Barracuda Championship Tips

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Steve Bamford's Tips for the 2018 Barracuda Championship. Follow Steve on twitter: @bamfordgolf

Naturally the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone takes centre stage this week, packed full of the world's very best players one week before the final Major of 2018. It would be easy to cast aside the Barracuda Championship at Montreux Golf & Country Club, however it's a betting heat that I always enjoy and we've had winning success in the near past with J.J. Henry and Gary Woodland.

The Barracuda for me is all about spotting players who'll arrive in Reno, Nevada with real motivation to perform this week and an improving game to boot. Played on a pretty stock Nicklaus-designed Par 72 at altitude, the field also contains some established players, many of whom are fighting for their lucrative careers. The full 2-year PGA Tour exemption available to the winner is a huge carrot, as is the possibility of harvesting enough FedEx Cup points to grab a spot in the magical top 125 or even top 150 (partial status for 17/18).

Paul Williams has previewed the WGC Bridgestone Invitational - you can read his thoughts on that event here.

Barracuda Championship - Featured Bookmaker: Coral Free Bet

Course Guide: Montreux, at 7,472 yards, is a long Par-72 located at altitude in the high Nevada mountains where the ball travels further than normal. Montreux features runway-wide fairways but quite small 5,500 square feet average sized greens with a Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix construction running to 11.5 on the stimpmeter. Naturally aggressive players should thrive under the Stableford rules, but Montreux favours players who are decent ball-strikers and those who excel with a mid-iron in hand.

Montreux Golf & Country Club, Reno, Nevada: Designer: Jack Nicklaus 1992; Course Type: Desert, Resort; Par: 72; Length: 7,472 yards; Water Hazards: 5; Fairways: Bentgrass Ryegrass with Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass with Ryegrass 3.5"; Greens: 5,500 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Stimpmeter: 11.5ft.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Montreaux G&CC and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Jack Nicklaus designs include:

Course Overview: Montreux G&CC is a typical Jack Nicklaus design that becomes more challenging the closer a player gets to the hole. Fairways are huge and easy to hit giving the most inaccurate a fighting chance. Played at 5,500 feet altitude where the air is dry and thin, long hitters undoubtedly have a huge advantage on a course where 400 yard drives are more than possible on some holes. Longer hitters can reach the 4 par-5s with 2 lusty blows but can also attack a couple of driveable par-4s at the 4th and 14th. They also have the advantage of being able to take 3-wood or irons off of some tees plus can attack plenty of pin locations with wedges as opposed to mid-irons. Since 2012 this event has been played utilising the Modified Stableford scoring format - you can find out more about how points are accrued here: Modified Stableford System.

Winners: 2017: Chris Stroud (44); 2016: Greg Chalmers (43); 2015: J.J. Henry (47); 2014: Geoff Ogilvy (49); 2013: Gary Woodland (44); 2012: J.J. Henry (43); 2011: Scott Piercy (-15); 2010: Matt Bettencourt (-11).

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. NEW! Combined Current and Course Form is now available here.

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 10 of my published predictor are Joel Dahmen, J.J. Henry, Steve Wheatcroft, Hunter Mahan, Kevin Streelman, Cameron Percy, Richy Werenski, Hudson Swafford, Bronson Burgoon and Johnson Wagner.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Fort Worth Invitational / BMW PGA Championship and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

Winners & Prices: 2017: Stroud 80/1; 2016: Chalmers 300/1; 2015: Henry 80/1; 2014: Ogilvy 66/1; 2013: Woodland 40/1; 2012: Henry 40/1; 2011: Piercy 50/1; 2010: Bettencourt 200/1. Average: 107/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 132/1. For a full summary of winner's odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Reno, Nevada, is here. Clear skies and temperatures reaching 28-33 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. Morning starters will play in tranquil conditions, but as we often see in the desert 15-20 mph winds will whip up in the afternoon, making it a little tricky in terms of club selection, especially at altitude.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 8 winners at Montreux 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 the course sets up and what specific skills it requires:

Chris Stroud (2017): "My dad sent me a text last night, he goes, hey, I don't want to get in your way, he said, but this is a good format for you. You've been making a lot of birdies. He said just go out and make as many as you can, see if you can make a couple of eagles. And sure enough I made two eagles on the weekend. So it was good. You know, I really wasn't hitting the ball off the tee very great today. I hit it great all week, but on 18, you know, you need to turn over a driver there. A 3-wood into the wind today, I needed to hit a driver. But if you leak it to the right you can get into those trees. Tried to hit a draw, kind of fanned it out to the right. I didn't hit a great drive. But I get up, still in the fairway. And it's a perfect 5-wood coming in. Yesterday we looked at that pin and my caddy, Casey (phonetic), said look how firm it is in front of this green. We can run it up. Had a 5-wood in play and honestly I have not hit one good 5-wood this week on the range, on the golf course. And I get up there and I'm like, well, I'm just going to put this thing back in my stance a little bit because I gotta chase it anyway, and I hit the best 5-wood I could possibly hit. We thought I made it. When I hit it, as soon as it the bounced and started coming down, I thought it was going in the hole. I am very thankful to have that opportunity and to make a great putt at the end."

Greg Chalmers (2016): "No, normally you guys get like a nice little 15-mile-an-hour breeze at some point. This didn't do a lot today. I thought we were going to get some light breezes up around 14, 12. Really wasn't a factor. And when it's windy here, it's tricky and the greens are getting firmer. I think it will get trickier as the week goes on if there's no water put on it. Looking forward to that. Start slowing down a bit. When you've got all these altitude - not just the actual altitude but all the level changes you have out here going down 17 and things like that. Few other holes like that."

J.J. Henry (2015): "As I mentioned, I just love being here. It's a great place to be this time year up in the mountains, up in the trees, and it's a fun golf course to play. I think there is a lot of local knowledge. I think that's why I've played well here in the past. The fact that you're at altitude, there is some wind, some elevation. There is a lot figuring going on between Pete Jordan, my caddie, and I. We've kind of figured it out it look like, so hopefully we can do it one more time. The reason why the scores are probably a little bit lower in year's past is just the fact that we had a little bit of that rain that softened it up so the greens are a little bit more receptive. This place can get pretty tricky when the greens get firm. But, you know it you hit the ball in the fairway you're going to have some shorter irons playing at altitude. With soft greens, you know, these guys are good. Somebody is going to play well, and fortunately it's been me so far after three rounds."

Geoff Ogilvy (2014): "I mean, every week we play out here is a week of opportunity. I mean, wins go a long way. Doesn't matter which tournament you win. It's been a while since I've been here. I love playing on the West Coast. I live in Arizona, and it's high altitude but it's a similar type of air. It suits somebody traditionally like me. I've always been a birdie/bogey golfer, rather than a par every hole golfer."

Gary Woodland (2013): "You know, it helped my caddie has been here before. But the golf course suits my eye really well. I think length is a huge advantage here. With the altitude I was hitting middle irons into the par 5s today. I think I hit 2 iron up on 2; I hit 5 iron into 8; hit 6 iron into 18. So I'm hitting middle irons into these par 5s, which helps. Then a lot of the holes I can hit 2 iron off the tee box. The fairways are wide enough for me and just suits me very well."

J.J. Henry (2012): "I made three eagles throughout the week that in this format is really what it's all about, to capitalize on the aggressive play, make the occasional eagle or extra birdie, and obviously try to avoid doubles or worse. A birdie and a bogey is better than two pars. Again, it's a great golf course. A lot of risk reward. Some reachable par 5s; a driveable par 4 too based on the tees and the wind direction. So it's just a great venue. Reminds me a lot of the Stableford event we used to play outside of Denver there at Castle Pines. Just a beautiful place to be. It's one of my favourite places anywhere."

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

For the record, here's the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

This week is all about attacking golf. With eagles worth 5 points and bogeys -1 point, players who can create numerous scoring chances and convert plenty of them will gravitate to the head of the leaderboard. Such a format also rewards those who can take advantage of the altitude which, at 5,500 feet, is the highest tournament location on the PGA Tour.

This tournament and format used to be the domain of bombers. J.J. Henry averaged 311 yards from the tee here in 2015 whilst Geoff Ogilvy also topped 310 yards (30th in the field). Gary Woodland, J.J. Henry (his first triumph in 2012) and Scott Piercy all averaged over 330 yards in their wins across 2011-2014. Naturally this kind of length from the tee unlocks the par-5s here. But across the both the 2016 and 2017 renewals, Chris Stroud, Richy Werenski, Greg Chalmers and Colt Knost have won or seriously contended here. So short hitters who enjoy an inspired putting week can not only contend but win here at this shoot-out.

