ISCO Championship 2024 Tips: Six big each-way picks for Kentucky

 | Wednesday 10th July 2024, 13:23pm

Wednesday 10th July 2024, 13:23pm

jamie worsley pga tour

Whilst the Scottish Open is the headliner of this week’s PGA Tour/DP World Tour co-sanctioned double-header, a lower-quality but no less interesting field will head to Kentucky for the newly-named ISCO Championship, at Keene Trace Golf Club’s Champion Trace course.

Our golf tipster Jamie Worsley is here with his in-depth preview and he's picked out six players to consider backing each-way as he takes us through his ISCO Championship 2024 Tips...

ISCO Championship Betting Tips

  • 1.75 pts J.J Spaun each-way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 33/1
  • 1.25 pts S.H Kim each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 40/1
  • 1 pt Pierceson Coody each-way (1/5 - 6 places) @ 55/1
  • 1 pt Andrea Pavan each-way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 110/1
  • 1 pt Sam Bairstow each-way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 80/1
  • 0.5 pts Alex Goff each-way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 400/1

*Please click on the linked odds above to add this selection directly to your betslip on betfred.com (or app).

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

Previously known as the Barbasol Championship, this event debuted on the PGA Tour in 2015 as an alternate-field event played opposite the Open Championship. This was a position it occupied up to and including 2021, before it was moved to this spot on the calendar and co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour.

It offers up a fantastic opportunity for players on both tours to secure their PGA Tour futures without the top players in the world to contend with, whilst also providing a direct route to next week’s Open Championship for the victor.

Last five winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Vincent Norrman (-22, playoff); runner-up: Nathan Kimsey (-22)
  • 2022 – Winner: Trey Mullinax (-25); runner-up: Kevin Streelman (-24)
  • 2021 – Winner: Seamus Power (-21, playoff); runner-up: J.T Poston (-21)
  • 2019 – Winner: Jim Herman (-26); runner-up: Kelly Kraft (-25)
  • 2018 – Winner: Troy Merritt (-23); runners-up: Billy Horschel, Tom Lovelady, Richy Werenski (-22)

Last year’s renewal saw talented Swede, Vincent Norrman secure his first PGA Tour title, beating England’s Nathan Kimsey in a playoff. It’s a win that means Norrman instead tees it up in the Scottish Open this week, resulting in us having no defending champion.

THE COURSE

Keene Trace Golf Club’s Champion Trace course was designed in 1987, with Arthur Hills working as the chief architect, before undergoing a renovation in 2016 at the hands of J. Drew Rodgers.

It has only hosted this event since 2018, with the first three renewals all taking place in Alabama, at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National – Lake Course.

The course is a par 72 and measures in at 7328 yards. It possesses 10x par 4s (392-462 yards), 4x par 5s (516-573 yards) and 4x par 3s (187-209 yards).

Since taking over hosting duties of this event, Keene Trace has become one of the most birdie-heavy tests on the PGA Tour, possessing an average winning score of -23.4 over the five renewals so far.

Set in the rolling hills of an old horse farm, this open, resort-style course is well bunkered and possesses water in-play on six holes. Though every aspect of play is fairly simple and straightforward.

Whilst there are a few narrower fairways, the majority are quite generous. With non-punishing rough and bunkers that are easy enough to avoid, we can see why it ranks as the seventh least-penal course on tour when missing the fairways.

Though many are at an angle and narrow/shallow in shape the average-large bentgrass greens are typically receptive and rank among the easier greens to hit. Not only that, but should players miss, it’s not too daunting to get up-and-down, with Keene Trace ranking as the seventh-easiest scrambling test on the PGA Tour.

As mentioned, water is in-play on six holes and is especially prominent at the finish to each nine, which can set up well for a dramatic finish. It protects the front of the shallow green on the 410-yard par 4 17th and runs up the entire right-hand side of the 429-yard par 4 18th.

Having said that, anxiety-inducing holes are few and far between, with all par 5s reachable in two for most in the field and a collection of very gettable par 4s that can be attacked with a good drive and a wedge. Providing there is no troublesome weather on the way, we should expect another low-scoring renewal of the ISCO Championship this week.

