Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

What factors are most important in Strokes Gained Putting?

Published

on

As a golf statistician, I’m often asked what statistics golfers can keep to track their skills on the golf course.

For the tour players I work with, it’s easy. The PGA Tour uses a laser-measuring system called “Shot Tracker” that gives me the raw data I need to help them with their game. For amateurs, it’s much more difficult. They don’t have Shot Tracker, and many golfers who create their own metrics find that it can be a time-consuming process riddled with inaccuracies.

I am constantly looking to create new types of scoring games that are based on sound statistical information. For instance, there was a fad of people using the total distance of putts made metric. The idea was this — the longer the distance of total putts a player made, the better they putted. It does not consider, however, the golfer who putts poorly and happens to make a 60-footer. Nor does it consider the golfer who putts well and leaves himself first putts that are shorter in distance.

I started to look at some other metrics that I thought would be less cumbersome to record when it came to putting. I ran this against the past history of Strokes Gained Putting on Tour and found some interesting results.

When using putting distance metrics, the average length of all two-putts has the strongest correlation to Strokes Gained Putting on Tour.

For instance, if Brandt Snedeker two putts from 30 feet, it is recorded as a two putt from 30 feet. So, if he gets on the next hole and two putts from 50 feet, then he has an average of two putting from 40 feet.

This finding surprised me. I would have thought that the average length of a one-putt or the average length of a three-putt would have had a larger correlation to Strokes Gained Putting.

In fact, here are the mathematical correlations over the years since Strokes Gained Putting has been used by the PGA Tour:

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.08.34 PM

For those who don’t understand what the numbers mean, it is based on a mathematical formula used to tell the strength of a relationship between two variables. The correlation number ranges from +1 to -1. The closer the number is to +1, the stronger the direct relationship is between the two variables.

Let’s say I own a store and I want to see the relationship between lemonade sold and temperature. After I record the data, I find the correlation to be +0.9. That means that as the temperature increases so does the likelihood that I will sell more lemonade. A number closer to 0 means that there is no real relationship, and a number closer to -1 indicates a stronger, indirect relationship.

Say I owned the same store and wanted to look at hot soup sold and temperature. I may get a correlation of -0.85, which means that as the temperature falls it would be likely that I would sell more soup. But if I look at the correlation between temperature and bread sold and come up with a correlation of +0.003, then that shows that temperature has no real impact on how many loafs of bread will be sold.

The reason why I bring up these correlations is that we see that after the two-putt distance correlations, the one-putt distance correlations are right behind. There is a significant decline, however, in the correlation between three-putt distances and Strokes Gained Putting.

My conclusion as to why the two-putting distance metrics have a stronger correlation is that it is simply too difficult to putt great from course to course. I label putting “great” any time a Tour player averages +1 or more strokes gained per round for a tournament. Even the best putters on Tour tend to only putt great in roughly 30-to-40 percent of their events.

These were three of the best putters in 2014 and they putted great in 33-to-40 percent of their events.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.08.47 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.08.57 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.09.12 PM

By looking at the graphs, we can see that great putting tends to occur at roughly the same time. Aaron Baddeley hit a stretch of great putting from The McGladreys through Riviera, as he putted great in 4 of those 6 events (notice the tall red bars, which indicate strokes gained on the field).

Freddie Jacobson hit his hot streak by putting great in 6 out of 8 events from Pebble Beach to the Zurich Classic. And Greg Chalmers started the year on fire by putting great in four events in a from The McGladreys to TPC Scottsdale.

Great putters also tend to cool off in streaks, however. They usually tend to putt better than the average (better than 0 strokes gained), but they can no longer rely on great putting for them to do well in a tournament. And that is where I believe why the average length of a player’s two-putts correlates strongest to Strokes Gained Putting.

But, I didn’t want to stop there. I wanted to look at a combination of metrics to help decide if there is more than one way to correlate to Strokes Gained Putting. And what I found was that if you combine the length of the average two putt along with the length of the average birdie putt made, you get the strongest correlation to Strokes Gained Putting in the end.

Let’s remember how Strokes Gained Putting is designed. If the field makes 40 percent of their putts from 10 feet, that will equate to roughly 1.6 strokes to the hole from 10 feet. If a player one-putts from 10 feet, then they are determined to have gained +0.6 strokes on the field. If they two-putt from 10 feet, then they have lost -0.4 strokes to the field.

The reason why birdie putts contribute to Strokes Gained Putting more is that they are by and large more difficult for players to make. In fact, only two PGA Tour players had a higher make percentage of birdie putts than par putts from 5-to-15 feet: Kevin Streelman and Luke Donald.

