US Open 2019 at Pebble Beach – Betting Preview

Shane Lowry ran into an inspired Rory McIlroy on Sunday and if it wasn’t for that we may well have been celebrating a 3rd winner in a row. He had to make do with 2nd place though but it was enough to ensure an 8th profitable week from the last 9. This week the US Open returns to Pebble Beach and we look set for a brilliant event.

2019 pts advised = 286

2019 pts returned = 442.31

ROI = 54.65%


US Open

In previous years we have headed into US Open week with a mix of excitement and apprehension. The excitement coming from what is usually one of the best tests of golf that we see each year and the apprehension from wondering how the course is going to play. More recently that apprehension has revolved around a new course to the rotation (Merion, Erin Hills, Chambers Bay) but also how the USGA chooses to set it up. Make no mistake this week however as there will be absolutely no criticism of one of the most iconic courses in the world and if anything doesn’t go perfectly to plan then it will be the USGA who rightly bears the brunt of it. Thankfully that’s unlikely to happen though and we should be set for a tough but very fair week. The winning score in 2010 was level par and while I suspect it will be a little better this year, I’d be very surprised if the USGA let it get to double figures under par.

Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of the shortest courses on Tour measuring in at 7075 yards. It was designed in 1919 by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant and has been gaining in history and prestige ever since. While you couldn’t quite call it a proper links course it is located right beside the Pacific on the California coast between San Francisco and L.A and half of the holes run alongside the coast. The terrain isn’t quite the undulating British links style however and the turf isn’t sand based either like we see at The Open. But the majority of greens are open at the front allowing the players to play that low links style bump and runs and the wind blows more often than not.

Given the lack of length there could have been a worry that it might be overpowered as the game has moved on considerably since McDowell won with level par in 2010. However with the rough looking thick enough, the fairways narrow and the wind set to blow most of the week, it looks like an event where everyone will be able to compete. That is what happened in Canada last week and therefore I’d expect those who played well at Hamilton to hold their form.

The greens at Pebble Beach are some of the smallest the players will ever face at an average of 3,500 square feet. This is really what dictates the difficulty of the course as we usually see them quite fast for a U.S. Open and they will be set up at 12 on the stimp meter for Thursday, no doubt increasing in speed as the week goes on. So even for the powerful players they will be hard to hit and being in the fairway off the tee should certainly be of increasing benefit as the week progresses. There are slightly conflicting reports about how thick the rough is but it will certainly be longer than the set-up for the AT&T in February. The poa annua greens got a little bit of criticism in 2010 due to their extremely patchy colouring but that’s the nature of the beast with poa. They might not look as lush as bentgrass but they will putt well. Maybe better for some than others though as poa can be the trickiest of grasses to read and not everyone enjoys that test. They can break heavily at the hole as a ball dies and it’s perhaps no coincidence that Phil Mickelson and TIger Woods have enjoyed so much success on poa as they both like to hole out powerfully from inside 5ft, often taking any break out of the putt.

The wind currently looks to be quite steady between 10 and 20 kmph and that will keep everyone honest if not quite creating carnage. With such small targets the best iron players should go well as approaches will need to be struck perfectly to remain on the greens. McDowell and Havret weren’t PGA Tour players in 2010 so they didn’t have a ranking but Els (3rd) and Mickelson (4th) ranked 5th and 6th in strokes gained: approaches for the 2010 season.

Looking back at the last 10 US Opens from a stats point of view is interesting if not entirely surprising. Total driving ranks for the winners average 16th, GIR average 7th, scrambling numbers 11th and total putting 17th. The best of all the basic stats was all-round ranking which averaged 4th and that would have been even lower but for Spieth’s ranking of 23rd. This confirms what we know about the US Open; you absolutely have to hit plenty of greens and save par when you don’t but every single area of the game had better be above average. With the smaller greens in play, windy conditions and the greens firming up through the week GIR and scrambling will be as crucial as ever at Pebble Beach.

Trends wise you have to go back to Lucas Glover in 2009 to find a winner who hadn’t already recorded a US Open top 20 before their win. The last 10 winners averaged a 16th place finish on their last start while only Webb Simpson missed the cut. Seven of them had already won that season while seven of them also finished in the top 21 at the previous year’s US Open.

In terms of course correlations there are two fairly random ones that stand-out for me. The 2012 Open at Lytham produced a leaderboard that heavily resembles the 2010 Pebble Beach one. No less than 6 players bagged top 10s at both and despite the Open not having been back since, that leaderboard is worth a look. Jimenez was also in there and he was runner-up to Tiger in his 2000 rout at Pebble. Secondly, I thought it was too big a coincidence that 2010’s 1st and 2nd had both won at Loch Lomond so I did a little more digging and in fact GMac, Havret and Els have all won at the course while Mickelson was runner-up there to Havret in 2007 and Kaymer has also won there. Tom Lehman only won two proper events outside the US and the two courses he won on were Lytham and Loch Lomond while he boasts 5 Top 10s at Pebble beach with a 6th palce finish at the US Open in 1992 being the highlight. Unfortunately all this form is rather dated as we haven’t been back to Loch Lomond since 2010. But it’s another non links course that can still play rather linksy given it has the Scottish weather, green approaches are open and they are very undulating with links style run-offs. While very few of the younger players will have played either course I’ve used them to try to find some potential value with some of the older players in the field.

It’s a long time since I had such a lack of opinion about a major as I normally have a strong feeling way in advance for certain courses, even if they are usually wrong! This week at Pebble there are still enough question marks about the exact course set-up and a competitiveness about the event that makes it quite hard to get a handle on. Therefore I’ve landed on perhaps the most adaptable player in the field, Dustin Johnson. It’s maybe a little boring but such is his love affair with Pebble Beach and his current US Open form I think he is the safest bet from the front of the market. DJ has unfinished business at Pebble Beach after blowing a 3 shot lead after 54 holes in 2010. As brilliant a closer as he can be we have also seen him wobble plenty since then so the 8/1 might not be for everyone but he is almost certain to run his race at the very least and probably return the place money. He has played at Pebble 13 times and won twice recording 7 more Top 10s. With his ability to play in the wind never having been in doubt DJ will be equally happy flighting balls down into these greens or firing the ball up in the air and there aren’t too many in the field who are genuinely world class at both. This season he is 3rd in bogey avoidance, 1st in stroke average, 2nd in par 4 scoring, 16th in strokes gained: approaches, 15th in scrambling and a very impressive 14th in strokes gained: putting.  He also leads the Tour in performance on both poa annua and in California since 2014 (from the brilliant http://futureoffantasy.com/poa-annua-specialists-pgatour ). While others have been grabbing the headlines in 2019 DJ has been quietly going about his business and he has been 2nd at both majors this year, 5th at the Players and he won the WGC Mexico. Everything points to another big week at his favourite course.

johnson-dustin-OK

It would maybe have been hard to advise a big bet on DJ if the blog had been struggling this year but with it in healthy profit a chunky each way bet on the most suited player to the course and the most likely winner looks the best play.

