Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Arnold Palmer Invitational 2017 - Bay Hill

This years Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill is set to be a poignant occasion, as it will be the first one since the passing of "The King" last September. A strong field has assembled this week, despite some journos questioning the absences of some of the Worlds top players, including the new number one, Dustin Johnson. The API unfortunately is scheduled the week before WGC and just three weeks before The Masters. It comes hot off the back of the WGC in Mexico too so I believe it's unfair to criticize those that are not attending this year. I'm sure there isn't a golfer out there, professional, amateur or fan who doesn't hold the greatest respect for Arnold Palmer and hopefully those at the Windermere course in Florida this week can mark the career of the man who was largely responsible for the professional game make-up that we have today. It will be an emotional week for his grandson, Sam Saunders who will play alongside Rory McIlroy and Brandt Snedeker. Rory heads the betting here ahead of course specialist, Henrik Stenson.

The Course

Bay Hill has undergone some changes recently meaning that the greens are becoming more Augusta-esque with run off areas designed to penalize those missing their targets. This was complemented by removing rough areas around the hazards and bunkers, often bail out areas. The rough is reported to be quite severe too but scoring should remain quite low. The scoring should be done on the par-5s this week. A cold putter will leave you trailing.

Shortlist & Selections

Tough week to reduce the field down to an average 10-man shortlist so I posted my 22 list on Monday with some players I was keen to check on, highlighted. Seán O'Hair was in my thoughts for this week but we withdrew last week at Copperhead with a neck injury. He plays though so perhaps it's not too bad. Was 2nd to Tiger Woods back in 2009, twelve months after finishing 3rd behind Tiger in 2008. He should have won in 2009 having taken a 5 shot lead into Sunday and was pipped by a birdie at the last from Woods. Recent form is solid if ignoring last week as he's posted 4 TOP15s in his last 7. He's worth a play here despite injury concerns given his previous course form and obvious recent form - the early departure last week gives him more time to be ready this week.

Zach Johnson may not be a name you'd associate with "par-5 scoring requirement" but it's very difficult to ignore his course form here and if a short game around the games is required, the double Major Champion has the game to contend yet again. 5th last year on the back of a TOP10 in 2015, Zach was also 3rd back in 2009 here. He's been quiet of late despite 6th at The Sony Open and T12th at The Phoenix Open, so a man of his character could rise to the occasion that represents itself this week in celebration of the great Arnold Palmer. 67.00 outright is value for me but the T10 & T20 markets reflect his obvious chances and represent no value. He will have to be an outright (or e/w) bet or back-to-lay bet.

I like to get players who are coming in with solid recent form and there's a few doing so this week. Namely, Wesley Bryan who can't seem to miss the frame at the moment. He's finished 4-4-7 in last 3 events to really find his game. How he fares at Bay Hill remains to be seen but his price is about right this week @ 60.00 The Europeans though are arriving with excellent form in the shapes of Tyrell Hatton,Thomas Pieters, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Matty Fitzpatrick and of course Henrik Stenson & Rory McIlroy. The Olympic Champion is a win bet for me here as he too seems at ease at this course with 4 TOP10s in his 8 visits. Rose was my Masters ante-post bet last month @ 33/1 and I'm anxious to see him warm up here with three weeks to go. He plays alongside his buddy, Henrik Stenson the first two days which is a huge positive for me. They should rub off each other, and put themselves in the mix for the weekend ahead.

 Another European and an old favourite of mine is simmering of late, indeed for some time now. He last played here in 2008 when missing the cut but he's a much more accomplished player these days. Martin Kaymer is a double Major Champion on US soil, has won The Players and excels in the big events.He'll play alongside Jason Day, the defending champion and Bubba Watson. The German will be encouraged by his TOP5 at PGA National on greens similar to Bay Hill. Looking at his results the past twelve months we can be encouraged by his performances on the tougher courses such as Valderrama, the K Club, le Golf National,Wentworth, Baltusrol, to mention a few. Kaymer is due another big one and is the type of player that can click any given week- preferably one when he's 85.00 !!

Lastly, I'm playing the TOP20 market with Chad Campbell @ 7.50 The 4-time PGA winner has shown positive signs of return to form of late having posted a TOP15 last week on the back of T6th at The Career Builder in January. Its been a struggle the past 5 years for the Texan, but he did produce a TOP20 here twelve months ago. He ranks 14th on tour presently for par-5 scoring, will be encouraged by his performance at La Quinta and can put in another solid week at a course he knows well having won here way back in 2004.

Staking Plan

2.00 pts WIN J.Rose @ 21.00
0.50 pts E/W Z.Johnson @ 61.00 (6 places)
0.25 pts WIN S. O'Hair @ 151.00
0.75 pts WIN M. Kaymer @ 85.00

1.50 pts TOP10 M.Kaymer @ 6.00
1.50 pts TOP20 S. O'Hair @ 5.50
3.00 pts TOP20 C.Campbell @ 7.50

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Valspar Championship 2017 - Copperhead, Innsbrook

It's a short journey across the Gulf of Mexico for the PGA Tour this week where the Valspar Championship will be held on one of the tour's toughest courses. Its a week where par is good and for those that can stay patient and bank the birdies when they come and post a score in a round -10, an exciting Sunday finish at "The Snake Pit" awaits. Justin Thomas leads the market from Henrik Stenson. This tournament has seen many Major winners prevail here such is the difficulty of the course.

