With the PlayOffs thankfully behind us, we move onto the PGA Tour Fall Series. I actually like this stage of the season as these events highlight the real drama that goes off on the PGA Tour each and every season. By this I don’t mean Luke Donald missing another chance to grab an American stroke-play title or Simpson, Kuchar, Rose and Johnson buckling under the “immense pressure” of grabbing a cool $10,000,000. The Fall Series is far more important than that for the participants.
This story will be a compelling one over the next 4 weeks. Journeymen desperately trying to grab their playing privileges for next season or at least a place in the Top 150 so they get partial status. Then you get “name” players who have fallen to this level in a struggle to rebuild once great careers – Tiger enters the fray next week in California. How about veterans who come from nowhere to grab another tournament in the limelight? The plot thickens! The drama is also embellished by a sub-plot featuring energetic young talent who fight against adversity for their first victories or to ensure that their rookie season doesn’t become their last on the greatest and richest golf tour on the planet...and finally you get talented players who are playing so well that they simply don’t want the season to end and want to use these events to guarantee a 2-year Tour exemption.
Think of the Shriners Open, Frys.com Open, McGladrey Classic and Children’s Miracle Classic as a platform for 2012. That’s exactly what Dustin Johnson, Ryan Palmer, Matt Kuchar, Martin Laird, Bobby Garrigus and one Bill Haas have done in the past 3 seasons and this lot haven’t done too badly since! These 4 tournaments also offer up the opportunity for profit. The winners last year came in at 22/1, 50/1, 125/1, 60/1 and 175/1 respectively and my first word of warning (I hope you followed my wise words last week although I didn’t pick up on Haas) is that favourites don’t win, so don’t back Nick Watney this week!
The Timberlake Shriners host course, TPC Summerlin, is a desert resort set-up with bentgrass greens just outside Vegas in Nevada. It offers little of a test for this calibre of golfer. Indeed it is one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour and was the easiest Par 71 on the Tour in 2010. The course itself became a Par 71 in 2008 by cutting 4 Par 5s to 3 and although that has toughened the course slightly, scores of -4/138 & -3/139 have been required simply to make the cut. Eagles, birdies and bounce backs are the order of the day. Martin Laird shot 2 eagles and 23 birdies on his way to victory in 2009 and Byrd bettered that with 25 birdies and an ace to win the playoff over Cameron Percy and defending champ Laird.
So what selection strategy this week Mr Bamford? Well the winner in my view will come from players who aren’t rusty, so my main charges all played the PlayOff tournaments including Cog Hill a fortnight ago but didn’t play in the pressure cooker at East Lake last week. Southern Players who have played great golf in the past 4 – 6 weeks and who have a “goal in mind” seem to flourish. Johnson, Kuchar and Bill Haas all won the first Fall Series event after East Lake and went on to play in the Masters the following April based upon the platform laid down here. A Top 50 World Golf Ranking, Top 30 PGA Money List Position or entry into next season’s PGA Tour winner Invitational at Kapalua open a lot of doors in the world of golf for those determined to grab them.
An awesome price I’m struggling to get my head around on Tommy Two Gloves this week. Indeed he was 110s with Stan James earlier in the week. Gainey sits 39th on the PGA Tour Money List and his World Golf Ranking has improved from 232 to 92 in 2011 so a win this week will guarantee a Top 30 Money List position at the end of the season, entry to the HSBC WGC in Shanghai and a large jump up the world rankings. Most importantly for any professional golfer, it will also guarantee entry into the Masters and US Open. Will he be motivated…..he should be! His decision to play this week must also relate to the fact that his game is perfect for resort golf courses where there is space off the tee and low scoring is essential. Take his Nationwide Tour performances last year and you’ll see 2nd / -18 at Thornblade, 1st / -17 at University of Maryland and 1st / -27 at TPC Rivers Bend. For those thinking Gainey can only perform on Bermuda these were all on Bent carpet! You have to say that Gainey has continued the pattern on the main Tour in 2011. 8th after leading into the back nine at TPC Scottsdale, was followed by 3rd in New Orleans, 3rd at Hilton Head and 7th at Annandale with an aggregate score -57. He then surprised me by pushing Webb Simpson all the way on Bent at Sedgefield in August and shot -14 in the process. Grab this price quick! RESULT: T3
