The Open – Betting Preview

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

2017 pts advised =322 pts

2017 pts returned = 240.36pts

ROI = -25.36%

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


The Open

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

royal-birkdale-golf-club-2

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

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

Key trends from the previous 9 Royal Birkdale Opens;

7/9 were already Major champions prior to Birkdale win

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

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

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

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

1954 Peter Thomson – 2nd in 1953

1961 Arnold Palmer – 2nd in 1960

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

1971 – Lee Trevino – 3rd in 1970

1976 – Johnnie Lee Miller – 3rd in 1975

1983 – Tom Watson – 1st in 1982

1991 – Iain Baker-Finch – 6th in 1990

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

2008 – Padraig Harrington – 1st in 2007

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

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

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

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

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

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

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

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

Henrik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Round Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

The Open

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

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

Ian Poulter – 1pt ew 60/1 (Skybet)

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

Paul Waring – 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Paul Broadhurst – 0.5pt Top 20 @ 33/1

 

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

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

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

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

 

Weekly pts advised =  23.5pts

2017 pts advised = 342pts

 

@theGreek82

Scottish Open and John Deere Classic – Betting Preview

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

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

Total 2017 pts advised =309pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 222.11

ROI = – 28.12%


The Scottish Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


John Deere Classic

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

Scottish Open

Alex Noren – 2pts ew @ 16/1

Branden Grace – 1pt ew @ 25/1

George Coetzee – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Ryan Fox – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

John Deere Classic

Steve Stricker 1.25pt ew @ 28/1

Zach Johnson – 0.75pt ew @ 28/1

Wes Bryan – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 13pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 322pts

@theGreek82

 

Greenbrier Classic and Irish Open – Betting Preview

Last week was an exciting one on both Tours but there wasn’t a lot to shout about in terms of betting over the weekend. Storm and Luiten were both in a good position after Friday but went backwards over the weekend. Robert Garrigus upped his game as expected but despite starting his 2nd and 3rd rounds brilliantly he couldn’t maintain that through 18 holes. It was a good week for him though as he finished in the top 30 and he will be looking to push on now during the second half of the year.

Centre stage moves from the U.S. to Ireland this week as the build up to The Open begins with two links warm-ups. First up is the Irish Open this week which is followed by the Scottish Open next week. Both are on classic links layouts and that opportunity for the world’s best to have a links practice has brought about two fairly strong fields.

Total 2017 pts advised= 297pts

Total 2017 pts returned= 202.17pts

ROI = -31.93%

 


Irish Open

The chance for the game’s best to hone their links skills ahead of the Open has been available since the Scottish Open left Loch Lomond back in 2011 but it was only really after Phil Mickelson’s back to back wins at Castle Stuart and Muirfield in 2013 when players started to really see the benefits. Now with the Irish Open firmly in the calendar the week before the Scottish Open there is the potential for three brilliant weeks of links golf and with the venues we have this year, that is exactly what we should get.

Portstewart Golf Club has never hosted a professional tournament before but the timing for its debut couldn’t be much better. Visually it is almost a double of Royal Birkdale as both courses feature many holes with fairways winding through dunes and high fescue. It will be a great preparation for the players and with rain and wind forecast over the weekend it will be a chance for some of the seasoned British links players to qualify for the Open.

   Royal Birkdale          royal-birkdale-golf-club-2

    Portstewart             Portstewart

Rory McIlroy is the defending champion after winning last year at the K Club and he has helped to gather an all-star field here with Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose making the journey alongside many of the household European Tour names and it has given the tournament a great boost and also created a very interesting betting heat.

As ever with an out-and-out links test I’m looking at those proven on links courses and proven in the weather that we so often see across four days of golf on these shores. Luckily there seem to be more and more of these with the Scottish Open having been played on links layouts since 2011 as well as the Open every year. In addition to that we have the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship although it must be noted that those courses are set up considerably easier for the Pro-Am element of the competition but is also played in October when the weather is even worse.

For me the main stats to look at with links golf are GIR, scrambling and putting. A good combination of those together with the ability to shape shots and control distance with irons are what will be needed to go well over the next three weeks. With the weather set to get up and make things difficult over the weekend then scrambling will probably be the most important. It was interesting to see Alexander Bjork (tipped many times on the blog) at the top of the leaderboard in France last week and he sits 2nd in scrambling on Tour over the last 3 months. When conditions are tough, greens are missed and getting up and down on fast links greens can take a lot of skill and will make or break many a week in Ireland.

I saw enough from Thomas Pieters last week in France to convince me that he isn’t far away at all from being able to win on a links course in this strong a field. He fired 17 birdies on the week but was undone by 4 double-bogeys that were a result of finding water. A lot was said about his petulant attitude and while I agree that it looks more to his detriment at the moment, he came very close to winning in spite of this. His two doubles on Sunday were as a result of typically aggressive golf from Pieters, knowing that he had to make birdies to catch Fleetwood. However there won’t be any water in play this week and while there will still be trouble lurking in the rough, there is a little more space off the tee at Portstewart and even if he does hit the odd wayward drive he is likely to be looking at one dropped shot rather than two.

All three of his wins on Tour came on links layouts around Europe; Albatross Golf Club in Prague, Kennemer Links in Holland and Himmerland in Denmark. He is yet to do anything exceptional in Britain but that is surely just a matter of time. The Belgian powerhouse currently ranks 2nd on Tour this year for scrambling and with the addition of three even bigger names to the field, 25/1 looks to be a nice piece of value to me.

Ryan Fox makes the team this week despite not yet having had the chance to impress in proper links conditions but he is just too big a price to leave out. There are plenty of things in his favour however that suggest he should go well. Firstly he is in great form having shot a final round 67 to finish 6th at Le Golf National. Only Peter Uihlein had a better combined ranking for GIR, scrambling and total putting as Fox ranked 6th, 11th and 34th respectively. Fox has also won up in Northern Ireland previously on the Challenge Tour and although that was a parkland course there would almost have certainly been some typical British weather. He also has a 2nd around the Spey Valley course in Aviemore which plays very much as an inland links course. Some of his best results over the last year were on the Australian swing where he finished 9th and 4th at the Australian PGA and Open respectively and they were both played on hard, fast, exposed layouts as is typical of the area. He is a very talented player who is expected to go on to big things on the European Tour so he looks a little over priced at the available 150/1.