Francesco Molinari was always a player I never really liked backing but things are different now since his transformation last year. He gets in largely on price here for me this week as 33/1 just feels a little big, especially with the 10 places on offer. Molinari is an Open champion and he had a very solid Loch Lomond record with three top 15s. He has been scrambling brilliantly recently ranking 9th over the last 3 months and 26th for the season. He has only played here once and missed the cut in 2010 but he is a far better player now and a course like Pebble really should suit his accurate game. McDowell is a 2-time winner at Le Golf National which features similarly small greens with lush rough surrounding them. Molinari always had a good record around there anyway but then of course he went 5-0-0 at the Ryder Cup in October. His current form since the Masters is a slight worry but I imagine he took a little while to get over not converting his 54 hole lead at Augusta. Another major should be exactly what he needs to get his focus back and he looks a solid back-up to the main DJ bet.

I’d love to be on Patrick Cantlay at the fancy prices that some have got about him but there is no way I can advise anyone to back him at 16-18/1. If he wins I will just have to suck it up and regret not backing him earlier. He is worth watching in play though as his 3 opening US Open rounds to date have been 75-76-75. It’s highly likely he trades bigger after the first round.

Tyrrell Hatton is one of the best links players around and he has proven this with his two wins at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. This makes him look over priced especially as he has also shown that he can handle majors with 4 Top 10s in his last 12, two of those coming on poa annua greens and last year’s US Open 6th also coming on the links at Shinnecock. Hatton ranks 6th for performances on poa annua since 2014. His 2019 has been a little slow but there have been some better signs recently and he ranks 31st in total accuracy over the last 3 months. That long game improvement means he hasn’t missed a cut since March (56th and 48th at first two majors) and given that he should enjoy these quicker greens I’m happy to get him onside at an almost disrespectful price. I’ll also have a back up top 20 bet.

Kevin Na makes the team after delivering the win at Colonial two weeks ago. While its partly out of loyalty I also think plenty of the reasoning behind that win stands true here at Pebble Beach. Both are short courses that reward tee-to-green accuracy and where scoring will be done with the shorter irons. Given his current form and the fact he has two top 5s here from the AT&T, I thought 100/1 seemed a tad on the big side.

Luke Donald opened up far too big at 400/1 with Skybet having shown the odd glimpse of form this year and rightly he was cut to 300/1. Hopefully some maybe noticed me tweeting the 400/1 but I still quite like the 300 to be honest. Again he hits both my course links with 5th at Lytham and 4th, 2nd and 5th at Loch Lomond. He was also 16th at Pebble in 2010, has 3 further top 20s and such is the quality of his wedge play and short game I think he still has what it takes to be competitive on shorter courses like this. It’s far from a confident bet but the 60/1 place portion for a top 10 is just too good to pass up. I’m also going to double up with a top 30 bet at 11/2. There are usually one or two left field, older players that pop up on a US Open leaderboard and there’s no reason why it can’t be Donald this year.

I backed Martin Kaymer at 440 on the Exchange once I saw his run of strong GIR numbers and also noted the Loch Lomond link as he won there in 2009. That was before he went close to winning at Colonial and now he has been cut in to 70/1 to win and that feels about right. So I don’t think I can really advise a bet at that price but at the same time I couldn’t put anyone off and I would like to get him onside in the blog somehow. So I’ve gone for the Top 40 market as I quite like the 5/4 about that. It would have paid out in 21 of his 45 majors and a lot of those were played when he was in no kind of form. Arriving playing as he is and having finished 8th here in 2010 I think a top 40 should be well withing his reaches and it really should be odds on for me.

Adam Scott delivered the Top 20 money at Bethpage Black and while the bookies are on to him this week I think another top 20 bet still looks rock solid at 6/4. His US Open record is probably the poorest of the 4 majors but he still has 4 top 20s in his last 7 starts. That’s just a little bit behind his over all recent major record of 22 top 20s in his last 34 major starts. That is a brutal level of consistency since he took his game to new heights around 2011. His tee-to-green game is so consistent that he can be expected to play well again here and his price of 6/4 has plenty juice in it as you could argue that he should really be odds on. His last start he was runner-up to Cantlay at Memorial and his back 9 was brilliant which will have him arriving in confident mood. While I wouldn’t want to put anyone off an outright bet I think the market probably has him back at the correct outright price of around 30/1. I’m staking the Scott and Kaymer bets with a view to getting the bulk of the event stakes back should they land along with a DJ top 10. Anything else will be a huge bonus. These bets aren’t for everyone but I do think that place bets can be the backbone of any good betting strategy in major golf where finding the winner can be so difficult.

Despite Hao Tong Li coming up just short of the top 20 in the last two majors I’m a glutton for punishment and I’m going in again. He has already showed his love of links golf when flying through the field at Birkdale in 2017 with a Sunday 63. As I’ve already said in the first two major previews he has a brilliant long game for championship courses and some of his numbers look ideal for Pebble Beach. Particularly his ability to score from the rough as he is 7th in scoring relative to par from 150-175 yards and he leads the Tour from 175-200 yards. If these fairways do play as narrow as suggested and the rough is up Li should handle missing them better than most.

Marcus Fraser has a great short game and has always fared well in the wind. He looks over priced in plenty of markets this week having qualified well last week shooting 66-68 for 3rd place. There could well be another Gregory Havret on the leaderboard this year and while it’s very unlikely to be Fraser, I don’t think he should be a 1000/1 shot here. However its the top 40 market I like for him at 7/2.

First Round Leader Bets

Stewart Hagestad the amateur is first up as a very speculative selection. He shot a low round 66 at Pebble in 2018’s US Amateur Stroke-play section before making the quarter finals. Hagestad is a California native who managed 37th on his only Masters appearance but he has missed both his US Open cuts, although they were over on the east coast. That was his 8th attempt at making the US Amateur Match Play section so the fact he did it in California suggests he is happier nearer home on the west coast. He employed a local Pebble Beach caddie that week and hopefully he is doing the same again this week. It’s asking an awful lot for him to even make the cut but it feels like the sort of story that you could hear on a Friday morning and with prices up to 350/1 its worth a little play.

If we are going down the 2018 US Amateur route then we really have to include young Norwegian Victor Hovland who dismantled the field that week. He won his 6 matches 3&2, 2&1, 7&6, 7&6, 3&2 and 6&5. That was quite astonishing stuff and while I can’t quite remember how difficult it played that week he will definitely be bringing some happy memories back to Pebble. The bookies aren’t taking any chances but again I think he looks worth siding with to come flying out of the blocks. He has a potentially off-putting 3-ball as he is alongside Koepka and Molinari but hopefully he will go out and attack the course again with the fearlessness of a 21 year old. That could obviously go horribly wrong but it’s worth a chance at 160/1.

With speculative punts out of the way I’ll get to my main fancy of Paul Casey. Normally I like to side with players who have been lighting it up on a Thursday lately but with Casey this week it’s more of a hunch. I think he will be a little frustrated that he had to pull out of Colonial and then miss both Memorial and the Canadian Open. I don’t know what his scheduling was prior to his bout of flu but I imagine he would have played one of those at least. Casey’s last two AT&T efforts have been 2nd and 8th at Pebble and I really think it’s a course that he has learned how to play. He was a solid enough 40th in 2010 after opening up with a 69 to tie for the lead. I think lightning could easily strike twice here and I like the 50/1 with 8 places. He will be rested up and determined to make amends for two sub-standard major performances so far in 2019.

