Paul Krishnamurty previews the second leg of the Australian triple-crown, where Adam Scott is red-hot favourite to extend a great record at his hometown course...
"It is hard to make a case against taking odds of 5.0 about Adam Scott...Royal Pines is his hometown course and his record here is exemplary - winning by four strokes in the 2013 renewal and losing a play-off the following year."
The triple-crown's longstanding reputation for producing obvious winners with international prowess stood up yet again in this year's first leg, with Jordan Spieth taking the Australian Open spoils. For the second leg, in the absence of Spieth, one man stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Whether as a win only bet, cover or in-running trade, it is hard to make a case against taking odds of 5.04/1 about Adam Scott for this week's Australian PGA Championship. Royal Pines is his hometown course and his record here is exemplary - winning by four strokes in the 2013 renewal and losing a play-off the following year.
Granted, Scott hasn't really set the world alight over the past fortnight but half a lifetime's course experience must bode well for finding the necessary improvement.
The fact that the second favourite is a non-winner - albeit a highly likeable one who went agonisingly close to breaking that duck in the Open - speaks volumes. Below Cameron Smith, the other big names have plenty of questions to answer. In truth, this looks a weaker field than the Open.
In terms of global pedigree, Scott's closest rival is Marc Leishman - a contender in multiple majors with good recent PGA Tour form in the book. However his record at home is strangely poor, only once registering a top-five finish in a triple-crown event.
John Senden is hard to fancy after a very disappointing Open, at a course where his record is vastly inferior compared to Royal Sydney. Ian Poulter has pedigree at all levels, including Australia, but has been way off his world-class best for ages. Danny Lee has been struggling on the PGA Tour.
The biggest threats could be Smith and the similarly promising Ryan Fox. The former fought back brilliantly from a bad draw and awful start in the Open, and has progressed since finishing fifth and ninth in the last two renewals. Fox had been a model of consistency on the Challenge Tour before finishing fourth at Royal Sydney.
Before getting to the rest, consider this. Unless one of these relatively big-name rivals goes clear, Scott will need to do very little to stay around these pre-tournament odds in-running. I'd estimate that, if he's five off the pace going into Saturday, he could well be shorter than 5.04/1. At the very least he must be covered because there's every chance Scott will produce a 2013 style-rout.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of attractive each-way alternatives. Previous renewals here confirm that international pedigree is the key. Scott was followed home by Rickie Fowler in 2013, then touched off by Greg Chalmers in 2014. Last year's winner Nathan Holman had good numbers on a range of continents and was followed home by PGA Tour rookie Harold Varner.
Two that meet that criteria particularly stand out as each-way bets at the odds. Jaco Van Zyl would normally be playing the prestigious event in his South African homeland this week and could be rewarded for this unlikely scheduling decision.
Tee to green accuracy is priceless at all top-class Australian venues and last year's level par winning total plus a windy forecast suggest another tough test. Accuracy is precisely Van Zyl's forte and the best of his European form - seventh in elite company at Wentworth, sixth at the Made In Denmark - stands out in this company.
Improving Aussie Jason Scrivener also boasts the right combination of international plus domestic form. The 27-year-old has recorded good finishes across various continents - including top-20s on his last two in Europe. Significantly, he was fourth in the Open and third at the co-sanctioned Perth International.
As usual for a triple-crown, playing finishing positions markets is a must. Making the top twenty really isn't asking that much and both the aformentioned pair look cracking value at 13-8 and 7-4 respectively.
8 units win Adam Scott @ 5.04/1
2u ew Jaco Van Zyl @ 40/1
2u ew Jason Scrivener @ 40/1