So both the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup are in the history books. High profile non-Major golf at its very best. Congratulations to Brandt Snedeker and Team Europe for 2 magnificent wins under the most intense pressure imaginable and to all readers who made profit across East Lake and Medinah. Now we're into October the PGA Tour moves into its Fall Series stage which I enjoy year-in and year-out. For me it's PGA Tour golf at its grittiest where the undercard fight it out to either drive themselves into a higher golfing bracket in 2013, grab a 2-year exemption with a 'shock' win or gain/keep some form of playing privileges for 2013. Also worthy of note is that this will be the last Fall Series prior to next season's shortened season which closes with the Tour Championship in September. Shortly thereafter, the new wraparound 2013-14 schedule will commence. So let's walk you through some of the key rationale required to make profit over the closing four tournament stretch:
This season's Fall Series is made up of this week's Timberlake tournament at TPC Summerlin, followed by the Frys.com Open at CordeValle, the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island and finally the Childrens Miracle at Disney. There is no doubt these Fall Series tournaments offer up the opportunity for profit. The winners across 2010 & 2011 came in at 22/1 (Haas), 50/1 (Slocum), 125/1 (Mediate), 60/1 (Byrd), 175/1 (Garrigus), Na (60/1), Molder (40/1) Crane (66/1) and Donald (8/1). Don't expect the calibre of Luke Donald to be playing Disney this November. One tip from me therefore is simple: favourites don't win in these events.
Instead we need to get under the skin and into the detail of what motivates (or de-motivates) players at this time of the season as we need to get a view for which players will be focussed on delivering contending performances and who will simply be going through the motions. Remember: 1) The Top 30 in the Tour Money List at the end of the season are exempt into the Masters. 2) The Top 70 are granted starts at both Bay Hill and Muirfield invitational tournaments whilst the Top 80 get invites for Colonial 3) The Top 125 earn full playing privileges for the shortened 2013 PGA Tour and even 'partial status' is given for those in spots 126-150. 4) Players who are in the Top 50 of the World Golf Rankings at year end get an automatic invite to Augusta. 5) On top of these motivations a Fall Series tournament winner will also receive a 2-year Tour exemption - Na and Molder received these in 2011 with Crane and Donald receiving an additional year (those who already have an existing winner's exemption receive an additional year up to a max of 5 years).
The Justin Timberlake is held at TPC Summerlin on the outskirts of Las Vegas and as you'd expect the course is a desert - resort set-up. It's a 7,243 yard Par 71, with wide fairways and large greens that are some of the easiest to hit on the whole Tour. Add to that receptive (11 on the stimp) Bentgrass greens that aren't overly contoured and you'll get your head around that this week is all about attacking golf, making birdies and keeping the card clean. Winning totals in the past 3 renewals have been 261/-23, 260/-24 and 265/-19 and with no substantial wind forecast again this week in Nevada expect 264/-20 to be needed for serious contention coming down 18 on Sunday. So this week I'm looking for players who have a history of playing well on shortish resort courses, preferably in the desert (remember the altitude factor) but who will have a real desire to succeed.
Beware! Vijay has found his putter and that makes him a very dangerous animal on a course where his still awesome tee to green game will give him a shed-load of birdie opportunities this week. I, like you, worried about Vijay's ability on a resort course this week but the fact he's actually playing TPC Summerlin this week for the first time since 1999 when he finished 32nd highlights to me that Singh is perfectly in the zone both mentally and physically to win for the first time since 2008 where he shot -22 on the Bent greens of TPC Boston. One look at his CV highlights key link track wins at resort style courses like: TPC Scottsdale (95 & 03), Warwick Hills (97,04 & 05), Kapalua (07), Deere Run (03) and TPC Boston (04 & 08). Tally that with the fact that Singh has to grab either a Money List Top 30 spot (currently 55th) or a WGR Top 50 spot (currently 68th) to appear at Augusta + the WGC at Doral in 2013 and you start to see that the very presence of Vijay in Nevada this week speaks volumes that he's very much up for the fight of competing and winning at the highest level before he goes and dominates in the Champions Tour. Singh was 3rd in the Putting category last time out at Crooked Stick where he was in the final group on Sunday and his last 6 appearances read 8-26(TPC Boston)-48(Bethpage)36(Kiawah)-7(Hamilton)-9(Royal Lytham). With a Fall Series standard field to contend with a great price in my view.
