No preview last week, so I will return to the US PGA the week previously, first. A rare week where we garnered more than would have been expected on Sunday morning, and maybe more than we deserved for the week on a whole. An excellent final 18 holes from Justin Rose was the catalyst in a third profitable week in a row, as he secured a full Top 20 payout. He had infuriated the day before, having made a staggering 8 birdies in that 3rd round, he offset them and more with 9 dropped shots. Shane Lowry also produced a very good final round to secure a full place dividend. The week had started with Keegan Bradley going close to landing us a 66/1 FRL, and it was his old nemesis the putter which deprived us of that. Maybe one that got away, but he did what it said on the tin.
What a cracking event it was on the whole though, The Ocean Course once again proving itself to be a seriously tough and fair test. Entertainment and twists at every turn, I’m sure viewers would take something akin to that every week, rather than the barrage of no character birdie fests which are typically served up. Ultimate winner, amazingly enough, was Phil Mickelson. You could say it was unbelievable, but with Phil anything has always been possible, and clearly still is. Brooks Koepka will surely feel it was one that got away. He was very poor when it really counted. Surprisingly so.
Last week, I sent out some extra bets as it wasn’t a week scheduled for a preview. Most will wish I hadn’t. Much like the USPGA, the selections all skirted around contention most of the week but unfortunately the decent Sunday rounds required for payouts didn’t materialise. Ryan Palmer and Zach Johnson went very close to a Top 20 finish, with Palmer in particular maybe deserving of more. That Thursday 74 was a tough mountain to overcome.
Justin Rose and Collin Morikawa both reached the score they needed for a place dividend late into their Sunday rounds. Unfortunately neither could stay there. That is slightly harshly put, many struggled on the final day, and those two more than most were really pushing the boat out looking for more birdies. The penalties for the misses through aggressiveness are steep at Colonial, and both paid them. Disappointing after a few good weeks, but overall I am much happier now than a month ago.
A long term member of the PGA Tour rota, Muirfield Village actually saw two bouts of action last Summer, as professional golf emerged from the Covid lockdown. The scene of this week’s Memorial Tournament has always been a good watch, and after quite a few ourse changes since last year, I feel it may be an even better layout. From studying those changes, and the comments from designer Jack Nicklaus, it seems he is hell bent on creating what he deems to be the conditions professional golf should be played in. Firm greens. Come in from the rough, or mis hit your approach from the fairway and you are in trouble. Muirfield has always been a second shot golf course and I expect that to be accentuated this week. Tee to green supremacy, and accurate approach play in particular will be key here. Though some have been narrowed in the recent work, fairways are wide enough to be hitting, and it is only right that missing them will likely be penal. As such I don’t see length as a huge advantage here, get it in the fairway and showcase your talents from there.
A standard Par 72, with 4 Par 5’s it now measures just under 7450, having added 150 yards added in the makeover. Those Par 5’s will be key to any winner’s scorecard, and you would imagine he will have to play those 16 holes, in 10-12 under par. Bunkers have been added, greens have been changed, and a new sub air system will render any early rain pretty meaningless fairly quickly.
Thursday may see the toughest of the conditions with the strongest of any winds in play then, but with high temperatures set for the weekend, holding the greens may become very tough come Sunday. Again, laser like iron play will be required. I would take a stab at -14 being the winning total.
Players of Interest:
Jon Rahm arrives here as favourite, and I for one am nor sure he deserves the clear water he has between him and the next group of elite players in the market. A quick scan through the Spaniard’s recent results would suggest to the casual observer that he has been in fine fettle, going close on nearly every occasion, but just not getting over the line. That hasn’t really been the case. More often than not, Rahm’s 6 top 10 finishes in his last 9 appearances, have come courtesy of a wet Sunday sail. He hasn’t been putting himself in tournament winning contention over the opening 54 holes, and at 11/1 in a strong field here, he certainly isn’t for me.
I promise I will put Bryson DeChambeau up some day, maybe even in two weeks time, but it would be helpful if he was no better than mid division here and brought his price to the 20/1 mark. I know he has won here before, but that was with a different game. Muirfield boasts wide open fairways and with distance off the tee here not as important as at some venues, a few of his advantages are somewhat negated. He also doesn’t bring the best of recent form into this week, having only broken the top 35 only once in his last 5 outings. I don’t see the new Muirfield as somewhere you will find your best. Of the 4 players available at 16/1 in various places, he would appeal the least.