Gary Woodland has missed 4 cuts in the AT&T but on the only cut he made in 2017 he went on to shoot 65 around Pebble on the Sunday to finish 5th. That’s the joint lowest Sunday round since 2013 and it tells me that maybe it’s the other two courses on the Pro-am rotation that he doesn’t like. He sits 11th in strokes gained: off the tee and 11th in GIR while he was 8th at the US PGA last month. I’ll complete the 1st round team with a powerhouse who could go low here again if everything clicks.


Summary of bets

US Open

Dustin Johnson – 4pts ew @ 8/1 and a further 2pts win @ 10.0 on Betfair

Francesco Molinari – 1.5pts ew @ 33/1

Tyrrell Hatton – 0.75pts ew @ 125/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 9/2

Kevin Na – 0.75 pts ew @ 100/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 4/1

Luke Donald – 0.5pts ew @ 300/1 and 1pt Top 30 @ 11/2

Martin Kaymer – 4pts – Top 40 @ 5/4

Adam Scott – 4pts Top 20 @ 6/4

Hao Tong Li – 1pt Top 20 @ 13/2

Marcus Fraser – 1pt Top 40 @ 7/2

(All outrights are 1/5 odds 10 places)

1st round leader bets

Stewart Hagestad – 0.25pts ew @ 350/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Victor Hovland – 0.25pts ew @ 160/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Unibet)

Paul Casey – 0.75pts ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Gary Woodland – 0.75pts ew @ 60/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

 

Weekly points advised = 34pts

 

 

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US PGA Championship 2019 – Betting Preview

Places for Aphibarnrat, Jones and Eddie Pepperell made it a good week and we are back in profit again heading into the second major of the year, or the third from last shot at glory as I’m going to call it…..Considering none of them were really in contention through the week it was pretty good to get three returns and boosts the confidence ahead of trying to pick apart the strongest field in golf. Results are as follows;

2019 pts advised = 228

2019 pts returned = 245.46

ROI = 7.66%


US PGA

As someone who doesn’t really like change, the new major schedule is going to take a lot of getting used to. Right now the thought of having another major this week is extremely exciting and then very quickly the U.S. Open will arrive. However the thought of having to wait some 9 months for the next major after Rickie Fowler lifts the Claret Jug in July isn’t such a pleasing proposition. Why dwell on that now though! Lets just enjoy what we have on the horizon and in this week’s case it’s a breathtaking event. With Tiger back on the major train, numerous world class players all with strong cases to be made and a US PGA with the deepest field in golf there should be no end of drama. The fact that Bethpage Black is hosting only boosts that idea as we get a long, tough U.S. Open style course but set up a little more favorably as is the US PGA norm.

Bethpage Black is a 7468 yard par 71 and is widely regarded as one of the toughest courses in the U.S. Opened in 1936 and designed by the famous A.W. Tillinghast it is a parkland course and features poa annua greens much like all his courses in the greater New York area. We have seen it in use a few times lately with it hosting the 2012 and 2016 Barclays Championship and going further back the 2002 and 2009 US Opens. The two US Opens saw winning scores of -3 and -4 while the Barclays were a little easier at -10 and -9 respectively. I’d expect to see a similar set up to the Barlcays events and anyone getting to double figures will surely be towards the top of the leaderboard come Sunday night. Form on other Tillinghast courses always stacks up and Phil Mickelson in particular boasts an impressive major record on them back in the 2000s when his courses were never far from the major rota. Baltusrol GC, Winged Foot, Bellerive and Ridgewood CC are perhaps his most famous courses away from Bethpage, while Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines are two other similar championship layouts with poa greens.

The underlying difficulty at Bethpage is just how relentless the course is and the players won’t be able to lose concentration for a second this week. It isn’t a tricked up course that will be unfair and everything is laid out in front of them, good shots will be rewarded and everything else punished. We won’t see the rough overly thick I don’t believe but courses in the New York area are always lush green so it still won’t be easy to hit greens out of the rough. As ever the bombers will be hitting their approach shots from considerably nearer the hole and this is a feature at every long championship course now despite even the “thick rough” US Open narratives we hear every June. Lately almost every name on a major leaderboard is someone that regularly gets it out there over 300 yards off the tee. That’s not to say shorter hitters can’t prevail but they will need to have their iron game seriously dialled in this week. The forecast rain early in the week is only going to compound that with fairway run-out probably minimal. The majority of the greens at Bethpage are also raised up and heavily protected by bunkers so a high-ball flight will be required to hold the greens. Everything about this week is suggesting to me that power will be the number one attribute yet again.

With these well protected and raised greens not only will approach shots be crucial but distance control in particular. Players will be forced to carry their numbers perfectly to reach and then hold greens and going at flags won’t be nearly as important as just finding greens in regulation. There is a reason Colin Montgomerie came closest to winning a major at Tillighast’s Winged Foot. The green complexes are similar and there were few better in the game at hitting their approaches pin high than Monty in his pomp. So players that can hit their irons consistently the right distance should go well this week, therefore GIR will be important but also some applied knowledge away from the stats. Players like Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia have always been superb at hitting their numbers so anyone that you consider to have that trait is probably worth a second look.

bethpage-black-18th-hole-pga-championship

While the rough might not present US Open style problems for approach shots it will be interesting with regards to scrambling around the greens. Last week at Trinity Forest we saw tightly mown links style aprons and run-offs which allowed lower bump and runs around the greens. Bethpage will be more like what we see at Augusta and Torrey Pines where touch and imagination will be required to save par when missing the greens.

Looking at past statistics at Bethpage only serves to confirm the importance of the long game. The four winners there (Reed 2016, Watney 2012, Glover 2008 and Woods 2002) have ranked 13th, 2nd, 4th and 1st in GIR while they were also 28th, 9th, 3rd and 2nd in total driving. Nick Watney scrambled terribly when he won but so did most of the field as they averaged just 45% success in getting up and down. The other three winners were 10th, 8th and 12th for scrambling. Obviously none of the 4 putted terribly but their averages for total putting were 45th, 21st, 9th and 43rd. Only 2016 has the full strokes gained breakdowns and Reed was 27th in strokes gained: putting while Scott managed to finish 4th despite ranking 76th that category! Reed ranked 3rd in strokes gained: tee to green. From a scoring point of view both Barclays winners came 1st for par 5 scoring but both Major winners were 1st in par 4 scoring. With one less par 5 in play for majors than normal I’d probably make the par 4s more important especially as the majority are rather long.

One additional observation from the stats is how the winners here didn’t do anything badly and the two Barclays winners were 8th and 4th in the all-round ranking while both Major winners ranked 1st. So you could just skip the rest and go straight to the all-round ranking stat on the PGA Tour website and back the first 3; Thomas, Koepka and McIlroy. Interestingly all three of those have won the US PGA in the last 5 years! This even further highlights the need to be doing most things well in the run-up to a PGA Championship. I have actually gone a little further down that all-round ranking and my main two picks sit 7th and 8th respectively.

Jon Rahm has delivered for me in the last two majors and I firmly believe he is trending towards a major so the calendar change looks ideal for him. While he enjoys Augusta there is no question that a US PGA looks his best chance of getting off the mark. So getting to play PGA-Masters-PGA is going to be of benefit to him and all the other bombers too. A long and difficult US Open course set up for a US PGA has Rahm written all over it for me.

