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The Wyndham Championship and Cazoo Open tee-off this week. Golf expert Jason Daniels is here to preview both tournaments.

Whilst last week’s selections were less than satisfactory, it all came good at the Women’s Scottish Open, when one of our ‘Players to Watch in 2022’ – Ayaka Furue – shot a stunning final round of 10-under 62 to win by three shots.

That makes it three winners from the list of 10, the LPGA rookie joining Leona Maguire and Ewen Ferguson as first-time winners since January.

Moving on to this week, the Cazoo Open may well be better known as the traditional Welsh Open, taking place at the Celtic Manor Twenty-Ten course for the 10th year, whilst the PGA Tour arrives at the Wyndham Championship for the 15th year in succession at Sedgefield Country Club, North Carolina.

Course form is powerful at both, with the Welsh venue placing an emphasis on strong par-four performance, and therefore quality ball-striking. On the other side of the pond, Greensboro doesn’t call for bombers, with most players hitting their approach shots from very similar positions – look for high-quality wedge players and putters.

Wyndham Championship

J.T. Poston
Alex Smalley

In the final pairing, and eventual first and sixth at the John Deere, both JT Poston and Denny McCarthy can feature again at a similar test of golf, with preference very much for the former at a bizarrely bigger price.

After a runner-up finish at the Travelers, Poston went into Deere Run as a fancied 45-1 shot but despite an admirable couple of days at St. Andrews and a recent 11th at the 3M, he can backed at a similar price, at a course that may suit even better.

Top grade as a putter over the last couple of seasons, the 29-year-old has hit a rich vein of form lately, backing up an early season ninth at the Wells Fargo and a third place at the RBC Heritage, an event that shows excellent correlation with Sedgefield.

Davis Love, Carl Pettersson, Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson have won both, whilst Kevin Kisner and Si Woo Kim have won the Wyndham and been beaten in a play-off at Hilton Head. Ryan Moore, meanwhile, book-ended his five PGA Tour wins with victories here and at the John Deere.

Apart from Poston’s form at The Heritage – third, sixth and eighth in four starts – his tee-to-green game is in tremendous shape, ranking seventh at Harbour Town, Potomac and River Highlands, before leading the field in that regard for his recent victory.

His flat stick got him out of trouble last time at Twin Cities when his long game wasn’t quite as sharp as it has been, understandable just a week after his debut at The Open, but it’s safe to assume that things will be back to standard at a course on which he won his first PGA event.

Poston ranks fourth in par-four performance over the last three months, crucial to Sedgefield, so all we may need is Danny Dyer to say to the ball when it’s on the way to the hole, “Drop It!”

It’s about time Alex Smalley started showing why he was one of the hottest prospects on Planet Golf a year ago.

Formerly world ranked 12th in the amateur ranks, the 25-year-old was one of the best golfers to come out of Duke University, before playing on the victorious 2019 Walker Cup side at Royal Liverpool.

Many a quality college star has come and gone but Smalley has hinted at better to come in 2022, with a final round 65 at the Corales to finish joint runner-up, sixth in Mexico (second at halfway) won by Jon Rahm, 21st in Rory McIlory’s Canadian Open where he sat third going into Sunday and, recently, a closing 16th at the John Deere and 10th at the high-class Scottish Open, falling just one shot shy of a place at the final major.

It’s easy to forgive last week’s missed cut, and instead look at last year’s 29th place finish here, when he was in eighth place at the cut mark, and needed a final round 66 to gain his place at the Korn Ferry finale.

Smalley’s overall stats read nicely for the test here this week, constantly ranking in the top echelons for iron play and tee-to-green. It can’t harm that he was one of the best scoring players throughout his later amateur days, and that he subsequently became a member of Sedgefield Country Club a couple of years ago, somewhere he is happy to mention he has played well over 75 times.

Cazoo Open

Callum Shinkwin
Richard Mansell
Marcus Helligkilde
Garrick Porteous

Sometimes a player smacks you in the face and, despite the relatively short price, I’m not sure how you leave out 29-year-old Callum Shinkwin from the plan.

