera this year, 10th at Augusta on his debut and he has been 6th and 4th on his last two efforts around Torrey Pines. The only slight negative is his return from Scotland maybe doesn’t give him ideal preparation but this is no ordinary golfer in that respect. His 10th place at the Masters was done so after suffering a dislocated ankle in the par 3 event on the Wednesday. Perfect preparation doesn’t seem to be something that he requires. The Tour is entering a stretch where Finau should flourish and hopefully he can get off to the best possible start here. A confident play where the only downside is travel so I’m going 2.5 pts each way. The price won’t be for everyone and I’m certainly not going to suggest there is any value in it. But every now and then we have to mix it up and I really feel like he is trending towards a win. We will get bigger prices the next two weeks but this represents a very good chance for him and I don’t want to miss out.

Not much else of note for me here but I’m going to give Blayne Barber a go at 200/1 with 8 places. He was 12th last week at the Barbasol with the highlight being a 3rd round 63 and despite not being the longest off the tee I think he can go well here again after finishing 30th last year while ranking 7th in GIR. That is probably his main strength and he ranks 29th in that stat for the 2018 season. One of his best finishes to date on the PGA Tour is 3rd around another Jack Nicklaus course at PGA National. He has also finished 12th at Riviera and his accurate approach play should serve him well on these small greens. On a run of five consecutive weekends of golf I think he is maybe a shade over priced at 200s.


European Open

There is a huge drop off in excitement levels as the European Tour heads from Carnoustie over to Northern Germany and there is a fairly average field headed by a couple of key sponsors’ players. With plenty time to recover after just a short journey many of the lesser ET players will no doubt arrive in great condition having really enjoyed The Open and watched as one of the European Tour’s most cherished member’s lifted the Claret Jug. There will be a good atmosphere in Hamburg this week and I would mark down having played last week as a positive given how much the players seemed to enjoy it. With that said however those who have made the trip over from Angus aren’t the most inspiring bunch barring the 9/1 favourite Patrick Reed. But he struggled here last year to finish just 19th and can be opposed easily at single figure odds even in this weak European Tour field. Next come Paul Casey, Bryson Dechambeau, Pat Perez and Charl Schwartzel in the betting but again I can easily leave them out at the prices. Casey makes very little appeal at just 10/1 and while Dechambeau is playing well, I’ve not seen anything to suggest this sort of test in Europe is something he should be backed for at just 14/1. Perez might struggle with the length of the course as he isn’t getting any younger while Schwartzel was awful last week.

The course is the Green Eagle North course just to the south of Hamburg and it was remodelled for last year’s event which was won by Jordan Smith. He gained his maiden ET victory by overcoming Alexander Levy in a play-off after both men finished on -13. The course is tough enough with its main defence being the fact it can play to some 7800 yards long and there is water in play on most holes. Even as a par 73 that is quite substantial and the course has five par 5s to allow for that number. The rough was also relatively lush last year and those who drove it long and straight had a decent week. Despite not being a birdie fest, putting was very important last year. The greens are immaculate but they are quite heavily undulating and both Smith and Levy performed well with the short stick. With the summer having been a very good one the course probably won’t play as long as it did last year so there might not quite be the same requirement for the straight driving but with a lot of water in play it’s probably still a useful angle to take in and one I have used, my main pick aside.

That first pick is a fairly obvious one as Zander Lombard has the all important mix of current and course form and his opening price of 100/1 was very surprising and also long gone. He was 5th here last year and enjoyed surely the best week of his life at Carnoustie where he contended for 54 holes before ending with a bit of shocker on Sunday. He isn’t a player that I particularly like as he is often quite wild and erratic but if he enjoyed the course last year I’m sure he will enjoy it again this year with confidence high despite the Sunday 82. We can forgive that as he was in with a legitimate chance of winning the Open and better players than him have shot worse rounds in easier conditions when in similar situations. As the commentators told us repeatedly, he had missed 13 of his previous 18 cuts heading into The Open but he must have found something with his swing in Ireland 2 weeks prior when he finished 6th. That was such a marked improvement and anything close to last week’s 54 hole form would give him a great chance here. It’s a value play really based on that up turn in form and if he keeps that going he doesn’t have an awful lot to beat here beyond the Masters champ. He has been heavily cut since Monday but there is still plenty of 66/1 around which is still ok for me.

