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

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

Phoenix Open and Maybank Championship – Betting Preview

We got off the mark last week as Tyrrell Hatton flew through the field on Sunday to land solo 3rd. It promised to be even better than that for a brief spell as he had a 10ft putt to get to -21 at the driveable Par 4 17th. He missed that and then found water on 18 to leave himself 2 shots shy but it was another brilliant desert performance and he rewarded the faith shown in him. Hatton’s consistent play in both desert and links conditions is second to none over the last 18 months and this has to be factored in when assessing his price going forward.

Over in California, Woodland was perfectly placed for a Sunday assault as he was 5th and just 3 shots back. The wind did for him again though just like 2015 and he really doesn’t look to be a great wind player at all. There is no doubt that he loves Torrey Pines South course as his Saturday 66 testified but he doesn’t seem to handle even one round of wind.

This week the PGA Tour moves inland to the desert and the Phoenix Open while the European Tour has a little break from its Middle East swing and heads down to Malaysia for the Maybank Championship.

Total 2018 pts advised = 35.5pts

Total 2018 returns = 9pts


Phoenix Open

In the normally more reserved sport of golf, TPC Scottsdale is the one course that comes closest to typifying U.S. Sports. The course is somewhat famous in the game for it’s stadium seating around the par 3 16th hole and it helps create an atmosphere unlike any seen in regular stroke-play events. That’s not to do the course an injustice however as it is a very serious layout, with pristine conditions and the Phoenix Open usually throws up a classy winner.

Hideki Matsuyama has won the last two events and never finished outside the Top 4. To be honest that tells us everything you need to know about the course. The fairways are wide enough and it pays to have some length off the tee. The greens are on the larger side and in order to fire at the flags, a degree of loft will be required and the control that the fairway allows is also beneficial. TPC Scottsdale is a ball-strikers dream and rewards accurate, aggressive iron play perhaps more than any course I can think of. The greens themselves don’t usually require any brilliance and it is usually all about the law of averages and having more putts inside 15ft than the rest of the field. That is something Matsuyama regularly does when his mid-irons are dialled in and he is as ruthless as anyone on Tour from between 150 and 200 yards out.

With a 12th place finish last week where the putter was behaving, Matsuyama is almost certainly the player to beat and at odds of 10/1 I wouldn’t put anyone off. However with Spieth,  Fowler and Thomas all alongside him in the betting it doesn’t look like a week for a big play on any of the favourites. Instead I’m happy to play some of the healthy each way prices that the strong head of the market has given us.

chappell

Kevin Chappell’s long game was sublime last time out at the CareerBuilder and it was his horrible putting that stopped him from winning. He still managed 6th place though and with the greens being a bit of an equaliser here at Scottsdale I think this pure ball-striker looks to have a great chance. His form at the course isn’t fantastic to date but I’m not really sure why. He plays well in desert conditions and this tee-to-green test should be just about perfect for him on paper. Chappell has three missed cuts from 6 appearances and hasn’t beaten 24th yet but there were positives from that best finish in 2013. He fired opening and closing 66s and there were also some good rounds two years later in 2015 where he shot Friday and Saturday 65s to sit in the top 10 going in to Sunday. That’s enough to confirm to me that he can play this course and if we delve a little further into his finishes we see that they were more about his form at the time. Chappell normally takes a little while to get going in the New Year and that 24th finish came on his only effort in Phoenix where he was arriving off a Top 10 already that calendar year. On a ball-strikers course sometimes you just have to pick ball-strikers and that’s exactly what Chappell is, currently ranking 6th in strokes gained: tee to green. The 66/1 looks a big each way price.

bradley-keegan-080512-640x360_0

Keegan Bradley is another tee-to-green machine and you could make a perfectly good case for him being the most consistently long and accurate driver of the ball in world golf. His approach play isn’t too shabby either and he currently ranks 7th for strokes gained: tee to green. Bradley is a 3 time winner on Tour and also a major winner so given he finished 6th last week and has four top 25s in Phoenix, I’m surprised that we can get 66/1 about him. He has suffered considerably since the anchored putter ban but over the last year or so there have been signs that he is finding a way to get competitive again. We shouldn’t forget that when you strike the ball as well as he does, an average putting week is often all he needs to contend. That will be even more prevalent at TPC Scottsdale and he looks to have a great chance here this week.

