The Longshot: Taking a swing at picking the PGA winner

Twenty of the last 30 major wins have been maiden victories so we'll make an argument for another one next weekend
The Longshot: Taking a swing at picking the PGA winner

Chile’s Mito Pereira reacts after missing a putt on the 18th hole at the PGA Championship last year.

ANOTHER major rolls around in the golf world this week. Anyone remember the PGA Championship last year?

The hit-and-miss Netflix documentary Full Swing picked a good relatively unknown to follow last year when they chose Mito Pereira (150/1 this week). Unfortunately for him it was because he was involved in one of the most dramatic final hole collapses in recent major history.

Standing on the final tee, the Chilean was a shot ahead of everyone else (he had been three ahead starting the day) and decided to pull out his driver. A water hazard welcomed his haphazard first shot. He took a drop, found the rough with his third, chipped over the green, and got a double-bogey that meant he missed out on even a playoff place. An unforgettable day for the young fella! At least he has cashed in with LIV now to make up for the disappointment.

Justin Thomas (22/1 to retain) burned up the back nine that same day and then overcame Will Zalatoris in the extra holes. The latter is unlucky to miss out on the rest of the PGA season because of a back problem after racking up six top-10 finishes in his first 10 majors.

The second grand slam event of the year takes place at Oak Hill (or Knockaderry as we might call it) in north-east New York state, the venue for the 1995 Ryder Cup when Philip Walton memorably held his nerve against Jay Haas to help Europe secure a win.

The East Lake course has hosted six previous major championships — the US Open and this three times, most recently in 2013 when Jason Dufner won his only major. Interestingly, since 2012, there have been three players who have won this tournament twice: Thomas, Rory McIlroy (12/1), and Brooks Koepka (22/1), who did two in a row in 2019. Koepka is of course on the LIV tour now.

Did that play a part in his mini-collapse in the final round of the Masters last month? Phil Mickelson’s run that same day suggests not and that the 2021 champ is 150/1 is quite surprising in light of that. Dustin Johnson (28/1) or Cam Smith (33/1) are the only other rogue tour members you would fancy competing here.

While the PGA Championship moved forward to May five years ago from its former late summer start, it is interesting to note 18 of the last 23 winners had won a tour event in the season prior to their success. Also, 20 of the last 30 major championships have gone to a first-time winner.

The most likely trio to fit into those two stats are Tony Finau, Max Homa, and Sam Burns, who are 25/1, 40/1, and 45/1 to get their maiden big win here. Séamus Power also fits the bill with this criteria and had a top ten in this event last year and looks very big at 200/1 considering he gained another top-20 at the weekend on Texas (Shane Lowry, in much worse form, is 100/1).

Koreans Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim (runner-up last weekend) are both 80/1. YE Yang is the only Korean to have won a major — the PGA in 2009 when he overcame a two-shot deficit going into the final round to finish three strokes ahead of playing partner Tiger Woods, who pulled out because of injury (Jordan Spieth, 28/1, remains a slight doubt too).

I was close to tipping winner Jason Day last weekend (mentioning his good form and previous wins before swerving away) and the Kiwi is 40/1 to add a second major after gaining his first victory on tour in five years. Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler are 8/1 co-favourites but the latter’s poor putting of late means he is far too short at that price.

Rahm looks to win back-to-back majors and he’s also seeking to complete three big ones and leave only an Open to complete the set.

City and Inter have eyes on final face-off

MAN City brushed aside Everton at the weekend and are still on for the treble, which they are as low as 5/4 to complete. If you think they might slip up in both of the cups (the league is sewn up) you can get odds of 11/2 on them lifting only one trophy this season.

After earning a 1-1 draw in their Champions League semi first leg against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, they are 4/6 to finally lift the elusive European bauble. Kevin De Bruyne’s equaliser means they should head into tomorrow night’s leg full of confidence and Real have now drifted to 9/2 to retain the trophy they are looking to lift for an extraordinary sixth time in a decade.

