The PGA Tour should be heading to Canada this week but a further reminder that despite it being a year since the sport resumed after lockdown, the pandemic hasn’t disappeared and with the Canadian Open delayed for another year, the tour have created a new tournament – the Palmetto Championship.
Hopefully this will be the only time this tournament is on the calendar as it means that things are back to normal. What it does do though is offer those teeing up ahead of the US Open next week the chance to fine tune their game further.
We are at the Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina this week. This Tom Fazio design appears to be getting quite a lot of attention so it will be interesting to see exactly how the track plays. The course is a par 71 which is an absolute monster at 7,655 yards. In saying that, everywhere you read up about Congaree suggests that the track will be firm and fast so if that is true we can probably knock a few yards off of that for its true yardage.
The immediately apparent thing is that there is no rough this week. It is all wasteland and bunkers much like places like Pinehurst where the US Open was held a while back. Everything is very level so there is a links feel to the course where balls can be run up onto the greens, which if they are firm and fast as suggested might be the only sensible way to play the course. I’m looking for creative shot makers who have strength in their iron play this week.
I dare say the field was never going to be the best for this tournament with such a huge week on the horizon at Torrey Pines next week, but with the exception of two of three players I think the organisers have every right to be a little disappointed with the strength in depth that is heading to South Carolina for this event. The positive for those who have put the event on is that the world number one Dustin Johnson and the four time major champion Brooks Koepka are both in the field.
Behind them it is largely an English attack on the tournament with Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Ian Poulter among the players looking for a Tour win. Other Americans who will fancy their chances of a big week include Harris English, Harold Varner III and Patton Kizzire. The international charge comes from Sungjae Im. One or two others to note are the Congaree course record holder Luke List and Brandt Snedeker who might suit this test.
Dustin Johnson is the 8/1 favourite to win the tournament this week. On a normal week the immediate argument would be that he isn’t in the greatest form at the minute but against this field he might not need to be at his best to land this. If length is a major factor this week then that will certainly elevate him above most in the field but on a complete unknown of a course I can’t bring myself to bet a single figure shot so I’ll pass him over.
Brooks Koepka is half a point bigger at 17/2 to win this week. I always have my suspicions about him in regular Tour events but especially ones before a major, particularly the US Open where he is likely to be one of the leading runners if his legs hold up (although that isn’t an official requirement as Tiger showed in 2008!). Koepka won on a course with similar characteristics at the Phoenix Open in terms of the firmness of things but he has been hobbling around ever since then. He’s one of those who I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins here but I can’t back him to do it.
Tyrrell Hatton comes next in the betting at 14/1. If he was in top form then I would be having him as a leading contender in my shortlist this week but one top 20 in his last seven outings doesn’t’ suggest he is playing that well. He is a player who can turn it on at any point though and he has a wonderful links record which will stand him in good stead should that be the test this week. He’s a little short when you factor his for in though.
Matthew Fitzpatrick will start the tournament as a 16/1 shot. My first gut feeling is that this course could be a little long for him and while he was fourth at The Heritage recently his form has dipped since then with a couple of missed cuts in his last three outings, on courses which on paper should have suited him better than this one might. Fitzpatrick can play links golf but I don’t think he is as strong at it as others are so there are enough concerns to make me swerve him.
I’m going to give the market leaders a swerve this week and head down the betting a little for my bets. The first player I’m going to take a chance on is Garrick Higgo, a player who I think could be quite special. He wasn’t a factor in the USPGA Championship but it takes time to get to that level. I think he could be ready to make a big impression here though. Higgo won twice on the recent Canary Swing on the European Tour and posted incredible scores on both occasions. That might not help him here but it does show that he has everything needed to be a success even at this level. If you take the top two in the betting out of the equation this is no more than a slightly better than average European Tour field. The South African can get it out there, shape the ball and has good control with his irons. Those are the weapons that should see players go well here so he’s my first main bet.
There are no real details about it but I read on the Golf Digest website that Luke List has the course record around here so we already know that he has the advantage of having played the course which is something not many in this field will be able to say. It also tells us that length might be a factor and we know that he has that in his repertoire too. He has been performing well on the strokes gained approach statistic recently which is another positive so I think it makes sense to get List on the staking plan, particularly when we think it was this week a year ago that he won on the Korn Ferry Tour. List has top 10s at Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow this season so he plays tough courses well. He could be a big price here.
I’ve been wanting to get Seamus Power on side for a while and this feels like the right week to do that. He is a player who smacks it a long way and he isn’t too bad into the greens by any means. His poorer stuff tends to come around the greens and on them but nobody really has an advantage on the greens this week which is why I like the Irishman here. Power has top 10s in two of his last three starts including at Byron Nelson which was a low scoring week. The week before that at Quail Hollow he gained 4.5 shots on the field on approach on a tough track so if he can just get the putter going here then he could be a bit of a danger.
I keep on reading how this course is going to be like a links sort of course so I’m happy to be on Tom Lewis here at a three figure price. He went well in the early stages of the PGA Championship last month but faded over the weekend but that suggested that he isn’t far away from showing some decent form. We know from back home that he is good in the wind and strikes the ball nicely so it won’t take a huge amount here for him to be in the mix, and in this company he might just be able to hang around this time. At the PGA he was seventh in strokes gained off the tee and if his usual iron play matches that he could be a decent price too.
Finally I’ll take a punt on Aaron Baddeley at a monster price. I’ve mentioned Pinehurst a couple of times in this preview and he was actually in the top 25 in the US Open there seven years ago. Australians grow up on firm, fast, exposed to the wind tracks so he should be quite at home here and while his form is absolutely nothing to write home about, he is swinging his irons well and we know he putts as well as most on tour when he is on song. There is no trouble off the tee here and the fairways are pretty wide so the course might set up for him. He’s a longshot for a reason but we might just get a run for our money at 300/1.
Back G.Higgo to win Palmetto Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back L.List to win Palmetto Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Power to win Palmetto Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back T.Lewis to win Palmetto Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back A.Baddeley to win Palmetto Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 301.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here: