CIMB Classic and Italian Open – Betting Preview

There were returns last week on both Tours as Hadley and Warren both grabbed full places. That very nearly made for a profitable week but not quite (16.5pts) and we really need winners to get back into profit for 2017. Hadley looked like he was going to oblige as he started the final round as favourite but could only manage to shoot level par on a tricky day where Steele rallied with a few timely (and lucky!) birdies.

In Scotland we were in a great position early on but I’m not sure what happened to Coetzee and Fox after Thursday. I followed them around St Andrews and they were both playing very well on the whole. Warren did the opposite though finishing strongly after starting slowly on Carnoustie. Lagergren looked like he might have snagged a place again but a double bogey on the 14th did for his chances on Sunday.

2017 pts advised = 460

2017 pts returned = 376.35

ROI = -18.2%

I’m a little bit rushed for time this week having been away so will focus on the picks. Both tournaments are on the same course so a lot of last year’s info will still be key.


CIMB Classic

 

The CIMB Classic takes its usual position at the Kuala Lumpur Golf Club and we have a strong bank of form to look at with just two men having won the last four editions as both Ryan Moore and then Justin Thomas doubled up. That further confirms how important course form is this week as it’s played in serious humidity in Malaysia and there are quirky sea paspalum greens like those on Tour at El Cameleon and Puerto Rico. The course was designed by Nelson and Haworth who are responsible for several championship courses in Asia and the form often stacks up. It is an early start this week through the night in Malaysia and conditions are hot and humid. Both Thomas and Moore putted the lights out during their wins despite neither men being considered consistently great putters. Sea paspalum is a tricky surface and comfort levels need to be high in order to contend.

Rafa

Rafa Cabrera Bello had some excellent form at the course even before his 10th place finish on the PGA Tour in this event last year. In the Malaysian Open he was 3rd and 4th in 2011 and 2012. For years the Spaniard threatened to become a bit of a journeyman on Tour always failing to maximise his brilliant ball-striking by falling short on Sundays. Gradually over the last two years though he has moved his game to another level and he got his reward with a slightly back-door win at the Scottish Open as Shinkwin himself struggled to get over the line in July. Rafa has also recorded some strong results in elite company recently, making the semi-finals of the World Match Play in 2016 before his best ever Major finish at this year’s Birkdale Open where he was 4th. I think the market has under estimated him this week so he is largely getting backed on a value basis. His tee-to-green game is better than the majority of this field but as ever it’s his very average short game that can hold him back. Having said that it has improved significantly lately and therefore he contends more often than not now as he only needs to perform slightly above average on the greens to do so. The slight worry with regards to winning this week is how prevalent putting has been for the winner. But there is enough value in the each way price for that not to concern me and he has putted well on these sea paspalum greens before. A solid looking bet at 40/1.

Chris Stroud looks a little over priced here despite his run of poor form. Stroud finally got his first PGA Tour win this summer at the Barracuda Championship and chased that with his first Major Top 10 at Quail Hollow the week after. Having secured his card and had his best ever two results in the space of two weeks it’s easy to see why he lost a little intensity and missed his next three cuts in strong fields. He has had a month off since then and would have got rid of any rust last week in California so will be relishing his return to both Malaysia and sea paspalum greens. Stroud finished 3rd at Kuala Lumpur GC in 2013 and followed that up with another 3rd two weeks later on Mayakoba’s sea paspalum. He ranked 2nd and 10th for putting those two weeks and thrives on the different surface as two further Top 10s in Puerto Rico testify. Stroud has also finished runner-up in the Alfred Dunhill and 8th in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, showing he isn’t your typical PGA Tour pro who can struggle when playing on the other side of the world. May well miss the cut again but I think he has been a little bit too easily dismissed at the 200/1 available with Betfred. Top 20 too at 5/1

James Hahn’s claims are very obvious being the only man bar Thomas to finish inside the top 10 the last two years. He was the first name on the shortlist but his price is a bit of a joke now around the 40/1 mark. We know how good he can be in contention but he is so inconsistent that it is very hard to know when he will play well. There are a few other prices that I cannot get on board with this week. Yes, Lahiri loves the course but should he really only be 3 times the price of Matsuyama, or the same price as last week’s winner Brendan Steele? I don’t think so. In fact I’m going to leave it at just the two picks here as Thomas should really win this again but is completely unbackable at just 4/1.