A top 125 spot in the FedEx Cup is a critical target for the vast majority in the field this week. J.J. Spaun has the highest FedEx Cup ranking in the field at 53rd, however no winner has been ranked inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup when arriving in Nevada - indeed Scott Piercy (142nd), Geoff Ogilvy (151st), J.J. Henry (151st), Greg Chalmers (229th) and last year Chris Stroud (144th), were well outside the top 125 when triumphing. Another handy pointer is that no victor here has had a winner's exemption in their back pocket. For reference the following players are fully exempt through 2018-19: Jonas Blixt, Matt Every, Cody Gribble, Mackenzie Hughes, Billy Hurley III, William McGirt, Grayson Murray, Rod Pampling, D.A. Points, Chris Stroud (defending) and Hudson Swafford.

My selections are as follows:

Bronson Burgoon 1pt EW 50/1 - BURGOON WITHDREW PRE-EVENT ON TUESDAY 31st JULY.

In his second PGA Tour season I have been particularly impressed by Bronson Burgoon and, off the back of 2 straight missed cuts, his price here this week is in the target spot that we want at the Barracuda. 16th at the Byron Nelson, 6th at Quicken Loans National and 2nd at the John Deere Classic, Burgoon has played some great stuff of late and if we are to see a maiden victor this week I would put him at the top of that prospective pile. He impressed when playing with Tiger Woods in Virginia and never took a backward step when runner-up to the inspired Michael Kim in Connecticut. His -19/265 total that week highlights that he can go low and a look at his web.com background also highlights that the 31 year-old Texan often comes to the fore at true-birdie fests such as the 2014 News Sentinel Open (2nd -20) and 2017 web.com Tour Championship (4th -19). Bronson also has course experience here at Montreux playing in 2016 where he finished 23rd overall but was 5th after Thursday, 12th after Friday and 6th going into Sunday. 55th for Birdie or Better Conversion, 32nd for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion and 70th for Eagles per Hole are numbers I like for the Barracuda and he should challenge here this week.

Matt Jones 1pt EW 66/1 with Coral Free Bet Bet £/€10 get £/€30 for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply**. (7 places EW, 1/5 odds): Coral Free Bet

At 151st in the FedEx Cup standings, Matt Jones is staring straight at another web.com Playoffs campaign, but there must be hope with the Australian that he can at the very least grab a spot in the 126-150 status for season 2017/18. That's probably the mental space that last year's winner Chris Stroud found himself in arriving at Montreaux and he went on to capture his first ever PGA Tour title. And the 2015 Australian Open champion has been showing signs of late that a big performance is due. 13th at the Byron Nelson, 19th at The Travelers and 12th at the John Deere Classic highlights exactly where Jones comes to fore - birdie fests - and those 3 tournaments featured rounds of -7/65, -5/65 and -8/63. Matt also has a decent, desert / altitude golf CV. 17th (2009) and 25th (2011) here at Montreux, 15th at TPC Summerlin (2016), 12th at TPC Scottsdale (2014) and 2nd at Old White TPC (2013) speaks for itself. The 2014 Shell Houston Open winner, Jones has form across PGA National (4th 2008), Coco Beach Resort (5th 2012), TPC Louisiana (6th 2011), Deere Run (5th 2009, 5th 2010, 7th 2013) and TPC Boston (4th 2015) which correlates well with the likes of Chris Stroud, Greg Chalmers, J.J. Henry and Geoff Ogilvy. Naturally 2 of the past 4 champions here have been Australian, highlighting that the set-up works well for the Antipodeans.

J.J. Henry 1pt EW 60/1 with £/€20 risk-free bet*** for new accounts, 18+, T&Cs apply (6 EW, 1/5 odds):

We had success with the J.J. Henry play in 2015 when he captured this title for the 2nd time at 80/1 and as the 43 year-old sits in second spot on this week's published predictor model it would be churlish to ignore him in 2018. Here's a player who thrives at Montreux with results of 3rd (2002), 16th (2003), 4th (2005), 9th (2009), 1st (2012) and 1st (2014) which highlight a ball-striker who feels very comfortable on Montreux's greens and that makes him a danger this week. At 147th in the FedEx Cup standings, J.J. needs a strong finish to the season to avoid the stress of the web.com Tour Finals, but 3 pay-cheques in his last 4 appearances show that his game is firing now we are playing on the Bentgrass greens which he likes. 21st at the Greenbrier featured an opening round -5/65; he also shot a -5/66 on his way to 34th at the John Deere Classic and was 15th at the alternate Barbasol a fortnight ago. 2nd in my Greens in Regulation 10-week tracker is worthy of note, as is his history of making these lower-grade tournaments work to his advantage - 2nd El Camaleon (2009), 2nd Atunyote (2010) and 8th at Coco Beach (2017) without his results here highlight a player who knows the opportunities these alternate events present.

