Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Nordea Masters 2017 - Barseback GC

Alex Noren heads home for this week's Nordea Masters at the Barseback GC in Sweden having swooped last Sunday with a 62 to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and in doing so complete his 5th victory inside 17 starts. He will tee it up hoping to win this title for the 3rd time, an event that has seen numerous multiple winners over the years, and if he is to complete the hat-trick he will do so on yet another different course than his previous victories. Winner in 2015 at the PGA National and in 2011 at Bro Hof, Noren's bid at Barseback will be the first bid of any player since the event was last played here in 2009 when formally known as the SAS Masters. His attempt back then is best forgotten as he missed the cut shooting 80 in round two. It's probably also worth noting that despite the hot form of late, Noren has struggled in all of his last 4 follow up tournaments following a win. I suspect that might change this week, being on home soil chasing the hat-trick.

Barseback Masters Course sits along the sea, although not a links course, the back nine can often resemble one. Results from 2009 and 2006 do suggest however, that those with solid links form will contend here. Accuracy is key in approaching the greens. On paper this does look like a Stenson v Noren contest but try as he might over the years, the Open Champion is yet to win this event. Barseback wasn't kind to him in the previous two hostings either so at short odds, I'm keen to look further down the field.

Bradley Dredge is a nice price this week @ 95.00 He's 5/7 events this season having missed the cut in both Shenzhen & Sicily with a patchy performance last week at Wentworth where he slipped own the leaderboard on Sunday with a closing 75. Barseback should be more his cup of tea though and if he finds the greens and brings his superb putting game, he could be a solid investment this week.

George Coetzee will tee it up on the 10th on Thursday morning alongside Bradley Dredge & Mikko Ilonen (former Nordea Masters winner). The South African @ 60.00 is well worth a punt this week. Following a return from injury last year, big George is now 7/12 this season with 5 of those being TOP20 but it's the 4 TOP10 returns that catches the eye despite a MC last week. He ranks inside the TOP50 for "Putting Average" and the course setup should suit here for his debut.

Finally I'm drawn towards both Alexander Bjork and Jeunghun Wang too. The Swede is in great form following graduation from the Challenge Tour. The 26 year old finished T-14th at Wentworth where his short game proved key. He's certainly in a progressive run of late and could be inspired in front of his home crowd this week or indeed in front of his investors from TradeinSports. I'll be investing in a good showing this week @ 110.00 outright as well as the 5.00 for a TOP20.

At a similar price, Wang is of interest this week despite being the complete opposite to Bjork in terms of recent form. However, he is the type of player to produce the goods any given week and he can add to his Europeantour title tally here to go with wind-affected courses demanding accuracy that he succeeded on in Mauritius, Morocco and Qatar. He's always overpriced and I like them here should he find his game.

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0.50 pts B.Dredge WIN @ 95.00
0.50 pts G. Coetzee WIN @ 60.00
0.25 pts A.Bjork WIN @ 110.00
0.25 pts J.Wang WIN @ 110.00

2.00 pts TOP20 B.Dredge @ 4.50
2.00 pts TOP10 G. Coetzee @ 6.00
2.00 pts TOP20 A.Bjork @ 5.00
2.00 pts TOP20 J.Wang @ 5.00

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

BMW PGA Championship 2017 - Wentworth

We roll on to the Europeantour's flagship event this week, the BMW PGA Championship, to be played at the yet again, re-vamped Wentworth. This will also mark the start of the inaugural Rolex Series and therefore carries a purse of $7M. Whether the efforts to get the design of Wentworth right to appease the tour's leading players is down to maintaining this as the so-called flagship event or not remains to be seen, but with a purse of this size we get a stellar field in attendance. Unfortunately, Rory McIlroy, winner here in 2014, will be missing in action as he recovers from the rib injury that flared up again at Sawgrass two weeks ago. Favourtism is therefore handed to Justin Rose ahead of good friend, Henrik Stenson.

Whilst there have been a few changes made to the course in the past twelve months, centred mainly around the greens and fairway bunkers, the course should still reward good ball strikers who find the fairways and greens moreover than those that like to bomb their way around. Down the years we have had some shock winners but in recent times it's fair to say the winners enclosure is becoming a who's who of European golf and I believe the future cream of European golf will prevail once more this week.

Justin Rose goes off favourite but it's hard to get excited about his chances where he last produced a result here worth talking about back in 2012 when runner-up to Luke Donald. Form at the course since hasn't been great, but Rose is a world player now and may just be the type to take on the Rolex Series but he's too short here this week for a bet. So is Stenson, who has struggled to find the form that took him to Open glory last year and he can be dismissed based on loss of form and price.Its the pack just in behind that has my attention and it's very difficult to ignore the chances of Francesco Molinari this week. Yes, we all know Franni doesn't get it done coming down the stretch on Sundays but surely one who keeps knocking on the door will prevail at some point ? The Italian has been very consistent for over 18 months now and Wentworth is a course, just like Sawgrass that he has formidable form on. Sixth at The Players two weeks ago suggest he's comfortable returning to favourite tracks and returning a decent result at this moment in time, and if we are to ignore last year's effort here, we can be excited by the form of 5-7-9-7 in the four years previously. He's been plying his trade namely on the PGA tour this year where he is 11/12 with 4 TOP10s/8 TOP20s. He doesn't usually come in to my outright staking plans but @ 21.00 I'm happy to get involved. Alex Noren & Benny An at slightly bigger prices (22/1 & 25/1) are very appealing but of the three I prefer to side with the Italian this week although An, winner here two years ago is not dismissed lightly.

I've always thought Martin Kaymer would love Wentworth and win here some day and perhaps he will but I will overlook him here in preference to the two English lads, Tommy Fleetwood and Matty Fitzpatrick @ 33/1 & 40/1 respectively. Both are the future of the European Tour and both have started to put their own stamp on big events and will not be here this week looking solely for a big cheque! Fleetwood will be looking forward to the Open at Birkdale this summer as a home event for him and he'll be wanting to take the form right through to July starting here this week in the tour's biggest event. Tee to green, he is ideal for Wentworth despite a mixed bag of results in his 5 visits to date (6th being his best result two years ago). 41st at Sawgrass last time out and beaten in a playoff to Bernd Wiesberger in Shezhen prior to that, Fleetwood arrives rested and in form. He's 5/8 on tour this season with a win (Abu Dhabi) and 4 TOP5s, including a runners up placing behind Dustin Johnson at the WGC in Mexico. Always a good scorer on par-5s, Fleetwood has real chance to add to his title collection this week.

Matt Fitzpatrick arrives with some question marks following poor results of late but there is still some juice in the 40/1 price here. Two missed cuts at Hilton Head and Sawgrass are hardly deterrents for a selecting him here though. A solid Masters performance again at Augusta shouldn't be ignored and indeed results at the aforementioned WGC in Mexico as well as the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill are more encouraging where he posted 13 & 16th finishes. His game is well suited to Wentworth and should the flatstick get hot this week he has a good a chance as anyone this week.

Shane Lowry has form here and indeed should have won in 2014 ahead of Rory. He was on my shortlist of 15 here but given his schedule yet again this year seems to have no real flow to it, perhaps due to new fatherhood duties,and the fact he arrives with little form to ride on, he's omitted from the staking plan. I am hoping Shane's schedule will be focused for the remainder of the year as I fully expect him to win before the year is out.

Staking Plan

1.5 pts e/w F. Molinari @ 21.00
1.5 pts e/w T. Fleetwood @ 34.00
1.5 pts e/w M.Fitzpatrick @ 41.00

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Rocco Forte Open - Verdura Sicily

A slightly "better" field than last week's affair in Portugal move onto Sicily this week for the new Rocco Forte Open to be played at the Kyle Phillips designed Verdura Golf Resort, which hosted the Sicilian Open back in 2012. A picturesque golf course overlooking the Mediterranean Sea has brought a lot of admiration from those attending this if going by all the social media awash with photos and general high praise of the resort. The resort boasts two courses, from which a composite 18 holes will make up this week's Championship course. With just one years course history to go on, we need to factor in what type of player Verdura is most likely to suit and identify if any players have the pedigree to match it or indeed possess form on a Kyle Phillips design.

This blog backed Nicolas Colsaerts to win here back in 2012; he finished 3rd and he immediately jumps off the page again this week @ 35/1. The Belgian has solid form on links courses for which this week's course shares similar traits. Throw in Hilvershume GC in Holland, a Kyle Phillips course that hosted the KLM Open from 2010 to 2012 where he produced two TOP10s to complement decent efforts at The Alfred Dunhill Championships where another Phillips designed course, Kingsbarns, features, then he's bound to be excited to be returning here. He spends quite a bit of time in Mauritius too and practices on windy coastal courses, so he should be comfortable this week despite a loss of form of late where he's just 4/8 events with best finish a 28th in Qatar (windy coastal course). 39th and 42nd in Shenzhen & Beijing last month is encouraging ahead of his return to Sicily this week.