Anytime the make percentage goes down, there is more potential for a player to gain more strokes. If the make percentage from 10 feet went down to 20 percent and that roughly equates to 1.8 strokes from 10 feet, a player that makes the 10-foot putt now gains 0.8 strokes on the field.

Essentially, what this tells me is that even the best putters are not going to be able to take great putting from course to course, so they need to be two-putting when putts are not dropping for them. And when you combine the length of the two-putts along with the length of birdie putts made, it provides a measurement of ability to avoid three-putts and ability to make putts.

The average Tour player’s two-putt distance is roughly 22.5 feet, and their average birdie putt make distance is 10.5 feet. That comes to a combined 33 feet. I also wanted to test this with another metric that is fairly easy to measure: Greens in Regulation (GIR).

When combining GIR with the “Average All Two-Putts Distance” and the “Average Birdie Make Putt Distance,” it has an incredibly strong correlation to Adjusted Scoring Average.

Normally, I’m not a big fan of the greens in regulation metric due to its flaws and ambiguous nature, but considering that it is an easy metric to calculate and the correlation between greens hit and the two-putt and one-putt average distance is so high, I think it is a helpful way for a player to measure their skills.

And that’s how I came up with the “98 Score.”

Here are the Tour averages for each of the metrics:

  • Average All 2-Putts Distance: 22.5 feet
  • Average Birdie Putts Made Distance: 10.5 feet
  • Average Greens In Regulation: 65 percent

22.5 + 10.5 + 65 = 98

If you can score 98 or better, than you are playing quite well. If not, keep trying to improve your score so you can get the ball on the green more often and putt better when you’re on the greens.

Your Reaction?
  • 69
  • LEGIT10
  • WOW8
  • LOL2
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP11
  • OB2
  • SHANK7

Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Trae

    Feb 12, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    This was a good read, and very interesting. And it brings back memories of stats class, and also me spending countless hours entering in data from the pga tour just to see relationships between variables and trying to create a number of statistical models to predict, etc. I’m never doing that again! Never got to a point where I could really apply it to my own game in a really effective way though. Always would end up getting caught up in trying to figure out why someone was an outlier, then later on lost interest in stats altogether. It’s interesting stuff but I think it can be very misleading in some cases. It can be tricky. Anyways, I enjoyed this article and I’m looking forward to your next one. Thanks.

  2. Jeff Watson

    Feb 11, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Rich,

    I like it. I already pace off my putts and number of putts for a stats program I subscribe to. Any idea what the “Score” would be based on handicap?

    Jeff

  3. david

    Feb 11, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Ritch, I had to drop out of gread 11 math, so unfortunately my brain is still bleeding after reading your article. I know the tour putting stats on makeability is, from what I believe, from 6 feet to about 50%. I was a bit under this, so I worked hard on my putting last summer and lowered my cap from aprox 5 to 3.7. I know without keeping stats that not enough of my greenside chips get to inside 4 feet, so that is my focus this summer to knock off another 2 points. But I did find the article interesting, but not necessarily relevant to most amateurs, whatever the index.

  4. Dick Kusleika

    Feb 11, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I step off every first putt. I don’t know how people putt without stepping it off. They just guess or try to feel it, I suppose.

    I think the negative correlation is “inverse relationship”, not “indirect relationship”.

  5. Hudson

    Feb 10, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I calculate the strokes gained (lost in my case, lol) and measure one pace (3 feet) to get the distance on the green from the pin. It takes a few seconds and it’s dead easy.

    I am going full speed to track/calculate my strokes gained now and I am explaining it there:

    http://golf-made-in-us.blogspot.com/2014/04/golf-stats-revolution-gained-strokes.html

    I consequently discovered that I was losing 6 strokes between 125 and 200 yards (on a 14 hcp) on average in 2014 and will work on that !

    • Rich Hunt

      Feb 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Hudson, I’ve enjoyed your work. The only issue I have with using strokes gained with putting is that the make %’s at a local course are likely different then at a Tour level course, even for Tour players. As we’ve seen time and time again, slower greens mean lower make %’s for players across the board. I’ve not only seen it at Tour courses that I record the data for, but David Orr did a study on this and found the same thing as well. IMO, it is probably best to use strokes gained in comparing it to your own performance over time and see how well you improve or regress.

      • HIGHfader

        Feb 10, 2015 at 4:49 pm

        Richie, do you know where I can find that David Orr studdy?