Adrian Otaegui is the classy in-form European Tour pick here this week. He has been creeping ever closer to his first stroke-play event but in the process he has racked up 2 match play titles which has propelled him to 79th in the world. He is a long and accurate driver at his best and while not always the best of putters you certainly wouldn’t have noticed that during his two wins as he appeared to hole everything that mattered. With those two strengths you would expect he would be suited to the test here and that was exactly the case when he finished 5th last year. One of his two wins actually came in Germany so returning to the country and to a course where he has played well before should be very positive. He will be fresh after a much needed rest week as he played the previous 4 weeks in a row and that may have been partly responsible for his missed cut in Scotland. Prior to that he was 28th in Ireland and 12th in France and should play well again.

Richard Sterne played brilliantly from tee-to-green two weeks ago in Scotland and was only let down by a cold putter. He was 3rd in total driving, 2nd in ball-striking and 1st in total accuracy. It was almost the opposite here last year where he ranked 6th in total putting on the way to a 19th place finish. The undulating surfaces would have suited the South African who had a fantastic touch on the greens when he was at his peak. If he can marry both the long game and putting together then this test is ideal and we know he can still mix it at this level when fully fit. Back problems have dogged him severely over the last few years but he looks worth following this week in the hope that he maybe turned a corner in Scotland.

Pedro Oriol is a huge price for someone who sits 24th in strokes gained: tee to green on the European Tour. That is good enough for 2nd in this field behind only Patrick Reed but the American has only played 8 rounds to contribute to his figure. Oriol also ranks 7th in ball striking over the last 3 months. Most of his better results come on mainland Europe and his only professional win was in Switzerland. He was 2nd in total driving on his last start and 6th in the all-round ranking so he could be over priced here in a field lacking any real depth.


Summary of Bets

Canadian Open

Tony Finau – 2.5pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 7 places several)

Blayne Barber – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

European Open

Zander Lombard – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Adrian Otaegui – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Richard Sterne – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Pedro Oriol – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82

The 147th Open Championship – Betting Preview

Ryan Fox nabbed two thirds of the place money again with another strong links showing and Whee Kim looked like also returning some of the place money until he double bogeyed the 18th. It was his final few holes that did for him the whole week and if he hadn’t finished so poorly each day he may well have applied some pressure on his namesake Michael. It wasn’t to be though and we move on to one of the top 2 weeks of the golfing year with The Open at Carnoustie.

2018 pts advised = 302.50

2018 pts returned = 335.02

ROI = 10.75%


The Open Championship

History

While being one of the sterner tests on the Open rotation and always bringing with it plenty of drama, for some reason there has often been a long time between drinks from the Claret Jug at Carnoustie. This week will see just the 8th hosting of The Open at a course that was first opened in 1842. The first edition at Carnoustie was in 1931 and won by Tommy Armour. While they were held semi-regularly after that for a period there were none from Tom Watson’s win in 1975 until Paul Lawrie triumphed in 1999. There was then another 8 year gap to Padraig Harrington’s win in 2007 and it hasn’t been back since.

Paul Lawrie’s win was as dramatic as they come with Jean Van De Velde famously throwing his chance down the Barry Burn as he took a treble bogey down the last when a double would have seen him over the line. He would go on to lose the three man playoff and etch his name on the wrong side of history as he is now fondly remembered as the highest profile collapse in Open history.

There was similar excitement in 2007 when Harrington and Garcia went toe-to-toe with the Spaniard starting the day with a 3-shot lead before Harrington found himself with a 2 shot lead playing the 18th. He too would throw his chance away down the 18th before ultimately composing himself to beat Garcia in the 4 hole play-off.

