Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's ISCO Championship Tips

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Close but no cigar at the John Deere Classic last week for this column as Davis Thompson took his maiden PGA Tour victory at a Monday 30/1 best price. We had to make do with a full 60/1 each-way return on Ben Griffin, plus part each-way returns on Eric Cole (55/1) and Aaron Rai (20/1). The latter duo were T2 (naturally!) and in the Final Sunday group, so it’s a case of disappointment.

The co-sanctioned Genesis Scottish Open takes centre stage on both the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour this week in the build-up to the Open Championship. It would be easy to cast aside the freshly titled ISCO Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Kentucky, but I always like to solve the betting puzzle of these alternate PGA Tour events. The full 2-year PGA Tour exemption available to the winner is a huge carrot, as is the possibility of harvesting enough FedEx Cup points to grab a spot in the magical top 70, with the FedEx Cup Playoffs just over the horizon.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the ISCO Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System Podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, +6,400 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: The Barbasol Championship, as it was then known, was introduced in 2015 and is now played at the Keene Trace Golf Club, in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The course is a 7,328 yard, Par 72 where the green light is always on to shoot low scores. Hot and humid weather conditions, where the ball really flies, this medium length golf course has no real defence for PGA Tour professionals with watered, receptive greens accepting darts.

Champion Course, Keene Trace Golf Club, Nicholasville, Kentucky: Designer: Arthur Hills 1997; Course Type: Resort, Medium Length; Par: 72; Length: 7,328 yards; Number of Holes with Water In-Play: 6; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass with Fescue; Greens: 6,000 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 11ft.

Course Scoring Average:

  • 2023: 70.43 (-1.57), Difficulty Rank 39 of 50 courses
  • 2022: 69.82 (-2.18), Difficulty Rank 46 of 50 courses
  • 2021: 69.89 (-2.11), Difficulty Rank 46 of 51 courses
  • 2019: 69.59 (-2.41), Difficulty Rank 46 of 49 courses
  • 2018: 69.91 (-2.09), Difficulty Rank 48 of 51 courses

    Course Overview: This is a full-throttle golf course, where eagles and birdies are the true currency. Perennially in the 6-12 easiest courses on the PGA Tour, the Champion Course at Keene Trace features wide fairways and large Bentgrass green surfaces. Hot and humid weather conditions allow the ball to fly long distances and this tournament is often played with soft turf and receptive green conditions. It’s a recipe for a good old-fashioned PGA Tour birdie-fest.

    The longest of 4 par-5s only measures 573 yards and a set of par-4s which vary from 392 yards (shortest) to 462 yards (longest) offer up very little resistance and we have seen some severe scoring here over the first 5 renewals.

    James Hahn holds the course record with a 60 – pretty mad on a Par 72 – whilst Kelly Kraft has shot a 61, with Jim Herman, Troy Merritt, J.T. Poston, Adam Svensson and Brandon Hagy adding 62s over the 5 renewals here.

    isco championship tips

    ISCO Championship Winners: Hosted at Keene Trace: 2023: Vincent Norrman (-22); 2022: Trey Mullinax (-25); 2021: Seamus Power (-21); 2019: Jim Herman (-26); 2018: Troy Merritt (-23); Hosted at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: 2017: Grayson Murray (-21); 2016: Aaron Baddeley (-18); 2015: Scott Piercy (-19).

    • 2023: Vincent Norrman 66-67-65-62 -22/266 PM/AM Wave
    • 2022: Trey Mullinax 65-65-67-66 -25/263 AM/PM Wave
    • 2021: Seamus Power 65-68-67-67 -21/267 PM/AM Wave
    • 2019: Jim Herman 65-65-62-70 -26/262 PM/AM Wave
    • 2018: Troy Merritt 62-67-69-67 -23/265 PM/AM Wave

    OWGR of ISCO Championship Winners: 2023: Norrman 286; 2022: Mullinax 370; 2021: Power 210; 2019: Herman 1252; 2018: Merritt 327.

