Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Andalucia Masters 2017 - Valderrama GC, Spain

After an absence of 6 years, the Andalucia Masters makes it's way back on to the European Tour this week to be played at the very challenging Valderrama GC. The Tournament was last played here in 2010 & 2011. It disappeared from the tour very abruptly when it was announced just 4 weeks prior to the scheduled 2012 event that it was being pulled. The course famously hosted the Ryder Cup in 1997, the American Express Championship in 1999 and 2000 as well as the Volvo Masters from 1988 to 2008 with a brief 5 year break when it was played at the Montecastillo GC between 1997-2001. From an Irishman's perspective, its been a good part of the world for Irish golfers where Ronan Raftery, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell have all won the Andalucia Masters or Volvo Masters. Spanish Open titles have also gone the way of Pádraig Harrington, Peter Lawrie, Eamon D'arcy and Eddie Pollard. Five former US Masters winners have won this event and Tiger Woods & Mike Weir wins at those American Express Championships pushes the number to 7!

Valderrama sorts out the men from the boys, and those who like to spray it off the tee may as well not bother this week. A good accuracy tee to green is required here and the small tricky greens will require a week with a solid approach game and for me, those that possess strong driving accuracy and approach stats, are the ones to get onside this week. This already questions the market leader's ability to win here. Jon Rahm may well contend but at 5/1 he really is too short but we must consider the price against the ability of the field. Course specialist, Sergio Garcia has a tremendous record here and he'll be keen to keep that record going but with new clubs in the bag and extra attention back home as a newly married man and a chisler on the way, I'm expecting too much attention being afforded by the locals to Sergio here this week. They are the men to beat for sure and in a field that is relatively weak for a course of such stature, hosting, it's an event I dont want to get too involved in.

Shane Lowry did not make my shortlist on Monday purely on price but as alluded to in last week's post, I'm at odds to start rejecting players purely based on my ill-perceived "value". Lowry has been in solid form of late and his ball striking is ideal for Valderrma, as his results in the past prove having finished 4th in 2011 and 18th in 2010. He's a best price 16/1 (I made him 20/1) so I'm gonna wait and see does he drift in the morning to the 20.00+ mark given he's out early. I backed Graeme McDowell when he won here in 2010 @ 15/1, with 2010 being a strong year for this blog, so perhaps the Irish affiliation at around the same price may just be what I need to consider.(not reason for backing him of course!)
Martin Kaymer is on record saying he loves Valderrama GC and having backed him a couple of weeks ago I wouldn't be surprised to see his drought end here this week. Like Lowry though, I'll wait for the off and see if his price drifts tomorrow afternoon on the back of high morning scores. He plays alongside Harrington & Rahm. Lowry plays alongside Garcia, so the preference before the off is the Irishman.
(Results page will be updated tomorrow with these selections if made)

England's Chris Hanson has been quite solid this season with 6 TOP20s from his 27 starts. His strong accuracy game will serve him well here, sitting in the TOP10 on tour for both DA & GIR.  At 125.00 he could be worth chancing but I'm keeping away here this week. I'm not enamoured by his TOP10/TOP20 odds @ 8.00 & 4.00 respectively either. I've spent a bit longer than usual this week going through the shortlist and the rest of the field and I have no confidence in any upset here.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Italian Open 2017 - GC Milano

The season continues to be a frustrating one for the blog but I'm determined to end the year with a positive result. I liked Hatton's chances for last week, but he didn't make my shortlist. Reason being I didn't think there was value there. I spent a bit of time reviewing my selections over the course of the year and continued my review by looking at selections that performed in better seasons. Without coming to a decisive conclusion however, I did conclude that I am spending too much time analyzing price each week. Golf betting is different than a 8 or 12 horse race, or a two sided football or tennis match, and the tournaments will generally have 156 players teeing it up each week and whilst we can safely say that 50% of the field wont win, we can have a lot more possibilities than any other sport. Can we hone in on the "TOP30 probables" each week and find the winner, perhaps we can but can we back them all ? I'll often do my tissue and find 30+ players showing what I perceive is value, settle on say 15, then select 3-5 for final staking plan and leave the winners out. The TOP20 market is a market I want to focus on, but the fun in golf betting is backing the 50/1 shot or better still the 100/1+ winner. Having analyzed my results from 2009- 2011, I could tell from my notes, that my picks were based on players who I believed would be in form for that event, with little emphasis on the value of those selections. I'm not suggesting we start doing a Jeremy Chapman and backing the market leaders, (in fairness, we can't knock that approach either as those that do go by that approach seem to be ahead this season), but I'm changing my thought process and redoing my shortlist approach going forward. This weekly blog will return to focusing on getting results without getting too caught up on the reasons why the selections are made. Well,what I mean is, I wont be spending as much time writing the previews trying to convince myself and followers why I think such and such a player is a bet.

