Starting a day earlier than usual and played on four different resort courses, this pro-am is the only five-round event of the season. Perhaps due to the extra round, unlike most pro-ams this one has a reputation for producing fairly predictable winners. Phil Mickelson, absent this week, has won twice here, and this was the event where David Duval hit that amazing 59 on the final day when at the peak of his powers.
Duval, golf?s forgotten man, is here but sadly just making up the numbers. He?s been struggling for so long now that his dramatic fall from stardom barely rates a mention nowadays, and it goes without saying that he?s the least likely former champion from the past decade to repeat the trick. Of the other eight that are here this week, a case could easily be made for MIKE WEIR, Justin Leonard, Chad Campbell or even JESPER PARNEVIK.
Rejuvenated Weir stands out in particular. The 2003 winner also made the top-5 a couple of years ago, and started the season in fine form just as he?d finished the last one. For three rounds in the Mercedes Championship, he looked by far the likeliest winner and back to the sort of form that won him a green jacket. The Canadian left-hander must be forgiven a poor final round at Kapalua, as it was so out of character and because these things happen to every player at some stage. Few were playing better at the end of 2007 than Weir, with the highlight of an impressive spell being a victory in Arizona and top-scoring for the International side at the Presidents Cup.
Like all pro-ams, the key is going to be racking up plenty of birdies. Target golf of this nature seems ideal for LUCAS GLOVER, one of the best up and coming American youngsters and someone I fancy to win in 2008. Glover has won already a couple of years ago, and knocked on the door several times in 2007. He?s already shown his suitability for this tournament as well, finishing 10th and 13th in two visits.
My three other selections are all relatively cheap, speculative each-way punts at odds of 50/1 or more. Firstly, I?m keeping the faith with NATHAN GREEN despite disappointing last week. Green played well to finish 18th on his tournament debut last year and would have finished higher but for a poor final round. He?s another who has been knocking on the door at this level for a couple of years, and a first Tour victory may well arrive soon.
Parnevik may not be the force he once was but is still capable on his day and absolutely loves this tournament. Winner in 2000, the popular Swede has also made the top-5 on three other occasions including when runner-up two years ago. He was in no better form on that occasion than he is now – in fact there is some evidence he?s becoming regularly competitive again. He played fairly well in Hawaii over the weekend, and very nearly won the Texas Open last autumn.
Finally, VAUGHAN TAYLOR makes plenty of appeal at 80/1. This time last year Taylor looked one of the best young talents on the PGA Tour, and rated alongside the likes of Glover and Zach Johnson. In fact, if we cast our minds back to the Masters in April, Taylor looked a strong contender throughout and was given at least an equal chance to eventual winner Johnson on the final day. An injury soon after set his season back, but Sunday?s 25th place was a solid start to the new season. Taylor is another ideally suited to this sort of target golf, and would have finished much higher than 33rd on last year?s tournament debut if it wasn?t for a disastrous final-round 78.