Still grates!! There have been many weeks where outright selections have looked likely winners, maybe even considered deserved winners, but not many would have annoyed me as much as not collecting on Brooks last weekend. I suggested the price on offer was very much out of line with what it should have been, I feel he proved that by pretty much being the best player in the field, but he didn’t win. Of course you have to hole the putts, and quite simply for the majority of the week he didn’t. But Lady Luck certainly took a dislike to him on Sunday evening, and all in all it very much feels like one that got away. Chez Reavie opened with a 66, and from there never really shaped like missing out on a confident Top 20 selection. A nice profit returned yet again, just a shame it wasn’t an extra 37 points!! I do think last week will serve as a good pointer to this week’s action, not solely for those involved at the business end, but some others who displayed much promise over the course of the 4 days at TPC Southwind.
Much later than one would have expected (and hoped!) we have arrived at the week of the year’s first Major Championship. No, it’s not Augusta in April, but Harding Park in August, and the US PGA Championship. This year’s venue sees players tee it up just across the lake from where the 2012 US Open took place at Olympic Club. A 7230 yard Par 4, it is not overly long, but as ever length can be a great asset. That length will need to be of an accurate variety though, as thick rough off narrow fairways will be awaiting any wayward tee shots. Will greens set to play fast and firm, holding them from unpromising positions will not be easy. A consistent 10-15mph wind will certainly keep players honest, and scoring in check over the 4 days, and I would anticipate the winning score being between 9-11 under par. The 2015 Matchplay won by Rory McIlroy was the last time the worlds best played competitively here, and prior to that it was the 2005 WGC Amex Championship won by none other than Tiger Woods. A sample size of two granted, but two of the biggest and best in the business. I don’t see us having a shock winner this week either. Too many of the games top names are in fine fettle, regular challengers for majors are trending in the right direction, and we have a course that looks tailor made for sorting the wheat from the chaff. All told I will be very surprised if we don’t have a pretty predictable leaderboard, and a household name winning come Sunday evening. That isn’t to say putting up the winner at a price worth backing is an easy task, and I won’t put up bets just for the sake of it. I really like the chances of a lot of players towards the head of the market, none more than any other to the extent where I could now suggest backing one ahead of the others.
Players of Interest:
I’ll be honest. I have backed 3 players who I won’t be recommending here. A couple of reasons, main one being the prices I backed at are no longer available. The second being that I don’t think anyone wants to be reading me make a case they could make themselves for backing 2 10/1 shots and an 18/1 shot in a 156 man field.
I backed both Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka ew to 9 places at 11/1 for this on Sunday evening, and believe both are still a shade too big at their current prices. I’ll deal with JT first.
Thomas certainly rode his luck on the back 9 in his latest win, but equally his tee to green game to that point was pretty much immaculate. Even when the driver did begin to stray, and he got a few breaks, he made the most of them by continuing with world class approach play. When JT finds his range with his wedges he is nigh on unplayable, and typically holds that standard of play for a run of events. He putted poorly for himself for one of his standing in the game last week, and the expectation would be that he would improve in that area this week. If he does, he will be mighty hard to beat in his quest for a second US PGA title.
Many will say that you couldn’t back Koepka at this week’s prices having been on him at 30/1 last week. I don’t give those sentiments much credence. One has very little to do with the other. Firstly his price was far too big last week. As I suggested in my preview, his tee to green game was pretty much at it’s best in the two days at Twin Cities. Like JT, when Brooks gets in that mode he will typically stay hot, and is one of the best in the world at it. He improved again with his approach play in the WGC, and Sunday (until the 16th hole) his driving was pure poetry in motion.
Unfortunately he only putted slightly better, and that was slightly better than absolutely woeful! Brooks has a knack of peaking for the right time, and that once again seems the case here. He has won the last two runnings of this Championship, and he proved once again last week how he doesn’t like to give up his titles lightly. He has also stated how this is a ‘Big Boys Course’, and I get the feeling he is pretty excited about the challenge ahead. Again, I can’t really see how he can putt any worse than last week, and given his tee to green prowess at the moment any little improvement with the flat stick will see him with every chance of landing the hat trick here. He is also on record as saying that Majors are easier to win than regulation events, as so many players beat themselves. I buy into that a good deal, and given both Brooks and JTs major closing abilities, I would rate both around the 8/1 mark. At the 10/1 available I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off backing both, especially with the extended places available, but as I said earlier it’s probably not what people want, and I do have a couple at bigger odds that are also worthy of support.
