BMW Championship and D+D Real Czech Masters – Betting Preview

A poor week last week with nobody even looking like contending. I must admit with the change in schedule everything has felt a little bit different this summer and I’ve struggled to get a handle on things the last month or so. Thankfully the European Tour returns after a break but with lots of rusty swings it looks like a small stakes week in the Czech Republic.

2019 pts advised = 408

2019 pts returned = 492.73

ROI = 20.77%


BMW Championship

Medinah is of course long etched in the memory of European golfers and fans alike after the Miracle in 2012. But you have to go back to 2006 to find the last time it was used for a professional stroke-play event. At some 7650 yards there has been a lot said about power off the tee this week but I think it is equally going to be about the long approach shots. So while the bombers could well be hitting more like 175-200 yard approaches into lots of holes, the shorter hitters can still contend if they are excellent long iron and hybrid players from 200 yards plus. With very small greens there will be plenty missed and I’d make accuracy with the mid to long irons the most important factor this week. As always with small greens though good scrambling skills will also be required. These appear to hold strong if we look at that 2006 leaderboard and also the players who fared well at the 2012 Ryder Cup. Tiger won here in 2006 and he was arguably one the best long iron player ever while Donald finished 3rd and at his peak he was a brilliant iron player and also one of the best scramblers on Tour. Garcia and Scott also tied for 3rd and you would struggle to name too many more consistent iron players over the last 20 years. Bradley and Mickelson won all 3 of their matches together at the 2012 Ryder Cup and Bradley is one of the best long iron players in the game while Mickelson is one of the most impressive scramblers we have ever seen. You can see why they were such a perfect team at Medinah.

Rickie Fowler stood out massively on Monday at 48.0 on Betfair although the 28/1 with the bookmakers isn’t quite so exciting. I’m still willing to give it a go though as Fowler tends to come alive around this time of the year in the Fed Ex events played in the North East. His last two results in Illinois in particular have been 2nd and 4th while before last week’s missed cut his previous start was 6th at The Open. Last week in New York will surely have been more about shaking the rust off ahead of the last two big stroke-play events of the year. With Fowler very happy in his personal life now I look at his all-round game and keep seeing absolutely no reason for him not to move to the next level. The only thing holding him back now seems to be mental and we have all been stung backing him sub 20/1 in a major when everything looked in his favour. But there is a huge difference between that and backing him at 28/1 in a 70-runner event without the Major pressure. His game is simply too good to give up on and he is particularly suited to long, classic courses like Medinah. Fowler ranks 12th in proximity to the hole from approaches over 200 yards and this has always been a strong part of his game ranking 20th, 11th, 79th, 16th, 95th, 80th, 88th, 1st, 13th since he turned professional. There is a feeling that he has had a poor year yet he sits 17th in the Fed Ex Cup, has a win to his name and ranks 7th in the all-round ranking so his game is clearly in great order. In truth it’s hard to say why he hasn’t had a better summer but I expect to see a big Fed Ex finish from Fowler and I’m happy to play him at at a decent each way price of 28/1 with 7 places. I’m also adding another 1pt win only on the Exchange at 46.0

I did look at backing him up with an outsider but it’s amazing how these play-off event shave been dominated by the best players in recent times. I’d be confident the winner comes from the front 12-16 in the market and I’m not sure I want to be backing two from that bracket this week so will just play Fowler from the start and look at maybe another in play. Of the other classy each way options Ian Poulter probably makes most appeal and I’ll be keeping an eye on him.


Czech Masters

The Albatross Golf Club near Prague is a bit of a brute by European Tour standards at 7467 yards and while a hot putter is required to get to a winning score usually well into double figures, the five winners all tend to be quite effective off the tee too. Pavan last year only ranked 43rd in total driving but Porteous was 3rd, Peterson 9th, Pieters 5th and Jamie Donaldson 18th in that department. They also ranked 1st, 14th, 9th, 1st and 18th respectively in total putting. While I’d suggest those two attributes are the most important I should also mention that they averaged 7th in GIR during the week of their win. Unfortunately suggesting they need to be effective off the tee, hit lots of greens and putt well typically just suggests you want to find a good golfer! But I’d definitely make sure anyone you are backing this week has been performing strongly in one of these areas throughout the season.

Calum Shinkwin leads the European Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and that looks a good enough reason to back him here. The worry with Shinkwin is often the short game and particularly the putter so you can never be sure that he will make enough birdies to contend. But he will arrive here in confident mood having made his first ever major cut on his last start at the Open and he went on to finish 41st. He has also putted well on these greens before ranking 3rd in total putting when he finished 9th two years ago. This feels like a course he can contend on again and an average putting week is normally enough for Shinkwin to go well in this level of field such is the strength of his long game. So he looks well worth a bet at 80/1 with Boylesports 7 places.

I must admit to barely noticing Espen Kofstad’s return to Tour this year but after looking at some of the other events that Czech Masters champions had won, I noticed he popped up having won the Challenge Tour Grand Final at the same course as Andrea Pavan won his. Jamie Donaldson was also a runner-up there and the course doesn’t look dissimilar with exposed, undulating terrain, water in play and big greens. This was enough to get me looking at Kofstad and he was actually having a decent run of form before the regular ET break. His results read 12th-19th-26th-64th while he ranked inside the top 32 for total driving and total putting on all four of those starts. Kofstad has also won already in Eastern Europe as his last Challenge Tour win came in Slovakia in July 2016 so he is comfortable in the conditions. It’s fairly hunchy but these exposed, coastal courses are very much the sort that Scandinavians tend to go well on and at 200/1 he looks worth a small play in a difficult betting heat.


Summary of Bets

BMW Championship

Rickie Fowler – 1pt ew @ 28/1 (1/5 odds 7 places) and 1pt win @ 44.0 on Betfair

Czech Masters

Calum Shinkwin – 0.75pts ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Boylesports)

Espen Kofstad – 0.75pts ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred)

 

Weekly pts advised = 6pts

 

@theGreek82

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US Open 2019 at Pebble Beach – Betting Preview

Shane Lowry ran into an inspired Rory McIlroy on Sunday and if it wasn’t for that we may well have been celebrating a 3rd winner in a row. He had to make do with 2nd place though but it was enough to ensure an 8th profitable week from the last 9. This week the US Open returns to Pebble Beach and we look set for a brilliant event.

2019 pts advised = 286

2019 pts returned = 442.31

ROI = 54.65%


US Open

In previous years we have headed into US Open week with a mix of excitement and apprehension. The excitement coming from what is usually one of the best tests of golf that we see each year and the apprehension from wondering how the course is going to play. More recently that apprehension has revolved around a new course to the rotation (Merion, Erin Hills, Chambers Bay) but also how the USGA chooses to set it up. Make no mistake this week however as there will be absolutely no criticism of one of the most iconic courses in the world and if anything doesn’t go perfectly to plan then it will be the USGA who rightly bears the brunt of it. Thankfully that’s unlikely to happen though and we should be set for a tough but very fair week. The winning score in 2010 was level par and while I suspect it will be a little better this year, I’d be very surprised if the USGA let it get to double figures under par.

Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of the shortest courses on Tour measuring in at 7075 yards. It was designed in 1919 by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant and has been gaining in history and prestige ever since. While you couldn’t quite call it a proper links course it is located right beside the Pacific on the California coast between San Francisco and L.A and half of the holes run alongside the coast. The terrain isn’t quite the undulating British links style however and the turf isn’t sand based either like we see at The Open. But the majority of greens are open at the front allowing the players to play that low links style bump and runs and the wind blows more often than not.

Given the lack of length there could have been a worry that it might be overpowered as the game has moved on considerably since McDowell won with level par in 2010. However with the rough looking thick enough, the fairways narrow and the wind set to blow most of the week, it looks like an event where everyone will be able to compete. That is what happened in Canada last week and therefore I’d expect those who played well at Hamilton to hold their form.

The greens at Pebble Beach are some of the smallest the players will ever face at an average of 3,500 square feet. This is really what dictates the difficulty of the course as we usually see them quite fast for a U.S. Open and they will be set up at 12 on the stimp meter for Thursday, no doubt increasing in speed as the week goes on. So even for the powerful players they will be hard to hit and being in the fairway off the tee should certainly be of increasing benefit as the week progresses. There are slightly conflicting reports about how thick the rough is but it will certainly be longer than the set-up for the AT&T in February. The poa annua greens got a little bit of criticism in 2010 due to their extremely patchy colouring but that’s the nature of the beast with poa. They might not look as lush as bentgrass but they will putt well. Maybe better for some than others though as poa can be the trickiest of grasses to read and not everyone enjoys that test. They can break heavily at the hole as a ball dies and it’s perhaps no coincidence that Phil Mickelson and TIger Woods have enjoyed so much success on poa as they both like to hole out powerfully from inside 5ft, often taking any break out of the putt.

The wind currently looks to be quite steady between 10 and 20 kmph and that will keep everyone honest if not quite creating carnage. With such small targets the best iron players should go well as approaches will need to be struck perfectly to remain on the greens. McDowell and Havret weren’t PGA Tour players in 2010 so they didn’t have a ranking but Els (3rd) and Mickelson (4th) ranked 5th and 6th in strokes gained: approaches for the 2010 season.

Looking back at the last 10 US Opens from a stats point of view is interesting if not entirely surprising. Total driving ranks for the winners average 16th, GIR average 7th, scrambling numbers 11th and total putting 17th. The best of all the basic stats was all-round ranking which averaged 4th and that would have been even lower but for Spieth’s ranking of 23rd. This confirms what we know about the US Open; you absolutely have to hit plenty of greens and save par when you don’t but every single area of the game had better be above average. With the smaller greens in play, windy conditions and the greens firming up through the week GIR and scrambling will be as crucial as ever at Pebble Beach.

Trends wise you have to go back to Lucas Glover in 2009 to find a winner who hadn’t already recorded a US Open top 20 before their win. The last 10 winners averaged a 16th place finish on their last start while only Webb Simpson missed the cut. Seven of them had already won that season while seven of them also finished in the top 21 at the previous year’s US Open.

In terms of course correlations there are two fairly random ones that stand-out for me. The 2012 Open at Lytham produced a leaderboard that heavily resembles the 2010 Pebble Beach one. No less than 6 players bagged top 10s at both and despite the Open not having been back since, that leaderboard is worth a look. Jimenez was also in there and he was runner-up to Tiger in his 2000 rout at Pebble. Secondly, I thought it was too big a coincidence that 2010’s 1st and 2nd had both won at Loch Lomond so I did a little more digging and in fact GMac, Havret and Els have all won at the course while Mickelson was runner-up there to Havret in 2007 and Kaymer has also won there. Tom Lehman only won two proper events outside the US and the two courses he won on were Lytham and Loch Lomond while he boasts 5 Top 10s at Pebble beach with a 6th palce finish at the US Open in 1992 being the highlight. Unfortunately all this form is rather dated as we haven’t been back to Loch Lomond since 2010. But it’s another non links course that can still play rather linksy given it has the Scottish weather, green approaches are open and they are very undulating with links style run-offs. While very few of the younger players will have played either course I’ve used them to try to find some potential value with some of the older players in the field.

It’s a long time since I had such a lack of opinion about a major as I normally have a strong feeling way in advance for certain courses, even if they are usually wrong! This week at Pebble there are still enough question marks about the exact course set-up and a competitiveness about the event that makes it quite hard to get a handle on. Therefore I’ve landed on perhaps the most adaptable player in the field, Dustin Johnson. It’s maybe a little boring but such is his love affair with Pebble Beach and his current US Open form I think he is the safest bet from the front of the market. DJ has unfinished business at Pebble Beach after blowing a 3 shot lead after 54 holes in 2010. As brilliant a closer as he can be we have also seen him wobble plenty since then so the 8/1 might not be for everyone but he is almost certain to run his race at the very least and probably return the place money. He has played at Pebble 13 times and won twice recording 7 more Top 10s. With his ability to play in the wind never having been in doubt DJ will be equally happy flighting balls down into these greens or firing the ball up in the air and there aren’t too many in the field who are genuinely world class at both. This season he is 3rd in bogey avoidance, 1st in stroke average, 2nd in par 4 scoring, 16th in strokes gained: approaches, 15th in scrambling and a very impressive 14th in strokes gained: putting.  He also leads the Tour in performance on both poa annua and in California since 2014 (from the brilliant http://futureoffantasy.com/poa-annua-specialists-pgatour ). While others have been grabbing the headlines in 2019 DJ has been quietly going about his business and he has been 2nd at both majors this year, 5th at the Players and he won the WGC Mexico. Everything points to another big week at his favourite course.

johnson-dustin-OK

It would maybe have been hard to advise a big bet on DJ if the blog had been struggling this year but with it in healthy profit a chunky each way bet on the most suited player to the course and the most likely winner looks the best play.

Francesco Molinari was always a player I never really liked backing but things are different now since his transformation last year. He gets in largely on price here for me this week as 33/1 just feels a little big, especially with the 10 places on offer. Molinari is an Open champion and he had a very solid Loch Lomond record with three top 15s. He has been scrambling brilliantly recently ranking 9th over the last 3 months and 26th for the season. He has only played here once and missed the cut in 2010 but he is a far better player now and a course like Pebble really should suit his accurate game. McDowell is a 2-time winner at Le Golf National which features similarly small greens with lush rough surrounding them. Molinari always had a good record around there anyway but then of course he went 5-0-0 at the Ryder Cup in October. His current form since the Masters is a slight worry but I imagine he took a little while to get over not converting his 54 hole lead at Augusta. Another major should be exactly what he needs to get his focus back and he looks a solid back-up to the main DJ bet.

