Golf,

Gain for Shane at Wentworth

BMW PGA Championship


Best bets (7 places, 1/5 odds)
2pts each-way Shane Lowry @ 28/1
1pt each-way Patrick Reed @ 10/1
1pt each-way Tyrrell Hatton @ 14/1
1pt each-way Marc Warren @ 125/1

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The absence of Europe’s top two golfers, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, has left the $7m BMW PGA Championship on Wentworth’s famed West course denuded of its chief drawcards and shorn of an obvious market leader.

But it’s still a cracking 10-1 the field tournament with American raider Patrick Reed and Tommy Fleetwood sharing the call even though the Southport star alarmingly missed two tiny putts on Sunday to gift the Scottish Open to Aaron Rai after a play-off.

Even though Fleetwood cost favourite backers dear, he is not one to cry over spilt milk and his tee-to-green performance was positive. Yet do you really want to back a 10-1 shot whose Wentworth form reads 60-20-missed cut-69-6-missed cut-24-49?

The case for Reed, a great supporter of the European Tour, is easier to make. He was fourth to Danny Willett over this demanding 7286-yard par 72 test last year and has been going great guns on the PGA Tour.

Victory in a World Golf Championship event In Mexico, seven top-tens and 13th places in the first two Majors have put the controversial Texan top of the Race To Dubai as some of the US results count for both money lists.

Having missed the cut in both Majors and posted only one top-ten in the States, last year’s champion Willett will be hoping positive mental associations with Wentworth where he edged out Rahm in a thriller in 2019 will produce a bold defence of his title.

He and Justin Rose, both Major champions, are struggling and hard to back but I can see Shane Lowry doing well even though he’s had very little to shout about since winning the Open at Royal Portrush 15 months ago.

Apart from a sixth place in the all-star WGC event in Memphis, the bearded Irishman has found it hard going trying to live up to the “Open champion” tag. He says he feels more comfortable playing in Europe and this is his chance to prove it.

Lowry likes Wentworth, was runner-up to McIlroy there in 2014, fourth in 2011, sixth in 2015 and 2017, and 11th last year. He’s a great bad-weather player and an ace scrambler as evidenced by his Open triumph and when winning the Irish Open as an amateur 11 years ago. And plenty of the wet stuff is forecast, particularly in round one.

With the rough likely to be wet and clingy, straight drivers will be rewarded, particularly on the four long par fours, holes 1, 3, 13 and 15 and on the 610-yard 17th.

Tyrrell Hatton has already won in America this year, at Bay Hill, and posted a number of other pleasing efforts, culminating in seventh at the Tour Championship. Expect him to improve on his best Wentworth effort, seventh, as he is less hard on himself these days.

There have been a good few hard-to-fathom winners on the Burma Road, notably 500-1 shot Scott Drummond (never won before or since), Simon Kahn (came in as such a late replacement that many layers did not quote him) and Andrew Oldcorn.

Primed to spring a similar upset is Marc Warren, winner of the Austrian Open in the first tournament since golf resumed in July and fourth at the weekend in his native Scotland.

He made the 2013 play-off at Wentworth, going down to Matteo Manassero, the precocious Italian who won four times before he was 21 but has since lost the plot.

 

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open


Best bets (6 places, 1/5 odds)
2.5pts each-way Bryson DeChambeau @ 13/2
1pt each-way Harris English @ 25/1
1pt each-way Patrick Cantlay @ 14/1
1pt each-way Stewart Cink @ 100/1
0.5pt each-way Abraham Ancer @ 50/1

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We’re in Las Vegas for the next two weeks with the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin being followed by the CJ Cup which has been relocated from Korea to Nevada because of the Covid situation.

Summerlin’s biggest claim to fame is that it was the scene of Tiger Woods’ first PGA Tour victory in 1996. It was a 90-hole pro-am In those days but 90 wasn’t enough to settle it, the 20-year-old Tiger beating Davis Love III in a play-off.

Last year Las Vegas resident Kevin Na holed 558 feet of putts to beat Summerlin specialist Patrick Cantlay in extra-time. That was freakish and unlikely to happen again but a hot putter is the chief requirement as birdies galore are promised on this 7255-yard par 71 in rugged desert terrain.

Cantlay’s awesome form there the past three years (winner in 2017, runner-up in 2018-19) commands respect even though he has not been the force he was expected to be this campaign. He has not improved on his fourth place in the opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii but should do so this week.

Bryson DeChambeau, making his first start since bulldozing the US Open, won at Summerlin two years ago, sandwiched between a seventh in 2017 and a fourth last year. He will take some stopping.

Francesco Molinari makes his first appearance since the WGC in Mexico in February. He’s been busy moving his family to California and it’s good to see the 2018 Open champion back.

Sergio Garcia shrugged off a mediocre year by winning the Sanderson Farms with a spectacular finish on Sunday, his suspect putting holding up brilliantly under last-round pressure.

Congratulations to those who found this 66-1 winner who had missed the cut in both Majors. Maybe turning 40 has made him realise he’s been underachieving for too long.

Or maybe seeing Stewart Cink, at 47, recapturing the glory days by winning the Safeway spurred him on. Cink, the 2009 Open champion, had not won for 11 years and the new-found self-belief was evident in Sunday’s 12th-place finish.

Of the younger players, Harris English and Abraham Ancer appeal. English was fourth at Summerlin in 2016 and has been wonderfully consistent from the resumption in July to his fourth place in the US Open. Mexican Ancer was fourth here two years ago and looks sure to break through sooner rather than later.

Webb Simpson has plenty going for him but the short price about the 2013 winner whose 24-under total that week equalled the record is off-putting.

 

Women’s PGA Championship


Best bets (5 places, 1/5 odds)
2pts each-way Nelly Korda @ 9/1
1pt each-way Georgia Hall @ 33/1

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Also live on Sky this week is the Women’s PGA Championship. After back-to-back victories for English duo Georgia Hall and Mel Reid, the Europeans will be firing on all cylinders at famed classic venue Aronimink in Pennsylvania.

The last time we saw Aronimink, Keegan Bradley beat Justin Rose in a play-off for the 2018 BMW Championship. There is no LPGA course form to guide punters but American favourite Nelly Korda, 5-2-3 for her three latest starts, looks an each-way steal. Hall, already a Major winner, is a big-occasion player and could be best of the Brits.

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