From Bermuda to Mexico, a well-worn path for the PGA Tour as it winds down towards the more novelty events on the approach to Christmas.
With five of the last six winners scoring 20-under or better (Patton Kizzire was just one off that total in 2017) it’s clear this 7000-yard-and-bits course is open to attack from these players, but it still needs a bit of thought.
Most of the contenders over the years point out that the key to being able to throw those darts is getting the ball on the fairway, and whilst that helps every week of the year, with the forecast rain and greens that will run slower than tour standard, there is a premium on good driving – as two-time champion Viktor Hovland said, “there’s a lot of trouble on both sides and being a straight driver and good off the tee, that helps me.”
Quality tee-to-green play is always the first on the list, but players hitting irons from the rough or worse, will find it tough to keep up the birdie chase. Look to Hovland again, this time for the perfect example.
When winning in 2020, the Norwegian saw his tee shot on the 72nd hole just stay on the short stuff – a yard wrong and he was in sand or the rough, and probably would not have given himself such a simple birdie opportunity, holed to beat a charging Aaron Wise (to the chagrin of myself amongst many others!)
Course comparisons are clear – look for those that excel in windy conditions, that constantly find greens, and are coming here with confidence in their putter. Simples.
I’m not sure what to make of former world number one Scottie Scheffler.
The 26-year-old went from the best player not to win a tournament to the best player in the world in the space of a few weeks, before cementing that position with a victory at the most traditional of indicators, the Masters.
Then it all went a bit tired. He should have won the Charles Schwab (former Mayakoba winner Brendon Todd and a certain Tony Finau split 3rd and 4th) to make it five wins in the season. He then had chances at the U.S Open at Brookline and at the final qualifier before the ‘big one’ (so the PGA Tour says), where he allowed an easy lead to slip right away, giving Rory McIlroy the impetus to reclaim the top spot, rightly as it turned out, after his recent run.
Scheffler now comes off a recent outing at the CJ Cup, where again he was thrashed by McIlroy and many of the rivals he faces this week.
Collin Morikawa and Aaron Wise
If he’s a ‘no’ that leaves dual defending champion Hovland, Collin Morikawa and the afore-mentioned Aaron Wise to fill the market at 20-1 and less.
Hovland makes obvious appeal and there is little to argue against bar his single-figure price. Morikawa’s putting has returned to the disastrous figures of his early career and Wise just sees too short for his win record.
Sitting brightly amongst those is Tony Finau and, despite the lack of a recent outing, he is easily the highlight of the week.
Tony Finau - Each Way
Where to start? The 33-year-old finally shook off his own Puerto Rico curse when winning the 3M Open, in the process beating Emiliano Grillo (three top-10s here) and followed up a week later when waltzing home at the Rocket Mortgage Classic by five shots from the elite Patrick Cantlay, sixth here in 2019.
I fancied him to get the hat-trick at the FedEx St.Jude after leading the tee-to-green stats by a mile over the previous fortnight, but he could never recover from some wayward driving. Still, an ever-present fifth place is hardly tear-inducing.
After an opening 77, the BMW Championship was a washout and he may well have been feeling the efforts of the previous month when again starting slowly at East Lake before a best-of-Sunday 64 launched him inside the top-10.
That eye-catching effort was surely a prompt to be on him when he re-appeared and I have no problem with the two-month break given he was runner up at the Mexico Open three weeks after The Masters and seems to have had a jolly good time in the interim.
Welcome to Beef's Golf Club, @TonyFinauGolf!
For our first pro guest, @BeefGolf & @NomadicRevery have pulled out all the stops to get one of the best golfers in the world 🐐
— Beef's Golf Club (@BeefsGolfClub) October 25, 2022
Apart from elite form over the last few months, Finau finished his season ranked 12th for approaches, fifth for greens-in-regulation and in the same position for tee-to-green, all aspects that give him that look of Hovland, no bad thing here.
Previous years have seen the ‘Big Break’ graduate finish in the top echelons for all those vital statistics – it has been a constant, but he now adds confidence with the putter, a facet that has seen him ranked in the top-20 in six of his last nine completed outings.
From six outings at El Chamaleon, he has two top-10 finishes and one 16th and is, of course, a far better player now.
Relevant course comparison form includes a pair of runner-up finishes at Riviera, linking him with winners Hovland and Kuchar, while you can add 2019 winner Todd to those two for form at the Pheonix Country Club and the Charles Schwab.
Farmers sees his form sit alongside efforts from Hovland (again) and 2012 champion John Huh, who turns up at only half-a-dozen courses each year whilst Hovland also won this after Puerto Rico, another 20-under track. And on and on.
