The Masters 2018 – Betting Preview

Last week’s Houston Open was a bit of a washout but Howell did threaten to get involved on his front 9 on Sunday but in the end he confirmed that he really should never be a betting proposition until someone invents a market where you can back them to finish between 8th and 23rd!

It was a brilliant tournament though and Hossler’s birdie run combined with Poulter’s resolve created a truly fitting appetiser for Augusta and I’d question anyone’s credentials as a sports fan if they didn’t enjoy that. To think there are sports fans out there who don’t like watching golf will always baffle me. It has absolutely everything and provides a test of technique, skill and mental fortitude quite unlike anything else. But for those of us who do love it we have the tournament of all tournaments this week with the 2018 Masters threatening to go down in history even before a ball has been struck.

Total 2018 pts advised = 123pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 92.69pts

ROI= -24.6%


The Masters

With a returning Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson having won again for the first time since 2013, this year’s Masters is poised like no other golf tournament I remember and the only hope is that it lives up to its billing. As well as the two esteemed veterans we have all of the new kids on the block looking to hang tough over four testing days in the most beautiful of surroundings. It is hard to even accuse people of hyperbole with regard to this year’s Masters such is the state of play but just incase everything goes to pot and the event is somehow a stinker, what better way to enjoy the final round than by having money on the surprise 6 shot winner! So lets proceed to trying to find an angle into this year’s glorious first major.

Sergio Garcia defends this year after finally breaking his major duck and he was a prime example of the old adage that you must have paid your dues around Augusta before you win. Experience is certainly vital and I would want to see strong evidence that anyone I was backing can play well at Augusta. The test isn’t for everyone and several players struggle year after year.

Off the tee things are never too testing with wide open landing areas awaiting those tee balls but as everyone testifies to every year, shaping the ball from right to left is a huge positive on several of the tee-shots. It can be the difference between having 180 yards or 230 yards left on the par 5 13th and there are other similar examples. But generally no matter where the drive ends up, Augusta is a course that allows the players to recover with skill and that is perhaps one of the reasons why we love it so much. From almost anywhere off the tee the players will have a chance to still find the green with a brilliant 2nd shot and that in itself will be a crucial factor this week, finding a way to keep hitting greens.

Putting is obviously important but with regards to a normal Masters with a winning score of -8, then lag putting from distance is perhaps more crucial than being able to hole birdie putts from 15-25ft. In recent times the two most important stats than can sometimes be overlooked are Par 4 Scoring and Bogey Avoidance. With four reachable par 5s, the par 5 scoring often overshadows the par 4s but that is all about the big-hitting side of the game that Sky Sports love to go on and on about. Of course they can play a huge part in any round with the risk/ reward nature but ultimately there are only four of them and there are 10 par 4 holes. Two years ago Danny Willett played the long holes in level par which was 54th best from the 57 who made the cut. He ranked 1st in par 4 scoring and comparing the last 10 winners makes for interesting reading. They averaged 11th for par 3 scoring, 4th for par 4 scoring and just 15th for par 5 scoring. While it is true that most winners rack up a good score on the par 5s, they are some of the easiest holes on the course so the majority of the field will be going low on them. There is a far bigger differential on the par 4s and therefore being able to score on the long difficult par 4s is of the utmost importance.

On most championship courses where greens are difficult to hold scrambling becomes even more important and that is especially the case at Augusta. If greens are missed on the wrong side then only the most silky of touches will be able to get up and down. But it’s usually even better to just not miss the greens in the first place and year after year hitting greens in regulation is probably the single most important aspect of the week, especially if the course plays firm and fast.

Trends wise there are lots of interesting angles and perhaps the two that seem most relevant to me are as follows;

  • 37 of the last 38 winners had played the weekend the year before their win. There seems no real logic to suggest why this stands up but given the only exception is Tiger Woods in 1997 it is pretty rock solid!
  • All of the last 8 winners had finished inside the Top 24 in the WGC Championship earlier that year. The exact finishing place maybe isn’t that important but this tells us that their game has been test driven already on a long, difficult championship course.

 

THE LEADING CONTENDERS

Dustin Johnson (Odds to win – 12/1) – Masters Record: 30-38-38-13-MC-6-4-WD, 2018 form: 1-2-16-7-59

Arguably the best player on the planet over the last two years and will be looking to make amends for missing this last year through a back injury sustained just days before. Not perfectly suited to the test for me and would need to be back somewhere near his best to win. With form having taken a slight dip that’s not a given.

Jordan Spieth (10/1) – Masters Record: 2-1-2-11, 2018 form: 9-18-MC-20-9-14-MC-17-3

Just 12 men have beaten him to date over his 4 Masters events. Absolutely loves the place. A lot of very premature talk of the demise of his putting was proven to be just that as his putter warmed up across the week in Houston. Hasn’t been at his best in 2018 but perfectly fair to think everything is coming together at the right time having finished 3rd in Houston ranking 1st in strokes gained: approach along the way.

Rory McIlroy (10/1) – Masters record: 20-MC-15-40-25-8-4-10, 2018 form: MC-2-59-MC-1-36

McIlroy pitches up to Augusta chasing the Career Grand Slam for a 4th time and he will be the most confident yet to do so. With the perfect tee-to-green game for the Masters it has always been his short game that has held him back from a green jacket. However his brilliant putting performance at Bay Hill is worrying for the rest of the field. If he maintains anything like that putting stroke he will be very hard to beat.

Justin Thomas (12/1) – Masters record: 39-22, 2018 form: 22-14-17-9-1-2-4

Arguably the best player in the world over the last year or so but doesn’t have the greatest of records yet at Augusta. That’s nothing to worry too much about long-term for a player who surely possesses all the tools required. Despite his current winning ratio though this might still be a year or two too early for Thomas at a course that generally takes a lot of learning.

Jason Day (18/1) – Masters record: 2-WD-3-20-28-10-22, 2017 form: 12-MC-5-64-23-WD

Despite his win at Torrey Pines in February the form of others means Day is sneaking in under the radar a little. If there was one player in the field that Augusta was almost custom-built for it is Jason Day. Put a difficult 2017 behind him with his first win in over 18 months but his approach play hasn’t been up to its usual standard. Leads the tour in strokes gained: putting however.

Justin Rose (12/1) – Masters record: 39-22-5-36-20-11-8-25-14-2-10-2, 2018 form: 8-37-5-3-52

Just like last year Mr Consistent has everything in his favour and looks the most likely of the all the market leaders to play his game and contend yet again. Has never failed to make the weekend at Augusta and confidence will be high returning to a venue where he has been runner-up twice in the last three years. But I’m usually unsure of players returning who contended right to the end the previous year. Often a slow starter at majors he will have to put all those negative memories behind him if he is to keep the pace early on.