 


Italian Open

The Italian Open returns to Golf Club De Milano for the third time in a row. Francesco Molinari returns to defend and Jon Rahm tees it up as favourite looking to get his quota in for Ryder Cup eligibility. His presence together with the always too short Molinari have set the tournament up as a strong looking betting heat.

The course is a very narrow one as I covered in greater detail last year. But unlike so many tree-lined narrow tracks, this is also fairly long and has some very small greens. So perhaps it’s a little surprising how low the scoring has been to date.

Anywhere that Molinari wins you would imagine can’t put much emphasis on putting and despite some of the stats conflicting with that a little (Moli ranked 18th for putting, Karlberg 17th in 2015),  I’m happy to assume it isn’t overly important this week despite the need for birdies as the greens aren’t too difficult. Many of the holes wind through the trees with dog-legs and as such it is an extremely strategic course off the tee. Not only will they have to be on the correct side of the fairway but more often than not they will only be able to take an iron off the tee, resulting in lots of long iron approaches, especially on the front 9. That sits very well with Molinari having won as he hits his long irons and hybrids as well as anyone on the European Tour.

It’s all about the tee-to-green at Golf Club De Milano and then trying to get the putter hot by giving themselves plenty of chances.

Tommy Fleetwood was the massive standout at the prices on Monday when they came out and subsequently everyone jumped on. I did tweet about the 25s along with many others so hopefully readers managed to get involved. The dilemma then for me was at what price I can still advise him in the blog. The 25s came and went and unfortunately so did most of the 22s about the new father this week but there is still a little bit around and 20/1 is still just about fair too.

We all know what a fantastic long game Fleetwood has and he showed that throughout the summer. An argument could be made for him being in the top 12 or so in the world in terms of ball-striking alone but I must admit I still don’t rate him as much of a putter which usually means I still struggle to back him at short prices. However, in this field, on a tight course with small greens, he probably won’t need to putt too well to get into contention. The fact that he is still a bigger price than Molinari and Tyrell Hatton is to ignore Fleetwood’s rise to the top golfing table in 2017. Therefore with a 7th place last year, where he ranked 1st in GIR, and having broken the Carnoustie course record last Friday, I’ve decided he is still a worthwhile play at 20/1 even if some of the early juice has gone.

Anyone following Martin Kaymer will have had an interesting time to say the least since his meltdown in Abu Dhabi in 2015. It has been very odd to see a double major winner’s form take such an abrupt downturn but even still there have been instances where he has looked backable due to course form and disrespectful prices. This looks like one of those opportunities but this week we also have the added bonus of the fact his long game is very much back to it’s best. He ranked 4th for total driving and 9th for total accuracy last week in Scotland.

So if we see more of the same from him this week he surely has to go well on a course that he was 2nd at in 2015, again throwing away a lead as he led by three at the turn on Sunday. The 40/1 might take into account the fact that hasn’t been able to close them out lately but for me it hasn’t factored in his combination of class, course form and current ball-striking level. Anything much over 28/1 looks generous for the German this week.

There are a host of outsiders I liked this week at the prices and I’ve decided to plump for three more. I’m backing them in the Top 20 market too.

Chris Hanson recorded a top 20 here last year on his first look and I think he is over priced here on his return. Hanson ranks 2nd in total accuracy over the last three months and that combination will be ideal this week on such a narrow course. He hit 79% of the greens at the course last year which ranked 10th for the week. His current form is good if we ignore his missed cut last week in Scotland in the pro-am slog. His results prior to that read 11-25-37-14 with the 11th coming at the tree-lined Close House layout. If his long game remains as sharp as it has been then he should play well again.

Ricardo Gouveia got my attention after last week as he actually ranked 3rd in total driving and 5th in total accuracy. Obviously that was playing three rounds on wide open fairways where comfort levels would have been high for the young Portuguese on the tee. So when I saw that he missed the cut here last year my enthusiasm was tempered a little. However when I delved a little further I noticed that one of his Challenge Tour wins was in Italy on an old-fashioned, tree-lined course with a premium on accuracy. He backed that up with a 6th place finish the year after when defending. I put him up a few weeks ago and he played well so I’m going to give him another go here but just a very small win bet and a bigger top 20 bet.