Whilst being a parkland course, there are definitely hints of links form when looking through recent leaderboards.

2021 champion, Nacho Elvira, and his play-off victim Justin Harding both have form at Qatar (as did sixth-place Chase Hanna) whilst 2020 saw the likes of Romain Langasque, David Dixon, Matt Jordan, Seb Soderberg and Jorge Campillo represent form at similar, correlative, courses.

Take a step back further and look at Joost Luiten, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell for hints – Shinkwin fits right in.

Although the Moor Park player has won only once at this level, his play-off victim in Cyprus, Kalle Samooja, has since won the Porsche European Open from a field that wouldn’t look out of place here, whilst form at the Scottish Open, Dunhill Links and KLM are further pointers to his suitability for the run of events in July and August.

Form here is better than most, improving his three runs from 11th on debut to fourth last season, and whilst he is known for sometimes lacking on the greens, his flat stick clearly works at Celtic Manor, ranking in the top-15 in strokes-gained-putting for all his trio of events.

Latest form is in front of you – 16th at Hillside (sixth at halfway) and a closing seventh at Fairmont, whilst the two events combine for a strokes-gained tee-to-green total of over 20 strokes.

Bring that along with his penchant for these greens and it could prove a winning formula.

The DP World Tour seems to contain an awful lot of frustrating characters. Matt Jordan, Connor Syme, Wilco Nienaber and Richard Mansell have all been expected to get over the line over the past year-or-so. That may be hard on a relative newbie, and there is time, so take the 27-year-old to make waves this week.

Another with a top amateur career, Mansell quickly made his way through the Europro Tour before passing through Challenge Tour level and joining the DP World Tour for the 2021 season. However, it’s this season that has seen the improvement required to compete at the top level.

Top-10 finishes at The Belfry and Bernardus read well in context for this track, as does his best-of-the-year tied-third at Green Eagle (featured above), and having reunited with his old caddy, can start to make the steady improvement that he talked about in June:

I know that I am on an upward trajectory. It sounds simplistic but ultimately it is about getting better year in year out, rather than look to make enormous leaps. The mindset of incremental gains is what I have done so far in my professional career, and I am confident I can continue to do so. I am now playing in Majors so something must be going right! It is an exciting time personally.”

25-year-old Marcus Helligkilde is another with time, but having proven far too good for Nordic League level, won three times on the Challenge Tour in 2021, including the finale and the overall title and I’m expect big things of the young Dane.

We often want rare instant success, so whilst it took a few months to hit full stride, Helligkilde finished strongly in Qatar to finish 12th (outside the top-50 into Sunday) before lying top-25 at halfway in the Irish Open and taking a couple of weeks to the other side of the Atlantic.

There he thrived with an eighth and 13th place finish at the Barbasol and Bermuda championships, ranking highly for tee-to-green play and finishing in amongst regular PGA Tour players.

The missed-cut at Fairmont is forgivable given the vagaries of the weather, and I’m happy to give this unexposed player a chance to get back to top form on a course that has seen Danes perform well – Thomas Bjorn and Anders Hansen have placed here, whilst Jeppe Huldahl proved to be one of the biggest shock golf winners, when victorious in 2009.

For this week’s three-figure poke, turn to Essex’s Garrick Porteous to come on enough from a couple of decent finishes and make a challenge on the front page of the leaderboard.

The 2013 Amateur Championship winner has found a touch of consistency with his tee-to-green game, finding an average of six shots in appearances at Munich, Hillside and Fairmont.

The 32-year-old went on mini-runs of form in 2021, putting together runs of four and five events and recording top-15 finishes in amongst those sequences. After the latest figures of 30th and 16th, it isn’t difficult to see him going on another burst of results.

For those inclined, it might be worth repeating the advice from last week.

“All his (Porteous) best three finishes in 2022 have resulted from being prominent from the get-go, never out of the top-20 when 13th at the Di-Data and in Kenya, whilst he finished second and sixth after each of the opening two rounds in Southport.”

He is 80-1 in the first-round-leader market for those inclined to play.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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