Wyndham Championship and Paul Lawrie Match Play – Betting Preview

As Matsuyama shot up the leaderboard on Friday with a brilliant 64 to tie the lead I was starting to think maybe I knew what I was doing again and stupidly expected the Japanese star to push on and win comfortably. Unfortunately though his long game unravelled over the weekend and that allowed Thomas to catch up and win with an impressive, albeit a little lucky, back 9. I’m not sure how much of Matsuyama’s play could be attributed to nerves but considering he wasn’t playing well at all he actually did quite well to hang around and only play the weekend in +2. While he has many major top 10s already in his young career this was the first time where he found himself favourite heading into both the 3rd and final rounds. I’d expect him to be all the better for the experience in the same way that Thomas, and many others before him, said he had learned a lot from his U.S. Open final round 75 in June.

James Hahn managed to oblige with a Top 20 for us but annoyingly Tony Finau had a final round shocker after sitting in the Top 20 for the bulk of the tournament. It returned just 6.6 pts which leaves the results as follows.

Total 2017 pts advised = 374.5pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 300.96pts

ROI = – 19.6%

I was going to sit this week out again but then I noticed it was the Wyndham which is usually a good horses for courses type event with a lot of form to go on. The Paul Lawrie Match Play didn’t look that exciting but it takes place at Bad Griesbach in Germany which has hosted a few tournaments already so there may be an angle in. The preview will be relatively short but hopefully still some bets.


Wyndham Championship

The Wyndham Championship takes place at its usual host course, Sedgefield Country Club and there is very much an established type of player that goes well here which often makes it a very good betting heat. The out of sorts Henrik Stenson is here chasing his quota of PGA Tour starts and his presence has thrown up a lot of very fair prices across the board.

Sedgefield is a fairly average length Par 70 designed by Donald Ross and repeatedly the same sort of attributes are required to go well. It is a tree-lined course with wide enough fairways but the bermuda greens are small so the more accurate drivers who can find the appropriate parts of the fairway tend to enjoy the lay-out as they give themselves the best chance of hitting the green. The last 5 winners have averaged 16th for driving accuracy while they have averaged 32nd for driving distance. The small bermuda greens generally slope from back to front as per the Donald Ross template but they also have lots of undulations and can be difficult to hold. The test around Ross’s courses is very much accuracy and that is the main attribute to consider this week. The greens are bermuda grass as per last week and we saw how uncomfortable many of the players were on the surface. The ball tends to break heavily at the death on bermuda and this can make the combination of pace and line difficult to deal with. Any picks should have shown a liking for bermuda greens in the past.

Form on Donald Ross courses also tends to stack up very well with Sedgefield correlating nicely with East Lake (Tour Championship), Oak Hill (2013 US PGA), Aronomink (2010 & 2011 AT & T National) and Pinehurst No. 2 (2014 US Open). There are lots of players who enjoy the test his layouts present and therefore have strong banks of form on several of these courses.

I really like Keegan Bradley for this as he should be suited to Sedgefield but yet he only played it for the first time last year when he finished 46th. Bradley currently sits in 5th position for Par 4 scoring and that combined with this 4th place finish at Pinehurst in 2014 are the two main points of interest for me but he also won his US PGA on bermuda greens in 2011. Despite struggling the last few years it really is just his putting that is letting him down since the anchoring ban. He has made his last six cuts, returning two top 10s in that time and I’m confident he can take advantage of the lack of depth this week. Bradley ranked 12th for total accuracy last week in the PGA and with other snippets of Donald Ross and bermuda form I expect a strong showing.

Trey Mullinax was one of the many players to congratulate Justin Thomas on twitter after his US PGA win but he is probably closer to the man who lifted the Wanamaker Trophy than most. Mullinax went to the University of Alabama with Thomas and played on the golf team with him for two years. It’s perfectly plausible that Mullinax gives himself a kick up the arse this week when he thinks of how well his mate is doing. However I’m not going to put him up on that alone, more so that he is a very talented golfer!

Mullinax currently ranks 11th in par 4 scoring and he finished 9th at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, which was actually his first PGA Tour top 10. But it is some of his solid Web.com Tour form that interests me this week. His win came at the Rex Hospital Open last year some 80 miles to the east of Sedgefield at TPC Wakefield Plantation. Another of his best results in the second tier was when he was 4th behind Si Woo Kim at the Ellie Mae Classic in 2015. Kim would go on to win the Wyndham last year and with all these factors combined I think Mullinax is worth a play at a sporting 150/1. I’m also having a top 20 bet on him as I only have the 2 outright picks this week.

I wanted to back both Bill Haas and Jason Dufner here but neither of them have been quite at their best over the last 2 months so I’m reluctantly leaving them both out.

 


Paul Lawrie Match Play

Paul Lawrie takes his match play event outside the UK for the first time as the Bad Griesbach Resort in Germany hosts the 3rd edition of a tournament that has failed to capture the imagination of most golf fans so far. What it does do though is give the 2nd tier of European Tour players some valuable match play experience and while some criticise the need for it at all, it does at least stick to a simple knock-out draw which makes for a nice change from all the bracket nonsense we see at the WGC match play event. (I think, nobody really has a clue!!)

The Bad Griesbach course has hosted the 2015 and 2016 Porsche European Open as well as the Challenge Tour’s Aegean Airlines Open from 2013-2015 so while the format is different there is some course form to go on.

2016’s edition was a weather shorted one and Alex Levy powered his way to a win in three rounds on a soaking wet course. That is in direct contrast to 2015 Champion Thonghai Jaidee who has a more subtle approach to his game. Both players however have very accurate approach play when on their game and can be good putters if conditions are right, Levy thrives on slow greens whereas Jaidee is a proficient putter who excels on faster greens. This suggests that knowing the weather in advance could be important this week, at present it is a mix of rain and sun which doesn’t tell us too much.

With that said however if you can’t find fairways and greens in match play golf it can be very hard to apply any pressure so with relatively wide fairways I make accurate approach play the most important aspect here. Secondly I would say that a previous look at the course could be important as there is no chance to ease into the tournament as the straight knockout format means that all day 1 losers will be going home early. I’d also prefer to see at least some sort of match play pedigree in their careers to date.

I had a fairly big shortlist for this but annoyingly 5 of them have ended up in the same quarter of the draw. I thought Matthew Southgate, Max Kieffer, Johan Carlsson, Magnus Carlsson and Jamie Donaldson could go all go well but four of them are actually in the same 1/8th of the draw so I am leaving that minefield well alone!

Instead I have gone to the other half of the draw for my first pick and despite Robert Karlsson’s opening match against Edoardo Molinari, I think he looks a fair price at 50/1. That is a tough match but both those men have achieved more than pretty much anyone else in the field and despite Karlsson not having done much at all in recent years he makes some appeal. That was the same back in 2015 when he made the Semi-Final of the first edition of the tournament at the tricky Murcar Links course in Aberdeen. The match play format allowed him a nice change from his stroke-play struggles and I was thinking he might just have a good run again even before I saw his course form. Karlsson was 3rd at Bad Griesbach in 2016 and it’s a draw that could open up nicely for the winner of the first round match. With this format looking a bit of a lottery at this level I will just go small stakes and have 0.5pt ew @ 50/1.

I did like Richard Bland a lot for this but his price is short enough for someone yet to win on Tour and he also has a fairly tough draw that could see him face a couple of Ryder Cup players before even making the Quarter Finals. I also liked 2014 WGC Match Play finalist Victor Dubuisson but he is in the same quarter as Karlsson now and also has a tricky opener against Bradley Dredge. Marc Warren is a proven match play exponent and when fully fit he is a far better player than most of these so his odds certainly appeal. However he has missed most of the season through injury. I took a chance on him at the World Cup where he played quite well until the semi-finals when fatigue kicked in and his injury prevented him from swinging freely. Worth keeping an eye on should he appear fully fit.

In truth you could make a case for most of the 64-man field but I’ve decided to opt for a youngster in the hope that he takes to the format. Thomas Detry sits 20th on tour for total accuracy over the last three months and his best finish to date was runner-up in Germany earlier in the year at the BMW International Open. He ranked 2nd for putting that week and finished 2nd again in the flat stick ranks on his last outing. It seems like his whole game is in decent shape and he certainly has the talent to scare a few of these more exposed European Tour types. There are a few very good players in his quarter but on the whole it looks to be the weakest in terms of recent form. He looked like he was taking to the match play format in the Perth Super Sixes but eventually lost his first match at the 2nd play-off hole to eventual finalist Adam Bland. His odds of 33/1 aren’t fantastic but I’m hoping he will enjoy his return to the south-east of Germany and with the possibility of a relatively easy path should he win his first game, I think he looks worth the risk.

The draw looks a little bit too trappy to bother with a 3rd pick from the off but I will be paying close attention to who goes well in the competitive first quarter and I may add one more in play.

 

 


Summary of Bets

Wyndham Championship

Keegan Bradley – 1pt ew @ 45/1

Trey Mullinax – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

Paul Lawrie Match Play

Robert Karlsson – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Thomas Detry – 0.5pt ew @ 33/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 6pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 380.5pts

 

@theGreek82

The Open – Betting Preview

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

2017 pts advised =322 pts

2017 pts returned = 240.36pts

ROI = -25.36%

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


The Open

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

royal-birkdale-golf-club-2

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

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

Key trends from the previous 9 Royal Birkdale Opens;

7/9 were already Major champions prior to Birkdale win

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

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

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

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

1954 Peter Thomson – 2nd in 1953

1961 Arnold Palmer – 2nd in 1960

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

1971 – Lee Trevino – 3rd in 1970

1976 – Johnnie Lee Miller – 3rd in 1975

1983 – Tom Watson – 1st in 1982

1991 – Iain Baker-Finch – 6th in 1990

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

2008 – Padraig Harrington – 1st in 2007

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

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

Rickie-Fowler-Cover

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

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

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

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

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

Henrik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Round Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

The Open

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

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

Ian Poulter – 1pt ew 60/1 (Skybet)

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

Paul Waring – 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Paul Broadhurst – 0.5pt Top 20 @ 33/1

 

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

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

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

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

 

Weekly pts advised =  23.5pts

2017 pts advised = 342pts

 

@theGreek82

Scottish Open and John Deere Classic – Betting Preview

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

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

Total 2017 pts advised =309pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 222.11

ROI = – 28.12%


The Scottish Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


John Deere Classic

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

Scottish Open

Alex Noren – 2pts ew @ 16/1

Branden Grace – 1pt ew @ 25/1

George Coetzee – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

Ryan Fox – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

John Deere Classic

Steve Stricker 1.25pt ew @ 28/1

Zach Johnson – 0.75pt ew @ 28/1

Wes Bryan – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 13pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 322pts

@theGreek82

 

Greenbrier Classic and Irish Open – Betting Preview

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

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

Total 2017 pts advised= 297pts

Total 2017 pts returned= 202.17pts

ROI = -31.93%

 


Irish Open

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

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

   Royal Birkdale          royal-birkdale-golf-club-2

    Portstewart             Portstewart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


The Greenbrier Classic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of bets

Irish Open

Thomas Pieters – 1pt ew @ 25/1

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

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

Bernd Ritthammer – 1pt Top 20 @ 16/1

Greenbrier Classic

Russell Henley – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Sung-Hoon Kang – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

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

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 309pts

@theGreek82

Quicken Loans and Open De France – Betting Preview

I’ve been pressed for time this week so everything will be quite brief. David Hearn and David Lingmerth both managed to fall down the leaderboard in the U.S. after starting the final round in 7th and 3rd places. I never expected them to win but it was annoying to see them both play so poorly and not even come close to placing. In Europe Aphibarnrat played very well on teh whole but just threw in too many mistakes and could only finish 10th. That stopped the run of consecutive weeks with returns but hopefully I can get back on track this week.

2017 pts advised = 290

2017 pts returned = 202.17

ROI = -30.29%

 


Quicken Loans National

The Quicken Loans moves course this week again to TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm and leaves us with another guessing game of sorts. The course was used however on the Web.com Tour for a couple of years in 2012 and 2013. It hosted the Mid-Atlantic Championship which was won by David Lingmerth and Michael Putnam respectively. Scoring was difficult with -7 and -8 the winning scores and that is what you would expect with a winner like Lingmerth who enjoys a bit of a grind.

There really isn’t much to like about this in terms of a confident betting heat so I’m going small stakes and speculative again this week to start. The regular host course for this was Congressional Country club just along the road from Potomac and few have a better record around that course than Robert Garrigus. He was 4th at Rory McIlroy’s U.S. Open win at the course and he also has 3rd, 8th and 11th place finishes there. If he is comfortable playing there then he may well be comfortable playing here as he will be able to stay in the same place as he does when playing Congressional and he will have fond memories of what was comfortably his best ever performance back in 2011. He is on a run of 7 missed cuts which is obviously far from ideal but he only missed out by 1 shot last week afer shooting 69-72. This season we have seen several left field players popping up on leaderboards, none more recently than Andres Romero who won in Germany at the weekend. Garrigus still ranks 20th for GIR over the last 3 months so clearly his long game isn’t in awful shape. If he can just hole a couple more putts then he might manage to get competitive.