Jordan Spieth defends this year after his brilliant win around Birkdale while Harrington returns to the scene of his greatest victory. Bernard Langer makes the field having won last year’s Senior Open and he is another course winner having also won the Senior Open here in 2010. Unfortunately Scotland’s last Open champion misses out through injury.

Course

Carnoustie is perhaps the most difficult course on the rotation and that reputation has only been enhanced on the other side of the Atlantic since they nicknamed it Car-nasty. The main reason behind that is the length as the Par 71 plays to some 7400 yards making it comfortably the longest Open venue. This means there are some brutally long par 4s and that isn’t something that we always associate with links golf. Three of the final four holes are par 4s in excess of 450 yards and that difficult closing stretch probably helps define Carnoustie. Whoever navigates their way through those holes best over the four days should find themselves on the leaderboard at worst.

Beyond the length, the deep pot bunkering and narrow enough fairways make it one of the more demanding Open venues off the tee and that will only be accentuated by how baked out the course is. Normally when England has a brilliant summer Scotland is somewhat left behind but that hasn’t been the case this year. Glorious sunshine has left Carnoustie a classic picture of bald brown fairways and sparse brown fescue rough. It will play as hard and fast as any venue since Muirfield in 2013 and while that will negate the length somewhat, it will also mean that driver will be left in the bag my many. The greens however still appear very lush green as they have clearly been watered and well maintained through the dry summer. This makes it a little harder to gauge exactly how the course will play once the greens have been reached. If the greens are still receptive enough for people to aim directly at flags then we could see quite a different sort of challenge and one that not too many will have faced. At Muirfield in 2013 the greens were rock hard along with the rest of the course. I suspect with the forecast that even if they are green on Thursday morning by Sunday they will likely be as brown as the rest of the course however. The weather brings us on to the most important aspect of any Open course and that is wind. Year after year links courses are defined by how hard the wind blows and with the current forecast of wind in the area being 12mph-18mph with gusts in the 20s I expect Carnoustie will show it’s teeth most of the week. The green complexes are tricky without wind so with a stiff enough breeze greens will be missed and only the best scramblers will survive till Sunday evening. Proven wind and links exponents will be at a huge advantage around one of the true classic links tests. Carnoustie is also used as one of the host courses at the Alfred Dunhill Links in October and while that is set up very easily for the amateurs and it also has no bite October, it certainly won’t be a negative to have shot a low round at the course and a perusal of recent editions is surely worthwhile.
What is needed to win?

While we know that it pays to follow good links players whichever the course, with Carnoustie hosting this year it is worth paying particular attention to its nuances. It is perhaps one of the most classic links courses on the rotation and famously the hardest. As mentioned above the last two Opens there were won by Paul Lawrie (1999) and Padraig Harrington (2007) and at their peak there were very few better around the greens. Lawrie was so good he was nicknamed “Chippy” while throughout Harrington’s career he has been among the very best chippers on both Tours. I have looked at both those Opens together with the two Senior Opens (2010 and 2016) to see if this was borne out in the stats.

From the 4 events at Carnoustie there were 3 huge standouts from looking at the more general stats. The first one I noticed was scrambling and that was obviously no surprise but it was particularly interesting just how well the top 5 scrambled in each event. in 1999 Lawrie ranked 2nd in scrambling but none of the top 5 ranked outside the top 12 for scrambling. In 2007 Harrington led the field in getting up and down while Garcia was 6th and 4th placed Ernie Els was 3rd. On the Seniors circuit Paul Broadhurst was 5th in scrambling when he won in 2016 and again runner-up McCarron was 3rd while 5th place Byrum led the field. In 2010 Langer was 2nd in scrambling while again everyone in the top 5 was inside the top 10 for getting up and down.