Jason Scrivener ranked 1st in total accuracy last week but still finished down the field in Scotland as he was let down by his putter. That’s not often the case so if he can improve on the greens he should go well. He was 5th on his last trip to Italy earlier this year at the Rocco Forte Open and has course form of 36-14 so he looks a little over priced.

 


Summary of Bets

CIMB Classic

Rafa Cabrera Bello – 1.5pt ew @ 40/1

Chris Stroud – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Italian Open

Tommy Fleetwood – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1

Martin Kaymer – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Chris Hanson – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 6/1

Jason Scrivener – 0.25pt ew @ 175/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/1

Ricardo Gouveia – 0.25pt ew @ 200/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 8/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 15pts

Total 2017 pts advised = 475pts

@theGreek

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Safeway Open and Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – Betting Preview

Shane Lowry just managed to snag a full place with most of the bookmakers offering 7 places for their home based event. He looked to be striping it most of the weekend but just couldn’t get the putts to drop. Paul Dunne was a very deserving winner but he wasn’t someone I fancied on a new course like Close House. Generally when shifting to a new venue you want to side with solid tee-to-green games but it was Dunne’s sublime short-game that won him the trophy. He has that very rare ability of chipping the ball almost stone dead from anywhere around the green and that masked a very average ball-striking round for him on Sunday where he hit just 6 fairways and 11 greens in reg. Should we return to Close House in the future it’s worth remembering how key scrambling can be there as some of the greens are small and very fiddly.

Ashley Chesters looked like bagging the Top 20 effortlessly but unfortunately the pressure of being in the final group on Saturday was a bit much and he had a horrible weekend as nerves took over.

The Presidents Cup was a little bit of a non-event and I really shouldn’t have got involved. I knew that from the start though and need to be more disciplined and just leave events like that alone.

Total 2017 pts advised = 442 pts

Total 2017 pts returned = 359.6 pts

ROI = -18.65%


Safeway Open

No sooner has the 2017 season finished but the 2018 season is underway and in all honesty it feels rather daft to have such a short break. That is even more apparent this year by the Monday finish of the Web.com Tour Championship which leaves the 25 players who have earned their card just two days to prepare for their assault at the main Tour.

The starting point is The Silverado Course at Napa in California and with it having hosted since 2014 we have a fair idea of what is required to win. The course is a par 72 and so stands fairly short at just 7200 yards meaning it isn’t usually over powered. It is tree-lined and although not overly narrow, positioning off the tee is crucial as the courses main defence are the slick, small greens. Approaches have to be from the fairway in order to hold the correct area to allow up hill putts as the greens become very difficult if out of position. The greens are poa annua so only those confident on the surface will fancy tricky 5ft downhill putts for par. Therefore proximity to the hole and poa annua putting will both be key this week. While the stats don’t suggest driving accuracy is too crucial, with thick rough and difficult flag locations, players will need to have full control of their golf ball and bombers are likely to struggle unless taking a more strategic approach off the tee this week.

The Fall Series provides a very welcome change to the betting landscape for punters having struggled to pick which one of the world-class players was going to win over the last 6 weeks. We are back to wide open fields without the majority of the game’s best players and we often see big price winners at this time of year. If you like a player here this week then don’t be put off by the price. Although it might pay to consider whether those who contended on Monday at the Web.com will be fully prepared for this just

Such is Kevin Na’s form around the Silverado course he was already on my shortlist for this before the horrific events unfolded in his home town of Las Vegas. It feels a little uneasy putting him up now but we only have to look at Stacey Lewis in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey hitting her hometown of Houston to see how such tragic events can give them a sense of perspective or in Lewis’ case a drive to donate as much money as possible. Quite how this will affect Na we really can’t be sure but its clear from a golfing point of view that the course suits so I’m happy to get behind him here despite claiming I would never back him again! Na is a nervous character that often seems overwhelmed when he is in contention so playing this week with his thoughts elsewhere might just free up his pre-shot routine should he find himself on the leaderboard on Sunday.

