Southern Dunes Classic Tips: Xiong scouting the win in Arizona

Southern Dunes
Southern Dunes Golf Club in Arizona is the venue for this week's Outlaw Tour event
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We're off to Arizona for this week's Outlaw Tour event as the Southern Dunes Classic takes centre stage. Matt Cooper previews the tournament and provides his recommended bets...

"Among the log book of those events is the name of Xiong, who was one of three players to emerge top of the Korn Ferry class in 2018 on 16-under after carding rounds of 67-69-70-66."

Back Norman Xiong each-way @ 25/1

Remember the name: Barry Enright - the man who succeeded where Julian Dicks, Jimmy Bullard and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, among others, have failed.

Like that eclectic set of names, Enright has previously performed at the highest level in another sport (in his case as a pitcher in Major League Baseball) before turning attention to golf.

There are plenty of professional golfers who welcome this sideways trickle of talent, appreciating the burst of attention it provides, but many others resent the assumption that the sport can taken-up as a second option.

However, any grumbling in Enright's case will have been shut down after he overcame Sam Triplett and our pick Dylan Wu in last week's six-hole play-off.

He started the week with almost no golf at this level and was therefore a 500/1 outsider even in a small field so chapeau to anyone who picked him!

With second pick Nick Mason ending the week in a tie for fifth it was a case of clattering the cross-bar with one shot and clipping it with another, so here's hoping for better luck this week.

Intriguing background

The Southern Dunes Classic takes place at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Arizona and it has an intriguing background, being owned by the Ak-Chin Indians and, as such, is vital to the community's present and future.

Designed by Brian Curley and Fred Couples, it is inspired by courses on the Australian sand-belt and, as such, rolling fairways and undulating greens twist between desert scrub and trees.

Another distinction of the test comes in the shaping of the putting surfaces, which are incredibly varied - both big and small, wide and narrow, deep and shallow.

First Bet: Back Norman Xiong each-way @ 25/1

The course has proved itself as a tournament venue time and time again: it's an annual U.S. Open Qualifying site, has hosted three state Amateur Championships, was part of the PGA Tour Qualifying School (when that existed) and remains first stage host of Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying.

Among the log book of those events is the name of Xiong, who was one of three players to emerge top of the Korn Ferry class in 2018 on 16-under after carding rounds of 67-69-70-66.

There was a time when much was expected of the 21-year-old who was born in Guam, but whose parents moved to San Diego when he was six, after he rose imperiously through the levels of age group amateur golf.

He earned the Jack Nicklaus Award for top NCAA Golfer of the Year in college, defeated Doc Redman to win the prestigious Western Amateur, played in the Junior Ryder Cup, the Palmer Cup and won three and a half points from his four matches in the 2017 Walker Cup.

In the very first encounter of the latter he teamed up with Collin Morikawa to thrash Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant 8&7.

But it would be hard to argue that Xiong has achieved much in his few ventures near the top of golf's ladder. Indeed, in 30 starts on the PGA and Korn Ferry Tours, he's made just seven cuts, landing only one top 20.

One of his few career top 30s at the higher level came not on those circuits, but in the 2018 Australian Open, when he was T28th at The Lakes - not, unfortunately, a Melbourne sand-belt track, but both visually and in playing terms it's rather alike.

Xiong has been seen twice this year, finishing T20th and third on the Golden State Tour.

There's enough to like about him at this price in this field.

Second Bet: Back Sam Triplett each-way @ 16/1

The son of Kirk, the three-time PGA Tour winner who's added eight victories on the Champions Tour in recent years, Sam gave last week's winner Enright a good fight, lasting all of the six extra holes.

It will sting that he failed to lift the trophy, but if he can discover the correct mindset there is plenty of encouragement to be had in a near-miss.

What's more, he has strong experience of the course because last September he was sixth here with rounds of 67-67-68 for 14-under and only one player in the field bettered his tally of par breakers (19 birdies, one eagle).

Holding current and course form cards he's worth adding to the team.

Matt Cooper,

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