LIV a little by Chile dipping in Mexico!


Best bets

2pts each-way Joakin Niemann @ 17/2
1pt each-way Carlos Ortiz @ 33/1
Top American 
1pt each-way Matt Wolff @ 7/1
Top Englishman
1pt win Richard Bland @ 4/1
Match Bet 
2pts Ortiz to beat Varner @ 19/20

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The expanded 14-tournament LIV Golf circuit with Saudi prize-money hoisted to an outrageous $405m hits Mexico for the first time on Friday and it could be a great weekend for the Latinos In Mayakoba.

The El Camaleon course, designed by LIV frontman Greg Norman, has been hijacked from the PGA Tour, where it had hosted the Mayakoba Classic in various guises since 2007, and the tequila and margaritas will be flowing free if there’s a Mexican winner on Sunday.

Failing that, a champion from Chile, Spain or Colombia, where they all speak the same lingo, would be a good second-best in the first leg of LIV’s world tour, a circuit which also sees Australia and Spain (the great Valderrama course “stolen” from the DP World Tour) on the rota for the first time.

And it could be fiesta time. Mexican No. 1 Abe Ancer has just won the rich Saudi International and their No. 2 Carlos Ortiz has great course form, having twice finished runner-up on the PGA Tour in the Mayakoba Classic, in 2019 and 2021.

Ortiz also has the superior LIV record. He was second in Portland after holding a big lead in Portland and another big cheque came his way at Bedminster where was fourth. With Mexican fans making plenty of noise he looks the each-way value at Fitzdares’ 33/1. Short and steady Carlos can also win his Fitzdares match-up with bouncy American Harold Varner III at 19/20.

For the win, classy Chilean Joaquin Niemann, 17/2 second favourite to Dustin Johnson, is just preferred. In Boston he too went agonisingly close to LIV glory but lost out to Johnson in a playoff. Later third in Jeddah and fifth in Chicago, a first win on the rebel tour has to be imminent.

Noted when tenth in Saudi and fifth in Oman in lucrative Asian Tour skirmishes earlier in the month when the fields were bolstered by LIV stars, he’s absolutely ready for this.

This is his month too. His biggest week on the PGA Tour came in February last year when he won at Riviera in the same tournament Jon Rahm has just added to his haul.

As DJ was a late withdrawal from his intended first outing of the year, the Saudi International, and Open champion Cameron Smith missed the cut there after a poor effort in the Australian Open, this may not be the right time to support those leading fancies in the 48-man line-up facing the shotgun start on Friday.

They’ll be splitting $25m when it’s all done and dusted and even last man in doesn’t go hungry. He cops $120,000, poor chap.

No wonder Thomas Pieters is the latest big name to be tempted by the Saudi shilling and the fat signing-on fee. The Belgian former Ryder Cup player is one of the new faces making his LIV bow along with dual Masters champion Bubba Watson, belated debuting after eight months out of the game recovering from knee surgery, Branden Steele, Sebastian Munoz, Mito Pereira, Dean Burmester and Danny Lee.

I don’t see Pieters’ defection as that big a blow to Europe’s Ryder Cup chances. It just makes it a little easier for players like Sunday’s Thailand winner Thorbjorn Olesen, Pebble Beach hero Justin Rose, Scotland’s Bob MacIntyre and a few others to nick a place. There’s very little between any of them on ability, it’s really a case of picking the ones with the desire … clearly not Doubting Thomas.

The last time LIV lured a ‘name’ European, Henrik Stenson, thought to be yesterday’s man, pulled off a 50/1 shock. Pieters would be far less of a surprise As a DP World Tour winner last year and sixth on his last appearance in Dubai, he’s been put in at 16/1 but if there is to be a European winner on a shortish (just over 7000 yards) course that will be set up for birdies in line with the ‘fun’ element LIV is trying to promote, Sergio Garcia, who shared fifth with Niemann in Oman, is preferred.

For Top Englishman, Richard Bland, unfashionable but a perfect fit for a course where steady plodders like Fred Funk, Graeme McDowell and Brian Gay have prevailed, could surprise, while fearless birdie machine Matt Wolff is a sporting bet for Top American. He loves the devil-may-care LIV format, has gone close already (runner-up at Bedminster) and warmed up with a decent tenth in Saudi at the start of the month.

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