The 2021/22 PGA Tour season kicks off on Thursday in California with the 15th edition of the Fortinet Championship and Steve Rawlings previews the brand-new season starter.
Steve says: “Putting on Poa is always a bit tricky and the locals are often at an advantage on the west coast.
“The 2019 winner, Cameron Champ, is from California, as is the two-time winner, Brendan Steele, and we’ve also seen Californians Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker contend so that’s something to consider but the best angle in is probably form at TPC San Antonio – home of the Texas Open.
“Stewart Cink has only ordinary form at TPC San Antonio (22nd on his last appearance), but two of the players to finish tied third last year have performed well there. In 284 PGA Tour starts, Brian Stuard has only eight top-four finishes on the PGA Tour in a career that stretches back almost 12 years so his fourth in Texas in 2019 is significant and Kevin Streelman has finished eighth and sixth in his last two appearances at TPC San Antonio…
“For now I’m playing just one player – Kevin Na – who I felt was impossible to ignore.
“We witnessed on Sunday, when Billy Horschel won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, that a Ryder Cup snub by Steve Stricker can inspire and Na has plenty of other positives going into this week too.”
Steve’s bet: Back Kevin Na @ 25.024/1
After a highly-profitable 2020/21 season, Dave Tindall looks to secure more returns with three each-way selections for the first event of the new campaign, the Fortinet Championship in California.
Dave says: “Aaron Rai’s recent exploits include tied 12th in the Irish Open, tied 19th in the Open Championship at Royal St George’s, tied 26th in the WGC FedEx St. Jude (67s on days two and four), runner-up at the Boise Open and tied 14th in the BMW PGA Championship.
“He closed 67-68 at Wentworth, ranking 12th for the week in SG: Tee To Green and 8th Off The Tee.
“Which brings me to this week. Yes, it’s his course debut but past editions suggest strong TTG figures are vital and, within that, high rankings in Off The Tee and Approach.
“We don’t have Strokes Gained for the Korn Ferry events but in the three recent ones he played, Rai ranked 8th, 14th and 4th for Greens In Regulation. His Driving Accuracy numbers are usually superb and he’s been 1st for that category in three of his last nine events and ranked in the top 10 in four others.
“In the last few years, Rai has enjoyed a three-win season on the Challenge Tour in 2017 while posting European Tour victories in Hong Kong and Scotland in two of the last three campaigns.
“While it’s asking a lot for him to crack America straight away, he’s playing well enough to have a big week in a poor field so the three-figure price tempts me in.”
Dave’s bet: Back Aaron Rai each-way @ 101.0100/1
Steve heads to California in search of a monster-priced winner with three selections at the Fortinet Championship.
Steve says: “Brendan Steele has won this event twice already at Silverado, back-to-back in 2016 and 2017, and he’s a very straightforward selection given this isn’t the only course at which he’s played well repeatedly.
“Steele has traded at odds-on without winning at each of the last two editions of the Sony Open. On the second occasion in January this year, when he hit a low of 1.374/11 on Sunday, he began the event as an unconsidered 240.0239/1 chance so I’m not unduly worried about his poor form.
“The Californian knows Silverado intimately and he really knows how to play the tricky track, so I was more than happy to take a chance on him at a triple-figure price.”
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Steve Rawlings explains why he’s keen on the chances of a certain South African at this week’s Dutch Open…
Steve says: “Given Branden Grace was in-contention at the US PGA Championship with a round to go in May, that he finished fourth at The Memorial Tournament and seventh in the US Open in June, and that he’s won on the PGA Tour this year, at the Puerto Rico Open in February, it’s rather odd that he doesn’t head the market here, despite a few poor efforts in the last few weeks.
“He was a popular pick this time last week before an awful start at Wentworth put paid to his chances, but he played the back-nine in three-under-par on Friday and this time last month he very nearly won his second PGA Tour event of the year, losing in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship.
“Grace is a great links exponent, famous for shooting the lowest round in a major (62) at Royal Birkdale in 2017, and he opened-up the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Championship with a course record 60 around the Kyle Philips designed Kingsbarns.
“The course will suit him this week and he’s already won eight times on the European Tour and twice on the PGA Tour. He’s a class act and he should be shorter than the 21.020/1 available on the exchange.”
Back Branden Grace @ 21.020/1
Dave Tindall assesses the field at the Dutch Open and picks the players who could make a fast start in Thursday’s first round…
Dave says: “David Drysdale shot a 64 to sit second after the first lap of the ISPS Handa World Invitational and was inside top 10 following the first round of last month’s Cazoo Classic a couple of weeks later.
“Drysdale also made quick starts in Kenya (65) and Austria (T10 after day one) in back-to-back starts in late March/April and was in the top 25 at Wentworth when Thursday was in the books.
“We’re guessing about course liking but in 2017 Drysdale shot a 67 at Kingsbarns, another Kyle Phillips track, to sit sixth after two rounds of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“It’s a different venue but he was sixth on his penultimate start in the Netherlands so there are a few pointers to suggest he may go well at 110/1.”
Dave’s bet: Back David Drysdale E/W @ 111.0110/1
Matt Cooper has three selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places so find out who our each-way tipster is backing…
Matt says: “The first name that jumped out to me as having been a little overlooked (with a somewhat diminished field, plenty have had prices slashed if they’ve shown any form whatsoever) is the Dane Joachim B. Hansen.
“Last week he finished T20th at Wentworth with rounds of 69-68-72-68 which I thought was a solid back-up to his tied seventh there 12 months ago.
“The West Course is not quite so naturally heathland as the other Surrey tracks around it, the likes of Sunningdale and Walton Heath. The turf is a little slower, but it has aspects of those traditional design principles and is similar to the eye…
“I particularly like that he’s got a fine record at Spey Valley, a modern heathland track in Scotland. He was second there in 2018 and has twice been tied fifth.”
Matt’s bet: Joachim B. Hansen 1pt each-way @ 41.040/1
Andy Swales fills us in on the Bernardus golf course in Cromvoirt and provides the latest form stats for the players teeing up.
Andy says: “despite the great traditions of this tournament, this week’s field will be one of the weakest in his illustrious history. That said, opportunity will certainly be knocking in the Netherlands for many players who rarely get an opportunity to tee-up in even run of the mill events on the European Tour.
“The Dutch Open field is full of in-form Challenge Tour golfers, including Santiago Tarrio, who currently leads the Road to Mallorca standings by a significant margin.
“The 30-year-old has dominated the Challenge Tour this year thanks to two victories and five other podium finishes. And in a rare excursion onto the European Tour the Spaniard finished third at the Hero Open in Scotland.
“Despite his status as a current Challenge Tour player, Tarrio will still tee-up on Thursday as the fourth highest-ranked golfer in the field, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his late-compatriot Seve Ballesteros who claimed his maiden European Tour title at the Dutch Open, 45 years ago.”