Monday, 18 February 2013

Accenture World Matchplay preview

A rare treat this week with a preview of one of the World Golf Championship events, a rare venture into matchplay. @smartgolfbets, owner of the excellent resource Smart Golf Bets, has gone right through the draw in detail and come up with this shrewd advice.

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Accenture World Matchplay Championship
The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Marana, Arizona, USA
20-24 Feb 2013


Introduction & Course

This WGC event is designed to bring together the top 64 players in the OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings) in a matchplay format. There are four brackets, each containing 16 players, with each bracket producing two quarter-finalists.

The design is flawed because it uses the OWGRs to rank the competitors and those rankings are determined by form over the preceding two years. Thus it’s inevitable that some in-form players will be grouped together and, likewise, some out-of-form players. The Gary Player bracket, for example, contains a number of out-of-form Europeans.

The course has been used for the past four iterations of this tournament, so form and placings from those years (2009-2012) has some relevance when assessing the chances this year – albeit not properly accounting for the ease or difficulty of different groups and player form at the time.

Notable withdrawals include regular non-attender Phil Mickelson and the hottest player on tour in 2013, Brandt Snedeker.

History

The first conclusions from an examination of the history of this event are that neither favourites nor Americans do especially well here. For example:
- Hunter Mahan knocked off Rory McIlroy in last year’s final;
- In 2011 Euro Donald beat Euro Kaymer in an event expected to be dominated by Americans;
- Ian Poulter was not widely expected, being a guy who’d never won on US soil, to prevail in 2010. He beat perennial matchplay contender, Paul Casey, in that final and;
- Geoff Ogilvy beat Paul Casey in the 2009 final.

Perhaps the most significant piece of data is that there has been only one American finalist in 4 years at Dove Mountain! Four years is a sufficiently long time for us to call this a trend and to recommend betting strategy accordingly.

Betting Strategy

Our recommended approach is a conservative one, given the vagaries of 18-hole matchplay and the perennial failure of favourites to win here. We recommend betting in just one market: Top4.

Our four selections, one from each bracket, are profiled below under ‘Best Bets’.

Top Players in the Market we Don’t Expect to Win

It’s relatively easy to make a case against most of the market favourites here, so here are the cases for the prosecution against fifteen of them!

Rory McIlroy was the beaten finalist last year and went on to enjoy a stellar 2012. However, he has changed clubs and balls for 2013 and, in his only tournament appearance since November, missed the cut in Abu Dhabi in mid-January shooting 75:75. Additionally, his Ryder Cup performances were mediocre, including two losses paired with his good mate, McDowell. Rory simply can’t be recommended at a short price.

Tiger Woods is now back to reasonable form after spending 2010 & 2011 in the marital infidelity / coach change / injury repair wilderness. At his best and on a course he likes he’d murder this field most times, as he frequently used to do, but given that he’s failed to progress past round two in three starts at Dove Mountain and that the course does not appear to suit his eye he cannot be recommended at a short price.

Lee Westwood is a guy who specialises in beating up weak fields but who consistently fails to produce wins in top company. There were few signs at either Pebble Beach or Riviera last week that his new short game coach, Tony Johnstone, is orchestrating positive change.

Hunter Mahan is the reigning champion. However, he has not seriously contended anywhere (best finish 8th) since winning the Houston Open last March and was a non-factor in the Ryder Cup.

Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen is an established failure in this event on this course, and has never played in a Presidents Cup. So, purely based on a limited and mediocre matchplay career, Louis cannot be supported.

Justin Rose has been in the form of his life, and one of the best players going around, since winning the BMW late in 2011. He did putt spectacularly over the closing 3 holes to defeat Phil Mickelson in the Ryder Cup and he will take a lot of heart from that but, conversely, has consistently poor results on this course and cannot be recommended.

Adam Scott has been a somewhat surprising failure at Dove Mountain, failing to make it past the first round in three of four attempts and going out in the 2nd round on the other occasion! It’s thus easy, despite a nice season-opening 10th at Riviera last week, to discount his chances here.

Other notables who have failed to make the Top16 in varying numbers of attempts during the past four years at Dove Mountain include: Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Bo Van Pelt, Francesco Molinari & Bill Haas.

Best Bets

In our context of betting on the Top4, we’ve made 4 selections – one from each bracket.

Having discounted almost all the favourites, and a chunk of the next quality tier, we’d by now normally be focusing in on the next best players, persons such as: Bubba Watson, Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and the like – but they’re all Americans and we’ve already decided to give them a miss!

So, who’s left that isn’t American, has performed well here previously, has some good playing form in recent months and all in different brackets, so they cannot meet before the quarter finals?

Best Bet #1: Ian Poulter @ 23.00 - Sam Snead Bracket

Ian was a solid first-up 9th in Hawaii in January, despite tweeting that he didn’t feel much like playing. He won this event in 2010 and also won the European Tour’s 2011 Volvo World Match Play Championship, beating Luke Donald in the final.

Everybody will recall his heroics in the 2012 Ryder Cup and he’s played on 4 Ryder Cup teams for 8 wins out of 11 matches overall and, significantly, he’s 3-0 in singles (i.e. unbeaten).

Best Bet #2Martin Kaymer @ 36.00 - Gary Player Bracket

Martin endured all the downside of a significant swing change during most of 2012 but finally returned to form in October with 5 Top11’s in 6 starts, including a win in the Nedbank Challenge in November. He started 2013 with a solid 9th in Qatar. He played the 2010 & 2012 Ryder Cups and nobody who saw it will forget the 6-foot knee-trembler he sank on the 18th hole to ensure Europe retained the Cup in 2012. Perhaps not surprisingly, his return to good form followed almost immediately.

Best Bet #3: Sergio Garcia @ 29.00 - Ben Hogan Bracket

Sergio finished off 2012 with a win and a 4th in Asia and started 2013 with a 2nd in Qatar, a 17th in Dubai and was 13th last week, so he’s clearly playing well and he had a 4th here in 2010 to demonstrate that he can handle the course.

However, his Ryder Cup singles record is poor with just 2 wins from 6 matches and that relegates him to being our 3rd pick here.

Best Bet #4: Charl Schwartzel @ 20.00 - Bobby Jones Bracket

After going 20 months without a win following his 2011 Masters triumph, Charl has certainly rounded into form in recent months. He’s finished no worse than 3rd in 6 starts since his 5th the South African Open in November, including two dominant wins and a handy 3rd at Riviera last week.

Though his World Matchplay record is modest, in his only Presidents Cup (2011) he played 5 times in a well-beaten team for 3 wins, a half and a loss. He won his singles 2&1 over Dustin Johnson.

Best of the rest & Best Americans

Luke Donald @ 19.00 is in the same bracket as Ian Poulter, otherwise he’d have been our #1 Best Bet!

Finally, to offset the anti-American stance above, and for those taking a contrary view of the failure to date of Americans at Dove Mountain, here is our assessment of the best American price value; one from each bracket:

Jason Dufner 40.00, Matt Kuchar 36.00, Nick Watney 41.00 & Bubba Watson 36.00

Exchange Betting

Backing. We recommend a Top4 focus from the back-to-lay perspective on the above best bet players.

Laying. We don’t recommend laying on 18-hole crapshoots but, if you insist, try laying the players we’ve discounted above as an opening gambit!

Visit @smartgolfbets' website Smart Golf Bets each week for excellent stats-based formguides for all professional golf tours.

Good luck with your punting!

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