A strong case could be made for a handful of other top-class contenders, not least former champions Mike Weir and Chad Campbell. Its notable though that both of their wins were hardly predictable, standing out amidst a series of other disappointing efforts in the event. As both are making their seasonal debuts in this relaxed affair, its quite a gamble that they will be ‘tournament ready’.
No such worries apply to JUSTIN LEONARD, a former winner who really is ideally suited to this low-scoring putting contest. Leonard’s 2005 triumph wasn’t his only good effort in the Bob Hope by any means; he was runner-up last year and also made the top-10 in 2002 and 2003. Bearing in mind that until 18 months ago, his form this century had been generally disappointing, that represents an excellent record. 5th place at the Mercedes a fortnight ago was a very encouraging seasonal debut, as that course is longer than ideal for him. It all points to Leonard retaining the excellent form consistently shown last autumn, and the Texan looks a rock-solid contender this week.
Another player to consistently display good form in the second half of 2008 was KEN DUKE, and there is plenty pointing towards a big run here. The keys to success in this event are straight driving to enable attacking approach play, and a hot putter to capitalise on the numerous birdie chances available. Duke is always pretty straight, and rates near the top of the putting and birdie stats. He missed only one cut after last May, twice finishing runner-up and adding a further six top-15s. The only downside is an appalling win ratio, with just one Nationwide Tour title to his name this century. However, at 50/1, we can afford to take a gamble that those numbers will improve soon.