The Course

Copperhead underwent some renovations before last years event in particular the greens, which by reports were much slower then usual. They are expected to be fast again this time round. The course repeatedly ranks in the TOP5 for difficulty in terms of putting as well as GIR. Players need to be striking it well and accurate to compete. on this par-71 layout we still have 4 Par-4s, but 5 Par-3s. These short holes rank as one of the toughest par-3 scoring courses the players will play on tour. Throw in a bit of wind around the gulf, and we have another competitive event where the favourites can be taken on although Stenson is the man to beat for me here.


I put up Jason Dufner for the Honda Classic a couple of weeks back where he finished T14th. He finished well in Mexico too last week suggesting his game is in good shape and so @ 51.00 he's worth having onside again. He tees it up for the tenth consecutive year here and has finished no worse than 28th in 2011, 2010. "The Duf" has shown in the past that his best performances come at these type of events, where he's a winner of the PGA Championship in 2013 at Oak Hill CC, a winner at New Orleans as well as the Byron Nelson. Dufner has also contested well at Colonial not to mention 4 TOP20s at the last 4 US Opens of which 2 were TOP5s. He revels tough conditions "

Ryan Moore @ 25s could be right but I wanted a bit more for someone who hasn't won as often as he should have. He should contend this week on a track he clearly likes having finished 3rd & 5th the last two years. Instead, I'll opt for Webb Simpson @ 61.00 e/w with Paddypower who will pay out 1/5 odds up to 7 places this week. Simpson has started to show signs of late that his game is getting back to where it was when winning the US Open in 2012 and although his last victory came in 2013, course such as Copperhead are ideal for him. He did however miss the cut on his last two visits but form prior was good showing 17-10-2-13. He recently missed out on victory at the Phoenix Open losing in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama and is value in this field on this course this week.

Staking Plan

1.00 pt win J.Dufner @ 51.00
0.50 pt win W.Simpson @ 61.00

0.50 pts e/w W.Simpson @ 61.00 (7 places)
2.50 pts TOP20 J.Dufner @ 3.25

Hero Indian Open 2017 - DLF Country Club

Yet another new course for us to take in this week, this time on the Europeantour as the players head to India. From onsite comments this week from players, caddies and journalists, it seems we could be in for a treat with tight scoring predicted. Following on from Mexico last week, golf tournaments are finally beginning to challenge the players all-round game, and we'll see the same this week on the PGA Tour as players head to Innsbrook for the Valspar Championship, one of the toughest courses on tour. Here in India, we have what appears to be a huge change in course type from the Delhi GC used in recent years.

The Course

DLF CC is a Gary Player Design course which opened in 2015. It forms part of the resort where The Palmer course has been used for the Avantha Masters in the past. This is a long course with multiple tee boxes available to shorten or lengthen the holes each day if needed. The 5th hole, a par-3, resembles Sawgrass' 17th island green but it's the closing 4-5 holes where the fun could be. Two 600yd+ par 5s on 15 & 18 are no respite for a par-3, 275 yd 16th. Reports of the actual length being in play this week are varied between 7,300 - 7,600 yds but it can be assumed that this a course where driving will be key. So too will approach play as the fairways can be quite undulating and many of the greens are big, sloping and fast. Players have predicted the winning score to be in around -10.

Shortlists and Selections

With no previous form to go on, it might have been obvious to stick with the market leaders here as the field strength is quite weak. Anirban Lahiri heads the betting having won his home Open two years ago and finishing runner up to SSP Chawrasia twelve months ago. Indeed, Lahiri has been playing in stronger fields of late and on paper it suggests that this week's tourney is between him and Rafael Cabrera Bello, who surely must win soon? I was initially keen on Peter Uihlein's chances this week but not so keen now at 16s. Kiradech Aphibarnrat should be suited to this course but swing changes of late and a dip in confidence make siding with the Thai, risky. But he can compete in the bigger fields and may just fancy his chances this week if taking to the course. At 25s though, the price is just about fair. Scott Hend though is an interesting runner! One of the biggest hitters on tour, the Aussie seems to produce his best results in the Asian Tour events and if the bigger hitters are to contend at DLF, Hend is sure to be up there. He would make my DFS lineups at Playon.

My first pick is Stephen Gallacher @ 65.00 The Scot has endured a bit of a slump since his Ryder Cup debut three years ago but has started the year in decent form. Maybe that's to be expected as he always produces his best results in the Desert Swing where he made TOP10 in Dubai once again in January although he missed the cut in both Abu Dhabi & Qatar. But form prior to this is encouraging also ; 10th at The Australian PGA and 25th in Hong Kong. He ended the 2016 season with two TOP15 finishes at the British and Portugal Masters. He arrives fresh here this week having not traveled to South Africa and Perth recently. Not a prolific winner on tour but who is in this field? Perhaps Jordan Smith and Roman Langasque will in their time and its exciting times for Phacara Kangwatmai who showed his ability in Perth at the Super6. But for this week, I can't ignore the possible course suitability for the Scotsman and he could be inspired to win again having witnessed his good friend, Paul Lawrie do just that in South Africa only last month.

I will conclude the staking plan this week with the home favourite Anirban Lahiri @ 9.00 Having backed the Indian in Dubai and Malaysia, it could be a case of third time lucky. From interviews on Europeantour, Lahiri has indicated that solid ball striking is a requirement of which he excels at. He's shown in previous events that the added pressure being the home player doesn't affect him and he can make his trip home a profitable one.

I was tempted by a TOP20 bet on Jyoti Randhawa this week who has a fantastic record in his home Open. Although now divorced, he will be joined by his brother-in-law in the field, Digvijay Singh, and he could be worth a play in that market.


3.00 pts win A. Lahiri @ 9.00
0.50 pts win S. Gallacher @ 65.00
2.50 pts TOP20 S.Gallacher @ 3.25