TAYLOR MADE DRIVING FOR RELIEF
It goes without saying that the last couple of months have been an incredibly difficult period across the globe and quite possibly the most challenging time that many reading this will have faced in their lifetime.
Whilst the Impact of Covid 19 will see the world continue to look a very different place for the immediate future, doors are cautiously beginning to open again and this is also true for the world of live sport, which has been decimated since the middle of March.
Due to the way Golf offers an opportunity to ‘socially distance’, the sport, which came to an abrupt halt at the Players Championship in March, is one of the first to make a clear cut plan for resumption and we are now less than four weeks away from the proposed restart of the PGA Tour at the Charles Schwab Challenge in June. In the meantime several PGA Tour players have started shaking off the rust at events like the Maridoe Club tournament in Texas and the Scottsdale Open, and this weekend will see the first live TV golf for over two months with four of the games biggest stars taking the stage for a Covid relief charity event to played under a ‘skins’ format at Seminole Golf Club in Florida.
Live television coverage of course in turn means betting possibilities and oddsmakers have not missed out on an opportunity to price the event up.
With this in mind the job for us here is to unravel the puzzle of the format and the course, and see if there is any value to be had, so let’s take a closer look at things.
TEAMS AND THEIR CHARITIES
Rory McIlroy & Dustin Johnson v Rickie Fowler & Matthew Wolff
McIlroy & Johnson will be playing for the American Nurses Foundation and Fowler & Wolff will be playing for the CDC Foundation.
SEMINOLE GOLF CLUB - JUNO BEACH, FLORIDA.
PAR 72 – 6836yds
Seminole GC is a hidden jewel in the crown of American courses. Ranked at number 12 in Golf Digests top 100 US Courses in 2019 Seminole is a Donald Ross design which opened for play in 1930.
Although officially on the card at just over 6800 yards it could possibly be stretched out to somewhere just over 7000 yards on Sunday. Either way it is certainly not long for a par 72 by modern standards.
Rarely if ever seen on TV most of us will be getting our first look at Seminole on Sunday. Seminole is also scheduled to host next years Walker Cup.
Sitting on the Atlantic Coast, short in length, Seminole’s main defence is the wind and contoured greens.
Similarly to Muirfield many of the holes run in different directions across the course and with plenty of elevation change if the wind blows it is undoubtedly a tough beast to tackle.
On a calm day however it is potentially there for the taking, particularly allowing for the power the modern day player possesses.
2017 saw the team of Crenshaw & Coore undertake a redesign of the bunkers, as well as exposing some sandy expanses in the rough.
With wider than average fairways Seminole is a ‘second shot’ golf course and Raymond Floyd was once quoted as saying it was the most difficult golf course in the US from 150yds and in. Finding the greens is not necessarily the issue however, with the contours they offer, holding them is, to the extent that local caddies have a phrase unique to Seminole, GVR, Greens Visited In Regulation!
In summary just how easy Seminole plays on Sunday will depend on two things, how much or little the wind blows and how accessible or otherwise the pins are positioned, with a view to delivering plenty of birdies.
The event will take a ‘better ball’ format, which means each of the four players play the hole with their own ball and the player out of the four who shoots the lowest score wins the hole. This is the same format used for fourballs in the Ryder Cup.
To minimize the Covid 19 risks there will be no caddies involved and each player will have a choice to carry their bag or pull a trolley.
The event will be played on a ‘Skins’ basis. For those who may be unfamiliar with this term this basically means that an amount of money is on offer for the player who wins a hole, however if the hole is not won the money rolls over to the next hole and so on, until a hole [or the skin as it is called] is won.
Once the hole/skin is won the pot of money is then reset for the next hole.
To give an example if the money on offer were to be $1000 per hole and someone won the first hole with a birdie they would win that $1000 for their team and there would then be $1000 on offer on hole two.
If however all players parred the first hole there would be $2000 on offer on hole two and similarly $3000 on offer on hole three if the second hole wasn’t won. If the third whole was won the pot would then revert to $1000 on hole four.
For the purpose of this event and I guess with an eye to keeping the attention of the audience and maintaining the drama until the end, the amount of money on offer for the Skins will increase as the 18 holes progress, with the format being set as follows;
• Holes 1-6 will each be worth $50,000.
• Holes 7-15 will each be worth $100,000
• Hole 17 will be worth $200,000
• Hole 18 will be worth $500,000.
