A blank week in the preview schedule last week, where I did recommend two bets. Having led after the first two rounds, and still being right in the hunt after 54 holes, Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura had a Sunday to forget. Sunday’s have certainly been my nemesis this year to date, with expected returns prior to final rounds not converting to anything like that come close of play. That was again the case with Michael Thompson two weeks ago, though he had sowed the seeds with a terrible back 9 on Saturday. Prior to that he was disputing second place, and it was very disappointing that we didn’t click the Top 20 there.
The last 10 events have seen a 3 point total loss from the AT&T through last week’s Zurich Classic. The vast majority of the current 60pt annual deficit was incurred very early in the year. It’s been pretty much step forward followed by step back since, but though we are not reaping many rewards on Sundays, it is highly encouraging to me that we are constantly in the hunt for payouts. The door will open, but as ever in gambling, patience and discipline are key.
The Top 20 price of Thomspon in that RBC Heritage collapsed very quickly with PP/BFSB. They really are a useless outfit nowadays. Especially online. Until shops reopen here in Ireland, I won’t put them up as stand alone top price for any Alternative Market bets, as it does not appear realistic to expect the vast majority to get on. That was a relatively low key event, and this week’s Valspar Championship has a similar feel to it. It is with that in mind that I have delayed sending the preview until today. Any feedback on Wednesday sending is appreciated, I would prefer to do what is best for the majority. Sending it at 5am in Japanese would obviously be fine, if it included a clatter of winners! Hopefully they are just around the corner.
Copperhead is similar to Harbour Town in that the shorter hitter has every chance of success here. A Par 71 at 7350 yards, and featuring 5 Par 3’s, it is a layout which requires precision more than length. Concentration is required at every turn, and turns are plentiful on a course of many doglegs. With Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Kevin Streelman and KJ Choi on the recent roll of honour here, it is clear to see that plotters have a decent record at Copperhead. It isn’t a course where players can be overly attacking, grinding out Pars and trying to take advantage of the Par 5’s will be the order of the day. Wind can wreak havoc around here, and with 15mph+ forecast for all 4 days, I wouldn’t envisage anyone bettering 10 under par for the week.
Players of Interest:
In a change from the recent norm, Dustin Johnson doesn’t hold the mantle of pre tournament favourite. That is down to some below par efforts of late, and though he was an excellent 6th here on debut two years ago, it doesn’t really strike as a venue which will overly play to his strengths. I can pass him by for now until we see a bit more spark.
It is Justin Thomas who assumes the mantle of favourite here, and deservedly so in my opinion. Not seen since a disappointing weekend at Augusta, JT will be keen to erase that memory here. An inexcusable 8 on the Par 5 13th on Saturday derailed his title challenge, having looked the most likely winner at the halfway stage. Given how good his game looked over the first two days, and that it’s only 3 outings since that imperious tee to green performance in victory at Sawgrass, I do feel he is the man to beat this week. He has sat out the last two editions here, having missed the cut in 2017, but his control of the golf ball in recent times suggests it is a venue he will be well able to master. If I had got 10/1 to 7 or 8 places, I would have backed him. That being the lowest I wanted to go, I have left the 9/1 alone.
If Thomas is a shade short, well then Corey Conners looks a good chunk light. He was very much on my list of potential bets this week, but I don’t think anyone can say he is overpriced at just 20/1. He can win without me.
At 10 points bigger, the claims of SUNGJAE IM are just as compelling, and he certainly can’t be let go here. One of the most accurate on Tour off the tee, it is no surprise that the Korean took to Copperhead like a duck to water two years ago.. Ultimately 4th on that debut, he didn’t shoot over par any day on what was a typically tough week here. Like JT, he too had a nightmare hole at Augusta, his being a 9 on the 15th on Thursday. His head was gone after that, but it isn’t something to worry about going forward. Better to take his display to that point as another positive amidst plenty of promising showings since the beginning of the year. Indeed that was his first missed cut of 2021, and I would readily draw a line through the team racket last week. Everything sets up nicely for a big bounceback from the busiest player on Tour. His Florida form is top class. Winner of the Honda Classic last year, a week later he was 3rd at Bay Hill. 8th in his defence at PGA National, he followed that up with being just outside the Top 20 in the Arnold Palmer. There are many players down the years that simply thrive on these Florida layouts, and early indications are that Sungjae will be another.
