No preview last week, but a few days were needed after a US Open that promised us more than it delivered. I had absolutely no interest in backing Bryson DeChambeau at the prices on offer, given how he was likely to attack the course. Truth is, he played bloody good golf all week, kept his head where others faltered, and holed nearly all the putts he would hope to. Halfway through Saturday’s 3rd round, I was very happy indeed. Patrick Reed sat atop
proceedings, with Louis Oosthiozen and Xander Schauffele looking very promising also. Those last 9 holes on Saturday were a very hard watch!! Two of the three did return the place dividend, and we landed the 1-2 in the Top Continental Euro section, but it still felt like plenty slipped through the net. When Bubba Watson went 6 over for his first 5 holes on Sunday, Brian Harman would have traded at about 1.4 for Top Lefty. Bubba steadied the ship, Harman sank his! A profit returned, so I shouldn’t complain, but I did. For a few days!
Nowhere near the anticipation levels ahead of this week, which sees none of the games elite line up for the Sanderson Farms Championship. Held at Jackson Country Club, those that are teeing up face a 7450 yard Par 72, and the winner will need to go low. I would expect 22-24 under par to be required to get the job done here, and as ever with those types of winning scores, a hot flatstick will be needed in the bag. As ever distance off the tee will be a benefit, but though Cameron Champ powered his way to victory here in 2018, just 12 months earlier Ryan Armour plotted his way with an average from the tee of just 270 yards. Dialled in approach play from 150 yards and in, paired with as few putts as possible is how this week’s layout will be best dealt with.
Players of Interest:
I had quite a few players chalked down as wanting to have onside here if the price was right. Unfortunately for a couple, that wasn’t the case. Market leader Scottie Scheffler was the main one. The Dallas native had been in excellent form of late, prior to the misfortune of succumbing to an asymptomatic positive test for Covid-19 ahead of the US Open. He will be keen to pick up where he left off, and won’t have had his practice hindered whatsoever. 4th in the US PGA, 4th again at the Northern Trust, and 5th in the Tour Championship were quality showings from the 24 year old. He has been producing the best golf of this week’s field of late, has the potential to continue right to the top of the game, and was right in contention going into the weekend here last year. There’s not much not to like. I was however expecting 12/1, and hoping for 14s. He has now been cut to 9/1 in most places, and I just don’t see that as any value. The one area he slightly struggles with is the putter, and that would be a worry here. He is also still searching for his first PGA Tour victory, and for all his excellent play of late, that would still be a worry when playing at short odds. As such, he can win without me.
There seems to be some doubt as to whether Will Zalatoris is taking up his spot in the field here. Another who has immense potential, but who has hardly gone unnoticed by the market makers.
I imagine the sea of blue for Sungjae Im on Oddschecker means he has been tipped up by someone influential, as at 12/1 he does seem quite short now. I hope to field against him later (pending markets going up – this week has been very slow on that front)
For all that Scheffler and Zalatoris still search for their first win on Tour, and have the potential to be multiple winners, my headline bet this week has more than been there and got the t-shirt. ZACH JOHNSON may have disappeared off the radar for some time, but he remains a 12 time winner on Tour, numbering Augusta and St Andrews amongst those victories. He hasn’t won since that 2015 Open Championship, but recent signs are that a corner may be about to be turned. In his pomp Johnson would have started about 8/1 favourite for this event. Now that is a pretty meaningless statement on its own, but the fact is there are very few in this field that will ever start that price for a PGA Tour event, and there has been more than just a suggestion of late that Zach may be about to rediscover his touch. He made his debut at this venue 12 months ago, and at a time when he was playing some pretty poor golf, he produced a very promising 14th place finish. Indeed it was then another 9 months before he registered his next top 20 finish. This came at the Travelers in June, and subsequent showings have proven that 11th place finish to be anything other than just a flash in the pan. 4 of his 8 rounds at a tough Muirfield village were under par, and they
preceded a missed cut at Harding Park. He did however produce an opening 66 there, before a horror show on Friday. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Zach was finally beginning to produce some excellent low scoring rounds. A 7th place finish at the Wyndham was courtesy of a sizzling 61 on Saturday, and once again signs of the Zach Johnson of old were bubbling to the surface. The putts were dropping at will, which has always been the catalyst to his all round confidence and subsequent success. A closing 72 on Sunday at the Northern Trust saw him slip plenty of places, but 3 rounds in the 60’s prior to that had seen consistency creep back into his game. Then we had the real eye opener with the Top 10 at the US Open, where once again he appeared ultra confident on the greens. The signs are certainly there that Johnson is once again ready to challenge for tournament honours. 35/1 that he can pull it off here, at a course which clearly suits his game, against a field very much unproven when it comes to sealing the deal, is far too tempting to ignore for me.
