American Express 2021
A decent week just gone, with Marc Leishman landing Top Australian at 9/2, and headline outright bet Webb Simpson contributing a full place dividend. Indeed Webb went close to hauling himself into a playoff from an unpromising position. In truth though, with 18 holes to play, the best we could have hoped for was what transpired. If that happened every week, I would be very happy indeed!
A final round salvo from Matt Jones, and a poor opening 9 from Leishman, made us sweat a bit more than I thought we might. But it’s more fun that way!! He finished very well though, and his approach play was pretty eye-catching. Surprisingly poor displays from Sungjae Im and Munoz didn’t give us much to get excited about there. At the business end, I was happy to see Kevin Na birdie the last, as it meant Simpson didn’t miss out due not doing the same himself on the 72nd hole.
I mentioned 3 other alternative market bets that were of interest, and of those it was the most attractive of the three Nick Taylor that obliged. Winners don’t make good bets, nor losers bad ones, that has to be determined prior to an event. But the fact only Taylor and Hughes made the weekend backs up my assertion that a couple of other Canadian’s were being seriously over estimated by Bet 365’s early market. Just a shame no one else went the copy and paste route while chalking that up.
Nevertheless, it was a profitable week, one where we got the most we could out of it I feel. No matter how many successful or profitable years one has behind them, there is always new pressure come a fresh year, and in that regard it is helpful to get the monkey off the back with a good week early. Hopefully we can crack on from here.
Another week looming where birdies will be flying and when sub 20 under par will be paramount to have any chance of success. Thankfully from next week onwards we have an 8 week spell of some top class competition at some of the Tour’s best stops. There is a winner to be found at this week’s American Express, and that will make it as enjoyable as any other winning week. Having been a 3 course rotation Pro-Am event in recent years, due to the ongoing pandemic this year sees the loss of the amateurs (a definite bonus for viewing purposes) also La Quinta from the course schedule. The first two days will see both PGA West’s Stadium Course and Nicklaus Tournament Course used. The weekend will see action solely from the TPC Stadium Course. This change should see scores slightly tougher than in recent years, as the Stadium Course will typically play 2 shots more difficult than La Quinta. The absence of amateurs will also allow tournament organisers to set up a little tougher if they so wish. Both courses are Par 72’s playing just over 7100 yards. With calm conditions forecast, I would still imagine any potential winner will have to get to at least sub 20 under par.
Players will hope to make hay at the once used Nicklaus Course, which has very little in the way of defence against the game of the PGA Tour’s elite. The Stadium Course, with bunkering aplenty and watery graves in play on 7 holes, is a somewhat tougher test. Those on their game though will have birdie putts on more holes than not, and a hot putter will be crucial in getting the job done.
Players of Interest:
I will usually start at the head of the market, and go through the chances of those that have the best claims of glory. This week however, I am skipping straight to the other end to a player I feel can vastly outrun his odds here, AARON BADDELEY. The Australian was very much on my mind last week, as he appeared to be the biggest danger to Marc Leishman collecting for much of the week. I was however confident that Leishman would prevail there, principally because it was Aaron’s first week on the fringes of contention in an absolute age. His long game had been only average up until then, the scoring was done with the flatstick, and was always likely to come unstuck under Sunday pressure. So, why back him this week?
Badds has been in the doldrums for some time, missing 11 of his 13 cuts prior to last week. This period stretched back to the resumption of golf in May, and he wasn’t faring much better before that. It was 2019 when he last had a set of results somewhere in line with his talent, and as has always been the case with the 4 time PGA Tour winner, he did his damage on and around the greens. That term he was 4th for Strokes Gained around the Green, and 6th for Putting. When Baddeley is on his game, he is simply dynamite with the putter, and for 3 days at Waialae last week, he suddenly resembled the player he once was. Never the best tee to green, but just get it on the dancefloor, and send it home. I’ve always said putting has the biggest variance of a players game, so maybe I shouldn’t get too caught up on that display. But with someone as historically good on the greens as the selection, he is more likely to reproduce than most. Then there is The Harmon Factor. Badds started working with Butch Harmon last August in the quest to get back to his best. These things take time, and getting confidence back in one’s game is a big part of it. For that reason I feel he will take all the positives from last week, and run with them. It’s the first time since this new arrangement that he has got into the heat of contention, and that will be both a massive confidence booster, and a reassurance that he is now on the right track. Yes he ended up finishing a tame 41st, but opening 3 rounds of 64-68-65 were smack full of promise. Sunday won’t be wasted on him, or Harmon, and will stand him in good stead when next on the periphery of contention.
