Golf,

Bubba putting his world to rights

3M CHAMPIONSHIP


Best bets
2pts each-way Bubba Watson @ 33/1
2pts win Dustin Johnson @ 7/1
1pt each-way Cam Davis @ 33/1
1pt each-way Rickie Fowler @ 40/1
0.5pt each-way Emiliano Grillo @ 33/1
0.5pt each-way Robert MacIntyre @ 28/1
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The brilliance of Collin Morikawa in winning the Open at his first attempt masked one of the most dispiriting displays by the British and Irish contingent in recent times while underlining the tremendous task facing Europe in defending the Ryder Cup.

The big showdown at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, is only a few weeks away and captain Padraig Harrington has plenty of hard thinking to do before he names his three wild-card picks the day after the final qualifier at Wentworth on September 13.

Fitzdares are calling it 4/7 USA, 8/5 Europe, 11/1 the tie and although the Europeans won the latest encounter in Paris three years ago by a street, that’s about right.

One potential wild card must be aggressive young Scot Robert MacIntyre who showed what he’s made of by finishing as the highest-placed Brit in eighth place at RSG – and the only one in the front ten.

It wasn’t what the man from Oban achieved but how he achieved it that will commend him to Harrington. He holed a ten-footer to squeak into the weekend on the qualifying mark, then rounded off a third-day 65 with a 60ft birdie monster that would have raised the roof if St George’s had one.

This fearless left-hander’s 132 for the last 36 holes matched that of the winner. He has now finished sixth and eighth in the only two Opens he has contested, finished 12th at the Masters and made the cut in all four 2021 Majors. What more does he need to do?

MacIntyre was doubly engaged this week and has chosen to miss the Cazoo Open in Wales and has jetted off across the Atlantic for the 3M Open.

He would have teed off favourite at Celtic Manor but is a 28/1 shot to bring down world No. 2 Dustin Johnson and two other old Masters heroes Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia as well as that perennial bridesmaid Louis Oosthuizen in Minnesota.

DJ didn’t bring his A game to RSG yet still finished level with MacIntyre in eighth. Judging him by the highest standards, he has not looked right for a while but is hard to rule out on his Twin Cities debut.

He was due to play there last year but had to pull out with a back injury. Deposed from top spot by Jon Rahm’s third at RSG, he has a ranking incentive and will be letting rip with all barrels.

Closest to him in the betting are Oosthuizen and Reed but the South African had such a mentally taxing week on the Kent coast in trying to stay ahead after his record-breaking 36-hole total of 129 that it has surely left a mark.

The ultimate disappointment of finishing only joint-third with fast-finishing Rahm must have left scar tissue however much laid-back Louis tries to hide the pain.

Reed missed the cut at RSG, his exquisite short game not its razor-sharp self for the past month, and at the respective prices Bubba Watson, Detroit winner Cam Davis, the improving Rickie Fowler and MacIntyre are preferred.

Self-taught Bubba bounced back from a Travelers meltdown when in with a great chance by taking sixth spot in Detroit. His game has been in good nick for a while and at last the putting, his Achilles heel, is in good working order again.

Bomber Davis has course form on this 7431-yard par 71 – 12th to Matt Wolff in the first 3M Open two years ago – and that breakthrough win after a marathon play-off with Troy Merritt in Detroit was just the confidence boost the tall Aussie needed.

Fowler has been to hell and back with his game but there have been welcome signs of a revival with an eighth at the PGA and 11th at Memorial. His last-round 65 at the Open will have sent him back home ready to rumble on his Twin Cities bow.

Emiliano Grillo’s 12th at St George’s on top of the Argentinian’s second at the Heritage encourages a small interest but he finds winning difficult and you have to go back six years to find his only PGA Tour success.

Seamus Power’s 16/1 success at the Barbasol on Sunday – as forecast in my GM preview – did not come out of turn but this will be much harder for the North Carolina-based Irishman.

Wolff beat mighty Morikawa and DeChambeau in the first 3M Open two years ago but is a risky proposition these days after taking two months out to sort out mental issues. Having done well at the US Open (15th) this exciting but wayward talent missed the cut at the Travelers and finished out with the washing in Detroit. He chose to skip the Open but resumes on the site of his only victory. While wishing him well, he is not for me.