        • Richie Hunt

          Feb 10, 2015 at 8:13 pm

          I don’t believe David has made it public. But, if you asked him that is what he would tell you. IIRC, they measured roughly 700 golfers and were on greens from the local muni to Pinehurst.

  6. jeff

    Feb 10, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Rich, great writeup, thanks. But without data from our peers (“the field”), how is this different from simply looking at your actual score for the round as a basis for judging our “getting better”? What I mean is, what will achieving a 98 in this fashion tell us about our game that the score cannot? If the result of putting better (fewer putts per round) is a better overall score, isn’t that pretty much the same thing? Without a field to compare against, how much would we actually get out of this? Thanks again!

    • Rich Hunt

      Feb 10, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Jeff,

      Very good point. I think we can use the 98 Score to measure how well we are striking the ball and putting. So the other factors that would cause a discrepancy in 98 Score versus Actual Score would be short game shots around the green, penalty shots and general strategy. So if the score is better than 98, but a player shoots 75, then they may have struggled with short game or hit a shot OB or in the drink.

      In my next article I will go into simple metrics I keep for my rounds that will better help determine the strengths and weaknesses of our game.

  7. myron miller

    Feb 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    I’m a little sceptical of your usage of the statistical correlation coefficient. Famous statistical anolmaly: Amount of ice cream eaten versus number of polio cases was fantastically high (close to .9 or something like that). Ergo if you eat a lot of Ice cream your chances of polio increased. Just because there’s a correlation doesn’t mean that there is necessarily a relationship. Usually but not necessarily. Other factors could be involved that sway the correlation coefficient.

    For the amateur to actually pace off every putt regardless does help but slows down the game a bit increasing the time for the round. Not a productive way to help the overall pace of play but it does help the individual golfer (assuming his paces are moderately accurate – which is sometimes questionable). So which is more important, pace of play or helping the individual in play? At which time?

    • Rich Hunt

      Feb 10, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Correlation does not imply causality (unless there is a correlation of a perfect +1 or -1). The issue is that people tend to take that the wrong way as correlation is trying to define the symmetry of a relationship.

      The problem with the ice cream to polio correlation is that usually those types of analysis are done over a very short period of time so the sample size is not large enough. The other issue is that the variables (polio and ice cream consumption) have virtually nothing to do with each other.

      Correlation is not about certainty, it’s about probability. The real issue with the correlations I used is that they are not ‘strong correlations’ (+0.5 or better), so the 1:1 relationship is not exactly a confident one. But, that could be due to a myriad of factors like a golfer’s ballstriking.

      However, those correlations were fairly consistent over the seasons and on a comparative basis I think it indicates that all 2-putts length does give a better indication of how a player is putting than say 3-putt length. And given that when we combine all 2-putts and birdie putts lengths does have a strong correlation, it’s a good way to measure our true putting prowess.

      Lastly, the main point of the article was to more accurately measure our own putting prowess and do it without the measuring process being too cumbersome and time consuming. Obviously, we don’t know how well we are putting versus other golfers. But we can measure our own improvement over time with a large enough sample by seeing how well we improve compared to our performance in other rounds of golf.

    • Rich Hunt

      Feb 10, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Myron,

      Correlation does not imply causality (unless the correlation is +1 or -1). However, many people don’t quite understand that phrase as used in the polio to ice cream consumption case.

      Correlation is designed to give a confidence level of the symmetrical relationship between 2 variables. For instance, we may see a correlation between ball speed and distance a ball travels of +0.9. That doesn’t consider launch angle, spin rate, landing angle of the ball, etc. But we have a high degree of confidence that ball speed will be a large determining factor in the distance the ball traveled.

      The problem with using the polio to ice cream consumption argument (and the countless other arguments) is that:

      1) typically the sample sizes are incredibly small so the data can be easily skewed.

      2) the variables have virtually nothing to do with each other.

      I feel the sample size of length of putt to putts gained is more than sufficient as it took place over several seasons with roughly 180 golfers per season. I also feel that the variables (length of a putt versus putts gained) are closely tied together.

      If there is a an issue with using the correlations is that none of these correlations were ‘strong’ (+0.5 or better). However, if you add all 2-putt length and birdie putt lengths, the correlation is strong.

      So, why is the correlation not at a perfect +1?

      Likely due to ballstriking. If a player hits a birdie putt to 4-feet and make the birdie putt, there’s not much they can do about it rather than the player that misses their 4-foot birdie putts, but makes a 20-footer. The same goes for 2-putting.

      Still, the main purpose of the article was to more easily determine how well you are putting and trying to improve upon your own performance. I think if one records this data over time they can use it to better gauge how well they have putted over a certain amount of time.