I’d love to be on Patrick Cantlay at the fancy prices that some have got about him but there is no way I can advise anyone to back him at 16-18/1. If he wins I will just have to suck it up and regret not backing him earlier. He is worth watching in play though as his 3 opening US Open rounds to date have been 75-76-75. It’s highly likely he trades bigger after the first round.

Tyrrell Hatton is one of the best links players around and he has proven this with his two wins at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. This makes him look over priced especially as he has also shown that he can handle majors with 4 Top 10s in his last 12, two of those coming on poa annua greens and last year’s US Open 6th also coming on the links at Shinnecock. Hatton ranks 6th for performances on poa annua since 2014. His 2019 has been a little slow but there have been some better signs recently and he ranks 31st in total accuracy over the last 3 months. That long game improvement means he hasn’t missed a cut since March (56th and 48th at first two majors) and given that he should enjoy these quicker greens I’m happy to get him onside at an almost disrespectful price. I’ll also have a back up top 20 bet.

Kevin Na makes the team after delivering the win at Colonial two weeks ago. While its partly out of loyalty I also think plenty of the reasoning behind that win stands true here at Pebble Beach. Both are short courses that reward tee-to-green accuracy and where scoring will be done with the shorter irons. Given his current form and the fact he has two top 5s here from the AT&T, I thought 100/1 seemed a tad on the big side.

Luke Donald opened up far too big at 400/1 with Skybet having shown the odd glimpse of form this year and rightly he was cut to 300/1. Hopefully some maybe noticed me tweeting the 400/1 but I still quite like the 300 to be honest. Again he hits both my course links with 5th at Lytham and 4th, 2nd and 5th at Loch Lomond. He was also 16th at Pebble in 2010, has 3 further top 20s and such is the quality of his wedge play and short game I think he still has what it takes to be competitive on shorter courses like this. It’s far from a confident bet but the 60/1 place portion for a top 10 is just too good to pass up. I’m also going to double up with a top 30 bet at 11/2. There are usually one or two left field, older players that pop up on a US Open leaderboard and there’s no reason why it can’t be Donald this year.

I backed Martin Kaymer at 440 on the Exchange once I saw his run of strong GIR numbers and also noted the Loch Lomond link as he won there in 2009. That was before he went close to winning at Colonial and now he has been cut in to 70/1 to win and that feels about right. So I don’t think I can really advise a bet at that price but at the same time I couldn’t put anyone off and I would like to get him onside in the blog somehow. So I’ve gone for the Top 40 market as I quite like the 5/4 about that. It would have paid out in 21 of his 45 majors and a lot of those were played when he was in no kind of form. Arriving playing as he is and having finished 8th here in 2010 I think a top 40 should be well withing his reaches and it really should be odds on for me.

Adam Scott delivered the Top 20 money at Bethpage Black and while the bookies are on to him this week I think another top 20 bet still looks rock solid at 6/4. His US Open record is probably the poorest of the 4 majors but he still has 4 top 20s in his last 7 starts. That’s just a little bit behind his over all recent major record of 22 top 20s in his last 34 major starts. That is a brutal level of consistency since he took his game to new heights around 2011. His tee-to-green game is so consistent that he can be expected to play well again here and his price of 6/4 has plenty juice in it as you could argue that he should really be odds on. His last start he was runner-up to Cantlay at Memorial and his back 9 was brilliant which will have him arriving in confident mood. While I wouldn’t want to put anyone off an outright bet I think the market probably has him back at the correct outright price of around 30/1. I’m staking the Scott and Kaymer bets with a view to getting the bulk of the event stakes back should they land along with a DJ top 10. Anything else will be a huge bonus. These bets aren’t for everyone but I do think that place bets can be the backbone of any good betting strategy in major golf where finding the winner can be so difficult.

Despite Hao Tong Li coming up just short of the top 20 in the last two majors I’m a glutton for punishment and I’m going in again. He has already showed his love of links golf when flying through the field at Birkdale in 2017 with a Sunday 63. As I’ve already said in the first two major previews he has a brilliant long game for championship courses and some of his numbers look ideal for Pebble Beach. Particularly his ability to score from the rough as he is 7th in scoring relative to par from 150-175 yards and he leads the Tour from 175-200 yards. If these fairways do play as narrow as suggested and the rough is up Li should handle missing them better than most.

Marcus Fraser has a great short game and has always fared well in the wind. He looks over priced in plenty of markets this week having qualified well last week shooting 66-68 for 3rd place. There could well be another Gregory Havret on the leaderboard this year and while it’s very unlikely to be Fraser, I don’t think he should be a 1000/1 shot here. However its the top 40 market I like for him at 7/2.

First Round Leader Bets

Stewart Hagestad the amateur is first up as a very speculative selection. He shot a low round 66 at Pebble in 2018’s US Amateur Stroke-play section before making the quarter finals. Hagestad is a California native who managed 37th on his only Masters appearance but he has missed both his US Open cuts, although they were over on the east coast. That was his 8th attempt at making the US Amateur Match Play section so the fact he did it in California suggests he is happier nearer home on the west coast. He employed a local Pebble Beach caddie that week and hopefully he is doing the same again this week. It’s asking an awful lot for him to even make the cut but it feels like the sort of story that you could hear on a Friday morning and with prices up to 350/1 its worth a little play.

If we are going down the 2018 US Amateur route then we really have to include young Norwegian Victor Hovland who dismantled the field that week. He won his 6 matches 3&2, 2&1, 7&6, 7&6, 3&2 and 6&5. That was quite astonishing stuff and while I can’t quite remember how difficult it played that week he will definitely be bringing some happy memories back to Pebble. The bookies aren’t taking any chances but again I think he looks worth siding with to come flying out of the blocks. He has a potentially off-putting 3-ball as he is alongside Koepka and Molinari but hopefully he will go out and attack the course again with the fearlessness of a 21 year old. That could obviously go horribly wrong but it’s worth a chance at 160/1.

With speculative punts out of the way I’ll get to my main fancy of Paul Casey. Normally I like to side with players who have been lighting it up on a Thursday lately but with Casey this week it’s more of a hunch. I think he will be a little frustrated that he had to pull out of Colonial and then miss both Memorial and the Canadian Open. I don’t know what his scheduling was prior to his bout of flu but I imagine he would have played one of those at least. Casey’s last two AT&T efforts have been 2nd and 8th at Pebble and I really think it’s a course that he has learned how to play. He was a solid enough 40th in 2010 after opening up with a 69 to tie for the lead. I think lightning could easily strike twice here and I like the 50/1 with 8 places. He will be rested up and determined to make amends for two sub-standard major performances so far in 2019.

