Welcome to Virtual Insanity, where we spend virtual money to try and win virtual money on golf betting. It's that simple!
Last week was a kick in the teeth.
Headline tip Louis Oosthuizen got to 16 under par early in his final round at the Phoenix Open and at one stage was in a tie for second. He ended up slithering out of the places and we got nothing.
Nothing! In the voice of Willy Wonka.
So the virtual pot is at €951 from €1000 entering this week's tournament of focus, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the US PGA Tour in California.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament will be played without amateurs and only two courses will be used - Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill.
The event starts at 4.30pm Thursday afternoon Irish time, with Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Seamus Power in a field of 156 players this week.
Pebble Beach is a legendary golf course with a mixture of inland holes and holes by the ocean. Wind is always a factor, whether it's benign or brutal. Spyglass Hill is a tricky, tree-lined track. These courses have poa annua greens, which can be spongy and unpredictable at this time of year in California.
Be sure to shop around, with bookmakers such as Paddy Power, Betfair, William Hill, Bet 365, Betfred, SKY Bet and Boylesports offering 1/5 the odds for your pick to get into the top eight.
Our headline selection is Scott Stallings for €3 each way at 80/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
I am looking at the field and I am looking at the lack of top-tier talent and I think there may be a shock winner this week. It's an each way week, and that's the strategy. While major champions Phil Mickelson and Jimmy Walker have won this tournament in the last decade, it's also been won by the lesser fancied Vaughn Taylor, Ted Potter Jr and Nick Taylor.
So the headline selection is American Scott Stallings.
I do believe in horses for courses, and Stallings has finished 3rd, 7th and 14th in this tournament in the last four years. He hit the ball well in Phoenix last week and he putts better on the poa annua greens he will encounter here. Stallings is a three time winner on tour and I believe good vibes around the ocean in California could make him contend again. He may be a very decent price come Sunday evening.
Our second selection is Francesco Molinari for €2 each way at 22/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
2018 Open champion Molinari has relocated to California with his family and the Italian has found some form again, with top tens on his last two starts on the PGA Tour. He certainly has the precision game for Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill, and Molinari, while not gracing this tournament before, did end in a tie for 16th at the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach. I did feel finding the water when losing the 2019 Masters to Tiger Woods may have set Molinari back, but he's too good to let that affect him long term. Windy conditions won't be an issue and his last round on tour was a 66 at Torrey Pines South. Certainly has the class to make an impression.
Our third selection is Max Homa for €2 each way at 33/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
I included American Homa in the picks last week and when I checked last year's selections, he was in there as well. So it's hard for me to leave out the former Wells Fargo champion, who has landed in the top 15 in this tournament on his last two appearances and has been playing well. Before Phoenix last week, Homa posted three top 25s in succession. He's a streaky player who likes the look of Spyglass Hill and in a weaker field, he could be on the first page of the Sunday leaderboard.
Our fourth selection is Harold Varner III for €2 each way at 66/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
I would be surprised if American Harold Varner doesn't end 2021 with a win. He's an excellent ball striker and demonstrated good form with a tied 13th place in Phoenix last week, where his approach shots were on the money. Varner missed the cut in this event last year, but his effort did contain a 67 at Pebble Beach, where three of the four rounds will be played over the coming days in an altered format. Varner has four top 15's in his last 10 starts on the circuit and I think he will put it all together soon.
Our final selection is Maverick McNealy for €1 each way at 80/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
This is a bit of a 'Maverick' call to finish all right, but I couldn't shake that former Walker Cup player McNealy was bogey free in a difficult final round at Pebble Beach en route to a tied fifth finish in 2020.
McNealy is only 25, but trending nicely on tour. He made 17 of 23 cuts last season and has totted up four top 25's in nine starts this campaign. His father, Scott McNealy, co-founded Sun Microsystems and the family had a mansion at Pebble Beach for a time. So he's familiar with the layout and the fearlessness of youth means his selection is worth a flier.
So that's €20 wagered virtually on this week's golf. Make sure you bet less at home! A euro each way will do!
Please gamble responsibly, never bet more than you can afford, and good luck!