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The McGladrey Classic Preview

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The PGA Tour finds it’s way back to U.S soil this week, in the shape of St.Simons Island, Georgia. Aptly named the Seaside Golf Course offers a exciting golf event, with consistent scoring, so players know what they need to do, to contend here this week. Since the inaugural event in 2010, the winning score has gone lower by one each year, starting at -14, then -15 in 2011, and -16 in 2012, so the scoring should be well into double figures again this time around.

As the course name suggests, Seaside Golf Course is located right by the sea, and therefore open to windy conditions, giving it a typical links course feel. As many courses like it, the Seaside Golf Course will require good course management, making sure you pick the right shot when risk/reward opportunities arise. At 7,005 yards this par 70 offers the players the opportunity the score, as we can see from the previous winning scores. The course also played as the easiest Par 70 on the PGA circuit in 2012, so players need to take advantage of that. Accuracy and Putting are absolutely vital this week, as highlighted by many statistics this event has thrown up. The Seaside Course ranked inside the top-5 easiest courses for Fairways Hit (av. 9.87 of 14) and Greens In Regulation (av. over 13) which equates to the average percentage of greens hit coming in at over 75%.

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This means that although it may seem easy, you still have to do it, and consistently, otherwise you run this risk of getting left behind by players that are doing so. It’s also no good hitting greens and fairways if you can’t finish of the hole with the Putter, and considering the rather low score required to win, you’re going to have to make your fair share of putts to claim the title this week. There is a strong link between this course, and the RBC Heritage course Harbour Town, as all three winners here at Sea Island have finished strongly at the RBC Heritage as well.

Thanks to the betting being pretty top heavy, with three players under at 16/1 or under, I’m happy to look past those and find players, who’s prices may look inflated come Sunday. The three at the head of the betting are favourite, Webb Simpson, who’s available at only 10/1, whilst Matt Kuchar is 14/1 and completing the trio Zach Johnson comes in at 16/1.

Not exactly surprising, all three players are proven winners and had good seasons last year, however only one of the three have really managed to make and impression on Sea Island and that is Simpson. He has played here twice, and has finished T12 in 2010, and 2nd in 2011, when lost out to Ben Crane in a play off, so it looks like the course suits Simpson’s game. Not only that but he has played once in this new 2014 season, and won, when winning in Vegas. Normally I’d be backing him straight away, but at 10/1 I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Everyone is aware of how difficult it is to go back-to-back and although he’s rested, I’m still happy to leave him out at the price. He did of course lose out to Graeme McDowell in a play off at the RBC Heritage this year too, which supports that course link theory.

Moving on to Matt Kuchar, who’s only managed to finish 25th, and 20th in his two attempts around this course, and I don’t really see him living up to his 14/1 price this time around either, so again I’m happy to leave him out. He has been extraordinary the last few years, and carried that on last season, but he’s not someone I fancy at all this week, and the decision was easy to leave him out.

Then finally we come to why I’m going to leave out another favourite of mine, Zach Johnson. He’s the only one of the three to play this event all three years, and he hasn’t really conquered it, with his best finish coming first time out, finishing T12. Since then he’s missed the cut, and finished T49, not exactly impressive from the St.Simons Island resident. This doesn’t take away the fact that Johnson is an incredible talent, and he has won at courses you wouldn’t expect him too, but considering he lives right by the course I’d expect more from him. He was the harder of the three to leave out as his price is the best, not only because it’s bigger but he’s in good form, and being at home should only add to his confidence, even if he’s failed to finish especially well here.

With all this in mind I’ve found four players, at some nice odds and I’m really happy with them. This week promises to be a good one, on both Tours, with a star-studded field assembled in Turkey for the European Tour, of which you can see my preview here.

Here are my selections for The McGladery Classic.

Harris English 28/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Harris English got his first win on Tour this year, and in just his 2nd season he looked pretty impressive and that alone means he’s someone to think about, but this week in particular he’s really caught my eye.

Born in Valdosta, Georgia, and now residing in Sea Island, Georgia , you can certainly call this a home-field event for English. Not only that but in his first and only start at the McGladery Classic (2012), he finished T15, and has since become a winner on the PGA Tour, so confidence should be extremely high this week.

He finished T9 at the Sony Open in the firsr event on 2013, a course which throws up similar conditions to that of Seaside Golf Course, so there’s another positive behind picking him this week. Add to that his T8 finish at the RBC Heritage in 2012, which was his best finish at the time on the PGA Tour, at another event that we have linked to this, and I really start to believe English is a really solid pick this week.

