Frys.com Open preview: Time for another vet?
So far the Fall Series has been dominated by PGA veterans, and it’s old hands like Scott Verplank and Mark Calcavecchia who are catching tipsters’ eyes again this week. But in a thin market most cash so far has gone on the head of Charley Hoffman, winner of the Bob Hope Classic at the start of the year. And a reasonably close second is the Swede Daniel Chopra, who finished second here last year and was third at San Antonio last week.
The lesson of the last two weeks of course is that in fields as weak as these proven winners have an edge. Like last week there is a fair sprinkling of former champions, but unlike last week few that inspire quite the same level of interest - Phil Tataurangi anyone? Having said that, 2000 winner Billy Andrade could certainly do with the money and while Bob Estes, who also won under the five round format a year later, looks fairly safe money-wise, he is posting some decent stats that belie his recent modest finishes.
This competition’s stats paint a messy picture: last year’s top 20 were as mixed a bunch as you could expect with precision merchants rubbing shoulders with bombers on two tracks with generous fairways. No one really stood out in any category and, oddly, none of the top 20 ranked higher than 3rd in any of the key disciplines. I guess that points to more all-round abilities, though as usual a blazing putter will be more than handy for what is likely to be another birdie fest.
Scott Verplank: comes off a very satisfying Presidents Cup campaign and three top tens in the last 10 weeks. But since a fourth place here in 2003 his course record has been getting progressively worse.
Mike Weir: naturally everyone is looking to see if his beating of Tiger Woods in the Presidents Cup will carry through. It might just lift him enough but his stats are fairly average and his minimal course record uninspiring.
Charley Hoffman: can drive the ball and putt, which won him 5th place here last year, and he is a proven winner, with a decent enough recent record. But I’m not as excited as Joe Punter seems to be.
Daniel Chopra: now that he’s pretty safe in the money list some of the fire might have gone, but he undoubtedly has the game for it and should be nicely hot after last week’s third place.
Bill Haas: came 11th last year without exactly setting the place alight. But his last two finishes this season have been 10th and 3rd and he is currently posting some of the best stats around - top 10 for everything except accuracy off the tee. NB as they say in racing circles.
Jesper Parnevik: some fancy him to have another go this week after last week’s close encounter, but he sounded tired after that effort and he has missed the cut here three years in a row.
Others that might be worth watching are John Mallinger, a course virgin but in good form, Nick Watney, who was sixth here two years ago and looked quite sharp for his 15th place last week, Shigeki Maruyama, who still needs the money to keep his card and looked a much improved player for his 11th place last week, and Harrison Frazar, who is right on the bubble line for PGA membership and has come close here before.
And I hesitate to mention Bo van Pelt because everyone says he is going to win some day and the stats say he should win some day and he keeps hovering as if he is just about to win some day soon. But he never quite does. But you can bet that the day you leave him out he’ll do it.
As for Calcavecchia, he might be in some sort of form, but in his last six outings here he has withdrawn once and missed the cut five times, not the sort of record that inspires me to risk any hard-earned.
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