That win 13 months ago is his sole PGA Tour success to date, and again not surprisingly came on his favoured putting surface Bermudagrass, which the players face again this week. There was absolutely nothing wrong with his 13th place finish at Harbour Town the week after The Masters debacle, and I really like his chances of notching his second win here. A tough test in store is another positive for the chances of Im. That Honda win came courtesy of a 6 under par winning total, and the 3rd at Bay Hill a week later was courtesy of a -2 total which was two off a 4 under par winning mark. Sungjae can grind with the best of them. In a field without many of the games star names, 30/1 on him is quite a few points too big in my opinion.
The roll of honour mentioned earlier was not only littered with plotters, but also experience. JUSTIN ROSE brings spades of that to the table, and though I’m not a fan of the Englishman, he is one of the games most intelligent players. Rose thrives on these tough classical layouts, which requires the players to think their way around the course. His record here backs up that notion. Six of the former US Open winners last nine visits here have resulted in Top 20 finishes, and three of the latest five have been inside the Top 10. What makes Rose of most interest here now, is how he has bounced back to very close to his best of late. Coming here, where he can plot his way around using his profound experience and golfing brain, seems to be an ideal set up to get him back into the winners enclosure. Another first round lead at Augusta was the catalyst for a 7th place finish there, and though I place little credence into what went on in New Orleans last week, it was encouraging to see Rose once again play well. Quotes of 35/1 and even 40s with one outfit are just too high on a player of Rose’s calibre now that he has rounded back into form.
Another who I was keen on this week was Louis Oosthuizen. He just isn’t quite big enough to wade in with in the outright market, so I will get with him later on.
My final outright selection is JOAQUIN NIEMANN. The Chilean is fast making his mark at the top table, and has the all round game which can conquer Copperhead. 37th here on Pro debut last year, I would be expecting a big improvement on that this week. The fact he won a junior title here in 2017 by a record breaking 8 shots would give credence to that. Back to back runner up finishes in the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open early in the year, he actually hasn’t missed a cut since the Northern Trust in August of last year. For someone who hits it so far, he is more accurate than most of the bombers, and lies inside the top 10 for Greens in Regulation this term. He hasn’t played a lot of golf since those two close shaves in January, but all his appearances have been in the elite tournaments. This represents something of a drop in grade, and it is perfectly plausible that he lands his maiden PGA Tour win here. A player well capable of producing in windy conditions now back on his favoured green type, the 33/1 on offer on this burgeoning talent is too big to let go in this field.
Paul Casey comes here as two time defending champion, and that alone obviously affords him plenty of respect here. He just hasn’t been at his very best in recent weeks, and will need to find something here once again to land the hat trick. Patrick Reed also has an excellent record here, but to my eye at least he’s just not on his A game at the moment.
Two at bigger prices that I toyed with backing outright were Matt NeSmith and Denny McCarthy. At 150/1 and 100/1 respectively I wouldn’t put anyone off, but I have sided with them in the Top 20 market later.
Top 20 Finish:
I have gone with the above two in this market. 9th here on debut in 2019, and coming in off the back of some excellent recent displays, DENNY MCCARTHY looks likely to be thereabouts again. On his third last outing, he was a superb third in the Honda, another tough layout where wind is a factor, and his lack of length isn’t punished. But for a poor opening round in the RBC Heritage, he could maybe have bettered that Honda result, but closing with 3 consecutive 67’s sends him here in flying form. Arriving off the back of 5 consecutive weekends made, confidence will be high, and in a field lacking much strength in depth the 3/1 on offer on him landing his 3rd Top 20 finish in his last 4 starts is worth availing of.
MATT NESMITH is a player your casual golf fan may not be too familiar with, but the 27 year olds stock is firmly on the rise. Never the greatest on the greens, his approach play is up there with the best in the game. His relative lack of length won’t be punished here, and his neat and tidy long game will set up more birdie attempts than most in this field will muster. It’s possible that he frustrates with the flat stick, but such is the ideal way this layout sets up for his game, I am more than happy to take my chances. His game had tapered off somewhat after 3 consecutive Top 20’s in February, but there were signs at both the RBC and Honda that he is about to hit top form again. He was notably good from the fairways at Harbour Town and I expect him to relish the challenge here this week.
