Kim to chalk one up in the Nelson column


Best bets

2pts each-way Tom Kim @ 18/1
1pt each-way Adam Scott @ 28/1
1pt each-way Tyrrell Hatton @ 12/1
1pt each-way Seamus Power @ 33/1
1pt each-way Brandon Wu @ 50/1

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With Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy fine-tuning their games elsewhere for next week’s second Major, the USPGA Championship, the coast is clearer for world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler to grab his third 2023 title at the Byron Nelson in Texas, his adopted home.

Scottie’s the star attraction at Craig Ranch in a line-up featuring only two other top-20 stars – Tyrrell Hatton (up a spot to 17th after a valiant third at Wells Fargo) and the exciting Korean Tom Kim (19th).

But do you want to back Scottie at 100/30 given he’s finished only 15th and 47th in the past on a course geared for birdies and hot putters? He wasn’t making too many the last time we saw him.

Not worse than 12th in nine starts since the turn of the year, the Dallas-based Scheffler will enjoy fierce crowd support on the Tom Weiskopf design north of Dallas at McKinney. That will be a help but I’ll be keeping my Scheffler powder dry until they’ve played 36. That may be longer than usual because of bad-weather warnings.

This week they’re playing Craig Ranch as a 71 for its 7414 yards, the 12th hole slightly shortened from a par five to a four since KH Lee captured his second Nelson. It was a 72 par then, so Lee’s 266 record is unlikely to be threatened.

The defending champion goes for a threepeat having won the first two editions at Craig Ranch and he did so in style, shooting a combined 51 under par for those eight magical rounds. How delighted he must be the PGA Tour found this course. Without It, KH wouldn’t have a win on his CV and might not have reserved a seat at Presidents Cup table.

He started at 500/1 for the first victory and 125/1 for the second in a tournament not short of huge outsiders on its list of champions. Remember Steven Bowditch? The Aussie was another 500/1 shocker in 2015 and Robert Damron, Brett Wetterich, Aaron Wise and Ted Purdy, all never to win again, also did the bookies a big favour.

The difference with KH Lee is that he did it twice proving he’s no one-hit wonder and as he showed up well for most of the week at Quail Hollow he could become the first since Steve Stricker at John Deere in 2011 to threepeat. I think the pressure will defeat him.

Scheffler is a very likely winner but I’m looking for something with a little more meat on the bone. The place part for most of this week’s five selections will return more than a win bet on the favourite.

Last year’s sensation Tom Kim rents a place in Dallas and still just a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday arrives as a two-time PGA Tour winner. The bubbly Korean is a terrific iron player and putter which makes Craig Ranch a good fit for him.

He has course experience too, sharing 17th spot with another of this week’s fancies Seamus Power last year, and although this term’s exam paper is only a B+, it’s only a matter of time before he smiles his way to a third title. The fact that the last three Nelsons were won by fellow countrymen must act as a spur.

Power and Tyrrell Hatton are Europe’s best hopes, the Irishman having decent course form (9-17) and getting up a head of steam for the PGA with a solid 18th on Sunday. Earlier in the year excellent performances followed his Bermuda victory in October.

Hatton is playing the best golf of his life – third at Wells Fargo following on from beating all bar one in the Players Championship – and although this is his Craig Ranch bow and while he may be mentally fatigued after being bang there at Quail Hollow – he co-led after 54 holes – I daren’t desert this eccentric Englishman.

Adam Scott’s chance is also respected after his eye-catching fifth on Sunday, his best finish of the year. Two decades ago Scott was as hot a prospect turning pro as Tom Kim is today. Yet although he has a Major, the stylish Aussie (if that’s not a contradiction in terms!) he still has to marked down as an under-achiever. Victory on Sunday would make me eat my words but I’m used to that flavour.

A word of warning to Hideki Matsuyama backers: the 2021 Masters champion withdrew before the start last week with continuing neck problems. I know they say ‘Beware the injured golfer’ but if you’re determined to risk it, why not keep the bet waiting until he makes the cut?

With so many long-priced winners of past Nelsons, punters will be scratching around for an outsider. The best I can come up with is Brandon Wu, the only one to make a serious fight of it with gladiators Rahm and Tony Finau in Mexico last month. That third place, a masterclass of cool, and will stand him in good stead when he next contends.

Wait no longer, Brandon, make an old man happy!

It’s going to be hot, 80s all four days, but the bad news is the projected daily thunderstorms. What odds delays? And is there a golfing country more prone to hold-ups (without guns)?


Best bets

1pt each-way Peter Uihlein @ 20/1
1pt each-way Matt Wolff @ 28/1
1pt each-way Brooks Koepka @ 10/1

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“Oh what a beautiful mornin’ … I’ve got a beautiful feelin’ everything’s comin’ my way” so, in Oklahoma, a state famed for a musical rather than golf courses, will yet another beautiful LIV payday be coming the way of local hero Talor Gooch in Tulsa as he bids to make it three $4m takeaways in a row this weekend?

That would be the dream result for LIV’s publicity machine after the 31-year-old’s back-to-back victories in Tucson and Orlando, bolting up in Arizona – a LIV breakthrough by the dual PGA Tour winner – then edging out Sergio Garcia in a Florida playoff.

There’s no reason, apart from history (hat-tricks are rare unless your name is Tiger Woods, he racked up seven on the bounce in his heyday), to think Gooch, one LIVsigning still at his peak, won’t do it at the Cedar Ridge Country Club at Broken Arrow, a course he last played as a teenager in the 2009 US Amateur Championship.

