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After last year's largely successful leap into the unknown with the hybrid 'Super 6' format, we're back in Australia for more of the same as strokeplay and match play golf converge once again. As per last year, for the first three days this week it will be (almost) like nothing has changed since we used to frequent Lake Karinnyup for the Perth International, however at the end of Saturday it starts to become interesting!
The way it works is as follows: the first two days will operate as a normal stroke play European Tour event with the cut falling at the top 65 professionals and ties. The goal on Saturday though is to get into the top 8 ideally and top 24 at the very least to progress into Sunday. The top 8 players are then seeded into the second round of knockout matches where there'll meet the winner of the round 1 matches, all of which are played over six holes with a 100 yard 'knockout hole' determining the outcome of any tied match. From there we have a straight knockout of the remaining 16 players over the 6 hole matches until we have an eventual winner. For more details on the format click here.
There was much excitement last year, starting on Saturday evening as the players who were tied for the final places in the top-24 had to play off for the privilege of working on the Sunday. Once the match play started on Sunday, 20 of the 27 matches ended up playing the full 6 holes at least to determine the winner - with 10 of those matches needing the knockout hole to settle the contest. A lot of excitement for sure with nerves of steel required, plus a good dose of fortune from a betting perspective if your player(s) are going to keep progressing should they get that far.
It's worth noting that there are a couple of ways you can choose to bet on this week's event: outright winner and 54-hole stroke play leader. Given that the eventual winner will triumph via the match play format, the bookmakers are paying just 4 places each way outright as per a more conventional match play event. The alternative is to ignore the match play on Sunday and treat the first 3 days as a standalone tournament which is what a handful of bookmakers have done by offering a 54-hole market.
The other nuance to pick out of the outright winner betting market this week is that although most bookies are offering 4 places each-way at 1/4 odds outright, it's worth noting that Boylesports are offering 4 places at 1/3 odds at the time of writing - if the odds are identical on your selected player then using Boylesports returns a huge 33% more for a place return. Current prices here: Boylesports
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am - you can read his preview for that event here.
Lake Karinnyup CC. Designer: Alex Russell, 1929; Course Type: Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,143 yards; Water Hazards: 1; Fairways: Santa Anna Hybrid Couch; Rough: Wintergreen Couch / Tall Fescue; Greens: Bentgrass (G6).
Course Overview. This week's host course Lake Karinnyup is a classical, tree-lined affair just a couple of miles in from the Indian Ocean. The track hosted a number of top-level tournaments prior to the 2012-2017 events, most relevant to us the 2002 & 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic won by Retief Goosen and Ernie Els respectively. You can find details of those events in our event stats section, albeit there are only a few survivors from those older events playing here this week. The 2003 win by The Big Easy holds its own place in European Tour history as the South African's 29-under total is still the biggest winning score under par in any European Tour event. The course has been remodelled by former European Tour player Mike Clayton since Els' win; however, with changes predominantly around the greens giving the track a little more protection, it's safe to say that this is now a much more challenging proposition.
At 7,143 yards the course isn't overly long by today's standards, however with a number of dog-leg holes and the omnipresent breeze coming in off the Ocean, it will force players to use a full array of shots and every club in their bag. If the wind really does blow (as it often does each afternoon in this part of the world) then some holes can play quite long; that, coupled with closer bunkering around the greens and punishing run-off areas for wayward irons, should make this week more of a challenge for the top players with a premium on finding the greens in regulation and top-class scrambling when putting surfaces are inevitably missed.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's Super 6 that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well on this course: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2017: Brett Rumford, 50/1; 2016: Louis Oosthuizen, 10/1; 2014: Thorbjorn Olesen, 40/1; 2013: Jin Jeong, 250/1; 2012: Bo Van Pelt, 7/1. The 2017 event was in the Super 6 format, all prior years were straight 72-hole strokeplay. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour for the past 7 years based on the completed 2017 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Perth is here. It looks like a mixed bag for the players this week with sunshine and showers forecast for the first three days before a dry Sunday with temperatures in the mid-to-high 70s Fahrenheit. A breeze of 10-15 mph is expected throughout the week and local winds often pick up each afternoon which could accentuate this further.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the 4 winners prior to last year's event gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Despite the first 3 rounds being played in a conventional strokeplay format last year, unfortunately no stats were captured for any of the players.