Na was 7th here last year and 2nd the year before that and the shorter track together with the requirement for accurate approaches is right up his street. In 2017 Na ranked 5th for Scoring Relative To Par on Approaches from 125-150 yards and he will find himself in that range more often than not around Silverado. The scoring stat rather than just proximity to hole is often more telling as we know he is taking his chances. Na is a solid enough putter and he has shown over the years he is comfortable on poa annua, none more so than when he was 7th at Oakmont’s U.S. Open last year but he also came 4th at Riviera in February. One of his main strengths is his scrambling which well help him over the weekend as the greens firm up. His recent form is good with a 4th and a 6th in his last four tournaments.

Pricewise it’s always a bit of a conundrum with Na as his win price always seems short yet his high number of top 5 finishes can help counter that somewhat. He has 8 placed efforts from his last 52 tournaments and 14 from his last 100. There’s also something quite genuine about him and I can’t help but root for Na so I would love to see him get his long overdue 2nd PGA Tour win here. Not going to argue that there is much value in 28/1 but similarly I think it’s a fair price with his combination of course and current form.

Martin Laird started playing some very good golf at the tail end of the 2017 season so a stop at one of his favourite courses looks very timely indeed. Laird has one of the highest ball flights on Tour with his irons and that helps him find the right portion of these slick greens. His record at the course is very good reading 8th-63rd-3rd and these are precisely the sort  of tournaments that the Scot thrives in. He targets these weaker events as great opportunities to contend and although he hasn’t won in 4 years he is a 3 time winner who doesn’t usually back up when the chance to win is there.

His last few results of the season were solid but ultimately too late to make a mark on the Fed Ex Play-offs. He closed the season going 20th-40th-44th and on that last start at the BMW his tee-to-green game was brilliant and he was only let down by the putter. A return to poa annua might help counter that and he generally performs well on the rougher surfaces having ranked 14th on the greens here last year. If he has kept his swing ticking over the last two weeks he will hopefully play well again.

Luckily Chesson Hadley wasn’t at the business end of last week’s Tour Championship on the Web.com so he will be fresher than most of the 2018 new batch this week. But he was the outstanding player on the 2nd Tour having topped the final money list so he doesn’t quite arrive on Tour under the radar. Hadley has the big plus of having had his Tour card before though, even notching up a win at the Puerto Rico Open in 2014. Hadley also has three other wins on the Web.com Tour. His record around the course is quite poor but he is playing far better lately and won just three weeks ago at the Albertson Boise Open which features poa annua greens. In fact three of his professional wins have come on the surface so he clearly enjoys putting on poa. Hedley ranked 6th on the PGA Tour in GIR over the last 6 months and while that is for quite a small sample size he also ranked 14th on the Web.com for the same stat over the 2017 season. Hadley will be determined to make his mark this time around on Tour and this looks like an ideal starting point.

Scott Brown always seems to be underestimated by the bookies and that looks to be the case again with quotes of 100/1 in a couple of places. Brown is coming off a very good 2017 where he was runner-up twice, in the team event in New Orleans with Kisner and at Riviera. He also recorded his best major finish to date with a 13th at the US PGA in only his 4th appearance at one of the big four events. It is the Riviera finish that stands out though, highlighting that he is happy putting on poa annua greens. He missed the cut here in 2015 but was 12th in 2014 when playing better. Brown will arrive full of confidence after a good finish to his summer and should go well.

I wanted to tip Andres Gonzales this week but unfortunately he isn’t in the field. Instead I will finish with Daniel Summerhays. He is a player who has really struggled to get that elusive win on the PGA Tour but one thing he doesn’t struggle with is poa annua greens. In 2016 he finished 3rd at the US Open and 8th at the US PGA, both of which were played on poa annua greens. He hasn’t done brilliantly at the course yet but he has made 2 out of 3 cuts and he did rank 6th in putting in 2014. It’s rather speculative but at these odds (150/1) he is always worth consideration on poa greens.