Max Kieffer also performed well last week in France ranking 12th in GIR and 3rd for scrambling. He has some decent finishes on links type courses and finished 5th in last year’s Irish Open, albeit not on a links course, but he was 8th in 2015 at Royal County Down. He reached the Quarter Finals of the Paul Lawrie Match Play last year in Scotland which was played on a very exposed Archerfield course on the East Lothian coast. He has always seemed to me like a player who should be suited to links golf so with him in good form I think he looks worth a chance here as he returns to Ireland with fond memories of the last two years.

I’m adding Bernd Ritthammer here purely on his record in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. Last year he won the Volopa Irish Challenge in the south and also finished runner-up to Fox in the Northern Ireland Open. He hasn’t had a great start to his year but he looks massively over priced for a top 20 given that he clearly enjoys playing on these shores. He has missed his last 3 cuts but his stats aren’t awful for this test as he ranks 20th for scrambling and 12th for total putting over the last 3 months.

 


The Greenbrier Classic

If the Irish Open is an attractive betting heat this looks to be the opposite so I’m going to keep stakes small as it really does appear to be the sort of event where anyone in the field could win. The course is the Old White TPC and unlike last week’s tee-to-green grind, this is one of the easier courses on Tour. Stuart Appleby shot a final round 59 here in the first event in 2010 to stop Jeff Overton getting his maiden win and while they have tried to make things a little tougher since, the winning score has still been comfortably in double figures under par.

The course is reasonably long for a Par 70 at 7287 yards and the fairways are wide enough. This suggests that we should look at some of the bigger hitters who play par 4s well and can really rack up the birdies. However the list of winners isn’t quite a who’s who of bombers so I had a look at the stats for the six editions do far.

Most of the winners rank highly in birdie average and strokes gained: putting but perhaps the single most relevant stat recently has been Par 4 Birdie or Better in which the last two winners have ranked 14th and 18th during the year of their win. This backs up what I expected from the course so I have used these as my main criteria for the week.

Russell Henley looks to be the pick at the prices here as his 40/1 looks very fair compared to those just ahead of him in the betting. It seems everyone has forgotten that he was in contention at the U.S. Open until the back 9 on Sunday and that he was a winner just three months ago. In fact that win was at the Houston Open which has some form lines with the Greenbrier as several players have very strong records in both and they can often come down to who performs on the greens. He also has a win at the Sony Open in Hawaii which was designed by Seth Raynor who helped Charles B Macdonald design the Old White TPC.

Henley ranks 14th on Tour in strokes gained: putting and he finished 5th here in 2015. He will enjoy the birdie fest and rates a confident bet now he has managed to shake off the disappointment of Erin Hills with four rounds at the tricky TPC Potomac last week.

Sung-Hoon Kang was very close to being bet this week even before I noticed that he was 2nd at the Houston Open behind Henley in April.  At the Quicken Loans he was extremely unfortunate to be on the 16th green with a short birdie putt on Sunday when the torrential rain arrived. Kang and his caddie were unprepared and he was absolutely drenched prior to taking his putt. He missed it and would then go on to double bogey the 17th to ruin his chances, still clearly unsettled from a downpour that was nowhere to be seen in the forecast. He spoke well afterwards with Sky and he didn’t give the impression he would be dwelling on the missed opportunity for too long.

Kang ranked 14th in total putting last week and that boosted him to 65th on tour in strokes: gained putting so the low scoring nature shouldn’t bother him. Given that his two best performances so far on Tour have been on a course with good form links to TPC Old White and just last week I think he looks a great bet at 66/1.

One final dart here at Michael Kim who figures highly in a couple of key stats and also finished 12th at the Houston Open and 20th at the Sony Open this year. Kim ranks 38th in par 4 birdies or better and 33rd in strokes gained: putting. Could be overpriced at 150/1 and also looks worth a top 20 bet.


Summary of bets

Irish Open

Thomas Pieters – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Ryan Fox – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Max Kieffer – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Bernd Ritthammer – 1pt Top 20 @ 16/1

Greenbrier Classic

Russell Henley – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Sung-Hoon Kang – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Michael Kim – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 309pts

@theGreek82

U.S. Open at Erin Hills – Betting Preview

Last week was a second week in a row of profit and was very welcome ahead of the second major of the year. It was Chez Reavie who provided it, easily making the top 20 and also hanging on for a share of a place as he finished 4th. Again it could have been a better weekend with Harris English and Zander Lombard also in contention but it is hard to complain too much and hopefully it that might be a corner turned again for the blog.

This week needs no introduction with the U.S. Open taking centre stage. The results are starting to look a little better ahead of an exciting looking week at Erin Hills.

Total 2017 pts advised= 259pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 187.47pts

ROI = -25.7%

I have just pasted my Matchbook review below and added a few extra bets. I also have a couple of 72 hole match-ups that will be on their site at the following link shortly.

To be added


US Open – Erin Hills

The second major of 2017 is upon us as the U.S. Open takes place for the first time ever in Wisconsin. The layout Erin Hills is a new one having only been opened in 2006. It hosted the U.S. Amateur in 2011 but barring the eight players in the field who played, everyone has been reliant on practice rounds. The action kicks off at 12:45pm UK time on Thursday with coverage starting on Sky at 6pm and continuing throughout the weekend.

With Sergio Garcia having won the Masters, there will be many more arriving at Erin Hills in buoyant mood thinking that they too have a chance for a maiden win. But the course can play to some 7800 yards off the back tees so on paper it could be brutally long and favour the bombers, however it is of course a U.S. Open so we would normally expect lots of rough and slick greens to properly test every part of their game.

Everything looks in place for another mouth-watering major this week. But can we find an edge on what appears to be another exciting golf betting event?

What will be required to win?