    Cut Line: 2023: -4; 2022: -5; 2021: -4; 2019: -4; 2018: -4.

    Lead Score Progression:

    • 2023: Round 1 -9; Round 2 -13; Round 3 -17; Round 4 -22.
    • 2022: Round 1 -10; Round 2 -16; Round 3 -22; Round 4 -25.
    • 2021: Round 1 -8; Round 2 -13; Round 3 -19; Round 4 -21.
    • 2019: Round 1 -10; Round 2 -14; Round 3 -24; Round 4 -26.
    • 2018: Round 1 -10; Round 2 -15; Round 3 -18; Round 4 -23.

    Path to Victory: Below are the round positions for the winners of the ISCO Championship since 2018:

    • 2023 – Vincent Norrman: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
    • 2022 – Trey Mullinax: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 3rd.
    • 2021 – Seamus Power: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 5th.
    • 2019 – Jim Herman: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
    • 2018 – Troy Merritt: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.

    Shots From the Lead: Below are the ISCO Championship winners since 2018 and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

    • 2023 – Vincent Norrman: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 back.
    • 2022 – Trey Mullinax: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 3 back.
    • 2021 – Seamus Power: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 3 back.
    • 2019 – Jim Herman: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
    • 2018 – Troy Merritt: Round 1: 3 ahead, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: level.

    Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

    My published predictor is available here. Top 10 of my published predictor are: Rico Hoey, Hayden Springer, Joel Dahmen, Troy Merritt, Luke Clanton, Patton Kizzire, Kevin Dougherty, J.J. Spaun, Ryan Palmer and Daniel Berger.

    ISCO Championship Winning Prices: 2023: Norrman 28/1; 2022: Mullinax 150/1; 2021: Power 20/1; 2019: Herman 500/1; 2018: Merritt 55/1; 2017: Murray 66/1; 2016: Baddeley 55/1; 2015: Piercy 25/1. Past 5 Renewals Average: 151/1; Average: 112/1.

    Historical Weather:

    • 2023: Thursday: Mostly cloudy. High of 86. Wind WSW 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Preferred lies were utilized in the first round. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 90. Wind WNW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Cloudy with moderate to heavy showers. High of 82. Wind SW 10-15 mph. Play was suspended due to a dangerous weather situation at 9:05 a.m. and resumed at 9:50 a.m. (delay of 45 minutes). Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 87. Wind NW 10-15 mph.
    • 2022: Thursday: Mostly cloudy. High of 91. Wind NW 4-8 mph. Preferred lies were utilized in the first round. Friday: Mostly cloudy with thunderstorms. High of 90. Wind WSW 10-15 mph. Preferred lies were utilized in the second round. Fog delayed the start of the second round with the first group teeing off at 8:45 a.m. ET. The second round was suspended due to inclement weather at 12:20 p.m. – total delay of 5 hours, 22 minutes. Saturday: Cloudy with occasional heavy rain. High of 80. Wind NE 6-12 mph. The second round resumed at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and was completed at noon. The third round began at 12:20 p.m. At 1:52 p.m, play was suspended due to unplayable course conditions caused by heavy rain (two and a half inches fell in a two-hour period) and resumed at 7:20 p.m., a delay of 5 hours, 28 minutes. Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 85. Wind NE 10-15 mph. Delayed third-round resumed at 7:45 a.m. Sunday and was completed at 12:25 p.m. Preferred lies were used in the final round, which began at 10:40 a.m. with players remaining in the same groupings as round three, with the final grouping starting at 12:50 p.m.
    • 2021: Thursday: Thursday: Mostly cloudy. High of 88. Wind SW 7-14 mph, gusting to 18 mph. Play was suspended due to dangerous weather situations from 3:40 – 5 p.m. and from 6:16 – 7:31 p.m. Play was suspended due to darkness at 8:47 p.m. with 30 players yet to complete their round. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 81. Wind SW 8-14 mph. Play was suspended due to darkness at 8:47 p.m. on Thursday with 30 players yet to complete their round. The first round resumed at 8:09 a.m. Friday and was completed at 9:33 a.m. The second round began as scheduled at 7:45 a.m. Saturday: Cloudy with morning showers and thunderstorms. High of 82. Wind WNW 7-14 mph. Play was suspended due to a dangerous weather situation at 9:04 a.m. and resumed at 11:03 a.m. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Wind ENE 7-14 mph.
    • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy, hot and humid. High of 90. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, hot and humid. High of 91. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny, hot and humid. High of 94. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Sunday: Hot and humid, with severe afternoon thunderstorms. High of 88. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Play was suspended due to a dangerous weather situation at 2:07 p.m. with 32 players left to complete their round. Play resumed at 5:14 p.m. for a total delay of 3 hours, 7 minutes.
    • 2018: Thursday: Mostly Sunny, with a high of 86. Wind ESE 6-12 mph. Due to wet course conditions, preferred lies in closely-mown areas were utilized. Saturday: Partly cloudy in the morning, giving way to clouds in the afternoon. High of 79. Wind WSW 8-15 mph. Round two resumed at 7:32 a.m. Due to wet course conditions, preferred lies in closely-mown areas were utilized in round two and will remain in effect for round three. From Friday afternoon through Saturday morning, the course received a total of 2” of rain. Sunday: Just 21 players completed the final round Sunday. Monday: Overcast, with a high of 71. Wind NW 5-10 mph. A total of 5.2 inches of inches fell over the course of the week

    Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Nicholasville, Kentucky is here.

    Hot and humid are the standard conditions at this time of year in Nicholasville. Temperatures around the 28-34 degrees Celsius (82-93 Fahrenheit) mark will greet the players with little wind. Chances of thunderstorms Tuesday evening and showers Wednesday Pro-Am morning are at 50% – so there’s the potential for soft turf conditions Thursday at the very least, which will only aid the low scoring.

    Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Wells Fargo Championship / Myrtle Beach Classic which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events, where recorded. Player rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

    • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Luke Clanton; 2) Patrick Fishburn; 3) Kevin Dougherty; 4) Cameron Champ; 5) Joe Highsmith; 6) Scott Piercy; 7) Hayden Buckley / Joel Dahmen; 9) Seung-yul Noh; 10) Rico Hoey; 11) Ryan Brehm; 12) James Hahn / Hayden Springer / Carl Yuan; 15) Tom Whitney; 16) Neal Shipley; 17) Carson Young; 18) Pierceson Coody / Michael Thorbjornsen; 20) Paul Barjon / Daniel Berger / Alejandro Tosti; 23) Chan Kim; 24) Kevin Tway; 25) Ben Silverman.
    • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Luke Clanton; 2) Joel Dahmen; 3) Troy Merritt; 4) David Skinns; 5) Chan Kim / Michael Kim / J.J. Spaun; 8) Will Gordon / Roger Sloan / Tom Whitney; 11) Kevin Streelman; 12) Greyson Sigg; 13) Nick Hardy; 14) Mac Meissner / Michael Thorbjornsen; 16) Ryan Moore / Ben Silverman; 18) Henrik Norlander; 19) Joseph Bramlett; 20) Rafael Campos; 21) Daniel Berger; 22) Dylan Wu; 23) Hayden Buckley / Jason Dufner / Callum Tarren.
    • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Jacob Bridgeman / Michael Thorbjornsen; 3) Patton Kizzire; 4) Ryan Moore; 5) Brandt Snedeker; 6) Vincent Whaley; 7) Wesley Bryan; 8) Harry Hall / Michael Kim; 10) Chan Kim; 11) Robby Shelton; 12) Neal Shipley; 13) Jim Herman; 14) Trace Crowe / Matthias Schwab / Martin Trainer; 17) J.J. Spaun; 18) Mac Meissner / Josh Teater; 20) Wilson Furr / David Lipsky / Hayden Springer; 23) Sam Ryder; 24) Brandon Wu; 25) Hayden Buckley / Sean O’Hair.
    • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Joel Dahmen; 2) Luke Clanton; 3) Joe Highsmith / Chan Kim; 5) Michael Kim; 6) Hayden Buckley / Michael Thorbjornsen; 8) Mac Meissner; 9) Troy Merritt; 10) Patrick Fishburn; 11) Ben Silverman; 12) Ryan Moore; 13) Patton Kizzire; 14) Kevin Streelman; 15) Neal Shipley; 16) Rico Hoey; 17) Tom Whitney / Carson Young; 19) Daniel Berger / Wesley Bryan / J.J. Spaun; 22) Nick Hardy / Hayden Springer; 24) David Lipsky; 25) Jacob Bridgeman / Harry Hall.
    • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Pierceson Coody; 2) Vincent Whaley; 3) Blaine Hale Jnr / S.H. Kim; 5) Tyson Alexander / Jacob Bridgeman / Ben Silverman; 8) Luke Clanton; 9) Sean O’Hair; 10) James Hahn / Ben Taylor / Michael Thorbjornsen; 13) Ryan Palmer; 14) Russell Knox; 15) Kevin Kisner; 16) Bill Haas / Martin Trainer; 18) J.J. Spaun; 19) Harry Hall / Kelly Kraft; 21) Aaron Baddeley / Garrick Higgo / Justin Suh; 24) Roger Sloan / Carson Young.
    • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Luke Clanton; 2) Ben Silverman; 3) Joel Dahmen / Michael Thorbjornsen; 5) Pierceson Coody; 6) Hayden Buckley; 7) Sean O’Hair; 8) Jacob Bridgeman; 9) J.J Spaun; 10) Michael Kim / Mac Meissner; 12) Harry Hall / Roger Sloan; 14) Patrick Fishburn; 15) Blaine Hale Jnr / Rico Hoey / Troy Merritt; 18) Kevin Streelman; 19) Chan Kim; 20) Hayden Springer / Vincent Whaley / Carson Young; 23) Robby Shelton / Neal Shipley / Dylan Wu.

    For a summary of the Strokes Gained Performances from this week’s field here at Keene Trace click here.

    Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the Strokes Gained Stats of the ISCO Championship winners here at Keene Trace since 2018 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this low scoring test:

    Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

    • 2023, Vincent Norrman (-22). SG Off the Tee: 3rd, SG Approach: 49th, SG Around the Green: 8th, SG Tee to Green: 8th, SG Putting: 7th.
    • 2022, Trey Mullinax (-25). SG Off the Tee: 7th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 34th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 21st.
    • 2021, Seamus Power (-21). SG Off the Tee: 15th, SG Approach: 17th, SG Around the Green: 8th, SG Tee to Green: 6th, SG Putting: 19th.
    • 2019, Jim Herman (-26). SG Off the Tee: 18th, SG Approach: 13th, SG Around the Green: 20th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 4th.
    • 2018, Troy Merritt (-23). SG Off the Tee: 12th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 32nd, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 51st.

    Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

    • SG Off the Tee: 11th, SG Approach: 16th, SG Around the Green: 20th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 20th.

    Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the winners of the ISCO Championship gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this resort scoring-level:

    • 2023, Vincent Norrman (-22). 316 yards (14th), 69.6% fairways (2nd), 69.4% greens in regulation (35th), 31’1″ proximity to hole (29th), 68.2 % scrambling (34th), 1.64 putts per GIR (8th).
    • 2022, Trey Mullinax (-25). 310 yards (5th), 57.1% fairways (58th), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), 25’9″ proximity to hole (1st), 84.6 % scrambling (8th), 1.66 putts per GIR (21st).
    • 2021, Seamus Power (-21). 290 yards (28th), 66.1% fairways (30th), 79.2% greens in regulation (8th), 31’5″ proximity to hole (27th), 80.0 % scrambling (5th), 1.67 putts per GIR (10th).
    • 2019, Jim Herman (-26). 301 yards (30th), 73.2% fairways (8th), 87.5% greens in regulation (1st), 26’8″ proximity to hole (4th), 88.9% scrambling (1st), 1.73 putts per GIR (39th).
    • 2018, Troy Merritt (-23). 291 yards (16th), 73.2% fairways (15th), 84.7% greens in regulation (5th), 27’4″ proximity to hole (7th), 81.8% scrambling (3rd), 1.64 putts per GIR (4th).

    Tournament Skill Averages:

    • Driving Distance: 29th, Driving Accuracy: 24th, Greens in Regulation: 14th, Proximity to Hole: 18th, Scrambling: 15th, Putting Average 10th.

    Let’s take a view from players as to how Champion Course at Keene Trace sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

    Vincent Norrman (2023): “Yeah, I mean, birdied the par 5s, which is helpful. If you hit the fairway, they’re quite gettable. And then just made a bogey on the first and then today was pretty good.

    Yeah, it was a good drive down the fairway and then I was kind of in between clubs and clubbed up and hit it high, a 6-iron in there and made a putt and that kind of got me going for the day I feel like. 

    I think just it’s a pretty straightforward course, you have a lot of chances. You’ve got to be aggressive to make birdies and just keep doing that. So just knowing that I was in 130-something place after the first round and ended up winning, you just can’t ever really count yourself out because you could get hot any moment.”

    Trey Mullinax (2022): “Yeah, it played longer. Ball’s not rolling out as much. The course was super firm and fast, the fairways were, before that rain came. Yeah, played a little bit longer into some holes, but all in all, had to change a few clubs off the tee, but that was about it. ”

    “Yeah, I like the course. It’s a lot of drivers. On the back nine, on the finishing holes you have some holes that aren’t drivers, but I feel comfortable on it. It’s a golf course where I feel committed on most all the tee shots, so that’s kind of the goal was today, just don’t hit one that we’re not committed to, so I did a good job of that today.”

    Seamus Power (2021): “Key this week is staying aggressive. What am I, 11 under? You’re not winning anything at 11 under. I mean, you know you’re going to have to go well up into the 20s. So I’ll do a little bit of practice here and try to get the game sharp to go at some pins tomorrow. It’s one of those courses you’re going to try to make as many birdies as you can.”

    Jim Herman (2019): “I thought the last two days were good, but improved on it. You just know that you got to go low. Kelly played great, shot 61 for him, I shot 62. So, no lead is safe, so you got to keep the pedal down and see how many birdies you can make.

    I’m just driving the ball well. Have had a really good iron game the last three days. And I’m rolling the ball really well. So, any time you can have those three, you’re going to be in good shape, so it’s a great place. I guess the tee shots line up for me, and I’m reading the greens really well.”

    Troy Merritt (2018): “I was very pleased with the way I struck the ball. Hit the driver very well. With ball in hand in the fairways it’s pretty important to get the ball in the fairway, and it gives you a chance to get a preferred lie and be able to attack the pins out here with it being as soft as they were. The course has dried out quite a bit since Tuesday when I first played it. It’s a fun track. If you can get the ball in the fairway and the right the ball in the right quadrants on these greens you can make some birdies. That’s kind of what we did today. Got it in the fairways, hit some good shots, and made a lot of nice putts.

    You know, you like to think that most courses are going to set up to your game, that’s for sure. On the Tour most don’t for me. I like this one, especially off the tee. There is more left-to-right holes off the tee. I like to work a fade. The ones that work right to left I can get away with playing a fade back into the fairway. They’re wide enough and soft enough right now to where I can do that. I really enjoy the green complexes. There is a lot going on, but if you get in the right quadrant you can make birdies. We’ve done that for two days now.”

