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So Dustin Johnson grabbed his 4th title of 2017 and took the FedEx Cup Number 1 spot last week, in turn guaranteeing himself a top 5 position when he arrives at the Tour Championship. That's vital in the context of the FedEx Cup as the top 5 going into East Lake hold their destiny in their own hands. From a FedEx Cup perspective, Dustin now leads from Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm. Jhonattan Vegas guaranteed a spot at East Lake with a strong performance at Glen Oaks last week, as did Paul Casey and Webb Simpson; others though find themselves in different circumstances with Branden Grace (99th), Rafael Cabrera Bello (80th), Adam Scott (73rd), and Bubba Watson (72nd) all outside of the BMW Championship qualification cut. 96 players (no Holmes, Piercy, Snedeker or Stenson) - will become 70 players after this week. As most of you will be aware, the Dell Technologies (yet another new sponsor as Dell takeover from Deutsche Bank) runs from this Friday to Monday 4th September to mark Labor Day festivities in the US.
Matt Kuchar and Jason Day were in the mix for us last week, after some excellent weeks with Matt Every and Hideki Matsuyama. But I must point you towards European Tour colleague Paul Williams who after some successful wins of late delivered full place each returns on David Horsey (40/1) and Chris Paisley (200/1) last week in Denmark. You can read Paul's preview for the D+D REAL Czech Masters here.
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Course Guide: Players will breathe a sigh of relief as they move from Long Island to Cape Cod country - TPC Boston is no Glen Oaks. Fact is though that the freshly extended 7,342 yard (course was extended 81 yards for 2014, another 55 yards for 2015 and yet another 45 yards for this year) Par 71 - which is an original Arnold Palmer design - yields birdies, but only for those who are aggressive and on their game. Winning totals of -15 (McIlroy 2016), -15 (Fowler 2015), -15 (Kirk 2014), -22 (Stenson 2013), -20 (McIlroy 2012), -15 (Simpson 2011), -22 (Hoffman), -19 (Stricker), -22 (Singh) and -16 (Mickelson) across the past 10 renewals show that the pure Bentgrass greens can produce low scores. Scoring tends to be dictated by the firmness of the greens though, so with a very dry August and another lengthening of course yardage, we should expect around the same winning total as we've seen in the past 3 years.
TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts: Designer: Arnold Palmer 2001, with Hanse re-design 2006, 2016; Course Type: Up-State, Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,342 yards; Water Hazards: 4; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass Fescue 4"; Greens: 5,500 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 11.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.65 (-0.35), Difficulty Rank 31 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.21 (-1.79), Difficulty Rank 39 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.47 (-0.53), Rank 34 of 48 courses. 2015: 70.96 (-0.04), Rank 19 of 52 courses. 2016: 70.24 (-0.76), Rank 30 of 50 courses.
TPC Boston Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Boston and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:
Course Designer Links:
For research purposes other Arnold Palmer and Gil Hanse re-designs include:
Course Overview: TPC Boston is an Arnold Palmer original with recent Gil Hanse modernisation that's set up for eagle and birdie-making on key holes. 2 of the 3 par-5s on the scorecard play under 550 yards so are reachable for all bar the shortest of hitters. No surprise then that these holes, namely the 2nd and the 18th, yielded 15 eagles and 219 birdies last term. TPC Boston though will play slightly harder in 2017 as the par-4 12th, under the auspices of Hanse, has been lengthened to 510 yards, which follows on from last year's tournament change where the driveable par-4 4th was lengthened from 298 yards to 353 yards. Risk and reward on scoring holes is the nature of this course and those who average 290+ yards from the tee have a distinct advantage here. Mix of winners in the recent past include either short-game specialists or ball-strikers, with softer course conditions always linking to the -20 level scoring years. That low level of scoring though is unlikely to happen this term as a dry July and August, in tandem with strong breezes across the tournament, should see scoring closer to the -15/269 levels we've witnessed recently.
A number of key statistics jump from the page when you look at TPC Boston over the past 2 renewals, which have been played with relatively firm conditions and just enough wind to keep the scoring up. Par-4s here are more than attackable, with the 11 4-shot holes at TPC Boston playing as the 7th easiest on Tour last year. Conversely the 12 looks at the par-5s over the course of 2015 and 2016 played as the 6th and 11th toughest on the PGA Tour. With Going for the Green Birdie or Better conversion being 3rd lowest across the whole of 2016, TPC Boston is scoreable, but not the pure drag-strip we used to see.
