Welcome to Virtual Insanity, where we spend virtual money to try and win virtual money on golf betting. It's that simple!
It was a slightly frustrating start for the feature in 2022 at the Sony Open in Hawaii, as headline tip Corey Conners finished 11th, and third pick Keith Mitchell ended in a tie for seventh at 66/1 to earn us a partial each way return.
So the virtual pot is at €994 from €1000 entering this week's tournament of focus, the American Express in California.
This tournament is a pro-am, with three courses used in rotation - the Pete Dye designed Stadium Course, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club.
This is not the U.S. Open!
This is stadium golf in the desert, with a score in excess of 20 under par required for victory. Your selections must be able to make birdies and maintain momentum throughout the four days.
The field is headed by world number one Jon Rahm and player of the year Patrick Cantlay.
The tournament starts at 4.40pm on Thursday.
Be sure to shop around, with bookmakers such as Paddy Power, Betfair, Coral and SKY Bet offering 1/5 the odds for your pick to get into the top 8 places.
Our first selection is Scottie Scheffler for €3 each way at 18/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Paddy Power, Betfair, Coral).
When is American Scottie Scheffler going to win a PGA Tour event? It's quite remarkable that the former rookie of the year, who dusted Jon Rahm in the singles at the Ryder Cup - has not won a tournament on the main circuit. Scheffler posted eight top ten finishes last season, three of them in major championships. Already this season he's been in the top five twice. He is a strong driver of the golf ball and regularly ranks highly in terms of birdie average. Scheffler was a solo third in this tournament two years ago. He's due a win and he's the headline tip to deliver it this week.
Our second selection is Rickie Fowler for €2 each way at 45/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Paddy Power, Betfair, Coral, SKY Bet).
There are signs that American Rickie Fowler is coming back to form and that 2022 will herald a return to the winner's enclosure. Now 33 years old and a father for the first time, the former Players champion has hinted that he could be on the verge of a comeback. He posted a tie for eighth at the PGA Championship and was then tied for third behind Rory McIlroy at the CJ Cup in October. He ranks 11th in strokes gained tee to green this season and if he can recapture his old magic with the putter, Fowler can be on the premises this week. As a former winner of the Phoenix Open, he's shown a fondness for golf in the desert and his last two appearances at the American Express have yielded finishes of tied 10th and tied 21st. There are worse each way options.
Our third selection is Adam Hadwin for €1 each way at 80/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Coral).
If you are looking for a 'horses for courses' type at the American Express, look no further than Canadian Adam Hadwin, who has a ridiculous record in this tournament. It's ridiculous because he has yet to win it. This is the record - tied for second in 2019, tied for third in 2018, second in 2017 and tied for sixth in 2016. He played well in Las Vegas back in October with a tie for sixth at the Shriners Children's Open and his memories of California will be good. Would any player be more deserving of a win?
Our fourth selection is Doug Ghim for €1 each way at 125/1. (1/5 the odds the first 6 places, William Hill).
Doug Ghim was the top ranked amateur in the world, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Collin Morikawa when winning the Ben Hogan award in college and playing on a victorious US Walker Cup team. In the last 24 months, Morikawa has gone on to great things, winning two major championships, but for Ghim, it's been a longer journey. The 25-year-old finished 83rd in the Fed Ex Cup standings last year, with his stats better than his results - he was 21st in strokes gained tee to green and inside the top 50 in strokes gained total. His best finish of the year was a tie for fifth in this event. Ghim has natural talent - he just needs to get the putter hot. If he does, he could be a lively outsider for a maiden PGA Tour win which I believe he will secure in 2022.
Our fifth selection is Andrew Putnam for €1 each way at 150/1. (1/5 the odds the first 6 places, Bet Victor).
Taking a magnifying glass to this tournament in recent years conjured a few names, including that of American Andrew Putnam. He's never finished worse than 34th in four American Express appearances and was tied for 10th when all of these courses were used in rotation two years ago. Putnam carded four rounds in the 60s in Hawaii last week to land inside the top 30 and the former winner of the Barracuda Championship could represent decent each way value in the market.
Our sixth selection is Nick Hardy for €1 each way at 200/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, SKY Bet, Coral).
I put up Nick Hardy as one of the Sony Open selections last week, but he was slow out of the blocks. Despite a second round 66, he missed the cut. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise, as the Korn Ferry Tour graduate will have had more time to prepare for this event. It's his first start in the American Express, but I am taking a chance on him. In the elongated Korn Ferry season during the height of the pandemic, Hardy finished in the top 10 on ten occasions in 41 starts, with 19 top 25's to his name. He was in the top ten statistically in ball striking, total driving and scoring average. If he can parlay that ability onto the PGA Tour, he's capable of contending this week. Interestingly he was tied for fifth in the BMW Charity pro-am on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, so he may be comfortable with the relaxed format in California.
Our final selection is Sathith Theegala for €1 each way at 200/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Paddy Power, Betfair, Coral, SKY Bet).
Sometimes the best way to make a profit is to spot the stars of tomorrow before they announce their arrival. In 2020 Sathita Theegala was the best college golfer in the United States and earned his PGA Tour card with two top ten finishes at the back end of the Korn Ferry season. He then had a great learning experience at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October, taking a one shot lead into the final round and ending up in a tie for 8th. It was interesting that he shot four rounds in the 60s in Hawaii and I am confident he will make a splash at some stage this season. Perhaps this week at a monster price.
So that's €20 wagered virtually on this week's golf.
Please gamble responsibly, never bet more than you can afford, and good luck!