Ben Coley's Wells Fargo Championship betting tips

Golf

Golf expert Ben Coley went close with one of his selections again last week and has four fancies for the Wells Fargo Championship.

Recommended bets:


1pt e.w. Bill Haas at 40/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7) - consistent type is better equipped than most to deal with course switch

0.5pt e.w. Patrick Rodgers at 200/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - T2 in the 2015 renewal and worth chancing to bounce back to form

0.5pt e.w. Smylie Kaufman at 500/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - speculative but better on last solo start and may surprise

1pt e.w. Patrick Reed at 55/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - good signs in last two starts and more prolific than most of these

Owing to the fact that regular venue Quail Hollow will host this year's PGA Championship, Eagle Point, on the North Carolina coast, steps in to ensure the Wells Fargo can go ahead as scheduled.

Like Quail Hollow, this Tom Fazio design is a relatively meaty par 72 and while seldom do players and officials criticise a venue, the praise for this one has been stronger than usual.

Webb Simpson, Zac Blair, Hudson Swafford, Steven Bowditch... every player to have filed a report from either a scouting mission or, in Simpson's case, a regular visit to a course where he is a member, has been effusive in their praise.

What's particularly notable about the comments which have been doing the rounds is the frequency of the word 'Augusta', some stating that Eagle Point is equally immaculate, and it'll be interesting to see whether this week's leaderboard bears any resemblance to Masters past.

Phil Mickelson will certainly hope so and perhaps a move away from Quail Hollow, where he has so often threatened to win only to find a way not to, might allow for the left-hander to underline any course correlation and win for the first time since 2013.

The field which has assembled certainly offers Mickelson the opportunity to do so, as beyond Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm it has a decidedly weak feel - a product, perhaps, of the change in format at last week's Zurich Classic and run of high-class events which follows.

Clearly, Johnson is the man to beat and reports as to his recovery from that freak pre-Masters fall have been positive. He's a similar price to beat this rabble than he was to win at Augusta and if sharp enough could turn this into a procession, as it was when Rory McIlroy won the event for a second time in 2015.

But backing any golfer at 5/1 does not come easy and Johnson might just be happy enough to get through 72 holes and iron out any lingering issues ahead of a massive summer, so with little else to go on I'm not going to get carried away with a difficult event to solve.

The Masters link might be worth exploring, though.

Marsh Benson, formerly the senior course director at Augusta before retiring, was brought in as a consultant on this project and that, combined with those Augusta mentions, is enough to support Bill Haas at 40/1.

Haas might be another who relishes the move away from Quail Hollow, even if he perhaps wouldn't admit it, because his record there had grown stale. Maybe playing in Charlotte, where he was born, proved too much of a burden but for one reason or another, Haas hadn't managed so much as a top-40 finish there since 2011.

For a player so consistent, that's an alarmingly poor return and the hope is Haas can step up a level now out on the coast at Eagle Point, which he describes as 'a fantastic golf course' and one he knows fairly well - albeit not quite so well as Simpson.

But being member at a course is too easily mistaken for being suited to a course, and while Simpson did outperform Haas at the Heritage last time, that's another event in which Haas has struggled to perform for some time and his overall play in 2017 is on a much higher level.

Prior to missing the cut at Harbour Town, he'd extended his flawless Augusta record with an eighth cut made from eight starts there, having previously reached the semi-finals of the WGC-Match Play in Texas.

He's also won at places like Riviera and Congressional which may also tie in quite nicely with Eagle Point, he putts well on bentgrass greens and has twice won after a missed cut before, so Haas looks the most attractive each-way bet towards the top of the market.

Lucas Glover is another with local ties via Clemson, he's won this event before and his long-game remains as sharp as ever, but the greens here at Eagle Point look as pure as they come and he might just find himself giving up too much ground on them.

The same may be true of Patrick Rodgers, but at a much bigger price I'm willing to give him the benefit of some considerable doubt.

Rodgers will be suited by this big par 72 and contended on a couple of them earlier this season, firstly at Torrey Pines and then behind DJ at Riviera, where he was in the mix for second place until a dreadful finish.

The switch from west to east on the back of that disappointment did not go well as Rodgers performed particularly poorly close to his Florida residence, but prior to last week's Zurich Classic he'd at least had some time to work on his game and the hope is it paid off.

Rodgers also finished well alongside Cameron Tringale in New Orleams, the pair missing the cut by one after a second-round 66.

However, the main reason for backing him is the inkling that this course will suit and his ties to the event, having been second here behind McIlroy when playing on a sponsors' invite two years ago.

That performance confirmed to Rodgers that he belongs out here on the PGA Tour and while his progress has not been as rapid as that of close friend Justin Thomas, I'm absolutely convinced he'll get there eventually and in all likelihood on a layout like this one.

Even more speculative is a play on Smylie Kaufman but in the absence of pointers, a small bet at a monster price makes plenty of appeal.

The logic behind this is largely two-fold.

Firstly, Kaufman meets the Augusta requirement. He finished 29th there on debut last year but that, of course, doesn't tell the full tale. The rookie played in the final group in the final round and, understandably, fell down the leaderboard as nerves got the better of him.

Secondly, he's one of the handful of players in this field who have won at the Fazio-designed Victoria National, a tough course used on the Web.com Tour. Who knows whether that will prove relevant, but it's something at least in an event packed with imponderables.

The final part of the reasoning concerns his return to something like tangible form in the Valero Texas Open, where he snapped a lengthy run of missed cuts and finished on the fringes of the top 30. 

Granted, he has since missed another weekend but that came alongside Harold Varner at the Zurich, where they at least fared better in the second round with a combined 65.

Kaufman is a big-hitting youngster who should find this test to his liking and with the above in mind might just be able to throw his name into the mix at the same price James Hahn was sent off prior to winning this a year ago.

Daniel Berger is attracting money and I can see why - this appears to be a good course for him, signs have been largely positive of late, and he's easily forgiven a missed cut alongside Thomas Pieters in the Zurich where perhaps their similar styles left them vulnerable.

Ben Martin has local ties and a win at Victoria National to his name, while Jonathan Randolph has twice been runner-up at the latter and arrives on the back of a couple of positive performances in Puerto Rico and Texas.

However, last on my list is Patrick Reed, who is big enough to chance at 55/1.

Reed has endured a pretty miserable spring, but he sounded bullish in the run-up to the Texas Open and started brightly there, before stumbling at the end of the first round and somehow missing the cut after a poor second.

The negatives are obvious as a result, but Reed was talking about how he'd only just sorted out his equipment set-up and, for the first time in a while, felt confident in his game. While it didn't work out at home in San Antonio, it felt like this five-time PGA Tour winner had dropped a big hint.

And so did his performance alongside Patrick Cantlay at the Zurich, the pair fading a little after a bright start but ultimately undone only by a poor third round in testing conditions. They finished really nicely for 14th in the end, which again gives Reed something to work on.

What's more, playing team golf certainly seemed to perk him up and it needed to, as he's fallen to 11th on the Presidents Cup points list and while likely to be named as a wildcard anyway, he won't want to leave things to chance.

With all that I've said about the absence of real clues here, I would rather chance Reed's proven ability to get the job done over someone like Paul Casey, who is less than half the price but is nowhere near as ruthless.

Posted at 1825 BST on 01/05/17.

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