Welcome to Virtual Insanity 2022, where we spend virtual money to try and win virtual money on golf betting. It's that simple!
Happy New Year!
I am so excited about this year's challenge of making a profit.
Last year, the Virtual Insanity feature for OTB Sports delivered a profit of 46.5%.
We started with a virtual €1000 for 2021 and ended up with €1465 after tipping winners throughout the year at prices of 60/1, 33/1, 22/1, 12/1 and 9/1. Among the placed golfers, we earned part of the each way return at prices as high as 150/1, 150/1 and 175/1.
So I hope the articles inform your decision making around having a responsible punt on golf and hopefully we can end 2022 in profit!
Now we reset!
We start the year again with a virtual pot of €1000 and we will track our progress from that figure.
This is primarily a tipping feature for the PGA Tour, and we'll start our journey with this week's Sony Open in Hawaii.
Played at the par 70 Waialae Country Club, the event starts at 5pm Irish time on Thursday.
Cameron Smith turns up as favourite having made mincemeat of Kapalua's Plantation course last week - a winning total of 34 under par was ridiculous.
Waialae is a very different track - it's a short, tight golf course that requires accuracy, precision and a deft short game. It's a ball strikers' alley - and it can be a tough test in windy conditions. It could get breezy this week, but birdies will remain important as scoring is likely to be low. The rough is slightly raised for this year's renewal.
Be sure to shop around, with bookmakers such as Paddy Power, William Hill, Betfair, Coral and SKY Bet offering 1/5 the odds for your pick to get into the top 8 places.
Our first selection is Corey Conners for €3 each way at 25/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Paddy Power, Betfair, William Hill).
We'll start off the Virtual Insanity year by making the man from Listowel, Ontario (not Kerry) our first headline selection. Corey Conners is a player I have followed closely over the past couple of years and I feel a second PGA Tour win is overdue for the consistent Canadian. Conners collected eight top ten finishes from 29 starts last season and played well at the Masters and Open Championship. He's made nine cuts in a row and this course suits his accurate golf game - he finished in a tie for 12th on his last appearance in Hawaii and tied for third the time before that. Conners was 12th in strokes gained tee to green last season. The putter has held him back at times, but his only win on the PGA Tour came on Bermuda greens at the Texas Open. He will be putting on Bermuda this week. This is his time and I am confident about his chances.
Our second selection is Billy Horschel for €2.50 each way at 40/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Paddy Power, Betfair, William Hill, SKY Bet).
One of the key metrics in identifying a winner of the Sony Open has been an appearance in Kapalua the week before - 16 of the 23 winners of the Sony Open played in Hawaii the previous week. Whether it's the quality of the field since the Tournament of Champions moved there or players being sharper, it's a significant stat. So I have to pick one player who teed it up last week and that's American Billy Horschel. He's decent odds at 40/1 for someone who won the World Matchplay and then the European Tour's flagship event - the BMW Championship at Wentworth in 2021. So he should be brimming with confidence. Horschel's only recent visit to Waialae (for golf) was last year and he ended in a tie for seventh. The 35 year old is a streaky player who is not afraid to win when he gets going - back in 2014 he scorched the play offs to seize the Fed Ex Cup. So he's one of the big kahunas this week and should be shorter in the market, in my view.
Our third selection is Keith Mitchell for €2 each way at 66/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, William Hill).
A player who should add more victories to his resumé is 30 year old American Keith Mitchell, who some may recall was in a final round battle with Rory McIlroy at the Wells Fargo Championship last year. Mitchell's only PGA Tour win came on Bermuda greens at the Honda Classic, and his form is solid - he produced two top 10's in the last four events of last season before finishing in a tie for third in the CJ Cup in October. He has three top 25's in previous appearances at the Sony Open, including rounds of 62 and 63, so he has a liking for Waialae. Mitchell is ninth in strokes gained off the tee this season, so he should stay out of trouble and be able to attack the flags. He appears a decent each way bet at the odds.
Our fourth selection is Nick Hardy for €1.50 each way at 200/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, William Hill).
One is always looking for a player from the feeder Korn Ferry tour to step up and make it in the big leagues. Sometimes it's hard to decipher who has the ability and mental strength to belong on the PGA Tour. In four starts of his rookie golf season - American Nick Hardy has made the cut three times as he settles into the big show. 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. I noticed that on his trip to the Sony Open last year, he carded four rounds in the 60's and ended in a tie for 14th. An impressive debut. If he's to kick start his PGA Tour career, maybe this is the place to do it. And maybe this is the week.
Our final selection is Brendan Steele for €1 each way at 60/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, William Hill).
It's going to go one of two ways for American Brendan Steele this week. Either he'll win the golf tournament, or he'll be nowhere. I say that because I have watched him hold his left hand on the trophy in 2020, when he finished in solo second after a closing 71, and last year he had his right hand on the trophy - when he shot 61 in the third round, but a 69 in the final round saw him lapped into a tie for fourth. So he'll either be inspired to go again or still feeling raw pain. He has a habit of performing well in the same golf tournament - he won the Safeway Open twice - and he recently notched a tie for second at the ZOZO Championship. At the odds, once again, it's worth a small, speculative wager.
So that's €20 wagered virtually on this week's golf. Please 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!