I think we managed to get away with the weekend’s tips, showing a tiny profit, despite not having the winner of the Lincoln. Meanwhile, the Australian GP seemed to be in a never-ending crash, interspersed with various restarts. Don’t watch it apart from the last five laps if you haven’t seen it. The chaos and resulting billion-pound scrapyard; the restarts; the rules; the nonsense of it all. I love the sport, but the end seemed wrong, and there was some quite woolly thinking on display.
My uneasiness was assuaged a few hours later at Sunday lunch when we shared a last-minute roast lamb and rhubarb crumble lunch with some of my favourite people. Luckily, I had some reserves of drinkable plonk after a disappointing ’86 Ch du Tertre. Like so many Australian GP cars, the Du Tertre had crashed beyond saving, too much air having got into the engine! Incidentally, the wine was known as Tertre d’Arsac, due to the number of vines grown around the village of Arsac and during the 1700s, was owned by Pierre Mitchell, a noted Bordeaux glassblower – and here comes today’s piece of useless trivia – Pierre Mitchell is known to have created the Jeroboam bottle. It was also possibly the first estate to do its own bottling en chateau.
I once talked with an American about such biblical naming as Jeroboam and Salamanzar. He was bewildered as to why we didn’t simply say, for example, a five-litre bottle. Quite apart from losing the richness of words, the concepts of syntax, grammar, and etymology were all mysteries to the poor chap, but he defended his lack of interest on the grounds that: “English is a growing language always evolving and in transition; holding onto a previous form simply serves no purpose”. He didn’t put it quite like that, not having the vocabulary, but it’s difficult to argue against. Sadly there is now an entire generation which, thanks to tiny screens and arthritic fingers, has shortened English to a near-illiterate stream. Complain and you’re being posh, elitist, bourgeoise, whatever. Fewer than 1 in 2 (47.8%) children aged 8 to 18 said they enjoyed reading in 2022 and only 28.0% of those aged 8 to 18 said that they read daily. A quarter of children in Year 1 at state-funded primary schools this year have failed to pass phonics tests, where teachers ask children to read aloud 40 words.
Talking of illiterate nonsense, it’s time to mention that it’s The Masters and a long TV weekend of beautiful greens, manicured grass, the sounds of nature at play and rest and a sense of warmth and Spring springing. Also, potentially the chance to make a couple of bob from a man also called Mitchell – so here are the tips for The 2023 Masters.
Golf aficionados think of Golf Courses much as drivers think of Silverstone – but they’re wrong to do so. Courses naturally evolve, and Majors courses get major makeovers to combat against or work with the technological developments of equipment. Watering systems, balls, clubs, bunker sands, grass changes, and Greens maintenance systems are constantly in flux. The following PGA Tour stat highlights these significant changes with a look at the driving distance averages through the last five decades.
- 2020: 322.1 (Bryson DeChambeau)
- 2010: 315.5 (Robert Garrigus)
- 2000: 301.4 (John Daly)
- 1990: 279.6 (Tom Purtzer)
- 1980: 274.3 (Dan Pohl)
In 2022 we saw several major changes to the course, with two crucial holes on the back nine being lengthened and re-modelled. The 11th hole, White Dogwood, received a new tee box, increasing the par-4 to 520 yards, and the fairway was widened by up to 15 yards in some places, thanks to the removal of a bank of trees on the right-hand side, replaced by fairway short grass with a disadvantageous camber. The crucial par-5 15th Firethorn was also re-contoured and lengthened by 20 yards. A number of holes were re-greened. For 2023 further changes have been made – the most significant being on the par-5 13th, Azalea. Trees have been removed, and a new tee box installed, adding 35 yards to the hole. The 13th still isn’t a particularly long par-5 at 545 yards, but the tough dogleg left, and the Rae’s Creek tributary guarding the green, some grit will need to be on display if players try for the Green in two. The reason for the changes? In 2022, the par-five 13th succumbed to six eagles, out of 17 carded at Augusta all week. In theory, these changes now make the course a demanding 7545-yard par 72 – but with the grass mown against the green direction, driving distance and the benefit of the “rolling ball” is minimised; it plays more like 7900. This will make yardage and accuracy important.