When the first pictures were shared of the high fescue grass in the rough, many thought this was going to be a brutal US Open set-up akin to the thick green stuff we saw at Merion. However on further reading I don’t believe that to be the case. Brad Faxon played there earlier in May and he tweeted how wide the fairways were and that it will suit the bombers. Kevin Na’s instagram video on Sunday confirmed just how high the rough is but the fairways are so wide that only the truly errant will end up in there and I can’t see it preventing players from hitting driver unless their name is JB Holmes. At some 7800 yards I think we really have to focus on the big hitters this week. Some of the better players who average sub 290 yards will contend but they had better have every other area of their game in perfect shape. Playing four days’ worth of approach shots with a 5 iron when DJ/Rahm etc are going in with wedge will take its toll on all but the steeliest of shorter hitters.

A look at the 2011 US Amateur Championship backs this up perfectly. The two finalists were Kelly Kraft and Patrick Cantlay. Kraft hits it as far as anyone and Cantlay was the best amateur in the game at the time and even now he sits 7th in the all-round ranking on the PGA Tour.  I think it will pay to focus on the longer players this week, perhaps giving some consideration to shorter hitters but only if they are among the very best like Cantlay was.

One of the key quotes from 2011 was from young Englishman Jack Senior. He noted how the course was “very, very similar” to the venue where they were heading for the Walker Cup the following week. The course in question was the classic links layout, Royal Aberdeen, host of the Scottish Open in 2014. What is striking is how similar the two courses are visually, with lots of undulating fairways, blind tee-shots, hidden approaches, lots of winding bunkers and plenty of fescue grass. There will be a lot written about similarities to Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay this week and while that certainly won’t be without merit, I’m very keen on the Royal Aberdeen link too.

Another quote which sounds valuable is from Mike Davis (USGA’s Executive Director) who gave a full description of each aspect of the course in a recent press conference. The most notable was what he said about the run-offs around the greens and how they have a complete lack of immediate rough. He likened this to Pinehurst No. 2 from 2014 and stated how this was the only other US Open in recent times to feature tightly mown aprons. Martin Kaymer used them to great effect in 2014 as he putted his way around the fringes, taking the pressure off his suspect chipping.

As well as needing to be fairly long off the tee, it is paramount to have an excellent iron game to contend at a U.S. Open and with blind approaches and fast greens this week it will be the same at Erin Hills. The last ten winners of the U.S. Open averaged 8th for GIR and if picking one key attribute this week I think that would be it.

Scrambling will also be important but without lush rough around the greens the players will have the chance to use different shots and the standard scrambling statistic on the PGA Tour maybe doesn’t quite tell us everything we need to know. Another key statistic for championship courses is scoring relative to par from approaches outside 200 yards. This is vital for saving par when out of position on a long par 4 or for making tap-in birdies on the par 5s. With Erin Hills having the potential to play as the longest in the history of the event then it might be even more important than normal. If the event does turn into a slog then patience will also be important as anyone who goes chasing a score that isn’t there on Thursday won’t be around come the weekend.

Trends

With the U.S. Open moving courses every year it isn’t as good as The Masters or The Players for trends but there is still some historical data that can help rule players out or in for those who enjoy a trends based approach.

  • All 17 winners this century had at least a top 4 finish already that season.
  • 16/17 of those winners had a previous U.S. Open Top 20 finish.
  • 6/7 of the last winners had made the cut at the Masters that season.
  • 6/7 had a top 12 finish last time out.

 

Main Contenders

 Dustin Johnson 8/1 : Current form – MC-13-12-2-1; US Open form: 1-2-4-55-MC

Both the reigning champion and favourite arrives at Erin Hills after a close to invincible 12 months. The improvement in his all-round game means he is currently the best player in the world and undoubtedly the man to beat. The long course together with the wide landing areas off the tee, make the course look ideal. The only negative is his price and a slight wobble last time out at Memorial when he missed the cut.

Jordan Spieth 14/1 : Current form: 13-2-MC-MC-4 ; US Open form: 37-1-17-MC-21

After a fairly quiet 2017 where some were questioning his long game, Spieth came flying back into the reckoning with a great tee-to-green performance at Memorial. With his solid US Open record he looks the right 2nd favourite although some may use his relative lack of length as a stick to beat him with this week. That didn’t stop him at Chambers Bay however and he will surely be involved in the shake-up come Sunday night.

Rory McIlroy 14/1 : Current form: 35-7-30-7-4; US Open form: MC-9-23-41-MC

Hasn’t been seen since The Masters and with that lack of competitive golf he is hard to fancy. The course sets up well for him but he surely can’t be considered before the off having not played in two months. Those who want to get involved may be better off watching the first round to see how he has recovered from a rib injury that looks likely to significantly impact his swing.

Jason Day 14/1 : Current form: 15-2-60-MC-22; US Open form: 8-9-4-2-59

Seemingly over his personal problems since his Mother was given the cancer all clear. Has shown patches of his 2015/2016 form, but he is surely making too many mistakes to win a US Open. However that is offset somewhat by an excellent record in the event and suitability to a course that looks a lot like Whistling Straits, the scene of his US PGA triumph.

Jon Rahm 22/1 : Current form: MC-2-MC-4-27; US Open form: Debut 23rd last year as amateur

On 2017 form he is the second best golfer in the world and the Spanish powerhouse has a great all-round game already at the age of 22. His temperament has looked a little suspect at times though and it’s far from a given that he will enjoy a patient US Open style test of golf. But he may not quite face that this year with Erin Hills appearing more US PGA than US Open.

Rickie Fowler 22/1 : Current form: 2-60-MC-11-3; US Open form: MC-MC-2-10-41

Seems to be judged to higher standards than most perhaps due to the profile he has built for himself. But ultimately he is a 2017 winner with a 2nd place finishjust two starts ago. Negatives are his poor Masters Sunday performance and missing his last two US Open cuts but that is factored into his price and he shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.

Hideki Matsuyama 30/1 : Current form: 45-22-32-11-51; US Open form: MC-18-35-10

Gone quiet since his all-conquering winter but he is still churning out solid results. Another with an impressive bank of US Open form already at 25 and it would be foolish to ever discount him at a major given his tee-to-green prowess. As ever though, the slick bentgrass greens may be the difference between 1st and 6th.

Justin Thomas 33/1 : Current form: 4-MC-5-22-39; US Open form: MC-DNP-32

Yet another to add to the list of “course suits perfectly”. Thomas also tailed off a little since his four win period through to January. Still playing very good golf however and was 4th at Memorial two weeks ago. Hard to see too many negatives at 33/1 barring maybe a mediocre US Open record to date.