At 28/1 people will have their doubts about backing English, but I’m really happy to include him in my plan, and his T7 at the CIMB Classic was certainly encouraging. He’s a player I expect to kick on in the future, winning multiple titles, and I can see no reason why he can’t start that here, in his home town this week.

Boo Weekley 40/1  (BetVictor, Ladbrokes, StanJames) 2pts e/w: Boo Weekley is a player that people are certainly aware of, for several reasons, not always to do with his golf game, but his demeanour , that the media especially love. He was once quoted that he didn’t know what the FedEx Cup was, and was really just focused on his game. He also admitted he didn’t know too much about the Ryder Cup, but was happy to go and play. Watch his interview here, he’s also loves hunting and fishing. I’m sure he’s well aware of it all now, and his game has also come on leaps and bounds.

So why am I picking him this week? Well he hasn’t got the best form here, in fact his best finish was last season, when finishing T27. He did that, thanks to a great opening round of 64, and hopefully he can replicate that again this time around. Although his form is average here, it has got progressively better. He missed the cut in his first outing in 2010, T44 in 2011 and then as we’ve said T27 last year, so the signs are encouraging.

He’s a superb iron player, and although he’s by no means the best putter, when he’s in the rhythm he can certainly get hot with the flat stick, and therefore go on quite a run. Twice a winner at the RBC Heritage, which again we link to his event, because of the similarities between Harbour Town and Seaside Golf Course, which again is a massive plus for this charismatic golfer.

He finished T11 at the WGC event last week in China, and hopefully he can shrug off any fatigue, or jet lag that he may of suffered and get going again this week. AT 40/1 I think he’s definitely worth a bet, considering his continued improvement here, and his current form.

Russell Henley 75/1 (Bet365) 1pt e/w: Russell Henley has seemingly struggled since his fast start to the 2013 season, and this week is the week , I think he’s going to turn it around.

After getting his first win, on his first ever PGA Tour start, the stock on Henley grew quickly, and he kept featuring in events, right up until the U.S Open, where he struggled immensely, something I don’t hold against him. The U.S Open was particularly tough this year, and many players struggled, however it’s his play since that’s particularly alarming. He has not finished higher than T27 since then, but I really think if he’s going to turn it around soon, it will be here in Georgia, the State he was born in.

In 2010, Russell Henley won the SEC Conference Championship, when representing his college Georgia, and followed that up with a T7 finish the year after. Of course this is completely different, this is a PGA Tour event, but that course knowledge should serve him well, considering this is first start in the McGladery Classic.

The event Henley won was the Sony Open, and being based in Hawaii, he had to deal with similar conditions, to those that will oppose him this week, so hopefully he can draw confidence from that. When he’s on his game he’s a great putter, and he will need that to get the win in this event.

At 75/1 I see him as good value, despite his disappointing run of form, because for me this event is the perfect opportunity for him to turn his fortunes around and I expect him to do just that. Just like the other two players selected, Henley has played well at the RBC Heritage, finishing in a tie for 6th on his first start, so again, another positive.

Justin Thomas 150/1 (Coral, SportingBet , StanJames) 0.5pt e/w :  Justin Thomas is my wildcard pick this week, if you feel inclined to call it that, and although I’ve followed him closely due to his general play, I’m picking him this week for very particular reasons.

Like Russell Henley, Thomas too won the SEC Conference Championship, and that was in 2012, so his recent good memories of the course. On top of that Thomas also won the Jones Cup whilst an amateur, a popular event, that is also played just a few miles away.

This to me suggests that Thomas is very comfortable playing in this part of the world and if he’s going to kick start his PGA Tour career any time soon, this looks the perfect venue for him to do it.

This was a pick I liked mainly due to the price, and considering his experiences at this course, I thought that was failr generous, so at 150/1 Justin Thomas is my last pick for this week’s McGladery Classic.

Total Points Staked on PGA Tour this week: 11

Total Points Staked including European Tour this week: 24

Profit/Loss for 2013: +59.25

I’ve really enjoyed previewing both tournaments this week, and feel really good about the selections, so here’s hoping there’s some profit involved. I’ve changed the format slightly over the past couple weeks, and this week in particular, so if you have an opinion on that, it would be great to hear about it. You can get in contact as ever on my Twitter page @TJacobsGolf