Simpson looks good for Sea Island

Features

The US PGA Tour’s McGladrey Classic, set to be played this week at the Sea Island Resort, is the fourth edition of this event, but the first of its kind.

It has been the final tournament in the Tour’s discontinued Fall Series for the past three years, but in many ways, the 2013 event is a whole new ball game.

For starters, it now comes in the early part of the new-look 2013-2014 US PGA Tour, instead of being a mere appendage, as it used to be, laid on after the season-closing, Lord Mayor’s show, The Tour Championship, mainly for the benefit of the Tour’s lesser mortals seeking to cement their shaky exemptions for the following year’s Tour.

And as such, this means it now counts for FedEx Cup points as well as offering the winner boosted prize money of $990,000 and exemptions into the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the Masters, The Players Championship and the PGA Championship – should they need it.

It’s no wonder then that its field this year is stronger than in the past with high-ranking golfers like Matt Kuchar, the World No 9, Zach Johnson (13) and the 2012 US Open champion Webb Simpson (20) heading it up.

Sea Island Resort’s 7,005 yard, par-70 Seaside Course on St Simons Island where this event has always been played, was ranked as the easiest par-70 course on the PGA Tour last year, the total rounds played having averaged out at 69.281.

The talk there is that it’s a gifted putter’s paradise as getting out of trouble after misdirected tee-shots and approach shots is not an especially trying task, whereas getting the ball in the hole on it’s large Bermuda grass greens (average 7 000 sq ft) certainly is.

Seaside averaged 30.70 putts per round in 2012 which was the second-most only to the Plantation Course at Kapalua and this is maybe why Simpson, winner of the Shriners two weeks ago and who lost in a playoff at Sea Island in 2011 after averaging 67.00 in his eight rounds played there, seems to be everybody’s favourite this week – the bookmakers included.

They have, without exception, installed him on top of their winners list at 10/1 followed by Kuchar and Johnson, both at 14/1, Charles Howell at 25/1, Harris English at 28/1, Luke Guthrie at 30/1 and Brendon de Jongh and Boo Weekley at 33/1.

Kuchar’s current form is not easy to measure as he has not fired a shot in anger since the Presidents Cup more than a month ago and in the circumstances it is more likely that former Masters champion, Zach Johnson, who can boast of having seven top 10 finishers (including a victory) in his last nine starts and who, as a Saint Simons Island resident, knows the course better than most, will make him one of the men to beat.

And let’s not forget Luke Guthrie who seems to have been coming on fast in recent weeks, the young American having finished in a tie for 5th at the Shriners three weeks ago and with a solo fourth at the BMW Masters on the European Tour two weeks ago where he held or shared the lead after each of the first three rounds.

English, Howell, Jeff Overton, Jason Bohn, Boo Weekley and Chris Stroud might be some of the other in-form contenders worth watching.

The defending champion this year is American journeyman Tommy Gainey, but the bookies don’t seem to hold out much hope for him successfully defending his title.

They’ve made him a rank outsider at odds of around 150/1 – along with a band of the once mighty fallen that includes Daren Clarke and Retief Goosen, also at 150/1, and Luke Glover and Stuart Appleby at 200/1.

THE BOOKMAKERS’ TOP 20

Here were the top 20 favourites being quoted by Sky Bet on Tuesday morning. For all the bookmakers odds you should go to href=’http:// http://www.oddschecker.com/golf/the-mcgladrey-classic/winner ‘ target=’_blank’ class=’instorylink’>Oddschecker.com

Webb Simpson 10/1
Matt Kuchar 14/1
Zach Johnson 14/1
Charles Howell III 25/1
Harris English 28/1
Luke Guthrie 30/1
Brendon De Jonge 33/1
Boo Weekley 33/1
David Toms 35/1
Robert Garrigus 40/1
Charley Hoffman 45/1
Jeff Overton 45/1
John Peterson 45/1
Chris Stroud 50/1
Chris Kirk 50/1
Fredrik Jacobson 50/1
Chesson Hadley 50/1
Sean OHairc 60/1
Carl Pettersson 66/1
Scott Piercy 66/1.

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