Mark your card with Jamie
Ben Coley thinks Jamie Lovemark is overpriced ahead of the Frys.com Open, the first event of the new PGA Tour season.
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Such are the times that being alert to Monday value is a key part of golf betting, and I'm keen to get involved early with Jamie Lovemark an enticing proposition for the Frys.com Open.
This will be the fourth renewal of the event since it switched to CordeValle in California, a beautiful venue which plays host to the CordeValle Gifford Collegiate as well.
Using college form as guide for PGA Tour events isn't perhaps the most logical policy, but with this event attracting a relatively weak field it's an angle which could well pay dividends.
- 1pt e.w. Jamie Lovemark at 150/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - has experience here and the talent to go close
- 1.5pts e.w. Patrick Reed at 40/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - 11th here last year and a winner since; should go well
- 1pt e.w. Ben Martin at 66/1 (Paddy Power 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - top talent who should be raring to go
- 1pt e.w. Brendon Todd at 100/1 (Paddy Power 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - one of the best putters in the field and consistent form lately
- 1pt e.w. Sean O'Hair at 150/1 (Ladbrokes 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - as talented as anyone here and back on the right path
Patrick Cantlay, a former winner of the Gifford Collegiate, says the course plays similarly in both events and that bodes well.
"The rough was longer in the college event, for sure, because I think the Frys last week was before the college event, and I don't think they cut the rough last year before the college event," he confirmed two years ago.
"Other than that, the course setup is about the same. The golf course probably looks a little more pristine right now, but as far as setup, I'm sure it'll be close to the same."
There are several players who've done reasonably well in the college event in this week's field, and Lovemark is the most appealing to me. Among a handful of appearances, his 2006 share of third stands out, and as a California boy he'll be really looking forward to kick-starting his PGA Tour career.
Lovemark also has the benefit of positive memories from this event when it was held at Grayhawk in Arizona, as he was beaten in a three-way play-off for the title there in 2009 in what was only his 12th start on tour.
Since then, injuries have curtailed the career of a player once expected to be among the brightest prospects on the PGA Tour, but he's fit and firing again now and arrives on the back of fine run of form which includes a win on the Web.com Tour.
That win came after he'd finished seventh in Utah so it bodes well that his latest start ended in a share of eighth in the Web.com Tour Championship, which sets him up perfectly for this event.
It's worth noting that this is the last year CordeValle will host the Frys.com Open, so for those with experience the time to put it to use is now and there was promise in Lovemark's sole PGA Tour start here when he finished 30th.
All things considered, the 150/1 is well worth chancing.
The other I like using that collegiate form as a guide is Patrick Reed, who should be ready to push on following a well-earned break.
Reed, aided ably by wife Justine who carries his bag, was one of the success stories of the 2013 season, playing three of the four FedEx Cup Playoff events having beaten Jordan Spieth in a play-off for the Wyndham Championship.
That victory was all the more impressive considering it was his first visit to Sedgefield Country Club and it came as a result of supreme tee-to-green play and an outstanding week on the greens.
Reed was known as an exceptional putter during what was an impressive college career, which included a team-leading performance for Augusta State in the Gifford Collegiate event won in fine style by Peter Uihlein.
But it was putting which cost him a top-10 here last year. Reed finished 11th thanks to a superb closing 63, despite ranking just 64th for strokes gained putting - every player ahead of him was inside the top 25.
Indeed, Reed didn't appear to do much that well here last year so it's a credit to his overall scoring ability that he managed to finish 11th, at the time his best PGA Tour performance.
One year on and he's in a position to go and grab his second PGA Tour victory. Yes, he went off the boil following that Wyndham win but the playoffs began straight after it and he simply had no time to let it sink in.
Reed has now had that time to recharge and reset his goals, and I expect him to come out firing at a course which will reward his aggressive style.
One thing to consider when looking at this event is how the revamped schedule can be expected to affect things. Last year we saw Jason Kokrak produce by far and away his best performance and he made no secret of the fact it came because he knew he had to do it to keep his card, a dynamic which is no longer in play.
