Summer in Europe means one thing for golf fans, top class European Tour events on home soil. The Open is on the horizon but there are plenty of tournaments to get your teeth stuck into beforehand, including this week’s BMW International. Some of the European Tour’s elite have pencilled in a trip to Germany and the Golf Club Gut Larchenhof for a crack at a large prize pot and vital ranking points in the race for a place in Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team.
Gut Larchenhof has hosted the BMW International twice before and is a fitting course for an event of this size. The par 71 layout, which was designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, measures 7,229 yards. It is a parkland layout which means that trees will be present to make shots from the rough particularly troubling but it is not what you’d describe as a tough test of driving. There are some very generous fairways which will allow the European Tour’s biggest hitters the opportunity to open up their shoulders and give the ball a good old whack. The greens are fairly big so accurate approach play is vital while there will be more than a couple of players who find the strategically placed water hazards.
A quick look at the bookies’ outright markets shows that there are some genuine stars of world golf in attendance this week. It would not be a surprise to see one of Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett or Andy Sullivan winning but they each played four rounds at the incredibly demanding Oakmont Country Club before catching a transatlantic flight. That’s got to take its toll so of those at the top of the betting, Henrik Stenson offers the most appeal.
The Swede withdrew from the US Open due to minor injuries to his neck and knee but it is likely that he foresaw he was going to miss the cut and so decided to call it a day. Stenson has suffered with knee problems in the past but underwent surgery to sort the issues out so his health should not be a major concern. The Swede is one of the most consistent players in the game and this week could be set up perfectly for him to claim a much needed win at odds of 10/1 with BetVictor.
Joost Luiten did not make the trip to Pennsylvania for the US Open and will have been glad to have a week’s rest. The Dutchman has been a top 10 machine on the European Tour this season and with the chance to iron out a few issues with his coach, he should be well in contention once again at Gut Larchenhof. He goes into the event as a 25/1 shot with Betfred and is well worth an each way bet.
Another player worth backing each way is Scott Hend who is priced at 55/1 with Bet365. The Australian is one of the very best drivers of a ball in the field this week. That will suit him very well at Gut Larchenhof. Hend threw away a good chance of winning at the BMW PGA Championship which should spur him onto a strong performance at another big European Tour event.
Dustin Johnson will be having a well-earned rest this week after his heroics at Oakmont to win the US Open but there is no rest for the PGA Tour which is back on track with the Quicken Loans National. The tournament has now become a staple on the PGA Tour thanks in no small part to Tiger Woods. Tiger hosts this event on behalf of his charitable foundation and he’ll be at Congressional Country Club this week to hand the trophy to the winner. But who will that winner be?
Troy Merritt is the defending champion but this is not an event where outsiders have tended to do well. Merritt is by far the lowest ranked winner of the Quicken Loans National and we should be looking towards the upper part of the market for our bets this week. Previous winners of this event include Bill Haas, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods himself and there are some big name players in the field vying to join that impressive winners list.
Being well ranked does not, however, simply guarantee anybody a good week at Congressional. The par 71 layout can stretch to a pretty mammoth 7,569 yards and it is also a stern test of accuracy off the tee. As well as needing a solid driving game, hitting greens in accuracy and putting well are important skills to have for anybody with genuine desires of winning.
Ordinarily the bookies’ favourite, Rickie Fowler, would offer great appeal in a field of this calibre but his form is nowhere near good enough to suggest that he can get the better of Congressional. Rickie is fighting his swing a little at the moment and his aim is to get his game back to tip top shape rather than winning events. That should make Patrick Reed the man to beat.
Reed infamously suggested that he has the game to be one of the top five golfers in the world but there is substance to support his hubris. The 25-year-old is strong off the tee, a world class ball striker and he currently ranks first on the PGA Tour for strokes gained around the green. He’s already a multiple winner including at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and he could well be set to dominate this week at odds of 20/1 with Betfred.
Byeong Hun An is not currently considered amongst the true elite of the game but there are plenty of people who think that he is on the road to stardom. The Korean has forged a very good name for himself on the European Tour where he won the 2014 BMW PGA Championship and he is currently 27th in the world. An hit the bar at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and could just bag his first PGA Tour win at 35/1 with Betfred.
Daniel Summerhays has been quietly going about his business in recent weeks but a quick examination of his form shows that he is playing some very good golf. A top 10 at the US Open last week was a very tough achievement and he could follow that up with another top 10 at 9/2 with BetVictor.
