Mayakoba betting preview

Brian Gay heads our Ben Coley’s staking plan for this week’s Mayakoba Classic in Mexico.

With 64 of the world’s best players in Arizona for the WGC-Accenture Matchplay Championship, the PGA Tour’s lesser lights get the chance to show their skills in Mexico at this week’s Mayakoba Classic.

One man who has nothing to prove is Aaron Baddeley, so impressive in winning at Riviera last week, and it’s good to see the Australian back in the sort of form that marked him out as one of the world’s most promising golfers a decade ago.

Still short of his 30th birthday, there’s no doubt that ‘Badds’ can still become a major force in golf and this title is there for the taking if he’s in the same form as he was in the Northern Trust Open. On the downside, the bookmakers are taking no chances, he’s never played the event before and he’s had a couple of late nights celebrating and catching up with his family since Sunday night.

The odds compilers don’t have him as favourite, an honour that goes to Brian Gay, a three-time TOUR winner who gained his breakthrough success here in 2008.

The Texan, now approaching his 40th birthday, is at his best on tracks that require accurate driving and supreme putting which El Cameleon GC certainly does. The course is a sub-7000 yard par-71 designed by Greg Norman to offer an environmentally friendly test of a range of golfers’ skills and will provide a stunning, picturesque setting for what should be an exciting tournament.

Gay arrives on the back of a forgivable missed cut at in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and had previously signed for three top-20 finishes in as many starts on the TOUR this year. Unsurprisingly, he leads the driving accuracy rankings as well as sand saves, total putting and actual scoring.

Perhaps surprisingly, he’s 3rd in par-5 birdie or better percentage – Gay is one of the shortest hitters on the PGA Tour and can rarely make par-5s in two – but more interesting to me is his scoring on par-4s, which should be crucial this week.

The Texan is 17-under for the par for the par-4s he’s played this season and it’s significant that when he’s won, it’s been thanks to supreme play on the mid-holes.

Throw in the fact he’s second in birdie average and has won his three tournaments by a total aggregate of 17 shots and you have all the ingredients for a decent win only bet against a modest field.

Next in the market comes the impressive Jhonattan Vegas who looks to have the swing, temperament and tenacity for the big-time but again you’re taking a chance on how he’ll adapt to the course, while Charles Howell III doesn’t compete nearly as often as a man of his talent should.

So for my biggest danger I’m siding with Wisconsin’s Jerry Kelly, who prior to narrowly missing the cut in Phoenix had shot nine rounds in the 60s to start the year.

He’s another who is known for accuracy off the tee, ranking ninth in that field so far this year, but even more interesting is the improvement he seems to have shown with the putter this year. Of course at this very early stage the stats will only tell us so much, but 10th in putts per round after three events bodes well for a man well inside the top-40 in 2009, before plummeting outside the top-100 last year.

Kelly – a very similar player to Gay – is a fine scrambler who can make the most out of a round and in three starts in the event he has two top-30s and a top-six. I’m not put off by his Phoenix MC as that’s the third straight time he’s failed to make the weekend there; the golf course simply doesn’t suit.

Furthermore, his three TOUR wins have come when you’d perhaps least expect – first time out, after a withdrawal, and after a missed cut. In keeping with his tenacity on the course, Kelly has shown that he can rebound fast and against this field I’d be disappointed were he not in contention come Sunday.

Sticking with the belief that man with a bit of experience can plot their way around the course – recent winners include Jeff Maggert and Mark Wilson – J.J. Henry gets a confident each-way vote too.

Henry is, as the Americans would put it, trending upwards, having gone T65 – T41 – T15 – T9 in his last four starts. 2010 was a solid year for him too, making 19 out of 27 cuts and closing with a fine 63 towards the end of the season in the Turning Stone Resort Championship on his way to second.

That was the first time he’d finished second since he took the runner-up spot behind Mark Wilson here two years ago and there doesn’t seem any reason why he shouldn’t again play well in Mexico.

At Riviera last week, Henry was in the top-30 in greens hit, driving accuracy and putting, three areas of importance when it comes to scoring around this course.

Getting over that winning line shouldn’t be a problem for the 2006 Ryder Cup veteran who has a TOUR win to his name already and at the prices he makes more appeal than the likes of Spencer Levin, who makes similar appeal in terms of his playing profile but still lacks a win.

As we saw with Kevin Na last Sunday and Jason Dufner in Phoenix, getting over the winning line for the first time is one of the hardest things in golf.