    Incoming Form of ISCO Championship winners since 2018:

    • Vincent Norrman: 24th Rocket/MC Travelers/MC US Open/MC Canada.
    • Trey Mullinax: MC JDC/MC Travelers/69th Canadian Open/MC Colonial.
    • Seamus Power: 8th JDC/8th Rocket/19th Travelers/19th Palmetto.
    • Jim Herman: MC JDC/MC Rocket /MDF Travelers/MC Canadian Open.
    • Troy Merritt: 43rd JDC/17th Quicken/MC Travelers/12th St Jude.

    For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

    • 3 – Ryan Moore.
    • 2 – Jason Dufner, Troy Merritt.
    • 1 – Daniel Berger, Jonas Blixt, Cameron Champ, Dylan Frittelli, Bill Haas, Jim Herman, Russell Knox, Michael Kim, Kevin Kisner, Sean O’Hair, Chez Reavie, Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Streelman, Camilo Villegas, Nick Watney.

    Won by Vincent Norrman (28/1), Trey Mullinax (150/1), Seamus Power (20/1), Jim Herman (500/1) and Troy Merritt (55/1), the full 2-year PGA Tour exemption available to the winner is a huge carrot, as is the possibility of harvesting enough FedEx Cup points to grab a spot in the magical top 70 (FedEx Cup Playoffs) or top 125 (PGA Status for 2025). Played in sweltering and humid conditions in deepest Kentucky, -22/266, -25/263, -21/267, -26/262 and -23/265 have been the winning totals required.

    Linking these 5 champions is a task I haven’t got enough spare days to master. Swede Norrman had shown promise in his first season on the PGA Tour. Since the end of April, 9th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans when partnered with Matthias Schwab, 18th at the Mexico Open, 8th at the Byron Nelson and 24th the outing before at the Rocket Mortgage Classic highlighted a player getting to grips with the top Tour in world golf.

    Mullinax had inbound form of MC-MC-69-MC across his last 4 appearances when arriving in Kentucky. Power on the other hand was in red hot form and was the betting favourite. Jim Herman arrived off the back of 7 Missed Cuts and a single MDF in his previous 8 appearances. Troy Merritt had finished 12th, 17th and 43rd across 3 of his past 4 appearances, so was in decent enough nick.

    One fairly obvious thing does link the 5 though. All had motivation to play well, on the basis of their FedEx Cup ranking on arrival. Merritt, despite his good form, was 131st in the season long standings with no win exemption to rest his laurels on. Seamus Power was in career-best form, but at 123rd in the FedEx Cup still had work to do to lock-up full playing privileges for the following season. Trey Mullinax was at 140th in the FedEx Cup standings so had work to do to avoid playing in the Korn Ferry Playoffs. Vincent Norrman was at 113th in the FedEx Cup and was working hard to gain his full playing privileges for 2024 in his rookie season.

    As you would expect, Jim Herman was in the PGA Tour wastelands, ranking 232nd in the FedEx Cup with no win exemption prop to fall back upon.

    My Final ISCO Championship Tips Are As Follows:

    Michael Thorbjornsen 2pts EW 20/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

    Michael Thorbjornsen should thrive for me this week at Keene Trace. With plenty of space off the tee and 6 holes featuring water, I think Michael will respond well to the set-up, and he’s undoubtedly played some very nice golf since he turned professional in June.

    A first ever pro-start at the Signature-level Travelers Championship shows how highly the PGA Tour think of their University graduate – Ludvig Aberg was their first ever in 2023 – and over the course of his first 10 professional rounds he’s shot 63, 64, 64, 66, 67 and 68. Not too shabby.

