Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Portugal Masters 2016

We have a fairly decent field heading to the last Europeantour event to be played on European soil until well into 2017 this week. Alex Noren will go chasing his fourth title of the season having won again last week in London and he will face strong challengers from Ryder Cup stars, Thomas Pieters and Andy Sullivan,who will be defending his maiden title. Its another chance for those hovering around the 60 & 110 places on the R2D table to gain spots into the Series Finale and probably more importantly the coveted 110 placing required to secure playing privileges for 2017. Perhaps this is the week that Eddie Pepperell can regain his game and push on to secure his card for next season as he sits agonizingly in 111th place just €126 behind Craig Lee. I'm also hoping that Peter Hanson can continue good form of late and push on to make the TOP60 as he currently sits 63rd some €10,000 behind Renato Paratore in 60th spot.

The Course: 

The par-72 measures just 7200 yards and plays generously off the tee. It will be a low scoring affair this week and those that hit greens and make fewest putts will prevail. History has shown that Driving Distance is not key but a long straight hitter should excel. Wind is normally a factor here and interrupted play is par for the course especially at this time of the year.

The Shortlist & Selections:

Given the form of the market leaders this week, it may just be the week not to be getting stuck in on the outsiders. I've been a fan of Alex Noren for some years now and I'm thrilled to see him winning tournaments now that the nasty wrist injury he endured seems to have been sorted. It will be an interesting week to see how he fares and how the challenge of Pieters will evolve. Tommy Fleetwood is finishing the season strongly and he is overdue for a win and he should find the Vilamoura course and conditions to his liking. In his past three visits he has yielded 22-12-26 finishes. Englishman have done well here over the years and if Tommy isn't to prevail this week, there's no denying that David Horsey is in solid form too. His last five starts have yielded results of 12-11-49-5-4 and sits 55th in the R2D. Form here though on previous efforts isn't great so the price represents no value to me but @ 2.88 for a TOP20 he is a play.

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The blog put up Thomas Aiken last week and Peter Hanson at the Alfred Dunhill the week before and I'm happy to side with them again for this. Aiken has proven to like wind, and is quite strong in the GIR department....if he can only hole a few putts he'd be winning more, but he's more than capable. He has an early tee time Thursday starting at the 10th and I feel the early starters this week might have an advantage.He also plays alongside fellow Sunshine Tour player, Trevor Fisher, which is a plus. Peter Hanson tees off in the group behind Aiken, alongside YE Yang and Jorge Campillo (who just missed out on my 10-man shortlist). The Swede, like Noren, is returning from injury this season and is finding some form of late having finished 4th last week at The British Masters too. He has solid course form here too, but visits for the first time since 2011 when he finished TOP15. He posted 2 TOP5s in his three other starts. At 44.00 & 36.00 available for both they just about hold value.

1.00 pts T.Aiken @ 44.00
1.00 pts P.Hanson @ 36.00
4.00 pts TOP20 P.Hanson @ 2.50

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

British Masters 2016 - The Grove GC

Luke Donald will take on the role of Europeantour Tournament host this week where he will host the revised British Masters at The Grove GC, just outside London. He has a decent field to look after this week too, where Matthew Fitzpatrick will defend for the first time. He'll be joined by another Englishman who broke his duck last week, Tyrell Hatton, and it wouldn't be surprising to see another young Englishman prevail this week in a tournament that has been very kind to their compatriots over the years, and it may just signal a changing of the guard in English golf should the youth prevail once again. Andrew "Beef" Johnston, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Wood tee it up also and not to forget the more slightly older players such as Ross Fisher, David Horsey, Richard Bland, and Lee Westwood as well. Eddie Pepperell, James Morrison & Chris Paisley may want to get in on the act here too, but my final ten man shortlist only sees three.

