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Opinion & Analysis

The best bets for the week on the DP World and PGA Tour

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A decent week for the props on the PGA Tour, with the bonus of an Aaron Wise top-5 foiled by a shot having gone missing on Friday.

This week, a pair of events on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour that call for accuracy over brute strength. Whilst they (sort of) match in that regard, the betting markets couldn’t be more different.

A week after Jon Rahm justified his superior world ranking in Mexico, Rory McIlroy attempts the same at TPC Potomac, home for the 2022 Wells Fargo Championship. As short as +750, this is in complete contrast to the British Masters at The Belfry, an event that sees bookmakers go +2200 about the favourite, Robert MacIntyre.

Let’s leave others, including our own Matt Vincenzi, to worry about outright winners. Here are four of the best prop bets for the week.

Corey Conners Top-20 +120 

No surprise that Conners is strongly fancied to go close, and at around +2000, he looks the one to take advantage of the emphasis on iron play.

Indeed, this column put up the Canadian for place returns at the Texas Open (against favourite McIlroy), which sadly failed, and at The Masters, and I see no reason not to go in again this week.

The 30-year-old started the season well in Hawaii before going through a rough spell as the tour hit California.

However, in five ‘proper’ events starting with Bay Hill at the beginning of March, Conners has recorded three top-11 finishes, 26th and 35th, all that without featuring his bronze medal at the World Matchplay. Those couple of finishes outside of the top-20 feature one poor round each, with him standing in fifth place at halfway at the Players, and 27th when fancied in Texas.

Conners ranks 6th off-the-tee and 33rd in approaches for the season lending itself to a ranking of 3rd in greens-in-regulation, and whilst his putting can always be improved, winners around here include Francesco Molinari and Kyle Stanley. Demons with the irons but hardly special on the dance floor.

DK’s -125 looks far closer to the correct number, so jump in where you can.

Ryan Armour Top-40 +240

The 46-year-old isn’t one to spring off the page as a contender, but once going past the top-15 or so of the field this week, it all becomes very hard to separate.

It might be four years since he finished runner-up to a rampant Molinari around here, but Armour thrives in conditions that put emphasis on accuracy and long iron play, and after hints of his best over the last year or so, he can take advantage of his standing as a quality tee-to-green merchant.

Currently leading the tour in driving accuracy, he ranks 38th for green-finding, again topping the tour in proximity to the pin.

Of course, like most of these types, he lacks a little on the greens and at his age is hardly likely to improve – Richard Bland may have something to say about that – but on a course with some severe par-4s (yardages of 450, 495, 477, 470 and 500) his status in the top-25 from 150 to 175 yards in will give him an advantage over many of the ‘rags’ this week.

Whilst he tends to find his best in lesser events, Armour can add a 12th top-40 to the previous 11 in his last 32 outings.

Justin Harding Win +4500

Justin Harding Top-10 +450

I’m pleasantly surprised that a three-time winner on the DP Tour goes off at a bigger price than a couple of players that find it very hard to get their nose in front, but that just creates more appeal.

The 36-year-old South African has been near the top of his home contingent for several years now, and whilst he may not repeat his stellar year of 2019, he is showing enough progressive form to think he can contend around this tree-lined track.

Throughout that impressive period, in 2018, Harding won four times in six events on the Sunshine and Asia tours before taking that form on to better class, gaining a win in Qatar, top-10s at the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, and the Byron Nelson. In between, a 12th at Augusta and two further top-10s in Europe cemented his best-ever world ranking of 72.

In 2021, Harding won the first of a double-header in Kenya and should have followed up a week later when leading after three rounds before collapsing on Sunday. Shaking that off, he returned five top-10s for the rest of the year, along with four top-20 finishes, including when 19th here behind Richard Bland.

Referring to that effort 12 months ago, Harding stood in the top-10 for all three opening rounds and added to yet another good finish in the Dubai Desert Classic; he ticks all the boxes for course and relative form, especially given both Bland and Rasmus Hojgaard (winner here in 2020) both have an excellent form line at the Emirates GC.

Thriving on tree-lined courses, recent form is also good, the 5th in Qatar cementing the idea that he repeats form at the same tracks, and last weekend’s seventh place at his home Tour Championship just shows he is trending in the right direction.

With a smart all-around game, I expect Harding to outplay his starting odds and shouldn’t shirk any issues should he find himself in the mix over the weekend.

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Opinion & Analysis

What does it really take to play college golf?

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Much has been written and speculated about this question, both in popular media and by junior golfers and their parents and coaches. However, I wanted to get a more definitive answer.

In collaboration with Dr. Laura Upenieks of Baylor University, and with the generous support of Junior Tour of Northern California and Aaron R. Hartesveldt, PGA, we surveyed 51 players who were committed to play college golf for the 2021 year.

Our sample was comprised of 27 junior boys and 24 junior girls. Most of our respondents were either white or Asian. As for some other notable statistics, 67% of boys reported working with a coach once a week, while 100% of girls reported working with a coach at least once a week. In addition, 67% of boys were members at a private club, while 100% of girls were members of a private club. Here are some other interesting findings from the data:

-The average scoring differential for a boy who committed to college golf was -1.48
-The average scoring differential for a girl who committed to college golf was 3.72
-The majority of the sample reported having played over 100 tournaments
-The average boy was introduced to the game at 7 years old
-The average girl was introduced to golf at 12 years old
-The average boy first broke par at 12
-The average girl first broke par at 17
-67% of boys and girls who responded reported having won at least 10 tournaments

One of the most interesting findings of the survey was the amount of competitive golf being played. The data shows that 67% of players report playing over 100 tournaments, meaning they have close to 1,000 hours of tournament experience. This is an extremely impressive amount given all respondents were teenagers, showing the level of dedication needed to compete at the top level.

Another interesting showing was that 75% of boys surveyed reported receiving “full scholarship”. At first glance, this number seems to be extremely high. In 2016, in a GolfWRX that I did with Steph Acosta, the data we collected estimated this number was between 5-10%. This number is seven times greater, which could be due to a low sample size. However, I would also speculate that the data speaks to the extrinsic motivation of players in the data set, as they feel the need to get a scholarship to measure their athletic success.

Finally, boys in the survey report playing with a mixture of elite players (those with plus handicaps) as well as 5-9 handicaps. On the other hand, no female in the study reported playing with any plus handicaps. It also stood out that 100% of junior girls report that their fathers play golf. In ongoing research, we are examining the reasons why young women choose golf and the impact their environments have on their relationships with golf. The early data is very interesting and we hope that it can be published by the end of this year. Altogether, we suspect that girls hold lower status at golf courses and are less able to establish competitive groups to regularly play with. This could impact how long they stay in the sport of golf as well as their competitive development.

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Club Junkie: Callaway Jaws Raw wedge review and Strackaline’s yardage and green reading books

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Review of the new Callaway Jaws Raw wedge and the new Z Grind sole on the lob wedge. Great spin and improved shape make it my choice over the Jaws MD5. Strackaline’s yardage and green reading books are highly detailed and catch all the slopes on the green.

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: An in-person guest visit from the Dominican Republic

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Shawn and Munashe tag team their efforts with Roberto. Whom we have had the pleasure to host in the last Month.

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