Free betting tips: Ben Coley's Australian PGA Championship preview

Brett Coletta: Among our man's big-priced fancies
Brett Coletta: Among our man's big-priced fancies

Don't miss Ben Coley's take on the Australian PGA Championship as he bids to follow up last week's 100/1 winner in Hong Kong.

Four players dominate the betting for the Australian PGA Championship, a co-sanctioned event won by American intruder Harold Varner III a year ago having provided a platform for the subsequently AWOL Nathan Holman in 2015.

Runaway 2013 winner Adam Scott would customarily be favourite for an event such as this but a poor 2017 sees him give way to Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia, with local Cameron Smith completing the quartet priced at less than 10/1.

Only Smith played in last week's Australian Open, won by namesake Cameron Davis, and he has connected three top-five finishes dating back to the CIMB Classic, in which opening and closing rounds of 64 were undermined by some shoddy work in the middle.

With three top-15 finishes at Royal Pines to his name, Smith seems bound to go well but while he still seeks a first individual title of any note, there's no temptation to go wading in at 9/1 and pick of the four would be Scott, with course form figures of 1-2-3 and 10 top-three finishes in his last 11 starts on home soil dating back to the year of his PGA success.

In fact it's quite hard to leave the 37-year-old out of the staking plan here given that absurd record, but the fact of the matter is he's not managed a top-five finish all season, plummeting down the world rankings and showing no form of substance since way back in summer.

With Varner and Holman both winners of this championship since it secured the support of the European Tour, and 22-year-old Davis winning the Stonehaven Cup last week, I'm instead drawn to some of the younger, less exposed players who could be capable of springing a surprise.

Top of my list is Harrison Endycott, who just looks to have been missed at a ridiculous 500/1 in places, with 250/1 and upwards perfectly fair.

Endycott only turned professional earlier this month having played just nine Australian PGA events as an amateur, and he fared really well on his paid debut to open 68-67 and lie eighth at the halfway stage of the New South Wales Open.

From there, he struggled a little on the weekend but an eventual 35th represents a decent start for a player who was inside the top 20 amateurs in the world before joining the paid ranks.

What's interesting is the disparity between his price and that of Travis Smyth, who is undeniably promising in his own right but as short as 50/1 in places and no bigger than the 80/1 offered by Stan James.

Smyth and Endycott are good friends and turned professional at the same event and yes, the former fared best, but not by much. He took 11th having been a shot adrift of Endycott at halfway and this idea that there isn't a lot between them is supported by their final amateur rankings - Smyth 11th, Endycott 17th.

The last time they teed it up in the same amateur event was the prestigious Asia Pacific Amateur, where Endycott was 10th and Smyth outside the top 20, and with Endycott having been the more prolific up to that point I can't see that there's a great deal between the two.

The main reason for their respective prices is that Smyth won an Australian Tour event just before turning pro, but it was Endycott who represented Australia in last year's Eisenhower Trophy as their three-man team romped to a 19-stroke victory, led by last week's champion, Davis, and completed by the highly-touted Curtis Luck.

Seeing Davis beat the likes of Jason Day to the Australian Open title will fill other members of Golf Australia's high performance program with the belief that they can compete from the off, something we see often Down Under with amateur winners like Smyth fairly common.

Endycott has turned professional sooner than some and while this is asking a lot, from what I've been able to learn he's better than his price by some distance. Smyth is more likely to compete having added 10th place last week to make for an impressive start to his career but while he seems the right price, his good friend should be shorter.

I'll be backing Endycott outright to minimum stakes, as well as in the first-round leader market in the hope that he might emulate former team-mate Davis, and for similar reasons I can't resist backing Luck, too.

While there's plenty of depth in Australian golf, with Davis, Smyth and others boasting the potential to make their way to the PGA Tour, for most it is only potential at this stage. Their performance program is brilliant and churns out textbook swings in a way that most other nations can only admire, but for every Scott or Day there are dozens of promising types who never quite make it.

Luck, however, is already halfway there. Earlier this year he finished fifth on the PGA Tour and along with Ryan Ruffels and the aforementioned Smith, he looks sure to be a key part of any Australian success over the coming decade or so.

His victory in the US Amateur Championship last year was stunning, having been the only Aussie to so much as make the match play round, and while he struggled at the Web.com Tour finals there's been much to like about his play since returning to Australia.

The US Amateur doesn't always work out, but it does more often the not. Ten of the 12 winners prior to Luck have already become proven PGA or European Tour players and if you go further back, you'll see many of the game's greats: Palmer, Nicklaus, Mickelson, Woods. It's one step at a time where Luck is concerned, but at the very least he is expected to prove himself capable of winning at the highest level.

