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I don’t know about you, but I thought the Barclays at Plainfield took PGA Tour golf to a new low. Plainfield at sub 7,000 yards was way too easy for these professionals and, in turn, the tournament turned into 54 holes of target practice. Poor fare that the Americans may thrive on, but I prefer to see harder tests especially at the business end of a season, after all each tournament has $8,000,000 up for grabs.
However, despite my chastising, there won’t be any change this week at TPC Boston! Fact is that this 7,300 yard Par 71 is again one of the easiest PGA Tour tournament venues on the calendar and the annual visit to Massachusetts has gleaned winning totals of -22, -19, -17 and -22 in the past 4 visits. If you ain’t making birdies you are going to miss the cut. This year the Palmer original design features bent greens which have been softened even more by Hurricane Irene and although the course drains well, the receptive greens again will play into the hands of the final 100 players who have qualified for the second knock out round of the FedEx Cup. Turkey shoot!
The winners list from recent events is interesting with Stricker (TPC Deere Run/Colonial), Singh (Firestone/Ridgwood), Mickelson (Pebble Beach/TPC Sawgrass) and Woods (way too many to list) establishing a multi-tournament winning pattern prior to Charley Hoffman’s “shock” 125/1 victory last year. Hoffman blew that pattern totally out of the window but interestingly he came into the event with decent form including a Top 5 in Canada and Top 10s at Deere Run and Turning Stone.
So who to pick? Well firstly I’m staying away from course virgins, who in my opinion won’t have the course knowledge first time out to get the job done; so that rules out a number of “names” such as Bradley, Gainey, Kirk, McDowell, Schwartzel, Stallings, Stanley, Steele, Tringale, Vegas and Woodland. I’m also adamant that the winner will have experience of getting the job done on Tour so goodbye to non winners like Barnes, Davis, Dufner, Fowler, Leishman, Levin plus Marino, Overton, Streelman and Wi.
Instead I’m going for proven winners, who need a result to further their ambitions both in terms of the FedEx Cup but also Presidents Cup:
I’m staying loyal to Jason Day for the second week on the basis that he’s in such great touch that he has to win soon……a little like Webb Simpson. Day, who could only shoot (tongue firmly in-cheek) 67-68-66 on his way to 13th last week, has a non-Major form line of 13-4-68-5. This bent green “monster” amazingly sits only 15th in the FedEx Cup so is by no means guaranteed a place in the season ending Tour Championship. And his 19th (09) and 2nd (10) place finishes show that the Texas resident likes the TPC Boston set-up where attacking golf is a must. I’m also attracted to the World Number 10 on the basis of his decent record at Deere Run, Colonial and Houston allied to the fact that he sits 11th in Birdie Average and 9th in Birdie Conversion on Tour in 2011. RESULT: T3
Let’s keep things very much antipodean (and why not with Adam Scott, Jason Day and Geoff Ogilvy having all excelled in Boston) and plump for Aaron Baddeley. Although not in the same league as his much vaunted Australian colleagues, Baddeley has had a breakthrough 2011 after 2 seasons of dross. His attacking game that ranks him 6th in both Birdie Average and Par Breaker and 5th in Bounce Back this season theoretically makes him a decent shout for TPC Boston. Look at his record and sure enough you see a 5th in 2007 and 7th in 2006 before his game went into meltdown. His breakthrough 2011 was based upon his great win at Riviera, but the mark of a decent player is how he performs after a win and Baddeley has since delivered 4th at Houston, 6th at TPC Sawgrass and most interestingly his last 3 non-Major results have been 24th at River Highlands, 11th at Firestone and 13th last week in New Jersey. Aaron also sits 14th in the Presidents Cup Rankings having slipped just behind Vijay Singh. Top 10 qualify automatically and Baddeley certainly isn’t guaranteed a Captain’s Pick from Greg Norman so I’m expecting a great contending performance from the Melbourne boy who will be desperate to make the team at Royal Melbourne. RESULT: T77