Winners (Deutsche Bank): 2016: Rory McIlroy (-15); 2015: Rickie Fowler (-15); 2014: Chris Kirk (-15); 2013: Henrik Stenson (-22); 2012: Rory McIlroy (-20); 2011: Webb Simpson (-15); 2010: Charley Hoffman (-22).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 5 of the predictor are Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Travelers Championship / BMW International and includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices (Deutsche Bank): 2016: McIlroy 14/1; 2015: Fowler 40/1; 2014: Kirk 150/1; 2013: Stenson 28/1; 2012: McIlroy 12/1; 2011: Simpson 35/1; 2010: Hoffman 125/1. Average: 57/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Norton, Massachusetts is here. Weather looks excellent for TPC Boston over the course of the tournament with temperatures reaching 22 (Thursday) to 27 degrees Celsius on Monday. Breeze will be a feature throughout, but nothing more sinister than 15 mph gusts. However with the wind direction changing from north-westerly (Friday/Saturday) to south-westerly (Sunday/Monday) and a firm enough course, scoring will not be as low as we saw here in 2012/13.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 7 winners here since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let's take a view from players as to how TPC Boston has played in recent years and what specific skills it requires:
Gary Woodland: "It definitely played tougher than it played the last couple of years. That northeast wind, it's a direction that we haven't seen in a long time out here. The par-5s are playing into the wind. The greens are very fast. And there were some tricky pins, as well. I'm happy with 3-under, I'm happy with the start I'm at. The wind is supposed to be the same direction the next couple of days so hopefully it's more of the same."
Jason Day: "Good day in some difficult conditions. Might toughen up a little bit this afternoon. I think as the week goes on, it's going to get gradually hotter, greens are going to start baking out a little bit quicker. Fairways are going to start baking out, as well. Today was difficult. It was really tough to get yourself below the hole. Really difficult to try to position yourself on the greens with how the wind was. It was very tough to see or feel where the wind was coming from. There was a lot of swirling there. And overall I'm very pleased with how it went today."
Charley Hoffman: "The wind didn't blow, one. There's still a few good pin placements out there. In the morning I wouldn't say it was soft, but receptive greens and they were as smooth as can be this morning for us. And I was able to make a good amount of putts."
Henrik Stenson: "Best way to summarise, there is a little bit of a breeze out there and if you're not playing great it's not the easiest course. Still birdie chances if you're doing well. And if you're struggling a little bit with your game you can drop one or two. Yeah, I thought the back nine with this wind that we had today which is southerly, I think the back nine was playing a little trickier. You've got 11, 12, 14 into the wind, so they play a little tougher. So I think it was probably a tougher wind on the back nine today than earlier in the week."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 7 winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their group and winning score since 2010. For full first round leader stats click here.
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bentgrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
In terms of other factors to look out for, this event since 2009 - when the current structure was put in place - has been won by players ranked 2nd, 59th, 4th, 4th, 13th, 17th, 22nd and 39th in the FedEx Cup going into the tournament. Charley Hoffman (125/1) and Chris Kirk (150/1) provided big-price winners whereas Steve Stricker (22/1), Webb Simpson (35/1), Rory McIlroy (12/1 - 2012 & 14/1 - 2016) and Henrik Stenson (28/1) all carried form momentum into the event guaranteeing themselves a top 5 spot in East Lake. Rickie Fowler (40/1) won with little immediate form but had played very well at the Quicken Loans National 4 appearances prior.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
If we've learned anything about World Number 1 Dustin Johnson and modern golf in general it's to back elite players when they're hot. So DJ makes tons of sense this week at a course where he finished 4th on debut in 2009, 4th in 2012 and 8th last year. A fantastic Wednesday range session with Butch Harmon sparked Dustin into life last week and despite being 5 shots behind Jordan Spieth standing on the 6th tee on Sunday, he finished with 4 birdies in his final 10 holes to capitalise on the door that Spieth opened with his poor approach on the 6th. Watching Spieth and Johnson go head-to-head on the back nine at Glen Oaks was fantastic action and Dustin will undoubtedly gain huge confidence from his eventual play off triumph. The Predictor Model No.2 Selection went back-to-back last year with his first U.S. Open triumph being followed by a comfortable win at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational; this year though Johnson has bettered that performance by winning the Genesis Open, WGC Mexico Championship and the WGC Dell Match Play in consecutive appearances across February and March. Whilst I expect Jordan Spieth to potentially go back into his shell and wait for East Lake to capture his 2nd FedEx Cup triumph, Dustin is no strategist and I expect him to go all out to win the Dell Technologies this week. Asked about his situation now with the Playoffs in mind, Johnson said on Sunday, "I'm expecting to play very well. I feel like the game is finally back in form like it was leading into the Masters. I feel like I'm swinging everything really well. Got a lot of control over the golf ball. I'm feeling really good. Obviously getting the win here today gives me a lot of confidence going into next week and the rest of the Playoffs." RESULT: T18
