The PGA Tour begins its West Coast swing with the American Express at La Quinta and Steve Rawlings fancies an Irishman to contend.
Steve says: “Jon Rahm’s chance is very obvious and I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see him take the title for a second time but in an event where outsiders fare so well, backing the short-priced favourite is not easy to do.
“Having finished 2021 in fine style, the FedEx Cup winner, Patrick Cantlay, began 2022 impressively enough with a fourth-place finish in the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago but the same applies to Patrick as applies to Jon – can we really go taking a single-figure price about anyone in an event that invariably goes the way of an outsider?
“The course and current form of Ireland’s Seamus Power is impossible to ignore and he’s my only bet for now – although I will have an outsider or two in the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
“Power missed the cut here on his last visit, back in 2019, but he was 21st on debut in 2017 and 11th 12 months later. He’s a better player than he was three or four years ago, with a PGA Tour title to his name after his Barbasol Championship victory last year, he currently ranks number one for Par 4 Scoring on the PGA Tour, and he’s bang in form to boot.”
Back Seamus Power @ 44.043/1
Dave Tindall has three-each way tips for the action at La Quinta and here’s the first…
Dave says: “I’ve ended back on a player I’ve put up for the last two weeks – Talor Gooch.
“It hasn’t proven a profitable move yet as he’s finished tied 15th in the Sentry and tied 27th at the Sony. But he’s not far off and a birdie at the easy par-5 closer at Waialae last Sunday would have moved him into the top 20.
“This looks another good opportunity to play the man who scored his breakthrough win at last November’s RSM Classic.
“Gooch has made all four cuts here and gone 4-17-21 in the last three. Filling out the detail, he shot a closing 64 to take fourth in 2019, fired another 64 in round three in 2020 and was 13th with a round to go last year after middle laps of 66-65.”
Dave’s bet: Talor Gooch each-way @ 31.030/1
Andy Swales provides the lowdown on the course and the players’ form stats for this week’s PGA Tour event and nominates his three to watch.
Andy says: “Water is a prominent feature of the layout, with sizeable hazards on half of its holes. As many as 13 courses have been used for this event during the tournament’s long and illustrious history.
“The Nicklaus-designed Tournament Course is the most recent new addition to the tournament rota, joining the fray in 2016. But while the Stadium Course and Nicklaus Tournament Course were both designed and opened during the mid-1980s, La Quinta goes back as far as 1959.
“La Quinta, with its rolling tree-lined fairways, has slightly smaller greens than the other two venues, as well as fewer undulations. The Stadium Course is the most difficult of the three, while La Quinta is one of the easiest the pros will face all year.
“Patrick Cantlay has a strong record in desert conditions, having played well at both PGA West and TPC Summerlin in recent years. The world number four finished fourth two weeks ago in Hawaii.”
Andy’s One to Watch: Patrick Cantlay @ 10.519/2
Steve is looking for big priced winners on both tours in his Find Me A 100 Winner column. And he has an Exchange trade to consider on the PGA Tour with 170.0169/1 chance Andrew Svensson.
Steve says: “Svensson is back on the PGA Tour after winning twice on the Korn Ferry Tour last year and at 28, and with a bit more experience under his belt, he’s arguably better equipped than he was a couple of years ago when he first graduated to the PGA Tour.
There were highlights in 2019. He led after round one of the Sony Open before tailing off to finish 43rd and he finished 18th in this event the following week but that was almost as good as it got.
That finish was bettered only by a 15th placed finish in the 3M Open and there were plenty of missed cuts two years ago but last week’s seventh place in Hawaii, coupled with last year’s two victories, suggest the future could be brighter.”
After a break of two months, the DP World Tour finally resumes in Abu Dhabi where our man fancies the chances of the world number two, Collin Morikawa.
Steve says: “After 16 years at the Peter Harradine-designed Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the Abu Dhabi Championship is moving to a brand-new venue for the first time in the tournament’s history.
Described as the first true links course in the UAE and designed by Kyle Philips, the man responsible for Kingsbarns, Yas Links only opened in March 2010.
The Paspalum grass Par 72 Championship Links course, which has rolling hills and seashore green locations, currently ranks 48th in Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses in the world, and 60th in the World by Platinum Clubs of the World.
“Collin Morikawa is the narrow favourite and he’s the one they all have to beat. After claiming the Race to Dubai with a victory at the DP World Tour Championship in November, he blew a golden opportunity to win the Hero Challenge a fortnight later when he threw away a five-stroke 54-hole lead.
“Having been matched at a low of 1.081/12 during the final round, it was a bizarre defeat, and he took his time to get going two weeks ago on his return to action at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He sat 22nd of 38 at halfway before weekend rounds of 67 and 62 saw him climb into the top-five.
“That pipe opener will stand him in good stead for this week and as the reigning Open Champion, with winning form in the region, he’s the worthy favourite.”
Steve’s bet: Back Colin Morikawa each-way @ 7.513/2
Who will make fast start in Abu Dhabi? Dave Tindall makes the case for the trio he’s backing…
Dave says: “The tournament moves from Abu Dhabi GC to Yas Links and, given the forecast and style of track, it would be no bad thing to side with someone with a good Open record.
“Step forward Adam Scott, who had three straight top fives in that event in the previous decade and, as we know, should really have won at Royal Lytham in 2012.
“Scott’s two wins in the Middle East both came in Qatar and a whole bunch of Open types have succeeded at windy Doha. Paul Lawrie, for example, is a two-time Qatar winner.
Ideally, we also want a player who has a reputation for starting the new campaign fast… Scott has twice won on his first start of a new year and added a further five top seven finishes on top of that.
“Scott got to the Middle East early this year so has been putting in the practice. If that translates to the course, he’s well worth a punt to shine from his 07:40 tee-time.”
Dave’s bet: Back Adam Scott at 26.025/1
Matt Cooper has three each-way selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying eight places.
Matt says: “What’s Adam Scott’s record like in the first start of a new year? Turns out, it’s very good.
“He’s made 22 of them as a professional, registering two wins and another five top seven finishes. (And, for what it’s worth, he’s also got another win and a pair of runner-up finishes in his second start of the year.)
“So, a break has done him good in the past, he’s spoken of being hungry this year, and he was feeling better about his game late in 2021.
“He’s also a two-time winner in the Middle East (both in the Qatar Masters at Doha) and he’s far from a mug on the linksland, if that angle pans out (he’s a five-time top 10 finisher in the Open and he really should have won it in 2012).
“He’s a solid each-way option to start the year.”
Matt’s bet: Back Adam Scott each-way @ 41.040/1
Andy Swales provides the lowdown on the course and the players’ form stats for this week’s DP World Tour event and nominates four to watch.
Andy says: “Yas Links, which opened in March 2010, was designed by leading golf course architect Kyle Phillips and has been described as the ‘first true links course in the Middle East.’
“Approximately 1.8 million cubic metres of material was dredged and contoured to create this rolling links venue.
“And the course will not be totally unfamiliar to this week’s field, as some have tasted it previously when teeing-up in the Abu Dhabi Invitational…
“Tommy Fleetwood is without a Tour victory in over two years but does tend to perform well in the Middle East where he has twice tasted success. Coupled with his love of rolling links venues, this could be the week he returns to the winners’ enclosure.”
Andy’s One to Watch: Tommy Fleetwood @ 28.027/1