When the US PGA followed the WGC Bridgestone in the schedule there was one of the strongest trends in golf relating to a high finish the week before. It made so much sense as it is almost impossible to come out on top of the deepest field in golf if you aren’t playing well coming in. Not only does Rahm tick the form box but he won his most recent start at the Zurich team affair alongside Ryan Palmer.

This season Rahm ranks 2nd in strokes gained: off the tee while he backs up that power with 62nd in strokes gained: approaches and 59th in strokes gained: putting. But for those who don’t like these modern stats approaches Rahm probably ranks close to 1st in the sarcastic “strokes gained: golf shots” category. There are very few in the game that seem to just always find a way of getting the ball in the hole, even when he is having a tantrum and behaving like an idiot he will follow a petulant double bogey with a run of birdies and his sheer determination seems to lift his game for the big events. His win on his debut at Torrey Pines in 2017 pretty much announced him as a future major winner. He took a little time to get used to major golf but I believe he now knows what it takes and is definitely managing to rein in the emotions a little. He has finished 9th-4th in his last two majors and I think that is a sign of things to come over the next 15-20 years. Even at just 24 there is a feeling that he is focussed mainly on the majors and I think he is a cracking each way bet at 18/1 to carry on his run and contend again.

I also put Jason Day up for the last two majors and I have to keep to the same theme again with him having also delivered at the Masters. Everything applies to Day that applies to Rahm pretty much but we get the added bonus of some course form and being a proven major winner. He played in both the Barclays events in 2012 and 2016 finishing 24th and 4th respectively and with the set up being similar I’m expecting a big week. Day absolutely loves Tillinghast courses even beyond Bethpage having finished runner-up at Baltusrol, contending for 3 rounds at Bellerive and he has three Top 20s at Ridgewood. He also knows how to win on poa greens as a two time winner at Torrey Pines and I really think that course could be a good marker for Bethpage (Watney and Woods have both won there and Glover has a 3rd and 4th). He has played just once since the Masters but kept things ticking over nicely with a 24th at Quail Hollow which will have been a fitting warm-up for Bethpage. As ever he is putting brilliantly this season ranking 11th in strokes gained: putting and he is 5th in strokes gained: off the tee. It has been his iron play that has held him back this year but he usually manages to up that for the big events. If he is injury free then everything else looks to be in his favour and we can expect another big week at a very fair 25/1.

I really wanted to add Patrick Reed too and there is no question he is a good price at around 60/1. However I just don’t think he has shown enough recently despite being the last man to win around Bethpage. Instead I’ll add three more at bigger prices who should all be suited to the course.

Patrick Cantlay showed at the Masters just how good he is and his rock-solid tee-to-green game makes him another who could rack up top 10 finishes on these sort of courses for years to come. After nearly winning at Augusta he went on to contend again the very next week at The Heritage and he will arrive at Bethpage in a bullish mood. That Masters T9th was his first major top 10 and going straight to another suitable course there is a great chance of us seeing his 2nd top 10 arrive at the earliest opportunity. Cantlay is 10th in strokes gained: tee to green and leads the Tour in par 4 scoring but it’s his short to mid range putting that can let him down. However with Bethpage not really being focussed too much on the putting, another ball-striking clinic should see him towards the upper echelons of the leaderboard again come Sunday.

I will probably bet Hao Tong Li for a Top 20 finish in every major for the foreseeable future while we are still getting as good a price as 6/1. I’m also including him as an outright bet due to the 10 places on offer. Li’s power game off the tee together with his accurate mid to long iron game make long championship courses ideal for him so I expect him to rack up the high finishes in such events going forward. He is 12th in strokes gained: tee to green on the European Tour while his proximity numbers on the PGA are impressive. He is 1st for approaches from 175-200 yards while he is 16th from 150-175 yards in the rough. Li also holes out brilliantly under pressure and scrambles very well making him a far bigger threat than 125/1 suggests. He is also in fine form having finished 4th last time out in China.

I figured I might as well keep both of the Zurich winners on the team as Ryan Palmer loves Tillinghast courses and played superbly alongside Rahm. He has been 13th and 24th on his last two visits to Bethpage while he has been 5th on both his Ridgewood CC appearances. Considering he was having a quiet enough season some of his stats are also excellent for this. He ranks T3rd in Par 4 scoring and 32nd in strokes gained: approaches while he still retains a lot of his power and it’s his ability out of the rough that makes him look quite interesting. He ranks 5th in GIR from anywhere other than fairway and 16th in proximity to the hole from approaches from the rough. Both these will be crucial and arriving in confident mood after his win Palmer should enjoy himself here. I’m going to have a small play in the outright and the top 20 market.

A ball-striking test on a long, soft course where putting shouldn’t matter and Lucas Glover won the last major held there. If ever there was a course to play Keegan Bradley then this is surely it! Bradley’s putting woes are well broadcast these days but he remains one of the best tee-to-green operators on Tour. He is 10th in strokes gained: tee to green and 12th in total driving. He hits his irons higher than probably 99% of players in the game and he will relish the difficult ball-striking test. I’m not sure I can advise an outright bet on him but at the same time I couldn’t put anyone off a small play at 300+ on the Exchange. Instead I’ll go 1pt top 20 at a massive 6/1.

Sung Hoon Kang actually shot a low round of the week 64 at Bethpage in 2016 and with the form he has shown this season he looks worth a small play in the Top 20 market. Having got his maiden win last week I’d expect him to carry that form over and play well this week. He has played in 5 majors to date and never missed a cut so he shouldn’t be overawed by the occasion. The Sunday Bethpage 64 helped him to 18th and a repeat of something similar looks possible

Ryan Moore hasn’t done much lately but his course form is strong enough to side with here and he is another lover of Tillinghast designs having won his US Amateur around Winged Foot and he was 7th here at the Barlcays in 2016 and 10th at the US Open in 2009. Moore’s distance control is superb and that’s why we usually see him play par 3s so well. He is also a very straight driver of the ball and while he might struggle to contend with the bombers here I think a Top 20 is definitely achievable and he looks a little over priced to do so at 5/1.

I was going to leave it at that until I noticed Adam Scott’s price just before I was about to post. He is around 40-50/1 to win but also a general 2/1 for a Top 20 (3.45 on the Exchange!). Considering how solid his tee-to-green game is the 2/1 made me look closer. Scott has finished inside the top 20 at 28 of his 72 majors but looking more recently when he developed a real consistency at that level it gets even better. He has been in the top 20 on 22 of his last 37 majors working out at 59% or a 1.68 shot going on history alone. Even looking at all 72 majors he is 39% or a 2.57 shot. But if we consider how much better Scott is on a rain softened course and that he has been top 20 in 6 of his last 8 US PGAs then this really does look like a solid bet worth getting properly stuck into. But we’re still not done! Scott was also in the top 20 on his last two starts with a 12th at the Players and 18th at the Masters. He was also 4th the last time he played Bethpage Black! I’m going to finish with a confident 4 points @ 2/1 on value alone. (If you have a Betfair account he is currently 3.45 on the Exchange)

FRL bets

As ever a few small fun bets in the first round leader market. I could have ended up with 8 but have narrowed it down to 4 bets all at decent odds. I realise that’s maybe too many for people to be backing but I’ve backed them all so felt like I had to include them.

