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A small share of the each-way money from 7th place Padraig Harrington was all we had to show for last week's effort at the Home of Golf, which was a little disappointing after Matt Wallace had tied for the lead after the first day with Harrington just a shot off the pace. The returning Ryder Cup starts eventually ran out of steam with Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood both finishing a shot behind eventual winner Lucas Bjerregaard who was difficult to pick out at 50/1, despite his recent form, arriving as he did with three consecutive missed cuts at the event to his name.
On to this week then and dating all the way back to 1946 when Bobby Locke and Jimmy Adams tied for the title at Stoneham Golf Club, the British Masters was a mainstay on the European Tour schedule, give or take the odd omission, right up to 2008 when Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano took the trophy at The Belfry which had hosted the event for 3 years on the trot. Forest of Arden GC and Woburn, both the Duke's and Marquess Course, have also hosted this event since the turn of the century before the event dropped off the schedule until its renaissance in 2015.
Matthew Fitzpatrick realised the potential that many had seen in him 3 years ago by winning this title at Woburn and Alex Noren added his 3rd of 4 2016 titles at The Grove the year after, successfully holding off final day efforts from Bernd Wiesberger and Lee Westwood. Paul Dunne added his name to the list 12 months ago at Close House where a closing round of 61, punctuated by a chip-in birdie on the 72nd hole, was enough to keep Rory McIlroy at bay and earn the Irishman a well-deserved first European Tour victory. Sky Sports are supporting the event once again this year so we should expect some decent coverage on our TVs this week and some vociferous support from the fans on the course itself.
This year's host Justin Rose has done an excellent job of attracting a quality field to Walton Heath this week as the venue returns to the schedule for the first time since 1991, although it has hosted US Open qualifying every year since 2005 as well as the Senior Open Championship in 2011 and the small matter of the Ryder Cup in 1981. Rose himself ranks the bookies' favourite this week at around 7/1 after successfully winning the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup prior to playing his part in Team Europe's Ryder Cup demolition job at Le Golf National. Team-mates Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood sit behind Rose in the betting at around 10/1, with the trio well clear of the rest of the market.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the CIMB Classic - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Paddy Power are attacking this week's this week's British Masters and are offering a record-setting 8 places each-way at 1/5 odds. If you haven't already got a Paddy Power account then new customers can access a £/€20 risk-free bet which is refunded in CASH if it loses. 18+,
Walton Heath GC, Surrey, England. Designer: Herbert Fowler, 1903; Course Type: Classical, Heathland; Par: 72; Length: 7,394 yards; Water hazards: 1; Fairways: Fescue, Bent; Rough: Fescue, Bent: Greens: Bent/Poa, 11 on the stimpmeter.
Course Overview. Walton Heath's 'Old Course' is a stretching 7,394 yard, par 72 set in the Surrey heathland. 3 par-3s and 3 par-5s make for a non-typical par-72 composition and the series of challenging par-4s makes for a reasonably tough test, especially if the wind blows. The 5 editions of the European Open held here were won with winning scores ranging from -5 to -11 which emphasises that this layout is by no means a pushover; similarly Russ Cochran's winning total at the 2011 Senior Open was 12-under and we should expect those players with a little more patience to enjoy this week's challenge. Despite being set in the Surrey countryside, Walton Heath is far more exposed than some of its famous neighbours and plays very much like a links course. The main challenge from off the tee is avoiding the heather and the fairways lead to large, hard and fast bent/poa greens which are tough to read. If you're unfamiliar with Walton Heath then check out this short film here.
Tournament Stats. This is the first time that Walton Heath has been used for the British Masters, so the event stats for this week should be considered accordingly: Current Form | Event Form | Event Top 20s | Event First Round Leader.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2017: Paul Dunne, 66/1; 2016: Alex Noren, 18/1; 2015: Matt Fitzpatrick, 33/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour for the past 8 years click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Walton Heath is here. Fairly decent weather for England for this time of year will greet the players with the odd glimpse of sunshine and the outside chance of a shower or two. Temperatures will peak around the high 60s Fahrenheit with moderate winds expected of around 10-15mph with the breeziest day likely to be Friday.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the 2011 Senior Open held here gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
Greens are large here and in general GIR figures are likely to be quite high, however players shouldn't be complacent with loose iron shots as putting from distance is extremely challenging, therefore players with a strong approach game are still favoured in my view and that's far easier when attacking from the fairway around these parts.
