Jim Furyk (EW) – Valero Texas Open
This course can be quite windswept and the 7435 yards course it not for the faint hearted. It says everything that the Stroke Index was 73.29 last year, and that defending champion Steven Bowditch won with a final round of 76. This course is hard! The course itself is fairly tree lined, with errant drives in danger of finding the nasty local vegetation, which will lead to many shots dropped this week. It’s also notable that for once, the bunkers here are real deep hazards, as opposed to some of the usual easier PGA fair. Lee Westwood has noted that that the greens will be lightening fast, and that they will be plenty of run off areas around the greens. Basically the layout is to mirror the set up of the Masters, and it’s one of the last opportunities for the players to qualify for the first major of the year. The early forecast is for mostly sunny days, though they could be the possibility of thunderstorms on the first day. The wind should peak at about 15 mph, though it will be the gusty nature of the winds that can play havoc with distance control.
From a betting perspective, it’s a hard event to judge, with some big price winners in recent years, such as Bowditch, Laird and Steele winning, hardly household names. It difficult to judge how the top players view this event, with some practising a particular shot that they want to use at Augusta, whilst some who will be happy to be playing well, but really not busting a gut to win, with an eye instead firmly on the Masters. With that in mind I’m going to back a few outsiders, and keep bets to a minimum outlay.
Players need to scramble well here, and keep the ball in play. Laying up on the Par 5s is probably the best policy, and a player who meets those requirements his Jim Furyk, though it has to be said that he has developed a worrying trend to look as if he about to win a comp, but then to throw it away at the last. But at the price I’m willing to give him another go. He’s had a tied 6th and 3rd place here, and he ranks very highly in greens in regulation and also proximity to the hole from within 125 yards. So I have hope he will go well.
I’ll have to back Cameron Tringale this week, as he has a very good record her with a couple of top tens, and if he’s going to break out of the pack with a win, I can see it being at one of these lesser events on tour. He’s a tasty E/W price and hopefully can contend.
For my last pick I will pick the ultra slow Kevin Na. Hopefully he can put to the back of his mind the PGA Tour record of playing 16 shots on the Par 4 ninth! It actually played quite well that week, and may use that horrific score as a motivating force this week. He’s currently on a run of 3 top ten places.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, but more with a view to seeing some Masters form.