New recruit Niemann to LIV well in Boston


2pts each-way Joaquin Niemann @ 8/1
2pts each-way Matt Wolff @ 25/1
2pts win Dustin Johnson @ 6/1
1pt each-way Patrick Reed @ 18/1

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The Saudi-backed LIV have excitedly announced a tranche of new recruits – six in total headed by the key signing of reigning Open champion Cameron Smith – and perfectly timed for this week’s LIV Invitational at The International club at Boston, Massachusetts.

Getting Smith, at No. 2 on the world rankings the highest-rated golfer to defect, was quite a coup, reportedly costing LIV a $100m signing-on fee, and is an even bigger blow to the PGA than the loss of Johnson because the Aussie at 29 is right at the top of his game whereas DJ at 38 is not getting any better.

Most of the other big names tempted by the Saudi shilling – Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey – are in decline or have had their careers interrupted by time-consuming injuries.

While DJ has not won a tournament since the rearranged Masters at the end of 2020, Smith is the current holder of the Claret Jug, the Players Championship and the Tournament of Champions.

Hence the huge sighs of dismay at PGA HQ and at the R&A, the administrators of The Open.

Cammie is joined by fellow Aussie Marc Leishman, Chilean star Joaquin Niemann, Harold Varner III, Cameron Tringale and Indian No. 1 Anirban Lahiri as the latest batch of LIV signings. It’s hard to understand LIV’s pursuit of Tringale, a 35-year-old journeyman who has never won in 338 starts, but from the player’s point of view it’s a great move.

He can reset and start again from scratch, no longer haunted by 13 years of being a loser. What irony if that long-awaited first win comes via LIV!

The loss of Riviera winner Niemann, at 23 with his peak to come, is another major blow to the PGA Tour and presumably rules him, Smith, Leishman and Lahiri out of the Presidents Cup, that USA v Internationals match now only three weeks away.

All six newcomers line up for the $25m LIV Boston on Friday with Smith and DJ favourites for the $4m top prize. The influence Saudi’s front-man and Aussie legend Greg Norman has had on his compatriots is not difficult to detect.

The story so far after the first three legs at St Albans, Portland and Bedminster is South  Africa 2, Sweden 1, USA 0 and that won’t sit well with Johnson and his American pals.

Reed in particular has warmed to the 54-hole shotgun-start concept and the team element suits Reed, the self-styled ‘Captain America’ in his Ryder Cup days. Nobody played with more passion than him as the DJ-led squad wrapped up the $3m top team prize long before the finish last time.

Of the host of Americans among the 12 four-man teams in New Jersey, none made a bigger impression than young Matt Wolff who finished joint-second to 50/1 surprise Henrik Stenson after his eighth on debut in Portland.

At last we’re seeing the real Wolff, his early mental problems happily in the past. He clearly appreciates the relative absence of stress in the shorter LIV format and is a prime example of the dangers of having too much too soon.

To win $1m-plus as a 20-year-old on only his fourth pro start turned out to be a double-edged sword for an exceptional talent.
The all-finish-together format means an always-friendly tee-off time. It helps to structure the day when you know you are on the course for little more than four hours.

This birdie machine could be the first American winner.

DJ is trending towards a victory after going 8-3-2 on his first three attempts, He has to be in the shake-up and Smith will be all out to win on LIV debut to justify his eye-watering signing-on fee.

It worked for debutant Stenson in New Jersey where the Swede made a mockery of his odds. Henrik had been in desperate form on the PGA Tour and anyone who backed him must have had an ultra-powerful crystal ball. Safe to say the 2016 Open champion won’t be 50/1 again.

The International’s Pines course, an hour’s drive from Boston and “in the middle of nowhere”, has only three par fives, all manageable, and five short holes and as the mixed crowd it attracts want birdies galore, we can expect this 6944-yard par 70 to be set up to show everybody in the best possible light.

It’s not hard to make a case for Riviera winner Niemann, 13th, 8th and 11th on his three latest outings, all in top company. This former world No. 1 amateur seems to have been around for ages, yet is still only 23 with the best of him yet to come. A real class act, he, like Smith, will be looking to make an immediate impression.

Niemann finished ahead of Smith in the Tour Championship but, looking ahead, the 2023 Open, the Players and the year-opening Tournament of Champions, all monopolised by the popular Queenslander this year, will be minus a defending champion unless this unholy mess is sorted out.

There are a few others with chances but not that many. I’ll put in a word for Mexican No.1 Abraham Ancer on a course that should suit his tidy game, Brandon Grace, brilliant winner of the first LIV tournament at St Albans, and a reviving Brooks Koepka. While who knows what the eccentric Bryson DeChambeau is cooking up?

But for my four against the field I’ll go with new kid on the block Niemann, short-game wizard Reed (T3 and 5th on his two LIV starts, third time lucky?), birdie machine Matt Wolff and the ever-dangerous Johnson.


