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Golf Betting: A look at the ante-post markets in the 2020 Majors as the new season gets into swing


Golf Betting: A look at the ante-post markets in the 2020 Majors as the new season gets into swing

Fleetwood's strong finish last year should see him in contention once again.

THE PGA and European Tours have eased themselves out of the holiday period and the next few weeks will be spent either in the Middle East or on the West Coast of America before the two tours hit their straps and hurtle into the serious pre-major championship action.

The first WGC event of the year will be in Mexico in late February and the Players Championship, the self-styled fifth major, will increase the pressure before everyone makes their way up Magnolia Lane in a mere 14 weeks.

Here’s a look at the ante-post markets in the 2020 majors, with three selections to consider.

Masters – hold fire

In many ways, this is the trickiest major in which to discern long-range value. It’s the only one which returns to the same course every year, form on the track matters and it, therefore, produces a market that will be merely tweaked, rather than reset, with current form. It’s therefore difficult to quibble with the market as it currently stands. It’s led by world number one Brooks Koepka, the man chasing him down Rory McIlroy and defending champion Tiger Woods. Following them are two men who appear hungry for quick success (Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas), the ever-enigmatic Dustin Johnson and course specialist Justin Rose.

Can we identify someone whose odds have a strong chance of going lower before the week of the event? I’m saying “not quite”, even though Xander Schauffele is worth keeping an eye on. He’s yet to win a major but does have five top-six finishes in 11 starts, including second here in 2019, after which he said: “I’m not one bit sad. I told my caddie on the last hole that we just proved to ourselves that we can win on this property.”

PGA Championship – Gary Woodland 50/1

There will be some who view Woodland’s victory in last year’s U.S. Open as something of a one-off, but it was far from a fluke, coming after he had been sixth and eighth in the two PGA Championships which preceded it. Can he make it three top tens in a row in this event and even contend for the title? The good news is that he has two big positives in his favour: the layout and the location.

The host this year is Harding Park in San Francisco, where Woodland lost to Rory McIlroy in the 2015 WGC World Match Play final so he owns plenty of solid course form and that result marked a change in his fortunes in the state of California. Prior to that result he’d made five top 30s there in 21 starts, but since and including that effort he has eight from nine. After initially struggling for form following his Pebble Beach breakthrough last June Woodland produced some high quality golf in late 2019 and if he maintains that he could be a popular pick come May.

U.S. Open – Tommy Fleetwood 40/1

America’s national championship returns to Winged Foot, scene of the remarkable conclusion in 2006 when Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie made horrible messes of the 72nd hole and with it blew golden chances to win. Englishman Fleetwood has a superb record in this event, finishing fourth in 2017 and second a year later yet the books rate him a shorter price to win the other three majors this year. Can he win at this level? There’s no real question that he has the tools and his second-placed finish at Royal Portrush informs this selection just as much as his championship record. Fleetwood was uncharacteristically downbeat after that near miss, but he finished the season strongly when he got over it and the memory of that disappointment could easily fuel him.

Patrick Reed is an interesting case. Winged Foot is in New York, Reed adores playing in front of the raucous galleries and has two wins there at Bethpage and Liberty National. But at last week’s Tournament of Champions he was heckled again. Reed quite clearly has the hide of a herd of cattle, but can he maintain that state over a protracted period of time? His price is big, but I’m put off by the imponderables that surround him.

Open – Branden Grace 160/1

One man looking forward to the tournament’s return to Sandwich is Rickie Fowler who, ahead of the high wind last week, referenced his round three 68 at Royal St George’s in 2011 as one of his career-best efforts. It earned Fowler the first of 11 career top-fives in the majors, but he remains a short price given his continuing difficulties with turning one of those good efforts into a win.

Instead, take a hint from the changed putting technique of South Africa’s Grace in his final start of 2019 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. It led to him finishing third which, somewhat incredibly, was his first strokeplay top 25 finish since February. He hits a low shot shape, lives on a links course (albeit a modern one in South Africa), has won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, been second in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart and shot 62 in the Open at Royal Birkdale. If his form returns to mean in the next few months this will be a good voucher to have in the back pocket.

 

 

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