The second Major of the season, the USPGA Championship at Bethpage State Park, is only a week away, many of the games big names are fine tuning their game this week in preparation on both sides of the Atlantic.
There’s still two tournaments this week, with the British Masters pitching up at Hillside, while the AT&T Byron Nelson tees off in Dallas. England’s Eddie Pepperell lifted the British Masters last October and thanks to Tommy Fleetwood’s largesse, we have a cracking event to look forward to at Hillside Golf Club near Southport, which was described by Greg Norman as having the best back nine in Britain.
Barely a stone’s throw from its more famous golfing neighbour, Royal Birkdale, Hillside is a genuine links test. A par 72 measuring under 7000 yards, Hillside is comparatively short by modern standards. Like other shorter links tracks it will rely on the wind blowing to fully test the players, in a tournament where Paddy’s paying 7 places before tee off.
Fortunately, though, the golfing gods look like they are willing to play ball as winds of 20mph+ are forecast for the first three days at least and host Tommy Fleetwood is supported by defending champion Eddie Pepperell and fellow English pros Lee Westwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Wallace.
With no course form to go on, the local knowledge of home-town hero Fleetwood would be an obvious place to start, but with all the rigours involved in hosting the event, I am happy to swerve him at the price
Similarly, Hatton’s recent form and Wallace’s lack of links form to date on home soil are enough to put me off this pair.
Instead, I will make the case for the defence of reigning champ Eddie Pepperell. The world number 37 has shown a clear liking of links-style courses in his time most noticeably at the Scottish Open, Open Championship and when winning in Qatar last year.
He has also played some great golf recently in America on shorter, quirkier courses like TPC Sawgrass and Hilton Head, which require you to think your way round. Hillside should be right up his street.
I am happy to have Eddie onside at 20-1.
Two other link exponents who stand out to me at the prices are Ryan Fox and Matthew Southgate. Fox played some tremendous stuff last year on the Scottish and Irish links so he should relish this test, while Southgate comes to life when the going gets tough, and should bring some positive vibes having finished sixth at neighbouring Birkdale, in the 2017 Open Championship.
I’ll sign off on my team for Hillside with Tapio Pulkannen.
The Finnish player has finished in the top 20 in his last two starts and he showed good form on the links to finish fourth at the Alfred Dunhill last October. With the inspiration of fellow Finnish player Mikko Korhonen landing the trophy in China last week.
Tapio looks a great each-way play to me at 125-1.
We find ourselves at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas for consecutive seasons in the AT&T Byron Nelson where Paddy’s paying 8 places before tee off. It’s a par 71 playing to 7,380yds, which is a unique inland-style links course.
With only last year’s course form to go on, it probably makes sense here to focus on those who took to this venue last year. On that basis, I am happy to have Branden Grace (28/1) and JJ Spaun (80/1) on side as both finished in the top three, 12 months ago.
I’m also very keen on the chances of Aussie Matt Jones (80/1) who has been in a really solid run of form since January and who played nicely to finish 13th here last year when in no sort of form coming in.
*Prices correct at time of publication but the market are fluid