Le Golf National in France hosts the 2018 Ryder Cup and given the form of most, and the quality of both the European and US sides, this Ryder Cup sets up to be a thriller. Throw in the potential drama of a unique Le Golf National layout and the Ryder Cup 2018 is a mouth watering prospect for golf lovers and bettors alike.
As of the weekend previous, 17 of the top 20 in the official world golf rankings will compete in France, with just 1 name inside the top 20 set to miss out. The unlucky player is America's Xander Shauffele, who many believe was the next on US Captain Jim Furyk's picks list. The other two players inside the top 20 in the official world golf rankings - Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama, are ineligible given their Country of origin. The lowest ranked player from both sides combined is Thorbjorn Olesen in 44th position.
There are plenty of narratives this year - most notably the return of Tiger Woods. Originally set to be a vice captain, Tiger has defied the odds and looks as if he's on the way back to the top of the game. Tiger currently leads the Tour Championship by three strokes after 54 holes as I write, and golf fans are finally set to see a Sunday final pairing treat of Tiger and Rory McIlroy, who is currently tied for 2nd with Justin Rose. The US Team is littered with star names who have been doing the business in the big events of late (recency bias), and I believe this fact, along with the Tiger variable, amongst other things, is making them false favourites for Ryder cup 2018. I believe the current win odds should be the inverse.
The main reason I think Europe should be favourites for Ryder Cup 2018 is the set up of the Le Golf National track, and thinking logically when assessing actual current form, player ability, and matching the players from each team to the course in question:
The course - Le Golf National: par 71, 7183 yards ( course tour: https://www.rydercup.com/course-tour )
"This is a great golf course" "It really is a thinker's course, it's a ball strikers course aswell. It just asks questions of everything in your game" - Ryder Cup Captain, Thomas Bjorn
Le Golf National is a largely exposed, links-style track, with a premium on accuracy off the tee and ball striking - fairways and greens. Pot bunkers guard undulating greens and the surfaces are fast and firm. The stimp will be set up to the European team's preferred green speed (probably 12'). Some surfaces are equipped with run offs and others have surrounding mounds with thick rough leaving tough up and downs if missed. Fairways are also lined by mounding and some wispy browned out rough awaits errant tee balls.
Less than driver is required on a number of tee shots which will not favour the aggressive US team. Stadium style holes feature at the start and end of the 18 and this sets the Ryder Cup up for potential dramatic viewing, with a number of water hazards very much in play, especially down the stretch. Thomas Bjorn says he won't be tricking the course up, but expect the fairways to be slightly narrower than we see at the Open De France, and the rough a little thicker.
Long and straight from the tips is a bonus at LGN and when we look at the total driving stat on the PGA Tour, Europe occupy the no. 1 and no. 3 spots in the rankings (at time of writing) with Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood, and two more European team members feature in the top 10 - Francesco Molinari and Paul Casey. None of the US team features in this category, with Rickie Fowler the highest ranked at 12th. Phil Mickelson is a big name wild card pick but Phil looks to be going through a mild mid life crisis and I wouldn't be surprised to see him score no points on a course that you must hit the fairways. Mickelson is currently 194th on tour in driving accuracy with a clip of 51.94%. The veteran is -0.138 in strokes gained off the tee - good for only 144th, and I'll be looking to back Phil to get a grand total of zero points at a decent price if these individual player markets become available
Course experience vital
Key this week will be knowledge and experience on this unique Le Golf National layout. I've been largely unimpressed with the US players lack of interest or ambition with regards to doing a reccy on the upcoming test. Only Justin Thomas came over for the French Open 2018, and he bagged a top 10. I was actually impressed by the way he dialed back his usual aggressive game but the US in general will have a lack of course knowledge and lack of a proper course management strategy. Bubba Watson visited LGN a few years ago but wanted to leave for the US asap so he's another I'd be worried about if I was a US fan.
