US BANK CHAMPIONSHIP
For those of us looking forward to watching around 11 hours of live coverage from Turnberry every day this weekend, its going to be hard to retain enough mental stamina to switch over to Eurosport afterwards for another three hours of live golf. Nevertheless, the US Bank Championship carries full PGA Tour status, and may yet take on extra importance come Sunday night if there are losses to chase!
Naturally, without the stars this has a second division feel to it, but at least we have plenty of previous form to study. That form does offer some clear pointers, the most obvious of which is to keep stakes pretty small. Since Kenny Perry in 2003, the only champion at Brown Deer Park who wasn’t an outsider was 40/1 chance Ben Crane in 2005. Experienced players tend to thrive around this par-70, which strangely has five par-3s and three par-5s, and driving distance is basically irrelevant compared to the importance of hitting narrow fairways.
Not very many players stand out on recent form, and those that do are priced accordingly. So while I could make a case for the likes of Kevin Streelman, (top-11 on his last two starts), or Sunday’s runner-up Brett Quigley, neither exactly scream value at their respective odds of 28/1 and 40/1 given their long winless runs on the PGA Tour. That pair were amongst a shortlist of around 15 that emerged from my weekly study of the key stats and course form, but ultimately there wasn’t that much competition for the five final places in the staking plan.
Local favourite Jerry Kelly heads the market at 22/1, and must have a solid chance. He hasn’t played this event for three years, but previously built up a good course record. Kelly has seven top-15s to his name on the course, including three top-3s. For a while, he looked like giving us a run for our money last week before getting left behind in the weekend birdie-fest, but it was a decent enough effort with plenty of fairways hit as usual. I’m sure he’ll register another high finish in his home state, but the history of this event warns against backing the favourite.
The other interesting one amongst the market leaders is Mark Wilson, having finished 9th and 19th in the last two years at Brown Deer Park. Wilson also scored better across this week’s key stats than any of his rivals, and very nearly made the staking plan. The only negative is that he seems slightly under-priced as a reaction to finishing 3rd behind Tiger Woods and Furyk at last month’s Memorial Tournament, but is still respected nonetheless.
Its interesting to see JOHN MALLINGER at a bigger price than that pair, because its only three events since he was being backed down to relatively short odds for that Memorial Tournament. That mini-plunge, down to around the same level as the likes of much classier players like KJ Choi or Stewart Cink, was a reaction to three top-6 finishes in a short space of time, most impressively when 3rd at Sawgrass. He hasn’t maintained that level of form, which is hardly a surprise, but remains a very strong candidate at this much lower level. Mallinger generally hits it pretty straight and putts well, the ideal combination for Brown Deer Park, and finished an encouraging 13th on his 2007 course debut.