The Greenbrier Classic is always a popular event on the PGA Tour. Fans are treated to a beautiful course, low scores and plenty of off-course entertainment. The players enjoy it because it is a course that they can attack and the organisers do a great job in catering for their families. Bubba Watson is one player who especially enjoys his time here although he probably enjoyed his win at the Travelers Championship last week even more. This week he’s the bookies favourite once again and although we got stung by opting out of backing him last week, we’re going to be taking on the favourite again as this is an event where outsiders generally do well.
The 7,300 yard Old White TPC track may look as though it is more like Bubba’s length, the fact that the tournament is played at altitude means that even the shorter hitters on the field won’t be overly taxed by the distance required this week. Instead, it will take great concentration to ensure the players choose the right clubs and impressive powers of recovery should they miss these sloped greens.
Although the well-fancied players don’t have a good record here it is certainly worth siding with third favourite Webb Simpson. He’s got three top 10 finishes at Old White TPC in four starts here and ranks fourth in shots gained from tee-to-green, a key pointer for a strong showing. If he can back up his solid tee game and iron play with a good week’s putting, Simpson may well be difficult to stop. Having won the 2012 US Open, Simpson can cope with pressure and looks a good bet at 28/1 with Coral.
Away from the top of the leaderboard there are two players who have a number of PGA Tour wins between them that look like great outside bets. The first of these is 48-year-old Steve Stricker. Over the last couple of years Stricker has played much less golf, opting to conserve his energy for the events which he enjoys and feels he has a chance of winning. Nevertheless he regularly finishes towards the top of the FedEx Cup rankings and underwent back surgery just before last Christmas to prolong his career. He’s always been an excellent putter so should he hit a high number of greens this week he must have a good chance at odds of 66/1 with BetVictor.
The second outsiders to plump for this week is Johnson Wagner who can be found way down the bottom of the outright market at odds of 250/1 with Bet365. With three PGA Tour victories in his career so far, Wagner narrowly missed out on a fourth this season when he was edge out of a playoff at the Shell Houston Open. He hits nearly 70% of greens in regulation and his driving is certainly accurate enough to hit the wide fairways at Old White PTC. His putting has let him down at times this season but a good week with the putter could see him provide a massive win from an each-way bet.
Le Golf National, just outside of Paris, has long been one of the most popular courses on the European Tour. It has hosted the Alstom Open de France for the vast majority of the summers since 1991 and has been rewarded for its popularity, beauty and the challenge it poses by being given hosting duties for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
The popularity of this tournament – along with the big purse – have tempted some of Europe’s best players to fly back from America and include this event in their preparations for the Open which starts on July 16th. Lee Westwood, Francesco Molinari and two-time winner of this tournament Graeme McDowell will all be competing this week around the 7,331 yard stadium course. It’s not the longest track on Tour and is likely to play less than its yardage due to the hot weather in France which will allow any ball which hits the fairway to trundle on down towards the green.
If Francesco Molinari can use the roll on the fairways well and approach the rock hard greens sensibly, he will surely finish towards the top of the leaderboard come Sunday. The Italian has played on the PGA Tour for the majority of this season where he has collected some impressive statistics. He ranks number one in terms of driving accuracy and second for greens hit in regulation. However, he’s been unable to put a good enough week together to win since 2012. That could all change this week. He’s back in the world’s top 50 and playing as well as ever. The favourite for this week is the top pick at odds of 16/1 with Coral.
Chris Wood returned to the winners’ circle at the Lyoness Open last month. The tall Englishman’s victory was especially impressive given that he had not long returned from injury. The 27-year-old is not quite as accurate off the tee as Molinari but he is certainly good enough with his driver to hit the majority of fairways this week. His power should allow him to hit relatively short irons into the greens giving him the best possible chance of holding his approach shots on the putting surfaces. His putting stats are as good as they have been throughout his career so Wood is an interesting option to include in your staking for an each-way bet at 33/1 with Ladbrokes.
The final player to include in your betting this week is the winner of the Irish Open, Soren Kjeldsen. The 40-year-old ended a six year drought that week and followed it up by finishing in second place at the Nordea Masters. Kjeldsen’s task will be to give himself birdie putts this week because he is as good with the flat stick as anybody else in the field. Kjeldsen will need to hold his nerve around a course that features plenty of water ready to swallow up any errant shots but his experience and good form should see him in good stead to make Coral’s 40/1 look way too big.