Alfred Dunhill Links

This week’s Dunhill Links sits in its usual spot on the European Tour and having been on the go since 2001 almost everyone knows what to expect on the East Coast of Scotland this week. It takes the form of a pro-am across three courses during the first three days so the courses are set up extremely easily for the celebrity hackers. With the spot in the calendar being in October in Scotland we don’t see any of the hard and fast conditions that are prevalent at The Open. The greens and fairways are soft so trouble is even harder to find than usual at St Andrews and Kingsbarns. Carnoustie is usually a little more difficult but even still it will need the wind to blow to prevent rounds in the 60s being the norm. The flags are also very favourable to allow the amateurs to enjoy their experience so with all that combined you can see why the winning score is usually in the 20s under par. St Andrews and Kingsbarns both have wide open fairways and plenty of drivable par 4s so power is very much a weapon this week. Ultimately though, it is all about making birdies so aggressive iron play and a hot putter will be the order of the week in Fife and Angus.

After a round at each course everyone who makes the 3rd round cut plays the final round at the home of golf and things get a little more serious on the Sunday. The forecast for the whole week is a steady wind throughout but I’m hoping the rain stays away as I’ll be at one of the courses for the first round on Thursday.

Ryan Fox went firmly into the notebook for this after his superb summer of Links golf. Fox finished 5th at Le Golf National, 4th at the Irish Open and 4th again at the Scottish Open confirming himself a very strong links and bad weather player. The fact that he went a little off the boil through August and September isn’t of too much interest to me and merely serves to give us a good price here. His brilliant July guaranteed his Card for next year so it was no surprise to see him take some time off after the Open and US PGA and he would have needed a few events to blow the cobwebs off on his return.

The Scottish Open 4th is the one that interests me most with it having come at the Kyle Phillips designed Dundonald Links course. Kingsbarns is another Phillips design and together with St Andrews and Castle Stuart they are probably the 4 widest championship Links courses you will see in the UK.

Therefore we would expect Fox to be suited by them as most of his mistakes come with the big stick in hand. Fox hits it further than pretty much everyone on Tour and he will eat St Andrews and Kingsbarns up. He is aggressive with his irons and his putting improves on grainy links greens. The New Zealander first plied his trade on the PGA Tour of Australasia so is at home on the grainier surface as well as exposed golf courses. Having been brought up on firm, fast courses he has also shown he is comfortable knocking the ball down and chasing it onto the greens when conditions dictate.

This whole set-up just looks absolutely perfect for Fox and despite this being his debut in the event I think the easy set-up will help him adjust and he has already played St Andrews in the 2015 Open when it was set-up considerably tougher than it will be this week. Quite how he might fare at the tougher Carnoustie I don’t know but while it will be harder than the other two courses this week, it will be as soft so scoring should still be good. That will also suit a player who ranks 2nd for birdie average over the last 3 months. Fox looks like the best piece of value in the field to my eye at 66/1.

While Fox is a confident pick I also want a few players onside that have more recent form in the bag. Step forward George Coetzee yet again. I’m not going to bang on again about Coetzee too much but he is such a good links putter I’m pretty much going to continue to back him in this event whenever he is bigger than 33/1. There are few players who have been in better form over the last month and bizarrely it has been his long game that has had him at the right end of the leaderboard lately. If he keeps that up,  the extra room off the tee will take the pressure off his driving and his short game skills should help this birdie machine contend again this week. Ranks 6th in the all-round so with every part of his game in decent nick the timing of this event is ideal for someone who jointly holds the course record at the Old Course.

I’m in danger of going overboard and backing 7 or 8 players this week. I have to give Marc Warren another go after playing well at Close House. Warren is another sublime putter who thrives on links greens. He was 5th last year and is back in form again at the right time this year. His wild driving has been stopping him contending on Sunday recently but again he will be able to relax on most tee shots this week and let rip. He ranked 19th for GIR and 19th in putting so he should be looking forward to returning north to his homeland.

Joakim Lagergren is a very straight-forward pick this week. He has finished in the top 10 the last two years, returning a Top 20 bet for me here last year at a great price. That left me regretting not putting him up each way as he finished 4th. Not going to make the same mistake this year, especially at 90/1. The young Swede has one of the most silky smooth putting strokes you will see and enjoys the easy pro-am set up here. It takes the pressure off his tee-to-green game which isn’t always a strength. Everyone hits these huge greens so it’s often a battle between the putters and those who aggressively fire at every flag. Lagergren likes to do both so can be expected to go well again at a tasty enough price.

