In contrast, short and straight-hitting, experienced American BRIAN GAY very much is. After a remarkable 10-shot victory in the Heritage Classic, Gay picked up an injury and only really returned to that sort of form in his most recent round at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, shooting 64. Assuming all is now well again, he must rate a strong candidate on a course where he reached the top-5 in both 2004 and 2007.
Around the turn of the century, BOB ESTES had a course record that would rival Toms and Leonard. Between 1998 and 2005, Estes made five top-10s including a win in 2001. Last year, he was a respectable 13th and on balance, his 2009 form is superior. Four of Estes‘ last eight starts have produced top-20s, which may not be that special in the grand scheme of things, but still bode well now he’s faced with what must be his favourite track.
Another American with the ideal profile is Scott Verplank, who has four consecutive top-20s at Southwind. Robert Allenby also has a decent course record, with last year’s 2nd his fourth top-20 in six visits. Despite a lack of very recent form, the Australian is bound to be there or thereabouts in what is his home state when in the US.
Ben Crane is overdue a win and also respected, having finished 6th in 2003. Perhaps the best European chance could lie with Fredrik Jacobsen, who has three top-6s to his name on this course. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was last seen on a golf course withdrawing injured at Sawgrass, Boo Weekley may well have been a selection.
The one non-American in the staking plan is JOHN SENDEN, a player who is always worth considering when accuracy is the order of the day. He’s made his last six cuts, and posted consecutive top-20s in Texas last month. Senden has already built a respectable record at Southwind, with three top-20s from six tries, and a best of 9th in 2006.
Several outsiders were only discarded at the final stage of the elimination process, including Texas Open 3rd Paul Goydos and Will Mackenzie, who played well to make the top-10 in the highest company last week. Matt Kuchar also played out of his skin to make the top-5 behind Tiger Woods at the Memorial, and should appreciate this test, but his odds have shortened markedly as a result.
Instead, I’ve opted for a couple of 150/1 shots for small stakes, SCOTT MCCARRON and TIM PETROVIC. McCarron is driving the ball very straight at the moment, and his profile rather reminds me of previous event winners Maggert and Austin. Scott has been in decent form lately, finishing 4th at the Byron Nelson Championship on his penultimate start, and showed a liking for Southwind when 3rd in 2001.
Petrovic‘s form during April and May was very consistent, but a few bad results have seen his odds drift considerably. Bearing in mind that he’d looked a very plausible winner during that recent spell, Tim may be worth a small interest back on a course where he’s already finished 2nd in 2002.
Good Luck!