THE WEATHER

Despite the forecast predicting thunderstorms for Wednesday, the actual tournament days themselves look clear throughout and we should be set for a warm, sunny and dry event in Kentucky. With little in the way of wind, there is nothing in the forecast that should worry this week’s field.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Off-the-Tee

Most holes at Keene Trace can be taken on with driver and it’s proven to be an important club for winners and contenders alike since 2018.

We don’t have to look far for evidence of this, as Vincent Norrman ranked 3rd off-the-tee when taking the title last year. It was a leaderboard littered with quality driving performances, with Trevor Cone in 3rd ranking 1st and 6th-place finisher, Taylor Pendrith, ranking 4th; a further four players from inside the top-13 ranked in the top-10 OTT.

Quality driving also aided 2022 winner, Trey Mullinax, as he ranked 7th OTT, with each of the top-4 ranking at least 13th; six of the top-10 in 2021 ranked inside the top-20; as did eight of the top-10 in 2019; and in 2018, seven of the top-11 ranked inside the top-25, including runner-up, Billy Horschel and 5th-place finisher, J.T Poston, both ranking 2nd.

  • SG: Approach
  • Proximity from 100-150 yards

It’s a given that with low scoring, approach play will be key and we’ve seen this in most renewals of the ISCO Championship at this course.

Vincent Norrman relied on other areas last year but some of his nearest challengers excelled in approach, with Trevor Cone in 3rd ranking 2nd and Lucas Glover in 5th ranking 1st.

Trey Mullinax produced a strong all-round ball-striking display in 2022, matching his ranking of 7th OTT by leading the field in approach. Seven of the top-12 that year ranked top-10 in this area.

There was only one player inside the top-10 in 2021 who ranked outside the top-25 in approach, with 3rd-place finisher, Sam Ryder ranking 1st and 5th-place finisher, Henrik Norlander ranking 2nd.

Seven of the top-10 in 2019 ranked inside the top-25, and Troy Merrit led the field with his irons in 2018, with runner-up, Richy Werenski, ranking 2nd.

I believe it will be extra-important to excel with the short irons, approaches between 100-150 yards are very common and will be the key yardages in unlocking those simple par 4s.

  • SG: Putting (bentgrass)

As with approach play, a hot week on the greens can too take players into contention in birdie-fests.

Vincent Norrman ranked 7th on the greens last year and the man he beat in the playoff, Nathan Kimsey, ranked 1st; with six of the top-8 in total ranking 11th-or-better in putting.

Again, most players near the top of the leaderboard in 2022 putted at least solidly, with nine of the top-12 ranking inside the top-25 on the greens; three of the top-4 putters in 2021 finished inside the top-10; and Jim Herman ranked 4th with the club when winning in 2019, with runner-up, Kelly Kraft ranking 1st.

  • Birdie-or-Better %
  • Par 5 Scoring

Finally, I like to throw in some scoring stats when we’re expecting a birdie-laden contest. The two that appeal most this week are birdie-or-better %, along with par 5 scoring.

CORRELATING EVENTS

Finding correlating events has become somewhat trickier since the event received co-sanctioned status, as many players from both tours won’t have played the respective events on the opposite tours. Therefore I feel it necessary to find a full selection of events from both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

PGA TOUR

There are some pretty well established comp events from the PGA Tour and to simplify, I’m looking at generous ball-striking courses with low scoring and bentgrass greens.

This criteria is met by a quintet of courses as mentioned below, which all possess some notable comp form:

John Deere Classic (TPC Deere Run)

Kelly Kraft:

ISCO (2nd) / John Deere (5th)

Kevin Streelman:

ISCO (2nd) / John Deere (7th, 8th, 8th)

J.T Poston:

ISCO (2nd, 5th) / John Deere (1st)

Sepp Straka:

ISCO (3rd) / John Deere (1st)

Sam Ryder:

ISCO (3rd) / John Deere (2nd)

Mark Hubbard:

ISCO (3rd) / John Deere (6th)

Matt Jones:

ISCO (4th) / John Deere (5th, 5th)

Lucas Glover:

ISCO (5th) / John Deere (1st)

Luke List:

ISCO (5th) / John Deere (4th)

Patrick Rodgers:

ISCO (5th) / John Deere (2nd)

Rocket Mortgage Classic (Detroit Golf Club)

Troy Merritt:

ISCO (1st) / Rocket Mortgage (2nd)

Lucas Glover:

ISCO (5th) / Rocket Mortgage (4th)

Ryan Armour:

ISCO (5th) / Rocket Mortgage (4th)

Taylor Pendrith:

ISCO (6th, 11th, 13th) / Rocket Mortgage (2nd)

3M Open (TPC Twin Cities)

Kevin Streelman:

ISCO (2nd) / 3M Open (2nd)

J.T Poston:

ISCO (2nd, 5th) / 3M Open (2nd)

Richy Werenski:

ISCO (2nd) / 3M Open (3rd)

James Hahn:

ISCO (5th) / 3M Open (4th)

Ryan Armour:

ISCO (5th) / 3M Open (6th)

Mito Pereira:

ISCO (5th) / 3M Open (6th)

Martin Laird:

ISCO (6th) 3M Open (2nd)

Shriners Open (TPC Summerlin)

Kevin Streelman:

ISCO (2nd) / Shriners (2nd)

J.T Poston:

ISCO (2nd, 5th) / Shriners (3rd, 4th)

Sam Ryder:

ISCO (3rd) / Shriners (3rd)

Austin Cook:

ISCO (4th) / Shriners (2nd)

Lucas Glover:

ISCO (5th) / Shriners (3rd)

Mito Pereira:

ISCO (5th) / Shriners (4th)

James Hahn:

ISCO (5th) / Shriners (5th)

Martin Laird:

ISCO (6th) / Shriners (1st, 1st)

D.J Trahan:

ISCO (6th) / Shriners (2nd)

Taylor Pendrith:

ISCO (6th, 11th, 13th) / Shriners (3rd)

CJ CUP Byron Nelson (TPC Craig Ranch)

Troy Merritt:

ISCO (1st) / Byron Nelson (7th, 9th)

Taylor Pendrith:

ISCO (6th, 11th, 13th) / Byron Nelson (1st)

DP WORLD TOUR

We’re not blessed with a great deal of comp form for the DP World Tour, as players have only made up half of this field for two years. I’m inclined to side with similarly open resort-style courses with generous fairways; five of which are detailed below, with some limited comp form:

Portugal Masters (Dom Pedro – Victoria Course)

Adrien Saddier:

ISCO (3rd) / Portugal (4th)

Hurly Long:

ISCO (4th) / Portugal (5th)

Ricardo Gouveia:

ISCO (8th) / Portugal (5th, 7th)

Alex Levy:

ISCO (9th) / Portugal (1st)

Masahiro Kawamura:

ISCO (9th) / Portugal (5th)

KLM Open 2020-2023 (Bernardus Golf)

Hurly Long:

ISCO (4th) / KLM (10th)

Matti Schmid:

ISCO (8th) / KLM (2nd)

Ricardo Gouveia:

ISCO (8th) / KLM (7th)

Marcus Helligkilde:

ISCO (8th) / KLM (12th)

David Ravetto:

ISCO (9th) / KLM (16th)

European Open (Green Eagles Resort)

Ricardo Gouveia:

ISCO (8th) / European Open (10th)

Alex Levy:

ISCO (9th) / European Open (2nd)

Masahiro Kawamura:

ISCO (9th) / European Open (5th)

Czech Masters (Albatross Golf Resort)

Daniel Brown:

ISCO (7th) / Czech (14th)

Italian Open (Marco Simone Golf & Country Club)

Masahiro Kawamura:

ISCO (9th) / Italy (5th)

THE FIELD

Much like the Scottish Open, this field possesses an equal split of PGA Tour/DP World Tour players. It contains none of the world’s top-100, with Argentinian, Alejandro Tosti, the highest-ranked player in attendance at #107. Whilst of the DPWT contingent, Australia’s David Micheluzzi is the top-ranked at #204.

With Vincent Norrman absent, the most recent ISCO Championship winner set to tee it up is 2019 champion, Jim Herman. He is joined by a further three former winners: Troy Merritt (2018), Aaron Baddeley (2016) and Scott Piercy (2015).

Continually impressive youngsters, Luke Clanton, Michael Thorbjornsen and Neal Shipley will be hoping to take advantage of this much weaker field; Daniel Berger adds a bit of proven class to proceedings; whilst the best-performing players from the DPWT among the entries are the talented, youthful duo of Sam Bairstow and Jayden Schaper, who both sit inside the top-50 on the Race to Dubai.