2pts each-way Alexander Bjork @ 28/1
1pt each-way Thorbjorn Olesen @ 28/1
1pt each-way Matt Wallace @ 22/1
1pt each-way Robert MacIntyre @ 28/1
1pt each-way Marcel Schneider @ 40/1
1pt each-way Adri Arnaus @ 25/1

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Only a week to go to the Big One at Wentworth and a rare sighting in the UK of Europe’s top duo, FedEx Cup hero Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, doing battle for the BMW PGA Championship alongside US Open star Matt Fitzpatrick and plenty of other big names.

If you put on a pukka show, the people will come and already the last three days of this magnificent celebration of golf have sold out.

This week the Made in Himmerland tournament in Denmark and the other side of the coin: the highest-ranked player is world No.67 Adri Arnaus and Fitzdares’ favourite in a 22/1-the field-puzzle, Matt Wallace, is still way outside the top 100 despite reaching the playoff of the European Masters in Crans on Sunday.

Why that makes the Englishman the market leader is a bit of a head-scratcher as the rest of his 2022 form, starting the calendar year with six straight missed cuts on the PGA Tour has been pretty abysmal.

Only a fifth place in the Dutch Open back in April and a recent tenth in Detroit lightened the gloom for Matt before last week’s welcome return to the Wallace of old, a Ryder Cup contender who won three times in 2018, his annus mirabilis.

One of those Ws came in this very tournament before it changed its name from Made In Denmark to Made in Himmerland and not on this week’s short 6686-yard par 71 but at Sikeborg. But he does have form at HimmerLand – he was fifth there in 2017.

With new Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald in this week’s line-up on hand to run the rule over potential candidates for his Rome squad, Wallace will be out to prove that his Crans performance was no one-off on a parkland course similar in length to Crans but without the rarefied air or sidehill lies.

It would come as no surprise to see Wallace the tables on his Crans conqueror Thriston Lawrence who was heading off for some heavy partying after Sunday’s marathon effort.

> Donald will also have his eye on the Hojgaard twins, Rasmus and Nicolai, two of Denmark’s big hopes for a first home win. The past HimmerLand champions were Bernd Wiesberger (twice), Julian Suri and Thomas Pieters.

Wiesberger can’t be there to defend as he has joined the controversial LIV squad and will be in Boston this week for Part 4 of their eight-tournament series while Pieters is not attempting to repeat his 2016 victory and Suri’s game doesn’t seem to work any more.

Rasmus Hojgaard is on many Ryder Cup short-lists but is finding it hard to live up to the early hype after two European Tour victories as a teenager but he did add a third at Crans 12 months ago and, still only 22, has time on his side.

With a putting stoke to die for, Robert MacIntyre looked a superstar in the making when just losing out in a fantastic HimmerLand battle with Wiesberger in his rookie year, 2019, and for punters who have been following the Scot from Oban ever since it has been an expensive journey. On a course that once showed him to such advantage, Bobby Mac gets one last chance to redeem himself.

Another who will coming under Donald scrutiny is fast-improving Richard Mansell whose August has been as hot as the weather itself. The stylish Englishman came up just short at Crans but third place there on top of fourth at Galgorm Castle indicate that first victory is not far away. The worry is that this is his eighth consecutive week on tour and perhaps he is going to the well once too often.

The Danish fans have plenty to cheer for, not only the Hojgaard twins but British Masters champion Thorbjorn Olesen who blows hot and cold but on a going day could dot up in this modest company.

He’s a prolific winner – that Belfry success in May was his first for four years but he racked up five earlier ones before a brush with the law put his career on hold.

Olesen would be a more confident selection had there been more encouragement from past HimmerLand visits but he has never done better than 14th. Even so, a strong performance is anticipated.

One who does have a course credit is Sweden’s Alexander Bjork, sixth last year and producer of decent finishes on his two latest outings, 16th at Crans and 20th in the Cazoo Classic at Hillside.

It is only nine months since Bjork finished runner-up at the all-star DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Only dual Major champion Collin Morikawa beat him.

Last year’s runner-up Guido Migliozzi bids to go one better but seems to be trying too hard to stake a claim to a Ryder Cup berth in his home country and the Italians may have a better chance with Renato Paratore.

Spaniards Adri Arnaus and Nacho Elvira shared ninth at Crans and must come into the conversation, along with South African Justin Harding, Eddie Pepperell, dual 2022 scorer Ewen Ferguson and the evergreen Pablo Larrazabal.

Arnaus is the top-ranked golfer in the field at 67th courtesy of his breakthrough Catalunya success in May. He has struggled since but last week saw him back close to his best, while late-blooming German Marcel Schneider who followed up a sixth in Prague with seventh in Switzerland and is worth sticking with now he has started to believe in himself.

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