Tour Championship and Portugal Masters – Betting Preview

Both the headline picks in the US placed which meant it was a profitable week but only thanks to Dubuisson’s withdrawal which returned 1.5 pts. Day was 4th and Rahm 5th so I shouldn’t really be too disappointed with the week as I was right to avoid Spieth, Thomas and DJ. It just had a feeling of a tournament that Day could have won despite Leishman’s brilliance. His rustiness in contention meant he made too many mistakes but it has to be noted just how perfect Conway Farms is for the Aussie’s combination of power and touch. His course form now reads 4th-1st-4th and he is an amazing -49 in that time!

Total 2017 pts advised = 413pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 341.09pts

ROI = – 17.41%

 


Tour Championship

Now in its 11th edition, the Fed Ex Cup heads to Georgia for the final leg of the Fed Ex Cup Play-offs, the Tour Championship. East Lake is the host again as per the first 10 so there is plenty of form to look at. It’s a Donald Ross design and it is one of his longest at 7385 yards but it isn’t normally over powered. That is down to tree-lined fairways and subtle dog-legs which make it very much a strategical golf course off the tee. With his trademark greens, usually sloping from back to front, distance control is absolutely paramount at East Lake. If the approach shots aren’t hit perfectly the ball will run off down one of the shaved areas which always prove difficult to chip from.

Every year it provides a solid test of golf where anyone looking to win can’t afford to switch off for one second. Scoring is usually around the -7 to -13 bracket which to me always provide the most exciting tournaments. Birdies are out there to be made but only for those in complete control of their golf ball and come Sunday when the greens will have firmed up, par will be a good score on most holes.

From a stats point of view things at East Lake have been a bit of a mixed bag and perhaps a better gauge of attributes is simply to look at the list of winners; McIlroy, Spieth, Horschel, Stenson, Haas, Furyk, Mickelson, Woods, Scott. They are all brilliant performers tee-to-green, particularly with their approach shots. That is evident in the one strongest stat year after year which is GIR but to delve a little further the last four winners have finished the season ranked 2nd, 4th, 47th and 3rd in strokes gained: tee to green.

East Lake form can be quite important and we do see players repeatedly play well there however it has also been a happy hunting ground for debutants. What is perhaps more important is general form at Donald Ross designs as form ties in well with several of his courses. Sedgefield, host of the Wyndham Championship is the only regular Ross design on Tour but there have been several others used in recent times; Oak Hill, Oakland Hills, Aronimink and most interesting of all, Pinehurst No. 2. The latter hosted the 2014 U. S. Open and all of the last 8 winners at East Lake finished inside the top 35 at Pinehurst. The green complexes are very similar to East Lake with small, sloping greens and lots of run-off areas.

But perhaps the most consistent guide has been Sedgefield which has bermuda greens just like East Lake. The bouncier greens together with Ross’s open fronted greens/aprons allow links style bump and runs and that can give an extra dimension not always available on U.S. target golf courses.

I racked my brains with Jordan Spieth here this week as for my money he is far and away the man to beat however the bookies have also taken that view and he is a best price 11/2. It’s not the worst price I’ve ever seen by any means and we need to remember this is just a 30-runner market. But we have to weigh up just whether it’s worth firing into and I’m torn. His East Lake record is superb and his stats this year suggest his game is in ideal shape for taking on Donald Ross design again. Even when backing Spieth at that price he really has to be bomb-proof so I’m going to avoid him as a proper bet but advise a stake saving bet all the same.

For me the outstanding value in the field lay firmly with Justin Rose when he opened at 16/1. I managed to have a little of the 16.5 on Betfair and also tweeted about his price so hopefully any regular readers managed to get on. He has been cut now to a general 14/1 but I still think the price is fair. His season hasn’t been what he would have hoped for after his Masters loss in April, injury combined with the disappointment from the play-off defeat resulted in two MCs and a 54th from the next three majors. However he has bounced back in the play-offs and found a swing that takes the pressure off his back. This has allowed him to get his sharpness back and the result was a brilliant 2nd behind Marc Leishman last week at the BMW. While his season stats reflect his slump through the summer, last week’s were as good as you could wish for heading into East Lake. Rose ranked 1st in both GIR and scrambling while only five others hit more fairways.

justin-rose-zurich-classic_3295658

His recent record at the course is probably 2nd only to Spieth reading 2nd, 4th, 6th, 2nd. He has also won around the Donald Ross designed Aronimink and finished inside the all-important top 35 at Pinehurst in 2014 (12th), he was 9th at Oakland Hills and 5th on his only visit to Sedgefield where he hit a brilliant 91% of greens. He is clearly very comfortable on Ross designs and enjoys the strategic design elements involved.

