Just in time for a punt on Rose


Best bets

2pts each-way Justin Rose @ 22/1
3pts win Scottie Scheffler @ 17/4
1pt each-way Tony Finau @ 12/1
1pt each-way Brendon Todd @ 66/1
0.5pt each-way Cam Davis @ 33/1

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While the powers-that-be on the PGA Tour were handed their worst nightmare with a LIV rebel winning the year’s second Major, Brooks Koepka was laughing all the way to Washington DC for this week’s LIV assignment and plotting two more ways to embarrass the establishment by knocking off the US Open and The Open too.

The PGA Tour are powerless to stop him and his LIV pals as none of the Majors come under their jurisdiction: Augusta runs the Masters; the PGA Championship comes under the club pro arm of the game, the PGA of America; the USGA is in charge of the US Open; and the Royal & Ancient controls our Open.

Any of them would be mad to bar the best of the LIV squad as they add an important extra ingredient to any serious competition. We have seen that twice, with Koepka and Phil Mickelson the closest challengers to Rahm at the Masters and Koepka heading a strong LIV team at Oak Hill with Bryson DeChambeau, a flop at LIV since he defected, showing he still has it with a T4 and Cameron Smith landing a share of ninth.

While LIV’s PGA contingent of 16 go back in their box, barred from the Charles Schwab Challenge at famed Colonial, Oak Hill’s joint runners-up Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland do battle again in Fort Worth, Texas, at Hogan’s Alley – Colonial’s nickname since legendary Ben Hogan won four of the first seven events held there.

Without having his A game for the first three days, Scheffler did his best to get to Koepka with a closing 65 but although it wasn’t quite enough, his consolation prize was regaining the No. 1 spot from Rahm who had a rare disappointing week back in 50th.

On one of the great traditional courses (hosting for the 78th time) where length is secondary to positional play and accuracy, Scheffler, playing in his adopted state, handled the task well last year but lost out in a playoff to his good friend Sam Burns.

There has to be a question mark about whether contending for four days on a mentally draining course like Oak Hill has left a mark but the thought of extending his lead over Rahm will assuredly energise him.

This is also a home game for Jordan Spieth, Colonial winner in 2016, three times runner-up and eight times a top-ten performer from ten visits. He had his injured left wrist and forearm taped up at the PGA where he just about made the cut and as recent form leaves much to be desired, the price overestimates his chance.

Similarly, Burns doesn’t appeal on his stroke play form this year. True, he won the Match Play but that’s just about all he will be happy about in a year his progress has stalled. He was last seen shooting 80 and missing the cut by a country mile at the PGA.

Hovland forfeited his chance of overhauling Koepka on Sunday when taking two to get out of a bunker on the 16th and running up a crippling six.

Even if he’s over that – and it was an otherwise superb effort, easily the best of the Europeans  – he still has to prove he can handle Colonial, his first two attempts having produced nothing better than top 25s.

The 2018 Colonial champion Justin Rose makes plenty of appeal after his T9 last week. A winner earlier in the year at Pebble Beach, the tall Englishman still has plenty to offer at 42. The man he beat by three in Texas five years ago was pretty good, name of Koepka, and he’s had two fair results there since, notably a T3 in 2020.

Tony Finau, who lowered Rahm’s colours when the Spaniard was at his brilliant best in Mexico, was only two shots off last year’s Colonial playoff and his arrow-straight driving will be a boon on this thinking-man’s course.

Cam Davis and Kurt Kitayama were surprise packets at the PGA, sharing fourth spot with DeChambeau, and Aussie Davis boasts good Colonial form too – seventh last year.

That Oak Hill showing didn’t come out of the blue as he had previous fared well at Sawgrass and Heritage. It’s a negative that he never seems to win but he does make each-way appeal.

Brendon Todd fits the bill better than most for best outsider. Not every course suits this wily old campaigner who was third last year and eighth in 2021 but this one does. And he’s been in pretty solid form, runner-up to Rose at Pebble Beach and eighth at Quail Hollow.

Michael Block, the 46-year-old club professional who played with Rory McIlroy on Sunday and had a hole in one, won the hearts of everyone at Oak Hill. He won’t be winning but a T15 on Sunday – the best finish in the PGA by a club pro since 1986 – and a quarter of a million-dollar payday earns the Cinderella man a start at Colonial. It makes a neat change from giving $140-an-hour golf lessons at his Californian club.

Although Fort Worth is expecting rain on Saturday, it’s going to hot and steamy the rest of the week. Here’s hoping the golf matches it.


Best bets

2pts each-way Bryson DeChambeau @ 20/1
1pt each-way Branden Grace @ 33/1
1pt each-way Cameron Smith @ 8/1

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It’s all about Brooks Koepka this week after he raised the profile of the breakaway LIV Golf circuit several notches with his magnificent PGA Championship triumph at Oak Hill, a golf course as tough as he is.

Naturally, he start favourite in Washington D.C. for the seventh of LIV’s 14-tournament schedule at Potomac Falls, Virginia, and as he is one of only three to have won twice with LIV – the others are fellow Americans Dustin Johnson and Talor Gooch – far be it from me to put you off taking the 7/1 except to suggest the links-style Trump National course, a 7429-yard par 72 Fazio design opened in 2016, might not be hard enough to grab his full attention and last week’s heroic effort and inevitable media interest may have taken their toll.