With wide fairways averaging 40 yards across, this is a second shot golf course where maximising greens hit - and with that proximity to the hole - tends to determine who plays well in this event. Heavy bunkering and numerous run-off areas around the greens will severely test the short game of those players who can't find putting surfaces in the requisite number though. The breeze tends to stop the scoring getting out of control and pin positions can be placed in some extremely tricky areas should organisers choose. The greens are top quality and speedy bentgrass which will allow players who can produce a high GIR week to make a fair few birdies, however that's easier said than done.
Incoming Form: In terms of incoming form, Brett Rumford had finished 5th at the Australian PGA Championship before Christmas and 18th on his last start at the Oates Vic Open; Oosthuizen had started 2016 off in positive fashion with a 7th place finish in Qatar and tied 12th the week before in Malaysia; Olesen had finished 7th in Denmark 6 events prior and had shot 64 on his final round of the rain-affected Portugal Masters the week before winning; Joeng had shot 65 and 63 in Tuscany on the Challenge Tour to finish 9th 6 events prior to winning, however other than that hadn't shown much form at all; Van Pelt had finished 10th over on the PGA Tour Play-Offs on his previous 2 starts and was clearly playing well.
Absolutely stellar incoming form doesn't look vital on these figures, however each winner had at least one top-10 finish to their name in their past 6 starts to suggest that their game was in reasonable enough shape to contend.
Course Form: Other than Brett Rumford last year, all other winners had little or no experience of the course before winning the title:
It's an interesting dilemma as to whether to play the 54-hole or outright market this week and last year's event gave us a very clear warning. Having backed Brett Rumford pre-event in the outright market, it was of course great to see him playing so well and leading the field by 5 strokes after 54 holes, however that could have all been for nothing had he lost in one of the short-format matches on Sunday. Thankfully he didn't, however it's certainly food for thought as to how to play this event from a betting perspective. The flip side of course is that a player who scrapes into the top 24 then has another bite at the cherry on the Sunday - each for their own and I can see the merits of both options, however personally I'll stick to the outright market once again this week.
With this in mind, back to my point in the preamble: Boylesports are offering 1/3 odds for the top 4, as opposed to 1/4 odds from most others, which translates to a 33% bigger return on each-way places if the odds are the same on the player you're backing. Current prices here: Boylesports
For me there are 2 viable ways to progressing to the knockout stages, either by playing a conservative high GIR game or alternatively minimise bogeys with a sublime short game. Either way, once through to Sunday a player will need to be able to make some putts in the extremely short matches in order to progress without giving any holes away sloppily. That may well be the key to finding this week's winner.
My selections are as follows - all in the OUTRIGHT MARKET:
Last year's win for Brett Rumford was important not only for us having backed him pre-event, but also for the player himself as he arrived at his home event having lost his European Tour card the previous year. With a smattering of recent form courtesy of a top-20 finish at the Vic Open the week before, following a precautionary withdrawal from the BMW SA Open when going reasonably well at the halfway point, the Perth native took this event by the scruff of the neck to lead by 5 strokes at the end of the strokeplay rounds, before going on to beat Phachara Khongwatmai in the match play final to secure his 6th European Tour title.
With course form in all events held here reading 27/22/36/6/19/7/1, the 40 year-old knows this track as well as anybody and regularly uses it for his practice rounds when he's at home and he's always maintained that its wide fairways, smooth greens and tough scrambling suits his game down to the ground. Added to that there's the benefit of being able to stay at home between rounds and with the massive support of friends and family, I see no real reason to oppose him here this week despite the pressures of being defending champion. The addition of Andrew Johnston to the field may well take some of the media pressure away from Rumford as Beef's bound to grab a lot of attention, however regardless of that Brett's an experienced player who knows what's required to put in a contending performance.
