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By Ciaran Meagher
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Samples – Archive

2021 Wells Fargo:

Outright – 1.75pts EW RORY MCILROY 18/1 (WON)

I honestly had no thoughts of siding with RORY MCILROY this week, but when the prices went up the pros started to outweigh the cons. Everyone knows about his ridiculously good course form here, scene of his first win on the PGA Tour in 2010. He has backed that up with a second Wells Fargo title in 2015, and 5 other top 10 finishes. Such is his affinity with the course he started a 6/1 favourite or a Major Championship here. But obviously odds makers are well aware of this history, yet are still happy to put him in at 18 and 20/1, due to his recent travails on the golf course. Rory has admitted to being drawn into the power game on the back of Bryson’s new found length, and that alongside struggling with the lack of on course spark due to no fans allowed, has seen him suffer this past year. Having made the change in coach to Pete Cowen ahead of this year’s Masters, Rory is clearly still hungry and searching for more success. Hunger for Masters glory has certainly hindered him at Augusta in recent years, and his display there this time around is very easy to draw a line through in my opinion. It’s the subsequent time off, and shape of the upcoming schedule which I believe may lend us to seeing something more akin to peak McIlroy here.

Though the likes of Rahm may have had some downtime in recent weeks, I have little doubt that Rory will have been working very hard with Cowen to iron out any problems in his swing. Many more knowledgeable than me will say that the process will take longer than a few weeks for most, but Rory and his talent aren’t most golfers. He won’t need a dramatic overall, and if anyone can get him back to where he was, it’s Cowen. If Rory has found something, it won’t have come at a better time. In any other year he would simply chomping at the bit for the next couple of weeks. Back at his beloved Quail Hollow this week, and then just 14 days later returning to the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, scene of his 8 shot win in the US PGA in 2012. That, allied with the real return of fans to the course, could be just the spark this crowd pleaser needs, and at 18/1 on this course which perhaps suits him better than any other he will play is just too big to ignore for me. The soft conditions they will face on Thursday is the final piece in the jigsaw, and though he has let me down on a couple of occasions this season already, I am prepared to keep the faith.

2021 Masters:

Top Australian – 3pts MARC LEISHMAN (WON)

Cameron Smith capped off what was a very profitable period last backend of punting him in this section, by landing this section with shots to spare in November. I don’t dismiss him lightly this time around, but the market has now cottoned on to him, and he offers no value to me.

Jason Day has an enviable record here, and should revel in the fast conditions this week, but there are just too many inconsistencies throughout his game to tempt me in here. His iron play has betrayed him quite a few weeks this year, and even when he has hit some decent approaches, his usual trusty putter has not played ball. Maybe he is happy with his lot, but he just doesn’t seem to have the same hunger about him any more.

Adam Scott’s long game just doesn’t seem to be at it’s trusty best of late, going missing when he needs it most. That’s a worry here.

MARC LEISHMAN is the value bet here. Having confidently backed Smith in this section last year, it was Leishman over the weekend that gave me most cause for concern. And that was him coming here off one his worst period of results for quite some time. True he has missed his last two cuts in stroke play events, but did look in good nick at the Matchplay. Prior to the weekend off at Bay Hill he had made 6 consecutive cuts, prodigy 2 top 10’s and 3 top 20’s. That improvement all stemmed back to a decent performance out of nowhere here in November, and it isn’t the first time he has played well here when in no sort of form in general. He has performed as well as Day and Scott over the past couple of months overall, and I don’t see him as having less chance than those two here. At 6/1, or indeed anything from 5/1 upwards, he is the play.


Outright – 2pts EW DANIEL BERGER 14/1 (WON)

DANIEL BERGER gave us no run for our money last week, but what events at the Phoenix Open showed us was, never rule out the chances of a player winning off the back of a missed cut. In truth I thought Berger did very little wrong, he just didn’t find his range from the fairways over those two days. A poor finish to Friday saw him go from still very much a contender to missing the cut. It is fairly easy to imagine he would have finished somewhere near Rory McIlroy had he made the cut, and I don’t think we would be seeing the prices we are now. A few bad holes, given his unerring consistency over the past few months, don’t worry me at all. His previous missed cut was at The Memorial last July. In his next event he finished runner up at the WGC. Quick to bounce back is Daniel.

He has only made the two appearances here, and both offered much promise. 10th here on debut in 2015, and 5th last year, he is 10 under par for his 4 rounds to date around Pebble Beach. With that course now accounting for 75% of this week’s play, that takes on even more importance. Also likely to play a part is that conditions will be tougher than the average year here. With no amatuers to be catered for, pin positions will be tucked away that bit more. Weather will also likely see players kept honest. Colder than average temperatures, allied with a healthy wind on both Friday and Sunday would leave me estimating a winning score of approx 12-14 under par. This will also play to the strengths of Berger. All of what I said about him last week still stands. I expect him to be challenging for major honours this year, and with DJ now taken out of the equation this is a gilt edged opportunity to get back on the winning trail. Berger’s price has also not seen the same reduction factor as Cantlays. I feel the 14/1 on offer (16s in a place) is still more than fair.



