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19th Hole

The 2021 Butterfield Bermuda Championship betting tips & selections

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The PGA Tour makes its way to Bermuda this week, where Brian Gay will look to defend the championship he won in a playoff in 2020.

Port Royal Golf Club is a 6,828-yard, Par 71 layout, featuring Bermudagrass greens. This is the third edition of the tournament, and the second time it will be the primary Tour stop for the week (it was previously an alternate event). The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones.

Ahead of the event, here’s a look at five golfers who offer value this week, with some attractive prices available across the board:

Russell Knox (+6000, DraftKings)

Course history will play a major part in my selection process this week, and few are superior to Russell Knox in that department. The 36-year-old ranks seventh in Strokes Gained: Total at Port Royal Golf Club thanks to finishes of 16th and 11th in his two starts at the course.

When evaluating Knox’ strengths as a golfer, it’s no surprise that he has played the course well. Port Royal Golf Club has the second most difficult fairways to hit on Tour (51.5%), and Knox has the perfect off the tee game to combat those tight fairways. He ranks fourth in the field in “Fairways Gained” and is one of the most accurate players on Tour. He isn’t the longest hitter, which has given him trouble with so many mammoth courses on Tour, but that won’t be an issue at Port Royal which is the second shortest course on Tour.

A further point in Knox’ favor this week is his ability to excel in windy conditions. With early weather predictions indicating winds of 20-25 mph over the weekend, backing a strong wind player may be a good idea. Knox is not just a capable wind player; he ranks as the third-best wind player in the field in his past 24 rounds.

With his superb skill set, it could be argued that Knox should have more than two PGA Tour victories, with the most recent coming in 2016 (Travelers Championship). The explanation for his relative lack of signature victories is that the Scotsman has had some real struggles with the putter throughout his career. With that being said, he should have a real chance to win if the winds pick up and the course plays a bit more difficult than expected.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (+8000, DraftKings)

After a very difficult few years while recovering from injury, Kiradech Aphibarnrat is starting to show some signs of returning to form. When he is playing at his best, a coastal Bermuda track is the ideal spot for Kiradech as he has shown he is prone to strong performances on similar style courses. He finished 11th at this event last season despite being in pretty horrific form overall.

While his most recent PGA Tour starts have not been fruitful, the same cannot be said for his most recent start on the European Tour at the BMW PGA Championship back in September. The native of Thailand finished in second place just one shot behind winner Billy Horschel and had a real chance to win until the very last hole.

Two of Aphibarnrat’s biggest strengths are his ability to find the fairway and his ability to catch a hot putter on Bermudagrass. In his past five starts, he has gained 1.4 strokes per round on the field in “Fairways Gained” and gains an average of 0.65 strokes per round on Bermudagrass.

Although he is wildly inconsistent, when Aphibarnrat has it going in a particular week, he has shown that he can get himself into contention.

Brian Stuard (+9000, DraftKings)

As evidenced by his top spot in my model rankings this week, Brian Stuard is a perfect fit for Port Royal Golf Club. Shorter hitters who consistently find the fairway have had tremendous success at this course in the past, and I anticipate that ringing true once again in 2021.

In addition to being able to put it in the short grass off the tee, Stuard is also an excellent putter on Bermudagrass. The past two winners in Bermuda (Brendon Todd and Brian Gay) have both been excellent putters, and Stuard fits with that theme nicely. The 38-year-old ranks 12th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda and can get scorching hot with the putter. In his most recent start on the surface, he gained 9.1 strokes putting at the Wyndham Championship.

Although he did come in 15th place at Wyndham in August, Stuard has missed four consecutive cuts in his following four starts leading to the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. In most weeks, that would be fairly concerning. However, we have seen in the past that golfers don’t necessarily need to come into this event in peak form. Last year, Brian Gay won the event coming off of five consecutive missed cuts. This week is more about course fit than recent form, and Brian Stuard fits the bill.

Kramer Hickok (+10000, DraftKings)

Many will remember Kramer Hickok’s epic eight-hole playoff with Harris English back in June at the Travelers Championship. Since that crushing defeat, Hickok has fallen out of form and missed three of his next five cuts. However, there is reason to believe that Port Royal Golf Club could be a course where he can figure it out.

At last year’s Bermuda Championship, Hickok finished in eighth place, which was the best finish of his career to that point. In retrospect, it makes a great deal of sense that the 29-year-old would play well at Port Royal. The course plays quite penal from the rough, and one of the biggest strengths of Kramer’s is his driving accuracy, as evidenced by his ranking of fifth in the field for fairways gained. Also, Bermudagrass has been far and away Hickok’s best-putting surface to this point in his career.

In his past 36 rounds, Hickok ranks 3rd in the field on courses that feature Bermudagrass and are under 7,200 yards. It also helps that the former Texas Longhorn ranks 9th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total in extremely windy conditions. His skill in that department could loom large this week as we are expected to get winds north of 20 mph.

With a win this week, Kramer Hickok may finally be able to have his name mentioned without someone attaching “Jordan Spieth’s former roommate” to it.

David Hearn (+10000, DraftKings)

As we saw last year with Brian Gay’s victory, Port Royal Golf Club is a course that certain golfers have played well in both previous editions regardless of current form. With back to back 8th place finishes at the event, David Hearn is absolutely one of those golfers. The 42-year-old has shown a propensity to play very well at coastal resort-style tracks. In addition to his two excellent showings in Bermuda, he has a 13th at Corales (Puntacana) and a 25th at the Puerto Rico Open.

Course form aside, Hearn is also a strong statistical fit as well. He is an excellent putter on Bermudagrass, ranking 20th in the field in that category. In his past 24 rounds, he also ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 14th in Fairways Gained.

Hearn has been incredibly close to a PGA Tour victory, having lost in a playoff in both 2013 and 2015. If there was ever a place to get it done, Port Royal Golf Club would be an obvious fit.

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19th Hole

Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia’s personal relationship has reportedly turned toxic

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In 2014 Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia were the so-called ‘dream team’ of the Ryder Cup.

The pair totted up a combined total of 5-and-a-half points of the 16-and-a-half won by the victorious European team, beating the pairing of Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan in the second day foursomes before both winning their singles.

Their relationship was so solid that McIlroy was honored to be an usher at Garcia’s wedding in 2017, but recently it’s all gone sour, with Golf Monthly reporting a “complete deterioration” of the relationship.

A week ago, it was widley reported that the Spaniard had told his Northern Irish friend that they were now “finally getting paid what we deserve,” a comment that received the reply, “Sergio. We’re golfers. We don’t deserve to be paid anything.”

According to Golf Monthly, the relationship has now “turned personal,” with the world number three unhappy that his old friend has dedicated himself to the Saudi-backed tour, putting the selection process for the Ryder Cup into confusion. The rhetoric between the two is reported to be “bitter and personal.”

At the Wells Fargo Championship in May, as he was hacking out of the rough after a ruling, Garcia was heard muttering, “I can’t wait to leave this tour,” before being confirmed as one of the initial participants of the LIV Golf Series.

Whilst it is unclear exactly what the sanctions are with regards to the Ryder Cup 2023, the way the PGA and DP Tours are moving, there is a distinct possibility that LIV players will be seriously affected – though Garcia has made clear that he wants to be a part of it.

At a press conference before the inaugural LIV event at the Centurion Club, Garcia stated, “I haven’t resigned from the European Tour because I would like to still be a member. I’m European, I love the European Tour. I played it for 23 years. Obviously we’re going to have to wait and see what the European Tour does. But I definitely would like to keep my membership and get my chance to make the Ryder Cup team because I love that event. But we’ll wait and see what happens over there.”

Whilst recent LIV press conferences on site have caused their own controversy, Garcia has prompted his own backlash.

After reportedly delivering an anti-DP World Tour rant at the BMW International in Germany last week, Golf Monthly reports that one tour player commented:

“They (LIV players) all think they are untouchable, and they all think the tours can’t do anything. I think they’re all about to realize they’re wrong. It is short sighted to think regulations can’t change and that there isn’t a lot of ill-feeling towards them. I think they’ve miscalculated quite dramatically.