I don’t usually like to double up in this market by Ryan Palmer’s case looked a little too compelling. He sits 16th in 1st round scoring and has started quite quickly in the past on rain softened major courses, notably a 65 at Valhalla when McIlroy won his 2nd PGA. He opened with a 67 at Torrey Pines and a 68 at Ridgewood in September. He has a later tee-time of 12:32 but it might pay to spread it around a little as the weather could be changeable.

Emiliano Grillo was 2nd at Bethpage last time in 2016 and he opened with a 67 for 3rd place after round 1. In the two majors he has played on Tillinghast courses he has opened with a66 at Baltusrol in 2015 and a 69 at Bellerive last year. Grillo is a long and straight driver who chipping and putting on greens that don’t have too much bite. With so much rain forecast ahead of Thursday he should enjoy the conditions. He sits in 30th for 1st round scoring this year and from a tee-time of 12:32 he looks interesting.

Justin Harding started his Masters career well with an opening 69 and went on to finish in 12th position. He has maintained his form since then and most recently finished 10th last week at Trinity Forest. He drives the ball long and straight and currently sits 5th in total driving. His approach play isn’t quite up to the same standard as the rest of his game but he is actually very good from the rough currently ranking 1st in proximity to the hole from the rough. His ball flight might be a little too low to contend if things firm up over the weekend but he could start well on a receptive course from an early tee-time on Thursday (07:29).

Unfortunately another double up here with Adam Scott but conditions will just be too ideal on Thursday to leave him out. He has a habit of starting majors fast so looks worth siding with from a 7:40am tee time when the poa greens will be at their best.


Summary of Bets

US PGA

Jon Rahm – 3pts ew @ 18/1

Jason Day – 2pts ew @ 25/1 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Patrick Cantlay – 1pt ew @ 40/1

Hao Tong Li – 0.5pts ew @ 125/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 6/1

Ryan Palmer – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Keegan Bradley – 1pt Top 20 @ 6/1

Ryan Moore – 1pt Top 20 @ 5/1

Sung Hoon Kang – 1pt Top 20 @ 15/2

Adam Scott – 4pts Top 20 @ 2/1

FRL

Ryan Palmer – 0.25pts ew @ 110/1

Emiliano Grillo – 0.25pts ew @ 95/1

Justin Harding – 0.25pts ew @ 100/1

Adam Scott – 0.5pts ew @ 40/1

(all outrights are 1/5 odds 10 places with Betfair or Skybet, Top 20s general price. All 1RL are 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)

Weekly pts advised = 26.5pts

RBC Heritage – Betting Preview

A second profitable major in a row was very welcome but it could have been even better had Kuchar not fallen out of the top 10 on Sunday. That would have resulted in all 3 outright picks placing as well as landing the Molinari top 10. With Tiger Woods winning that would have almost been the perfect Masters Sunday!

It was great to watch and makes the remaining three majors all the more mouthwatering. Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka both looked to have been nowhere near their best and yet both had putts for what would ultimately have been a play-off. Those two together with Woods look the men to beat at the next two US majors with Woods having won at both layouts and DJ and Brooks appearing to still have another gear if playing their best. Just 30 days until Bethpage Black!

2019 pts advised = 175

2019 pts returned = 167.61

ROI = -4.22


RBC Heritage

Rather hard to get up for this event after Sunday and I imagine most of the players who were still around Augusta for the weekend will be feeling the same.

The course at Harbour Town is most unlike Augusta in that there is very little margin for error off the tee and the ball simply must be kept in play. Recent winners include Jim Furyk, Graeme Mcdowell, Matt Kuchar and last year’s play-off winner Satoshi Kodaira. That is very much the profile that you want, a short hitting, accurate plodder who finds fairways and greens but also has an excellent short game when the small fiddly greens are missed. Almost the exact opposite of what we were looking for last week when power was crucial. It won’t get you too far this week at Hilton Head!

It’s a Pete Dye creation just like three weeks ago at the WGC Match Play and it plays to a very similar yardage at just 7099 yards. But that’s where the similarities stop and Harbour Town is more like Dye’s most famous layout TPC Sawgrass. Numerous players have won at both layouts and Players Championship leaderboards as well as RBC Heritage ones are worth a look at. Perhaps not this year’s however as it was very soft and not as challenging as Dye intended.

From a stats point of view players with good proximity figures obviously tend to go well here as putting can often take a back seat to those who hit a high number of the small greens. While driving accuracy numbers are worth a look there are lots of holes where driver won’t be used so it is worth considering those who have thrived on similar layouts and shown an ability to plot their way around a course by taking long irons off the tee to leave them in the best spot on the fairway to attack the green.

Patrick Cantlay could very well be an awful pick this week so if anyone has any doubts then obviously ignore this as always, but I backed him on Monday so it’s only fair to mention the bet. In all the the Woods excitement I had forgotten just how much Cantlay was in the thick of it before he bogeyed two of his last three holes. That probably isn’t something that he can shake off in just three days but Cantlay hasn’t had it easy since he first turned pro in 2012 and I think he might just have more perspective about his final round than most would so I’m willing to take a risk.

Cantlay’s form figures here are brilliant having finised 3rd back in 2017 before returning last year to post a 7th. Beyond that his form at Pete Dye courses is very solid, he has a 22nd and 23rd at Sawgrass and was 15th last year at TPC River Highlands while also setting the course record there in 2011. His solitary PGA Tour win came at TPC Summerlin which was designed by Pete Dye protege Bobby Weed.

This season he ranks 10th in strokes gained: tee to green, 14th in scrambling and 3rd in proximity to the hole from 150-175 yards. That range of approach shots is key as the players have to lay back slightly to avoid tree trouble and getting up and down is crucial with such small fiddly greens. Often Cantlay’s putting lets him down but it was interesting that it was the best part of his game last week at Augusta as he ranked 1st in total putting averaging just 26.5 putts per round. He also led the field in par 4 scoring which isn’t easy at the Masters. It is a skill that is always important at Harbour Town with the last 4 winners having ranked 2nd-1st-1st-2nd-1st in that department.

History tells us to avoid anyone near the Masters leaderboard the week after but we normally don’t see such a strong field and I don’t know if ignoring them all is wise. It is a bit of a risk and we aren’t getting a great price about a man with just 1 PGA Tour win but he loves the course and is in excellent form. He arrives off the back of the best week of his career and I’m hoping he sees that as a positive rather than a negative. When he misses the cut feel free to heckle me though!

In keeping with players who teed it up at Augusta I’m going for another at the top of the market. Matt Fitzpatrick was yet again tweeting about this being his favourite course and I’m hoping to take notice of that this year. After a horrible start on Thursday Fitz actually played the final three rounds in -11, which was better than everyone bar Xander Schauffele. A tight, tree lined course with fiddly small greens is basically what he is all about and I was surprised he opened as big as 50/1 in places. Already in his short career he has won twice around Crans in Switzerland and Woburn GC and he thrives on these sort of courses. He has played here four times to date with mixed results but given how much he loves it I’m sure he is treating it as a learning curve and his 14th last year was his best yet. Considering how much he improved throughout last week he will no doubt in a good state of mind for this and having been dismissed a little in the market he looks a very fair price for the world number 35 who is suited perfectly to the course.

