Rose set to bloom again at Colonial

Charles Schwab Challenge

Best bets
2pts each-way Justin Rose @ 28/1
2pts each-way Collin Morikawa @ 14/1
2pts each-way Jordan Spieth @ 10/1
1pt each-way Kevin Na @ 50/1
0.5pts each-way Ryan Palmer @ 66/1
view odds

The famous Whitney Houston hit ‘There Can Be Miracles When You Believe’ came to mind as the climax of an unforgettable US PGA Championship was playing out around midnight on Sunday.

While others doubted, Phil Mickelson never stopped believing and while ‘miracle’ might be a tad over the top, the greatest left-hander of all time (who incidentally signs autographs and does pretty well everything else right-handed) achieved something that was quite, quite extraordinary.

Never mind that we punters blew our brains out, it would be churlish not to join in the rousing cheers that greeted a folk hero who, a month shy of his 51st birthday, held his nerve down the stretch to land his sixth Major and silence the many who thought he was a busted flush.

With not a top-ten nor even a top-20 to his name in the 14 tournaments he’s played on the 2020/21 schedule (and not counting victories on his first two outings on the roundbellies’ circuit), maybe whipping the world’s best was a miracle after all. No wonder you could have got him at 250/1 and fair play to anyone who did so.

Maybe there’s more to come. Phil The Thrill still has a career slam to complete to join the elite quintet of Nicklaus, Woods, Player, Hogan and Sarazen and the final leg, the US Open, is but a few weeks away.

No harm in dreaming the impossible dream because, apparently, nothing is impossible with Lefty – it’s in his home city of San Diego on the Torres Pines course he grew up with, even as far as being a scoreboard carrier as a teen when the PGA Tour came to town.

You can have 50/1 with Fitzdares for the US Open and the same odds about him for Colonial this week when he tees it up at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mickelson conquered Colonial twice back in the day but missed the cut on his two latest visits. It’s a traditional course full of doglegs and tight fairways, a thinking man’s layout requiring good positional play and at just over 7200 yards par 70 with only two par fives, not one for bombers.

But before having a look at Colonial, just a word for Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, himself turning 50 in August and thus soon eligible to bring his wheelbarrow to the Champions circuit where he and Mickelson will clean up.

Harrington shared fourth place with compatriot Shane Lowry on a good final day for the European contingent at Kiawah which also saw Justin Rose and Jon Rahm breaking 70 for top-ten finishes.

And wasn’t it great that the best tournament of the year had 10,000 fans to enjoy it!

For Mickelson the roar of the crowd must have been as much a godsend as runner-up Brooks Koepka’s missed tap-ins and dreadful course management on the par fives. A seven and two sixes should never have happened. How he must be kicking himself.

Rose is in my staking plan after signing off with a 67 for a share of eighth spot to add to a seventh at the Masters and third in Saudi Arabia. He is clearly well on the way to the Rose of old before a couple of years of not knowing where his drives were going.

The Englishman won at Colonial three years ago and was third last year, just a shot out of a play-off with Collin Morikawa and eventual winner Daniel Berger, one of his better efforts in a glum 2020.

Morikawa, who was also in that share of eighth in a stout defence of the Wanamaker Trophy, should turn the tables on Berger as he has moved up a level since by landing his first Major and the lucrative WGC Workday event at The Concession.

Jordan Spieth is 10/1 favourite for his second victory of this comeback year in his home state and the most likely winner if he putts better than in the first two rounds at Kiawah.

Colonial winner in 2016 and runner-up the previous year, it’s not often the flat stick lets him down, usually it’s the big dog, so we’ll write that off as a rare aberration and look back to his Texas Open win and four other top-fours in a golden Spring run.

Rose, Morikawa and Spieth are my big three but 2019 winner Kevin Na (also fourth to Rose the previous year) could be trouble. He putted the eyes out of Colonial two years ago to win by four and started this campaign with a win at Waialae, following up with solid efforts at Augusta and the WGC Workday in Florida.

