After a 200/1 winner last week, Ben Coley previews the final event of the Korn Ferry Tour season where so much is at stake.
Golf betting tips: Korn Ferry Tour Championship
2pts e.w. Justin Suh at 33/1 (Coral, Unibet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1.5pts e.w. Carl Yuan at 40/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Vincent Norrman at 100/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Brandon Matthews at 100/1 (Coral, BoyleSports 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Byeong Hun An at 125/1 (bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Sean O’Hair at 200/1 (Sky Bet, bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook
The Korn Ferry Tour Championship will determine who gets the final PGA Tour cards for the season ahead, and there are a clutch of European Tour regulars who look set to make the switch. Thomas Detry, Matti Schmid and Hurly Long all currently sit inside the top 25 in KFT Finals points, all of whom will secure membership, and both Jason Scrivener and Min Woo Lee know they can yet salvage things with a big week at Victoria National.
This fearsome course has seemingly been softened up a little since the final event of the season came here in 2019. Once home of the United Leasing Championship, where winning scores ranged from six- to 12-under, Tom Fazio’s layout has been easier to navigate despite this pressure-cooker environment, though it still threatens to ruin scorecards from the first tee to the last. If you haven’t already, read Will Knights’ piece on why it’s the right place to find out who has what it takes.
Strong driving has certainly been key and we see that not only in champions but in those to have run them close. Last year, Joseph Bramlett got the better of Trey Mullinax, two of the most powerful players in the field, while in 2019 Tom Lewis landed for his Korn Ferry Tour debut and blew away the field. Between the two, the shorter but accurate and no less talented Brandon Wu secured his first victory of note, and like Bramlett he went on to establish himself as a well-above-average driver during what was his rookie PGA Tour season.
As a result, last week’s event should prove a good guide, and we’re in the same part of the US for good measure. Min Woo Lee therefore made the shortlist again but surely his abject display merited a bigger move in the market than we’ve seen, and I also felt we might get a little more juice in the price of Davis Thompson, arguably the best driver on the circuit and certainly a big talent whose future is bright.
Back to the drawing board and I wonder if JUSTIN SUH might do as his former college sparring partner Wu did, and deservedly earn his breakthrough to wave goodbye to this level in the best possible fashion.
Suh has done everything but win this year. He leads the all-around ranking, has nine top-10s and has missed just one cut since the beginning of February, during which time he’s been on a tear. The fact he leads the circuit in final-round scoring makes it all the more baffling as to how he’s not quite managed to convert one of several chances.
The truth is he’s not quite been close enough and that was the case again last week, when a final-round 66 added another of those top-10s despite the fact he’d only ever been on the periphery. That would be the only real criticism but it’s a harsh one and, having contended on the PGA Tour, there’s absolutely no doubt he has what it takes to justify a position towards the top of the market.
Sixth in total driving and seventh in greens hit, we don’t need strokes-gained data to recognise that he’s one of the best ball-strikers on the circuit and it’s possible he has the best set of circumstances possible: card wrapped up, but still with the determination to get that trophy which would set him up so well for his first proper crack at the PGA Tour.
A top-class amateur, Suh has come a long way as a professional since finishing down the field here last year, and a long, difficult course ought to again help separate players of his calibre. For my money this event has been won by three of the most capable players in their respective fields since it moved to Victoria National, a relentless test of ball-striking, and Suh has what it takes to cap a breakthrough year.
Schmid’s driving, his form right now and his undoubted potential make for an appealing combination, and he reminds me a little of Lewis: long off the tee and a fabulously streaky scorer who can overcome some problems around the greens simply by not missing many of them.
He’s the last man off the list but I’ll take VINCENT NORRMAN to be the pick of the European challengers, again in the hope that he might get away with the fact his short-game leaves plenty of room for improvement.
One of the best drivers and I daresay biggest talents on the Korn Ferry Tour circuit, Norrman ranks first in ball-striking and second in greens hit. We saw when he played on the DP World Tour last summer how long he is so again there are parallels with last year’s one-two as well as Lewis.
Last week’s narrow missed cut wouldn’t be too much of a concern and he’d been ticking over nicely without producing his absolute best in the preceding weeks. It’s reasonable, based on the player and the basic stats we have, to suggest that he’s probably just been undone by the putter again and that’s the chance we’ll have to take.
However, at 100/1 there’s plenty of juice in the price about a player as likely as anyone to come here, lead the field in total driving and greens hit, and overpower a course which has definitely lost some of its teeth. That he’s Swedish is also worth a mention after David Lingmerth’s win, and it’s possible Lingmerth has helped show him the ropes this year.
