Golf expert Ben Coley has a three-ball treble for the first round of the PGA Championship, plus a 7/1 solo selection with local knowledge in spades.
It stands to reason that my first-round leader selections all make some degree of appeal in Thursday’s three-balls, but it’s only Jhonattan Vegas – yes, again – and Scott Piercy who make the staking plan.
Sung Kang should of course be far too good for Shaun Micheel and Alex Beach, but taking prices no bigger than 4/7 would be risky anywhere. At Bethpage, it probably crosses the border into foolishness.
Ross Fisher is also in a group which includes one of the 20 PGA professionals, but Alex Bjork’s main quality since graduating to the European Tour has probably been his consistency and while not quite a toss-up, I’d rather focus on players with weaknesses which are clearer.
Vegas is grouped with Mikko Korhonen and Craig Hocknull and it will be a disappointment if he doesn’t outscore both with some degree of comfort.
For my own sanity, all the reasons to rate Vegas’s (outside) chance this week can be found here and I’m not typing them again. In summary: long, high, in-form, likes it here.
Korhonen won last time out in China but he’s far from the longest hitter in the world and his sole major experience to date comes in the form of a missed cut at Bellerive last August.
This is probably asking too much while Hocknull also missed the cut at Bellerive and has regularly been outclassed at lower levels than this one.
As for Piercy, he holds a significant power advantage over Brian Gay and, given that he’s also in better form and in possession of a stronger major record, that ought to entitle him to prices shorter than the 10/11 on offer.
He was excellent last week, loves this tournament and Ben Cook, who shot 87-86 in a Latin Tour event late last year, is another of the PGA professionals who can only win this three-ball if the other two seriously misfire.
Complete the treble with Byeong Hun An, whose supreme driving will be a major asset here.
Jason Caron is from Long Island, but he’s also 44 and it’s a long time since he played competitive golf at this sort of level. Without labouring the point, he’ll likely shoot something around the 80 mark.
That means An should only have Andrew Putnam to beat, a considerably less powerful type who is without a top-30 finish since second place in the Sony Open in January.
At close to 7/1 for all three to oblige, a small bet is the advice, and at a similar price it’s worth a similarly small single on Danny Balin.
Here we have another PGA professional, one who was nowhere near making the cut at Bellerive, and by rights he should be outclassed by both Tom Lewis and Si Woo Kim.
However, we are at Bethpage, where Balin won the NY State Open in both 2012 and 2013, and his experience of this demanding layout could give him enough of an edge to remain competitive.
"Do I think this is my best chance (to make the cut)? Absolutely, because I’m familiar with the golf course," he said. “Whether my golf game shows up this week or not, that is something that I don’t know."
Unsurprisingly, Balin calls Bethpage his favourite course in the world and while both Lewis and Kim are of course far more capable, at least they’re both capable of the odd shocker.
Lewis has to fly in from the British Masters while Kim’s record in New York reads MC-43-MC, he missed the cut at Bethpage in 2016 in what was a small field, and he was very poor at Harbour Town and in the Zurich Classic.
It’s just possible that Balin stays out of trouble sufficiently to post the sort of number which two young, aggressive playing partners find hard to beat, and at a general 7/1 it’s worth paying to find out.
Posted at 2140 BST on 14/05/19