Get tips from Steve Rawlings, Dave Tindall and the rest of our golf experts' best bets for this week's Houston Open and Dubai Championship...
Steve Rawlings: "Sam Burns has shortened up at the head of the market and I'm not surprised. I know it's early in the season but he already ranks first for SGT2G on the PGA Tour and following his mishaps here and at Riviera, the 25-year-old has learnt how to win..."
After three tournaments on foreign soil, in Japan, Bermuda and Mexico, the PGA Tour returns to the US this week for the Houston Open. Read Steve's in-depth preview ahead of Thursday's start.
Steve says: "Looking at last year's result, Memorial Park is somewhere where winning form off the pace is perfectly possible.
"Carlos Ortiz sat second after rounds one, two and three last year but DJ trailed by seven after round one and by five after 36 holes, and four of the eventual top-ten trailed by at least seven strokes at halfway. Koepka, who finished tied fifth, and Hughes, who finished tied ninth, both trailed the halfway leader, Burns, by nine strokes!
"The opening hole is tough and it ranked as the second hardest on the course last year but four of the five hardest holes (11, 12, 14 and 18) all come after the turn so that needs bearing in mind if trading in running.
"Sam Burns has shortened up at the head of the market and I'm not surprised. I know it's early in the season but he already ranks first for SGT2G on the PGA Tour and following his mishaps here and at Riviera, the 25-year-old has learnt how to win, closing out both the Valspar Championship in March and the Sanderson Farms Championship a month ago. He's the one they all need to beat."
Steve's bet: Back Sam Burns @ 20.019/1
Dave Tindall is back with three each-way tips for the action in Texas starting with an Australian whose putting has caught the eye recently.
Dave says: "If Augusta is a clue - or at least, the things you need to well there are - the Aussie fits the bill. Leishman has a fourth, a fifth (2021) and a ninth at the Masters and short game has been a big reason for that.
"In addition, his recent form is excellent: he's posted fourth at the Fortinet Championship and third at the Shriners in two of his three starts so far in the new campaign.
"He putted like a demon in both while the six-time PGA Tour winner also hit over 70% of GIR in each of his last four events.
"A runner-up in the 2018 Byron Nelson, he has plenty of good form in Texas and looks a fine each-way bet to make a significant impression on his course debut."
Dave's bet: Marc Leishman each-way @ 36.035/1
Outsiders won the 2020 editions of both the Dubai Championship and the Houston Open so our man has selections for both at triple-figure odds, including Danny Willett in Texas.
Steve says: "The two players to finish tied for second in last year's renewal of the Houston Open at Memorial Park, Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama, have both gone on to win the US Masters. D.J won the 2020 edition the following week and Hideki donned his Green Jacket at Augusta in April.
"Last year was the first time the event had been played at Memorial Park in the modern era so, with only one renewal to go on, we probably shouldn't go jumping to too many conclusions. But given form at Riviera also came to the fore, the venue that correlates best with Augusta, there could well be something in it. And if there is, the recent Alfred Dunhill Links winner, Danny Willett, who won the US Masters in 2016, is far too big at 220.0219/1.
"Willett withdrew from this event 12 months ago after a 77 in round one but he was in dire form at the time and is a completely different proposition now that he's fit and firing. He's ticked over quite nicely since his victory at St Andrews, finishing 21st at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and 27th in Mexico last week, either side of a missed cut in Bermuda."
Memorial Park welcomes the PGA Tour for a second straight season and Andy Swales has the course info as well as form stats for the key contenders.
Andy says: "Perhaps the best players to watch are those with something still to prove, such as Scottie Scheffler who is yet to register a maiden PGA Tour title.
"The world No 21 enjoyed a Ryder Cup high in September but awaits individual success and will be keen to make his breakthrough in his home state. He was fourth in Mexico on Sunday.
"Matthew Wolff is already a winner but after a poor 12 months, finally discovered some recent good form in Nevada (2nd) and Mexico (T-5th) - and will want to keep that going this weekend.
"Finally, two other in-form players are defending champion Carlos Ortiz and Taylor Gooch. Ortiz was runner-up on home soil at the weekend, while Gooch has posted four straight top-12 finishes. He too awaits a first PGA Tour trophy."
The European Tour has moved from Portugal to Dubai for the second edition of the Dubai Championship. Read Steve Rawlings' comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start.
Steve says: "Form at other desert venues is going to be worth considering so look at the past results for next week's event - the DP World Championship, as well as the Dubai Desert Classic, the Saudi International and also the Qatar Masters...
"Links form is also well worth considering as many fine links exponents prove equally adept at desert golf. Events to study are the Scottish Open over the last ten years, the 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions of the Irish Open, the 2019 British Masters from Hillside Links, the Open Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship...
"Sam Horsfield topped the Strokes Gained Putting stats 12 months ago so he certainly took to the greens but the rest of his game was so poor that he finished down the field.
£He arrived in Dubai in search of his third win of the year, but he'd gone off the boil completely and his current figures read MC-MC-43-MC. This time around he arrives in decent heart, topping the Strokes Gained Approach stats and having finished 12th in Portugal last week with only the putter letting him down."
Steve's bet: Back Sam Horsfield @ 38.037/1
Dave Tindall has three each-way picks to be First Round Leader at the Fire Course on Thursday starting with an Englishman who could fly out of the traps.
Dave says: "Ross Fisher opened with a 63 at this week's track, the Fire Course, last year to sit second after 18 holes and he was ninth after the opening lap of his most recent UAE start, the 2021 Dubai Desert Classic.
"He was also in the top five after day one in both the 2018 Abu Dhabi Championship and the DP World Tour Championship.
"Crossing to the Saudi International, he's been second (2019) and eighth (2020) following the first round in two of the last three editions. And in the Qatar Masters he's been in the top 10 on the R1 leaderboard three times.
"More recently, he opened with a 65 to sit third at August's Hero Open and a top 30 in Portugal last week suggests his game is in decent enough shape to go low early here."
Dave's bet: Back Ross Fisher E/W @ 96.095/1
Matt Cooper has three selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places for the action in the desert this week.
Matt says: "Even at first glance, I was a little surprised by the price of Italy's Francesco Laporta, but closer inspection only adds to my interest.
"He makes for a fascinating character study at this late stage of the season, when we consider the careers of so many golfers who are on the brink of losing their cards (or saving them with a last gasp effort).
"The 31-year-old spent most of his 20s flogging his way around the mini tours and his one chance at the top level, in 2016, proved difficult. Approaching his 29th birthday he had very little to show for all the efforts, whereupon he found form on the Challenge Tour and it blossomed in sensational style, from a brace of fifth place finishes, to a pair of thirds, to a couple of victories.
"Suddenly he had gone from struggling journeyman to European Tour card holder and within weeks he was leading the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at halfway, and then in the top 10 of the Saudi International at the same stage a week later."
Matt's bet: Francesco Laporta 1pt each-way @ 71.070/1
Andy Swales supplies the form stats to help you decide who could be in contention over the Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Andy says: "Paul Casey is making a surprise appearance, no doubt getting a taste of Jumeirah Golf Estates ahead of next week's end of season finale. The Englishman currently stands seventh in the Race to Dubai standings and no doubt has his eyes on the big prize on November 21.
"Casey is a four-time winner in the region, most recently in January of this year when he won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at nearby Emirates Golf Club.
"And another Englishman, Tommy Fleetwood, is showing signs of possibly returning to the winners' enclosure in the not-too-distant future. His form in the region is strong, including a brace of victories in Abu Dhabi."
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