Tiger Woods (14/1) – Masters record: 41 (Am) – MC-1-8-18-5-1-1-15-22-1-3-2-2 -6-4-4-40-4-17, 2018 form: 23-MC-12-2-5

The great one is back and the event is about 5 times better for it. His game has looked superb over the last 8 weeks and he will be absolutely buzzing for his return to the scene of his first major win 21 years ago. It is easy to forget though that has hasn’t donned the green jacket since 2005 and has played 9 Masters since. Seven of those returned top 6 finishes confirming how much he loves the course but also telling us that he is beatable. If you’re on at the fancy prices then he is a fantastic each way bet but even for Tiger 14/1 looks plenty short enough in this company.

Rickie Fowler (20/1) – Masters record: 38-27-38-5-12-MC-11, 2018 form: 4-MC-11-MC-37-14-43

Fowler’s odds and indeed narrative has changed perhaps more than any player barring Tiger or Phil in the weeks building up to Augusta. As recently as Friday he was sat on top of the leaderboard in Houston with his game purring. But another poor weekend leaves plenty of question marks about his mental toughness. However his major record is rock solid and while he didn’t look backable at 14/1 he will have plenty of takers now having drifted out as high as 22/1 in places.

Bubba Watson (16/1) – Masters record: 20-42-38-1-50-1-38-37-MC, 2018 form: MC-4-35-1-9-66-1

The enigma that is Bubba Watson came storming back to the top table of golf and to be honest I’m not sure his story has garnered enough column inches. (Perhaps testament to just how amazing 2018 has been so far!). He was a joy to watch at both the Genesis and WGC Match Play and his combination of power, imagination and touch can be devastating at Augusta as he proved in 2012 and 2014. A live contender but his price has possibly gone.

Phil Mickelson (18/1) – Masters record: 46 (Am)- 34-7-3-MC-12-6-7-3-3-3-1-10-1-24-5-5-1- 27-3-54-MC-2-MC-22

The enigma that is Phil Mickelson came storming back to the top table of golf and to be honest I’m not sure his story garned enough column inches. Ok that would be a lie as Phil’s WGC win has never been far from the headlines ahead of the Masters and he has to have a great chance given his sheer will to win and where his game is at. Like Tiger though it is several years since he won here and while he is another with a great chance, I’d say he is also another who the bookies are onto at just 18/1.

Hideki Matsuyama (33/1) – Masters record: 27-54-MC-5-7-11 2018 form: 4-12-WD-49-36

Odds pushed out as high as 40/1 due to some indifferent form and a uncharacteristally wayward driver at times so far in 2018. But his often peerless iron game marks him down as a repeat top 10 offender here for the next 15 years. Hard to fancy on the greens on the back 9 on Sunday though but few would be too surprised if he deemed that irrelevant by having a 6 shot lead standing on the 10th tee having put on a ball-striking clinic for 63 holes.

Jon Rahm (25/1) – Masters record: 27 , 2018 form: 1-29-11-26-20-52

Perhaps an even more surprising storyline than Tiger, Phil, Casey or Ian Poulter is how Rahm has proven himself to be very human indeed. There were times in 2017 and early 2018 where his frightening level of golf threatened to have him as world no. 1 and the favourite for every major this year. How that has changed for the big Spaniard though and after an indifferent period of form his odds have rocketed as high as 25/1. Hard to write-off but perhaps equally hard to back.


The bets

The last few Masters have been built up even more than usual due to how many of the game’s best players were playing well heading in to the event and this year with Tiger and Phil thrown in the mix that has been accentuated even more. The 2018 Masters is threatening to be perhaps one of the greatest golf tournaments in history and you could make an equally compelling case for any of the leading 12 players or so in the market. For me this makes it one of the hardest Masters in recent times to get a confident handle on. Therefore I have decided to attempt to simplify things for my main bet and ignore as much of the hype as I can. Jordan Spieth has only been beaten by 12 players at Augusta in his 4 events. This of course means he has beaten the other 364 players teeing it up. Tiger Woods was beaten by 25 players in his first 4 professional Masters and those came at a slightly older age and at a time where he was beginning to dominate golf. I’m not suggesting Spieth will ever get close to Tiger Woods’ standing in the game but I do believe this particular comparison is relevant. Especially when we consider that Spieth’s odds this week are 10/1 and Tiger’s were probably somewhere in the region of 3/1 in 2001. (Obviously Tiger had won the previous 3 majors which will have had a massive effect on his price too!).

Spieth

With very little to separate the market leaders I think his superb Masters record has to make him the bet. While his putting might not have been anywhere near its best so far in 2018 he has largely been putting on poa annua or bermuda greens. Spieth has always stated how he struggles on poa annua and we know he is at his best on slick bentgrass greens. Last week in Houston his putting improved across the week as the greens hardened and that is one of the reasons he does so well at Augusta. I’ve liked Spieth most of the winter for this to be honest but like many I was just waiting to see how he signed off in Houston. It couldn’t have gone much better as he ranked 1st in strokes gained: approaches while he holed a 30 footer on the 18th green to leave him with nothing but positive thoughts. Very much the man to beat and for my money looks the most sensible bet in an event that looks set to be dominated by the market principals. I’m going to advise a nice chunky each way bet and also a further win only bet on the exchange. The each way portion will be weighted to pay for the win bets.

In an event where the those leading 12 players or so are taking up so much of the market I want to have another one onside so I’m taking a slightly Jeremy Chapman approach this week (to be fair I’d happily settle for his sort of profit on the week!) and also backing Jason Day. The general 18/1 is just too tempting for someone who ticks so many of the right Augusta boxes. He has a top 5 already, he made the cut last year shooting 2 under par rounds along the way without contending. Day also has the all important calendar year win which unfortunately Spieth doesn’t have. But above all the course just sets up perfectly for Day who has both power and touch in abundance. While not all his stats are strong this year he does rank 1st in strokes gained: putting and 4th in par 4 scoring and I’m sure his whole 2018 campaign so far will have been geared to peaking this week.

He is going to win one eventually and having had a light schedule he comes in 100% fit and focussed and that hasn’t been the case with Day too often lately. If he can start well I think he will hang around all week and with generous place terms he looks worth an each way bet as back up to Spieth. I’ve tweaked my staking plan to get all the stakes back and still make a small profit should he win.

Matt Kuchar was 45/1 for this up to the weekend and I hope some readers saw me tweeting about how good a price that was with Skybet’s 10 places offer. Annoyingly he has been cut to 35/1 with Skybet after playing well in Houston. I considered leaving him out and to be honest if he had been cut any further I probably would but the 10 places for a top 10 machine still make this value in my eyes. Kuchar has finished inside the top 10 in 4 of the last 6 Masters and he really does come alive on hard and fast courses where his combination of approach accuracy and touch on and around the greens will always give him a chance. But away from the place part of the bet giving us value I also think we might see a more assured Kuchar this year after his Royal Birkdale exploits last summer. I think he will have learned a lot from that battle with Spieth and this is obviously his first appearance back at Augusta since. If the likeable Georgia resident is ever going to win a major it will surely be this one and having regained his form I think he is a very solid each way bet.