With so much money on offer on the final hole it is worth noting that the 18th is a par four measuring around 420yds, depending on how it is set up on the day.
The four Par 5s on the course, which perhaps potentially offer up more chance of skins being won, are holes 3, 9, 14 & 15, while the four par 3s are holes 5, 8, 13 & 17.
The organisers of the event have confirmed that the winning team will be decided on the basis of, which team wins the most money in skins over the event, with each team starting with $500,000 in the pot.
Looking at these monetary amounts on offer it would therefore be quite possible for one team to win the event even if they only won one or two holes on the day if one of those holes happened to be the 18th.
In addition to the money on offer for the skins the teams will have an opportunity to add further dollars to the pot for their respective charities, as their will be bonus money for birdies, eagles and holes in one made, as well as ‘longest drive’ holes, however importantly any money the players bag in these areas does not count to the monetary skins total, which will decide the winning team.
In the event that the skins money is tied after 18 holes there will be a playoff to determine the winning team, at the par three 17th. If the main 18 holes has overrun beyond 5.45pm local time then the winning team will be decided simply by a ‘nearest the pin’ shoot out at the 17th hole.
As you would expect for Florida at this time of year temperatures will be warm, in the mid to high 80s, unfortunately though, again as is common in Florida the warmer weather comes with the potential of a storm and this currently shows at about a 15% chance. The worst case scenario therefore is that the return to live golf is scuppered by the weather.
The wind though is not predicted to get above 10mph so assuming the players are able to stay out on the course the track should be there for the taking.
RORY MCILROY TO MAKE AN EAGLE – 3/1 - SKYBET
In all honesty while it is fantastic to have live golf back on our television sets, allowing for the stacked volatility of the differing money on offer for the skins across the 18 holes, as a betting heat the event makes little appeal.
McIlroy and Johnson are certainly worthy favourites although Fowler and Wolff have a connection due to both being former OSU graduates and by all accounts Fowler has become something of a mentor to his younger partner since he came out on tour and this may well help them gel as a team.
From an individual point of view an argument could be made for Fowler being the player out of the four who is most suited to the test, while it could be his partner feels the nerves, certainly initially, under the spotlight in this type of event for the first time.
As for the favourites McIlroy has plenty of experience on the track [as do all of the four to be fair] as his Father is a member there and of course prior to lockdown his level was head and shoulders above any of the other three, his partner included. Talking of Johnson he has admitted that the clubs only came out of the bag for the first time last weekend since TPC was abandoned and with the malaise he was in at that time it is hard to know what to expect from him.
All of the hypothesising on this goes out of the window though as, as previously mentioned, Rory and DJ could dominate the match, win four, five holes more [or even more depending on which ones] than Fowler and Wolff only to come unstuck on 18 and lose the match. From that point of view I’ll be giving the ‘match winner’ market a swerve.
Therefore while my main thought is to just sit back and enjoy the action there is one bet that does make a certain amount of appeal and, which I will look to get involved on to small stakes.
The bet in question is the 3/1 offered by Sky Bet for Rory McIlroy to make an eagle.
Rory has played six events on the PGA Tour this season so 24 rounds in total and to date has made eight eagles, seven on par fives and one on a par four.
On that basis it would seem that the 3/1 offered is pretty much spot on. Delve a bit deeper however and we see that three of those six events were played on Par 71 courses meaning Rory only had three stabs at par fives on 12 of those 24 rounds. In addition one of the events in question was the API, which as readers will remember [while it feels like a lifetime ago now] played like a brut and was hardly conducive to taking the Par fives apart.
This Sunday though will be a different ball game. With a decent drive all four of the par fives will be easily reachable with a mid-iron and my suspicion is that the pins on at least a couple of them will be set up very favourably to offer eagle opportunities, to both give the audience at home what they want and of course to help raise the funds for the charities.
In addition with wind not set to play a big part there is an added chance of a hole out for an eagle two from a shortish distance on one of the shorter par fours, which would land the bet for us.
Finally with Rory’s previous knowledge of Seminole he will be more than familiar with the challenge the par fives and the course in general offers up.
I appreciate that with only one firm offering this bet many of you unfortunately may not be able to ‘get on’, however if you can I would suggest a small stakes investment, otherwise simply sit back and enjoy the show, while keeping your powder dry for the return of the serious stuff in less than four weeks-time.