Maybe I should just stick to previewing fall events. It’s been a good run on golf recommendations starting with the Ryder Cup. And last week was as well. No, I didn’t get the Frys.com Open winner, choosing Brendan Steele at 50/1 as the best long-shot value. He missed the cut, but I rather knew he was “all or nothing” there. I did, however, hit on Vijay Singh at -115 in a head-to-head matchup with Ernie Els. Singh finished T4 and the Big Easy T16. I also hit on Sweden’s Jonas Blixt to be the top European finisher at 4/1. Blixt took home his first career PGA Tour title, vaulting him from No. 60 to No. 35 on the money list (Top 30 brings extra benefits).
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Blixt is teeing it up again this week for the McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Georgia. It’s the penultimate event of the Fall Series, which means time is running out for those players trying to get into the Top 125 of the money list and earn their full card for next year. The Fall Series actually takes a two-week break for two big-money tournaments (CIMB Classic and WGC-HSBC Champions, both of which I will preview) after this event before concluding at Disney.
As one would expect here, the field is pretty watered-down again. Overall, there are six players who have won a Tour event this year playing: Blixt, Mark Wilson, Ben Curtis, Zach Johnson, Ted Potter Jr. and Scott Stallings. The biggest names are Jim Furyk, Singh, Davis Love III, John Daly, David Toms, Angel Cabrera and Justin Leonard. Look for a decent run from Love this week. He’s still trying to put the Ryder Cup behind him and played OK last week with a T35. Love resides on Sea Island and is 100/1 to win at Bovada.
This is only the third year of this event, so it’s tough to get a big handle on past performance. Ben Crane won last year with a 15-under 265 on the par-70 course, beating Webb Simpson in a playoff. That was notable because Simpson jumped ahead of Luke Donald on the PGA Tour money list, which spurred Donald to then add the season-ending event at Disney to his schedule (whereas someone of his caliber would normally have no reason to play). Donald would win the tournament and become the first player to win the money titles on the PGA and European Tours.
The Seaside Course is pretty easy overall (scoring average of 69.571 last year), but it puts a premium on putting. According to the PGA Tour, Seaside last year ranked inside the Top-5 most challenging in putting average (second overall; 1.707), one-putt percentage (second; 32.52 percent), putts per round (second; 30.73) and three-putt avoidance (fifth; 4.24 percent). It also ranked second in total putts in both the second (30.93) and third (30.86) rounds.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: McGladrey Classic Favorites
Johnson leads the way at 12/1 on Bovada, and he probably should: he lives nearby on St. Simons Island and is the only two-time winner this year in the field. Johnson hasn’t competed since playing in the Ryder Cup, and it should be noted that both of Johnson’s wins this year came after at least one week off. He has played here the past two years, missing the cut in 2011 and finishing T12 the year before.
Jason Day and Furyk are both at 14/1. This year has been a disappointment for the young Aussie after a breakout 2011 as he hasn’t really come close to winning, although he did have season-best finish of fourth in Vegas two weeks ago. This is Day’s first visit to this tournament.
Furyk was one of the, ahem, “chokers,” in the Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup. He has been very consistent this year, with seven Top-10s and 13 Top-25s but still eyeing his first win. Furyk played here the first time last year and was T11. This course would seem to suit his game perfectly.
Blixt (16/1) and Singh (20/1) round out the Top-5 favorites. Blixt is playing tremendous as he was third in Vegas before last week’s maiden win. He has had one round worse than 68 in those two tournaments. Blixt makes his debut here. Singh hasn’t missed a cut since the U.S. Open and had his second Top-10 in his past three events last week. He debuted here in 2011 and missed the cut.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: McGladrey Classic Picks
I do think there will be a playoff here for the second year in a row. “Yes” is +250 there and “no” -350. On Top-10 finishes, go yes on Johnson (“even”), Furyk (+135) and Jeff Overton (+225). No on Blixt (-230) and Day (-175). Head to head, I like Johnson (-120) over Furyk (-110) and Blixt (-105) over Day (-125).
I am tempted to pick Overton (22/1) to win his first tournament. He shot four rounds in the 60s at the Frys.com Open to finish eighth (and closed with three rounds in the 60s at Vegas) and was T6 at this tournament a year ago. How about Michael Thompson at 30/1? Last year, he was one of 12 players who shot all four rounds in the 60s at this event and finished third. But he’s almost as likely to miss the cut as contend.
I could see a big week for Heath Slocum (50/1). He won this event in 2010 but is about to lose the two-year Tour exemption for that victory. And he’s outside the Top 125 on the money list. In fact, I would take Slocum at -115 head to head vs. John Rollins (also -115).
But as much as I hate to go chalk, I believe Johnson wins.
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