I was going to have a 5th pick of Robert Karlsson given how well he played last week. He opened at 175/1 with bet365 and with him being a past winner of this event that looked far too big. He has been cut into 125/1 which looks about right for someone who has struggled for so long. But I think he is still perhaps value to finish inside the Top 10 at 12/1.

Finally I’m also having a bet on Florian Fritsch for a Top 20 here. Fritsch is perhaps most famous for his fear of flying and he will be playing his 7th week out of the last 8 while we have been in Europe. Keeping hold of his card when he can only play half the schedule is very tough but he is learning to make the most of his strong periods of form and he usually has to play every event this time of year. Fritsch was 7th here last year and 19th the year before on his debut so he clearly enjoys the format. So with a 100% record of top 20s in the event he looks a rock solid bet at 5/1. I will have 2pts on this to return stakes for the event should everything else go wrong.

I’ve got bit carried away this week but both events are good betting heats so hopefully the extra picks pay off this week as I try to sneak back to level for the year.

 


Summary of bets

Safeway Open

Kevin Na – 1.5pt ew @ 28/1

Martin Laird – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (Unibet, 888)

Chesson Hadley – 0.5pt ew @ 60/1

Scott Brown – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (Unibet, 888)

Daniel Summerhays- 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 (Unibet again!)

Dunhill Links

Ryan Fox – 1.5pts ew @ 66/1

George Coetzee – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Marc Warren – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Joakim Lagergren – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Robert Karlsson – 1pt Top 10 @ 8/1

Florian Fritsch – 2pts Top 20 @ 5/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 18 pts

2017 pts advised = 460 pts

@theGreek82

Alfred Dunhill Links Betting Preview and Fed Ex Cup Review

Spieth

Heir Jordan.

 2015 will always be remembered as Jordan Spieth’s year (sorry Jason, if you’re reading!). Whatever this incredible young man goes onto achieve in his career, it’s very unlikely that he will have a year as impressive as 2015 unless he actually manages the hallowed Grand Slam. To win 2 majors at the age of 22 is an amazing achievement on its own, never mind doing it in the same year and chasing them with T4th and 2nd in the other two. But Jordan wasn’t finished there. After a post USPGA Championship lull which saw the Texan miss 2 consecutive cuts he was determined to wrestle back the World No. 1 from Jason Day and end the season with everyone firmly knowing who the best player in the world is.

Unfortunately this week Spieth’s efforts were at the expense of my Stenson win bet. Although I’m not going to complain too much as there would have been a slight sense of injustice had Stenson won this week to lift the Fed Ex Cup without having anywhere near to as impressive a year as Spieth or Day. It was a fascinating spectacle over all four days with Henrik flying out of the blocks on Thursday with a close to perfect ball-striking performance. This made him the man to beat come the weekend but unfortunately that just left Spieth with a very clear goal, chase down and pass Henrik Stenson to win the Fed Ex Cup. His putting performance to do so on Saturday and Sunday will surely go down in History as one of the great putting displays, with his clutch putting on Sunday in particular bordering on unbelievable. On no fewer than three occasions with Henrik in kick-in birdie range, Spieth holed monster putts ranging from 20-45ft. After one of those the camera cut straight to the wry smile of Stenson, a look which suggested that he knew then and there that whatever he did, Spieth was going to find a way to beat to him. Now that mentality, coupled with a few errant shots from the Swede could in some circumstances be judged wrongly as a “choke”. It is one thing to throw a tournament away just through the pressure of being in contention, it is a completely different thing to be ground down by the best player in the world’s relentless and timely putting. A competitor as determined and as full of self-belief as Spieth can do that to even the game’s best.

