Tuesday, 24 April 2018

China Open 2018 - Topwin GC, Beijing, China

The Great Wall of China provides the backdrop for the third successive year as Topwin GC just outside Beijing hosts the tri-sanctioned Volvo China Open this week. Last week's winner Alex Levy defends this week and goes in search of his third title here having won in 2014 also.

Levy's win in Morocco was his fifth Europeantour title and brings the Frenchman new hope that he can kick on and make the Ryder Cup team in September to be played in his homeland. He'll see this week as an opportunity to gain more points as Topwin GC has proven to be his liking if not China itself, having posted a TOP-5 in Shenzhen and TOP-10/20s at Sheshan (HSBC Champions) and Genzon (Shenzhen International) over the past 4 years on his visits to this country. He deservedly leads the market and makes my 14-man shortlist. So too does local favourite and winner here two years ago, Haotong Li who won earlier this year in Dubai and Bernd Wiesberger who won the Shenzhen International last year before finishing 4th to Levy here the week after. Haotong is too short for me here and is easily passed over on price.

The Austrian returned to Sheshan for the HSBC last October to post yet another TOP-10. He obviously likes this part of the world so the 24.00 available is very tempting. He makes his first start since Augusta (T-24th) so arrives a little too fresh and on that basis I've left him out. He's won only 4 times on tour and there is no value in other markets to get onside with him this week.

Alexander Bjork is knocking loudly on the winners door of late and is surely going to end the wait soon and was very tempting this week. He was a model of consistency throughout 2017 and is beginning to churn out consistent results again of late but I've been put off his stats this week. I'd rather hone in on a player in solid recent form with course form somewhere in the locker but the Swede missed the cut here last year. He has posted 5 TOP-20s from his 10 starts this season and @ 3.00 to produce another here, he's well worth considering. His stats don't lend weight to the belief that big hitting will be the key this week and he's reluctantly left out despite being available now @ 50.00 on the exchange.

Jorge Campillo of Spain has recent form to consider for this week as he finds himself inside the TOP100 in the OWGR rankings. Nine starts this season have yielded 3 TOP-10s and a further 2 TOP-20s. He was TOP10 here twelve months ago and can boast Asian form , most notably going so close to a win only to be being reeled in by a flying Shubhankar Sharma in Malaysia in February. I'm not sure whether there is much value in the 46.00 price but he could be an interesting in-play option.

Erik Van Rooyen @ 50.00 though is a play for me here, again on the back of solid recent form. The South African has the tools to conquer Topwin GC. His price represents value and the price could be so on the basis that he sees Topwin for the first time. His season stats are encouraging in that he's a big hitter and is gaining strokes on his fields both off the tee and in the tee to green categories. He rates highly for GIR and arrives on the back of a 7th place finish at Dar Es Salem, 21st finish in Madrid, MC at India (easily dismissed)  and yet another TOP-10 at the Tshwane Open in his homeland. 8 starts have yielded 3 TOP-10s and a further TOP-20 and he could be the next best thing to come out of South Africa. For an e/w play he still gives some value @ 41.00 (6 places)

Ryan Fox and Scott Hend are on my shortlist on the basis that the lads from down under can wallop their way round this course and despite the Aussie having solid Asian form over the years, it's the Kiwi that I would be more keener on of the two. The Aucklander has 2 TOP-20s from his 6 starts of which one was a TOP-10 posted in Asia at the Malaysia Championship. He was available at 70.00 yesterday, but has come in now to 67.00 which sounds about right but is an in-play option also.

Another Aussie, Lucas Herbert missed the cut on his last two starts in Queenstown, NZ, and in Oman. He was in fine form before that though, when posting 5 TOP-10s in 6 starts in Australia and Asia. The big hitter could find form here again this week despite his first look at the course and make the 151.00 look a gift come the weekend.

Instead I'll add Zimbabwean, Scott Vincent to my staking plan @ 110.00 on the exchange. TOP-5 last week at The Panasonic Open in Japan will bring some confidence to the 25 year old. Very much a traveller playing all round the world, Vincent can take confidence from solid showings in Indonesia, Taiwan and Korea as well as the 4 TOP-10s he posted on the Asiantour in 2017 to secure his card for 2018. He's worth a go in the TOP-10 market here also @ 8.00

Englishmen, Callum Shinkwin and Matt Wallace could have good weeks here too.They have the firepower to score here and the latter will have his sights on breaking into the TOP-100 on the OWGR but I've listed them here more for draftkings purposes than a bet.