What this will do to results is hard to predict, but my best guess is that the trend for talented nearly-men with cards secured who could come to Fall Series events and have a free roll at their first win - see Kevin Na, Robert Garrigus and Bryce Molder - may not continue.
Conversely, it's possible to argue that without quality players adding these events as they try to secure cards makes for less competitive fields - only time will tell which, if either, is correct.
Either way, it may well pay to look not at previous renewals of the Frys.com Open but at the former season-opener, the Sony Open in Hawaii, for a guide as to what to expect.
Last year we saw rookie Russell Henley produce a stunning display on a course that's tended to favour experience over youth, and perhaps Ben Martin can, loosely speaking, follow that trend.
Martin has experience of the PGA Tour before so he's not a rookie, but after a superb Web.com Tour campaign he now gets a second crack at it as a better, more confident player, and he's one to look out for.
Like Henley, he arrives at the first event having won twice in his last 10 starts, with a further four top-10 finishes, and I strongly suspect he'll take advantage of these weak fields to secure plenty of big cheques before the year is out.
Martin is a former US Amateur runner-up with the right game for this test. CordeValle is a relatively straightforward layout but it favours those who hit plenty of fairways and hole plenty of putts, as opposed to those who attempt to overpower courses.
In each of the three years the Frys.com Open has come here, the winner has led in either putts per round or strokes gained putting and Martin ranked 11th in putting average on the Web.com Tour while leading the all-around and impressing particularly off the tee.
It's that putting improvement which should see him do well this season. "I freed myself up mentally on the greens," Martin said, explaining his climb from 134th to 11th in putts per greens in regulation. "You know you're going to miss more than you make, and I just focused on making the best stroke I could."
He made the cut here two years ago, improving his score in every round, and everything I read from him tells me he's taken all the lessons from 2011 and is ready to go straight away this time.
At 66/1, Martin is worth chancing.
As you might've guessed by now, I really rate a lot of these younger US players at the moment and think they've got a great opportunity to secure playing rights for beyond this season with these early events now the calendar has been revamped.
Brendon Todd is another of them, and I'm surprised to see him chalked up at 100/1 here.
A good friend of Webb Simpson's, Todd is another player who impressed on the college circuit and while it's Simpson who has gone on to win a major, this guy definitely has the talent to contend for big events.
Todd has split his time between tours so far this year, and in 10 PGA Tour starts he secured seven top-30 finishes including when closing with a round of 64 for 26th in the Wyndham.
His most significant achievements, however, have come on the Web.com Tour where he won the shortened Stadion Classic before producing another stunning final round to share second in the Web.com Tour Championship.
Todd is a superb putter capable of low numbers and he has fond memories of California, having won Q School in the state in 2011. He didn't do much here last year but rounds of 71-71 were fine in the grand scheme of things, especially as he hadn't produced anything of note since a share of ninth, also in California, in the spring.
All things considered Todd shouldn't be going off at 100/1 in an event like this and I feel his price is simply a reflection of a missed cut we can forgive.
Finally, I'm going to chance Sean O'Hair at a huge price considering his undoubted ability.
This is a player who got through all three stages of Q School to secure a PGA Tour card almost a decade ago, and won the John Deere Classic in his first full season on the circuit.
From there he added three further titles and regularly produced the goods in big events, which led many to believe he was one of a crop of young US players capable of winning a major.
Things have gone wrong lately. O'Hair has gone through those swing changes we often hear about and freely admits that many tears have been shed as he's searched for the game that got him a top-20 in every major and the PGA Tour's rookie of the year title once upon a time.
But recent signs suggest there's light at the end of the tunnel. O'Hair has looked far and wide for advice and says he's finally rediscovered his direction. He doesn't, he says, want to be a journeyman pro and he knows his best days are ahead of him.
That's the sort of attitude which helped him to eighth in the Web.com Tour Championship and sets him up nicely for a return to where he undoubtedly belongs, the PGA Tour.
He's not yet played this event since it switched to CordeValle, but O'Hair was 17th at Grayhawk in 2008 and if he can hole some putts he could well take to a venue which will reward his tee-to-green play.
O'Hair will also be well aware that a good start will see him earn more starts after Christmas and having flown out of the traps for second in Hawaii in 2012, back him at 150/1.