I ran a few basic stats models for this year’s Masters to perhaps help me find some outsiders and I was pleased with what I found. My main 4 stats were GIR, bogey avoidance, par 4 scoring and strokes gained: off the tee and then I added a few others; strokes gained: putting, approach proximity 125-150 yards, GIR 175-200, scrambling, approach putt performance, par 5 scoring and finally strokes gained: approaches. I then took an average for my main 4 stats, all of them together and then finally I weighted all the stats to give me three averages for every player, nothing too fancy at all. Zach Johnson was the absolute standout and he came 1st in two of them. To highlight some of his key stats he ranks 32nd in GIR, 2nd in 3-putt avoidance, 3rd in bogey avoidance, 15th in par 4 scoring, 13th in par 5 scoring and 9th in strokes gained: approaches. We can’t rely wholly on stats so if this was a player who had a poor record at Augusta, had never played there before or wasn’t a world-class talent then I may not have given it much credence. But this is the 2007 Masters Champion who was 9th just three years ago and also won The Open in 2015. So I had to have a little of the 240 on Betfair last week as it was just silly and I wouldn’t put anyone off jumping in north of 200.0 but it’s Skybet’s 100/1 ew with 10 places that I really like for Zach here. He mas missed his last two Masters cuts and he may well make that a hat-trick but the numbers don’t lie, or at least they can’t tell that big a whopper! His results have been fairly solid without being spectacular this year but he has made all his cuts and his figures read 14-20-57-16-26-36. He just needs his putter to revert back to the norm but where better to do that as he knows the greens better than everyone in the field bar Tiger and Phil. As long as the course stays relatively hard and fast through the week I think his game is in good enough shape to out play his odds.

With so many of the game’s elite in such strong form there aren’t a lot of outsiders who make appeal this year, even with Skybet’s 10 places offer. As ever there are a lot of good options in the place markets though but Brendan Steele stands out to me as one of the few real live outsiders and he also performed well in my model. His game is perfectly suited to championship golf and I can see him landing one of the U.S. based majors at some point as a classic left field U.S. major winner. Steele has a recent win to his name having successfully defended his Safeway Open title in October and he has been in fine form since. Last year he finished 27th but that was even more impressive as it was his first appearance since 2012. I’m expecting further improvement this year as he will have learned a lot from that and he closed with a 69 giving him the all-important round in the 60s. Steele also finished inside the top 20 in the WGC Mexico which is always a good pointer to where the long-game is at for a tilt at the Masters. That long game assurance is backed up by a very impressive stats profile as he ranks 7th in GIR, 19th in bogey avoidance, 10th in par 4 scoring, 7th in strokes gained: off the tee and 35th in strokes gained: approaches. We know the green jacket isn’t won with stats but this is a profile worthy of one of the best players on Tour and I’m going to continue to keep him onside in majors while he is priced alongside those who simply aren’t as suited to championship courses. Steele is a streaky putter who is usually better on consistently fast surfaces so if he putts well there is no reason he can’t contend. But one of my favourite bets of the week is for him to make the top 20 and hopefully if he can’t stay on the leaderboard that bet will pay for the more speculative win and each way bets.

I’m going to back Hideki Matsuyama for a Masters Top 10 every year until he stops playing the game I think. Despite us not having seen him at his best this year it has largely been his driving that has been poor and his iron game has been nearly as good as ever. The wide fairways will mean a lot of those wild tee-shots won’t be overly punished and he still ranks 20th in strokes gained: approaches and 18th in bogey avoidance. While I’m not sure he will ever win this I am sure he will rack up the top 10s with his towering, accurate approach play ideal for holding these fast greens. The stand-out 10/3 looks very tempting indeed for a player who hasn’t finished outside the top 11 the last three years.

1st Round Leader bets

I’m struggling to cut down my short list for 1st round leaders so given that it’s the first Major of the year I’m going to just back them all to a small 0.25pts stake each way and then at least I won’t be kicking myself if someone I leave out gets involved on day one. If the slightly gimmicky first round leader market isn’t for you then just ignore these but I always think it adds an extra level of excitement to the opening day and worth throwing 2pts at.

Bryson Dechambeau was the first name that jumped out at me looking at the draw. He has an early tee-time and is playing with Bernd Weisberger and Matt Fitzpatrick. That’s a nice low -key group where all three will be capable of shooting a good score with just 4 groups ahead of them. Bryson to me has exactly the sort of profile and story that I can see leading a Masters after Thursday. So call it a hunch pick more than anything but he is also playing very well with a couple of notable 1st round knocks lately. He shot an opening 66 in Phoenix and a 67 last time out at Bay Hill. Further to that opening 67 he went on to rank 1st in ball-striking so his game is in great shape for the Augusta test. He did ok on his debut with 3 rounds of 72 and I can see him starting strongly before possible fading away over the weekend as things heat up.

Chez Reavie has been scoring well in round one all year and he ranks 5th in round 1 scoring. Unfortunately he missed his last two stroke-play cuts and all three of his Masters cuts but he is a far better player now and he played some good golf over the first three days at the WGC Match Play. Again with Reavie he just seems like the type of player that could pop up on a day one leaderboard and his neat and tidy game should be suited to the test as he has proven he can handle long courses with a 2nd at Torrey Pines in February and he also has a strong record at Riviera where form always ties in nicely with Augusta.

Brian Harman is one of the outsiders fancied to go well given his exceptionally consistent 2018 form but I’d want to be on at the early three figure prices rather than his current price of around 80/1. Harman also sits in a lofty position of 13th in the season’s 1st round scoring but it was looking at his starts in the big events that impressed me. His last 5 WGC or Major first rounds read 68-68-69-70-67 so he is clearly a player who is starting to feel more and more comfortable playing with the very best. Personally I don’t see him scaring the leaderboard too much on Sunday but another low opening round looks to be on the cards.

Finally Thomas Pieters looks worth siding with in this market just because of his immense talent and how well he played last year to finish 4th on his debut. His form has been poor so it is hard to expect him to string 4 good rounds together but he made a habit of starting fast on the European Tour and 4 of his last 5 opening rounds have been in the 60s. It might just be the best way to play the Belgian powerhouse this week.

 


Summary of Bets

The Masters

Jordan Spieth – 3pts ew @ 10/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair SB) and 3pts win @ 12.0 on Betfair Exchange

Jason Day – 1.5pts ew @ 16/1 (1/5 odds 10 places Skybet)

Matt Kuchar – 1pt ew @ 35/1 (SkyBet) and 2pts Top 10 @ 5.0 on Betfair

Brendan Steele – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (Skybet) and 3pts Top 20 @ 11/2

Zach Johnson – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (Skybet)

Hideki Matsuyama – 3pts Top 10 @ 10/3

1st Round Leader bets

Bryson Dechambeau – 0.25pts ew @ 66/1

Chez Reavie – 0.25pts ew @ 150/1

Brian Harman – 0.25 pts ew @ 55/1

Thomas Pieters – 0.25pts ew @ 50/1

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 26pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 149pts

@theGreek82

Advertisements

WGC Match Play – Betting preview

Apologies to any regular readers as Cheltenham took up most of my time last week so I didn’t get a chance to have a look too closely at the golf. I did manage to watch the final round though and McIlroy was extremely impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him putt that well and it couldn’t have come at a better time for him with just over 2 weeks to go before the Masters. It really couldn’t be set up any better with the majority of the game’s best players all in fine form. Before then we still have the 2nd WGC of the season with the match play event in Texas

