Welcome to Virtual Insanity, where we spend virtual money to try and win virtual money on golf betting. It's that simple!
We started the year with €1000 and the Virtual Insanity tally is at €870 entering this week's tournament of focus, the Open Championship at the Old Course in St Andrews in Scotland.
It's golf's final major of the year and it begins at 6.35am on Thursday.
There are seven Irish players in the field, 2019 winner Shane Lowry, 2014 champion Rory McIlroy, 2007 and 2008 claret jug recipient Padraig Harrington, 2011 champion Darren Clarke, Seamus Power and qualifiers David Carey and Ronan Mullarney.
This is a very special Open Championship. The 150th edition at the 'Home of Golf' has brought Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus to the Swilken Bridge at the course for a photo for the ages. There's only 33 majors between them!
A par 72, the Old Course measures just over 7,300 yards and is the easiest of the rota of Open courses, especially when conditions are benign, as will be the case this week. If the wind doesn't blow, low scores are commonplace. There's room off the tee, many short par 4 holes and massive greens, so there are plenty of options for each player in how they wish to build a score. A 59 this week is not out of the question.
Be sure to shop around for each-way value, with Paddy Power, Betfair and Betway offering 1/5 the odds for your pick to get into the top 12, SKY Bet and Boyle Sports offering 1/5 the odds for your selection to place inside the top 11, Betfred and Coral going to 10 places and William Hill going to 9 places. Other bookmakers are offering less places, but better odds. I will make the odds and bookmaker recommendation that I believe offers the best value beside each selection.
I am investing a lot of my 'virtual' money because of the generous each way terms on offer for this major championship and a sense of innate confidence. Please bet less with real money if you decide to get involved.
Our headline selection is Rory McIlroy for a €50 win at 10/1. (William Hill, Bet 365, Bet Victor).
Great champions win at the Home of Golf - Jack Nicklaus won the Open twice there - and Tiger Woods also lifted the claret jug at the Old Course twice - in 2000 and 2005. It would be fitting as a four time major champion with huge charisma and integrity in the game for Rory McIlroy to win the 150th Open. McIlroy is ranked number two in the world and his form is excellent entering this week. He has seven top ten finishes in 12 starts on the PGA Tour for 2022 - he was second at the Masters, eighth at the U.S. PGA and tied fifth at the U.S. Open. He lies first in the strokes gained statistics on the PGA Tour - his approach play has improved and his putting is much sharper after working with Brad Faxon. When McIlroy won the Open at Hoylake in 2014, conditions were benign, and he will face the same tranquil settings this week. The County Down star's strength is his long straight driving and this will allow him to attack the Old Course. He's a confident headline selection and I believe it's time McIlroy ended his eight year major drought. Nobody would be more deserving, so let's hope he can do it.
Our second selection is Patrick Cantlay for €20 each way at 25/1. (1/5 the odds the first 9 places, William Hill).
People may view American Patrick Cantlay as a flat track bully who can't deliver on the major stage (only two top ten finishes in twenty starts) - but I see that statistic as anomalous. Cantlay has proven himself as a player who can deliver under pressure - he has won the prestigious Memorial Tournament twice and claimed the FedEx Cup last season, being crowned PGA Tour Player of the Year. He also produced a strong performance at the Ryder Cup. The former world amateur number one is 30 years old now, but he spent years out of the game with a serious back injury so he has less 'reps' than other players. Cantlay has eight top ten finishes on the PGA Tour in 2022, including a win in the team event in New Orleans. He has landed inside the top 15 on his last four starts and shot 69-67 on the weekend to end in a tie for fourth at the Scottish Open. St Andrews requires strong scrambling and lag putting and these are his strengths - he was the top scrambler on the PGA Tour last year and ranks 20th in the putting category this season. Cantlay's best performances have been when scoring is low - which will be the case this week. Most importantly, he has an ability to play to the best spots - which in other words means his course management is strong. I am confident that the each way part of this bet will pay dividends and he has the talent to win.
Our third selection is Shane Lowry for €10 each way at 22/1. (1/5 the odds the first 9 places, William Hill).
2019 Open champion Shane Lowry is in the form of his life. We saw that with his strong performance at the Masters where he was right in contention to win the green jacket. His approach play has been excellent this year and he's inside the top ten in that category. A missed cut at the U.S. Open was a blip, but Lowry, buoyed by the crowds, rallied to make the cut at the Irish Open and then finished inside the top ten. A six shot win at Royal Portrush should give the Offaly native tremendous confidence of a second Open triumph and I like that he's been playing links golf recently at courses such as Portmarnock to hone his game for the Old Course. Lowry is a feel player and will need to putt well to win, but he likes St Andrews, where he has plenty of experience and has finished three times inside the top 10 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The 35 year old rates as a decent each way proposition.
Our fourth selection is Haotong Li for €5 each way at 140/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Bet 365).
Wouldn't it be a wonderful story if China produced it's first major champion in the 150th Open? 26 year old Haotong Li may have the freedom and the chutzpah to make some noise this week. An emotional winner of the BMW International Open on his penultimate start, Li is back in the big time after losing his way, affected by the COVID pandemic as he missed 14 cuts last year and nearly gave up the game. Li has guts - he faced down Rory McIlroy to win the Dubai Desert Classic in 2018 and finished third at the 2017 Open at Birkdale, closing with a 63. What's also interesting is his record at St Andrews - he has shot five rounds in the 60's at the Old Course at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, including a 64. There are worse outsiders.
Our final selection is Danny Willett for €5 each way at 150/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Ladbrokes, Bet 365).
The horses for courses pick is England's Danny Willett, who has shown no real form in 2022 apart from a tie for 12th at the Masters. The 2016 champion at Augusta has shown an uncanny ability in his career to come out of nowhere and win big titles - he has won eight times around the world and has emerged from the doldrums on more than one occasion. There is nothing in Willett's form book to suggest he can win this week, but in 2018 he won the DP World Tour Championship and in 2019 he won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth - the most prestigious events not held in America. He knows how to close a tournament and it's interesting that he won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews last October. He also tied for sixth at the 2015 Open at St Andrews. It's a gut pick to complete our selections.
So that's €130 wagered virtually on this week's Open Championship, but please bet less at home! A euro each way is fine!
As a bonus bet, for an additional €20 euro, I am recommending a €10 each way selection on Taylor Pendrith at 25/1 in the Barracuda Championship in California (starts Thursday). He's available for 1/5 the odds with Paddy Power and Betfair. Pendrith is a real talent who hits the ball a mile. He had been out since March with a rib injury and finished in a tie for 13th at the Barbasol Championship last week upon his return. He also finished in a tie for 13th at the Barracuda last year and I feel the stableford scoring system this week will suit his ability to make birdies.
Please gamble responsibly, never bet more than you can afford, and good luck!