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Golf Betting: Four who can follow in G-Mac's formidable footsteps

General RSS / / 11 January 2011 /

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Small improvements could make Nick Watney a formidable player

Small improvements could make Nick Watney a formidable player

"Look further than the most hyped prospects. For sure, the likes of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler have enormous potential, but there is no secret. If win ratio is the ultimate criteria, their weekly odds very rarely represent value anymore."

Small tweaks can make major improvements to the world's best golfers as evidenced by Graeme McDowell's meteoric rise. Paul Krishnamurty picks four who could replicate GMac's progress in 2011

With each passing week, Graeme McDowell looks ever more worthy of his newly exalted ranking status. After Sunday's superb 62 to finish third in Hawaii, G-Mac is up to number five in the world. In fact after four titles in seven months including a US Open, a starring role at the Ryder Cup and a spate of near-misses, McDowell could very plausibly lay claim to the title of the world's hottest golfer right now. Punters have reacted, although there could yet be plenty of mileage in his [34.0] quote to win the Masters in April.

The most interesting aspect for me is how swift his transformation has been. Twelve months ago, McDowell was ranked 39th in the world, and few would have argued with that assessment. A solid European player, a multiple winner, capable of occasionally beating the best under ideal conditions. Indeed, I backed him for that US Open triumph in expectation of him being suited to the links of Pebble Beach, but certainly didn't foresee such a sustained level of improvement.

There is a lesson here for punters, to look further than the most hyped prospects. For sure, the likes of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler have enormous potential, but there is no secret. If win ratio is the ultimate criteria, their weekly odds very rarely represent value anymore. Whereas in contrast, the greatest profits made in recent years have involved latching on to lesser names, who have served their apprenticeships, worked meticulously on their games and ended up exceeding expectations.

Consider the following trio, arguably the biggest improvers of recent years. Paul Casey jumped 40-odd places up to number three during the 2009 season before an injury setback. He could well resume that progress in 2011. Steve Stricker went from needing invites to play on the PGA Tour to number two, vastly improving after turning 40. Matt Kuchar went from PGA Tour also-ran to winning that extremely lucrative money-list.

There was no more consistent player in 2010 than Kuchar, and I felt he hit the nail on the head when trying to explain why during an interview at Kapalua. He said it was about constantly improving the little things, to the extent where maybe you knock half a shot of each round on average. That's two shots per week, which is worth a fortune at this level, and if replicated over a few years would transform a career. For example, only one shot separated the first 60 in the PGA Tour stroke average list for 2010.

The task for punters, therefore, is to try and dig these players out now before the improvement and inevitable market reaction. Perhaps they won't quite emulate McDowell's heroics, but there would still be vast profits available nonetheless. Imagine the relentless profit that loyal backers of Stricker and Kuchar would have made in the top-five and top-ten markets, for instance.

I've got my eye on four such improvers. I mentioned my big expectations for Charl Schwartzel a few weeks ago and he has a golden opportunity to open his 2011 account this week. Charl is a [5.1] chance to defend his Joburg Open title, and while that price will only interest the brave, it reflects his superiority at that level. Better value, however, may come against classier fields on the PGA Tour. His four solid efforts in last year's majors were reminiscent of McDowell's efforts in 2009.

Nick Watney is another for whom big things are expected in his fifth season. For the last two, he's only been just below top-class and has already challenged in majors. Watney is one of the biggest hitters around, and should properly capitalise on that advantage as he tightens up course management and short-game skills.

As for a player making steady progress, Bill Haas has improved his money-list standing in each of his five years on the PGA Tour. Last year was easily his best, finishing eighth for earnings and registering his first two titles.

Finally in Europe, Joost Luiten could be one to watch. The young Dutchman carried a highly promising reputation into his professional career, but early progress was stalled by injury before a much improved 2011 campaign. Joost has only missed cut since February, and finished the year in the form of his life, registering three straight top-fives in Spain and Portugal to enter the world's top-100. He is strongly fancied for a breakthrough title in 2011, and must warrant special consideration when the tour returns to Southern Europe.

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