Aside from those many will fancy Sergio Garcia to go back to back now he has got the monkey off his back while the young Belgian powerhouse Thomas Pieters will be looking to build on his 4th place finish at Augusta. But the one that stands out at the odds is sneaking in under the radar a little despite a Masters play-off loss just 2 months ago.

justin-rose-zurich-classic_3295658

I have liked Justin Rose for this most of the year. Firstly, he has an almost unrivalled record in majors for consistency over the last 5 years. Since 2012 he has played in all 21 majors, missing the cut just three times. Those 21 events have yielded 16 top 25s, with 6 of those providing returns for each way backers and of course he also has his 2013 U.S. Open win. To put those in perspective, Rory McIlroy has won three majors since 2012 but he only boasts 13 top 25s in that same period and world number 1 Dustin Johnson only has 11. Stenson has 12, Matsuyama 9 (only played 1 in 2012) and even the poster boy for brilliant non-winning performances at majors, Sergio Garcia, only has 10. Justin Rose’s game is built for majors, there are few who are as solid tee-to-green and as adaptable to any course. Difficult championship courses take the pressure off his short to mid-range putting and allow his ball-striking to rack up the pars.

What makes him perfect for this week’s test is the unknown quantity of the course. With very mixed reports about the layout, ultimately people will guess as to how exactly Erin Hills will play. The great thing about Rose is that he is just as home on a bomber’s layout as he is a fiddly, narrow course like Merion where he won in 2013. The only negative for me is that he has been suffering from a slight back injury but having missed Memorial to rest up I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is fully fit for Erin Hills. Rose’s 2017 stats aren’t quite as sharp as always but he still sits prominently in many of the key ones for this week. Rose is 25th in driving distance, 14th in GIR, 13th in strokes gained: tee to green and 10th in scoring relative to par for approaches over 200 yards. Not always the best of chippers, Rose should enjoy being able to putt around the fringes as his lag putting is very strong.

But the clincher with Rose this week is how he has played on courses similar to Erin Hills. Rose was 4th at Whistling Straits, 12th at Pinehurst No.2 but the most interesting one is his Scottish Open win. That win was at Royal Aberdeen which I alluded to earlier.  Just how much Erin Hills will actually play like a links course we don’t know but Rose’s confidence in his long game means he will be comfortable committing to a line and yardage despite not being able to see where the ball finishes.

To me there are the least negatives about Rose this week. Given his major record, there is still some value in his price, his consistency means he is almost assured to play well and his adaptability means however Erin Hills plays across the four days he will be fully prepared to handle it.

I am convinced that Jon Rahm will love this course and he is actually a fair price at 22/1 but I can’t ignore just how poor his attitude was when he missed the cut at Memorial. I won’t be in the slightest bit surprised to see him contend here but at the same time I think I can just about leave him out. Again with Dustin Johnson I am happy to let him win at just 8/1 when he missed the cut last time out. At a similar price to Rahm I think Rickie Fowler looks to be the best back up to Rose  at the head of the market. He has already won this year and his stats are absolutely brilliant for this. He has missed his last two U.S. Open cuts but he was back to his major best when leading the Masters after 54 holes. He had a rotten final round alongside Spieth and while on paper it looked a good pairing for them, I think both would be better suited to playing alongside someone who they aren’t quite so friendly with in a final round at a major. Fowler will have learnt from that though and he is driving the ball better than he ever has, currently ranking 1st in total driving. He is also 20th in GIR, 6th for strokes gained: tee to green, 1st in birdie average, 13th in bogey avoidance and 21st in scrambling. I really like his chances for The Open this year at Birkdale but it would be very annoying to see him win this without any money on.  A saver bet is recommended.

Outsiders to go well

While it looks very likely that one of the top 10 or so players in the world will come out on top this week I think there are still some longer prices  around for golfers who are playing well and could at least contend, allowing us to either trade them or back them in the place markets.

Russell Henley, Kevin Chappell and Brendan Steele look like the perfect sort of low-profile, home-grown winner that we have seen over the years in U.S. majors, most recently Lucas Glover in 2009 and Webb Simpson in 2012. These left field winners are more likely to pop up at the U.S. PGA but Erin Hills has a little bit of a PGA type appearance.

Henley is having a great year and has a solid stats profile for the week. He ranks 22nd  in GIR, 18th in total driving, 13th in birdie average, 15th in bogey avoidance, 13th in strokes gained: tee to green and an impressive 4th in scoring relative to par from approaches over 200 yards. He has won already this year in Houston and he is also a fine wind player having won on exposed layouts in Hawaii and Florida. He doesn’t possess the best of U.S. Open records recently but he did finish 16th as an amateur at Pebble Beach. He also finished 12th at Whistling Straits in 2015 and arrives off the back of his best major finish to date at Augusta where he finished 11th. Henley first made his name on Tour as a brilliant putter so if he brings his best long game then he should be suited to the test.

Kevin Chappell will be on a few more radars having won in May and also finishing 4th last week. Chappell has long been my idea of a U.S. Open winner such is the consistency of his long game across 4 days on a tough course. His stats aren’t fantastic but in all honesty that isn’t really his game. He is all about making tough pars while others around him fall away. Despite this maybe not quite being the usual U.S. Open grind I think he is playing too well to leave out this week.

Brendan Steele looked a great top 20 bet at the Masters and only just fell short finishing 27th but he is slowly finding his feet at the majors. He was 15th at Oakmont last year confirming that he enjoys fast greens and his best major finish to date was at Whistling Straits where he also finished in a tie for 12th. The Texan is used to the wind and he is a two-time winner on Tour who I think has a contending major performance in him now as an experienced 34 year old. Given he is usually an unfashionable pick, he looks over priced in all the key markets.

If the links theme does play out then it might pay to have a proper links exponent on the team and for that reason I’m going to back Tyrrell Hatton and George Coetzee. Last year Hatton was 5th at Royal Troon, he won the Alfred Dunhill Links and he also showed he is comfortable on long U.S. championship courses with another top 10 at Baltusrol. He will come into his own around these greens this week and should enjoy the test.

