Golf Betting: Back this quartet of improvers to make hay in 2014

Hunter Mahan looks just the type to break through in a major
Hunter Mahan looks just the type to break through in a major

One of the best ways to make money betting on golf is to spot an improving player before the market wakes up to their potential. As usual, Paul Krishnamurty lays out his four to follow over the course of the season...

"Mahan's profile reads 'first-time major winner in waiting'. At 31 he's around the age where players are likeliest to breakthrough and his results in majors are progressing...and he's achieved the next best thing already, with two WGC titles."


For the past three years, I've set out four players to make marked improvement over the course of the year, with mixed results. Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, FedEx Cup victor Bill Haas and World Matchplay champion Nicolas Colsaerts all delivered at big prices in big tournaments en route to better things.

Alternatively, the careers of Kevin Na and Seung Yul-Noh went into reverse. Others like Gary Woodland, Thorbjorn Olesen and George Coetzee remain works in progress.

The aim here is not necessarily to identify the players that will dominate 2014, but those who are fancied to make significant steps forward, climb the rankings and achieve notable career landmarks, relevant to where they are now. In the case of the first two, we're talking majors and big PGA Tour prizes. For the second pair, this year is about establishing themselves as international stars, worthy of consideration at the highest level.


Hunter Mahan

Everything about Mahan's profile reads 'first-time major winner in waiting'. At 31 he's around the age where players are likeliest to breakthrough and his results in majors are progressing in the right direction. Fourth place in last year's US Open was his best to date, a sixth top-ten and 13th top-20, and he's achieved the next best thing already, with two WGC titles. Mahan's ball-striking skills make him a potential champion of any of the four majors and he has some pedigree in each. Odds of 80.079/1 for the Masters are massive, especially as he has course form and won his last title at Redstone, the Augusta-replica host to the Houston Open.


Rickie Fowler

Many may groan at Fowler's inclusion, as he has become an expensive talking horse to follow ever since making an immediate impact on the PGA Tour. The fact he's rarely delivered when it matters so far, however, does not detract from his awesome potential and as the earlier enthusiasm has dissipated, his odds have become more attractive, illustrated by 120.0119/1 for the Masters. All young golfers need time to iron out their flaws and improve their course management and nearly always do, eventually. Fowler is the classic case - a brilliant natural talent who often plays well for 16 holes then ruins his scorecard on the other two.

Such is Fowler's profligacy that I wouldn't even consider him in a low-scoring birdie-fest, where a couple of bad holes leave too much work to recover. He is exactly the type, however, with the ability to shoot 68 on a tough championship layout on day when the scoring average was 74, setting up a serious chance in a big event. It is notable that many of Fowler's best performances have come in prestigious events, for example at Quail Hollow, Sawgrass, Bay Hill and The Open.


Joost Luiten

A friend recently likened Luiten to Michael Van Gerwen and, without expecting him to emulate his compatriot's feat in winning his sport's biggest prize, I see the logic. A brilliant youngster tipped for stardom immediately upon turning pro, who lost the plot for a while, then started fulfilling his potential only to wobble under pressure on his biggest moments, before finally coming good. Luiten was little short of outstanding on last year's European Tour and there is surely much more to come. He has become extremely reliable from tee to green and, critically, his scrambling really improved during the second half of 2013. Expect more titles in Europe, a Ryder Cup place and hopefully an impact in the States.


Victor Dubuisson

After three years of highly promising golf in Europe, 23 year-old Dubuisson finally hit the jackpot with victory in the lucrative Turkish Airlines Open and I'm expecting him to kick on and take vast strides forward now. The clearest statistical indicator of a player's form and ability is greens in regulation and the Frenchman has excelled in that department from the outset. He boasts extreme length off the tee and during the autumn, was putting everything. Having only played one major to date, it is surely too early to expect any miracles there, but he already has pedigree in co-sanctioned Asian Tour events and looks perfectly suited to the forthcoming 'Gulf Swing', with the Qatar Masters a particularly obvious target. Don't rule out a Ryder Cup place either.


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