OHL Classic and Nedbank Golf Challenge – Betting Preview

There were exciting finishes on both Tours last week but none of our players were quite on the premises down the stretch on Sunday. Matthew Southgate was on the leaderboard most of the weekend but a poor front nine on Sunday left him with too much to do and he could only finish 11th. On the PGA Tour it was annoying to miss out on Patrick Cantlay as his win has been coming and he looked to have a good chance however 20/1 about a maiden however talented isn’t a price for everyone. The outsiders I plumped for instead started very well as both Stegmaier and Fathauer sat in the top 20 after the first round but both struggled on Friday on what was a very strange 2nd round. They couldn’t get closer again over the weekend and it was annoying to see Hadley place as I left him out on price alone.

Total 2017 pts advised = 506pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 381.21pts

ROI = -24.67%


OHL Classic

The penultimate event of the 2017 Fall Series takes place south of the border, down Mexico way. The course is El Camaleon at Mayakoba and has been a staple on the Tour since 2007. It is quite a unique event for a couple of reasons, firstly it was the only regular PGA Tour event outside the U.S. for a number of years and secondly it was one of the few courses they play annually that is less than 7000 yards long.

To allow for the lack of length the course is heavily tree-lined with very narrow fairways and some smaller, fairly tricky sea paspalum greens. Despite the fiddly nature of the course, scoring is usually very low and while it isn’t over powered, the accurate players in the field can make plenty of birdies, especially if they enjoy putting on the often quirky sea paspalum greens. Sea paspalum is said to grab the ball a lot more than other grasses so those with an aggressive short iron game are able to pepper the flag and make a score without having to hole a serious amount of distance. Experience of the grass is certainly advantageous and the strain of grass caused quite a stir back at the 2012 US PGA when very few players had seen sea paspalum on the PGA Tour. It is becoming increasingly more common now however and is used at lots of Web.com Tour venues.

While young rookies tend to do very well in these early season events, more experienced pros tend to enjoy the test at Mayakoba and we can see that if we look at the last three winners, Pat Perez, Graeme McDowell and Charlie Hoffman. I wouldn’t want to rule any of the younger players out but I will be focussing on the experienced players who will have the patience for a more considered test of golf.

I’d make accuracy the most important attribute this week, both off the tee and indeed with their irons. Having played well previously in the heat and humidity will be beneficial and proximity to the hole numbers are worth a look, especially with the wedges from 100 to 150 yards.

Chesson Hadley is one of the form players in the world right now and while I left him out at 28/1 last week I’m going to include him here as he has shown his liking for sea paspalum in the past and played well in the humid conditions. Hadley didn’t actually do a lot wrong last week as he bogeyed the 18th to miss out on the play-off but that was the only mistake he really made down the stretch and he wasn’t alone in bogeying the impossibly hard final hole.

His whole game has been in great shape for the last two months and he doesn’t really have too much of a weakness to his game. He was won before away from mainland U.S as his sole PGA Tour win came in Puerto Rico in similar climate and on similar paspalum greens. In all honesty I thought we would be looking at joint 2nd favourite here around 18/1 or 20/1 so I’ll gladly take the 25/1 on offer about the player who looks more likely than anyone in the field to play well. *Since initially writing this he has been cut to 22/1, it’s not brilliant but still the right side of 20s for me.

This layout should suit Kevin Chappell quite well as he enjoys a test of long game accuracy as much as anyone on Tour. I normally associate him with tougher courses as one of his main strengths is protecting his par on testing ball-striking layouts and his win came at TPC San Antonio on a score of -12. While scoring here is always a lot lower than that, it is the San Antonio link that I like here. It is another Greg Norman course with a premium on accuracy and the green complexes are similar. Chappell can eat up the Par 5s around here with his consistent tee-to-green game and that will allow some slack with the putter which doesn’t always behave.

His form is actually sneaky good coming in too despite not really appearing on any leaderboards. He hasn’t finished outside the Top 35 since The Open and his figures read a very positive 20-28-12-35-6-33-13-8. That 20th was last week at The Shriners and was an excellent result considering it was his first appearance since his successful Presidents Cup debut over a month ago. This is his debut at the course but he finished 9th and 11th in the Mexico Open on the Web.com Tour and the course should suit. I think we are getting a decent price given he is a winner earlier this year, arriving in good form and has pieces of form over the last couple of years as strong as anyone in the field bar Fowler or Reed.

Andrew Putnam looks a great outsider here largely due to his results in the South American/Caribbean swing on the Web.com earlier this year. He went on a run of 8th-11th-5th-1st in the Bahamas, Colombia and Panama and all of those were played in similarly hot and humid conditions. The most interesting point however is that they all feature sea paspalum greens and the Panama GC where he won is also tree-lined and considered a difficult test tee to green. He isn’t the most accurate of drivers but given he has won on tight courses before we can assume he is capable of a strategic game off the tee.

He has played Mayakoba just once and he made the cut but finished down in 72nd last year. He struggled with his long game but yet he ranked 1st for putting which is a big positive. He hasn’t done much lately but his form in similar climates and on sea paspalum greens makes the 250/1 look huge. I’ll also have an interest in the Top 20 market.

Kyle Thompson has missed all three cuts so far in the 2017 season and after last week’s wash out I probably shouldn’t have such a speculative bet but he is another with very good form from the Web.com tournaments played outside the U.S. He won the Great Exuma Classic in January at the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course in the Bahamas which is another Greg Norman design with sea paspalum greens. It isn’t quite as tight a driving course but the green complexes and bunkering look very similar as is the climate. He is a massive price and quite out of form but I’m still having a very small interest each way and Top 20.


Nedbank

This is played at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City in South Africa and it plays about as long as the multiple major winner’s self-indulgent stories. That figure is around 7800 yards and while it is at altitude it is still one of the longer courses on Tour. Unlike many of those though, the players aren’t able to completely let rip with the driver as the fairways are very narrow, tree-lined and feature quite sticky kikuyu rough. Additionally the greens are quite small and are intricately shaped to allow several difficult pin positions. This has seen many of the European Tour’s best ball-strikers win the title over the years and the long-game has to be fully on point to compete in this 72 hole slog in the blistering heat. We have seen many rounds crumble away into the 80s and without a cut this week there will be a huge disparity between the winner and the player in last place. The course will reward good shots but heavily punish those not on their game, especially as the greens firm up over the weekend.

fitz

Matt Fitzpatrick has been top of my list for this ever since he won the European Masters at Crans. To say that Crans and the Gary Player CC are exactly the same test would be inaccurate given the huge difference in length, however there are definitely some crossovers and for me the two have some sort of link. Five of the last seven Nedbanks have been won by players who have also won around Crans and I suppose the two common attributes are finding fairways and being in form. Neither course is one where a player can compete without finding the short stuff or arriving without their game in a good place.

Fitzpatrick is a supremely accurate driver of the ball and although he is quite short, his long iron game is also very accurate meaning he will still be able to hit these smallish greens. His two efforts to date in the Nedbank haven’t been spectacular but he has made the top 20 on both occasions. He hasn’t quite threatened to win in recent weeks but his form has still been good with results of 11-9-15-15-11 since his win in Switzerland. If he starts well then I expect him to contend this week.

Tommy Fleetwood should enjoy this test but I’m a little unsure how he might perform with the pressure that Justin Rose heaped on him last week. He will be very much the focus at the course during the build up and having played so much golf lately, that might just take its toll after a long flight from Turkey. Instead I’m looking at two outsiders for an added interest.

Paul Waring drives the ball very long and very straight and he bounced back to form last week as he finished 14th in Turkey. His whole game was very strong as he ranked 11th in the all-round, 5th in total driving and 7th in ball-striking. His best finish to date on Tour was a runner-up finish in the Joburg Open in February so I’m hoping he will be comfortable in these conditions. Had this been a star-studded field he might have struggled but given the number of big names now missing he shouldn’t be overawed.

I wanted to include Romain Wattel again but it was proving hard to forgive him his opening round last week where I really fancied him to go well. But at 150/1 I think he is worth another go as he ranked 7th for total driving, 8th for GIR and closed with rounds of 68-69-67. It was just a poor start and a cold putter that prevented him contending and I’m hoping a trip to SA and the grainy putting greens might sort the latter out. He already has three placed efforts in the country so should go well now he is returning as a European Tour winner.


Summary of bets

OHL Classic

Chesson Hadley – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 30/1

Andrew Putnam – 0.5pt ew @ 250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

Kyle Thompson – 0.25pt ew @ 500/1 and 0.5pt Top 20 @ 20/1

Nedbank Challenge

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1.5pts ew @ 18/1

Paul Waring – 0.5pt ew @ 175/1

Romain Wattel – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

2017 pts advised = 518pts

@theGreek82

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Shriners Hospitals and Turkish Airlines Open – Betting Preview

The WGC HSBC was a massive washout early doors so I didn’t really end up watching much at all. I’m guessing it must have played very soft though as the shorter hitters really struggled to keep up with the bombers and that’s not always the case at Sheshan.

