Russell Knox is worth backing this week
Russell Knox is worth backing this week

Golf betting tips: Preview and best bets for the Bermuda Championship

Russell Knox can make class count in the Bermuda Championship according to Ben Coley, who goes in search of another winner on the PGA Tour.

Golf betting tips: Bermuda Championship

1.5pts e.w. Russell Knox at 50/1 (Betway, Coral, Ladbrokes 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w Hank Lebioda at 66/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Austin Cook at 125/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Kurt Kitayama at 125/1 (Coral, Ladbrokes 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Vaughn Taylor at 150/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

0.5pt e.w. John Pak at 250/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

If you're one of the PGA Tour's shorter hitters then October and November, months two and three, might shape your entire season. From here to the rare gift of a Christmas break there are some excellent and overdue opportunities to put accuracy to use as both the nature of the courses and shape of the fields help level the playing field at last. Two years ago, Brendon Todd reignited his career in little more than a fortnight. In 2020, Brian Gay won for the first time in almost seven years, weeks in advance of his 49th birthday.

Both Todd and Gay hit fairways and holed putts, which once upon a time might have been considered the surest route to success in professional golf. Now, with one or two notable exceptions, those who follow the sport accept that driving isn't for show; that putting won't be for all that much dough if you're not thrashing the ball close to 300 yards regularly enough, and above all else hitting quality approach shots. To exactly what degree is hard to say, but both the game and our understanding of it have changed.

The Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Club is something of a throwback, and that's because the course is short, and we're by the sea. Experience can count for a lot, with players and caddies often talking about how difficult club selection can be, and accuracy carries real worth. It's not insurmountable to miss fairways here โ€” Wyndham Clark almost overcame that handicap only to lose a play-off to Gay โ€” but trouble lurks for those who aren't missing in the right places. Todd might've run off into the distance on 24-under, but if the breeze is as forecast we should be in for another demanding week.

Brian Gay with the 2020 Bermuda Championship title
Brian Gay with the 2020 Bermuda Championship title

Todd, Gay, Clark and more of those in behind are undeniably excellent putters and these Bermuda(grass) greens may well throw up another leaderboard full of them. But it's accuracy which appears to matter more here than most weeks, demonstrated by both champions plus a host of those close behind, and that may be the place to look when it comes to finding value. Accurate golfers don't generally dominate markets.

Perhaps unfortunately for some of those looking to capitalise on otherwise desirable circumstances, Matt Fitzpatrick and Christiaan Bezuidenhout have both elected to enter an event some might assume to be a little beneath them, and do indeed dominate this market. Maybe it's the prospect of a first PGA Tour win which appeals most to these established top-50 members, but it's also likely they've concluded that Port Royal will suit. Fitzpatrick and Bezuidenhout have both won at Valderrama and while this course looks and plays very differently, many of the skills they've shown in Spain are transferable, their accuracy and short-games particularly so.

Opportunity Knox for Scotsman...

We saw with Branden Grace in Puerto Rico how vital a touch of class can be but Fitzpatrick's form prior to a return to the comforting surrounds of the European Tour had been poor, and Bezuidenhout has been off since Wentworth. Given the wind that is in the forecast, a series of bigger-priced plays are preferred, with RUSSELL KNOX top of the list.

In two starts at Port Royal, Knox has ranked second and third in greens hit, therefore first if we combine the 2019 and 2020 editions. He led the field in fairways last year, too, and this accurate Scotsman has plainly taken to the course. Finishes of 11th and 16th both could've been better and he's played well in seven of his eight rounds.

His last PGA Tour victory, at the Travelers Championship, has since been rubber-stamped as a form guide thanks to Kramer Hickok, who sat second through 54 holes here last year and has since lost a marathon play-off at TPC River Highlands. Both courses are extremely short, and it's under such conditions that players of this make-up are at their most dangerous.

The issue with Knox is that he didn't have the best of seasons on the face of it, but unlike in 2020 he did make the FedEx Cup Playoffs and comfortably so, before exiting after The Northern Trust. He was also well inside the top 100 in strokes-gained total and for all there was a lack of headline performances, also true is that several of his missed cuts came by a shot or two here or there.

There have been more signs of encouragement since summer ended, first with rounds of 63 and 64 at the Wyndham, then when seventh at halfway in the Fortinet Championship, and again at the Sanderson Farms where he shot back-to-back 66s through the middle of the tournament. Even at the Shriners, where he wasn't close to making the weekend, Knox gained strokes with his ball-striking only to endure a horrific 36 holes on the greens.

Success here may come down to the putter and there's an undeniable degree of unpredictability here. However, Knox was good in that department in the Sanderson Farms, and at the Wyndham, as he had been in the Palmetto Championship and the Valspar earlier in the year. All four events are at courses with Bermuda greens, and having been based in Florida for a long time now, perhaps he's more likely to produce here on what are similar putting surfaces.

Having shown both at the Wyndham and Sanderson Farms that his iron play is capable of doing what we need it to do, and with his accuracy off the tee still there (38th last season, 60th so far this), any improvement with the putter, at a course he knows and loves, could well make Knox a factor. That he's won strong tournaments on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour puts him at an advantage over most and his class can count.

Course form always comes at a cost but it's difficult to argue it's been overvalued in this, after Gay won at massive odds a year after he'd been third. Ryan Armour and David Hearn are others who've found jolts of improvement for getting back to Port Royal and I'm hopeful that can be the case for HANK LEBIODA too.

The left-hander is fourth behind the three players mentioned above in adjusted scoring average here, first without the adjustment for conditions, and plainly loves Port Royal. So he should, as a good-in-the-wind Floridian who doesn't hit the ball miles and instead relies on above-average accuracy together with often dynamite putting.

