There is plenty of interest and intrigue surrounding the European Tour this week as Paul Lawrie hosts a match play tournament in his home city of Aberdeen. Murcar Links, set on the North Sea coast, is the venue where 64 players – a mix of European Tour stalwarts and invitations – will battle it out in a straight knock-out format.
This is the third week of Scottish links golf that we’ve seen in the past month coming as it does soon after the Scottish Open and the Open Championship. Murcar is as true a test of links golf as either of the previous two tournaments. It’s not a long course at a shade over 6,400 yards but it is by no means easy. Thick gorse and rough surround the fairways and if you miss the greens in the wrong place the ball will trickle agonisingly away from the putting surfaces. There may be some big swings in matches here as the player who finds himself behind will have opportunities to get aggressive so don’t think that an early lead is fatal.
There is a big Scottish challenge present this week and it is led at the top of the outright market by Marc Warren. Warren hasn’t had a great season by his own high standards but he’s a three-time winner on the European Tour and his best result of the year came at the Scottish Open where he finished tied for fourth. Warren has all the short game skills required should he miss the greens this week but his accurate iron play means that will be a rarity. He knows all there is to know about links golf and generally raises his game when playing in Scotland. At 20/1 with Coral, Warren can certainly make the home fans happy.
Tyrrell Hatton will be hoping to spoil the Scottish party. The 23-year-old Englishman has can almost taste that first win on the European Tour having come so close to breaking his duck at the Omega European Masters. He ended up on his own in third place after a few loose shots punished him. Errors can often be less damaging in match play compared to stroke play and if Hatton replicates the sort of six, seven or eight hole stretches of excellence that he went on last week he’ll blow his opponents away. He’s a 22/1 shot with Bet365 and could go all the way this week.
Maximilian Kieffer has yet to miss a cut on the European Tour this season. His all-round game has held up to whatever challenge the various courses have thrown at him so far and he will be very difficult to beat in a one-on-one match. BetVictor go a standout 33/1 about his chances which is great value for a player on such a good run. His top 10 finish at the Scottish Open shows that he is more than capable of standing up to the challenges of links golf. The rest of the field will consider him a dangerous draw as he will carry on grinding no matter what the current score. Back him each-way so you get a pay-out should he reach the semi-finals.
After a quick stop-off in Canada the PGA Tour returns to American soil this week with the Quicken Loans National presented by the Tiger Woods foundation. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Club plays host to the event, marking the first time that the course has featured on the PGA Tour. It is an unknown quantity for many of those involved this week although six of the competitors played here during the 2005 Presidents Cup.
The lack of good course form for many of the players here means that bookies and punters alike are having something of an educated guess about the relative chances of the players this week. The top of the outright market features Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. Those three are all available at under 20/1 and if they play their best stuff, each of them has a great chance of winning once again this season. Rose is the defending champion and although that was at Congressional, his game looks well set for the challenges posed by the Robert Trent Jones course.
Jones, the legendary course designer, spotted the ground for this place while working on another project and he regarded this course as his crowning glory. Rose and the rest of the field will find a real test of their driving and some intriguing risk/reward holes. Driving is a real strength of Rose’s game at the moment and his putting was much improved at the Open Championship where he debuted a new putter. The 34-year-old has the patience to wait for his chances and at 9/1 with BetVictor he is the worthy favourite.
Rose will be joined at the event by a number of countrymen with Andy Sullivan perhaps the best placed to cap off what has already been a great season. 2015 has seen him win in South Africa twice and get the chance to play amongst the world’s best on the PGA Tour. The American galleries have quickly taken a liking to the 29-year-old who has a disarmingly upbeat approach to his golf game. Sullivan regularly hits it over 300 yards with his driver and should he miss the greens he has enough touch around the green to generally keep big numbers off of his card. At 66/1 with Ladbrokes, Sullivan offers great appeal for an each-way bet with the firm paying five places.