At the Sanderson Farms things went a little better as both Baddeley and Gay flirted with the leaderboard over the weekend but they throw in too many mistakes and rather uncharacteristically both missed several shortish putts.

2017 pts advised = 498

2017 pts returned = 381.21

ROI = -23.4%


Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

With the Fall Series having given chances to rookies since it was established back in 2013, many arrive in confident mood knowing that if they play well they will have a chance in these lower quality fields. But last week rather than a young Web.com graduate getting off the mark it was 41 yr old maiden Ryan Armour who showed no chinks as he easily converted his 5 shot final round lead. If we also look at last year’s Shriners winner, 47-year-old Rod Pampling, then we see further proof of how open these events can be. That makes it a nightmare from a betting point of view as realistically everyone in this field is capable of winning. What that means is we really have to err on the side of value even more so than normal this week and we can start by dismissing some of the incredibly short prices at the head of the market. Tony Finau no doubt has a long, successful career ahead of him and he has proven himself already in classy events but he hasn’t yet shown that he can be relied upon as a short price favourite. Webb Simpson at his best is the class act here but we haven’t seen 4 rounds of his best very often since the anchoring ban. Patrick Cantlay makes most appeal of those at the front but he is priced up on reputation as much as anything and while it looks only a matter of time before he wins, I’d prefer him at a price in a stronger field where the scoring isn’t as low.

The course is TPC Summerlin in the desert in Las Vegas. It sits at some 7255 yards but it’s altitude of 2600ft means it won’t play all of that. That has resulted in short hitters having plenty of success in this event over the years as they are able to compete on a fairly level playing field.

TPC Summerlin was designed by Pete Dye protegé Bobby Weed and he is also responsible for TPC River Highlands (Travelers Championship) and Dye’s Valley Course at Sawgrass which hosted the Web.com Tour Championships from 2013-2015. Weed worked closely with Dye for years and his influence was strong so Dye’s own TPC Sawgrass is also worth looking at this week as several players have strong records at both.

There are some trees around but I don’t think it could be classed as tree-lined in a classic sense and the main protection off the tee comes from thick rough which has been up in recent years. The fairways aren’t narrow however so the rough can certainly be avoided by the more accurate players while bombers should still be close enough to muscle the ball out of the rough. The main difficulty of the course however lies with the green complexes as we have come to expect with Dye’s own courses. They are undulating, fairly quick and have lots of runoff areas so only the most controlled, accurate approach shots will end up anywhere near the flag. Therefore being in the fairway is crucial to consistent low-scoring  across the four days and with a winning score usually north of -20, low scoring will be required! Key stats include GIR, proximity to hole and par 3 scoring as the short holes are tough and the winner normally performs well on them.

The head of the market isn’t that appealing this week at all, there are certainly players who can be expected to play well but I’m taking the each way value  given how this tournament has panned out recently. I wanted to compliment some larger prices with one towards the front of the betting but that is proving very hard indeed.

Brett Stegmaier very nearly won this two years ago so I’m a little surprised about his price this week. Stegmaier is another who is no young rookie and at the age of 34 he has been bouncing around the Web.com Tour since he turned professional back in 2006. Stegmaier also has form at TPC River Highlands where he shot an opening 64 to sit 2nd behind Spieth after the first round earlier this year. He would go on to finish a respectable 26th. Stegmaier also has two top 25s around the Dye Valley course but it his Florida Gator roots that made him a must back for me this week. The University of Florida’s golf course is the Mark Bostick Golf Course which was redesigned by Bobby Weed shortly before Stegmaier’s time there. The course appears very similar visually, especially the greens, and that might help explain why he was so comfortable here on just his 5th PGA Tour start. At 200/1 it won’t cost us much to see if he can go well on the course again.

Derek Fathauer is also a huge price this week after a 10th place finish last week in Jackson. That stopped the run of missed cuts and he played ok across the four days but he putted very well. Fathauer has played here three times before and he is improving after posting a 36th last year after two missed cuts. The reason I looked at him first this week was the location of his only professional win, the Dye Valley course at Sawgrass. He won the Tour Championship there in 2014 to earn his card for the 2015 season. He didn’t really make much of an impact but I think he looks a very fair each way price this week after his solid performance at the Sanderson last week.

My final pick is Patrick Rodgers who has stopped the rot of 4 missed cuts with a run of 33-23-43-73. Those 4 missed cuts came after the disappointment of losing out at the John Deere Classic where he was pipped to 2nd by Bryson Dechambeau. Rodgers only professional win was at a similar altitude to TPC Summerlin down in Bogota and he was also 3rd at last year’s Travelers Championship at Weed’s TPC River Highlands course. He missed the cut here last year but was 13th the year before and can get himself back into contention again now he is settled back in the US after the Asian swing.

 


Turkish Airlines Open

This event moved to a new course last year so we only have one year of course form to go on for the first of The Final Series events. Last year’s tournament was won in fairly convincing fashion by Thorbjorn Olesen.

The course is the Regnum Carya Golf Club and was designed by Thomson, Perrett & Lobb Golf Course Architects, which was founded by 5-time Open Champion Peter Thomson. It was said to have been based on the classic heathland courses around London and it is certainly very tree-lined. Last year that perhaps made me look too closely at driving accuracy which meant I was never going to find the usually wild Olesen. But it should be noted that he is a player who can go well on tree-lined courses and perhaps the narrow lines focus his mind and force him to keep the ball in play with irons and 3-woods. Additionally the punishment for finding the trees wasn’t as massive and the greens were still found from under the branches.

Interestingly George Coetzee was 5th here last year and he and Olesen contested a play-off in Mauritius at the tree-lined Heritage course in 2015. Again though that was the only running of that event at the course but they return there next month so it may well be worth keeping an eye on that link even if it cant help us this week.

With Peter Thompson having helped design the course and Olesen having won last year, I’m of the thinking that the course may well play like some of the tree-lined classic courses that I always associate with links players. One of those is Lake Karrinyup in Perth, Australia where Olesen won in 2014. That leads me to my main pick this week, Alexander Levy.

Levy was 2nd there in the final stroke-play event in early 2016 and his form has been simmering away nicely lately as he slowly gotten over the short putt he missed to win the European Open in the summer. An aggressive iron player, Levy’s week can often be dependent on his putter and usually when it performs we see him contend in this level of field. That has seen him become a relatively prolific winner and he already has 4 wins to his name. He has shown already he is happy to travel away from central Europe and he has won twice in China on two different courses. His record in Turkey is good too with top 20s in both the editions at Montgomerie Maxx while he ranked 1st on the greens here last year as he finished 25th. I think he represents a shade of value here at 50/1 given the number of less prolific winners that find themselves shorter in the betting.

The head of the market looks strong but it also looks hard to split them and find a bet so instead I will look for the each way value just like over in the US. My other picks are three talented players that are in no way guaranteed to play well but they should be suited by the course and they look over priced.

Romain Wattel has missed a couple of cuts since his KLM win last month but I don’t think either event would have suited him and he can be forgiven for still not being too focussed having finally obtained his first European Tour win. With this being the first in the Final Series he will be determined to make a good start here and he will be rejuvenated after a week off.

He was 6th at Lake Karrinyup in 2016 and also 6th last year at Wentworth. The course should suit his game and I think we are getting a little bit of value on the Frenchman now that he has the monkey off his back.

Jeung-hun Wang has impressed no end in the last two years but he also has a habit of falling rapidly out of form, only to find it again from nowhere. He is already a three-time winner on Tour and I think he is someone who can still be profitable following at bigger prices when the course suits. I originally looked at Wang because of his win in the Mauritius Open where Olesen won but I forgot that was played on a different course, albeit still a tree-lined one. That tempered my enthusiasm for him a little but then I saw his price. He arrives here after a poor showing in the CJ Cup which would have made him hard to back anywhere under 80/1 but there is still some 125/1 around and that looks big to me.

Wang’s other two wins came in the Qatar Masters and the Trophee Hassan. Olesen has an excellent record in the former and the Trophee Hassan win was around a fairly tight tree-lined course. He played here last year and finished 13th and the course really should suit him. The price more than factors in the chances of him playing poorly again.

Matthew Southgate is a little bit of an enigma, often popping up in elite company and looking like he belongs before promptly disappearing again for a few months. When he is playing well though he is someone you look at and wonder how he isn’t contending most weeks. Obviously he has had his health problems over the last few years but he retains a lot of talent, especially on the right courses. While travelling back from China isn’t ideal, he will have a lot of confidence after his 24th place finish there and the course should suit this accurate driver. He came 31st here last year and will be looking to improve on his 2nd look. Looks over priced to do so at 150/1.


