Las Vegas – Zach tops

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Zach Johnson seems to be everybody’s favourite to win this week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at Las Vegas’s TPC Summerlin.

Johnson, who won three, drew one and lost none of his President’s Cup matches and had compiled seven top 10s in eight starts prior to that showing – including a win at Conway Farms – is the clear-cut favourite of both the bookmakers, most of whom have given him odds of 12/1, and of the notable on-line forecasters like the US PGA Tour’s Rob Bolton.

In Webb Simpson and Nick Watney, both at 16/1, the bookies have gone for two more Americans as their joint second favourites, but it is noteworthy that just behind them are three Presidents Cup first-timers who so strongly bolstered their reputations while playing for the rest-of-the-world Internationals at Muirfield Village some three weeks back.

The first of them, Japan’s new, 21-year-old hot-shot, Hideki Matsuyama, is in 4th place on the bookies list of favourites at 20/1, Canada’s President Cup star, Graham DeLaet 5th at 22/1 and Zimbabwe’s burly Brendon de Jongh is in a share of 6th place, with defending champion and tournament record holder Ryan Moore at 25/1.

On what is ranked as one of the easiest par-71 courses on the US Tour, Moore, a Las Vegas resident, set his record last year with a 24-under 260 tournament tally after matching the course record with an opening 61.

If he’s not higher up on the list of favourites for this second event in the new 2013-2014 Tour schedule, it’s probably because he hasn’t played any competitive golf since his tie for 11th in the third of the four FedEx Cup play-offs in early September.

In the meantime, Matsuyama has not wasted any time in starting to gather FedEx Cup points.

Fresh from the Presidents Cup, he headed straight for last week’s Frys.Com Open in California and promptly grabbed second place behind Tour-seasoned American Jimmy Walker, who, interestingly enough, has this week, at 33/1, been ranked lower than both Matsuyasma (20/1) and Brooks Koepka (28/1), the European Tour invitee who featured so strongly at CordeValle last week until two late bogeys dropped him back into joint third place.

If Delaet and De Jongh are rated just behind him as likely winners, it’s not only because of their impressive Presidents Cup debuts.

Delaet, whose game has been getting stronger by the month, leads the PGA Tour in total driving (length and accuracy) and ranks third in the number of greens he has hit in regulation.

De Jongh, like Delaet, has yet to win, but he has made 25 cuts this year and few have surpassed him when it has come to making birdies.

On a course where lots of birdies are an absolutely necessity for victory, he finished second behind Moore last year and in his current form there is no reason why he shouldn’t be up with the likes of Zach Johnson and the other front-runners heading down the final stretch on Sunday, perhaps gambling on those three risk and reward holes that make up the closing four.

In a season when too many US tournaments have been disrupted and even delayed by heavy rain, the field of 132 with its 70 Tour winners, 12 major champions and 32 off-shore invaders will be pleased to know that no rain and very little wind is forecast for all four days of the tournament.

THE BOOKIES TOP 20 FAVOURITES

Here were the top 20 favourites being quoted by Sky Bet on Tuesday morning. For all the bookmakers odds you should go to Oddschecker.com.

Zach Johnson 12/1
Webb Simpson 16/1
Nick Watney 16/1
Hideki Matsuyama 20/1
Graham Delaet 22/1
Ryan Moore 25/1
Brendon De Jonge 25/1
Scott Piercy 28/1
Brooks Koepka 28/1
Jimmy Walker 33/1
Kevin Na 33/1
Robert Garrigus 33/1
John Peterson 40/19
Martin Laird 40/1
Spencer Levin 40/1
Chris Kirk 50/1
Charley Hoffman 50/1
George McNeill 50/1
Harris English 50/1
John Huh 66/1

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