Coetzee is an absolute short game genius but he has been working hard on his long game too and has been reaping the rewards in Europe of late. He was last seen shooting a final round 66 to finish 4th at the Nordea Masters and that was the latest in a run of results which read 4-MC-8-8-11-8. Coetzee finished 7th at Whistling Straits and now that he is feeling fitter and playing well he will fancy his chances of a good showing this week.

Lastly I want to have Thomas Pieters onside in some capacity so will have a Top 10 bet. This is his U.S. Open debut but we saw what he was capable of on his first look at Augusta and this course will suit his combination of power and touch around the greens perfectly. Probably has a better temperament than Jon Rahm so while he may throw in a big number or two I expect him to enjoy the week on the whole.

First Round Leader market

Jason Kokrak is an out and out bomber but he also puts up very good GIR numbers on courses that fit his eye. He will enjoy the wide fairways and he should be able to get close to the flags. Kokrak has a habit of getting a little streaky and with an early tee-time I’m hoping he can go low on day 1.

Stephan Jaeger has won twice already on the Web.com Tour this season and is 1 win away from automatic promotion to the PGA Tour this season. But he is virtually assured of a 2018 PGA card so he will have absolutely nothing to lose, certainly not on day one and he has a history of flying out of the blocks. Jaeger equalled the lowest professional round of 58 last summer in his first round of the Ellie May Classic which he would go on to win by 7 strokes. That tournament is played around TPC Stonebrae which doesn’t look dissimilar to Erin Hills with lots of rolling fairways and fescue grasses. Jaeger’s last four opening rounds were 68-65-64-69 too so he might just be a little over priced at 200/1.

I couldn’t settle on a third 1st round leader pick so I have decided to back them both given how much fun the first round market can be. Jason Day will be only too aware of how poorly he has started his majors since his breakthrough US PGA win. His five opening rounds since have been 74-68-73-76-72 but that hadn’t been the norm up till then in his career. The five before that read 68-66-68-67-69 and I have a feeling he could take to this course early on and give everyone a reminder of his talents.

David Lingmerth was lying 2nd after the first round at Whistling Straits when he opened with a 67 and again he shot that same score to sit 2nd just two weeks ago at Memorial. The Swede enjoys a tough test of golf and he has an early tee-time on Thursday. Worth a go at a general 100/1.


 

Summary of Bets

Justin Rose – 3pts ew @ 25/1 (Betfair Sportsbook – 1/5th odds, 8 places)

Rickie Fowler – 1pt ew @ 22/1 (Skybet – 1/5th odds, 8 places)

Russell Henley – 0.5pt win @ 200 on Exchange and 1.5pts Top 20 @ 5/1

Kevin Chappell – 0.5pt win @ 80 on Exchange and 1pt Top 10 @ 6/1

Brendan Steele – 0.5pt win @ 230 on Exchange and 1.5pts Top 20 @ 5/1

Tyrrell Hatton – 0.5pt win @ 180 on Exchange and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

George Coetzee – 0.5pt win @ 450 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Thomas Pieters – 2pts Top 10 @ 4/1

 

Jason Kokrak – 0.25pt ew @ 150/1 1st Round Leader

Stephan Jaeger – 0.25pt ew @ 200/1 1st Round Leader

Jason Day – 0.5pt ew @ 25/1 1st Round Leader

David Lingmerth – 0.25 pt ew @ 100/1 1st Round Leader

(All 1st Round Leader bets are with Betfair Sportsbook 7 places at 1/5 odds)

 

Weekly pts advised – 21pts

Total 2017 pts advised – 280pts

 

@theGreek

Fed-Ex St. Jude Classic and Lyoness Open – Betting Preview

Finally there were some positive performances from my golfers on a Sunday and the result was a profitable week although things were almost a lot better.

George Coetzee flew through the field on Sunday getting to -9 and he gave himself a 15ft look at birdie on the 18th for a -10 clubhouse total. It slipped past agonisingly and had he set -10 I think, from what we saw the previous week with Alex Noren, he would have probably got himself into a play-off. He got a full place though at 50/1 and so did Kuchar on the PGA Tour. Kuch was in a far better position going into his final round but as ever he got in his own way a little but again he held on for 4th to give us both the place bet and the top 10.

Marcel Siem also finished strongly in Sweden to easily land the top 20 bet and on the whole there were 39.25 pts returned on the week. It was very welcome with the US Open nearly upon us and hopefully I can keep things going again this week.

2017 pts advised = 249pts

2017 pts returned = 170.22

ROI = -31.64%

WIth the US Open next week most of the big names aren’t in action which means there are two fairly low-key events; the Fed-Ex St. Jude Classic in the U.S. and the Lyoness Open in Europe.


St. Jude Classic

The final stop before the U.S. Open is TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s a 7244 yard Par 70 and it usually plays quite tough so should be a fair test ahead of the U.S. Open for those in the field who are playing next week. There is a lot of water in play here but yet the fairways are still very wide and it mainly becomes a problem on approaches to the greens. They are small and slightly raised so the course is usually somewhat of a second shot course where high greens in regulation numbers are the order of the day together with good scrambling as inevitably the greens will be missed. There will be no complaints when on the putting surfaces though as Southwind’s bermuda greens are some of the smoothest bermuda greens the players will see all year.

Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka are the two market leaders this week and I think they will be very hard to beat given Fowler is in great form and Koepka loves the course here having finished 2nd and 3rd the last two years. But even in a poor field they are horribly short prices and despite their obvious talents, neither can be considered completely reliable and it would hard to back them at 8/1 and 12/1 respectively. Instead I’m going to keep stakes low and my powder reasonably dry for next week.

Harris English qualified for the US Open on Monday and there are two schools of thought as to how that can affect golfers playing just three days later. A long day of 36 holes can drain them and leave them tired and unprepared for the week ahead or, the conflicting argument, that the confidence and excitement about playing at Erin Hills will leave them freewheeling and they can continue to build on the good golf they played. I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule by any means but English really hasn’t had a lot to sing about lately without a top 10 since November. So having finished 29th on his last PGA Tour start it looked like he was maybe beginning to turn a corner and that looks even more likely after shooting 65-68 to comfortably qualify in T2nd. They were the lowest back-to-back rounds he had put together in over a year.

