5pts win MIKE WEIR @ 10/1 (GENERAL)
1.5pts ew MARK WILSON @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew MARK HENSBY @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew BILLY MAYFAIR @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
0.5pts ew PAUL GOYDOS @ 125/1 (GENERAL, 150/1 TOTE)
3pts ew HENRIK STENSON @ 16/1 (GENERAL, 18/1 CORALS)
1pt ew ALEXANDER NOREN @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew STEVE WEBSTER @ 50/1 (BETFRED, HILLS)
1pt ew SIMON DYSON @ 55/1 (BET365, TOTE)
1pt ew RICARDO GONZALEZ @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
2007/2008 STATS: +629pts
After yet another huge-priced Fall Series winner on another easy course, the Raptor Course at Grayhawk GC should present a much tougher test. Last years renewal produced a world-class winner in MIKE WEIR and a high-class leaderboard, so perhaps bookies will enjoy this one a little less.
Whereas the recent target golf courses have mainly rewarded putting, the emphasis at Grayhawk should be on tee to green accuracy, quality iron approaches and a top-class short game. This venue is also pretty exposed, making an ability to cope with windy conditions another essential attribute.
At 10/1, Weir heads the market and while Im normally loathe to back defending champions, his chance is too obvious to ignore. Weirs recent form is the best by some way, only missing the top-10 twice in his last seven events. Last years victory ended a long, barren spell for the Canadian, and I expect hell be equally determined this time. 2008 has been Weirs best season in several, but surprisingly he still lacks a title despite a couple of runners-up spots.
Weir really does stand out as some way ahead of the rest. Tim Clark starts second favourite and at his best would appear to have the right credentials for a course where he made the top-20 last year. However Ive made a decision to avoid Clark for the time being, after one too many letdowns. At least until he breaks through the psychological barrier and registers that long overdue first Stateside win.
An inability to win also plagues the profiles of numerous other characters on this weeks shortlist. Locally based Pat Perez finished 6th last year and has been consistent in recent weeks. His last four starts have all yielded top-25s including a couple of top-10s, and I expect hell perform to this level again. No way on earth though can I consider taking 25/1 about a man who hasnt won since a sole triumph on the Buy.com Tour eight years ago. Similarly while Scott Verplank looks to have his ideal set-up at Grayhawk, a record of five tournament victories in 23 years, and just one since 2001, is hardly a recommendation.
At his best Sean OHair represents a better class than most of the opposition and he did make the places last year. Its just a shame that hes only played well twice since the Masters. Tim Herrons scrambling skills should be a considerable advantage at Grayhawk, and three top-8s from his last five starts make him a strong contender, if another plenty short enough considering he’s only won once this century.
Few amongst this field have been more consistent recently than MARK WILSON, who looks worth a bet to gain consolation for a very near miss in Texas a fortnight ago. His temperament and ability to find the right shot under pressure impressed in Texas, suggesting a second win could be around the corner to add to a 2007 Honda Classic title.
Several Australians made the short-list. It will be heartbreaking if either Nick OHern or Matthew Goggin finally breaks their PGA Tour ducks this week, as Ive backed both so many times before in these kind of circumstances with only the occasional place return. Both look certain to hit plenty of greens in regulations, and have decent short games.
Marginal preference though is for MARK HENSBY, a quality player who seems to be emerging from a terrible spell and has looked very convincing in contention before. Three consecutive top-30s have rekindled outside hopes of retaining his card by finishing in the top-125 on the money list. Every Fall Series event has so far gone to a player in a similarly desperate position, and Hensby looks one of the likeliest winners amongst this group. Grayhawk, where he finished runner-up last year, appears to suit more than recent venues.
In fact Im backing all of last years top-3 in the hope of at least one repeat performance. BILLY MAYFAIR is another with local knowledge, which goes some way to explaining last years good show. Top-10 in the Tour Championship on his penultimate start represents excellent recent form, and last weeks target golf affair was never likely to produce the best in him. The only downside, again, is that he hasnt won for a decade but at least in his case the price is attractive and he has finished runner-up as recently as June.
Another Aussie, and another who hasn’t won for a decade, who I could see going well at Grayhawk is Steve Elkington. However, hes just nudged out of the outsiders spot in the staking plan by PAUL GOYDOS at 125/1. Its only a few months since Goydos was touched off by Sergio Garcia for one of the most prestigious titles of the year at Sawgrass. Hes usually worth a look on courses that reward accuracy and where wind is a factor. Its no coincidence that his last win came in the Hawaii-based Sony Open, where a similar emphasis applied.