I have often alluded to how I prefer to get with JUSTIN THOMAS when he is off the back of a display where he has really found his range from the fairways. Truth is his approach play this term has been very good, it’s the driver that has been misbehaving, and an intermittently poor putter. Having left Poa greens behind, I would expect his putting prowess to revert to what is typically a brilliant best, and driver is optional on many holes here. Henrik Stenson had a once superb record around here, and he rarely bothered with the big dog. If JT can just put it in play off the tee, he will be in line for a title assault.

In a similar run as Cantlay of top end finishes in the best of fields, Thomas has 9 Top 20 finishes in his last 10 outings on the PGA Tour. The one aberration was a missed cut at The Genesis, but that came at a difficult time for him. He had been embroiled in a racial slur controversy when 3rd at the Tournament of Champions, and prior to his final round at the Phoenix Open he received news that his much loved grandfather had passed away. I suggested JT would take awhile to get over those events, and his missed cut backed that up. A very poor opening at the WGC suggested he may still be struggling, but after going 4 over par for his opening 6 holes, he rebounded very strongly to ultimately finish in 15th place. His approach play there was stellar, bettered and only just, by winner Collin Morikawa. A week off to try and fix the miss off the tee, a course which does not demand driver, and rare quotes of 20/1 on him and Justin Thomas can’t be let go this week. Third here in 2016, which included a Sunday 65, he has proved he has what it takes to tame this test when he is on his game. That display from the fairways at The Concession very much suggests to me that peak JT is very close.

There won’t be many occasions where the 20/1 carrot is dangled on Thomas and given his fit for this week’s layout, it would be rude to refuse it here. It is no surprise that he speaks highly of it, a venue which his laser like wedge play can be given license to thrill. He rates an excellent bet in my opinion.

2020 WGC Mexico:

Outright – .75pt ew Patrick Reed 40/1 WON

PATRICK REED isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he has been plying his trade very efficiently since the turn of the year. Second at the Tournament of Champions, and 6th at Torrey, he has had a couple of chances of glory already. I feel this week gives him his best chance yet, a course where his short game skills can prove very advantageous. He has been making steady progress during his visits here, improving from 61st to 37th, to a credible 14th last term. Not in any of these 3 years did he arrive here off the back of the couple of excellent displays outlined above, and this may be the time he shows his true skill set around here. I find Reed can often be overlooked in the markets due to the public’s general dislike of him. I really couldn’t care less what sort he is if he lands us a 40/1 winner. And that price, on a course I really think will suit him, just looks too big. 

2020 Travelers Championship:

Outright – 1.1pts ew Dustin Johnson 28/1 WON

I watched DUSTIN JOHNSON’S progress with much interest last week, and saw enough to suggest that he is ready to compete consistently again. He has always been a player who has benefitted from a couple of run outs before a peak can be achieved, particularly with his approach play which can take a bit of dialling in. His progress from Colonial to Harbour Town in that regard was particularly taking. Indeed his whole tee to green game last week was mighty impressive, and the reuniting with Claude Harmon appears to be paying off. If he had putted well last week, he would have been challenging for top honours, and we wouldn’t be seeing quotes of 28/1 this week. It is natural for confidence gained from one aspect of a players game to feed through the rest, and that could feasibly be the case with DJs putting here this week. Also, for my money, there isn’t a better Poa putter on the planet and DJ will

approach this week with serious intentions of winning. He hasn’t played here since 2014, but much of that will have been down to scheduling, and I can very much envisage him bringing these par 4s to their knees. Traditionally that is where this title is won and lost, and DJ will be hitting wedge into most. If the putter behaves, we will have ourselves a live one come Sunday evening. 

2020 BMW Championship:

Top Australian – 3pts Cameron Smith 5/1 WON

Usually I like to have a reason for swerving a short priced jolly in these markets, with that in turn making my choice a bigger price than I would make them. Here however I don’t see a lot wrong with the 11/8 on offer on Jason Day. It is only a 4 runner heat though, and I do feel that both Adam Scott and Marc Leishman are cornering too much of the

market share. I would make both bigger, and in turn have CAMERON SMITH a deal shorter. I have to admit I am very sweet on him this week, and will be both surprised and disappointed if he doesn’t put in a decent shift. Leishman continues in woeful form, and unless there is a drastic turnaround he should not be of any worry here. Scott’s game still looks shy of its peak, and it is only Day that I really fear here. At 5/1 I feel it is more than worth taking the plunge on the youngest of this quartet. 

Tour Championship 2020:

Top 72 Hole Score – 2.5pts ew Xander Schaufelle 12/1 WON

Backing XANDER SCHAUFFELLE here was also very much a will I, or won’t I. I have! Another former winner around here, he added further credence to the belief that this is very much a layout made for the Californian by landing the runner up slot last year. He also shot the second best score on the week. Starting from 4 under par, 6 shots off JT’s lead, he finished on a 14 under par total. One of the fiercest competitors on Tour, with an attitude to die for, Xander won’t be perturbed about his starting position here. As good as Horchel’s scoring average is here, the X Man betters it, with a 67.75 round average for his 12 blows around East Lake. Enviable. I’m not for a second questioning his bottle in the heat of battle, but it is awhile since he got over the line, and starting from a low ranking here can only be of benefit in my opinion. It’s a very similar slot to where he played so well from last year, and when he won here in 2017 he also had very little chance of lifting the FedEx outright. Money can mess with the best of them!! Another factor (admittedly small sample size as yet) is his knack of producing his best not only in the best events, but also in a field of limited size. All looks set fair for another excellent week for Schaufelle, and the 12/1 on offer just about warrants support.

2020 Masters:

Former Winner – 6pts Patrick Reed 9/2 WON

I left PATRICK REED out of the outright staking plan, but am very happy to have on the team sheet here. Winner here in 2018, perhaps unsurprisingly given returning champions poor record, he finished down the field last year. But that win 2 years ago proved what always looked likely on paper, that Augusta would be the most likely venue for a Reed major win. He arrives here in serious nick, not having finished outside the top 14 in his last 4 starts. He will scrap for every shot here, save more than most around the greens, and the errant tee shots of late won’t be punished as harshly here. He is highly likely to contend, and given the powder puff nature of his rivals here, he likely won’t have to do much else.
Bubba Watson is the market leader here, but he’s underpriced all round in my opinion, and though the biggest danger I wouldn’t be entertaining backing him. Adam Scott would have been of more interest, but for a worryingly poor weekend at Houston.
As I said earlier, I don’t like the chances of Tiger here, and Phil has been woeful in recent PGA Tour starts. Jordan Spieth is likely to have at least one tournament wrecking round, and Danny Willett seems out of love with the game at the moment. Zach Johnson is likely to find it all a bit long, and Charl Schwartzel contending would be highly surprising. All told Reed has very little to beat here, and though initial quotes of 9/2 have disappeared (due in part to Garcia withdrawal) the current 4/1 is still much too big. He is the best bet of the alternative markets for me.

2020 Masters:

Top Australian – 6pts Cameron Smith 3/1 WON

The last 3 occasions CAMERON SMITH has teed it up, I have backed him in this market. On all 3 occasions he has brought home the bacon. As I explained prior to the Zozo, previous collections are no reason to go in again unless the price is right. I didn’t expect to be reloading here, as I envisaged the odds compilers finally becoming wise to the talents of this young man. It appears they haven’t. The one worry I would have this week, is that he lacks a bit of distance from the tee. Otherwise, there is not much not to like, and I feel he should be just about favourite to land this section.

A run of 10 made cuts in a row, featuring Top 20’s at The Northern Trust, BMW and CJ Cup, allied with a 4th place finish at the Zozo Championship, shows the type of form the 27 year old is in. He also has previous around here, with a Sunday 66 in 2018 giving his 2nd Top 5 finish in a Major. His recent top class form came as a result of his long game matching his prowess on the greens. Always a great putter, he was often shy of birdie looks. But he seems to have taken his game to the next level of late, and a repeat of his 2018 would be no surprise at all. He seems sure to give his true performance once again.

The same cannot be said of his Aussie rivals here. I briefly discussed Adam Scott and Jason Day earlier, and though both clearly have excellent records around here, their well being has to be taken on trust. That isn’t something you want when taking a short priced option on board. For my money, Smith is the most likely of the trio to contend (if not quite the most likely to win outright), and this is what these subsections are all about. I wouldn’t worry about Marc Leishman one bit. I don’t know why, but he has been ultra negative off the tee of late, and if he continues that here, he will be taking long irons into far too many greens. He remains one to avoid. Lukas Michel won’t count. As such the 3/1 available on Smith, slightly bigger on the exchange in a market awaiting more liquidity, is an excellent bet in my opinion.

2017 USPGA:

Top English – .8pt ew Jordan Smith 22/1 WON

Having put JORDAN SMITH up as a European Tour player to follow in my Irish Open preview, hopefully a few readers may have stuck with him for his victory in the European Open. He’s still very much in the formative stages of his career, and this may very well be a step too far at this stage, but the 22-1 on offer for Top English looks worth a dabble here. I again have Rose, Poulter and Fleetwood down as underpriced, and am not too keen on Casey. Jordan averages barely under 300 yards off the tee, and won’t be as disadvantaged as the likes of Matt Fitzpatrick or Luke Donald. He’s a star in the making, and the confidence gained from his debut win on the main tour, may see him ruffle a few feathers this week.

2017 Open Championship:

Top English – .5pt ew Matt Southgate 45/1 WON

MATT SOUTHGATE is a tremendous exponent of links golf, and displayed that once again in the Irish Open two weeks ago. Only a ridiculously good performance from Jon Rahm bettered him, and having been on him Top 20 in last years Open, I am keen to have him on side again. He missed the cut at the Scottish last week, but given his overall links profile and massive price of 45-1 here, that is quite easily forgiven.


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By Ciaran Meagher

[email protected]