Gary Woodland was a popular and deserving winner as he hung tough to see off Koepka and Rose on Sunday. Having put him up in the first round leader market it was a little annoying as I gave him a lot of consideration in the outright market but must admit I really didn’t think he was capable of holding off two of the best around in Koepka and Rose. Hopefully some readers maybe stuck a few quid on after seeing the bit about his Sunday 65 at Pebble in 2017.
Most of the picks performed quite well and while it was a losing week in the end even on Sunday it could have been so different with DJ and Molinari still in the hunt for a place and Hatton, Li, Scott and Kaymer also on the periphery of their required places. I have no idea what happened to Molinari as he got to -6 early and then we never saw another shot as he seemed to just collapse. DJ never got going on Sunday which was pretty much the story of his week as his putter was stone cold. Hatton missed from 3ft 9 inches for birdie on 18 to lose out on the top 20 but luckily Scott and Kaymer picked up their top 20 and top 40 respectively to return around about half the week’s stakes.
A lot was written about Pebble and how easy the scoring was this week and I’d probably have to agree that the greens were a little too receptive for a 7070 yard US Open course. It was a still a hugely enjoyable event but for me it didn’t have that U.S. Open feel. I saw a tweet from someone who summed it up best of all ( I forget who) which suggested that if every single player in the field loved the conditions then that means it was definitely too easy!
2019 pts advised = 320
2019 pts returned = 460.28
ROI = 43.84%
With no wind and a fairly soft course, last week ended up being all about powerful players attacking a relatively defenseless, short course and this week to mix things up we will see powerful players attacking a relatively defenseless, short course. Although scoring should be even lower this week with TPC River Highlands having been the site of the PGA Tour’s first ever 58 in 2016.
That’s not really the full story to be fair as TPC River Highlands is a classical, tree-lined Pete Dye redesigned course and it’s not always straight-forward. However anywhere that Bubba Watson can win three times clearly isn’t the most strategic of tests. While the fairways are tree-lined they are wide enough and the punishment is never too severe for missing them as the trees are laid back a little and the rough isn’t too thick. Additionally they have plenty of subtle dog-legs which means Bubba has been able to move the ball off the tee. That relaxes him a little as he’s never been a fan of having to find a straight fairway. But even then if we look at this 3 wins he ranked 70th, 58th and 70th for driving accuracy while he has averaged 315 yards driving over all his Travelers appearances. Despite being a fairly poor putter Bubba putted well in all three wins which together with the low scoring suggests the greens are pretty flat and easy to read. Again those three wins involved different styles of win for Bubba, last year he was 7th in GIR while in 2015 he led the field in scrambling. The only constant is his driving distance rankings at TPC River Highlands; 7th-2nd-1st-1st-1st-1st-2nd-1st-1st-2nd.
TPC River Highlands is essentially about making as many birdies as possible by getting the ball closer to the hole than everyone else for your birdie putt as everyone will be making their share from inside 20ft. Put Bubba on a course where he can hit driver and he will normally be using a wedge where others are using 8 iron. That gets him closer to the flag and that gets him birdies.
I’ve chosen to look mainly at Bubba’s wins here because he is such a horses for courses type of golfer. Shorter hitters like Spieth have also won here but even then Spieth ranked 1st in strokes gained: tee to green so it wasn’t his putter that won it for him. Knox was 16th in strokes gained: off the tee in 2016 and that’s as far back as the strokes gained stats go on Tour Tips.
A player doesn’t have to hit it far here but it is certainly an advantage when trying to make the number of birdies required to contend this week. Ultimately though the course is all about proximity to the hole from whatever range your player will be hitting from regularly and if they can get it close with a 6 iron then they can still go well. Therefore as well as driving distance, approach proximity stats from the 100-175 range are all worth a look.
However I’ve not leaned on the season stats this week as much as I normally would as I already had three players in mind for this, one for a couple of weeks and the other two straight after the U.S. Open. Although it just so happens they come out favourably in lots of the appropriate stats categories too which is never a bad thing.
Other Pete Dye courses are always worthy of look at recent leaderboards and so far this year we have alreeady seen TPC Sawgrass, Harbour Town, TPC Louisiana and Austin Country Club. Sawgrass Valley is also a Dye/Weed combo much like River Highlands and it played host to the the Web.com Tour Championship from 2013 to 2015. Bobby Weed designed TPC Summerlin himself and it hosts the Shriners Hospital Open later in the year.
Kevin Streelman has shot 7 of his last 8 rounds at TPC River Highlands in the 60s as well as winning here back in 2014. His last appearance on a Dye track yielded a 6th place at Harbour Town while on his last start he ranked 2nd in strokes gained: approaches and 13th in strokes gained: putting. That put him firmly to the top of my short list for this and quotes of 66/1 have done little to temper my enthusiasm. Streelman is also performing well with driver this year ranking 24th in strokes gained: off the tee while his approach proximity is also good ranking 29th. He has plenty historical form on Dye courses too having finished runner-up at Sawgrass in 2013 and two other top 10s at Harbour Town. His record at TPC Summerlin also bodes well as he has made all 9 cuts there with the pick being a 2014 runner-up finish.
Rounding in to form but also well rested on one of his favourite courses he looks a great each way bet this week. I’m advising the 50/1 with 8 places though as it’s more generally available and in this field the extra place looks worthwhile. Betfred are still going 66/1 with 7 places if anyone can get on before that goes.
