Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Dubai Desert Classic 2021 - Emirates GC, Dubai


Having had the opportunity to walk this course during the tournament in 2019, it has naturally become one of my favourite events both from spectator point of view and a betting one. It's good to have an interest! Whilst still labelled as "desert golf", the Emirates GC has matured a lot since the inaugural event back in 1989 when Mark James tasted victory, and I'd suggest any reference to it being a links-type for certain players changes to a parkland, par-72 averaging 7300 yds. Yes, the sand off the fairways and rough areas requires the desert type play, but the maturity of the course these days promotes a more accurate game and if you are spraying it here, you simply wont score. The Course although set within the Jumeriah Beach Resort, can be exposed to winds, so those that good in those conditions can go well here.

 The Roll of Honour shows that the cream rises to the top here with a who's who of world class golfers, Ryder Cup stars and Major winners coming to the fore. Seve, Ernie, Monty, Tiger, Freddie Couples, Bjorn, O'Meara, Stenson, Rory, Jimenez, Cabrera-Bello, Willet, Garcia and DeChambeau have all tasted success at the Dubai Desert Classic, whilst Stephen Gallacher (twice) continually shows us that this is his favourite course, Eamon D'arcy, Mark James & David Howell have weighed in when at the top of their games and making Ryder Cup teams.

Collin Morikawa tees it up this week as the star PGA Tour player handing over the baton from last week's, Justin Rose and the PGA Champion will be hoping to do better than JT and first make the cut. Somewhat surprising that he skips the Farmers at Torrey Pines to play here (we assume the lure of $$ enticed him here instead) as Torrey Pines will host the US Open later this summer. How he goes remains to be seen but represents no value in the market whatsoever and he's passed off without too much deliberation. Tyrell Hatton quite rightly goes off favourite here and he demands closer attention having won 4 times on different tours in the past 15 months. As Stevie-G proved here many times, scoring on the par-5s can make a huge difference and if "the angry golfer" scores as well on them here as he did last week, he will be hard to beat for sure. Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick and Matt Wallace stay in the UAE for this and of the three perhaps Wallace would be the preference. He'll be happy with last weeks on course performance as well as the "angry golfer" video that was well received and he can call on his course form to approach the week with great confidence.

I am still checking to see what the status is with last week's selection, Thorbjorn Olesen who did not travel last week due to covid-19 test and subsequent isolation requirement but he's on the entry list still today (Tuesday) suggesting he has travelled. I take a chance that his symptoms are mild on that presumption and therefore is 100% fit to go. I did like his price for Abu Dhabi but here at slightly shorter I like his chances more as he has shown very good course form. 4 TOP-10s in his 7 visits is encouraging and whilst his court case is postponed until December this year, putting his personal troubles to one side and focusing on producing a solid 2021 will be his goal and the 100/1 for 8 places is worth taking, despite some risk around his health status following positive covid-19 test.

I will also stick with Aaron Rai again this week. He wasn't too far off putting a good result together last week and he could and should be happy with a T-25th at Abu Dhabi. He makes his 4th appearance at the Majlis Course this week and will hope to improve on a best to date, 29th but he's much more a player the past 12 months than before. The course should suit him and @ 80/1 - 8 places (100/1 - 5 places) I'm happy to stick with him here and possibly again in Saudi Arabia next week.

Christian Bezuidenhout @ 20/1 - 8 places though has to be taken. The South African was runner-up last year and enters the week in very fine form having won back to back in South Africa in December, winning his National Open after winning the Alfred Dunhill. 12th place last week followed a solid 14th in Dubai at the DP Tour Championship. His putting let him down last week but he can certainly bounce back here. I made Bez 18/1 here for the outright and possibly 16s with the additional places and with the exchange @ 27.00 I want to have him onside.

Sergio Garcia was a certain shortlist entry having won here in 2017 and has he's warmed up in Hawaii already this year, posting 11th & 47th he's sure to go well and @ 22/1 he may be worth chancing also. Like many, he's got his eyes on making the Ryder Cup team this year and should be at ease on this course to put a good result together. Sergio has posted a further TOP-5 just 2 years ago when finishing 3rd behind Dechambeau & Wallace, and with 3 other T-25s to his name, the Spaniard is a real runner here having won recently as last October when winning the Sandersons Farm on the PGA Tour. Just inside the OWGR TOP-50, Sergio will look to consolidate his ranking each week to ensure he's in the big tournaments. The Dubai Desert Classic gives him a great opportunity to grab much Ryder/Ranking points. 