I was going to leave it at two bets here this week but then I noticed Chesson Hadley’s price. I watched him closely during the fall series and his form was very good without getting over the line for the win. He has kept that going in 2018 although he has done so a little under the radar as the world’s best players have ousted him from the spotlight. Hadley is currently 10th in strokes gained: tee to green, 6th in strokes gained: approach to green and 29th in strokes gained: putting. All those combined suggest he is on the verge of grabbing his 2nd PGA Tour title. His form at Scottsdale isn’t great but he has taken his game to a new level of consistency recently and he looks a great price at 100/1.


Maybank Championship

Link to The Golf Family preview below;

https://thegolffamily.com/maybank-championship-betting-preview/


Summary of Bets

Phoenix Open

Kevin Chappell – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/4 odds 5 places general)

Keegan Bradley – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/4 odds 5 places general)

Chesson Hadley – 0.5pt ew @ 100/1 (1/5 odds 6 places several)

Maybank Championship

Alex Levy – 2pt ew @ 16/1 (1/4 odds 5 places Ladbrokes)

Jason Scrivener – 0.75pts ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Boylesports)

David Horsey – 0.75 pts ew @ 70/1 (1/5 odds 6 places Skybet)

Weekly pts advised = 12pts

Total pts advised = 47.5pts

@theGreek82

Farmers Insurance Open and Dubai Desert Classic – Betting Preview

It was a week for the obvious winners last week as Rahm and Fleetwood both obliged on the main Tours and Garcia romped home in the Singapore Open. Most of my picks were poor and we are still looking for the first returns of the new year. Hopefully they will come this week with a couple of high quality events on both Tours. The PGA Tour stays in California with the Farmers Insurance Open and the European Tour makes its second Middle East stop for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

2018 total pts advised = 20.5pts

2018 total pts returned = 0pts

 


Farmers Insurance Open

This time last year I wrote the following and there is a sense of deja vu in California this week.

“Tiger makes his much-anticipated return to the PGA Tour this week and there couldn’t be a more fitting place for him to return than Torrey Pines. He has won this Tournament 7 times along with a U.S. Open in 2008 which was his last major win. It’s anyone’s guess where he will finish but the signs were good in December so hopefully he will go well as it would be great to get to see a fit Tiger Woods compete again in 2017”

Somehow though Tiger has been cut into 25/1 which is surely the wrong price. It would be special to see him contend again around one of his favourite courses but ultimately he will surely just be looking to make the halfway cut.

Last week’s winner and 2017 Farmers Insurance Open winner Jon Rahm is back to defend as the 8/1 favourite and that is very hard to argue with. He looks to have a great chance but I’m just about happy to leave him out. Fowler, Rose, Matsuyama and Day are up next and they all have claims here given how well they are suited to a tough test of golf. But the bookmakers look like they have their number and barring 2015 winner Jason Day, they don’t have the greatest of records at Torrey.

As well as the South Course each player will have a knock around the easier North Course on Thursday or Friday before the South hosts those that survive the cut on the weekend. In addition to being suited to the tougher South course, if a player wants to contend this week it is important that they adapt also to the North course and record a low score. Historical form around the North may not count for as much as it used to however with the course undergoing a fairly substantial renovation prior to last year’s event.

Torrey has an element of Baltusrol about it where the rough is up and the fairways aren’t overly generous, yet the powerful players can still gouge their ball out and find the green from the rough. This will be easier from nearer the green though and the shorter hitters will definitely need to make sure they are finding the fairway more often than not.

With fast, undulating green complexes it will not only be hard to hold the greens but also to get the ball to stop near the flags. Accurate approach play will perhaps be the most important attribute this week closely followed by scrambling which is always more crucial on long, championship courses where greens will be missed. Unlike recent birdie-fests on Tour, make no mistake this will be a proper test and rather than holing putts this week, it will be more about making pars on the South course and trying to shoot a solid round on the easier North course. The greens at the South course are poa annua and they aren’t for everyone. Course form seems to sit nicely with both Riviera and Glen Abbey, the former also having poa greens.