In the first leg there was a goal in each half but both Man City and Real Madrid are much more potent in the second half in this competition this season. Both having scored nine goals in the opening 45 minutes, City’s tally after half-time doubles to 18 (more than any other club this season), while Real Madrid are only one behind on 17 goals scored after the break (both to score in the second half is 2/1).

In the other semi-final, Inter Milan raced into a 2-0 lead over AC Milan after just 11 minutes at the San Siro, the stadium they share, and have one foot in the final as they dominated the rest of the game. Edin Dzeko could meet his old club City in the decider after he and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored, the latter waltzing into the box with some leisure to double the lead.

The bookies have Inter just ahead of Real at 3/1 to win the Champions League for the first time since 2010.

AC Milan have drifted to 28/1 as they have a mountain to climb in the away leg at the same ground next week.

In Champions League history, only one team has won the first leg of the semi-final by two or more goals and then failed to progress, with Barcelona failing to go through against Liverpool in 2018/19, winning the first leg 3-0 but losing the second leg 4-0 at Anfield although current Milan striker Divock Origi scored two goals in that game, including the fourth and winning goal.

Goalkeeper fails to get with the programme for accumulator

OUR 5/1 GAA accumulator was scuppered again by a draw, this time the Wexford goalie kicking a late long free to tie up their game in Fermanagh.

The Ulster final at least delivered where the other provincial finals cannot. The colour clash (red and white against orange) was almost as extraordinary as the action at St Tiernach’s Park. Penalties are both terrible and wonderful. The highlight of the game was Ger Canning saying at one stage that Armagh sub Stefan Campbell had been programmed to start. We assume this meant he was named in the programme rather than being the first example of GAI.

There was better news on a rugby front when our tip of Munster to see off Leinster by 1-5 points clicked at 12/1. Munster will now take on the Stormers on Saturday week in Cape Town. The South African side will attempt to retain the United Rugby Championship title after beating the Bulls last year and they have lost just once at home since December 2021, albeit that loss was to Munster just under a month ago when the Reds claimed a 26-24 victory.

Stormers finished the regular season in third and their quarter, semi and the final will now all have taken place at home. Munster’s last eight encounters with South African opponents in the URC have all been won by the home side on the day.

However, Munster won their only other clash with the Stormers, beating them 34-18 in Thomond back in October 2021. Graham Rowntree is now 2/1 to win serious silverware (for the first time since 2011 for the Reds) in his first season in charge.

Luton look for fairytale finish

LARS ELSTRUP visited Kenilworth Road last month to watch Luton Town play. It had been 32 years since the player, who was part of Denmark’s 1992 European Championship winning squad, had been to the ground.

Elstrup has been open about mental health issues, that have unfortunately seen him strip off completely in public — sometimes streaking on to football pitches — far too often for anyone to be comfortable with and have made him a figure of fun in his home country.

Elstrup’s two years in Bedfordshire are a good reminder of how remarkable Luton’s rapid rise to the cusp of the Premier League has been. If they were to overcome the 2-1 score Sunderland carry into the Championship play-off second leg at Kenilworth and reach the decider on Saturday week., they would have the chance of becoming the first side on a truly shoestring budget to reach the Premier League (adding a fourth promotion since 2014).

There may have been unlikely sides in the top flight before, but all have seen at least some injection of serious cash at a certain stage of their ascent. Luton? When Elstrup signed in 1989 for £850,000, it was a club record fee. One that stood for 30 years.

They are 11/10 to win tonight and now 9/2 to go through.

The Bet

TONY FINAU has two wins already this season and two top-ten finishes in his last five starts at East Lake, one being the 2019 US Open.

Patrick Cantlay doesn’t have a strong history in majors, but he surely has the talent to win one. His best finish is a third-place at the 2019 PGA Championship. Yet he has finished in the top 10 in half of his tournaments this season. But we feel burnt by tipping him in the Masters. We’ll opt for another man who doesn’t normally perform well in majors (one top 20 in 13 tries since 2019!) and go for Max Homa at 40/1.

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