Billy looks a Thursday banker

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: August 7 2014, 16:07 BST

Ben Coley previews the first round of the USPGA Championship with Billy Horschel worth backing in his three-ball.

Billy Horschel: Should win his three-ball
Billy Horschel: Should win his three-ball

Ben Coley previews the first round of the USPGA Championship with Billy Horschel worth backing in his three-ball. The USPGA Championship is a unique major in many ways, and one of them helps provide some fascinating betting opportunities over the first two rounds. That's because ordinary club professionals - those who make their living working at golf courses and not from tournament golf - feature in the field, and year-in, year-out they struggle to compete. Of course, bookmakers know all about this but even so they tend to take up between 10 and 20 per cent of the book; a fact which helps to produce some eye-catching prices among those they're drawn alongside.

One such example is Billy Horschel, who is as short as 4/6 with one firm but can be backed at evens with most and odds-against in a place. Horschel plays alongside South Africa's George Coetzee in what could be a match, with 37-year-old PGA professional Jamie Broce completing the 12.50 three-ball. Broce will struggle and he knows it. From 2005 to 2007 he tried and failed to make a living on the Web.com Tour, before ultimately accepting that his future was to be elsewhere. There is no disgrace in that and no disrespect whatsoever goes his way. But the simple fact is that Broce is nowhere near the standard of Coetzee nor Horschel and if his is the best score, it will be because the other two have performed well below their capabilities. Horschel looks much the likeliest having hinted of a return to his brilliant best of late, with finishes of 26-15-6-23-11 before a missed cut in the Open Championship. Furthermore, he's a confirmed fan of Muirfield Village - a course which may well prove a useful guide to this week's event at Valhalla - while he's also gone close at Annandale as well as producing a couple of good rounds at PGA National. In short, Jack Nicklaus-designed courses appear to suit him well enough and his expert iron play should prove a big asset. We also know that he can produce in stateside majors having placed in last year's US Open and he'll be hopeful of a big week. Coetzee hit the front at the Open for a brief time on Friday but that's about as good as it's been since he finally shed his maiden tag on the European Tour in the spring. He certainly hasn't kicked on in the fashion I expected and in five US majors he has four missed cuts and a tie for 56th for his efforts. In what looks a match, anything evens or bigger about Horschel should be snapped up. Of the more conventional early groups, Jimmy Walker is tempting at 6/4 to beat Jason Day and Ian Poulter. Ordinarily, he wouldn't even be favourite but Day said last week that he's 70 per cent fit while Poulter is also struggling. That being said, the very fact that Walker is priced as the most likely winner of this particular three-ball tells us the layers haven't missed a beat and he can go unbacked at the odds. I'm slightly surprised to see Shane Lowry preferred to Ryan Palmer in the betting for their three-ball, another completed by a PGA professional, while Rory Sabbatini's form at all the right courses makes him tempting to see off Ryo Ishikawa in another such group. However, the other I like is Hunter Mahan to beat Branden Grace and Thorbjorn Olesen at odds-against (1850). Grace has certainly shown signs that he's ready to return to form and that, coupled with a mediocre summer for Mahan, explains why we can have 6/5. However, Mahan looks a great fit for Valhalla, where he made a fine debut as a rookie in the 2008 US Ryder Cup side, and he led the field in greens hit last week to hint that he's found his game at just the right time. Olesen remains a player with immense potential and his eighth-placed finish at the Memorial earlier this year does stand out, but since then he's struggled with all aspects of his game and he may face a battle to make the weekend. Having challenged in both the US Open and the Open Championship last season, Mahan knows he needs to be competing in these events on a regular basis and I expect him to put course knowledge to use in winning this match.

  • Preview posted at 1100 BST on 06/08/2014.