And then there’s the price! Of course Baddeley’s chances have plenty of downside, but to my eye they are more than factored into that price. Birdies, and knocking them in from 15-20ft on a regular basis, will be what’s required this week. That is what his previous success has been built on, and at 300/1 I am more than prepared to allow for the fact that one swallow doesn’t make a summer. With a bit of space off the tee at this week’s venues, and a virtual pitch and putt from there, I am really sweet on the chances of Aaron giving us a run for our money. It will be rare when you consider such a big outsider to have a legitimate chance of glory, but that is exactly what presents itself here in my opinion. I won’t have to pay much to find out!!
I’m glad I started down the bottom, as the top has since changed!
Jon Rahm was a clear and deserving favourite here at approx 13/2. I had made him a 6/1 shot, but had no real interest in getting involved at that price in an event which has a history of throwing up some curve ball results.
Patrick Cantlay now takes over the mantle as tournament favourite, and though I am a big fan of the Floridian, I don’t want to be taking 12/1 in a shootout such as this. I was against Patrick Reed last week on the basis of his performance at Kapalua, and though a former winner here, I don’t see it as particularly playing to his strengths.
It will be interesting to see where Brooks Koepka’s game is at as he tees it up for the first time since Mayakoba. He had looked more like himself at both Augusta and the Houston Open before that. I feel this will be a big year for the career of Koepka, which at the moment is at something of a crossroads. My view would be that he challenges for plenty this term. As regards this week, it’s a watching brief for me.
Arriving at an event off the back of a poor showing or missed cut is maybe not ideal, but if the price is right, I would never let it put me off. That is the case with my next two selections.
SUNGJAE IM was nothing other than very disappointing at Waialae, but I am prepared to forgive that rare below par performance, and go to war with him again here. It was his approach play in the main that let him down, but given his consistent improvement in that department over the past couple of years, I can take the view that he is more likely than not to return to his best here. With Rahm now not taking part, there is no doubt that this is a lesser calibre event than last week, yet we are getting a bigger price. And he has taken to this week’s layouts also, finishing 12th on debut in 2019, and 10th last year when going to post as 16/1 second favourite. This week’s field would very much resemble the level of quality that gathered 12 months ago, and given the further evidence from then that the courses suit the eye of the Korean, I couldn’t price him up any bigger here. Again he faces Bermuda greens which have seen him to best effect in the past. He is here to stay at the top of his profession, and I feel there will be a couple of wins for him this term. He won’t face many worse fields, and the 22/1 on offer that he takes advantage here is too big in my opinion.
It was a weekend off for ABRAHAM ANCER at Waialae, missing the cut on the number, having putted like Stevie Wonder for two days. Of course there is the chance he once again fires blanks on the greens, but he is at the stage of his development as a world class player that he won’t let what happened there affect him here. It came off the back of 10 successive cuts made, and 4 consecutive Top 20 finishes. He isn’t a poor putter by any means, and had he holed just one more putt over the first two days he probably would have ended up notching another last week. We would then have been looking at quotes of 18/20-1 tops, and the extra 10 points we are getting is far too much extra juice for two below average days. Runner up here 12 months ago, there are clearly no grounds for concern re the suitability of those weeks venues. He produced a sizzling Sunday 63 at the Stadium Course then, and with three rounds there this week, that is certainly eye catching. The Stadium Course has obvious links to another Pete Dye design in Sawgrass, and Ancer produced an excellent 12th place finish there in 2019. Not the longest off the tee, he will be licking his chops at the prospect of competing on a level playing field here. Now up to 26th in the OWGR, he is still searching for his maiden PGA Tour win, but I have no worries regarding the Mexican’s bottle. He has been very solid under pressure when in contention before, particularly at last year’s RBC Heritage when only an inspired Webb Simpson bested him. I think 20/1 would be more representative of his chances here, and view the 30/1 on offer as an excellent bet.
There were quite a few others who caught my eye in one way or another this week. Phil Mickelson was certainly of interest. The mercurial left hander loves his time on the West Coast, and though arriving here without the benefit of a pipe opener may be a worry for just about anyone else, it isn’t for Phil. When second here in 2019, and in finishing third in 2016, he came here off his Christmas break. It may also be a benefit that he hasn’t had an outing on the Champions Tour. Pin positions, and general set up are so much easier there that it can be hard to go back and forth between Tours. All told I wouldn’t be surprised to see him involved this week. The price is the problem. No fixed odds firms are putting their neck on the line here. As low as 40/1 with one firm, he is no bigger than 60/1, but is available at 130 on the Betfair Exchange. If their EW 10 places market builds up some liquidity, and he was available there at 80 I would be having a few quid. Or simply betting him to win only with a view to trade at the 130/140 available. As far as an official bet is concerned, the prices don’t allow for it.
Kevin Na will obviously be buzzing arriving here, and now a serial winner, he can’t be discounted. It will be interesting to see how Scottie Scheffler progresses this year. Often in his situation a stalling year can occur, though there was plenty of promise in his Tournament of Champions display. I have no real interest at the price this week though.