Year upon year East Lake is all about ball-striking as we mentioned earlier. There are very few better ball–strikers around than Rose and the fact he is scrambling well is a further bonus. We know he isn’t always the best of putters but he has won on quick bermuda greens at Doral and generally the short stick takes a bit of a back seat at the Tour Championship. Certainly you can’t contend by throwing in 3-putts galore but two putt pars are more than acceptable on greens that plenty of the field will be missing. On last week’s showing Rose will be peppering the flags and giving himself more looks than most. Even an average putting week can see him contend and he looks an absolutely knocking each way bet at 14/1.

The two outsiders I like this week are Gary Woodland and Daniel Berger. While I think they should both go well, the nature of the tournament makes it very hard to work out how to back them. I think they will have their work cut out to make the each way places but that is more than reflected in their respective prices of 66/1 and 55/1. So I will have small each way plays and also two top 10 bets.

Gary Woodland’s long game stats are superb this year and while he doesn’t seem to have cropped up on too many leaderboards it is that tee to green consistency that got him to the Tour Championship. Woodland ranks 5th in ball-striking and 17th in strokes gained: tee to green and his approach play was as good as ever last week when he ranked 3rd in GIR. He hasn’t set East Lake on fire so far but he has finished in the top 10 on his last two appearances here including last year. So often putting can be his downfall but that shouldn’t hold him back here and he usually scrambles well at East Lake. Should really go well again at a generous price.

I tipped Daniel Berger here last year and I think he warrants another go at the prices. He relishes bermuda greens and his iron play has been superb this year, ranking 8th in strokes gained: approaches. I’m convinced East Lake should suit him and this is already his 3rd look at the course having qualified in all three of his pro seasons, quite an achievement.

Tony Finau’s wild driving doesn’t make him an obvious bet this week but I can’t help but be impressed by his long game stats. Finau is 7th in strokes gained: tee to green and 6th in the all-round ranking. If he keeps the ball in play off the tee I think he might just be this year’s surprise package so I’m also having a top 10 bet on him.


Portugal Masters

Once again we arrive at a staple of the European Tour season with the Portugal Masters at Villamoura in the Algarve. It has hosted since 2007 and in that time there has been a very clear picture develop of what is required to win around the Victoria golf course.

It is a wide open, sprawling, undulating course with very little in the way of rough so it sets up very much for the “grip it and rip it” types. The greens are also huge and undulating and it is basically a links course in that respect. So while getting as close to the green as possible off the tee is certainly an advantage, everyone will be hitting the greens with regularity so the tournament is usually won with the putter. Last year the player who hit the fewest greens across the 4 days still made an impressive 67% while in 2015 that figure was 65%. That’s quite a high total and confirms how easily they can be found. Aggressive iron play followed by a deadly putter is the recipe. The last 3 winners have all performed brilliantly around the greens; Harrington was 2nd in scrambling, 1st in putting, Sullivan was 1st in scrambling, 2nd in putting and Levy was 1st in both. Therefore that has been my main focus this week.

 

Chris Paisley’s missed cut in Switzerland can be ignored as the fiddly Crans course was never going to suit the Englishman. Paisley isn’t the most accurate of players from either the tee or the fairway and he is all about short game brilliance. The start before Crans he came 3rd at the Made in Denmark which is far more suited to his game. Back at the Victoria course in Villamoura he will get the sort of short game test he relishes. Everyone will be hitting greens so he can let his short stick do the talking. Paisley ranks 5th in one putts, 2nd in putts per round and 15th in total putting over the last 3 months while his scrambling is also amongst the best on Tour, currently ranking 13th for the season. I had him earmarked for this even before I noticed he was 5th last year and while that means his price is a little shorter than I expected, it also further backs up how suited he should be to the course. This will be his 4th look at the course in fact and his results are trending with a 72nd followed by a 37th at the course. For some reason Betfred really don’t like Chris at all and again they were a massive standout 100/1 on Monday. That has gone now but the general 80/1 is more than fair about someone with his standard of short game around a course like this.

Justin Walters is a bit of a course specialist here so I was intrigued to see him work his way through the leaderboard over the weekend with a 65-67 to finish T3rd. In truth I’m not too sure why he likes the course as he isn’t someone you could class as a great putter but he enjoys the lack of trouble off the tee that’s for sure and the links style greens play very grainy, much like he is used to in South Africa. Last week he ranked 3rd in putting and 19th in scrambling and that is exactly the sort of short game combination we are looking for this week. His event form reads 17-37-21-2 so off the back of that 3rd place finish he looks an obvious yet solid play again here at 100/1.

I’m getting into a bit of difficulty with my backing of George Coetzee now and my judgement is starting to get a little clouded where he is concerned so by all means write this bet off as a bout of cliff-following. He is one of my favourite golfers and I have been on for all three of his wins so far, meaning he doesn’t owe me anything.  He finished 3rd last week where he ranked 6th in scrambling and 14th in putting. It is his putting that provides the source of my problem as I firmly believe him to be the best putter on the European Tour and probably close to the top 10 in the world. The trouble is he is so prone to mistakes that he will often throw in two double bogeys in a week to go with his 20+ birdies. Luckily this week the Victoria course isn’t one that punishes errant drives or approaches which is probably why Alvaro Quiros is on the list of winners!

