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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Fortinet Australian PGA Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

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Is Cam Smith in Oz the Jon Rahm of the Spanish Open?

The recent, dominating T2/winner of the DP World Tour Championship went off at around 9/4 to beat Tommy Fleetwood, Min Woo Lee and company in Madrid in October, eventually sauntering home by six shots and delighting home fans supporting his third win at his home Open.

This week, Smith looks like going off at much bigger (at 7/2) to beat a slightly fuller depth of field, again including Min Woo, to win his third Australian PGA, after going back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

There is little left to say about the winner of the 150th Open Championship in terms of class, summarised by the run of T2/T10/T3 at the three most recent Masters, as well as wins at the Sony Open, Tournament of Champions and The Players.

Of course, his career year has also been hot with controversy, denying a move to LIV and then vehemently defending his right to join the Greg Norman-led tour a couple of weeks later, but that’s not our concern as bettors. Indeed, look at the way his presence has been received back home.

Smith’s local Brisbane Times reports that the 29-year-old superstar was the first golfer to be awarded the ‘keys to the city’ and will also probably get his desire of a LIV event in Queensland.

He’s huge news back home, and if we are looking back at that Rahm comparison, looks pretty big at over 3/1.

Smith, though, is a grinder, no matter how good of one, and whilst wins have come in decent numbers under par, he tends to win when the short game simply outlasts everyone else in tough conditions. I’m not certain he gets that here, where the winning score was 22-under last time (in January 2022), and examining his impressive victories, it’s worth noting that none of his six PGA Tour victories have been by more than a single shot, with his second Oz PGA by just a stroke further.

You can count the LIV victory as better than I do if you like. No complaints on that score, but following that win he’s gone 42nd and 22nd on LIV – beaten by a lot less a player than he faces this week.

The filthy each-way doubles look certain to be popular, with Smith across the card from Joburg fancies Bezhuidenhout and Lawrence, but in a light betting heat, I’ll take a chance with just a couple of wagers.

Just one outright for me this week.

Golf form site, tour-tips.com  rates Ryan Fox the number one this week, a short-head over Smith, and whilst he isn’t quite that elite class, his form shows he is plenty good enough to beat the favourite on his day, and hasn’t that much to find in comparison to Adam Scott, MIn Woo and Cam Davis, all of whom are rightfully respected and popular.

Fox is easy to precis.

In what has been a stellar season for the always-promising Kiwi, the 35-year-old has improved from around 200th in the world rankings at gthe start of ’22, to a current ranking well inside the world’s top-30, and certain of invites to all the most desired events.

Fox waltzed home by five shots in the desert at Ras Al Khaimah and won again by a stroke at the Dunhill Links, an event including tournament stalwarts Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood. In between, Fox posted eight top-10 finishes including running-up in Belgium, at the Dutch Open, Irish Open and, just a couple of weeks ago, by a shot to Fleetwood and one of the latter’s favourite courses, the Gary Player GC.

Fox went into last week’s DP championship as a live contender for the title, which, given his commitment to the European Tour, would have been richly deserved. Perhaps that’s too political for here, though.

Either way, despite starting slowly in Dubai, he made his way up to 19th after four steadily improving rounds, enough to hold off Rahm from swapping places at the end-of-year rankings.

The silver medal is the least Fox should have got, and with a strong game on the sand-belt and a significant win in Queensland at the QLD PGA in 2018, challenging here should be a formality.

Fox has always had a strong driving game, and finding greens has rarely been an issue. However, he’s now gone from being one of the worst with the flat stick to ranking in the top-10 for putting average at even the toughest of courses.

I have the selection at the same price as Min Woo, who may have needed the run-out when a beaten 6/1 favourite here 11 months ago, so that 14/1 is simply too big to resist, especially as the latter has not won since July last year.

Fox can continue a big year for the Kiwis following Lydia Ko’s brilliant victory and subsequent crowning as this season’s LPGA queen.

