STEPHEN AMES also appears to have the right skills set for this track, and certainly has enough class to win in this company. I must admit I was surprised to see him priced up this high, and can’t help but feel its an over-reaction to missing last week’s cut. That putting contest was never going to suit, and I’m happy to ignore it in favour of a longer term analysis of his form. Ames made the top-25 in all three US Majors, and on four of his five starts prior to last week. His neat and tidy, accurate game should thrive around here, and he will be particularly hoping the wind gets up.
Last year’s runner-up KEVIN SUTHERLAND also looks a tad overpriced, again perhaps due to an over-reaction to last week’s missed cut in very different circumstances. Previously, he’d made seven straight cuts, registering top-25s in two high-class Fedex Cup events plus fifth at the Wyndham Championship. He has the experience, and short game skills to thrive here, and notably hit no round worse than 67 in last year’s effort.
The one name from last week’s leaderboard who is fancied for a repeat is JEFF KLAUK, an accurate player who has enjoyed a fine rookie season. That was the third time he’s rewarded supporters with a place payout, adding weight to my theory that 80/1 represents solid each-way value here. Besides his accuracy; a pre-requisite for success around Grayhawk; I also like the fact that Klauk ranks second in scrambling amongst this week’s field.
Last year, I tipped PAUL GOYDOS in triple figures, only to see him just miss out on the places in seventh. At 100/1, he’s certainly worth supporting again because this track really is ideal. Goydos is a very accurate player, who thrives on exposed courses. His best effort of 2007 came when winning at narrow, exposed Waialae, and in 2008 his best result was losing a play-off to Sergio Garcia at Sawgrass, again in windy conditions. Goydos has plenty of form this year too, registering top-10s on four of his last 12 starts, including three top-4s. Like Jacobsen, he only just missed the places at Liberty National, home to the Barclays.
Others to make the shortlist included Aaron Baddeley, who has won at a different Scottsdale venue before and finished a respectable 11th last year. Badds has endured a poor season, but remains a class act and has offered the odd hint of a comeback lately. Pat Perez has strong local connections, and warrants great respect having finished top-7 in both the last two years. He struck me as a little too short at 33/1 though given the fact he’s only ever won one title. George McNeill, who lost Sunday’s play-off, deserves consideration as he has two top-20s to his name on this course. I certainly prefer McNeill to his Summerlin conquerer Martin Laird, for whom consecutive victories would represent something of a miracle.
My final selection may come across as an act of desperation of a man in dire form, but there is some method to my apparent madness in backing one of my all-time favourite players, PETER LONARD, despite the fact he hasn’t made a single top-10 all year. At his best, Grayhawk would be absolutely perfect for Lonard, a great iron player with a cast-iron temperament. On firm, fast and often exposed Australian courses over the past decade, I would go as far as to say Lonard has been world-class. It struck me that he could be about to find some form when I noted Lonard hitting a final-round 63 to register 12th place on his penultimate start at Atunyote, and I’m happy to completely overlook last week’s missed cut as that putting contest was never going to suit. Of course he’s a speculative selection, but at 200/1, why not have a crack?