2018 pts advised = 103pts

2018 pts returned = 92.69pts

ROI = -10%


WGC Match Play

The WGC Match Play is back at Austin Country Club for a third year and we are now into the fourth edition of the round-robin group format. Some players have enjoyed the move away from straight knockout while others aren’t quite as taken and again there are a few of the world’s best missing here; Rose, Fowler, Koepka and Stenson all sit out of a tournament that still hosts 64 of the world’s top ranked 70 players. Unfortunately that still means no Tiger who has only managed to get to no. 105 despite his recent form in elite fields.

bridge-austin-847

The course was designed by Pete Dye and the par 72 course sits at 7169 yards while being rather spectacular to the eye. It is a parkland course set along sprawling hills giving rise to some elevation changes and undulating fairways very akin to some British links courses. There are also a lot of deep, menacing bunkers that give it a further links appearance. While the fairways appear to be of average width they will certainly not feel that way standing on the tee. There are many hidden tee shots where the players are forced to carry valleys or shape the ball around trees. The numerous dog legs and elevation changes will also bring about some blind approaches and it appears that accuracy will be important this week with the irons. Whenever a course has elevation changes then distance control becomes absolutely paramount. As we have come to expect from Pete Dye designs (Sawgrass, RBC Heritage, Whistling Straits, PGA West), the greens are relatively small and they are undulating and tiered. Accurate approach shots will be required to find the correct portion of the green to allow a makeable birdie putt. But there will be many flags that simply have to be avoided with run-offs and green side bunkers aplenty. There are several examples of very aggressive players who play well in match play but similarly steady players that keep mistakes to a minimum can also thrive in the format.  The greens are TifEagle bermuda which was also in use last week at Bay Hill.

Just like stroke-play there are often different ways to succeed on a course but from what we have seen in the two editions in Austin so far, aggression and power are very advantageous indeed. When we look at the 2 winners to date at Austin Country Club (Dustin Johnson and Jason Day) there are a few things that jump out. Firstly they are two of the best players in the world, who were both on extremely hot winning runs at the time, each playing the best golf of their career. Secondly, they are two of the biggest hitters in the game and they used that length to dominate their matches on the relatively short course, attacking the flags and driving the greens wherever possible. Thirdly, they both had plenty of form on Pete Dye courses, particularly Whistling Straits where Day won his PGA and DJ should have won his in 2010. Johnson had also already won around Dye’s Crooked Stick course in 2016 while Day would go on to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass just 2 months later.

wp-1485902107711.jpg

It is that profile of the two winners that led me to my main bet this week and that is Jon Rahm. I’d expect him to be popular this week so I’ve tried to post this a little earlier than usual to try to get a good price but it’s also worth noting that it is a Wednesday start this week in Texas. Rahm is another powerhouse off the tee and he is probably the only player that can compete with DJ and McIlroy in terms of power and “strokes gained: off the tee”. Rahm has already won this year in February but perhaps the most interesting thing about that win with regards to this week is where he got his win. It was at the Careerbuilder Challenge which involves two rounds at Pete Dye’s PGA West Course and also involves bermuda greens. Rahm’s form has tailed off a little since that win but he has still finished inside the top 30 on all 4 starts. There has been quite a bit of discussion about Rahm already this week as he apparently hit a 59 in a practice round at Austin Country Club on Monday (Note: sounds like it wasn’t actually at Austin CC after all). We also know he can do that in competition as he made the final last year only to lose 1 up to a red-hot Dustin Johnson. He has shown already in his short career that he thrives on the same sort of courses as both Johnson and Day so he looks the absolute standout candidate to follow them as winners of the WGC Match Play. With a win this calendar year and already having won on a Dye design he is also a great trends pick and looks like the best bet in Texas this week. But an extra little sweetener is that the form of those at the head of the market has resulted in recency bias probably giving us a price that is perhaps two or three ticks bigger than it should be. Obviously anything can happen in match play but in recent times this event has gone to one of the very best players so let’s have a confident each way bet on the world number 3 at 14/1.

I didn’t want to get too involved in this prior to the draw but there are two others that I quite like and I’m going to have a small bet on them both and hope they are all in different groups. As annoying as Paul Casey is, a confident PC in a match play tournament is a massive threat and he will be absolutely buzzing coming into this event after finally getting his 2nd PGA Tour win. We know he won’t be in the slightest bit phased by taking on the big names here and with his match play pedigree he could go deep in this tournament. Last year he won all three of his group games but lost to an inspired Tanihara in the first knockout match. Given how cocky Casey is you wonder whether he gave Tanihara the respect he deserved last year and I don’t think we will see him make the same mistake again this year. Casey is a two-time runner-up in this event while he has also won the European Tour’s Volvo Match Play event. He also has a very decent Ryder Cup record having won 56% of his available points. He doesn’t have a win around a Pete Dye course but he has been runner-up at both Crooked Stick and TPC River HIghlands. Worth a nice back up ew bet at 22/1.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat owes us nothing after winning the Perth Super 6s in February but he is playing some of the best golf of his career right now. He has won again since then when playing back on the Asia Tour and he also recorded his best WGC finish to date in Mexico where he was T5th. With all his travelling I’m not too worried about his missed cut at Bay Hill last week and he will be fully prepared having made the shorter journey from Florida. With two match play titles already we know he enjoys the format where he can be his ultra aggressive self knowing that he has the short game to back it up should he find trouble. That can be demoralising for opponents in the match play format and two years ago the only game he didn’t win in the group stages was against DJ, only exiting after a further play-off hole against the world no. 1. In most editions of this event we see a slightly left-field European Tour player make good progress and with the way Kiradech is playing that could easily be him this week. (Aphibarnrat has now been drawn in the same group as Jon Rahm, typical!! Anyway for those who don’t think it makes any sense backing them both just leave Aphi out or lower the stakes even more, I’ve stupidly backed them both already)

Adding one more Group stage bet for a further interest. With the form that Casey and McIlroy are in together with their confidence levels and match play pedigree, I expect them to come flying out of the blocks and win all 3 matches. Matt Fitzpatrick and Brian Harman are potential banana skins but I think the double looks rock solid at around 4.35.


Corales Puntacana Championship

I’ve not spent a great deal of time on this but I do like to follow players that have gone well in similar tournaments before when the PGA Tour leaves mainland U.S. The Web.com has several tournaments on their schedule down in both Central and South America. This week the location is the Dominican Republic which lies opposite Puerto Rico to the west and the course is stunning. It’s a cliff side resort course and it doesn’t look too dissimilar to the likes of Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Kapalua. The course has been used twice before on the Web.com with Dominic Bozelli winning in 2016 and Nate Lashley in 2017. Neither man lines up this week however.