Summary of Bets

Shriners

Patrick Rodgers – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Brett Stegmaier – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Derek Fathauer – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Turkish Airlines Open

Alex Levy – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Romain Wattel – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Jeunghun Wang – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1

Matthew Southgate – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2017 pts aadvised = 506pts

@theGreek82

WGC HSBC and Sanderson Farms – Betting Preview

Patrick Reed, Shane Lowry and Soren Kjeldsen all gave us a run for our money last week and while they never really looked like winning it was rather disappointing that none of them managed to place after spending the bulk of the week in and around the top 15 or so. The first week in six with no returns and it means I’m up against it now to get back into the black for 2017 with just 5 weeks left before the Christmas break.

Total 2017 pts advised =490

Total 2017 pts returned = 381.21

ROI = -22.2%


WGC HSBC

The 3 week Asian swing culminates with the final WGC of the season in Shanghai at Sheshan Golf Club. With the exception of the 2012 running, Sheshan has been the venue for the WGC HSBC Champions dating back to it’s inception in the 2005 season so there is no shortage of course form. It was designed by the renowned Asia based team of Nelson and Haworth and plays at 7266 yards long with undulating, tree-lined fairways, elevated bentgrass greens and plenty water in play. The design team are quoted as saying that they were influenced by Donald Ross’ Oak Hill course which has a lot of varied Par 4s with many elevation changes and puts a premium on distance control.

That is very much what is required around Sheshan and a look through the names on previous leaderboards shows up lots of players who regularly put up impressive proximity to the hole numbers with the full range of irons. While it isn’t always a great putter that wins, they generally perform rather well on the greens that week. Especially when it comes to lag putting from distance as the green complexes are undulating and tricky. Those looking at particular stats should focus on approach proximity, particularly the more difficult longer irons (175-200 and 200-225) which can often separate those who are swinging well and those who aren’t. Three putt avoidance will also be key with lots of difficult long-range putts to be found on the greens.

Ross Fisher will divide opinion this week as he is grouped together with some altogether bigger names in the betting market. But I’m not too fussed about that as Fisher is a classy player who is back to his very best and he has shown over his career he can contend in fields like this when swinging well and holing putts. That is exactly what he has been doing over the last few weeks.

He followed up his course record at St Andrews with another excellent performance when having to settle for 2nd behind Hatton again in Italy. Those two were playing on a different level to the rest of the Tour for two weeks and if Fisher has kept things ticking over since then he can be expected to go well on a course that suits his accurate game. He has finished 6th and 3rd in the last two editions but also has a runner-up finish from back in 2007. A test of accuracy from tee to green right through the bag is exactly what Fisher wants but he has also shown that he can putt well on these greens, ranking 9th on the greens last year and 8th in 2007. Furthermore he has been putting a lot better recently (ignoring his Thursday round at St Andrews where I felt like offering some help his lag putting was so bad!) so he will be confident returning to Sheshan.

Beyond just this course his general form in China has always been very strong since finishing 4th on his first appearance back in 2005, and he has done everything but pick up a win. Just this year he finished 3rd at the Sheshan International and followed up the week after with a 6th place at the Volvo China Open.

Some will scoff at the price but it’s a 78 man field, he has some of the best course form in the field and is swinging better than most of that field. Whether he can be relied upon to get over the line on Sunday in this company I’m not sure, but I think his each way chances are excellent and he looks very likely to play well again. Unfortunately even the 28/1 is gone now but for those that have a Betfair account there is still some 30.0 kicking about.

Chez Reavie has had three consecutive top 20s to start his 2018 season which is a level of consistency not always associated with him given how he often struggles on certain courses. Sheshan looks right up his street though, difficult approach shots across elevation changes and a premium on proximity to the hole is what his game is all about. Those are key at Riviera where he has solid form and also at Glen Abbey the scene of his only PGA Tour win. Reavie is also an excellent scrambler and I think he could surprise a few on a course where shorter hitters can thrive as long as they are accurate long iron players. He will have his work cut out to win this but then again nobody would have picked out Russell Knox 2 years ago so he could be worth a small play at a good each way price. Last time I picked him he agonisingly finished 7th at 250/1 so I’m also going to have a Top 10 bet given he is someone who can quite often come up just short on Sunday.

I’m going to have a saver on Hideki Matsuyama here after seeing his numbers for his last event at the CIMB Classic. He landed a backdoor 5th place but his long game was very much back to its best prior to his slight slump after the US PGA. He hit 95% of fairways and 86% GIR , good enough to rank 1st in both categories. Returning to the scene of his 7 stroke win last year I would expect him to go close if that level of ball-striking is maintained. No kind of each way price though and if he plays well enough to contend then he should really go on and win so I’ll go win only.


Sanderson Farms Championship

The tournament that now regularly goes up against the WGC HSBC is the Sanderson Farms Championship and it takes place in the deep south of Mississippi and Jackson Country Club. The course is a medium length Par 72 at 7284 yards with tree-lined fairways and small, tricky, champion bermuda greens that are said to resemble Donald Ross greens which tells us they are undulating and generally fall from back to front. This sets a precedent on distance control with irons and indeed approach putting. The three winners of this event to date are all very good putters and despite the course hardly being a cake walk from tee to green, this has largely been settled on the greens thus far.

Aaron Baddeley always jumps out whenever good putters are required and lately he has been putting best on bermuda greens. His best finish last season was at TPC San Antonio where he finished 5th, ranking 7th on the champion bermuda greens. In 2016 he won on the bermuda greens at the Barbasol, another alternate event played during The Open week. His 2nd best finish of 2016 was a 4th place finish in this every event. He’s not in the greatest of form coming off two missed cuts but he ranks 1st in proximity to hole so far for the 2018 season. It’s very much in its infancy but if he can the get the ball anywhere near the hole at Jackson CC then his putter can help him score and he looks a tasty each way price at 80/1 having excelled in similar events in recent times.

Brian Gay’s form has been up and down throughout 2017 but it’s interesting to note his last two placed efforts have been on champion bermuda at TPC San Antonio and the Barbasol. He hasn’t won since 2013, but while he is a bit of a journeyman he usually does ok in lower grade events like this and he is still a 4-time winner on Tour. Three of those have come on bermuda greens and one of those was around TPC Southwind which is very similar to this week’s course. Missed the cut on his first start of the season but he hadn’t played for 6 weeks so he should be better prepared this week having loosened off at the Safeway Open.

While there are many good Web.com graduates on show this week who will be eager to prove themselves early in the season, the bookies are onto most of those who have been playing well recently and subsequently there are a lot of poor prices around. Therefore I will just leave it at the two speculative plays on a couple of proven champion bermuda putters.


Summary of Bets

WGC HSBC

Ross Fisher – 1.5pts ew @ 25/1

Chez Reavie 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 and 1pt Top 10 @ 6/1

Hideki Matsuyama – 1pt win @ 12.5

Sanderson Farms

Aaron Baddeley – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Brian Gay – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 498pts

 

@theGreek82

RSM Classic and DP World Championship – Betting Preview 

Another week on the PGA Tour and yet another long odds surprise winner. This time Pat Perez obliged after some 7 years without a win and having missed the bulk of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. In truth he had shown something having returned to Tour with a 33rd and 7th before Mexico but few could have predicted him winning in such fashion and it was another excellent PGA Tour week for the bookmakers. Bradley and Huh both played quite well without ever really threatening to do anything and finished inside the Top 25.
Events were a little more straight-forward in South Africa with Alexander Noren picking up his 4th win in his last 11 starts to fire himself to World No. 9 which is by some distance his career high. After Thursday I was actually feeling quite good about the Stenson bet as he was traded at a low of around 2.8 but that feeling was short lived as he struggled badly on Friday and was always just too far behind to mount a proper challenge to either his compatriot Noren or the impressive Wang while he was out in front.

The results are as follows;

Total pts advised =  846pts

Total pts returned = 825.56pts 

ROI = -2.5%

After 2016 is finished I plan to continue with the results over calendar years rather than ongoing. As ever though, I will make results available to anyone who might want them.

This week we have the final official PGA Tour event of the year with the RSM Classic and the 2016 European Tour season culminates with the DP World Championship in Dubai.
                     

                          RSM CLASSIC

We cross back over the border this week for The RSM Classic which will take place at Sea Island Golf Club, Georgia. It is in its seventh running and it was previously known as The Mcgladrey Classic until last year due to a change of sponsor. The resort itself is very picturesque and has resulted in many Tour pros setting up home in the Sea Island area. Indeed this tournament was actually initiated by Davis Love III and Zach Johnson who are two of the biggest names to live there. There are several other players who reside there and it is definitely worth paying close attention to those who will be able to sleep in their own beds this week while playing on a course they know intimately. As well as possibly living in the area we should also take note of those who regularly play well in the area and indeed those that attended The University of Georgia. Last year’s winner Kevin Kisner was a “Georgia Bulldog”, he was born and bred just over the border in South Carolina and he had a fairly solid bank of form around the East coast area. Those were the heady of days of 2015 however when there seemed to be a little bit of logic to golf betting and Kisner was indeed a very obvious winner.