Another reason for declining to put up the two favourites is I am also very keen on the chances of Xander Schauffelle. He has now been cut to a top price 18/1, and rather than picking one of the three at current odds, I will leave all alone. It very much reminds me of how I approached last year’s WGC St Jude. Xander quite unbelievably only had one bogey last week. The problem was, he also had a quad, and that was the difference between winning and finishing 6th. But bogey avoidance will be key this week, birdies won’t be easy to come by, and par golf will be highly productive. The area which let the X Man down last week, was surprisingly his approach play. Given his generally very high standard in that area, it is highly probably that was just a one off. What really impressed me was his scrambling, and area that will be called upon on many occasions for most this week. Himself, Jon Rahm and what will be my headline selection are the 3 players that I would currently view as the next most likely to shed their major maiden tag. As it is I am happy enough to be on at the prices I am, but not interested in putting them up at their current odds.
I recommended Rory McIlroy on his last two appearances, but with no discernible drift in his price this week, I cannot do so again. Last week was very disappointing. I don’t know how much the no crowd/whole Covid worries are affecting him, but something needs to click for the Northern Irishman. I do think it will happen soon, but one would have been entitled to expect a slightly more attractive price here in my opinion.
Bryson DeChambeau again appears too short in my book. He really is hard to like!! His petulance again came to the fore last week, when he tried to bully a rules official into giving him a drop which he had no right to. Many decided a few weeks ago that Bryson had reinvented the great game, but two appearances on I feel my opinion is more valid. To me he is a bit of flat track bully, where he can overpower defenceless courses when missing fairways doesn’t matter once he is hitting it far enough to only leave a flick into the green. He won’t get away with that waywardness here, and the toys could come out of the pram pretty early in the day. More of a 25/1 shot in my opinion.
Jon Rahm’s reign at World Number One didn’t last long, though it certainly won’t be his last visit to that spot. It was surprising that he didn’t continue at the peak of his powers last week, though it has to be said he produced an excellent closing 18 holes on Sunday. There is no doubt that his temperament has improved drastically in the past 18 months, but if it gets tight on Sunday, I would probably prefer the chances of Scahuffelle converting his first major than Rahm.
Webb Simpson was the victor at the tough Olympic Club 8 years ago, but he’s another who appears too short in the market here.
Some players thrive on competition, and though Tiger won the Zozo Championship off an extended break last year, I would have preferred to see him arrive at the year’s first major with more match practise under his belt. This week also promises colder conditions, and though that may only be a minor worry, I don’t feel it is ideal for him at the moment.
I suggested that the Jason Day renaissance may not be all it seemed to be 7 days ago, but his display last week has made me have a rethink on that front. His tee to green game was certainly much improved, and it may be that he is only now approaching peak form after a prolonged period of competition. He has certainly played more in the period since the resumption than he usually would in a 2 month period, and it seems to have had the desired effect on his game. He’s a definite runner here, but just misses out on outright selection.
If putting up the two 10/1 joint favourites would have raised some eyebrows, well then nominating TONY FINAU as my headline bet, may raise some more!! Many will say if he can’t get over the line in a regulation event, well then he certainly won’t do it in a Major. I don’t really buy into that. Tony doesn’t seem to do a lot wrong on Sundays, he just doesn’t play as well as he does over the opening 54 holes. 10th on Tour for 1st round scoring average, 15th in Round 2, and 18th for holes 37-54, he falls to a miserable 178th on Payday. That is something he will need to address, but one day it will all click and I don’t think it’s any less likely to happen in a major. He is however a much bigger price than he would be in a regular Tour event, and the 50/1 on offer is very much worth availing of. I probably would have preferred if he didn’t play last week, a week away after The 3M Open loss may have been more productive, but his display in the WGC has added another 10pts to his price. Prior to that he was producing golf pretty much on a par with what Bryson had been churning out in his displays at both The Memorial and 3M. Yet he is over 3 times the price of that player, who also seeks his first major.
A Sunday 78 at Muirfield cost him his chance of victory there, but Tony took the positives from that display and started with serious intent at Twin Cities. As said before he didn’t do a whole lot wrong over the weekend, he just didn’t win! Winning is bloody tough though, and I still feel his lack of Sunday success has as much to do with variance as lack of bottle. To my mind Harding Park sets up perfectly for his game, and I expect him to be right in the thick of things come Sunday evening. He has tapped into his hard to believe club head speed of late, but unlike Bryson, our man has also brought some accuracy to the table. Long and straight will be mighty beneficial this week, and the confidence the Utah man has been exuding about his long game these past few weeks will stand him in very good stead here. As much as Brooks has been labelled Mr Major for his superb win record in the games biggest events in recent years, Finau has been incredibly consistent at the top level himself. 5 Top 10s in the last 8 Majors suggest he performs above himself rather than the other way around. His approach play was terrible last week, but akin to Xander that was very much not the norm, and I wouldn’t expect it to continue. A week out of the spotlight will have been no harm ahead of this task. Take out the weekend rounds at Southwind, and he is one of the most in form men in the game, and quotes of 50/1 are very appealing indeed.