Gary Woodland has missed 4 cuts in the AT&T but on the only cut he made in 2017 he went on to shoot 65 around Pebble on the Sunday to finish 5th. That’s the joint lowest Sunday round since 2013 and it tells me that maybe it’s the other two courses on the Pro-am rotation that he doesn’t like. He sits 11th in strokes gained: off the tee and 11th in GIR while he was 8th at the US PGA last month. I’ll complete the 1st round team with a powerhouse who could go low here again if everything clicks.


Summary of bets

US Open

Dustin Johnson – 4pts ew @ 8/1 and a further 2pts win @ 10.0 on Betfair

Francesco Molinari – 1.5pts ew @ 33/1

Tyrrell Hatton – 0.75pts ew @ 125/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Kevin Na – 0.75 pts ew @ 100/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Luke Donald – 0.5pts ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 30 @ 11/2

Martin Kaymer – 4pts – Top 40 @ 5/4

Adam Scott – 4pts Top 20 @ 6/4

Hao Tong Li – 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

Marcus Fraser – 1pt Top 40 @ 7/2

(All outrights are 1/5 odds 10 places)

1st round leader bets

Stewart Hagestad – 0.25pts ew @ 350/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Victor Hovland – 0.25pts ew @ 160/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Unibet)

Paul Casey – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Gary Woodland – 0.75pts ew @ 60/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

 

Weekly points advised = 34pts

 

 

Wells Fargo Championship and Volvo China Open – A Betting Preview

Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer clicked as I hoped they would to record a relatively straight-forward win at the Zurich Classic. They parred the 18th for a 3 shot win and while others got close they never really looked like giving up their lead. It was great to see Palmer back with a win as he’s a likeable player who deserves some good fortune after his family issues. As for Jon Rahm he really is something else. Even when he doesn’t appear to have his best stuff like early in the final round he has an amazing knack of grinding out a score. Sometimes he doesn’t look like he is doing anything amazing but he seldom hits 2 bad shots in a row and usually hits a great recovery instead. He has also become very solid at holing out inside 10ft and it often looks like he gets the ball in the hole with sheer will and determination. If Bethpage Black sets up as a true US PGA course in two weeks time then the Spanish powerhouse is going to take a lot of beating.

As preperation for that we have the Wells Fargo this week which of course is played at the 2017 US PGA course, Quail Hollow. The European Tour heads back out to Asia again for the Volvo China Open. Two good events with plenty of recent course form.

Rahm and Palmer’s win puts the blog back into profit for the year;

2019 pts advised = 196

2019 pts returned = 216.86

ROI = 10.64%


Wells Fargo Championship

Back to regular PGA Tour stuff as we head north to Quail Hollow in North Carolina which has hosted since 2003 with the exception of 2017 when it held the US PGA. It is a long, 7600 yard championship style course with a premium on a powerful long game and all recent winners are players who sit in lofty positions in the strokes gained: tee to green rankings. When tee to green supremacy is so important it’s easy to go with some of the massively priced poor putters who strike the ball well. But you generally don’t get too many average players lifting this trophy and playing “the chalk” has been working well for me lately. So instead I’m playing three shorter price players who all still can’t putt!

For my main pick I’m going with Hideki Matsuyama who has been priced up here like he is hitting the ball sideways. That’s not really the case though and despite no win he hasn’t missed a cut since The Open in July. In that time he has returned 11 top 20s from 20 events with 4 of those being top 5s. He sits 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green sandwiched between 2 recent Quail winners in McIlroy and Thomas. He is also 22nd in strokes gained: around the green. His lack of being in contention this year has created a situation where Webb Simpson is the same price to win on a 7600 yard long course. Simpson has never won beyond 7250 yards with all 5 wins coming between 7100 and 7250. Maybe he is just a little short in the betting but I think it’s a combination of Hideki being a little big and Simpson being a little short. Matsuyama’s course form is very strong and was trending nicely until last year’s MC as he went 38-20-11-5  with the 5th coming in the best field of all at the US PGA. He is surely getting closer to a win and the last time he was seen on bermuda greens he finished 8th at TPC Sawgrass. Coral’s 20/1 with 7 places looks to be a great each way bet.

Benny An makes the team yet again and will continue to do so while he continues to return the place money. A tee to green test where scrambling is crucial is right up An’s street. He ranks 6th in strokes gained: tee to green and 1st in strokes gained: around the green. Poor putters can have done very well at Quail as the greens aren’t as difficult as other championship layouts. We know An is as poor as they come on the greens but that surely doesn’t warrant him being 55/1 here I don’t think. He hasn’t done much at the course yet but it should really suit and he was in fine form prior to his MC at the Heritage. He has had a week off and I’m happy to assume he has ironed out the driver problem that he had but the slightly wider fairways will also help.

If I’m placing putting ability down the list of attributes then I really have to side with Luke List at 80/1. His results haven’t been fantastic lately but Quail Hollow is a course that suits him where he has played well before and he finished 9th last year off the back of a MC, while this year he was 41st last time out. This season he ranks 14th in strokes gained: tee to green so he will be looking forward to the upcoming run of long, championship style courses that he can overpower. He’s not always the most reliable player when you think he is going to perform but with the stand out 80/1 we don’t have to get too involved stake wise.

Others who came close were Roberto Castro and Nick Watney and while I couldn’t put anyone off I think their general prices are just about right now since they have been cut. The 150/1 with 8 places very nearly tempted me to add Castro but while I can see him playing well I’d be surprised if he comes out on top of this field on such a long course. So I’ll stick with the three and hope that at least one of them can hole some putts!


Volvo China Open

The China Open returns to Genzon GC in Shangai after being away since 2014. It has hosted the Shenzhen International from 2015-2017 however so there are four events worth of form to look at. The four winners were Bernd Weisberger, Soomin Lee, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Alex Levy.

The course is a Nelson and Hawarth design like so many of the prominent championship courses in China and indeed Asia on the whole. They are responsible for Sheshan GC which hosts the WGC HSBC Champions event as well as Kuala Lumpur G&CC and Royal Selangor GC. They are similar courses and form stacks up nicely as does form in Asia in general. Some players love the consistently hot and humid conditions while others really aren’t suited at all. Don’t expect anyone with horrible form in Asia just to suddenly start enjoying themselves this week.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this layout is off the tee. There are lots of forced carries, elevation changes and dog-legs where the green can be blocked out on parts of the fairway. A quick look at the leaderboards show plenty of long and accurate drivers. Another aspect looking purely at the winners suggests that committed and aggressive iron play will prosper once the fairways are found. There are few more aggressive players on the European Tour than Levy and Aphibarnrat with their approaches. Both of them will seldom lay-up on a par 5 nor pass up the opportunity to go straight at a flag. Luckily they both have a good enough short game to get them out of trouble if they do short side themselves and that is another attribute that has been crucial so far at Genzon.

I really like Hao Tong Li a lot as a player and a person as he plays golf the right way and has an infectious enthusiasm about him. I’d love to back him to win here and he is definitely the right favourite and probably the best player in the field right now. But even if he is almost the right price I don’t think I want to be wading in at just 12/1 about a player who ultimately hasn’t won since early 2018.