The week after a major championship can often be a strange time for golf. Many of the best players in the world have given so much in pursuit of one of the biggest titles available that they give the next week’s run-of-the-mill tournament a swerve. That is particularly true in the European Tour which often has to play second fiddle to the PGA Tour. So the organisers of the BMW International Open were delighted when Martin Kaymer confirmed he would once again be playing in the tournament in his homeland, Germany.
The number one golf tournament in Germany is now in its 27th year. In that time there have been 25 different champions proving that it is an unpredictable tournament. This year the hosting duties are being fulfilled by the course which first hosted this event, the Golfclub München Eichenried. The course will be challenging but at around 7,200 yards it is a fair challenge in terms of distance. The course is actually a combination of the three courses that make up the resort. The mishmash of holes actually produces one of the toughest closing stretches on the European Tour. Water is in play on a few holes including the signature par-four 16th.
Although Kaymer will be the most popular winner with the fans at the course he is not the bookies favourite. Kaymer’s poor form this season which included him missing the cut last week, means that Henrik Stenson has been made favourite. The Swede hasn’t been in top form either this season but he’s improved considerably in recent weeks. Stenson battled to 27th place in the US Open, a finish which could have been so much better if he had a better week with his putter. Nobody on the PGA Tour has hit a higher percentage of greens in regulation so he’s a fair favourite at odds of 8/1 with Ladbrokes.
There aren’t many holes at Golfclub München Eichenried that rank among the longest on Tour which could play nicely into the hands of the evergreen Thongchai Jaidee. The 45-year-old narrowly missed out at the BMW Championship in Wentworth where he eventually had to settle for a share of second place. His accurate iron play and ability to carefully and prudently plot his way around the course means that he rarely suffers blowouts so if he can manufacture enough birdie opportunities and he putts well, Jaidee could come up trumps at big odds of 40/1 with Coral.
Thomas Bjorn is one of only two men who have won this tournament twice. Both of those wins came at this course, as did his runner-up finish in 2013 so this could be the perfect place for him to return to winning ways. He’s another one who’s had a poor season by his high standards. Last year his form was good enough to qualify for the Ryder Cup team automatically, this year his best two finishes (tied for 21st and tied for 11th) have come in his last two European Tour starts so he may be ready for a push at the top end of the leaderboard at 40/1 with Coral.
After the US Open and the ‘Chamber of Horrors Bay’ the PGA Tour moves to Connecticut this week for the Travellers Championship. A number of the players who suffered last week will be teeing it up at TPC River Highlands, happy that almost the entire landmass of America is between them and last week’s nightmare. In order to secure the strongest field possible the organisers of the Travelers laid on a special flight to take those battered and bruised from the second major of the year straight to Cromwell and there are some top players in the mix.
Apart from Jordan Spieth’s incredibly dramatic win, the story of the US Open was the sorry state of the greens. Luckily the players will have no such problems this week. TPC River Highlands was specifically designed for this tournament after the original host, Wethersfield Country Club, could no longer cope with the number of fans who turned up to watch an event that has been a staple on the PGA Tour for decades. The greens are fair here but they are necessarily difficult given that this is the second shortest course on the PGA Tour rotation.
Bubba Watson is the bookies’ favourite for the win this week but it’s not clear that this course will suit him. He loves smashing the ball down the fairways and shaping short irons into greens but he’s not hit a good percentage of greens so far this season, something that has been a key indicator of success in recent renewals of the Travellers.
If not Bubba, then who? Well, how about Francesco Molinari. The Italian has been threatening all season to win for the first time on the PGA Tour. Nobody drives the ball with more accuracy than Molinari and he hits the vast majority of greens in regulation. Of course, that means little if he doesn’t have a good week with the flat stick. He actually loses strokes to the field with his putter but if he puts the ball close enough to the hole he could come good at 40/1 with Bet365.
The second-favourite with most books this week is Brandt Snedeker. He won his first tournament in a year-and-a-half at the AT&T Pebble Beach so has certifiable form around shorter courses that require accuracy and patience. The popular American gets on with his game and plays with a permanent smile on his face, a smile which will be even broader if he wins at odds of 16/1 with Ladbrokes.
Branden Grace is staying on in America to compete this week to play yet another PGA Tour event. He plays the majority of his golf on the European and Sunshine Tours but is enjoying his time stateside. He was one of the few players to get to grips with Chambers Bay last week where he was impressive in finishing tied for fourth. He’s not played much on the PGA Tour but with nine professional wins so far the 27-year-old certainly has what it takes to compete among the best players in the world and offers great each-way appeal at 45/1 with Coral.
