Happy New Year! Welcome to Virtual Insanity, where we spend virtual money to try and win virtual money on golf betting. It's that simple!
Narcissism alert. No, not Donald Trump. Me.
10 years ago this month my book, 'Beat the Bookies', was published. Written as a guide to the do's and don'ts of sports betting based on years of tipping on the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show and personal punting, it had a chapter dedicated to golf betting, where I felt profit resided.
I chronicled some great wins and disastrous losses, all within the parameters of the health warning of being disciplined and exercising judgement when having a bet.
During the many years leading up to the book being commissioned and released, I would recount some bad years, losing years - especially around 2005 and 2006 - but I didn't give up and good years did return.
After a losing debut year on 'Virtual Insanity' for OTB - I am hoping for and frankly expecting a comeback in 2021. Otherwise, it would simply be insane to try any longer.
So I am resetting and giving it everything, setting myself a 'virtual' starting point of €1000 and seeing how the chips fall during the golfing year between now and December.
We will conquer the fairways and greens and putt in some profit this year! Now that is thinking Norman Vincent Peale would be proud of.
So the virtual pot is at €1000 entering the first tournament of focus in 2021, the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the US PGA Tour in Hawaii.
Played at the par 73 Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, it's part of the Aloha swing (get it) and the event starts on Thursday.
Due to the disruption of last season as a result of COVID 19, this week's field will include not only recent PGA Tour winners, but those who made the Tour Championship field.
It's therefore a stellar tournament this week, with eight of the world's top ten in a field of 42. Rory McIlroy has taken a pass.
Anyone who remembers the Tiger Woods computer game will know this is a big hitters paradise with wide fairways and large greens. Designers Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore renovated the course for the 2019 renewal to make it a slightly harder test. One needs to putt well and convert birdie opportunities. The biggest defence of the Plantation Course is arguably wind.
Be sure to shop around, with bookmakers such as Paddy Power, Betfair, William Hill, SKY Bet, Betfred, Betway and Boylesports offering 1/5 the odds for your pick to get into the top six.
Our headline selection is Patrick Reed for €4 each way at 16/1. (1/5 the odds the first 6 places).
'Captain America' as he is nicknamed, is a top tier player. A Masters champion, Reed has solid bonafides in this event. He won it in 2015, has finished second twice, including last year, and is bang in form, with a tied third placing at the DP World Tour Championship on his last start. This followed three top 15 finishes in succession in America, including a tied tenth performance at Augusta. Reed has won eight times on the PGA Tour and possesses a magical short game that fits this course. He appears to be a solid proposition to contend to win once again.
Our second selection is Joaquin Niemann for €2 each way at 35/1. (1/5 the odds the first 6 places).
Chilean Niemann was once the best amateur golfer in the world, for 44 weeks no less, and his rate of progression on the PGA Tour is impressive. Still only 22, he won in the first tournament he played last season - the Greenbrier - with a 72 hole total of 21 under par. He then went to Hawaii and posted a tied fifth finish in this event. Further top fives followed at the Heritage and BMW Championship. Niemann is a long hitter who is high up in the birdie statistics. Having seen and liked Kapalua last year, he could give punters a run for their money at a nice price.
Our third selection is Scottie Scheffler for €2 each way at 35/1. (1/5 the odds the first 6 places).
Backing a rookie in this event is a bit of a flier, but I couldn't leave American Scheffler out of calculations. He is only 24 and a rising star. That star was born on the satellite Korn Ferry Tour, where he won twice in 2019 to finish third on the money list. In his debut season on the PGA Tour, Scheffler reached the top ten on seven occasions - including a top five at the PGA Championship. Scheffler played well at the Bermuda Championship, which has conditions similar to Kapalua. He can hit drives far and makes a lot of birdies, so it's not an impossibility that he becomes the first rookie winner of this tournament since Daniel Chopra in 2008.
Our final selection is Mackenzie Hughes for €2 each way at 100/1. (1/5 the odds the first 6 places).
For an outsider, I have selected Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, one of the best putters on the PGA Tour. He's also playing the best golf of his life, chalking up six top ten finishes since last March. Wide fairways will help him and he's a golfer that is gutsy. On these putting dancefloors, you need your best shoes. At 100 to 1, a winning week from Hughes would keep me in penny loafers for the remainder of the year. Virtually.
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!