After our unbelievably brief break from PGA Tour previews, we’re back and it’s only mid-October! Fed Ex points will be up for grabs just like any other point in the year and it’s often these tournaments that the ‘big boys’ are caught on their heels and maiden victories are claimed. Just like Jimmy Walker a few days ago.
We watched Ryan Moore storm to his victory here last year, where he managed to get to -24. Key to his success was accuracy off the tee allowing for pinpoint approaches to the greens. The fairways are wide but being in the right position on them is everything. GIR will be a given for most this week, getting it close to the pin is where it counts. And then obviously we can’t forget putting, these birdie-fests often do turn into putting competitions, so don’t back any Lee Westwood’s out there. TPC Summerlin plays 7,223 yards and is the second easiest par 71 on the tour! Bombers will have joy off the tee, but the second shot is always going to be the most crucial.
Graham DeLaet (25/1 Various)
The Canadian’s 2013 season was quite remarkable eventually finishing with 7 top 10’s, a place at the Tour Championship and a slot on the President’s Cup side. We mentioned people claiming maiden victories and DeLaet will get a title very soon, that we are sure. With the lack of threat this course poses we don’t see why it will not be this week! In 2013 he ranked 1st in total driving, 3rd GIR, 19th driving distance, 16th birdie average, 21st scoring average and 4th in total birdies. His game is perfect for shooting low and is most definitely one of the best players in the field. One cloud that always looms over him is his ability with the short stick. But as 2013 wore on improvements were made and his performance in the President’s Cup will give him confidence on the greens. In 2010 DeLaet did finish 18th here and that was when he was a VERY different player! Arguably the man to beat this week.
Brendon De Jonge (28/1 Various)
Whenever previewing a tournament where birdies are needed it is always very hard to leave out the big Zimbabwean. De Jonge ranked 1st in total birdies last year amassing an incredible 399, which will make him a very popular choice this week. He is also 26th scoring average, 10th GIR and 29th driving accuracy.
Besides his taste for birdies, he does possess one of his best ever performances on the Tour last year on this course. He shot -23 just one behind the winner Ryan Moore and in truth they were a class above the rest. That performance combined with a solid 2013 season will give him loads of confidence. And we cannot forget his impressive performance at the President’s Cup beating the likes of Woods, Kuchar and Mahan over the four days. He’s another man without a PGA title to his name and he will be looking to follow in Jimmy Walker’s footsteps.
David Hearn (66/1 Various)
Our second Canadian of the week and again a really solid prospect. He is a player who we backed a couple of times last year and did weigh in with two top 10 finishes over the course of the season. He possesses very decent course form finishing 5th in 2011 and then 30th last year. He too has an eye for a birdie, managing to amass 18 last week. In 2013 he ranked 13th in total birdies and 20th in birdie average. Considering most of the people above him in those tables will not be here this week, that is impressive.
Although a higher price than our two previous picks, Hearn is by far the best putter. In 2013 he ranked 15th strokes gained-putting and 4th in total putting! For us that makes him a dangerous player considering his knowledge of the track and ability with the short stick!
Spencer Levin (60/1 Various)
After a VERY injury plagued 2013 Levin has found himself in some great form of late recording four top 10’s in his last eight starts. Last week in the first appearance on the PGA Tour this season he got himself a very respectable 10th place finish confirming he is well and truly over his injury. What makes us very interested in Levin is his love for this course. Before not playing last year, he finished 5th in 2011 and 4th in 2010.
In 2011 when he was playing at his best, the American finished 3rd in total birdies racking up 405 of them and 11th in scoring average. So this guy loves to go low! Perhaps a more unknown prospect but we like the look of Spencer this week!
Morgan Hoffman (100/1 Stan James)
This one is by far our most adventurous pick of the week and the odds suggest so. He has not played here and his form does not fly off the page at you. BUT in 2013 he ranked 13th in birdie average, 32nd in driving distance, 2nd par 4 birdie or better and 40th total putting. And he recorded three top 10’s in six starts in the mid part of 2013, so he has got the potential to do very well on his day. It is a hunch for sure but he shoots low and putts well, and on this course that means a lot!