Bradley Forecast to Dominate

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: October 22 2012, 16:32 BST

Keegan Bradley's intensity is a big weapon

0.5pt Bradley to beat Watson at 9/1 (Sky Bet).

0.5pt Bradley to beat Simpson at 9/1 (Sky Bet).


"It was a lot more intense than I thought it was going to be," said Keegan Bradley after he won the 2011 PGA Grand Slam Of Golf by a single stroke.

While that may allay fears over how seriously players take this event to some extent, the very fact that one of the most intense players on the PGA Tour wasn't sure what it'd be like sets alarm bells ringing.

And Bradley's reappearance in Bermuda for this year's renewal further underlines that the event - designed to showcase the four major winners of the year - isn't all it's cracked up to be.

For all his solid season, one in which he's reinforced his PGA Championship win by landing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and impressed all at the Ryder Cup, Bradley is not a current major champion. He's in the field because Rory McIlroy would rather play in China, and rightly so, too.

Likewise, Padraig Harrington - who hasn't won a title anywhere in 2012 - gets in because Ernie Els is out with an ankle injury, which means that only 50 percent of the field are actually current major champions.

But while all of that devalues the event as a spectacle, it doesn't mean that there isn't any value to be found, and I do fancy Bradley to defend his title.

For starters, he's the only player in the field with experience at the course, and it was a very positive experience, too.

Last year he tied the lead with Rory McIlroy with an opening 67, some seven shots better than third-placed Charl Schwartzel, after which he commented on how pleased he was with the round given terrible conditions.

"Yeah, it's a good course for people who can hit it out there and hit it high," he told reporters.

"You can fly a lot of the bunkers. It's just a good course. I play a lot of these courses, courses like this in Florida, same grass, Bermuda. It seems it fits my eye."

Bradley went on to win by a single stroke, hitting what he described as one of the best shots of the season on 16 and getting up and down for the win on the last, holding off a phenomenal Schwartzel fightback.

And if hitting it high is a factor he felt compelled to mention, then it's certainly a positive when it comes to his prospects of a repeat.

Statistically, Bradley is currently the ninth-highest hitter on the PGA Tour, well ahead of all three rivals here, although Webb Simpson's caddie Paul Tesori says his man's strength is hitting high irons when he needs to.

Of course, hitting those high, booming drives we saw at the Ryder Cup will serve Bradley well should conditions remain calm, but on this seaside course wind will play a part throughout both rounds.

However, we know he can cope with that. Bradley's share of third on the similar-looking Kiawah Island reinforced his ability in the wind, while his debut PGA Tour win came in the Byron Nelson Championship when it blew a gale throughout.

Of course, for all that the course fits and we can rely on Bradley - whose presence alone speaks to how keen he is to defend - to give it is all, there are three very capable opponents lining up against him.

Harrington has lost two play-offs in this event, both elsewhere in Bermuda, and will be eager to recapture that winning feeling before the end of a season which has promised plenty but, by his standards, delivered little.

Unlike Bradley, he's match-fit having played the Portugal Masters and shared 16th, so with his ability in the wind there for all to see he's not easily ruled out of calculations.

Likewise Bubba Watson, who hasn't played competitive golf since the Ryder Cup, has to be considered dangerous on a course that again should play to his strengths. Able to hit every shot in the book, if he's ready to go and takes this seriously it wouldn't be a surprise were he to lift the trophy.

Simpson, meanwhile, played good golf despite suffering early elimination in the World Golf Final in Turkey. Retrospectively, being grouped with Lee Westwood and Justin Rose represented a tough draw and his willingness to globetrot again speaks to how seriously he takes the game - indeed, he's not far removed from Bradley on that front.

So, four golfers, all willing and able, and each with incentive. It would therefore be folly to rule any out and therefore to go in heavy, but the decisive factors here could be intensity and course suitability, and we know Bradley ticks both boxes.

With that in mind, I'm prepared to back him, and with a view to keeping stakes low I'm prepared to get cute and play in Sky Bet's straight forecast market.

Bradley is 9/1 to beat Watson and 9/1 to beat Simpson, which when combined equates to 4/1 that he wins the event and Harrington doesn't finish second. That's boosted from prices of around 9/4 that he wins the event regardless of who chases him home, and looks the way to go.

For all that he's promised much this year, Harrington's form is undeniably the weakest in this field, and I don't believe he's putting well enough to be relied upon.

If pushed, I'd lean towards Simpson as the biggest threat but that's based purely on the fact he shouldn't be rusty. Watson by his very nature is hard to predict, but I'd rather be with him than against him in terms of the runner-up spot so we'll dutch the pair.

  • Preview posted at 1115 BST on 22/10/2012.