KPMG TROPHY – CHALLENGE TOUR

Going for back-to-back wins, Girrbach is fancied at 80-1

Peter Whiteford – 0.75 point each-way @ 40-1

Victor Riu – 0.75 points each-way @ 60-1

Christoffer Blomstrand – 0.75 points each-way @ 70-1

Joel Girrbach – 0.75 points each-way @ 80-1

Eirik Tage Johansen – 0.50 points each-way @ 80-1

Juan Sarasti – 0.10 points each-way @ 500-1

No time for the usual long nonsense I’m afraid so just a quick few words on our bets listed on twitter earlier today on @TheGolfFamily

The last three winners of the KPMG have a smidgen in common – in 2014 William Harrold came into the event with a previous T20, whilst Jamie McLeary completed a nice set of form figures with his second win at Pierpoint GC, before the event returned to Cleydael and Simon Forsstrom’s victory stopped a run of missed cuts. However, the Swede had a great end to 2015, finishing 5th on the Nordic League after a series of placed finishes.

The event now takes place at Royal Waterloo, used a few times on the main Tour and for the alternate named Telenet Trophy but not since 2013, and with the clear top two in the rankings missing this looks an open an event as possible. Daniel Gaunt won here then in 11-under but recent runnings at alternate tracks indicate a low scoring affair and the tendency is to look at recent form with experience of the region as an advantage.

The top of the market looks weak, with Sihwan Kim an awful favourite. Admittedly playing well, he has thrown away numerous chances in the past and I have Pulkannen as outright favourite – 6th in Portugal sandwiched by a couple of runner-up finishes – and a proven winner on the Nordic League, having won five events on his way to sauntering home in the 2015 rankings. He and the potential star, Chase Koepka, are much preferred from the top half-dozen, but with the latter landing our 66-1 each-way bet last week, he looks a tad too short to back this week at sub-25.

I have been taken by Peter Whiteford‘s return to form and whilst I wanted bigger than 40-1, it isn’t a bad price about a player who has back-form that might lap most of these. Sure, we have to return to 2009-2013 to see his three wins at this level plus myriad of top-10 finishes on the main Tour, but he fell out of love with his/the game and has only recently looked like getting the game back under a relatively new coach.

Hints at form with three top-30 finishes in 2016 (including 22nd in this event) as well as a 7th at the Cordon preceded a decent run at Q-school. The 36-year-old made the final stages but had to withdraw after three rounds. He appears well over that disappointment on recent evidence, an 11th at the Czech was probably a better effort given the final round 73 whilst T7 in Switzerland was a more consistent effort.

Form here is from the distant past, when on the big league, and he really should be competing in the grade given his accurate game.

Victor Riu was fancied by a few over the last couple of events and although he let them down with a poor Sunday last week (fell from a certain top-6 to 17th), it may be this is his time of year. The Frenchman was on a good run of form when winning his maiden at the Swiss in 2013 (T3/T16/mc/T7) and given last week should have been better, the run of 17/mc/17 has a similar ring to it. With similar regional form to Whiteford, 60-1 looked too big.

It’s sometimes dangerous to go over-the-top when a second-tier player plays well in the highest league but that 15th at Nordea last week was a second consecutive good finish by Christofer Blomstrand, ending with one of the rounds of the day. Winner of the Race to Himmerland on the Nordic League, he qualified for the Sunshine Tour and subsequently won the Zambia Sugar Open in April 2016. With a top-20 at the Czech just a couple of weeks ago it seems as if his best form is on or before July and this may be the time to catch him.

Just behind Blomstrand in Denmark was Eirik Tage Johansen, and that with an awful 78 in the middle of the three rounds. Earlier in 2015, he knocked up a win at Lumine Hills in Spain (started with a 74, nine shots off the pace) and numerous top-5 finishes concluding with a second place in the rankings behind Pulkkanen. Although that was his first win for seven years, he has four wins at Nordic League level in total and has looks to have continued that ability to chase well after a bad start.

A 9th place finish at this event last year was followed by a closing 7th at the Nejati (opened with 74) and 2017 has opened with a T31 in Sicily (surely better but for being blown around on a horrendous third day), and a 7th last week at the Swiss (tied with Whiteford) when recovering well from an opening 72 by posting a best-of-the-day 63 just twenty-four hours later. He knows the region well, posting 34th on his try here in 2013 but should easily improve on that this week and clearly is one to believe in even after a slow start .

The Challenge Tour’s most recent winner, Joel Girrbach, was incredibly impressive last week when winning his maiden under pressure from home fans. Taking the lead into Payday he fought off strong challenges from the likes of Koepka, Craig Lee and man-of-the-moment Julian Suri, to win by an easy couple of shots and this may be the sign to kick on.

A decorated amateur, he caught the eye when staying with a rampaging Jordan Smith in Egypt last year, and the surprise is that it has taken him this long to demonstrate that ability. Still, he is a young player and may be able to shrug off the back-to-back hoodoo riding the wave of euphoria, and with plenty of form in mainland Europe, specifically Italy, he should improve on a decent top-30 in last season’s KPMG. Given the prices about some non-winners, I felt the improving Swiss could easily have been rated around the 40-1 mark.

I was tempted by quite a few this week. Rhys Davies is huge given his past but is playing awfully, whilst a good few can be fancied but are simply too short. Instead the final pick was between Mathew Cort, Galiano Aguilar and…

Juan Sarasti. (What? Nooo, you’re jokin’ me, innit?). Look, he is 500-1 so no trees are going to be pulled up but he turns up on mainland Europe once in a blue moon, recording 3/7 in consecutive years at the Fred Olsen, so why can’t he repeat his 9th in this event last year at Cleydael? Well, reasons I am sure but I am not certain he should be more than double the price of many others.

PS When I said a ‘few quick words’……