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The CJ Cup: No Bridge too far for Henley

Russell Henley was third at the Tour Championship last time
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Dave Tindall previews the third event of the new 2017/2018 PGA Tour season - The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea...


"With victories in Hawaii, Florida and Texas, he’s clearly a player to note when the trouser legs are flapping and two of those were achieved with winning scores of 20-under and 24-under."

Main Bet: Back Russell Henley @ 40/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places

Main Bet: Back Russell Henley e.w. @ 40/1

For the PGA Tour's first venture into South Korea, it's tempting to look to players already acclimatised to Asia and focus on those who teed it up in last week's CIMB Classic.

However, the rest of the field could have been in Malaysia for the previous 10 weeks and still not beaten Pat Perez, who waltzed into town, said it was too hot and yet still shot 24-under and won the CIMB Classic by four shots.

I'm happy therefore to put up Russell Henley to jet in from the United States and, like Perez, make an immediate impression.

With no course form and only scraps of country form to go on, current form has to be our main guide this week and Henley has that having finished third at the Tour Championship on his last start.

He secured that top three via a 67-65 weekend charge up the leaderboard so the American really did finish the season on a high.

The 65 came in blustery conditions at East Lake and his ability to play well in the wind - something Henley has shown repeatedly - will stand him in good stead as it should blow a bit at the par 72 Nine Bridges course on Jeju Island.

Henley finished 13th on the FedExCup rankings last season after winning the (windy) Houston Open and achieved the impressive feat of finishing in the top 30 for both Strokes Gained: Putting and Greens In Regulation.

Other little bits that help build his case? He hasn't played an awful lot of golf off the American mainland but he's done well when spreading his wings a little.

The first of the 28-year-old's three wins came at the Sony Open in Hawaii (nine-hour flight from his Georgia base) while he has T20 (2015) and a T37 (2017) to his name in the last three Open Championships.

With victories in Hawaii, Florida and Texas, he's clearly a player to note when the trouser legs are flapping and two of those were achieved with winning scores of 20-under and 24-under.

This week's par 72 is under 7,200 yards so birdies are needed and Henley definitely has plenty in his locker (24th in Birdie Average last season).

In a field of just 78 and lacking real star quality aside from a possibly jaded Justin Thomas, I think Henley is a fair price at 40/1.


Next Best: Back James Hahn e.w. @ 90/1

With not much to go on, it's about finding angles this week and another is to look at the Korean connection.

There are several locals in the field this week and also others with Korean heritage.

Kevin Na was born in Seoul and emigrated when he was eight. He returned to his birthplace earlier this year to contest the Korean Open and finished T13 and was back in Asia last week for the CIMB where he had to settle for T44.

He's 33/1 to win but I'm going to go for a Korean-born player at nearly three times the price, who has twice as many PGA Tour wins as Na.

James Hahn was also born in Seoul and, after growing up in California, returned to the Far East to cut his teeth on the Korean Tour.

Famous for his Gangnam-style celebration in Phoenix a few years ago, he's shown he can beat the best by scoring PGA Tour wins at the Northern Trust Open in 2015 (beat Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a play-off) and 2016 Wells Fargo Championship.

In 2017, he's posted third at the Byron Nelson, tied sixth at Memorial, T10th in the Canadian Open and T13th in the US PGA at Quail Hollow.

He made it through three legs of the FedEx Cup play-offs before signing off with T33 at the BMW Championship and then came over for last week's CIMB Classic to post a decentish T28 in an event where he'd finished T9 and T6 in the previous two seasons to show that he's done well in Asia.

He'll have an extra connection with this week's event and some added crowd support too so the 90/1 in a 50% field size for a guy who can win seems worth a speculative interest.

Using the same thought process, Danny Lee was born in Incheon in northwestern South Korea before moving to New Zealand as a child.

A T7 in the CIMB Classic could make him another with Korean roots to consider at 70s.


Final Bet: Back Rafa Cabrera Bello e.w. @ 35/1

There are few in this field who can match the achievements of Rafa Cabrera Bello over the last six months.

The Spaniard has finished fourth in the Players Championship at Sawgrass, fourth in the St. Jude Classic and fourth in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

After a dip, he took T18 in the Dell Technologies Championship and last week chose to skip the Italian Open and play the CIMB Classic.

His trip to Malaysia was certainly worthwhile as RCB emerged with another top 10 after rounds of 67-70-69-69.

By taking part this week, Cabrera Bello is missing a trip home to contest the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by his friend Sergio Garcia.

Gent that he is, Rafa wrote to Sergio, the Tournament Director and the Sergio Garcia Foundation to offer his apologies and explain that he is playing in Asia in a bid to win maintain playing privileges on both European and PGA Tours.

Perhaps, then, he'll be that extra bit more focused to justify his decision to opt for South Korea over Spain and he can build on the top 10 he managed last week.

Currently 21st in the world rankings - there are only five players taking part this week who slot in higher - Cabrera Bello has played lots of golf overseas and is very adept at playing in the wind too.

The big problem from a punting point of view down the years has been his lack of wins but the victory in the Scottish Open in July was a big moment for him and, with that under his belt, I'm far more confident he can land the title here.

His last five starts in Asia have been extremely impressive with a pair of top 10s in the CIMB Classic, a second place in the Hong Kong Open and a top five in this year's Indian Open.

He has the class and pedigree to get in the mix at 35/1.

As stated, I'm not overly keen on Thomas, who couldn't get going on a course he loved last week while Paul Casey, as usual, looks short (12/1) given his lack of wins.

Jason Day hasn't done enough to justify a quote of 12/1 either and recent winners Marc Leishman and Xander Schauffele are also a little tight at 18s.

I do really like Tony Finau's chances on a short par 72 with four par fives and form of 7-7-2 has to be give full respect.

He would probably be the next cab off the rank for me at 22s but I'll take the bigger prices on Henley, RCB and Hahn.


Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £60
Returned: £65
P/L: +£5

(After the CIMB Classic)

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

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