The Course

Located in Hertfordshire, The Grove hosted the WGC Championship back in 2006 where Tiger Woods romped to victory. The scoring that time was low and there is little to suggest that the Kyle Phillips designed, 7100 yard, Par-71 shouldn't see a similar birdiefest this week where emphasis seems to be pointing to those with a strong GIR and scrambling game. Upside down saucer-like greens will need to be negotiated here. I admit to not knowing much about the course, but looking at various photos and layouts, it does somewhat remind me of the Montgomerie Couse at Carton House but perhaps without the lightening greens and as many bunkers.

The Shortlist & Selections

From my ten-man shortlist this week, four players are currently ranked within the TOP20 for GIR on the 2016 European Tour. These are Thomas Aiken, Ross Fisher, Andrew Johnston and Benjamin Hebert. The winner could be anyone this week and the bookies have a bunch of players in around the same price this week, so its not easy finding the real value here especially as most of the players will tee it up here for the first time. I backed Ross in Munich three weeks only to see him beaten by Alexander Levy in a playoff and he backed that solid showing up with another runners up placing last week. A Londoner too, Ross might just get his reward for his recent form here but @ 20/1 he is a bit short. Or is he if we compare to the leading contenders? Two players on the shortlist that in my opinion represent some value are Thomas Aiken and Beef Johnston. The Englishman has been in the headlines a lot lately but is performing well alongside the razzmatazz and having secured a PGA Tour card for next season, he can add to his Open de Espana title that he won at Valderrama earlier this year by etching his name alongside many of of his fellow compatriots here. 

Thomas Aiken, last showed up on the European Tour at Himmerland in Denmark where he produced a T15 finish. He arrives here for just his 6th counting event of the season having finished T4th at the BMW PGA Championship, 13th at The Nedbank and 18th at The Alfred Dunhill Championship back in 2015. His form at Wentworth is solid having posted 3 TOP10s in his 7 visits, so perhaps he likes the courses in this part of the world that reward good approach play. Aiken though is always a risky bet, but form on the PGA Tour was OK-ish finishing 166th in the Fedex Cup making 12/25 and 3 TOP25s, before just missing out on a card through the tour playoffs. He is short of the required tournaments quota to qualify for a Europeantour card for next year but will satisfy that requirement by teeing it up here. The South African is very reliable tee to green and really should have won a lot more in his career to date. He has three European Tour titles to his name though. He is value @ 80.00 to win here and worth a bet in the TOP20 market @ 4.00
I'll settle on just the two picks from this week's shortlist

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0.50 pts win T.Aiken @ 80.00
3.00 pts TOP20 T.Aiken @ 4.00
1.25 pts e/w A. Johnston @ 34.00

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - St Andrews, Kingsbarns & Carnoustie

From the hype and tension of a Ryder Cup one week, to the relaxed and often regarded as the most loved, yet one of the most lucrative tournaments on the Tour the next, The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship takes place this week in East Scotland on three courses as a PRO-AM. The cut will come after round three with everyone having played each of the courses once, before playing St. Andrews on Sunday. Playing with amateurs, the courses will be set up fairly easy so if the weather behaves, we can expect some decent scoring. Its not everyone's cup of tea though; some players feel very relaxed in the company of celebrities and businessmen, other's don't. Same goes for us spectators; I won't be watching Bill Murray tripping over himself again this year or Niall Horan "promoting" the game to the hoards of screaming teenage girls either! Given the length of time it will take for the groups to play their rounds, I won't be checking the bloody awful European Tour app either too often. I'll tune in Sunday and hopefully I will still have an interest, bet-wise!