English also ranked 21st for GIR and 7th in scrambling at Colonial and that is exactly what is required when small, well protected greens come into play like we have this week at Southwind. English is a former winner around TPC Southwind and generally he performs well on courses with small greens. English plays with a towering fade which means his approach shots will generally land softly on smaller greens so it makes sense that he would have an advantage on such layouts. Both the courses that hosted his sectional qualifying have small, bermuda greens also so the preparation will have been ideal and they are also in the Memphis area so he won’t have had to travel far.

The wide fairways here won’t penalise the erratic driving we have seen from him this year and while the odds of 80/1 could be bigger, I’m willing to take a chance that this proven winner is rounding back into the form that saw him reach as high as No. 36 in the world.

I’m struggling to see any other interesting angles in this week so I’m going to go with another who qualified from the same courses as English and that is Chez Reavie. Reavie is a very accurate player who ranks 2nd in proximity to the hole and also scrambles with the best of them so this course should suit him on paper and his finishes here are fairly respectable. They are also trending in the right direction as he followed his missed cut in 2011 with a 27th in 2013 and then a 12th in 2015. If he keeps that two year progression going then he will contend this year!

Reavie is even more speculative than English as he really hasn’t done much at all for a few months but I’m hoping he can push on from Monday’s rounds of 67 and 66 which again are a huge improvement on what he has been doing lately. Luckily we are also getting a speculative price about Reavie though as he is a general 150/1 shot.

One other dart for me this week and that is Tom Hoge who is sitting 3rd in scrambling over the last 3 months. Hoge is actually in his 3rd year on Tour but so far things have been very low profile for him, seldom worrying too many leaderboards. But he does have some solid form at TPC Southwind (34th and 12th) and therefore I think there is a little bit of value in his odds of 250/1.


Lyoness Open

A miserable field became even more miserable with the withdrawal of Chris Wood but on the plus side we do have a solid bank of course form to look at with the Diamond Country Club having hosted since 2010.

A poor field would often be the chance for an up and coming maiden to get over the line but that hasn’t actually been the case at Diamond Country Club so far. All seven of the champions here had already tasted success on the European Tour before and the average time since their previous win was about 3 years.

The 7344 yard layout is one that immediately stands out against the other courses we see on European soil throughout the season. It has all the hallmarks of a PGA Tour course with lush green fairways and greens winding through lots of water hazards and white bunkers. This gives a suggestion of a typical target golf test and while that is maybe true to an extent, the course is quite exposed to the wind so links players have also thrived.

These have both been borne out in the results as most of the winners have been proven wind players that regularly hit a high number of greens. That will be my main plan of attack this week but given how well the course links worked out last week I will have a little look at that angle too. Bernd Wiesberger and Joost Luiten have both thrived on the layout in recent times and when on their game there aren’t many who hit more greens in Europe. They both tee it up again this year but Wiesberger does so as the very restrictive looking 9/2 favourite while Luiten hasn’t been having the best of seasons. Both can easily be left alone at the prices even if Wiesberger should really win comfortably if he plays anything close to his best.

Tom Lewis sits 3rd in GIR over the last 6 months and that immediately got me looking at him. He has struggled since his first win back in 2011 but it is important to remember he is still only 26. He isn’t the first Open Championship Leading Amateur to struggle a little as a pro and I’m sure he regularly takes inspiration from Justin Rose’s career. The 2013 US Open winner took 4 years to win after turning pro and struggled with missed cut after missed cut. Lewis managed to win on just his 3rd professional start but he has faced similar troubles since then.

However things have been slowly starting to look better for Lewis and he has made his last 5 cuts, also 8 out of his last 10. That is probably the most consistent period of his professional career and it is no coincidence that it has come along once he started hitting a high number of greens again. Lewis also fits in nicely to the profile of the previous winners at DCC as he is a European Tour winner with a bit of class who is rounding into some form and there isn’t too much to beat here. The price of 66/1 isn’t amazing for someone without a top 5 since Nov 2015 but he also has some strong course form of 26th-30th-10th and it feels like things have aligned nicely here for him this week.

As soon as I started my research this week I was keen to back Gregory Bourdy here but there wasn’t much to like about his opening price of 18/1. For a player of his talent he has often struggled to get over the line and really isn’t someone who makes a lot of appeal at such a low price, no matter how poor the opposition. But he is in great form and seems to play well at most courses where Wiesberger and Luiten also play well. Just 4 weeks ago at Genzon Club when Wiesberger was winning for the 4th time, Bourdy was 3rd and he is also a winner at Celtic Manor where Luiten has a win and a runner-up finish. But the main reason I can’t pass up the 18/1 is that he has finished 6th at this very course the last two years, confirming that it suits his accurate game. You certainly won’t ever get rich backing Bourdy at these prices but sometimes we have to move the goal posts a little to allow for field strength. Ultimately, in this field, only Joost Luiten and Jimenez have more European Tour titles to their name than Bourdy and he is in better form than both of them. I’m going to have a little 1pt ew interest. Bourdy has now been pushed out to 22/1 in places and that is a far more appealing price.

Zander Lombard finished 5th here last year and was seen losing in a play-off just three weeks ago in Sicily. There is nothing more complex to the pick than that and given how obvious he is I really thought he would be shorter than 50/1. I’m not complaining though as it gives us a nice bit of value for the up and coming South African on his 2nd look at the course.

With several very hard Par 3s that are tucked into the line of the water hazards, strong par 3 scoring will also be a huge advantage this week so I’m going to have a top 20 bet on Chris Hanson. He has a very accurate tee-to-green game and currently ranks 1st in Par 3 scoring over the last 6 months and 26th in total accuracy. Hanson was also 10th here last year.

Ben Evans also looks worthy of a top 20 bet this week as he is another accurate sort with form at a few key courses. Joost Luiten’s last win was the KLM Open around a new host course called The Dutch. Wiesberger was runner-up that week and just two places further back was Evans. He has made his last 5 cuts with the best finish in that period being a 6th place in Portugal. Evans has played the course twice before to little effect but there is no question he has improved a lot this year as he sits 14th in the all-round ranking over the last 3 months.


