2pts each-way Seamus Power @ 22/1
2pts each-way SH Kim @ 28/1
1pt each-way Aaron Rai @ 25/1
1pt each-way Adam Schenk @ 28/1
0.5pt each-way Brandon Wu @ 50/1
0.5pt each-way Denny MCarthy @ 16/1
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With Rory McIlroy deservedly returning to the world No. 1 spot with his hard-earned retention of the CJ Cup in South Carolina, the stage is set for another Irish triumph when the PGA Tour rolls on to a very wet Bermuda this week.
At world No. 48, Seamus Power is the highest-rated golfer in a feeble field for the BermudaChampionship at its regular Port Royal home and he must be licking his lips about this golden opportunity for a second PGA Tour victory.
The 35-year-old from Waterford is none too reliable but a birdie machine when he gets it right and anything close to the golf he showed when ninth in the USPGA and 12th in the US Open would do the trick.
As an Irishman he will be used to coping with filthy weather and that’s what is heading towards this normally sunny island. Thunder and lightning is the forecast for all four days so it looks odds-on a few electrical storm delays.
Laid-back Power, with eyes firmly on a Ryder Cup place, is unlikely to be fazed by interruptions and he does have course form – 12th to Lucas Herbert at 6828-yard 71-par Port Royal 12 months ago in a stronger field than he faces now. He and Irish Open champion Adrian Meronk, the No. 61, are the only two of the world’s top 80 taking part.
This is the fourth edition of the Bermuda Championship but viewers know the Trent Jones-designed course best for annually hosting the made-for-TV Grand Slam of Golf.
Short by modern standards, it depends on the wind for its defence and when it doesn’t blow you risk getting a 24-under-par winner. That was the score posted in the 2019 launch by Brendon Todd, a middle-for-diddle plodder with a hot putter.
There is much dead wood in the line-up, names like greybeard John Daly, Robert Garrigus, Greg Chalmers, Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey and Bo Van Pelt we thought we’d seen the last of, and it’s hard to find someone on an upward trajectory to root for.
One we shall be hearing plenty more about is yet another talented Kim, this time Seong-hyeon Kim, now known as S H. A winner of big tournaments in Japan and his home country, South Korea, he has already shown poise and promise with fourth in the Shriners and 13th at Sanderson Farms in early PGA Tour skirmishes.
Luke Donald, now Ryder Cup captain but once the best golfer in the world, is on a course that suited short-hitting past champions Todd and Brian Gay. If they can win, cool hand Luke must have some sort of chance – as would another Brit Aaron Rai who plays a similarly neat-and-tidy game and boasts recent form, fifth in the Italian Open on the Ryder Cup course.
Donald will be keeping an eye on Rai and the 6ft 6in Pole Meronk who has a long list of good finishes on his CV but has been less convincing recently. This is Meronk’s PGA debut (bar Open and Scottish Open) and lack of course experience may handicap him.
There’s another Brit who might surprise, Callum Tarren, the pride of Darlington, who qualified to play on the PGA Tour and has shown more than once he belongs there when sixth at the John Deere Classic, seventh at the 3M plus decent efforts at the Shriners and Fortinet in the new wrap-around season.
Best of the Americans could be Brandon Wu and Adam Schenk. Wu, the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour champion, was runner-up to Jon Rahm in Mexico, third in Puerto Rico and sixth at the Scottish Open; Schenk’s good form, 12th in Las Vegas, 16th ZOZO, is more recent.
And then we come to two players in Thomas Detry and Patrick Rodgers who have talent to burn but not the temperament to match. Rodgers’ fourth place here was his best finish of the year, Detry has a swing to die for and huge ability but seems to have an aversion to winning.
On his Memorial fifth, JDC sixth and US Open seventh, Denny McCarthy boasts some of the best form around and he does know his way around as he was fourth to Gay two years ago.
The fact that Fitzdares make this non-winner from 138 starts their 16/1 favourite speaks volumes about the quality, or lack of it, of the opposition. He will probably be in contention on Sunday but what happens then is in the lap of the gods.
1.5pts each-way Marcel Schneider @ 33/1
1.5pts each-way Victor Perez @ 16/1
1pt each-way Robert MacIntyre @ 12/1
1pt each-way Eddie Pepperell @ 22/1
0.5pt each-way Paul Waring @ 33/1
0.5pt each-way Tom Lewis @ 40/1
What fun and games we had in Majorca on Sunday with poor old Marcus Armitage leading by two with three to play and losing the plot completely, not even finishing in the top four after the most embarrassing hour of his career.
First, a three-putt on 16, missing from a yard, then driving it miles out of bounds at 17, finally triple-putting again at 18. It may take a while to get over but he’s not lying in a darkened room but heading over to the Algarve for the fourth and final leg of the Iberian Swing.
Wouldn’t it be something if the jovial journeyman were to bag a big consolation prize in the shape of the Portugal Masters at its regular home, the handsome Victoria course at Vilamoura.
Big-hitting Thomas Pieters won last year with the even-more-powerful Nicolai Hojgaard in a share of second. That suggests it’s a bombers’ paradise but earlier results are less convincing. Andy Sullivan and Steven Brown, both past winners, stand outside the top 100 for driving distance, so don’t necessarily go looking for the bangers.
Pieters isn’t there to defend so Fitzdares have installed Italian Open champion Bob MacIntyre as 12/1 favourite. No quarrel with that as the Scot from Oban has carried on where he left off in Rome with eighth in France and ninth at Valderrama. It’s hard to see him out of the frame.