I really like Coetzee for the Alfred Dunhill in two week’s time but I don’t think I can leave him out at a course where he normally plays well. The 33/1 isn’t fantastic after his 3rd place last week but I can’t leave him out.

 


Summary of Bets

Tour Championship

Justin Rose – 2pts ew @ 14/1

Jordan Spieth – 2pts win @ 6.0

Gary Woodland – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1 and 1.5pts Top 10 @ 7/2

Daniel Berger – 0.5pt ew @ 60/1 and 1pt Top 10 @ 3/1

Tony Finau – 1pt Top 10 @ 3/1

Portugal Masters

George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Chris Paisley – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Justin Walters – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

 

Weekly pts = 16pts

Total 2017 = 429pts

@theGreek82

 

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WGC HSBC Champions – Betting Preview

There were no returns last week as we sided with the wrong former winner in Malaysia but it was nice to see course form hold up so strongly as I expected. What was a surprise was how brilliantly Thomas played given that he was defending his first PGA Tour title. Moore played ok for us as did Cejka and Curran but at no point did any of them really look giving us any returns.

The same can’t be said in Portugal however as Joakim Lagergren had another excellent week on the European Tour. Unfortunately though he threw in an untimely bogey just as things were heating up on Sunday and that resulted in a 15th place finish when a Top 5 looked a possibility as he started his back 9.

What all that means for the blog though is that it dips into negative ROI for the first time since the US PGA in 2015. It has been a tough year but that can all turn around with one win. With the co-sanctioned HSBC Champions event taking centre stage I’m focussing on that and leaving the Sandersons Championship alone until I have had sufficient time to cast an eye over the new batch of PGA Tour recruits.

Total pts advised – 824pts

Total pts returned – 819.89

ROI =  -0.5%


 

WGC HSBC Champions

With the exception of the 2012 running, Sheshan Golf Club has been the venue for the WGC HSBC Champions dating back to its inception in 2005 season so there is no shortage of course form this week. The tournament didn’t gain WGC status until 2009 however and it was only in 2013 when it became fully sanctioned by all three main Tours.

The course was designed by the renowned Asia based team of Nelson and Haworth and plays 7266 yards long with undulating, tree-lined fairways, elevated bent grass greens and plenty water in play particularly for approach shots. The design team are quoted as saying that they were influenced by Donald Ross’ Oak Hill course which has a lot of varied Par 4s with many elevation changes particularly on tee-shots.

Given that two recent winners were Bubba and Dustin Johnson you would think that length off the tee was a prerequisite but Bubba had to hole his bunker shot at 18 in 2014 to force a play-off with Tim Clark who is one of the shorter hitters on Tour. Just last year Russell Knox won his first PGA Tour title and in doing so became the first Scot to win a WGC. He is another short, accurate player very similar to 2010 winner Francesco Molinari. All three of those players are excellent with their long irons so while different types can prosper it would seem that distance control when trying to hit the greens and indeed getting the ball as close to the flag as possible are key to scoring at Sheshan. The Par 5s are usually key at Sheshan but there are two ways to play as we have seen the bombers overpower them but also the accurate types pepper the flags with their sharp wedge game.

Moreover, every part of the game has to be working to contend at Sheshan and that is evident when we look at the stats from the last three years. In both 2014 and 2015 the top four in the all-round ranking all finished inside the Top 5 on Sunday. In 2013 six of the top seven were all ranked in the top 7 in the all-round ranking.

A look at USPGA Oak Hill form would be of interest to me but there aren’t too many of those from the 2013 leaderboard teeing it up this week. The most recent Donald Ross course to have been played on Tour was East Lake which held the Tour Championship but perhaps a better guide to this week’s course is Sedgefield which hosts the Wyndham Championship. If Sheshan was based on Oak Hill then playing well in the Wyndham can only be a positive as the two courses have many similarities.

Both Knox and Kisner showed last year that course experience isn’t required at the HSBC Champions as they were making their debuts. It is far more important to still have a hunger at this stage of the season as several of the game’s best players are running on empty and perhaps aren’t as focussed as some of the lesser lights who haven’t played in that many WGC’s and are viewing this as a stepping stone in their career. Knox and Kisner certainly both did that last year as Kisner went on to win two weeks later and Knox won again in the summer. It is worth looking at players who fit a similar profile to them as last year, players who have had a very good year, are still in form and will be giving this tournament the respect it deserves as Asia’s primary golf event.

