Ben ended 2021 almost 700 points in profit after a lucrative 2020, with two winners at 150/1 and many more besides ensuring it was another year to remember for his followers.
His tally for 2022 passed 500 points thanks to a golden summer including winners ranging from 25/1 to 200/1, two of them coming on the Korn Ferry Tour as well as 28/1 headline tip Cameron Smith in the Open Championship.
Now, he’ll be scouring tournaments beyond the DP World Tour and PGA Tour, as well as looking for first-round leader selections.
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Golf betting tips: Members Extra
2pts Rory McIlroy to win his three-ball at 5/4 (Coral, Ladbrokes)
1pt e.w. Harry Higgs to lead after R1 of Puerto Rico Open at 50/1 (Unibet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
0.5pt e.w. Martin Trainer to lead after R1 of Puerto Rico Open at 66/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
There’s been talk all week of a potential draw bias in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and I’ll be hoping it’s wide of the mark given that five of my six outright selections are at risk of falling foul of it.
Thursday’s forecast seems consistent from first to last group, but it’s Friday which raises the possibility of a repeat of last year’s PLAYERS Championship, where several big names including Scottie Scheffler were blown off course.
That said, gusts of up to 30mph are possible from early on so while the wind could rise and rise as the day develops, favouring those with a late-early set of tee-times, it’s by no means a given. Scheffler is on the ‘wrong’ side but it’s telling that his exchange price remains solid; the forecast threatens a bias, but far from guarantees one.
Had there been something more clear cut, targeting late tee-times in matches and top player markets would’ve made plenty of appeal. We could have taken on Scheffler in the top USA betting and Viktor Hovland as top Scandinavian (or Nordic, as one firm calls it). Instead, with first-round leader fancy Tommy Fleetwood out late on day one, I’m content to focus on the three-balls.
Pick among the marquee groups is RORY MCILROY, first-round leader here in each of the last two renewals and second before that.
A former winner here, McIlroy’s game is ideally suited to Bay Hill, where his supreme driving and high ball-flight are massive assets, the latter making him one of the best mid-iron players in the sport when on-song.
Those shots are plentiful here and the story with McIlroy is that when Bay Hill plays as it should on day one, there’s nobody better equipped for it. The issue has been how he copes when the greens turn but that’s for another day.
Playing partners Max Homa and Tyrrell Hatton both boast strong course records too, but odds-against about McIlroy winning just about any day one three-ball around this place looks value. For what it’s worth, Homa has struggled a little bit when they’ve been grouped together in the past.
He’ll have his backers for the first-round lead at 22/1, too, but it feels like a big ask to land that particular hat-trick.
Keep faith with Cole
Fleetwood makes some appeal in with Canadian duo Adam Hadwin and Corey Conners, but neither of those two looks ripe for taking on and I’d rather back ERIC COLE and DAVID LINGMERTH for their respective three-balls.
Unfortunately, that’s currently only possible with BoyleSports, so I’ll keep this brief. Lingmerth is in with Brian Harman, whose form has dipped lately, and rookie Davis Thompson who has also struggled a bit since going close in the AmEx.
Lingmerth is based in Florida, has been second in The PLAYERS, is yet to miss the cut here, has won at a tough PGA Tour course with thick rough and fast greens, and played well in the US Open last summer.
He arrives off a very good ball-striking week for 10th in the Honda, a nice way to prepare, and that’s the fourth time this season he’s gone close to placing. I thought he was interesting in the top European market at 125/1 but it’ll be hard to find room among the places with McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Hovland in opposition, even if Lingmerth could have the very best of the draw.
Top Scandinavian is an option, with Hovland and Alex Noren both due to play on Friday afternoon. Lingmerth is in the very first group out so will be just about done by the time those two tee-off and there’s certainly potential for that to look like a handy advantage. He shouldn’t be a bigger price that star amateur Ludvig Aberg, either.
Cole was superb last week and so nearly landed us a 175/1 winner. Now he gets to play the Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill, where he’s a past club champion, and I thought the way he went about things suggested he’d be able to dust himself down for this big opportunity.
He’s been playing well all year and, a Florida resident, will have friends and family with him again. Course knowledge could put him at a big advantage over Adrian Meronk and Aberg and while both are hugely talented, I felt Cole deserved to be shorter than 7/4.
Earlier on, CHRISTIAAN BEZUIDENHOUT looks a good favourite against Ryan Fox and Ryan Palmer.
Bezuidenhout has played here three times and has three top-20s to show for it, averaging a hair over 72. Palmer has played here seven times, all of them when scoring was much lower, and averages close to 74, without anything better than 24th place on debut almost two decades ago.
He’s missed four cuts and withdrawn from another appearance having shot 79 in round one, and so far in 17 rounds hasn’t broken 70. After a missed cut at the Honda and with his short-game still in a bad place, he looks set for another 36 holes of struggle before an early departure.
Fox rates a bigger threat and would be favourite in this group were we playing in Europe or Asia, where he’s been a star over the last year. However, this is his first PGA Tour event since a 2019 missed cut and he struggled in two major appearances in the US last year, so Bezuidenhout, who is playing well, has plenty in his favour.
All this said, I can’t recommend anything beyond McIlroy, because some major firms haven’t priced up a single three-ball for this star-studded event as yet, and others focus only on the main ones. The above hopefully provides something for everyone depending on what accounts you have.
Higgs to putt it up in Puerto Rico
Over in Puerto Rico, Harrison Endycott has withdrawn and I’m happy to reinvest a little on the first-round leader market.
HARRY HIGGS has been one of the streakiest players around this season and has been inside the top 10 after day one in four of his last eight starts.
In addition, he’s carded a second-round 62 in Mexico, a second-round 63 in the RSM Classic, and a third-round 62 in the AmEx, so having ended last season with a round of 64 he’s kept on throwing in plenty of low numbers.
For context, just 23 players have shot 62 or lower this season, and Higgs has done it twice.
Prominent in the birdie-or-better stats and capable of hot putting displays, he’s an ideal type for this market, and as explained in my outright preview I think this tournament provides him with a suitable opportunity.
Former champion MARTIN TRAINER tees off a little later but the forecast suggests just light breeze and he too catches my eye.
Like Higgs, Trainer has plenty of power in the locker but also shows up with some deadly putting displays. Clearly, things don’t come together all that often and he has some major issues elsewhere, but things have been looking a little better of late.
It’s interesting that he played well at Pebble Beach to finish 20th because that’s what he did before winning this title, and having been fifth after the first round there he sat 14th, a couple of shots outside the places, after the first round of the Honda Classic,
Trainer was seventh in this market in the Dominican Republic last year and has plenty of comparable form on the LatinoAmerica Tour, so while I imagine he’ll come unstuck at some stage this week, there’s scope for him to double his tally of first-round leads on the PGA Tour.
Posted at 1150 GMT on 01/03/23