  8. Rob Rashell

    Feb 10, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Rich,

    This stuff is fantastic, will be sharing with the players I work with.

    Rob

  9. Rich Hunt

    Feb 10, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Steven,

    I would just recommend pacing off the initial putt. I personally pace off all of my putts except for putts inside 5-feet since I know how long they are by eye-balling it.

    It doesn’t have to be a perfect measurement because the idea is to improve your score so you can improve your putting. For instance, if you average 30-feet on your 2-putts by pacing it off and in reality it is 32 feet, that’s not as important as actually improving your 2-putt average the next time you play.

  10. steven

    Feb 10, 2015 at 10:24 am

    rich, how would you recommend us amateurs determine the distance of our 2 putt distances. As well our birdie putt distances. Of course theres no guarantee i make a birdie in a round of golf. but i sure as heck attempt and make a lot of 2 putts. without the use of a simulator, ill simply be estimating the distance i am away from the hole. thus limiting the reliability of an amateurs usage of your ’98’ theory. any tips? as the concept seems very well thought out, but the execution for an average player is really implausible. thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opinion & Analysis

2023 Farmers Insurance Open: Betting Tips & Selections

Published

on

Get your bets on earlier than usual this week as the Farmers Insurance Open runs Wednesday to Saturday, the advancement of a day avoiding a clash with the NFL Conference Championship games.

We raise the bar a notch as the tour reaches Torrey Pines, a course used for this (and related) events since 1968, although the current set-up on the South Course now measures almost 1000 yards than the one seen 55 years ago.

Now utilising the easier North Course for one round, players will still need to have their grinding game as the weekend progresses over a course re-configured for the 2021 U.S Open – won by this week’s hot favourite Jon Rahm – and one that has seen the last three winners score no better than 15-under.

As my learned GolfWRX colleague says:

While last year’s winner Luke List was a shock, beaten play-off rival Will Zalatoris certainly fits the bill in becoming the last of a long line of contenders at Torrey that have challenged at the majors.

Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and, of course, seven times Torrey winner Tiger Woods, would all be seen as elite in their time, and you can confidently add the likes of runners-up Tony Finau, Adam Scott and Xander Schauffele to those.

Greens change to Poa Anna this week, and with the home course possessing suitably tough greens, players need solid tee-to-green games to remain with a chance down the back-stretch on Saturday afternoon. Forget the pitch and putt of La Quinta and friends, this week is far from a repeat.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is the Woods era, a solid 4/1 shot heading the market.

Tiger he is not, but having won four of his last five events and winning the Farmers here in 2017 and the U.S Open four years later, Jon Rahm carries almost unbeatable status into this week. However, much depends on getting the right draw over the first two days – at the price he can be left alone.

With the trophy likely to go to one of the better fancied players, here’s a chance to select two or three from the next half-dozen and still look at a better return than backing the favourite – and, for me, Tony Finau and Jason Day fit the bill.

Unlike someone like J.T Poston, I can’t seem to call Tony Finau right, but if he is ever going to repay the faith, it is here.

Having raised his game to another level in winning back-to-back at Minnesota and Detroit, the 33-year-old was fancied to go well in Mayakoba. Naturally, he missed his first cut since the US Open in June, subsequently gagging up in Houston, making it three wins in seven starts – not Rahm (or Scheffler of early ’22) but not far behind.

Fancied to do another back-to-back special, Finau then withdrew from the RSM Classic before probably needing the run-out when 7th at the Hero World Challenge. – extremely frustrating but, on face value, continuing a career-best run.

2023 has seen encouragement in both starts, with eight rounds in the 60s leading to a seventh place at Kapalua and a most recent 16th at last week’s pro-am jolly, where he came from outside the top 60 on Thursday and from 34th at the cut mark.

Finau’s tee-to-green game remains of the highest class, ranking ninth in ball-striking over three months and third over six, but it’s now matched by a putting prowess that takes advantage of his constant green finding.

Events may be limited, but over the last 14 rounds or so, Big Tone leads the tour in putting average, beating even the likes of flying Jon Rahm. Sure, you can regard that as a skewed stat, so take it over another 12 weeks and he is in third – remarkable for someone that just a year ago was known for missing the vital ones.

Take the 2021 U.S Open away and Finau has four top-six finishes and a pair of top-20s here, and ignore last year’s missed weekend too – he was in the top-10 after the first round and was simply not at the races on day two.