The United States Golf Association play a key role in the development of golf all around the world. Along with the Royal and Ancient, they set rules for what golf equipment can and can’t do with the aim of keeping the game more about skill than it is about technology. The USGA know that golf is hard and they intend to ensure that it remains a very difficult game to master.
When it comes to the major championship that they host – the US Open – the USGA like to remind the players that although they may be the best in the world, they’ve not yet mastered the game of golf.
The USGA do this by deliberately picking tough golf courses and then setting them up so that they play even harder. It is not uncommon to see a US Open won in an over par score and that looks to be an absolute certainty this week at Oakmont Country Club.
Oakmont is one of the most difficult tests of golf in the world. The par 70 includes a par three that measures 288 yards and a par five that stretches to 667 yards. It’s also a very tough test of accuracy. A number of strategically placed bunkers are waiting to gobble up any stray balls and the rough – both around the fairways and the greens – is especially penal. It is almost unbelievably hard to hit the greens in regulation but once there the players will find putting surfaces that are as fast as anywhere in the world.
When it comes to picking a winner for a US Open at Oakmont it is vital to pick a top class player. Almost all the previous winners here have gone on to win multiple major championships and it makes sense that we side with high quality players this week. At the moment it is fair to say that there aren’t any higher quality players than Jason Day. Day is the world number one, nobody has gained more strokes putting than the Aussie on the PGA Tour and he’s already a major champion. At 7/1 with BetVictor, Day is the favourite but he very much looks like the man to stop.
Patrick Reed is currently just outside of the world’s top 10 players and nobody doubts his golfing ability. He is also well known as one of the fiercest competitors in the world and would dearly love to bag his first major win at such an iconic and difficult venue. He is excellent at manipulating his ball flight and has a solid short game for when he misses the greens. At 50/1 with Betfred, Reed looks overpriced.
Another player who has the desired combination of ball striking ability and demon short game is Sergio Garcia. Like Reed, Garcia is yet to win a major championship but it would be a travesty if he finished his career without getting over the line in one of the biggest tournaments. Sergio’s going to have to remain patient and putt well but at 50/1 with Ladbrokes he looks a good each way bet.
The FedEx St. Jude Classic is a well-regarded PGA Tour event but it is scheduled in a fairly difficult time. While some of the world’s best golfers like to play their way into form ahead of a major championship, others prefer to take a week away from the course to work with their coaches. So, while we’ve got Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson to look forward to at TPC Southwind this week, many of the other players towards the top of the world rankings will be busy preparing for next week’s US Open.
Still, the St. Jude Classic has a growing reputation as an event where surprise results are very possible. Both Fabian Gomez and Ben Crane were backed at treble figure odds before going on to win in the last two seasons and pretty much every player in the field this week will feel that they’ve got a genuine chance of glory. Unfortunately, a large proportion of the players are going to end up disappointed, as TPC Southwind can chew even the best golfers up and spit them out.
Southwind has been the host venue for this event since 1989 and over the time the track has undergone a series of changes to make it as tough as possible. Over 200 yards were added so that it now measures 7,239 yards and the par five fifth hole has been turned into a par four. Around 100 trees have been added to the course and the greens, which are small and raised, have been relaid. In general the changes mean that it is incredibly important to hit high quality iron shots in to the greens and to chip well to keep bogeys off the scorecard.
Both Johnson and Mickelson will have their backers this week but both of them have failed to make the most of their chances in recent months so the front runner to back is Gary Woodland. You might think that he is a better bet around golf courses that put a premium on distance but the stats show that he is an excellent approach player and he ranks 14th for shots gained tee to green. Woodland’s been playing well, showed excellent touch at Muirfield Village last week and should be backed at 25/1 with BetVictor.
One of the events that correlates well with the St. Jude Classic in terms of winning form is the OHL Classic. Players who do well at one, tend to do well at the other which will be music to the ears of Graeme McDowell. The Northern Irishman won the OHL Classic earlier in the season and is feeling good about his game so bet on him each way at odds of 66/1 with Coral.
It’s not just long shots who have done well at TPC Southwind before, but debutants have also come up with the goods in previous years. It is hard to argue that there are any classier debutants this week than Ernie Els. The South African has been threatening to really bounce back into form and he is worth a small stakes each way bet at 200/1 with Betfred.
Also this week: Lyoness Open
It is nearly time for the second major of the year but before we turn our attentions fully to Oakmont Country Club for the US Open, we’ve got a decent looking tournament on the European Tour to enjoy in the shape of the Lyoness Open.