I tipped rookie Stanley up at Cog Hill when he was available at 100/1. He disappointed that week with 22nd but the fundamental reasons behind that pick are still very true today. This Wisconsin native, who studied in South Carolina, has jumped an incredible 192 spots in the OWGR this season and he currently sits 149th. In my view he is very much ready for the Top 100 and only missed out on a birth in the Tour Championship by 4 spots. The leading rookie (6th in the standings) not to win a tournament in 2011 (can you believe that!), Stanley is in great nick right now with a recent form line of 22(Cog Hill) – 10 (TPC Boston) – 24 (Plainfield). After the pressure of the PlayOffs where he acquitted himself brilliantly, the open spaces of TPC Summerlin will suit perfectly in my opinion. If you are looking for a pointer to confirm this, 2nd behind Steve Striker on Bent at Deere Run is the perfect course form and Kyle also scored his third Bent Top 10 finish since the start of July at TPC Old White. RESULT: T10
The fact that Pettersson is playing TPC Summerlin for only the 2nd time in 6 years says a lot for me. Carl last played this tournament in 2009 when he was in the middle of a total loss of form that ultimately led to a 134th finish in the PGA Tour money list that season. He finished 67th which you can totally discount. No, it’s absolutely crystal clear that the North Carolina resident is highly motivated and knows he is playing some great golf right now and the Shriners Open could be the platform for a great 2012. A win here would see the Swede jump from his current 95th in the OWGR plus would bump him right into the fight for a Top 30 Money List position and the guaranteed major championship appearances that go with it. It would also book him a spot at Kapalua where he finished 4th this year. A recent form line of 16 (Cog Hill) – 37 (TPC Boston) – 32 (Plainfield) – 4 (Sedgefield) – 18 (TPC Old White) says everything about his current Bent form and it’s well worth remembering that this guy can’t ever be discounted on Bent carpet. A CV that holds wins at Sedgefield x2, Muirfield and St Georges says everything and when the belly putter works Carl can shoot extremely low. In essence I’m thinking that Carl is in the mood for serious contention this week at a decent EW price. RESULT: T5
Californian Levin started 2011 at 236th in the World Golf Rankings but a great start to 2011 soon demolished that. 4th at Pebble Beach, 2nd at El Cameleon, and a contending 6th at Bay Hill soon boosted Levin into the Top 100 where he has stayed ever since, but I doubt you’ll have noticed it. That’s not questioning your power of observation but highlighting that Levin reminds me a little of Matt Kuchar in the way he churns out consistent results. Indeed a total of 11 Top 20 finishes in 2011 is some feat on the world’s hardest golf tour. But here’s the deal - Spencer can turn a decent 2011 into a superb one with a win here in Nevada on a course where he finished joint 4th with Webb Simpson last season. A first PGA Tour win would take him to $2,800,000 earnings and guarantee a Top 30 money list position, in-turn promoting Levin into the world elite of golf with guaranteed starts in Shanghai, Kapalua, Augusta and Olympic Club San Francisco. Again I like the idea that Levin is using this tournament as his platform for 2012 and will play well at a decent price. RESULT: T5
TPC Summerlin is like a “home game” for Cameron Tringale who is based in Las Vegas. Tringale, who actually hails form California and who went to Georgia Tech, walked into this tournament last year as a “nobody” first year PGA Tour member who was about to lose his card and play on the Nationwide Tour. But a superb 11th boosted his confidence to the extent that he then finished 4th in Qualifying School and grabbed a 2nd season on Tour. Cameron hasn’t wasted that opportunity and has risen a massive 329 places on the OWGR and guaranteed his PGA Tour card by producing a season that has featured 4 Top 10 finishes and seen a trip through 3 of the 4 FedEx Cup PlayOff tournaments. July produced 2 of those T10s on Bent at Deere Run where he finished 9th on -14 and at TPC Old White where he finished a shot back of Scott Stallings. 31 (Cog Hill) – MC – 32 (Plainfield) show a player whose form will welcome the resort nature of TPC Summerlin and he could certainly feature at 66s. RESULT: T73
I tipped up Kentuckian Josh Teater to win the Reno-Tahoe Open at 90/1 and on the Sunday he stood on the 17th tee with a 1 shot lead. Super stardom beckoned and a Teater win would have guaranteed this tipster his 2011 season profit numbers! The inevitable double bogey, bogey finish condemned Teater to 10th place and a visit to Accident & Emergency for me. However one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that sticking with a player often bears fruit and I’m sticking with Teater who is in desperate need of a result on the basis he sits 118th on the Money List. Here’s a Kentucky guy who won in neighbouring Utah on the Nationwide Tour in 2009 guaranteeing a 2010 PGA Tour debut. Top 5 results at Pebble Beach and on the long Par 72 at Turning Stone along with a further 5 Top 20 finishes capped a $1,000,000 grossing debut season and a Top 100 Money List finish. Teater has the ability on a course where he finished 18th last year to deliver another contending performance and guarantee his full privileges for 2012. As I said at the top of this column, Teater is under REAL pressure this week. RESULT: T57
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:45BST 27.9.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.