Garrigus looks good for Disney

In the absence of the US PGA Tour’s big guns, Robert Garrigus has to be this week’s favourite to win Sunday’s Fall Series finale at Disney World.

And for lots of reasons.

The 34-year-old Scottsdale resident’s sole PGA Tour title was won here in 2010 so he knows and has good memories of the Magnolia and Palm courses at Disney’s Lake Buena Vista resort in Florida on which this week’s season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic is to be played.

Each golfer plays a round on each of the two par-72 courses before the cut, and then plays out the two weekend rounds on the tougher Magnolia course.

It further strengthens Garrigus’s chances that at 26th he ranks highest on the PGA Tour money list of all the players in this week’s field, and that he heads to Thursday’s tee-off with three runner-up Tour finishes this year.

Unlike some of the other less fortunate players in the field who are fighting to keep their Tour cards alive by finishing among the top 125 on this year’s PGA Tour money list, Garrigus is under no pressure in that respect.

For the same reason, nor are Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge, Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey and 2012 US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, three of the other contestants in the field who are being looked at as potential winners.

De Jong didn’t do especially well in his last three visits to Disney, but with a runner-up spot at the recent JT Schriners and two 4th places in his last two starts in the McGladrey and CIMB Classics, he certainly seems to be a man on the move – and this largely due to some sparkling iron play that has put him eighth on the Tour’s list of best GIR stats.

And slick iron play could be an important factor this week for the winner is going to have to score a lot of birdies, especially on the short 7010-yard Palm course which is ranked as one of the easiest tracks on the Tour.

All but one of the 11 winners at Disney have shot lower than 68 on the Palm, the actual scoring average of those 11 rounds being 66.18.

The longer 7,516-yard Magnolia Course is quite a bit tougher as its scoring average of 71.367 last year surely indicates, but the fact that the average winning aggregate since it was lengthened in 2005 is 21-under 267 further underlines the importance of scoring low.

Gainey is another who can go low. He shot a PGA Tour season low of 60 in winning the MacGladery Classic a few weeks back and a two-week break since then should have helped him come down considerably from the high that always follows a maiden win. It may also be significant that he was the Disney runner-up in 2008.

Love, the biggest all-time money winner at this tournament, has had seven top fives at Buena Vista and finally broke through for his first win at Disney in 2008. He finished 4th at the McGladrey Classic and I would think he is one of the Tour veterans to watch most closely.

On the other hand, perhaps the most dangerous of the Disney first timers this week will be 26-year-old Chris Kirk who posted two eagles and 22 birdies in finishing in joint fourth place at the CIMB Classic two weeks ago.

The fact that he’ll be teeing off on Thursday with a record of having made the cut in each of his last 11 Tour starts is a further indication that the man is sporting a fair amount of form right now.

On a weekend when the weather shouldn’t play a major role – normally reliable forecasts mild breezes that shouldn’t get up to much more than 12 mph on Sunday and a relatively rain-free week, the exception being on Sunday afternoon when there is as 10% per cent chance of some light rain – other late-season, form players to take note of are Englishman Greg Owen and Americans Ken Duke, John Mallinger and Harrris English, a tour rookie with some pretty fancy recent stats – i.e he ranked second in greens hit in regulation at the McGladery Classic and is 30th overall on Tour this season in GIR.

NOTE: The Fall Series has been dropped from next year’s Tour schedule.

It will continue to be played in the American Fall (ie after the FedEx Cup) but in future the four-tournament series will became the PGA Tour’s season opener and not a closer.

For example, the 2014 season will begin with the Fall Series in October 2013 which will offer qualifying points for the 2014 FedEx Cup Play-offs.