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Bob Hope betting preview

By Dave Tindall Last updated: 18th January 2011

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Alex Prugh's superb record in California makes him our headline pick for this week's 90-hole Bob Hope Classic.

Alex Prugh - loves California.

Alex Prugh - loves California.

There used to a time when pro-ams were considered best suited to the veteran pros who didn't mind larking around at a slower pace.

But trends have changed in the Bob Hope Classic, the tour's only remaining 90-hole event.

The last five winners of this event - Chad Campbell, Charley Hoffman, DJ Trahan, Pat Perez and Bill Haas - have all been in their late 20s/early 30s with four of them (Trahan the exception) making the Bob Hope title their first win on tour.

Alex Prugh, 26, is at the young end of that scale but gets my attention due to his quite superb record in California.

He started off like a train when launching his rookie season in the Golden State last year. He finished fifth here at the Bob Hope, fifth at Torrey Pines, 10th at Riviera and 27th at Pebble when in contention before going up in smoke at the 14th on Sunday.

The rookie then vanished from leaderboards until coming on strong again when the Tour returned to the West Coast in late season.

He excelled yet again in California when finishing runner-up in the Frys.com Open and in his final event of the season in Nevada he threatened to shoot a 59 in round two in the Justin Timberlake before fading.

Prugh lives in Las Vegas so it's only a short hop to California and having admitted he'd played the resort courses of Vegas "a million times" in the last couple of years it was perhaps no real surprise to see him flourish in similar conditions at The Hope.

He gave more glimpses of his vast potential when tied 20th in the Sony Open last week and that was on a track that really wasn't up his street.

If the California magic rubs off on him again, the Economics grad could prove a smart investment at 60/1.

Webb Simpson, like 2011 winners Jonathan Byrd and Mark Wilson, should carry plenty of positive memories over from the end of 2010 .

After a difficult season, he put to bed any concerns about keeping his card with a strong run from August to November which included a tied eighth at the Wyndham Championship and a fourth at the Justin Timberlake in Las Vegas where he actually held the lead with two holes to play.

That big performance in a West Coast event played on an easy resort course (Simpson shot 66-66-64-68) looks an ideal pointer for this week's task.

But we don't need to guess that Simpson will play well here - we already know.

Two years ago, in his rookie season, he fired 27-under to finish tied fifth and last year he entered the final round tied 17th before stalling on Sunday and ending up 33rd.

As an added bonus he also won his Tour card when two of these courses hosted the 2008 Q-School. Simpson finished seventh and hence La Quinta will always hold happy memories.

So what does the 25-year-old do well?

The short answer would be 'putt'.

Last year he ranked 17th in Putting Average while in 2009 he finished 25th. Pleasingly for our bet he translated that prowess on the short grass to this event and was ninth in Putts Per Round here 12 months ago.

He's also a very fine bunker player - another good skill to have given the amount of sand scattered around these courses.

The former Walker Cup star teed it up in the Sony Open last week and finished 46th and although he would have wanted better it was a decent way to shake off the rust and prepare him for The Hope.

Talking after his near-miss in Vegas in October, Simpson said: "I take away a lot. I think I proved today to myself and everyone else that I can do it. I made a lot of good birdies and good swings and good putts there on the back nine, which is what I needed to do."

Back him for a first Tour win at 66/1.

Steve Marino, like Simpson, is another player to have come through Q-School at La Quinta (he finished tied eighth in 2006).

Before you think I'm overplaying the link, check out the 2004 Q-School results which show DJ Trahan winning his card here. Trahan, of course, went on to win the Bob Hope four years later.

Marino has carried the "best player not to have won on Tour" tag for some time but he appears too much of a talent to continue in that unwanted role.

He's certainly knocked at the door and his runners-up finish in last week's Sony Open was his third second place while he also has two thirds on his record.

Much is being made of Marino's rededication to the game which basically appears to consist of giving up alcohol for January. One month of abstinence is hardly life-changing but maybe we should try and take advantage now before he hits the beer again!

There could be something in it though and a little bit of healthier living might just get Marino over the hump.

As well as his happy Q-School memories, Marino has made the cut in all three of his Bob Hope appearances and opened up 65-69-64 in his last appearance in 2009 when making the top 25.

He made the top five in the first two California events of 2010 and as a 30-year-old "winner waiting to happen", who makes loads of birdies, he looks an absolutely ideal fit for this event.

You might have to take a few deep breaths over the final holes as Marino has wobbled down the stretch before but his time is surely due. Snap up the 33s.

Next, Kevin Streelman also fits the profile of recent winners.

He's now 32, he's shown bags of potential during his three seasons on Tour (11 top 10s, including two top threes last year) and makes plenty of birdies and eagles (he finished 11th in Par Breakers - a measure of both - in 2010).

He compiled five top 10s last season and it's worth noting a couple of them.

The first came here when he went 63-64 in rounds three and four and he managed two more in the Play-offs - a third in The Barclays (including a second round 63) and a ninth in the Tour Championship.

After a strong finish to 2010, the 80/1 here looks appealing.

Finally, I'll end with a punt on one of the recent champs.

Haas, Hoffman, Campbell and Perez all have decent to strong claims but DJ Trahan offers the best value.

The big price is partly due to his missed cut in the Sony Open but, even though he likes the Hawaii event, Trahan traditionally plays poorly at Waialae before coming to life at The Hope.

When he won this event in 2008 he was arriving back on the American mainland early after a missed cut at the Sony while last year's seventh place at the Bob Hope followed on from another bout of Friday trunk slamming in Hawaii.

Trahan finished 2010 with three top 10s (a 3rd, a 5th and a 10th) in his final six events and although his putting is hit and miss he does hit lots of greens in regulation to give himself plenty of looks.

He finished 14th in the All-Around ranking last year so the layers are underestimating him by offering him up at 66s at one of his favourite venues.

Tips:

1pt e.w. Alex Prugh at 60/1 (bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Fantastic record in California, including 5th here in 2010. Nice warm-up in the Sony.

1pt e.w. Webb Simpson at 66/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Came through Q-School here and fifth in 2009. Strong finish to 2010.

2pts e.w. Steve Marino at 33/1 (Boylesports, Betfred, Sky Bet 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Runner-up last week and a winner waiting to happen. Also won his Tour card here.

1pt e.w. Kevin Streelman at 80/1 (Stan James 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Like Marino, has the ideal profile of past winners here. T10 in 2010.

1pt e.w. DJ Trahan at 66/1 (Betfred 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Ended 2010 well and loves this venue having won here in 2008.

  • Preview posted at 0925 GMT on 18/01/2011.

    Dave Tindall



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