Lastly, I'll look to last week's distance runner-up, Aussie Jason Scrivener to capitalize on past course form as well as the current form. To boot, the Western Australian has shown solid form at correlated courses, Dom Pedro in Portugal and Sun City where the Nedbank Challenge is hosted, by finishing 8th & 3rd respectively last year. 6th & 7th here in 2018/2019 complemented with a T10 at the DP Tour Championship in 2019, Scrivener can end his maiden tag in Dubai @ 66/1 - 7 places 


0.75 pts e/w T. Olesen @ 100/1 - 8 places
0.75 pts e/w A. Rai @ 80/1 - 8 places
2.50 pts e/w C. Bezuidenhout @ 20/1 - 8 places
1.50 pts e/w S. Garcia @  22/1 - 7 places
1.00 pts e/w J. Scrivener @ 66/1 - 7 places 


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Abu Dhabi Championship 2021 - Abu Dhabi, UAE

 The European Tour kicks off the 2021 campaign with probably the strongest field we'll see between now and July outside of the co-sanctioned WGC and Majors. The strength of field is due to this being the first of the Rolex Series events, where Justin Thomas makes a rare visit to Europe enhancing the OWGR SOF further. He heads the market alongside Rory McIlroy, but they have good company with in-form, Tyrell Hatton, Matty Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and the 2020 R2D Champion, Lee Westwood in attendance. Added to the field are a number of Major winners and Rolex Series winners, namely course specialist, Martin Kaymer, Shane Lowry, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Danny Willett. Given the depth and quality of the players mentioned, it's difficult to get onside and perceive any of them as value with a number of players below ready to step and mix it with the "big boys" and although the Rolex Series events to date have produced top drawer winners on a regular basis we have seen a couple of surprises and I wouldn't be surprised if we get another one here this week. The tournament hosts here used to say "Expect the Unexpected" and unfortunately we saw this when Gary Stal somehow overhauled Martin Kaymer back in 2015. Similar to the Rolex Series we have seen Brandon Stone, Aaron Rai and Thorbjorn Olesen win at big odds, not to mention Willett & Westwood doing same despite their apparent class.

Justin Thomas follows his compatriots, Chris Di Marco, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bryson Dechambeau, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka to name a few in teeing it up here and can't be dismissed too lightly. Di Marco won the inaugural event, whilst Fowler also won, the others all delivered top results. Thomas arrives with form having fallen a shot shy in Kapalua two weeks ago despite the controversial comments he made during his third round. His subsequent removal from Ralph Lauren's sponsorship programme might affect some others but JT is a mature head on young shoulders and strikes me as the type of person/player that will be motivated to produce not only a the results but a better standing within the game, the latter which he has already achieved and the unfortunate episode serves to be a blotch on his otherwise exemplary form which he will remedy. Beware the injured animal...JT might be on a serious mission over the next few weeks and he will find Abu Dhabi GC to his liking. If he drives it well off the tee, he can put it up to his good friend Rory McIlroy who has done everything except win here. They both justifiably head the market by some mark and in doing so, for me don't give us any value. Of the leading half dozen in the market though, Fleetwood & Fitzpatrick are only of interest to me where the former is a dual winner and the latter having won the DP Tour Championship up the road in Dubai last December in his last event, appears to be moving up a gear over the past 12 - 18 months and looks set to win with more regularity. However, both are priced @ ~14/1 which is about right and like JT & Rory don't really offer long term value.

I priced Thomas Pieters as a 33/1 chance here this week on the back of a fairly decent 2020 campaign and a renewed approach to golf and life in general following the birth of his daughter. Granted, the hot tempered nature doesn't disappear over night, but the Belgian has a lot more to look forward to in his life and seems much happier, and with this year being Ryder Cup year, he'll be keen to make the team again having been the star previously. A good start to the year ahead is crucial and with additional points abegging here he can put his decent Middle East form to use and hit the ground running. Having followed him for 9 holes at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2019, I concluded that this was not a player to be getting onside too often and especially in the bigger tournaments, but his 2020 performances have been noted and he might indeed relish these type of events going forward. I also concluded that the maturity of The Emirates doesn't lend itself to his game off the tee but Abu Dhabi is now a better fit of the two. Three TOP-5s and a further TOP-20 in his 7 visits encourages me as too does his results in Dubai and neighbouring regions. Abu Dhabi calls for a strong GIR game and Pieters had good statistics last year that he can call on, having gained +3.26 shots on the fields to finish 14th in the category on tour. A happy Tomas striking it well with motivation on his side is a Thomas I'm willing to be onboard with @ 40/1 - 7 places.

Aforementioned Aaron Rai, is a another on the rise and at only 25 years of age, looks like a player that could be an ever-present on Europeantour leaderboards. He won't be fazed in these events having duly taken a Rolex Series last year when winning the Scottish Open and although he didn't play too well at The Emirates last December can take confidence from his success last year and make a step up. He's overpriced this week @ 100/1 for the 7/8 places. Rai posted great GIR figures in 2020 finishing 4th in those rankings with +5.36 only for his putting to let him down where he ranked a low 72nd. He hasn't fared well at Abu Dhabi on his two previous visits (mc-54) but his 2020 year saw him produce a win , a further 3 TOP-10s and a further 4 TOP-20s from his 16 starts. Like the vast majority of the field he tees it up fresh and therefore is not a selection to be overly confident about but this could be the biggest price we see for Aaron for the next 6 months at least and he's well capable of contending and bettering his chances than the odds suggest.

Scott Jamieson showed some level of consistency last year and comes to Abu Dhabi knowing he has played well in this part of the world before. He finished 8th last year and 11th the year previously so should have fond memories and could be worth a small interest for places @ 125/1 - 8places or indeed a TOP-20 @ 5/1.He too has strong GIR figures from last year whilst he proved profitable on the greens throughout as well. 

I could add a few more to the staking plan this week in taking on the market leaders but I am hesitant in doing so as I do expect either JT, Rory or Fitzpatrick to win but I couldn't leave out another former Rolex Series winner, Thorbjorn Olesen. Whilst JT tees it up with fresh controversary on his mind, the Dane has slipped back into tour life following his misdemeanours, and if he has his game in order could really be one to watch in 2021. He is taken here, more in hope than anything else, that he produces the golf that he is well capable of as shown when finishing runner-up in 2013 and 8th in 2012 and also by following a decent last outing in December in Dubai when finishing 13th. 

Garrick Higgo, Ha Tong Li, Paul Waring , James Morrison & Grant Forrest were all considered for place/TOP-20 efforts, and should the market leaders not prevail and my stable fail also, then lets hope Martin Kaymer can break the curse of 6 years ago and return to winning ways


1 pt e/w T. Pieters @ 40/1 - 7 places
.5 pts e/w A. Rai @ 100/1 - 8 places
.5 pts e/w S. Jamieson @ 125/1 - 8 places
.5 pts e/w T. Olesen @ 125/1 - 7 places
2.5 pts TOP-20 S. Jamieson @ 5/1
2.5 pts TOP-20 T. Olesen @ 5/1

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Sony Open 2021 - Waialae Golf Club, Honululu, Hawaii

 The PGA Tour jumps islands in Hawaii this week for the Sony Open where a full field is in attendance. Most of the field will be dusting off the cobwebs following the Christmas and New year break and the tendency over the past years is to focus on those who played at the Tournament of Champions in Maui the week before on the premise that they have warmed up and acquainted themselves with the climate and winds. That may prove to be the case again this year but the key to winning here appears to be strong GIR and putting stats. You certainly need to be warmed up here this week and ready to go!

The blog has been very unlucky of late with two playoff defeats within the last three PGA Tour events; Kisner at the RSM Classic and Joaquin Niemann last week in Maui. Indeed that brings my playoff record to 4/18 since 2009.Whilst 2020 was good year for me, I really am hoping that this run of hard luck in playoffs will turn soon as it was hard to see the first event of the year lose out, but we'll take the place money and go again.

I mentioned the playoffs and Kevin Kisner for good reason. Both Kisner and the RSM Classic are good pointers for who could well here at Waialae as the course is not overly long and I'm keen to get onside with Kevin Kisner again. At 30/1, there is a bit of value given the head of the market. Kis has solid course form having posted 3 TOP-5s here in his last 5 visits.

