Cam Davis can upstage favourite Cameron Smith and capture the Australian PGA Championship, which begins on Wednesday evening UK time.
Golf betting tips: Australian PGA Championship
4pts e.w. Cam Davis at 10/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
2pts e.w. Marc Leishman at 22/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
1pt e.w. Harrison Crowe at 150/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)
0.5pt e.w. Pierre Pineau at 450/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
Tournaments at this time of year broadly fall into two categories from a betting perspective: those with what can seem an impenetrable group or an unbeatable individual at the top, and those which feel wide open, with any number of possible winners.
Some recent events have supported this idea, like Erik van Rooyen and Camilo Villegas winning on the PGA Tour, and Max Homa winning at Sun City. Then again, last week it was about even-money the big three in Dubai compared to 14/1 the field in the RSM Classic, yet it was on the PGA Tour that the favourite produced a record-breaking performance.
This is a good reminder of what can happen in golf, but the Australian PGA Championship looks likely to go to one of the favourites. All of the best Australian golfers are here, enjoying home advantage under conditions quite different to those we usually see on the main men’s tours, and if they do fluff their lines there are a handful of overseas raiders with a pretty big class edge over most.
Perhaps there’s even a chance that some of the Europeans, the likes of Adrian Meronk and Robert MacIntyre, might be running on fumes after exhausting seasons. Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune was involved in the battle for PGA Tour cards last week, too, so the home contingent really do seem to have everything in their favour.
That applies to Cameron Smith in particular. Smith, from Brisbane, has made hay in what is his local event, winning it three times in his last four appearances, the margin of victory getting wider by the year. Having been second in Hong Kong a fortnight ago, beaten by a birdie-birdie finish, it’s a little surprising that he’s a point bigger than he was a year ago.
Can Davis upstage his namesake?
To an extent that reflects the improvements made by the next two in the betting, Min Woo Lee and CAM DAVIS, and I have to give the edge to the latter on this occasion.
Lee has been fourth on both starts here and played just fine in Dubai, where an opening double-bogey gave him a mountain to climb right out of the gate. My headline selection there, I’m not about to start picking holes in the profile of a hugely progressive youngster destined for the top of the sport.
The one quibble was with his approach play and that remains true, but under these very different conditions I suspect he’ll improve markedly. The concern instead would be his preparation, as he said last year that he’d had an hour’s sleep on the flight from Dubai, and with an early tee-time on Thursday there’s a chance he could be caught napping, so to speak.
That’s actually what happened to Davis last year, when he did as Lee did in Dubai and started his Australian PGA Championship with a double-bogey. From there he did well to break par on Thursday, but it wasn’t until the weekend that he hit full stride, shooting 66-68 to climb to seventh. Nobody in the field scored better over the final two rounds.
Hopefully this time he can avoid a catastrophic start and he’s certainly improved in the interim, as he has done in every year as a professional, ever since winning the Australian Open as an outsider six years ago.
Davis has played 12 PGA Tour rounds during the FedEx Cup Fall, shooting nothing higher than 70, contending for the Fortinet Championship and sitting close to the lead throughout both the Shriners and the ZOZO, producing his standout finish so far at each of the three courses he’s visited and showcasing a razor-sharp short-game.
It was a little disconcerting to read at the Fortinet that he was working on some small tweaks ahead of 2024, making full use of the new PGA Tour schedule which removes all points-related pressure for a player like him, but having backed up that display with even more encouraging ones since, there doesn’t appear to be anything to worry about.
He’s already won the Australian Open, holding off Smith, Matt Jones, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth in a good renewal, and I would agree with both the OWGR and DataGolf in finding him and Lee very hard to split. At the prices, and with a potentially beneficial preparation, it has to be Davis.
Adam Scott also merits respect. He went to Bermuda with the sole aim of readying himself for a return home and fifth place was just the job on his course debut. He’s got a decent record at Royal Queensland, but my nagging doubt is the way he played in the final round of last year’s Australian Open, shooting 72 as Meronk swept past.
I’m not one to question major champions if I can help it and Scott is still capable of winning this for a third time, however of the four standout Australians, he’s the one I’d worry about just a little come Sunday. The bottom line is he’s not a player I can see myself putting up at shortish prices these days.
MARC LEISHMAN turned 40 last month and as far as career goals go, he has one realistic one remaining: to win one of Australia’s majors, which these days means either this or next week’s Australian Open.
It would be a shame were a player of his class to wind up without either of them and he’s spoken recently about his desire to avoid that, and how his preparation might help.
“Normally I have played a quite a lot of golf leading up to them,” Leishman said in an interview with codesports.com.
“Obviously you never know how you are going to play but I have always tended to play my best golf when I have been fresh, coming off a little bit of a break.
“I will come off three weeks off with a little practice thrown in there. Hopefully this is my best Australian summer yet.
“I haven’t had too many chances to win either of the events — I have come close at the (Australian) PGA a couple of times. Hopefully this can be a good year at both of them and try to win one of them.
“It is something that has been missing of my resume forever. As you win more around the world, and add to your resume, that is something you want to put on it too.
“To play well and lift one of those trophies would be huge. As a kid – in person and on TV – you dream of holding onto one of those trophies.
“Hopefully I get that chance while I still have a few good years left in me.”
Given that his Australian Open record is really poor, the PGA, in which he was second to Smith and is currently on a run of 10 top-25s in a row, would look the best opportunity. His form has picked up, too, with his two best LIV Golf finishes coming in his last five solo appearances, and a definite uptick in his ball-striking stats.
Leishman was 12th here last year and it’ll be disappointing if he can’t improve upon that with his game seemingly in a better place.
Haydn Barron and the once highly thought of Curtis Luck are others from the home challenge who should be considered, Luck especially having signed off the Korn Ferry Tour season in good nick. Pricing him isn’t easy but I’d have been looking for three-figures and can’t recommend him at odds ranging from a standout 80s to as low as 35/1.
Of the Europeans I did consider Eddie Pepperell, who put in another exceptional display of approach work in Qatar. It’s surprising that this will be his first start in Australia, but I’d have thought it’ll suit a player with a strong record under firm, fast conditions, though it should be noted there has been some rain around in Brisbane lately.
Crowe best of the rest
Tom McKibbin lost the final of the Australian Amateur here to Jed Morgan, who came back and won a weaker renewal of the Australian PGA in runaway fashion, and that amateur event has thrown up various other contenders in subsequent professional events at Royal Queensland.
Rather than back McKibbin straight off the plane from Dubai, I’ll chance HARRISON CROWE, who turned pro in September and has immediately proven competitive – as you might expect of a player who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur and was Australia’s best.
While he did struggle in two majors earlier this year, since making the jump in September he’s produced form figures of 11-29-14-2-8, latterly in Hong Kong where he wasn’t far behind Smith in a field which featured the likes of Patrick Reed, Harold Varner, Andy Ogletree and Peter Uihlein.
Fanling is a nice warm-up for a return to Australia, where he’d previously stormed home for second and has won a PGA of Australia event when still an amateur, and a closing 66 here last year came off the back of a difficult week in Japan where he’d missed the cut after a second-round 81.
One year on and he looks in a better place to put the benefits of course experience to use, having made the last 16 of the Australian Amateur. His best round in the 36-hole stroke play qualifier came at Royal Queensland and as we’ve seen many times down the years, the standout young Australians can make a big impression in these events.
Micheluzzi is the pick of the locals on paper but having put him up at 80/1 last year, prices closer to 25s make no appeal despite his red-hot form. I’d rather chance Ben Eccles, who tops the order of merit having bagged a win before finishing second to Micheluzzi on Sunday yet is 10-times the price generally.
Eccles was very promising once upon a time and something looks to have clicked, so if you can nab the bits and pieces of 500/1 then you might get some fun out of him. One firm is as short as 125/1 now and I’d say both are a bit extreme.
This is a big rise in class, though, and while home advantage will play its part, I can’t help but feel that PIERRE PINEAU has been underestimated at odds that put him alongside players who simply aren’t as good nor as promising as he is.
Pineau isn’t a superstar by any means but at 24 he’s just completed a solid Challenge Tour season, bagging three top-10s and finishing just outside the top 45 cut-off for the Grand Final, his inconsistency still holding him back somewhat.
He’d won on that circuit in 2022, seemingly out of nowhere, and while hugely volatile he’s also very capable on a going week. That much was in evidence this time last year when he shot rounds of 67-75-68-73 here, before going on to finish 10th in the Australian Open and then contend in Mauritius.
You’d have to believe he’s regressed since to justify quotes as big as 500/1 in places and that’s possible, but there’s no doubt he was the big eye-catcher at Qualifying School, which finished just last week. Pineau shot 78 on day one, the worst score on his course, to lie 149th of 155 players. Thereafter, he broke 70 each day to just miss out on full status, the only player in the field to card five straight rounds in the sixties.
Chances are he’ll shoot himself in the foot again, but there’s another reason I quite like him for this. Pineau’s short-game, on the limited evidence we have, is his main strength, which ties him in with Smith and various other contenders. Around courses like this one, a silky touch can be invaluable, and there’s logic to the fact he’s already contended in Australia.
So, we have a player whose last competitive golf was very good, who showed flashes here on debut before finishing 10th in the Australian Open, and whose short-game is a strength. As for the fact he caught the eye at Q-School, that applied to one of my selections last year, a 350/1 shot who threatened the places, and Johannes Veerman nearly won in South Africa after a similar display not so long ago.
Despite his start, Pineau finished in front of Alex Levy and Connor McKinney, alongside Hayden Hopewell and John Catlin, all generally a good deal shorter than he is, and at anything bigger than 250/1 he’s a fun bet among the afternoon starters. Perhaps, by then, Davis will have built himself a platform this time.
Posted at 1200 GMT on 21/11/23
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