Northern Trust Open
You can see better golf swings than Jim Herman’s at Richmond Park public course but handsome is as handsome does and fair play to the 42-year-old Cincinnati journeyman for knocking off the Wyndham Championship with spectacular weekend rounds of 61 and 63 in North Carolina.
Shooting 124 for the final 36 was very adjacent to this old hacker’s most recent score over 18 holes on a much easier course and a sobering reminder that Jim could give me three shots a hole and still take my money! At 300-1 he certainly took the punters’ money and had the bookies laughing all the way to the bank.
Herman, a golfing buddy of President Trump (who needs all the buddies he can get), amazingly sank over 400 feet of putts in compiling his 21-under-par winning score having missed eight of 11 previous cuts and finished 77th at the US PGA. Nobody said picking winners was easy!
My main advices Webb Simpson and Si Woo Kim shared third place at 10-1 and 33-1 respectively and the South Korean got me excited when he led by two going into the final round.
But the trouble is that pro golf is played over 72 holes not 54 and it’s no use crying over spilt milk. Just dust yourself down, be grateful for the each-way consolation prizes and go into battle again, this week in the first of the FedEx Cup Play Offs, the Northern Trust in Boston, Massachusetts.
This features the 125 leaders on the FedEx ladder, 55 of whom will be eliminated on Sunday. The remaining 70 go on to the BMW Championship in Chicago where 40 more bite the dust, leaving just 30 to contest the Tour Championship at East Lake In Atlanta on September 4.
At the end of it all, a mind-boggling sum of money will be handed out to fat-cat pros who are all multi-millionaires anyway when it could be put to far better use in these COVID-haunted times.
Last year it was Rory McIlroy who pocketed the lion’s share of the FedEx booty, $15m, and must hold every chance of starting his defence brightly on the 7342-yard par 71 TPC Boston course where he won twice, in 2012 and 2016.
However, he will need to buck up his ideas as his golf coming back since lockdown was eased has disappointed. He admits he has missed the crowds and the love. With the second spike of the virus gathering venom, it will be a while before we see a crowd again so he had better get used to it.
Patrick Reed won last year’s Northern Trust on a different course in New Jersey and has played well enough recently to have a squeak but mighty man Bryson DeChambeau conquered the New England venue two years ago when it staged the final running of the Dell Championship.
Bryson was 40lb lighter then, more scientific in his approach and not battering his golf ball to death. The new-look DeChambeau, 30 yards longer off the tee, will take some stopping. He muscled his way fearlessly into fourth place last time out at Harding Park.
Current FedEx leader Justin Thomas is another course winner with tip-top credentials, 2011 Boston winner Simpson continues to play super golf and should be in the mix while Paul Casey and Jon Rahm, joint fourth when Thomas won there three years ago, look Europe’s best bets.
Casey had been runner-up to McIlroy in Boston the previous year as well and played magnificent golf last time out when second to Collin Morikawa in the year’s belated first Major. He is really enjoying his golf at the moment.
Oh yes, Tiger Woods is playing too. This is his 11th visit to Boston. It is 14 years since he won there but the victory of a fellow 40-something in Herman will have fired him up. Considering his limited preparation, 37th place at the US PGA was perfectly respectable and a top-20 finish would come as no surprise. But winning? Maybe in a while…
2pts each-way Bryson DeChambeau
1pt each-way Webb Simpson
1pt each-way Paul Casey
1pt each-way Jon Rahm
1pt each-way Justin Thomas
ISPS Handa Wales Open
The European Tour not only stays in Wales, it stays at Celtic Manor where Sam Horsfield, the Mancunian with the Florida twang, won his second tournament in three weeks, missing the cut in the one in between.
The 23-year-old is one cool dude, nervelessly holing putt after putt when the chips were down. Having conquered Celtic Manor once, he is the man to beat in the Wales Open but there are three new challengers coming to take him on, all with live chances – Chinese No. 1 Haotong Li, Rookie of the Year Bob MacIntyre and unpredictable Eddie Pepperell.
Li led the elite field a merry dance for two days at the US PGA last time out but has yet to win in Britain. He did finish solo third to Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar in the Open Championship three years ago and is classier than most of these.
MacIntyre, the young Scot from Oban, has one of the best putting strokes in the game and is a winner waiting to happen. He has been close on several occasions and should be followed. This is his first Euro start since the resumption as he’s been playing in the States where he played decently in Memphis and made the cut at the US PGA.
Pepperell is a proven winner at a higher level but last week’s third Thomas Pieters can beat them all.
The powerful Belgian, our 20-1 main Celtic Classic pick, played the best golf for most of the week but was undone by a triple-bogey seven at the driveable par four 15th on the third day. He was leading before that miscue and looked all set to win on his first start since March.
Pieters has been home enjoying being a first-time daddy, daughter Florence having arrived on July 24, and now he’s got the rust out of his game, he should win and win again. This moody operator actually seemed to be enjoying his golf and is clearly in a good place. Long-hitting South African teenager Wilco Nienaber has had two good weeks and could be the pick of the longer prices.
2.5pts each-way Thomas Pieters
2pts each-way Bob MacIntyre
1pt each-way Haotong Li
1pt each-way Eddie Pepperell
0.5pt each-way Wilco Nienaber