This will be the third renewal of the Puerto Rico Open, and if the first two are anything to go by, punters should tread very cautiously. Shorn of all the qualifiers for the WGC event at Doral, a second division affair was always expected, but I’m not sure just how low grade a tournament could get before I’d even consider backing Michael Bradley or Greg Kraft.
Both of those former champions were available at 200/1 or more pre-tournament, and concern that we’ll see a similar result is reflected in my cheaper than usual staking plan. The withdrawals of two of my initial fancies, Fredrik Jacobsen and Bo Van Pelt, also reduces the outlay.
Course and stats
The Trump International is a long par 72 at over 7,500 yards, but not especially difficult, producing the same -14 winning total on both occasions. Examination of the players to make the frame points towards accurate, experienced types such as Bart Bryant and Jerry Kelly, and both winners were well into their forties.
The key stats in previous renewals were scrambling and par-3 performance, and perhaps the most important factor this week will be an ability to cope with extreme heat and humidity.
1pts ew JOHN MERRICK @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
Merrick’s recent form figures are nothing to write home about, but he was in contention with a round to play on his penultimate start at Scottsdale. He drives it long and pretty straight, and has twice made the top-ten in a Major. Those driving assets might explain why he’s made the top 15 in both previous Puerto Rico Opens.
1pt ew TOM PERNICE @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
He may not be anywhere near the huge prices of Kraft and Bradley, but a first PGA Tour win in nine years from 50 year-old Pernice would represent more of the same. He seems to have found a new lease of life since starting out on the Champions Tour, on which he won last September. Pernice has made his last six cuts on the PGA Tour, including four top-25 finishes. That’s a good enough standard to be competitive here.
De Jonge’s weekend performance at PGA National, shooting 67/68 in tough scoring conditions, marks him down as a plausible candidate. He also played well for the first three rounds at the most recent ‘alternative’ event during a WGC week, before falling back on the final day of the Mayakoba Classic. Impressive on the 2008 Nationwide Tour, De Jonge has taken a while to make his mark at the higher level, but its still early days and his best golf is competitive in this grade.
Again with a view towards picking experienced outsiders, there are worse 100/1 chances than Tommy. It’s only a couple of years since Armour was registering fairly frequent top-ten finishes on the PGA Tour, including top threes in big summer events at River Highlands and Congressional. He’s another newcomer on the Champions Tour, and opened his seniors career with second place last month. Armour’s sole previous visit to Trump International resulted in sixth place.
2010 STATS: +1pt