Lebioda was third here on debut after a final-round 63 and backed that up with 16th last year, but it was only this summer that he really began to establish himself in good PGA Tour events. He probably ought to have won the Rocket Mortgage Classic when fourth, and either side of that finished fifth and eighth on short courses which suit him like this one does.

It looks on the face of it as though his form has fallen off a cliff since, but I'm not sure that's the case. Only once, in round one of The Northern Trust, has he played really badly, and that was at one of the trickiest, quirkiest courses on the calendar. Since then he's only played twice, first at Silverado where he has an awful record, and then at Summerlin where he shot 72-68 on his course debut.

Neither speaks to him like Port Royal does and Lebioda, who was 27th in putting last season and therefore among the best in this field, can bounce back to form very quickly. There really aren't many players here whose form over the last year stacks up as well as his and he looks overpriced at anything 50/1 and bigger.

Cook to serve up each-way profit?

Further up the market, Adam Hadwin ought to go well if building on his performance in the desert, but I wouldn't be sure this is the right test and preference would be for Seamus Power. The Irishman enjoyed a magnificent summer, climbing to a career-high world ranking and winning for the first time at PGA Tour level. He also has some decent form at Port Royal and showed real signs of life at Summerlin having taken September off.

If you can get the 33/1 he's the one from the front of the market but I'll opt for speculation to complete the staking plan, firstly with AUSTIN COOK.

Accurate off the tee and an excellent putter at his best, Cook fits the profile and all concerns over his overall form are accounted for in generous three-figure prices.

Besides, having signed off Korn Ferry Tour Finals with 11th, he was 11th again at the Fortinet Championship to start the new season, only for the putter to go cold and confine him to a down-the-pack return at the Sanderson Farms. In both of these events he was on the money from the tee, and back-to-back cuts made to begin the campaign does count for plenty in this kind of company.

Cook hasn't kicked on as hoped when he won the RSM Classic four years ago, but that's a good pointer towards this through both Gay and Todd, and it's possible to argue this is his time of year having lost a play-off for the Shriners in 2020. That came on the back of just a hint of promise and though his approach play is a concern, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he took a shine to Port Royal on his first visit.

Like Gay, Cook is best on Bermuda greens and short courses, he has some classy form in the wind courtesy of 28th place at Carnoustie, and he knows how to hang tough should he find himself in contention. As with Knox, it's a quality which carries even greater worth when we're down to this grade, with so many here unaccustomed to contending on the PGA Tour.

That comment is true of KURT KITAYAMA and he's a very different type of player, but at the prices I have to chance the American.

Kitayama got his PGA Tour card through Korn Ferry Tour Finals and after a quiet start in the Fortinet Championship, he showed up well for a long way in the Sanderson Farms (fourth after round one, seventh at halfway), where his approach play really fired to rank third in the field.

Usually more dependent on his driving and putting, that's an encouraging sign and I'm willing to chance that he can follow the lead of Clark and contend here courtesy of a more attacking style of play than that adopted by the two champions so far.

Certainly, Kitayama's form by the coast offers genuine encouragement as his two European Tour victories came in Mauritius and Oman, latterly in a strong breeze, and if anyone can bully this course into submission perhaps it's him.

Taylor made for this test

Back to the preferred method and VAUGHN TAYLOR might just follow Gay's lead and contend despite his advancing years.

The 45-year-old shot 65 on his course debut to lie fourth after round one last year, and while fading thereafter, his game was in disarray at the time. Taylor's form post-PGA Tour shutdown read MC-52-MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-MC before he rocked up here and fared much better.

Things have improved again since, with sixth at the Valspar and 18th in the Memorial the highlights of a decent if unspectacular 2020-21 season, and when last he played at this kind of level he started strongly in the Barbasol before again fading following an opening 65.

Dig through what's a deep form book and second in Mexico, third at Harbour Town and fourth in the Travelers all read well, as does his shock victory at Pebble Beach in 2016, and at 20th in driving accuracy last season to go with 49th in putting, his key strengths remain good enough to do the heavy lifting.

Taylor undeniably comes with a bit of a health warning and withdrew from his final two starts last season, but after more than a month away he hit his approaches well in the Fortinet Championship. This test suits better, as underlined by the solid efforts he put up in the Sony Open and back at Pebble Beach earlier in the year, and he can step forward accordingly.

Finally while it generally pays to resist the temptation to side with potential stars of the future in events like this, JOHN PAK is worth making an exception for.

A brilliant college player, Pak turned professional this summer and missed his first five cuts, but he was in the hunt at halfway in the Barracuda Championship and has since taken the chance to reset and refresh after a busy run.

Before joining the paid ranks, Pak topped the PGA Tour University points list and he was close to making the weekend at the Travelers, Rocket Mortgage Classic and the Barbasol, showing promise along the way and impressing with his ball-striking when last we saw him.

That was more than two months ago and there's plenty of guesswork as to the state of his game, plus how well suited he'll be to this test. However, we've a high-class amateur quoted at 80/1, others early into their pro careers at around the same mark, and a field which has been getting weaker by the minute after a spate of withdrawals.

At 250/1, Pak must be worth chancing on talent alone, many having touted him as a potential superstar. The fact that he seemingly struck the ball really well when last we did see him, in a field not much weaker than this one, makes for a far more compelling proposition than most at the prices.

Others of note include Ben Martin, made for this at his best but a long way below it, and Nick Taylor. The latter is clearly a more likely winner than at least a couple of these selections, but there's little to be lost in trying a different angle in Bermuda.

Posted at 1900 BST on 25/10/21

Click here for Ben Coley's tipping record

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