See my Volvo Masters betting guide
GINN SUR MER CLASSIC
1.5pts ew JB HOLMES @ 35/1 (STAN JAMES, CORAL, BETDIRECT)
1.5pts ew GEORGE MCNEILL @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
1.5pts ew STEVE ALLAN @ 40/1 (50/1 STAN JAMES, BETDIRECT)
1pt ew ROBERT GARRIGUS @ 66/1 (STAN JAMES, CENTREBET, BETDIRECT)
1pt ew TROY MATTESON @ 80/1 (STAN JAMES, CENTREBET, CORAL, BETDIRECT)
3pts ew IAN POULTER @ 16/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
3pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 18/1 (BETFRED, BOYLESPORTS, VCBET, SPORTINGBET)
3pts ew LEE WESTWOOD @ 18/1 (BETFRED, BOYLESPORTS, VCBET, PAGEBET)
1.5pts ew JEEV-MILKHA SINGH @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
1.5pts ew PETER HANSON @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
2007/2008 STATS: +625pts
GINN SUR MER CLASSIC
For the penultimate event of the PGA Tour season, we are faced with what appears to be another lottery in keeping with recent results. All five of the Fall Series winners to date started the week in 125th place or worse on the Money List, the crucial cut-line in determining 2009 playing rights. The lowest priced winner was Zach Johnson at a mere 50/1, with all the others well over 100/1.
Our task is not helped by the fact that the Ginn Sur Mer Classic is hosted on a new course with no previous tournament form. There is a strong hint with the set-up though, as the Conservatory at Hammock Beach is over 7,600 yards with little in the way of penal rough. Everything would seem to point to another low-scoring putting contest, with the longest hitters enjoying a significant advantage.
Its easy to make a case for several market leaders on form grounds, if less so when it comes to value. Zach Johnson heads affairs after winning in Texas and following up with a top-10 at Summerlin, firing in a barrage of birdies in the process. He is now, however, less than a third of the odds we got in Texas, and will have to overcome a massive disadvantage as one of the shortest hitters in the field.
There’s no worries from Davis Love on the driving distance score. He has been hitting the ball a country mile in recent weeks in what has been a successful campaign to turn his season around and retain his card. Again though, his odds have tumbled accordingly, in this week to a skinny 20/1, and there must be a slight concern that he might take the foot off the gas now the hard work of retaining his card has been done.
The likes of Carl Pettersson and Sean O’Hair are always worth considering at this level, while Charles Howell has the ideal course to suit his one-dimensional talents. Given the recent big-priced winners though, I’m loathe to back anyone at less than 33/1.
With a strong emphasis on driving distance expected, all of my five selections rank in the top-30 in that category amongst this field. Very few players on the planet ever outscore JB HOLMES in this department, and he looks very likely to go well on his first start since the Ryder Cup. In the main, Holmes is another pretty one-dimensional player, but this course looks tailor-made for him. And unlike so many others of a similar standard, JB is a proven winner who has shown the ability to hold his nerve out in front for two previous PGA Tour victories in the FBR Open.
As a long-hitter who scores highly in birdie average, GEORGE MCNEILL ticks all the right boxes. He blew a winning chance with a poor round in Sunday’s final group but can be forgiven as he’s proved his bottle before to win at this level. That was his third consecutive top-25, his best run since finishing 2nd at nearby Westin Innisbrook in March’s PODS Championship.
If the recent trend of winners coming from outside the top-125 is to be maintained, the likeliest candidate could be Australian STEVE ALLAN, who has found a rich vein of form at this late stage in the year. He achieved precisely nothing until the Fall Series, but in his four starts since he’s had three top-7s and a worst finish of 19th. The key to all of those has been very long driving and a prolific birdie conversion rate, so there’s every reason to think he’ll contend again.
This late season dash for cash also seems to be inspiring a response from ROBERT GARRIGUS. He was 3rd at Atunyote last month, and made another top-20 at the weekend, leaving him in 140th place on the money list. There’s still much to do, but he really couldn’t have asked for a more ideal set-up than this week’s Florida venue. Garrigus ranks 2nd in driving distance on the PGA Tour in 2008, and 1st for birdie average over the last three months.
All sorts of characters came in for consideration at big odds. Big-hitting, sometimes birdie machine Jason Gore has carried my money before this season and has apparently ideal conditions. Currently in 128th place on the money list, Scotland’s Martin Laird also tempts at up to 200/1 having responded so well to pressure in the Fedex Cup. Ryan Palmer has no recent form to speak of but has won in Florida before and has ideal scoring conditions. Huge-hitting Tag Ridings has always struck me as a potential shock winner on this type of course.
Instead, my final place in the staking plan goes to another player who has prospered in Florida before, TROY MATTESON. Troy has twice finished runner-up in the state before, and has tended to produce his best golf in the autumn. His sole PGA Tour win came in October 2006, during a run that transformed his ranking status. He fits all the right statistical criteria, and prior to last week’s missed cut had hinted another autumn resurgence with three consecutive top-30s.