Timberlake Open betting preview

Matt Cooper thinks Vaughn Taylor and local boy Scott Piercy can get their names up in lights in Las Vegas this week.

End of season PGA events often have clumsy names and sometimes even clumsy winners; a description that fits this week like a glove.

The Justin Timberlake Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open has got superstar-billing and very charitable intentions but it also impossible to say without being baffled about what any of it means.

It is almost as confusing trying to work out who might win a tournament whose recent winners include Phil Tataurangi, Andre Stolz, Wes Short Jr. and Marc Turnesa.

Since those four players won this event they have managed just one top ten finish between them which makes you think that, as Las Vegas venues go, the TPC course at Summerlin is less grand stage in an opulent hotel and more back alley bar with an open mike.

Will it remain that way this year? Well, I am, at least, content to take on the favourites.

It is over two years now since Jim Furyk last claimed victory, Anthony Kim might be inspired by the recent criticism of his social life (but just as easily find more ways of getting distracted) and, for all that I admire both players, I cannot back either Tim Clark or Hunter Mahan at 25/1.

So, with three outsiders to be added later, I’ll start this week with two players at nice odds compared to those favoured players.

Vaughn Taylor comes first, a man who has pulled his year around in the last couple of months and has finally secured his card for 2010.

In his first 23 starts of 2009 he failed to crack the top ten and his game was a mess, but he finished eighth at Warwick Hills, briefly threatened to complete a third win at Montreux and then lost out in a play-off last time out at Atunyote.

It seems that the bookmakers have decided that his failure to defeat Matt Kuchar in that six-hole shootout represents some sort of negative, but I’m content to look on the bright side – he went low to make the play-off and very nearly won it.

In pro-am tournaments I also like to back players with a solid record amongst the amateurs and Taylor fits the bill – three times he has contended for the Bob Hope event and he was right in the mix this year until derailed by a poor final round.

A little more luck would have seen him win the Turning Stone Championship and he would then have been closer to Kuchar’s starting price of 33/1 so take the 66/1.

Next up is Davis Love III whose pro-am record is excellent and whose form suggests he is sneaking up on the blind side.

He has won the Pebble Beach pro-am twice, took this event in 1993 and his recent record in Vegas is nothing to be ashamed of either: since his win here he has five top ten finishes in ten starts.

This time last year he won another mouthful – the Children’s Miracle Network Classic – and his form is improving: he was tenth for Greens in Regulation at the BMW Championships and finished 15th last time out at Atunyote.

As a veteran of team golf he might have been watching the President’s Cup with a slightly envious eye, an experience which might inspire a good week so back him on a favoured layout at 50/1.

One of the nearly men of the PGA Tour in 2009 has been Scott Piercy who will have added motivation this week as a born and bred resident of Las Vegas.

When the tour hit Arizona earlier in the year he very nearly claimed a first PGA title when running Kenny Perry close in the FBR Open.

Last time out in Atunyote he was in contention again, holding the joint lead with Kuchar going into the final round before failing to convert.

If those two results hint at a flakiness when faced with the finishing line, don’t panic because he won twice on the Nationwide Tour last year and also has experience of winning a big prize in his home town.

In the 2007 Ultimate Game at the Wynn Las Vegas he shot a five-under par back nine of 31 which overhauled a three-shot deficit to win $2 million on his fifth wedding anniversary.

It’s not the same as winning on the PGA, but it must have taken a lot of bottle.

A homeboy winner would go down well this week and at 100/1 I’m more than happy to back him.

If pro-am form does mean anything, then DJ Trahan has to be worth considering.

His first seven attempts at them on tour were risible with six missed cuts.

But since then he has finished second here at Summerlin, won and finished 14th in the Bob Hope and then came sixth earlier this year at Pebble Beach.

His form might not be dazzling but he has improved in recent weeks and was sixth for Greens in Regulation when finishing 23rd last time out.

He is also a creature of habit, saving his best golf for the winter months.

More specifically he really seems to like October – his Nationwide Tour win came in that month, as did his maiden PGA win, as did his second place finish here.

Add the DJ at 100/1.

As we’re in Vegas, toss a final chip on Leif Olson.

The 28-year-old is an interesting character who gave up the game for a while before finding himself drawn back to the fold.

He fought through all three stages of Q School and had little to show for his rookie year – bar an extraordinary ricocheted hole in one at the Canadian Open – until he finished third last time out at Atunyote.

A long hitter, he felt Atunyote suited him, and Summerlin has also been known to favour the big guns.

It is also a curious fact that recent winners here have never played the course before (in this event at least).

Give him a chance at 200/1.


1 pt e.w. Vaughn Taylor at 66/1 (Ladbrokes, William Hill 1/4 odds 1,2,3,4,5). Rediscovered form, second last time out and likes pro-ams.

1 pt e.w. Davis Love III at 50/1 (Ladbrokes, William Hill 1/4 odds 1,2,3,4,5). Love the course and hinting at a return to form.

0.75 pt e.w. Scott Piercy at 100/1 (Betfred, Paddy Power, 1/4 odds 1,2,3,4,5). Nearly man of 2009 could breakthrough in home town.

0.75 pt e.w. DJ Trahan at 100/1 (General 1/4 odds 1,2,3,4,5). A very solid operator in pro-ams and hitting form.

0.5 pt e.w. Leif Olson at 200/1 (Totesport, Stan James 1/4 odds 1,2,3,4,5). Big-hitter could add to the shock winners in this event.