This week is all about links golf, or at least impressive attempts to replicate it. The European Tour heads to Australia for the ISPC Handa Vic Open while the PGA Tour makes its annual trip to the trio of courses hosting the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Although the rollcall of champions includes plenty of superstars, shock winners do happen at Pebble Beach. Two of the last three winners came from enormous odds and Gregory Havret finished second in a US Open from 1000.0 here. The problem, as the Havret example illustrates, is that only a mystic could have predicted them.
I have offered a few thoughts on the event within Steve Rawlings' preview of the event, and tipped a couple of outsiders. Both bets are below 100-1 but Chesson Hadley and Jimmy Walker are available at 120.0119/1 and 150.0149/1 respectively on the exchange.
For this piece, though, I'm solely focused on the Vic Open, for which my studies yielded numerous possibilities, headed by the following trio.
Back Nick Cullen 2u @ 130.0129/1
Place order to lay 20u @ 10.09/1
This challenge is notably different from what players face most weeks. Both courses are relatively short, fast-running and wind-exposed. Power off the tee is largely irrelevant. Instead, local knowledge, experience of links and prowess in the wind are at a premium.
All of that suits Cullen, who lacks the power to compete on probably half the courses he plays. At 13th Beach, though, he's fared consistently well in the Victorian Open, finishing runner-up in 2015 and seventh last year.
Cullen's forte is long game accuracy and it has been known to pay off in Australian events of a similar calibre. The 34 year-old won a triple-crown at the 2014 BetEasy Masters and has a couple of top-11s in Australian Opens since. He may also enjoy a slight advantage from being drawn in the opening group.
Back Robert Macintyre 1u each-way @ 100/1 (1/5 odds, six places)
In truth, I would prefer to have backed Cullen each-way but he's just too short for the column at 80/1. The final two picks do make it though.
Robert MacIntyre is a new name on the scene after quick, eyecatching progress. The 22 year-old qualified for the European Tour despite minimal professional experience and his six starts at the higher level to date have yielded five cuts and a pair of top-15s. Three came in much stronger fields.
He finished last year's Challenge Tour very strongly, losing a play-off to the impressive Victor Perez in China, and had previously won on the MENA Tour. Credentials for this links challenge come from his Scottish background and amateur days, such as finishing runner-up in the British Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl.
Back Michael Hoey 0.5u e/w @ 300/1 (1/5 odds, six places)
It has been a while since Michael Hoey achieved anything on the European Tour but, not so long ago, he would have been a popular pick for any links event. His five titles include the Dunhill Links and in very windy conditions at coastal tracks in Estoril and Madeira Islands.
Although he's fallen down the rankings, Hoey isn't gone at the game. On last year's Challenge Tour, he recorded six top-11 finishes. At 39, he's far too young to write off and it is only a couple of years since he last performed well on the European Tour.
Others to consider must include a couple from our each-way column. Dave Tindall's 80-1 pick Jake Higginbottom is 110.0109/1 on the exchange. Matt Cooper, who has previewed the event in depth, goes for Gregory Bourdy - noting form at the same windy Oitavos Dunes track where Hoey won.
Finally, former US Amateur champion Nick Flanagan hinted that he may be on the comeback trail before Christmas in the PGA. He's a tempting each-way proposition at 150-1.
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