Hunter Mahan 1pt EW 80/1 with Coral Free Bet Bet £/€10 get £/€30 for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply**. (7 places EW, 1/5 odds): Coral Free Bet

In a low-grade affair like the Barracuda Championship, experience can pay huge dividends. In recent winners Stroud, Chalmers, Henry and Ogilvy we see players with plenty of miles on the clock - all having a track record in the desert and at altitude. Hunter Mahan then is a player to cover off this week. His breakthrough on the PGA Tour came here in 2004 when he finished 2nd at Montreux and undoubtedly the Californian has a serious desert pedigree. 9th (2005), 1st (2010) and 4th (2014) at TPC Scottsdale, 14th (2009) at TPC Summerlin and a desert located WGC - Match Play record which reads 9th (2011), 1st (2012) and 2nd (2013) on the Jack Nicklaus designed Dove Mountain in Arizona is a huge plus-point for punters. He has also showed some signs this season that potentially the low-point of his career is at an end. 13th at Silverado kicked the season off well last Autumn, and undoubtedly his best results of the year have come at alternate events namely the Sanderson Farms (18th), Corales Championship (35th - 6th after 36 holes) and 2 weeks ago at the Barbasol Championship (7th). Kentucky saw Hunter shoot rounds of 66-68-64 to lead the tournament after 54 holes - the first time since the 2011 Tour Championship that he had led going into final round. So to finish 7th was a decent enough effort under the circumstances and Hunter must arrive with a little more confidence in Nevada this week. At 155th in the FedEx Cup and with no exemptions whatsoever, his circumstances correlate well with recent winners of this and with a hot putter of late (he sits 2nd in my 10-week Putts per GIR tracker), I can undoubtedly see the ex World Number 4 being a factor in Reno.

David Hearn 1pt EW 80/1 with Coral Free Bet Bet £/€10 get £/€30 for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply**. (7 places EW, 1/5 odds): Coral Free Bet

Under the radar form seems a pre-requisite for most successes around here and Canadian David Hearn could be the perfect port in a storm. Consistent with his approach play, Hearn has always been an excellent wind player and a low scorer. Hearn is at 150th in the FedEx Cup standings and needs results right now and of late he's become far more visible on leaderboards. Immediate form reads 61(Canada)-MC(Barbasol)-16(John Deere Classic)-30(Greenbrier)-41(Quicken Loans). The Deere Run performance interests me as a rounds of -5/66 and -7/64 placed David in 2nd position at the close of Friday. He may well have fallen back on the weekend but 22 birdies across the tournament was an excellent haul. 3rd at the 2015 Canadian Open, 2nd at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic, 2nd at the 2013 John Deere Classic - Hearn feels a little like Chris Stroud from 12 months ago - a player who clearly loves to shoot low scores, who has gone very, very close in the past. 16th (2013) at TPC Scottsdale and 5th (2011) and 7th (2014) highlight that David is more than comfortable in the desert and at 80/1 he's a perfect Barracuda winner's price point.

Brian Stuard 1pt EW 150/1 with Coral Free Bet Bet £/€10 get £/€30 for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply**. (7 places EW, 1/5 odds): Coral Free Bet

Brian Stuard is the sort who's a proven resort scoring performer; he's also a PGA Tour winner having won the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. At 112th in the FedEx Cup standings he's earned his full PGA Tour playing privileges for 2018/19, but over the course of the last 2 tournaments he's played some very nice golf. 21st at the Barbasol included a 3rd round -7/65; last Friday at Glen Abbey saw the Florida native shoot a -6/66 and he was 15th after 36 holes, eventually finishing 37th. Stuard though has the kind of course correlating record I like for this test. 5th (2014) and 10th (2013) at PGA West shows the ability to make lots of birdies in the desert and 10th (2015) and 18th (2017) at TPC Scottsdale also highlights ability in the desert at altitude. That altitude ability is again backed-up by 6th (2013) at Old White TPC. Stuard also has a history of making these lower-grade tournaments work to his advantage: 4th at Coco Beach (2013), 2nd at El Camaleon (2013) and 4th CC of Jackson (2017) highlights a player who sees alternate events as an opportunity, rather than a chore.

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 08:40BST 31.7.18 but naturally subject to fluctuation. Author Steve Bamford, Find us on Google+

             

 

 

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