Matt Wolffe is a prodigious talent. Of that there is no doubt. But he arrives here off an extended break, from a time when he was going through a bit of a lull, and struggled here last year. I’m just not sure this pitch and putt, with emphasis on the putting is best suited to his game. As one of the bigger names here, he will be under internal pressure to put the birdies on the board early. His temperament may not quite be where he needs it to be to deal with slow starts in these types of events. Of course he could come out firing, but there is certainly that worry there that he could boil over if he doesn’t. I very very rarely have a bet on a player to miss the cut, there is never any juice in them in my opinion, but I am keeping an eye on his price here. Currently only 365 are up at 11/4. If he was chalked up at 4/1 elsewhere, I would back it. 7/2, and there would be a decision to be made.
As it stands now my only other outright market bet is AARON WISE. In recommending him for a Top 20 finish at the Mayakoba Classic late last year, I suggested that Wise was a much better player than his OWGR suggested. He went a long way to substantiating that view with a runner up finish there. After a pretty terrible year, he really turned it around in the last couple of months, and that big boost in Mexico will have given him reason to put in the hard graft over Christmas. He won’t want to return to the slump of the previous 12 months, but instead set his eyes on making a return to Augusta where he notched a Top 20 in 2019. A quality young player, he can still make his mark at the very top level of the game. The market still doesn’t rate him as such, and the 60/1 on offer here in what will be one of the weakest fields of the year, is too big to pass up. I’ve suggested a previous outing this week will be a help, and I would prefer it, but I would be equally surprised if Wise was arriving here cold. He missed the cut here the past two years, but 12 months ago he was playing very poorly and in the middle of 5 missed cuts in a row. In 2019 it was the start of 3 weekends off in a row, and prior to that he was nearly last at Kapalua. I prefer to look at his effort here when 17th in 2018 as a better indicator of what an in form Wise can do here. I envisage a good year ahead for the South African born star, and given the lack of quality on show here, he may not have to wait too long to get off the mark.
Top Continental Euro:
I toyed with the idea of including SEPP STRAKA in the outright staking plan, but feel there is more value to be had for weighing in with him here. In the main, this is a pretty weak section, one which I don’t expect will take much winning. The Austrian would be far from a household name at the moment, but he is certainly progressing along the right lines this past 12 months. Indeed his best finish on Tour came in this very event last year, when he produced an excellent 4th. The highlight of that performance, and all the more eye-catching due to this years set up, was that he went 65-66 for his two rounds at the Stadium Course. With 3 rounds there this week, something along those lines each day will have him right in the hunt for title glory. He has had a very similar preparation for the event this year, a top 25 at The Sony last week, with a Sunday 65 being his best round. Only making 10 cuts from 25 last season Sepp was lacking consistency, but he has come a long way in that regard this term, making 9 weekends from a possible 10. It is that consistency you require when backing one in these sub markets. I feel that any player beating Straka this week will have produced a decent 4 days work.
The competition here doesn’t really inspire at all. Rory Sabbatini was highly profitable for followers last year, but always when getting him onside on courses where he had a history of repetitive good form. That certainly isn’t the case at this week’s layouts, and he was well below par in a missed cut last week. It’s hard to know what sort of shape Francesco Molinari’s game will be in. A long time spent on the sidelines in 2020, came on the back of some very indifferent displays, and when returning late in the year he struggled again. That was understandable given his time away, but he does represent a risky conveyance at the moment. Henrik Norlander has missed his last 4 cuts on the trot, and though he did promise better with an opening 65 at Waialae, he will have been very disappointed with his birdie free 73 on Friday. A worry when you are on a bad run, and certainly not good for the already low confidence. Kristoffer Ventura is an exciting talent, but had gone right off the boil late last year, and missed the cut on his only previous attempt here last term.
I had initially looked at the Top European market for getting with Straka, but I had no reason to downgrade the chances of Paul Casey, Martin Laird, or indeed Russel Knox. In this market however, it really is only Alex Noren that is causing any concern. I wouldn’t have Noren any bigger than the 4/1 on offer, but would make Straka quite a bit shorter than the 3/1 available on him. Given his affinity with the courses, his nice run out last week and consistent form in general over the past 5 months, I would envisage him setting a decent standard to beat here. Given the weakness of the section, he rates a very good bet to me.
Top 20 Finish:
As said earlier it is rare to be so sweet on one at such big odds, and as such I am eager to play AARON BADDELEY in a couple of other markets. I won’t repeat what I said above, but him being over priced in the outright market, this has more than filtered down here. I would make him a bet at anything from 8/1 upwards here, and the 11/1 on offer should be availed of.