Love Bobby Mac but I am taking him on with Marcel Schneider, a sporting each-way alternative to the market leaders. The Germans are on a roll with Max Kieffer winning in August and Yannik Paul doing likewise in Majorca on Sunday. Now for Schneider to join the party.
In my book he has as much ability as either of his compatriots. A good Spring run brought a fourth at the Dutch, fifth in the European Open and seventh in Belgium and he’s gone on from there. In August he gave us a fourth in Prague and a seventh at Crans and he’s been a model of consistency since.
Schneider’s time has come in the country where he won the Open de Portugal on the Challenge Tour last year but he’s not the only German with a shout. Two more useful strings to that country’s bow are Nicolai Van Dellingshausen and Hurly Long. Nicolai came up only a shot light when chasing home countryman Paul in Majorca and Long wasn’t far behind in ninth.
Two Brits rate decent each-way value, steady Eddie Pepperell and Majorca runner-up Paul Waring. That duo shared second place in the Hero Open at Hillside and that started a lucrative late-summer run for Pepperell featuring eighth in Prague, 12th in Rome and 13th in Madrid.
What tempts me to put the Oxford man up again is his Victoria record, his second to Tom Lewis in 2018 sandwiched between third in 2017 and a sixth in 2019.
Horses for courses punters will latch on to Lewis, champion here in 2011 straight after turning pro and again seven years later, but the jury’s out about his current form.
Finally, a word for Dundee-based Frenchman Victor Perez, eighth here last year, winner of the Dutch Open in May and more recently third in a thrilling finish to the Italian Open. Bring it on! The weather looks decent too, sunny at times and temperatures around 73F.
LIV GOLF MIAMI
3pts 4 Aces @ 2/1
2pts each-way Smash @ 9/1
It’s the grand finale of the LIV series in Miami this weekend with an outrageous $50m up for grabs on Donald Trump’s Doral course but the jury’s out as to whether punters will buy into a team competition in a strange format as a betting medium.
Maybe it’s just me but team names like Crushers, Smash, Stingers and Majesticks devalue the game but Saudi-backed LIV’s vision, to make golf more exciting and faster-moving for the new generation of fans they are courting, has plenty going for it.
The shotgun start in a field limited to 48, with everyone finishing at approximately the same time, means punters don’t have the draw factor to worry about and by getting everything done and dusted in five hours the paying customer has more time and money to spend on the food, sideshows and entertainment.
President Trump, a decent golfer himself, is playing the Thursday pro-am before the 12 pro teams of four do battle over the following three days with the big share-out coming on Sunday.
Favourite to get the lion’s share of the swag is Dustin Johnson’s all-American squad (DJ, Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch and joker-in-the-pack Pat Perez). They won all four team competitions on US soil, in Portland, Bedminster, Boston and Chicago. Their fortunes dipped a bit in Bangkok and Jeddah but now they’re back in their comfort zone, they are just 2/1 to complete the full set on US turf and will prove hard to beat.
The seven tournaments to date, from St Albans via the States to Bangkok and Jeddah, have produced seven different individual winners, each wheeling away a tidy $4m, not forgetting a fat share of the team money.
Apart from the early domination of DJ’s 4 Aces, the team side of the LIV package has been spread around too with the South African Stingers squad of Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Brandon Grace and Hennie DuPlessis prevailing in the first tournament at St Albans back in August and the latest team honours in Jeddah going to Smash by six shots, thanks to Brooks Koepka capturing the solo prize, closely pursued by teammate Peter Uihlein. Jason Kokrak and Brooks’ brother Chase also contributed in another all-American triumph.
In between, the surprise victory of Spanish outsider Eugenio Chacarra, Bangkok was the chief points scorer for the Latino quartet called the Fireballs completed by captain Sergio Garcia and Mexicans aces Abe Ancer and Carlos Ortiz.
This week’s format contains four different golfing disciplines, strokeplay, matchplay, singles and foursomes, so for the new audiences it will be an education as well as an entertainment.
Before parting with your hard-earned, it is as well to know what’s going on. Here’s the timetable for the LIV Miami:
FRIDAY: top four seeds get a bye (so you won’t see the 4 Aces and Co until Saturday). The rest play matchplay, two singles and one alternate-shot foursomes, with the higher seeded teams allowed to pick their opponents.
SATURDAY: semi-finals and we’re down to eight. The big guns come in now and it’s again matchplay in the same singles-and-foursomes formula. Three scores out of four to count.
SUNDAY: just four teams left and now they revert to strokeplay with all four scores to count. So you can’t get away with any passengers!
Adrian Otaegui who played in three of the first four tournaments gets a recall as reward for winning on the DP World Tour at Valderrama. He replaces Hideti Tanihara for outsiders Torque. Also back is Hennie DuPlessis, runner-up to Schwartzel in the LIV opener. He comes in for Shaun Norris for the Stingers, so they have the same team that won in England.
One of the surprise packets of the series has been Uihlein’s great performances for Smash.He just lost out in the playoff with Brooks Koepka in Saudi, the latest form we have, and filled the same position behind Cammie Smith in Chicago.
And now that Koepka has got his mojo back by winning in Jeddah to end two lean years dogged by injuries, Smash get my each-way vote at 9/1 to chase home the favourites, maybe even springing a shock if the volatile Perez fails to function for the 4 Aces and Chase Koepka can raise his game on the big occasion.
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