It's a shorter preview for the Joburg Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Links this week as neither are events nor markets I particularly like the look of. First up it's the Joburg Open and the focus is largely on youngsters and outsiders who could go well at a price.
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I put Dawie Van Der Walt up on the tips spreadsheet and my Twitter after he opened at a big 100/1 with Stanjames on Monday. Unsurprisingly he's almost half that price now given his two wins on the European /Sunshine Tour in the calender year 2013 - a year in which the 30 year old won the Sunshine Tour Order Of Merit. He's also started 2014 sniffing around leaderboards on the desert swing and has previous course form at the Joburg Open - posting a couple of recent top tens including a third place.
Before I move onto a few youngsters for Joburg, I had to add proven winner Gregory Bourdy to the Joburg Open staking plan at 80/1. The Frenchman shook off some rust last week with a mediocre performance but if he can kick into gear - and he often starts fast - he could challenge Schwartzel at a big price. Thomas Aiken at 25/1 is my one from the front end of the market: I love backing Thomas on home soil and the currently wet and soft conditions of this week's venue should benefit the big hitter. Justin Walters was touch and go at the price but B365 opened up 13s top 10 last night and I added him to the staking plan then.
Michael Hollick is a young South African that has come to my attention in the last year or so and some of you may have seen the screenshot on twitter ---> of the early 500/1 EW I managed to nab with Stanjames. He apparantly has a lot of new equipment this year and is using a new Titleist ball that he's enjoying. The youngster posted a string of top ten finishes on the ST in 2013 but also performed admirably in the co-sanctioned events and I'm proofing him at 16s top 10 (BetVic and spreadex). I missed the 18s with PP.
It's Hollick's friend though, and another Van Der Walt - Drikus (who the bookies call Dirkus), that is my real speculative play this week at the Joburg Open. Drikus hasn't really done anything of note as a pro yet but comes in to the event off the back of a 2nd place in the 2014 Sunshine Tour Qualifying school last week and with confidence soaring, he Monday qualified for the Joburg Open with a round of -6 on the west course(tied 1st). He does have a handful of top tens on the Big Easy Tour, including one at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington last year. Drikus also finished 13th in the BMG Classic at the back end of last year, but most notably, he shot a course record 62 at Simola GC in the Vodacom Origins back in 2012 so he obviously has good potential. It's a bit of a shot in the dark but this guy could be one to watch in the coming years and I'm happy to take 20/1 about a top 20 (ladbrokes) and 40s top 10 in the hope he continues his mini-streak. You should see bigger if and when more books price up the qualifiers.
Last but not least is another South African youngster and Johannesburg native who hasn't fulfilled his early potential: Allan Versfeld showed us what he can and may be in the future when finishing 16th at the Alfred Dunhill championship in November - despite a 2nd round 77 - and I put him up at 18/1 for a top 10 with Stanjames on Monday.
AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-am
Moving on now to the AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-am and this is one of the hardest events in a long while in terms of me being able to extract any value from the market. There are a few names I like but would have wanted bigger prices for such outsiders.
I've gone with just the four (although Russell Knox was very close) and basically I couldn't pass up the opening 40s with Stans on Brandt Snedeker. A great 2nd round in Phoenix last week is all he's shown thus far in 2014 but 40s for the defending champ in this field is generous.
I had Hunter Mahan and Jason Day in as joint favourites for the AT & T National so was happy to add Hunter to the spreadsheet in the end at 20/1. The California native tee to green machine is well used to the greens in the area and boasts the current and course form concoction that makes him a standout near the top of the market.
Next up is a man that's been catching the eye this season in Justin Hicks. Showing progressive form since a top 6 finish in Mayakoba, Hicks carded a top 20 in Phoenix last week with a weekend 69-67. Over three courses where wind is likely to play a part - especially on host course Pebble Beach - and where green complexes are small, ball striking is the key stat (just ask Boo weekley) and Hicks sits atop this stat in 2014. While consistent, his place record is not great so I put him up at 10s for a top ten finish. Skybet came out after with 12s but I'd already added 10/1 to the spreadsheet.
Last but not least is Ricky Barnes (250/1) and 18s top ten. Again a California Native who has been putting together some nice numbers this season but just unable to patch four rounds together. I watched Barnes chase down Mickelson here in 2012 and at one stage it looked like he would go on to win after a stretch of 5 birdies in 7 holes on Sunday. He just came up shy for a third place finish but he really looked to have the measure of the Pebble Beach course and is well capable of shooting low numbers. Huge price for a deceptively in form player.