We have a decent field gathering this week in Milan for a Rolex Series event. The Italian Open had a decent field last year when players were getting together in advance of the Ryder Cup, but the money on offer this year ensures we have plenty of top contenders teeing it up. Jon Rahm, winner of the Irish Open at Portstewart during the summer tees it up here and starts favourite. He's too short, enough said! Frani Molinari is worth a second look at 17.00, but for me, Matty Fitzpatrick is the one I want to be on board with here. He was 3rd on debut two years ago and followed up with a 16th last year. A recent winner too at The European Masters, Fitzpatrick has found form with two T-15s at the British Masters & Dunhill Links. Golf Club Milano is an old course dating back to 1928 and can be considered a "traditional/technical" course where the fairways will be tree-lined emphasizing accuracy from tee to green although last years statistics indicated that the approach shot was the key factor rather than finding the fairways. It's a course suited to his game and @ 26.00 he's a bet for me.

I do think Tommy Fleetwood will go well this week following a return to action last week but I backed him here last year @ 75.00 (T-10 @ 7.00, where he duly obliged) and I can't bring myself to do so at 23.00 here especially with the Fitzpatrick price. I did price him a lot lower last week but it was in part due to the format and courses, I can't back him at this price this week. (Lets see if the new approach is flawed already). Instead I'll get onside with Joost Luiten @ 90.00. The Dutchman has two TOP5s in his last 4 visits to the Italian Open albeit at different courses (Circolo Golf Torino & Royal Park Roveri) but he's finding form of late and can raise his game for an event of this stature this week. He can do so on the back of solid GIR stats last week and perhaps clinch his third TOP5 if not a win on a third course.

I can't leave Darren Fichardt out here. But for that snowman in Newcastle, he would have yielded a big return for the blog that week, and he played well enough last week to suggest he is continuing solid form. He may not go on to win but @ 250.00 he's worth a quid or two, but @ 9.00 for that TOP20 I want to go again in the hope that he makes it 4 in a row having finished inside the TOP20 the past 3 years in Italy.

Finally, Romain Wattel is included to follow up on his maiden win in Holland and his T-15 last week in Scotland. He has form in Italy too, having posted 38-10 here in Milan the past two years as well as 11-8 the previous two years again. At 100.00 he's worth a shot in the e/w markets.

Selections (10 pts)

2.00 pts win M. Fitzpatrick @ 26.00
0.50 pts e/w J. Luiten @ 90.00
0.25 pts win D. Fichardt @ 250.00
0.25 pts e/w R. Wattel @ 100.00

6.25 pts TOP20 D. Fichardt @ 9.00

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Dunhill Links 2017 - Carnoustie, Kingsbarns & St Andrews

Ireland's Paul Dunne made it a hat-trick of first time winners on the European Tour last Sunday when winning the British Masters fending off the weekend charge of Rory McIlroy.  Romain Wattel and Lucas Bjeergaard got their maiden wins in the previous two weeks and the list of first time winners for the season also includes Sam Brazel, Renato Paratore, Adrian Otaegui, Jason Norris. Former Challenge Tour winners also broke through this season to win for the first time on the Europeantour including Jordan Smith, Julian Suri, Matt Wallace and Dylan Frittelli bringing the overall first time winners to 11! Excluding the Majors & WGCs, thats a 31% return for the season. It's also worth noting their age group and it'll be quite interesting to see how they and that age group fare this week in Scotland in an event that has been kind to the more experienced players.

