US PGA specials betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

Si Woo Kim is among Ben Coley's best specials bets for the US PGA
Si Woo Kim is among Ben Coley's best specials bets for the US PGA

Ben Coley takes a look at the pick of the specials markets ahead of the US PGA Championship, which begins on Thursday.

Recommended bets:

1pt Si Woo Kim to be the top Asian player at 12/1

1pt Anirban Lahiri to be the top Asian player at 12/1

4pts Jason Day to be the top Australian player at 11/10

1pt Alex Bjork to be the top Scandinavian player at 14/1

2pts Rafa Cabrera Bello to be the top Spanish player at 11/2

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record

Top Asian

As mentioned in my outright preview - and everywhere you care to look - historically, it's fair to say that strong performance at Firestone has proven to be a reliable pointer towards further success at the PGA Championship.

It's hard to say exactly why that is given that the season's final major goes from place to place, this year's venue hosting the event for the first time, but we are in the strongest fortnight of the year in terms of field strength and that probably has something to do with it. The PGA has also tended to be housed at a fairly classical, parkland course, and that's exactly what Firestone is, too.

When it comes to the specials markets, then, it may well be that we see a few instances of history repeating very quickly and that's partly why I'm keen to split stakes on Si Woo Kim and Anirban Lahiri in the top Asian market.

In recent years, Hideki Matsuyama has made this his own but the Japanese has really struggled to find top gear since returning from a wrist injury and that was certainly the case in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week.

Defending the title he won courtesy of a course-record final-round 61 in 2017, Matsuyama struggled off the tee and with the putter as he laboured to 39th place and he looks worth taking on here having missed two cuts before that.

Lahiri was the top Asian player at Firestone, finishing sixth, and it was no flash in the pan as he'd been ninth, 13th and 39th in his previous three PGA Tour starts, the latter seeing him fall down the leaderboard having been second at halfway and sixth before a costly final round.

With his best major finish having come in this event three years ago when tied for fifth, and having been strong throughout the bag lately, he looks set for another good week and is overpriced at 14/1.

Kim meanwhile finished a shot behind Lahiri, thanks largely to a strong putting week, and the Korean had previously been 29th at the RBC Canadian Open to hint at a strong finish to the year.

The 23-year-old was in the mix in last summer's US Open and this former PLAYERS champion has the game to win majors. He's in my outright staking plan because of that belief, whereas hand on heart I'm not sure Lahiri is a major champion in waiting, but in this market splitting stakes at a combined 11/2 is the way to go.

Matsuyama is as short as 2/1 in places and I'd much rather side with last week's pick of the Asian players at three-times that price, with neither Kiradech Aphibarnrat nor Hao-tong Li having done enough to suggest they're worthy of shorter prices and Ben An having also failed to make an impression.

Top Australian

With Adam Scott continuing to toil and Cameron Smith not fully convincing, either, this should boil down to a match between Jason Day and Marc Leishman with the former strongly preferred.

Day finished 10th last week but should really have been inside the top three or four, yet despite a couple of costly late errors he still had Leishman's measure and, while the latter finished 14th despite putting poorly, I expect the form to hold up.

It's significant that Day leads 6-1 in their PGA Championship head-to-head, this being the major he's won and the one in which Leishman has typically struggled, and odds-against about the best Australian golfer on the planet looks good with that in mind.

Soft conditions last week definitely seemed to help with Day's approach play and with the greens at Bellerive very receptive, he can again build a platform on which he could well win this title for a second time if the putter warms up again.

Jason Day
Jason Day: Regular contender in this and should again be the top Aussie

Top Scandinavian

Sticking with the theme, the gambled-on Thorbjorn Olesen will do for many here at 7/2 given that Henrik Stenson appears to be still nursing an elbow injury and finished a modest 39th to Olesen's third last week.

With Alex Noren having needed to putt the lights out to finish down in 31st, Mikko Korhonen having been off for a month and missing back-to-back cuts when last seen and Thomas Bjorn surely not a factor, the case for Olesen is strong but I think he's plenty short enough.

I'd rather back Alex Bjork, the consistent Swede whose approach play was very strong at Firestone, a course which is too long for him really. Bellerive, while also long on the scorecard, may better reward his iron play and short-game which makes the standout 14/1 with William Hill worth taking to small stakes.

Bjork does have to turn around last week's form but can do so and is also worth considering at 13/2 to beat just Stenson and Noren, both of whom have questions to answer despite understandably dominating these markets.

At twice the price, however, I'm happy to take on the Danes and a Finn who makes his major debut, too.

Top Spaniard

Back at the US Open, I put up Rafa Cabrera Bello to beat an out-of-sorts Sergio Garcia and a favourite in Jon Rahm whose major record was a serious concern, particularly around a mentally demanding course like Shinnecock.

Cabrera Bello duly obliged, beating Garcia by 12 shots over the first two rounds and Rahm by 13, ultimately finishing a respectable 39th as both those two missed the cut. Then, at the Open, he won this market again despite finishing a lowly 74th as both Garcia and Rahm failed to make the cut.

At Firestone last week, Rahm tied with Cabrera Bello, both playing well despite putting poorly to tie for 17th, Garcia again finishing much further down the leaderboard, so I can't quite fathom why Cabrera Bello has drifted a couple of points from the equivalent US Open market.

Granted, Rahm will surely find this more to his liking than the preceding two majors and is a worthy favourite, but 10/11 versus 11/2 about two players who finished side-by-side at Firestone - a course particularly well suited to Rahm's game - seems like an imbalance and makes the decision an easy one.

There are two other Spaniards here, Jorge Campillo and Adrian Otaegui, but they're likely to be outclassed and Cabrera Bello is fancied to again underline his Ryder Cup credentials with a solid week.

Top South African

Louis Oosthuizen looks rock-solid here with Branden Grace's form this summer (MC-63) of some concern and Charl Schwartzel having played poorly for a long time until shooting 63 on Sunday, a round which still wasn't enough to catch Oosthuizen.

The latter was second in this event last year, famously completing a grand slam of runner-up finishes, and is a habitual major contender despite not winning lower-grade titles as often as he perhaps should.

But rather than take 9/4 about him outscoring his compatriots, with Justin Harding and Brandon Stone both having the potential to throw a spanner in the works at monster prices, the more sensible policy here is to take a similar 21/10 about a top-30 finish from Paddy Power.

Oosthuizen has been inside the top 30 in each of his last five starts and 11 of his last 14 major appearances in the US. All told he has 20 top-30 finishes in 40 major appearances, five in succession in this particular major, and he remains a model of consistency.

He's 100/30 in the more conventional top-20 market and 7/5 for a top-40, which looks really solid, so there are options aplenty for those, like me, who expect him to again enjoy a solid week.

  • First-round leader selections will follow in Ben's Thursday preview, published later today

Posted at 1025 BST on 07/08/18.

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