Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Palmetto Championship Tips

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Well played if you were on Patrick Cantlay at a pre-event price of up to 22/1 with bet365. I must say I expected Collin Morikawa to close the deal, but Cantlay showed character to come from behind to force a play-off, where he eventually triumphed. Another full each-way place return for this column with Shane Lowry at 40/1, who has certainly hit his straps in late spring and into early summer on the PGA Tour. It’s good to see.

The week before the U.S. Open is always a complex scenario on the PGA Tour and 2021 takes it to a new level of flux. U.S Open qualifiers on Monday will undoubtedly produce a number of late WDs from the PGA Tour event which starts on Thursday and, to complicate matters, it’s a new event – the Palmetto Championship at Congaree. This replaces the RBC Canadian Open on the schedule and looks a one-off. Set deep in the lowlands of South Carolina, expect a very unique course and blistering temperatures.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Palmetto Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System with the U.S. Open just a week away. Welcome to you all 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, 5,900+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: Set in the lowlands of South Carolina, Congaree Golf Club is no ordinary golf club. Established in 2018 and designed by Tom Fazio, the course is set on more than 2,000 acres of undeveloped forest and lakes, which was once a rice plantation.

The architecture has touches of the famous Australian sandbelt courses, with the course hopefully (you never know with the PGA Tour) playing fast and firm as intended. And this course is certainly different to your standard Tour stop-off with masses of sandy waste areas and little rough, so players are either on the fairway or in sand, with elevated greens featuring shaved run-off areas.

palmetto championship tips

Congaree GC, Ridgeland, South Carolina: Designer: Tom Fazio 2017; Course Type: Carolina; Par: 71; Length: 7,655 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 13; Fairways: TifGrand Bermudagrass; Greens: 6,150 sq.ft average Champion Bermudagrass;  Tournament Stimp: 11ft.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Tom Fazio designs include:

  • Atunyote GC – Turning Stone Championship 2007-10
  • Corales GC – Corales Championship 2018 onwards
  • Eagle Point – Wells Fargo Championship 2017
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – Fry’ Open 2008/09

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

  • Conway Farms GC- BMW Championship 2013, 2015 & 2017
  • Quail Hollow – Wells Fargo Championship (all bar 2017)
  • Seaside Course at Sea Island – RSM Classic
  • Riviera Country Club – Genesis Open 2009 onwards

Course Overview: If the PGA Tour allow Congaree to play as intended this week, we should be in for a very entertaining and different tournament as this course is not your standard PGA Tour golf course. The signs are good on the basis that course length and par appear not to have been tampered with – remember TPC Craig Ranch a few weeks back when the toughest par-4 became a short, easy par-5!

At 7,655 yards and a Par 71, Congaree is long and that remains on the PGA Tour scorecard this week. It’s difficult to find comparable courses in the United States: the closest, logical, course is the famous Carolina Low-country classic that is Pinehurst Number 2, where they played the 2014 U.S. Open won at a canter by Martin Kaymer.

Little rough and huge sandy waste areas are pretty much on every par 4 and par 5. Fairways are accommodating in width, but stray and you can become a victim of numerous fairway sharp edges like those found in the Australian sandbelt, with balls plunging into hazards of various guises. All sandy expanses at Congaree are deemed natural areas, so players are permitted to ground their club on address at any point.

The course is relatively flat, with a change of only about 30 feet from its highest to lowest points, but there are some cavernous bunkers and vast waste areas. Sand is simply everywhere on this course. So as well as Pinehurst Number 2, you can add the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island into the ‘shares features with’ list.

Green complexes are also fascinating. Most are raised and few, if any, feature rough. Many are also pitched with slopes angled towards waiting hazards, be that sand or water. There are definite links aspects to this course, with putting from off the green (the Texas wedge), likely to be a well used shot this week. So the ability, as per genuine links courses, to use the ground to your advantage, could well be a real positive this week.

Length-wise, the longest par-4s measure in at 475 (17th), 490 (11th), 510 (9th), 520 (6th), and 540 (8th) yards. The 3rd (360 yards) and 15th (also 360 yards) offer risk-reward aspects. A genuine Par 71 with 3 par-5s, the front side features 2 of them. The 2nd at 595 yards and 4th at 645 yards are certainly on the long side, whilst on the homeward 9, the 12th is the shortest at 580 yards.

With little recent precipitation falling here and 50% chance of thunderstorms across tournament week, hopefully the course will play as a firm and fast as it’s intended.

