Jason Daniels returns once again to provide us with a weekly preview, this time covering the Irish Open and the John Deere Classic.
None of our selections really got it going last week, although a strong weekend by tournament stalwart Brian Harman saw him land his fifth top-10 finish in eight outings at the course – surely one to note whatever his form going into River Highlands next season.
This week, we crank up the heat as the Irish Open kicks off a trio of successive British Isles Opens, with all roads leading to St. Andrews, home of the 150th Open Championship.
On the other side of the pond, the John Deere Classic has its 22nd outing at TPC Deere Run in Illinois, but with world number 25 Daniel Berger pulling out last night, 58th ranked Webb Simpson heads a field that may struggle to attract too much attention past the top 50 or so.
Still, winners are winners, whatever the grade, so whilst the advice is to hold some powder back for the higher class events coming up over the next couple of weeks, here’s a selection of the best bets this week.
Main Play - Irish Open
Min Woo Lee – 40-1
After a successful amateur career in his home country of Australia, big things were expected of 23-year-old Min Woo and he immediately caught the eye of punters when finishing 4th at the Saudi International in 2019, his first full season as a professional.
Backing that up with a top-five at the Perth Super-6 and tied-third at the Australian PGA (behind Adam Scott), in early 2020 he won his first professional tournament, the Victoria Open, defeating Ryan Fox and Marcus Fraser, both very capable players in the wind, before rewarding his time spent on the European Tour with a tied-sixth at Hanbury Manor and 11th at The Belfry.
Fully ensconced in the tour, Lee finished 17th in the Irish Open last season, with only an average third round stopping him from appearing on the front page, and he followed that with his second, and more valued, victory at the Renaissance Club where a joint second-best final round of 64 was enough to see him in a three-man play-off, eventually beating Thomas Detry and subsequent US Open champ, Matt Fitzpatrick. Behind were Lucas Herbert (winner here last year), Johannes Veerman (3rd), Richard Bland and Richie Ramsay (T4).
Location for the #HorizonIrishOpen pic.twitter.com/7fUyAvwOI1
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) June 28, 2022
The effort in the wind and links of the North Berwick course lent itself to his upbringing, but he showed his versatility when running up to that man again, Matt Fitzpatrick, at tight, tree-laden and windy Valderrama.
Finishing the season with two top-class efforts – 8th in Portugal (see, once again, last year’s Irish Open winner Herbert, third-placed Veerman and sixth Francesco Laporta for relevant form) and 4th in Dubai (always a good guide to links form) – he closed with a midfield position, again in Dubai, at the classy DP World Tour Championship.
Whilst 2022 opened with a warm-up fourth at his home PGA, Min Woo hasn’t kicked on as expected on the PGA Tour, although his best results need a second glance.
In his first full year, seven missed-cuts are interspersed with a never-nearer 14th at Augusta and a last-time out 27th at Southern Hills, for the US Open.
Big events clearly spur him on, as do the achievements of his sister, Minjee Lee, now a two-time major winner in The States. Now coming to a course that is parkland in build but more links-like when viewing last year’s result, everything looks ripe for a continued rise in form as he approaches ‘defence’ time next week.
Next Best - Irish Open
Jason Scrivener 55-1
33-year-old Scrivener may have only won once – 2017 NSW Open – but it’s certainly of note that he beat subsequent Irish Open and Dubai Desert Classic winner, Lucas Herbert, by six shots.
It isn’t as if the South African born turned Aussie has bad placed form either, with 16 top-10 finishes in his last five seasons, including running up in Abu Dhabi and finishing on the front page of three Dubai leaderboards.
Of interest is that Scrivener repeats form in certain events. Witness a pair of third-place finishes and a top-10 at the Hong Kong Open, a pair of top-seven finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic, and a pair of top-10s at the only two runnings of the Scandinavian Mixed.
The selection came into this event in 2021 on a run of T6/T55/T3/T23 but couldn’t get the putts dropping on the back-nine, ultimately costing him the chance to be several places higher than the eventual 9th, and he arrives here in similar form, a 25th at the long Green Eagle course followed by a T3 at the Scandi Mixed.
Should it all go to plan, Scrivener will put up something close to a repeat of his 2021 effort round Mount Juliet, where he led the field in tee-to-green play.
🇸🇪 Linn Grant -16
🇦🇺 Jason Scrivener -14
The last group get their final round underway.#VolvoScandinavianMixed pic.twitter.com/ijLLaYmnLT
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) June 12, 2022
Others to note - Irish Open
Johannes Veerman 60-1
Richie Ramsay 66-1
Simply, both these players showed enough last time to think they are in the right form at the right time.
Veerman came into this event last season on a terrible run of form, with six missed-cuts and nothing of note in nine outings. Something clicked around here, though, and it was only two late bogeys on Sunday that allowed eventual winner Herbert to have some breathing space.
This year is different in that his last two outings have resulted in a top-10 at the European Open and a top-20 in Sweden. Further I can find relevant form with his 8th in Portugal (tied with Scrivener) and his win at the Czech Masters, an event Thomas Pieters has won twice, and who helps bring more form to the table via his close runner-up last week at the BMW International and his best ever effort in seven Irish Opens – 12th here last year.
