Barbasol Championship: Stallings can contend again and bag win number four

Scott Stallings - The Punter's sole selection in the Barbasol Championship
Scott Stallings - The Punter's sole selection in the Barbasol Championship

The Open Championship is obviously the main event this week but the Barbasol Championship is live on Sky Sports Mix on the PGA Tour so read our man's detailed preview of the Alabama showpiece here...


“Looking back on his career, Stallings does seem to hold his form fairly well so he might just contend again at a reasonable price for a three-time PGA Tour winner in such a weak event.”

Tournament History

The Barbasol Championship was introduced to the PGA Tour schedule just two years ago to fill the slot left blank when the Sanderson Farms Championship moved to a new autumnal slot so this is just the third edition.


Venue

The Lake Course, Grand National, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Auburn/Opelika, Alabama.


Course Details

Par 71, 7,149 yards
Stroke Index in 2016 - 69.51

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr in 1992, the Lake Course at the Grand National Golf Facility, which is one of 11 facilities on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, is aptly named given 12 holes are adjacent to Lake Saugahatchee. All four par threes play near or along water and the signature hole is the par three 16th which is played to a peninsula green.

In addition to being used for this event for the last two years, the Lake course was also the venue for the 1997 Nike Tour Championship (now the Web.com Tour Championship) when it was played as a par 72. The event was won wire-to-wire by Steve Flesch with a 10-under-par total. Flesch ended the week four clear of Chris Smith in second.

It was also used for the 2000 NCAA Championship won by Charles Howell III.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live coverage on Sky Sports Mix, starting at 22:00 on Thursday.


Top-Five Places at the First Two Editions

2015
1 Scott Piercy -19
2 Will Wilcox -16
T3 Ricky Barnes -14
T3 Whee Kim -14
T3 Robby Shelton -14

2016
1 Aaron Baddeley -18
2 Si Woo Kim -18
3 Michael Johnson -17
T4 Richard H Lee -15
T4 Michael Thompson -15
T4 Andres Gonzales -15
T4 Jhonattan Vegas -15

Baddeley won playoff at fourth extra hole


What Will it Take to Win The Barbasol Championship?


It's very difficult to know if we can put too much faith in the stats given we've only had two renewals but for the record, both winners have ranked third for Driving Distance and although Piercy was the only one inside the top-five players to rank inside the top-10 for that stat, it was a different story last year.

Michael Johnson, who finished third, ranked fourth for DD and nobody hit it further off the tee than Jhonattan Vegas who finished tied for fourth so length off the tee does appear to be an advantage.

Both winners ranked inside the top-10 for Greens In Regulation - Piercy first and Baddeley 10th - and they both ranked highly for Par 4 Performance - Piercy ranked number one and Baddeley ranked fifth.


Is There an Angle In?


With barely anything to go on at the first renewal I went for the local angle and backed Blayne Barber, who often practices at the venue. I rejected the well-fancied local, Will Wilcox, on account of all the media attention he was getting but both men did fairly well. Barber finished 10th and Wilcox was runner-up but they weren't the only ones to fare well...

Alabama All American amateur, Robby Shelton, who was playing in just his second event, having missed the cut at the US Open a year earlier, did himself proud by finishing tied for third.

Wilcox, Barber and Shelton all finished down the field 12 months ago but Alabama state graduate, Michael Thompson, finished tied for fourth so finding someone with local ties might be one angle in again this year.

In addition to the Wilcox, Barber and Shelton trio, Dru Love, Dominic Bozzelli, Matt Gilchrest, Patton Kizzire, Jason Bohn, Dicky Pride and late replacement, Heath Slocum, will all feel familiar with their surroundings this week.


Is There an Identikit Winner?


Given we've only had two renewals, it seems a bit soon to see a pattern emerging but the first two winners have been remarkably similar.

Returning from a lengthy injury layoff and playing on a medical exemption, the classy Scott Piercy was running in to a bit of form in 2015, having finished 29th at the Greenbrier Classic and 14th at the John Deere Classic. At 36, he was no spring chicken and this was his third PGA Tour title.

Last year's winner, Aaron Baddeley, was a year younger than Piercy but he was winning his fourth PGA Tour title, five and half years after his third. Baddeley started the 2015-16 season playing out of the Past Champions category after finishing 157th in the FedEx Cup and failing to regain a PGA Tour card through the Web.Com Tour Finals so here was in a more desperate spot than Piercy but both players were experienced multiple winners looking to get back on track.

Piercy was quite well fancied and he went off at around 26.025/1 and Baddeley went off at around 46.045/1 last year.


In-Play Tactics


Piercy sat tied for 25th and five off the lead after round one in 2015 and both Baddeley and fellow playoff protagonist, Si-Woo Kim, sat tied for 54th and five back last year, so a slow start is clearly not a huge handicap.

Piercy moved up into a tie for sixth at halfway with a second round 66 and he was tied for the lead with Ricky Barnes after round three before a second successive 65 saw him power away from the rest to win by three whereas Baddeley Kim came from further back...

Jhonattan Vegas blasted in an 11-under-par 60 in round two to go six clear 12 months ago before a pair of 72s saw him fall short. He was still three clear with a round to go and Baddeley had sat second through 54 holes but Kim came from six back and outside the top-ten to take the tournament in to extra time.

This might turn out to be a decent tournament to trade if last year's anything to go by. Vegas was matched at a low of 1.654/6 as early as Friday and Kim was matched at just 1.162/13 after Baddeley had bogeyed the 15th and before he birdied 16 and 17.


Market Leaders


The fact that badly out of form veteran, Jim Furyk, and Daniel Summerhays, who's yet to win on the PGA Tour, are vying for favouritism tells you all you need to know.

Last week's unlucky loser at the John Deere Classic, Patrick Rodgers, was in the line-up but he's now withdrawn so it's been left to Chad Campbell, Ben Martin, David Hearn and recent Web.com winner, Chesson Hadley, to vie for third best. None make much appeal.


Selection


After a slow start in Illinois last week, Scott Stallings put himself in the frame with a pair of 64s in rounds two and three. He flapped a bit in Sunday's fourth and final round to shoot 70 and he eventually finish fifth but with three wins under his belt, and without a success in three years, I thought the 32-year-old fitted the mould best.

Looking back on his career, Stallings does seem to hold his form fairly well so he might just contend again at a reasonable price for a three-time PGA Tour winner in such a weak event.


Selection:
Scott Stallings @ 35/1 (Sportsbook)


I'll be back later today with a look at more of the Open Championship side markets but in the meantime, here's my Open preview.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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