Ben Coley is taking on two major champions in the top left-hander betting ahead of the US Open, where a talented Frenchman also makes his staking plan.
This is a market I've been trying to get right for a while. The basic premise is that for all Corey Conners is an excellent ball-striker, his short-game issues tend to be magnified in majors. He's missed four cuts in six so far, and one of those he made was at Augusta which is the easiest cut of the year to make. The other saw him finish 64th at Bethpage last year.
Adam Hadwin has by contrast made eight cuts in 13, but never has he threatened and I'd be worried about him on a course like this. Hadwin has been out-of-form all year bar one good effort at a short, low-scoring venue; here at Winged Foot, the downturn in his driving, which is based on accuracy, is likely to see him come unstuck.
I had also been happy to take on MACKENZIE HUGHES at Harding Park but he made his first major cut there, finishing 58th, and can now kick on. Quite simply he is playing by far the best golf of this trio and so much of it has come under tough conditions, including at the BMW Championship and Muirfield Village. His short-game is miles clear of the other two and it can save him here.
Taylor Pendrith has attracted money and isn't totally dismissed, but this is a big step up on what he's been doing on the Korn Ferry Tour. His only recent foray onto the PGA Tour saw him miss the cut in Puerto Rico and he's got a little bit to prove on what's his major debut.
Hughes must be brimming with confidence right now, itself a valuable asset ahead of what will be a grind. He will relish every moment of it, I suspect, and 2/1 that he is the best Canadian may not even require four rounds. It looks the best bet on the specials board.
There are four left-handed golfers in this week's US Open, and Phil Mickelson could well be the pick of them as he returns to the scene of surely the greatest heartbreak of his career. Mickelson confessed to playing the 18th hole like an idiot as Geoff Ogilvy won the 2006 edition and, 14 years on, he remains without a US Open to his name. Famously, it is now the sole absentee from a glistening trophy cabinet.
A recent Champions Tour win and promising play in the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational means he can't be ruled out here. And yet Mickelson confessed to playing as poorly as he has in three months during the third round of the Safeway Open, where he hit one fairway, a tally he doubled on Sunday in hitting two. Come the end of the week his driving stats made for grim reading and a repeat of them would have him in enormous trouble.
When you consider that Bubba Watson last contended for this major in 2007 and has missed five of his last six US Open cuts, a market in which they combine to take up around 65% looks there to be exploited. And the best way to do so is to keep things simple and back the other two at combined odds of close to 15/8.
BRIAN HARMAN is probably the man most likely, as he's been 11th and 12th across his last two starts and was second in this three years ago. He's tough and gritty and while not the longest by any stretch, he does boast a world-class putting stroke when at his best - which we saw last time. He was a shot better than Bubba in Illinois last time and that gap may well widen if the latter again fails to raise an effort in a tournament he quite simply doesn't like.
I can't get past the suspicion that ROBERT MACINTYRE could also go well, though, so rather than back Harman at 4/1 I'll stick both in together. The aim here is really to get one through to the weekend as that could be enough, and MacIntyre managed that despite an opening 80 at Valderrama. He knows how to grind, too, and is nice and fresh.
At the PGA Championship, where easier conditions ought to have helped coax more out of Watson and where Mickelson was also disappointing, all four lefties made the weekend. Nevertheless Harman was first, MacIntyre second, and I would be hopeful that they don't need to do any more than they've been doing to dominate this sub-category again, for all winning might be beyond them at a course which should reward power.
Top continental European
Although not especially keen to take on Jon Rahm in any way, there's no denying he looks very short to be the top continental European. In what's a 20-man contest, Rahm is just 11/8 and that to my eye fails to acknowledge that he could lose to Winged Foot, which in turn could well see him lose to one of his rivals here.
This course is so ridiculously difficult that anyone - Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, take your pick - could run up seriously big numbers without doing much wrong. It may come from a mental mistake, perhaps one of execution, but it would not take much for a bogey to become a triple and so on. Nothing is certain when pars are so hard to find.
Given the each-way terms on offer I want to have a go at beating him and it's VICTOR PEREZ who gets the vote. The Frenchman played some horrid stuff out of lockdown but 22nd in the PGA Championship, where he was tied for second in this market behind Rahm, was encouraging. Perhaps even more so was his performance in Spain where his all-important long-game returned at just the right time.
At 51st in the world, Perez is the sixth-ranked player in this market, yet finds himself more than halfway down the betting. I don't think he's as likely as Martin Kaymer to expose any errors from Rahm or weaknesses in Viktor Hovland's short-game, but he still looks quite a bit overpriced. Providing he takes a step forward having led the field in greens hit at Valderrama, he can flush his way to the weekend and beyond and 35/1 looks worth a small play.
An alternative way to side with Perez would be at 5/2 to be the top Frenchman. That said I'm generally positive about Romain Langasque, and Mike Lorenzo Vera has produced the goods at a high level for some time now. It's not impossible that all three make the weekend and Paul Barjon could join them.
Others to mention...
I thought long and hard about putting up Bubba to miss the cut at 11/10 or thereabouts. The numbers speak for themselves: he's missed eight from 13 in this including five of his last six and simply doesn't look forward to what lies ahead. If he drives well he might just about make the weekend regardless, but the prices look off; something like 8/11 here would be more accurate.
Instead it goes into a Request-A-Bet which Sky Bet have priced up. Quite obviously this won't go into the staking plan as it's not a serious bet and can't be accessed by everyone. The other elements are either of the two selections above to be the top left-hander, in itself related to the Watson wager; outright tip Tommy Fleetwood to finish in the top 20; and Sebastian Munoz to be top South American.
The latter is odds-against to beat Joaquin Niemann. Long-term, the Chilean of course has much more ability and potential, and if we go back far enough his head-to-head record over Munoz is superior. However, the Colombian has beaten Niemann in four of their last six starts and is playing consistently well. That includes Harding Park, albeit by just a shot, and Niemann is yet to produce in majors.
It's been put in at 18/1 and if you do want to back it you can do so here. My advice would be (very) small-stakes only.
Posted at 1610 BST on 15/09/20
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