Another at a top price of 16/1 is last week’s runner up Jordan Spieth. He really should have landed his second win of his renaissance and also his second at Colonial. The red flags were hoisted with a poor driving display on Saturday, but that went from bad to worse on Sunday. He usually finds a way to win even in that scenario, but he simply couldn’t find that bit of magic on the greens. Such has been his consistent presence on leaderboards since February that he simply can’t be discounted, but maybe Sunday’s wounds and how they came about may still be a bit raw.
Justin Thomas was a whole lot harder to leave out. Since he obliged for us at The Players he has been more hit than miss, only once in 6 subsequent starts has he notched a top 20 finish, but I would feel this is as good a chance as he will have had in that time. He showed glimpses of his best last week, especially with some stellar approach play on Sunday, and I do feel this week’s test is pretty much ideal for JT. It’s just that inconsistency since Sawgrass that niggles, and his seeming inability to have more than one good day on the greens.
COLLIN MORIKAWA may not have delivered us a dividend last week, but I am certainly not jumping ship on him here. You could say that at 16/1 the market hasn’t missed him, but for me the changing of the guard is getting closer and closer, and it won’t be long before Morikawa and my next selection are heading up the weekly markets. He made his debut in the Memorial last year, but made his course debut the week prior, when he defeated Justin Thomas in a very exciting playoff. That came in the Workday Charity Open which has replaced the John Deere due to Covid, and the fact that he excelled on debut can be no surprise at all.
The 2020 US PGA champ is absolute mustard on courses such as this. His tee to green game is simply sublime. Not the longest off the tee in today’s terms, he gets it in play, and attacks from there. He leads the Tour this year in both strokes gained on approach and tee to green. He showcased much of those talents last week at Colonial where he just didn’t putt well enough to get into the heat of the action, and as ever that will be the worry here. When he returned here after his win in the Workday a week later, he was a lowly 48th, but was only topped in the tee to green figures by 3 players. He putted shocking. Golfers though, like most sports people these days, are very adept at focussing on the positives. His win a week earlier, obviously fuelled by that trusty long game, was helped in no uncertain manner by a positive putting display. That will be the memories he brings here this week, and on a course where many will be struggling for par with regularity, I prefer the claims of Morikawa who will be putting for birdie more often than most if not all of his opponents.
One particular approach from last week stands out, a 236 yard dart to 4ft on his 10th hole of his second round, a shot which sums up Morikawa perfectly. It is also the long laser like approach which is demanded on so many holes here, and I didn’t see anything last week which could put me off him here. On route to being the best iron player since Tiger Woods, he can get one closer to the great man’s 5 wins around here. True enough, I wouldn’t like to go any lower than 16/1, but at that price he makes the team sheet.
Two points bigger, I again want to be with another of the ‘new brigade’ VIKTOR HOVLAND. Slightly disappointing at the business end of the most recent major, he is another I am prepared to go straight back into war with. As is the case with the headline selection, Viktor’s greatest asset is his long game, but he is also fast making inroads on correcting his shortcomings on and around the greens. The package is nearly complete, and as mentioned above, it won’t be long before he is topping these markets week in week out. Memorial sets up perfectly for the game of Hovland in my opinion, backed up by his 3rd on debut in The Workday last year. That was the 3rd week in a row that he had been in contention, and akin to Morikawa he bounced the following week in this tournament. He is a much better all round player 12 months on, and I find it very hard to see him not right in contention come Sunday evening. I won’t rehash what I have said about him on a few occasions recently, and though shorter than on most of those weeks, on a layout such as this I feel that is more than warranted.
Two players who I would have the utmost respect for here, but couldn’t entertain them at the prices, are Shane Lowry and Patrick Cantlay. Shane had an excellent tournament at Kiawah, but surely one couldn’t say he should be shorter than a meagre 40/1 here. After an out of character poor run of form, Pat Cantlay also showed more there, but I was hoping that the run before that would contribute to him being a bigger price here. It hasn’t.
I had also expected Rory McIlroy to be bigger, he may have been interesting at 20/1, at a top price of 6 points shorter he isn’t.
There are others who were certainly worthy of a second look and more, Joaquin Niemann being the prince of those, but from an outright perspective there are just two others who I have gone with.
BILLY HORSCHEL simply looks too big a price here. How to weight course form is a long term argument between various golf pundits. I certainly give it much credence, especially at certain venues. This week is more of a conundrum. Do those that make their debut, or have played it less, have an advantage that previous engrained sight lines have now changed on the ‘regulars’. I do feel current form is very important coming in here, but Horschel very much brings both to the table, and I was surprised he was not chalked up a deal shorter. Winner of the WGC Matchplay just two months ago, he has since had a very respectable outing at the RBC Heritage, an excellent 4th in Zurich, and a fine display at the PGA where he finished just outside the Top 20. Last week at Colonial Billy’s scrambling was much improved and that is no bad thing coming here. Billy is more than capable of taking down the world’s best and changes or not, will be looking forward to returning to a venue where he has been inside the top 13 finishers on his last 3 visits.
When green conditions are set to be fast and firm, when approach play from distance is key, and when scoring is set to be a bit tougher than your average week I will often throw more than a passing glance the way of BRENDON TODD. When he arrives at such a venue off a high end finish, it is time to really take notice. Todd has always had a knack of stringing top performances together, and I don’t expect a backwards step from last week’s 8th in the Charles Schwab. At his best, Todd putts as well as anyone on Tour, and given he regularly raises his game when faced with conditions such as this week I feel we will have a live one at 100/1 here. Having seemed destined to disappear from the golfing world only a short 18 months ago, he stopped the rot in no uncertain manner. Back to back wins in November of 2019 were followed by a 4th place, in 3 consecutive outings. Later that season a top 20 at the St. Jude WGC was swiftly followed by another at the PGA. On to the back end of 2020 and an 8th place finish at the Mayakoba was followed by a 5th at the Shootout, and 13th in the Tournament of Champions. He has been barren enough since, but last week suggests that Todd is ready to roll again, and this week seems an ideal opportunity for him to once again back up a decent finish with another. At 100/1 I am more than happy to pay to find out.
Top 20 Finish:
CHRISTIAAN BEZUIDENHOUT was very close to selection in the outright market, and I wouldn’t put anyone off playing him at …. In the Top South African market also, but it’s here at 4/1 where I feel he offers the best value. Regular readers will be well aware of the high esteem I hold him in, and have been on him for the seasons opening two majors. Having on both occasions threatened to reward that support, he ultimately came up short, but his star is very much on the rise and for my money the market doesn’t show him enough respect. Now on a run of 10 consecutive cuts made on the PGA Tour, with most of those in Majors and WGC’s, he won’t have to improve much on his debut 22nd here last year to bank us the money this time around. Similar to Todd, this is the type of layout Bez will excel on, and I would have him shorter than quite a few that are ahead of him in the market here. Given conditions, and how fast the greens will likely play at the weekend, his scrambling ability will stand him in very good stead. Absolutely superb on and around the greens, he won’t fritter shots where many others will, and all told I am quite sweet on his chances of a decent week here. 4/1 that that ends up being inside the Top 20 will do for me.
A week where there are quite a few ‘repeat offenders’ among the selections, but I make no apology for once again nominating MARC LEISHMAN in this category. Indeed but for a terrible final two holes on the Friday at Kiawah to end his involvement there, I feel we would have had every chance of being on a winner. Cameron Smith appeared to be the danger man up until that point, but he had a shocking weekend. Shocking is a word you could use to describe Smith’s previous appearances here, 3 missed cuts from 5, and never inside the top 65. He will certainly be one that will be hoping the course changes make for a better experience for him here, but at just 3/1 he seems to be one to take on in this market.
I would still be lukewarm to the prospects of Adam Scott or Jason Day producing their best at the moment, and feel they are both too short here. In truth I would be chalking Leishman up as my favourite here. A pair of top 5’s in his last 6 Memorials, Leishman will not mind any toughening up the venue. In fact he will likely relish it. Accurate approach play from distance has been Marc’s trump card down through the years, as has his ability to tame these classical tests which the players face this week. I feel he will be there or thereabouts come Sunday evening, and in a section which could prove rather weak this week, the 4/1 to top it is much too big to refuse.
