Oakland Hills was about as gruelling as they come, and this weeks puzzle is complicated further because we have no previous course form of any real worth to study.
The Wyndham Championship moves to a new venue this year, or more accurately to a classic old venue that was last used on the PGA Tour 31 years ago. It can boast a long history of tournament golf, dating back to the days of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. Since being renovated to contain the skills of the modern player, Sedgefield CC has earned rave reviews and is expected to produce a proper test.
From what I can gather, this par-70 is not the sort of course that can be overpowered. Rather it requires accurate tee-to-green play and sound course management, in order to avoid the hazards and hold smaller than usual greens. It sounds like a second-shot course, and I have a hunch that course form here might show some correlation with previous form at Harbour Town Links, home to the Heritage Classic and another course with small greens.
These second-shot courses usually produce top-class winners, but besides a few near the head of the betting hardly any of this field have ever, or will ever, be regarded as top-class. Bearing this in mind, 12/1 about VIJAY SINGH just a fortnight after his win in an elite WGC event strikes me as very reasonable value.
Vijays odds are a reaction to his missed cut at Oakland Hills, his third consecutive poor Major. Im not reading too much into those though, because I didnt fancy him for any of them. Torrey Pines has never been his favourite course, nor did windy Birkdale suit. And last weeks disaster was wholly predictable on those extremely fast greens. Id rather look at his regular PGA Tour form, which has produced four top-5s in his last seven non-Majors starts.
None of the other players under 50/1 make much appeal. This doesnt look Paul Caseys type of course, while the likes of Ken Duke, Jeev-Milkha Singh and David Toms are under-priced in response to their USPGA form. Toms and Chris Dimarco have both hinted at a return to form as they bid to catch Paul Azingers eye ahead of the Ryder Cup, but neither player has yet to make a single top-10 this season.
It would be possible to make cases for consistent Briny Baird and Billy Mayfair, if only either of them had shown winning capability in the last decade. In contrast, JOHN ROLLINS looks capable of landing a third PGA Tour title. 2nd on his last start at Montreux was his second top-10 in the space of a month, and his recent long game performances suggests he should be there or thereabouts once again.
Not for the first time by any means this season, BRIAN GAY makes the staking plan. Sundays top-20 at Oakland Hills was his best ever performance in a Major, confirming once again that he is in the form of his life. Since winning his maiden title back in February, Gay has made three further top-10s and seven top-25s, thanks to an accurate long game and arguably the hottest putter in the business. Given the lack of depth here, 66/1 looks massive for an obviously in-form player.
Others to consider include Kevin Na, who may have been selected if better odds than 50/1 had been available. Joe Ogilvie won on this course ten years ago, long before the revamp, and has been in fair nick recently. And representing England, Brian Davis should have his supporters after 2nd place last time and three consecutive top-20s.
Instead though, I prefer the claims of an old favourite who always makes my short-list when accuracy looks the order of the day, JOHN SENDEN. The beauty of backing a player like Senden is that his skills and limitations are obvious, and hes always a big price. I could never back him in a putting contest, but he is always near the head of the greens in regulation stats and therefore always liable to compete on certain tracks. And lets not forget that hes won twice in recent years, made the frame in a Major and turned a profit already for us this season when finishing runner-up at the PODS Championship.
Finally, in a bid to land my biggest-priced winner ever, Im having a speculative punt at 200/1 on GAVIN COLES. A journeyman for most of his career on the Australasian Tour, Coles has blossomed in his late thirties and shown he knows how to get the job done with four titles on the Nationwide Tour. Generally accurate and reliable, he also did nothing wrong when contending right up to the 72nd hole in this years Fedex St Jude Classic. The fact he only finished 8th was due to a final hole disaster when chasing victory, and disguises the fact hed been challenging for favouritism one hole earlier.
4pts win VIJAY SINGH @ 12/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew JOHN ROLLINS @ 50/1 (BOYLESPORTS, CENTREBET)
1pt ew BRIAN GAY @ 66/1 (PAGEBET, 80/1 CENTREBET)
1pt ew JOHN SENDEN @ 80/1 (LADBROKES, TOTE)
0.5pts ew GAVIN COLES @ 175/1 (SKYBET, 200/1 TOTE)