With a winning score of 12-under, Russ Cochrane was the only player to exceed 20 birdies on the week (22 in total) which suggests that this is far more about patient strategy than aggressive birdie-making. The top 5 finishers listed above finished a combined +1 for the par 3s, -10 for the par 4s and -39 for the par-5s which tells a story about where players are most likely to make a score, however with the likes of Corey Pavin making the podium it's clearly not all about brute power here.
Incoming Form: Since the British Masters was re-established in 2015, the three winners Paul Dunne, Alex Noren and Matt Fitzpatrick had each shown some decent enough form in the weeks prior to their victory. Paul Dunne had produced two top-15 finishes in his previous three strokeplay events and after a shaky 74 to start on his most recent start in Holland, nobody in the field bettered his final 3-round total. For Noren this was the third of four 2016 victories and he was clearly in exceptional form overall whereas for Fitzpatrick his win at Woburn marked his maiden success on the European Tour, however with four top-3 finishes in his previous 11 events he was clearly knocking very loudly on the door:
Looking at this from a slightly different angle, the incoming form of 2011 Seniors winner Russ Cochran was also impressive before he arrived here at Walton Heath having finished no worse than 12th in his 7 Seniors events played to that point in the calendar year:
With the European Open events held here having taken place before a fair proportion of this week's field were even born, plus the Senior Open also holding similar challenges when looking for course form pointers, perhaps the US Open qualifying holds more relevance to this week, particularly as a lot of this week's attendees have taken part in recent years - although it's worth noting that the players play 18 holes on the New Course and 18 holes on the Old Course during that Sectional Qualifying event:
Although it's by no means universal looking at the names above, there's certainly a bias in my view towards neat and tidy players with the likes of Bourdy, Rai and Johnston all topping qualifying here in recent times. Links lovers Matthew Southgate and Ryan Fox are also interesting names on the list given the assertion that Walton Heath plays very links-like and in Eddie Pepperell, Alex Noren and Haotong Li we have a trio of recent Open Championship top-6 finishers.
My selections are as follows:
The top of this year's British Masters betting market is dominated by Ryder Cup stars, much like last week's Dunhill Links, with tournament host Justin Rose heading affairs at a measly 7/1. The incentive for Rose is huge this week - aside from winning a decent tournament on a course that he's hand-picked to stage the edition that he's in charge of, victory here would also see the 38 year-old return to the summit of the world rankings with his brief tenure at to the top having been cut short by Dustin Johnson's effort at East Lake a few weeks back. Open Champion and Ryder Cup revelation Francesco Molinari rates a 10/1 shot with most bookies, as does his 'Moliwood' partner Tommy Fleetwood who finished a shot behind eventual winner Lucas Bjerregaard in Scotland last week. Any of those three could undoubtedly win this week, however at the prices on offer they're virtually an all-in job and I'm not happy to put all my eggs in one basket this week.
At a far more attractive price, I'm happy to stick with Padraig Harrington for another week after he eventually delivered a small slice of an each-way return for us last week courtesy of a bogey-free final round at St Andrews. 9 consecutive pars to finish was frustrating given that a birdie at any one of those holes would have trebled the return, however a Sunday 69 in challenging conditions was still impressive enough and amongst the best efforts on the day, so overall he's done enough to warrant further support. Consistent recent form has been a feature of the 3 most recent winners of the British Masters, so a form line of 2/5/MC/7 over his last 4 events puts the 47 year-old in the frame for a decent week and with his iron game in good shape - he topped 80% GIR once again last week - he's a must-back for me.
The linksy conditions and large greens appeal to Harrington's strengths and he'll know that recovery shots are possible as and when he gets crooked from off the tee. Given that this week is likely to be more of a challenge than a birdie-fest, arriving after a bogey-free round at the Home of Golf could be just the tonic he needs to get himself in position to contend for yet another European Tour title this week. At 95th in the Race To Dubai, if he's going to be around for this year's big money events in a few weeks time he'll need to make a move very soon and with his game in good shape there's no reason to suggest he can't be in the mix here this week alongside his more fancied peers. RESULT: T22
Marcus Kinhult 1pt EW 100/1 with Bet £/€5 get £/€20 for new customers, 18+, T&Cs apply** (7 EW, 1/5 odds):
Aside from the favourites, there are a whole host of players in the 25/1 to 40/1 bracket who could go well this week with Matt Wallace tempting once again and HaoTong Li being backed heavily, however given the challenging nature of the course and scope for breezy conditions for the first couple of days at least, I'm backing up Harrington with a couple of players who've shown aptitude to handle some of the trickier tests on Tour.