Summary of Bets

Fed-Ex St Jude

Harris English – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Chez Reavie – 0.5 pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Tom Hoge – 0.25 pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Lyoness Open

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Tom Lewis – 0.75 pts ew @ 66/1

Zander Lombard – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1

Chris Hanson – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Ben Evans – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 261pts

@theGreek82

Dean and Deluca Invitational and BMW PGA Championship – Betting Preview

With both players well positioned after round one in Europe, De La Riva and Paisley managed to be just two of 9 players in the top 91 not to shoot under par on Friday and that pretty much summed things up. They lost all momentum and they couldn’t get close enough to figure over the weekend.

In the US my bets were more speculative but I expected more from Jason Dufner on a track that he loves. After a great round on Saturday to get into contention he played poorly on Sunday when even par would have gained him a place.

Total 2017 pts advised = 223pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 130.97pts

ROI = -41%

This week we have the flagship event on the European Tour at Wentworth and the PGA Tour heads to Colonial for what is now known as the Dean and Deluca Invitational.


Dean and Deluca Invitational

This week the PGA Tour stays in Texas for one more week at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. The course is a classic par 70 layout and plays just over 7200 yards. Mainly just the picks this week with a bit of course info included.

Wes Bryan won just three starts ago at Harbour Town, which has always correlated well with Colonial, yet he is available towards 80/1 this week and 100.0 on Betfair. This is his debut but he is a player full of promise. Apparently he told people earlier in the year that he was going to get his first win at Harbour Town and to deliver that shows he has a lot of confidence in his game. It is a course where historically a bit of course knowledge goes a long way but I can’t get away from him at that price and lets not forget that he was winning on his first look go at the RBC Heritage too. Harbour Town is tree-lined, windy and has small greens, three of the main features at Colonial so this should really suit him perfectly. The greens at Harbour Town are bermuda grass but all three of Bryan’s Web.com wins were on bentgrass so he won’t be troubled at all by the smoother surfaces at Colonial.

Bryan sits in 20th for proximity to the hole, 7th in one-putt percentage and 25th for scoring relative to par from approaches at 125-150 yards. All three of those combine to tell us that he gets the ball close to the pin with his wedge and makes a lot of  putts once on the green. That is why he thrived at Harbour Town and given that he flagged up that as a chance of his first win I’m convinced he will be seeing this as a great chance of following up quickly. He has missed his last two cuts but he has no doubt been enjoying his first PGA Tour win and he arrives off the back of a week off so he should arrive fresh and ready to push on.

Graeme McDowell is back to his best on the greens and he is continuing to hit his customary 70% of fairways so he really should take to the course on his first look. As a household European Tour member over recent years he has always played at Wentworth this week but his decision surely took into account how suitable this course is for him and he has only made the top 25 at Wentworth once in 13 attempts. McDowell is a former winner at Harbour Town and is always one to watch whenever there is wind forecast.

Currently ranking 10th in driving accuracy he will handle the tight fairways better than most and he also ranks 14th in scoring relative to par from 150-175 yards. With McDowell being one of the shorter hitters he will find himself in that sort of region on a lot of holes this week and we know he is making the most of those chances with his putter. Looks over priced for a player with 10 professional wins playing on a course that should play to his strengths.

Having picked two debutants so far, Ben Martin gets in on his strong course form and the fact he stopped a run of missed cuts with an 18th at Wells Fargo and then a 30th at the Players. Martin can be a force anywhere that involves plotting his way around the course off the tee and that explains his form figures of 29-10-21 the last three years here. With the last two winners on the PGA Tour arriving in far worse form it might just pay to take a punt again for the 3rd week in a row.

 


BMW PGA Championship

With £5 million of new modifications to the course at Wentworth I’m not going to write too much about it. I wrote more of a comprehensive course preview last year but suffice to say it is a tree-lined, difficult course with lots of water, links style bunkering and fairways and very fast greens. The wind is notoriously difficult to gauge as it whistles up and over the trees so distance control is always key on approach shots.

Tyrrell Hatton (a 50/1 tip for the blog) played in the final group with Scott Hend last year but both players had a day to forget. Hatton really went to school on that experience though and his upward curve could almost be attributed to that point in his career. He had a brilliant summer and then continued his rise this year on the PGA Tour, churning out top 20 after top 20 to reach a high of number 12 in the world.

He is half the price this year but he looks more than twice the player now as he is a winner on Tour with two major top 10s. To give a comparison to those around him in the market, Francesco Molinari also has two major top 10s but from 29 efforts whereas Hatton has only played 7 majors as a pro. Hatton is a player that is going places and but for one bad and slightly unlucky tee shot in Dubai, he would already have his 2nd win on Tour having driven into the water with an adrenaline fuelled tee-shot on the 72nd hole at the Tour Championship in November.

His immediate form hasn’t been fantastic but his 2017 stats are glowing and he is developing exactly the right sort of all-round game that is perfect for a test like Wentworth. For those who are thinking 25/1 is a little short we must remember that he is the 3rd highest ranked player in the field and he finished 7th last year. Again comparing his price to the 18/1 about Molinari, he begins to look like a value price.

Hatton lives a relatively short drive away and he has called this his favourite tournament of the year. I expect him to be fully prepared and ready to make up for last year’s disappointment.

I’ve long thought that Bernd Wiesberger should be perfectly suited to Wentworth and the fact that he is in great form this year makes him a must bet for me. He won just last month at another greens in regulation course with water in play (Genzon Golf Club) and the one weak part of his game probably won’t be that important at the tough Wentworth course. His putting has always been below average but not only will birdies be at a premium this week, the greens have also been largely relaid so most will be going in fairly blind. His short game in general used to let him down but he currently ranks 1st in scrambling on Tour which at least tells us that he is holing out with more assurance than in the past. Throw in 10th in GIR and 18th in total driving and it becomes clear why he is having such a good year.

Despite having four European Tour wins already he often finds a way of throwing in one bad round which costs him the win. At some point he is going to put four together and destroy a field with his ultra consistent iron play. Odds of 25/1 here for the world number 30 appealed to me even before considering his finishes of 15th and 12th at the course.