The only other wager that appeals as a value pick is defending champion Jediah Morgan over Marc Leishman in a match bet.

Leish is a bit of a hero of mine, but it may sadly be time to give up on him as a serious potential winner in this class.

After a lucrative career, the 39-year-old came off a Covid slump to once again show up at Augusta over the last couple of years, but this has been a poor year.

There have been highlights – top-15 at the U.S Open, maybe – but he played poorly at River Highlands, in an event at which he historically does very well, and followed that with missed cuts at the Scottish Open and Open Championships, and midfield, don’t-write-home-about-it efforts at the first two FedEX play-off events.

Leishman is now at LIV, doing nicely ‘thank you’ and collecting $3 million for doing nothing much. In fact, his individual results gained him less ‘sole’ money than Pat Perez, another who caught onto the coat-tails of his teammates.

Respect to him, but Leishman isn’t going forwards these days, and will need the weather to turn bad if he is going to be able to live with some of these birdie machines.

Count Jediah Morgan as one of those birdie machines.

Although he produced a 100-1 shock in January when winning this event in just his fourth event as a professional, Morgan did it in some style.

The 22-year-old recorded three rounds of 65/63/65 to take a nine shot lead into Sunday, and simply went further clear, crossing the line 11 shots clear of Andrew Dodt, himself with plenty of previous in this grade at home, and a further shot clear of Min Woo.

In 2020 Morgan had won the Australian Amateur around this course, beating Tom McKibbin (see Joburg preview for his chances over there) by 5 & 3, an event that has thrown up Cam Smith amongst other multiple international winners, and whilst he hasn’t shown his best lately, returning to a venue he knows so well should be to his big advantage.

Morgan was one of the surprise signings to LIV Golf, although, as he admits, he “didn’t have much in my schedule,” given his exemption to the DP World Tour didn’t kick in till the 2023 season, plus it gave him the chance to compete at Centurion Club for LIV London – “The field is nice and strong so it’s a cool format to see how I shape up.”

Morgan has played every event since, although mixing it up with sporadic entries and invites onto the PGA, DP and Asian tours do not help a young golfer settle.

His Dunhill Links effort wasn’t bad – a 76 on that horrendous day two the cause of his eventual missed cut – but 25th and 13th at the last two events are as good as Leishman produced at the same events.

Leish has the back-form and the class but looks on the way down, and while the attention of being defending champ could overawe the younger man, he has put up with ‘Golf, but louder’ for a few months now.

I have these much closer than the prices suggest, so take the 8/5 in a match.

Recommended Bets:

  • Ryan Fox 14/1 Each -Way
  • Jediah Morgan to beat Marc Leishman -72 holes – 8/5 
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Club Junkie

Club Junkie reviews: Ping’s new i230 irons

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Reviewing the new Ping i210 irons was something I was very excited to do. After all the success with the i210 irons, on tour and in amateur bags, Ping had some large shoes to fill. But in the early stages of the release they seem to have filled those shoes quite nicely. For the full review listen to the Club Junkie podcast below or on your favorite podcast platform, just search GolfWRX Radio.

The i230 irons are engineered for distance control and tight dispersion for aspiring golfers. They aren’t as demanding as the Blueprint or i59 but offer a lower flight and more workability compared to the G425. This class of irons that the i210 is in fits my game as a barely single digit handicap who is looking for some forgiveness in a smaller package.

Out of the box the i210 looks great. The look from the back is sleek and if you didn’t look closely wouldn’t even notice the badge in the cavity. That badge is matching silver and has just a couple subtle lines in it, almost giving the look of a smaller players cavity back. The head size is a little larger than a Titleist T100s or a PXG 0311T but still looks good because Ping kept everything in proportion. The blade length is a little longer but you don’t notice it much with the slightly thicker topline and small amount of offset. To me the i230 looks like a players club that also gives you the confidence that you don’t have to strike the dead center in order to hit a solid shot.

