Australian PGA Championship Preview

Australian PGA Championship
1-4 December 2016
RACV Royal Pines Resort
Gold Coast, Queensland

Also Hero World Challenge (see bottom of page)

Executive Summary

On reflection, I’ve gone a bit Leo Tolstoy / Ben Coley on this one! So, to the GenY’s & Millenials who can’t be bothered reading more than five lines, here are my predictions:

PGA:

  • Scotty will win by several strokes if he putts ok;
    Anybody whose christian name is Cameron can place Top10;
    My longshot is Rory Bourke.

Hero:

  • Matsuyama the outright win value;
    Grillo each way (4 places)
    For those like me, who enjoy a quality read, what follows is for you!

Introduction

After its farcical encounter with Clive ‘boofhead’ Palmer, and subsequent sensible departure from Coolum Resort, this time-honoured tournament enjoys its 4th iteration at Royal Pines, where the three previous winners have been:

2015 Nathan Holman Australia 288 (Even par);
2014 Greg Chalmers Australia 277 (-11);
2013 Adam Scott Australia 270 (-14).

A 100% Australian winning flavour and examination of the history books shows that only Australians have won the tournament this century! Therefore, it’s mostly Aussies who are tipped by me this week.

Scoring

Holman’s high score was atypical and, with mild winds forecast, I expect this week’s winner will need to average 3 or 4-under per day in order to to secure the Kirkwood trophy.

Maybe Holman winning was atypical as well; he’s been in a slump with just a single Top20 since that epic playoff victory (over Frittelli & Varner) a year ago. He’s back this week and he placed 14th in his only other course start, so if you believe in ‘horses for courses’ …..

The Course - Graham Marsh course

It’s a 7,300+yard Par 71 or 72. Water mildly threatens on at least half the holes, but wind is its main defence while limited rough and large greens leave a comfortable margin for error and the course thus favours medium and longer hitters who bermuda-putt well this week.

An Aussie Golf Renaissance?

The number of young Australian males who have displayed tournament promise in recent times is staggering. There is rightly huge optimism among Aussie golf fans about top level golf success over the coming decade or two.

Superstar Jason Day aside, Australia’s only other Major winners of the past 20 years are now ageing (Scott is 36 & Ogilvy 39) and with: Baddeley / Leishman / Bowditch / Jones / Senden / Appleby / Hend / Green / Allenby / and the rest of that generation having failed to contend in Majors, Aussie fans’ thoughts naturally turn to their next-gen up-and-comers.

It’s a long and pretty cool list!

I’m sure I’ve missed a few (apologies, boys!), but consider the talent among these Aussie under-25’s: Curtis Luck, Ben Eccles, Cameron Smith, Brett Coletta, Jake McLeod, Lucas Herbert, Dimi Papadatos, Nathan Holman, Cameron Davis, Jordan Zunic, Travis Smyth, Aaron Wilkin, Ryan Ruffels, Anthony Houston, Harrison Endycott, Anthony Murdaca, Jake Higginbottom, Anthony Quayle, Ollie Goss, Todd Sinnott & Jarryd Felton.

It’d be no huge surprise if several from this ‘youth brigade’ were to contend this week.

Opening Bookmaker Prices (Bet365, Monday)

Adam Scott 5.00
Cameron Smith 17.00
Marc Leishman 21.00
Rod Pampling 21.00
Brad Kennedy 26.00
Danny Lee 29.00
Harold Varner 29.00
Ryan Fox 29.00
Scott Hend 29.00
Danny Lee 29.00

A closer look at the Favourites

Perennial home favourite and Queenslander, Adam Scott, returned home and delivered a so-so World Cup performance as he closes out a solid 2016. He started the year like a rocket with 2nd place in the Northern Trust Open followed by back-to-back wins in the Honda Classic & WGC Cadillac. A second Major seemed to beckon.

But there were no more victories and he uncharacteristically failed to make the Top10 in all four Majors. However, he’s the class of this field, has played the course twice for a win and a second, is the logical favourite and should win.

Warrnambool-born Marc Leishman, Scott’s partner in that rather nondescript home World Cup performance last week, and world-ranked #54, has had an ok though winless 2016, coming off that big Nedbank Challenge title a year ago. Three Top10’s on the PGA Tour & an 18th in the US Open have been his rather sparse 2016 highlights.

He’s finished 11th both times he’s played here and doesn’t win often (just the two wins - Nedbank 2015 & Travelers 2012 - in good company in his 10 years as a pro) so at best he probably rates a place chance this week.

Townsville’s Scott Hend is like a fine Barossa Valley wine in terms of his improvement with age. My results database goes back to 2004 and during that stretch the 43-y-o Hend has scored nine wins with seven of them coming since 2012! He’s not a big man (5’11”) but is great to watch as he gives the ball a serious spank, typically pounding his drives out beyond 300yds.