The second key area was bogey avoidance as Lawrie ranked 3rd, Harrington 1st, Broadhurst 3rd and Langer 1st in that area. While it makes sense that avoiding bogeys is going to be a positive their numbers for birdies are nothing like as impressive (20th, 17th, 2nd and 14th) confirming that being able to keep bogeys off the card is crucial at Carnoustie.

The 3rd and final stat of note was Par 4 scoring and again that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise on a tough, championship, par 71 layout. Harrington was 9th on the par 4s but each of the other 3 winners led the field in scoring on the medium holes. With so many long par 4s again it makes perfect sense that playing them well is important.

Obviously being strong in the other key areas like GIR and putting isn’t going to hurt but it does seem clear that these 3 are key attributes that will be required this week at Carnoustie. While looking at the stats rankings for the year can only tell us how players have fared to date in those areas, they are ultimately the best guide for trying to predict who might perform well in those areas again. I would recommend a look at all 3 stats for anyone looking to pick their own players this week. With the new European Tour stats area all three of these can be easily accessed for both Tours now.
The bets

It just so happens that these stats back up two of my favourite links players and repeat Major tips so that gives me two confident headline plays. If you can ever be confident about a major that is!

Rickie Fowler hasn’t so much been banging the door down to get into the major winner’s house as he has been knocking quite loudly and repeatedly. Until perhaps April at Augusta he was falling into the Kuchar sort of area where he was being unfairly criticised for consistently playing well yet not really managing to properly contend right up to the 72nd hole. Many believe that Fowler upped his game that day as he played his back 9 in 4 under par to post -14, a score that could easily have landed a play-off on another day. As one of his bigger fans I’ve been of the opinion that he will win multiple Open Championships for some time but for those who disagree he maybe isn’t the bet for you this week at a restrictive enough 18/1 given the strength of the field. For me he is the best links player out of the top bracket of golfers and I have backed him in some shape or form in the last 6 Opens. I can’t stop now! Fowler has absolutely everything required to dominate links golf, he normally drives it fairly long and fairly straight, hits plenty of greens, scrambles with the best of them and is also one of the better putters on Tour. Most importantly though he has the ability to flight the ball down and move it in the wind allowing him to run the ball into the greens as they firm up over the weekend. With the summer that Scotland has seen that will be crucial on this baked out course, even more so if the wind blows.

Over the last few years things have gone against him in the Open, namely being on the wrong side of the strong draw bias in 2015 and 2016 while perhaps courses didn’t play as tough as he would have liked on other years. This is why I think the difficult Carnoustie is absolutely perfect for him. Looking at 2018 stats Fowler ranks brilliantly in the main 3 departments. He is 5th in scrambling, 4th in bogey avoidance and 5th in par 4 scoring. He is already a links winner having won the Scottish Open in 2015 and his overall Open record is extremely good even if he hasn’t figured on the leaderboard at the last 3. While the 18/1 maybe isn’t the best of win prices the value on the place terms makes up for that. Fowler has returned the each way money in 7 of his last 18 majors which makes the 18/5 about a top 8 finish an excellent price. I think he is ready to win one and having prepared with a 6th place finish at Gullane last week his game will be in perfect shape and I expect him to contend again at Carnoustie.

My other main bet is my 2nd go-to Open bet and that is Henrik Stenson. I must get the negatives out of the way first and point out that he withdrew from last week’s Scottish Open with an elbow injury but I’m hoping that was more precautionary ahead of this week. As ever Stenson’s game sets up perfectly for Championship golf as he currently leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy and GIR. He also ranks highly in the strong Carnoustie stats as he is 5th in scrambling, 1st in bogey avoidance and 3rd in par 4 scoring. Despite his light schedule so far in 2018 he is one of only 3 men to finish inside the top 10 at both this year’s Majors. His 5th place at Augusta marked his best ever Masters finish while I thought he was a little unlucky at Shinnecock while carrying our money. He got himself to the front after 45 holes before throwing 5 shots away on the back 9 as conditions got very close to unplayable.