There was a little while where Emiliano Grillo was my go to bet on Dye courses and there have been enough signs recently to suggest it might be worth siding with him again. He hasn’t missed a cut since early March and his last start before the US Open was 9th at Memorial. He won his Web.com Tour Championship around the Dye/Weed designed Sawgrass Valley course and also has a solid record at TPC Sawgrass too.
He was briefly on the leaderboard at Pebble Beach last week before falling away over the weekend. A birdie fest isn’t usually what Grillo is looking for although his two professional wins have been on -14 and -15. Rather he needs somewhere that has simple enough greens to read where his accurate tee-to-green play can help him achieve a score. While Grillo is a strong driver of the ball his approach play is generally better as the iron in his hand becomes shorter. Particularly the sort of range that excels on most Dye courses, 125-175. This season he ranks 37th in proximity to the hole and 6th in strokes gained: approaches. Skybet’s 50/1 with 8 places looks good.
Chesson Hadley dropped what was comfortably his best ever major finish (9th) at the weekend so it’s very timely that we head to another short course where approach proximity is key. Hadley ranks 4th in proximity to the hole this season and he has always excelled in that area, often struggling to hole the putts required. He putted brilliantly last week though ranking 13th. That will have given him a huge confidence boost and his form on short, classical courses, particularly Dye designs is excellent, even if he has missed his 3 cuts at River Highlands. He has finished 11th at Sawgrass, has a Harbour Town top 10 and he has also won the Web.com Tour Championship around the Sawgrass Valley course. Hadley also has three top 10s at Weed’s TPC Summerlin. He looks a solid enough each way play at 125/1 with 8 places.
BMW International Open
This event rotates between two excellent courses in Germany and this week it’s the turn of Munich and Eichenried GC again. Eichenried is a tree-lined course with water in play and slick, undulating greens. It reminds me a lot of Wentworth and on the whole it throws up classy winners much like the Surrey venue. They are often sublime ball-strikers like Stenson, Kaymer and Els as finding the correct spot on the greens can be difficult. But the greens are also some of the fastest and most difficult that we see on the European Tour therefore good putters fare well here too and several have won over the years like David Horsey, Nick Dougherty and David Howell.
That’s pretty much what is required, relentless hitting of greens or a brilliant display of putting. If we can find someone doing both at the minute they will take a lot of beating.
Oliver Wilson ranks 14th in strokes gained: putting and 21st in strokes gained: approaches for the season. That’s as good a combo as there is in the field and that’s pretty much good enough for me this week. His recent form is very good having gone 4th and 8th on his last two stroke-play starts and as a former Ryder Cup player he ticks the classy box too. Wilson has played here several times without ripping it up but he does have an 18th place finish and he was also runner-up at Wentworth in 2008. A decent each way price at 50/1 with 7 places.
I really like Detry’s chances but he has stung me twice already this year at a short enough price when things looked to be in his favour. Instead I’ll take three more stabs with two more excellent putters and another who is historically a poor putter but has impressed recently on the greens.
Chris Paisley delivered several times for the blog over the last few years but he has slowed down a bit over the last year or so. He was 3rd here in 2015 though and there have been enough recent signs to suggest he is maybe set for a good summer. His last proper strokeplay event he finished 4th in Denmark while he followed that up with a 17th in the Belgian Knockout after “winning” the 2 round stroke-play segment. Paisley is an excellent putter and will handle these greens better than most having ranked 1st in total putting in 2015. This season he is 30th in strokes gained: putting and 24th in 3-putt avoidance. With some of the bigger names in the field we still get a decent price despite his strong recent form. I’m taking the 50/1 with 7 places at Betfair.
Paul Dunne showed us what he was all about on fast greens in 2015 when he led the Open after three rounds. Since then he has managed a win on Tour and several high finishes. He generally plays better on a week where the short game is key and again I expect him to get to grips with these greens better than most. Given he shared 4th place in Denmark last time out you could argue that he is a shade too big at 50/1. His best finish prior that was his 3rd place at the Perth Super Sixes where again the greens were heavily undulating and very slick. If he can hit enough greens he should go well.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano made a name for himself years ago on the European Tour and I’m almost surprised that he is only 38. He won 7 times on his first 8 years on Tour, usually on windy, ball- strikers courses and at times his putting was so bad that plenty twitter jokes were fired at him. So I was surprised to see he is currently 1st in total putting on the ET over the last 3 months. A small enough sample size for sure but that only falls to 8th when looking at the current calendar year. His strokes gained number isn’t so good down in 102 but he is 18th in putts per GIR and 31st in 3-putt avoidance. Gonzo has also posted three consecutive top 25 finishes and despite some poor course form, he hasn’t played here since 2010 and it’s a course that should suit. Worth a small go at 150/1 with 7 places.
I was also going to advise Bourdy on the Exchange this week as I noticed he opened at 690 which seemed far too high. However he is back down to 410 which is more reasonable but if he drifts above 500 again there may be some trading potential. His recent course form isn’t great but his silky touch used to shine on faster greens.
Summary of bets
Kevin Streelman – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places)
Emiliano Grillo – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)
Chesson Hadley – 0.75pts ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 8 places Skybet)
BMW International Open
Oliver Wilson – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 oddds 7 places Betfair)
Chris Paisley – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 oddds 7 places Betfair)
Paul Dunne – 1pt ew @ 50/1 (1/5 odds 7 places Coral/Betfred)
Gonzo Fernandez-Castano – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 (1/5 oddds 7 places Betfair)
Weekly pts advised = 12.5pts