Steve takes a detailed looked at this week's second-string action on the PGA Tour. Was last week a one-off or is Aaron Baddeley back in form and worth backing?
“Aaron Baddeley’s top-ten at the Canada Open last week could have been a complete one-off but in this grade I’m prepared to take a chance it wasn’t. He ranked 9th for driving distance and 4th for putting in Canada and a repeat of that sort of form would see him in with a great chance here.”
With the cream of the golfing world battling it out for the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, the Reno-Tahoe Open is very much the second-string event this week. This will be the 15th staging but it's just the second year it's been played in its new Stableford format. Like the now defunct International (last played in 2006), the Reno-Tahoe uses the Modified Stableford scoring system. Quit why, is anyone's guess.
Points are awarded depending on a players score on each hole thus.
Albatross 8 points
Eagle 5 points
Birdie 2 points
Par 0 points
Bogey -1 point
Double-bogey or worse -3 points
The player with the highest score after 72 holes will be the winner.
Montreux Golf and Country Club, Reno, Nevada
Par 72 -7,472 yards
Stroke Index in 2011 - 71.83
Designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1997, Montreux has an elevation of over 5,000 feet so the ball travels much further than it would at sea level and the course doesn't play anywhere near as long as its yardage suggests.
The fairways are generous, the bentgrass greens are of average size and will run at 11.5 on the stimpmeter. The scoring is always low here - Scott Piercy posted the course record of 61 on his way to victory two years ago.
No TV coverage
Last Five Winners
2012 - J.J Henry 43 points
2011 - Scott Piercy -15
2010 - Matt Bettencourt -11
2009 - John Rollins -17
2008 - Parker McLachlin -18
What will it take to win the Reno-Tahoe Open?
In short, hit it miles off the tee, putt well and make loads and loads of birdies.
Four of the last seven winners have ranked inside the top-ten for driving distance. Four of the last five winners have ranked inside the top-ten for putting. And now that the Modified Stableford scoring system is in place, birdies are far more important than they once were here. Make ten birdies and ten bogeys in a stroke play event and you'll be on level par - in this format, you'll have amassed 10 points. This system suits the aggressive type of player that likes to go for it over the Steady Eddie par makers and looking at the birdie average stats was always a good guide at the now defunct International event, which was also a Stableford tournament.
Take a look at the driving distance stats, strokes gained putting stats and the birdie average stats for pointers but also make sure you examine the par 5 performance figures too. When J.J Henry won last year he was the first player to win here that didn't rank inside the top-seven on the par 5's since 2004.
Is there an identikit winner?
Half of the winners of the Reno-Tahoe Open were winning a PGA Tour event for the first time and if this event is going to go the same way as the International, we can expect the winners to be nicely priced.
Outsiders had a great record in Colorado and as this event wasn't exactly a favourite's paradise in its stroke play format, it's perfectly reasonable to expect some big-priced winners going forward.
In its stroke play format, frontrunners fared well. Whether that will be the case going forward remains to be seen but I'd wager it will.
Between 2004 and 2010, every winner was first or second at halfway and the three winners between 2007 and 2009 held a clear advantage through 36 holes, which they just extended.
Henry sat in 4th place after round one last year and was just a stroke off the lead at halfway and the 2011 winner, Piercy, is definitely the odd one out here. After two rounds in the 70s, he broke the course record on day three to go from seven back to two clear and his final round 70 was just enough to see him home.
This is going to be a quiet affair in-running given it's a non-televised tournament and given that it's going to be played alongside the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational. If you plan to trade in-running, doing so in-between rounds may well be your best option.
This is a very open affair with no clear favourite and although, as stated above, I fancy outsiders to prosper in years to come I was still sorely tempted by a couple towards the head of the market this time around.
Peter Uihlein has been in great heart on the European Tour and he has all the right attributes for the event and the in-form Chad Campbell ticks the right stats boxes emphatically.
I couldn't back defending champ, Henry, or Padraig Harrington at their current odds though and Ross Fisher looks an extraordinarily short price.
Aaron 'Dresses' Baddeley has had a poor season and prior to last week he'd missed ten straight cuts. Of course, his top-ten at the Canada Open could be a complete one-off but in this grade I'm prepared to take a chance it wasn't. He ranked 9th for driving distance and 4th for putting in Canada and but for a poor third round he'd have been challenging for the title. A repeat of that sort of form would see him in with a great chance here and he's just the sort of character that might take to this format.
My second pick is Ben Crane, who is also having a poor season by his standards. A top-ten at the Players Championship and a 4th placed finish at the Houston Open are very much the highlights of 2013 for this five-time PGA Tour winner and he doesn't really fit here stats-wise either, but I still thought he was worth a very small wager at 80.079/1.
Shawn Stefani could just take to this sort of challenge and I thought he was a fair price at 130.0129/1 and if he drifts a bit I might back course specialist Steve Flesch, who has shown glimpses of late.
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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