No one remembers who came in second

Finally there is a sporting event that is worth my time and my money. I don’t bet big, but I do like to put a little money of the bigger events such as the NCAA basketball tournament, the MLB playoffs, KC Chiefs games, NFL playoffs and the golf Majors.

I still don’t know if I am going to forgive the Royal & Ancient for cancelling this year’s British Open at Royal St George's. Given the fact that even a postponed Open probably would have meant a fanless tournament, the R&A missed a huge opportunity to play a great-but-out-of-the-way course like Royal Dornoch. Such a BIG MISS by the R&A!

Oh, well, at least we will have some serious golf this weekend. I use the word “serious” because winning a Major is the No. 1 goal of every golfer, which means that every shot is pressure packed. As 7-time Major winner* Gene Sarazen (1902 to 1999) said, “I was interested in one thing – Majors – because I know they live long. You could win a million dollars and that will go. But when you win the U.S. Open or the British Open or the Masters or the PGA, that titles goes to your grave.”

(*Sarazen’s Major victories were: Masters 1935; U.S. Open 1922 & 1932; The British Open 1932; PGA Championship 1922, 1923, 1933.)

Before I put down a few $10 bets on a Major, I will do a little homework. Not a ton, but just enough to justify my picks with my friends.

First, I take a look at the course. From PGATOUR.COM’s Sean Martin, here are the basic facts about TPC Harding Park:

·         San Francisco’s Harding Park was one of the country’s first great municipal courses, predating places like Bethpage Black, Torrey Pines and Los Angeles’ Rancho Park. Harding Park, which opened in 1925, was designed by the same two men who created Olympic Club’s two courses: Willie Watson and Sam Whiting.”

·         It will play 7,234 yards this week, relatively short by major championship standards, but the course features seven par-4s that are at least 460 yards long. There are also two par-4s that are potentially drivable, the seventh and 16th holes. The longest par-3, the eighth hole, is 251 yards, and the two par-5s both measure over 560 yards. The field of 156 includes 20 PGA teaching professionals.

·         The course is named after Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States. In August 1923, he died of a heart attack in San Francisco while returning from a trip to Alaska. Harding was an avid golfer and was the first sitting President to award the U.S. Open trophy to the winner (Jim Barnes in 1921). … Soon after his death, calls came forth to name San Francisco’s new course after the President.

Second, I look at the current World Rankings (FYI: “The rankings are based on performance over a two-year period. The ranking shows a player’s average points per tournament, his total points earned divided by the number of tournaments he has competed in. The system places greater emphasis on performance over the last 13 weeks of the 104 weeks of the ranking period by deducting a fraction of points earned each week longer than 13 weeks ago. A player who won a Major 18 months ago begins to lose the value of that accomplishment in the current rankings.”

Then I go to various publications and betting websites to find out who the experts like.

According to GolfWorld’s Alex Meyers, his 10 favorites in order are: 1. Justin Thomas (Tuesday morning’s odds at Westgate Las Vegas Superbook 10 to 1) 2. Brooks Koepka (10-1) 3. Rory McIlroy (14 to 1) 4. Webb Simpson (25 to 1) 5. Jon Rahm (14 to 1) 6. Xander Schauffele (25 to 1) 7. Bryson DeChambeau (14 to 1) 8. Dustin Johnson (20 to 1) 9. Tiger Woods (30 to 1) 10. Adam Scott (60 to 1)

Meyers’ reason to pick Thomas: “The new World No. 1 is the first to three wins this season after picking up his second World Golf Championship in Memphis. He's now the co-betting favorite as well and well deserved. Thomas also has a not-so-secret weapon on the bag in caddie Jim (Bones) Mackay, who filled in admirably for Jimmy Johnson and obviously has as much Major championship experience as any.”

Matt Barrie, ESPN -- Winner: Justin Thomas. “I wanted to pick JT before his win in Memphis and I feel just as good about it today. He's been the No. 1 player in the world over the past year, despite what the actual rankings said.”

David Bearman, ESPN Betting -- Winner: Brooks Koepka. “If he's healthy, there's no reason to pick against the two-time defending champion and a guy who has four wins, two runner-ups, a T4 and a T6 in his past 10 majors.

Curtis Strange, two-time U.S. Open Champion -- Winner: Jon Rahm. “He's strong, talented and playing well. So he is extremely confident.”

Fast Eddie of Fantasy Golf ReportWinner: Brooks Koepka. Followed by Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Abe Ancer and Matt Kuchar. Note: I want to have dinner with Fast Eddie in order to figure out if he actually puts money on his predictions. For example, what’s the deal with Ancer, 29, who has exactly two professional wins -- one on the PGA Tour of Australasia and one on the Korn Ferry Tour?

Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM staff writerWinner: Jason Day. “The build to peak here has been on track and he’s certainly trending.”

Geoffrey Ulrich, DraftKingsWinner: Brooks Koepka. Followed by Justin Thomas.

Scott Pianowski, Yahoo Sports: First of all, if I had to pick a winner or surrender all golfing privileges for the year, I’d tab Koepka. I know that isn’t buzzy or satisfying -- he’s a co-favorite for crying out loud. But I don’t think it’s coincidence that four of his seven PGA Tour wins are majors.”

After that, I look at the most current odds (Wednesday afternoon) of the “better” players.

(Past Major winners are bold faced in red.)

So after much cogitation, meditation and examination, I give you the winner and the four other men who will be contending on Sunday:

The Winner: Jon Rahm. Yes, the Spaniard, who went to Arizona State, was No. 1 in the world two weeks ago and he has been a Major contender the last two years (Masters, 4th: 2018; PGA, T4: 2018; U.S. Open, T3: 2019, and British Open, T11: 2019.) This is his time!

The Contenders in order:

Brooks Koepka -- Two-time defending PGA champion.

Xander Schauffele -- 4 PGA Tour wins and a contender in recent Majors – Masters, T2: 2019; PGA, T16: 2019; U.S. Open, T3: 2019, and British Open T2: 2018.

Justin Thomas -- No. 1 in the world, 13 PGA Tour victories and the 2017 PGA Championship winner.

Adam Scott -- 31 professional wins and 2013 Masters winner. He can deal with the narrow Harding fairways.

Other random thoughts and predictions:

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will both make the cut. Phil will be an early starter on Sunday. Tiger will finish in the middle of the pack, but he simply hasn’t played enough to contend.

Can’t wait to see bulked-up DeChambeau in a Major, but he is still learning how to deal with his new-found power.

My darkhorse picks are Jason Day and Webb Simpson.

I will be rooting for Jordan Spieth to find his game. Dustin Johnson won’t find his this week.

Watch Away!

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