It was a frustrating result for the blog in Newcastle on Sunday,as the main bet, Darren Fichardt T-20 market, failed by a shot when he finished in a tie for 26th, with the damage coming at one hole on Saturday as the South African somehow took 8 on the par-3 5th !

We go again this week for the Pro-AM format where a list of previous winners tells us we should be focusing on top class links players and maybe the more experienced who can break the sequence of maiden winners on the tour.

The Shortlist contains those who I think can go close to a win and/or indeed a TOP20. Thanks to that charging weekend scoring of Rory McIlroy, we've no doubt got some decent prices available with Rory shortening at the head of the market. Tommy Fleetwood returns to action having become a father last week, his form here and indeed in Scotland can't be ignored and if he's on a high with the "nappy factor" he'll be the man to beat this week.He went off the boil last month but perhaps the impending fatherhood was on his mind. He returns to action at an event and courses that he loves and will be in a relaxed mood. The pro-am format could just be the ideal event for his return too and the early show of 26.00 is tempting as too is the 26.00 on offer for former winner Branden Grace who could be smarting after being on the wrong end of the President's Cup in New York where he left with a contribution of 2 points.

I put up Peter Hanson here last year @160.00, and I have him priced @ 126.00 this year so the value is there again with a best early price of 200.00 . The Swede turns 40 this week but arrives in poor form and the price reflects that but I wouldn't be surprised to see him up his game this week. Oliver Wilson sprang from nowhere to finally win on tour here in 2014 and the previous year David Howell did the same when winning for his 5th and last time on tour. The "experienced" players may take heart this week given the rise of the young guns this season and with the format in place here being different as well as the winning trend in recent years. We've seen these type of players come out of nowhere for this event and kick start their careers again and this year, we have a number of players hoping to do just that again. Hanson could fall into this category and find a great week within him and so too could former winner Martin Kaymer @ 41.00 

Kaymer is a relaxed individual and his demeanour is obviously suited to the slog that the celebrity pro-ams offer as shown by his record here having posted a further 4 TOP10s. They say form is temporary, class is permanent and with Martin Kaymer, that long awaited victory can't be far away for a player of enormous class. This week is ideal at an event he loves and is my main outright pick at the price.

Alexander Bjork arrives rested and having finished 20-16-25-31 in his last 4 events which included Himmerland and The Dutch courses. He's 19/23 this season with 9 T-20s (3 T-10s). The price of 5.00 for his 10th T-20 of the season is fair but I do think Peter Hanson has a shot in this market at almost twice the price (9.00) Nacho Elvira was next on the list, his T20 price of 5.00 has some value but the Swede gets the nod.

Ireland's Gavin Moynihan gets an invite this week and whilst he seeks a card for next season either via Challenge Tour or the Qualifying Stage, this is the type of tournament that he could be expected to excel in. Given his good mate and former Walker Cup team mate, Paul Dunne won just last week, Gavin can be inspired to raise to those levels and take heart from his result at Portstewart during the summer where he finished TOP Irishman for a TOP15 at The Irish Open. If it's a links player you want this week and one that plays well in wind,rain, mud and whatever shite gets thrown up, then Gavin Moynihan has gotta be on the radar. Twice winner of the Irish Amateur at Royal Dublin not to mention being denied a third by a playoff defeat, his performances there came in atrocious conditions. He also won the Scottish Amateur at Panmure in very windy conditions in 2014. Honing his game at The Island Golf Club, links golf is his forte. Paul Dunne repeated Moynihan's success at Close Hall last week (Gavin winning on the Euro Pro tour at Close Hall earlier this season) and whilst a win here this week would be a surprise, a solid showing on the leaderboard wouldn't. Gavin partners Brett Desmond, son of Dermot Desmond (who plays with Robert Karlsson) and husband of Andrea Corr. Gavin needn't worry about the post round drinks bill ! 21.00 TOP 20 for me

1.50 pts e/w M. Kaymer @ 41.00
5.00 pts T20 P.Hanson @ 9.00
2.00 pts T20 G.Moynihan @ 21.00

Join Playon here and avail of free entry to this weeks £5.00 Dunhill Links game using code "BIRDIE"