Finau’s record on poa greens reads well enough – he won the Rocket Mortgage, and has top-10s at Riviera, Winged Foot and Olympia Fields, the latter pair giving credence to the Torrey/majors connection, whilst connecting Memorial form sees him record two top-10s and two top-15 finishes.

Being unconvinced that either Zalatoris’ or Justin Thomas’ games are pitch perfect, TF looks the best challenge to the favourite.

The favourite’s record in California is almost too good to be true, with four wins, seven top-5s and three top-10s but if anyone can challenge that, it’s surely Jason Day, who looks as if he is now fully recovered from injury and personal tragedy.

Winner here in 2015 and 2018, the Aussie also boasts a runner-up, third and fifth place around tough Torrey and an average position of 15th from 14 Pebble Beach outings. He loves California.

Having dropped from world number one to outside of the top-100 in five seasons, the 35-year-old has fought back from adversity to make his way back up the rankings, helped by a pair of top-10 finishes at, no surprise, Pebble and Torrey.

In order to protect what has been a fragile back, the 16-time major top-10 star reached out to swing coach Chris Como, formally an aide of Tiger Woods.

“Going into this year I did some swing changes with my coach, and I feel like those are slowly cementing themselves in there,” Day said on Golf Channel.

“I’m shallowing it out,” Day continued. “The swing has changed dramatically. It took me about a year and half to get the body correct, and the body movement correct until I could actually get into shallowing it out correctly.”

Judged on the latest figures, it seems to be coming together nicely.

Day ended 2022 with four cuts from five, including 8th at Shriners, 11th at the CJ Cup, 21st at Mayakoba and 16t in Houston, and last weekend finished in the top 20 at La Quinta having been third after two rounds.

16th for ball-striking over the last three months, slightly better over six, his top-30 for driving accuracy has led to a similar ranking for greens found. Take that, and any improvement, into an event he enjoys more than most, and we have a winning formula.

Away from the top, it’s hard to get excited about the chances of many.

Having nabbed a big-priced second last week with one of the 12 Players-to-Watch 2023, it is tempting to go back in again on Davis Thompson on a course that may suit even better. However, hitting 14 out of 18 greens at the Stadium Course is a far cry from a debut at Torrey Pines and he may just need the sighter.

Taylor Montgomery calls himself after his fourth top-five in just nine full-time starts on the PGA, particularly after a debut 11th as a sponsor’s invite last year. Prices in the 20s don’t appeal at all against proven and regular winners though, so take a chance on another top finish from the defending champion Luke List.

For someone that believes List is Dye-positive, his first win on the poa greens of Torrey Pines was a bit of a shocker.

I put the 38-year-old up as a lively top-10 bet last week, when the thought process was that this long driver should only need to drive and flip to the greens, but sadly his game was all over the place. However, I’ll take another chance in conditions that clearly suit last year’s play-off victor, a win that came off four straight cuts here that included a 10th and 12th placed finish.

Since the start of the 2022 season, List has 11 top-25 rankings for driving, five for approaches and seven for tee-to-green, whilst it was only a couple of starts ago that he matched the best at Kapalua.

As for the fabled short stick, it’s a case of being with him when he just works better than field average – 6th at Bethpage Black, in two of his four completions at Riviera and in three of five outings at Silverado, all of a  similar grass type.

Players constantly repeat form here at Torrey, so whilst he may not do a 1-2 or, indeed, a 2-1 on the lines of Mickelson, Day, Snedeker and Leishman to name a few, List is very capable of pulling out a finish on the first two pages of the board.

Recommended Bets:

  • Tony Finau Win 
  • Jason Day Win-Top-5 
  • Luke List Top-10 
  • Luke List Top-20 
Your Reaction?
  • 2
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

2023 American Express: Betting Tips & Selections

Published

on

Last week’s Sony Open saw the unusual occurrence of a top-10 devoid of a name that had played the Tournament of Champions, and yet eventual champion Si Woo Kim won his fourth PGA event, all on Bermuda greens.

Sometimes, like picking the week that a poor putter knocks in 30-footers, it’s just picking the right stat on the right day.

The tour makes the annual return to southern California for the charity pro-am event, where in its 63 history many courses have played host to the great and the good of the entertainment world. And Bill Murray.

For us, concerned with only who might win and at what price, we return to a three course rotation on which one one player in the last 16 years has won in under 20-under and an in an event that has seen four of the last 10 winners start at triple figures, with Adam Long going off at 500-1+.

Put simply, the set-up is too easy to enjoy it too much, players won’t miss many greens, and, as Adam Long said, “you can make a lot of putts because these greens on all three courses are just perfect. So you can make them from all over.”

