The Frys.com Open preview
And, all too soon, the new PGA Tour season is upon us, barely three weeks after Henrik Stenson won the season-ending Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.
But this year the Fall Tour, which starts this week with the Frys.com Open at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, California, is a very different proposition to the old one.
Last year it was a poorer golfer’s late add-on to the PGA Tour proper, meant mainly to give those players who had missed out on qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs the chance to earn some additional revenue and, for a handful of border-liners, the opportunity to claim points desperately needed to hold on to their tour cards for the following season.
But no longer.
The four tournaments that last year constituted the Fall Tour have, from this week, became six and are now an integral part and the start of the new, full-blown 2013-14 US PGA Tour, offering for the first time FedEx Cup points and a slot in the Masters field for each respective winner.
Getting back to the Frys.com Open, all of the American big guns who beat the Rest of the World’s Internationals in the President’s Cup are taking a break this week, but two members of the International team, Japan’s budding star Hideki Matsuyama and Australian surprise package Marc Leishman, are in the field and right up among the bookies’ favourite.
The 21-year-old Matsuyama with odds of around 22/1 is the third favourite behind big-hitting former basketball star Gary Woodland (16/1) and fellow American Billy Horschel (20/1), while Leishman is in 8th place on the favourites list behind the defending champion Jonas Blixt (22/1), who also won the The Greenbrier Classic this last July, Jimmy Walker (25/1) and the up-and-coming duo of John Peterson (28/1) and Patrick Reed (30/1).
Golf tournaments always offer a host of varying possibilities, but one of this year’s certainties is that after a very wet run in recent weeks, the latest PGA Tour stop will offer fine and sunny weather with perhaps a little wind that may sweep in and out of the Santa Clara Valley on Occasions.
The other certainty is that Sunday’s winner won’t be going back to CordeValle to defend his title.
The Frys.com Open is being moved to Silverado Resort to give CordeValle the time and space to prepare for the 2016 US Women’s Open.
Until then the course this week’s field will encounter has a par of 71 and is 7,379 yards off the back tees.
Scoring low on it is not an especially difficult task as is reflected by its average 18-hole score last year of 70.256.
Its large, easy to hit greens that average out at 8,300 square feet have quite a bit to do with this – and the fact that CordeValle was the third easiest of all par 71 courses on tour last year.
Hitting its fairways is important, but with the course inevitably being set up for good ball strikers, approach shots rather than drives off the tee are the key to success.
South African Tim Clark, who missed out on another Presidents Cup cap, will want to put this disappointment behind him with a good performance here and with his solid irons game he certainly has the tools.
So has Patrick Reid, whose game seemed to fall away some after his first Tour victory in the Wyndham championship. He closed with a 63 in tying for 11th at the Frys last year where he led the field in par-five scores (average 4,17) from 2 eagles, 6 birdies and just four pars.
But in a field without the game’s biggest names like Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, there are endless possibilities, so don’t be too surprised if a complete outsider pops up to grab the early glory on this first-time 2013-2014 Tour.
THE BOOKIES TOP 20 FAVOURITES
Here were the top 20 favourites being quoted by Sky Bet on Tuesday afternoon. For all the bookmakers odds you should go to Oddschecker.com
Gary Woodland 16/1
Billy Horschel 20/1
Hideki Matsuyama 22/1
Jonas Blixt 22/1
Jimmy Walker 25/1
John Peterson 28/1
Patrick Reed 30/1
Marc Leishman 33/1
Bryce Molder 40/1
Charles Howell III 40/1
Bud Cauley 40/1
John Huh 50/1
Jason Kokrak 50/1
Fredrik Jacobson 50/1
Seung-Yul Noh 45/1
Ben Martin 50/1
Tim Clark 66/1
Robert Garrigus 66/1
Kevin Chappell 55/1
Rory Sabbatini 50/1
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