    Born in the neighbouring state of Ohio and based in Wellesley, Massachusetts, the Bentgrass fairways, Kentucky Bluegrass with Fescue rough and Bentgrass greens will be very much to Michael’s liking this week. Plus it’s well worth noting that despite his lack of professional experience, he’s still finished 4th (2022) at the Travelers Championship and 2nd (2024) at the John Deere Classic. Those are 2 events at least a grade or in the case of the Travelers 2 up on this week’s ISCO Championship.

    A 7-time amateur winner with victories across neighbouring Illinois (twice), Massachusetts, New Jersey and on his Stanford University (2023 Pac-12 Men’s Golf Championships) course which features Bentgrass greens, I think that the Champion Course, here at Keene Trace Golf Club, will be right up Michael’s street, especially after finishing T2 at the John Deere Classic where he ranked 2nd for Tee to Green and closing with a -8/63.

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    Chan Kim 1.5pts EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

    Chan Kim is another I like to go well in Kentucky. A Korn Ferry dual winner in 2023 across the Magnit Championship (New Jersey) and Albertsons Boise Open (Idaho), Chan has won his last 3 professional tournaments at -32/256 (2022 Casio World Open), -20/268 (2023 Magnit) and -28/256 (2023 Boise). He likes birdies. That much can also be seen from 2024 on the PGA Tour where he ranks 11th for both Birdie Average (2nd in this field) and 30th for par-5 Birdie or Better Percentage (4th in this field). Pretty elite stuff all told.

    8th at the Mexico Open and 6th at the Corales Championship highlight a player who can mix it at this level and who also likes hot, humid conditions – handy this week in Kentucky where temperatures will soar. Topped and tailed his 12th spot at the John Deere Classic last week with -8/63 and -6/65, at an event which was Kim’s 5th top-15 finish on Tour this year after 14th at both The American Express and Valero Texas Open.

    Positive across all Strokes Gained Tee to Green facets last week in Illinois and ranks in the top 3 for Tee to Green in this field in my 8-week Strokes Gained tracker.

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    Rico Hoey 1pt EW 60/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

    Rico Hoey should thrive for me this week at Keene Trace. 32nd in Puerto Rico and 33rd at Corales amongst 14th at the Valero were his best efforts earlier in 2024, and to that point were his best finishes on Tour. So he clearly takes these opposite events seriously.

    However across his last 2 outings, 6th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 26th at the John Deere Classic show a new level of confidence in his rookie season on Tour. He was actually 9th heading into Sunday last week, but for me TPC Deere Run is a little tight for Rico who loves to give it a blast from off the tee. What is for sure though is that these strong results for Rico now put him in a good position to push on across the rest of 2024 to guarantee his full card for 2025.

    Hoey’s game is all about power and attack. Season to date he ranks 24th for Driving Distance, 7th for Off the Tee, 39th for Going for the Green and 1st for Eagles per Hole. The latter is useful here at Keene Trace which annually yields eagles across a set of gettable par-5s.

    37th for par-5 Birdie or Better (7th in this field), with the longest par-5 measuring just over 570 yards, all will be accessible to the 28 year-old Philippine, who studied at University of Southern California. 27th for Tee to Green at the John Deere Classic, he shot a -9/ on Friday.

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    Hayden Buckley 1pt EW 75/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

    Hayden Buckley interests at a great price this week.

    5th in May at Colonial, Hayden is the sort who likes Par 70 formats and up to this point has excelled on short to medium course formats. He’s also been firing low rounds of late, but apart from the Charles Schwab Challenge hasn’t pulled a full 4-round performance together……….yet. -6/65 at Craig Ranch, -5/65 at Colonial, -6/66 at Detroit Golf Club and an opening -7/64 at TPC Deere Run last week are great scores against current form which reads 52-59-5-MC-44-34.

    8th (2021) at TPC Summerlin, 2nd (2023) at Waialae CC, 5th (2023) at Harbour Town and 5th (2022) at Narashino are all shorter length golf courses, plus Hayden at 145th in the FedEx Cup standings need to get results to ensure his fourth season on the PGA Tour.

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    Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:20BST 8.7.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.