This week is the last chance to grab the Ladbrokes £50 account opening offer and as well as Baddeley Ladbrokes are offering a market leading price on resort course “monster” Zach Johnson who I love the look of this week for a number of reasons. Johnson is guaranteed a spot in the FedEx Cup Top 70 for Cog Hill, but his current 40th spot means he needs to perform quickly to grab a Top 30 spot for the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Johnson’s motivation will also be high on the basis that he currently sits 16th in the Presidents Cup rankings and this stalwart of 4 of the past 5 Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams needs to finish Top 10 to guarantee a spot, with Tiger Woods already grabbing one of Freddie’s captain’s picks and Furyk, Snedeker and Fowler also sitting outside the Top 10. Zach, who is comfortable on Bent as he is Bermuda greens, has already finished 6th at Quail, 4th at Colonial and 3rd at Deere Run all on Bent and the Sea Island resident loves shooting low scores on reachable tracks. 4 Top 30 results in 5 appearances in Boston highlight a player who will enter this week comfortable with the course and Zach knows he needs to make inroads to get anything out of 2011. RESULT: T16
Quality often rises to the top of the standings during the 4 weeks of the play-offs and from being absolutely nowhere a 4th at Sedgefield and 3rd at Plainfield have promoted Vijay Singh into the FedEx Cup Top 10 and in all likelihood The President’s Cup team - after all if Vijay doesn‘t make the Top 10 automatic places it would take a brave decision from Greg Norman not to pick the big Fijian. Pain-free at last, Singh has started to find his unbelievable tee-to-green game that delivers 75-80% Greens in Regulation. When you hit that many greens it’s hard not to relax the putting stroke and convert a number of putts and it’s interesting to see that Vijay’s much maligned putting game actually supports a position within the Top 20 of birdie makers in 2011. Fact is, when Singh plays well from tee-to-green he can shoot crazily low scores as 2nd this season at Scottsdale and wins at Sedgefield, Kapalua, Warwick Hills, English Turn, Nemacolin and TPC Boston highlight. Singh has always been a tournament momentum player so expect another decent showing from a genuine class act who hasn’t won since his win here in 2008. RESULT: M/C
3 MCs on his last 3 visits doesn’t fill you with enthusiasm when you first look at Rory Sabbatini and TPC Boston. However 2011 has been a decent year for Mr Controversial and he currently sits in 20th place in the FedEx standings and one more decent result gets him into the Tour Championship for the first time since 2007. 21st on Tour for Birdie Average, Sabba shook the rust off his game by finishing 18th last week with 3 solid rounds of 68-66-68, and it’s not as if he can’t play well at TPC Boston either where he finished 6th on debut in 2007. Indeed 5th (2010) at Ridgwood, 12th and 8th (2009/10) at Turning Stone and 2nd and 3rd (2004/07) at Westchester highlight a player who is mightily comfortable on North Eastern Bent carpeted golf courses. Add to that a great record at Riviera, TPC Avenel, Quail, Colonial and TPC Four Seasons and I’m starting to see a player who adds real value to this week’s portfolio. RESULT: T68
Another horses for courses type of player who thrives on low scoring Bent carpeted courses. 150/1 seems a little generous for a player who finished 4th at the PGA Championship a couple of week’s back! He also finished a decent 14th at the stern Bent test of Old White TPC at the Greenbrier in late July. Verplank, who sits 86th in the FedEx standings, either plays well this week or goes home and he has previous at low scoring tournaments as 2nd (-17) this season at Houston, 2nd (-14) River Highlands in 2010, 3rd at Disney (-20) in 2008 and 4th (-19) at Warwick Hills in 2006 highlight. Tellingly he also finished a “shock” 2nd here (-16) at the re-modelled TPC Boston in 2009 which booked his ticket to the Tour Championship that season. 4 of his 5 PGA Tour wins at Warwick Hills, TPC Four Seasons, Royal Montreal and Cog Hill all have positive attributes and highlight that Verplank can not only play well on Bent greens but point out that he can deliver on Northern state courses. Like Sabbatini a great each way punt for a Top 5. RESULT: W/D
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:00BST 30.8.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation