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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Tshwane Open 2017 - Pretoria CC

Following torrential rain last week in Johannesburg where the Sunshine Tour & Europeantour decided not to go to a Monday finish, action heads west for the Tshwane Open to be played at the exclusive Pretoria CC. I wonder if there wasn't a WGC event on this week, would the ruling bodies have gone to a Monday finish last week ? Weather forecast is much better this week and it looks like we will get 4 rounds in. The Tshwane Open has been cursed with bad weather in the past!

It was a frustrating week for us last week as our TOP10 bet, Dylan Fritelli hovered around the 10th placing all week before settling for a T16th just 2 shots back. Graeme Storm never got going and needed a low one to finish higher than his result of T38 and grab some T20 money, but it was an event to forget about. Over on the PGA Tour, both selections threatened to deliver tidy profit. Seán O'Hair did finish TOP20 and Jason Dufner double-bogeyed his 71st hole to shut the door on a TOP10 payout.

We go again

The Course


Pretoria CC is an old course and short at just 6800 yds over a par of 70. Its the home course to market leader, George Coetzee who won here two years ago with a score of 266 (-14). He needed a closing 65 to see of Jacques Blaauw by a shot who closed with a 61. However, they were both a few shots ahead of the rest of the field and so was Charl Schwartzel when he romped to a 8 shot victory twelve months ago with a score of 264. It's worth noting that just 20 players bettered par last year. Judging by twitter feeds during the week from the players practicing we must take note of the rough in play, putting emphasis on accuracy this week. David Horsey reckons though if it dries out it will be ok! With accuracy a premium, it should mean Thomas Aiken makes the shortlist, but its time to leave the Joburger off the shortlist for the foreseeable future as he just doesn't seem to perform when the opportunity for him to do so manifests itself.  In my opinion, George Coetzee, who is no stranger to the course having been brought up playing on the course, will be the man to beat this week.

For a flyover of Pretoria CC, have a look at this video here (might be an idea to watch with sound off 😉)



Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Honda Classic 2017 - PGA National, Florida

PGA Tour action moves across to the East Coast this week and to the very difficult par-70, PGA National GC at Palm Beach Gardens. The "West Coast Swing" saw in-form players and therefore market leaders, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson conquer the respective fields. Having spend the past couple of weeks on poa annua greens, some players will be delighted to see bentgrass greens in play. But its the wind factor and course difficulty that should be factored into the staking plan here. Solid ball strikers do well here as too do Major Champions ! Adam Scott will defend. The Aussie warmed up nicely without really contending last week (who did as DJ romped away with it at Riviera?) and is par or better for his last 8 rounds here. Emphasis should be on accuracy for both off the tee and GIR. Patience will be key as the winning score is likely to be in around 270 (-10)

I was keen to get on Rickie Fowler for this but I can't at the price (18/1). Strong wind player, Rickie is in decent form and this could be a big year for the tours leading "bogey avoidance" player.


Joburg Open 2017 - Royal Johannesburg and Kensington GC

Europeantour action returns to Johannesburg this week for the 200+ field contending the Joburg Open to be played once again at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC over two courses, the easier West course, which  played almost 2 shots lower than the other course, the East course last year. The East will be in play for three rounds though with each player having played both on days one & two before the cut is made.The RJ&K requires accuracy, and strong GIR stats have been to the fore on leaderboards in recent years. As per the norm in these co-sanctioned events in South Africa, the home based players have a solid record but it's also worth noting that quite a few first time winners have gone in here. With such a huge field its hard to get excited about any of the market leaders considering price, but there really isn't much standout quality in this field, and you would expect one of the leading half dozen players in the market to see it out. But with a lot of thunderstorms forecasted for the week, it could get messy and the draw may play its part again, and those out on Thursday morning on the easier West Course might just get lucky.

Some players arrive here from Perth having also played in Malaysia the week before and indeed some also played in the Middle East- I expect these to be tired and should the tournament become a stop/start affair, these players shouldn't really be in contention - that's my thinking anyway. These players include Jordan Smith, Thomas Detry, Ryan Fox and Nathan Kimsey.