Top GB & Ire:
Backing MATT FITZPATRICK in the outright markets isn’t really for me at the moment, though I can see how many will have him on the team sheet there. But apart from an understandable below par performance at the ridiculous birdie fest that was the Byron Nelson, he has been the epitome of consistency at the highest level this year. Consistency is not something associated with Rory McIlroy at the moment, and the worry that it was a hot putter that put a gloss on what wasn’t a vintage performance when winning at Quail Hollow, was borne out to some extent at the PGA. Things fell into place for him that week at his favourite venue, but he just seems a bit short here all round all things considered.
Fitzpatrick should relish this test. A Sunday 68 in very tough conditions last year is made look all the better when no other player broke 70. He has come up short on Sundays on a few occasions when in contention, but you get the feeling that big breakthrough win is coming, and a layout such as this would be one of the more likely places. I don’t expect him to have to gain the W to land us our bet here, and just doing what he has been doing for most of the year could well be good enough. Shane Lowry also brings some excellent recent form to the table, and he is certainly trending in the right direction, but his price is overly short this week.
Matt Wallace appears to have gone slightly off the boil after a productive but gruelling spell, and I wouldn’t be overly worried about many of the others. Danny Willet would be second option here at 12/1, but I feel the 7/2 on offer on Fitzy is far and away the best bet in this section. Indeed I would view him as the best bet of the week.
First Round Leader:
A market we had a little joy with at the PGA, I was tempted to go to war with Keegan Bradley once again. With Thursday set to feature tough conditions, a player of Bradleys tee to green dominance, who appears as likely to go low here as would be at say the John Deere I wouldn’t put anyone off at 50/1.
It isn’t however a market that I like to get too heavily involved in, and I just prefer the claims of CAMERON TRINGALE this week. At 80/1, he is quite a tasty price to boot. Over the course of his last 7 events, Cameron has kicked off with a 67 at the Honda Classic, 66 in the Valero Texas, 69 at the Valspar, and excellent 70 at Kiawah and 67 last week. He lies 3rd on Tour for round one scoring average, and given his recent scrambling has been excellent he can hopefully make any birdies count on Thursday by keeping the errors off his card. The opening 18 holes is the time to get Tringale onside, and at 80/1 he is a very worthwhile play here.
Top Continental Euro:
A late addition, and he already features above, so I will keep it brief. I didn’t intend looking at this section as I never thought we would be getting as big as 2/1 on VIKTOR HOVLAND here. I think he is once again assured to contend, and in what appears a toss up between himself and Jon Rahm, I would have him and the Spaniard closer in the betting. Rahm appears too short to me this week, and that has filtered through to here. Being defending champion is another hindrance for him, and though he mentioned how passive he was in victory here last year, that may not be the case this time around. He will need to hit the ground running much quicker than of late, or the early frustrations we have seen on the greens will once again come to the fore. I would chalk up Rahm at 11/8 and Hovland at 13/8. The 2/1 on the Norwegian is worth taking.
1.8pts ew Collin Morikawa 16/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/Skybet/PP/Betfred)
1.6pts ew Viktor Hovland 18/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/Betfred) *18/1 7 places fine with BFSB .6pt ew Billy Horschel 55/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, PP) **60/1 to 5 places 365/6 places Unibet *45/1 upwards acceptable .3pt ew Brendon Todd 100/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, PP/BFSB) **80/1+ to 7-8 places is fine
Top 20 Finish:
5pts Christiaan Bezuidenhout 7/2 (PP/BFSB) **4/1 with Betvictor but I can’t see that lasting very long *3/1 upwards acceptable
4pts Marc Leishman 4/1 (PP/BFSB/888/Skybet/Spreadex) *7/2 upwards acceptable
Top GB & Ire:
6pts Matt Fitzpatrick 10/3 (PP/BFSB/365/888) **16/5 with WH *11/4 upwards acceptable Top Continental Euro:
7pts Viktor Hovland 2/1 (Coral/Lads/888/Spreadex) *15/8 upwards acceptable
First Round Leader:
.4pt ew Cameron Tringale 70/1 (⅕ odds 6 places, Betfred/Unibet) **66/1 general *60/1 to 8 places with Boyles also fine
Running Totals 2021:
Reminder next week is a blank week, but I will be back with the US Open this day two weeks.