A market that has proved a constant cash machine for followers in recent months, it is once again AARON BADDELEY who we go to the window with here. 5/1 is simply too big. Akin to Nick Taylor in last week’s Canadian market, I cannot understand how Matt Jones can be 180 outright and 12/5 for this market, when Badds can be 200 outright and 9/2 for this. Jones had a decent week last week, but he is highly inconsistent and rarely follows one good week with another. Cameron Davis is the rightful favourite here, but short enough too at 13/8. I would have Baddeley much closer to him in the market, and also much shorter than around the same price as Cameron Percy who is 700 on the machine outright.
I am not for a minute saying Aaron Baddely is some sort of good thing this week! He is probably odds on to miss the cut, but such is the value attached to him, and the gut feeling that he can really build on last week, that I am more than prepared to row in behind him. All told, though betting him 3 times, it isn’t a big overall outlay. And all are very good bets in their own right. Feel free to tell me I called it massively wrong when he goes 76-76!!
I had a look at this market in the hope we may have got 6-4 or even 13/8 on a habitual contender here Adam Hadwin. Best price currently though is 11/10, so that scenario seems unlikely.
To Miss The Cut:
Keep an eye out for more firms pricing this up. Maybe they will just copy and paste Bet 365’s market, but if someone does dangle 4/1 on Matt Wolffe, it would be worth playing to 4pts.
**.3pt ew Aaron Baddeley 250/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB) **This was advised yesterday. Bigger was available, up to 350/1, so hopefully all have got on. He is still 225/1 to 7 places with Coral, and the general 200/1 to 8 places is still worth backing for those not on yet.
1.4pts ew Sungjae Im 22/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH) *22/1 to 7 places with Betfred, 20/1 to 8 places with Skybet + Boyles all acceptable
1.1pt ew Abraham Ancer 28/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB) **Just cut from 30/1, but anything 25/1 and upwards is fine (Placed)
.5pt ew Aaron Wise 60/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB/Boyles)
Top Continental Euro:
6pts Sepp Straka 3/1 (PP/BFSB/Vbet) *Currently 10/3 with Bet365 – 5/2 and upwards acceptable Top 20 Finish:
2pts Aaron Baddeley 11/1 (PP/BFSB) **8/1 an upwards acceptable. Check exchanges late Wed/early Thursday also when more liquidity
3pts Aaron Baddeley 5/1 (PP/BFSB/WH/Coral/Lads) *4/1 upwards acceptable
Abu Dhabi Championship:
In truth I haven’t spent a whole deal of time studying this. The reason I looked at it at all was because I am keen to track the progress, and back at big odds, a certain LUCAS BJERREGAARD in the early part of 2021. An extremely talented player, he has had confidence issues over the past year, and has had a very poor 18 months. But prior to that he was seen finishing 16th in the 2019 Open, the same position in that year’s US PGA and 21st at The Masters. Prior to Augusta he had reached the semi final stage of the WGC Matchplay. He’s a top class operator at his best. Like so many sports at the top level, everyone is very capable of excellent performances, but is what’s between the ears that dictates when or if that happens. Reports are that Bjerregaard’s play in practise has been excellent in recent times, he’s just not converting to the course. That suggests it is a head problem for the Dane. Working with Sean Foley the past few months could be a massive help in this regard. Starting into a fresh year, hopefully with his head space now cleared, he could make a mockery of his price this week. He also has a new caddy on the bag this week. When things are going wrong, any change can be good. It can give the idea that
that was the problem, and instigate a better frame of mind. I may be very wrong but again, like Baddeley, it won’t cost much to find out.
In finding out whether Lucas was indeed still working with Foley, It also came to my attention that Paul Waring is now working with him also. Reports are he is going very well in practise, and considering he was 12th here last year, and 6th in 2019, he is no forlorn hope this week. Currently 125/1 across the board. I am not going to put him up as an official bet, as I really haven’t studied the event in much detail at all.
I know it will be the more attractive of the two tournaments this week to many, and for those who want to get more heavily involved if I was to back another in this, it would be Danny Willett around the 60-66/1 mark.
**.3pt ew Lucas Bjerregaard 300/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, PP/BFSB)
**.1pt ew Double – Bjerregaard 300/1 + Baadeley 250/1 (PP/BFBS, both ⅕ odds 8 places)
**These were both recommended yesterday. Bjerregaard is still 250/1 most places. Try bet with firms betting to most places for each double
Pre-Event Running Totals 2021:
All the best this week, hopefully we can build on last week’s success. Each way double is worth the few quid alone just for the dream. An ‘Aaron’ 1-2 stateside would be very acceptable!
I will keep an eye on the Baddeley Top 20 price. The 11/1 is currently a bit out of line with others. If cut very quickly, I will settle at a lower price. In saying that, he is currently 12.5 in a no liquidity exchange market, so perfectly feasible if that is left settle that plenty could get in there in due course.