Kicking off a New Year for our longstanding outsiders column, Paul Krishnamurty picks out his best bets at 99-1 or better in this week's European and PGA Tour events...
"Hudson Swafford is already promising to be a Waialae specialist. Eleven of Swafford's first 14 rounds here were sub-70, resulting in three top-13 finishes from four attempts."
Regardless of how things actually transpire, this column always starts the New Year optimistic about our immediate prospects. Unlike the autumn and winter, when plausible outside bets are harder to find in weaker fields, the opening events on both main tours are prime targets. Numerous players have won or contended recently in both the South African Open and Sony Open from starting odds of 99-1 or better, and there's no reason to think this year will be any different.
Slattery should enjoy the tougher Glendower set-up
Another notable early season dynamic is that, following a break from competitive action, strugglers have enjoyed a good chance to recharge and prepare for the new season. We shouldn't be afraid to back players who finished 2017 poorly having shown plenty previously.
Lee Slattery is precisely such a case. The Englishman enjoyed a rich vein of form during the late summer, finishing runner-up in the Czech Masters amidst a quartet of consecutive top-20s, before falling away after October. His long game remained excellent throughout - ranking third for driving accuracy and fourth for greens in regulation amongst this field over the past six months.
That reads particularly encouragingly given this year's set-up and his previous here. The rough is reportedly up at Glendower and should therefore be a more similar test to the 2015 renewal - when Slattery produced by far his best result in third place.
Another occasional contender to be considered at big odds is Zander Lombard at [200.0]. South Africans certainly enjoy a big advantage in this event and, again, if we ignore the last few months of 2017, he's shown plenty at this level both at home and in Europe.
My first reserve - if Slattery were to withdraw for any reason- is an each-way bet on Jorge Campillo at 100/1. The Spaniard finished top-25 on all three Glendower visits and has previously made the places three times in co-sanctioned events.
Finally Steve Rawlings flagged up Austin Connelly earlier at 250.0 in his tournament preview and the young Canadian remains fair value at anything above [150.0]. Granted, his potential was only seen occasionally, but he looked a top prospect at both the Open Championship and KLM Open.
Course form and correlations are the key Sony clue
After more than half a century hosting the Sony Open, there is no shortage of clues to follow at Waialae Country Club. While not necessarily a course where a single particular stat dominates, it is one where previous form really counts for something, as numerous tournament specialists illustrate.
For the full, detailed lowdown check out Steve's preview, in which he explains an essential angle to follow every week - the correlations between different courses. This is a great a way to find players who will at least overperform their odds. Here, Steve notes five correlating courses - El Camaleon, Southwind, Colonial, Sea Island and Harbour Town - to study.
First though, a man who is already promising to be a Waialae specialist. Eleven of Swafford's first 14 rounds here were sub-70, resulting in three top-13 finishes from four attempts. That would read better without a poor closing round 12 months ago, which he started in third place. He would go on to win the following week, so clearly has January pedigree.
Another angle Steve notes in his preview is the advantage of playing in the preceding Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. Swafford ticks that box and, although 22nd out of 34 is hardly a great result, his progressive long game stats were encouraging. Over the two weekend rounds, he was tied for first in gir with Dustin Johnson.
With those course correlations in mind, Stuard looks well over-priced. First he has already contended at Waialae, twice finishing top-six. His figures at El Camaleon (regarded by Steve as the best fit) - include two runners-up and a ninth. He's also finished fifth at Harbour Town and top-25 in half of his starts at Sea Island and Colonial. For a rank outsider, these are significant numbers.
The other course specialist vying with Swafford for selection was Kyle Stanley at [100.0]. I remember this column making a trading profit on him here in 2012 and he's continued to show a liking, hitting 11 sub-70 rounds from 16. The only downside, coming off the back of an improved season, was the lack of any positives from last week's effort.
Finally, Ben Silverman is certainly overpriced at [280.0], if form in the second half of 2017 is the criteria. The Canadian is a late starter, only deciding to turn pro at 16, so may be one to follow entering his thirties.