Tim Clark is one motivated player right now as he strives to get back his rightful World Golf Rank Top 50 position he lost due to injury at the start of last season. Ok his Players Championship win in 2010 guarantees invites to the 4 Majors in 2013 but his current 79th WGR means he's missing out on money grossing WGC events right now and 2013 is President's Cup year so using the Fall Series to boost him up the rankings is serious business for the Arizona based South African. Forget Crooked Stick and TPC Boston where the wet conditions ruined any chance of a good finish for the short hitting Clark; 10th at Bethpage, 2nd at Sedgefield and 11th at Kiawah Island in the preceding 3 tournaments show exactly where Clark's iron and putting is right now. His quality record at Waialae: 2nd (11); PGA West: 2nd (05 & 10) 5th (09); Colonial: 2nd (08 & 09); River Highlands: 4th (12); Deere Run: 2nd (07); Sedgefield: 2nd (12) 6th (05 & 08) Disney: 2nd (07) excites and he was 27th here back in 2009 when he re-acquainted himself with the layout before finishing 4th the week after down the road at Greyhawk.
I always like 2nd year PGA Tour pros at TPC Summerlin - after all history tells us that one of them contends year-in, year-out here in Nevada. I've had EW returns from both Webb Simpson (80/1) and Tommy Gainey (100/1) in the last 2 renewals here and I'm thinking that the talented Chris Kirk can go one step further in 2012. Kirk, who won at Annandale last season with a 256/-22 total, is an attacking player who has both the ability and desire to use these Fall Series events to grab a Top 30 Money List spot and get close to the WGR Top 50. Indeed 2012 has yielded Top 10s at Kapalua (7th/-14), Colonial (5th), Annandale (10th/-15) and Hamilton (4th/-14) and where rookie winners from last year like Jonny Vegas and Brendan Steele have taken a step backwards this season Kirk has made progress by getting through to the BMW Championship (for the 2nd consecutive season) and keeping his WGR stable (103rd). 12th in elite company at Crooked Stick last time out shows a level of desire/confidence to mix with the very best and Kirk featured in the Top 20 of both GIR% and Putting Average categories in Indiana. The scene is set for the St Simons Island, Georgia resident to go low on his 2nd appearance at TPC Summerlin.
Regulars will know I rate Georgia based Matteson highly on both Bent and Bermuda greened resort courses and right now Troy, who sits a very safe 70th in the Money List, is playing outstanding golf. A single MC in 10 tournaments shows a new-found level of consistency and the 2 time PGA Tour winner thrives in the Desert as his victories came here at TPC Summerlin in 2006 and at Greyhawk in 2009. Motivation wise a 3rd PGA Tour win here would grab a 2 season exemption + catapult Troy into the Top 40 of the Money List and within touching distance of a 2nd appearance at Augusta. Recent form reads 16(Crooked Stick)-20(TPC Boston)-65(Bethpage)-10(Sedgefield)-MC-10(Hamilton)-39(Royal Lytham)-2(Deere Run) and a quick glance at Matteson's CV highlights the fact that on Resort courses where runs of birdies are required he can go extremely low. I'd be majorly surprised if Troy, who is putting like a demon right now on all surfaces, doesn't feature this week.
If I were to tell you that there's an in-form player who can make birdies for fun and who thrives on Bent greened, resort style courses and who's readily available at triple digit price would you be interested?!? The 2nd season PGA Tour South African is all of the above and in my mind has a great shout this week. My colleague Paul Williams struck at 45/1 on Garth last November when he won the Alfred Dunhill at Leopard Creek (Bent greened +7,300 yard Par 72) where the South African grabbed full European Tour playing privileges with a 269/-19 winning total. Indeed Mulroy won the 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit on the back of a cracking winter and that came after a successful 2011 in the US on the Nationwide Tour (as it was) where he qualified for this season's crack at the PGA Tour after winning in May at Thornblade (host course is a Bent greened +7,000 Par 71) with a winning score of 268/-18. Mulroy also finished 3rd in October at Midland CC (Bent greened +7,300 yard Par 72) with 272/-16. Fast forward to now and a trip to Turin 3 weeks back saw Mulroy finish 2nd behind Gonzo on the slow Bent greens of Royal Park GC where you won't be surprised to hear he shot 266/-22 and this is where I get really interested. Garth currently sits 68th in the Race to Dubai and could quite easily have played St Andrews this week to grab a Top 60 spot at Earth Course in November. Instead he's making his debut at TPC Summerlin this week in a bid to boost his current 172nd in on the PGA Tour Money List. I'm reckoning Mr Mulroy fancies his chances on a course sure to suit.
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