The course is a Tom Fazio design and being by the sea it is obviously very exposed. The fairways look wide enough and the rough isn’t overly penal either which suggests that when the wind blows the course can be testing enough. That looks further highlighted by a lack of green side bunkers and most of the greens appear to have an open route in allowing the more imaginative players to flight the ball down and run the ball in should the wind blow. There is a lot of sand in play off the tee however with many fairway bunkers and also sandy waste areas. The greens are sea paspalum as is often found in PGA Tournaments played in climates closer to the equator.

Graeme McDowell looks the absolute standout bet to me here this week and it’s no surprise that the early 33s disappeared fast. GMac should absolutely love conditions at Corales Golf Club with some of his finest results having been recorded on similar set-ups. He won his 2010 U.S. Open around Pebble Beach while he has also won the OHL Classic which played on sea paspalum down in Mexico on another resort course by the sea. He also has 4 top 10s around Fazio’s PGA National course and his home U.S. course, Lake Nona, is another Fazio design. The only thing that might go against him this week is the length of the course but at his best McDowell is miles better than the majority of these and if he plays well I’d expect him to push on over the weekend and show everyone that he really belongs in Austin this week.

I did look at a few of the Web.com players who are used to the climate and the sea paspalum but ultimately we don’t really know how a lot of them will fare here so instead I have gone with the historical class angle. We often see older PGA winners finding some form again at the alternate events, most recently Aaron Baddeley when winning the Barbasol Championship in 2016 and before that Geoff Ogilvy at the 2014 Barracuda Championship. Notice that they were both multiple PGA Tour winners and they are both Australian. Stuart Appleby is a little older than both at 46 years old but his last top 5 on the PGA Tour happened to arrive at an alternate event last July. So given he has such strong form at Kapalua, where he won three times in a row from 2004-2006, it seems fair to think his form could pick up again on another exposed resort course. Appleby was always a strong wind player and he had a fine Open Championship record. It could be complete coincidence but I’d wager it is more likely the spike in confidence that such players get from not having any of the current elite players in the field. That makes them believe they can win again and at odds of 200/1 I’m happy to believe too, at least until Thursday night!


Summary of Bets

WGC Match Play

Jon Rahm – 2pts ew @ 14/1

Paul Casey – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Group Winner Double – McIlroy Group 6 + Casey Group 10 – 2pts @ 4.35

Corales

Graeme McDowell – 1pt ew @ 25/1 (1/4 odds 5 places)

Stuart Appleby – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82

 

 

Dell Technologies Championship and D+D Real Czech Masters – Betting Preview

Chris Paisley finished 3rd in Denmark for another profitable week and Kuchar should have made things even better but for a very uncharacteristic shocker of a final round. I didn’t really expect him to ever trouble Johnson and Spieth on Sunday but I was surprised that he fell completely outside of the places. I can’t complain though as that is now 8 weeks out of the last 12 with returns and getting back into profit for 2017 is now firmly in the sights. With plenty high-class golf remaining hopefully another winner or two can be found yet.

Total 2017 pts advised = 388.50pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 329.84pts

ROI = -15%


Dell Technologies Championship

Fear not the brilliant TPC Boston is still in the Fed Ex Cup rotation, there has just been another change of name with Dell taking over sponsorship from Deutsche Bank. It means we still have 10 plus years of form around the modern Massachusetts course to look at. The original layout was an Arnold Palmer design in 2003 but Gil Hanse (Castle Stewart, Rio Olympic course) has been back twice since to renovate all 18 holes.

It’s of average length as a 7216 yard Par 71 and the one thing to focus on at TPC Boston year after year is ball-striking. Every year the course is all about hitting fairways and then difficult approach shots with water surrounding many of the greens. With tree-lined, dog-legged fairways the driving lines can be quite tight and  you need to be on the right side of the fairway to get close the flags. Despite all this its lack of length means it is highly scoreable with the average winning score being -18 over the 10 Fed Ex Cup events. But while that may suggest good putters can also thrive, they often do their scoring on the Par 5s so those with the best long games will be giving themselves short tap in birdie putts by over powering the three par 5s.

As I noted last week the Fed Ex events always have classy winners and if we look at the last five winners we have Rory McIlroy (x2), Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Chris Kirk (still a 4-timer PGA Tour winner). This tells us we need to look again to the elite players in the field in terms of a winner although there have been some more surprise players filling the places in recent times.

From a stats point of view, strokes gained: tee to green, GIR, par 5 scoring and birdie average all look to be good angles in this week.

Given their current run of form and the fact this is a ball-striking event, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler are the four who immediately stand out. Throw in two-time course winner Rory McIlroy and you have a very powerful head of the market in Boston. But it is no easy task to decide which one to side with here this week. Dustin Johnson v Jordan Spieth ended up a bit of a coin toss down the stretch on Sunday and that is what I would expect more often than not when the world’s two best players are at the top of the leaderboard. If Matsuyama finds his best stuff from a few weeks ago then he will contend again regardless of what others do. Fowler struggled on the poa annua last week but back at TPC Boston I would expect him to flourish again. McIlroy makes a little less appeal given his recent form troubles but at 18/1 he is certainly worth consideration as he can surely be expected to find extra improvement on a course he loves.

But ultimately this week I can’t pick between them so I’m leaving them all out for a player who has shown time and time again he can mix it with the best on courses like this and after finally getting the major win he craved for so long, I think Sergio Garcia is the value in the field this week. With a lack of recent golf he is in no way guaranteed to play well but that is more than factored into the dismissive price of 55/1. Garcia got married the week after The Open and so can be forgiven his poor showing just a week later at the US PGA. He hasn’t played competitively since but make no mistake that we will see a very different Garcia over the next few years. He can now relax having won his major and the confidence gained from his Masters triumph means he is likely to add to that major tally over the next 4 or 5 years.

Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates winning the 2017 Masters in Augusta

However beyond the general excellent value, Garcia also has a case on his course form. While he hasn’t yet won around TPC Boston his form figures read 24-4-31-26-5-17 but the most interesting angle was from comparing his career GIR and DA stats at the course with those around him in the market. Garcia has hit 74.77% of his greens around the course and 69.05% of his fairways. This is miles ahead of the market principles who can only boast the following; Dustin Johnson 70.04% GIR 64.80% DA, Jordan Spieth 65.28% GIR 66.96% DA, Hideki Matsuyama 64.81% GIR 63.10% DA, Rickie Fowler 65.48% GIR 67.09% DA, Rory McIlroy 69.91% GIR 64.29% DA. The only player who comes close to Garcia is Henrik Stenson who boasts equally impressive course clips of 74.17% GIR and 70.72% DA but he isn’t playing this week.

Basically what that tells me is that despite all the current hype about those players mentioned, we can’t afford to forget that Garcia belongs in that bracket when it comes to elite ball-striking, and he has been doing it for nearly 20 years!

He ranks 12th in strokes gained: tee to green, 10th in par 5 scoring and 15th in GIR this year so his game has been in right sort of shape for TPC Boston. The only question mark is whether he can shake off the rust but the price factors that in and Garcia looks a must bet at the disrespectful price of 55/1 (Betfred, Totesport) in what is only a 100 runner field. Anything down to 40/1 still looks a great price to be honest but hopefully the 55/1 or 50/1 with others holds firm. Unfortunately Betfred cut their 55/1 sometime this afternoon and rather pathetically went straight to 40/1. Quite a jump! He is now a best price general 40/1 and while it is quite a bit shorter I’m sticking with the bet.