Every winner since 2008 has been in the top 35% in Distance to Apex (Distance in yards from the Tee to the Apex on measured Par 4 and Par 5 tee shots, a key measurement in spanking a golf ball a long way. Perhaps this allows winners to get to the Par 5 Greens in two shots. Coupled with this, it’s important to have decent Driving Distance Averages (yards) on the PGA Tour – and in using those words, I’m also aware that I think 18 LIV players are turning up – and we don’t know what their stats are. Finally, it’s not just the Par 5s you must beat; you can’t afford to lose shots on the tricky par 4s. So I’m also paying attention to Par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion stats.
This, therefore, is my short list of eight, which I have further narrowed to four. You’ll see beside my shortlist their D2A position, their DDA, and P4B+ figures. Highlighted Green – top third across the board!
- Total in stats: 209. Top 70 OK
- Most bookmakers offer 8 places
TONY FINAU (25-1)
D2A: 78 DDA: 70 P4B+ 23
Inevitably my first selection is just outside the stats range – but only just. The five-time PGA Tour winner is No. 13 in the world and has three wins in the last calendar year. Many of his other PGA stats put him amongst the best in the world, and a Top 10 finish is within his grasp
PATRICK CANTLAY (20-1)
D2A: 36 DDA: 22 P4B+ 1
He doesn’t have the major results yet, but he has the talent to win one. He will soon, and he finished in the top five in two of the three events before making the final 16 at Match Play. He hits fairways and greens (second in total driving, sixth in GIR), so he can contend.
JASON DAY (25-1)
D2A: 53 DDA: 62 P4B+ 12
Some medical issues during Match Play were apparently due to allergies. He has missed two cuts but hasn’t finished lower than T-21 in any other event this season. He can definitely win this if he’s locked in.
MAX HOMA (30-1)
D2A: 49 DDA: 67 P4B+ 5
The top guys constantly draw your eyes away from Max Homa’s constant performance. He’s 9/10 Top 25 this season, including two wins. He is Top 10 in approach and putting, so he can make a run.
CAMERON YOUNG (28-1)
D2A: 3 DDA: 3 P4B+ 10
He made the Match Play final and while he has missed two cuts, he has also had two top five finishes in The Majors last year. He does have some issues with his short game – but I’m hoping his Par 4 Birdie or better figures gold up this week to see him through,
SAM BURNS (40-1)
D2A: 17 DDA: 19 P4B+ 53
He beat Young in the Match Play final and comes here in probably good form. He finished sixth at Valspar the previous week to break a slump. He can get out of a lot of trouble with his putter (10th in strokes gained). If he plays like he has the past few weeks, he can win.
VIKTOR HOVLAND (40-1)
D2A: 58 DDA: 42 P4B+ 6
He has five tour victories at the age of 25 and was tied 3rd in The Players. Some of his green play has been weak – but his stats are solid with a 10th in scoring average and ninth in par breakers, plus that top 6 on Par 4s. He can definitely go close.
KEITH MITCHELL (110-1)
D2A: 47 DDA: 14 P4B+ 48
Consistent, steady and totally off the radar. He has two top-five finishes in his past five stroke-play events, and he ranks second off the tee behind only Scottie Scheffler. He has gained strokes off the tee in 47 of his last 51 events – suggesting the Par 5s are within hailing distance. He has quietly had some success in 2023 as he has finished 42nd or better in each of the last four designated events. Mitchell did make the cut on his only appearance in 2019 closing with a 69, so he does have some course experience to draw on. Way too big a price.
SELECTIONS: TONY FINAU 3½ pts e/w – MAX HOMA 2½ pts e/w – SAM BURNS 1½ pts e/w – KEITH MITCHELL ¾ pt e/w 8 places
You could, of course, go with Betfair and dutch all 8 for, say, 20 pts.