Highlights from Australia's Curtis Luck's win at the 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship

Last week, he defied a poor start to finish 15th and while disappointing here at Royal Pines a year ago, there was a lot of focus on him having just been named Amateur of the Year and sent out alongside Scott in the marquee three-ball. Unsurprisingly, he was star-struck by his idol in round one but a second-round 71 saw him end the tournament on the front foot and he's only improved in the interim.

Luck is priced up as one of the key dangers to the big four but that's absolutely right and at 40 or 50/1, he's worth backing to win his second title.

James Marchesani continued his good run with 10th place last week and is fairly interesting, having won a decent event in China at the start of the month, but I prefer the claims of Sean Crocker at twice the price.

Crocker is a Zimbabwean-American who was beaten at the semi-final stage of the 2015 US Amateur, where he gave Bryson DeChambeau a game, and he's made nice progress playing on invites of late.

Last week, he struck the ball beautifully (fourth for greens hit) to bag a top-20 finish in the Hong Kong Open and making five cuts from six starts on the European Tour is quite some achievement for a youngster playing a long way from home, who didn't turn professional until after the European Masters in Switzerland.

Son of former international cricketer Gary Crocker, he also has the benefit of sharing a management firm with Masters champion Garcia and it's quite likely they play a practice round together as the youngster looks to pick up more valuable nuggets in terms of how to prepare and manage his game.

The reason for backing him here, though, is that a top-20 in Hong Kong is form which should put him in the picture in what's not perhaps as deep a field. It came courtesy of the sort of ball-striking I like to see and while leaderboards here are always dominated by the home contingent, Varner's form in this reads 2-1, Boo Weekley and Scott Stallings both placed in 2014, Rickie Fowler was runner-up in 2013 and the little-known Bobby Gates was sixth in 2010.

In other words, the raiding party should always be respected having generally been playing in a higher grade. That might not quite be the case here but Crocker's European Tour experience combined with last week's performance make him worth a small bet.

I backed Lucas Herbert last week and got somewhat excited (and frustrated having run out of time to write a preview) when he made his way to the top of the leaderboard, only to understandably find things tough alongside Day in the final round.

Another top talent in the making, he's interesting again but is now half the price and I'd rather back Brett Coletta this time.

Sixth here last year, he's also a promising youngster, one who had earlier looked set to win the Asia Pacific Amateur before close friend Luck reeled him in.

He's shown maturity beyond his years to play the waiting game since, turning down invites when he felt that wasn't the right move, and it looked to have paid off when he returned to action with an opening 64 to lead the NSW Open.

Some rust certainly contributed to a couple of bad rounds there but a closing 66 earned him a top-20 finish and he was again off to a fast start last week at four-under through five, before fading to a 69 and narrowly missing the cut.

Given that he played so well here last year having just won the Queensland Open, a return to Royal Pines has to be a big positive and under expected lower-scoring conditions - assuming the winds of 2015 do not return - he can improve again to contend.

As with Endycott, I'll split stakes with the first-round leader market as already in a young career, he's opened with rounds of 62 and 64 to set a couple of clubhouse targets. Perhaps, on a course he loves, Coletta can again ping the lids..

Finally, another small split-stakes play on Joachim B. Hansen.

The Dane contended on his first start in Australia back in 2013, ultimately finishing seventh in the Perth International having played in the final group on Sunday.

That was a strong field, featuring the likes of Ross Fisher and Danny Willett, and Hansen produced something close to a repeat when on the fringes all week a year later, eventually settling for 21st.

With Thorbjorn Olesen having won that event, Lucas Bjerregaard having gone close and Olesen having teamed up with Soren Kjeldsen to win the World Cup in Australia, it strikes me that Scandinavians do tend to crop up Down Under - something we saw last week with runner-up Jonas Blixt.

I imagine wind has something to do with it and Hansen's best form elsewhere has come in Scotland, so I'm hopeful he can take to Royal Pines at the first time of asking to enhance his already strong record in this part of the world.

While unable to secure a full European Tour card at Qualifying School, he made the cut and played some solid golf there having signed off the Challenge Tour season with a solid seventh place.

Although largely at a lower level, he's managed a first-round lead once every 30 or so starts as a professional so makes obvious appeal there but we'll take a small stab outright too.

Recommended bets: Australian PGA Championship

0.5pt e.w. Harrison Endycott at 500/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5); 0.5pt e.w. Endycott to lead after R1 at 250/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

1pt e.w. Brett Coletta at 125/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5); 0.5pt e.w. Coletta to lead after R1 at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

0.5pt e.w. Joachim B.Hansen at 300/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6); 0.5pt e.w. Hansen to lead after R1 at 175/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Curtis Luck at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

1pt e.w. Sean Crocker at 175/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

Posted at 2030 GMT on 27/11/17.

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