Welcome to Virtual Insanity, where we spend virtual money to try and win virtual money on golf betting. It's that simple!
Joaquin Niemann. Aaaaghhh! The Chilean was one of the four recommendations on week one of 'Virtual Insanity' 2021 - and he lost in a play off to Harris English in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at 35/1. A frustrating start to the year, but the face was washed on the week with the each way return.
So the virtual pot is at €996 from €1000 entering the this week's tournament of focus, the Sony Open in Hawaii on the US PGA Tour in Hawaii.
Played at the par 70 Waialae Country Club, the event starts on Thursday.
Waialae couldn't be more different to the wide open spaces that greeted the players at Kapalua's Plantation Course last week - it's a short, tight track that requires accuracy and precision. It's a ball strikers' alley - and it can be a tough test in windy conditions. However, the weather is set to be relatively benign this week, so birdies will be important as scoring could be low.
Be sure to shop around, with bookmakers such as Paddy Power, Betfair, William Hill, SKY Bet, Betfred and Boylesports offering 1/5 the odds for your pick to get into the top eight.
Our headline selection is Sungjae Im for €4 each way at 16/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
Dustin Johnson turned the Masters into a procession in November, but it was noticeable to see the performances of two rookies; Cameron Champ and Sungjae Im at Augusta. South Korea's Im finished in a tie for second on his debut, which was just brilliant. The 22 year old is ascending through the game of golf vertically, and people don't seem to have fully grasped it yet. Im's work ethic is evident; he just plays and plays and plays and his irons are on speed dial. Let's take a look at his short history in the pro game; he won his first start on the feeder Korn Ferry Tour in 2018 and topped their money list that year. He was then rookie of the year on the PGA Tour in 2019, leading the circuit in birdies. He followed that up with a win at the Honda Classic last year, one of seven top 10 finishes in 26 starts. The Honda Classic is staged at PGA National which like Waialae, is a Bermuda grass layout. Im started off 2021 with a tie for fifth on Maui last week, where his putting let him down. On his two appearances at the Sony Open, Im has finished a respectable tied 16th and tied 21st. A better player now, he's going to win again and his temperament is excellent. A second PGA Tour win may be his this week.
Our second selection is Abraham Ancer for €2 each way at 28/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
Another player that distinguished himself at the Masters was Mexican Abraham Ancer, who was superb for the first three rounds before fading under the Sunday heat. Ancer is still waiting for his first victory on the PGA Tour, but his consistency should deliver passage to the winner's enclosure before long. Ancer found his groove in the final round of the Tournament of Champions last week, shooting a 66. That's important because a clear majority of recent Sony Open winners played the week before at Kapalua. Ancer can parlay that strong Sunday finish into a challenge at the Sony Open where the course will suit him. Two finishes inside the top 40 and a missed cut at Waialae are nothing to write home about, but Ancer is quickly becoming a top drawer player. He is straight off the tee and his solid play has brought him to 24th in the world rankings. He looks a decent each way bet with a lot of the big fish sitting this one out.
Our third selection is Emiliano Grillo for €2 each way at 50/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
Every time I would boringly check the PGA Tour Shot Tracker in the autumn - I would see the name of Argentina's Emiliano Grillo there or thereabouts. He is a consistent golfer and his reliable form was rewarded with a top 10 on his last start at the Mayakoba Classic. At the Sony Open, Grillo has finished inside the top 25 on his last two appearances. He hits tons of greens and at 28 years of age, it's premature to write him off as a journeyman. Putting is the weak area of his game, but he has been working on that. A previous winner on the PGA Tour, Grillo is a sleeper pick, buried in the middle of the pack, who might just burst out.
Our final selection is Brian Stuard for €2 each way at 150/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places).
One of the lessons I learned before Christmas when watching late night golf regularly again was how important good feelings at a course can be - Brian Gay came off four missed cuts in a row to win the Bermuda Championship at a venue he had finished in a tie for third at the previous year. Then Robert Streb, who had missed eight cuts from 11 starts - won the RSM Classic - the same tournament he claimed in 2015. Good feelings about a course do matter. Brian Stuard has those about Waialae. The American has finished in the top eight at the Sony Open four times in eight appearances - that's 50 percent of the time. Stuard is a good iron player and the track suits his eye. He finished in a tie for third at the Safeway Open back in September and did win on the PGA Tour in New Orleans in 2016. Refreshed after a break, he can give punters a run for their money at generous odds.
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!