The Courses:


Both courses feature the kikuyu grass on its fairways and rough, which were a feature at Riviera last week in Los Angeles. The greens are poa annua. As with last week's PGA Tour event not all players will be au fait with kikuyu again bringing the home contingent into the reckoning. The golf club is on a hill at altitude, so wind will be a factor and with the weather forecasted that wind will be a real factor this week.

Shortlist and Selections:


Ireland's Paul Dunne produced a TOP10 on his debut twelve months ago and England's Anthony Wall seems to like here too with three TOP10s in his last three visits. Both are in decent form of late and made my shortlist. David Drysdale has two TOP3 finishes here as well as two TOP15s but missed the cut the last two years. However, he was 7th at the recent South African Open and was 11th at the Alfred Dunhill Championships on his recent trips to South Africa. Paul Waring, Ross McGowan and David Howell have banked course form here but the rest of the form sits strongly with the home players. One such player is a player that I've backed a few times for this and that's local boy, Thomas Aiken and this is a tournament that he would dearly love to win.


Graeme Storm held off Rory McIlroy to win the South African Open last month and he was 4th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on his previous visit to SA in December at Leopard Creek. The win here last month was huge for the Englishman and he'll look forward to a revisit to this part of the world this week and having rested, he should be fresh and chopping at the bit. He's overpriced in my opinion in the outright (67.00) as well as the TOP20 (4.00) Whether he can follow up with another win so quickly having taken ten years in between the French Open in 2007 and last month's victory remains to be seen but confidence in this game is like an extra club at times.

Thomas Aiken is in solid form of late, will be at home this week and knows the RJ&K course better than anyone. I'm happy to see the 23.00 about for his chances this week. He didn't play last year as he sought a season on the PGA Tour but previous five years' results read 10-5-6-24-3. Recent form is very strong ; 6/5 this season with 4 TOP20s of which 3 are TOP5's ! Ranked number one for GIR, this week represents probably his best chance to prevail at his home Joburg Open.

Given first time winners have prevailed here a number of times, Dylan Frittelli has to be included. 9 TOP10s on the Challenge Tour saw him win the coveted Rolex Trophy in 2016, and although results this season are patchy its worth noting his best results have come in his homeland. Another Joburger, Frittelli produced a TOP10 last week at the Sunshine Tour's Data Dimension Pro-AM having lost a play-off the week before at the Eye of Africa Championship. This home form cannot be ignored and the 55.00 outright represents a good price as does the 7.00 for TOP10.


The Asian players, Soomin Lee & Ashun Wu are a nice price this week and I wanted to get them on board and may do so if there is any drift today/tomorrow or indeed they get the draw I'm hoping for based on above. Paul Dunne and Chris Paisley were left out based on price alone but would not be surprised to see TOP20s from them both. Its Jacques Blaauw though that I may get involved with in-running as he has been in fine form in much better grades of late when finishing 6th on the web.com tour in Colombia two weeks ago.


Selections:

2.00 pts T. Aiken @ 23.00
0.50 pts D. Frittelli @ 55.00
0.50 pts G.Storm @ 67.00

2.50 pts TOP20 G.Storm @ 4.00
2.50 pts TOP10 D. Frittelli @ 7.00



Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Genesis Open - 2017

The PGA Tour boasts a stellar field this week as Riviera GC hosts the newly named, Genesis Open. Previously know as the Northern Trust Open and originally as The Los Angeles Open, the event was on Tiger Woods schedule until back spasms in Dubai forced his withdrawal. We will however, see 8 out of the TOP10 World Ranking players in attendance. "Hogan's Alley" as Riviera GC is affectionately known, will see Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia tee it up coming off wins last time out. Justin Thomas arrives having won twice is his last three starts. Past performances here suggest that players need to be inform to contend this week, and those with course experience should do better than others. Bubba Watson is a two time champion here with a further 4 TOP20s to his name, so clearly he likes the course. A case be made for many of the leading players and it will be hard to see an outsider prevail here given the form of the leading players right now. But we have seen "shock" winners here of late including James Hahn in 2015 and John Merrick back in 2013. Even Aaron Baddeley in 2011 was a triple figure price.

The Course


Riviera ranks as the 5th hardest course on the PGA Tour. A lot has been made of the grass type on the fairways here - kikuyu grass which is not widely seen on the Tour and is a grass type that suits South Africans and to some extent, Australians. Sangmoon Bae who finished TOP10 in 2015 remarked that the grass was to his liking as he was used to it in Japan & Korea. Those fairways can be uneven but they are narrow on a tree-lined setup and its crucial to find the right side of them to approach the greens. Small, hard to hold greens are a feature here and are considered lightening fast. On first glance the course seems to favour the bigger hitters and on recent result it does suggest that the bombers will contend but emphasis on accurate play is key too. Those with a sound short game this week will do well. It's a course that will test every department of the game and reiterates the requirement to be coming into the week with some form of which we have plenty to consider! Hogan's Alley is a ball strikers course and if the TV companies could somehow one day get down to showing some actual golf across the course we'd be treated to an exhibition this week. The 10th Hole is a clever hole, a real risk/reward hole that most players will drive or attempt to drive it. But can they hold it or better still give themselves a chance of a second shot should they miss too far left?

World Super 6 Perth - 2017

Karrinyup GC in Perth Australia hosts the inaugural "World Super 6 Perth" this week amidst a lot of eyebrow raising and a general dismissive public reaction. It's an innovative punt by The Europeantour to try and mix it up and why not? I for one am tired of the TV coverage offered by Sky Sports and this new format may just give us the viewer an opportunity to see more golfers and more golf! As with amateur golf, the idea of playing qualifying strokeplay before an event concludes with matchplay is not new. Playing over just 6 holes to create the excitement is and should it take off and be a success I can enviasge more of the top players coming on board. Its the "decider" played to the 18th green from a purpose built tee that may need tweaking but let's see how it unfolds this week. If luck is to play it's part it will happen on Sunday, the 24 qualifiers will have already played themselves into contention.

The Format


156 players will tee it up in threeballs on Thursday and play as normal for the first two days. All 156 players will as normal be looking to make the top65 cut and therefore play "the weekend". On Saturday these 65 & ties will continue to play as normal but try position themselves to sit within the top24 on the leaderboard at the conclusion of 54 holes. The TOP24 then will play on Sunday in a matchplay over 6 holes. Should we have more than 24 players at the Saturday conclusion, those players will playoff until the 24 are decided. The top8 receive a bye and so the remaining 16 enter the first round of matchplay. This first round of matches will leave 8 players to meet up with the top8 and 8 matches will head out to play another "Super 6" until we are left with a quarter-final lineup.If any match is tied after 6 holes then they playoff at the purpose built 18th. In theory the TOP8 players would need to win 4 matchplays whilst the other 16 would need to win 5 to take the title. It could be a winner for spectators and TV viewers and may also be an ideal trading event betting wise. 5 books as of Tuesday, 14th are offering 54 outright betting for those that prefer there run of the mill tournaments.Whatever the outcome it's different and the Europeantour need something new.....but playing it in Australia when most of the TV viewers in Europe will be sleeping and in the US, the PGA Tour will be live may not have been ideal. Asian reaction will be key to it's success.

The 6 holes will be as follows

1st Par 4 322yds 2nd Par 4 468yds 8th Par 3 220yds 11th Par 5 553yds 12th Par 3 148yds 18th Par 4 444yds


The Contenders


Its a very weak field for the inaugural event with Louis Oosthuizen & Alex Noren the class acts of the field. A decent start is required this week and there should be plenty of leaderboard watching from the players. I pity any player who leads by 6 after 54 holes this week.....it will be a bitter pill to swallow knowing he's back level with the field come Sunday as they all start anew. For me, Karrinyup will suit long straight hitters who can find the greens, and in matchplay, those getting in close first can put the pressure on. Do we side with players with strong GIR stats, those who can play in the wind or those that will put the pressure on the approach shots first? The new format gives everyone a chance here should they make it to Sunday but at only 24, I would tend to favour the likes of Noren & Oosty here to make it to Sunday. Their presence against the rest over 6 holes, makes them 1UP already in my book and Noren will have fond memories of the Paul Larwrie Matchplay last year where he made the final (albeit over 18). It could well be all buts and ifs this week so the staking plan is limited, after all we do have a mouth-watering affair in Los Angeles going on too.  From my shortlist though I'm gonna play Ben Evans and Ryan Fox as well as Gangajeet Bhullar to reach the quarter finals (top8 finish as opposed to the TOP8 qualifiers from strokeplay) @ 17.00


Staking Plan

0.25 pts win B.Evans @ 250.00
0.50 pts win R. Fox @ 36.00
1.00 pts TOP8 B.Evans @ 21.00
1.25 pts TOP8 R.Fox @ 6.00
1.00 pts TOP8 G.Bhullar @ 17

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Maybank Championship 2017

The Desert Swing concluded last week with some very disappointed players voicing their frustration with the way the 2nd round was halted but the organizers will have been delighted to see the high profile players in contention as Sergio Garcia saw off Henrik Stenson to take the title. It's long flights for those moving onto this week's event just outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia where the Maybank Championship will be held for the 2nd time following a successful event at The Selangor GC twelve months ago. Charl Schwartzel fights favouritism here with Rafa Cabrera Bello, with the latter in excellent form without winning.

The Course


Suajana GC has been used 7 times in the past for the Malaysia Open and also for the 2002 Eisenhower Trophy. Its worth noting that the defending champion this week, Marcus Fraser won the individual event at the Eisenhower here. The Course is not long, but it's tree lined, undulating and features smallish greens. Accuracy seems to be the key this week and it will be interesting to see if course enhancements since 2009 will make the scoring more difficult; birdies were abound in those 7 Malaysia Opens. Greens wont be running as fast as normal either so putting will be paramount this week and therefore those with strong GIR and Proximity to the Hole should feature come Sunday. As a co-sanctioned event in this part of the world, it can pay to side with those most familiar with the monsoon climate as well as course experience and Thongchai Jaidee who is a double winner at the course must be on the shortlist having won the Malaysia Open in 2004 and 2005 at Saujana GC. Another notable winner here at Saujana is Lee Westwood who does tend to perform in Asia, backed up by his win of the Malaysian Open in 2014.

Shortlist & Selections

The shortlist couldn't be reduced any further from the 14 that I listed as I once again thought about the TOP20 market more so than the outright. Bernd Wiesberger is very short in the betting @ 14/1 and wouldn't be a bet for me but I think he is the one to beat this week. Runner Up in Malaysia in 2014 & 2015, the Austrian's consistent play of late should see him do well here this week and it is his strong GIR stats that could be key to tackling Saujana and posting the score to beat. We know he can keep form, and we know that he can play in KL and adapt to weather conditions that it presents so he would be a key player to have on your weekly PlayOn Fantasy Team


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Dubai Desert Classic 2017

We have the final leg of the Desert Swing in Dubai this week but unfortunately we won't see Rory McIlroy playing alongside Tiger Woods due to his ongoing recovery from the rib injury sustained in Johannesburg a couple of weeks ago. Instead, Tiger Woods will tee it for the first two days with Masters Champion, Danny Willett and Matty Fitzpatrick. Henrik Stenson leads the betting and is a strong favourite one at that. He warmed in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago and arrives this week at a course where he has won previously and produced another 5 TOP10s in his other 10 starts. Throw in the expected wind for this week, Stenson looks to be the one to beat and I was sorely tempted to make him my only bet this week. That was after considering Martin Kaymer who I believe is getting very close to a win and was tempting @ 33/1 but he appears to have got the "bad draw".

Wind & The Draw


The draw hasn't suited Kaymer as he has an afternoon tee time on Thursday just as the winds are forecasted to pick up from the morning of 5km/hr to 25km/hr. If the forecast is accurate, he may be at a disadvantage. Friday afternoon's forecast is even worse and raises the possibility of being suspended at which time the Friday morning players may be on a score that the afternoon starters may find themselves too far back to contend. Indeed Friday may be a non-day pending severity of the winds.  It's a guess at this stage as to how the weather will play out but for the time being I have decided to leave him be. Favourite, Stenson, along with other leading contenders: McDowell, Pieters, Garcia, Hatton, Willett, Fitzpatrick and indeed Tiger Woods, have an early tee time Thursday starting at the 10th. It will be interesting to see the pace of play too and whether the morning starters really do blow away the chances of the afternoon brigade.


The Course

The Majlis course over the years has seen multiple Major winners prevail here but its also been a good hunting ground for wind exponents. Stephen Gallacher is a twice winner here and indeed was 2nd in 2012 prior to winning back to back in 2013 & 2014. He was 3rd then in 2015. Previous stats of recent winners shows that accuracy off the tee is not essential but GIR is, and with the expected wind to come it may be even more crucial as well as a good scrambling game. Those with a solid desert pedigree should do well here and if any player tells you in an interview later he wasn't aware of the leaderboard, he's telling fibs! Patience will be key this week and those that handle the conditions will rise to the top of the leaderboard. Let's hope for four rounds but be prepared for a 54 hole tournament.

Selections

I think Stenson will win and have mulled over for the past couple of days as to whether he will be my only bet. He's just a tad too short so instead I've taken a stab on overpriced Anirban Lahiri @ 110.00 in the outright market and 4.00 in the TOP20. India's Number 1 has slipped to 86 in the OWGR rankings but has been shown solid form already this season on the PGA Tour where he's 4/5 with 3 TOP25s to his credit, including a 3rd place finish at the CIMB Classic last October and a T13th at the RSM Classic one month later. He was T25th LTO at the Career Builder Challenge. If he's driven by success of fellow Asian players he'll be chomping at the bit to join Hideki Matsuyama and Jeunghun Wang in the winner's enclosure soon. He won twice in February 2015 at the Hero Indian Open and the Malaysian Open, so hopefully he can continue to shine this February again.

I'll complete my staking plan with three TOP20 selections in Jorge Campillo, Felipe Aguilar & Peter Uihlein.

The American is another that's overpriced and can resume his season having returned from wrist injury recently which saw him finish TOP10 at the South African Open last month. He has strong claims in the wind having won his sole Europeantour title at the Madeira Islands Open, not to mention having been beaten in playoff for the Dunhill Championship in 2013, where he shot a 60 at Kingsbarns. He won the US Amateur at Chambers Bay in 2010 also. He was 13th here two years ago and can hopefully get a solid start Thursday playing alongside another links exponent, Richie Ramsay and Aussie amateur, Curtis Luck, the current US Amateur Champion (Ramsay US Amateur Champion in 2006).

Jorge Campillo is in some consistent form of late with 3 TOP20s in his last 4 starts. Indeed he produced a TOP10 in Dubai last November. The 30 year old has been improving year on year and is now at 152 in the OWGR. He will make his 6th appearance at the Classic and he'll look to improve on a best finish of 23rd back in 2014. He was 21/28 last season which resulted in 12 TOP20s (42%) so at 6.00 for another here I thought was fair considering the Spaniard has shown form on wind affected courses in the past and he has an early tee time alongside George Coetzee & Felipe Aguilar.

It's Aguilar in the Campillo grouping that I am also interested in this week at a big 10.00 for a TOP20. The Chilean has gone off the scene for awhile but has been simmering of late and actually topped the GIR stats in Qatar last week. Has shown good form on links/wind affected courses in the past and was the first player eliminated from the 9 hole playoff at The Open de Espana back in 2013 played at El Salar. Has only 1 notable effort at The Majlis, a 3rd place finish in 2013 but is worth a chance at the price to build on some good iron play of late and grab a T20.


0.25 pts win A. Lahiri @ 110.00
2.75 pts TOP20 A. Lahiri @ 4.00
2.00 pts P. Uihlein TOP20 @ 4.50
2.00 pts J.Campillo TOP20 @ 6.00
1.00 pts TOP20 F.Aguilar @ 10.00