Barbasol Championship: Veterans fancied to shine in Kentucky

Golfer Hunter Mahan
Hunter Mahan - fancied to perform well in Kentucky
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The Barbasol Championship is very much the second-string event on the PGA Tour this week but it's live on Sky so our man's had a good look at the tournament here...

"Hunter Mahan wouldn’t be the first or last to play freely and without care after an awful life event and his putting stats are fine. He finished 34th at the JDC last week which looks like a nice warm-up."

Tournament History

The Barbasol Championship was introduced to the PGA Tour schedule just three years ago to fill the slot left blank when the Sanderson Farms Championship moved to a new autumnal slot.

The tournament was staged on the Lakes Course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama for the first three years but it switches to the Champions Course at the Keene Trace club in Kentucky this year and this will be the first time that a non-major PGA Tour event will have been played in the state since 1959.

Two-time LPGA major winner, Brittany Linicome, is in the field having been offered a sponsor invite after twice winning the Barbasol's sister event, the Pure Silk LPGA Bahamas. Linicome becomes just the fourth woman to tee it up in a PGA Tour event and first since Michelle Wie in 2008.

Venue

The Champions Course, Keene Trace Golf Club, Nicholasville, Kentucky

Course Details

Par 72, 7,328 yards

Designed by Arthur Hills 30 years ago, the Champions Course is one of two courses at the Keene Trace Club.

The bentgrass fairways are described as generous and the bluegrass/bentgrass rough is said not to be too penal - although rain leading in to the event may make it slightly tougher.

The bentgrass greens are large with some undulation and they're expected to run at around 11 on the Stimpmeter.

With water in play, the finish to both nines look tough but overall this looks like a course ready to yield to low scoring.

The two nines have been reverses for the tournament, so the course is now one of just two on the PGA Tour that end on a par three. East Lake, home of the Tour Championship ends with a tough, long par three and this one doesn't sound like a cake walk given it requires a carry of some 200 yards over water to a large but shallow green.

TV Coverage

The tournament is covered on Sky all four days, beginning on Sky Sports Mix at 22:00 on Thursday.

First Three Winners

2015 - Scott Piercy -19
2016 - Aaron Baddeley -18
2017 - Grayson Murray -21

What Will it Take to Win the Barbasol Championship?

Information on the course is sparse to say the least so Matthew Riley's (@wiley77) @golflandia podcast has been a big help. On this week's edition, Matthew interviews Lexington local, Josh Teater, about the venue and he had this to say about it.

"It's not overly long, the par fives are very scorable, the par threes are really good. The greens have some very good slopes on them, some good undulations, so I think you're going to find someone that's putting well. There's a couple of par fours that are going to require you to be in the fairway. You're not going to want to be coming out of the rough to the greens that have that much slope on them."

It's very difficult to gauge but I suspect we'll see a winning score at or around -20 again and whoever takes the title will have had a hot week with the putter.

The Birdie Average stats (here) may be of some use but it's always hard to predict who may or may not putt well on any given week.

Is There an Angle In?

Grayson Murray's victory was out of the blue 12 months ago but Scott Piercy had been 29th at the Greenbrier Classic and 14th at the John Deere Classic in the two weeks prior to winning the inaugural Barbasol Championship and Aaron Baddeley had finished 12th at the Quicken Loans National and 17th at the Barracuda Championship so they had signalled something and I fancy this year's winner may do too.

Last week's event, the John Deere Classic, is a low-scoring birdie-fest on bentgrass greens so a decent warm up there should be ideal for this week. In the absence of much to go on, a good week in Illinois last week could well be a significant plus.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Two experienced players won the first two editions but that trend, if it can be described as one, was halted last year when 23 year-old Grayson Murray took the title. These opposite field events are very tricky to weigh up as they represent a great chance for struggling older pros to get back on track as well as being an opportunity for up-and-coming players looking to earn the stability of a two-year exemption. I'd just go for the vets over the young guns.

Piercy was a 25/1 chance, Baddeley was 40/1 shot and last year's winner, Murray, was trading at around 60/1 before the off.

In-Play Tactics

The 17th is a scorable par five but with water in-play all the way down the left-hand side of the hole, we may well also see quite a variation in scores there and the par three 18th could well see more than it's fair share of drama given it's over 200 yards long and played over water. It might make sense to take some profit before the drive on 17 if you have someone trading short on Sunday.

Market Leaders

Scott Piercy won the first ever Barbasol Championship and his winning Zurich Classic of New Orleans partner, Billy Horschel, is quite rightly a warm favourite to emulate his pal.

That victory alongside Piercy at the end of April wasn't a one off and he's been in fair form so there's no reason to be negative about his chances and he's just the sort of character to draw inspiration from the fact that a player of his calibre really should be at Carnoustie but I'm happy to let him go unbacked given the course is such an unknown.

Chris Kirk is in better form than Horschel and he's another that really should be playing in Scotland given he's a four-time PGA Tour winner but he too looks short enough. He's been starting tournaments well and finishing them poorly over the last few years and it's now more than three years since he lasted tasted success.

Selections

I like Chad Campbell this week and I suspect he'll start well. His end of round one finishing positions last July were 72nd, third, fifth and sixth and in his first two events in July this year he's ended day one in fifth and 11th. He has a chance after his seventh at the John Deere Classic on Sunday but he's 44 now and he hasn't won for 11 years so he may well be a much better bet to lead after round one.

I've had a tiny bet on Hunter Mahan who's been showing encouraging signs of late. This could be right up his street in what's just his second start back since his wife's sister died of leukaemia. He wouldn't be the first or last to play freely and without care after an awful life event and his putting stats are fine. He finished 34th at the JDC last week which looks like a nice warm-up.

And finally, the Sportsbook go an industry-wide best about the man that knows the course the best - Josh Teater - so I've thrown a few pounds in his direction too.

Selections:
Chad Campbell First Round Leader @ circa 40/1
Hunter Mahan @ [85.0]
Josh Teater @ 110/1 (Sportsbook)

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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