Having been on holiday for a couple of weeks in October I missed quite a bit of golf so I was keen to try to get a handle on what was happening again before advising any more bets. I think I’m back up to speed and we have good events on both Tours this week so it feels like a good time to jump back in. There are also a few other decent events as we hit that stretch of the year where it’s fun to play small stake trebles, four-folds and even five folds for the hopeful.
2018 pts advised = 461.50
2018 pts returned = 415.18
ROI = -10%
The RSM Classic has long been a standing dish for the accurate plodders on the PGA Tour as it is one of the few remaining stops that isn’t over-powered. Both courses at Sea Island are fairly narrow and tree-lined with small, well protected bermuda greens. That combined with the excellent resort facilities make it a must stop for some of the older family orientated pros as they look to take advantage of an event that the young powerhouses normally stay away from. The last two events however have gone the way of young Tour maidens so you shouldn’t be put off if you fancy one of the new crop of Web.com graduates. Every year they come flying out of the blocks in the Fall Series and that has been no different this year with Cameron Champ already notching up his first win. But for my money this event will probably revert back to the norm and I definitely want to be with the more strategic, accurate sorts who have seen the course before in some capacity.
Jim Furyk received quite a hard time in the aftermath of the Ryder Cup, most of which was a little harsh. While it will have been a great privilege for the 2003 US Open winner to lead his country, there is no doubt that it will have been a long year with all the commitments involved. Coming off a decent rest it was interesting to see him play so well last week as he shot four rounds in the 60s to finish T6th. I think he will be looking to take advantage of another short, suitable course this week in Georgia. I’m surprised he never won here at his peak as Sea Island very much falls into Furyk’s wheelhouse, along with Harbour Town, East Lake and Copperhead where he has won. His course form is predictably solid though having finished 11th, 3rd and 6th on his only 3 appearances. He averaged 81% of fairways hit and 83% of greens in regulation on those 3 starts so the courses are clearly ones that fit his eye. Those same areas of his game were as strong as ever last week in Mexico where he ranked 1st in driving accuracy and 2nd in GIR. I’m expecting a strong performance and anything around 40/1 looks like a great bet to me.
Roberto Castro will be well worth following on these shorter courses this year. He confirmed that on just his 2nd start of the season where he overcame a poor start to post a 5th place finish at the Sanderson Farms. Castro gained his 2019 Tour card with a solid if unspectacular campaign but it was back in 2013 that he really announced himself with an opening 63 at Sawgrass to lead the Players Championship after day 1. He would finish down the field but it flagged him up as a player to watch on short courses where you have to keep the ball in play. In August of that year he also posted his best major finish of 12th at the US PGA around the ultimate plotters course at Oak Hill. (Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and David Toms were 3 of those ahead of him!) I know there are plenty of people watching him closely this season and I’m expecting his price to be cut here so I tweeted this bet on Monday in the hope of people getting the best price possible. Castro’s event form isn’t great but his last start in Georgia was a 2nd place finish on the Web.com in April. He should be comfortable in the area given he studied at Georgia Tech and their former students have a good record in the state.
Chesson Hadley completes the PGA line-up this week as he remains a player that is hard to get away from when applying a stats based approach. It is surely just a matter of time before he wins again and last year he played the fall series brilliantly, doing everything but win. He has started similarly well again over the last month with a 2nd place in Kuala Lumpur and a 7th place at the Shriners. While his event form also isn’t fantastic he is another Georgia Tech alumni so should feel at home and his current stats match up perfectly for this test providing he is in control of his stock draw off the tee. He is 7th in ball striking and 1st in proximity to the hole and both should help him to another contending performance.
DP World Championship
For several years this was a benefit for the Tour’s best two players, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. From 2012 to 2015 nobody else got their hands on the trophy as McIlroy’s two wins sandwiched the Swede’s back to back triumphs. While that made it a difficult betting heat with strong single figure favourites, at least it helped to build a profile of what it takes to win around the Earth Course. Elite ball strikers who hit lots of greens and often miss plenty of putts. Despite neither being consistently great putters, they usually putted well here which tells me that perhaps the greens aren’t overly challenging. Matt Fitzpatrick was the next winner in 2016 and while he is normally a decent putter he is another brilliant tee-to-green player. Jon Rahm continued this mould again last year as another world-class iron player who isn’t always assured with the flat stick.