Dylan Frittelli’s fifth place at RSG was astonishing after missing 15 of 24 cuts. If the South African can repeat that sort of performance he’d go close but it Is a big if in a hot, sticky week with temperatures in the mid-30s.

 

CAZOO OPEN


Best bets
2pts each-way Justin Harding @ 16/1
1.5pts each-way Aaron Rai @ 16/1
1pt each-way Matthew Jordan @ 25/1
1pt each-way Sam Horsfield @ 12/1
0.5pt each-way Matthias Schmid @ 66/1
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The Cazoo Open on the TwentyTen course at Celtic Manor, so named because it was built specially to host the 2010 Ryder Cup, launches the professional career of Matthias Schmid, the tall German who won the Silver Medal for low amateur at The Open.

Could Schmid whose second-round 65 equalled the Open record for the lowest 18-hole score by an amateur win on his pro debut? Fitzdares say it’s a 66/1 chance which is flattering compared with the 300/1 available for Shane Lowry when the future
Open champion won the 2009 Irish Open in his amateur days.

Thereby hangs a tale because in Paddy Power’s little shop at Tullamore, the counter hand misread the price and connections of Lowry walked out with tasty betting slips saying they were on at 3000/1.

If he won, the bookmaker would have had to pay out 450,000 euros but the error was spotted before tee-off and the punters were informed that it was “palpable error”, Lowry was a well-known amateur in Ireland, 3000/1 would have been disrespectful and any winnings would be settled at 300/1. One of Lowry’s backers was so disgusted that he cancelled his 50-euro bet which proved a very costly fit of pique.

His loss was nothing compared with what Lowry himself suffered. He had to watch while runner-up Robert Rock walked off with the 500,000-euro first prize while all he had to show for it was the trophy and the glory.

The legendary Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam of his time as an amateur. In the modern era Phil Mickelson was the most famous, Lydia Ko won back-to-back Canadian Opens before turning 16, and another teenage phenom Ryo Ishikawa’s first Japan Tour start was a winning one.

So a first-time triumph for 23-year-old Schmid is not as far-fetched as it might seem. The Cazoo field has no top-liners and he has already twice shown he belongs by finishing 14th in the BMW International Open in Munich and 59th at Royal St George’s.

Several in this week’s line-up played the Open with South Africa’s Justin Harding and England’s Aaron Rai coming out best in sharing 19th place.

Harding was a serious contender after shooting two 67s but fell away at the weekend. A winner in Kenya early in the year and fifth in Munich, his form looks more solid than the duo ahead of him in the betting, Matt Wallace and Sam Horsfield.

Rai beat a strong Scottish Open field last year, taking down the redoubtable Tommy Fleetwood in a play-off, but has struggled to build on that. As his good Open was preceded by 12th at the Irish Open, it looks like his steady fairways-and-greens game is back on track.

Wallace is a four-time winner but not since 2018. His 2021 form has been generally disappointing but 40th at the Open was decent and this drop in grade should see him in a better light.

Horsfield won two last year including on this week’s course in the Celtic Classic, the second of back-to-back tournaments staged on the Newport course during the Covid crisis in an excellent European Tour initiative.

It was the Florida-based Mancunian’s second success in three weeks and although he has struggled to match that since, there have good weeks among the inconsistent ones. As a course winner, let’s give Sam the benefit of the doubt. He could win this by a mile given his potential but is not improving as quickly as many hoped.

Last year’s Wales Open winner on the 7315-yard par 71 TwentyTen course was Romain Langasque who isn’t defending but third-placed Matthew Jordan comes into the week with improved form.

The Wirral man posted three consecutive top-20s in better grade, 12th in Ireland, 17th in Munich and 18th at the Scottish, and is well worth an interest.

Other to consider are South African Daniel Van Tonder, who started 68-66 at RSG and made his European breakthrough in Kenya in March, Jack Senior, two Scots in Calum Hill and Richie Ramsay and five-time Japan Tour winner Chan Kim.

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