Europe on the other hand are full of course specialists and players who tick the course fit box. Alex Noren won the Open De France this year with the following stats and winning score of -7 emphasising the premium on fairways and greens, over distance and aggressive birdie making
Tommy Fleetwood propelled himself to top of the Race To Dubai in 2017 after winning at LE Golf National, and he went on to win the Race To Dubai. Even John Rahm made the trip across the water twice since becoming pro and he bagged 2 top 10s in his 2 visits. Ryder Cup pick Olesen was t3 in 2017 and also owns another 2nd here. Fellow pick Sergio Garcia did his own reconnaissance mission at the French Open 2018 where he carded the low round 64 after 54 holes to lie 3rd after day 3, only to fall away on the Sunday. Francesco Molinari has been 3 times 2nd at Le Golf National. Even the backroom staff for Europe own strong course ties, chiefly vice captain Graeme McDowell who has back to back French Open victories.What's more, if the wind does get up, it can only serve as another favourable factor for Europe at Le Golf National
Best betting angles
In short, Europe come prepared for the specific test that awaits, USA do not. Current form wise there's actually an argument for Europe now getting the nod in that area too. Dustin Johnson is in the midst of personal problems once more and his form has dipped. The same can be said of Brooks Koepka's form. Bubba and Phil have been struggling and don't look suited to the test, while Fedex Cup leader (at time of writing) Bryson de Chambeau looks to have run out of gas. Jordan Spieth has been battling confidence issues, especially on the greens, all year.
As mentioned, I think the odds are the wrong way around. I would give the edge to the Europeans for Ryder Cup 2018 and have felt this way all year about the prices. I'd have them circa 60% - 40% faves, meaning the general 7/5 on Europe to hoist the trophy is a very good value bet if you like to go in bigger on shorter prices.
Dutching the scorelines
I'm more of a smaller stake / bigger odds value bettor and the best angle I see is to try and exploit some value in the correct score market where a convincing victory for the Europeans looks to be written off a little, but is a much stronger possibility than implied in the odds in my opinion
If we combine the winning scorelines of 15.5-12.5, 16-12, 16.5 - 11.5 for the European side, in a dutch bet (staking proportionally so that we'd get the same return if any scoreline selection wins) we would see odds in excess of 5/1
Under the radar - top points scorer
Another variable Europe may have going for them is a lot of great potential team combinations. Sergio and Rahm for example or the Stenson / Rose duo that has done so well in the past. With Henrik not at his best however, a Tommy Fleetwood partnership with Justin Rose looks the nuts, and could well be in Thomas Bjorn's mind. Tommy would be an ideal partner for anyone though, in any format - foursomes or fourballs - both for his ideal course fit and also for his all round demeanour, attitude and personality which is huge in team golf. As mentioned, Tommy ranks 3rd in total driving and has already won around Le Golf National. He ranks 13th in strokes gained: tee to green on the PGA Tour. I'd fancy him to beat anyone he is put up against in the singles around this track too.
Fleetwood is a tasty 18/1 ew 1-4 in the top combined points scorer market
superstar-to-be - and current Asian Tour Order Of Merit title holder - on courses / setups like this one in Portugal. It proved a fruitful week for followers at Albatross Golf Resort in Gavin Green week 1 when we got him at 3 figs in a share of the 1st round lead and also in the outright ew market at ~150's and top 10 market, when he tied for 3rd. Green also has a runner up finish under his belt on the main tour. He can eat these resort type layout courses for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Oceanico Victoria resort course at Vilamoura (or whatever they call it now) is absolutely ideal for Green. If you are looking for an actual real course correlation where the attributes needed to do well are exactly the same - then this course in Portugal and the Albatross course in the Czech Republic are those courses. A look at the vital stats over the years at both events, and also the names on the leaderboards will back this up: Random names like Tom Lewis 60/1 (6th and 3rd each of the last 2 years in Czech, and winner on this track in Portugal), and even Padraig Harrington who won here and arguably should have won in the Czech republic a few weeks back, only to be eclipsed by Pavan at the last.
The likes of Thomas Pieters plays well at both tracks and yes, obviously good players will pop up regularly on any leaderboards but there is something to this link, trust me. It comes largely in the form of driving distance. Hayden Porteous 80/1 is another 1 to watch. Already a winner at Albatross and he'll enjoy the generous landing areas this week. Hayden has been simmering nicely averaging around 25th position in his last 5 events but hasn't quite put 4 rounds together. He could here, easily. The Saffa was 5th in driving distance last year on Tour and arguably - pound for pound - given the amount of rounds played sample, only Ryan Fox was actually longer. Fox is also well worth a look here at around 40/1 ew given his prodigious length.