A very strange thing happened after I decided on my picks this week, I looked at last year’s picks at Torrey Pines and I’d picked out the exact same three players again. So I guess I’m either doing something right or making the same stupid mistakes again! But I really like all of their chances despite them letting me down last year. Sometimes golf is  just like horse racing and you have to stick a line through the occasional piece of form.

Cameron Smith returns to Torrey Pines a far more accomplished player than last year having won twice since, once at the Zurich Classic team event and another back home in Australia where he won the PGA Championship at Royal Pines. That’s another long championship course and he has always looked like a player who prefers a difficult course to the normal target golf on the PGA Tour. That was evident at his first major where he finished 4th in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Smith has an excellent short game and currently ranks 13th for bogey avoidance while he finished 2017 ranked 8th in strokes gained: around the green. So far in 2018 he has been playing rather well with two top 20s and having finished 33rd last year he will be looking to improve again with his confidence high.

Gary Woodland is putting very well this year again and currently ranks 14th in strokes gained: putting for 2018. When Woodland is putting well he is capable of winning anywhere but he is another who has the game for long, difficult courses like Torrey. At 50/1 he is similar odds to last year and his predicament is much the same. A player of his talent really has to start pushing on as several of his peers have overtaken him in recent years. Woodland is in fine form after opening his year with a 7th place finish in Hawaii where he did everything well. Another performance like that should see him get involved over the weekend in an event where he has three Top 20s and was sitting 2nd with a round to go before the wind took over in 2016. Woodland also enjoys poa annua greens and finished 4th on the surface in 2016 at Bethpage Black, which has long been considered one of the toughest courses in the U.S. Most things seem to be in Woodland’s favour this week which makes the 50/1 look like a very tempting each way price.

John Huh is the final pick after grabbing a back door 3rd place last week at the CareerBuilder. On paper he is probably a little short off the tee for Torrey but that hasn’t stopped him before as he has some solid course form having finished 6th and 8th previously and he is one of the best around at avoiding bogeys. At least he will be hitting most of his approaches from the fairway as he is usually deadly accurate with the driver. With his talent if he can add more consistency to his game then he could have a good 2018 and he looks worth following while he is in good form.

Cameron Davis announced himself on the scene when he beat a strong field at the Australian Open in December at just 22 yrs old. He is another tall, powerful hitter who thrives on long courses and I’d expect him to be suited to Torrey Pines and the Aussie won’t be phased if things firm up and the win blows over the weekend. I’m going to have a top 20 bet on him.

Given the way that Rahm and McIlroy performed last week without being at their best it is entirely possible that they blow these fields away so I’m going to have small 1pt win saver on the double as they will surely both contend.


Dubai Desert Classic

Link to The Golf Family Preview;

https://thegolffamily.com/omega-dubai-desert-classic-preview/


Summary of Bets

Farmers Insurance Open

Cameron Smith – 1pt ew @ 66/1  (1/5 odds 7 places several firms)

Gary Woodland – 1pt ew @ 40/1  (1/5 odds 7 places several firms)

John Huh – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 7 places several firms)

Cameron Davis – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1 (Betfred)

Dubai Desert Classic

Matt Fitzpatrick – 1.5pts ew @ 20/1

Tyrrell Hatton – 1.5 pts ew @ 25/1

Thorbjorn Olesen – 0.5pts ew @ 66/1

Connor Syme – 1pt Top 20 @ 16/1

 

Rahm + McIlroy win double – 1pt win @ 53/1

 

Weekly pts advised = 15pts

 

@theGreek82

 

 

Hero World Challenge – Some bets

Scott Hend was poor last week and the fun trebles never really got going. I wasn’t going to post anything this week but I can’t resist trying to end the season on a winner after a miserable end to the season.