Moreover I just get the impression that he is targeting majors and nothing else as he realises he probably only has another 4 or 5 years left at the very top. That makes him dangerous again this week and doubly so when we consider Carnoustie looks absolutely perfect for his game. Another confident selection and excellent back up to the main Fowler selection. An extra string to both player’s bows is that they are also more than capable of hanging around if the greens do somehow play softer all week. Adaptability is often an under rated attribute with regards to golfers but when conditions can not be trusted 100% in advance it becomes even more crucial.

I’m adding two more proven links types in the outright market. Firstly Tyrrell Hatton who came close last week and unfortunately ruined his price somewhat but he has won the last two Alfred Dunhill Links events and shot Carnoustie rounds of 65 and 67 while doing so. Everything about his game suggests he can win an Open at some point and a test like Carnoustie while playing well might just be his best chance at a major to date. That means I can forgive the price of 33/1 as we get 10 places with Skybet and the place value makes up for it.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello perhaps isn’t playing well enough to win this at the moment but that has also seen his price pushed out and I really like his game for Carnoustie so am going to take a chance that he enjoys the more difficult layout this week. He has missed his last 3 cuts so this bet might not be for everyone but last week he signed off with a 67 and it was more his inability to make birdies than making bogeys that cost him. If we forgive him this slight blip in form then he was playing excellent golf prior to the US Open. He ranks 7th in scrambling on the European Tour and 22nd in both bogey avoidance and par 4 scoring. I’m hoping Carnoustie can focus the mind a little and given that a wayward driver has been one of the main things holding him back, he may opt to leave it in the bag. If he does then his proven links ability will help him from the fairways and in.

My left-field outsider for this is Charl Schwartzel and I’m not entirely sure I can explain why without boring everyone to tears. Basically I’ve had a look through courses where Harrington, Lawrie, Langer and Broadhurst have played well and Schwartzel’s name kept coming up. Schwartzel is a solid links player despite not having a reputation as such, even more so when conditions are hard and fast. He was 22nd around Hoylake in 2006 as a 22 year old and then 15th at Muirfield in 2013. He returned a year later to Hoylake to record his first Open top 10.

As much as anything he just looks a massive price for someone who can still show plenty of flashes of his world-class ability. Just two months ago he was runner-up to Webb Simpson at the Players Championship and he has only played three events since. Coming in fresh might just be an advantage for someone like Schwartzel who can get very down about his game when things aren’t going well.

After seeing some chat on Twitter about the rough not being overly penal I’ve decided to squeeze Ryan Fox into the team even if he doesn’t really have much of a major pedigree yet. The New Zealand bomber has been brilliant on the links courses of Ireland and Scotland over the last two weeks and knowing he will probably let rip with his driver again this week I think I have to include him again. He drove the 18th green on Friday at Gullane and while everyone was getting it fairly close he hit that some 450 yards which is quite ridiculous. While he only hit 40% of his fairways he was making that distance count again as he still hit 78% of his greens. Carnoustie is obviously a different beast but I’d be gutted to miss out on another good showing so I’ll make him the 6th and final each way play.

I’ve also backed a few at big prices on the exchanges just because I expect they might play quite well and possibly trade somewhat lower. I wasn’t sure how to advise them but as I have backed them I felt I had to include them so I have just gone with 0.5pts win at their current Betfair price. I’ve also advised place bets on the same 3 players.

Cameron Smith was brought up on the hard and fast courses along the East coast of Australia and he has shown his enjoyment of difficult championship courses already in his early career. He finished 4th on his major debut at Chambers Bay in 2015 while he was 5th at this year’s Masters. His brilliant scrambling skills will be key this week and he looks over priced in most of the markets for me. Could really take to Carnoustie and if he does he should trade considerably lower than 360.0

Thorbjorn Olesen has had a very impressive 2018 to date and he went into my notebook when he led the field in scrambling at the Irish Open 2 weeks ago. That was good enough for 6th and it came just a month after his win in Sicily. Olesen has long been considered an Open Champion in waiting and he won the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2015 where he shot a 68 around Carnoustie. Had a solid major record early in his career posting top 10s at both The Open and The Masters. Looks to be back to somewhere near his best this year and its worth remembering he is still just 28 years old. Has everything required to win a major and looks over priced on the Exchange where we can get nearly double some of the bookmaker prices.