The third player to have a bet on this week is Will Wilcox. The 29-year-old American has finished in the top 10 of his last two tournaments with 71 the worst score in any of his last 10 rounds. Last week at the Barbasol Championship he had the best stats of anyone but was just unable to get the victory. He’s tended to struggle in the strongest fields so far this season but will not be too out of his comfort zone this week. One of the best scramblers out there, Wilcox will likely have to use that short game prowess because everyone will find themselves out of position at some stage this week. He’s a tasty 60/1 with Coral so get involved with an each-way bet and Wilcox landing a place will mean a nice profit for you.
Careful scheduling is required to ensure that the tournaments following Major championships are not damp squibs. With so much energy expended by the players in the quest to win one of golf’s biggest prizes, fields can often be decimated the following week. However, that is not the case with the European Masters. Hosted by the incredibly beautiful Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club set high up in the Swiss Alps, the tournament has attracted members of both Ryder Cup teams and players who have won all over the world.
The top of the outright betting market incudes major names like Lee Westwood and Patrick Reed and those who had a good five days at St Andrews last week such as Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia. With the relative ease of this course coupled with the fact that the ball travels roughly 10% further due to the altitude, any one of those big names could fly through the field with a week of heavy scoring. Likewise players like Jamie Donaldson, Bernd Wiesberger and Alexander Levy.
Even if this event was played at sea level this would not be classed as a long course. At around 6,800 yards, depending on which tees and pin positions are used, even the shortest hitters on the European Tour can keep up with the pace of scoring. Take driving distance out of your thoughts for this week and instead concern yourself with players who hit accurate approach shots, have a delicate touch around the greens and can putt well.
Those sort of qualities can all be found in the game of Thongchai Jaidee. The 45-year-old is the most successful Thai golfer of all time and nobody has won more money on the Asian Tour. At only 5ft 7in, power has never been his strength. He is a player who plots his way around courses and as well as a demon short game he’s had to concentrate on hitting fairway woods and long irons as he plays on some very long courses. There are only three par fives on this par 70 track which should play into his hands. He looks a great bet at 25/1 with Ladbrokes.
Another player with great imagination around the greens is Victor Dubuisson. This year hasn’t gone as well as last for the mercurial Frenchman but his form has rebounded slightly in recent weeks. A missed cut at St Andrews was preceded by three finishes in the top 20 which could have been so much better if not for some costly mistakes. Dubuisson is a 28/1 shot with Bet365 which is decent value for an each-way bet paying five places.
The final player to add to your staking is Tommy Fleetwood. The 24-year-old has improved his final placing every time he’s played in the Alps culminating in a tied for fifth finish last year. Fleetwood is a very good chipper but given he hits three quarters of greens in regulation he doesn’t often need to get up-and-down out of troublesome positions. If Fleetwood has a good week with his putter, he’ll look a great bet at 25/1 with Bet365.
The Canadian Open returns to one of the most revered golf courses in the country, Glen Abbey Golf Course. As well as holding the Canadian golf Hall of Fame and the country’s golfing headquarters, it was the first course that Jack Nicklaus designed entirely on his own. The 7,273 yard track includes some stunning holes such as the 11th,where players tee off to a fairway that sits 60 meters below them and the 221-yard par three ninth where players must carry water but hit the green to miss three bunkers guarding the back of the hole.
Despite the Open Championship finishing on Monday there is a strong enough field at the Canadian Open. With specially chartered planes bringing over some of the stars of St. Andrews, the Canadian galleries will be wowed by the likes of Jason Day, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson. Each of them will be looking to add some valuable FedEx Cup points as the season draws ever closer to its conclusion.
After falling just short of glory at the Open, Jason Day tops the outright market. The 27-year-old Australian almost always takes the aggressive option, an approach that has seen him win three times on the PGA Tour. He is in the top 25 players on Tour in terms of greens hit in regulation, second in terms of birdie average and in fact is ranked third when all statistics are combined. A huge driver of the ball, Day misses the fairway more than most but that shouldn’t be too punishing around Glen Abbey. Distance will not be a problem for Day this week and if he gets the ball close to the hole he will once again challenge at fair odds of 9/1 with Bet365.
