When the last scheduled PGA Tour event, the Viking Classic, became the first to be abandoned in well over a decade, it wasn’t just followers of this column left cursing the lack of a late opportunity to salvage something from a disappointing year. Imagine the frustration of the players outside the top 125 on the money list, whose chances of retaining their playing rights for 2010 halved without hitting a single ball. Consequently, this week’s represents last chance saloon for a group of players that include former winners such as Chris Riley, Carl Pettersson, Chris Dimarco and Tim Herron.
Still, hope springs eternal, especially when considering some quite astonishing statistics. Eight of the last nine players to win a Fall Series event began that series outside the top 125. Last time at the Frys.com Open, all three play-off candidates were below the cut line. Furthermore, given the history of this event, there’s every chance of another triple-figure-priced winner.
The Disney resorts of Palm and Magnolia have been hosting a regular end of season fixture for decades, and nothing has changed significantly. This is pure target golf, with low scores guaranteed, so anyone with a cold putter might as well forget it. That doesn’t bode well for the likes of Pettersson and Dimarco, though I shall get to some of those money list strugglers in due course.
There’s also very little reason to support the favourites, whose chances are always diminished in an event like this and who have far less motivation. That’s not to argue with the claims built up over a season or more by the likes of Zach Johnson, Justin Leonard or David Toms, who could all easily win. Nor for that matter Justin Rose, who has found some late season form and should be itching for a first PGA Tour title, or the quite sensational prospect Rickie Fowler. But given the general profile of winners at the Disney courses; six of the last nine started at 100/1 or more; I’d have to be very confident to take less than 25/1 about anybody.
Instead, the minimum price of my six selections is 40/1. At those odds, BEN CRANE gets the nod to improve on a surprisingly moderate performance around these Disney courses. He did finish a promising 18th on his debut back in 2003 but has missed the top 50 four times since. That seems very strange for such an excellent putter, but I think the explanation may lie in Crane’s long struggles with injury in the meantime. As this event is always late in the schedule, there’s a good chance Crane has been playing in pain, chasing some late-season cash in some of those years. He seems to be over the worst now though, and rates a strong candidate on target golf courses. Form is excellent too, with 11 consecutive sub-70 rounds to his name.