Leaving the salivation over Finau’s chances, much of the rest of the field looks limited in their chance to beat the top half-dozen.
Tom Hoge - Each Way
However, I’ll back up the main selection with a smaller wager on Tom Hoge, a player who has found his level over the past couple of years after looking as if he would become a journeyman, clocking up the dollars with the odd top-10.
Life changed with the victory at Pebble Beach in February, when he beat proven costal player Jordan Spieth, Cantlay (4th) and Matt Fitzpatrick (6th) but it was possibly telegraphed with his fifth at Torrey Pines, third at the Sony in Hawaii, two top-10s at Sea Island and front page finishes in Texas and three times at the Barracuda.
The victory was a step up for the 33-year-old but he has kept up that level of form with top10 at the US PGA, 3M, Tour Champpionship, Shriners and Zozo. The 13th place finish at the CJ Cup meant Hoge had now five top-13 payouts from the same amount of events.
Returning to the course at which he was third in 2020, Hoge has that fine mix of course form mixed with improving current form, all based on the quality of his iron play for which he ranks around 10th on average for his last six completed starts.
Whilst we can surmise Finau’s current form, Hoge is already showing up on the 2022/2023 wraparound stats – sixth in greens-in-regulation, 20th for tee-to-green – whilst over three months he is 11th for all-round ranking, the highlights being 23rd for greens, and 19th for putting average.
Do that this week and he contends strongly.
Jason Day - Each Way
34-year-old Jason Day completes the trio of each-way bets this week.
Despite his many issues – withdrawals through injury or illness and personal tragedy – the Australian has somehow come through and, whilst he may never approach his former number one ranking, looks on his way to getting somewhere inside the top-50 and those all-important invites to the majors.
It seems as if Day has been around forever but surely because he was a constant on the leaderboards of all the majors – second, third, fifth and 10th at the Masters, four-time runner-up and three top-10s at the US Open, and the sole major victory and five top-10s at the US PGA – impressive stuff!
History dictates he is plenty good enough to be winning an event like this, and recent evidence also suggests getting on before he does finally get over the line once again, adding to his 12 PGA Tour wins.
After years of back problems, Day bounced back to form at the Farmers in January, when he couldn’t hold on to a third-round lead, missing the play-off by a single shot. Still, this was encouraging to say the least, and Day was happy:
“The last couple years have been a bit of a struggle,” he told Golf Digest “But I think more so it’s a real positive, not only personally with my back and then when I get on the golf course I feel good.”
Clearly, the enforced slower and gentler swing has done the trick, although he admits it’s by necessity, ” The good thing is I need to work on my swing because if I don’t then certain things can creep in and I can hurt my back again. So I’ve got to always be cautious of that.”
Since that bronze medal, the two-time Torrey Pines winner has finished 15th at the Wells Fargo, top-20 at the Rocket Mortgage and recently eighth at the Shriners and 11th at the CJ Cup, where at both events he was better as the event wore on.
He went birdie-crackers during the last round at Las Vegas, and whilst the CJ Cup probably asked too much of his driving, he ranked 11th in approaches, 19th tee-to-green and also for putting. At both Day also found greens-in-reg and was smart around the greens.
The easy 2015 PGA champion looks to be close, and at the prices, looks well worth the chance to prove it.
.@JDayGolf's last 12 holes @ShrinersOpen 🤯
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 9, 2022
Finally, take a chance with arrow-straight Greyson Sigg to land the top-10/top-20 bets
Greyson Sigg - Top-10
Much of what is good was written around 11 months ago in the 2022 Players To Watch column, but it’s worth re-iterating that the 27-year-old was one of a host of top-class KFT graduates from the Lockdown years, something that may have disguised his individual talent.
The two-time KFT winner, including the Knoxville Open – an event that Patton Kizzire (2017 Mayakoba champ) has won – has taken his time to show his best on the main stage, but his best includes a top-10 behind Finau at Twin Cities and at the Sanderson Farms, where he came from 25th overnight courtesy of a final round 67 on a tough Sunday.
Greyson Sigg - Top-20
At last week’s Barracuda Championship, the former Bulldog lay in eight after the first round and sixth going into payday but, on another tough final day, a one-over 72 was still plenty enough to finish in 11th, his fifth cut in a row.
Sigg simply cannot compete on the big tracks, ranking well outside the top-120 over the last three months, so look for him on all the circa-6800/7000 yard tournaments, as we have here this week, a course on which he recorded the joint-lowest round of the Sunday with a 64 last year.