The Earth Course is one of the longer on Tour measuring nearly 7700 yards. It’s a Greg Norman design so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by that as he was consistently one of the longest and straightest drivers on Tour before technology changed the landscape.
Eight of the last nine winners had already won that season heading in but with only the top 60 players qualifying that perhaps shouldn’t be a big surprise.
Two of the last seven winners were doing the Dubai double having won the Desert Classic earlier in the year.
Rory McIlroy heads the market here at what would have been an unthinkable price (9/1) two years ago. That is gathering quite a bit of interest and there is no question it looks appealing on first look. However I can’t quite get his recent performances on suitable courses out of my mind. Yes he loves it here but he doesn’t appeal to me as a single bet. Those wishing to cover him could do worse than fire him in to some accumulators as the golfing world reaches silly season with multiple events.
A case could be made for the other 5 market principals but Rahm has only been seen once since an average Ryder Cup and he could only finish 22nd in the HSBC. Garcia is in brilliant form but at 10/1 I’d want to know that he wasn’t dwelling on last week’s loss. Fleetwood will probably play well but he just doesn’t win enough to side with at 11/1 at a course where he has never bettered 9th in 5 attempts. This all takes me down the market a little and to one of the most in form players in the European game.
Hao Tong Li will probably be quite popular this week despite not being the greatest of prices. Such is his level of current form and talent it would be no surprise to see him win a title this big. He has been knocking on the door heavily over the last month (5-2-11-9-5) and he has already shown his fondness of playing in Dubai when beating McIlroy head to head to win the Dubai Desert Classic. His event form is improving having finished 30th on his debut and then 13th last year. The Earth course should suit him perfectly with a bit of room off the tee for the sometimes erratic but powerful driver. His iron play has been excellent recently and that is usually what separates the field here. Li is so good that when he is putting well he should contend every week at this level and that explains the short odds as the bookmakers know what he is all about. His touch on and around the greens has been superb lately as he has been seen holing out lots of chips in recent weeks. On his last two starts he has ranked 2nd in the all-round ranking confirming just how well every part of his game is operating. With question marks about several around him in the market I see no reason why he can’t lift this title to cap off a career year for one of the most promising youngsters in the game.
Henrik Stenson hasn’t been seen since the Ryder Cup so there are both health and rust issues regarding his game. But they are more than factored into his price and to be frank that’s what has drawn me to the Swede this week. The fact that we can back him here at 25/1 is too good an opportunity to pass up for me. It’s not like he has played poorly this year either he has just suffered heavily from his elbow injury. He still ranked 1st on the PGA Tour in GIR, 4th in strokes gained: approaches and 8th in strokes gained: tee to green so his tee-to-green game has been as superb as ever when he has played. He laughed off those injury concerns at the Ryder Cup winning all 3 of his matches and he has had minor surgery since then which will hopefully have sorted the problem out. Lack of competitive golf is certainly a worry especially as he has to find his swing again after the surgery but this is one of his favourite courses and he will surely have been preparing to give it his best shot this week. I’d be annoyed at myself to miss out at this price so I must have a small bet on him.
Dean Burmester looks over priced in all the markets here this week given his course and current form. He was 11th last week where his whole game was in great shape bar his normally reliable putter. The powerful South African came 4th here last year on his debut and while I’d be surprised to see him come out on top this week I think he has a good chance of landing some place bets so I’ll play him in both the top 10 and top 20 markets.
Elsewhere I’ll be playing some fun small stakes accumulators across the 5 big events this week. The Dunlop Phoenix will surely be a shoot-out between Koepka and Matsuyama while Matt Kuchar looks the man to beat in the Australian Open. He said himself how well he was swinging it during last week’s win and there are few players in the world more suited to the hard and fast sandbelt courses in Australia. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t contend despite the jet-lag and emotions from last week.
Summary of Bets
Jim Furyk – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)
Roberto Castro – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair Sportsbook)
Chesson Hadley – 1pt ew @ 35/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfair Sportsbook)
DP World Championship
Hao Tong Li – 2pts ew @ 20/1 (1/5 odds 5 places Betfair Sportsbook)
Henrik Stenson – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (1/4 odds 5 places)
Dean Burmester – 1pt Top 10 @ 9/1 and 1.5pts Top 20 @ 7/2
Weekly points advised = 14pts
2018 pts advised = 475.50pts