Considering that this event has been staged at the same course, or a combination of the same courses, since 1986, it may come as some surprise that nobody has won twice at Las Colinas GC, Texas. However, that’s not to suggest that the form is random, or that certain players don’t appreciate the layout more than others. In fact, after scrutinising the stats as I found far fewer potential selections than usual on my shortlist, and that number included three former winners.
The list of previous champions includes a balanced variety, with a series of superstars in the 90s, including Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, plus Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia more recently. Last year Adam Scott was at the peak of his powers when landing the title, unrecognisable from the man struggling just to make a cut these days. Picking the winner hasn’t always been that easy though, with massive outsiders Brett Wetterich, Ted Purdy and Robert Damron all champions from the current century.
If last year’s renewal is anything to go by, Las Colinas has become tougher. Scott’s -8 winning total was the highest ever, and only the two par-5s averaged under par for the whole field. Driving accuracy is extremely important on this short par-70, along with high quality approach play to big, undulating greens. As always in Texas, wind can play a significant part.
In what is clear evidence of a fast growing reputation, IAN POULTER starts as second favourite, and that seems fair enough. Ever since he finished runner-up at last year’s Open, Poulter has looked a more confident player, and on recent form, a breakthrough PGA Tour win seems inevitable soon. His last four results are 20th at the Masters, 13th at New Orleans, 5th at Quail Hollow and 2nd at Sawgrass; a series of improving results against top-class opposition. I often rated Poulter a decent bet when he was a Euro Tour regular, because he was such a good finisher and reliable under pressure. Having resisted his PGA Tour claims for a while, now could be the time to strike.
Another ‘winner waiting to happen’ is DAVID TOMS. Very few players have been driving straighter than Toms this year, who has ranked in the top-10 for accuracy in nine of his eleven starts. After a couple of years in the wilderness, Toms has returned to somewhere near his major-winning best, as five top-10s illustrate. His last effort, in 9th place, was actually his best ever Sawgrass result in well over a decade of trying, and could easily have been much better without a couple of terrible holes. He hasn’t played in this event for five years, but registered some excellent results previously. Between 2000 and 2003, his finishes at Las Colinas were 20th, 11th, 4th and 6th.
Again, bang in form CHARLEY HOFFMAN looks worth persisting with until an overdue second title arrives. We may have lost a few quid on him last week, but 9th was hardly a disaster and in reality an excellent final result after starting slowly. Particularly eyecatching is the fact that Hoffman made the top-8 in both 2006 and 2008, as he has vastly improved this season.