I stupidly made my shortlist this week before I knew who was even in the field and that resulted in scoring out quite a few namely Olesen, Fox, Coetzee and Luiten. But there were still a few names remaining and I’ve sided with three all from the second tier.

Bernd Wiesberger is slowly getting his game back if his last outing at the Indian Open is anything to go by. He ranked 5th in the all-round ranking with his long game showing signs of his best, which would be right at the very top of this field. His form in Asia has always been brilliant since he arrived on Tour. His first win in 2012 was in Korea and he has followed up with further ET trophies in Indonesia and on this very course in 2017. Looking more closely at just China, Wiesberger’s first MC there actually came in this event last year when playing with an injury but his results prior to that were 9-4-1-35-28-24-17-13-17-28-40-42-25-45. That 9th place was at the Nelson and Hawarth Sheshan course while he has been runner-up twice at their Kuala Lumpar course. The main downside this week is that he might still be a little too rusty in contention to get over the line again but conditions and course couldn’t be more suited. I think there is plenty of each way value with Boylesports’ stand-out 50/1 with 8 places.

Matsahiro Kawamura looks hugely over priced on recent form even if a lot of that has been reliant on the short game. His last two events he has finished 6th in Morocco and 2nd in India and both those events were at very difficult courses. Kawamura isn’t a player I know that much about just yet as we haven’t had too many chances to watch him on his rookie season on Tour. He is just 25 years old still but has racked up 28 top 10s world wide and his record of 7 top 20s in his first 12 ET events is a serious effort. The form just leaps out and I have to back him at 50/1 on value grounds alone.

The same applies to Scott Hend who everyone seems to forget very quickly about whenever he plays well or indeed wins like last month in Malaysia. We know ideally Hend wants a bit more space off the tee but that hasn’t stopped him before on courses with tight driving lines as he is a two-time runner-up at Crans and has won around Fanling. He can club down and find the fairways with 3 wood or long irons when needed and with his Asian form I think we are getting some value in this field. In particular he has form at the right courses too with three top 20s at KL G&CC and three top 25s at Sheshan in elite fields. That’s before we even look at his 4th and 15th at this very course.

Hend’s 3 ET wins have all came in Asia and his win in Malaysia in March was at Saujana G&CC which is a tight enough driving course with fiddly greens. The last two times he has won a tournament in March he has gone in again later that year and with him not getting any younger he will know he has to try to rack up the wins while he is playing well. For comparison’s sake price-wise, Ross Fisher is 28/1 and hasn’t won anywhere in 5 years while our main man Erik Van Rooyen is 20/1 and he hasn’t won anywhere full stop! How Hend can be 45/1 in this field is quite frankly a nonsense for me however he plays and he should be backed accordingly.


Summary of Bets

Wells Fargo

Hideki Matsuyama – 2pts ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

Benny An – 1pt ew @ 55/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Luke List – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred/Betway)

Volvo China Open

Scott Hend – 1.5pts ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Boylesports)

Matsahiro Kawamura – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

Weekly pts advised = 14pts

 

@theGreek82

Farmers Insurance Open and Dubai Desert Classic – Betting Preview

It was a fairly rubbish week but yet we still had Thomas Pieters on the leaderboard going in to the final round with a chance to save us with some returns. Unfortunately he played like we know he can with wild errors thrown in at exactly the wrong time. He even managed to bogey 3 of the last 5 holes to fall out of the places.

That leaves the blog chasing its tail a little with no returns but as always one week can turn that around and there are two excellent events this week as the 2019 season really begins to take shape with two very deep fields.

2019 pts advised = 23.50pts

2019 pts returned = 0pts


Farmers Insurance Open

Torrey Pines is a long, championship course so obviously a strong tee-to-green game is going to be of use with plenty of trees and lush rough. However year after year it is the challenge of the greens that separates the field, especially over the weekend as they firm up and play the final two rounds on the demanding South course. The greens are very small, well protected and they are also surrounded by thick green rough with very little graduation at all from the green. To make matters worse the greens are also very hard and fast, more so over the weekend. This puts an emphasis on brilliant approach play and scrambling. Torrey always has some of the lower GIR numbers for the field with the last 5 events having a field average of 62% of greens hit. The South Course stands at a massive 7700 yards long so the more specific GIR numbers from 200 yards plus are also worth a look.

With Jason Day and Tiger Woods both multiple winners that tells us that finding fairways isn’t perhaps the be-all-and-end-all here. Indeed if we look at the last 5 winners here they averaged just 40th for driving accuracy. While the numbers for GIR are certainly better, the same 5 winners averaged 13th, it is probably scrambling that is the most important indicator with the last 5 winners also averaging 13th for the week in that department. When the wind blows on the this exposed layout this becomes even more vital with the small greens even harder to hit. Currently the forecast doesn’t look particularly windy however.

Many of these early season events see lots of PGA Tour rookies win or contend and that is down to a combination of some straight-forward courses and the elite players often taking an extended break. That all changes here at Torrey Pines though as experience is crucial at the course and with scoring a lot tougher we don’t often see too many 300/1 debutants on the leaderboard. Repeat winners are a regular occurrence here with Tiger Woods having famously won this event 7 times as well as a U.S. Open here while Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker are both dual winners in the last 7 years.

Despite knowing the sort of player that will prevail, it doesn’t make it any easier to find the winner. Scrambling figures are in their infancy this year but are worth a look at together with last year’s numbers. Or even better you can look at Tour Tips stats for free throughout January and they will show you stats over the last 3 months giving perhaps a better idea of where different parts of people’s games might be. The PGA Tour website’s stats pages have two important categories for the week; approach proximity over 200 yards and GIR from over 200 yards. A quick look at both these in any season often show up those who perform best on long, championship courses.

You hear people say “they did everything but win” quite a lot and often with varying degrees of accuracy. In 2018 Tony Finau really did do everything but win and usually without doing too much wrong either. No event more so than in Shanghai in October when he went toe-toe with Xander Schauffele down the stretch only to lose to a birdie at the first play-off hole. He would again finish second on his last start of the year in the Bahamas when only Jon Rahm got the better of him. A win for Finau would have capped a superb year that was arguably the most consistent on Tour. He posted five runner-up finishes, 13 top 10s (with 3 of those in majors) and finished 7th on the money list while also earning 2 points on his Ryder Cup debut. In fact his $5.6m haul is the second highest total in history for a player without winning an event. While the win never came it might actually have a positive effect in the early stages of 2019 as his hunger for that 2nd win will still be present. A tough championship style layout is exactly what this elite tee-to-green player needs and that has been apparent in his four starts to date. He has finished 6th-4th-18th-24th here and the only negative about backing him here is that its his first start of the year.