But there are plenty of others with Oklahoma connections out to stop him, never mind the big names like Brooks Koepka, the first to post two LIV wins, Open champion Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson. and the in-form Garcia.

Walker Cup star and one-time world top amateur Peter Uihlein went straight from Oklahoma State to make his pro debut at 22 in Europe at Abu Dhabi. He cut his teeth on what is now the DP World Tour, winning a small tournament in Madeira, before inevitably heading back to seek his fortune in the USA where his only victory came on the satellite Korn Ferry Tour.

LIV took him on even though he was nothing special on the main circuit and he repaid their faith last year with two second-place finishes. Maybe coming from a wealthy family takes the pressure off worrying about the mind-boggling cash to be won but it took a final 63 from fellow Oklahoma State alumnus Charles Howell, a surprise winner first time out this year at Mayakoba, to stop Uihlein opening his account in February.

The big fella plays for fun, hitting more bad shots than some, but these 54-holers from a shotgun start are just part of LIV’s vision of a day’s entertainment and he plays above himself in an environment which encourages flair and exuberance.

Those are also the characteristics of birdie blitzer Matt Wolff, yet another product of Oklahoma State, and his first LIV is surely not far away. This 7290-yard par 71 parkland layout more like 24 minutes than 24 hours from Tulsa (keeping the musical theme going!), could be where he posts his first victory since his rookie days.

The course was chiselled out of a 200-acre dairy farm in the 1960s, renovated in 2016 and best known for hosting the 1983 US Women’s Open, won by glamour-girl Aussie Jan Stephenson in an oppressive heatwave.
Gooch apart, a more logical winner than that pair is the revived four-time Major champion Koepka, only a shot out of the Orlando playoff last time and agonisingly close to his third LIV victory.

He will want a good result before next week’s PGA Championship. Koepka, a double winner of the Wanamaker Trophy, is one of 12 LIV players playing the second Major.

If the women’s scores are anything to go by – 40 years ago the winning total was six OVER par – birdies are going to be harder to come by than usual. All the more so if the weathermen have called it right as daily thunderstorms look set to disrupt the fun.


Best bets

2pts each-way Thomas Detry @ 16/1
2pts each-way Thorbjorn Olesen @ 18/1
1pt each-way Eddie Pepperell @ 40/1
0.5pt each-way Alexander Bjork @ 14/1
0.5pt each-way Jorge Campillo @ 16/1

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Encouraged by longtime bridesmaid Wyndham Clark finally breaking his duck at the 134th attempt on the PGA Tour – and in fabulous style against a top-class field – risk a European golfer with a similar profile to do likewise at a lower level when the DP World Tour hits Belgium this week.

The player is nearly-man Thomas Detry, six years on tour without a solo win in 145 European starts and 24 more on the PGA circuit; the tournament is the SoudalOpen at Rinkven International, Antwerp.

This is the Belgian 30-year-old’s national Open in disguise and I’m hoping that playing in front of his own people and mentally tougher after a 17-tournament main-tour stint in the States will do the trick for a huge but flawed talent who has been a pain in the butt for punters over the last few years.

Runner-up five times in Europe and once, in Bermuda to Seamus Power last October on the PGA Tour, he has not yet taken America by storm but is playing consistently there. He followed that Bermuda effort with top-tens at Sanderson Farms and the Corales and a tidy 13th in the Zurich pairs event when partnering Victor Perez.

His greatest day came in team golf too, he and great pal Thomas Pieters lifting the 2018 World Cup of Golf for Belgium when seeing off home favourites Australia (Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman).

Having someone to hold his hand seems to be a big help but one day he’ll come good on his own and the time has come: there should be no doubting Thomas this time against a field with few dangerous opponents.

Detry knows the course well – he was third there in the 2018 Belgian Knockout when the tournament sported a bizarre medal matchplay format – so this shortish 6924-yard par 71 holds no mysteries for him. All the mysteries are in his mind and the 16/1 advice comes with a left-right-and-centre Government Wealth Warning.

Year after year I have avoided putting him up but here the list of players in the same class and form is short – Jorge Campillo, Thorbjorn Olesen, course winner Adrian Otaegui maybe, Sweden’s Alexander Bjork, promising German Yannik Paul perhaps – but nobody to frighten him.

Kenya Open winner Campillo added yet another top-ten to an ever-growing portfolio in Rome (now 8-3-9-1-4 for his last five starts); Bjork was ahead of the Spaniard when fourth to 18/1 winner Adrian Meronk on Sunday, played nicely in Korea and Japan before that but has not won for five years; Olesen’s disappointing 40th in Italy can be forgiven as he’d been off for nine weeks.

The Dane is one of the few who knows how to get the job done when he gets the opportunity – he captured the Thailand Open for win No. 7 in February – and May, when he bagged No. 6 at The Belfry, was his month last year. He looks the main threat.

Best of the longer prices: Eddie Pepperell, ninth in Rome on his first start for three months, German veteran Marcel Siem, winner in India and not far away at the weekend, Danish prospect Marcus Helligkilde (runner-up in Korea) and steady Aussie Jason Scrivener. Pepperell and Scrivener, neither big hitters, look well suited to this shortish course.

It’s going to be British-style weather in Antwerp with rain forecast all four days.

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