My last play is a very speculative punt on Scotsman, Bradley Neil having an upturn in fortunes to post a TOP-20 here @ 17.00. In just his first full season on the European Tour, Neil is still trying to find his feet but he has been doing ok in making 5/10 cuts to sit just outside the TOP-200 in the R2D. The speculative punt is made in the hope that the wider fairways here will suit.

Staking Plan

1.00 pts E/W Erik Van Rooyen @ 41.00
0.50 pts WIN Scott Vincent @ 110.00
2.50 pts TOP10 S. Vincent @ 8.00
1.00 pts TOP20 B.Neil @ 17.00


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Trophee Hassan II 2018 - Dar Es Salam GC, Morocco

We have a fairly open tournament this week where Ireland's, Paul Dunne heads the market form South Africa's, George Coetzee. The Greystones man was runner-up to Jon Rahm in Madrid last Sunday and he arrives here this week looking to avenge a play-off defeat at the hands of Dodo Molinari twelve months ago. There's no doubting "Dunners" is the form player this week but Coetzee, Pepperell and Luiten could argue that they too are in form and have recent wins under their belts.

Dar Es Salam has undergone changes to it's green since the 2017 edition of this event and it appears that they are now bigger with more undulations. Solid approach players with decent putting stats are looking like the type of player to prevail this week.

As with previous weeks of late, my time management needs some review to allow for a better preview on how I think the week will unfold  to make this blog of any real value,but for now, I apologize again to readers for a quick "note" of sorts here and a dive into my selections so that the blog stays in situ whilst I re-think the approach going forward. I did, however, spend some time in concluding with a shortlist for the week and from this have the made the following staking plan.

0.75 pts e/w Marc Warren @ 126.00
4.50 pts TOP-20 Alexander Levy @ 2.38

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Open de Espana 2018 - Centro Nacional de Golf Madrid

Little time for a preview this week but I decided to get my selections on the blog regardless. It's not quite a new course but it's certainly welcoming to see the Open de Espana back on the Europeantour schedule as its seems ludicrous not to have such a prestigious tournament included. It's a little disappointing to see Sergio Garcia absent this week but having made efforts to get his National Open up and running again, I'm confident there are reasonable reasons why he doesn't tee it up this week.

Instead Jon Rahm leads the home challenge and I have to admit I can't see past him here this week and have decided to back him @ 5.50 He honed his game here at this course whilst attending college and the Madrid homeboy is very determined to add his National Open to complete as he says on the Europeantour website, to complete the "final stamp" having won the Spanish Golf Federation National Champion for the ages of under 16, 18, 21, and all ages. "I think it’s four or five different categories that I am champion of and some of them a couple of times.To be able to link my pro and amateur career by getting this final stamp would be amazing." He produced his best Major result to date at Augusta last week and those exploits should not be counter-productive to his chances here to accomplish one of his goals. He won't have flown home in economy class on Iberian Airlines, will be freshened up and raring to go on a course that he has more knowledge on most of the field. He's miles above anyone else here and he's worth half of my staking plan this week in my eyes.

I'm completing my stakes this week with two TOP-20 selections in Erik Van Rooyen & Jin-ho Choi @ 5.00 & 9.00 respectively. The South African has 3 TOP-20s from his 6 starts this season whilst the Korean has 3 from 8. Van Rooyen's 3 may all have come on South African soil but he's value @ 5.00 for me here in this market on a course that could to be his liking. His stats are very strong in the SG:TTG and SG:APG and GIR(ranking 2-7-2 for this season) suggesting if this course is going to suit big hitters and those that find greens then he may have a good week. Choi tends to make more cuts that he misses, and is chanced at a decent price to add another TOP-20 for the season here to follow up on his 9th place finish last time out in India.

Staking Plan

5.00 pts J. Rahm WIN @ 5.50
3.00 pts TOP-20 E. Van Rooyen @ 5.00
2.00 pts TOP-20 J.Choi @ 9.00

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

US Masters 2018

Once again the first Major of the year falls upon us with great anticipation, made the more exciting by all the main contenders hitting form at the right time. Four-time winner, Tiger Woods arrives in good nick and the markets have shown a lot of support for the 14 time Major winner. Rory McIlroy arrives having won at Bay Hill, whilst twice-winner Bubba Watson tees it up having won at Riviera and Mexico recently. Throw in Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson,Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Paul Casey, all winners on the PGA Tour this year and you have yourself an intriguing Masters. That's the PGA Tour winner's list ! Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren have been challenging on US soil of late too and who's to say the green jacket wont go to a European player for the third year in a row? Can Sergio Garcia go back to back ? Having just become a proud father last month, the defending champion will tee it up under less pressure than he would have done any year previously having shaken the "best golfer never to have won a major" tag last April. Jordan Spieth of course is another who has course form and seems to excel here, and his maturity and course management is critical for Augusta National and cannot be discounted. The man who makes the fewest mistakes should be up there.

