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Preview of the first round with three balls and the best bets


Two power hitters can take care of business in their respective three-balls on day one of the PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky.

Thursday’s forecast for Louisville is excellent, but that’s no guarantee the first round of the PGA Championship will end on time.

A huge field including some who will struggle to break 80, a large golf course with long walks between tees, a drivable par-four and a drivable par-three all make for slow play and leading gamblers in the first round may have to sleep through the night.

That market usually interests me, but I see no trace of partisanship and no shortage of candidates. Corey Conners and Keegan Bradley were supposed to be on the shortlist, but I’m content to postpone it.

One to beat Cole and Bjork (1310 BST)

BYEONG HUN AN arrives at the PGA Championship in top form and should be too good for two shorter hitters on Thursday.

An turned out the lights at Quail Hollow to post back-to-back top-five finishes while finishing 16th at the Masters last month, underscoring why he’s one of the very best girls on the PGA Tour.

No wonder he is rated as a viable winner of this, especially given the comparisons to Muirfield Village, where he came so close in losing a play-off once. Long off the tee, the former amateur star and BMW PGA champion is the complete package when he putst well.

Both opponents have a large distance difference from the tee. Eric Cole was able to overcome it at best and his own near miss came on another Jack Nicklaus designed course, but he was out of trouble and finished last of 68 players at Quail Hollow, 35 shots behind the winner, 27 behind An .

Alex Bjork is now one of the shortest drivers in the field. As expected, he has been featured on the PGA Tour after an excellent 2023 in Europe, and the only real concern is that he has the potential to beat everything he looks at.

Around here, though, I doubt even that would make for a competitive score, as he’ll be aiming for par far too often. An should win if he stays out of trouble.

Knapp beats Dufner and Molinari (1835 BST)

There are plenty of three-balls with PGA club pros that I would normally try to target, but many of them feature two more established players that I would find difficult to split, like Grayson Murray and Lucas Herbert for example, or Ryan Fox and Matt Wallace.

Of those, Alex Smalley would get the vote over Ben Kohles in their group, while Erik van Rooyen should get the money at odds, but these three balls aren’t universally priced and it makes sense to look elsewhere for now.

For me, the angle is to side with power imbalances wherever possible and there are few clearer examples than this, where JAKE KAPP can provide two former major champions.

Jason Dufner has barely played in 2024, shooting 76-75 in Puerto Rico when he last hit the tee on his own before a big missed cut in the pairs event in New Orleans. He’s a winner from the past who shouldn’t be there this weekend.

Francesco Molinari played well in his first start of the year but hasn’t done anything since. He missed six cuts and finished in 54th and 73rd place during his other appearances. He’s not always far from making weekends, but this course should expose him.

Knapp, a winner in Mexico who nearly doubled in the Byron Nelson, could be a living outsider. He was poor last week but still drove the ball fantastically and that club alone should make the difference.

Posted at 0735 BST on 15/05/24

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