Gavin Green 125/1 probably doesn't even know it yet (I sent him a hint in a tweet a while back :D) but he has the game to obliterate the "Don Pedro" track if he brings his A game, or he may even contend if he has his B game. Now, golf is golf and it doesn't always work out so don't be silly re staking. I was watching GG with interest the last three weeks on (tight) courses I didn't think would suit. He actually recorded a t12 in Switzerland (and even led at 1 stage during R3 IIRC) where he ranked 2nd in greens in reg, surprisingly to me on tiny surfaces.. He MCd in Denmark before that, and at the KLM which I'm happy about as it will give him some much needed rest and also inflate his price for Portugal. He demolished the field in driving distance at Albatross where he was 10 yards ahead of 2nd place. The touch was great also as he was 2nd in PPR but this is affected by what was actually a poor GIR event stat of 66th. Green recently won a year's supply of beer too!
This is a track where - just like Doral in the US, pro players have actually come out and said the bigger hitters may aswell be playing on a different course, their advantage with the big stick is such an edge. Its only around 7,150 yards, par 71, but the par 5s and one, possibly two short par 4s can be overpowered by the bombers. The par 3s are also lengthy (3 of 4 over 200 yards) so this obviously benefits the bigger hitters too. Greens are large and undulating. It's absolutely no coincidence when you look at the records here of the likes of Nico Colsaerts 90/1 (great price) and Lucas Bjerregaard. Bjerregaard's price is absolutely terrible this week btw, don't touch it, regardless of the result. Landing areas are generous and rough is usually down on these resort layouts, and big hitting aggressive golf and par breakers pay off. Colsaerts seems to feature here every year and he's another who has been threatening to find top form and he's simmering nicely.
A caveat - esp for Gavin Green - may be the weather. IIRC Nicspicks was on both Levy and Colsaerts the year Levy won. We deffo had him, but it was a rain softened and shortened event. Last year the wind blew a hoolie I believe in the early rounds and it's quite an exposed course so this will bring the water hazards in 7 holes into play (Thomas Pieters has made friends with these hazards and probably left a club or 2 in them) and Green may not like the wind with his swing speed and power, although his course management is improving month by month. There's a lot of sand that lines the fairways but it isn't very penal and doesn't really come into play much unless very errant or windy.
Lucas Herbert 100/1 is a golfer featuring prominently on my one to watch list for years alongside Gavin Green Jacket, and he got a call up to the event in invitation form, and made a joke on Twitter: seemingly not expecting much, but maybe I'll send him a tweet too (!!!), telling the confident / borderline brash Australian bomber and par breaker machine that he may change his mind when he plays this track. We get him at a huge price relative to his fair price too, as like Porteous, he's been simmering but he's under the radar somewhat. Not mine though.
It's a pity Sean Crocker didn't win the Challenge Tour event last week, and not just for our coffers. The bomber shot -10 in round 3 to take the lead and I thought he'd run away with it tbh, but it wasn't to be. He didn't get the automatic spot in Portugal for winning there, nor an invite. Tom Lewis 60/1 though, who I mentioned is in fine form on both the tours, having blitzed an event a few weeks ago, as I said is a winner on this track and loves Albatross resort too, and low scoring events in general it seems. If you can get the 50s+, I'd have him onside for sure off the back of another near miss in Kazhakstan.
I'm going to finish the ramble just by throwing out some more big hitters at big prices here who you can choose to play in what markets you want or not: Note that I'll be playing most of the guys mentioned in this post (with odds quoted) in a variety of different markets. Any of them over ~80/1 in the first round leader market (ew) is an angle well worth taking too:
Jigger Jonathan Thompson 150/1 (on fire at the minute making more birdies than Robin Red Breast - top 25 here last year. Bomber)
Pep Angles 400/1 (drives it a mile and has been showing decent signs of late)
Jacques Kruyswijk 225/1 (may fall in love with this track- 7th in Czech a few weeks ago, high ball flight, 2nd in DD & 3rd GIR% in Czech)
Justin Walters 150/1 (has a special affinity (personal) with Vilamoura track & says he can read these greens very well, deceptively long)
Phachara Khongwatmai 100/1 just watch, wait and see - turned up here last year (T12), and also Czech this year T9 #simmering
Tapio Pulkannen 500/1 - can't leave him out on driving distance alone
Chase Koepka 250/1 - maybe the only non bomber I'm interested in this week - has been throwing in some low rounds lately. Fast starter.
#FRLdar #GripItNRipIt #Simmering #ParBreakers #Resort #GavinGreenJacket