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It’s a huge week for LIV Golf as the sport’s newest circuit makes a first visit to Australia, the birthplace of its golfing leader Greg Norman.
The Great White Shark has always appeared to be the archetypal Aussie sportsman: the honed physique of a swimmer, the bravado and wide-brimmed hat of Crocodile Dundee, the shock of blond hair, and the aggressive swagger of his attitude.
And yet, in truth, Norman has always had a slightly difficult relationship with his compatriots.
He inspired great loyalty in many of them, but others perceived that he was happy to settle in America - they believed he returned home reluctantly.
Given his current rebel status in the world of golf, it will make for a fascinating dynamic as LIV looks to get Australia on its side.
The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide has two courses and the tournament will play a composite layout that utilizes the best 18 holes on the property.
Located on the Adelaide sandbelt, the fairways are bouncy, the greens lightning fast, and the action is typically played in blustery conditions.
It’s a potentially excellent course for punters because, as a test, it demands imagination and creativity - qualities that might easily split the field.
Last year Cameron Smith won two of the PGA Tour’s biggest tournaments, his first major championship, a LIV event and he ended it with win No. 5 on home soil.
Now the home hero gets the opportunity to play in front of big Australian crowds again and he’ll be keen to give them something to cheer.
His concern will be his form: he’s failed to finish in the top 20 in his last three starts.
A week before the Masters, Brooks Koepka won his second LIV event and he maintained that form at Augusta National.
The American led by two shots after 36 and 54 holes before a final round 75 left him in second place behind the winner Jon Rahm.
Chile’s Joaquin Niemann finished 16th in the first major championship of the year and it was his fourth failure to land a top 10 in a row.
That’s quite a contrast to his form before then when he recorded seven top 10s in just eight starts.
Australian sports fans are known for their partiality and enthusiasm.
Moreover, Australian sports stars are equally well-known for responding to that energy in the best way possible.
Might it provide the spark that turns the year around for Cameron Smith?
It might do but he doesn’t have the finest record on sandbelt courses while his compatriot Marc Leishman does.
That logbook includes two individual top 10 finishes at Royal Melbourne and a fine performance in defeat at the same course in the 2019 Presidents Cup.
This year, Leishman finished sixth in the Saudi International and led the LIV Tucson event with 18 holes to play: His form is bubbling.
Back him in the outright market with Caesars Sportsbook offering +2800 each way (five places).
If Australian sports fans like cheering their own, they tend not to like Englishmen.
But that has never bothered Paul Casey.
In fact, this Englishman has registered seven top 10s in 12 starts in Australia.
He has also landed four top 10s in just eight starts with LIV.
Those numbers suggest that this week’s offer of +188 for another Casey top 10 with bet365 is fantastic value.
After carding a brilliant final round 65 at the Masters to grab a share of second place Phil Mickelson was feeling pretty good about life.
“I really worked hard in the off-season to get ready,” he said. “I've been shooting some really low scores at home.
“It was evident to me that I was hitting a lot of good shots and that I was playing well in tournaments. I just wasn't getting the score out of it.
“Today was a great day for me to stay present, just keep hitting good shots and make some noise.
“Now I'm hopeful that this catapults me into playing the rest of the year.”
And then he added, of this week’s trip to Adelaide: “We're excited to go down there. There's a lot of anticipation, and we're looking forward to it.”
Can he win? Possibly because remember the course suits creative golfers and few are more creative than Mickelson.
There seems a good chance that he might also ride the wave and enjoy a thrilling start to this week.
There’s an intriguing market at bet365 which allows us to back a top 10 finish in the first round.
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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