Another player who had a good week at the Open is Luke Donald. He finally looks like putting a torrid couple of years behind him. If it weren’t for a third round 73 Donald would have finished higher up the leaderboard but he’ll be content with a tied 12th finish. His improved form sees no sign of stopping. Even with a poor start to the season the 37-year-old’s short game and powers of recovery have never let him down. Scoring will be low this week but many players will still miss a high proportion of these small greens. Donald’s ability to get up-and-down and his great approach play make him an excellent each-way shout at 22/1 with Bet365.
Matt Kuchar is having another solid season on the PGA Tour. He’s not yet won but three top 10s and only one missed cut leave him well placed at 34th on the FedEx Cup. The last time he played at Glen Abbey the ever-reliable Kuchar was joint second. This time around his very impressive putting could see him secure a very useful top five finish. The bookies clearly feel that Kuchar is a danger this week as he’s been ranked a 16/1 shot with Bet365. His birdie average ranks at 42nd but he’s seventh in terms of eagles per hole. If the putts drop, expect a return to form and a serious challenge.
A number of high profile players were critical of Chambers Bay, the last course to host a major championship this year. There will be no such dissent at St Andrews this week. Chambers Bay was constructed to pose a links style challenge. Not only is the Old Course at St Andrews the original links course, it is the oldest course in the world with its history stretching back to the 16th century. If Chambers Bay was ‘links golf on steroids’ St Andrews is links golf as it was meant to be and we can’t wait.
There have been alterations to the Old Course over the years but at its heart it has always been the same challenge. Those pioneers of golf in 1552 had to contend with the wind and the rain, the huge greens and the bunkers that litter this great course. Whoever wins this week will have to navigate those same difficulties.
At St Andrews it is critical to maintain concentration and stay in total control of the golf ball. If you miss the greens in the wrong place, you’ve either got an incredibly difficult chip or a 30 yard putt. Jordan Spieth, the highest ranked player in the field due to Rory McIlroy’s absence with injury, has all the ball control attributes that you need but he doesn’t possess a great deal of links experience. He may have won the John Deere Classic last week but that requires a whole different set of skills to St Andrews. That said, he did prevail at Chambers Bay so can’t be totally discounted on that front.
Another young American talent did have a great week’s links golf practice. Rickie Fowler won his second tournament of the season at the Scottish Open. He showed at Gullane that his game is in great shape and that his love for links golf is as strong as ever. Fowler can move the ball both ways and is able to negate the elements as well as anyone. Last week’s win has brought his price in a bit but Coral’s 18/1 is still decent value.
As ever at The Open there is a strong European contingent with their eyes firmly on the Claret Jug and it is to these where we now turn our attention.
Henrik Stenson has, by any standards, a career to be proud of. He’s topped the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic, reached number two in the world and won tournaments against the very best. The only thing missing is a major championship win. That may just come this week. He is one of the best ball strikers around and has turned his putting from a weakness to a strength. At 22/1 with Bet365 the 39-year-old may just have his best chance of winning a big one.
Luke Donald has also topped both money lists but he rose all the way to the top of the game’s rankings in 2011. Since then he has faffed about with his swing and his coaches but his game is now starting to fall into place nicely. A links lover with outrageous touch around the greens, Donald could surprise one or two, especially Coral who have made him as big as 110/1, a price which screams each way value.
The John Deere Classic has been a fixture on the PGA Tour for over 40 years but tournament organisers had to do something about the strength of the field in 2008 as too many players were unwilling to play in America the week before the Open Championship. So, indicative of the wealth in the sport these days, they decided to charter a transatlantic flight which leaves on Sunday evening immediately following the tournament’s conclusion. There are still players in the field this week looking to book a spot on that flight as there are qualification places up for grabs and a great tournament looks in store.
The 7,268 yard, par-71 TPC Deere Run course is statistically one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour. Five of the last six tournaments were won by players who shot 20 under par or better and low scoring is to be expected once again this week. This is a course that can be overpowered even by players who possess less than average distance off the tee. Both Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, who make more of their accuracy and short game than their distance, have excellent records here. They will both feel they are set for another good week but it is Johnson who appeals most.
The 39-year-old absolutely loves this place. He won the tournament in 2012 and has finished second three times. He’s 45th on the FedEx Cup rankings this season having secured six top 10 finishes, although that’s as good as it’s got. This is as good an opportunity as he’ll get to make sure he wins a PGA Tour event for the fourth season running and Coral’s 11/1 is very good value about his chances. He will hit the majority of greens and as long as he putts well – as he usually does – Johnson will take some stopping.
A less familiar name, Tony Finau is 38th in the FedEx Cup standings this year but he’s yet to place in the top three of any PGA Tour event. That looks set to change in the not too distant future. He ranks seventh for driving distance and although a lack of power hasn’t held previous winners back before, he could put himself in some brilliant positions around TPC Deere Run and shoot lower scores than most. Finau ranks 14th in terms of birdie percentage which may well be enough to power him to the top of the leaderboard and record that first win at 45/1 with Coral.
Retief Goosen is one of the most decorated players in the field this week. The South African has 43 professional wins, including two Major championships. It looked for a while as though the game had lost the 46-year-old but he’s made a comeback over the past year or so. He finished third in his first PGA Tour event of the season but missed the cut in his last two events. Goosen has as much experience as any of his competitors this week and the easy golf course will give him a chance to win his first event on Tour since 2009. Goosen isn’t much fancied but you can’t write him off at odds of 125/1 with Coral.
The Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open is one of the best preparations for a Major championship available. For the past few years the tournament organisers have ensured that the Scottish Open is played on links courses to give the field plenty of practice playing in the wind, hitting hard fairways and finding difficult greens ahead of the Open Championship next week.
Host venue, the Gullane Golf Club, has created a championship course from 16 holes of their Number One Course and two from the Number Two course, making a stunning links track and a worthy test here. The 156 players in the field will have to negotiate pot bunkers, wispy rough and the changeable weather which is forecast over the weekend. Similar challenges await at St Andrews. The winner here will not necessarily be able to repeat the feat one week later but it is a fantastic opportunity to practice the shots necessary for success at The Open.
This is no run of the mill European Tour event. There are 29 Ryder Cup players in the field and eight Major champions. Crowd favourite Phil Mickelson is the shortest priced American and looks set to have another good week on a links course. In 2013 Mickelson followed up winning this tournament at Castle Stuart by claiming his first Open Championship title at Muirfield. Mickelson loves Scotland and the Scots love him. He is able to move the ball both ways which will be important in the gusty wind and his short game is still one of the marvels of the modern game. As ever with Phil, there will be plenty of ups and downs (literally and metaphorically) but with three top four finishes in his last six events he looks to be in good enough form and touch to back at 20/1 with Coral.
Such is the strength of the field this week that it would be all too easy to overlook some of the stalwarts of the European Tour. Tyrell Hatton can now count himself among that number having firmly established himself on Tour in only his second season. The Englishman had a real run at winning the Open de France last week but ultimately came up short, finishing up just outside the top 10. His best finish this season came at Royal County Down, one of the most demanding links tracks you will ever find. Having already qualified for the Open, Hatton can have a real crack at winning his first European Tour event and can be backed each way at 80/1 with Ladbrokes – great value.
Another player worth looking at based on his form in the Irish Open is Soren Kjeldsen. He won the trophy that week in what was a very strong field and followed that up by finishing second at the Nordea Masters. Scoring will be easier this week so he’s not going to win with a score of two under par but there are only two par fives this week and few holes that will pose too much of a distance challenge for the Dane, who has been ranked a 60/1 shot with Betfred. That looks too good a price to turn down for an each way bet and he’ll be among our bets this week, although Mickleosn remains our top tip.
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.