Ping added a large elastomer insert behind the badge to dial in the sound and feel of the i230 irons and that technology seems to work. The feel is solid and responsive while still be a little firmer at impact. You can hear a little click as the club connects with the ball, but the vibration that gets to your hands in minimal and far from harsh. Responsiveness is really good and you get ample feed back on how good, or not so good, your contact on the face was.

Well struck shots launch pretty easily into the air and fly with a flat apex towards your target. My expectations for the i230 were that they would be low launch and spin, but they were much more playable than that. The i230 launched almost 2 degrees higher than my PXG 0311T Gen5 irons that I have been gaming most of this year. The overall apex was also lower and flatter with the i230 cruising at 76.7 feet above the grass compared to 82.8 feet for the PXG. The i230 were very forgiving and dispersion was very tight. I felt like there was a little less left in my misses and the ball started out on a straighter path.

If I brought a terrible swing I could still get the ball to go left, but on good and decent swings shots stayed online and at the target. My miss recently has been out on the toe and the ball speed and height on shots out there were very playable. Shots that were low on the face didn’t get up as high and as fast as some other irons, but still carried a decent amount and total distance would have depended on the roll.

Ping doesn’t really jump up and down to say that the i230 are wildly long but they added about 2 yards compared to my gamer irons. They also spun about 300 RPM more than the 0311T irons but still produced a really boring trajectory, even into a pretty strong wind. There was no rise or ballooning of any sort, even with shots that had some fade to them.

Overall the new Ping i230 irons are really good and we should see them in a lot of bags. The lower launch, distance control, and forgiveness will open these up to a wide range of players and provide excellent performance.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A bunker experiment

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Based on my observations and feedback from recreational golfers of all skill levels, I believe one of the most puzzling and challenging of all shots for most golfers is the greenside bunker “explosion” shot. Far too many times, the result is either making a swing that is way too steep and plows the clubhead into the sand, or it’s the exact opposite – catching the ball right “in the forehead” and skulling it across the green into who-knows-what kind of new trouble. In either case, the end result is a blow-up hole that puts a double bogey or worse on the card.

And the damage to your psyche is much worse than that done to your card.

Besides the visual and mental intimidation of finding your ball in the bunker, we recreational golfers are faced with a super-wide variety of lies and sand textures, unlike the tour players who see essentially the same bunker texture week after week. In contrast, on my own private club course, for example, we have bunkers ranging from wet packed sand (almost mud) to dry fluffy sand several inches thick. In contrast to the tour professionals, we “mere mortals” have a constantly changing set of obstacles in the bunkers, each requiring a different approach.

Let’s start with the basic premise of the bunker shot we have all been taught. While there are slightly varying instructional directions for the execution of the swing, most teach that you should make contact about two inches behind the ball. And it’s often taught that this is the easiest shot in golf, because you don’t even have to hit the ball. I’ve always challenged that notion, because on EVERY OTHER SHOT I face, I am trying to make precise contact with the ball, from driver to putter. So, since those few bunker shots in a round require me to abandon my primary objective . . . couldn’t that possibly make bunker shots the hardest?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand . . . is there a different way to approach bunker shots that might help you improve your up-and-down percentage and significantly reduce those left-in-the-sand or skulled-over-the-green disasters? I believe there is, and I’ve been doing some experimenting with a different approach lately that is showing great promise.

What I’ve been doing is approaching bunker shots in very much the same way I execute any delicate greenside pitch, that is to view it as just another pitch shot, albeit from a more challenging lie than if the ball were sitting on the fairway or light rough. My goal is to make the wedge contact the ball and the sand at just about the same time, and just vary my swing power based on the texture of the sand – wet sand will “reject” the club more than dry, softer sand, requiring less power, much as tight firm turf will reject the club more than a softer lie in the rough.