I'm going "third time lucky" with James Morrison here having backed him twice in April in Morocco and Shezhen where he finished 13th & 29th respectively. On both occasions he sat prominently on the leaderboard through 36 holes before slipping back each weekend. It's easy to drop him based on a non-return but he too has shown some solid form on links/windy courses that can't be ignored. Whether he's actually value in the betting can be argued, but I am finding it hard to leave him out even @  22/1. He's 8/9 this season producing 5 TOP20s (2*T10s), arrives fresh and can continue solid recent form with another bold showing here.

1.50 pts e/w N. Colsaerts @ 36.00
1.50 pts e/w J. Morrison  @ 23.00

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Players Championship 2017 - TPC Sawgrass

Often dubbed the "5th Major", The Players Championship carries a huge purse that guarantees the cream of world golf will tee it up at TPC Sawgrass this week. It will also see the return to action of newly married, Rory McIlroy and the Masters Champion, Sergio Garcia. The TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Verdre, Florida has undergone some changes since last years event. The biggest change is the reseeding of the greens to a BermudaTifeagle type. They are forecasted to be running at 12.5 on the stimpmeter. The 12th hole has been significantly reduced in length to create a drive-able risk/reward hole. Over the years, the roll of honour suggests that no one particular key attribute can be assigned to a potential winner. The best of them though would be approach to the greens and scoring from there. Big hitters haven't appeared to have had an advantage. Rory's form suggests its a place he could and should win on it but he makes his debut this week as a married man and I'm not sure if he's fully prepared having been on honeymoon recently. Its certainly a good hunting ground for Sergio Garcia having won here back in 2008. He was runner-up in 2007 and 2015 and has produced T10s in 2014 & 2013 also. He'll be full of confidence here.

A tweet from World Gold ranking guru,"Nosferatu" (@VC606) highlighted the 10 players with the most World Ranking Points accumulated here the past 5 years and it was interesting to see 6 of those from my own shortlist on it. Sergio ranks in TOP5 despite not having won here in that 5 year period. Martin Kaymer, winner here in 2014 before going onto win at Pinehurst (his last win anywhere) is an interesting prospect this week. At best priced, 71.00 the German can end the drought here. He's been in decent form, gradually climbing the world rankings again and he's proven on Pete Dye designed courses and on windy ones as well. He's been getting close over the past twelve months to a return to the winners enclosure.

Russell Henley is a recent winner at The Houston Open and followed that up with a T15 at Augusta. His form at Sawgrass is not brilliant although he has a TOP20 in his four visits (2014). As good a putter as anyone on tour, Henley can improve on his recent form on a course that should suit him and if we get any wind those chances can only be enhanced. He's too big @ 81.00 anyway.

Patrick Cantlay has to be backed at the price but of course I could say this about a further 12-20 players in the field who represent value this week. Having returned to the tour this season, his results are encouraging. In his four starts this seasons he has finished no worse then 48th yet has two TOP5s to his name.He came up just a shot shy at the Valspar Championship in March and just two at the Pete Dye designed Harbour Town last month.He produced two T15s at the Junior Players Championship back in 2008 & 2009. At 25 years of age, the Californian has reached 131 in the world and has secured his card for the year. He could be about to fulfill his huge potential that was identified before his back injury and personal loss hit in 2016. He won't be a 125/1 shot for much longer and I'll happily have him on board here.

To complete my staking plan this week I've included TOP10 selections with Matt Kuchar, Matt Fitzpatrick and Sung Kang @ 5.75 , 11.00 and 15.00 respectively. The American is very consistent and has superb form here having won in 2012 and finishing 3rd last year. Matty Fitzpatrick missed the cut on debut last year and finished a lowly T43rd at The Junior Players Championship in 2011 but he's a different class these days and his deceptive,yet accurate long game, can help him here, not to mention his strong short game. The South Korea cannot be dismissed lightly any given week and he arrives here in brilliant form having finished runner-up at Houston, 6th at Valero Texas Open and 11th at The RBC Heritage. The 29 year old lies 29th in the FedEx Cup. A T25 at Riviera backed up a T15 at TPC Scottsdale. A final round 77 in his only appearance here back in 2012 saw him fall down the leaderboard and he'll be keen to do better this time round.


1.00 pts e/w M.Kaymer @ 71.00 (1-6)
1.00 pts e/w R. Henley @ 71.00 (1-6)
1.00 pts win P. Cantlay @ 126.00

1.00 pts T10 P. Cantlay @ 9.00
2.00 pts T10 M. Kuchar @ 5.75
2.00 pts T10 M.Fitzpatrick @ 11.00
2.00 pts T10 S.Kang @ 15.00