Runner up to McIlroy in the 2015 WGC Matchplay here was GARY WOODLAND, and he is clearly a big fan of the layout. Rarely have I heard a player being so bullish about how a venue suits their eye and game as Woodland was here 5 years ago. His appearance in the final then was a bit of a surprise as he was somewhat an underachiever in the game at that point. That has all changed now as he arrives here as the reigning US Open champ, and he showed enough in two outings at another tough layout, Muirfield Village, to suggest he will have his A Game to hand this week. Woodland has always been considered one of the biggest hitters in the game, but his approach play has often gone under the radar. Especially good with a long iron in his hand, that will be of great benefit here, particularly when it comes to the much tougher back 9. He will be one of the few in the field who will be attacking the Par 5 13th in 2 blows, and the long par 3 17th and 515 yard Par 4 18th will require that accurate long iron play which he excels at. There are players who have never, and will never, win majors priced shorter than him and I feel the 50/1 on offer is very much worth availing of.
I was looking to get ABRAHAM ANCER onside in a different market, but a few reasons have seen me revert to including him here at 66/1 instead. The 29 year old Mexican has made giant strides in the last 18 months to a point where he now sits just outside the Top 20 in the World. First appearing on the PGA Tour in 2016, he took time to acclimatise, missing more cuts than he made in his first season. He reappeared in 2018, but it was the latter half of the 2019 season when he really got things going. His Presidents Cup display would have come as a surprise to many, but he was trending in that direction in the preceding months, and was really just confirmation that he had graduated to the top level of his profession. Yet to win on the Tour judged as the real marker of a player’s prowess, I don’t think that occurrence is far off. Yes, to shed his maiden tag in a Major is a big ask, but that PC display showed bottle and appetite aplenty for the big occasion, and I doubt he will be found wanting if the opportunity presents itself. An unwanted 75 on Friday last week was his undoing, but other rounds of 67/65/66 suggest he is very much at the peak of his powers arriving here. A hallmark of Ancer’s game is the lack of any weaknesses, and that is a main requirement for any potential major winners game, and he once again displayed that last week. He took the lead into the final round at the RBC Heritage 4 weeks ago, shot a superb Sunday 65, only to be beaten by a 64 from Webb Simpson. He did nothing wrong in the heat of battle, and I feel he can put himself in with another shot of glory here.
I was hoping Viktor Hovland wouldn’t play too well last week, and result in a price collapse here. He didn’t. But what has put me off the outrageous talent, is that he may be in need of a break. His two most recent performances have been his worst since the resumption, and he has danced many a dance within that period. I feel this week’s venue is tailor made for him, his towering long irons a joy to behold, but that fatigue factor is just too big for me to ignore.
I understand I’m sending out a somewhat mixed message, with having backed 3 players myself that I am not subsequently recommending to readers. The prices have however dropped, and I feel the value now is with those that I have put up. I would generally increase stakes for the majors, to typically return 40pts on the win part of each way outright bets, but have not done so this week (in the outright market).
Alternative Market Bets:
Top English Player:
Fatigue certainly won’t be a worry for TOMMY FLEETWOOD, who has only 6 rounds under his belt since the March shutdown. He was beginning to find his range come the end of his 36 holes at the 3M, and as I suggested prior to last week, he probably could have done with making the weekend there ahead of the WGC. That showed last week, as he opened with a rusty enough 72, but by Sunday he was producing a wonderful six birdie 65. His one bogey there was a 3 whack from 21ft on the Par 3 4th, but his ball striking was very much peak Fleetwood. It would have been rare over the past few years that I would have suggested the Englishman was overpriced, but he was tempting in the outright market this time around. I prefer to get involved here though, due to the weaknesses involved in his market rivals in this section. Harding Park should set up ideally for the selection, his US Open performances in 2017 and 2018 showing that a course set up such as this will hold no fears. With those extra 4 competitive rounds under his belt, I expect him to be a serious factor this week.
Matthew Fitzpatrick heads this market off the back of another excellent showing at St Jude, which continued his fine form at tougher than average layouts. Maybe now only really gaining confidence on his trips Stateside, he looks set for another productive week. I prefer Fleetwood at the prices.
Tyrrell Hatton had a week to forget last week, with 4 days littered with errors. They will be punished with even tougher penalties here, and will have to tidy up his game from the tee.
Justin Rose and Paul Casey need massive improvements if they are to even make the weekend here, and it is rare someone suddenly finds form at a Major venue such as this.
I have backed both Danny Willett and Tom Lewis in this subsection in recent weeks, but neither hold as much appeal here.
All told I would make Fleetwood at 3/1 shot tops here, and the 9/2 on offer is very attractive.