Hideto Tanihara was 6th at the Open around Hoylake in 2006 and that is one of the few hard and fast tests we have seen in recent times. He went off the radar for quite a while on the world stage until he popped up at the WGC Match Play in 2017 where he beat several big names on his way to the semi-finals. On his day Tanihara is a brilliant scrambler and with fairly recent form of such a high standard he just seems a bit over priced here at the maximum 1000.0 on Betfair. The Japanese star was in the World’s Top 50 just last year and he also finished inside the top 30 on the Race to Dubai. It should also be noted that he shot a 61 around Gullane on Friday! Under rated here so I’m also taking his generous top 20 price of 12/1

Finally, Skybet are offering 3/1 for this year’s Open to be decided by a play-off. That to me looks like a great piece of value when we consider the last 3 Opens at Carnoustie have all gone to a play-off. Looking at the wider picture 7 of the last 20 Opens have gone to extra holes. With the difficult 18th hole and no real bail-out area off the tee it is the sort of hole where a 4 shot lead is required to be truly safe and mentally it is one of the toughest finishing holes you will see in major golf. Makes me think this novelty bet is worth a go for 4 Carnoustie play-offs in a row!
First Round Leader Picks

Right now the forecast for Thursday is for the wind to pick up in the afternoon to around 13mph with gusts in the 20s. Therefore I have gone for three players with early tee-times.

Since Thomas Pieters’ last missed cut at Wentworth he has turned a bit of a corner and in his 5 events he has thrown in 10 rounds in the 60s with three of those coming in the first round. Overall in 2018 he sits 5th on the European Tour for 1st round scoring. He opened last week with a 68 and then signed off with 64-66 over the weekend for a 6th place finish. He has an early tee-time of 7:52am and if he is to get involved at all this week I imagine it will be from the start. The 66/1 looks very fair with 8 places.

Erik van Rooyen has being going very low lately in round 1 and throughout most of the year as he sits just below Pieters in 8th place. Missed the cut last week but still shot a Friday 64 in doing so and the week before he went 65-66 in Ireland on Friday and Saturday to get to the top of the leaderboard. So he clearly knows how to go low on links courses and with an early tee-time (6:46am) hopefully the nerves of his first Major won’t get to him until Friday when maybe he is sitting inside the top 8 after an opening 68! There is as big as 150/1 out there but I prefer the 110 with Betfair and 8 places.

There were several more that I liked including Tanihara, Martin Kaymer and Matthew Southgate but instead I have plumped for another fast starter and links expert in Paul Dunne. He sits in 14th position in round 1 scoring and opened with a 67 last week in Scotland before missing the cut on the number after a 70 on Friday. The cooler conditions in the morning won’t phase him at all and he will relish the chance to get out and make a score having fond memories of contending for 3 rounds at St. Andrews as an amateur in 2015. Take the 95/1 with Betfair and get 8 places.


Summary of bets

The Open

Rickie Fowler – 3pts ew @ 18/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)

Henrik Stenson – 1.5pts ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Skybet)

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (Skybet)

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 10 places PP) and 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Charl Schwartzel – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (Skybet) and 2pts Top 20 @ 6/1

Ryan Fox – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet)

Cameron Smith – 0.5pt win @ 360 Betfair and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Thorbjorn Olesen – 0.5pt win @ 130 Betfair and 1pt Top 10 @ 8/1

Hideto Tanihara – 0.5pt win @ 1000 Betfair and 1pt Top 20 @ 12/1

A Play-off to settle The Open – “Yes” – 2pts @ 3/1 (Skybet)
First Round Leader

Thomas Pieters – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair and Paddy Power)

