WHEN Jason Dufner won 12 months ago he was ranked 25th for Greens In Regulation but that looks an anomaly.
All the other winners at this venue have ranked inside the top 10 for greens hit. The other stat to examine closely is Par 5 Performance – the worst any winner here has ranked is 18th (Jason Bohn) and four of the top-five last year played the long holes in double digits under par.
TPC Louisiana might be a place to break your PGA Tour duck, as 10 of the last 19, and five of the last eight winners, were all winning their first event.
Finding the type of player to succeed here isn’t easy – the list of winners is quite confusing. Big-hitters Andres Romero, Nick Watney and Bubba Watson have all prospered but so too have Tim Petrovic, Jason Bohn and Jerry Kelly, players not known for the length by any means and last year’s winner, Dufner, fits in-between the two.
With the last four winners all in front by halfway, this looks like another event to concentrate on the early pacesetters.
Andres Romero came from a country mile back (73rd after round one) in 2008 but the last four winners have all been up there all the way.
Dufner, having ended day one tied for 7th and two off the lead, hit the front at halfway, Watson and Bohn, in 2011 and 2010, both won wire-to-wire and Kelly, like Dufner, had hit the front by halfway in 2009.
In an open-looking affair, Justin Rose heads the market at 14.5. Although winless in 2013, the Englishman has been in fine fettle and sooner or later the odds are he’ll knock down the door he’s been hammering on.
He went to Augusta on the back of three straight top-10s on the PGA Tour and contended there too before his challenge disintegrated over the weekend.
There has to be a concern that that has left its mark and given tied 10th is the best he’s mustered here from five starts, I’m more than happy to leave him out.
The last two winners of the event, Dufner and Bubba, are vying for second favouritism but both look a shade too short to me.
It’s never easy defending a title and defending your first one is probably doubly so. Although he has, by some distance, the best course form on display, with figures that read 44-9-7-3-1, I can see Dufner struggling a bit this week. Not only does he have the pressure of defending he isn’t in tip-top form at present either.
Bubba finished tied for 18tha year ago and that was a fantastic effort given the circumstances. He wasn’t just attempting to defend this title, he was also attempting to win back-to-back tournaments and the first one was quite a biggy – the US Masters! I can’t take the plunge at less than 20.0 before the off but I will be keeping a close eye on him in-running.
The only other two players trading at less than 30.0 are Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler and as they nearly always appear to me, they both look way too short.
Given their strong record in the event, I’ll be concentrating my efforts on the early pace-setters but have picked out three before the off.
I’m a huge fan of Graham DeLaet and I’ve backed him a number of times but not recently. With his form far more consistent this season, the days of getting huge prices about the Canadian look gone for now but his missed cut last week at the Heritage, at a venue I wouldn’t have thought suited, looks to have given us a chance.
DeLaet is the only man in the field who ranks in the top-10 for the two stats that count – GIR and Par 5 Performance. He played alongside Dufner in the final group on Sunday last year but dropped down to a tie for fourth. As stated above, maidens have a decent record at this tournament, could Graham be the next one to break his PGA Tour duck here?
I backed Rory Sabbatini last week when he finished inside the top 10 at Hilton Head and I’ve done so again this. He was a bit of a stab in the dark at the Heritage and was priced up accordingly. If I’m honest I had to talk myself into taking 85.0 this week after backing him at 280.0 last but he showed plenty at Hilton Head and I couldn’t let him go un-backed.
He was runner-up here behind Jerry Kelly in 2009 and he ranked 2nd for greens hit last week. You never quite know what you’re going to get with Sabba but he’s a multiple winner who’s not frightened of winning and when he’s on song he’s a man I want onside.
Boo Weekley was all the rage last week as he attempted to win his third Heritage title – gambled down to a far too-short price in the 30.0s. Tied 42nd wasn’t a great effort, thanks mainly to some poor scrambling and a cold putter and he has a mixed record here with form figures reading MC-13-10-MC but I thought he was worth chancing at a big price.
Currently ranked 6th for GIR and 13th for par 5 performance, like DeLaet, he ticks the right stats boxes boldly and with less pressure than last week, I can see him getting involved.
Rory Sabbatini @ 85.0
Graham DeLaet @ 85.0
Boo Weekley @ 90.0
ZURICH CLASSIC 3 BALL TIP
The three-ball that immediately stands out is the all-American trio of former winners – Watson, Dufner and Watney – and the price that stands out is that of outsider.
There’s not much between the trio’s recent form but Watney performed best at the Masters, finishing with a wet sail to claim 13th place. Jason Dufner has been in the top 10 here each of the last three years and is the clear dangerman.
Stuart Appleby is another player with good course form, he finished sixth in 2010 and has an average score of 69.75 for eight rounds around TPC Louisiana. “Apples” has posted his best two finishes of the season in his last two outings (46th and 35th).
The Australian is priced up as the outsider of his three-ball with Rory Sabbatini and Johnson Wagner and is worth a small investment.
Josh Teater’s course form is slightly better than that of three-ball opponent Jimmy Walker. Teater is having a similar season to the three-ball favourite, sitting alongside the consistent Walker in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings.
Both have enjoyed a good start to the season but Teater looks to have been underrated by the bookmakers. James Driscoll makes up the three-ball.
Back Nick Watney @ 3.1
Back Stuart Appleby @ 3.1
Back Josh Teater @ 2.87