2.5pts ew RYAN MOORE @ 22/1 (CORAL, STAN JAMES)
Since winning his maiden title at last August’s Wyndham Championship, Moore has entered many a notebook as a player to follow in 2010. It’s important to remember that this once very highly touted prospect is still only 27, and entering only his fifth year as a professional. While Woods, McIlroy and co have raised the bar in terms of expectations for young players, the fact remains that most don’t peak at least until their thirties.
Right now, Moore is a model of consistency and something of a birdie machine. His last four starts have produced no finish worse than eighth, including an excellent third behind Mickelson and Els in a WGC event.
Not unlike Moore, Kuchar is another who is belatedly beginning to fulfil the vast promise shown as an amateur. Prior to last week’s surprising missed cut, Kuchar’s previous six starts had all produced top 20s, including a win in the Turning Stone Resort Championship and third place behind Ogilvy in the season-opener at Kapalua. As a very straight hitter and superb putter, Matt fits the identikit profile of a Bob Hope Classic champion. Nobody on the PGA Tour has a superior birdie average over the past three months.
1.5pts ew CHARLEY HOFFMAN @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
Hoffman is a more complete player than when winning this title three years ago. His two results here since have been perfectly respectable, both inside the top 20, confirming how much he enjoys these easy set-ups. Besides that excellent event form, it bodes well that Hoffman’s best golf always seems to come during this opening ‘West Coast Swing” stage of the PGA Tour.
1pt ew BEN CRANE @ 66/1 (GENERAL, 70/1 SKYBET, 80/1 EXTRABET)
Crane’s strength is his putting, and for that reason he’s always struck me as a plausible winner of this event. He’s enjoyed a degree of success in it already, finishing fifth in 2004 and never missing a cut. The key fact always to consider when assessing Ben’s previous results is that he was often plagued with injury during the past decade. Happily, those problems seem behind him and 2009 saw a significant improvement on the previous three years. A third PGA Tour title could be around the corner.
Again, this is not the first time I’ve backed Mallinger in this event, because putting and birdie accumulation are clearly his forte. Last year he went well for a long way, holding an outside chance before a couple of disaster holes sent him back to 25th. Mallinger had some memorable moments in 2009, particularly when finishing third in the ‘Fifth Major’ at Sawgrass and losing a play-off for the US Bank Championship. He looks a good value outside bet to land his maiden title.