Another profitable week for the recommendations, but I did think at one stage on Sunday afternoon that we were in for something even more fruitful. Padraig Harrington had built up a 4 shot lead in the battle for the Top GB & Ire section, and playing some fine stuff. Unfortunately the wheels came off in no uncertain manner, and he played the back 9 in 3 over par. Level par would have been enough to account for Russel Knox, who had been nominated as the most likely danger. Matt Jones also relegated Cameron Percy to the runner up spot in the Top Australian section. Michael Gligic did more than enough though to land a Top 20 selection, and though Doc Redman never really got going in the hunt for outright glory on Sunday, both he and Denny McCarthy delivered full place payouts. Could have been better, but equally a bad round round from Gligic would have left us losing for the week, having been in serious shape at halfway. As ever, take the profit and run.
This week sees the once traditional Masters curtain raiser come to us at a non traditional time, from a non traditional venue. We have now entered the first week in November, rather than the first week in April, but it is once again the Houston Open which takes the mantle as a warm up act for Augusta. We have moved from GC Houston to the near 7450 Par 72 layout of Memorial Park Golf Course. It is the first time the Tour has stopped here, and there is a bit of guesswork involved as to how it will play, and who it will suit. My own two cents worth is that it will play pretty easy from tee to green, with the now typical advantage of length. The greens themselves are likely to pose the most problems. Redundant bunkering has been replaced by severe slopes, and run offs, clearly a big part in why the PGA Tour has chosen this venue ahead of the belated trip down Magnolia Lane. The weather seems set pretty fair, and it is unlikely we see much in the way of wind, or draw advantage. I would expect a winning total in the area of 18-20 under par.
As has been the case most times in recent past for events preceding a Major, the field has a somewhat weakened feel to it. Many of the games elite now prefer to take this week off, and prepare away from tournament play for the most important week of the year. There is however one of the games’ real big time names playing, the biggest of them all in fact, world number one DUSTIN JOHNSON. He is the clear and obvious favourite here, but not as short as I would have him, and the 15/2 is worth availing of. In 2017 he approached Masters week off the back off 3 successive wins, and was set to line up there as 6/1 favourite for Green Jacket glory. He doesn’t come here off that prep here, indeed he has missed the last couple of weeks due to a positive Covid test, but prior to that he was very very close to that imperious form of 3 years ago. And the field he faces here bears no resemblance to a Major line up, and getting over the line in these regulation events is meat and drink to the 23 time winner compared to when presented with opportunities at Major level. Many look at these events as a chance to find a big priced winner, a lesser known name to take advantage of the top tier having their eye off the ball. The facts don’t back this up. The top tier target majors for sure, but that means if they play the week prior, that they are pretty much at that targeted peak. The results of events preceding majors do back this notion up.
Memorial Golf Club looks set to reward those of extended distance off the tee, that don’t tend to be too wayward. Coming into these greens from 160+ yards will present a test to the shorter hitters to hit the right areas of the greens, and avoid the dangerous bogey inducing run offs. DJ will have much shorter clubs in his hand, and can attack the flags with a game from the fairways that is now amongst the best in the world. If he putts even half decent this week, I feel he will be very hard to beat indeed. The 6 week layoff is of no real worry to me. He has been ready to play the past couple of weeks, but was not cleared to. He has appeared very dedicated to the cause this term, and certainly seems to be taking his job very seriously. He won’t be coming here half cooked in the hope of finding something ahead of next week. Indeed his record off a break stands up to scrutiny, and his record the week prior to a Major is excellent. He is a player very adept at going back to back, and doesn’t have the head space to be even contemplating worrying about the ‘curse’ of winning the week prior to a Major. It’s something he has done twice in the last 5 years from limited starts. He was proving to be the best player in the world a few short weeks ago, I have no reason to believe that he won’t rock up here in similar vein, and the opposition as a whole really don’t appeal. The course will be set up as ‘Augusta-like’ as possible, and this is no bad thing that Johnson has finished Top 10 there on each of his last 4 attempts. It is rare I go for a player in the outrights at such a price, as generally there is no unknowns about them, and the market has them pretty much correct. I would make DJ just under 6/1 here, and as such view the 15/2 available as most appealing in an event where little else does. The 9/1 on the exchanges should be where we chose to get on if possible.
*I am going win only on DJ, as the one potential downside is any potential effects of Covid. I don’t rate it as much of an issue at all, but see the win part of the bet as the value. 6/4 for a top 8 doesn’t have the same allure. He is currently 10 (9/1) on the Betfair Exchange, and if people are patient and drip in the amounts they want, I don’t see why most won’t get on at this price. Or 9.5 at worst. I will quote 15/2 for P&L purposes, as it isn’t fair (or my policy) to quote the exchange price.