The market this week is headed by Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and few could argue that they aren’t deserving of their single figure quotes. Although I don’t think either of them will be motivated enough to come out on top this week. McIlroy is coming off an exhausting Ryder Cup and is apparently trialling new clubs this week while Dustin Johnson has already had a career year and it’s reasonable to assume he won’t be as focussed as he was earlier in the season. With them taking up so much of the market however, there are some value prices down the field.

I’m getting almost tired of writing about Patrick Reed but I’m desperate not to miss out on his next big win which I believe is on its way soon. Despite having a slow patch in the middle of the year, 2016 has been quite good to Reed. When he announced to the world in 2014 that he was a “top 5 player” he was largely mocked in the U.S.A but it was interesting to see the same pundits and fans come full circle in their opinion of Reed when he led their Ryder Cup charge last month.

I’ve watched him closely since that WGC win in March 2014 and I very quickly realised that he wasn’t joking around. We hear a lot about the talents of Spieth and Day on and around the greens but at his best Reed is every bit as good as them. I don’t remember seeing anyone else since Tiger chip the ball with such perfect weight from any sort of lie. His short game is as good on tight lies as it is in lush green rough and it’s a huge skill to have. His putting is also brilliant and he has the same ability to judge the pace perfectly from distance while also being aggressive enough from inside 15ft to make more than his share of putts. However it was his putting that was holding him back from February onwards until he turned it around gradually over the summer and got his win at Bethpage Black when he triumphed at the Barclays. He held that hot putter over to the Ryder Cup where he top scored for the U.S team with more magic around the greens and a very solid iron game. His game is in perfect all-round condition and with his warm-up in Kuala Lumpur last week he will be perfectly acclimatised for this event in China.

He has some very strong course form too with a 7th place finish last year and a 22nd on his debut in 2014. But if we look more closely at his results then we can see how well this course suits him; last year he had the best combined ranking for GIR and scrambling (10th +2nd= 12) but also the best combined ranking for GIR, scrambling and putting (10+2+23 = 35). That makes it very hard to work out how he was 5 shots behind the winner but what it does make clear is that he plays the course very, very well. That wasn’t just a one off either, on his debut he ranked 12th for GIR and 9th for scrambling but he just struggled on his first look at the greens.  Reed also lost in a play-off on his only other appearance in China so it is fair to expect him to play well there again.

A player like Patrick Reed is always hungry for big wins so he will be in China with only one thing on his mind. He finished down the field last week in Malaysia but he was coming off a well-earned rest after his Ryder Cup heroics. History tells us that it’s important to have had a warm-up prior to playing the HSBC so it will have been a good chance for him to fine tune his game. Ignoring that result he arrives in excellent form, he is putting brilliantly and he has played well on the course before. From a stats point of view then he should also be suited to the challenge again this year as he ranks 6th in birdie average, 7th in Par 5 scoring and 22nd in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months.

At 33/1 and only 9th favourite, Reed looks a great bet again this week as he tries to make it third time lucky at the course and bag his 2nd World Golf Championship at just 26 years of age. 

Paul Casey’s form has been so good lately that his price has been extremely short for someone who only has 1 win on US soil in 11 years on the PGA Tour. But the key here this week is that he is playing in China rather than the U.S.A. His record in China is a lot better having won there twice early in his career but also racking up another twelve top 10s from 24 career appearances. His form in the HSBC Champions at Sheshan in particular reads 23-20-4-6-w-11-9-6-7 so he is well suited to the course. His 2005 China Open win came at another Nelson and Hawarth design at Shenzhen so there is every reason to believe he will hold his form over for another week. Prior to his 21st place finish in Malaysia last week he returned the each-way money in four consecutive tournaments. He currently ranks 1st in the all-round ranking on the PGA Tour for the last 3 months and that will help him with the test that Sheshan brings. Back out to a reasonable price of 25/1 he looks a very solid each way bet.

I’m leaving it at two outright picks this week and instead I have included a few place bets. I can’t believe I’m actually tipping Richard Bland but as I’m focussing on the all-round golf game this week he has to be backed in some shape or form. Bland is the ultimate journey-man, never having won on the European Tour but over the last few years he has developed a remarkable consistency for finishing between 5th and 20th . But this season he has stepped it up and has been quoted as saying that he has taken a more aggressive approach, especially with his putting. That has paid off as he sits in 25th place in the Race To Dubai courtesy of seven Top 10s and amazingly this one-time awful putter sits in 14th in total putting over the last 3 months.

His tee-to green game has always been arrow straight and I think he could be suited to Sheshan. I’m not for a second suggesting he can win but I think a Top 20 at 9/2 looks to be some decent value given his recent run of form. He has finished in the Top 20 in his last six starts recording the following; 5th,16th, 5th, 7th, 18th and 4th two weeks ago at the British Masters. Having qualified for his first WGC he decided to give Portugal a miss last week so that he could give his full attention to China.