Total 2017 pts advised = 537

Total 2017 pts returned = 381.21

ROI = -29%


Hero World Challenge

I tipped Brooks Koepka here last year at 12/1 and he didn’t play great finishing down in  13th of the 18 man field. But I’m convinced that the course should suit perfectly so I’m going to back in again. He is a far better player now having won the U.S. Open. and yet we are nearly getting the same price. Granted the field is a little stronger but I still think he looks a great price at 10/1. The test looks very similar to Erin Hills where he can bomb the ball into the wide open fairways and allow his aggressive iron play to set-up the birdies. If the putter is behaving, as it does more often than not, then he will enjoy the low-scoring nature which has seen -18 and -25 win the two events to date in the Bahamas.

Elsewhere we have two co-sanctioned events on The European Tour, the Mauritius Open and the Australian PGA. Both have markets dominated by the class acts and as we know they often clean up in these tournaments at the end of the year. The tournament in Mauritius looks there for the taking for Louis Oosthuizen who must have decided to make the small journey prior to his Christmas break back in South Africa. It quite literally has his name all over it as the capital of Mauritius is Port Louis! Despite the weak field though 13/2 looks a little prohibitive in an event that was dominated by putting in 2015. There is a good chance his relentless tee-to-green game will be far too good here but I’d rather throw him an each way double with Koepka, after all it is multiples season now!

Darren Fichardt opened at 66/1 in a couple of places and that looked to me like the stand out value in the Mauritius field. He has been cut in most places now but there is still some 50/1 around that looks worthwhile in this company. Fichardt was 6th last time out which was in a far classier field at the Nedbank. He also won in Joburg earlier this year and looks over priced especially with putting set to be crucial again.

Given how well he performed in his first two starts in the autumn, Connor Syme deserves a mention now with his full European Tour card. But he was down the field at Valderama on his last start so he remains a watching brief into 2018. The course should suit though and he has shown already in his young career he is comfortable travelling to the southern hemisphere having won the Australian Amateur in 2016.

The head of the market in Australia is equally as strong yet it maybe doesn’t look too reliable with Leishman, Scott and Garcia all trading in single figures. As great a 2017 as Leishman has had he makes absolutely no appeal at 15/2 and Adam Scott hasn’t been in any kind of form at all this year. His record in this event is second to none but he hasn’t played in a month and isn’t too appealing at 8/1 in a fairly strong field by Australian standards. Garcia makes the most appeal but he hasn’t played in Australia since 2010 and only 6 times in his career. That tells me there is something he doesn’t love about heading down under and it could just be that he is still having an extended honeymoon. He still looks the most likely of the three however and anyone looking for a solid option for the third leg of their each way treble will struggle to find a better option even if he makes little appeal as a single. The hard and fast layout will certainly suit the Masters champion. In terms of single bets the tournament looks rather trappy to me with a host of young, up and coming Aussies all looking to emulate last week’s winner Cameron Davis. The likes of Marcus Fraser, Andrew Dodt and Tom Lewis all look to be big prices but aren’t consistent or reliable enough to have a bet on I don’t think.

Instead I’m going to place perhaps the most speculative punt of the whole year on Grant Forrest to finish inside the Top 20. Looking through various names and leaderboards I’ve found a bit of a link between Carnoustie and the Royal Pines course. Forrest made the final of the Amateur Championship in 2015, losing to Romain Langasque who finished 10th here last year. He missed out on qualifying for the final two rounds of Q School but only just after firing 4 respectable rounds. Will be looking to make the most of this European Tour start. Worth 1pt for a Top 20 at 10/1 surely.


Summary of bets

Hero World Challenge

Brooks Koepka – 3pts win 10/1

Mauritius Open

Darren Fichardt – 0.5pt ew @ 50/1

Australian PGA

Grant Forrest – 1pt Top 20 @ 10/1

Multiples

Koepka + Oosthuizen ew double – 0.75pt ew @ 82.5

Koepka + Oosthuizen + Garcia ew treble – 0.25pt ew @ 701.25

 

Weekly pts advised = 7pts

Total 2017 pts = 540pts