Welcome to Virtual Insanity, PGA Championship edition, where we spend virtual money to try and win virtual money on golf betting!
After a barren number of weeks, the virtual pot is at €908 from €1000 entering this week's tournament of focus, the US PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island in South Carolina.
We will keep the faith! This is a long-term game and it only takes a couple of decent tournaments to get back into profit.
Golf's second major of the year starts at Noon Thursday, Irish time.
The Ocean Course is a par 72 and ranks as the longest course in major championship history at 7,876 yards. It has four par 5 holes and fairways are relatively generous. A Pete Dye design, it requires accurate approaches and a deft touch around the greens. Wind from the Atlantic Ocean will be a significant factor in challenging the players this week. So you need a player that can strike the ball well in the wind but also scramble well. It has a feeling a little like a European links course and when Rory McIlroy won this Championship back in 2012, seven of the top 10 finishers were Europeans. It's also the course where Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley won the World Cup of golf in 1997.
Also, be conscious of the greens, which have paspalum grass surfaces. This type of grass takes a bit of getting used to. Paspalum can be found in the tournaments played in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mayakoba in Mexico and in the Middle East at the Saudi International. So check out players who are comfortable on these greens.
Be sure to shop around, with bookmakers such as Paddy Power, Betfair, and Boylesports offering 1/5 the odds for your pick to get into the top 10 places. William Hill are going to nine places each way and SKY Bet are going to 11! The terms with the respective bookmaker are indicated beside each pick.
Our headline selection is Rory McIlroy for €7 each way at 11/1. (1/5 the odds the first 9 places, William Hill).
In 2012, Rory McIlroy blitzed the field at Kiawah Island to win the PGA Championship by 8 shots. He enters this week off the back of a victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, as his work with swing coach Pete Cowen and sports psychologist Bob Rotella begins to pay dividends. I feel McIlroy is now working with the best people in coaching and he has the natural talent to end a seven-year drought for a major championship. I watched back his final round from Kiawah earlier this week and his scrambling and putting were top notch. His work around the greens at Quail Hollow a fortnight ago was sharp. His driving needs a little bit of work, but Kiawah is somewhat forgiving off the tee and Rory can take advantage of the par-five holes. To me, Rory is a streaky player once in the zone and wins tend to accumulate. Rory's only achilles heel may be a windy week, as he's a high ball hitter. Yes, it's likely to be firmer and faster, but if McIlroy can channel the good memories from Kiawah nine years ago, he can lift the Wanamaker trophy for the third time on Sunday.
Our second selection is Joaquin Niemann for €5 each way at 55/1. (1/5 the odds the first 10 places, Paddy Power and Betfair).
Chile's Joaquin Niemann remarkably hasn't missed a cut all season in 16 starts and the 22-year-old is trending towards the upper echelons of golf. He is a big hitter and a decent player in the wind. He finished second in back-to-back tournaments in Hawaii earlier this year, before ending in the top ten at the Valspar Championship and in the top twenty at the Wells Fargo Championship in the lead up to this week. Niemann lies in the top ten in driving distance and total strokes gained on the PGA Tour this season. If his putter co-operates, he can contend. Collin Morikawa proved at the US PGA last year that if you are good enough, you are old enough to win a major, and Niemann is in that category.
Our third selection is Viktor Hovland for €4 each way at 22/1. (1/5 the odds the first 9 places, William Hill).
What can you say about Norway's Viktor Hovland, who plays golf with a smile on his face. A former US Amateur champion at Pebble Beach, the 23-year-old tops the scoring average on the PGA Tour this year. His two wins on tour have come on Paspalum greens, at Mayakoba and in the Puerto Rico Open, so that is a good omen for his putting at Kiawah. He has amassed five top-five finishes in 2021, including ties for third in his last two outings at the Valspar Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship. Hovland is an elite ball-striker who is accelerating rapidly to the top of world golf and a major championship is already within his compass.
Our fourth selection is Victor Perez for €4 each way at 200/1. (1/5 the odds the first 10 places, Paddy Power, Betfair, Boylesports).
The caddie for Frenchman Victor Perez is Irishman JP Fitzgerald, who was on the bag when Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in 2012. So the course knowledge box is ticked. Perez has been making smooth progress in the game over the last couple of years, moving up to 33rd in the world rankings. A decent iron player, Perez won the Dunhill Links on the European Tour in 2019, so he can handle windy conditions. He has shown up in big events - second in last year's PGA at Wentworth, before finishing fourth at the World Matchplay in Texas in March. He has a top ten to his name at the Players Championship this year, so he's got experience of a Pete Dye course. He also holds an eye-catching record at the Saudi International, where he finished in a tie for fourth earlier this year on Paspalum greens. I think he's overpriced.
Our fifth selection is Thomas Pieters for €2 each way at 200/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Bet 365).
Belgian Thomas Pieters should enjoy the challenge of Kiawah Island and its generous fairways. The big hitter has decent form on courses that have paspalum greens - he was fourth in the Olympic competition in Brazil, tied for 10th at the Saudi International and posted two finishes inside the top 15 in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic this season. The par fives should be right up his street and as a four-time European Tour winner, he's not afraid to get the job done. Pieters has top tens in his resumé from the Masters and the US PGA. He's a wild card pick, but Kiawah might just suit him.
Our final selection is Emiliano Grillo for €2 each way at 150/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Bet 365 and Betfred).
One of the best ball strikers but ordinary putters in golf, Grillo is not bad with the flat stick on paspalum greens - he tied for 11th in Puerto Rico before a tie for sixth in the Dominican Republic earlier this season. He followed up those nice performances with a tie for second at another Pete Dye design at the Heritage, so he's obviously playing well. His last start yielded a tie for 14th at the Wells Fargo Championship. The 28-year-old perhaps hasn't lived up to his early promise on tour, but he is a good wind player and could contend to be in the places at decent odds. Anything else would be an unexpected bonus, but one has to be in it to win it!
So that's €48 wagered virtually on this week's PGA Championship. 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!