Annoyingly he has been cut today to 22/1 and while that is starting to feel skinny I had already made my mind up so he stays in at the restricted price. For those with a Betfair account hopefully his exchange price might push out again towards 26.0.

I also backed Lee Westwood here last year on the strength of his course form and again he looks a value play with a good recent showing in an elite field at the Masters. He finished here 15th last year after contending for the first three days and nobody hit more greens through the week. The year before he ranked 3rd for putting when finishing 38th and if he can combine those two facets of his game in any way then he is sure to go well again at a course where he has 6 top 5s to his name.

Gregory Bourdy should really like Wentworth and he does have a couple of decent finishes as he was 15th last year and 12th in 2013. But ultimately he just looks massively over priced to me at 125/1. Just two starts ago he was seen finishing 3rd behind Weisberger and Fleetwood in China at Genzon Golf Club where he ranked 10th in total accuracy and 5th in the all-round ranking. The accurate Frenchman is 10th in driving accuracy, 29th in GIR, and 7th in par 4 scoring for the year so he looks worth a go at a big price.


Summary of Bets

Dean and Deluca

Wes Bryan – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Graeme Mcdowell – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Ben Martin – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

BMW PGA

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (Skybet 7 places)

Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt ew @ 22/1 (Skybet 7 places)

Lee Westwood – 0.5pt ew @ 45/1

Gregory Bourdy – 0.5pte ew @ 125/1

Weekly pts advised – 10pts

Total 2017 pts = 233pts

@theGreek82

Byron Nelson and Rocce Forte Open – Betting Preview

Si-Woo Kim ran out a very deserving if very surprise winner at The Players Championsip. It was clear he had talent when he got his first win last summer at The Wyndham but his form this year had been nothing short of terrible. It transpired that he had been playing with an injury most of the year however which explains a lot. I guess in hindsight the 1000.0 that was matched on Betfair is far too high a price for such a talented young player but ultimately it throws the whole golf betting game into disarray if we start ignoring the fundamentals. For next year I think it is safe to look at it as a bit of an anomaly in terms of form and stats but as ever it probably pays to heed the often repeated line “beware the injured golfer!”.

Even in an awful tournament like the Open De Portugal I managed to find a way of picking 6th place and that was extremely annoying as he raced to his finishing score through just 6 holes. One shot better would have returned the place money.

Another tough week means the results aren’t looking any better.

Total 2017 pts advised – 213

Total 2017 pts returned – 130.97

ROI = -38.5%

I’m low on time and confidence this week so I’m not getting too involved with a long preview and I will keep stakes low.


Byron Nelson Championship

Last year I wrote about a suspected course link between the Atlanta Athletic Club, host of the 2011 US PGA, and the TPC Las Colinas course here in Irving, Texas. Four of the top 7 players on that PGA Leaderboard are winners of the Byron Nelson and last year’s winner Garcia was 12th at that same US PGA. I’m going to stick with that approach to have a few speculative punts on some outsiders.

The 2014 US Amateur Championship was also held at the Atlanta Athletic Club and I’m going with the two players who shot the joint lowest round of 68 in their qualifying round at the Highlands Course; C.T. Pan and Robby Shelton.

C.T. Pan finished 2nd around Torrey Pines on his debut which was somewhat overshadowed by Rahm winning on his debut. But that was some effort and while he has gone off the boil a little lately he actually hit a fan in the face with the ball at the Honda Classic. Incidents like that can affect a player and it may have taken a little time to get over it. He has missed his last few cuts but given such a strong course link he looks worth a little dabble at 250/1. After all he is ranked 150th in the world and he is priced up here with a group of players outside the top 300.

Robby Shelton is another young player finding his feet on Tour but he already has a 3rd place finish from when he was an amateur in 2015. But just last month he finished 16th in Texas and he looks a decent price at 175/1 given his lofty reputation.

D.A. Points returned to form when winning in Puerto Rico in March before missing a few cuts but he bounced back again two weeks ago with a 12th in the Wells Fargo. It’s easy to think of him as a bit of a journeyman but with 7 professional wins (3 PGA Tour) he knows how to get the job done. Points was 10th at the 2011 US PGA and at odds of 200/1 the bookmakers seem to have quickly forgotten about his win this year.

With three outsiders I’m also going to include a more favoured runner in Jason Dufner, who enjoys shorter Par 70 layouts and is a former winner here. He has been performing well on the par 4s all year and ranks 7th in Par 4 scoring. He actually somehow ranks 47th in strokes gained: putting too which suggests win number 5 might not be too far away.


Rocce Forte Open

The Sicilian Open returns in everything but name this week and it also sees the European Tour back at Verdura Golf Course in Sicily after it hosted the last running in 2012. Some changes have been made but it still looks a lot like it did 5 years ago when Thorbjorn Olesen claimed his maiden win. It is practically a links course which seems a little strange for Italy but some of the pictures show it running along the coast and most of the descriptions reference a links style layout. The designer was Kyle Phillips who is responsible for several of the modern links courses we see on Tour including Kingsbarns and PGA National in Sweden.

Chris Paisley doesn’t immediately strike me as a player favoured to Links golf but he looks a very good price here. His best finish of the season was a 13th in Qatar which is actually a course where Olesen has finished 2nd and Chris Wood, who chased Olesen home here in 2012, has won. Branden Grace is also a two-time winner there and he holds the course record at Kingsbarns which compounds the link. Paisley also has a 13th around PGA National in Sweden and while it may be a slightly tenuous link, Paisley hasn’t missed a cut since January and this isn’t the deepest of fields.

Eduardo De La Riva has some sneaky links form and he has been on my radar for links tests ever since his 15th around Muirfield in very tough conditions. Since then he has a 2nd around Kennemer Links in Holland and a 3rd at the windy Portugal Masters. He had been struggling this season until last time out in China when he finished 14th and he ranked 5th for driving accuracy and 9th for GIR. Very speculative but it looks like that sort of tournament.


Summary of Bets

Byron Nelson

Jason Dufner – 1pt ew @ 40/1

C.T. Pan – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Robby Shelton – 0.5pt ew @ 175/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

D.A. Points – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

Rocco Forte Open

Chris Paisley – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Eduardo De La Riva – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Weekly points advised = 10pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 223pts

@theGreek82