The US Open sometimes feels like the slightly forgotten Major. The Masters is the first Major of the year and has the Augusta factor, the Open is Britain’s chance to shine and the USPGA closes the Major season out in style. However, the US Open is getting plenty of the limelight this year thanks to the quirky Chambers Bay course that has hosting duties.
Chambers Bay in Washington State has only been open eight years but it was specifically designed to provide a test worthy of this championship. Robert Trent Jones Jr was put in charge of the design and has come up with something truly unique. The pars of the front and back nines will change daily as the first and last holes can be set up as either par-fours or par-fives. They’re not the only holes that can change, depending on which tee is in use on the par-three fifteenth it can play uphill or downhill and have its length altered by up to 120 yards.
The nature of the course means there is a fair amount of trepidation among the players who make up an all-star field. World numbers one and two, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, unsurprisingly sit at the top of the betting but a whole host of former Major champions will tee off on Thursday. This promises to be an incredibly unpredictable event but there are some trends to look out for: the course is long so distance is important, the greens are incredibly difficult to hit so a solid short game is necessary and the greens are very bumpy so the winner will have to have a great week’s putting.
If Rory McIlroy can find a solid putting stroke this week he should finish near the top of the leaderboard. He’ll hope that his incredible driving will allow him to be in position A on the fairways so he can hit some sensible clubs into some very silly pins. He’s also a confident chipper, a skill he will need to use to get up-and-down when he inevitably misses these difficult greens. Rory is the favourite to pick up yet another Major championship at a general 7/1.
Last season Rickie Fowler was hot on the heels of McIlroy. He didn’t manage a win but finished in the top five of every Major. He showed that he thrives in the biggest challenges when winning this season’s Players Championship thanks to a wonderful finishing stretch of golf. At 22/1 with Bet365 the bookies clearly feel that Fowler offers a threat. He moves the ball both ways and is clever on and around the greens so should not be written off this week.
Jim Furyk has never possessed a huge amount of distance but he has always been one of the most accurate players in the game. He ended a long drought by winning the Heritage in April. The Harbour Town golf links could just well offer a good route in to this week’s festivities. Furyk will work closely with his caddie once again and could just pick up a second US Open win at odds of 35/1 with Betfred.
Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel are just three of the big names included in the field for this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic which will be played around TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee. It is a difficult track which has proven to be an excellent precursor to the US Open over the nearly 30 years that it has been a fixture on the PGA Tour.
The course has undergone some renovations in recent history with holes lengthened and trees planted to make the course even more testing. The player who ends up winning the $1million prize on Sunday evening will have to have played at the top of their abilities. Whilst driving is not particularly difficult here, there are a number of doglegs to plan for and water comes into play on the majority of the holes. You need patience here and more experienced players who have more of it have tended to outperform the young guns.
Dustin Johnson sits at the top of the betting but it is difficult to know whether to call him a young buck or an experienced player. He’s only 30 but has been on Tour for years, winning nine events. His ninth victory came this year at the WGC-Cadillac Championship where he was simply brilliant. He could have followed that win up in his last two events but for some costly mistakes. This time around the biggest price you can get on DJ is the 6/1 that Bet365 are offering. He’s the highest ranked player in the field and nobody hits it further than him off the tee. You don’t need to hit it miles to win around TPC Southwind but it never hurts to smash a drive 300 yards down the middle. You can expect Johnson to do all he can to tee off at Chambers Bay for the US Open on the back of a win here.
Jamie Donaldson sits firmly in the experienced camp of golfers. He turns 40 this year and has played his golf on the Challenge Tour, the European Tour and now gets to show what he can do in America with the PGA Tour. The man who hit the winning shot in last year’s Ryder Cup has never played in the St. Jude Classic before but plenty of first-timers have walked off with the win here. The Welshman is accurate and has skilful hands around the green to get him up-and-down should he find himself out of position. At 40/ with Coral, the popular Donaldson looks a great each way bet.
Finally, it’s time to look at the prospects of 100/1 (with Bet365) shot Will Wilcox. The 29-year-old only has conditional membership of the PGA Tour so needs to take all the opportunities he’s given. Only three players have a better green in regulation percentage than Wilcox this season and he’s in the top 20 for scrambling. He placed tied for 19th in his debut at TPC Southwind last season and could come in at a lovely big price if you back him each way.