This week there are two courses in play as they all have a round on the Plantation Course (7,058 yard Par 70) as well as the main Seaside Course (7,055 yard Par 70) before those that make the cut continue over the Seaside at the weekend. Both courses are fairly short with a good spread of trees and water in play. Length off the tee isn’t really a huge advantage around Sea Island and therefore it is another week where the shorter hitters usually contend. The fairways aren’t overly narrow but finding the correct landing areas is imperative to getting close to the flags on the Seaside Course. The greens on both courses are on the larger side and are bermuda.

The last 5 winners are a mix of accurate drivers, neat and tidy wedge games but above all strong putters; Kevin Kisner, Robert Streb, Chris Kirk, Tommy Gainey and Ben Crane being those five men. A look at the stats from recent renewals backs that idea up. Kevin Kisner ranked 9th for GIR, 3rd for scrambling and 2nd for total putting last year. Robert Streb ranked 1st in total putting and Chris Kirk, while not putting as well as usual, ranked 15th for GIR and 5th for scrambling. Tommy Gainey and Ben Crane both won their titles with a brilliant display on the greens, each ranking 2nd for total putting.

Having watched Kisner’s win very closely last year the one thing that caught my eye was how he peppered the flags and then appeared to hole everything in the 5ft-20ft range. The same could often be said about an in-form Chris Kirk or Robert Streb which got me thinking whether there was any one stat that might link the Sea Island winners. To me, “Scoring relative to par from approaches 125-150 yards” looks pretty much perfect. It is better than simply looking at proximity as it also takes into account whether a player is actually taking advantage of repeatedly hitting their wedges in close to the pin. Streb, Kirk and Kisner all ranked inside the Top 10 for this stat in either the season of their win or the season just finished. Beyond the normal stats I think this looks to be a very important one this week and we should also consider the 100-125 and 150-175 yard categories to allow for the longer and shorter hitters. Kisner had also shown a liking for bermuda greens earlier in the year when finishing 2nd at both Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass.

With the way 2016 is going I should really know better than pick someone so obvious but I’ve been over this a few times and I simply can’t get away from Chris Kirk this week. I know he is probably too short a price but so too are most of the market leaders. Kirk is actually the slight favourite for this at around 18/1and while you could look at Jim Furyk at 35/1 and baulk at him being double the price, you could also look at Charles Howell III (35/1) and wonder how Kirk is only half of his price. Ultimately, the odds that someone is prepared to take on a player can be very personal and there will be many this week that will easily dismiss Kirk at the odds. But I have just about made peace with the fact that I’m going to back him as I actually think he might win. Kisner was similarly short last year and I still backed him and that worked out ok. It could just be that Sea Island is a good venue for those expected to go well and how badly we need one of those!

Chris Kirk has everything going for him this week and more. As the 2013 winner here we know he likes the course, he studied in Georgia, he lives nearby, and he followed up his win with a 4th place finish as defending champion. Another solid showing last year resulted in a T18th when he was in fairly poor form and still suffering from a slight President’s Cup hangover having made his U.S. team debut the previous month.

However this season he has three top 10s from just four tournaments with the pick of those a runner-up finish at The Sanderson Farms. When finishing 7th last week he ranked 5th for total driving and 2nd for GIR and when his long game is that strong he is a real danger, especially in this relatively week field. His putter actually let him down a little last week but there is no way he will let that happen again on these bermuda greens which he knows as well as anyone.

While I was keen on Kirk long before I saw his price, it was his stats that pushed me over the line and helped me to take the short price. After establishing that “Scoring – Approaches (RTP) from 125-150 yards” would be important I noticed that Kirk currently sits in 20th for that stat but also 31st for  the 100-25 yard category. We know he is keeping the ball in the fairway so with several short par 4s I’d expect to see him with plenty of birdie putts inside 20ft and there are normally very few better from that range, certainly in this field. Kirk currently ranks 10th for strokes gained: putting and a solid 45th for scrambling.

The shock winners can’t continue all season and while it didn’t work last week with Bradley, this method did work very well at the RSM Classic last year so with the only negative being his price, Kirk is a confident selection to win his 5th PGA Tour title playing in his own back yard.

As an alternative to the favourite, Jamie Lovemark looks an excellent each way bet at 80/1 off the back of his 9th place finish on his debut last year, but if we explore further then the value looks to be standout this week. He drove it further than everyone that week but he also hit more greens than anyone else which can normally be a very hard thing to do around Sea Island. His stats are looking good again this year for this test as he sits 39th in strokes gained: putting, 17th in scrambling and 23rd in “Scoring RTP from 100-125 yards”. That will be the range that he will find himself having left for his approach on a lot of these Par 4s given his length off the tee.

Lovemark is another player who was threatening to win last season but so far he has eased into the 2017 season. He is playing well though and with a 35th place finish last week I think he will arrive at Sea Island with fond memories of the course from last year and hopefully he can improve on his second look. 

Trey Mullinax is yet another in the long list of 2017 exciting young rookies and while he hasn’t performed as well as the likes of Cody Gribble or Seamus Power yet he is of interest this week at a course that suits. The best part of Mullinax’s game is his putting so he was on my shortlist before I discovered he was one of the many PGA Tour players that practice regularly at the Sea Island Performance Centre. This means he will be familiar with the course and might help explain how he finished 25th last year on just his 3rd PGA Tour start. Mullinax ranks 6th for birdie average over the last 3 months and 9th in Par 4 scoring over the same time so this probably looks the best course for him so far this season. He looks well worth an each way interest this week at 150/1.

             DP World Championship

The Final Series on The European Tour has taken a bit of a bashing lately but the Tour has definitely been helped out by the way events have panned out on the Race to Dubai. It’s still relatively open with Henrik Stenson, Danny Willet, Alex Noren and Rory McIlroy all still in with a mathematical chance of winning the 2016 title. This should make for an exciting tournament and hopefully the finale that the European Tour deserves.

The course is the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Estate in Dubai as has been the norm since 2009. It is an extremely long course at 7675 yards and subsequently over the years it has always been won by some of the best ball strikers the European Tour has to offer.

Two of those lead the way this week in Rory McIlroy and Henri Stenson and few could argue with that given we have to go back to 2011 to find a different name on the trophy. They are both very short prices and while either one of them could win by 10 strokes here it certainly looks worthwhile trying to find some each way alternatives in a market that they dominate.

With Victor Dubuisson hovering on the leaderboard in South Africa on Sunday I’m sure there were many waiting on his price on Monday morning given his strong form at the Earth Course here in Dubai. He has finished 9th, 2nd and 3rd on his three appearances to date so when some firms opened at 90/1 then people must have thought Christmas had come early and he was very quickly cut. Unfortunately I missed that and now there is only a little bit of 45/1 around but with his whole game looking sharp last week that still rates a bet for me.

His long game in particular was in fantastic shape last week as he ranked 2nd for total driving and 4th in GIR, which is generally the skillset that wins this. The brutally long course demands distance off the tee and accurate long irons into the heavily undulating greens which are well protected by bunkers and water. 

Away from McIlroy and Stenson, Dubuisson probably has the best course form and is a very obvious pick so even at 45/1 he looks a solid each way prospect. He has had a poor 2016 but at his best he is top class and we know he can win in this strong a field having twice won a Final Series tournament in Turkey. Hopefully last week was the enigmatic Frenchman returning to somewhere near his best and if that is the case he should contend again on a course that suits his eye.

Last year I was ruing not backing Andy Sullivan in the outright market at around 50/1. I fancied he would go well but only backed him in the Top 10 market. After chasing McIlroy home last year his price is nowhere near as fancy this time around but all the same logic applies. His long game has been back to its best over the last couple of months and despite appearing to have a poor Ryder Cup, Sullivan actually played as well as McIlroy in the opening session, if not better than, and was a little unlucky not to play again until the Sunday.

Last week in South Africa he ranked 4th in total driving and 21st in GIR which helped to 2nd in the all-round ranking and a 3rd place finish overall.

I didn’t love his price when he first opened on the Exchange but there is still some 25/1 around and that looks like a perfectly fair price. The same names always appear on the leaderboard in Dubai each year and after a brilliant debut last year I’m sure we will see the smiling Nuneaton man in contention again this year.

With Stenson and McIlroy no doubt set to fill two of the places I’m keeping my outright bets at two and instead having a small Top 10 bet on someone who is having an excellent year. I’ve had a little success with Tyrell Hatton this year despite missing out on his win. He started badly in the feature group last week alongside Stenson and Willet but away from the spotlight he rallied well to finish 25th and his driving was on point as he finished 11th for total driving. He is another player with a good record around the course despite his tee-to-green game not being anywhere close to this year’s standard in the past. He finished 6th on his debut immediately getting to grips with the greens and he then returned a 13th last year. Hatton is a far more accomplished player now and has his European Tour win to prove it. He plays his best stuff on links and desert tracks with an 8th place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic in February this year before his excellent Links performances this summer culminated in a St Andrews win at the Alfred Dunhill. At 3/1 he looks a rock solid Top 10 bet this week in a field of just 60.