Stats wise he was 21st in GIR from 200 yards+ and 23rd for approach proximity 200 yards+ in 2018 while he currently ranks 4th in scrambling over the last 3 months. That isn’t always a positive with his game and might be that extra little improvement needed to get him over the line.

Kyle Stanley famously threw this event away in 2012 when giving up both a six shot 3rd round lead and a 3 shot lead standing on the 18th tee. He would amazingly rally the next week to get his 1st PGA Tour win at TPC Scottsdale but despite his reliable tee-to-green game he took 5 years to get his 2nd win. That came in the summer of 2017 and he has looked a far better player in the 18 months since.

This season so far he ranks 1st in GIR from approaches over 200 yards and 4th in proximity to hole from the same range. He also sits 5th in scrambling and these suggest he is primed for another go at Torrey Pines where he has made his last 4 cuts. With scoring difficult his often suspect putting shouldn’t matter too much as birdies will be a lot harder to come by than so far this season. I’m expecting a strong week so will double up with a top 20 bet.

CT Pan was 2nd here two years ago and is another whose strength is his long iron game which is handy as he isn’t the longest off the tee. He currently sits 7th in GIR for approaches over 200 yards and last season he ranked 6th. He was 51st last week but that birdie fest wouldn’t have suited him too much. His odds of 80/1 aren’t massive but they perhaps tell the story of how close he looked to winning last season on Tour. He bagged his 2nd runner-up finish as well as a 4th place at the Dell Technologies play-off event. Probably worth supporting here again.

Sean O’Hair has the all-important mix of a strong long iron game and a good touch around the green so I’m not too sure why he has such an awful record here at Torrey Pines. He came 9th last week where he ranked 11th in ball-striking and I’m hoping he can go well at a huge price.


Dubai Desert Classic

With the exception of 1999 and 2000 every other edition of this event has been hosted at the Emirates Golf Club on the Majlis course. In all that time it has been both a bomber’s and ball striker’s dream with wide open sight lines off the tee, typical of a desert course. With heavily contoured, fast greens it ultimately turns into a battle of approaches where only those with the most dialled in irons will be able to contend. With fast greens and many different tiers, an imaginative short game also helps with lots of difficult up and downs. I’ve seen some talk this year of the fairways being harder and faster this year having not been over-seeded. This will probably put a little bit more of an emphasis on control of the ball off the tee however driving distance will still be crucial. Long and accurate drivers should prosper.

Jordan Smith has become rather consistent on ball-strikers courses but he tends to finish around 14th without threatening the leaderboard. I’m hoping things will be different this week having warmed up nicely with rounds of 72-66-70-70 for 11th place last week in Abu Dhabi and he ranked 4th in the all-round. He is someone who always ranks highly in total driving particularly in the desert and he ranked 1st in that department at the Dubai World Championship. That was during a run of 10 made cuts to close the year with the last time he sat out the weekend being the US PGA. So last week was just a continuation of really solid performances and I’m hoping he will peak in Dubai. Both his Challenge Tour wins were in the desert with them coming in Egypt and the U.A.E. The Al Hamra Golf Club in U.A.E in particular resembles this course with undulating, exposed fairways. He has been cut to 45/1 but I still think that is a nice each way price given how consistently he has been playing. Hopefully some readers picked up a better price in the week when I tweeted on Monday.

Jason Scrivener was 16th last week and he ranked 1st in driving accuracy and 10th in GIR. The harder and faster the conditions the happier Scrivener is so if the fairways do play as suggested he won’t be phased at all. These slick, grainy desert greens are ideal for him too as he grew up playing on similar back home in Australia. He is also an excellent scrambler I’m expecting a big week from one of my favourite outsiders. Scrivener can hold his form quite well once he is playing well so I’m going to include a Top 20 bet here in case the field ends up being a little too deep for him to worry the leaderboard. He was 6th here last year which confirms the theory and while he is proving to be popular this week I still think the 80/1 is fair.

I’ve looked long and hard at the head of the market to find a potentially more solid selection and there isn’t that much to like at the prices. I really wanted to include Rafa Cabrera-Bello as the 2012 winner absolutely loves it here. Unfortunately he is just too short as a single option at 18/1 given how seldom he wins. Thorbjorn Olesen always makes appeal in the desert though and he is probably a shade of value at 40/1. He is far more prolific than RCB and his course form reads 29-32-8-MC-5-3-42-MC. Last week will have blown the cobwebs off and if it has he should get back to the form he showed in the 2nd half of 2018 which was excellent. I’m going to add him as a bit of a saver from the head of the market similarly to how I backed Pieters last week. Hopefully he can have a better Sunday!


Summary of bets

Farmers

Tony Finau – 1.5pts ew @ 22/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair)

Kyle Stanley – 0.75pt ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Skybet) and 2pts Top 20 @ 7/2

CT Pan – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 8 places PP)

Sean O’Hair – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Dubai Desert Classic

Jordon Smith – 0.75pt ew @ 45/1 (1/5 odds 6 places general)

Jason Scrivener – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet) and 2pts Top 20 @ 11/4

Thorbjorn Olesen – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

 

Weekly points = 16pts

 

@theGreek82

Hero World Challenge, Mauritius Open and Australian PGA – Betting Preview

Aaron Rai brilliantly led from start to finish in Hong Kong to give us a much-needed 66/1 winner. I couldn’t quite believe how well he played particularly over the weekend with such a quality chasing pack. It was an impressive way to get his first win in such a famous event with Fitzpatrick, Fleetwood, Garcia and Cabrera-Bello all in behind and each one with no excuses.

Denmark nabbed a share of 4th place in the World Cup to give us a very small return and the blog is back in profit for 2018! But only just. It gives us some money to play with this week though as again we have multiple tournaments from around the world. Looking at how many of the fancied runners placed last week and how close the treble came to landing the each way money, I’ll be considering similar bets again this week.

2018 pts advised= 483.50

2018 pts returned = 495.73

ROI = 2.53%


Hero World Challenge

With the whole field of 18 men ranging in price from just 8/1 to 40/1 this has the feeling of being an absolute minefield where any of the players could legitimately win. Even the very head of the market is extremely tight with 8 golfers sitting between 8/1 and 12/1. The sensible outcome of a quick look at the event would be “no bet” but that’s not a whole lot of fun and probably not what anyone wants to hear! So we may as well have a deeper look and see if we can find anything of interest.

The Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas hosts for the 4th year in a row now so we have 3 years of event form to pour over. Unfortunately another negative is that there are no stats for any of those given it isn’t an official PGA Tour event. So all we can really go on is the type of player that has won here and what makes the course suitable, together with having a look to see if there is a trend with motivation for all the event winners. An end of season December jolly to the Bahamas doesn’t stand out as one of the most important events to be winning so plenty of the field will be enjoying it for exactly what it is. Several of the field however will be looking to lay down a marker for 2019 having had a poor year on Tour by their standards.