You might have been surprised to read that Dustin Johnson was the Predictor Model Number 2 selection. You might be even more surprised to read that Jordan Spieth is at Number 5 this week, instead Hideki Matsuyama is the Predictor Model No.1 Selection and I really like his chances this week on a return to Bentgrass greens where he thrives. Golf moves so quickly these days that it would be easy to forget Matsuyama's amazing performance at Firestone South where he captured his 3rd PGA Tour and 2nd WGC title of the season. I backed him at 12/1 to win the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, but ultimately too many missed short putts on Bermudagrass greens where he as always struggled saw his chances fade, even though he led the tournament standing on the 11th tee. Not a bad effort and I have no concerns about the MC at Glen Oaks last week as we know that Matsuyama and pure Poa Annua greens is a marriage that's not made in heaven. A stress-free opening Playoff tournament is no bad thing looking back at recent past winners here and I think TPC Boston will suit him this week with improving course form which reads 57th (2014), 25th (2015) and (15th). At 4th in the FedEx Cup standings, Matsuyama will know that he needs a strong result to guarantee a top 5 spot at East Lake. Intriguingly Simpson (2011) and McIlroy (2012) won this tournament from the 4th FEC spot and Stenson (2015) and Scott (2016) have also gone close recently. So at a course where top-notch ball-striking is a real advantage - Matsuyama sits 2nd in my 10-week rolling Greens in Regulation tracker - I think that Hideki has a great chance this week, especially as he will come into the tournament relatively under the radar. RESULT: T23
Patrick Reed will want to play well this week with the Presidents Cup qualification coming to a climax and he currently sits outside of the FedEx Cup top 30 at 33rd in the standings. Despite ranking 9th in the Presidents Cup qualification at the present time, in reality there's little chance that match play king Reed won't be in Steve Stricker's squad, but undoubtedly the Texan will want to finish this year with some momentum and East Lake will be a big goal. Reed is also a very proud man and a winning streak of 4 consecutive years going back to 2013, Sedgefield; 2014, PGA West & the WGC at Doral; 2015, Kapalua and 2016, Bethpage Black is now seriously in danger. He hasn't gone that close in 2017 to adding to that total, but his best ever Major Championship performance at Quail Hollow 3 weeks ago saw him come up 2 shots shy of Justin Thomas when he finished runner-up. That's sure to have added confidence to his game and it was interesting to see Patrick in the mix when defending his title last week at Glen Oaks. Greens in regulation though was king on Long Island last week and ultimately Reed could only finish 20th, but he travels to TPC Boston knowing that he has finished 4th and 5th here on his last 2 appearances. 25th in Going for the Green, 41st in Birdie Average and 9th in Strokes Gained Putting are season-long stats I really like this week, especially as all winners here have had to putt phenomenally well on their way to victory. RESULT: T6
Daniel Berger is the sort of player who I think could win this from off the pace form-wise. Berger will draw masses from 24 months ago where, as a rookie, he performed magnificently at the BMW Championship finishing 2nd to Jason Day. Daniel showed real class at Conway Farms where he played the 3rd Round with Jason Day and the 4th Round with Rory McIlroy - that's huge pressure! Ultimately though his runner-up finish guaranteed a spot at East Lake, a full set of 2016 Major appearances and the Rookie of the Year award. 2016 saw Berger fulfil plenty of his potential: 10th at Augusta on his debut highlights the talent we are dealing with here, as does 9th at The Players Championship. His debut PGA Tour win came at TPC Southwind where he closed the tournament like a confident multiple winner and he then returned there for his first experience of defending a PGA Tour title this year and did that in style capturing his second title. Season 2016/17 has again been a massive success. 2nd at Sheshan at the WGC Champions event again showed us how comfortable he is in big tournaments and 2017 has seen him finish 7th at TPC Scottsdale, 5th at GC of Houston, lose in a play-off to his great friend Jordan Spieth at TPC River Highlands and finish 5th at Deere Run - all of this on top of his victory in June at the FedEx St Jude Classic. A shoe-in for the Presidents Cup, Berger sits 8th in the FedEx Cup series so a big week here in Massachusetts can see him jump into that all important top 5. 41st for Going for the Green, 17th for Birdie Average, 40th for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion, 9th for par-4 Scoring Average and 21st for Strokes Gained Putting fit TPC Boston really well. As a rookie Berger was 6th after 54 holes here in 2015 before finishing 12th. RESULT: T61
Russell Henley also fits this week for me. At 23rd in the FedEx Cup standings the South Carolina native will be targeting a return to East Lake where he finished 12th on debut in 2014. So he will need a strong finish to grab a top 30 spot which in turn guarantees entry into all 2017 Majors. Henley is the sort of player who plays well at specific courses and as we know he isn't afraid of winning. He captured his 3rd PGA Tour victory at GC of Houston the week before The Masters in April and then backed that up with 11th at Augusta. His excellent record at PGA National (Winner 2014), GC of Houston (4 consecutive top 7 finishes 2014-2017) and Muirfield Village (6th 2013) ties in well with TPC Boston winners and we must remember that Russell finished 2nd here in 2014. Henley was a fast starter last week at Glen Oaks where he led on Thursday, but the University of Georgia graduate has never been comfortable on Poa Annua. However if he keeps his high level of ball-striking - 10th at Glen Oaks and 10th for the season - together this week I think Russell could well be a factor, especially as he topped Strokes Gained Putting here in 2014. RESULT: T40
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