Golf tipster Dave Tindall picks out five players that could prove profitable to follow in 2021...
"Now 34th in the world (sandwiched between Shane Lowry and Justin Rose), Bezuidenhout should be aiming big in 2021."
With seasons and calendars rolling into one, it can be difficult to stand back and not be swayed by week-to-week results and prices.
But at least the Festive period gave us a chance to reflect and take a wide-angled view of what might happen in 2021.
Will big hitters continue to dominate? Will course set-ups get a little more creative to keep Bryson DeChambeau and others in check?
There are certainly a strong set of major venues in 2021: Augusta National (The Masters), Kiawah Island (USPGA), Torrey Pines (US Open) and Royal St George's (Open Championship).
Not only that, the delayed Ryder Cup place will take place at Whistling Straits, providing further incentive for players hoping to make it onto their respective teams.
So, with the big events and weekly offerings in mind, here are five players who could make a statement.
Robert MacIntyre - could surprise in the majors
The Scot's career is progressing extremely nicely. Since turning pro, he's proven himself on the Challenge Tour, won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award in his debut season on the European Tour and, last season, taken the next step with a first European Tour victory. He actually had a shot at winning the Race to Dubai so he's certainly establishing himself in the next echelon.
MacIntyre has already finished tied sixth on his Open debut at Royal Portrush while in 2020 he made the cut in both American majors. With coastal challenges at both the USPGA (Kiawah Island) and US Open (Torrey Pines), the Scot could just be a dark horse to make a surprise bid at a huge price.
Europeans do particularly well at Kiawah so the 150s for the USPGA is worth a look. He signed off last season by revealing a new diet and health regime so MacIntyre has big ambitions. A strong display in one of the early-season desert events would come as no surprise either.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout - Aiming big this year
If results at the end of a calendar year are a portent for what happens in the next one then we should expect something special from Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The South African, with the amazing back story, won back-to-back events co-sanctioned events in November/December. They were a four-shot win in the Alfred Dunhill Championship and a five-shot success in the South African Open, an event that meant an enormous amount to him. Add in a six-stroke success in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama and he certainly knows how to reduce late-hole tension for his backers.
Now 34th in the world (sandwiched between Shane Lowry and Justin Rose), Bezuidenhout should be aiming big in 2021. A tied 38th on his Augusta National debut bodes well while he's already posted a couple of top 20s in World Golf Championships events.
He's a monstrous 200/1 for both the USPGA and US Open. Take those but also keep an eye out for him in other big events. And even though his price will be short, he could just be a 'good thing' in other home-soil events.
Cameron Champ - Worth a look in the American majors
A popular game amongst golf bettors is to try and work out who will have the best career out of Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff. That's fair enough and there will be every permutation of 1-2-3.
Cameron Champ is just a fraction older at 25 but he's certainly capable of making huge waves too. Some empirical evidence. Champ's win rate in the last 51 events he's played is 4%. That puts him between Wolff (2.9%) and Hovland (4.4%), who have played 34 and 45 tournaments respectively. Morikawa is at 7.5%.
But let's pick a major - the US Open for example - and you'll find Morikawa at 22/1, Hovland at 28/1, Wolff at 35/1 and Champ way bigger at 100/1. Champ's top 10 rate of 14% from those last 51 events also compares favourably to Wolff (14.7%) and Hovland (17.8%) so, again, when 10 each-way places become available, he looks a better value bet.
A US Open in California (Torrey Pines) is good news for Golden State resident Champ so that could be the major to back him in. However, with T19 on his Augusta debut and T10 at the 2020 PGA (also in California), he's worth a look in all the US majors and, to be honest, at any venue where big hitting looks vital.
Branden Grace - Costal majors to suit proven winner
Along with three rising stars, I'll also look to two proven performers. Guys who would be classed as on the 'Comeback Trail' by the golfbettingfather Keith Elliott. Let's take a trip to the World Golf Rankings where Branden Grace is down at 126th having once been 10th. However, the South African started to turn his season around at the end of 2020 and finished it with T8 in the DP Word Tour Championship.
Remember, this is a guy with nine European Tour wins (the latest in January 2020) and a PGA Tour triumph at the RBC Heritage. And he also shot the lowest ever round in major history (a 62 in 2017). So there's that. In a spell of nine majors between the 2015 US Open and the 2017 Open, Grace had five top six finishes. Still just 32, there should be a lot of good golf ahead for the Springbok and that gritty mentality and ability to get over the line should stand him in good stead if his game continues to improve.
The US Masters may not be for him (never better than T18 in seven appearances at Augusta National) but the other three in 2021 are all played by the coast. That should appeal to a man who was third at Whistling Straits, went close at Chambers Bay and made history at Royal Birkdale. And, of course, his one PGA Tour win was by the water at Hilton Head.
Francesco Molinari - Relocated Italian on the comeback trail
Tiger's historic victory in the 2019 Masters may not have been possible but for Francesco Molinari folding on the back nine. There are those who say he's never been the same since and no top 10s since that meltdown provide the supporting evidence.
The Italian didn't play at all between February and October as his slide down the world rankings continued but in one of his three comeback events he posted a top 15 (70-68-71-66) in a PGA Tour event. In other words, he can still play golf.
Why the absence? Molinari and his family decided to relocate from London to California. He said in October: "We decided to move down to L.A., Southern California. So now we're there. We got schools and a house sorted and all of that, so starting slowly to feel like we're really settling."
Current prices for the majors: 100/1 Masters, 100/1 US PGA, 150/1 US Open and 80/1 Open Championship. It'll be a short hop to Torrey Pines (T14 in 2017) from his new base so how about that 150s for the US Open? Elsewhere, he's always loved Wentworth so try him at the BMW PGA Championship while four top 10s at Sawgrass could make him worth a bet in the Players Championship.
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