Only the obvious three, Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy, stand ahead of him in Fitzdares’ betting on the two remaining Majors. Currently 12/1 for next month’s US Open at new venue Los Angeles Country Club, he’s 18/1 for the British equivalent at Hoylake in July. If he wins in LA, expect that 18/1 to be almost halved.

Nobody currently active apart from Phil Mickelson has won five Majors (I’m not counting Tiger) and don’t forget that in Koepka you are talking about a guy who ruled as world No. 1 for 47 weeks before a series of injuries wrecked his confidence and almost his career. As we saw last week, there’s nothing wrong with him now…

Not many of this week’s rivals finished in the same parish as Koepka but a revived Bryson DeChambeau gave us a taster of his unique gifts with a share of fourth place. That was different gear to the underwhelming golf he’s been producing since signing for LIV. If repeated on the shores of the Potomac this weekend it would make 20/1 worth punting.

Cameron Smith, ninth at Oak Hill and pipped by Dustin Johnson in a playoff for the last LIV 54-holer in Tulsa, is now showing the form that made him such a star in 2022 but 8/1 is giving nothing away and for value the 33/1 about Branden Grace, the third man in that Oklahoma shootout and a past LIV champion, makes greater appeal.

The one piece of course form we have is that Bernhard Langer beat Vijay Singh there with a score of 18 under par for the 2017 Senior PGA Championship.

The only British/Irish player at less than 100/1 is Paul Casey but maybe their turn will come when LIV hits Europe next month at Valderrama with the Centurion club at St Albans again hosting the UK leg on July 7. Maybe, but don’t count on it …



Best bets

1.5pts each-way Alexander Bjork @ 22/1
1pt each-way Richard Mansell @ 40/1
1pt each-way Victor Perez @ 12/1
1pt each-way Adrian Meronk @ 12/1
0.5pt each-way Eddie Pepperell @ 40/1

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Frenchman Victor Perez returns to the DP World Tour for the defence of his Dutch Open title with reputation enhanced by a 12th-place finish in the PGA Championship at brutal Oak Hill in upstate New York.
Quite rightly, he’s favourite for a repeat at the Bernardus course at Cromvoirt where he beat Ryan Fox with a 40ft birdie putt at the fourth playoff hole although the New Zealander should have wrapped it up long before then.

Fox made a total horlicks of the final hole in real time with a double-bogey seven which included a penalty shot for a wayward drive. “There was a fair amount of fortune involved” conceded the winner. He could say that again!

The main concern with backing Perez is mental and physical fatigue after such a gruelling week in New York. After winning in Abu Dhabi first time out this year and proven his adaptability to the Ryder Cup venue, Marco Simone, with a top-ten in the Italian Open prior to the fine PGA finish, he must be a shoo-in to make Luke Donald’s side for the September showdown with the USA.

The same comment applies to chief market rival Adrian Meronk. How much have four tough rounds at the PGA taken out of the 6ft 6in Pole in finishing 40th in the second Major? He was only a shot out of last year’s playoff at Bernardus, so there’s no question he ticks all the other boxes too on a course which, based on last year’s result, gives long hitters an edge.

With victories in the Australian Open just before Christmas and the Italian Open last month, Meronk’s credentials are there for all to see. But maybe someone with good recent form and a less exhausting preparation will come along and trump them both. Sweden’s Alexander Bjork is one I have in mind.

Although not first choice when it comes to who you’d want by your side in the trenches, he’s visibly growing in confidence as the season wears on. Fourth place in Belgium last time out and fourth again to Meronk in Rome, he too showed his liking for the 7445-yard Bernardus course last year by finishing seventh and he’s in better form going into this week than he was 12 months ago.

He should win more often than he does given the accuracy of his approach play – his lone tour success came five years ago -but that’s why you’re getting a decent price.

Taking three months off to work on his game on a “very realistic” simulator seems to be working for the slightly eccentric Eddie Pepperell. In the two tournaments since he rejoined the real world, he’s posted a ninth in Italy and 22nd in Belgium, nothing startling although he looked for much of the weekend in Rome to be heading for a podium finish.

He may lack the length of the market leaders but makes up for that with sharp iron play and a sound putting stroke.

Another Englishman with the tools to be a winner is Richard Mansell, a model of consistency with all eight cuts made but none of the fireworks of 2022 that marked him down as a golfer to follow. And he’s on a course that brings out the best in him with top-ten finishes in both Opens held at this venue.

His eighth in Holland was just one of a number of eyecatching efforts last year but he has made top-ten only once this campaign with a sixth in Singapore. He’s better than that.

Two of Joost Luiten’s six tour triumphs have come in his home Open (but not on this week’s course) and there have signs that the 37-year-old still has what it takes, notably a recent third in Korea. One thing is for sure, he’s the one the Dutch crowds will be rooting for.

Jordan Smith and recent winners Jorge Campillo and Pablo Larrazabal are three more who should in the mix in a week that promises to be dry and relatively warm.

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