After struggling to see anything else I like I’m taking Kevin Chappell again on the same Congressional link. He finished T4th alongside Garrigus in 2011 U.S. Open and he enjoys tough courses. Chappell is in the form of his life with a win just two months ago and he ranks 11th in GIR over the last 3 months. I fancied his chances at the U.S. Open but the course just didn’t represent enough of a tee-to-green test to see him at his best. If TPC Potomac does play tough and reports of thick rough are true then there will be few in the field better equipped to deal with the challenge off the tee.

 


Open De France

The Open De France returns to Le Golf National in Paris for what is its 25th time of hosting this event. That gives us lots of course form and therefore we have a good idea what is required. The course is an exposed one with fairly narrow fairways and some of the rough can be quite difficult, both in terms of thick grass and awkward stances on the rugged terrain. There is water in play on a number of holes and that combined with the potential for wind creates a course where accuracy is favoured over power. The greens are usually set-up as quick as any on the European Tour so greens can be difficult to hold and scrambling is equally tricky.

Therefore the test is an all-round one but for this tournament I always look at someone with a good combination of driving accuracy, GIR and scrambling.  It isn’t a course that can be over powered and that is evident when we consider that Graeme Mcdowell is a two time winner and last year’s winner was Thonghai Jaidee. Consider form around other difficult tracks as this is seldom a birdie fest and the average winning score over the last ten editions is just -10.

Joost Luiten has been having an ok year without doing anything amazing. He has only missed one cut so far in 2017 from 12 tournaments and 9 of those have resulted in top 30 finishes. As is the case with so many brilliant ball-strikers he has struggled a little on the greens so it was very interesting to see him rank 1st in the field last week in Germany for putting. He finished up in 14th place but nobody else had a better combination of driving accuracy, GIR and total putting and I think that sets him up nicely for another good performance at a course where he has finished 9th and 18th the last two years. With a fairly strong head of the market there is still some 35/1 around and that looks very fair. Luiten is also a winner on one of the key courses that ties in with Le Golf National, Celtic Manor. Mcdowell and Jaidee have both won there and it is another exposed, undulating course with water in play and difficult greens. Historically he hasn’t been the best of scramblers but this year he ranks 21st in that area over the last 3 months and I am expecting him to go well.

I’ve been having a few bets on some younger players lately like Lagergren and Bjork but I think this week looks more about experienced players so my only other bet will be the very obvious Graeme Storm who won here in 2007. Considering he has been playing well in 2017 and won in SA in January I thought he was a fair price at a general 100/1.

I’m very keen on Bernd Wiesberger’s chances this week as he really is playing some great golf this year and is already a winner. The scheduling of his home Open the week before the U.S. Open really must grate on him but you don’t hear him complaining about it. However there is no question that it disrupts his game at a key time in the season and the fact he never really got going last week in Germany was no surprise. He still finished 20th with his long game as strong as ever but his scrambling and putting were poor. I’m very tempted to have a saver win bet on him but I can’t quite jump in at odds of 18/1. I think it is just a matter of time before he wins again and he will be very dangerous this week around a course where he won in 2015. If he drifts over 20 I may yet add him.

 


Summary of Bets

Quicken Loans

Robert Garrigus – 0.5pt ew @ 300/1

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 28/1

Open De France

Joost Luiten – 1.5pts ew @ 35/1

Graeme Storm – 0.5pts ew @ 100/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 7pts

2017 pts advised = 297pts

@theGreek82

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

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

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

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

2017 pts advised = 249pts

2017 pts returned = 170.22

ROI = -31.64%

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


St. Jude Classic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lyoness Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

Fed-Ex St Jude

Harris English – 0.75pt ew @ 80/1

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

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

Lyoness Open

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Tom Lewis – 0.75 pts ew @ 66/1

Zander Lombard – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1

Chris Hanson – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Ben Evans – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 261pts

@theGreek82

Dean and Deluca Invitational and BMW PGA Championship – Betting Preview

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

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

Total 2017 pts advised = 223pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 130.97pts

ROI = -41%

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


Dean and Deluca Invitational

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


BMW PGA Championship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

Dean and Deluca

Wes Bryan – 1pt ew @ 80/1

Graeme Mcdowell – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Ben Martin – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1

BMW PGA

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

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

Lee Westwood – 0.5pt ew @ 45/1

Gregory Bourdy – 0.5pte ew @ 125/1

Weekly pts advised – 10pts

Total 2017 pts = 233pts

@theGreek82