It’s the European Tour’s turn this week to take over in the novelty stakes with the 2nd edition of the GolfSixes. To be fair it seemed like a fun enough tournament last year and while these tournaments maybe should have a place in the modern game I’m not convinced that they should take place right in the middle of the season. I was going to say that the players seem to agree but to be fair to them this is quite a decent field assembled here once we consider that most of the Tour’s elite players are seldom seen in any ET field never mind one of this nature. Last year’s winners Lucas Bjerregaard and Thorbjorn Olesen return to defend this week and they do so as the 11/2 favourites of a 16-team field. This year there are three “wildcard” teams entered which consist of the Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn playing with 2019 Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew, an England Ladies team of the supremely talented Georgia Hall and Charley Hull and a European Ladies team of Carlota Ciganda and Mel Reid. The tournament should be applauded for bringing together the men and women but I’m not sure that the bookmakers were fully aware that the ladies were playing off the ladies’ tees when they priced this up initially! Hall and Hull opened at a general 50/1 which seemed very big. GolfSixes confirmed in a tweet however that they would be playing off their own tees. More about the England ladies team later though after we have looked a little more closely at the event.
The Centurion Club hosts again in Herefordshire and last year it resembled many of the other courses in the extended area such as London Club, The Grove and Woburn. However it also has some more exposed holes but generally it is a tree-lined parkland course. The European Tour website lists the yardages and pars for each hole but there is no indication as to which holes they are. There are 2 x par 3s, 2 x par 4s and 2 x par 5s for a good mix of holes. The fact that it was won last year by two bombers suggests initially that there isn’t much trouble off the tee but I think that is perhaps as much down to the format as anything. They play 6 holes of “greensomes” match play and that is basically foursomes but with one key difference, the best tee-shot is picked on each hole. That gives teams with a big hitter quite an advantage as they can choose to find the fairway with the first tee-shot and then take a more aggressive line once position in the fairway is assured. That allowance for aggression would be of benefit in 18 holes match-play but that is even more pertinent in just 6 holes where going 1 up can often be all that is required to win the match. The 16 teams have been divided into four groups where they will play round robin matches with the top two teams advancing to the knockout stages.
The course wasn’t designed by a big name in the golf course design world which is perhaps surprising given the exclusive nature of the course and from what I’ve read it gets mixed reviews. There are no stats available for last year but given what we know about the two Danes I’d imagine approach play will be the most important aspect at Centurion. When they are on their games they both hit an impressive number of greens and their position on any leaderboard is often defined by their iron game. Where one mistake could prove costly and with two chances off the tee, one missed green could be the difference between winning and losing any one match.
With 16 teams competing and the wide-open nature of this I thought my approach would be to just ignore the team’s trading below the pick-em odds of 15/1 but then when looking at the teams all the ones that I initially liked were below 15/1! That is of course until I saw the massive 50/1 about Georgia Hall and Charley Hull. I backed it straight away and tweeted that I thought it was a huge price so hopefully some of you got on. I appreciate that many of you will think the opposite here and with this the first event of its nature bringing both the European Tours together, essentially it is a game of opinions at this stage. They might be thrashed 4 and 2 in all three of their groups games and go home feeling a little bit gutted. But I really don’t think that will be the case. The Ladies game is so good at the moment that the only real difference is length and that is accounted for here with the separate tees. While it would be very hard to properly compare the standards of each, for my money the world rankings here simply make the English pairing far too big a price. Charley Hull is ranked 24th in the ladies game and Georgia Hall is ranked 35th so they combine for a team ranking of 59. The highest ranked man in the field is Kiradech Aphibarnrat (32nd) but he plays with world no. 306 Thongchai Jaidee. In fact the highest ranked mens team is also the English pairing of Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell who are rank 91st and 100th respectively for a team combo of 191. It is never as simple as just looking at the world rankings but in the case of Hall and Hull we have two hungry 22-year-old Solheim Cup players who thrive in match play, have already played together and are on their way to the upper reaches of the game. Hull also arrives here off the back of a 3rd place finish on the LPGA where she hit 78% of her greens and she hasn’t missed a cut since July. She is also based further down the road at Woburn GC and will be used to this sort of parkland course where the wind can be very diffciult to judge. Hall’s form is a little more modest but she is still acclimatising to the LPGA and she will be more comfortable back in England. The men lined up here don’t boast anything like their credentials and for my money that makes the ladies worth a speculative bet at 50/1. I’m a big fan of both Hall and Hull too so will happily cheer them on here as they attempt to further boost the ladies game in England this week. I honestly don’t know if I can see them winning this but it would be pretty exciting if they can get out of their group and they look the value play if nothing else.
Despite just being 16 teams I thought I had better back one of the more favoured teams here this week too but I really don’t like any of them too much at all at these prices. If pushed to have one from the front I’d probably side with Aphibarnrat and Jaidee given how clutch Aphi is in match play. He won the Perth Golf Sixes for us in February getting up and down from practically every single spot around the 18th green. I can see him enjoying this format again and managing to bring Jaidee back to some sort of form. They played last year and got out of their group before losing to eventual runners-up, Australia. If they do get it going then they should take a bit of stopping so I’ll add them win only too where if they get to the final it’s probably better to trade out than waste 2 x the stake with the poor place terms available.
Georgia Hall and Charley Hull – 1pt win @ 50/1 (55.0 on Betfair)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Thongchai Jaidee – 1pt win @ 12/1 (14.5 on Betfair)
2018 results prior to this week
Points advised = 74.50
Points returned = 94.69
ROI = 27%