Danny Lee was 7th on his last appearance at the Valero Texas Open two weeks ago. With a similar skillset required this week I think he could be over priced at 125/1. Lee can often pop up in high quality fields when everything clicks as he did at last years Players Championship where he finished 7th. He was also 3rd at TPC River Highlands in 2017 and 5th that same year at the Careerbuilder which uses another Dye course. Lee’s only PGA Tour win came on another TPC course at the Greenbrier while. Unfortunately for him these results don’t happen too often and his career has been littered sporadically with very good performances only to then struggle to push on. His Harbour Town form isn’t very good having not broken the top 30 in five tries but in keeping with his inconsistent form he has shot a couple of 66s at the course. His 2019 stats suggests he can go well here as he ranks 3rd in GIR from 150-175 yards and 30th from 125-150 yards. A bit of a hunch pick but big enough odds at 125/1 to get away with it.

Two more outsiders and they are Beau Hossler and Chesson Hadley. Hossler is a little bit of a bomber and to be honest not someone who I would immediately associate with this sort of course. But he finished 16th here last year and runner-up at TPC River Highlands while he bounced back to some kind of form with a 36th at the Texas Open two weeks ago. All 4 rounds were level par or better and that should have boosted his confidence. An interesting each way bet at 100/1

Hadley has had brilliant proximity to the hole numbers for the last few seasons and you sometimes wonder how he can still throw in such bad results when he is getting the ball so consistentyl close to the flag. But he is firmly marked down as a go to name for me on Pete Dye courses so I’m going to give him a chance at a big price. He hasn’t done much latey but yet sits 3rd in proximity to the hole and he was 7th here last year. His short game isn’t great but maybe the expected slower conditions will help him with his scrambling.


Summary of bets

RBC Heritage

Patrick Cantlay – 2.25pts ew @ 22/1

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1pt ew @ 33/1

Danny Lee – 0.75pt ew @ 125/1

Beau Hossler – 0.5pts ew @ 100/1

Chesson Hadley – 0.5pts ew @ 125/1 (all 1/5 odds 8 places with Betfair Sportsbook)

 

Weekly pts advised = 10

 

@theGreek82

The Players Championship and Rocce Forte Sicilian Open – Betting Preview

A close call week last week that showed no returns but plenty of positives to take from the week. The English Women’s team proved that they were indeed hugely over priced as they qualified from their group before losing out to the eventual winners, Ireland. We certainly won’t see prices like 50/1 around for quality women teams in the event next year. Over on the PGA Tour Patrick Reed played very well too which also justified backing him on value alone. Unfortunately though despite his weekend 67-69 scoring he finished up in the dreaded 8th position. I thought we were going to get half the place money when Phil found the hazard on 18 but he did what Phil does and found a shot off the rocks before draining a 25ft par putt. Far better to have a nearly week like that though where the angles were sound than an absolute shocker. We have two excellent betting heats this week with some added confidence after a close week.

2018 pts advised = 185.50

2018 ots returned = 215.44

ROI = 16.14%


The Players Championship

The golf season finds itself halfway between the first two majors of the year and for the last time that means it’s Players Championship week. It has been played in May for as long as I remember but after next year’s re-jig of the calendar it will be played in March. Quite how that will affect the conditions of the event I’m not sure but we don’t need to worry about that until next year. For now we can just focus on this year’s renewal which sees the strongest field assembled so far in 2018 gather at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

At just 7215 yards, TPC Sawgrass isn’t a long course by modern standards but that is perhaps fitting of what Pete Dye was attempting to do with his Florida gem. In 1980 he sought to design a course that tested all aspects of a player’s game and favoured no particular type of player. He has certainly achieved that as the recent list of winners includes some of the most varied players you could imagine. Tiger Woods has overpowered it on just two occasions but even then that was as much down to his touch on and around the greens. Short, accurate types like Fred Funk and Matt Kuchar have won. Ball striking machines Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson both won there in their youth and the enigmatic Mickelson also managed a win. Fowler won with his excellent all-round game while Day’s combination of power and touch landed him the title in 2016. While this does indeed tell us that any type of player can win I still had a look at the stats for the last 10 winners to see if there was anything that they happened to all do well during the week of their win.

The least important aspect at TPC Sawgrass would appear to be off the tee as the 10 winners have averaged 32nd for driving distance and 21st for driving accuracy. That’s not to say that you can afford to drive the ball wildly as it is undoubtedly easier to hold the small, bermuda greens from the fairway. But statistically anyway, the Players Championship isn’t usually won or lost with the driver.

The lowest average appears in scrambling and that is usually the main attribute that I consider for Sawgrass so that makes perfect sense. The 10 winners ranked 10th but that improves to just 6th if you remove Garcia’s rather bizarre ranking of 57th when he won in 2008. Kaymer scrambled brilliantly to win in 2014 but he did so largely with the putter and it is worth noting the tight run-off areas at Sawgrass allow the players different options around the green. Imagination is important and it is perhaps no coincidence that Kaymer also won the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst No. 2. It is one of the few U.S. Open venues that has tightly mown run-off areas and a look at that leader board is nothing more than a list of recent winners at TPC Sawgrass!

Just pushed into 2nd was greens in regulation as the same 10 averaged 14th place for greens hit but again removing Fowler’s abnormally high-ranking from 2015 then this becomes an average ranking of just 7.

Looking instead at trends for a moment there is an interesting pattern of the last 10 winners all having recorded a top 23 finish previously at TPC Sawgrass and also having plenty of experience as they won their title at an average attempt of 7. This isn’t a course that beginners tend to fare too well on and even when 26-year-old Fowler won in 2015 he was having his 6th look at the course while shock winner Kim finished 23rd the year before. Four of Fowler’s first five attempts were missed cuts but the one time that he did make the weekend he finished 2nd. While backing debutants is maybe not a solid option if looking for the winner with short price players, there are plenty recent examples of players contending and placing on their first look.

TPC Sawgrass’ iconic hole is the island green, par 3 17th and it completes a very tough set of par 3s. Indeed of the last 10 winners, 6 have played them under par so I would expect minimising bogeys on the short holes to be crucial again. Beyond the more broad stats I also like proximity to the hole each year at TPC Sawgrass as it is crucial to have an accurate iron game to find the small greens. With all the new categories that the PGA Tour has now though we can look even more closely. Approaches 150-175 yards Scoring Relative To Par is a very good indicator as is the same stat for the 175-200 yard range. They tell us not only who is repeatedly getting the ball close from those distances but also who is taking advantage when they do get close.

So we are looking for someone who can hit a lot of greens, is excellent at getting up and down, plays Par 3s well, and is a strong putter on fast bermuda greens. The course itself backs that up as Sawgrass has some of the smallest greens on Tour at 4500 sq ft. They are surrounded by sand and water hazards throughout so accuracy and particularly distance control is needed to hold the greens. The tight run-offs allow the ball to easily fall off the green so each approach shot has to be struck with authority.