While it will no doubt be debated furiously over the next 10-15 years where Jordan ranks alongside Tiger Woods, that is almost disrespectful to arguably the game’s greatest ever player. Tiger Woods completely changed the game of golf for the better and without him the landscape would be very different today. But as in all walks of life, people come and people go. With Woods increasingly looking a spent force the game needed someone to take over his throne. While Rory Mcilroy threatened to and still rightly sits amongst the top 3 in the world he wouldn’t even get close to the Top 10 short games in the world (I know, Spieth probably wouldn’t rank in the Top 10 tee to green either!). The game needed someone with that X Factor, capable of pulling off the unthinkable at exactly the right time, again and again as per a Tiger Woods You Tube highlight reel. In 2015 Jordan Spieth didn’t just threaten to be that player, he showed us that he unquestionably is.


Despite Stenson only finishing 2nd it was a reasonable week for me as Bjerregaard managed to sneak into a share of 5th place thanks to Ross Fisher’s bogey at the 18th on Sunday in Germany. Including both those singles and the advised EW double this brought returns of 16.48 pts and nearly broke even for the week with 18pts being advised. Running totals are now as follows;

Total Points advised – 164

Total Points returned – 233.68

Return on investment (ROI) – 42.48%

If anyone wants to see a full breakdown of results then just post a comment below or tweet me @thegreek82 and I can email it out.

So with the 2015 PGA Tour season behind us we now have to wait a whole 2 weeks for the 2016 Season to start.. But luckily the European Tour is still going strong and it heads back to the UK this week for one of the best fields of the year, The Dunhill Links Championship.


The Dunhill Links Championship

The players find themselves on the east coast of Scotland this week and on three of the UK’s finest courses, St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. This tournament has a different format to the norm with it being a Pro-Am. So each player plays a round at all three courses along with their often “celebrity” amateur of choice. The cut then falls after three rounds with those who make it continuing on to a final round at St. Andrews on Sunday.

Given the slower, less serious nature of this Tournament,  players will need to feel comfortable in this environment in order to win. Scoring is always low as the courses aren’t set up as hard as they would be for a normal European Tour event given that amateurs are also playing.

With all three courses playing to a Par 72, Kingsbarns  at 7150 yards usually plays as the easiest of the three, followed by St Andrews (7307 yards) and then Carnoustie (7412 yards) which retains some of its bite even with the favourable amateur pin positions.

Unsurprisingly, given the name, this tournament is normally won by a proven Links exponent. With a winning score usually in the 20s under par it is also important to score well  with the pure links greens playing softer than in the summer. So my research is going to revolve heavily on finding players suited to the courses, putting well and with some good recent Links form also. In addition to previous editions of the Dunhill, we can look at this year’s Scottish Open held across the Firth, the Irish Open, The Open (which was held at St Andrews this year) and even the Dubai Desert Classic which plays very much as a Links course (several players have won both there and the Dunhill to back his up)

With such an impressive field I could have backed about 12 players this week but even with just the one tournament I wanted to keep it at 4 main plays and some additional side market bets. I really like Danny Willett’s chances this week but he looks plenty short enough at 20/1 as does Shane Lowry who hasn’t been seen since his US PGA missed cut.

Thomas Pieters finally got off the mark with a win in the Czech Masters in August  and he promptly followed that win up with another in the KLM in Holland which is played on the Kennemer course in Zandvoort. It is an undualting, exposed course and Links specialists like Simon Dyson, Joost Luiten, Darren Clarke and Ross Fisher have all won there previously. Pieters has several other high finishes on Links courses and a decent T18th on his debut here last year. It is very hard to win three tournaments in a row (he hasn’t played since Holland) but at this stage with the talent he has this powerful Belgian could yet be anything. As well as his length of the tee he will be aided this week by his deadly putter. He is -39 for his last 8 rounds so while he may look slightly short at 40/1, his limits are not yet known so I’m happy to include him while his putter is hot (averaging 26.25 putts/round over those 8 rounds) in a Tournament that can often turn into a putting competition in fair weather. Furthermore he can take inspiration from Branden Grace who won here in 2012 after himself having a multiple win breakthrough season.

Eddie Pepperell is a young Englishman that has been more banging the door down than knocking on it over the last 2 years. This season alone he has 4 top 5 finishes on Links courses; 4th in Qatar, T2nd in Irish Open, T4th in Scottish Open and T5th in the KLM 3 weeks ago for the blog. He told me yesterday on Twitter that he hasn’t played at all since Italy two weeks ago but I’m not that concerned as he will arrive refreshed and determined to finally get his win in a Links environment that will suit him perfectly. Those that follow him on Twitter will know that he is good fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously so he should feel at ease in this Pro-Am format. With a week off his price is possibly a little better than I expected so 50/1 looks very fair for a proven Links specialist that is deadly on the greens.