The Lyoness Open is the major golfing event in Austria and as such attracts a passionate following from the locals. For the sixth year in a row the tournament is hosted by the Diamond Country Club which recently became an official European Tour property. Unfortunately for the promoters of the event, it falls directly before the US Open so many of the Tour’s leading lights have opted to give this one a miss. Still, the fans will not be upset if local lad Bernd Wiesberger can win his home event for the second time.
The par-72 course can stretch to over 7,400 yards which makes it look a bit of a brute. However, it is not the distance that the players mention when talking about the challenge of this track. Rather they talk about how well designed and interesting it is, forcing patience and planning to get to the top of the leaderboard. Distance off the tee will not hamper anybody’s chances though which is a positive for Wiesberger.
Wiesberger is capable of overpowering courses when he has his best game. The 29-year-old hits the ball a mile so will be looking to take on the four par-fives, especially the 10th hole which measures a little over 500 yards. Wiesberger also has what it takes to overpower this field. He’s won amongst this level of competition before and has played against the very best this season, including when finishing in the top 25 in the Masters. Such is the strength of the Austrian’s chance of winning this week that some bookies have gone as short as 4/1. The best price you can find on him is Coral’s 11/2 which may not sound great but is probably fair.
Just underneath Wiesberger in the betting is the 16/1 shot (with BetVictor) Richie Ramsey. The Scot has had a great year so far on Tour. He won the Trophee Hassan II in March and has missed the cut just once. Ramsey is a top 20 machine currently, including his tied for 10th at the Irish Open. He showed at Royal County Down that his game can cope with the most testing conditions and that he’s not put off when competing against the Tour’s biggest names. He will have his work cut out to finish above Wiesberger but should he beat the Austrian, he could well walk away with his second victory of the season.
Nicolas Colsaerts is the most likely man in the field to hit it further than Wiesberger this week. The 32-year-old is deserving of his nickname the ‘Belgian Bomber’. He averages over 300 yards with his driver, a strength of his game that has seen him win twice on the European Tour. The distance of the Diamond Country Club will pose no threat to Colsaerts who is finding some form. He placed seventh at the Nordea Masters last week, hitting the ball as well as ever in the process. At 25/1, Colsaerts – who played in the 2012 Ryder Cup team – has a great chance to finally claim his third title on Tour.
The PGA Tour returns to Muirfield Village for Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament. Nicklaus co-designed and built the course which opened in 1974. Since then it has hosted the Tour for over 30 years whilst the Ryder Cup was also played here in 1987. Just like in his playing career, Nicklaus takes his course designing very seriously. To that end there is always something new at Muirfield Village by the time the world’s best come to play. Taking of the world’s best, Rory McIlroy wrote a personal letter to Nicklaus to tell him that he would not be able to play at the Memorial this year, so important is the tournament to the world’s number one.
Although McIlroy is not in attendance, Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler are all competing alongside other major champions and multiple winners. They will find the par-72, 7,392 yard course in great condition, playing to its true test. It’s long but there is plenty of space for errant drives so the bigger challenge is around the greens. Run-off areas will catch anything that misses them, so solid iron play and a deft touch to recover from any mistakes are crucial. That should sound like music to the ears of Jordan Spieth.
The Masters champion has risen to number two in the world so is the highest ranked player in the field this week. He was frustrated at his hometown tournament last week and narrowly missed out on victory the week before. Still, his game has looked great for the vast majority of this season and this is a track that should see him flourish. He’s the favourite with every single book but is by no means unbackable at 8/1 with Coral. The 21-year-old will take some beating this week.
Rickie Fowler roared back into the winner’s circle at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Last week he played at Royal County Down in the Irish Open where he faced some horrific weather conditions and a course that beat up everybody who played on it. The world number nine will much prefer the weather this week as he looks to take on the manicured Muirfield Village course. None of his individual stats jump out but his all-round game is very strong at the moment and he showed at the Players that he is capable of some scintillating golf when it is called for so he makes an interesting case at 25/1 with Coral.
The third young gun to back for victory this week is the defending champion, Hideki Matsuyama. He won on debut last year, shooting sub 70 rounds three times before holding off Kevin Na in a nerve jangling playoff. He will have to cope with the pressure and expectations placed on the shoulders of title defenders but his game is rock solid. The 25/1 shot with Coral is ranked second in shots gained from tee-to-green, ninth in greens hit in regulation and 10th in total scrambling on Tour this year. They are all good indications of success. Matsuyama is primed for his defence…and your betting slips.
