Don't Stall just back Scott

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: October 2 2012, 13:31 BST

Changes to the PGA Tour schedule next year mean that this is the last Fall Series, a stretch of tournaments that provide those who haven't enjoyed the best of seasons to end on a high.

Scott Stallings can land a third PGA Tour win

Many will be playing for the right to do so again next year, others to gain a confidence-boosting win, while there will also be those who've enjoyed successful seasons who take the opportunity to relax and fire in birdies on some relatively easy courses.

And TPC Summerlin, host venue for this week's JT Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, is exactly that. A par 71 which ranked second-easiest of its kind on the Tour last year, it's a course that really lacks teeth and is there for the taking.

Wide, firm and fast fairways mean even the shorter hitters can get the ball out beyond 300 yards with ease, while the large, slow-running greens are like dartboards even for those who ordinarily find hitting greens a challenge.

So, how do you win here? Typically, you either hit north of 85 percent of greens, thus having over 60 birdie opportunities, or you simply putt the lights out. Being aggressive is absolutely essential, so providing those who miss plenty of greens do so because they're firing at flags, they can compete too.

Last year's winner Kevin Na led the field in birdies, so stats like birdie average and par breakers are obvious pointers, while on this desert track those who excel out of sand tend to perform well too.

A year before that, Jonathan Byrd's play-off win was testament to his all-round qualities, while 2009 champion Martin Laird was able to unwind off the tee, approach greens with short irons, and stay aggressive throughout.

As well as the aforementioned birdie-related stats, strokes gained putting (Na 8th for the 2011 season) is an obvious one to call upon, while perhaps less obvious is par five performance.

It isn't that playing par fives will be key this week, more that looking at such a stat tends to point us towards aggressive players who are confident with a wedge too, which I believe explains why so many past champions have been players who, in other events, have excelled on par fives.

Stats aside, another logical ploy is to look at other low-scoring events and see who was able to compete in them. Over the years, the likes of the John Deere Classic and Shell Houston Open have often pointed towards winners of this event, but the most interesting tie is that between here and the True South Classic, formerly the Viking.

Byrd - a former John Deere winner - has finished fifth at Annandale, surprise 2008 winner Marc Turnesa had finished second there, 2007 champ George McNeill fifth, and 2006 winner Troy Matteson 14th. In addition 2007 Viking Classic winner Chad Campbell has a stellar record at Summerlin.

And it's with that in mind that I'll headline Scott Stallings, a massive price at 80/1.

Here we have a player for whom the first half of the season was a write-off, injuries having prevented him from producing anything like his best golf.

But since June, he's played in 10 events, winning one, finishing seventh, 13th, 24th and 25th in others, and for all that he wasn't competitive, he made the cut in both play-off events he qualified for.

That victory came at Annandale in the True South Classic, when Stallings made no fewer than four eagles on par-fives to demonstrate just how aggressive he can be.

As well as ranking second in distance, third in strokes gained putting and 20th in greens hit that week, the most impressive thing about Stallings was how imperious he was on Sunday.

At no stage did he look anything but in control, storming to victory to confirm that 2011's win in the Greenbrier Classic was no flash in the pan.

That win at Old White TPC is also an interesting pointer for this week, as the 2003 winner of this event Stuart Appleby is also a winner there, and Stallings has all the tools to follow that trend.

The negative is that he missed the cut here last year, but he'd shown nothing in his five previous starts whereas this time there are enough positives to chance this proven winner at 80/1.

Given the link established, I'd kick myself for not siding with Chris Kirk and he too makes the staking plan.

Winner of last year's Viking Classic, Kirk's profile is not dissimilar to Stallings in many respects: he too struggled for various reasons, including becoming a father, in the first half of 2012, but he's firmly back on track now.

In his last eight starts, Kirk has made every single cut, finishing 10th as defending champion at Annandale, fourth in the RBC Canadian Open and, perhaps most impressively, 12th in the BMW Championship last time.

A week prior to that, the University of Georgia graduate demonstrated how low he can go with an opening 63 in the Deutsche Bank - his last seven opening rounds have been sub-70 - and that's confirmed by a season-long ranking of 14th in birdie average.

He won the Viking Classic in 22-under, while two Nationwide Tour victories came with winning scores of -16 and -20, and Kirk's only real negative is that he has actually struggled on par fives all season.

That wasn't the case last year though so perhaps we can attribute it to his general early-season slump, and this greens in regulation machine looks worth chancing on his first start at the track since 2007, when he opened with a 66 when lacking in experience.

When looking at 2008 winner Marc Turnesa, a couple of things stood out. Firstly that second at Annandale, plus a share of fifth in the Transitions, another event which has obvious but hard to explain ties with this one.

His only other win as a professional came in the 2007 Miccosukee Championship, which he won with a score of 15-under on a par 71.

I therefore found it interesting that Bryce Molder succeeded him as champion, and as a Fall Series winner already he's next on the list.

Molder's physical troubles have been well-documented and while there's no need to revisit them, it's worth noting that his lack of length means he can often struggle in certain events, which shouldn't be the case here.

Last year, he tied for 10th here before winning for the first time on Tour just a week later, and he did so despite an uncharacteristically poor week on the greens.

At his best, Molder is among the finest putters on Tour, as is explained by a ranking of sixth this season for strokes gained putting. He's a fine scrambler too, and on paper at least wouldn't look too different to last year's winner Na.

The Arizona resident has plenty of experience of desert golf, while he also finished 10th in last year's Reno-Tahoe Open, Nevada's other PGA Tour event.

Two starts ago he was ninth on a low-scoring par 71 and although he struggled at Crooked Stick the week after, that long, wet course didn't suit and he still putted beautifully.

Ladbrokes offer a standout 66/1 and that's worth taking.

Chad Campbell enjoys his trips to Summerlin and this course specialist is worth getting with at around the 50/1 mark.

Campbell attended colleage in Nevada, so the fact that he relishes playing here is no surprise. Having placed in the event in both 2008 and 2009, only a poor third round cost him a repeat in 2010, while last year's opening 71 was followed by 67-66-66 for a share of 23rd.

It goes without saying that he's not been at his best for the last couple of years, but that didn't stop him finishing fifth in the 2011 Open Championship, while just two starts ago he was tied for fourth in the Wyndham, when he led the field in greens hit and ranked second for total birdies.

We have to accept a missed cut in The Barclays as his most recent form, but even that came with a second-round 67, which included a back-nine 31.

Campbell also happens to be a previous winner at Annandale, as touched on earlier, while he also won the Bob Hope Classic, always a good pointer when looking for those capable of going low.

In addition, just like 2009 winner Laird he's a former champion at Bay Hill, and while that could be coincidence his record here certainly isn't and he's a solid wager.

I quite like the look of JB Holmes here but he's struggled at Summerlin in the past, so my final pick became a toss-up between Josh Teater and Troy Matteson, with the latter's proven winning form the deciding factor.

Matteson's record here has been very poor of late, but he held on to win the title here in 2006 despite fast finishes from Ben Crane and Daniel Chopra.

He then won the Frys.com Open in 2009 (different event despite same title) by beating Rickie Fowler and Jamie Lovemark in a play-off, once again highlighting that these free-scoring Fall Series events often bring out his best golf.

He's a twice winner in nearby California, so west coast golf is ideal, and it's fair to say that he arrives at Summerlin in his most consistent run since 2006, when victory here was the middle leg of a five-tournament stretch of top 10 finishes.

Since July's play-off defeat in the John Deere Classic, Matteson has four top 20 finishes in seven starts, and this lengthy, streaky player has the right profile for this event.


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