If we look at the 3 winners at Albany, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson, there appears to be some sort of link with TPC Scottsdale and the Phoenix Open. Matsuyama has won the Phoenix Open twice, Fowler lost in a play-off to Matsuyama and also finished runner-up in 2010 while Bubba finished runner-up in 2014 and 2015. The courses perhaps aren’t all that similar but on both courses the winner tends to have performed very well on the Par 5s. That makes sense at Albany with five of the longer holes but Scottsdale only has 3. Further similarities might be that both sets of greens have a tifeagle bermuda base and run rather fast for regular PGA Tour surfaces so they reward well struck approach shots, something that Fowler, Matsuyama and Bubba excel at when on their game. They are also both courses where driving distance is a big advantage.

This has thrown up my only bet in the event and that is this year’s Phoenix Open winner Gary Woodland. He is a big hitter having ranked 7th in driving distance last year and few play the Par 5s better on a regular basis. This year so far he ranks 14th in par 5 scoring average while his rankings the last 3 years read 9-24-7. Woodland also arrives in decent form with a run of 5-2-10 prior to a 41st at the Mayakoba last time out. He closed that with a 65 on Sunday however and he will be relishing his first start here in the Bahamas after a 2 week break. Woodland has already shown in his career that he is comfortable playing outside the US with a strong record in Malaysia’s CIMB Classic as well as a World Cup win in China alongside Matt Kuchar.  Both those events take place in the last quarter of the year too so he clearly still has motivation at this time of year. It won’t be easy to win in this field but at least we are getting a nice price about someone who should enjoy the test and can easily contend at this elite level.

While Fowler is a very short price and surely can’t be considered for singles, his record at the course makes him a very solid pick for accumulator bets this week.


Mauritius Open

This is the 4th edition of the Mauritius Open since it had European Tour status but with it moving every 2nd year it is just the 2nd at the Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita. It is a long Ernie Els designed course that can play to some 7500 yards if required and the fairways are very wide. The challenge tends to be the greens as they are rather undulating with lots of run-offs, hillocks, bunkers and even stone dykes protecting them! Els always enjoyed the imagination required around links courses so it is to be expected that he would replicate that test around his greens. 2016 winner Wang and runner-up Rahman both got up and down brilliantly all week to rank 5th and 3rd in scrambling. The course is also right by the sea so if the wind blows as it did in 2016 there will be plenty greens being missed. Therefore solid approach play and a sharp short game look to be the route to success at the Four Season GC.

Last year’s winner Dylan Frittelli (Heritage GC) returns to defend as a 10/1 favourite and that tells you quite a lot about the calibre of the field. Frittelli is a very exciting prospect but he isn’t someone who deserves to be backed to win a golf tournament at those odds. To be honest the same could be said about most of those at the top of the market with Mattias Schwab the 3rd favourite at around 22/1. Not only has he not won on Tour but he hasn’t even really properly contended in an event despite his lofty reputation and a consistent season. Bernd Wiesberger returns after some 6 months out through injury so he can probably be left out on grounds of being a little rusty. George Coetzee would normally be included in the blog on a week like this especially at 25/1 but he hasn’t had the best of years and only finished 27th here in 2016 when in better form. Again this had me looking further down the market to find some each way interest where a place will pay more than a Frittelli win. That makes a lot of sense in an event like this and I have found three nice looking bets.

Jaco Van Zyl was one of the first names to jump out at me this week. Partly because he has hardly played this year due to a wrist injury but also due to his good record at both of the other courses which Wang has won at; the Trophee Hassan and the Qatar Masters. Van Zyl was 2nd in Qatar just this year while he also has a runner-up and a 3rd at the Trophee Hassan. At his best the South African journeyman is a supremely consistent ball-striker with an effortlessly smooth swing. But he seems to always get in the way of himself when it comes to winning, be it mentally or poor putting when it matters. However 2018 has very much been the year of both the overdue win and the comeback win. Van Zyl is a 14 time winner on the Sunshine Tour so he is definitely more comfortable in these parts and at exactly the same age as Charles Howell III and Richard McEvoy, he could well take inspiration from their success. He made his first start since wrist surgery in August but to limited success. However he stopped a run of missed cuts last time out when finished 10th on the Sunshine Tour. He has had another month off to rest his wrist further since then so I’m hoping he is ready to go this week. He was 12th here in 2016 and if he is anywhere close to full fitness then he looks a fantastic bet at 80/1.

Clement Sordet was another of the first names on the short list purely because he is listed on the European Tour website as being based at the other Mauritius host course the Heritage Club. So I figured he must spend a fair bit of time down on the island and has probably played this course quite a few times. But my confidence was boosted when I realised he finished 8th at Q-School to gain a full European Tour card last month. I figured he must be in decent form but then Ben Coley pointed out in his preview that Sordet and Langasque actually won a PR doubles event at this course over the weekend. So the Frenchman is clearly very comfortable down here and probably even has his own place. He isn’t a player I know a whole lot about just yet but he is a 4-time winner on the Challenge Tour and he came 16th at Walton Heath which was a very strong field on a tough layout.  Looking at his stats he is pretty capable in most departments but doesn’t always manage to put the whole game together on any given week. In a more relaxed environment without a Tour card to worry about this could be a big week for him.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano has been in the golfing wilderness for the last 4 or 5 years, losing his game at almost exactly the same time he left for the PGA Tour. It is what most golfers on the European Tour will dream of ultimately and it was a shame how things worked out for the likeable Spaniard. He had just begun to assert himself as a European Tour heavyweight when he upped sticks so having lost his playing rights in the US he will be keen to make a mark back on the European Tour. He has had mixed results so far in the 7 events since he returned but the pick of the bunch was his 5th at Valderrama last month. It is always a difficult course with a winning score in line with Wang’s -6 score here in 2016. Gonzo has always been a brilliant ball-striker and wind player but was sometimes let down by his short game. So it is particularly interesting that he leads the Tour in scrambling over the last 3 months. I’m expecting a decent week for a player who has never finished outside the top 26 on his four trips to Africa.


Australian PGA

We noticed last week just how much the cream rises to the top of the leaderboard in events at this time of the year and nobody needs me to tell them that Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman and Royal Pine course horse Harold Varner III are three solid favourites in Australia this week. I will probably look at including all 3 in some fun accumulators this week but they don’t really appeal as singles given it is quite hard to pick between them. Smith and Leishman both played brilliantly last week in Melbourne while Harold Varner III arrives in very solid form and boasts course figures of 2-1-6.

So it’s just the one each way bet and that is last year’s play-off loser Jordan Zunic. He is a young Aussie still based on the PGA of Australasia Tour but he showed what he is capable of in this company last year when he put his home Tour knowledge to good use. He led the field that week in putting so he obviously enjoys the greens here. Zunic also won along the road in Brisbane just three weeks ago so he looks a little bit over priced here at 66/1.