Hend’s been in decent enough form, too, since winning Thailand’s Queen’s Cup in June with: 2nd (Omega European Masters), 4th (KLM Open) and 7th (PGATour CIMB Classic) the highlights. A place chance here, for sure, with his length off the tee.

Cameron Smith is arguably the most precious talent among Australia’s above-mentioned young riches. The 23-y-o he has already compiled a promising cv that includes 4th in last year’s US Open.

He was 5th here last year (9th in 2014) and 2nd in the Emirates Australian Open at his most recent start two weeks ago - so the course form & recent form pointers are great. Cam’s definitely a winning chance here if Adam Scott doesn’t bring his A game.

Super-talented 25-y-o Danny Lee is New Zealand’s top golfer (all our top golfers were born in Korea!) and displays flashes of his brilliance in between: pranking Rickie Fowler, disappointing his fans with missed cuts and injury withdrawals (four WD’s in 2015/16) and generally failing to deliver on his youthful promise as a US Amateur champion.

He has snagged three pro titles since winning the US & Western Amateurs in 2008; one in good company (2015 Greenbrier) but only three Top10’s in 2016. That’s too inconsistent a record to enable me to recommend him at his price here.

Rod Pampling evoked memories of his glory days when at age 47 he won the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open a few weeks ago, his first win on that Tour for 10 years! Maintaining form, he backed it up with 4th in the Emirates Australian Open at his next start.

Nobody would deny late career success to the likeable Queenslander who also started his career late, aged 25. He’s failed at his two previous starts here (MC & T32) but is a more in-form player this time around.

Sydney-born 42-y-o Brad Kennedy has mostly plied his trade on the JGTO Japanese Tour since 2010 after bouncing around various tours since turning pro in 1994. He’s won two Japanese tournaments and more than $3million in earnings there.

He always returns home and plays some quality golf at the end of each year, winning the NZ Open (2011), Queensland PGA (2013) and NZPGA (2016) and backing those wins up with a host of minor placings. Always a solid each way betting proposition at home.

Who will Win?

As mentioned above, Adam Scott should win this. Easily, if he is not fatigued and concentrates for all four days. And provided he doesn’t experience any putting woes!

He knows the course, has won here before, is a yawning gap in class above this field in: ball-striking, experience and winning. If you trust his putting, jump on at any price of 5.00 or better!

Who can Place?

This is a weak field, lacking depth, but among the few players with really solid credentials the best each way value probably lies with Cameron Smith at around 16/1 (which equates to an appealing 5.00 for the place).

Who can Place Top10?

I expect at least five among: Scott, Leishman, An, Lee, Hend, Kennedy & Smith to occupy Top10 placings, so there’s very little wiggle room to justify backing somebody else to place.

However, my recommendation, based on his ability relative to his price, and recent signs of emergence from a slump, is Stephen Gallacher at 67/1. Any Top10 price over 5.00 will be value.

Best Longshot

If you’re looking for an upset it might be worth going with a Top10 punt on a longer-priced player who has proved he can play the course and who won’t do an el-foldo on Sunday if in contention.

Rory Bourke might just fit that bill and at a huge win price of 400-500/1. He placed 9th here last year and a recent 6th in the NSW Open showed a nice glimpse of form. I rate him 200/1.

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Hero World Challenge

For those taking an interest in Tiger Woods’ return to competitive golf this week, here’s a quick peek at the 18-player Hero World Challenge that tees off in the Bahamas on Thursday.

Top of the Market (PaddyPower, Monday)
Dustin Johnson 6.00
Jordan Spieth 6.50
Hideki Matsuyama 8.50
Henrik Stenson 10.00
Brooks Koepka 11.00
Patrick Reed 13.00

My Recommendations

1. Avoid Tiger Woods for several reasons: his price (30/1 - 40/1) is far too short, he hasn’t teed it up competitively for 16 months and he hasn’t placed Top5 since this very event in December 2013, three painful years & surgeries ago!;

2. If you have an inclination for shorter prices then, based on my assessment, Hideki Matsuyama offers by far the best value for a straight-out win bet. Hideki’s the hottest golfer in the world right now with 3 wins and a 2nd in his past 4 starts! I rate him 6.00 and he’s widely available at prices in the 8.00 - 9.00 range;

3. The best longer shot looks to be Emiliano Grillo at 28/1, especially with a lot of bookmakers offering four places, with place prices at a quarter the win odds. He still looks competitive and hungry late-season and just keeps improving. A price of 8.00 for a Top4 looks juicy!

Ritual X’mas greetings to all and good luck with your golf punting!

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