*You can get all the up to date and live ISCO Championship Odds over on betfred.com

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Luke Clanton 9/1, Michael Thorbjornsen 12/1, Chan Kim 25/1, Mac Meissner 25/1, Carson Young 28/1

Incredibly, after two top-10s in a row, including a runner-up finish last week, amateur, Luke Clanton is a single-digit favourite this week, with former #2 amateur, Michael Thorbjornsen – himself having only turned pro recently – next in the betting. As talented as these two players are, they’re of no interest at these prices.

In an open event where proven PGA Tour winners are few and far between, one player stood out from near the top of the betting this week, and following a couple of decent efforts on the spin, I’m taking J.J Spaun to win his second PGA Tour title this week.

1.75 pts J.J Spaun each-way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 33/1

Spaun had a difficult start to the year, missing eight of his first 12 cuts and failed to record a single top-30 over that period. That all changed in the Myrtle Beach Classic, where he finished 26th and after missing two cuts following that, he’s since gone on to record his two best finishes of the season; finishing 10th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic two weeks ago and 23rd in last week’s John Deere Classic.

He is doing most things well over recent starts, but has particularly excelled in approach this season, ranking 48th; within that, he’s been strong with the short irons, ranking 38th from 100-125 yards and 17th from 125-150. Producing his 2nd and 5th-best putting performances of the season on bentgrass on his last two starts, he has his game in a strong place to tackle Keene Trace.

Spaun has played here once before, finishing 47th in 2021. He was one of the strongest players in the field tee-to-green that year, ranking 5th but due to sitting at the bottom of the putting stats he wasn’t able to impact the top of the leaderboard.

That does at least show that he can play the course well – whilst two top-10s in the Rocket Mortgage Classic are further indication of his suitability - and if able to replicate what he’s shown on the greens in the previous two weeks, he can dramatically improve on that effort this week.

1.25 pts S.H Kim each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 40/1

S.H Kim makes his debut in the ISCO Championship this week but as an often heavy scorer, who has recorded two of his three PGA Tour top-5s on comp courses, he can make it a winning debut at Keene Trace.

Kim has had a solid enough year so far, making 15 of 22 cuts but he’s only hit the top-20 on two occasions. The first of those came courtesy of a 14th-place finish in the Texas Open at the start of April and upon returning to Texas a month later in the CJ CUP Byron Nelson, he recorded the best result of his year, finishing 4th.

Though not able to repeat that level of performance across his next seven starts, he’s still been solid and has continued to make cuts. Including in the last two majors, when finishing 63rd in the PGA Championship and 56th in the US Open.

The relatively big-hitting Korean youngster hasn’t been driving the ball as well as he did last year but has been excellent on the greens, ranking 16th. This often translates to bentgrass, as shown by his ranking of 8th in last week’s John Deere Classic.

It’s this quality on the greens that enables Kim – who shot a 58 on the Japan Tour in 2021 – to score well. He ranks 38th on tour this season in birdie-or-better % and is especially strong on the par 5s, ranking 18th.

That scoring ability is obviously a huge plus this week and possessing a 4th-place finish in the 2022 Shriners Open to go with his 4th in the Byron Nelson this year, he has some attractive comp form that suggests he’ll be a lively contender this week.

1 pt Pierceson Coody each-way (1/5 - 6 places) @ 55/1

Pierceson Coody has started to find some consistency in recent months due to his improved ball-striking and I’m taking this former #1 amateur to take advantage of a weak field to claim his first PGA Tour win.

Coody missed four cuts, withdrew twice and recorded a solitary 32nd-place finish in Puerto Rico across the first seven starts of his rookie season. However, since the second of those withdrawals – which came in the Valspar Championship in March – he’s been much more consistent.

In his last nine solo starts, he’s missed just one cut and recorded two top-20s. The first of these came when 18th in the Corales Puntacana Championship and he then produced his best PGA Tour finish to date at Colonial CC, finishing 5th in the Charles Schwab Challenge four starts ago.

The putter has been the Texan’s biggest friend this year, ranking 10th and he comes into this after four strong performances in a row on bentgrass. Although, it’s the standard of his ball-striking that really catches the eye.