With the head of the market struggling to be split here and nobody trading under 14/1 not only do we have the strongest field of the year but we also have one of the best betting heats. Historically this was a great event for outsiders given the patience and strategy required but with Fowler and Day winning in 2015 and 2016 respectively that looked like it was maybe changing. However Si-Woo Kim’s left field win last year confirmed that bigger prices can still prosper here. I think that looks to be the angle this week with bookmakers all competing for business with some great each way terms and I’d certainly shop around to get at least 7 places this week.

As mentioned above, I put a huge emphasis on proximity to the hole at TPC Sawgrass and particularly from the 150-200 yards range. Hao-Tong Li makes the squad this week due partly to his strong stats in those areas but also just because he looks over priced for a player of his talent on a course that should suit him. Li ranks 10th in scoring RTP from 150-175 yards and 13th in the 175-200 category. It is his debut but it was also his Royal Birkdale debut when he finished 4th behind Spieth and Kuchar at the Open last summer. While that course is miles away from Birkdale in location and style, they are both difficult courses that require accurate approach play, excellent scrambling skills and minimising bogeys. Li’s results haven’t been fantastic lately but he is another example of a European Tour player moving to play on both Tours and just struggling a little with what that entails. But he has had a week off and is a winner already this year on slick greens at the Dubai Desert Classic. If he can keep the ball in play off the tee with a sound strategy then I’d expect a good week. While debutants can struggle to win here I think the 200/1 gives us a brilliant each way bet and I’m also adding him for a Top 20.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello looked like an obvious candidate this week after his 4th last year but having missed three out of four cuts he actually opened up at a nice price here of 110. There is still a little bit of that around but I rate him a bet at anything 80/1 or bigger. Rafa ranks 1st in proximity to the hole on the PGA Tour and that is enough for me to want to back him alone but factor that 4th place in and he looks a really solid bet. His driving hasn’t quite been up to his usual standards this year but we know that can change as historically he has been one of the better drivers on the European Tour over the last few years. If we look solely at Rafa’s recent performances in the WGCs, Majors or the “5th Major” then we see just how far he has come as he finished 4th at the 2017 Players, 4th at The Open, 5th at the WGC HSBC Champions and 3rd at the WGC Mexico. He seems to have really found a way to peak for the bigger events and there is no question that his goal this season will be to make the Ryder Cup team again. The best way for a player who struggles to get over the line is to rack up high finishes in events like this. Should play well again and is a decent price to do so.

Rafa

I’m always reluctant to back Webb Simpson so when I started getting a little excited about him for this on Sunday, you would think a simple look at his TPC Sawgrass form would have put me off; MC-MC-69-MC-15-MC-66-16. Not a chance. Those two top 20s just about kept me interested and to be honest Simpson’s all round game is as good as it as been since 2010-2012 era when he was legitimately one of the world’s best on suitable courses. As most readers will know the anchor putter ban really threw him but his 2018 stats are just perfect for this and his putting is back to somewhere near it’s best. Simpson ranks 2nd in scrambling, 6th in bogey avoidance and 10th in strokes gained: putting and he is comfortable on bermuda greens. Every chance he can post his best Sawgrass finish to date this week at 70/1.

It’s very easy to plan to leave out the head of the market in an event like this but it’s a lot harder to fully commit to it in practice! I really thought Justin Thomas would go well here last year given the state of his game and that he signed off with a 65 in 2016.  But he never really got going and missed the cut. Thomas seems to have the perfect game for Sawgrass though as he has established himself as one of the best around with his short irons and he currently ranks 3rd in scrambling over the last 3 months and 12th in bogey avoidance for the season. If he doesn’t get too adventurous off the tee then I’d expect him to go well again and perhaps enjoy some of the spotlight having been removed. I think he is worth an each way bet here in order to have an interest at the head of the market.


Rocce Forte Sicilian Open

Last year I looked at links players for this given the wide open, coastal nature of the course in Sicily at the Verdura Golf Club. While that didn’t find the impossible to find Quiros (his form was terrible) it was certainly the right line of thought. The list of courses where the powerful Spaniard has won is basically a list of wide open links style courses, and I particularly noted Doha Golf Club where he has won and finished runner-up twice. The other winner around Verdura in 2012, Thorbjorn Olesen, generally wins on the same sort of courses. I’m taking that approach again while also maybe giving further consideration to some of the historically classy players in the field as per Quiros last year. The course here in Sicily is a Kyle Phillips design and big wide open fairways are very much his ethos as they can be seen on his other courses like Kingsbarns, Dundonald Links and PGA National in Sweden. He also tends to favour large greens and again they can be seen at Kingsbarns and Dundonald. A further example of some of his work can be seen on 9 holes of Celtic Manor where he was involved with the old Wentwood Hills course which went on to make up 1/2 of the Twenty Ten course. Given these strong features we tend to see Phillips course form stand up well so I’ve had a look through those leader boards as well as other links courses.

Bourdy

Gregory Bourdy has some decent form at Kyle Phillips designs despite actually being quite short and accurate off the tee. However he does have a good approach game and an excellent touch around the greens which also helps on these links style lay-outs. Bourdy’s last win was around Celtic Manor in 2013 and he has top 5s at several other links courses where form ties in. He was 4th last year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (Olesen won in 2015), 5th in Qatar in 2015 and 4th at Lake Karrinyup in Perth in 2016, which is another course that Thorbjorn Olesen won around in 2014. His form hasn’t been anything great in 2018 but a player of his class looks a very big price at anything near to three figures in this field. Therefore the 125/1 is a must bet for me at a course that should suit part of his game at least.

Tom Lewis has some nice pieces of historical links form and he has won at Oceanico Victoria in Portugal where Quiros has won. He hasn’t done much of any note on the main Tour lately but he stopped a run of missed cuts with a 9th place last time out on the Challenge Tour. If he found something with his game in Turkey then he could be a big price on a course like this where he finished 11th last year.

Anthony Wall tends to go well on a lot of links courses and particularly on the same sort of ones as Alex Noren who is a bit of a Kyle Phillips expert. He was 4th at Dundonald Links last year and he won around Archerfield Links in the Paul Lawrie Match play and that was another wide open links layout. Wall isn’t the sort of player who finds sustained periods of form and is more likely to pop up at layouts like this where his excellent short game can get him competitive in windy conditions. He withdrew from his last event in April but has had a couple of weeks off to recover and if he is fit he should go well on a course where he was 6th in 2012.

My final pick is an old favourite in Joakim Lagergren. Throughout his relatively short European Tour career he has been seen at his best on open courses where his short game skills can be shown off. That is exactly what we have here and I don’t think he should be 50/1 in this field considering he was 3rd just a couple of starts ago in Morocco.


