More interesting is Brandt Snedeker, who was last seen driving this columnist up the wall. On the 72nd tee in the penultimate Fedex event, Snedeker needed a bogey to land an 80/1 place, and a double to make the top-10, (another bet I’d had), and the Tour Championship line-up. His three-putt from twelve feet for triple-bogey is still giving me nightmares now. It would be so typical of this frustrating season if Snedeker were to win now, and as long as that hasn’t affected him too badly he has a cracking chance. One must conclude from that disaster, however, that he is extremely vulnerable under pressure.
A larger number of players than usual were considered for selection, so before getting to those excluded, I’ll go through the selections. None start at less than 40/1, so just one place will ensure an overall profit.
RORY SABBATINI is never an easy player to get right, but he’s one of the most capable in this field and should enjoy the conditions on his Atunyote debut. He tends to thrive on low-scoring, long courses that he can attack, and has won around this time of year before. Sabbatini’s results since winning the Byron Nelson in May have been disappointing, but most were on unsuitable courses, and the consequence may be odds now that are too big given the fairly weak opposition and a decent career win ratio.
At the same 40/1 odds, JOHN ROLLINS must come into the argument as he’s already won on the course back in 2007. An interesting feature of Rollins’ season is how well he has performed in the ‘second division’ events without the biggest names. It’s only five starts since Rollins led all the way for victory in the Reno-Tahoe Open, and earlier he was second in the Mayakoba Classic when the top stars were involved in the World Matchplay.
The most interesting candidate in this field, and in my view the best value, is emerging star MICHAEL SIM. Having won his third Nationwide Tour event of the season last time out, the 24 year-old Australian is now a fully fledged PGA Tour member. That record can’t be argued with, and I doubt anybody else in this field would have bettered it were they playing on that lower, but competitive, tour. Sim has also played well in the US Open, and on earlier starts in decent company in his homeland. I have Sim very much in mind for the forthcoming Australian triple crown events, but he also looks a threat for the remainder of the US season.
In the first half of the season, CHARLEY HOFFMAN looked to have made significant strides forward and on the verge of a second PGA Tour victory. He did finish second at Scottsdale, but it didn’t quite happen and his standard over the summer dropped back slightly. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Hoffman bounced back during this Fall Series, and Atunyote looks the ideal venue. He finished fifth here on his only previous visit, and with its emphasis on driving distance it certainly appears to play to Hoffman’s strengths.
JONATHAN BYRD is another long-hitter who should enjoy this course, and looks a live contender on his Atunyote debut. It’s a couple of years since Byrd won his third PGA title; the last two of which came at low scoring venues against fields that lacked the big stars. Byrd’s 2009 form is fair enough, with a couple of top-5s in elite events and a further seven top-25s.
Now for some of the others that came in for consideration. Robert Allenby finished second last year, but was too short at 25/1 to warrant a bet given the nature of this wide-open affair and a long winless run. Big-hitter Charles Howell looks dangerous having finished third last year, but has done his reputation no favours on the last couple of occasions when he’s held a winning chance.
Bill Haas has been in excellent form, making the top-25 on his last five starts and made the top-10 here last year. Matthew Goggin’s last two results at Atunyote were third and fifth, while Jeff Overton’s were tenth and 12th. All three were overlooked on the basis that they were short enough considering their long term inability to win at this level, and the same applies to a lesser extent to last year’s third and another big-hitter, Robert Garrigus.
Ben Crane looks well up to winning another PGA title, and will be dangerous if he gets the putter going. And finally, the man who would be ‘first reserve’ should any of my five selections pull out, is Scotsman MARTIN LAIRD, who has a number of decent efforts to his name this summer.