Tyrrell Hatton is second favourite, and though he too has been in excellent form of late, he’s just too short in my opinion. What has impressed most of late with the game of the Englishman is his prowess around the greens. His touch has been superb, and he had entered my thought process for next week due to this. With similar aspects of ones game likely to be tested this week, I can see why he is popular. The 16/1 couldn’t really be any shorter though, and I much prefer the 15/2 on DJ.
When so sweet on the favourite, it is only right that a few of those directly in behind will appear too short. This is very much the case with Hideki Matsuyama, who at just 20/1 is easy to slide by. Russel Henley and Scottie Scheffler seem to be 10 points too short each at just 25/1, and the same price on Viktor Hovland doesn’t appeal this time around.
Brooks Koepka had some input into the redesign here, and will be eager to go well. He has commented about how much relief he has felt due to a recent operation, and it will be interesting to see just how close he is to his best ahead of next week. At 20/1 I will be a watcher rather than wagerer though. He will need a big improvement on anything he has shown recently.
As such it is just TONY FINAU who I feel is also worthy of support in the outright market. He should be second favourite in my opinion, and given his consistency, the relative lack of strength in depth here and the 8 places on offer, I feel playing the 20/1 each way is fully justified. As with DJ, Finau has shown a fair affinity for Augusta, including a scintillating 63 on Saturday there last year. He clearly has the tools to dismantle just about any layout, and I feel this may suit him even more than most. He has been the epitome consistency these past few months, with 7 Top 14 finishes from his last 9 outings. One of the disappointments, at the WGC St Jude came off the back of a disappointing near miss at the 3M Open. The other came at the Northern Trust which came hot on the heels of a valiant attempt at the US PGA. 3rd and 4th at those two events, 5th at the BMW, and brace of 8th place finishes at the Memorial and US Open have all come since late July. He is in typically consistently excellent form. The worry as ever, is getting over the line.
So why should he notch that elusive second win this week? Well it could well be that before the Lord Mayors show may be just the time for him to strike. With all eyes on next week, the media no doubt concentrating their questions on that, this may be something of a free shot for Finau. Again, as I’ve said before I don’t view Tony as a bottler. More just unlucky to have ran into someone in the form of their life when he has been in a potential winning position. Webb Simpson at the Phoenix Open being one such example. To my eye, Finau is the current second best player in this field. He brings come superb recent form to the table, promises to be well suited by the layout, and may not feel the pressure that would otherwise be on him in a different week of the year. I feel he will go very close, and at the least reward each way support.
Adam Scott is one who will certainly have one eye on next week, and the principal aim in playing here, will be to hone his game for that challenge ahead. He has just been a notch below his best so far since the resumption in play. Jason Day did nothing to quell worries about his well being at the Zozo, and they are a pair of Australians I will be looking to take on later in the piece.
Doc Redman was again of some interest, but ultimately I have left him alone, and if Zach Johnson was 10 points bigger than the 55/1 on offer I may have been tempted. Zach has subsequently been cut to 45/1 so has been made easier to swerve. As such it is just the two outright selections this week. But when playing at the prices I am, I feel that is enough.
Not to be confused with Top Australian, but with the only difference being the addition of Danny Lee. I was all set to back Davis in Top Australian, until I saw this market where Coral/Lads have him at 9/2. With Lee being an 11/1 shot, this represents a better value option. For those who can’t get on the 9/2, the 7/2 for Top Australian elsewhere is fine.
As I alluded to earlier, I am keen to take both Adam Scott and Jason Day on here. Scott hasn’t been as active as some of his counterparts this calendar year, and I just feel he is leaving himself undercooked at times. He has only played the big events since the resumption, but maybe he himself feels he needs a bit of tournament time under his belt heading into the Masters. Heading this particular market at ….he is one to take on.
Jason Day withdrew from the final round of the CJ Cup after a poor opening few holes, and not only performed poorly on his next outing at the Zozo, but also looked uncomfortable. He is a drama queen at the best of times, so it’s hard to know just how much his neck is actually ailing him, but he looks a dangerous conveyance at the moment. Especially at short odds here. Greg Chalmers would be a big price just to make the weekend, and can be glossed over without much ado. Matt Jones deprived us last week, but he is a very in and out player, and not someone who is likely to repeat a decent performance. A repeat, or an increased expectancy of a good showing is certainly factored into his price here.
At the prices I much prefer the claims of yet another Cameron, this time CAMERON DAVIS. The 25 year old burgeoning talent hasn’t missed a cut since July, a period comprising 7 events. 12th at the 3M Open, 15th at Wyndham, he threatened better at the Northern Trust having opened 64/65. A poor weekend there when in contention, but he bounced back well with a 6th place finish at the Sanderson Farms, where again he had a winning chance. His game is in good all round shape at the moment, and he will appreciate the bit of forgiveness off the tee here. With doubts about the state of Scotts game, the state of Day’s health and the likelihood of the same Matt Jones showing up here, I see Davis as the most solid option in a market where solid is key. I feel our man will be there or thereabouts, and 4/1 that that is enough to land the bet is more than good enough for me.