The front of the market is classier than normally found here, but with the combined price of the top eight, we are asked to take around 4-6 that any of those win. Sure, that’s highly likely, but many of that octet have thrown away winning chances over the last few months, and the obvious man to beat, Jon Rahm, threw his hands in the air last year, calling this a less than satisfactory set-up.

In an event that is worth looking at after the cut – the average halfway position of winners over the last five years is 8th – the suggestion is to play a touch lighter than usual, with just two selections in the pre-event market.

Short tracks that reward consistent tee-to-green and putting efforts see me look for ‘The Real JT’ at every opportunity, and at 60/1 I can’t resist putting James Tyree Poston up as the best of the week.

Winner of the 2019 Wyndham Championship in 22-under, from course specialist Webb Simpson, JT confirmed then his love for Bermuda greens, something he had shown when seventh here and sixth at Harbour Town a few months earlier. The Wyndham, incidentally, home to a trio of wins by Davis Love III, a confirmed Pete Dye specialist.

Fast forward to 2022 and, after a solid all-round performance at sub-7000 yard River Highlands, the 29-year-old comfortably won the John Deere Classic, where he again proved too good for some charging rivals, from tee-to-green and on the dancefloor.

Poston’s best form outside of his two wins is at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, another specialist Dye/DL3 track, where he has a record of 3/mc/8/6 and where he has ranked in fifth and seventh place for tee-to-green.

After a solid top-10 at the top-class Tour Championship at the end of last season, Poston comes here after a solid run of 21st at the RSM, the same at Kapalua and 20th at last week’s Sony, ranking 6th and 13th for tee-to-green in both of the more suitable, shorter tracks, all of which have Bermuda greens.

Now teetering on the edge of the world’s top 50, Poston probably can not compete on the longer, elite courses. He’ll need to take advantage of ‘his’ tracks, and, with a 7th and 25th already in his locker around here, this event is most definitely one of those.

I’d like to have been with Andrew Putnam, playing excellent golf, making his last 13 cuts, and holding an enviable course record, but at the same price as last week he’s just left out given the tougher opposition. Top that with a tendency to throw away a weekend lead (Barracuda, AT&T and the RSM just a couple of months ago) and I’d rather be with Alex Smalley who has gone the opposite direction, now trading at more than double his price for the Sony just seven days ago.

The 26-year-old Duke graduate played in both the 2019 Arnold Palmer and Walker Cup sides, finishing with a record of three wins from four at each, before gaining his PGA Tour card when recording three top-five finishes and two top-15s on the KFT, eventually finishing 12th on the 2021 KFT finals lists.

Included in his 2021 season was a 14th at Corales, and he showed that to be no fluke when finishing in the top 15 at both Bermuda and Houston, both with similar greens as he will find this week.

2022 was a big year for Smalley, starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, finishing in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.

Since October, Smalley has made five of seven cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking.

The second-season player was always on the back foot at Waialae last week, finishing the first round way down the pack after the first round. Cross that out and I’m struggling to see why he’s been dismissed by the oddsmakers for his second attempt at a course that found him ranked top-10 off the tee just 12 months ago.

There is a lingering fantasy around Luke List, whose 11th at the long Kapalua course might indicate a solid run this week. Given his first two wins came at Pete Dye related tracks (South Georgia designed by Davis Love, five time champion at Harbour Town) and Sawgrass Valley (the very name giving away its Dye/Bermuda links) he is clearly one to watch, even if he is simply one of the worst putters on tour.

He may be left behind by a few around this putter-heavy track, but he has a best of a 6th place finish in 2016 and a pair of top-22 finishes over the last two seasons. List should only have to flip wedges to many of these greens, and should he simply finish field average in putting as he did when finding over 11 strokes on the field at Torrey Pines (yes, 11 strokes. Plus 11 strokes) he will land a top-20 wager.

Reccomended Bets:

  • J.T Poston WIN/TOP-5
  • Alex Smalley WIN/TOP-10
  • Luke List TOP-20
Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

2023 Abu Dhabi Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

Published

on

Just days after the inaugural running of the Hero Cup, we get the chance to see the first full-field event of the 2023 DP World schedule.

For the second year, the Yas Links provide the venue for the well-established Abu Dhabi Championship, but last year’s leaderboard showed not much has changed, with a board of ‘linsky’ players and also those with firm form-lines in this part of the world.