Summary of Bets

Players Championship

Justin Thomas – 1.5pts ew – 16/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Hao Tong Li – 0.5pt ew @ 200/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet) and 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 0.5pt ew @ 110/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Betfred) and 2pts Top 20 @ 4/1

Webb Simpson – 0.5pt ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)

Rocce Forte Open

Gregory Bourdy – 1pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports)

Tom Lewis – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Anthony Wall – 0.5pt ew @ 90/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Betfair Sportsbook)

Joakim Lagergren – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral)

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 14pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 199.50pts

 

@theGreek82

The Masters 2018 – Betting Preview

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

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

Total 2018 pts advised = 123pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 92.69pts

ROI= -24.6%


The Masters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE LEADING CONTENDERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The bets

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

Spieth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st Round Leader bets

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

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

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

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

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

 


Summary of Bets

The Masters

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

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

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

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

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

Hideki Matsuyama – 3pts Top 10 @ 10/3

1st Round Leader bets

Bryson Dechambeau – 0.25pts ew @ 66/1

Chez Reavie – 0.25pts ew @ 150/1

Brian Harman – 0.25 pts ew @ 55/1

Thomas Pieters – 0.25pts ew @ 50/1

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 26pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 149pts

@theGreek82

Houston Open – Betting Preview

I broke the rule of not getting too involved in the Match Play last week so therefore I can’t really complain about losing all 8pts. Aphibarnrat very nearly made it to the semi-finals to get me out of a jam but despite the three previous events going to the favourites, it is worth remembering that these are 64 of the best players in the world and it really doesn’t take much to bring about an upset or 8. Small stakes next year!

GMac didn’t do much in the Dominican and Appleby fell away after starting well on Thursday. No European Tour event again this week so we just have the Masters warm-up in Houston but I’ve also had a look at the first Ladies’ major of the year.

Total 2018 pts advised =103pts

Total 2018 pts returned = 92.69

ROI = -18%


Houston Open

With one week to go until Augusta we stay in Texas and head along to Houston for the Shell Houston Open from Humble. There will be two schools of thought amongst the field this week, those who have qualified for the Masters will be looking to sharpen up their game and hone the skill set required for Augusta while those not qualified will be trying to punch their ticket up Magnolia Lane by winning this week. That makes for both an interesting narrative and betting heat as the motivation may well be greater for players further down the betting. It takes a seriously impressive mental attitude to win the week before a major and then follow-up in the big one. In recent times we have only seen McIlroy and Mickelson do so. So while much of this year’s schedule has been dominated by the upper echelons of the game, I’d be inclined to widen the net a little this week. Despite being a ball-strikers paradise, since moving to its slot the week before the Masters, only 2 of the 11 winners are major winners and you would be hard pushed to suggest any of the last 5 were top class even if the reigning champion Henley could still reach that level.

Shell

The Golf Club of Houston was Rees Jones’ first course that he designed from scratch and it has hosted since 2003. It is quite long at nearly 7500 yards but the fairways are very wide and the rough is minimal, meaning bombers have a good record in the event and the shorter hitters can struggle unless every other department of their game is firing. There is a lot of water in play around the greens  so an accurate approach game is required before they reach perhaps the biggest test of all. The greens are usually set up fast to mimic Augusta conditions next week and they are a bit of a mix with bermuda, bent and poa all popping up by all accounts.  Therefore 3 putts will be a plenty and holing out well will be key this week as the winner normally performs well with the putter.

There are quite a lot of players I like this week so with just one tournament I’m going to back a few to relatively low stakes, especially the more speculative ones.

Rees Jones also carried out a redesign of Torrey Pines and the course form generally correlates quite well. The Torrey greens are slick and while scoring is a lot tougher, driving distance and holing out are both very important. Harris English’s best finish of the season prior to last week in the Dominican was 8th at Torrey Pines and he is also a former runner-up there. He also has strong course form at the Sony Open where defending Houston champ Russell Henley got his first win, English has 3rd, 4th and 9th place finishes. He was 5th last week and ranked 6th in total driving and 11th in GIR so clearly he has found his game again. At his best English is a very strong putter and he drives it long and straight so I’m not sure why he has never done that well in Houston. The course should suit him and if he has turned a corner with last week’s confidence boosting 5th, then 80/1 could be quite a big price in a relatively weak field.

Benny An announced himself as a player to follow on ball-striker’s courses with quick greens when he won the BMW PGA Wentworth in 2015, although he is winless anywhere since then. That’s not to say he hasn’t played well though and he has been knocking on the door again this year on the PGA Tour. His putting can be quite hit or miss but when I noticed he was 2nd on Tour for putting inside 5ft I knew I had to back him here where holing out is difficult. I’m expecting a big week from young Korean.

Charles Howell III has form at Torrey Pines, Sony Open, Honda Classic and a good record here in Houston. He is famously one of the hardest to get over the line having not won since 2007 but with players like Chucky Three Sticks we have to look out for small things that might bring about improvement. Last week’s performance in qualifying from a WGC group with Phil Mickelson in it will have given him a huge lift and he perhaps let the pressure of qualifying for his home-town major get to him in the knock-out stages. That could well happen again this week but I think his each way price looks very good indeed. Howell is often criticised for his putting but this year he ranks 3rd in putting inside 5 feet and that will serve him well here while his extremely consistent tee-to-green game should be present.

Two very, very speculative punts to finish and Lanto Griffin seems over priced for someone who finished 12th at Torrey Pines. That is the height of my reasoning behind this bet. He is a PGA Tour rookie who is still finding his feet but to contend on a layout like that suggests there is maybe more to come. After a few missed cuts he managed a 28th last week where he was 8th in putting and at 300/1 I thought he was worth a small bet.

Jonas Blixt was a master on the greens a few years ago as he racked up 2 PGA Tour wins. He has been very quiet since but won the doubles event last year in New Orleans. He started 2018 fairly poorly again but he finished 41st on his last start at Riviera before 4 weeks off. Blixt isn’t much of a ball-striker to be fair but I think this course should suit him with some room to spray it off the tee. We shouldn’t forget Blixt finished 2nd at the 2014 Masters and he is capable of better ball-striking days. It’s a very speculative punt given he hasn’t shown much in this event to date but on the two occasions he has made the cut he returned top 30s and at his price it won’t cost much for a little interest.

 

LPGA – ANA Inspiration

The first Ladies major arrives this week and Brittany Lincicome looks somewhat over priced to me. She has already won this event twice in 2009 and 2015 and came runner-up in 2007. Lincicome is very much a horses for courses type of golfer and thrives on courses where she can use her powerful game to her advantage. She defended her Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and if she were out of form then I could perhaps see the reason behind a few firms having her as a 33/1 shot this week. But she sits in 2nd on the 2018 money list and I think she has been overlooked in the market here perhaps in favour of some of the more fashionable and popular picks. Yet a lot of those above her in the betting have been a little out of form while Brittany hasn’t missed a cut since last July and her 2018 form figures read 10-16-54-7-1. She looks a very solid each way bet at anything around 28/1 to 33/1.


Summary of Bets

Houston Open

Harris English – 1pt ew @ 80/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Charles Howell III – 0.75pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)

Benny An – 0.75pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Lanto Griffin – 0.25 pts ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

Jonas Blixt – 0.25pts ew @ 300/1 (1/5 odds 7 places)

LPGA – ANA Inspiration

Brittany Lincicome – 1 pt ew @ 33/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 8pts

Total 2018 pts advised = 121pts

@theGreek82

WGC Match Play – Betting preview

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

2018 pts advised = 103pts

2018 pts returned = 92.69pts

ROI = -10%


WGC Match Play

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

bridge-austin-847

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

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

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

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

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

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


Corales Puntacana Championship

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

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

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

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


Summary of Bets

WGC Match Play

Jon Rahm – 2pts ew @ 14/1

Paul Casey – 1pt ew @ 22/1

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

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

Corales

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

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

 

 

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

@theGreek82