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.
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.
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)
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)
Jordan Zunic – 0.75pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Sky bet)
Rickie Fowler, Harold Varner III and Bernd Wiesberger – 0.5pts ew treble @ 2519/1
Weekly pts advised = 9pts