Golf Betting: Zurich Classic back to back
Crane is quietly having a decent season so far
As he takes a close look at this week's US PGA Tour event, the Zurich Classic in Louisiana, Steve Rawlings is hoping for a season lift from Ben Crane.
Harry Cooper won the first Zurich Classic, way back in 1938. There were no tournaments between 1949 and 1957 and this will be the 66th staging of the event.
TPC Louisiana, Avondale, Louisiana
Par 72 -7,341 yards
Stroke Index in 2011 - 72.11
The TPC Louisiana made its event debut in 2005 but just a year later the tournament returned to its old venue, English Turn, after Hurricane Katrina devastated this venue. The event returned in 2007 and it's been played here ever since.
Yet again we're faced with a Bermuda grass Pete Dye design but finding the type of player to succeed here is devilishly hard. The last five winners all ranked inside the top 10 for Greens in Regulation but after that clues are few and far between and the list of winners is quite confusing. Big-hitters Andres Romero, Nick Watney and Bubba Watson have all prospered here but so have Tim Petrovic, Jason Bohn and Jerry Kelly, players not known for the length by any means.
Robb Arnold, the director of golf course operations at TPC Louisiana, fancies length will be an advantage this year. He predicts the ever-present winds of around 10 mph will make it play longer and he also states: "Every year, over the past four to five years, the conditions have gradually gotten firmer, faster and drier, that is exactly what we are shooting for."
Last Five Year's Winner
2011 - Bubba Watson -15 (playoff)
2010 - Jason Bohn -18
2009 - Jerry Kelly -14
2008 - Andres Romero -13
2007 - Nick Watney -15
Luke Donald heads the list, closely followed by Bubba Watson and Paul Krishnamurty makes a solid case for taking them both on. I can't have Luke myself and logic would suggest backing Bubba would be a daft move. Defending a tournament is never easy and nor is winning back-to-back, and following up your first major with another win doubly so. But Bubba's a unique entity and I wouldn't be totally surprised if he didn't contend. He claimed the course didn't suit his eye twelve months ago but he won with plenty in hand. He didn't play at his best on the weekend and I got the impression being in front for so long hadn't been ideal. He hasn't been out of the top-20 all year or out of the top-four in his last three starts and I'm not dismissing him lightly.
Outsiders have won this event on plenty of occasions and I've been cautious from the outset. Having backed Bubba last year, had he not won the US Masters last time out, I'm pretty sure I'd have backed him to follow up. He'd have been ten points bigger for starters, but with all the expected hullabaloo that will surround his every move, I'm leaving him out from the get-go. I am backing someone that was right there to celebrate with him when he won the Augusta playoff though and that's his good friend Ben Crane.
Crane is quietly having a decent season so far. Having started the year with three top-tens in four starts he drifted out of form a bit but his tied 17th at the Masters last time out was a great effort. With three wins in the last two seasons, Ben knows how to convert a chance and he could just be a bit underestimated at 70.0. His course form isn't terrific but I still think he's worth a small play. After three missed cuts, he managed to make the top-20 last year. After Ben Curtis won last week, could we witness back-to-back Ben wins?
Brian Gay is another player that doesn't have scintillating course form but I found it hard to ignore him at a triple-figure price having backed him last week when he finished in a tie for 4th in Texas, and last up is my idea of the best value in the field...
Like my first two picks, John Rollins is a multiple PGA Tour winner but in contrast to them, he has plenty of course form. His tied 26th last year was his worst result in four attempts but it should have been so much better. He'd spent the first three days in the top-three before tumbling down the leaderboard on Sunday, thanks to a desperately disappointing final round 78. He also fell from third to 13th on day four in 2009 and in 2010 he started off far too slowly with an opening round 74. He clearly has an aptitude for TPC Louisiana but can he put four solid rounds together? Possibly not, but at 140.0, I thought he was well worth chancing.