Erik Van Rooyen – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1 (Betfair)

Paul Dunne – 0.5pt ew @ 95/1 (Betfair)

Weekly points advised = 26pts

@theGreek82

Travelers Championship and BMW International Open – Some bets

While I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that Brooks Koepka wasn’t the right US Open winner I do think Stenson was a little unfortunate not to be a little closer. The only stretch that he struggled with was the back 9 on Saturday when conditions were very unfair and he played a few good shots that were punished. It was the same for the other leaders however it was clear Stenson was enjoying the hard and fast test up to that point. It’s always good to get a full place at a major but if you had told me that he was going to putt so well before they started then I’d have been counting my money before the off!

RCB was also left cursing the back 9 on Sunday as throughout most of the tournament he looked set for a top 10 nevermind the top 20 we needed. It wasn’t to be though and even with Stenson’s 13.2 pts returned there were some small losses on the week.

I’ve been a little short of time and good health this week so the picks will be brief for The Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour and the BMW International Open in Europe.

Updated results to follow


Travelers Championship

Despite some average form Brendan Steele’s price jumped out at me. You need to hit the greens around here and he still sits 11th for GIR and just last week at Shinnecock he was 12th in GIR. So his long game is in good enough shape and he is even making plenty of birdies. He sits 14th in Par 4 Birdie or Better which is a good indicator around here. Steele has been inside the top 25 on six of his seven visits with a 5th in 2014 being the pick of the bunch. Finished down the field at Shinnecock but there were plenty better players who missed the cut and he isn’t someone with a great record on poa annua greens. He will enjoy the return to bentgrass dominant greens and also having some rough to work with around the greens.

Nicholas Lindheim is pretty much just a stats hunch this week as his game looks suited to TPC River Highlands on paper if nothing else. He currently ranks 16th in Par 4 Birdie or Better, 20th in GIR from 150-175 yards and 32nd in putting from 5ft to 15ft. Missed his only cut here but was 12th on another Bobby Weed renovated course at Sawgrass’s Valley course in 2015. Could be over priced at 250/1.


BMW International Open

I wasn’t going to post anything for Germany but as I’ve backed them I thought I may as well squeeze in a few lines. Nothing too original about my main two bets here. Adrian Otaegui and Jorge Campillo have both been knocking on the door of a regular stroke-play win for the last couple of years. Neither man has good form here but Gut Larchenhof isn’t a terribly tough layout. It’s not tricked up, there is room off the tee and not too many dangers beyond bunkers for approach shots. As you would expect with a Nicklaus design it does get a little trickier as you approach the green but both men have been excelling in that area lately. With no big numbers to worry about they can just go out and make birdies as they rank 10th and 18th in birdie average over the last 3 months. I was surprised at the odds available and they both look worthwhile each way plays.

I have also backed a couple of veterans who enjoy the course and have shown glimpses in recent weeks.

Raphael Jacquelin was 4th here in 2016 and 3rd in 2004 so will be relishing a return. Especially after the brisk play at the Shot Clock Masters last time out seemed to bring back the beautiful rhythm to his swing. He finished 3rd there and to be honest I have no idea why this 4 time European Tour winner is 150/1 in this field having suggested he might have turned a corner.

Peter Hanson was 7th at the Shot Clock Masters also breaking a run of bad form and missed cuts. He was 3rd here back in 2009 while also 21st more recently in 2016. I’m hoping his performance last time out will also give him a lift and older players have a decent record around the course which bodes well for both the 40-somethings.


Summary of Bets

Travelers Championship

Brendan Steele – 0.75 pts ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Nicholas Lindheim – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1 (Skybet) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1 (general)

BMW International

Adrian Otaegui – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Jorge Campillo – 0.75pts ew @ 40/1 (Coral)

Raphael Jacquelin- 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Paddy Power)

Peter Hanson – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfred)

 

Weekly pts advised = 8.5pts

@theGreek82