Disney: Best bets

Dave Tindall looks at the leading contenders and top wagers for this week's Children's Miracle Network Classic

By Dave Tindall.   Last Updated: 07/11/12 8:38pm

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Chris Kirk: can thrive again in the South

Chris Kirk: can thrive again in the South

Sky Bet

The 2012 PGA Tour season comes to an end this week with the traditional birdie-fest at Disney.

For some, the Children's Miracle Network Classic in Florida is wind-down time and the chance to enjoy the resort with their young families.

For others, there's the serious business of trying to secure a top 125 finish and full playing rights for next season.

Two par 72 courses are used - the Palm (7,010 yards) and the Magnolia (7,516 yards). The players have one round at the Palm over the first two days before the Magnolia is used for both weekend rounds.

The Palm averaged 69.578 last year, with the Magnolia only just under par at 71.367.

The PGA Tour website says of the Magnolia: "The wide fairways invite you to hit the ball, and hit it hard! But beware, 11 of the 18 holes boast water and 97 bunkers dot the landscape and guard sizeable, undulating greens."

Winning scores last four years:
2011: -17 Luke Donald
2010: -21 Robert Garrigus
2009: -18 Stephen Ames
2008: -25 Davis Love

The market leaders (Sky Bet odds):

Robert Garrigus (12/1): The big-hitting American won this very event two years ago and has been in excellent form this season with no less than four second places, including one last time out in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. His seventh place in Par Breakers (a measure of birdies and eagles) also points to a big show although the fact that his win here in 2010 remains his only success in 184 Tour starts suggests the 12/1 is no value at all.
Latest strokeplay form: 51-2-22-10
Course form: MC-1-MC-10
World ranking: 42

Brendon de Jonge (14/1): Without doubt, he's the form horse with top four finishes in each of his last three starts - Justin Timberlake, McGladrey and CIMB Classic. He's also ranked 1st for birdies made (410) and 2nd for eagles (15) this season so looks a good fit for the event even though his best finish in three visits is only a 30th. The big negative? He's still to win on Tour in 147 tries.
Latest strokeplay form: 4-4-2-28
Course form: 30-47-63
World ranking: 80

Jonas Blixt (18/1): The Swede was one of the golfers of the month in October after a win at the Frys.com Open (on just his 19th PGA Tour start) and a third in the Justin Timberlake in Vegas. He also has strong local connections this week having enjoyed a decorated college career at Florida State University. Nobody holes more putts (64.49%) from the 5-10 foot range than Blixt so, if he gives himself plenty of looks, he can cash in on the greens. A top three finish here should get him into The Masters so he has plenty of motivation.
Latest strokeplay form: MC-1-3-20
Course form: n/a
World ranking: 72

Henrik Stenson (20/1): After a slump, Stenson's form has really picked up since the start of June although all his five top 10s in that period came on the European Tour. Encouragingly, though, he was tied 12th on his debut in this event last year and his biggest win - the 2009 Players Championship at Sawgrass - also came in Florida.
Latest strokeplay form: 26-27-6-MC
Course form: 12
World ranking: 115

Charles Howell (25/1): The American is in good form of late and can boast six top 25s in his last nine starts here although nothing better than tied ninth. Howell is 26th on the career money leaders list with over $23million and yet he's still regarded as something of a disappointment. That's due mainly to his record of just two wins in 363 starts - hardly a great ratio for a 25/1 shot. He's been a runner-up 13 times.
Latest strokeplay form: 7-11-MC-MC
Course form: MC-9-29-25
World ranking: 101

Gary Woodland (28/1): After finishing 17th on the US Money List in 2011 and reaching 36 in the world rankings, Woodland's career has stalled this year. The split from his long-term swing coach and a snapped wrist at Augusta were obvious causes although he's healthy again now and managed a ninth place at the Frys.com Open last month. T12th here last year and his massive-hitting will suit this course.
Latest strokeplay form: MC-9-MC-42
Course form: 12
World ranking: 111

Chris Kirk (28/1): The 27-year-old's three pro wins (one on the PGA Tour in 2011 and two on the Nationwide in 2010) all came in the South. He also showed a liking for the Bermudagrass he grew up on when fourth in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia on his last start. Kirk makes plelnty of birdies and eagles (he's 18th in Par Breakers) so expect a strong performance on his debut.
Latest strokeplay form: 4-64-36-12
Course form: n/a
World ranking: 103

Ryan Palmer (28/1): Two of the 36-year-old Texan's three Tour wins have come in Florida and if the four-year cycle continues he's due to add to his wins in 2004 and 2008. That first win came in this event while he was also third in 2005 and has made the top 20 in three of the last four. His recent form isn't hot but his eight place in Birdie Average suggests he could thrive here again.
Latest strokeplay form: 37-46-45-MC
Course form: 20-19-40-16
World ranking: 106

Best of the rest:

Davis Love (40/1): After his traumatic loss at the Ryder Cup, captain Love may well be able to take a little consolation here. His last 10 starts in the event include a win (2008), two second places, two further top fives and just two finishes outside the top 20. Add in a fourth place in the McGladrey Classic last time out and the veteran has some excellent credentials.

Justin Leonard (66/1): Leonard isn't the consistent force of old but he has finished runner-up here twice in the last three years. He was also sixth in 2007 so he definitely can be bracketed as a course specialist. He's had a poor 2012 but there have been better signs of late; Leonard has made four cuts in his last five starts and was fifth in the Reno-Tahoe Open.

Trevor Immelman (70/1): The 2008 Masters champion has suffered a lean time of it over the last few years but he did show up well here last year when tied sixth. The South African carded a 63 in the CIMB Classic on his last start and, as he now resides in Florida, this is very much a home game.

Conclusion:

Chris Kirk was born in the South, lived his early life in the South and went to college in the South so it's no surprise that his three pro wins have come in familiar hot conditions - just like the ones he'll face here.

That ability to handle the heat and excel on Bermudagrass greens was shown again when he travelled to Malaysia and finished fourth in the CIMB Classic last month.

"I love the course. The grass is just like at home, good old Bermudagrass," he said after a third round 63 which highlighted his ability to shoot low scores.

Other recent examples include a 64 in the Justin Timberlake and a 63 in the Deutsche Bank Championship in the second leg of the FedEx Cup play-offs.

Although it's his first start in this event, three of the last five home last year were Disney debutants so don't let that put you off.

Ryan Palmer is another who excels on Bermudagrass and all three of his wins have come on such surfaces.

Florida is particularly special to him, this event in particular, as it was the scene of his first ever victory. He's never missed a cut here in eight visits and once again the stats this season show that he's a real birdie machine.

Finally, Davis Love is the all-time money leader in this event and said lately he remains "fully motivated" to gain success on the regular Tour.

Free from the Ryder Cup and all the hand-shaking he had to do as tournament host at the McGladrey (where he was fourth), Love should relish the relaxed atmosphere and he's a decent each-way price at 40/1.

Best bets:Chris Kirk each-way at 28/1
Ryan Palmer each-way at 28/1
Davis Love each-way at 40/1

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