                  SUMMARY OF BETS

RSM Classic

Chris Kirk – 1.5pt ew @ 18/1

Jamie Lovemark – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

Trey Mullinax – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

DP World Championship

Victor Dubuisson – 1pt ew @ 45/1

Andy Sullivan – 1pt ew @ 25/1

Tyrell Hatton – 1pt Top 10 @ 3/1


Weekly pts advised – 10.5pts

Total advised pts – 856.5pts

 
@theGreek82

Tour Championship and European Open – Betting Preview

I’ve missed a few weeks due to holidays so apologies to anyone that might have been looking for a preview. Back to normal this week for the PGA Tour finale and the European Open before the much-anticipated Ryder Cup next weekend.

After the last preview the returns are creeping ever closer to losses but for now the blog is still in the positive;

Total pts advised – 778.50 pts

Total pts returned – 793.79 pts

ROI – 1.96%

 


 Tour Championship

It has been an eventful couple of weeks on the PGA Tour despite there not having been any golf played for 10 days. Davis Love III has picked his first three Ryder Cup wild cards and there has been no end of analysis and speculation. Darren Clarke also picked his three but to a more muted response. Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood were virtually certainties and while Russell Knox can certainly feel hard done by, Thomas Pieters was equally deserving of a place after his high pressure win alongside Darren Clarke in Denmark.

The hysteria looks set to continue now as the top 30 in the Fed-Ex Cup Points List head to Georgia for the Tour Championship. There were a few high-profile casualties at the BMW and that means we won’t be seeing Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka or Justin Rose at East Lake but with the Ryder Cup starting on Friday of next week they will surely relish the break.

It’s not all doom and gloom however as we still have plenty of the game’s best chasing the $10m Fed Ex bonus. Whether anyone outside the current top 5 will actually have a clue what to do in order to win that bonus is another matter!

Every year there are numerous different permutations and while the format has probably helped to create some end of season excitement, it could no doubt be better still were it a little clearer to the players what is going on down the stretch on Sunday. That isn’t a problem for Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Paul Casey though as they occupy the first five respective positions and they know that if they win the Tour Championship they will also win the Fed Ex Cup. That has been the case the last 6 years regardless where the winner started the week though as Spieth, Horschel, Stenson, Snedeker, Haas and Furyk all earned the $10m bonus by winning the Tour Championship.

The course at East Lake has been the host for every Tour Championship dating back to 2004 and therefore it has seen all 9 Fed Ex finales to date. One important change this year however is that the front 9 and back 9 have been flipped. Previously the course finished on a Par 3 but with that said to be lacking excitement, the 18th will now be a Par 5.

The course is another Donald Ross design as per four weeks ago at Sedgefield. It is a 7385 yard long Par 70 and while the rough isn’t too penal, its tree-lined nature together with fairways that are below average in width creates a difficult driving course. You need to be in the correct areas of the fairway in order to hit Ross’s trademark sloping bermuda greens. That suggests experience of the course is crucial but there is some hope for the debutants as 2 of the last 8 winners were seeing the course for the first time . To further muddy the picture, the list of winners is quite a varied one without any obvious attributes linking them beyond arriving in very good form.

That led me to have a thorough look through the stats for all recent Tour Championships to see if any pattern developed. The last eight winners averaged 5th for GIR, 5th for total accuracy and 3rd in the all-round ranking. But perhaps the most interesting was that the last four winners have ranked 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 1st in bogey avoidance for the week. While that might appear obvious for the winner, it reinforces the fact that East Lake is the sort of course where par is usually a good score.

Looking beyond the stats for the week in which they won I also wanted to see how the players fared in some of the year-long stats and that highlighted another key attribute. The last eight winners have averaged 26th for strokes gained:tee to green and that was by far the best that I found, further confirming that it is a ball-strikers course.

I expected to find myself backing one of the big names this week but throughout 2016 it has been very hard to predict which one of the market leaders is going to perform on any given week. Throw into the mix the number of winners going off at 1000.0 and it has made for a very tricky 2016 indeed.

With just 30 players in the field this week there appears to be a lot of value further down the field. Despite this being the best 30 players of the season and usually being won by players in form, the Tour Championship is prone to outsiders contending. Bill Haas was hardly the household name he is now when winning in 2011 and last year Danny Lee ran Jordan Spieth very close over the weekend. This has led me to pick out two outsiders at very fair prices.

Daniel Berger has had a very impressive first couple of years on Tour even if his exploits have been overshadowed by the likes of Spieth, Day and Johnson. Berger won the Rookie of the Year award last year after making it to The Tour Championship and he played quite well finishing 12th.

Berger is normally a long and accurate driver of the ball but he has been below his best in that department lately which has resulted in a less consistent year than his debut year on Tour. However his strong all-round game allowed him to get his first win at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic and that together with a few other high finishes means he is now 2 from 2 in reaching the Fed Ex finale.

While his 12th at East Lake last year no doubt brought him to my attention this week it is his general liking of Donald Ross designs and bermuda greens that make me think he could go well this week. If we look at the 2014 US Open leaderboard around Donald Ross’s Pinehurst No. 2 course then there is quite a close link to East Lake. The last 7 winners of the Tour Championship all finished inside the top 35 at Pinehurst; Spieth (17th), Horschel (23rd), Stenson (4th), Snedeker (9th), Haas (35th), Furyk (12th), Mickelson (28th). Daniel Berger finished 28th there in what was his first ever major aged just 21. He also closed with a 66 on Sunday which was the lowest round of the day and actually the 3rd best of the week after Kaymer’s opening pair of 65s.

His win at TPC Southwind was on bermuda greens as was his play-off defeat to Harrington in the Honda Classic at PGA National. He goes well on shot-makers courses that have bermuda greens and that is exactly why he finished 12th here last year. With the Tour Championship always being won by a form player it is important to be playing well and after a difficult summer Berger is back to somewhere near his best and he arrives with progressive play-off form figures of 71st, 41st and 10th.

He also sits nicely in a few of the main stats for East Lake; 10th in Par 4 scoring, 35th in bogey avoidance and 30th in strokes gained: tee to green.

Berger is expected to go to the very top of the game and he knows that a win here would be a huge stepping stone in his career and very likely land him the final spot on the US Ryder Cup team. I think that extra motivation will only spur on this confident young player and I expect a good performance.

Robert Castro has been playing some fantastic golf lately and to me he fits the East Lake profile perfectly. The only downside is that he is without a PGA Tour win but that seems to be factored into his rather dismissive price this week. His recent form figures are strong as he arrives on a run of 20th (Wyndham), MC, 24th, 3rd. On both those last two starts he ranked 1st for total accuracy in the field.

Castro also has the all-important experience of the course having previously made the final 30 in 2013, ranking 6th in fairways hit and 4th in GIR on his way to a 9th place finish. He is another that is usually seen at his best on courses that favour accuracy and it is no coincidence that his best year on Tour lines up with some very impressive stats for the year. He currently ranks 5th in Par 4 scoring, 5th in bogey avoidance, 12th in GIR and 5th for driving accuracy. If he keeps that up then he will surely just require a solid putting week in order to contend around East Lake.

Luckily some of his best performances have come on bermuda greens. Castro equalled the course record of 63 at TPC Sawgrass in 2013 on his way to a 12th place finish.

He also has plenty of Donald Ross form as he finished 12th at the 2013 US PGA which was held at the Oakland Hills course and very much favoured ball-strikers with Jason Dufner and Jim Furyk putting on an approach play clinic. His 20th place finish last month at Sedgefield was his 4th Top 20 on Ross courses from just 8 appearances.

With his long game in great shape I think Castro will take to East Lake again and I don’t see any reason why he can’t contend this week.

While Dustin Johnson could obliterate the field here he looks plenty short in the betting for East Lake and Spieth hasn’t been at his best in 2016 despite a recent upturn. Adam Scott and Paul Casey have very solid claims but the bookmakers are only too aware of those. Of the leading candidates Patrick Reed makes most appeal but he is still on the naughty step having let me down this year on a couple of occasions. So with the prices on show I’m happy to side with two relative outsiders on a course that suits them both perfectly.

 


European Open

After a brilliant tournament last week in Italy and with the Ryder Cup happening in Minnesota next week you could be forgiven for dismissing the European Tour this week just as most of the Tour’s better players have done. But with the backing of Porsche, the organisers have attempted to create some sort of buzz at least and they welcome multiple major winners Martin Kaymer, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington to the Bavaria region this week.

They are also putting up a decent purse to attract players back to the scene of Thonghai Jaidee’s one shot win over Graeme Storm last year. That was the first running of the European Open since 2009 and the first ever European Tour event at Bad Griesbach. The resort features several courses but it’s the Beckenbauer course in question here and it also hosted a tournament on the Challenge Tour from 2013-2015 for those wanting a proper look through the form book. It was a bit of a guessing game last year and with the course completely water-logged in the run-up to the event this week it could be more of the same again this year. It doesn’t look like an event to get too involved in but having had a few weeks off I’m perhaps a bit too eager to have a bet.

Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters look a little short at the head of the betting given that they will surely have one eye on the Ryder Cup. Further down the market the only players I like are in no way guaranteed to play well so I’m going to take a different approach this week.

I’m going to back four players in the Top 20 market instead.

I really wanted to back Jens Fahrbring in this last year but he didn’t play. He has a 6th and a 12th from his two Challenge Tour appearances at the course and has actually turned the corner after a run of dismal form. After missing 8 cuts in a row he stopped the rot with a 34th at the KLM and followed that up with a 30th last week in Italy. He could be coming back into some sort of form and looks a huge price just to crack the Top 20.

A top 20 bet on Chris Hanson would have won the last 3 weeks on Tour as he finished 18th, 8th and 20th. He is having a fairly solid season and can continue his good form at a course where he finished 3rd in 2014 on the Challenge Tour.

Bernd Ritthammer has won two of his last eight starts on the Challenge Tour and he will relish the chance to play on the European Tour in his homeland. He has also played all four tournaments at the course, missing the cut at last year’s European Open but finishing 38th, 3rd and 28th on his three appearances in the lower grade. He was without a professional win last year though and arrives now with more confidence and he currently sits on top of the Challenge Tour’s Road to Oman points list. A top 20 shouldn’t be beyond him this week on a course he knows better than most.

Sebastian Gros has been on my radar for most of the season after winning twice on the Challenge Tour last year. He is one of the longest drivers in the world so if the course remains soaking wet all week then it will suit him better than the narrow course in Milan last week where he missed the cut. Prior to that he ranked 5th in the all-round ranking in Holland when finishing 28th so his game is probably in better shape than his odds suggest. Gros was 3rd at the course last year on the Challenge Tour and he looks overpriced for a Top 20.

The first thing that hit me about last year’s winner and runner-up was that they have both won the Open De France. I don’t believe the courses are particularly similar but if there is something in it then Pablo Larrazabal can be expected to go well here. He is a player that I always struggle to get right and he hasn’t been in the greatest of form lately. But he did finish 7th three weeks ago in Switzerland so he looks quite over priced at 66/1 considering he is a four-time winner on Tour. I couldn’t resist a small interest in the outright market!


Summary of Bets

Tour Championship

Daniel Berger – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (4 places)

Roberto Castro – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (4 places)

European Open

Jens Fahrbring – 1pt Top 20 @ 12/1

Chris Hanson – 1pt Top 20 @ 3/1

Bernd Ritthammer – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Sebastian Gros – 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

Pablo Larrazabal – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Weekly pts advised – 9pts

Total pts advised – 787.50 pts

@theGreek82

Zurich Classic and Volvo China Open – Betting Preview

Last week was a complete disaster and I failed to get to grips with either tournament. There isn’t really a lot of point in discussing the bets as they went so poorly.

Charley Hoffman was a popular winner in Texas having struggled recently in contention but given his troubles it would have taken a brave punter to back him at 25/1.

In Europe Korean youngster Soon Min Lee got his first win at just the 6th time of asking on Tour and while he did make some mistakes it was still very impressive on the whole. To win so early in his European Tour career suggests that he could well be the real deal and he is definitely one to watch now that he has playing privileges on Tour.

With no returns the results are as follows;

Total pts advised – 571pts

Total pts returned – 714.67pts

ROI – 25.16%

This week the PGA Tour moves along the coast to New Orleans and The European Tour returns to Beijing for the first time in 7 years.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans

The Tour stays in the deep south for the Zurich Classic in New Orleans this week. Last week there were some big names towards the upper reaches of the leaderboard and those that make the journey will be looking to carry over that form at TPC Louisiana.

The course is another Pete Dye layout and the Zurich Classic is sandwiched half way between 2 of the other Pete Dye stops, the RBC Heritage and The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in two weeks’ time.

TPC-Louisiana3-2000x598-1393696307

TPC Louisiana is definitely not as tough as his other courses though and the average winning score from the last 4 years is 20 under par. Whenever the winning score is that low you assume that strong putters will thrive but while the Zurich winners have putted very well during the week (the last 6 have averaged 12th for total putting but that includes Watson’s ranking of 53rd ), they are by no means the best putters around. Justin Rose, Seong Yul Noh, Billy Horschel, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson and Jason Bohn are hardly considered to be elite with the flat-stick. However they do tend to lag putt quite well and subsequently they don’t make too many 3-putts.

From doing my usual analysis of the main stats groups there is no real standout with every category averaging between 10th and 29th for the last 6 winners. Having not learned too much from that I had a think about what the recent winners had in common. Looking at the list immediately suggested to me that TPC Louisiana is a long game test. All the six winners above regularly sit prominently in both GIR and Approach Proximity stats from 150-175 yards, 175-200 yards and also 200+ yards. That isn’t to say that the putter won’t be hugely significant this week, more so that if your long game isn’t firing then you won’t be able set up enough short birdie putts to contend.

This certainly makes sense as that is what Rose and Dufner’s games are all about, hitting greens where others struggle. It is one of the main reasons they perform so well at US Open layouts. As well as these proximity stats I’m also interested in birdie average, bogey avoidance and 3-putt avoidance. Strong form on Dye courses is also crucial as some players repeatedly go well on his tracks whereas others do not take to them at all.

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

The last time Rickie Fowler received some bad press was when he was voted “Most over-rated player on the PGA Tour”. The week after that poll was published Fowler bagged himself The Player’s Championship and went onto have a stellar summer, firmly rubbishing any such theory and establishing himself at the very top of the game.

So given the backlash that he and his peers have suffered this week from going on a simple holiday, it’s perfectly acceptable to think that this could have a similar effect. For those that haven’t heard, Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Smylie Kauffman and Justin Thomas had themselves an innocent mid-season break in The Bahamas and decided to share some of their highlights on social media.

Quite what all the fuss was about I have no idea, some have suggested that this wouldn’t have happened in Tiger’s day and while that may well be true, even as recently as 10 years ago people wouldn’t have dreamed about being able to share such things instantly to the world. So even if Tiger had done, it’s highly unlikely to have been quite so publicised. I think this changing landscape should be remembered when judging young players for simply having fun.

Anyway, with regards to Fowler, it is easy to forget how brilliantly he was playing prior to his missed cut at The Masters. His stroke-play form figures read 10-8-6-2-MC-1 and his long game in particular has been impressive.

His approach play stats are simply brilliant as he sits 2nd in GIR 150-175 yards, 4th in GIR 175-200 yards, 13th in 150-175 yards proximity to hole and 17th in 175-200 yards proximity to hole. That tells me his game is set up perfectly for the challenge of TPC Louisiana. Further to that he ranks 5th in birdie average, 2nd in bogey avoidance and 1st in Par 4 scoring.

Fowler also has the required Pete Dye form with his brilliant win at TPC Sawgrass last year adding to a 10th place finish here in Louisiana in 2012. While he hasn’t given the appearance of someone that is putting well in 2016 he actually ranks 26th in strokes gained:putting and that is higher than he finished the 2015 (35th) and 2014 (36th) season in that department.

Over the last few years we have seen Rickie Fowler go off at silly short prices and rightly baulked at them. But this is a completely different player now. His iron game rivals the very best in the game at present and with his holiday last week he will arrive fresher than most and his Masters’ missed cut will be firmly forgotten about.

He ranked 1st for putting on Dye’s bermuda greens en route to his Player’s Championship win and if we see anything close to that level of putting this week then he will take a lot of stopping. If he does play well and contends then I would expect him to close it out on Sunday so I’m going win only with him this week.

Over last weekend Billy Horschel quickly made his way up the leaderboard and also my shortlist for this event. But his strong finish on Sunday alerted the bookmakers and that coupled with him being a former winner here has resulted in an unbackable price of 16/1.

Beyond Jason Day, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler at the head of the market this really isn’t the deepest of fields so I’m going to have a couple of small plays on some bigger each way prices in the hope that they can fill the places even if one of the main three runs away with it.

David Hearn still hasn’t won on the PGA Tour having had his card on and off since 2005. He hasn’t played a huge number of tournaments though so he isn’t quite the journeyman that you would expect for a 36 yr old maiden. What I like about Hearn here though is that he often pops up on the leaderboard at Pete Dye courses. He was actually 6th here last year and that was preceded by finishes of 34-21-24-46 at TPC Louisiana.

The Canadian also has some impressive form at The Player’s Championship finishing 26th on his debut and following that up with a 6th place finish in 2014 before a 42nd last year. He seems to thrive on Dye’s layouts and one of the main reason’s for that is his accurate approach play. He currently sits 8th in proximity to the hole and that will be important this week. At odds of 100/1 you could be forgiven for thinking he is out of form but he finsished 13th last week in Texas and that should set him up well for a crack at a course he plays well on. Hearn is a streaky putter but he ranked 38th for total putting last week and his iron play should help give him plenty of opportunities to get his putter hot here.