SAM BURNS is another towards the head of the market who makes the staking plan. Like Johnson, he brings some excellent recent form to the table. 13th at the Wyndham where he closed with back to back 65’s, 7th at the Safeway where he opened 64/65, he is clearly enjoying his work at present. Though only 28th last week at Corales, he again
showed much promise. Excluding Saturday, he produced rounds of 69/67/66. He made 22 birdies, which was the second highest total in the field. Unfortunately he also racked up 10 bogeys, and 2 crippling doubles. Half of those 10 bogeys, and both doubles came in Saturday’s catastrophic 78. Now you could say the same for most players’ scorecards, and what if they did this on that day. But the 78 was very much out of kilter with his recent play, and excusable in that apart from at the Safeway, he had very little experience of the heat of weekend contention. That he bounced back so well on Sunday will stand him in very good stead going forward. Indeed prior to those recent outings the closest he came to success was in this event in 2018. He never really looked like threatening a dominant Cameron Champ there, but it will certainly offer him some positive vibes ahead of this week’s test. He is on record as saying how he likes to get a round or two in here whenever he can, so it is clearly a venue he holds close to his heart. Given his scoring prowess and birdie conversion rate of late, if he can cut out the silly errors, he will surely go very close to landing a maiden triumph here. The 28/1 available at the time of typing has since dried up, but the current 25/1 is still worthy of support.
Brian Harman, and particularly Doc Redman were both appealing but neither quite the price I would like to advise getting involved with.
Instead it’s two further down the market pecking order who complete my outright selections. The first of those is 66/1 shot DENNY MCCARTHY. History here suggests that putting is going to be the key metric in determining the winner, and getting the Tour leader for Strokes Gained in that department for the 2020 season on board makes sense to me. It is an asset which has slightly deserted him of late, but as with all great putters, that touch can return at the drop of a
hat. What makes the case of McCarthy more compelling is that his long game has been improving no end of late. He had it pretty much on a string off the tee at Corales Golf Club last week, hitting 51 of 56 fairways, and that comes off the back of some excellent displays from the fairways. Putting has a bigger variance than any other aspect of a players game, but McCarthy is certainly more consistent than most in producing with the flat stick. 7th here in 2018, and 18th last year, with his tee to green game now operating at a higher level I expect him to have another good week on this layout.
Last man in is last week’s runner up TYLER MCCUMBER. But for the exemptions put in place due to the Covid-19 outbreak, McCumber would not be lining up here. Instead he would have been relegated from the main Tour, and facing a less positive future. Luck is only good if you make the most of it, and with his display last week, the Floridian has certainly done that in spades. He can now relax knowing he has likely now secured his playing privileges until the end of next season, and that stability can help him to further success. As important as putting will be here, you will have to hit the greens in the right number, and if Tyler can produce the same tee to green game here as he did last week, he will have more birdie putts than most. 7th for driving accuracy, and 5th for driving distance will set you up very nicely to approach the flags, and Tied 3rd for Greens in Reg is the type of display he will be hoping to emulate here. Given the form he showed just a few days ago, the confidence boost he will have got from his finish there, the weakness of this week’s field, it is perhaps surprising that we are being offered quotes of 150/1 about him gaining his first win this week. Too big in my opinion, and certainly worthy of inclusion.
I had planned on pulling the trigger here on SI Woo Kim, but have subsequently talked myself out of it. 5/1 is certainly tempting, but it’s just his volatility when in or around contention that has dissuaded me from getting involved. I do feel he should be no bigger than Byeong Hun An in the betting here, and closer to market leader Sungjae Im, but there was a sense of looking for a bet as so few others stand out this week. On balance, I feel it is best left alone.
Top Continental European:
A market I visit perhaps more often than any other, and once again I was close to a bet, this time with Sepp Straka. There are quite a few big names in here that are simply widely out of form, and unlikely to notch the amount of birdies required to be relevant. It was those big names which I expected to artificially inflate the price of Straka. Unfortunately the market makers have not fallen for that trap sufficiently to push the Austrain to a price which I would be willing to put him up at. 6/1 is the best available, I wanted 8/1 to play.
Top 20 Finish:
I do feel that TYLER MCCUMBER has been somewhat overlooked this week, and am keen to get him onside here also. Arriving off the back of a career best performance, with his future on Tour secured for the immediate future at least, I expect him to be competitive here. There are many at shorter prices that hold much less appeal, and the 13/2 generally available on him obliging here seems a couple of points too big.
First Round Leader:
It’s another of the outright selections that I weigh in with here. ZACH JOHNSON has produced some seriously low rounds of late, and given how he now has his eye very much in on the greens, shooting the lights out here is very much a possibility. 50/1 that he produces the low round on Thursday is too big to ignore.
1pt ew Zach Johnson 35/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB)
1.2pts ew Sam Burns 25/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB)
.5pt ew Denny McCarthy 66/1 (⅕ odd 8 places, General)
.3pt ew Tyler McCumber 150/1 (⅕ odds 6 places, General) *125/1 with 8 places ok
Top 20 Finish:
3pts Tyler McCumber 13/2 (General) *7/1 with Unibet/888
First Round Leader:
.5pt ew Zach Johnson 50/1 (¼ odds 5 places, Skybet/Betfred) *40/1 upwards acceptable Running Totals 2020:
Light on bets this week, but there just isn’t much standing out. It follows on from the US Open where we staked more than ever before, but no two weeks are the same, and I don’t see the point of nominating something as a bet just for
the sake of it. I do like the bets as recommended above, and hopefully we have a few rods in the fire come Sunday evening. I will be back in two weeks with a rare visit to European shores for the BMW PGA from Wentworth.