I really don’t see a lot else that excites me in the outright market but at 300/1 I thought Luke List was worth a small play. He hasn’t had much of a year in truth but he has still snuck in to the top 100 to play here. List has been putting terribly for most of the year and that was the case again last week as he finished 34th on Long Island. But he ranked 4th in ball striking in a strong field and he currently sits 13th in strokes gained: tee to green and 3rd in par 5 scoring.  So at a course where putting usually takes a bit of a back seat I think List might go well at a huge price. Also adding a top 20 bet.

 


D+D Real Czech Masters

There have been three editions so far of the Czech Masters around the Albatross Course in Prague, so again we have a decent amount of course form to go on. Immediately a course where Thomas Pieters has finished 2nd and 1st the last two years tells us that power is important and if we look through the stats that is backed up to a degree but perhaps total driving is more important than just length alone as the three winners ranked 9th, 5th and 18th for the combined driving stat. However shorter hitters can still contend but they need the rest of their game to be firing on all cylinders. Paul Peterson came 2nd in the all-round ranking last year while Pieters and Donaldson were 2nd and 10th respectively when winning the first two editions.

Par 5 scoring is always important at the Albatross course and while there is more than one way to score on Par 5s, generally we associate that with length off the tee. The winning score has averaged -16 so just like in the US, birdie average will also be crucial in Prague.

Thomas Pieters is a very fair price to win again at around 8/1 but despite his suitability to the course and how poor the field is, he has missed his lat two cuts. I also tend to struggle to get the single figure odds favourites right so instead I have opted for two each way bets where just a place will pay out at better odds than a Pieters win.

I tipped Callum Shinkwin in this last year for his long, accurate tee-to green game but he didn’t fare too well. I’m not prepared to give up on him here though especially when we consider how much worse this field is compared to the one he so almost beat at the Scottish Open when he took a one shot lead down the last hole. It wasn’t to be as his short game unravelled a little but he didn’t do a great deal wrong losing to a surging Rafa Cabrera-Bello. A missed cut at Royal Birkdale followed but we can dismiss that and expect him to be all together more comfortable again at this level. Whether he can perform well enough on the greens to contend I don’t know but he will be fresher than most and high on confidence.

Dean Burmester isn’t a particularly confident pick but he has shown over the course of 2017 that he really shouldn’t be a 70/1 shot in this poor a European Tour field. The piece of form that gets him on the team this week is his 7th in Abu Dhabi in March. Jamie Donaldson is a winner there while Thomas Pieters has already finished 2nd and 4th at the course. There are several others who have gone well on both courses and the link might just be worth consideration.

Burmester ranks 7th in Par 5 scoring and hits it further than most, ranking 6th in driving distance over the last 3 months. While he is by no means as good a putter as Pieters he does fit a reasonably similar profile and he knows how to win having picked up the co-sanctioned Tshwane Open in March. That was on a winning score of -18 so he also knows how to go low when conditions suit. He played here last year and finished 35th so he should be looking to go well on his 2nd look at the course.

 


Summary of Bets

Dell Technologies Championship

Sergio Garcia – 1.5pts ew @ 40/1

Luke List – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Czech Masters

Callum Shinkwin – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Dean Burmester – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 396.50pts

@theGreek82

U.S. Open at Erin Hills – Betting Preview

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

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

Total 2017 pts advised= 259pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 187.47pts

ROI = -25.7%

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

To be added


US Open – Erin Hills

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

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

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

What will be required to win?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trends

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

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

 

Main Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

justin-rose-zurich-classic_3295658

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

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

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

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

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

Outsiders to go well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Round Leader market

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

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

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

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


 

Summary of Bets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Pieters – 2pts Top 10 @ 4/1

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Weekly pts advised – 21pts

Total 2017 pts advised – 280pts

 

@theGreek

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

The Open Championship – Betting Preview

It was a good week last week but it was still hard not to be a little gutted with another 2nd place, even if it was accompanied by a 3rd place too. Tyrrell Hatton was one of a whole host of players who played their final round like a seasoned winner and he can be very proud of the fight that he put up against Alexander Noren. If he continues in that vein then it is just a matter of time before he gets his first win.

It was also good to see Nicolas Colsaerts keep his form going as expected with a couple of 66s on the weekend. He is another that will be looking to get back to winning ways this year but he might have to wait a couple of weeks as I don’t see this week quite suiting him.

Hatton on the other hand could go well after ranking 2nd in the all-round ranking and should certainly be given some consideration.

Their combined return of 31 pts helps to finish the 1st year with a profitable week and it leaves the totals as follows.

Total pts advised in first year – 692.50

Total pts returned – 780.79

ROI for one year – 12.75%

 


 

The Open

In April most golf fans will tell you their sporting highlight of the year is The Masters but as soon as we reach July that narrative changes somewhat and The Open becomes the focal point of the golfing year. They are tough to separate and while both are completely brilliant in their own way, they are two very different tournaments and there is nothing quite like an Open Championship.

Having finally attended my first Open three years ago at Muirfield I can now appreciate the buzz of the early morning tee offs and 15 hours of solid golf (weather permitting of course). I had heard people talk about it before but it was truly amazing spending time on the 1st tee and listening to the dulcet tones of Ivor Robson announce world-class golfer after world-class golfer. Sadly Mr Robson is retired now but everything else is as we were and Royal Troon is the lucky host this year of what is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the Sporting calendar.

It is twelve years since the course last hosted although Troon has held seven previous Opens after being a bit of a latecomer to the rotation in 1923. To my mind it is a quintessential links course and while St Andrews carries with it all the history and glamour, Royal Troon is far more of a links course’s links course and features the classic 9 holes out and 9 holes back. Despite its classic appearance however there is very much a feeling within the game that Troon is one of the more boring courses on the rotation with too many holes that lack any character. While that may well be true everyone in the field still plays the same 18 holes and I don’t believe that will detract too much from the excitement this week.

Visually to me the course resembles both Royal Birkdale and Gullane and that is very welcome as last year’s Open never really took the form of a proper Open due to both the perfect conditions for the last two rounds and it being held at St Andrews. Louis Oosthuizen is a prime example of the different test presented by St Andrews. He has finished 1st and 2nd around The Old Course but elsewhere he can only boast a 19th, 36th, 54th and three missed cuts. It looks all about links golf exponents in Ayrshire this week.

Despite apparent one-hit wonder Todd Hamilton winning in 2004, Troon is normally won by one of the game’s elite; Justin Leonard in 1997, Marc Calcavecchia in 1989, Tom Watson in 1982, Tom Weiskopf in 1973 and Bobby Locke in 1950. Not only that but you have to go back to Locke’s 1950 win to find a winner that didn’t hail from the USA.

