It may lack the prestige or eyewatering prizes of golf's main summer events, but the Fall Series carries equal weight when it comes to finding betting value. This four week series, beginning with the JT Shriners Open, principally concerns the PGA Tour rank and file, battling to improve their money list standings and therefore next season's playing privileges. Those inside the top-125 retain a full card and there are various benchmarks further up the list, such as a Masters invite for those in the top-30.
Since the Fall Series began, over half the winners had begun the week below or around the critical 125th place cut line. Despite the fact that these are guys who, by definition, have little to recommend in their annual record, it hasn't proved impossible to find winners. In 2009, this column managed to dig out two big-priced winners, Martin Laird and Troy Matteson, while Jonathan Byrd was also identified in 2010. Indeed the answer seems to be to largely ignore the form book and search for proven, capable players whose money list travails mean they'll be well motivated. Remember, most of these players haven't played competitively since before the FedEx Cup and may well in the meantime have found a spark in practice. Here's this year's quintet.
Money list position: 70th
JT Shriners Open odds: [60.0]
In years gone by when perennially struggling for his card, Matteson was a Fall Series specialist. His best run came back in 2006 when winning at this week's venue, Summerlin, and finishing second at the Disney resort which always hosts the final event. In 2009, Matteson also won next week's event, the Frys.com Open. This season he has no such worries but in 70th position, there is still plenty to play for. That is the exact place he needs to qualify for next year's Memorial Tournament and Arnold Palmer Invitational. Even a top-30 and a trip to the Masters is still theoretically within range.
Money list position: 114th
JT Shriners Open odds: [170.0]
After a promising 2010 that saw him win the Texas Open and lead through 54 holes in a major, Steele has failed to fulfil his potential this year. At 114th on the money list, he doesn't need to do much to retain full playing privileges but will doubtless be looking over his shoulder. Steele's problem is inconsistency yet as those previous highlights illustrate, he is capable of a high standard when on song. Even during this disappointing campaign, he's managed four top-eights finishes. Always available at huge odds - this week [170.0] - Steele is precisely the sort of capable candidate that defies the markets at this time of the season. Encouragingly, he finished 16th and seventh in the first two Fall Series events last year.
Money list position: 132nd
JT Shriners Open odds: [60.0]
The idea of John Daly making a successful comeback seemed about as likely as Europe did on Sunday morning, but the big man does appear to be a reformed character. Though down in 132nd place on the money list, Daly has been in good form on both sides of the Atlantic, notably retaining interest despite being out of contention. In stark contrast to the rest of his career, six of Daly's last eight final rounds were better than 70. Prior to the FedEx Cup break, he'd registered a series top-25s in the St Jude Classic, most notably 18th in the PGA and fifth at Reno. This dual major champion was always capable of conjuring a winning performance out of nowhere, and retains the ability to spring a surprise on either the PGA or European Tour.
Money list position: 172nd
JT Shriners Open odds: [130.0]
Languishing in 172nd place, the reigning South African champion has his work cut out, but his surprising presence in the Summerlin line-up leads me to think he could make a bold bid over the next month. Mulroy doesn't lack pedigree, having won titles on the Web.com Tour and Race to Dubai, and is in good form after finishing second in the recent Italian Open. Indeed, autumn usually proves to be Mulroy's best time of the year as he gears up for the main South African season. Mulroy is also one of this week's Find Me a 100 Winner picks.
Money list position: 143rd
JT Shriners Open odds: n/a
Horschel caught the eye around this time last year and was running into form before the FedEx Cup break. Over the past three months, he ranks eighth for greens in regulation and ninth for birdie average - attributes that enabled a run of eight straight cuts with a best of third in the True South Classic. Given that he's kept busy during the break, finishing seventh on the Web.com Tour a fortnight ago, there's much to expect Horschel can retain that standard, which will be needed if he is to earn his card from 143rd place. Billy isn't in the Summerlin field, but is one for the shortlist over the following fortnight, as he returns to CordeValle and Sea Island - courses where he finished seventh and 20th last year when virtually unknown.
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