Given that the event was relegated to the Challenge Tour for a decade, the tournament organisers are by no means upset that they’ve been cast in the warmup role. With the added attraction of the excellent Diamond Country Club there is a relatively strong level of competition for us to get our teeth stuck into.
When you look at the scorecard for Diamond CC the first thing that you notice is the official yardage of 7,400 yards. That would be a real struggle for your average club golfer but European Tour pros are used to dealing with tracks of that sort of length and it’s not the first thing they mention when asked about the course. The pros are much more concerned about the challenge that Diamond CC sets in terms of course management. You cannot simply grip it and rip it at the Atzenbrugg course. It is vital for players and caddies to come up with a solid plan during their practice rounds to have any chance of success.
The man who best executed his plan at the 2015 Lyoness Open was Chris Wood. The Englishman showed from the start that he was full of confidence and there was no sign of nerves as he moved closer to the business end of the tournament. In fact, Wood was arguably at his best during the Sunday and although it is very tough to defend on the European Tour, Wood could hardly be in better form.
He’s been playing very well for a while now and that came to a head with the biggest win of his career so far at the BMW PGA Championship. His ball striking is world class, he’s in great form and another win this week at odds of 9/1 with Betfred could get him into the Ryder Cup.
Bernd Wiesberger has been putting in a lot of work to give himself the best chance of winning his home event for the second time. As well as winning in 2012 he also finished runner up at the 2014 event and after playing some practice rounds at Diamond CC he declared himself delighted with the way that the course is set up. The Austrian has not had the season that he’d have wished for so far but he’s not missed a cut for months and is the main challenger to Wood at 8/1 with Betfred.
Robert Dinwiddie had a solid career when he was on the Challenge Tour but it is fair to say that he’s found the step up to the European Tour tough to manage. So far his best performance on the European Tour came at last year’s Lyoness Open and he’ll be using the positive memories from that week as much as possible come Thursday. If he hits form here once again his odds of 125/1 with BetVictor will look huge.
Also this week: St Jude Classic
The Nordea Masters is the biggest golf tournament in Sweden and every year it is becoming a bigger deal on the European Tour. As well as the best Swedish players, a good selection of Europe’s best regularly make the trip and that is certainly the case for the 2016 renewal. There is, of course, an extra incentive for the likes of Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood to play this week, with vital ranking points for the Ryder Cup to play for.
As the de facto Swedish national event, the Nordea Masters travels to the best courses that the country has to offer and this year they may just have stopped off at the best of the lot. Bro Hof Slott is a relatively young course having only been opened in 2007 but the venue has already won a host of awards for its two courses. The field this week are going to tee it up around the Stadium Course, a truly stunning layout that requires a great deal of distance off the tee.
The Stadium Course measures a huge 7,511 yards and the way that the par 72 is set up gives a real boost to the longer hitters. Not only are the fairways relatively wide and open but the wind can really whip up so many holes often play longer than their official yardage. There are also five par fives for the bombers to take advantage of and previous tournaments at this venue prove that it is vital to make the most of the scoring opportunities that they present.
Henrik Stenson may have recently turned 40 but there is no sign of the world number six losing any of the power that has been a feature of his game long before he turned pro. The Swedish number one will give the ball as big a hit as anybody else in the field this week but he is going to have to improve with his putter if he is to finally get over the line to win a tournament that has alluded him for the best part of two decades. Stenson is carefully managing his calendar but was never going to miss this week and the bookies’ favourite should go well at odds of 15/2 with Betfred.
Just below Stenson in the betting is Lee Westwood. The Englishman was very disappointed with his finish to the week at Wentworth when he failed to put any sort of pressure on the leaders on Sunday but in general his game held up well. Westwood is doing all he can to make sure he continues his perfect attendance at the Ryder Cup since 1997 and he won this event at this course in 2012 so a bet at 14/1 with BetVictor is very tempting.
Scott Hend is another who was very poor on Sunday at Wentworth. He went into Sunday as one of the favourites but his game almost completely escaped him as the pressure ramped up. He is though, a winner already this season, and one of the biggest hitters in the field. If he can bounce back well from last week he’ll represent good value at 50/1 with Ladbrokes.
