- Chesson Hadley @ 33-1 (without the big 5 – 1/4 1-5)
- Austin Cook @ 45-1 (without the big five)
- Vaughn Taylor @ 66-1 (without the big five)
- Tom Hoge @ 110-1 (without the big five)
- Louis De Jager @ 40-1 (1/4 1-5)
- MJ Viljoen @ 66-1
- Jaco Ahlers @ 80-1
12 x 0.15 ew Doubles = 3.6 points staked
Again we are using skybet prices for ease – feel free to mix up the doubles across various bookmakers.
The column finally justifies it’s existence after last week’s 297-1 place double although it could have been even better given the overnight position of King Khong. Never happy, see?
Instead of leaving them (my Mum) wanting more it’s back to the grind this week. I’ve no interest in the farce that is the Super6 so the double this week concentrates on the full-field 4-round event in South Africa as well as the obvious draw, the Arnold Palmer.
Unfortunately for no-one, not much time this week to write a full page of gubbins, so some notes as to the chosen few.
Chesson Hadley w/out the top-5 was never going to anywhere bar the top of the list this week. A multiple winner on the web.com Tour including at the 2013 finale, he picked up his first PGA title in windy Puerto Rico a few months later and, ranking in the top-70 in the OWGR, needs only a couple more decent results to be threatening automatic entry into the big time. He plays well in the wind, can cope with slow pro-am formats as witnessed by a brace of top-10s here from three starts as well as his 4th at the Shriners, and has an extremely progressive profile. With new wedges in the bag 2018 form reads T42/T23/T5, the latest when having every chance at the Pheonix last week where he impressed with most aspects of his game. I admit a bet on the outright price but for the sake of this particular bet am very confident if discounting the big five.
When Vaughn Taylor won here in 2016 he did so off the back of a withdrawal through illness the previous week. On a windy afternoon, his final round 65 was enough to come from six shots behind Phil Mickelson and leave the likes of Jason Day and Jordan Spieth trailing. Given his approach-play that day he could have won by a couple more if putting better, all of which gives a bit more meat to the argument that last week’s 11th in Pheonix may be the impetus he needs to perform again at a venue at which he has recorded finishes of 14th and 10th. He is tough to predict but often shows repeat form at certain tracks (winner twice at Reno-Tahoe, top-10s at the Heritage) and I like the way he is showing consistency in his four rounds with no horror stories leaping out of the form page. He looks ready to contend on a course others at a similar price have stated may not be their favourite.
Tom Hoge caught the eye in big style when blitzing through conditions on the third day of the Sony Open to record 64 and I vowed to be with him in suitable conditions. Given his record in Texas and Puerto Rico (another mention for a venue that 2011 winner D.A. Points has won at) his play in the wind should have been no real surprise, and there is a case for saying he really should have won in Hawaii bar a poor shot on the 16th. Hardly a household name, I wonder if he keeps slipping through the radar despite moving into the top-200 in the rankings. Whilst winning is probably beyond him, he has enough in his finishes at the Barracuda, Canadian Open and Shriners to think he can be right up there, especially if Pebble plays tough on Sunday.
Just left off is James Hahn having given away his chance with that 11th last week and whilst I’d love to be putting up the likes of Paul Dunne (the archetypal Links player) and Kevin Chappell (the tougher the better but hard to read) the last vote was a toss-up between Jason Kokrak and Austin Cook, the latter winning by a short-head.
I’m not convinced that previous course experience is so much a factor these days so am not too concerned that this will be his first go round here in this format. It certainly didn’t affect him when storming round at La Quinta to lead after three rounds (63/70/64), not the first time he has pencilled in low scores over the last year or so. A pair of double-bogeys was never going to do the job on Sunday but it was all a learning curve for the 26-year-old, who made it through qualification of the 2015 Houston Open eventually finishing 11th having been in the top three overnight. In only his 14th PGA start Cook gagged up at Sea Island, yet another windy venue, and again after recording a very low score (62) during the second round. He will undoubtedly win again shortly and having recorded a very consistent run of form T31/T14/T18/T22 since that maiden victory, conditions should suit a player carrying progressive regional figures.
Over in South Africa, the Eye of Africa event, as can be expected, has been dominated by home players, with only Gregory Bourdy (2006) and Chris Williams (2002) breaking the stranglehold. That the list of winners contains Jaco Van Zyl (3 times), Louis Oosthuizen and Keith Horne as well as Bourdy all suggesting that distance off the tee is of no consequence but tidiness and regulation greens are paramount.
The nature of this bet means keeping away from favourites although Erik Van Rooyen looks potentially a class apart despite his horrendously short price. I certainly won’t be leaping in to back these heavily as singles but with a poor bottom half, there are cases for those each-way chances at attractive enough prices.
MJ Viljoen has come to life over the last few months having surpassed his 5th here last season with his maiden win in October off a 65 final round. No surprise the 21-year-old missed his next couple of cuts but he bounced back with a 5th and 7th as the season drew to a close, and would surely have been closer than 30th in the Joburg Open bar a poor third day. Opening up this season by making the cut at the higher class South Africa Open was ‘really positive for me’ and ‘it showed what I can do….it was a special feeling to make those cuts and play the way I played’. He says winning is his only objective here and talks the right talk, ‘I’ve been playing good golf…..I’m definitely looking forward to this year and if I can win one more tournament, why not?’ Why not indeed?
Louis De Jager was touted quietly when playing a few events on the Challenge Tour last year and it is of no surprise that his best finish was 9th in Kenya. A winner of two events although back in 2014, he has been consistent enough to think he can improve on last season’s 19th in this event, a finish that should have been much better bar a poor final round 74. Ending last year with a 4th in Mauritius behind Dylan Frittelli and in front of the likes of Oosthuizen, Coetzee and many of this week’s field, he again let a good finish slip with a Sunday 73 at the South Africa Open last month. This is an average field however, and on his consistent form through the season he should be contending at some point, even if we wish he sticks his head in front right on the line. Given a similar chance to the likes of Kruyswijk, Bekker and Schietekat, his price wins.
Those who read our recent interview with Toby Tree will know he is working hard at his game but I think the time to catch him will be at the Dimension Data in a couple of weeks time so the final vote goes to Jaco Ahlers, a player I have struggled to get right in the past but who looks very big in this field given his win record. Tied in 9th with De Jager in Kenya last year, this winner of six Sunshine Tour events may well have one more victory in his locker and whilst he can sometimes disappoint the fact remains he won three times just a couple of years ago and does have form in the slightly higher class home events such as the Tshwane, Nelson Mandela and Investec Cup, to name just three. Looking through the field his missed-cut last time doesn’t concern given his top-20 in Joburg and I’m quite happy to think he can improve on a 25th here last season.