Even though the WGC event looks wide-open, its an incomparably easier puzzle to solve than this second-division PGA Tour event. Bearing in mind these are players who didn’t qualify for Firestone and are by definition inconsistent lesser lights, its no surprise to see the favourite at 22/1.
Four of the last nine champions at Montreux were first-time winners, though in fairness only one was a huge price. In such a poor field, it would hardly come as a surprise if a 300/1 outsider like 2006 champ Will Mackenzie were to emerge. However, finding that specific rank outsider is quite a feat, as we are dealing with players who’ve shown virtually no recent form.
Low scoring is guaranteed on a course which boasts wide fairways and large, undulating greens. One useful clue is that this course is at altitude, which makes the ball travel extra distance. So a reasonable strategy is to focus on players who have previously shown good form at altitude, whether at this venue, or others such as Castle Pines.
I was struggling already to find suitable candidates to recommend before the withdrawal of my two main fancies, Ken Duke and Dean Wilson. With those two contenders out, I could find no more than four players able to tempt me into parting with cash. Firstly, JOE OGILVIE has pretty solid credentials. He’s made seven of his last eight cuts, usually in much stronger fields than this and finished 6th on his last start. Always a threat in this lower level, Ogilvie has also proven he can handle altitude with 3rd place here in 2006, and 9th a couple of years earlier.
At 33/1, straight-hitting types ALEX CEJKA and JOHN MERRICK look strong candidates to win their first PGA Tour titles. Having won eleven other tournaments elsewhere around the world, Cejka would hardly rate a surprise, especially on this course. The German has made the top-12 in each of the last two runnings of this event, and also showed a liking for altitude when finishing as runner-up in the 2004 International at Castle Pines. Recent form is good too, with top-10s at Southwind and Congressional.
26 year-old Merrick has already won on the Nationwide Tour, and looks well capable of winning at the higher level, especially in an event of this lowly stature. Usually very accurate, Merrick has three top-10s to his name this season, always in much stronger company. In fact he boasts the best single piece of form of anyone here this week, 6th place behind Tiger at the US Open.
Finally, CHARLES WARREN may be worth a speculative bet at 66/1. Though yet to win at the higher level, Warren has won three times on the Nationwide Tour, which is only marginally inferior to this standard. Having finished runner-up last year, we know he can handle the course conditions, and a couple of recent top-20s at Warwick Hills and Congressional compares favourably with the recent form of most of the opposition.
1.5pts ew JOE OGILVIE @ 28/1 (CORALS, BETDIRECT, STAN JAMES)
1.5pts ew ALEX CEJKA @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
1.5pts ew JOHN MERRICK @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew CHARLES WARREN @ 66/1 (BLUESQ, 888SPORT, LADBROKES)