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



CareerBuilder Challenge and Abu Dhabi Championship – Betting Preview

Things didn’t go at all according to plan in South Africa but it was a good week in Hawaii as 90/1 shot Kevin Kisner returned a full place. He probably looked the least likely of my three at the halfway stage but he shot a brilliant 60 on Saturday to fly up the leaderboard. With Thomas so far in front Kisner obviously had very little chance of winning but he played well again on the course as expected.

It was Thomas’ 2nd win in a row and he is the first person since Tiger Woods to win two consecutive PGA Tour events by 3 shots or more. Just when it appears that the upper echelons of the game appear to have formed some sort of leading pack away from the rest, another golfer throws their hat in the ring. Firstly Jason Day joined Spieth and McIlroy, then Dustin Johnson, closely followed by Matsuyama and now Justin Thomas has entered the conversation. I’m not sure if he will quite be able to match them over time but he has some serious ability and he is now in the Top 10 in the world for the first time. Luckily he takes a rest this week along with some other big names and that leaves us with a very attractive betting heat.

Kisner’s place leaves the 2017 results in healthy profit early on;

2017 points advised = 18 pts

2017 pts returned = 29.54 pts

ROI = +64%

But that might very well be short-lived as there are a lot of players I like this week on both Tours!

CareerBuilder Challenge

Previously called the Humana Challenge, the CareerBuilder Challenge made it’s bow last year and along with the sponsor change came a couple of new courses. So it will pay to be a little weary of overall form prior to last year. One of the new courses brought in was Pete Dye’s PGA West Stadium course and as that is played twice by all those making the cut so it is probably the most important to look at. Especially given that the other two courses play a little easier.

That was the method I adopted last year and it found me David Lingmerth who came agonisingly close to giving the blog a 60/1 winner but he lost out thanks to a couple of outrageous pieces of luck that fell Jason Dufner’s way. I picked Lingmerth due to the form shown on Pete Dye tracks and given the other names on the leaderboard, Dye form will be of the utmost importance yet again this week. Courses of his that are currently on rotation are TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship), Harbour Town (RBC Heritage), TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic), Crooked Stick (2012 & 2016 BMW Championship) and Whistling Straits (2010 & 2015 US PGA Championships).

Despite Dufner and Lingmerth being the two play-off protagonists, driving accuracy wasn’t all that important from a statistical point of view but finding the correct area of the fairways is important in order to get near the flags . They both hit lots of greens and holed more than their fair share of putts which is usually a good combination anywhere but especially on Dye courses.  The flags can find themselves in difficult places on his often small, undulating greens so the field tend to miss plenty of greens and rack up three-putts.

Jamie Lovemark could well be the big Twitter gamble this week with his combination of course and current form. Last week he finished T4th and in this Tournament last year he was 6th. He has also looked like a winner in waiting over the last 18 months and those factors combine to give us a fairly miserable 35/1. His whole game looked quite sharp last week as he ranked 7th in the all-round ranking. However there is no question that his strength lies on and around the greens and if it wasn’t for last year’s high finish I might not have been convinced this was the best event to back him in. But a further look at his results shows that his best finish to date on Tour came around TPC Lousiana when he was runner-up to Brian Stroud last year in the Zurich Classic. As previously mentioned that is another Pete Dye layout with water in play where accuracy is also crucial.

Given Lovemark isn’t always the most accurate player there must be something about Dye designs that he enjoys and maybe the more difficult nature helps focus his mind. This year his stats are good so far though as he ranks 43rd in strokes gained: approach to the green and 19th in strokes gained: putting. His iron game is not overly strong however the more loft he has in his hands the better he is. That helped him here last year around the TPC Stadium course as it is a fairly short course. Dufner and Lingmerth are both excellent wedge players which confirms how important the short irons will be this week.

The final clincher which made me brush off the 35/1 was how he usually holds his form and last year when he finished 7th at the Sony Open he followed it up with another top 10 so it looks very likely that he will play well again.

Kevin Kisner has been good to the blog and after returning the each way money last week I can’t leave him out. He has been cut into 40/1 but that is more the sort of price we should expect on this classy performer. Last week I alluded to his love of bermuda greens but he also has a very impressive CV on Pete Dye courses. In the space of 1 month in 2015 he lost two play-offs on Dye courses. Firstly to Jim Furyk at Harbour Town and then to the red hot Rickie Fowler at The Player’s Championship.

I normally think of Kisner as a player who goes well in high scoring events yet his only PGA Tour win was on -22. He didn’t play here last year but I think the combination of two easier courses together with a tougher Dye course will suit him perfectly. Last week he didn’t do anything brilliantly but he also didn’t do anything poorly ranking 10th in the all-round. The highlight was a 3rd round 60 and he kept that going on Sunday so hopefully his putter can stay hot this week.

So far in his career he has 17 PGA Tour top 10s and 8 of those have come together in sequence so he is another that is very capable of holding his form.

I’m not sure I can leave Lingmerth out after playing so well last year. He hasn’t done much lately but he was 60/1 last year and odds of 66/1 are just too tempting. This course seems to suit his accurate game perfectly and he is a good putter on bermuda greens as he has shown both here and at TPC Sawgrass. I’ll be gutted if he wins so I’m going to have a small bet on him just incase.

I’m going to complete my line-up with yet another player who performed well last week, Chez Reavie. There is every chance it will be the last ever time I back him as he is a player that can promise so much before ultimately letting you down. But the truth his he is playing too well to leave out in an event that should suit him.

He finished 8th last week in Hawaii despite a poor week with the putter but the rest of his game was on point as he ranked 1st for driving accuracy and 3rd for GIR. Reavie finished 17th in this last year where again his tee to green game was excellent but he was let down by the putter. A slight improvement with the short stick will hopefully see him in the mix again come Sunday.



Abu Dhabi Championship

The European Tour leaves South Africa this week for the start of the Middle East Swing and the Abu Dhabi Championship. Now in its 12th running at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship there is lots of form to go and it is usually a course where the same sort of players do well year after year. Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer are both multiple winners and Rory McIlroy has 5 runner-up finishes in a tournament that is usually his first of the calendar year.

The course is a long one at some 7600 yards and while it’s by no means a wide open bombers paradise, there is some margin for error off the tee as long as the water is avoided. The biggest challenge lies with hitting the often elevated and undulating greens. Once on them, the greens are as pure as the players will see on the European Tour but they do have that desert grain which can play a lot like links greens.

The first week back of 2017 on the PGA Tour I completely ignored late 2016 form and I’m not prepared to make the same mistake twice. Therefore I have gone with three players who are all in the 2nd tier of players this week. While Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler must all be respected, there are enough reasons to look beyond them this week at their prices. Dustin Johnson has never even been to Abu Dhabi before this week never mind played the course. Henrik Stenson has fairly poor record here despite the course appearing to suit the Swede’s game. Rickie Fowler was in poor form throughout the end of 2016 and as defending champion he will do well to contend this week.

First up is the precocious talent of Thomas Pieters. Even after his back-to-back wins towards the end of 2015, few people could have imagined that he would reach such levels as quickly as he has done. To finish up his Ryder Cup debut as the top overall points scorer was an immense effort and highlighted him as someone to watch very closely again this year.

With his power game not every course will suit the Belgian bomber but he has shown that he loves the Abu Dhabi Golf Course with form figures of 2-4-MC. It is a very straight forward pick but with the presence of DJ, Stenson and Fowler at the head of the market we can get 22/1 about Pieters and I think that looks a very fair price. His form after the Ryder Cup wasn’t great but that is more than understandable. During the summer he probably wasn’t even expecting to be on Darren Clarke’s team so to have the experience that he did at Hazeltine must have been somewhat overwhelming. He goes well fresh though having placed here on his first start in both the last two years and given his status in the game now, his 2017 will be all about winning titles and performing in majors. He looks to have a great chance of the former this week.

Matt Fitzpatrick won the DP World Championship in Dubai in November and that course has many similarities with this week’s course in Abu Dhabi. Both are set in desert conditions with plenty of water in play and they suit quality links golfers perfectly. He missed the cut on his debut and could only finish 26th last year but if we delve into that 2016 performance we can see that he was only held back by the putter as he ranked 4th for GIR and 1st in scrambling. He has always been a streaky putter but he has improved a great deal in that department over the last year. So much so that he ranked 1st for total putting during that World Championship win and the greens he faces this week are very similar.

He is young and hungry for success with an old head and while he will have no doubt enjoyed his Christmas break he will be more than ready for his first start of 2017. At first look 30/1 might seem a little skinny in this company but Fitzpatrick shouldn’t be taken lightly this year. Two European Tour wins last year alongside a 7th place at the Masters suggest he is very much here to stay as one of the leading lights on the European Tour. If he putts well then I expect him to contend for the first time in Abu Dhabi and start a successful Middle East swing where all three courses should suit his game.

Tyrrell Hatton should have won the DP World Championship but Fitzpatrick managed to pip him after Hatton found water off the tee on the 18th. It was a shame for Hatton who had played brilliantly all day until that point. After marking him down as a great links golfer, I was annoyed to miss out on his placed effort at The Open and his first win at the Alfred Dunhill. He continued his form throughout 2016 and he looks another to look out for in 2017.

He finished down the field in 46th in Abu Dhabi last year after he was also let down by his putter. But he ranked 1st in total driving and ball-striking and the two previous years he finished 6th and 10th. Both the years that he finished in the Top 10 this event was actually his first of the year whereas last year he had played in South Africa the week before. The extra preperation time should help him continue where he left off last year.

They are 3 fairly obvious picks at odds that maybe won’t excite the more speculative punter, and with three of the last four winners in Abu Dhabi being surprise winners, they may have a point. But they are all still relatively young and with all three on upward curves in their careers I think they represent very solid each way bets.

Summary of Bets

CareerBuilder Challenge

Jamie Lovemark – 1pt ew @ 35/1

Kevin Kisner – 1pt ew @ 40/1

David Lingmerth – 0.5pt ew @ 66/1

Chez Reavie – 0.5pt ew @ 75/1

Abu Dhabi Championship

Thomas Pieters – 1.5pt ew @ 22/1

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1pt ew @ 30/1

Tyrrell Hatton – 1pt ew @ 28/1


Weekly points advised = 13pts

Total points advised = 31pts