For the penultimate event of the 2009 season, the PGA Tour returns to a long-established venue at Annandale GC, Mississipi. This course used to host the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, before becoming the Viking Classic in 2007. A quick glance at the rollcall of former winners might leave the impression that this is an outsiders’ course, but that isn’t entirely accurate. Because this used to be a second-division affair, played during the same week as a WGC event, champions like John Huston and Fred Funk (twice) were actually pretty obvious.
Funk’s dual appearance on that list tells us everything we need to know about this course. The shortest, straightest driver on the Tour never found his lack of distance a handicap around this easy track, and thrived due to the emphasis on accurate iron play. Scoring is usually very low at Annandale, so a hot putter is also required. Normally in such circumstances, there is a temptation to back outsiders as clearly there are dozens of potential winners. However, this must also be balanced against the fact that we have a vast bank of previous course form to study, and numerous players seem to go well year in, year out.
Having said that, 16/1 about the favourite Chad Campbell is simply too short, even if his course credentials are beyond doubt. Chad’s three results at Annandale are second, fourth and first, and having finished runner-up on his penultimate start, he looks a rock-solid candidate. For all of that though, we also need to balance the fact that Campbell hadn’t registered a single top ten between that penultimate effort and the Masters way back in April. Hardly the form of a hot favourite.
Similarly, it would be easy to make a case for numerous candidates between 20/1 and 40/1. David Toms thoroughly deserves a title for his resurgent 2009 efforts, and takes the eye having finished eighth here during an otherwise miserable 2008. On the basis of his six top-six finishes in 2009, not to mention his wider pedigree at the highest level, Toms has his own claims to favouritism. Again though, 20/1 about someone who hasn’t made a top ten since June makes no appeal.

Golf betting: Volvo World Match Play bets

Tthen there’s Brandt Snedeker, one of the best players during the second half of this season, and long overdue a second title. My concern with Snedeker is strong evidence of ‘bottle’ troubles, and a general suspicion that he is seen to best effect on tough, championship courses. And if we were looking purely at recent form, then Matt Kuchar would have to come into the argument, but he needs to vastly improve on a course record that shows six consecutive missed cuts if he is to justify skinny odds of 25/1.
Any analysis must also include young Rickie Fowler, who has made an explosive impression in his first couple of PGA Tour events. Only Woods and Mickelson won on the PGA Tour at this age, so the fact that Fowler starts joint third favourite here reveals just how highly he is rated. Whatever his enormous potential, those odds are quite ridiculous given his inexperience.
The bookies aren’t giving much away about another rising star, MICHAEL SIM, but such is his relentless good form on the Nationwide Tour that I’m prepared to take a chance at 25/1. Sim’s stats at the lower level are quite outstanding, and he registered another top finish when second at last weekend’s Tour Championship. Virtually every week, he is near the head of the accuracy, greens in regulation and putting stats, and looks bound to make his mark on the PGA Tour before long. It may be that we have to wait until the Australian season to capitalise on Sim, but Annandale would appear to also be a good set-up for him. Notably, Sim played here in 2007 and finished a not-too- distant 22nd, which would have been much better without one very bad round. Clearly he’s improved leaps and bounds since then.
Given his previous course record, BO VAN PELT looks a likely candidate, even if again the bookies are loathe to give anything away. Bo’s record here is excellent, finishing fifth, fifth, eighth and 22nd in the last four years. Furthermore, his recent form is solid, with top 15s at Cog Hill and Atunyote, plus four rounds of 68 or better last week. Odds of 28/1 about a player with just one victory from well over a hundred PGA Tour starts seems like poor value, though now he’s broken his duck with that victory in the US Bank Championship, there may well be more to come. And in fairness, Bo held his nerve extremely well on that July evening, suggesting he may have finally conquered his demons in that critical department.
JONATHAN BYRD is another with excellent Annandale credentials, finishing fifth, eighth and 17th on his three visits between 2002 and 2005. As he always seems to make a stack of birdies, he can be expected to thrive most years on this layout. Byrd certainly looks well up to winning a fourth PGA Tour title on the balance of this year’s form, which has yielded ten top 25s, including top fives in elite company at the Memorial and Quail Hollow.

Golf betting guide: Barclays Singapore Open betting

With top fours on both his previous visits and a series of top 25s recently, Bill Haas was on the initial shortlist. However his odds have shortened as punters eyed these course credentials, and at 28/1, this non-winner is another who is simply too short. Heath Slocum, winner in 2005, comes into the argument on that basis plus the fact he topped the greens in regulation stats at Grayhawk over the weekend. I can’t help but feel though that Slocum has used up his rare winning turn when stunning the world’s best at the Barclays.
In such an open contest, it would be folly to stick just with those at the top end of the market, and there are numerous candidates at big prices who it’s possible to make a case for. Both Fall Series events so far have gone to players outside the top 125, maintaining a clear trend that was also evident in 2008. Amongst those in need of a big week to retain their playing privileges are multiple PGA Tour winners Carl Pettersson, Tim Herron and Chris Dimarco. The first and last of that trio have both finished runner-up here before.
Another just outside the mark who took the eye at the weekend was Nicholas Thompson, although his two previous Annandale efforts left much to be desired. Though either would represent another monumental shock in a season where such things have become normal, a case could also be made for Chez Reavie, winner of the 2008 Canadian Open, or Bob Heintz, who has finished second and third in the putting stats in his last two events. The latter, though never a winner, has twice made the top 20 here and could be worth a look in speciality markets.
Instead, I’m going for RYAN PALMER, twice a winner at this level and runner-up in this tournament back in 2004. It is almost a year to the day since Palmer dramatically saved his Tour card by winning the Ginn Sur Mer Classic, and he heads to Annandale in need of a repeat. That shows he has the temperament to produce the goods under pressure, and as a frequent leader in the birdie average stats, this course will always suit his talents.
Finally, given that I’ve long felt this was the type of course where he would land his breakthrough win, I must back JOHN MALLINGER on his Annandale debut. A short, straight hitter with a generally hot putter, Mallinger should love this test, and even if the figures don’t quite match the rhetoric, he’s playing well enough to win. Four of his eight rounds over the past fortnight have been 68 or better, including a 62 at Summerlin. As for his 80/1 price tag, consider the following. Back in July, we backed Mallinger at 33/1, when he lost a play-off to Bo Van Pelt who was the same price. This week, we’re backing Van Pelt again, at just over a third of Mallinger’s odds.
2pts ew MICHAEL SIM @ 25/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew BO VAN PELT @ 28/1 (GENERAL, 30/1 BET365)
0.5pt ew RYAN PALMER @ 100/1 (GENERAL, 110/1 STAN JAMES)

2.5pts ew ANTHONY KIM @ 14/1 (GENERAL)
2.5pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 14/1 (GENERAL, 16/1 LADBROKES)

3pts ew ERNIE ELS @ 16/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew CHAPCHAI NIRAT @ 66/1 (GENERAL, 80/1 TOTE)
0.5pt ew PETER LAWRIE @ 150/1 (GENERAL)


2.5pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 20/1
2.5pts ew PAUL CASEY @ 20/1
6pts win PAUL CASEY @ 8/1
1.5pts ew OLIVER WILSON @ 33/1

2008/2009 STATS: -273pts
2007/2008 STATS: +618pts

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