Pablo Larrazabal is a player that I struggle to get right. He has let me down a few times when everything has looked in his favour for playing well. But I think, given the course links from where he has won tournaments, he is due a big performance in a classic Links tournament. Golf Club Eichenried, where he has won two BMW International Opens, has a very similar roll call of winners as The Dunhill; David Howell, Martin Kaymer, Robert Karlsson, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood have all won at both and a host of other players have high finishes. Now Eichenried is not a Links course so I’m not sure why this is the case. But there is a premium on distance control with the irons and also scrambling when the small greens are missed. Larrazabal’s other wins have come at Le Golf National and Abu Dhabi which have also been the scene of wins for many strong Links players, amongst these Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Jamie Donaldson and Paul Casey. He arrives in fairly poor form but those that are familiar with him know that he can appear out of nowhere to play well. Pablo’s win this year in the BMW came after 2 weeks off and prior to his T100 last week he also had 2 weeks off. It is more of a hunch play but odds of 150/1 are available and they are just too big for this proven winner who enjoys such a short game test.

Peter Uihlein has been promising to take the European Tour by storm for the best part of three years. But after his first win in 2013 Uihlein has had to sit back and watch his friend Brooks Koepka and several fellow members of the 2011 US Walker Cup team (Russell Henley, Harris English and a certain Jordan Spieth) establish themselves with multiple wins. Uihlein impressed most on courses with some room off the tee where he could let loose with his long yet erratic driving and then let his excellent iron game give himself numerous eagle and birdie chances which he would often take when his putter was hot. But over the last 18 months he has tailed off somewhat and subsequently we have seen some decent prices about him in 2015. He lost to David Howell here in a play off in 2013 and followed it up with a T18th last year when in very average form. So we know that he likes this group of courses but that isn’t really enough if he isn’t playing well. Which is why it was very interesting to see that he came 3rd in GIR (an impressive 80.6%)  last week en route to a T12th in Germany which came 3 weeks after a T30 in Holland (77.8% GIR ranking 16th). Uihlein is a serious talent and if he is going to get that elusive 2nd win he is going to do it when conditions suit. The Dunhill Links Championship looks a perfect fit and although I had hoped for odds greater than 50/1 I think he is still a good ew play this week where his putter should hopefully warm up on familiar greens.

A couple of place market bets for me this week too. Anthony Wall is a bit of a European Tour journeyman but he is always worth consideration on Links courses such is the quality of his scrambling. He finished T12th at The Open Championship this year at St Andrews so I think he looks over priced for a Top 20 this week at 13/2.

I’m also keeping the faith to a certain extent with Lucas Bjerregaard. I’d be very surprised if he wins this week but I expect him to continue his fine form for another big cheque.

Paul Dunne led The Open after three rounds at St Andrews and that was an amazing achievement for an amateur golfer. As expected he fell away on Sunday but he arrives here as a professional now and will be keen to start banking some money. The Dunhill Links looks an ideal place to start and  8/1 looks a nice price for a Top 20 when he has already proven he can handle playing with the very best on Links courses.

Darren Fichardt is an excellent putter and can go well when the his long game is in decent shape. He arrives off the back of 20th and 12th place finishes and has previous Dunhill form of 25, 28th and 13th. Again 8/1 looks a good price for another South African that putts well on the grainier Links greens.


Summary of bets

Thomas Pieters  –  2pts ew 40/1 and 1pt Top 10 7/2

Eddie Pepperell – 2pts ew 50/1

Peter Uihlein – 1pt ew 50/1

Pablo Larrazabal – 0.5pt ew 150/1

Anthony Wall – 1pt Top 20 13/2

Lucas Bjerregaard – 1pt Top 20 9/2

Paul Dunne – 0.5pt Top 20 8/1

Darren Fichardt – 0.5pt Top 20 8/1

Weekly outlay  – 15pts

Total outlay – 179 pts