Justin Thomas is a bit hit and miss at the moment and definitely a miss last week as he took an early bath at Kiawah so the 11-1 does not tempt but Patrick Reed, seventh last year and a respectable 17th last week, has a shout in his home state as does veteran Ryan Palmer, who has some decent course form.

The Made In Himmerland Open

Best bets
1pt each-way Nicolai Hojgaard @ 66/1
1pt each-way Thorbjorn Olesen @ 28/1
1pt each-way Adrian Meronk @ 40/1
1pt each-way Callum Hill @ 28/1
1pt each-way Andrew Johnston @ 33/1
1pt each-way Brandon Stone @ 50/1
view odds

It’s high time the Danes won what is in effect their National Open and the two to be most interested in at the Made In Himmerland tournament are Nicolai Hojgaard, the lesser-known twin of double European Tour winner Rasmus, and five-time European Tour winner Thorbjorn Olesen. It’s a shame Joburg Open winner Joachim B Hansen has pulled out as he would have greatly enhanced the Danish challenge.

Both Nicolai and Thorbjorn are at big prices in a wide-open event where the market is headed by hot Scot Robert MacIntyre and Bernd Wiesberger, the man who pipped him at the 6751-yard Himmerland course the last time the tournament was staged in 2019.

Made In Himmerland is the new name for the Made In Denmark tournament which wasn’t played last year because of the pandemic and the locals will be right behind the home side as the Danes love their golf and are less than thrilled that the main prize hasn’t come their way in the six editions to date.

Wiesberger, Matt Wallace, David Horsey, Thomas Pieters, Julian Suri and Mark Warren are the past winners, an Austrian, two Englishmen, a Belgian, an American and a Scot, long hitters and short ones. But nary a Dane or even a Scandinavian in sight.

Rasmus Hojgaard and Ryder Cup man Olesen are the shortest-priced Danes but Rasmus, like MacIntyre, played all four days at brutal Kiawah Island last week, a feat in itself for a debutant, and could be drained by the experience, particularly Hojgaard who finished on 301 for 79th place. Thirteen over par is not great for the ego.

MacIntyre was eight shots and 30 places higher, sharing 49th spot with the disappointing favourite Rory McIlroy, a fair effort but not as impressive as his 12th at Augusta. He’s a winner and a much more accomplished golfer than the lad who took Wiesberger to the wire at Himmerland two years ago.

On general and course form the man from Oban’s chance is obvious but he pushes himself hard, maybe too hard, and there’s not much juice in his odds.

Nicolai Hojgaard, who was not involved last week, may for once outscore brother Rasmus and is at more than twice the price. He is starting to make a name for himself, a seventh in Austria being followed by a fourth and 15th in the Canaries.

After losing a year of his career while incidents on a plane were investigated and a court case still hangs over him, Olesen is on the comeback trail. A fifth and a 12th in the Canaries were encouraging and he should be ready to rumble. The old Olesen would be favourite for this but he’s not there yet.
Cinderella man Richard Bland finally cracked it at the 478th attempt at The Belfry and is an interesting runner. Having done it once, the 48-year-old no longer has that monkey on his back and could win again soon.

South Africans Brandon Stone and Wilco Nienaber have just won on the Sunshine Tour and can contend but I’ll pass on Wiesberger who failed to make the weekend at the USPGA and has posted only one round in the 60s in six American starts.

More to my liking is Calum Hill, the Scot who won in Denmark in his Challenge Tour days (though not on this week’s course) and on the Cactus Tour in Arizona when that was the only game in town during the early lockdown days.
That experience is serving him well and he is closing fast on a main-tour breakthrough having posted high finishes in Saudi, at The Belfry, in the Canaries and twice in Kenya.

Adrian Meronk, the lone Pole on tour, was third in Tenerife and the British Masters. He’s another winner waiting to happen and watch out for Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston.

This larger-than-life character has had his problems but is now on the way back judging from his Canary Islands fourth and British Masters’ top-20. That’s good news for golf which needs all the personalities it can get.

Andy Sullivan, Matthias Schwab and Justin Harding all have decent chances but I’m hoping for a home win at last.

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