The Memorial Tournament is always one of the best attended PGA Tour tournaments of the season in terms of those players at the top of the world rankings. The top five in the world are all taking part in the 2016 renewal this week but even they cannot outshine the true star of this event. Jack Nicklaus is widely regarded as the best player of all time and for 40 years he has been shaking players’ hands as they finish up on the 18th green of his course at Muirfield Village.
Nicklaus bought the land that the course sits on in Dublin, Ohio and then designed the layout himself. He named it after his favourite Open venue and although he is very happy with his work he never stops looking for ways to improve the par 72 course. To keep up with modern players and equipment the course now measures 7,392 yards but Muirfield’s distance is not its main defence. It is a major test of accuracy with some incredibly penal rough. You have to be able to hit high quality iron shots and/or scramble up and down when missing greens. With such a high number of world class players in the field this is sure to be an amazing battle so let’s see if we can find some winning bets.
There is a three way tussle at the top of the bookies’ outrights with Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth vying for favouritism. They are the top three in the world rankings and each of them won the last tournament they played at. Out of the three though, it’s Day who makes the biggest appeal. McIlroy’s win came amongst a weaker field than this at the Irish Open and despite winning in Texas last week Spieth’s play from tee to green doesn’t look anywhere near controlled enough for Muirfield. Day’s doing everything well at the moment and he has an almost unbeatable aura so back him at 7/1 with Ladbrokes.
Matt Kuchar is playing some very good golf at the moment. With form figures of T6-3-T3 from his last three events he now finds himself back inside the world’s top 20 and ready to show all of those above him in the rankings that he is one of the very best when it comes to courses requiring accuracy. The 2013 Memorial champion has great memories of Muirfield and the confidence of knowing that his game is in great shape so the odds of 22/1 that Coral are offering look very generous.
Charl Schwartzel caused a bit of an uproar by pulling out of the Olympics due to his fears over the Zika virus but his decision was also influenced by his desire to stay fresh for the biggest and best tournaments. His participation this week shows that he holds the Memorial in very high regard and he could be about to win his fourth tournament of this season. The South African missed the cut here last year but his game looks very well suited to the rigours of Muirfield and he’s playing well enough to make his odds of 66/1 with BetVictor look too big to ignore.
See also: Nordea Masters
Colonial Country Club is one of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour. It has brought top class golf to Fort Worth, Texas for the last 70 years. This week it is back once again with a different sponsor but the same standard of event expected. The Dean and DeLuca Invitational will have new food stalls brought by the sponsors but when it comes to the golf nothing much is going to have changed.
Colonial is a par 70 layout that measures 7,204 yards. That is by no means short but the previous course form suggest that distance is not too much of a bonus. It always helps to be hitting shorter irons into the greens than your opponents but this isn’t a course that the bombers can simply let rip at. This is a place where ball strikers really flourish. An ability to shape the ball both ways, to manufacture shots and to hit the ball nice and close to the hole will all give those who possess them an advantage.
The course won’t be the only factor at play in Fort Worth this week. The weather forecast suggests that there is going to be plenty of rain about so it will take a hardy soul to score well have been given the poor end of the draw. Wet conditions always favour those who can hit the ball a long way through the air but the ball strikers will also enjoy the chance to get aggressive with their approach shots.
On the PGA Tour they like to talk about players ‘trending’ towards victory. This means that a certain player is in good form and the various facets of their game are falling into place. Matt Kuchar is certainly one man trending towards a win. The world number 20 finished third at both the Players Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson. Colonial is a course that really suits Kuchar’s eye as he proved in 2013 when missing out on a playoff by one stroke. Betfred make Kuchar a 14/1 shot and at that price he is a must bet.
Brandt Snedeker fans were beginning to worry about their man before his trip to Colonial last season. After winning at Pebble Beach his form had taken a turn for the worse but he finished in a tie for second at this event’s 2015 renewal to really show that the Snedeker resurgence is here to stay. He started this PGA Tour season with form figures of T3-2-1 and has bagged two further top 10 finishes since. Back Snedeker each way at odds of 45/1 with Bet365.
Ian Poulter’s decision to skip the BMW PGA Championship for another season did not go down well with the European Tour but when he made the same choice last season he finished in a tie for fifth at Colonial. With the Ryder Cup just around the corner this is the time of year when Poulter general really gets going and he’ll be desperate for another good showing in Fort Worth. He’s as big as 100/1 with Betfred which looks too big for a player of Poulter’s standard.
