Vijay Singh has won here before, and may be on the verge of returning to form if 9th at Sawgrass is anything to go by. I toyed long and hard with backing the prolific Fijian this week, before overlooking him on the basis that his overall course record here is less impressive than most places. Robert Allenby is another plausible candidate having twice made the top-10, certainly more so than compatriots Scott or Stuart Appleby, who has a best of just 27th here.
At first glance, this short course should suit Justin Leonard, but his course record suggests otherwise. In thirteen visits, he’s only twice made the top-10. Nevertheless, thats superior to the records of Mike Weir, who hasn’t made a single top-10 in seven tries, or Hunter Mahan, whose course best from five is a miserable 42nd place. Even if he were suited, Antony Kim would be unbackable on the basis of some very poor recent form.
‘First reserve’ in the staking plan was Sawgrass 5th Ben Crane. He was runner-up on his course debut back in 2002, and while he’s done nothing special here since, much of that may be possible to overlook because of repeated injury concerns. Crane looks fully recovered now and should be winning again before long. Similarly Kevin Na, who made his fourth top-5 of the season at Sawgrass, looks an imminent winner, and would appear to have the right credentials for Las Colinas. However, I do have reservations over Na’s temperament when in contention.
That pair were just pipped by the man I’m backing to become the first ever multiple Byron Nelson winner, SCOTT VERPLANK. Quite simply, 40/1 is a massive price given his course record. Including that win in 2007, Verplank has four top-6 finishes here this century. Its no coincidence that he is always amongst the straightest drivers on the tour. Recent form is decent, having made his last nine cuts with 4th at Bay Hill the best result, and given ideal conditions looks likely to challenge for the places again at least.
As for the rest, the form candidate may be England’s Brian Davis after consecutive top-5 finishes. His case is strengthened by an 8th placed finish here in 2006, but I can’t help but feel he has been operating at an unsustainable absolute peak, a fact comfortably reflected in the odds. Charlie Wi, a selection last week and very consistent for months, deserves a strong mention after finishing 7th last year. Equally, Rory Sabbatini is not out of it on the basis of 3rd in 2007, though that was his only decent finish in ten Las Colinas starts.
Finally, a small each-way bet on rookie JEFF KLAUK. With four top-20s to his name already, including 4th place in the Honda Classic, he looks to have done enough to retain full playing privileges for next year. 14th at Sawgrass was a fine effort, if not entirely unpredictable given his family links with the course. He’ll have no such advantage on his Las Colinas debut, but it must bode well that Klauk has repeatedly ranked amongst the most accurate drivers all season.
Good Luck!