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19th Hole

‘You like apples?’ – Greg Norman takes bullish shot at PGA Tour over LIV poll numbers

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CEO of LIV Golf and former superstar Greg Norman took a shot at the PGA Tour via social media on Wednesday.

Sports Illustrated “Morning Read” shared a Harris Poll that indicated younger U.S. golf fans are open to the LIV Golf series despite its controversial source of funding.

Norman commented on social media with a link to the poll while tagging the PGA Tour’s official accounts, saying, “@pgatour you like apples??”

The line is, of course, in reference to a scene in the 1997 classic film Good Will Hunting, and Norman then doubled down on his bullish aim at the tour with a gif of one of follow up lines from Matt Damon’s character:

The results of the Harris Poll were extremely interesting.

According to Sports Illustrated, “Younger Americans are more aware of, more interested in and more open to the LIV tour, according to our polling — and the split is sharp. So while 40% of those 45 years old and younger are familiar with LIV, as opposed to 35% of the overall population, that figure falls to 27% among those aged 55 and over. And while 55% of U.S. adults familiar with the league plan to watch an LIV event, that number rises to more than 7 in 10 (71%) among those aged 18-34.”

The source of the funding for LIV has generated vigorous debate in recent months. The poll results indicated that younger golf fans aren’t as concerned with the Saudi money as the older generation. Among those aware that LIV Golf is funded by foreign government investments, a majority (52%) of those 45 and younger have no issues the arrangement, while those aged 55 and older report far more often that they disapprove.

There were plenty of other interesting results from the polling.

  • Those aware of LIV Golf’s funding sources are nearly evenly split about it (35% oppose the relationship while 36% support it).
  • By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans say that professional sports funders’ identities have no bearing on whether or not they watch. “In much the same way that sports fans are able to keep rooting for their team even if individual players have personal issues, it seems that they are willing to suspend judgment about a league even if its sponsors have poor reputations. This leaves open the question, however, of how potent attempts at “sportswashing” could be: If consumers are able to separate sporting events from their sponsors, it could run the other way, with leagues not transferring their positive reputations back to their funders.”
  • Among golf fans aware of the PGA Tour’s suspensions, 45% support the decision.

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19th Hole

‘Bye Bye Cheat!’ – Tour pro blocked on Twitter by Patrick Reed after shovel jibe

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@PReedGolf – probably the cause of more ‘blocks’ on Twitter golf than any other is at it again.

As one of the more recent recruits to the LIV Golf Series, Reed has once again opened himself up to criticism, a factor of his career for many years.

On this occasion, Reed tweeted an offer for tickets to this week’s second LIV event in Portland, an offer that was re-tweeted by DP World Tour pro Mike Lorenzo-Vera with the comment, “Does this code works if I want to buy a shovel ???”

The comment refers to an incident at the 2019 Hero World Challenge when Reed was accused of brushing away sand from behind his ball in a bunker, and didn’t go down well with those that run the former Masters champion’s Twitter – they blocked him.

The move didn’t bother Lorenzo-Vera. He went straight back with, “Well… that was fast! Bye bye cheat!”

Support was there. Popular on-line commentator group ByTheMinute (Non LIV) Golf said, “Love this MLV but everyone else is blocked already,” but one respondent took the opportunity to cast doubt on the new PGA/DP Tour alliance by accusing, ” Have some self respect instead rather than praising a decision to iron out the fact the Euro Tour will be now on par with the Korn Ferry.” Ouch.

Most recently, a press conference held at Pumpkin Ridge saw Reed, Brooks Koepka and Pat Perez face a barrage of awkward questions from reporters, and the answers given certainly have received little approval. The irony, of course, being that Koepka was quite happy to accuse his fellow LIV player of cheating at that event in 2019.

The LIV Golf Invitational Portland starts tomorrow and Reed plays with Perez, Talor Gooch and Dustin Johnson as the ‘4 Aces GC’ team, whilst Koepka captains ‘Smash GC’, comprising his brother Chase and DP World Tour winners Richard Bland and Adrian Otaegui.

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