With one of the best short games not only on the European Tour but also the world stage, when conditions inevitable become tricky around these parts when the Fremantle Doctor (the local wind) appears in the afternoon, Rummy knows how to keep a round going on this track. 12th at the Australian Open before Christmas and opening rounds of 68/70/66 at the Dubai Desert Classic suggests to me that his game hasn't been far away for a while now and with a week's practice here ahead of his defence, as opposed to sweating buckets in Malaysia, he'll be far fresher than many of his opponents here this week - potentially a critical factor on Sunday when there's a requirement for a lot of holes and mental focus. RESULT: T40
With incoming results of 6th at the Dubai Desert Classic - which was a huge personal best in that event - and 17th last week in Malaysia having got himself as high as 7th at the halfway point, David Lipsky is showing the kind of form to suggest that a 2nd European Tour title may be just around the corner. His scrambling has been exemplary over those two events with 76.2% and 86.4% recorded respectively and that translates to just 9 bogeys made in his last 8 rounds of golf which is some going at European Tour level. That determination to keep his card as clean as possible could well see the American into the top-24 here on a course that he's previously finished 9th on back in 2016 on his one and only start and from there, against a relatively weak field, anything is possible.
The 29 year-old struggled a little on the slow greens in Malaysia last week, however a return to slicker bentgrass putting surfaces measuring 11 on the stimpmeter can only be positive for a player who's shown a lot of his best performances with the flat stick on similar greens. The classical design of Lake Karrinyup also suits and these scoreable, tree-lined tests seem to be his forte having won at Crans-Sur-Sierre and with top-3 finishes to his name at Laguna National and also at an Italian Open. His professional Match Play record is limited to a first round exit at the 2016 Paul Lawrie Match Play, however he had plenty of experience in the format as an amateur and there's little in this field that should worry him. RESULT: T77
The predicament of Alejandro Canizares this year is similar in some ways to that of last year's winner Brett Rumford. Both players are multiple European Tour champions with the game to win on the right kind of course, however Rumford arrived here without a full European Tour card and Spaniard Canizares is in the same predicament right now having fallen short of fulfilling the terms of his medical extension in the Middle East. The wrist injury that plagued last season is now in the past, however the 35 year-old will have to be content with limited starts in small events such as this unless he can grab himself a victory sooner rather than later - and that's exactly what Rumford did 12 months ago to secure his card.
Fact is there's lots to like about the son of ex-Ryder Cup star Jose Marie Canizares and his chances here this week. Twice a winner on the European Tour including the classical Trent Jones track which hosted the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco in 2014, where he opened with a sublime round of 62 and barely looked over his shoulder, this track plays to his strengths as we saw when he finished 3rd behind the elite American duo of Jason Dufner and Bo Van Pelt at the Perth International back in 2012. He topped the scrambling stats that week and ranked inside the top-10 for putting which is a viable route to success around here and should he make it to Sunday's knockout rounds then he can draw on his efforts at the last two Paul Lawrie Match Play events where he's reached the quarter finals and semi finals in consecutive years. Despite not doing quite enough in the Gulf to secure his playing rights, he nevertheless putted very nicely (1.63 putts per GIR in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and can approach this weak affair in positive fashion. RESULT: MC
Having plied his trade on the Challenge Tour since 2010, an impressive 2nd place finish at Q-School has given Leicester's Charlie Ford a stab at the European Tour proper for the 2017/18 season and his early efforts in South Africa would suggest that he's been far from overawed to date. The 32 year-old is one of the new breed of golfers who possesses both length and control and if he can find some consistency with his irons this season then I see no reason why he can't retain his card and potentially win a small event such as this. Efforts of 8th at the Joburg Open before Christmas and 11th at the BMW SA Open on his only start since the festive break featured All-Round rankings of 7th and 2nd respectively - if he keeps that level of performance going then he'll certainly give himself some chances this year.
The course here at Lake Karinnyup might be new for Charlie but this hybrid format isn't as they played something similar over on the Challenge Tour last year at the Andalucia Costs Del Sol Match Play 9 won by Aaron Rai who was pretty dominant at that level at the time. Ford was the number 1 seed for the Match Play element having won the strokeplay by 2 shots before eventually coming unstuck in the semi-finals against Ireland's Gavin Moynihan. Excellent experience though and with close friend Chris Paisley winning in South Africa a few weeks back perhaps he'll feel inspired this week down under. RESULT: T65
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