He has some decent form in Asia too with a 3rd place at the China Open earlier this year and also a 6th place finish in the Malaysian Maybank Championship in February. That was held at another Nelson and Hawarth design where he ranked 3rd for both GIR and scrambling suggesting that his neat and tidy game could be suited to the design team’s flagship course. In truth we don’t know how Bland will fare in this strong a field but there is something different about him this year and something tells me he won’t be phased. If not then 9/2 is a very fair price for a man playing the best golf of his career.

Bernd Wiesberger has been the model of consistency over the last 6 weeks and he carries with him form figures of 2nd-7th-5th-2nd. Perhaps then it shouldn’t be a surprise that he ranks 2nd in the all-round ranking, 3rd in Par 5 scoring and 4th in Par 4 scoring over the last 3 months. What is surprising though, is that he hasn’t won anywhere since July 2015 and it has often been his putting that has let him down. There has been anotable improvement in that department recently though and he sits 20th in total putting for the last 3 months. I was considering an outright wager on the Austrian until I saw firstly his price and then secondly his very average record playing in China.He is without a top 10 in 10 visits to the country but he does have progressive form figures of 28-17 from his two appearances around Sheshan. With his whole game in great shape a top 10 looks very achievable for him this week.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello looks to me to fit the perfect profile for a player that will be motivated to play well this week. He has had a brilliant 2016, finding success in both Europe and on the PGA Tour but he is still missing the win. I don’t think he is quite ready to get it in this company as his much improved putting still probably won’t stand up against the best on a nervy Sunday. But I expect him to put another 4 strong rounds together here to finish somewhere around 8th and therefore he looks like another worthwhile play in the Top 10 market.

Summary of Bets

WGC HSBC Champions

Patrick Reed – 1.5pts ew @ 33/1

Paul Casey – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Richard Bland – 2pts Top 20 @ 9/2

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt Top 10 @ 5/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 1pt Top 10 @ 5/1

 

Weekly points advised – 9pts

Total points advised – 833pts

@theGreek82

CIMB Classic and Portugal Masters – Betting Preview

Well I’m certainly never backing Romain Wattel ever again! After shooting the 2nd lowest three round score from Friday onwards at the Dunhill Links I assumed he had maybe found something in his game again but he was simply awful last week and lived up to his usual inconsistent reputation. He is definitely staying on the naughty step for the foreseeable future.

Richard Sterne fared a lot better and was bang in contention heading into the final round but a poor back 9 on Sunday meant he couldn’t even hold on to a place. Things were equally bad on the PGA Tour and there were no returns for the week.

The overall results are as follows;

Total pts advised – 814.50

Total pts returned – 819.89

ROI – 0.7%

This week the PGA Tour heads east for a couple of weeks with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the European Tour heads back to the continent for the Portugal Masters.

 


CIMB Classic

As expected last week at the Safeway Open it was a near impossible tournament to find the winner. A few of the fancied players went well but both 1st and 2nd home were rank outsiders as Brendan Steele closed with three birdies to overcome 3rd round leader Patton Kazzire. Both went off well into triple figure prices and while Steele was actually winning for the 2nd time, some 141 events after his first win, the leader board was full of maidens.

This week while non-winners must be respected again, the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur is somewhat of a specialist event as the heat and humidity can give those who have played there before a significant advantage. This is the just the 4th running of the CIMB as a PGA Tour sanctioned event it but the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club has also hosted the Malaysian Open on the Asian Tour so there is some course form to look at.

Last year I was amazed that Ryan Moore wasn’t in the first 5 in the betting when he was looking for a hat-trick of wins and amazingly, despite being the 2nd most in-form player in the field, he opened up at around 6th in the betting again this week. This is one of the strongest fields assembled to date in Malaysia but I’m not entirely convinced that there should have been be so many ahead of him on a course that suits him perfectly. The market agreed though and there is now very little between the front 6 in the market.

KLGCC is a short, tree-lined track with narrow fairways and small greens and this year it is set to play to around 7000 yards. While bomber Gary Woodland arguably has some of the best form at the track besides Moore, and the wild Justin Thomas won here last year, it is normally a course that requires accuracy off the tee and with approaches. Plenty of tee shots can result in approaches being blocked out from green and there is water in play on nearly half the holes.

With Thomas’s win it’s clear that bombers can prosper on the course and his recovery game was excellent last year as he missed a lot of fairways. He also played the Par 5s extremely well which maybe suggests that as they learn the course, the longer players will start to prevail. But he also ranked 1st for total putting on the week and ultimately that was why he won last year rather than his power. He actually ranked just 29th for GIR and that is a bit of an anomaly compared with other recent winners at the course. Ryan Moore ranked 8th for greens hit during both his wins while in the Malaysian Open Anirban Lahiri ranked 6th and Lee Westwood 8th.