As I play around with this approach, it seems much easier than trying to actually hit the sand some “measured” distance behind the ball, which also makes it easier for me to judge the distance I need the ball to fly and how much roll out I can expect. What’s most interesting for me is that as I began to experiment with this technique in the practice bunker, I paid close attention to where it “looked like” I was making contact with the sand. I put that in quotes because the sole of the wedge splashes out a large and clearly defined divot, so it really does look like I’m making contact further behind the ball than I really am.

If you are already an accomplished bunker player, my bet is that you are actually making contact much closer to the ball than the proverbial “two inch rule”, and kudos to you for figuring this out.

But for the majority of you out there who find a bunker shot a bit more challenging and fear-inducing, I highly recommend spending even a half hour in the practice bunker giving this “new” method a try. You still want to make a deliberate but relaxed swing and keep your angle of attack as shallow as possible so the bounce in your sand wedge’s sole can do what it was designed to do.

I’m sure we all would appreciate you sharing your own results and discovery with the rest of us.

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Opinion & Analysis

Kelley: Learn when to train and when to perform

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Regardless of what you may be working on in your swing, it is imperative to understand when to train your swing and game and when to perform on the golf course. Being able to switch mindsets and understand where to place your attention when training your technique and playing on the course will dramatically improve your scores.

Training Your Technique

To start, go to the driving range with a plan. Rather than hitting countless seven irons with no structure in mind, decide where you are going to place your attention on and what your intent is when practicing. If training a new technique, be mindful of your body and club with each swing. This usually should be done slowly. Remember you have to learn a new movement slowly, before fast. This requires discipline and understanding contact may not be ideal when so thoughtful.

On top of slow, training the “technique based swings”, practice hitting different ball-flight shots. (This will be discussed more on performance). If you normally slice the ball from left to right, place an alignment stick five yards in front of you and learn to hit golf balls right to left, drawing the ball around the stick. This will develop shaft and face awareness.

You can also simply place your attention on good contact. With each shot, note where on the clubhead the ball is struck. Practice off-speed shots making contact on the center, heel and toe of the face. Research shows intentionally practicing hitting the ball off center will actually facilitate center contact.

With most golfers having limited time to practice, don’t undervalue the importance of practicing at home. Simply grab a club and train your swing inside or outside your home. This is a great opportunity to slow down the swing, programming the brain with the new movement. If you have a mirror, practice looking into the mirror face-on to get feedback on how your body is moving. If you are outside and the sun is out, simply stand with your shadow directly in front of you at 12 o’clock, noting the shape of the shadow (your body) as you swing.

Learning to Perform

When on the golf course, it is a time to shoot the lowest score possible. This sounds like an obvious statement, although it is a simple concept that is often overlooked. The work you have done on your swing on the driving range and at home will morph into your swing on the golf course. This is also a time to focus more on the ball flight, not what your swing looks like.

“Ask what is wrong with your golf shot, not your golf swing“ – Karl Morris, The Mind Factor. This is a powerful and very effective question you can ask yourself on the golf course. Your post-shot routine is just as important as the pre-shot routine. Paying attention to what your ball is doing will give you a clear understanding of where to place your mind on each shot. Being able to adapt on the golf course with what you have that day and what to slightly change is critical to playing great golf.

Rather than trying to create the swing to create the shot on the golf course, which can lead to frustration, let the shot create the swing. In other words, ask yourself, “What does this shot feel like?” in order to get the ball from point A to point B. This is inclusive to the individual, and where practicing shaping the ball in your practice session plays dividends, so you can adapt on the course. This question may develop a certain feel or simple technical thought that has been developed with your coach.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of your attitude. Remember that having the chance to be on a golf course playing this great game is a privilege. Embrace the fact that Golf will never be mastered, and there is always a learning curve, even for the best players in the world. Embracing this challenge will make your good shots better and your bad shots not as bad.

http://www.kelleygolf.com

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