From an agronomy detail perspective, similar Champion Bermudagrass greens can be found across PGA Tour stop-offs at Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo Championship), Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St Jude Classic and WGC St Jude Invitational), the Country Club of Jackson (Sandersons Farms Championship) and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Barbasol Championship 2015 through 2017). The 2011 PGA Championship hosted at Atlanta Athletic Cub and won by Keegan Bradley also featured Champion Bermudagrass putting surfaces.

Tournament Stats. This is the first PGA Tour event to be played on this week’s track so there’s no prior course or event history to review this week: Current Form | First Round Leader Stats

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Tyrrell Hatton, Pat Perez, Kevin Kisner, Peter Uihlein, Scott Piercy, Sungjae Im and Satoshi Kodaira.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the RBC Heritage / Austrian Golf Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) David Hearn; 2) Ryan Blaum / Roberto Castro / Chez Reavie / Brian Stuard; 6) Kramer Hickok; 7) Ryan Armour; 8) Brice Garnett; 9) Mark Anderson / Satoshi Kodaira; 11) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 12) John Huh; 13) Charlie Beljan; 14) Ben Martin; 15) Nate Lashley; 16) J.J. Spaun; 17) Bo Hoag / Sungjae Im / Henrik Norlander; 20) James Hahn / D.A. Points; 22) Johnson Wagner; 23) Danny Lee; 24) David Lingmerth / Chase Seiffert.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Brooks Koepka; 2) Ricky Barnes / Jonathan Byrd / Roberto Castro; 5) Hank Lebioda; 6) Garrick Higgo; 7) Vincent Whaley; 8) Kramer Hickok / Russell Knox / Luke List; 11) Padraig Harrington; 12) Brice Garnett; 13) Henrik Norlander; 14) Cameron Percy / Scott Stallings; 16) Pat Perez; 17) Bo Hoag; 18) Jason Dufner; 19) Michael Gellerman / Wes Roach; 21) J.J. Spaun; 22) Danny Lee; 23) Joseph Bramlett; 24) Lucas Glover; 25) David Hearn / Jhonattan Vegas.
  • Scrambling: 1) Tyrrell Hatton; 2) Sean O’Hair; 3) Shawn Stefani; 4) Ricky Barnes / Jonathan Byrd; 6) Hank Lebioda / Brian Stuard; 8) Alex Noren; 9) Bronson Burgoon; 10) Camilo Villegas; 11) Harold Varner III; 12) Tommy Fleetwood / Russell Knox; 14) Ian Poulter; 15) Garrick Higgo; 16) Mark Anderson; 17) Seamus Power; 18) Lucas Glover / Ben Martin; 20) Scott Brown / Pat Perez; 22) Rafa Cabrera Bello; 23) Danny Willett; 24) Byeong Hun An / Ryan Brehm.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Dominic Bozzelli; 2) Greg Chalmers / Johnson Wagner; 4) Patton Kizzire / Ian Poulter; 6) Brandt Snedeker; 7) Tommy Fleetwood; 8) Garrick Higgo; 9) Nick Taylor; 10) Fabian Gomez; 11) Ryan Armour; 12) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Seamus Power; 14) Aaron Baddeley; 15) Lucas Glover / Tyler McCumber / Danny Willett; 18) Kristoffer Ventura; 19) Keith Mitchell / Patrick Rodgers; 21) Brian Gay / Tyrrell Hatton; 23) Charlie Beljan / Harris English / Michael Gellerman / Sam Ryder / Vincent Whaley.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the RBC Heritage / Austrian Golf Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jhonattan Vegas; 2) Dustin Johnson; 3) Mark Anderson; 4) Brooks Koepka; 5) Bronson Burgoon; 6) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 7) Tom Lewis / Hunter Mahan; 9) Padraig Harrington; 10) Keith Mitchell; 11) Satoshi Kodaira / Ben Martin; 13) Luke List; 14) Charlie Beljan / Ryan Brehm / Garrick Higgo; 17) Danny Lee; 18) Sungjae Im; 19) Sepp Straka; 20) C.T. Pan; 21) Joseph Bramlett / Will Gordon / James Hahn / Richy Werenski; 25) Lucas Glover / Scott Piercy.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Tyrrell Hatton; 2) J.J. Spaun; 3) Seamus Power; 4) Kevin Chappell / Russell Knox; 6) Matthew NeSmith; 7) Wes Roach; 8) Jason Dufner; 9) Hank Lebioda; 10) Ricky Barnes / Luke Donald / Ben Martin; 13) Luke List / Vincent Whaley; 15) Adam Schenk; 16) Camilo Villegas; 17) Patton Kizzire; 18) Harold Varner III; 19) Garrick Higgo; 20) Padraig Harrington; 21) Aaron Baddeley / Andrew Putnam; 23) Jonathan Byrd / Keith Mitchell / Scott Stallings.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Fabian Gomez / Seamus Power; 3) Michael Gellerman; 4) Chris Baker; 5) Tommy Fleetwood; 6) Alex Noren; 7) Kramer Hickok; 8) Brandt Snedeker; 9) Danny Willett; 10) Camilo Villegas; 11) Rafa Cabrera Bello; 12) Brooks Koepka; 13) Nate Lashley / Harold Varner III; 15) Tyrrell Hatton / Pat Perez; 17) Byeong Hun An; 18) Garrick Higgo; 19) Jonathan Byrd; 20) C.T. Pan; 21) Ryan Blaum / Ian Poulter; 23) Brian Stuard; 24) Ricky Barnes / Matthew Fitzpatrick.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Brooks Koepka; 2) Tyrrell Hatton / Seamus Power / Jhonattan Vegas; 5) Garrick Higgo; 6) Hank Lebioda / Luke List; 8) Vincent Whaley; 9) Lucas Glover / Harold Varner III; 11) Keith Mitchell; 12) Ricky Barnes; 13) Alex Noren / Satoshi Kodaira; 15) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Kramer Hickok; 17) Ben Martin / Danny Willett; 19) Jason Dufner / Brandt Snedeker; 21) Pat Perez; 22) Tommy Fleetwood; 23) Joseph Bramlett / J.J. Spaun; 25) Bronson Burgoon.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Johnson Wagner; 2) Dominic Bozzelli; 3) Garrick Higgo; 4) Patton Kizzire; 5) Ian Poulter; 6) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 7) Rob Oppenheim; 8) Brandt Snedeker; 9) Scott Stallings; 10) Brian Gay / Sepp Straka / Nick Taylor; 13) Vaughn Taylor; 14) Austin Cook; 15) Doc Redman; 16) Sean O’Hair; 17) Dustin Johnson; 18) J.T. Poston; 19) Alex Noren; 20) Hunter Mahan; 21) Brice Garnett / Ben Martin; 23) Mark Hubbard / Michael Kim / George McNeill / Brian Stuard / Vincent Whaley.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Garrick Higgo; 2) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Vincent Whaley; 4) Hank Lebioda / Alex Noren; 6) Brandt Snedeker; 7) Seamus Power; 8) Lucas Glover / Ian Poulter; 10) Ben Martin / Pat Perez / Harold Varner III; 13) Tyrrell Hatton; 14) Dustin Johnson / Danny Willett; 16) Sean O’Hair; 17) Satoshi Kodaira; 18) Brian Stuard; 19) Bronson Burgoon / Adam Schenk / Scott Stallings; 22) Tommy Fleetwood / Russell Knox; 24) Sungjae Im / Brooks Koepka / Jhonattan Vegas.

Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Ridgeland, South Carolina, is here.

Conditions are going to be hot and humid as you would expect in this part of South Carolina in June. Temperatures climbing to 30 degrees Celsius and above cannot be ruled out. Light breeze will be a feature throughout, and as per standard there will always be the chance of afternoon thunderstorms. I’m hopeful for firm and fast conditions.

Of course we enter a new world this week on the PGA Tour, with the one-off Palmetto Championship at Congaree. We must also remember that this week can be a nightmare for tipsters, punters and layers alike with U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying taking place on Monday around 9 locations in United States. Naturally players having to expend effort in those will not be arriving in Ridgeland, South Carolina until Monday evening at the earliest. Expect WDs in the direct build-up to the tournament through Monday and into Tuesday.

Traditionally, the mix of winners across the tournament before the U.S. Open is a little confusing. Up until recently, this week always saw the annual trip to TPC Southwind in Memphis for the FedEx St Jude Classic. Memphis produced 4 maiden PGA Tour victors in the 9 renewals from 2010. That could be something worth bearing in mind. One of those was Daniel Berger who won at TPC Southwind at 33/1 (2016) and 28/1 (2017). For both of his wins ,the Floridian was ranked within the OWGR top 50.

Indeed high-class winners, who had already qualified for the U.S. Open, have won the week before in 2008, 2010 (12/1), 2012 (20/1), 2016 (33/1), 2017 (28/1), 2018 (7/1F) and 2019 (10/1) – namely Justin Leonard, Lee Westwood, Daniel Berger (twice), Dustin Johnson (twice) and Rory McIlroy. They undoubtedly took the opportunity to land a PGA Tour title with no hesitation. So that’s an elite (OWGR top 50 when victorious) winner percentage of 58% across the last 12 renewals, when the U.S. Open has been played in June.