Also this week: BMW PGA Championship
The European Tour is getting all European all of a sudden. After some brilliant tournaments in far flung corners of the globe, spring has sprung in Europe and with it comes the best players on the continent to some of the European Tour’s biggest tournaments. Rory McIlroy was an incredibly popular winner of the Irish Open last weekend and with a strong home showing there could be an equally popular winner of this week’s BMW PGA Championship.
The PGA Championship is like the European Tour’s version of the Players Championship. It is the flagship event on Tour and it is held at their headquarters. The Wentworth Club has been the home of the European Tour and of this event for many years now and previous tournament winners suggest that a deep understanding of the course is a huge bonus for those with realistic hopes of victory.
The West Course at Wentworth is hallowed ground for the European Tour but they are by no means overly protective of the course. Ernie Els has overseen some major changes to the par 72 layout to stop the biggest hitters from overpowering the place. It has been stretched to 7,302 yards but distance is not Wentworth’s real defence. The greens were all remodelled over a period of two years and a number of the bunkers were made particularly fearsome.
The last two winners of this event, Byeong-Hun An and Rory McIlroy showed that having a powerful game can be a bonus around the West Course but only if you are talented enough to control it. You have to carefully plan your way around this course as it is very tough to scramble for par if you miss the greens. There have been a number of winners over the past five years or so who could be described as plodders so more weight should be given to accuracy than distance.
Russell Knox looks to have the sort of game which should be well suited to Wentworth. The Scotsman is a native of Florida now and plays the majority of his golf on the PGA Tour but he makes sure to fulfil his quota of events on the European Tour to give himself a chance of making the Ryder Cup. With his form recently he cannot be written off for a place in Darren Clarke’s team this summer. He played brilliantly at the Players and the Irish Open and if his luck turns he could win at 16/1 with Coral.
With course experience a big factor here both Luke Donald and Lee Westwood could be able to rise to the top of this week’s field. Donald is desperate to rediscover that winning feeling after a few tough years and he showed at the RBC Heritage that he’s still a class act. The two-time winner looks a good bet at 28/1 with BetVictor. Westwood also proved he’s still top class when finishing joint runner up at the Masters. He was also very impressive at the K Club last week and if he can just get a few more putts to drop he’ll be right up there come Sunday at odds of 35/1 with Coral.
Also this week: Dean & DeLuca Invitational
The European Tour has been all around the world but it is now back in Europe for the summer months. Specifically, the Tour is in County Kildare for the Irish Open. Some of the very best players on the European Tour are taking part at the K Club this week as they look to bag a healthy prize fund. As well as the draw of the venue and the money there’s the fact that Rory McIlroy’s foundation is hosting proceedings, so this should be a tournament we can really enjoy.
The K Club has developed a reputation as a top class golfing destination. It’s got two courses, both designed by Arnold Palmer, with the Ryder Cup course playing host to the Irish Open this week. As you might have guessed by the name, the course hosted the Ryder Cup back in 2006 when Europe won by a record scoreline. Some of the heroes of that week are in the field this week and a couple have a decent shout of winning.
The par 72 layout measures 7,350 yards from the championship tees making it a fairly long test. However, it’s not really a place where you can grip it and rip it. The trees which were planted in the early 1990s to guard the fairways are now maturing so they offer a bit of defence for the course from the biggest hitters. The course hosted the European Open for a number of years and results from that tournament suggest that it is also important to hit a high number of greens in regulation to get the win.
Rory McIlroy is the clear bookies’ favourite for this week but he has a poor record in this tournament. He’s failed to even make the cut in the last two years and his form at the moment doesn’t exactly make him look like great value at 9/2 with BetVictor. However, we get the feeling that it’s only a matter of time until his game really falls into place. You can get 11/8 with BetVictor on Rory finishing in the top five and he should be there or thereabouts come Sunday afternoon.
If Rory is an unlikely winner, who is going to carry the hopes of the Irish fans? Out of a number of top quality options, Graeme McDowell could just have the best week. He’s fighting his way back to form after slipping down the world rankings as his top 10 finish at the Players Championship shows. The weather forecast is for some pretty horrible stuff but that won’t overly worry GMac who could come up trumps at 33/1 with Ladbrokes.
For a long odds each way shot it is a surprise to see Andrew Johnston as big as 90/1 with Bet365. ‘Beef’ only picked up his first win on the European Tour a few weeks ago at the very challenging Valderrama and his accurate iron play should be well suited to another stern test this week. He’s gunning for another win as soon as possible so make sure to have him onside.
Also this week: AT&T Byron Nelson Open