The long and accurate Adam Scott finished 2nd behind Thomas last year and Kevin Na was 3rd so I would certainly still favour those that know where the ball is going off the tee. Although the one constant is undoubtedly GIR and despite them being small you have to hit a high number to compete around KLGC as the field averaged 77% last year. The rain helped the greens receive approach shots so aggression was rewarded perhaps more than previous years. Close attention should be paid to the weather as the tournament unfolds. If there are thunderstorms again then KLGCC may allow the longer hitters to prosper.

Another aspect that sets this course apart from many on Tour is the Sea Isle Supreme greens (basically a sea paspalum I believe). Other courses to feature sea paspalum greens for reference are El Cameleon (Mayakoba Classic and OHL Classic), Trump International (Puerto Rico Open up until 2016) and Kiawah Island (2012 USPGA). It’s a different sort of grass that many of the top players don’t play on too often so it is worth considering whether players have performed on sea paspalum in the past. With the heat, humidity and rainfall in KL it can be difficult to get the greens up to the normal PGA Tour speed so subsequently we have seen poorer putters perform well at the course as slower greens are generally a bit of an equaliser. So rather than being an excellent putter all-round, it looks important to have shown a liking for paspalum previously and to be able to putt confidently on the surface. The ball can turn very abruptly at the hole so putts will need to be struck with conviction.

The field gathered this week looks very strong at the head of the market and I don’t think we need to look too far down it. With a limited field of 78 it is important to note that when we are considering the prices as they will be shorter than usual.

Despite his fourth top 4 finish in a row I believe Paul Casey can be dismissed again at just 14/1 especially when we consider he could only hit 45% of the greens here last year. In truth he never looked like winning last week and only shot 3 closing birdies once he was out of the event and 5 shots back. This test should probably be right up Hideki Matsuyma’s street but while he won his home Open last week in Japan he putted poorly so odds of 15/1 don’t tempt me at all where in excess of 15 birdies will be required. Justin Thomas putted poorly on Sunday and winning again as defending champion is so hard for even the most seasoned pros. Adam Scott missed the cut in Japan last week while only hitting 32% of fairways and 52% of greens so he too can be ruled out at the prices.

It’s the next five players that interest me most of all this week; Patick Reed and Segio Garcia arrive off the back of inspired Ryder Cup performances and must be respected on that form. The other three, Ryan Moore, Gary Woodland and Kevin Na, have the best course form on show by quite some way and will expect to contend again.

To win for a third time in a row was a seriously difficult task last year for Ryan Moore and to be fair to him finishing T10th was a good result. There is just no getting away from him this week and he simply has to be backed at 16/1 in this restricted field.

Since his win at the John Deere Classic in August there aren’t many that have played better golf than Ryan Moore and his 2nd place to McIlroy at the Tour Championship is the best piece of recent stroke-play form in this field. Just two weeks ago Moore was playing in his first Ryder Cup and given his lack of preparation he performed admirably. You could tell from his interviews just what that meant to him and with age still on his side at 33 years old I expect that to have a very positive effect on his career. He is already a 5 time winner on Tour but over the next few years we may see him live up to the huge reputation that he had as an amateur.

Undoubtedly that will only happen on courses that suit this short but accurate ball-striker and that is the key factor this week. Moore has shown us how well suited to KLGCC he is with his two wins and going back for a 4th time full of confidence I think he is easily the man to beat. That makes him a standout bet this week at 16/1 and although it is a very obvious pick, he should be backed accordingly.

I backed Alex Cejka here last year mainly because of his win in Puerto Rico on sea paspalum greens and in similarly humid conditions. He played ok but finished 17th although he ranked 3rd on the greens which confirmed his love of the surface. He was a bit of a journey man on the PGA Tour until last year when he finally got his first win at the age of 43. He is a multiple winner on other Tours but had always came up short on the main Tour.

Cejka arrives in ok form having finished 18th last week at the Macau Open and prior to that he had figures of 21-11-5 so is playing well. He also has form in Malaysia albeit a long time ago as he finished 3rd and 2nd in the Malaysian Open in 1999 and 2002 respectively. He was playing the course for the first time last year so I’d expect this accurate driver of the ball to have learned where he has to hit his tee shots for his 2nd look this week.

I’m also going to give Jon Curran another go this week after performing ok last week when finishing 26th. He ranked 8th for total accuracy and as usual he was very solid on and around the greens. He is another player who has performed very well on sea paspalum and he actually finished 2nd behind Cejka when he won in Puerto Rico.

Curran’s only win came on the Web.com Tour down in Brazil so he clearly favours the more tropical climates. That course in Sao Paulo also resembles the KLGCC with both featuring lots of trees, water and small greens.

He played in this last year finishing down the field in 53rd but he ranked 23rd for putting so hopefully he can also improve this time around with some course knowledge.

