Shot Clock Masters: Ben Coley's betting preview and tips

Last Updated June 04 2018, 18:07Golf
Felipe Aguilar
Felipe Aguilar

Golf expert Ben Coley fancies home hope Sepp Straka in the Shot Clock Masters, along with veteran Felipe Aguilar.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Sepp Straka at 66/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7) - underrated Austrian arrives on the back of his best golf of the year

2pts e.w. Lorenzo Gagli at 33/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7) - closed 66-66 on home soil last week and few arrive in better shape

1pt e.w. Felipe Aguilar at 125/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7) - accurate course specialist who could surprise a few

1pt e.w. Gary Stal at 125/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7) - a winner in Austria who has always played this course well

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After Patrick Cantlay and co crawled their way through the back-nine of what should have been an enthralling renewal of the Memorial Tournament on Sunday night, the Shot Clock Masters - the European Tour's latest innovation - comes at just the right time.

What used to be called the Lyoness Open will still take place at Diamond Country Club in Austria and it's still a 72-hole stroke play event, but there is a topical twist: the first to play in each group has 50 seconds to hit, others have 40 seconds, and those falling foul of the timer will incur a penalty shot, with a red card positioned alongside their name on the leaderboard.

Not everyone is convinced.- absentee Stephen Gallacher reckons slow players just won't bother taking part - but in an event which would otherwise fail to covet attention, Keith Pelley's latest brainwave has to be worth a go. And for cynics who don't believe the penalties will be dished out, note that Paul Peterson did suffer one in GolfSixes last year despite having a whopping great big countdown clock behind him.

Unfortunately but not unexpectedly, the field for this is notably weak, made more so by the absence of home hope Bernd Wiesberger who presumably would've been game. Wiesberger is nursing a tendon injury in his hand and hasn't played for over a month now, so it's Matthias Schwab who leads the way for Austria, something he'll do full-time within a year or two.

Such is the lack of depth that Schwab has already been trimmed to just 20/1 in places and, given that he's yet to win as a professional, that's looks a little on the short side. This supreme talent, a first-class graduate of the US college system, has played well in the event since finishing 32nd as a 15-year-old and can handle the occasion, but there's more substance to the form of 18/1 shot Erik van Rooyen and Schwab will have to go unbacked.

There is, however, a native who is interesting at more than twice the price of Schwab and there has to be room for Sepp Straka in the staking plan.

Available in the region of 66/1, I'm not sure enough credit has been given to Straka's largely solid performances on the Web.com Tour this year, the pick of which came just last week when he finished 27th in the Rex Hospital Open.

"The results weren't really showing how I was playing," he said after round one, adding: "My scoring clubs were really good, the longest birdie putt I made was about six feet."

Straka feels his game has been coming round for a while now and he may not be far wrong. His effort in North Carolina followed four under-par rounds in Nashville, which in turn came on the back of a 66-67-67 finish to the BMW Charity Pro-Am.

The Web.com Tour is seriously competitive, a cut above the Challenge Tour and equal at least to events like this, and while Straka has been going off big prices there's enough in his profile to suggest he is good enough to compete out there. Last week's effort came courtesy of quality iron play, while he ranked third for accuracy and fifth in ball-striking on his previous start, so there was no fluke about it.

Straka also has positive experience of this event, finishing seventh last year when just two back going into the final round. Aged 24 at the time, he responded really well to a double-bogey at the second hole as he finished alongside European Tour winners Joost Luiten and Lucas Bjerregaard, within hailing distance of a high-class champion.

It would seem clear he's not as well thought of as Schwab, but Straka played college golf under the tutelage of the renowned Chris Haack at Georgia, has competed in high-pressure events such as the NCAAs and the US Amateur, and at this stage I can't see that his prospects of winning are any less promising than his younger compatriot's.

Given that we've a clutch of players at the front of the betting who are there to be shot at, he looks worth chancing.

Lorenzo Gagli showed last week that playing on home soil can draw out excellent golf, which offers hope for the headline selection, but Gagli himself looks the most solid of those towards the head of the market.

The Italian was 10th here in 2013 and, five years on, is enjoying what looks sure to go down as the best season of his career. A first professional win in Kenya will certainly live long in the memory and he's backed it up, with recent form figures of 2-20-20-14 including a 66-66 weekend at Gardagolf.

Gagli ranked third for driving accuracy and fourth for greens last week, the latter a category he led in Belgium, and this golf course is very much a tee-to-green test. Winners like Ashun Wu, Chris Wood and Joost Luiten highlight as much and it's rare that a leaderboard is packed with short, accurate drivers, yet that's been the case here year after year.

Unlike some of these, Gagli was not involved in sectional qualifying for the US Open on Monday so arrives in Austria ready to build on his performance by Lake Garda, and there's nothing to fear from this field - especially should van Rooyen or Dean Burmester decide to withdraw, which is possible.

At bigger prices, Felipe Aguilar makes some appeal having been the man to catch in this event last year, stumbling to 10th after a three-over final round.

The Chilean was completely out of form at the time but it's clear that he has an affinity for Diamond Country Club, as he'd been 18th on his only previous visit and on both occasions found the fairways and greens easy to hit.

Clearly, he's dropped some way down the rankings in recent seasons and arrives with plenty to prove, but while last week's missed cut was a disappointment he failed by just one shot and wouldn't have been suited by a softened-up shootout, unable as he was to make the required birdies despite making few mistakes.

This course is a tougher test, significantly so, and it's one which plays to the Chilean's strengths as one of the most accurate drivers on the circuit.

While his form figures don't look particularly promising, Aguilar's fourth in the Tshwane Open and 28th in the Open de Espana won by Jon Rahm stack up really well in this field, and the numbers he's been shooting since those early-season affairs are far from disastrous.

A two-time winner in this grade who also has victories on the Challenge Tour to his name, including in neighbouring Germany, the 43-year-old can still be competitive under the right circumstances.

Removing the unknown of the shot clock, this event is definitely the best chance he'll have all year to re-establish himself on the European Tour.

Soren Kjeldsen has shown a little something again recently and could contend, while Bradley Dredge bagged an encouraging 28th in Italy. Both go well at Le Golf National, which I quite like as a pointer towards success in this event, and are not passed over lightly.

Gregory Bourdy is, like Aguilar, a fairway-finding course specialist and his performance in US Open qualifying was solid enough, but the final space in my staking plan is reserved for his compatriot Gary Stal.

Stal will likely end his career known for one thing - his sensational victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship - but like so many shock winners, success there came at a cost. Truth be told, he's seldom looked like a European Tour player since and he's rarely threatened on the Challenge Tour of late.

However, whenever he arrives at Diamond Golf he somehow finds his game and given that decisions must be made quickly this week, course form could be even more useful a pointer than usual. Those who know the holes and can select their clubs confidently may find themselves at a big advantage.

Stal has made all five cuts at the course and 28th place last year, which was followed by 16th at Le Golf National, was one of his best displays of the campaign. Back in 2016 he contended to finish sixth while a year earlier he was second at halfway en route to ninth.

Having improved throughout last week's Swiss Challenge on his way to 20th, this event comes at just the right time for a player who has won in Austria on the Challenge Tour, just like last year's Lyoness champion Dylan Frittelli, and he's worth a small bet in an event not to get too carried away with.

Posted at 1835 BST on 04/06/18.

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