Reno-Tahoe Open betting preview

Dave John previews this week’s Legends Reno-Tahoe Open in Nevada and fancies a couple of big-priced outsiders.

The Legends Reno-Tahoe Open is the traditional side dish to this week’s WGC event at Firestone and a very interesting event it is in its own right.

While Tiger Woods rather showboated his way to victory in the Buick last week as those in behind failed to land a serious blow, this is a real chance for one of the lesser lights to make a name for himself and grab a PGA Tour title.

That has been borne out in past results with five first-time winners lifting the trophy and four players (five wins overall) being in their 20s.

The first player to catch the eye at 80/1 is Spencer Levin, who fits both of the above criteria for a starter.

Formerly a top amateur, he finished a superb T13 at the 2004 US Open while still in the unpaid ranks and has since progressed gradually until making his full time bow on the PGA Tour this season.

It has been a pleasing start to boot with four top 25s so far in 2009, including a best of T7 in Milwaukee during Open Championship week where he closed with a personal best of 63.

What makes Levin of additional interest are his close links to the Reno area – he was born in Sacremento just across the stateline in California, a mere 111 miles away.

Levin is sure to have plenty of local support behind him and in turn he will be keen to do well in return – his California connections cemented by the fact that his middle name Joseph came from Joe Montana, the legendary San Franciso 49ers quarterback.

Levin has shown more than enough to be competitive this week, has some course form (T27 back in 2005) and his short hitting (183rd in driving distance in 2009) will be negated to some extent with the 7500-yard course being at altitude.

It is also quite eyecatching that Levin has form in Oregon, Utah and Idaho – all states which border Nevada – so it seems no coincidence that he plays well in this part of the USA.

On a similar thread, I am keen on the chances of local man Rich Barcelo, who is a resident of Reno and spent his college days at University of Nevada.

Barcelo turned pro in 1998 and journeyman has aptly described a career flitting between the PGA and Nationwide Tours, spending more time on the latter.

But a recent win in the Cox Classic (fired a 62 in round two) in Nebraska seems to have given him that much needed shot in the arm that the vast majority of pros need at one stage or another.

“It means everything to me,” said Barcelo.

“It’s a validation of so many years of hard work. I’ve been a pro for ten years and there comes a time when you doubt yourself but this is a good exclamation point on a great week.”

That success came at the end of last month and I can really see him carrying that momentum to this event in his home town.

His best finish ever on the PGA Tour – you guessed it, came here in 2007 when he was T4 – and all of a sudden you can see that Barcelo ticks a lot of boxes at a generous 150/1.

With Brandt Snedeker a late non-runner, the betting is headed by Charley Hoffman and he is worth a play at 28/1 among the more obvious candidates according to the bookmakers.

Like Barcelo, he is also a Nevada resident (Las Vegas) where he spent his college days as well.

Hoffman is a man who enjoys his golf in a relaxed fashion but that does not mean he is not a seriously good player – he missed the cut at Turnberry recently but had made it through to the weekend in his previous 25 straight events.

Another very consistent campaign has seen him come closest in Phoenix when he was beaten in a play-off by Kenny Perry and in a tournament of this nature with the very top players elsewhere, Hoffman is a leading candidate.

Two efforts at Montreux (T29 and T36) are no more than steady enough but I fancy Hoffman will improve markedly on those this week.

Two more selections to put up – Michael Allen and Aussie Steve Allan.

The former created a little piece of his own history as he joined only Arnold Palmer in winning the Senior PGA Championship on his Champions Tour debut.

Allen turned 50 in January this year but that has not held him back from performing well against the youngsters on the PGA Tour with handy displays at the Travelers Championship and the AT&T National, where he was let down by a closing 74 in the latter.

Like Barcelo, Allen has been revitalised by a win on another Tour.

He said: “I think it’s helped me a lot because in a few ways it’s given me some validity to what I’ve been doing.

“It was also a nice experience that when I won I was very comfortable in doing that.”

Allen has since reconfirnmed that the PGA Tour is where he wants to play and where he feels he can still compete so a slightly lesser event like this must give him every chance.

Namesake Allan has been enduring a torrid season and is certainly a speculative punt at 150/1.

But despite the rash of missed cuts he admits things may not be quite so bad as they seem.

He said: “I really haven’t been playing that badly, I just haven’t been putting a score on the board.

“I don’t know if I’ve been trying too hard and putting too much pressure on myself.”

He looked on course to make the weekend last week in the Buick Open but for two late bogeys in his second round – a performance that rather encapsulates his season.

But there are a couple of good reasons to get behind him in Reno.

First off, he came very close to winning here back in 2004 when he had one hand on the trophy only to double bogey the last, and lose to Vaughn Taylor in a play-off.

That will have been traumatic but two other top-12 finishes at the course suggest this place suits Allan’s game and it could be the place where he can arrest his current slump.

Throw in the fact too that he will be inspired by countyryman and good friend Nathan Green’s recent win in Canada and Allan could emerge from the gloom and at last make that vital breakthrough.

2pts e.w. Rich Barcelo at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 bet365). Should be buzzing after recent win and can deliver in home town.
1pt e.w. Spencer Levin at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 totesport). Very talented Sacremento native who has good chance to break his duck.
1pt e.w. Charley Hoffman at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Sportingbet). Big player in this company and consistency deserves a win.
1pt e.w. Michael Allen at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Boylesports). Big recent boost with a win on Senior Tour and no back number here.
1pt e.w. Steve Allan at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 bet365). Playing better than figures suggest and reasons to take a punt on him.