He is one of the longest drivers on tour, ranking 20th in driving distance but due to some wildly errant driving earlier in the season, he was regularly losing strokes with the club. Upon finding a little more accuracy recently, the club is starting to turn into a weapon and he enters this week ranking 22nd in this field off-the-tee over his last 20 rounds.

The irons too have improved – though not quite as strikingly as the driver has – and ranking among the top-50 birdie makers on tour, Coody is a heavy enough scorer to make plenty of noise on debut this week. An opinion that is strengthened by two of his three Korn Ferry Tour wins coming with winning scores in the -20s.

1 pt Andrea Pavan each-way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 110/1

Andrea Pavan has been in good form in recent months and ranks among the top-20 best players in this field over his last 20 rounds. No stranger to winning when the scoring is low and more than accustomed to golf in the U.S from his collegiate days in Texas, he looks a decent price for a strong performance this week.

Pavan was initially slow to get going this season, missing seven of his first 10 cuts but has maintained a good level since finishing 35th in the weather-affected China Open.

Since then, he’s played five times and recorded two top-5s, which came in back-to-back weeks when 4th in the KLM Open and 5th in the Italian Open; before missing the cut in last week’s BMW International Open.

The Italian ranks 19th in this field in strokes-gained total over his last 20 rounds, with rankings of 14th in putting and 30th in approach standing out.

Pavan makes his debut this week but having won and finished 3rd in the Czech Masters, he has some excellent form on similarly open, simple resort-style courses. Having long been associated with TPC Craig Ranch, he’s had plenty of practice at a similar course in the U.S and can make that experience count this week.

1 pt Sam Bairstow each-way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 80/1

Sam Bairstow comes into this week off the back of three missed cuts in a row but that shouldn’t detract from his impressive early-season form. Possessing quality throughout his bag, he looks set for a bright future on the DPWT and beyond, and can make a name for himself to a wider audience this week.

Bairstow only missed two of his first 11 cuts this season and recorded eight top-25 finishes, with a best of 3rd in the Singapore Classic. Though missing his last three cuts, I’m happy to forgive those efforts for various reasons.

The first of them came at the European Open – a course that can take its toll on even the most experienced players – and he then followed up with another in the brutally difficult US Open at Pinehurst. Where he immediately bounced back from shooting the worst score in round one to fire the second-best in round two.

Though there were fewer excuses for his effort in Italy, he actually played quite well in round one and looked comfortably set to make the cut in round two, but leaking four shots over his final four holes he sat out the weekend for the third event in a row.

Bairstow possesses plenty of power and is gaining strokes in all areas this season; especially excelling with the putter and driver, ranking 26th and 43rd respectively. This all-round quality has enabled him to make birdies for fun in 2024, ranking 7th in birdie average on the DPWT and he can put that scoring ability to use this week.

0.5 pts Alex Goff each-way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 400/1

With former/current high-class amateurs stealing the show in recent weeks, I’m going to finish with another potential star, in the shape of Alex Goff. The former University of Kentucky golfer only turned pro last week, though as one of the standouts from that University’s golf team for many a year, he looks well worth a shot this week; with the recent performances of Luke Clanton, Michael Thorbjornsen and Neal Shipley hopefully acting as inspiration.

During his six years in the amateur ranks, Goff reached as high as #36 in the world. 2020 was somewhat of a breakthrough year, as he won the Kentucky Amateur Championship and immediately followed that with a victory in The Blessings Intercollegiate against a loaded field, which included last week’s John Deere Classic winner, Davis Thompson in 4th.

He was solid across the next couple of years but undoubtedly the best year of his amateur career came in 2023. Though falling just short of claiming a win, he finished 2nd on six occasions, including against a stellar field in the SEC Championship. His scoring average of 70.73 was the best at the University of Kentucky in almost 30 years, and bettered the 71.29 of five-time PGA Tour winner, J.B Holmes in 2004.

Goff has been rock-solid again in 2024, finishing no worse than 40th across his seven starts and inside the top-15 on five occasions. He looks ready for this professional debut and with his invaluable experience of golf in this area, he looks well worth a shot to make some noise against this lower-standard field at Keene Trace Golf Club.

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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