I wanted to have another go at an each way treble here and I’m liking Harold Varner III and Rickie Fowler given they both have rock solid course form and are both playing well. But there is no such pick at the top of the market in Mauritius. So instead I’m going to take a leap of faith that Bernd Wiesberger might just be fit enough to contend here. At his best he would probably be a 9/1 favourite in this field so I’m going take that potential value and cross my fingers.


Summary of bets

Hero World Challenge

Gary Woodland – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 4 places)

Mauritius Open

Jaco Van Zyl – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places general)

Clement Sordet – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Sky bet)

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Australian PGA

Jordan Zunic – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Sky bet)

Other bets

Rickie Fowler, Harold Varner III and Bernd Wiesberger – 0.5pts ew treble @ 2519/1

Weekly pts advised = 9pts

 

@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

Houston Open – Betting Preview

I broke the rule of not getting too involved in the Match Play last week so therefore I can’t really complain about losing all 8pts. Aphibarnrat very nearly made it to the semi-finals to get me out of a jam but despite the three previous events going to the favourites, it is worth remembering that these are 64 of the best players in the world and it really doesn’t take much to bring about an upset or 8. Small stakes next year!

GMac didn’t do much in the Dominican and Appleby fell away after starting well on Thursday. No European Tour event again this week so we just have the Masters warm-up in Houston but I’ve also had a look at the first Ladies’ major of the year.

Total 2018 pts advised =103pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 92.69

ROI = -18%


Houston Open

With one week to go until Augusta we stay in Texas and head along to Houston for the Shell Houston Open from Humble. There will be two schools of thought amongst the field this week, those who have qualified for the Masters will be looking to sharpen up their game and hone the skill set required for Augusta while those not qualified will be trying to punch their ticket up Magnolia Lane by winning this week. That makes for both an interesting narrative and betting heat as the motivation may well be greater for players further down the betting. It takes a seriously impressive mental attitude to win the week before a major and then follow-up in the big one. In recent times we have only seen McIlroy and Mickelson do so. So while much of this year’s schedule has been dominated by the upper echelons of the game, I’d be inclined to widen the net a little this week. Despite being a ball-strikers paradise, since moving to its slot the week before the Masters, only 2 of the 11 winners are major winners and you would be hard pushed to suggest any of the last 5 were top class even if the reigning champion Henley could still reach that level.

Shell

The Golf Club of Houston was Rees Jones’ first course that he designed from scratch and it has hosted since 2003. It is quite long at nearly 7500 yards but the fairways are very wide and the rough is minimal, meaning bombers have a good record in the event and the shorter hitters can struggle unless every other department of their game is firing. There is a lot of water in play around the greens  so an accurate approach game is required before they reach perhaps the biggest test of all. The greens are usually set up fast to mimic Augusta conditions next week and they are a bit of a mix with bermuda, bent and poa all popping up by all accounts.  Therefore 3 putts will be a plenty and holing out well will be key this week as the winner normally performs well with the putter.

There are quite a lot of players I like this week so with just one tournament I’m going to back a few to relatively low stakes, especially the more speculative ones.

Rees Jones also carried out a redesign of Torrey Pines and the course form generally correlates quite well. The Torrey greens are slick and while scoring is a lot tougher, driving distance and holing out are both very important. Harris English’s best finish of the season prior to last week in the Dominican was 8th at Torrey Pines and he is also a former runner-up there. He also has strong course form at the Sony Open where defending Houston champ Russell Henley got his first win, English has 3rd, 4th and 9th place finishes. He was 5th last week and ranked 6th in total driving and 11th in GIR so clearly he has found his game again. At his best English is a very strong putter and he drives it long and straight so I’m not sure why he has never done that well in Houston. The course should suit him and if he has turned a corner with last week’s confidence boosting 5th, then 80/1 could be quite a big price in a relatively weak field.

Benny An announced himself as a player to follow on ball-striker’s courses with quick greens when he won the BMW PGA Wentworth in 2015, although he is winless anywhere since then. That’s not to say he hasn’t played well though and he has been knocking on the door again this year on the PGA Tour. His putting can be quite hit or miss but when I noticed he was 2nd on Tour for putting inside 5ft I knew I had to back him here where holing out is difficult. I’m expecting a big week from young Korean.

Charles Howell III has form at Torrey Pines, Sony Open, Honda Classic and a good record here in Houston. He is famously one of the hardest to get over the line having not won since 2007 but with players like Chucky Three Sticks we have to look out for small things that might bring about improvement. Last week’s performance in qualifying from a WGC group with Phil Mickelson in it will have given him a huge lift and he perhaps let the pressure of qualifying for his home-town major get to him in the knock-out stages. That could well happen again this week but I think his each way price looks very good indeed. Howell is often criticised for his putting but this year he ranks 3rd in putting inside 5 feet and that will serve him well here while his extremely consistent tee-to-green game should be present.

Two very, very speculative punts to finish and Lanto Griffin seems over priced for someone who finished 12th at Torrey Pines. That is the height of my reasoning behind this bet. He is a PGA Tour rookie who is still finding his feet but to contend on a layout like that suggests there is maybe more to come. After a few missed cuts he managed a 28th last week where he was 8th in putting and at 300/1 I thought he was worth a small bet.

Jonas Blixt was a master on the greens a few years ago as he racked up 2 PGA Tour wins. He has been very quiet since but won the doubles event last year in New Orleans. He started 2018 fairly poorly again but he finished 41st on his last start at Riviera before 4 weeks off. Blixt isn’t much of a ball-striker to be fair but I think this course should suit him with some room to spray it off the tee. We shouldn’t forget Blixt finished 2nd at the 2014 Masters and he is capable of better ball-striking days. It’s a very speculative punt given he hasn’t shown much in this event to date but on the two occasions he has made the cut he returned top 30s and at his price it won’t cost much for a little interest.

 

LPGA – ANA Inspiration

The first Ladies major arrives this week and Brittany Lincicome looks somewhat over priced to me. She has already won this event twice in 2009 and 2015 and came runner-up in 2007. Lincicome is very much a horses for courses type of golfer and thrives on courses where she can use her powerful game to her advantage. She defended her Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and if she were out of form then I could perhaps see the reason behind a few firms having her as a 33/1 shot this week. But she sits in 2nd on the 2018 money list and I think she has been overlooked in the market here perhaps in favour of some of the more fashionable and popular picks. Yet a lot of those above her in the betting have been a little out of form while Brittany hasn’t missed a cut since last July and her 2018 form figures read 10-16-54-7-1. She looks a very solid each way bet at anything around 28/1 to 33/1.


Summary of Bets

Houston Open

Harris English – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Charles Howell III – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Benny An – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Lanto Griffin – 0.25 pts ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Jonas Blixt – 0.25pts ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

LPGA – ANA Inspiration

Brittany Lincicome – 1 pt ew @ 33/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 121pts

@theGreek82