First up Andrew Johnston who's proven himself on more challenging courses in the past - his sole win to date on the European Tour coming at Valderrama is a case in point - however what's more encouraging is the burly Englishman's record here at Walton Heath where he's successfully progressed through US Open qualifying on each of the last 3 occasions, including this season where his 10-under total was enough to finish joint-top alongside James Morrison. 2018 has seen the 29 year-old buckle down after a high-profile year over in the US and his new fitness regime almost paid dividends at the Indian Open where he lost out in a play-off to Matt Wallace on another tricky test where the eventual winning score was 11-under. 10th at the Nordea Masters is his best result since that point in time, however a closing round of 67 on his last start in Portugal was amongst the better rounds of the day and he'll arrive here in good spirits and rested, whereas many of those above him in the betting will have endured either 3 or 4 lengthy rounds in Scotland or, in the case of those at the very top of the betting, 3 days of action at Le Golf National. Returning to Valderrama next week will undoubtedly also help put a spring in Beef's step and at 74th in the Race to Dubai and with the clock ticking, I wouldn't be remotely surprised to see him contend here this week. RESULT: T48
Sweden's Marcus Kinhult's first full season on the European Tour has been an impressive one - at 41st in the Race to Dubai and with over €750,000 banked thus far in 2018, he's already achieved more than all of his fellow Challenge Tour graduates with the exception of Erik Van Rooyen and he has the lucrative Rolex Series events to look forward to before this year's through. 12th at nearby Wentworth, 3rd at the Qatar Masters which also shares linksy characteristics and 4th at the recent Portugal Masters were all strong efforts, however it's his 5th place finish at the Open de France which presents the biggest clue for this week's test in my view. We know that Le Golf National is a challenging course which again shares some linksy features, so the fact that the 22 year-old raced into a 2-shot lead after 54 holes and stood a very realistic chance of capturing his maiden European Tour title is more than encouraging. The pressure told in the end and Marcus limped home with a closing round of 76, however as always with a young player it's useful learning and quality experience under intense pressure, and I suspect that next time he's in a similar position he can put some of that experience to good use. 20th last week on his Dunhill Links debut was another promising and prominent performance and with his iron game in good shape I can see a big week coming for the young Swede here. RESULT: T48
Edoardo Molinari 1pt EW 250/1 with New customers: Bet £10 get £30 & 30 free spins. 18+, T&Cs apply*** (7 EW, 1/5 odds)
A couple of longer prices to finish this week's team. Southport's Lee Slattery is another player with a positive record at Walton Heath, having qualified in 3rd place for the 2016 US Open at this venue before narrowly missing out in the play-off for another spot earlier this year. The 40 year-old's form has tended to come in small pockets over the years and 2018 is no different with finishes of 10th and 4th at the Nordea Masters and Czech Masters respectively in August which backed up some of the promise shown from a 3rd place finish at the Italian Open in June in decent company. 20th last week at the Dunhill Links halted a run of 5 consecutive missed cuts at that event which hints at a further upturn in his form, which was punctuated by an outstanding tee-to-green performance with the 2-time European Tour winner ranking 3rd for Driving Accuracy and 1st for GIR in the field. At the price on offer I'm happy to take a chance on him pushing on once again this week on a track that he clearly enjoys. RESULT: T48
Finally I've saved a wager for Molinari. Not Francesco though who'll undoubtedly be hot property this week following his Ryder Cup heroics, but his older brother Edoardo. Another players who's more at home with the tougher tests in professional golf, the 37 year-old is looking forward to catching up with his brother face-to-face following the trouncing at Le Golf National and perhaps some of the positivity will rub off on Edoardo and provide the much needed spark in what's been a largely disappointing season. 2 of Molinari's 3 European Tour wins have come on British soil and his most recent victory on Tour at last year's Trophee Hassan II came after a brief flash of form on his previous start (11th at the Indian Open), so 24th last week in Scotland where he sat 7th going into the final day's play has to be noteworthy. Although it doesn't particularly show in his stats, the Italian talked in interview last week about seeing a marked improvement with the putter which has been a challenge for him so far in 2018 - if he can improve further this week, and take some inspiration from his brother's recent efforts, then perhaps he can sneak into an each-way place. RESULT: T16
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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