 


The Portugal Masters

As the 2016 European Tour season nears its finish we have the last regular tournament before the Final Series gets underway in two weeks’ time in Turkey. The Portugal Masters takes place every year at the Oceanico Victoria Golf Course at the most exclusive area of the Algarve in Villamoura.

When we look at previous types of players to go well in this tournament then we see a lot of aggressive bombers taking advantage of the wide fairways and lenient rough. Alvaro Quiros and Alexander Levy are two previous winners while Nicholas Colsaerts also has a credible record. They love nothing more than to unleash driver and then go flag hunting, subsequently going very low when their putters are hot.

But while that is the case it is hitting greens that is the most important factor at the course year after year. The scoring is always low so in order to contend they will have to give themselves as many birdie opportunities as possible. The winning scores recently have been 23, -18 (just two rounds!) and -18.

I’m a little low on time for this preview and with Thomas Pieters heading the market I’m not wanting to stake too much on the event as I think there is every chance he will win even if he plays to 80% of his recent level of form. Despite him threatening to be a world-class talent I’m still not sure that I can go backing him at single figures just yet. But his presence together with Alex Noren’s has created some interesting each way prices so there is maybe still a value angle to be had with regard to the places.

Joakim Lagergren was excellent for us two weeks ago in Scotland as he finished 4th. I left him out last week as he had never played The Grove before and he opened with a 78 but he quickly got to grips with the course and shot 65-68-69 for his next three rounds to finish 18th. In truth the bulk of his game was quite poor but he is an excellent putter and he ranks 1st for birdie average over the last 3 months. That’s good enough for consideration at any course but with there being plenty of room off the tee here a slight improvement in his iron game can see him continue his strong form. He looks a very fair price at 66/1.

I’ve followed both Tyrrel Hatton and Eddie Pepperell very closely the last couple of years and given how annoying it was to miss out on Hatton’s win two week’s ago, I’m determined not to miss out with Pepperell. He has been playing poorly most of the year and that was largely down to his erratic driving but he is a very talented golfer. After blowing a lead in Asia in the summer he stated how much he didn’t trust his driving and that he had no idea which way the ball was going.

He nearly always putts and scrambles well so the course in Portugal should set up well for Pepperell and he showed glimpses of his best last week at The Grove where he finished 22nd to stop the rot of five missed cuts. I’m hoping he can push on again this week and if he does have his long game back on an even keel then we know he can go low with the putter. Another tasty looking each way price at 110/1.

 


Summary of Bets

CIMB  Classic

Ryan Moore – 2pts ew @ 16/1

Alex Cejka – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Jon Curran – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Portugal Masters

Joakim Lagergren – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Eddie Pepperell – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1

Ryan Moore + Thomas Pieters ew double – 0.25pt ew @ 135/1

Weekly pts advised – 9.5pts

Total pts advised – 824 pts

@theGreek82

Frys.com Open and Portugal Masters – Betting Preview

With the Presidents Cup taking place in South Korea it meant I managed to watch very little so don’t have any real insight to what went on. The only 2 noteworthy occurrences that I managed to pick up on was the amazing number of hole outs than went on all week and the records of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace. Given the two South Africans performances last week (5pts and 4 1/2pts) and their strong record in the 2015 majors it seems very likely that they will continue their form into 2016 and could well be the players to attempt to take the fight to Jason Day and Jordan Spieth.

As for the hole outs it seems that more and more of these are occurring every week and suggests to me that the overall standard of the game is improving. 2016 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for Golf.

I did however manage to watch the final round of The British Masters and what a round it was from Matt Fitpatrick. After spending the front 9 just not quite on his game and being kept at bay by both Zanotti and Kjeldsen, Matt fired 4 birdies on his back 9 and the two older men had no response to his aggressive yet controlled iron play and even with a slight wobble at the 18th he maintained a 2 shot lead for his first win as a professional. It was impressive to watch and also very pleasing after deciding it was just a matter of time before he won and he proved me right. With the manner in which he won and his undoubted talent then I imagine he will go on to win many more Tournaments however the bookmakers will be only too aware of this and some players can find the 2nd win a lot tougher than others so it may be hard to find him at a value price again for a little while. Definitely a player to a keep an eye on though.

Total points advised – 193 pts

Total points returned – 301.98pts

Return on investment – 56.47%

This week the PGA Tour 2016 season gets underway with the Frys.com Open and the European Tour is back in Continental Europe with the Portugal Masters at Villamoura in the Algarve.


Frys.com Open

With the 2015 season having only finished 2 weeks ago, the start of 2016 season is quite a different time on the PGA Tour. Given such a long year for many players, some will be turning up here with limited motivation. Others will be arriving determined to get off to a great start in order to get their card for 2017 season as early as possible and others will be arriving looking to prove that they should have been a part of last week’s Presidents Cup. Either way I think it is important to look at players that are not only suited to this week’s course but have something driving them to play well.

