Best bets (7 places, 1/5 odds)
Stewart Cink 2pts each-way @ 40/1
Brendon Todd 1.5pts each-way @ 12/1
Justin Suh 1pt each-way @ 40/1
Pádraig Harrington 0.5pt each-way @ 50/1
Doc Redman 0.5pt each-way @ 25/1
It wasn’t a great weekend to be a golf punter with Cinderella man Ross McGowan springing a 500/1 shock in the Italian Open and 28/1 shot Patrick Cantlay‘s nine-birdie Sunday cutting down the market leaders in the ZOZO Championship in California.
With just a couple of weeks until the Masters, there was a rush to back the ZOZO fourth, dual Augusta champion Bubba Watson, who put up his best showing since golf resumed after lockdown but he will need to putt better if he is to make it a Green Jacket hat-trick.
There was nothing in Tiger Woods’ 72nd place (out of 78) to suggest he has the remotest chance of repeating last year’s Masters miracle but the news was more positive about Rory McIlroy: although the Irish ace finished only 17th, would-be backers can take comfort from the 29 birdies he made on the week.
That was significantly more than the winner (24) or the joint runners-up Jon Rahm (22 + 2 eagles) and Justin Thomas (24 + 1 eagle). So he must be doing something right. For once he will be coming into the Masters under the radar In his bid to join the immortals by completing the Grand Slam.
None of the marquee names are in action this week. Some were down to play in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, the big World Golf Championship event, but China pulled the plug on staging any international sport because of the pandemic.
So taking centre stage are the Bermuda Championship on the PGA Tour and a new country, Cyprus, makes its European Tour bow with back-to-back weeks on the same resort course, Aphrodite Hills, just like they did with Celtic Manor in Wales in August. Staying in a bubble makes sense, avoids travel costs and risks.
Four Major champions of different vintages – Pádraig Harrington, Stewart Cink, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett – add class to the Bermuda line-up at Port Royal, a short (6,842 yards) track where Brendon Todd sprang a surprise with a 24-under-par masterclass.last year and following up next time out at the Mayakoba Classic.
The American almost made it a treble when fourth at the RSM in Georgia. Altogether 60 under par for 12 rounds which turned the 35-year-old’s career right round. The massive boost to his confidence has resulted in Todd continuing to thrive even if not so spectacularly and he must have every chance of a successful defence.
Cink, the 2009 Open champion who broke all hearts by stopping Tom Watson winning his sixth Claret Jug at Turnberry at the age of 59, scored his first victory since at last month’s Safeway Classic with his son as caddie and followed up with 12th in Alabama.
I like his chances and those of Ryder Cup captain Harrington who had two good weeks North of the Border when ninth in the Scottish Open and 14th at the Scottish Championship.
Four young bucks also catch the eye – Justin Suh, eighth at the Shiners, Rasmus Hojgaard, winner of the UK Championship, Doc Redman, third at the Safeway, and Will Zalatoris, top man on the satellite Korn Ferry Tour and sixth in the US Open.
Best bets (6 places, 1/5 odds)
Sami Valimaki 2pts each-way @ 33/1
Andy Sullivan 1.5pts each-way @ 12/1
Nicolas Colsaerts 1pt each-way @ 40/1
Adrian Meronk 1pt each-way @ 66/1
Antoine Rozner 0.5pt each-way @ 33/1
English golfers won five of the ten tournaments on the UK Swing and McGowan’s fairytale victory in Italy continued the run. Ranked 506 in the world and without even a top-40 finish this year, the 38-year-old Londoner had a magic wand of a putter and a freak birdie from his worst drive of the day to thank.
Ross’s best achievement? Probably to finish runner-up to Lee Westwood in the inaugural Dubai World Championship of 2009, the year of his only previous main-Tour victory. In third spot: the boy wonder McIlroy. Briefly a contender for Monty’s 2010 Ryder Cup team, he had injury problems and faded away.
Andy Sullivan was one of England’s winners and is a worthy favourite to bag a second title as the last time we saw the cheeky chappie from Nuneaton, he was third to Tyrrell Hatton in top company at Wentworth. This is a much easier job.
Worth taking him on at 33/1: Sami Valimaki, the strong young Finn who won in Oman on only his sixth European start, was runner-up in Wales and an impressive 13th on his Wentworth bow.
Also fancied: Nicolas Colsaerts, only a shot out of an Italian play-off; and promising Pole Adrian Meronk, a Challenge Tour winner in Portugal well up to getting in the mix at a big odds.
This is another sub-7000 yards resort course, a par 71 with five par threes that is ripe for plundering. Expect plenty of birdies. And if you’re looking for a fifth bet, Frenchman Antoine Rozner, tenth in Italy and a dual Challenge Tour winner, could be your man.