Last year’s champion, Thomas Pieters, is one of 18 players that took part at ADGC last week, and he heads a defending leaderboard that included the likes of Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Victor Dubuisson, Ian Poulter, Tyrrell Hatton and more than a handful of others that appear regularly in the Middle East, Portugal, Holland and Denmark – just some venues that offer clues to regular top-10ers.

Continental Europe won last week’s renewal of what was in effect the old ‘Seve Trophy’ but that shouldn’t stop a strong showing from many of the beaten side. Opting between the likes of Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry is as tough as it gets, all having top class links form and a promising ending to the 2022. Still, combine them with Alex Noren, playing well but winless since July 2018, and the coupled odds offer somewhere around 85-40. Despite their obvious claims, that doesn’t appeal.

It is the next group that appeals mostly this week and, whilst Thomas Pieters holds very solid claims for going back-to-back here, the pair of Robert Macintyre and Adrian Meronk are the first to go into the plan.

I’ll admit a weakness for the Scot, whose talent has still not reached anything like a ceiling, but Ryder Cup year may see him raise his levels, particularly having told The Telegraph that:

“Playing for Europe has been one of my life goals since I started to believe I was half decent at this game. I’ve played Walker Cup and now I want to appear in the best event in the world and a lot of the older guys––the likes of Sam (Torrance) and Stevie (Gallacher) who we’ve spoken to here this week have told me it would be the best thing to do in my life. And I’ve got a great opportunity to do that.” 

Bob’s claims to a place in the European locker room will be far stronger with a place inside the world’s top 50, which gives him access to all the majors and top events around the world.

He’s been there before, after his first win on tour, a strange lockdown-influenced event in Cyprus, but the victory was no surprise given his three runner-up finishes and a 6th at The Open in his inaugural year (2019) after which he received the Rookie of the Year award.

Available for all the four majors in 2021, he finished tied-12th at Augusta and eighth at Royal St. George’s, an event that may be significant this week.

Down the stretch on Sunday, Bob looked set to finish inside the top five before a pulled tee shot on the final par-5 (14th), a move that cost him a bogey. If I was to take just one of the recent Opens as a guide, the 2021 running may be the one.

Whilst the wind was only a zephyr, and disappointing for such a contest, conditions may well mirror the type we see this week. If not, the leaderboard certainly gives some idea with Jon Rahm in third place (three wins and a place in Dubai), Lowry and Viktor Hovland sharing 12th, Paul Casey in 15th and Sergio Garcia also just inside the top-20.

All those named have terrific form not only in the UAE but also in the immediate vicinity, and it seems the same with those beaten in last season’s Italian Open.

Held at the Marco Simone Club – this year’s Ryder Cup venue – Bob shot a final round, and best-of-the-day 64 – to reach a play-off against Matt Fitzpatrick. Winner with a birdie at the first extra hole, he also left behind the likes of Victor Perez, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Jorge Campillo, all fine exponents of links golf, whilst he also joined Nicolai Hojgaard in a tiny Marco Simone winner’s club, the latter beating Tommy Fleetwood and Meronk for his maiden victory.

Macintyre followed his second victory with a top-10 at classic Le Golf National, top-20 at the Alfred Dunhill Links (11th into payday), top-10 at Valderrama and a closing 18th in Portugal at least two of those being a form guide to Yas this week.

The 26-year-old has admitted he often tries ‘too’ hard and that he plays his best golf when happy and relaxed. Having left the course yesterday with a 4&3 victory alongside Seamus Power and a heavy singles victory over Noren, he should be spot on.

In contrast to the first selection, Adrian Meronk was on the winning side over the weekend, and comes here as another improving 20-something.

Although the Pole was ranked around 200th at the end of the 2020 season, he caught the eye when running-up to Christiaan Bezuidenhout at Leopard Creek in November of that year, seemingly a tad naïve when challenging.

That immaturity is now a distant memory, replaced by a player that had three top three finishes in 2021, and topped by a closing top-10 finish in Dubai.

Having gone on many ‘to follow’ lists for 2022, the 29-year-old withdrew midway through this event before compensating his fans with four top six finishes in seven starts, three in this part of the world.

Belgium and the Netherlands saw Meronk finish in a closing sixth and third, the latter finish at Bernardus Golf (significantly designed by Kyle Phillips) before his (almost telegraphed) victory at Mount Juliet saw him follow in the footsteps of Lucas Herbert, another wind and links specialist.

11th in France and 22nd at the multi-course Dunhill Links works for me, as does his finish to 2022 – seventh at the DP finale, in fifth at halfway in Brisbane, and his impressive second victory at this level, by five shots at the Australian Open.