Regardless, he’s the sort of big-hitting, green-finding talent who fits the bill and with his card secure, perhaps he can freewheel on the greens at last.
Back towards the front of the market and Detry, Nick Hardy and Will Gordon are all respected given their respective strengths, but I prefer the claims of CARL YUAN.
The Chinese youngster has star quality and currently sits second in the overall points list, which is separate to the one referred to earlier. It means he’s another to have secured his card but there’s still plenty to play for, as the leader at the end of this event will get a place in The PLAYERS Championship and the US Open, plus full status and the right to pick and choose where they play.
That’s a big carrot to dangle and Yuan looks a particularly strong candidate, for all that he has one of the more volatile profiles you’ll see. This season he has a win, three seconds, a third, a fifth, a seventh, and nine missed cuts to go with them. It’s fair to say he’s been something of a feast-or-famine player.
Still, that often makes for a spot of value and he looks exactly that at 40/1, having played well for 14th last week, and for three of the four rounds of the Pinnacle Bank Championship earlier in August when a Friday 73 perhaps cost him a second win.
He’s long off the tee and while his form here looks modest, 36th place in 2020 was a good effort at a time when he was nowhere near the player he is today. And, while he does make stacks of birdies, the fact his victory came in one of the tougher events where he beat another big-hitter for the Louisiana Open title suggests that he can get to grips with Victoria National this time.
I’ll finish off with three outsiders who all have the potential to threaten, starting with the one most likely to blow out, BRANDON MATTHEWS.
The longest driver on the circuit and in the Wilco Nienaber mould, volatility is part of the deal and we saw it last week, when he shot 76 on day one before a second-round 64 saw him make it through to the weekend in dramatic style.
Matthews struggled a bit over the weekend but he was without his regular caddie, who returns this week, and 18th place in the first event in Boise is a reminder that he’s probably not too far away from the game which took him to the Astara Golf Championship title back in February.
On his way to the PGA Tour for the first time and with his wedding coming up next month, Matthews must be in a fabulous place and that rally last Friday to make the cut is the sort of achievement which often sticks with a player.
Hailing from Pennsylvania it’s to his benefit that these final couple of events have been in Ohio and now Indiana, and he has form here too. Back in 2018, he finished 11th in the United Leasing, the only time all year he entered the final round inside the top 10 and very much one of his better efforts in a quiet campaign.
Since improved, now able to harness his awesome power, it wouldn’t surprise me were he to improve upon that.
BYEONG HUN AN is another class act with yards in the locker and bet365’s 125/1 looks very generous, with the general 80/1 a price I was happy with.
A former winner of the BMW PGA Championship who reached as high as 24th in the world, we know all about his class and it’s good to see him heading back to the PGA Tour next season.
Two top-fives in the Honda Classic offer some comparable form to this (Wyndham Clark has almost won both events, too) and he’s been runner-up in a high-class Memorial Tournament, where good drivers always dominate, so as has always been the case his latest crack at the top level will hinge on his short-game.
We’ll see how far it can take him here, too, but I like the fact he was 20th last year, ranking eighth in ball-striking on his first visit to the course. An arrived at Victoria National completely out of form, having missed the cut in his previous two starts – on the same two courses this year he’s finished 18th and 22nd.
Third in total driving last week and one of the best ball-strikers in this event last year, it’s worth taking a chance that he can find something on the greens and double up for the year, his first win having come on another course made for the bombers.
Finally, veteran SEAN O’HAIR has attracted some support and rightly so.
He withdrew after an opening 80 here last year but the injury-plagued Texan can always be excused such a performance, and it’s a course which should suit. He’s won close to here in the past and at his best always wanted a good test of ball-striking.
A second-round 64 last week was really important as it saw him make the cut and ultimately finish 14th, which means he heads into the final event in the final spot in the standings, his status for 2023 entirely contingent on how he plays this week.
Before that he’d shot 68-70 to miss the cut on the number in Boise, it’s not long since he was eighth behind Mullinax and alongside Schmid in the Barbasol, and between those two he again missed the cut by a single shot in the 3M Open. In other words, I think he’s playing very nicely.
Having turned 40 a month ago, it might feel like it’s now or never for a player who might’ve been world-class granted better luck. If he can get off to a better start this week, watch for him sticking around and showing how valuable experience can be when it comes to the crunch.
Posted at 0850 BST on 31/08/22
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