Robert Garrigus may be grossly out of form but given the skill set I have identified I simply have to back him this week. Granted it could completely backfire but a couple of his key stats are excellent. He ranks 1st in approach proximity from both 150-175 yards and 175-200yards and given those that have won here I don’t believe that the greens can be that difficult. His three play-off losses since his 2010 win have all come on bermuda greens so if he is to find some form with the putter then it will likely be on this surface. The greens will only run at around 10.5-11ft on the stimpmeter here and slower greens can sometimes be an equaliser so if he keeps hitting the ball closer than everyone else then maybe he can outplay his price. At 500/1 it’s worth a small play to find out even if it’s highly likely that I’m clutching at straws!

 


Volvo China Open

With only one previous tournament being held on the Topwin Golf and Country Club in Beijing, both the players and the punters are very much in the dark this week. Furthermore when we consider that it was a very low grade Chinese Tour event, this doesn’t stand out as a great betting prospect.

The course is 7229 yards long and if the man who won that solitary tournament is to be believed then it will play all of that and more. Young Aussie Bryden Macpherson won the event last year and he replied to a tweet from @SteveThePunter suggesting that it will play very easy and will suit bombers who can putt. Now there is nothing to suggest that Macpherson’s appreciation of the course isn’t 100% correct but I wouldn’t want to put too much emphasis on that. However if we combine that with some of the photos available and take a closer look at Macpherson then we can get a better idea of what awaits perhaps. His main achievement is no doubt his Amateur Championship win in 2011 but unfortunately that wasn’t on one of the Open rotation courses. He won at Hillside Golf Club which sits alongside Royal Birkdale on the Merseyside coast and you don’t win the Amateur Championship without being an excellent links exponent.

topwin

On the other hand the photos that I have found of the course confirm that it is a parkland course. But there are obvious elevation changes, sloping greens and undulating fairways. This makes me think of Gleneagles which is an inland course but can play very much like a links course and with that in mind I think Topwin might represent a similar test.

That connection sits nicely with a player who was already top of my short list and also sits towards the head of the market, Bernd Wiesberger. The Austrian has been playing mainly on the PGA Tour lately and while he hasn’t taken the US by storm he certainly isn’t faring too badly. After opening the year with form figures of 16-13-26 through the Middle East swing he missed his first couple of cuts in the US before finding his feet on the tricky bombers course at Doral as he finished 14th in the WGC Cadillac. He led the field in total accuracy that week and continued his form with a 27th in Houston before a very solid 34th at The Masters.

He has obviously been playing with his irons dialled in as he sits in a very lofty 8th position for GIR on the PGA Tour. Given that he has played some of the tougher courses that is very impressive and a different level to what most of this field have been doing. Throw in a ranking of 15th for total putting over the last 3 months (just covers his 3 efforts in Middle East) and he starts looking like a very fair price at 16/1.

One of the first times I noticed Wiesberger was when he made the playoff at Gleneagles in the 2011 Johnnie Walker Championship and he proved that was no fluke when he finished 4th on his next attempt in 2013. With the similarities that I see between the two courses I think that he will take to this layout.

He is already a three time winner on the European Tour (once already in Asia) and stepping back down a level it’s possible that he could blow this field away if he does take to the course. Knowing that he can get over the line on a Sunday and arriving in great form I believe there is still some value in his price so he is the main pick.

I’m struggling to find three this week so I’m just going to go with Nathan Holman again. He played ok last week but seemed to ultimately succumb to the stop-start nature of the event as he fell down the leaderboard over the weekend. I think this assignment should suit him again and I’m surprised by his price in a field that is no better than last week.

If my Gleneagles hunch is at all accurate then Tommy Fleetwood should also go well as his only European Tour win was there in 2013. He has finished 19th on his last two starts so isn’t playing badly. But I don’t really want to get too involved with question marks around the course so I will just advise him in the 3×3 each way doubles.


Summary of Bets

Zurich Classic

Rickie Fowler – 3pts win @ 14.0 on Betfair Exchange

David Hearn – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Robert Garrigus – 0.25pt ew @ 500/1 (Stan James paying 6 places) + 0.5pt Top 20 @ 16/1

Volvo China Open

Bernd Wiesberger – 1.5pts ew @ 16/1

Nathan Holman – 0.5pts ew @ 80/1

3×3 0.20pts each way doubles (Fowler 12/1, Hearn, Garrigus) + (Wiesberger, Holman, Fleetwood 33/1)

Additional 0.45pts ew Fowler + Wiesberger double

Weekly points advised – 13.5pts

Total points advised – 584.5pts

@theGreek82

 

 

 

Northern Trust Open and Maybank Championship – Betting Preview

Last weekend was an extremely exciting one if hugely disappointing come 11:30pm on Sunday night. On Sunday morning there were 2638/1 and 666/1 doubles both looking very plausible with Mickelson leading Jacobson on the PGA Tour and Porteous sitting in 3rd in South Africa.
Haydn Porteous’ round was a very ugly one to watch as he really struggled to manage his game. The track in Pretoria is a tight one and after saving his par well on the first few holes he kept taking the driver out on several short Par 4s for absolutely no reason at all. It left him constantly with no shot whatsoever and he completely fell to pieces in the rough. While he is a very talented player and especially brilliant on the greens he is going to need to improve his course management considerably if he is to really push on to the next tier of The European Tour. But he is only 21 years old so he has plenty of time ahead of him to learn that side of the game.

Even with the each way doubles blown I was very confident that Mickelson would get the win at Pebble Beach, especially with his round of 66 on Saturday. Unfortunately that confidence lasted about 2 holes when it became clear that he wasn’t swinging very well. It was testament to his character that he still managed to hang on and if it wasn’t for Vaughan Taylor’s birdie run then he would probably still have won. As it was he failed to get up and down for his birdie at 18 and despite having all my golfers in the top 6, it was a fairly depressing evening considering there was a chance of clearing close to 1000pts 12 hours earlier.

But there was still lots of profit as the two full places plus Reed’s share gave a total return of 26.13pts on the week which leaves the overall standings as follows.

Total pts advised – 413
Total pts returned – 531.99
ROI – 28.81%

It also nearly takes 2016 into overall profit but not quite.

2016 pts advised – 91.50
2016 pts returned – 84.88
ROI –  -7.23%

This week sees the final stop in California for the PGA Tour with The Northern Trust Open and The European Tour heads east again for the inaugural Maybank Malaysian Championship.


 

The Northern Trust Open

The west coast swing hits the razzmatazz of Los Angeles this week and the Riviera Country Club. The course is a classic championship layout and as ever it will thoroughly test everyone teeing it up this week. Due to it’s location alongside Hollywood, Bel Air and Malibu the course has had some extremely famous members over the years including Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin and Walt Disney.

The course plays around 7300 yards long and has tree-lined, undulating fairways with several changes in elevation around the course leaving a lot of tricky approach shots where distance control will be crucial. With several greens that can only be attacked from specific places on the fairways, accuracy off the tee is a huge advantage at Riviera. As is distance off the tee as the greens at Riviera are small, fast and undulating so can be hard to hold with long irons.

The roll call of champions at Riviera is of the highest quality and it’s a course that I feel has a strong link with Augusta National, home of the Masters. The following players have all won at Augusta and Riviera; Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Fred Couples, Craig Stadler, Nick Faldo, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott. In terms of attributes then both courses require a high ball flight both off the tee and with approach shots in order to find the correct portion of the fairway/green. They also require some good scrambling skills with very definite fringes so they can’t just putt from off the green at either course. The level of difficulty is also similar with winnings scores usually ranging from -6 to -14 so it suits the mind set of those that are happy to make par on tougher holes.

Bogey avoidance, total driving, scrambling, approaches from 175-200 yards and approaches from 200-225 yards all look crucial. Both the approach stats are hugely important on long, tough, championship layouts where only the longest of drivers will regularly have a wedge in their hand. With lag putting important 3-putt avoidance will also help keep players in contention. I’m also looking for players who can easily hit a high, towering fade into these greens in order to hold them.

Charl

Charl Schwartzel was already heavily on my shortlist before Sunday but the nature of his 8 shot win in Pretoria was enough to make him my number one pick this week. He has already won back to back twice in his career so has no problem holding his form coming off a win and 11 of his 14 wins have come from December-February so he also loves this time of year. Last week his iron play was brilliant and he ranked 1st for GIR hitting an impressive 80% where most of the field struggled. Perhaps more surprisingly he ranked 2nd in total driving which is a big turnaround for a player who has been very wild off the tee recently. In the crucial approaches from 175-200 yards stat he ranks 2nd on the PGA Tour and he sits 15th in approach putts proximity so he should stave off the 3-putts. His putter also came alive in the final round in Pretoria after a coaching session with his “eye coach” who helped him sort out his reading of the putts to great effect. Playing last week in South Africa might be a disadvantage in terms of the travel but he was playing on kikuyu fairways and poa/bent mixed greens in Pretoria and that is exactly what he faces at Riviera so the transition won’t be as tough as it could have been going to another stop on Tour.

Charl has form figures at Riviera of 41-5-3 and it’s a course that suits him well which further backs up the Augusta link as his only win on US soil came at the 2011 Masters. It’s amazing that he hasn’t won since given his talent but his game has suffered some ups and downs and he said himself how his confidence was shot until he finally got over the line again in December at The Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. He hadn’t won anywhere in 2 years and had thrown some big leads away with some uncharacteristically poor golf under pressure. So with him arriving here having won 2 of his last 3 starts it’s perfectly fair to assume that his confidence is probably at its highest since his win in Georgia. Looking at recent form in the US then we see Charl finished 6th on his last start in October so he will definitely be determined to get his first PGA Tour win in 5 years and with the only negative being his travel from Pretoria I think he rates an excellent bet as it looks like he might be close to his very best again. For those that would look to dismiss him due to the lengthy commute, if we look at his last three Northern Trust Opens, Schwartzel has actually performed better here when having played in his homeland the week before. His two placed efforts in 2013 and 2014 were preceded by him playing the Joburg open while his 41st last year came off a three week break.

I was on Bill Haas in 2012 when he won around Riviera and it was a very impressive performance. He was playing in a final three-ball with Mickelson and Bradley and they were all level going up the 18th. Haas hit the closest approach shot to some 15ft (I think, long time ago) but had to watch as both Mickelson and Bradley holed from over 30ft for birdie. This meant Haas had to hole his just to make the play-off, which he coolly did before holing a 40 footer in the playoff to claim the trophy. It was the first time I really sat up and took notice of Haas and he now has 6 PGA Tour wins to his name. Yet for some reason he still doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves. That may be down to his poor major record (no top 10s in 25 starts) or perhaps just his laid back persona but for whatever reason it means we frequently see a lot of value in his prices. Last week he was as high as 100s to win before finishing 8th on his debut at Pebble Beach. It’s a simple combination of current and course form that makes Haas my 2nd pick this week at very favourable odds.

My third pick was a bit tougher and has come about from a second (slightly tenuous) course link. In 2013 when the RBC Canadian Open was held at Glen Abbey both John Merrick and Aaron Baddeley finished in the Top 10. They are both former winners here at Riviera which was interesting in itself. So then I looked a little further hoping to compound the link. Rory Sabbatini won here in 2006 and also finished 11th at Riviera in 2013. In 2015 Bubba Watson finished 2nd at Glen Abbey and he has won both here and Augusta. Mike Weir , VJ Singh and Billy Mayfair all have high finishes there too as well. Glen Abbey is a Jack Nicklaus design so scrambling is hugely important but I also think the long, high drives and approach shots are one of the main common factors. Additionally just looking at photos of both courses it is quite hard to tell the difference as both are bright green, tree-lined and feature many elevation changes as they sweep through the parkland.

Chez Reavie won 2008’s Canadian Open there before his game collapsed through injury and loss of form. Reavie has talent though and he gained his full card through finishing 1st in the Web.com Tour Championship in 2015. He has played here five times however and missed the 4 times but he was in the doldrums during most of those performances and it’s a course that I think should really suit him. Reavie ranks 23rd in total driving, 22nd in ball-striking, 4th in scrambling and 8th in Par 4 performance over the last three months so the only thing that might hold him back is his lack of length. But we have seen shorter hitters plot their way around Riviera before and Glen Abbey is a very similar yardage playing as a 7273yard Par 71.
Reavie was bang in contention at Pebble Beach last week until a poor final round but that was the first time he had been in contention on a PGA Tour Sunday for a while so being nervous about chasing down Mickelson at Pebble Beach isn’t anything to be ashamed of. It is a bit of a hunch pick given his poor record previously here but I think we have seen a new Reavie over the last 6 months so I think he is worth a small play here at hefty looking 250/1

 


 

Maybank Malaysian Championship

The Maybank Malaysian Championship seems to have taken over from the Malaysia Open which had a slot on The European Tour at Kuala Lumpur GCC since 1999. Whether it’s due to the course now being used for the CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour I’m not sure but for whatever reason this has moved across Kuala Lumpur to The Royal Selangor Golf Club

With very little course form to go on apart from when it hosted The Malaysian Open in 2002, it’s a bit of a guessing game this week. But there is still some information available to the keen golf punter and although there have been changes since 2002, I studied that leaderboard as a starting point. There are also some player quotes doing the rounds as well as plenty of photos of the layout and even some designer notes from Nelson and Haworth who were responsible for the renovation in 2006.

It is a parkland course, that much we know, and it appears to be quite a short, narrow one at that. Although many of the large old trees were removed in 2006 there are still plenty on the course to frame most of the tee shots. So that suggests the more accurate types will enjoy the test and the leaderboard from 2002 backs up the notion of a tight driving course. However with lots of trees having been removed it’s possible that with a bit of imagination the greens still be found from the woods.

But I have largely still looked at players who go well on similar courses as tree-lined tracks simply don’t fit the eye of many pros. Danny Willet tweeted yesterday how firm the greens are so good scrambling skills will surely be important this week too.

Alastair Forsyth won the 2002 tournament here and Stephen Leaney finished runner up so I looked at other courses where they have fared well. Stephen Leaney won at Gut Larchenoff in Germany which is a course that favours accurate types despite a lack of trees. There are plenty water hazards and the greens are quite tough to hit. Fabrizio Zanotti won there in 2014 for his first win and he returned to form last week with a 23rd place finish. The Paraguayan is very much a horses for courses type and doesn’t tend to go well on tracks that can be bullied by the bombers. While he didn’t have a consistent 2015 if we look at some of his results we can see that his long game was largely still in great shape. His best finishes of 2nd and 3rd came at the British Masters and Italian Open respectively and they were both played on tight, tree lined courses and he ranked 3rd and 4th in the all round ranking those weeks. So clearly the right course brings out the best in Zanotti’s whole game. He looks a great each way price at 100/1.

bourdy

Gregory Bourdy is a go-to player for most punters where accuracy off the tee is favoured as he has regularly found more fairways than the majority since he joined the Tour. Bourdy also loves it in Malaysia with form figures of 5-18-11-47-2 in the last 5 Malaysian Opens. One of his wins also came around the tight track at Fanling in Hong Kong where the always accurate Jiminez has 4 titles. In Bourdy’s win at the Open De Portugal in 2008 he defeated Alastair Forsyth in a playoff which further suggests he will take to this track. The Frenchman’s game is currently in fairly decent fettle, he has calendar form of 36-13-54 with the 13th place finish bringing with it a 1st place ranking in GIR. He ranks 8th in driving accuracy for the last 3 months and 2nd in GIR so the stats back up the strong status of his long game. If the course plays as it is expected to then this 4 time winner will surely be suited to the test and we know he enjoys the Malaysian climate. The 50/1 could be bigger but it’s certainly not skinny enough to put me off.

With it hard to have too much confidence this week I’m going to leave it at two picks but I wanted one of the market leaders to throw into the 3×3 each way doubles. None of them are deserving of an outright single given either the state of their games or their price. Martin Kaymer has shown very little of late and he is priced up on reputation alone. Danny Willett is obviously in great form but there is every chance that his driving will let him down here.
Joost Luiten and Rafael Cabrera-Bello could both go well here with their long, accurate driving but neither are players that I fully trust in the mix and I’m not prepared to back them at their current price.

This leaves me leaning towards Louis Oosthuizen who is an arrow straight driver when playing well and he is undoubtedly a class above here barring Kaymer. He has suffered from a few injuries over the last couple of years but has still managed to throw in some excellent performances on tough layouts. For the last 3 months he ranks 1st in total driving so it appears his game off the tee is in good enough shape even if his irons aren’t quite what they could be. Although he still ranks 15th in GIR over the same period. With strong form on other Nelson and Haworth tracks in Asia and a 2012 win in Malaysia, if he is fully fit this week then he will surely go well so I will throw him in with Bourdy and Zanotti.

In addition to the usual picks I’m going to have a stab at a place double this week too. Keegan Bradely absolutely loves Riviera and tee to green its suits him perfectly. While not in the greatest of current form, most of his woes are with the putter. I don’t think he will hole enough putts to win this but his long game alone could easily land him a Top 20 and his odds of 11/4 look very favourable considering it would have been a winner the last four years.
Should Zanotti not come good on the each way front I’d like to be with him in another capacity should he still play well. He is a healthy looking 9/2 for a Top 20. Throw these in a double at just under 20/1.

Summary of bets

Northern Trust Open

Charl Schwartzel – 1.5pts ew @ 28/1

Bill Haas – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Chez Reavie – 0.5pts ew @ 250/1

Malaysia Championship

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Fabrizio Zanotti – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

3×3 0.25 pts each way doubles (Schwartzel, Haas, Reavie) x (Oosthuizen 18/1, Bourdy, Zanotti)

Place double – Bradley Top 20 + Zanotti Top 20 – 1pt @ 19.6/1
Weekly outlay – 14.5pts

Total outlay – 427.5pts

@theGreek82

Matchbook preview link – https://www.matchbook.com/lounge/event-previews/northern-trust-open-2016-02-18