I believe the following should all be a few spots shorter than they are. All 3 are in and around the even money mark, so rather than having 10pts on each, I will recommend a 2.5pt Trixie which will mean staking 10pts in total on them.
Top South African:
I do like the claims of LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN this week. A bit of an enigma in that he has consistently raised his game for Major Championships, yet arguably not won as many tournaments as his talent deserves. Does he put it in on a regular basis week to week? Maybe that is his downfall, lack of application for regulation events. He was more than up for last week’s team event which he ultimately lost in a playoff, but arriving here to a venue he was runner up in in its latest edition in 2019, I expect those competitive juices to be very much still flowing. He hasn’t missed a cut since the RSM, and that is no surprise given that all facets of his game are in excellent shape this season, exactly what you need for Copperhead. His runner up spot in 2019 was backing up a 7th place finish in 2016 and 16th in 2018. I fancy any one of those finishing positions would be more than good enough to land this section.
Charl Schwartzel partnered Louis last week, but even though a former winner here, that display in New Orleans is more in the one swallow doesn’t make a summer category. I wouldn’t be too optimistic about him backing it up here. Branden Grace just can’t seem to quite find his best, a few too many loose shots still creeping in, and in forecast tough conditions this week that is a worry. Erik Van Rooyen would be more of a danger for my money, but I would make Louis an odds-on shot here, and the general 11/10 is big enough to get involved.
The betting here doesn’t account for CAMERON DAVIS’ superiority over his two rivals, nor does it fall in line with their outright exchange prices either. 6th in the Sandersons Farms, 3rd in the American Express and 14th at Pebble Beach, Davis is well set to make the first of the FedEx Cup events. He struggles around the greens, but that aspect of the game is perhaps the least important here at Copperhead, and I expect his tee game and approach play to prosper here. Making the weekend will likely be enough to land this section, and I would make him an 8/13 shot. Once again, like Louis, the 11/10 is well worth wagering.
I really do like the chances of SUNGJAE IM this week. He looks sure to contend, as he has done on multiple occasions this year already. He seems to be there or thereabouts most weeks, and on a layout which seems tailor made for the Korean, I don’t envisage much different this week. Typically a strong section these days, this week is an exception. Byeong-Hun An arrives off the back of 5 missed cuts, and Copperhead is a tough examination where one rarely ‘finds’ something. Kyoung-Hoon Lee is a little too wayward off the tee for my liking around here, and has been putting like a blind man all season. I would be surprised if Im didn’t run out an easy winner of this. I make him a 4/7 shot.
Currently PP/BFSB/Boyles/Betfred/888 are covering all the above 3 markets. William Hill have now actually just added a Top Asian market, but it appears they won’t accept multiples on these markets. Hopefully 365 and Sky will add a Top Australian. For anyone who can’t get on with the above firms, Coral and Ladbrokes offer a slight variation. They bet on Top Australasian rather than Top Australian. I would have very little regard for the chances of Danny Lee and Tim Wilkinson here, so that is a viable route at 5/4 also. I will quote the Betfred prices as though not the best on offer, they have held much better than PP/BFSB in recent weeks. There are enough firms going pretty much the same total price though, for everyone to get on.
1pt ew Sungjae Im 30/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB/Betfred) **Advised Tuesday *Still available with WH .9pt ew Justin Rose (⅕ odds 8 places, PP/BFSB) **Advised Tuesday *30/1 8 places with WH/Betfred/888 still fine 1pt ew Joaquin Niemann 33/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/Betfred) **35/1 to 5 places with 365 *30/1 to 8 places fine
Top 20 Finish:
5pts Denny McCarthy 3/1 (365/PP/BFSB/888/BVictor/Betfred/Betway) *11/4+ acceptable 4pts Matthew NeSmith 5/1 (Sky/PP/BFSB/Sporting Index/Mansion Bet) *4/1+ acceptable Trixie:
Top South African – Louis Oosthuizen 21/20
Top Asian – Sungjae Im 4/6
Top Australian – Cameron Davis 21/20
2.5pts Trixie (10pts total stake)
Running Totals 2021:
Even though I have waited 24 hours later than normal to send, the liquidity on the exchange in the Top 20 market is still very poor. Anyone who uses the exchange for these bets, just sit tight until tomorrow morning, when I imagine they will look a little healthier.