Ramsay admits he is close to the end of the period at which he can compete on the tour.
However, whilst it will have taken him a short while to get over a single loose shot that cost him the British Masters in May, he bounced back to form in Germany last week with a 13th place finish courtesy of leading the way in driving accuracy and being top-10 in greens found.
When fourth here last year, the 39-year-old ranked 14th off-the-tee (via finding fairways) 22nd in approach, 16th in tee-to-green and 11th in putting, and he looks to be close to that coming into an important week.
Back-form is significant – winner at Crans and Morocco, high finishes at Valderrama, Dunhill Links and Wentworth – and whilst they are a while ago, he knows what it takes to stick in there.
Ramsay goes on spurts of form, often two, three, four events, and after an injury concern when withdrawing from the European Open, there was enough in last weekend’s play for him to be of interest this week.
Main Bet - John Deere Classic
JT Poston 45-1
Whilst Xander Schauffele and Sahith Theegala were giving themselves nightmares down the stretch at River Highlands, 29-year-old James Tyree was banging in successive iron shots and holing putts, very much what he was doing 18 months ago.
It was a welcome return to form for a man that was top-grade on the dancefloor, ranking second and 15th in strokes-gained-putting over the last couple of seasons. On a course that demands a very high figure for putts-per-green-in-regulation, this is The Postman’s chance to add to his one-shot win at the 2019 Wyndham Championship, beating Sedgefield legend and this week’s favourite, Webb Simpson.
Top efforts have been sporadic rather than regular, but the Sea Island resident will surely compete in a weakish field if playing anywhere near the form of a second-place at the Barbasol almost exactly twelve months ago, when beaten in a play-off by live Irish Open candidate Seamus Power. More recently, Poston was a then best-of-the-season tied-third to Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay at Hilton Head, the third time in his last four completed outings he has ranked seventh for tee-to-green play.
Poston’s Twitter account suggests he is extremely happy with his game. He looks set for an extensive set of results and I’m happy to forgive a set of poor course results given the claims on the current form.
Big shoutout to my man @AaronFlener for keeping my head in a great spot! What a great week @TravelersChamp! First class event and can’t wait to be back! Excited about where my game is at the moment! #PlayBetter ✅ pic.twitter.com/7M6w4des3w
— J.T. Poston (@JT_ThePostman) June 26, 2022
Others to note - John Deere Classic
Chez Reavie 50-1
Nate Lashley 80-1
Chris Gotterup 100-1
The John Deere is something of a downgrade for Reavie and he is easy to pick on course and recent form.
As is the way with players just off the top, they suffer with inconsistency when the big boys are in town and on long courses. However, when getting back to suitable tracks, and in-form, as is Reavie, it’s time to say ‘go’.
As a former winner of the Travelers, it was no surprise to see him grab a top-10 at River Highlands last week, an effort that followed top-15 finishes in Mexico and Wells Fargo, and a top-30 at Colonial, all results that sit nicely in this grade.
With almost all past winners having a top-20 ranking for ball-striking and proximity to the hole, it’s encouraging that the 40-year-old ranks top-25 in the field for tee-to-green and top-30 in proximity in whole tour rankings for the season. Having led the prox stats last week and been 18th in putting average on a course that compares nicely to this, it’s the time to be on a player that can boast form at a higher level.
Nate Lashley is a player I have been with a few times, but he will always appeal in second-tier events where driving distance is of little relevance.
Top-15 in this field for ball-striking, the 39-year-old ranks overall 61st for prox and top-30 for putting average, numbers that will get this done on the right week.
When winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2019, Lashley ranked third for tee-to-green, all courtesy of his iron play, whilst he found nine shots over the field with his flat stick. He can’t match that in recent efforts, but he’s been close at Pheonix, Pebble Beach and in Texas, all far tougher events than he faces this week.
Since March, the Scottsdale resident has made seven from 11 cuts, those weekends resulting in five top-20 finishes, and he can come on from a first look at this course, when 26th in 2019.
We’ve seen plenty of talent come through on the PGA Tour, most recently Sahith Theegala, who should have gained his maiden victory over the weekend.
Theegala, like predecessors Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Matt Wolff and former John Deere champion Michael Kim, have been awarded the Haskins Award, honoring the best collegiate golfer in the United States. This year, the organizers awarded the honor to Chris Gotterup.
An outstanding college golfer, the 22-year-old has taken advantage of special exemptions and invitations rather than go on to the Korn Ferry Tour, and early signs are promising.
On his first start on tour, the then amateur finished seventh at the Puerto Rico Open, a country in which he had success as an amateur before missing the cut in Canada, despite a pair of 72s.
In two starts since, the Oklahoma star has made the weekend at both the US Open and the Travelers, with his four rounds at River Highlands containing a 67 and a pair of 68s.
I am taking a risk, especially as he is such an enormous driver of the ball and this may not be the most suitable track, but although he has gone from 400-1 at Highlands to just over three figures this week, we have seen them make it before, and no doubt will do so again.
Gotterup is special, it’s just when, not if.