The Second Division
Whilst the golfing world focuses on St Andrews for the Open Championship the PGA Tour second division rolls into the Reno Tahoe Open at Montreaux Golf and Country Club in Arizona. The course is a Par 72 Nicklaus Design, which at altitude isn’t as difficult length wise as its 7,472 yards suggest. Green construction is around bent grass and they run fast on the stimp. Also worthy of note is that sub -15 will need to be shot by the winner to win the tournament.
Montreaux though is no TPC Deere Run. Ball striking is key as conditions are due to be windy. Stray from the fairway or green and bogeys are easy to come by. This week’s field is headed by a number of ‘name’ players. Ryder Cup long shots Vaughan Taylor and Chad Campbell head the field with John Rollins, Alex Cejka and Pat Perez all more than capable performers.
The question for me though this week is player motivation. Players like Campbell, Taylor and Rollins tend not to be comfortable in the role of tournament favourites, after all they never are in normal circumstances. On top of that money talks and the ‘better’ players don’t tend to get motivated by a $500,000 winner’s purse!
However the winners list from previous ‘rank and file’ tournaments that run concurrently with larger major or WGC events is interesting reading. Cameron Beckman, John Rollins, Bo Van Pelt, Richard S Johnson, Michael Bradley, Mark Wilson, Brian Gay, and Greg Kraft all took the opportunity as ‘experienced’ pros to bag a title and the PGA Tour exemption that goes with it. Van Pelt, Johnson, Gay and Kraft’s wins were their career firsts.
German Cejka is a desert golf specialist who has a nasty knack of choking when victory is in site. However don’t let that put you off the jovial German this week. Alex is fresh off a T8 at the U.S. Open and T3 at the BMW International Open so in great nick. Great record here: T9 in 2006, T12 in '07 and T5 in '09 but that comes as no surprise as Cejka’s record around other Nicklaus designs PGA National and Muirfield is top drawer. Could this be the week? RESULT: T5
Californian Mallinger offers a level of value at 50/1 and in my view he has a lot of things going for him this week. Firstly a disastrous start to 2010 has put John’s card in serious danger and there is nothing that concentrates the mind of a professional golfer more than that! Fact is Mallinger is a strong player who bagged $1.7 million on his way to 60th in the FedEx Cup last year and he is more than good enough to win PGA Tour tournaments, which included a 2nd in the comparable US Bank Championship event when Turnberry on. Mallinger also finished 3rd at the long Turning Stone track that features bent greens in his rookie season (2007) and that highlights to me that Mallinger could go well at Montreaux this week. RESULT: T21
Mr Mallinger’s best mate John Merrick is half the price but still decent value at 25/1. Merrick is a long ball striker who regular readers of my column will recognise I keep a close eye on. Merrick is talented enough to finish 6th at Augusta in 2009, in the process beating both Rory McIlroy and Anthony Kim to the prize of best debutant. That shows his liking for fast bent greens and long Par 72s. He's eighth in ball-striking on the PGA Tour, which helps explain his success in Reno: T8 in 2008, T4 in 2007. RESULT: T3
As the cream of America’s golfing talent flew with the trade winds towards Scotland on Sunday its apt that on a flight out of Glasgow flying the other way was golf’s Number 1 nomad Jeev Milkha Singh. Now a fully fledged PGA Tour member its fact that Singh’s game after 5 MCs in 6 tournaments was in tatters when he left America after the St Jude Classic in June. However 11th in Munich, 16th in Paris and 49th at Loch Lomond shows that Singh has found something in his game. The fact that Singh is willing to fly to Arizona for this tournament shows how motivated he is to improve his current 166th standing in the FedEx Cup and earn his PGA Tour card for 2012 on merit. RESULT: T55
Watching Robert Garrigus at the St Jude Classic was the ultimate car crash television. The PGA Tour journeyman only had to make 7 on the 18th to make his ultimate dream come true, pocket a cool $1 million, beat Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson plus gain a 2 year exemption. Why did he take that 3 Wood! What’s impressed me though with Arizona grad Garrigus has been the way he’s responded. 3 paid finishes and no missed cuts. Back home on a course he likes at an altitude he’s accustomed to I wouldn’t be surprised to see Robert at the sharp end this week and if a second opportunity presents itself he might well grab it. RESULT: T10
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 21:15BST 13.7.10 but naturally subject to fluctuation.