PGA Tour Golf Odds and Predictions: Transitions Championship
by Alan Matthews - 3/14/2012
It goes without saying that if I pick a player to win a tournament, it’s always good to back up your bet by wagering on said player to at least finish in the Top 10. We all know how hard it is to win on the PGA Tour – just ask Tiger Woods. I mention this because I went with Matt Kuchar as my best “value” last week at the WGC-Cadillac at Doral. Kuchar didn’t win but certainly played well with a T8, so if you took him to finish in the Top 10 as a backup wager you still came out ahead. Consider that strategy going forward as most tournaments offer Top-10 props on the big-name players.
This week the Florida Swing continues on the PGA Tour but moves to the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast and the Tampa Bay area for the Transitions Championship. There’s an outside chance this could be the final time this tournament is in the early-season Florida Swing or at least under its current name. This event has gone through a handful of sponsors/names since its debut in 2000 and the Transitions sponsorship ends after this year. But the players rave about the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, so I’m sure another sponsor will be found.
Many times the biggest names in golf skip this event because it’s sandwiched by two marquee events, last week’s WGC-Cadillac at Doral and next week’s Arnold Palmer tournament at Bay Hill about 100 miles down the road in Orlando, where practically every American PGA player has some sort of residence within 30 square miles. But this year’s Transitions field is pretty strong, with five Top-10 players – former No. 1 Luke Donald, reigning Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, WGC-Cadillac winner Justin Rose (new to the Top 10 after that victory), Webb Simpson and Jason Day. Overall 12 of the world’s Top 25 are scheduled to tee it up. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods aren’t two of them, but we should see them next week (if Woods is healthy from that Achilles’ injury).
Big-hitting Gary Woodland is the defending champion here. He shot a final-round 67 and made a 10-foot par putt that proved to be the difference in a one-shot victory over Simpson for his first Tour victory. Woodland, who finished at 15 under, took only 23 putts on Sunday a year ago and didn’t miss a one inside 20 feet That par on No. 18 was his only par on the back-nine on Sunday. Woodland is 50/1 on Bovada to repeat in his second-ever start here. He has been plenty busy so far this year but doesn’t have a Top-20 finish after altering his swing – and hiring Butch Harmon – to start 2012.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Transitions Championship Favorites
Donald is the 10/1 favorite as he looks to close the gap on Rory McIlroy (off until the Masters) to try and reclaim the world’s top ranking. Donald had been slumping a bit with a T56 in his first PGA Tour start of the year and getting beaten in the first round of the Match Play, but he looked good last week with a T6 finish at Doral, where he was T7 in greens hit and T8 in birdies. Donald played this event last in 2010, finishing T6.
Schwartzel is next at 14/1. The reigning Masters winner seems to like Florida as he has gone T5 (at the Honda) and T4 (WGC-Cadillac) the past two weeks. In fact, Schwartzel’s past seven rounds have been in the 60s. This will be Schwartzel’s first trip here – but that worked out well for Woodland a year ago.
The other Top-5 favorites at Bovada are Rose (16/1), Simpson (18/1) and Kuchar (20/1). Rose is playing as well as anyone in the world not named McIlroy. He led the field with 28 birdies in winning at Doral last week and was T5 the week before at the Honda after sharing the 36-hole lead. Rose has five Top-25 finishes in his past five starts here, led by a T5 a year ago. Simpson kick started his career year in 2011 with the runner-up finish here and is five-for-five in cuts made in 2011 with two Top-10 finishes. Kuchar actually hadn’t had a Top-10 finish before last week since the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs last August. He hasn’t played here since 2009.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Transitions Championship Picks
I am not going to pick Retief Goosen to win at 50/1 but it’s good value to maybe put something down on him finishing in the Top 10 or perhaps leading after Round 1. The South African needs a strong finish to get inside the Top 50 in the world and earn a Masters invitation. Goosen was T28 here a year ago but has won this tournament twice: 2003 and ’09.
I also though seriously about Aussie John Senden at 33/1. He comes off a T6 at Doral, his third Top 10 of the season, highlighted by a brilliant final-round 65. He also owns a pair of T2 finishes at the Transitions Championship in the past five years.
I have to go with Nick Watney at 22/1, however. It’s probably the third time over the past year-plus I have gone with Watney and he’s left me high and dry so far. Watney doesn’t have a Top-10 finish yet this year but seemed to find his stroke on the weekend at Doral by closing 69-67, one of just nine players to go sub-70 in both weekend rounds. Watney was T4 in the tournament in greens hit. Watney knows Copperhead well, having played here each of the past five years. He has been T15 the past three, with a best of fourth in 2010.