Top South African:
Similar comments apply to CHRISTIAAN BEZUIDENHOUT in that he was of interest in the outright market as I view him as just the type to excel on this tougher than average layout. Arriving here off the back of excellent showings at both The Memorial and St Jude (where scoring was similarly tough to what we can expect here) I can see him continuing in that vein. He has only played in one major championship so far, that being last year’s Open where he missed the cut, but his game suggests that these weeks will be where he ultimately excels. Again, as in the case of the English market, I feel this is a pretty weak section.
Louis Oosthuizen suggested a return to form last week, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and I have my doubts he will back that up. Against that it has to be said Louis reserves his best for the big events, but that has been more than factored into the market in my opinion. At over double his price, Bez has to be the bet for me.
Charl Schwartzel’s display at Twin Cities came less out of the blue, even though it was off the back of 4 missed cuts. His early bath at Muirfield had displayed a bit more promise. He hasn’t been missed in this market though, and doesn’t offer the consistency of his younger countryman. Consistency is what these markets are all about. We are unlikely to be needing to unearth a winner, but someone who is likely to be involved on or near the leaderboard come Sunday. Bezuidenhout ticks those boxes for me, and at 9/2 I feel he is an excellent bet.
Not to be confused with the Top Australian market, I make JASON DAY a worthy investment here at 9/5. I’m not sure if he takes the game seriously enough anymore to ever get back to the heady heights of 2015, but he has certainly been making consistent progress over the past weeks. With his body rarely able for a punishing rota, he hasn’t typically played as aggressive a schedule as he has in recent weeks, but it appears to have helped him play his way into title challenging form. I have my doubts about him being quite there yet as regards winning the event, but anything akin to the past few weeks should land this bet.
Marc Leishman has been in terrible form since the resumption. Two missed cuts and 3 others outside the Top 40 in 5 starts hardly suggests he is about to take Harding Park to task. To me Adam Scott is at a big disadvantage arriving here with no competitive action under his belt since March. We saw with Fleetwood at the 3M how even the best can take time to get their eye in, and it will be a terrific showing from Scott if he can get involved here. I will be surprised if anyone else troubles the judge, or Day, here.
Top 20 Finish:
I found the display of HENRIK STENSON very interesting last week. Another who had put off his reappearance for an extended period, he displayed excellent touch to chalk up just 4 bogeys around a very tough layout. That was the second lowest birdie count in the field, and can surely be upgraded due to his lack of match practice. True, he also made very few birdies, but that can be explained. The Swede has in recent years become more negative off the tee, laying back quite a bit and relying on his long irons to set up any birdie opportunities. Maybe due to it being his first outing in so long, he took that to new levels last week. He sat 6th in the field for fairways hit, but managed to lose 1.78 strokes to the field off the tee. Sitting 62nd for SG:OTT. I have no doubt he will eke out a bit more length this week, but that display from the fairways at such a distance disadvantage, bears well for his chances here. As I alluded to last week when putting up Reavie in this section, I prefer to have someone on side who won’t get upset at errors, who won’t throw the toys out, and who will graft away when a winning chance is gone. This is very much Stenson’s style, and at 9/2 there won’t be many better bets this week.
Chez Reavie was once again interesting here. He was very impressive last week,and I wouldn’t put anyone off reloading at 9/2. The big Swede however will do for me in this market.
First Round Leader:
I would be keen to side with both Tony Finau and Gary Woodland in this market, if they got what looks like a favourable AM draw on Thursday. That is an unknown at the moment, so I cannot speculate on that. If either/both are out in the early wave, and are still available at the current 50/1 and 60/1 respectively, I would recommend an each way interest.
Others of Interest:
Not a whole lot to be honest, and though I would usually have more bets on major week (and I understand people may want to have more) I don’t see the point in recommending something for the sake of it. Paddy Power’s Top 40 Finish for Michael Thompson at 6/4 half took my eye, but it isn’t a market they tend to lay anything online (even if you have an unlimited account), and once someone has a bet of note in the shops the price will cut straight away. As such I tend to prefer to steer clear of recommending such unattainable bets.
.6pt ew Tony Finau 50/1 (⅕ odds 9 places, WH) *Available elsewhere with less places
.6pt ew Gary Woodland 50/1 (⅕ odds 9 places, WH/Betfred)
.5pt ew Abraham Ancer 66/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 365) *55/1 with 9 and 10 places acceptable Top English:
5pts Tommy Fleetwood 9/2 (365/PP) *General 4/1 acceptable
Top South African:
5pts Christiian Bezuidenhout 9/2 (PP) *General 4/1 acceptable
8pts Jason Day 9/5 (Coral) *15/8 available with 888/Unibet
Top 20 Finish:
5pts Henrik Stenson 9/2 (General)
Running Totals 2020:
An excellent year so far to date, and even accounting for us not getting a whole load of luck in my opinion. Hopefully we can continue on our way to another profitable year, courtesy of a good week here. Enjoy the (late night!) viewing.
Check out the Staking Column for my rationale on how I approach different markets.