Golf matchups: After recent collapse, Varner can bounce back

June 7, 2022 09:15 PM
USATSI_18388487

LIV Golf offered me $10 million to write this column for them on a weekly basis but I turned it down. Seriously, though, quite the buzz in the world of golf these days, eh? 

"Eh" is somewhat appropriate this week as the PGA Tour goes north of the border for the Canadian Open, but the event is being overshadowed a bit by the recent PGA Tour resignations of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia, among others. Both DJ and Phil have said they will continue to play in major championships, another interesting layer of which we’ll have to wait and see how it develops. 

LIV Golf makes its debut this week in London, and I will not be betting on it. VSiN colleague Matt Youmans did place an outright wager on Sam Horsfield at 18-1, and Wes Reynolds has three selections in his weekly best bets. 

I have bet on the Canadian Open, however. The event's return to the PGA Tour for the first time since 2019 — it was canceled the last two years because of COVID-19 — takes place at St. George's Golf and Country Club. The Canadian Open is a nomadic event, primarily taking place at Glen Abbey, a Jack Nicklaus design. Rory McIlroy won the 2019 edition at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. Sweden’s Carl Pettersson won the tournament the last time it was held at St. George's in 2010. 

St. George’s is a Par 70 of around 7,100 yards. The Stanley Thompson design features five Par 3s (four of which measure at least 200 yards), three relatively short Par 5s and 10 Par 4s (seven of which are at least 450 yards). The greens are Bentgrass with some Poa annua blended in, like we see at Riviera and TPC River Highlands. The fairways are tree-lined and will dogleg in both directions, but the landing areas are more forgiving than narrow.

As far as comparable courses, I looked at shorter tracks with small greens that make players work the ball in both directions, such as Pebble Beach, Colonial, Sedgefield and Innisbrook.

We swept the head-to-head matchups I considered last week, thanks in large part to Hideki Matsuyama being disqualified on Day 1 for using a non-conforming driver. Would have been nice to have actually played those. Of course, on a short video I recorded for VSiN on Friday morning, heading into the weekend, I tipped Billy Horschel as a 65-1 long shot to look out for. Once again, shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Here are this week's full tournament head-to-head matchups I considered and those that I played:

Considered (24-24-1 YTD)

— Chris Kirk (-135) over Patrick Reed

— Aaron Rai (-135) over Cameron Champ

— Ryan Armour (-135) over Harry Higgs

— Harold Varner III (+ 110) over Tony Finau

Played (20-22-1 YTD)

— Harold Varner III (+ 110) over Tyrrell Hatton. Varner is two weeks removed from an epic collapse at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial. He was tied for the lead heading to the 12th hole on Sunday and then shot 10-over par over the last seven holes to finish 27th. How he played for the 65 holes prior, though, has me thinking he can go well this week at what looks to be a similar test. He also has two Top 10 finishes at the Wyndham Championship (Sedgefield). Hatton is not to be taken lightly, but I believe the price ought to be closer to pick’em and my numbers suggest Varner should be the favorite.

— Doug Ghim (-120) over John Huh. Ghim has been at his best at ball-striker courses with smaller greens. He was 14th at Colonial in 2021 and has had two excellent showings at The Players Championship in each of the last two seasons. He was also 21st at Pebble Beach last year, a place John Huh has missed three straight cuts. Ghim is far superior tee to green and that is reflected in the futures market, where Ghim is around 110-1 to win the tournament compared to Huh at 165-1. If the outright market is any indication, Ghim should be greater than -120 to beat Huh this week. 

To get every play from myself, Matt Youmans, Wes Reynolds, and our special guest, Geoff Fienberg, don't miss this week's edition of “LongShots,” available at VSiN.com/podcasts

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