Sobel’s BMW PGA Championship Preview: The Value of the Euro(s)
Adam Hagy – USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tommy Fleetwood.
“My fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” – JFK
I swear, there was going to be some cutesy, catchy way of turning this JFK brilliance into a plea for United States golf bettors and fantasy players to focus a bit on the European Tour this week — except, as it turns out, it really wasn’t all that cutesy and definitely wasn’t too catchy. And so what you’re left with is some great words from a great leader before you read some stuff about guys with names like Lucas Bjerregaard — which really isn’t such a terrible thing, is it?
Chances are, there are two reasons why you might have clicked this link:
- You’re a hardcore golf gambler and need some inside info on whether Jens Dantorp provides more value at this tournament than Marcus Kinhult. (My answer is a resounding “duh, of course he does!”)
- You dabble in the PGA Tour, but you’re intrigued by playing the European Tour, and this week’s BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event of that circuit, seemed like a perfect opportunity to dip your toe into the — Euro golf reference alert! — Virginia Water.
Well, good news, sort of: You’re kind of right.
On the positive side, most of the familiar European names you’ve come to know from majors and WGCs over the years will be competing at Wentworth. Sure, there are still plenty of fuzzy little foreigners — Caddyshack reference alert! — but even a casual fan will be able to reel off plenty of the players competing this week.
On the negative side, that familiarity will breed a bit of contempt. Because of the strong field, this is probably the hardest Euro Tour event of the year to handicap. Case in point: My friend Dave Tindall of Golf365 asked 15 people within the game (including myself) for their picks to win and received 15 different selections.
It really is tough to limit the possibilities, but I’m going to try my best.
Here are three picks from three separate tiers I like this week — and one fade, as well.
1. Tommy Fleetwood (+1100)
You want to convince me that Rory McIlroy is the man to beat this week? I can buy that. But I’ll bank on Fleetwood’s consistency over McIlroy’s lack of it. Here’s all you need to know about Fleetwood: After playing the first round of The Players Championship with him a few weeks ago, world-class ball-striker in his own right Justin Rose said of Fleetwood, “I love the way he hits his iron shots, love his sort of curtailed finish, so that’s something I always try to imagine myself doing a little bit.”
2. Matthew Fitzpatrick (+2500)
It hasn’t been the greatest season for Fitzpatrick so far, but I get the sense he’s building toward much bigger things. With his presence on the Ryder Cup roster — once considered a mere formality — now potentially in doubt, Fitzpatrick will need a few big weeks at big events to solidify his place on the team. A share of 12th at this tourney last year should fill him with some good vibes.
3. Paul Dunne (+2700)
Speaking of leading up to good things, Dunne is a popular pick this week from those who follow the European Tour on a regular basis, and for good reason. Dunne owns four top-eight finishes in his last five starts and appears ready to assert himself as the next world-class player from Ireland. Remember, Dunne once led The Open Championship through 54 holes while still an amateur — this guy isn’t afraid of the spotlight.
Fade: Paul Casey (+1150)
I’m using this space to egregiously write about Safe, the eight-episode Netflix series that I just devoured in two nights and was one of the best things I’ve watched in years. Casey, one of my favorite interviews in golf, would’ve made for a great actor in this — an affluent, affable sort who’s hiding a deep secret behind his wide smile. If he chooses, he’ll be a tremendous TV analyst someday. Anyway, back to business: Casey is anything but “safe” this week, considering he withdrew from his last start with an injury, and as an erstwhile nonmember, hasn’t played this event in five years. I’m steering clear.
1. Andrew Johnston (+4000)
That’s right, his name is Andrew Johnston, though you know him better as Beef. (Or as he’s often crowed at here in the U.S.: “BEEEEEEEF!”) I tend to think of Beef less as a golfer and more as some sort of sideshow — a walking Arby’s ad shrouded in facial hair. The truth is, he’s much like Boo Weekley of a decade ago: a fun guy to root for with a charming backstory, but also a precise ball-striker with plenty of game. Wentworth should suit him well.
2. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (+4500)
Everything I just wrote about Beef, minus the facial hair.
3. Dylan Frittelli (+7000)
I tabbed Frittelli as a longshot to make some noise at the Masters last month and, well, that one didn’t quite go according to plan. But I still think Frittelli has a few title contentions in him at bigger events in him soon, and this week would be a nice one to start getting into that conversation.
Fade: Ian Poulter (+3000)
In the past year, Poults has transformed from fallen Ryder Cup hero about to lose his PGA Tour card to revived PGA Tour champion about to become a Ryder Cup hero once again. Love him or hate him — and there are plenty members of both camps — he’s a terrific story. He’s never hidden his distaste for Wentworth, though, and it’s tough to see that story having another happy chapter this week.
1. Nicolas Colsaerts (+10000)
They call Colsaerts “The Dude,” and if that’s not reason enough to love the guy, nothing is. I once went for a steak dinner in Akron with The Dude, who explained his nickname thusly: “I was in Europe and I was kind of saying dude to everyone and I’m kind of like a dude.” Oh, and he also mashes the hell out of the ball off the tee and has been playing some solid golf recently. Pick him this week and yes, The Dude might very well abide.
2. Thomas Detry (+16000)
Just because I can’t stop at one long-hitting Belgian, here’s another in Detry, who is basically what you’d get if you tried to clone Colsaerts with Thomas Pieters.
3. Sam Horsfield (+25000)
Just 21 years old, the former University of Florida standout owns as much talent as nearly anyone he’ll see on the range this week, especially when it comes to short game. It might be too soon for Horsfield to seriously contend at a tourney of this magnitude, but at this price he might just be worth the risk.
Fade: Martin Kaymer (+8500)
We should start calling Kaymer The Cicada, because every few years, he comes out of nowhere to absolutely dominate the summer. That cycle should be moving toward another uptick soon, but recent injuries and poor play leave Kaymer a mere footnote for now.