Troon

The fairways at Troon meander up and down and around and if you see a flat lie anywhere this week then pause your TV and take a photo. There are hillocks and undulations as many of the holes are framed by dunes, fescue and gorse. There are deep bunkers galore as you would expect both on the fairways and protecting the greens, many of which are elevated. When they get to the greens however they will be met with some of the best surfaces in the whole of the UK. They are a blend of poa annua, bent grass and fescue and as long as the wind doesn’t blow too hard there should be absolutely no complaints about them whatsoever. (the USGA should take note!)

The forecast currently suggests that the wind will be steady all week (10-15mph) but as someone who lives at the Scottish coast I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see something a bit stronger. Just last week at Castle Stuart we saw the mild forecast winds turn in to 40mph winds. With quite horrid rough I expect driving accuracy to be important this week as you certainly don’t have double fairways to hit like St Andrews. The course isn’t the longest at 7175 yards but as ever the further you can get off the tee the closer you are to the green. So total driving was on my mind even before I took a look at the stats from Hamilton’s win in 2004.

The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th , 9th,10th, 13th and 16th ranked players in total driving for the week all finished inside the Top 10 and it is rare to see such a strong attribute for any tournament never mind a host course for a major.

The next most pertinent attribute looks to be scrambling as the 1st and 2nd ranked scramblers finished 3rd and 7th respectively. Who can forget Hamilton’s bump and run with his 3 wood to set up his 2ft putt to win the Claret Jug? Imagination around the greens is very important in links golf but especially so at Royal Troon.

With the greens being immaculate the better putters would normally be expected to thrive on them but they obviously need to get there first. The greens are average in size and well protected but relatively flat. That might take away some of the advantage that the likes of Spieth and Day have at reading the breaks on undulating greens, however lag putting will be crucial to avoid 3-putts.

I expect hitting greens and indeed proximity to the hole to be very important this week, particularly from the tougher 175-200 yard range and if we look at 2004 season’s final rankings then that is backed up. Hamilton finished the season ranked 18th in GIR from 175-200 yards and 12th in approaches from 175-200 in the rough. Many others from the leaderboard also finished the season in lofty positions in this area and while there are a number of short holes at Troon it will certainly test their longer irons too, even more so if the wind does get up.

Other stats in which Hamilton ranked highly that season were 3-putt avoidance, putting inside 10ft and approach putt performance and that just confirms the need to keep the three-putts to a minimum. While Justin Leonard’s win in 1997 came before such an array of stats were available he did rank 2nd in scrambling and 3rd in putts per round during that season and he was regularly one of the better drivers on Tour.

I think on the whole this gives us a decent idea of the attributes that will help win this week. A decent links pedigree, proven in high-class fields, long and accurate driving, good GIR numbers from distance, strong scrambling ability and solid lag-putting.

With Dustin Johnson having won his last two tournaments, the US Open and WGC Bridgestone, he has firmly pushed himself into the World’s top 4 players and the market here can barely separate them with Day, Spieth, McIlroy and Johhson all trading at around the 10.0-12.0 mark. Their chances must be respected but I don’t really like any of them at the prices this week on a course like Troon. Day has been very wild off the tee lately and will probably find himself in trouble too many times to finish on top this week. Spieth’s game just hasn’t been at its best in 2016 and while he was one putt away from the play-off at St Andrews last year I think he would need to be playing better to win here and doesn’t make much appeal to me at the prices. McIlroy also hasn’t been playing his best stuff and has struggled for consistency across four rounds since returning from injury last year. With his well-known aversion to poor weather I can’t consider him at single figures when it looks like we could be in for proper links golf conditions.

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

But I don’t have to look much further down the market for my idea of the best bet in Ayrshire. I have backed Rickie Fowler in most Open Championships since 2010 when he finished in 14th place at St Andrews after an opening 79. He played the last three rounds better than anyone and firmly announced himself as an Open specialist (5 shots better than the 3rd lowest!). I probably won’t stop until he wins one as he is surely an Open Championship winner in waiting and possibly the next Tom Watson if he can win one soon.

Fowler is a self-confessed lover of links golf and that is clear every year with the number of different shots he plays. He has every type of links shot in his locker and at the age of 27 that is quite impressive. He can shape the ball both ways in the wind and has the imagination to flight the ball down and use the lie of the land to his advantage. That is something that took the likes of Phil Mickelson years to appreciate and then a few more to master before winning his Claret Jug in 2013.

But it isn’t just links potential with Fowler any more as he won the Scottish Open at Gullane’s hybrid Championship course last July. That is a classic links course and as I have already alluded to, it more than resembles Troon with its narrow fairways sculpted into the land. Fowler won that with an exquisite week on and around the greens ranking 5th for scrambling and 3rd in total putting. He didn’t drive the ball well but Fowler handled playing out of the rough perfectly. He was able to get the ball out and get it running on the firm fairways and that is yet another important aspect of links golf as there will be some nasty lies in the rough where hitting a towering 7 iron just isn’t possible. He can also play the bump and run around the green that is so important in links golf. Anyone that was watching the Scottish Open at the weekend will have noticed the number of times that the players were forced to utilise that shot given the undulating nature of the ground around the greens.

At the start of this season it was actually his long game that was standing out and through the first few months of the year he was right at the top of total driving and GIR but struggling to get the putter going. He still ranks 26th for total driving and an impressive 4th in GIR. Throw in the fact he is sitting 13th in scrambling from the rough, 21st in 3-putt avoidance and 4th in GIR from 175-200 we can see how well his game should suit from a statistical point of view too. I have touched on the important attributes this week but moreover at Troon every aspect of the game is tested so it also worth having a look at the all-round ranking. Fowler at the top of his game has very few weaknesses and that is perhaps another reason that he goes so well on links courses.

If we look exclusively at his Open record then it is very solid for one so young. The 14th place finish at St Andrews was his debut and he followed that with a T5th in 2011 (Royal St. Georges), a T31st in 2012 (Lytham), a missed cut in 2013 (sun-baked Muirfield), a T2nd in 2014 (Hoylake) and then a T30th last year when crucially on the wrong side of the draw at St. Andrews.

His form in 2016 has been quite up and down so far but he did win in January in Abu Dhabi and he still has some high finishes with a proper return to form two weeks ago at the WGC Bridgestone where he finished in a tie for 10th. His 2016 results read 5-1-MC-2-6-8-38-10-MC-20-4-MC-MC-MC-44-10 and that is a lot of golf with trips to Hawaii and Abu Dhabi in there so it is fair to think that he was maybe just running on empty by the time he missed his three consecutive cuts. The lack of weekend golf will have helped him re-energise however and he also arrives after a week off. I’m expecting to see the Rickie Fowler of 2015 and early 2016 rather than the one that we witnessed during May and June. If that proves to be the case then he will take the world of stopping and at 33/1 he looks a solid alternative to the front 4 in the betting.

 

Graeme McDowell has always been a very good links player and as soon as I saw him on the leaderboard at Castle Stuart I knew I would be backing him for Troon if his price held. His accuracy off the tee will help this week and he ranked 3rd in the all-round ranking at the Scottish Open. He isn’t the longest of drivers but he makes up for that with a very accurate long iron and hybrid game when playing at his best. The 80/1 for such a classy major winner is frankly a bit strange. Not only did he finish in the Top 10 last week but he won earlier in the season in the US and he also finished T18th at the US Open so his game is pretty close to its best.

