The Barbasol Championship
As is always the case we have an opposite field event running on the PGA Tour alongside the Open Championship and for those who aren’t completely ‘golfed out’ over the weekend there is TV coverage both in the UK and US.
Whilst the vast majority of the golfing worlds eyes will be focused on events at Carnoustie there is no denying that this week can be a potentially life changing week for one of the PGA Tour’s lesser lights.
The vast bulk of the field is made up of players desperately battling to make the Fedex Cup Playoffs and to keep their card, or indeed older players who’s best days are long behind them and who struggle to get a start on tour these days.
A win for anyone of these players to gain them a two year exemption, a bunch of Fedex Cup points and of course a very nice cheque would be a massive deal for them.
The event this year has moved from Auburn, Alabama to Nicholasville, nr Lexington, Kentucky, right in the centre of the Bluegrass region.
Whilst the PGA Championship has visited the Valhalla course in Kentucky over recent years [as of course has the Ryder Cup], thiswill be the first time a regular PGA tour event has landed in the state since the demise of the Kentucky Derby Open in 1959 so this is certainly a big deal for golf in Kentucky.
The new home of the event is the Keen Trace GC Champions Course.
The greens are Bentgrass.
The course is a Par 72 measuring 7328 yards.
Obviously a new course is always a challenge to get to grips with and it is even more the case when there is limited info out there in the web ether for an opposite field event.
Having listened to some thoughts from local man Josh Teater though it would appear the fairways are fairly forgiving and the par 5s are gettable.
From the comments I have picked up on it would appear that the handling the tricky, undulating greens will be the main challenge.
The course has seen a reasonable amount of rain in the build up to the event so this may have helped grow the rough up a bit.
All in all though it would seem that this is scoreable course and birdie’s will be the order of the day.
The event is in its fourth year now. As noted above for the first three years the event was played at the RTJ Trail Course in Auburn, Alabama.
The three winners of the event were Grayson Murray, Aaron Baddeley & Scott Piercy.
Based on these winners it’s a shame we do have a change of course this year as you could definitely see a pattern emerging of mercurial, aggressive, good putters getting the job done.
Once again we are in for another week of, sunshine and warm temperatures mixed in with the possibility of a thunderstorm or two.
The wind looks to be to be around the 10mph mark through the week so it should not be too much of an issue.
All in all then allowing for the rain the course has seen of late and the potential for more storms conditions should be ripe for low scoring.
Allowing for the vagaries of the new course and the ‘second division’ field I have gone with just three players as follows;
ANDRES ROMERO –50-1 - 1pt e/w – ¼ odds 1st 5. FINISHED 21st
Whilst we are looking at a new course this year I am going to take a chance that we could see a similar type of winner as we have over the past three years.
A mercurial, aggressive player, not afraid to go low and importantly in a field of this calibre not afraid to win.
If that does transpire to be the case then Argentine, Andres Romero fits the bill perfectly.
A one time winner on the PGA Tour and a two time winner on the European Tour there is no doubting Romero’s talent. In fact it is probably fair to say he has underachieved.
This season Andres has been mostly plying his trade on the European Tour with no great degree of success, however he popped up in last weeks John Deere classic and played very nicely to finish 7th.
As a result of this top 10 Romero receives an invitation in to this weeks field at the Barbasol and he will no doubt be eying this as a great opportunity to regain full playing rights on the PGA Tour.
Like his fellow Argentine and mentor Angel Cabrera, Romero has always had great touch around the greens so if they do prove to be tricky he should be well equipped to handle them.
In a week where there are so many question marks around the field I am happy to roll the dice with a proven winner at 50-1.
DEREK FATHAUER – 66 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED MC
Next up is Floridian Derek Fathauer.
The case for Fathauer is twofold.
Firstly he spent his college days at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, barely ninety minutes away from this weeks venue, so he should be more than familiar with the area and hopefully, unlike a lot of the field this week, will have seen the course before.
Hopefully he will also benefit from good local support.
The second part of the case is that Derek had a solid week at the John Deere to finish 23rd with all components of his game appearing to be in good order.
One thing I particularly liked from his week at the John Deere is that Fathauer’s putting improved every day as he started with a negative SGP stat on day 1 and after a couple of improving days finished the week with a really good putting round on Sunday, and 14th in SGP overall for the week.
The putter has always been Derek’s strongest club in his bag and if it is song then that certainly bodes well for the week ahead.
Fathauer notched two top tens on the PGA Tour last season and one the previous season and in both of those years his steady play was enough to see him make the Fedex Cup play offs.
This season however his best finish to date is a 10th place at the Sandersons back in October and he currently finds himself on the outside of the play offs looking in.
Derek will therefore no doubt see this week in familiar surroundings as a great opportunity to take a huge stride towards keeping his card and I see a big week ahead in prospect for him.
STEPHAN JAEGER – 80-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 21st
Finally this week it’s one last chance for our man the German Stephan Jaeger.
Those of you who have been reading my previews over the past couple of months will probably be fed up of hearing me make my case for Stephan so this time I will keep it simple and brief!
1 He has a history of going really low in ‘birdie fest’ events.
2 He knows how to win them!
3 He can find his form out of the blue as he showed yet again this season when he dropped down to the web.com and won.
Finally as someone who lives and spent his college days in the neighbouring state of Tennessee he should feel very comfortable in the conditions and surroundings that the players will face in Kentucky this week.
On this basis I am happy to chance one more time that Jaeger can spring in to action in a lower profile event that, based on his winning pattern from this year and the last two seasons, he should feel a lot more comfortable in.