That win, by a handful from proven links and top-class players such as Adam Scott and Min Woo Lee raises the Pole to yet another level, and now just inside the world’s top 50, a huge effort that sees him receive the ultimate invite:

With confidence at a high, expect the Polish hero to enjoy the expanses of Yas Links, as he did when sitting inside the top-20 for the three rounds he did complete last year.

Nicolai Hojgaard has already been referenced as the winner of the 2021 Italian Open, and that win alone might be enough to stir interest, but take into account many of his best performances and he appeals greatly at anything around 50/1.

The more flamboyant of the twins is much more of a bully on the course than his brother, Rasmus, for whom he deputised for at the Hero Cup. That decision was justified after an unbeaten 3.5 points saw him produce one of the more surprising performances of the weekend and that encourages me to take the hint soon after a 10th place finish Australian Open, where he was never off the front page at any point.

Second place at both the Portugal Masters and KLM and, of course, a win at Ras Al Kaihmah read nicely for this week’s test, whilst he can add a fourth place to his UAE record having finished strongly on his debut at the DP World Tour Championship.

Ignore the missed cut last season as the 21-year-old was lying in 17th place after the first round before experiencing very tough conditions – eventual winner Thomas Pieters was also one that was over par for Friday.

With this track sure to suit his distance off the tee – Pieters and Hovland ranked top 10 in that regard – and with his confidence up after holing the winning putt for Continental Europe, this should be time to be with him.

It’s hard to believe that a player would win two events in his rookie year and also come within a whisker of his third title, yet be triple digits for this week.

In Ewen Ferguson there is a player that not only showed class in difficult conditions in Qatar (Meronk in third) but also only got done by a superstar putting performance when going for the three-timer in Denmark.

At all three victories, the Scot ranked highly in all tee-to-green aspects, something he found again towards the end of 2022, at Mallorca and the Gary Player GC. Whilst his excellent short game was lacking towards the end of the year, I’m prepared to err on the side that says it had been a long, if successful, first foray at the highest level, one that could have seen him win Rookie of the Year, although ultimately beaten to that by Thriston Lawrence.

Having been one of the success stories of the 2022 Players To Follow column, the 26-year-old more than paid his way, and it’s worth taking a chance that comes out and performs in similar conditions.

I’m watching former star Joost Luiten like a hawk, as his back-form hints to a great week now he and his health are back to something like their best, but the final selection goes to Marcus Helligkilde, another highlighted in last year’s column, and once again in 2023.

Whilst his overall profile is sketchy, we should remember that the Dane missed the middle few months of 2022 with a persistent shoulder injury, before doing enough to retain his DPWT card, something that looked unlikely as the tour approached the autumn months.

Having seen the likes of Jordan Smith and Brooks Koepka graduate from the Challenge Tour with success, much was expected of Helligkilde as he made his way through his rookie year on tour, particularly after three wins led him to a comfortable championship.

The season started in pleasing enough fashion, opening his first look at Yas Links with a 69 to lie inside the top 20, before a mid-event 66/67 saw him lie in ninth going into Payday at Ras. Back in the Middle East, the Dane came from outside the top-50 to finish 12th in Qatar and the sharks were buzzing for a coup in the near future.

However, after a couple of months, Helligkilde revealed he had been suffering with a shoulder injury for a while and would require surgery, something that meant taking at least six weeks off tour.

He admitted he was nowhere near 100 percent when re-appearing at the Irish Open, but a mid-point 22nd was encouraging, as was the trip to the KFT where he performed with credit at both the co-sanctioned events.

Among a large amount of DPWT players at the Barbasol, Helligkilde recorded 16 out of 18 greens-in-regulation on his way to a bogey-free third round of 66 before following up with the same figure on payday, resulting in a move from 64th at halfway to 8th when the cheques were being handed out.

The following week, the Dane was never outside the top-22 in finishing 13th at the Barracuda, both weeks suggesting he was close to being back to his best.

By finishing 4th in Ireland and 8th in his home event, the ‘Made In Himmerland’, Helligkilde showed he can perform when necessary, his top-30 at the Spanish Open enough to secure a place inside the top-100 on the Race To Dubai.

The Dane is far better than that number and, now injury free, is hopefully in a position to show his best, in conditions that will suit a player for whom the middle of the green is always a target.

Recommended Bets:

  • Robert Macintyre WIN
  • Adrian Meronk WIN/TOP-5
  • Nicolai Hojgaard WIN/TOP-5
  • Ewen Ferguson WIN/TOP-5
  • Marcus Helligkilde WIN-TOP-10
Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending