Desert Classic 2019: Side with Swafford

American Hudson Swafford
Hudson Swafford can win here again

The PGA Tour heads to the US mainland after two weeks in Hawaii and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks for the Desert Classic in California...

"Swafford was T13 at the 2017 Sony before winning here two years ago so that top three on Sunday could be a portent for another big week."

Back Hudson Swafford each-way @ 40/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places

Main Bet: Back Hudson Swafford each-way @ 45/1

It can be easy with this event - as with all birdie-fests won with 20 or more under - to throw your arms up and say there's too much randomness.

And yet this is a PGA Tour stop with tournament specialists.

Hudson Swafford 1280.jpg

To pick out a couple of examples, Bill Haas won twice (2010 and 2015) and finished runner-up when PGA West (Arnold Palmer) was the host course.

And Adam Hadwin's amazing 59 in 2017 at La Quinta - one of the three courses used over the first 54 holes this week - wasn't just one a lap without context. It helped him finish runner-up and he's posted third (2018) and sixth (2016) either side.

So how about a punt on a former winner here, Hudson Swafford. The big American fired 65-65-71-67 to take the trophy in 2017 and made a decent enough defence 12 months ago when tied 29th.

He returns for another shot on the back of an excellent tied third place in last week's Sony Open.

Swafford was T13 at the 2017 Sony before winning here two years ago so that top three on Sunday could be a portent for another big week.

He's certainly not the only one to play well in Hawaii and then do well on the first event of the new year on the American mainland.

Defending champion Jon Rahm was runner-up at the Sentry TOC before winning this event a fortnight later while Jason Dufner was T9 at the Sony and then won this event in 2016.

Go back to 2014 and three of the Sony Open top eight cracked the top five here. Swafford also offered up some useful info in Hawaii last week.

"Great to start the year like this. Did some good stuff over the holidays with my coach and swing is feeling good.

"Everything is feeling good," he said.

The stats back it up as he ranked fifth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (6.014) at Waialae.

And also this: "New father, so life couldn't get much better."

A bit of Nappy Factor is always good to have onside so let's have some 40/1.

Next Best: Back Andrew Putnam each-way @ 30/1

Andrew Putnam was probably destined to be an expert with the blade.

In the same way that there might be an Andrew Ironnam who hits lot of greens and an Andrew Drivenam who finds lots of fairways, the clue is in the name for Putnam.

And it's that prowess on the putting surfaces that gets my attention here.

Andrew Putnam (720).jpg

In the two Hawaii events he gained a ridiculous 17.682 strokes with the putter, finishing T14 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and runner-up at the Sony Open.

He was on the wrong side of the draw at Waialae, thus fighting a late/early bias of over two-and-half shots, so his performance was particularly impressive.

Putnam, who went to college in California, has form of 4-14-4 on the PGA Tour, that run sparked by a top four at the WGC-HSBC Championship while it was only back in August that he won the Barracuda Championship in Nevada.

His weakness is off the tee and that doesn't seem to matter much here when sifting through the stats of previous editions.

It didn't hurt him much last year and four rounds in the 60s on his tournament debut resulted in a healthy tied 17th - a result he can improve upon this week.

"My goal is to get top 50 in the world. This is another step in the right direction," he said last week.

He's currently 45th - up from 67th - so he can't have been aware at the time. He'll know now for sure but I don't expect him to back off.

Putnam will become a first-time father around March (due Honda Classic week) so this is the time to get some more world ranking points on the board before he has a break.

The 30/1 is hardly amazing but it's the best in the industry and he looks ripe for another strong showing.

Final Bet: Back Brandon Harkins each-way @ 150/1

For my last selection, I'm going to take a punt on Brandon Harkins at 150/1.

The 32-year-old is a native of California and it shows up in his results.

Brandon Harkins 1280.jpg

On the he finished runner-up at the 2017 Ellie Mae Classic and then took T9 in the PGA Tour's Safeway Open.

And he started last year's West Coast Swing with T8 in this event, T12 at the Farmers Insurance Open and T15 at Pebble Beach.

That's a pretty impressive body of work and he spoke about his enjoyment of this tournament last year.

Asked about how comfortable he was at these courses, Harkins said: "Very. Years ago I played final stage of Q-School here, so I've been around these tracks a lot, for the most part, all these courses on the West Coast.

"Growing up in California, it's very comfortable for me. Now living in Scottsdale, that's another one. So that's some of it, I feel very comfortable out here and it's nice to have a lot of support, family and friends out, it's really good."

Showing his bias for the west again in recent months, Harkins also took T9 in the Barracuda Championship and T10 in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.

He closed that event with a 64, a number he also shot in the first round of this tournament last year.

Harkins shook off some rust with T51 in last week's Sony Open and shot 66-70-67 over the final 54 holes, ranking third in Putting Average.

Back in 2018, he said: "I think that I'm a pretty good iron player, and then once I'm on the greens I think I'm able to roll in putts. I would definitely say putting's become more of a strength the past couple years."

If he can sink a few this week, Harkins' record in his home State suggests he's capable of getting in the mix at a huge price.

Dave's 2018/19 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £270
Returned: £223.66
P/L: -£46.33

P/L: +£362.84

P/L: +£1179.89

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