Puerto Rico Open: Finau can show class

Tony Finau can shine at Coco Beach
Tony Finau can shine at Coco Beach

Dave Tindall brings us his analysis and tips for this week's other PGA Tour event - the Puerto Rico Open...

"Finau closed with a 67 at Bay Hill and his stats (1st in Driving Distance and 6th in Putting Average) showed that Finau was doing what he does best – smashing it long and making putts."

Main bet: Back Tony Finau @ 51.050/1

Each-way terms: ¼ odds, 5 places

Main bet: Back Tony Finau e/w @ 50/1

With the elite of world golf contesting the Dell Match Play in Texas, it's easy to presume that there isn't much class lurking about in Puerto Rico.

That's not necessarily the case though.

And the good news is that some of those quality players playing in the week's 'other' tournament are available at juicy prices.

Step forward obvious candidate No.1..... Tony Finau.

This is a guy who many were raving over last year and rightly so as his power hitting and deft touch on the greens saw him crack the top 15 in the final two US-based majors of 2015.

Finau's T14 in the U.S. Open and T10 at the US PGA helped him rack up five top 10s and no less than 16 top 25s in his rookie season and that fine play helped him make it through to the penultimate event of the FedEx Cup play-offs.

He can clearly play well on a variety of different courses and there's nothing to suggest he can't shine again on the Tom Kite-designed Coco Beach (formerly known as Trump International so, don't worry, all the past course form is relevant).

True, Finau doesn't have any as this is his debut in the tournament but that helps us get some massive 50/1.

He's out at that price due to a somewhat difficult start to the season which has seen him miss five of his last seven cuts.

But in amongst those two-rounders is a T18 at the Farmers Insurance Open (like this week's course, a wind-exposed track near the seaside) and a T43 in last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The latter doesn't leap off the page but he closed with a 67 at Bay Hill and his stats (1st in Driving Distance and 6th in Putting Average) showed that Finau was doing what he does best - smashing it long and making putts.

As someone with Polynesian roots, Finau may just feel a little more connected with an event played outside mainland America and there's a bit of evidence of that with his two starts in Mexico (T7 in the 2014 OHL Classic and T24 in a Web.com event) and T16 in the Colombia Championship).

More practically, the OHL Classic course, El Camaleon, also features paspalum grass (similar to bermuda) so it bodes well that Finau has performed well on it in the past.

Snap up that 50/1.

Next best 1: Back Luke List e/w @ 50/1

A look at the past winners of this event is another way of trying to solve the puzzle.
Let's list them by name and residence:

2008 Greg Kraft (Florida)
2009 Michael Bradley (Florida)
2010 Derek Lamely (Florida)
2011 Michael Bradley (Florida)
2012 George McNeill (Florida)
2013 Scott Brown (South Carolina)
2014 Chesson Hadley (North Carolina)
2015 Alex Cejka (Nevada)

Without putting on the jacket with patches and going full Geography teacher on you, it's worth pointing out that, Cejka aside, all the previous winners were either from Florida or other south eastern States.

Puerto Rico is situated south of that coast so it's a fairly short hop for those Florida residents this week (as an aside, there's now a million Puerto Rico residents living in Florida - a key political battleground - and, as they're classed as U.S. citizens and most would vote democrat, they may just have a big say in keeping the former owner of this week's golf course out of power).

Anyway, back to the golf and it makes sense to look at anyone with decent credentials from Florida or the Carolinas.

Luke List, who lives in Jupiter, Florida, is a potential candidate and already this year he's finished sixth in the CareerBuilder Challenge, T20 in the Northern Trust Open and T10 at the Honda Classic two starts ago.

Like Finau, he's also got some impressive form outside of the U.S. mainland such as sixth in the Mexico Championship and fourth in a Web.com event in Colombia.

He also has that extra touch of class having once played in The Masters (2005) after losing to Ryan Moore in the final of the 2004 U.S. Amateur.

His career hasn't panned out as he'd hoped since but he did win on the Web.com in 2012 - the South Georgia Classic (again, in a southern State) - and some strong performances in 2015 helped him graduate to the PGA Tour.

List is clearly making a good job of it so far and this lower grade event could be a chance for him to grab a win.

He has actually played in the tournament before and although T50 in 2013 looks average it was the only cut he made in a poor run through February and March of that year and contained two rounds of 68.

On the stats this year, List blasts it long (11th in Driving Distance) and length off the tee has been more of a help that accuracy on this 7,500+ par 72 even though the shorter hitters can thrive too.

His two latest top six finishes have come off the back of missed cuts so don't be concerned that he failed to cash in the Valspar Championship on his last start.

Instead, perhaps be grateful he did as that means we can get 50/1 on a player with Florida connections who has some impressive recent results.

Will MacKenzie was sixth last year and is another Florida resident who could go well but I was hoping for bigger than 66/1 on a player who hasn't had as much as a top 15 since his good performance here 12 months ago.

Next best 2: Back Chesson Hadley e/w @ 33/1

I'm tempted by South African pair George Coetzee and Dean Burmester for my final pick.

Again, this harks back to the argument - backed up by the fact that both Jordan Spieth and Jason Day have finished runner-up in this event - that picking those with an extra touch of class at decent prices is a good policy.

Coetzee is a top player on his day while Burmester has form figures of 3-2-2-4-31-10-11-1.

Okay, all those came in South Africa but four of those were in European Tour events and his stats are great.

The 45/1 recognises his strong play but could still be a sporting each-way price on a 26-year-old who looks to be going places.

However, I'll stick with a player who knows the lie of the land.

If Michael Bradley can win this event twice, so can Chesson Hadley.

Like his elder compatriot, Hadley would be winning the tournament for the second time in three years if successful.

Two years ago he put up the tournament record of 21-under so clearly handled the blowy conditions superbly.

He put up a pretty good title defence too when T16 last year so he's clearly very comfortable at this venue.

Interviewed last year about why he likes it so much, Hadley said: "I think just the way the holes set up. It fits how far I hit the ball. Like the fairway bunkers are positioned in places where I can hit driver, hit 3 wood or hybrid or whatever and I'm not really stressing about what club to hit.

"I know exactly what club I'm pulling, you know, walking to the tee. That's what I like so much about it, just the easy decisions I feel like this course provides, me at least."

In other words, the 28-year-old is totally in his comfort zone on this course and that's why we should expect him to step up on recent efforts.

Not that he's in bad form having posted T21 at The Honda Classic just two starts ago but this is obviously the place where we should expect him to thrive.

Take the 33/1.

There are just six players above him in the betting but I'm not remotely interested in Graham DeLaet (18/1), Scott Brown (20/1), William McGirt (20/1), Freddie Jacobson (28/1) or Ian Poulter (28/1) at the prices.

Patrick Rodgers could run a big race but, again, 28/1 doesn't really float my boat.

Dave's 2016 P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £320
Returned: £257
P/L: -£63

(After Arnold Palmer Invitational)

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