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USPGA Betting: Fleetwood to prevail as top Englishman

USPGA Betting: Back Fleetwood for top Englishman at 6/1
USPGA Betting: Back Fleetwood for top Englishman at 6/1

The golfing world descends upon Kiawah Island this week in one of the most open looking majors in recent times. Rory McIlroy comes into it as a clear favourite despite being woefully out of form until winning the Wells Fargo Championship last time out. It’s a brutally long course this week and length off the tee looks a huge bonus, I’ve seen plenty of experts with differing opinions about how crucial it will be but it’s fair to say length is certainly not going to be a hindrance. 

The next thing in my consideration is that it’s a links style course with winds expecting to blow all week, it’s still too early to be certain just to what extent but you need to be on the side of golfers who relish windy links style conditions. My final consideration is a player's ability to scramble; given it’s a long course that’s expected to be played in fast, blowy conditions then players will struggle to hit many greens meaning those who can scramble well have the best chance of success if it plays to its brutal potential. So, with all that in mind, I’m going to delve into the alternative markets and try and unearth some value.

Alternative bets

Top Englishman - Tommy Fleetwood
6/1
Odds correct as of 2021-05-18 15:10 Odds subject to change.

It’s a 13 runner market and there aren’t actually any no hopers that I can completely rule out for certain. Rai, Sullivan and Horsfield have yet to have a top 10 finish in an event of this magnitude so those will be the first off my list. Lewis and Poulter have not been in good enough form this season so those are the next to go. 

The conditions could suit Danny Willett really well but he has just one top 10 in the past 9 months and that came in one of the weakest events on tour so I’m begrudgingly going to rule him out. Rose hasn’t played much golf this year and has been troubled by injury, when he has played he’s shown glimpses of form but is too short of a price for me to take a risk on; Fitzpatrick was someone I watched closely last week and he put in one of his worst performances on tour on what was an easy course even by PGA standards so I’m happy to rule him out too. 

That leaves me with 5 who I think all have a decent chance. Out of those 5 one just stands out for me and that’s Tommy Fleetwood at 6/1; he ranks best of those on shots gained around the green; he’s 3rd best in distance off the tee and he’s got plenty of impressive results on links courses; he’s not in his best form but neither is Hatton who’s the market favourite. Both Casey and Westwood are in their 40s now and this is a championship where there have been plenty of younger winners so Fleetwood is the best value man at the prices for me.

USPGA Betting
Top left-hander - Brian Harman
5/2
Odds correct as of 2021-05-18 15:10 Odds subject to change.

Just a 5 runner field here but there is one clear selection I'm keen to get on side and that’s Brian Harman at 5/2. He’s had 5 consecutive top 20 finishes which include a major and a WGC event so that’s remarkably consistent and a top 20 again here should be enough to land this market in my opinion, he’s incredibly consistent around the greens and at 34 is approaching his peak golfing age - something that counts against the other 4 In this market. 

Both Bob Macintyre and Garrick Higgo are tipped to break into the top 10 in the world over the next 5 years, but Higgo has never played at this level before and has his best results on the easier courses so I think this week will be a big learning curve for him. Macintyre was excellent when finishing 12th in the Masters a few weeks back and he admitted he played the best golf of his life that week which will be tough to repeat again here.

His European tour record is less impressive than that of Higgos' so if I’m ruling him out I should really be ruling Macintyre out too at the same price. Phil Mickelson is the outsider in the betting and the easiest to rule out, he’s dropped from 66th to 115th in the world rankings this year and hasn’t had a top 20 finish at this level since midway through 2020; unfortunately age is now very much against him and it would be tough to see him challenge for another major. 

That leaves Bubba Watson as the only other genuine option and his recent form is fair enough although he’s not had a top 10 finish in a stroke play event this year, he’s also way down in 93rd for strokes gained around the green this season where as Harman is sitting 24th and that could possibly be the most crucial stat for this weekend.

Golf Odds
Top 20 finish - Branden Grace
7/1
Odds correct as of 2021-05-18 15:10 Odds subject to change.

When you think of golfers who play well in windy conditions the name Branden Grace pops up pretty early on in the discussion. He had slightly dropped off the radar in recent seasons but the former world number 10 does have a PGA win to his name this season. That came in the Puerto Rico Open which was an event I followed closely, it’s fair to say the field was pretty weak compared to this week's event but there were also plenty of similarities. It was played on a coastal course with Paspalum greens (just like this week) and the wind was howling, especially on the Saturday and Sunday when Grace played his best stuff.

His form since then has been unspectacular but certainly not terrible and I still see him as someone who’s on an upward trajectory, in 2020 he missed 12 cuts from his 24 events and this year it’s just 2 from 9 and both of those were on courses that didn’t suit his game. He isn’t someone who bombs it off the tee but for me that’s the only negative, and his low ball flight will actually be beneficial the windier it gets. It’s easy to forget he’s only 32 as he seems to have been around forever. 

He’s available at 7/1 for a top 20 finish and that’s something he’s managed 7 times in majors already, and although I don’t think his all round game is good enough to win this week, if he can get close to his best then a top 20 is certainly realistic and offers a nice chunk of value when you consider there are guys at less than half his price who are either woefully out of form or typically struggle in these conditions.

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