Ernie worthy of more respect

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: August 7 2013, 16:33 BST

Ben Coley takes a look at the first-round three-balls in the 95th PGA Championship and has two selections.

Ernie Els: Can be relied upon in majors
Ernie Els: Can be relied upon in majors

Finding three-ball value ahead of round one of the PGA Championship is no easy task but I'm more than willing to take 2/1 about Ernie Els getting the better of Graeme McDowell and Bill Haas.

I've been looking for a market in which to back Els having toyed with taking 80/1 about him outright - a price worthy of serious consideration - and once I saw he'd been made the outsider of this trio my decision was made.

I make him favourite on account of a number of factors, chiefly that his outstanding career record in majors includes a share of fifth here a decade ago, while in this year's three he's finished no worse than 26th.

Of course, former US Open winner and runner-up Graeme McDowell also has an outstanding major record and this course could suit him, but he's got some way to go to match Els and hasn't finished inside the top-50 of any of this year's majors.

Bill Haas, on the other hand, has a poor major record for one of his quality. In his last six events he has four top-10 finishes and two missed cuts and it's surely significant that the missed cuts have been in the US Open and Open Championship.

That's not to say that I don't think he's capable of getting to grips with them - far from it, indeed I expect that he will - but at this point in time he doesn't deserve to be favourite to beat Els over one, two, three or four rounds of an event like this.

Els isn't playing poorly, either. Sure, he failed to feature in last week's Bridgestone Invitational but I'm in no doubt that he'll have used that event - one played at a course he's not particularly effective on - to fine-tune his game for another big week here.

With McDowell having endured an up and down season I think Els is the most reliable of this trio granted the conditions faced and I'd have him no bigger than 11/8, so at 2/1 he's a bet.

The obvious policy with this event is to target three-balls containing one of the many PGA professionals, who tend to find it a struggle to post a competitive number.

Unfortunately, it just so happens that most of them are thrown in with players I find hard to pick between - such as Chris Wood and Kevin Chappell - so I'm going to have to avoid them.

But there is actually one who looks worth backing at 6/1, and that's Mark Sheftic.

The head professional at Merion, he knows all about playing a championship set-up and has spoken of how inspiring it was to help host the US Open earlier this season.

Whether or not that helps him perform better than he has in two tries in this event remains to be seen, but if it does then he could get the better of Robert Garrigus and Hiroyuki Fujita.

Garrigus is woefully out of form. A share of 64th at Congressional is his best effort since the spring and just two of his last 38 rounds have been sub-70.

I therefore can't see him making the weekend here and the same applies to Fujita, who has missed the cut in all three majors this season and hasn't carded anything better than a round of 74 in those events.

It's stretching it to think Sheftic can get close to 70 but something around 75 could be enough to win this particularly weak three-ball so at 6/1 I'm going to chance him to small stakes.


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