The European Tour summer schedule moves from Royal County Down and the Irish Open to PGA Sweden National for the Nordea Masters. Both tournaments take place over links courses but it would be something for the challenge this week to be as tough as last. The three players who made it to the playoff at last year’s Nordea Masters ended up with scores of 16-under-par, compare that to just a handful of players who ended up in the red last week.
The relative strength of the field assembled in Sweden also contrasts with last week. There’s no world number one Rory McIlroy but there is the world number four, Henrik Stenson, who’s playing in his first event in Europe this season. Stenson is joined by fellow Swede Alex Noren at the top of the betting.
Both players have good chances of delighting the home fans with a victory. Stenson is a powerful player who has victories all over the world, as well as topping the money lists on both the European and PGA Tours in 2013. He has decent form on links courses and hits the ball high allowing to land it softly on small greens, though he’ll have to control the flight more should the wind blow.
Noren doesn’t have the pedigree of Stenson but he has been impressive since returning to competitive golf following wrist surgery. He’s yet to miss a cut and has three top 10 finishes this season. The 32-year-old has also won this tournament before and is feeling positive on his return to Malmo. Stenson (9/2 with BetVictor) and Noren (20/1 with Bet365) should both be included in your betting this week.
There is something to be said for the strengths of players who possess good distance off the tee this week but PGA Sweden International is not a course which excludes the chances of more position-based players as shown by Thongchai Jaidee’s victory last year. That means that Miguel Angel Jimenez could well have a strong week. The 51-year-old has shown time and time again that he is by no means beyond competing with the young bucks of the European Tour. He’s playing plenty of tournaments and looks capable of adding to his 21 European Tour wins at some stage this season. 33/1 with Ladbrokes is a good price given he’s hit almost 70% of greens in regulation and 65% of fairways this season – elements that bode well for a links test.
Finally, there’s a 100/1 shot with Bet365 who could come up trumps with a return to form. Rikard Karlberg shot two under par last Sunday in horrific conditions around an incredibly difficult course. He’s not had a great season so far but that encouraging performance around a links track means his price stands out. At last year’s Nordea Masters he finished in the top 20 so he has form at PGA Sweden National and is another Swede who will receive wild support from the galleries. Karlberg hits the majority of greens but he will likely need to improve on a season driving accuracy of 56% to make sure he can put himself in good positions on the greens and on the leaderboard. At 100/1 he’s great value though and could go close.
Not everybody was entirely blown away with the PGA Championship at Wentworth last week. The course was not in the best condition it’s ever been in with many players especially unhappy with how the greens were running. There will be no such concerns this week at Royal County Down. The Championship Course in Newcastle, Northern Ireland is regularly voted as one of the best courses in the world.
Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Murlough Nature Reserve, the par-71, 7,200 yard course has narrow, sloping fairways littered with dunes and bunkers. Postage stamp greens are well guarded and so take some very good approach shots to be hit in regulation. Many links courses play out-and-in, meaning the wind direction is relatively stable on the front nine and then changes for the back nine. That is not the case with Royal County Down. It was specifically designed so that the holes change direction and so does the wind. Only the best links golfers will consider themselves to have a chance of lifting the trophy come Sunday.
Rory McIlroy had a poor week at Wentworth. He missed the cut last week but it’s not a course he loves, whilst the opposite is true of Royal County Down. He grew up not far away and plays the event for fun regularly. The 26-year-old’s Rory Foundation is hosting the event this week and he’s responsible for many of the brilliant players making up the field. The world number one can control his ball flight and won the Open last year around a links course. He is, then, a deserved favourite at odds of 10/3 with Bet365, although you won’t get rich at that price.
At Royal Liverpool last year McIlroy kept Rickie Fowler at bay as the American finished tied for second with Sergio Garcia. All the talk then was of a rivalry between two friends that was going to dominate world of golf for years to come. Similar talk resurfaced after Fowler won the Players Championship at the start of May. Fowler is comfortable playing links golf and also played much of his formative golf in windy environments. Royal County Down holds good memories for the world number nine who played here in the 2007 Walker Cup. He must be considered for a good week at 12/1 with Coral.
The final pick for this week is Thongchai Jaidee. The most successful Thai golfer of all time has a good record at links courses and has shown himself capable of performing well in the wind. At 45, Jaidee showed that his game is still solid last week when he finished second at Wentworth. In the end he was unable to live with the scoring power of Byeong Hun An but he was his old, stable self. Jaidee will need to make sure that the distance of the course doesn’t trouble him but his approach play is so solid that he makes a great case for an each-way bet at odds of 66/1 with Bet365.