He currently ranks 8th for driving accuracy so will be finding more fairways than the majority of the field and should he miss the green he is an excellent scrambler on links layouts, ranking 4th in that department last week.

He already has a win in Scotland to his name further north at Loch Lomond and he has a solid Open record with the pick being a T5th at Royal Lytham in 2012. He also has a win at Celtic Manor where the weather is usually miserable and two wins on Le Golf National layout in Paris which plays very much as a links track. If the wind blows and Troon doesn’t play too easy then GMac should make a mockery of his price this week.

 

One of the interesting course links that I found when researching Troon was through the Honda Classic. The last two winners at Troon, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton both won the Honda Classic around Country Club Mirasol in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Now I guess that might not be that interesting unless you take into account the fact that it was Hamilton’s only other win on Tour.

This told me that there must be some sort of link so I looked a little deeper. The other two winners at CCM were Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald which gives an impression of both short game prowess but also some sort of correlation with links conditions.

Looking at pictures of the course doesn’t make anything immediately obvious however the fairways are undulating, it is exposed, there are plenty of bunkers and the green complexes don’t look too dissimilar. It may be a rather tenuous link but the Honda Classic in general has always thrown up good Open players and it is interesting that Harrington went on to win his 2nd Honda Classic at the new host course which is located in the same area as Mirasol at Palm Beach Gardens. Marc Calcavecchia and Tom Weiskopf have also won the Honda as well as a Troon Open so while I can’t fully explain it I’m going to take the hint and back Luke Donald accordingly.

I backed him last week at 50/1 and he had an ok week finishing in 45th place as he struggled to get anything going but it will have been good preparation all the same . For someone who doesn’t have the best of major records his Open results are actually a little bit better than you might think. Since 2009 he has 4 Top 12 finishes and Donald is probably another that has taken some time to get used to the unique challenges of an Open Championship. Two of those were T5th finishes and they both occurred on proper links layouts, Turnberry and Royal Lytham.

He currently ranks 6th for scrambling and if his short game is anywhere near its best then Troon should play to Donald’s strengths. If the wind gets too severe then he might struggle but he has always coped well in light winds having won at Castle Stuart and Wentworth.

He also has the advantage of having played Troon competitively 12 years ago even if he did miss the cut when a far less accomplished player. Over the last few years we have seen a few older winners that have perhaps arrived not expecting too much. Playing without that pressure can surely only be an advantage and when Donald was at his peak it appeared to often be the expectations that ruined his chances with a poor opening round. I’m expecting him to have a good week and his price has more than a touch of value at 150/1.

 

Given the nature of Hamilton’s win and a couple of other left field American winners this century, I was keen to get an outsider from the US onside. The Honda Classic link has thrown up Russell Henley who won it in 2014 and given that we know his two main strengths are long, accurate driving and putting it seems fair to part with some cash at a massive 250/1. He also had his best Open finish in three attempts last year finishing T20th.

He hasn’t been at his best in 2016 missing a lot of cuts but yet he still ranks 4th in total driving, 36th in scrambling and 12th in 3-putt avoidance. He also pulled out a 7th place finish from nowhere at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic a few weeks ago so it hasn’t been all bad for him. His stats combined with the Honda link and a tasty price make him look like the sort of dark horse who could come alive on a course like Troon that clearly suits players from the USA.

With the short prices of the front 4 and most bookies paying 6 places there is a lot of value around so I have added a couple of late picks just on price alone.

 

Patrick Reed and Kevin Kisner are no strangers to this blog and I rate them both very highly. Reed is one of the best scramblers in the world game but it has been his putter that has stopped him from pushing on in 2016. He arrives fresh from two closing 67s in Scotland last week and if he can keep that going then he should go well. His price probably reflects how poorly he has done in the bigger tournaments this year but I think he has a chance on any course where scrambling is vital. It could be that his driving gets him into trouble this week but 66/1 for a proven winner who excels in the wind looks too good to pass up.

Kevin Kisner could just have the perfect profile for the week and I must admit he wasn’t really on my radar for this until I saw his price. He is a general 200/1 and that seems far too high and surely must be backed. His form has dropped off a little in 2016 after closing 2015 brilliantly with his 1st win. His stats still look very solid for this week’s test though as he ranks 32nd for total driving, 20th in 3-putt avoidance and 10th in putting inside 10ft. It isn’t even like he is in terrible form right now with a 16th place finish at Firestone last time out. That is another tough driving course and with his long game clearly in good nick I’d expect a strong showing in Scotland from Kisner.

Lee Westwood has a brilliant record at Troon having finished T10th in 1997 and then T4th in 2004. We know he is in excellent form having been in contention at both 2016’s majors so  far. Unfortunately he played poorly again when properly in the heat of battle and so it is hard to recommend a win bet this week despite the fact he is sure to play well. Instead I will back him for his 19th major Top 10 at his 74th attempt. A stat which makes the 5/1 available look great value even without considering his brilliant course form.

monty

There is just no way I can get away from having some sort of bet on Colin Montgomerie this week at his home course as he returns to The Open after 6 years away. It is just a question of how to back him. With his recent success in Senior majors he will be confident of a good showing here and I’m going to have a small play on the 1st round leader and the Top 20 markets. Betfred are offering a huge standout price of 14/1 for the Top 20 and that looks like perhaps the best piece of value around this week.

Dustin Johnson came good with a place in the 1st round leader market at the US Open and backing him to be leading on the Thursday would have yielded some serious profits over the last 18 months. I don’t see any reason to stop despite how obvious a bet it is.

I’m also going to play Callum Shinkwin in the 1st round leader market. He will be arriving full of confidence having qualified for this with a 9th place finish at the Open De France before firing a closing 65 in Scotland last week on his way to another Top 10. Countless times we have seen young, relative unknowns surge up the leaderboard at the Open on a Thursday. Shinkwin currently ranks 2nd in total driving and 18th in GIR over the last three months and finished 7th in the all-round ranking last week so I think he could easily take to Troon. It’s a tall ask for him to even contend but if he carries on from that final round at Castle Stuart then he could outplay his odds of 150/1

 


Summary of Bets

Rickie Fowler – 3pts ew @ 33/1

Patrick Reed – 1pt ew @ 66/1

Graeme Mcdowell – 1pt ew @ 90/1

Kevin Kisner – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1

Luke Donald – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 5/1

Russel Henley – 0.5pt ew @250/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1

Lee Westwood – 2pts Top 10 @ 5/1

Colin Montgomerie – 1pt Top 20 @ 14/1 with Betfred and 0.5pts ew 1st round leader @ 150/1

Dustin Johnson – 1pt ew 1st round leader @ 16/1

Calum Shinkwin – 0.5pt ew 1st round leader @ 150/1

Outright winner bets are 6 places this week.

Weekly outlay 23pts

@theGreek82