I've had a good long rethink between Daniel Berger & Sungjae Im as to who I wanted on the staking plan and the South Korean gets the nod. 16th on debut two years ago was followed up by a 21st placing twelve months ago but his recent form is eye-catching and his travel between last event and this week is very minimal compared to most weeks. 5th last week in Maui and 2nd (!) at Augusta shows his potential and I don't think we'll be waiting much longer to see him return to the winner's enclosure and he has a great opportunity here this week. Much like my reasoning for Niemann last week, Im can play in winds and his ball striking will serve him well here and if the putter ignites he could be the one they have to chase down come Sunday. At 18/1 - 8 places, Im has a seriously good chance of victory.

I've missed the price on Niemann this week as he's come into 20s so I'm hoping I don't rue the missed opportunity here but I do expect him to go well again this week. I've also been too slow off the blocks on Zach Johnson, Charles Howell, Marc Leishman, Abraham Ancer, and Billy Horschel to consider but I will complete my selections with small stakes on the outright along with TOP-20 market in the shape of  Hudson Swafford @ 200/1 - 8 places and 8/1 for the TOP-20. The Floridian is a recent winner having won the Corales Puntacana last September and although having missed 4/6 cuts since, he may just find his game at Waialae where he has produced decent results at in the past; 3 TOP-10s in his last 7 visits with just the one missed cut (2015). According to the OWGR website, Swafford's best 20 achievements to date show that he has contributed 4 Sony Opens to the list - he seems to like it here.

Robert Streb has shown signs of a return to form of late culminating in the win at Sea Island and like Harris English & Brendon Todd, may be about to continue to rise the rankings and knock on more doors. He has missed the cut here the past 3 seasons but can be overlooked given his recent form which also included a 21st finish at Corales Puntacana and he warmed up nicely last week albeit a low finish. 250/1 - 8pcaes as well as 7/1 for TOP-20 is of interest

Others to mention - Brandt Snedeker is way too short for me here but could surprise


1 pt e/w K. Kisner @ 30/1 - 8 places
1.75 pts e/w S. Im @ 18/1 - 8 places
0.25 pts e/w H. Swafford @ 200/1 - 8 places
2 pts TOP-20 H. Swafford @ 8/1
0.25 pts e/w R. Streb @ 250/1 - 8 places
2 pts TOP-20 R. Streb @ 7/1

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Tournament of Champions 2021 - Plantation Course, Kapalua, Hawaii

 An extended field beyond just the winners of 2020 sees 42 players tee it up for the opening event of 2021, The Tournament of Champions. Played at The Plantation in Kapalua Hawaii, wind and low scoring can be expected as Justin Thomas aims to win for the 3rd time whilst Dustin Johnson looks to do the same and add another title since his last win here in 2018(winner too in 2013). Patrick Reed is another former winner and playoff loser here and all three have the course form that is reflected in the market. Of the three I'd prefer to side with JT but have settled on just two selections for the year's opener.

Joaquin Niemann did well for me last season/year and despite playing well below his best last time out I expected the Chilean to kick on again this year and contend quite regularly and the Plantation Course should be ideal to kick start the year ahead. Niemann's iron play is well suited to the winds and he showed that when finishing 5th on debut 12 twelve months ago and indeed held the first round lead with a 66. Ignoring his result last time out (44th), Joaquin produced 3 TOP-20s previously and now rested and refreshed he certainly should outplay his odds of 35/1 with 6 places abegging (40/1 - 5 places)

Sergio Garcia surprisingly makes my staking plan this week and I mean surprisingly in that he's not a player I look to often and indeed he's not a player that hasn't played here for quite awhile at that either! He did however win this way back in 2002 and was a recent winner at The Sanderson's Farm Championship in October. Having tested for COVID-19, the 41 year old may be keen to hit the ground running and I think at the prices we might just get a run for our money where his wind/coastal form over the years should help him. As always, the putting may cost him a few shots but if we have a happy Sergio in attendance for the week, then the 60/1 for 6 places may look very good come Sunday!


1 pt e/w J. Niemann @ 35/1 - 6 places
1 pt e/w S. Garcia @ 60/1 - 6 places