I've gone about making my selections in pretty much the same way I've done every year. In 2016, I wrote 5 posts in making the shortlists and with just 87 players starting this year, we can sub-consciously do the same here to whittle the field down to the final 30 in as much as time as it takes to stroke the pen through 50 odd names. I apologize here for a brief preview this year as I'm currently on holiday with my family and very pressed for time. ( a look back at my previews for 2016 & 2017 though may help understand my reasoning for my final selections)

Finding value this week really comes down to who you perceive has the best chance of winning outright or a higher priced player that could sneak a place as most bookies are offering 8 places and indeed some are offering 10 places. If you are a weekly golf better I suggest sticking to the better prices but if betting purely to have "an interest" this week, you may prefer to take the additional places.

It's a week though that I want to sit back and watch the golf and enjoy it. I recall watching Jack outgun Seve , Tom Kite and Greg Norman on the back nine on the Sunday in 1986, Nick Faldo overhaul a 6 shot deficit to beat Norman in '96 and as recently as Danny Willetts surprise win in 2016 when Spieth unfolded at the 12th to open the door to two Englishmen to battle it out over the final 4 holes. Twleve months ago I watched my man Rose lose to Sergio in a play-off, but really knew the writing was on the wall at the 13th when Sergio somehow made par! Sergio and his wife have named their daughter Azalea too (name of the 13th hole hole at Augusta)

But I'll have an interest though !

Bubba was tempting, but he's not only too short now but I also think the pressure will be too much if the leaderboard does unfold with all the names mentioned above come Sunday. I had wanted to see a bit more form Adam Scott in the lead-up but despite showing signs of late he's left out despite the price. Charl Schwartzel was another I was keeping an eye on and again despite the price I can't get too involved. Instead my selections are predictable as I once again back Justin Rose to prevail here. His form the past three years has been outstanding as it has been on every visit to Augusta. He's in form and is one player on tour that really should be adding to his sole Major win to date. The 2013 US Open Champion and 2016 Olympic Champion, is a big time winner, can handle the pressure and is in fine form as he tees it up in the last grouping on Thursday alongside Dustin Johnson and Rafael Cabrera-Bello. He should be shorter than 17.00 (I made him 13.00) With Sergio winning last year, a trend has developed where the last 8 winners of the green jacket have all teed off in Round-1 in the afternoon and of those, five have done so after 13:00. Rose tees off at 14:00!

Paul Casey finally ended his PGA winless streak with victory at Copperhead last month to edge out Tiger and with his course form also very strong here I expect the confidence from that win to feed into a bold showing here yet again. As with some trends of Masters winners, Casey is a winner already this season and can improve on his last three results at the Masters of 6-4-6. He's available @ 23.00 (8 places).

Russell Henley is added to my Masters staking plan yet again and the Georgia native is real value @ 151.00 (edit: 125.00 at time of posting). He warmed up nicely with a fast finishing T-10 last week in Houston and if he can settle in quickly on Thursday, then the 3-time PGA Tour winner can improve yet again on his recent Augusta results of 11-21-31-mc. He has an afternoon tee time with Shubhankhar Sharma and Larry Mize.

Patton Kizzire makes his debut at The Masters and despite not seeing a debutante winner since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, that feat surely can be repeated some day. However, given the leading contenders are all in such good form I'll consider Patton for the TOP Debutante market @ 9.00 instead. He's 9/12 this season including 2 wins at the OHL Classic and Sony Opens (a further 2 TOP-10s and 4 TOP-20s) He faces Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Shubhankar Sharma and Dylan Fittelli to name just a handful in this market and I like the fact that he plays alongside Casey & Matsuyama in the opening 2 rounds. He could surprise again this week!


2.00 pts e/w J. Rose @ 17.00
1.50 pts e/w P. Casey @ 23.00
0.50 pts e/w R. Henley @ 126.00
2.00 pts TOP Debutante P. Kizzire @ 9.00