The Courses

We have three links courses this week being played in October in Scotland. These are St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. We immediately start looking at our Irish & British contingent don't we? We should also consider past winners, especially those that have won here from totally out of the blue and who can't forget Oliver Wilson's victory here two years ago! Given that the tournament contenders will play St Andrews twice, its worth looking at results here and at The Open last year. The Scottish Open played at Castle Stuart should also provide some clues. Of the three courses, Kingsbarns represents the best scoring opportunity with Carnoustie the more difficult. Branden Grace shot 60 at Kingsbarns in his opening round here in 2012 and went onto win the title. Pending weather, it might turn out to be advantageous to play it first provided a solid opening score is produced. Playing St Andrews third provides a back to back opportunity but all in all it should all balance out. Five plus hours playing alongside "colourful" characters will require patience so I don't expect the likes of Victor Dubuisson to prevail here.

My Shortlist

I had reduced the field down to 19 players this morning before chopping it further to settle on 10. I mention this as Richie Ramsay & Soren Kjeldsen as well as the aforementioned, Branden Grace, Ross Fisher who went close for the blog in Germany LTO, along with Paul Dunne, Thorbjorn Olesen, Renato Paratore, Oliver Fisher and Ben Evans and Bradley Dredge were the ones culled and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them did indeed win. I may even get involved in-play with Ben Evans should I check the leaderboard at some point !

Martin Kaymer came in for a lot of stick at Hazeltine for his poor performance so he'll be anxious to put that right very soon. He has form here having won in 2010 and has a further 3 TOP20s in his other 7 starts. But he can't be trusted at the moment so instead I have to consider Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood who both have solid form for this event. Indeed the Englishman has impressive results to show from his 5 visits: 13-2-5-55-5 and he certainly arrives in much better form this time than in previous editions. Lowry will tee it up here motivated to make the Ryder Cup team in Paris in two years time and whilst qualification for it doesn't start this week, he'll want to end the year on a high especially having coming so close to winning the US Open back in June. Three TOP20 finishes here the past 3 years augurs well, even more so that he was practicing last week at Tralee Golf Club, a tough links course on the Atlantic Coast. But its Graeme McDowell I want to get onside with this week for pretty much the same reasons as mentioned for Shano. He tweeted on Sunday how "cheesed off" he was to be sat on his couch watching the Ryder Cup. 2016 wasn't a bad year for Gmac although he lost his putting form during the summer. If he has found his touch again he can prevail here on courses that suit him greatly. TOP20 finish last year came after a 3 year spell away, and he yielded a 3-17-26 the previous 3 years before that again. His personality is perfect for pro-ams, and he will revel the conditions. 66/1 is more than big this week.

Jamie Donaldson has been out of form for quite awhile on the back of injury but recent results maybe suggest a good week is not far away. He did miss the cut in his last two events (European & Italian Open- both weather affected events). The Welshman has 3 TOP20s from his last 7 visits to the Dunhill(2 TOP10s) and is a former winner of the Irish Open at a Royal Portrush back in 2012. Another who would have watched events at Hazeltine with mixed emotions, Donaldson can do a "Wilson" here and surprise. He seems to produce his best results at this time of the year too. 150/1 is worth a play here to keep that Autumn form going in the outright market as well as the 6/1 on offer for TOP20.

Finally, Peter Hanson makes the staking plan this week and hopefully he will have more to celebrate than his 39th birthday (4th October) come Sunday. Just the 1 TOP10 so far this season and 5 TOP20s from his 16 starts may not seem encouraging but 2 of those TOP20s came in his last 3 starts. From his 11 starts here, he has missed the cut just once, yielding 5 TOP20s. Fair to say he likes this event. The tournament has thrown up triple figure priced winners many times in the past and as with Oli Wilson, has seen a player hit form out of the blue. Hanson is a quality player who is steadily starting to produce some scores and he could be an ideal back-to-lay play here this week. He makes a TOP20 play for sure @ 6.00


0.50 pts win G. McDowell @ 67.00
0.25 pts win J.Donaldson @ 180.00
0.25 pts win P. Hanson @ 160.00

2.00 pts TOP10 G.McDowell @ 6.00
2.00 pts TOP20 J. Donaldson @ 7.00
2.00 pts TOP20 P. Hanson @ 6.00