Honda Classic Betting: Crane to lift The Punter
Ben Crane – The Punter’s main fancy in Florida
“I’ve been waiting for Ben Crane to play here again after he followed up a tied 12th finish on debut in 2008 with a third place finish in 2009. He’s a solid and obvious selection.”
There's just one event to concentrate on this week but it's a cracker. Read Steve's thoughts on the Honda Classic here...
First played as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic in 1972, this will be the 40th staging of the Honda Classic.
PGA National Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Par 70, 7158 yards, stroke average in 2011 - 72.54.
This will be the sixth staging in-a-row at the Tom and George Fazio designed PGA National - a tough course and very much a story of two halves. The first four holes are four of the five easiest on the course, with the par five 18th, ranked at 15, the other one of the five. In stark contrast to the start, the finish is brutal and following Jack Nicklaus' redesign of the course in 1990, known as the "Bear Trap". Holes 15, 16 and 17 are three of the four hardest on the course. Water is in play on 16 holes and there are 107 bunkers. Typically for a Florida venue, the entire course is laid to Bermuda grass and it's nearly always windy here at this time of the year.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, 8.00pm on Thursday and Friday and 6.00pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Last Five Winners
2011 - Rory Sabbatini -9
2010 - Camilo Villegas -13
2009 - Y.E Yang -9
2008 - Ernie Els -6
2007 - Mark Wilson -5 (playoff)
Accuracy is yet again the main attribute. With the usual blustery winds, it's a tiring tricky week and missing the fairways makes it even more of a grind. Winners here tend to hit plenty of fairways and plenty of greens in regulation, though last year's winner, Rory Sabbatini, owed his success to a white hot putting display.
In last week's preview of the Mayakoba Classic I highlighted a correlation between Waialae Country Club, home of the Sony Hawaii Open, and last week's venue, El Camaleon and it may be worth looking at the form for Waialae for this event too. Of the five winners here to date, two have also won the Sony (Wilson and Els) and Sabatini has finished runner-up there. It's not totally surprising, they're both narrow, windy, Bermuda tracks.
Rory McIlroy heads the market again but I can't fancy him. He's not my idea of a wind specialist and although the forecast isn't awful there will doubtless be an ever-present breeze. And besides, he comes here after a gruelling week and a disappointing defeat in the final and he has very ordinary, regressive form figures here that read 13-40-70.
Lee Westwood is a more plausible candidate and he has better form here. Indeed, he traded at a low of [3.6] in the early stages of last year's event but he too had a long hard week last week and he too is readily dismissed.
Tiger Woods has never played here before, which is odd given how close he lives to the track. I can't imagine anyone that's been watching Tiger play of late taking the [12.5] about him here and it certainly doesn't interest me.
I've been waiting for Ben Crane to play here again after he followed up a tied 12th finish on debut in 2008 with a third place finish in 2009. I think he was injured one year but anyway, he's here again now and he's here in form. Bubba Watson knocked him out in the first round last week but prior to that he'd finished runner up to Kyle Stanley in Phoenix. And he opened up the season with two top-ten finishes. He's a solid and obvious selection.
I backed Y.E Yang in-running at [15.5] when he won here in 2009 and he was a pre-event pick last year at [55.0] when he just failed to collar Sabatini in the final round. It goes without saying the course suits and I'm a little surprised I've been able to back him at the same price this time around. He played ok last week too, comfortably beating Graeme McDowell in round one before bumping into Hunter Mahan in round two. Yang led by one after three holes but then Mahan made five straight birdies to go four up and that was effectively that.
Florida resident, Fredrik Jacobson, finished 29th last year and that was a disappointing effort considering his first two outings here yielded two top-six finishes. He was blasted away in round one by Robert Karlsson last week but his 13th placed seasonal debut finish at the Northern Trust Open was more than acceptable considering he was returning to action following three months off with torn ligaments in his left thumb - prior to that he had been in fantastic form, finishing runner-up in the HSBC Champions and third at the Asia Pacific Classic. Obviously there's a doubt with the injury but at [65.0], I thought he was worth chancing.
I've given Johnson Wagner another chance. He was favourite for last week's Mayakoba Classic and I fancied him strongly but he just didn't get going, and I've also backed four monster-priced players that I've backed many times before with varying degrees of success...
Stephen Ames and Ryan Palmer should be very well suited by the venue if they find some form and Matt Bettencourt and Graham DeLaet are very much just in case wagers.
Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell were closely considered but adjudged just a shade too short and I'd have backed Robert Allenby if he had won the Mayakoba Classic, but after double-bogeying the last and then losing an eight hole playoff, I wonder whether he can lift himself or whether he'll ever win again on US soil. I also looked at Kyle Stanley. He's created one hell of an impression so far this year and I see he led this event at halfway last year but he's plenty short enough from the off and I'm not sure he's accurate enough off the tee to win here.
Honda Classic Selections:
Ben Crane @ [42.0]
Y. E. Yang @ [55.0]
Fredrik Jacobson @ [65.0]
Johnson Wagner @ [100.0]
Ryan Palmer @ [190.0]
Stephen Ames @ [250.0]
Matt Bettencourt @ [350.0]
Graham DeLaet @ [400.0]
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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