The course at the Silverado Resort in California is 7203 yards long and has only had one running at the course. Several players are on record saying how these are small greens that are tough to hit and even harder to get up and down when you miss. So that points me to the neat and tidy iron players who feature prominently in the proximity to hole stats but also the strong putters that will be able to make the clutch par save putts when they haven’t got their chip as close as they would have liked. A liking for fast poa annua/bent grass greens is also an advantage given their slightly specialist nature. Riviera, Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines are three other courses with similar greens.

Many in the golfing world thought Brooks Koepka should have been an original US Captain’s pick last week so when he wasn’t even drafted in to replace Jim Furyk it appeared a slightly odd decision. But JB Holmes (who replaced Furyk in the end) had a decent week and US won so the decision stood up and most of the team probably quickly forgot. Koepka on the other hand will be gutted to have missed out and he will have 1 main goal this year and that will be to make the Ryder Cup Team. There is no better start than to take an early lead in the money list so on a course where he finished in the Top 10 last year I’d expect him to feature very prominently. He is a solid iron player and scrambler but is an exceptional putter on his day sitting 17th for Strokes Gained:Putting: He is undoubtedly quite a skinny price at 18/1 this week given that he has only won once on the PGA Tour but he arrives fresh off a T2nd in Scotland 2 weeks ago where he led the field for Greens in Regulation. Koepka also has a European Tour title to his name and a further 4 Challenge Tour  wins so he knows how to get over the line. I’m going to take the 18/1 as I think he will go very close this week and when we break his price down he would surely win this at least once in 19 runnings given this week’s scenario.

Other than Koepka there aren’t a lot of players that I really like this week despite the bigger prices that Mcilroy and Rose are creating. So I’m going to have a couple of small stakes plays on two proven winners that could be overpriced this week given their extra motivation.

Brandt Snedeker  (50/1) and Hunter Mahan (55/1) will also both have been gutted to miss out on The Presidents Cup. They have a lot of US Team Matchplay experience already and wouldn’t have enjoyed watching it on the TV last week. Similarly to Koepka they will be looking to fly out of the blocks in 2016.

Snedeker always enjoys the California swing and is one of the best putters around on Poa annua/bentgrass having won twice at Pebble Beach and once at Torrey Pines.

Mahan will also have been left frustrated when he failed to make the Tour Championship for the first time this year. He also lost the honour of having been the only player to have played in every single playoff event since the Fed Ex Cup Series began. This will fuel Mahan further and I dont doubt he will have been using the last two weeks to get his purest of ball striking back up to speed in order to make some dollars before the Christmas break. He also finished T3rd last year so would appear to enjoy the course.


The Portugal Masters

 Thorbjorn Olesen won only two weeks ago at The Dunhill Links so I’m quite surprised to see him available to back at 50/1 this week. Given his pedigree and his return to form it looks a standout piece of value in the field at the Oceanico Victoria GC in Villamoura. Olesen has already shot a 64 and a 66 at the course so it clearly fits his eye when playing well. When when we look at previous types of players to go well in this tournament there a lot of aggressive bombers taking advantage of the wide fairways that allow them more loft on their approach shots. Alvaro Quiros and Alexander Levy are two previous winners while Nicholas Colsaerts also has a credible record. They love nothing more to go flag hunting and subsequently low scoring when their putters are warm. Olesen is also fairly long and inaccurate off the tee but there was nothing wrong with his iron game 2 weeks ago and he was holing putts from everywhere. My main pick at a generous 50/1.

 I’m struggling with any strong thoughts for backing anyone else but the 3 from each tournament format is currently serving me well so I will keep it going with another couple of less confident picks. Joakim Lagergren led the field for putts per round and putts per GIR at The Dunhill Links two weeks ago for a share of 4th place and also had a T3 in Italy two weeks before that. With putting so important this week as scoring looks likely to go low I think he is an ok price at 80/1 for someone in such good form.

Benjamin Herbert also finished T4 in Scotland and recorded a T10th at The Qatar Masters this year where form usually ties in very nicely with Villamoura. Good form and may outplay his general price of 80/1


Summary of bets

Frys.com Open

Brooks Koepka – 2pts ew 18/1

Brandt Snedker – 0.5pts ew 50/1

Hunter Mahan – 0.5pt ew 55/1

Portugal Masters

Thorbjorn Olesen – 1.5pts ew 50/1

Joakim Lagergren – 0.5pts ew 80/1

Benjamin Herbert – 0.5pts ew 80/1

0.15pts ew on 3×3 doubles (Koepka, Snedeker, Mahan x Olesen, Lagergren and Herbert)

0.9pts ew Koepka/Olesen double (additional bet due to higher confidence)

Weekly outlay – 15.5pts

Total outlay – 208.5pts

@thegreek82