Ian Poulter 1.5pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

A shot-makers course should suit Ian Poulter who is bubbling away nicely right now. In a betting heat that seems incredibly weak, ‘The Postman’ could well be dangerous in Ryder Cup year.

With a U.S. Open invite acquired after 3rd last time out at Colonial – via an OWGR top 60 spot – Ian has opted to play at Congaree this week, and you can see why. After topping his Group at the WGC Dell Matchplay, Ian has finished 26th at The Masters, 21st at the Valspar Championship, 30th at the PGA Championship and 3rd at the Charles Schwab Challenge. He’s percolating!

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Poulter over the years, it’s to follow him when he’s in form on a suitable course. Well this Carolina Low-country course should undoubtedly suit. 17th at the 2014 U.S. Open hosted at Pinehurst Number 2, the 45 year-old has also finished 5th (2009) at Quail Hollow and 7th (2018), 10th (2019) plus 3 additional top-14 finishes at Harbour Town. Throw in 3rd at the 2012 PGA Championship hosted in the extreme humidity at Kiawah Island and there’s certainly a positive narrative for the Woburn- and Orlando-based Englishman.

If we need a links angle then Poulter has far too many to list individually, but 2nd (2008 – Birkdale) and 3rd (2013 – Muirfield) at Open Championships are the highlights. I have also read that Congaree undoubtedly has a Melbourne sandbelt feel to it – well Ian won the 2011 Australian Masters at Victoria (beating Geoff Ogilvy) and finished runner-up to Adam Scott when defending in 2012 at Kingston Heath.

The U.S. Open has never been Ian’s  happiest of hunting grounds, and I doubt that changes at Torrey Pines next week, but it’s also noticeable that over his career Poulter has won and generated masses (I’ve counted 17) of excellent top-10 results across both Europe and the United States the outing before a Major start. RESULT: T25

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Keith Mitchell 1.25pts EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Keith Mitchell is another for me to back this week, on the basis of previous positive results on Bermudagrass and positive recent form.

A St Simons Island, Georgia resident and ‘Sea Island Mafia’ member, it’s likely that Keith has had a round or 2 around Palmetto and his length has to be an advantage here. With many forced carries and fairways that are described as generous Mitchell, who ranks 10th in my 8-week Strokes Gained Off the Tee tracker, certainly has the firepower. 3rd behind Rory McIlroy a few weeks ago at Quail Hollow is a real example of that, where he ranked 2nd for Off the Tee, 11th for Approach, 6th for Tee to Green and 20th for Putting.

Target score required to win this week is pretty unknown, but I don’t see this being a total birdie-fest and if that is the case, that again plays to Mitchell’s advantage. A winner of the 2019 Honda Classic  at -9/271, contending performances across Bay Hill (6th 2019, 5th 2020) and Quail Hollow (8th 2019, 3rd 2021) have all come when scoring has been high. However 3rd at the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson played on the inland faux-links at Trinity Forest came at -19/265, so if the PGA Tour decide to get the hoses out this week and make the course easy, Keith has that covered too. All of these results came on Bermudagrass greens, as did 6th at the 2018 Houston Open. Keith is undoubtedly one of the most Bermudagrass-positive players on Tour. RESULT: MC

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Kevin Kisner 1.25pts EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

This is a home game for Kevin Kisner who practices and plays regularly at Congaree. He’s a Congaree Ambassador and has taken the likes of Brian Harman and Viktor Hovland down to what he calls his ‘home track.’ As regulars will know, KK is almost an auto-bet on Bermudagrass greens for me and although he’s not in the greatest of form, 50/1 tells that story, Kevin could well be a factor this week.

Straight off the tee at Colonial last time out, Kevin was 16th after 36 holes before dropping to finish 40th at close. But his form on Carolina golf courses merits selection on its own. 2nd (2015), 11th (2016) and 7th (2018) at Harbour Town; 8th (2014), 10th (2016), and 3rd (2020) at Sedgefield Country Club; 6th (2014) and 7th (2017 PGA) at Quail Hollow. Kevin’s record at the RSM Classic played on the Fazio re-designed Seaside Course is also worthy of note: 4th (2014), 1st (2015), 4th (2017), 7th (2018) and 2nd (2020).

Kisner loves fast and firm conditions and unlike the vast majority in this field, he also has an Open Championship top-2 finish on his CV – 2nd at the 2018 Open hosted at Carnoustie. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:25BST 7.6.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.