LEE WESTWOOD hasn’t played much on the PGA Tour in recent seasons, but certainly hasn’t been disgraced when he has. And they have been in the top events against very deep fields. His last 4 outings have seen him 13th in the recent US Open, 4th in the Honda Classic, 22nd in the WGC Mexico and a missed cut at the Arnold Palmer. For one of his starting prices, these are indeed excellent results. He has been very consistent on the European Tour of late, and has carried on that improved play around the greens which he displayed at Winged Foot. This layout looks tailor made for him, and with another trip to his beloved Augusta just a week away, I fancy he will be well up for this one.
Tyrell Hatton is the obvious favourite here. There isn’t a whole lot negative to say about him, but in a market where he is certainly the only one I fear, I view the 4/1 on Lee John as a worthwhile play. This setup won’t play to the strengths of Luke Donald as much as last week did, Danny Willett still wanders around in the wilderness, and once again I don’t rate the chances of Tom Lewis as highly as the odds makers do. I would have Westwood closer to Hatton at the head of the market, more of an 11/4 shot, and a bigger gap back to the rest.
Top Continental European:
Another sub section where the head of the market, and other big names, look worth fielding against. I thought Sergio Garcia was a few notches too short in the outright market, and that has filtered through to this. 4/1 doesn’t appeal as any sort of value. I’m one of Viktor Hovland’s biggest fans, but I wonder will he be suffering from some sort of disappointment here in the knowledge that he won’t be teeing it up next week. That’s just a very slight niggle in my mind, but what is more paramount is will his improved play around the greens survive the test that lies in wait at this week’s layout. I think there are more favourable venues where we can get the talented Norwegian onside.
Henrik Stenson continues to hold no appeal, but I do very much like the claims of fellow Swede ALEX NOREN here. He has notched 5 Top 20’s in his last 8 appearances, and slowly but surely this prolific winner on the European Tour is rediscovering his best form. One of those wins came at Wentworth in 2017, and though many trees have been removed from the course, I still feel there is more than a hint of that venue about this week’s layout. He’s another I expect to be on the premises come Sunday evening, and 15/2 that he tops this section is too big. I was hoping for 5/1, and hence am having a larger than normal stake here. He has been excellent around the greens these past 12 months, and as other areas of his game are now also coming good, I envisage a good season for the affable Swede. That magic when missing the putting surface will come in handy this week, and it’s here I see his big advantage over market favourite Hovland.
Top 20 Finish:
We have had our fair share of success in this department of late, with the last 3 such bets on the PGA Tour all proving profitable. I quite like the chances, and price, of BRIAN HARMAN this week. Like a few others, he struggled in the immediate aftermath of the resumption, but having missed his first 3 cuts he has now made the last 10 weekends. The progress has been steady, and he has recorded 3 Top 20’s in his last 7 outings. In the other 4 he has been on the fringes on what we require him to do here. Another who excels on and around the greens, I see this as an ideal test for the Georgia man. When betting into this market I always look for an overpriced player who offers consistency rather than one who is more hit or bust. Harman very much fits this mould, and will scrap for every shot from the first tee to the clubhouse. 11/4 that he banks his 4th top 20 from his last 8 attempts is too big to my eyes.
5pts win Dustin Johnson 15/2 (Skybet/WH/365) * 10 on Betfair Exchange
1.5pts ew Tony Finau 20/1 (⅕ 0dds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB/Boyles)
4pts Cameron Davis 9/2 (Coral/Lads)
Top Continental Euro:
3pts ew Alex Noren 15/2 (⅕ odds 3 places, Coral/Lads) *11/2 upwards acceptable
5pts Lee Westwood 4/1 (Coral/Lads) *10/3 upwards acceptable
Top 20 Finish:
6pts Brian Harman 11/4 (PP/BFSB/WH) *5/2 and upwards acceptable
Running Totals 2020:
With the cancellation of the Hero World Challenge in December, there are now just 3 events left on the schedule for 2020. These will be The Masters next week, the Mayakoba Classic on 3rd December and then finish up with the DP World Championship the following week. It will be a short turnaround then to the first event of 2021 which will be the Tournament of Champions which begins 7th January. I hope to have you all on board for another crack at the bookies in 2021, in search of a 5th profitable year in succession. You can sign up through the website pgapreviews.com or contact me by mail for alternative payment options.
Ahead of next week, I have had one bet so far, Patrick Cantlay each way at 25/1. Only 6 places were attained, but Betfred are the same price to 7 places. I don’t envisage any more than 8 places being available come next week, and I don’t imagine he will still be 25/1. He’s in excellent form, proven around the venue, a Major winner in waiting and should be shorter than he is.