PGA Championship betting: Ben Coley's golf tips for the first round at Quail Hollow

Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry

Golf expert Ben Coley previews day one of the PGA Championship, where a four-fold at double-figure prices makes plenty of appeal.

Recommended bets: PGA Championship R1

1pt four-fold on Lowry, Howell III, Hahn and Henley at 12/1 (ties = losers) - all four favoured in effective head-to-heads

Click here for our transparent tipping record

Fractions are hugely important in punting, and the PGA Championship is a unique golf tournament which provides an unmissable opportunity to turn them in your favour.

Twenty players in this field are PGA professionals. In other words, they make their livings not from playing on the PGA Tour, or any other worldwide tour for that matter. They make their livings working at golf clubs, offering lessons, managing courses.

It's no surprise, then, that they struggle to make an impact. Twelve months ago, not one of the 20 PGA qualifiers made the weekend; three of the five worst round-one scores came from this group, including the only round of 80-plus, and seven of the 10 worst Friday scores.

All of this is pretty obvious, yet these players still get entered at prices from 4/1 to 11/1 to win their three-balls. I would be surprised if more than one managed it and confidence is further increased by this year's venue. Not only do the PGA professionals have to compete with world-class players, but they do so at a course the regulars know well. It's another small factor which extends the class disparity and it may well be that none of the 20 get anywhere close.

The difficulty is first in finding the particularly vulnerable PGA professionals, and then in separating the remaining two players. But win or lose, the message from me is that it's certainly worth a go and on this occasion, there are four I like which means a small-stakes accumulator.

We'll start with one of the first groups on the tee, with Shane Lowry fancied to beat Pablo Larrazabal and Stuart Deane.


When do Ben's tips tee off?

All times local, BST +5hrs

0740 Young-Han Song (Kor), Dave McNabb, Charles Howell III

0725 Shane Lowry (Irl), Stuart Deane, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa)

0910 Greg Gregory, K.T. Kim (Kor), James Hahn

1250 Joost Luiten (Ned), Paul Claxton, Russell Henley

Other selected tee-times

0825 Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia (Spa), Jordan Spieth

0835 Dustin Johnson, Jason Day (Aus), Henrik Stenson (Swe)

1335 Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm (Spa)

Click here for all the tee-times for rounds one and two


The latter is our PGA professional and he has more experience than some, having played in the Zurich Classic back in 2006 and various events on both the Web.com and Canadian Tour dating back to the mid-1990s.

Deane missed the cut (75-71) at Valhalla on his only start in this championship and only just scraped into the field here, having come through a play-off in the PGA Professional Championship.

Lowry can capitalise. Granted, he's not been at his best this season but the Irishman has made positive noises with regards the state of his game, and even when missing the cut at the Canadian Open a fortnight ago was able to break 70 in the first round.

Indeed, his opening rounds dating back to the Masters have all been scores which I think would be competitive here, ranging from 66 to 75, and it is only three starts since he closed with a round of 66 in his national Open.

We know that Lowry thrives on tree-lined courses where driving well is key - see his Firestone win and frequent contending performances at Wentworth, where he was sixth in May - and he can step up on a missed cut at Quail Hollow on his sole visit to date.

Larrazabal is a likeable player but struggles in majors, as shown by a run of eight missed cuts dating back to 2012. His record in this particular event shows five missed cuts and one share of 45th and it's hard to forecast any real improvement.

The Spaniard is also struggling right now, missing three cuts on the spin, and in what looks a head-to-head prices of 5/6 or even a shade bigger about Lowry look worth taking.

David McNabb finished second in the PGA qualifier but this veteran, who shot 74-81 in the Senior PGA Championship in May and 74-72 in the US Senior Open last month, will struggle to get competitive.

Now 51, McNabb has missed the cut on his previous two starts in the PGA, shooting 74-76 at Oak Hill and 77-80 at Valhalla, and something in that 75-80 region looks the best he can hope for on a course which will play long.

Step forward Charles Howell III, who is 4/6 in a place and genuine value all things considered.

Howell missed the cut in the Open, but prior to that had opened with a round of 63 at the John Deere, 69 at the Greenbrier and 71 at the Quicken Loans National, where he went on to lose a play-off.

In other words, the Georgia native has played beautifully on his return from injury and with a solid bank of Quail Hollow form to call upon, he should be too good for McNabb and Younghan Song.

The latter is an improving youngster from Korea and finished sixth in Japan last time out, but conceding course experience and general Stateside comfort levels to a class act like Howell may be asking too much.

The fact that Howell is second on the PGA Tour in first-round scoring underlines that he should be a convincing winner of this three-ball.

Next, course winner James Hahn looks solid against KT Kim and Greg Gregory.

Hahn beat Roberto Castro in a play-off here last summer for his second PGA Tour title, the first having also come on a classical, tree-lined course against quality opposition.

This season, he's added some consistency with a string of impressive performances, including last time out when 10th in the Canadian Open. In fact, his last six PGA Tour starts, ignoring the Open, show three top-10s and just one missed cut.

Hahn, who is also a fast starter when on-song, can outgun Kim, who finished last of 76 in the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier this year and 62nd in the Open last time out.

Gregory, who was T9 in the PGA Professionals Championship, has never played in this event. He shot 73-78 to miss the cut in his sole major start way back in 1999 and his only measurable form of the last decade comes via rounds of 76 and 77 on the Web.com Tour six years ago.

Finally, Russell Henley is surely overpriced at evens in what should be a match with Joost Luiten.

Paul Claxton's last major start saw him shoot 75-77 at Olympic Club in the 2012 US Open and while he has experience of Quail Hollow, that comes courtesy of 77-71 to miss another cut in 2009.

More experienced than many of his fellow PGA pros, Claxton might have been somewhat dangerous in a different group, but he's with two players who have the required class to leave him trailing here and Henley has to be the pick of them.

This three-time PGA Tour winner is the type of player who could even go ahead and win the event, having finished 11th in the Masters, 27th in the US Open and a respectable 37th in the Open at Birkdale last month.

Granted, he wasn't at his best last week but Quail Hollow should suit more than Firestone and his 2017 form is much stronger than that of Luiten.

The Dutchman looks increasingly like a very solid European Tour player who will struggle to bridge the gap to elite level, and it's disconcerting for his backers that he missed just his second cut of the season last time.

Behind Henley in the Open, the gap between the two should be greater on US soil and that's not reflected in quotes of evens and 5/4 respectively.

A four-fold on the above quartet pays around 10/1 with Coral and a shade shorter elsewhere, while Sky Bet offer 12/1 with ties counting as losers - i.e. all four must win outright for a return.

For those looking for a bet among the more familiar names, JB Holmes to beat Louis Oosthuizen and Danny Willett is worth considering at 11/8.

Holmes is another Quail Hollow winner, conditions will be right up his street and his major record is increasingly impressive.

Willett was last at Firestone and continues to struggle for anything like solid form, while Oosthuizen has been really disappointing across the last two events.

Then again, Oosthuizen can click at any moment and at his best, is a better player than Holmes, who was not at his best last week either, and for that reason I'll sit this one out and keep things speculative.

Posted at 1055 BST on 09/08/17.

Related links

Sky Bet - paying eight places on the US PGA
Ben Coley's outright betting preview
David John's take on the specials
Full first-round tee-times

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