Jason Dufner to justify favouritism
Jason Dufner's class can shine through in this week's ISPS Perth International at Lake Karrinyup according to David John.
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The European Tour was scheduled to be at Valderrama this week but the economic crisis in Spain has seen that event ditched with the ISPS Perth International at Lake Karrinyup stepping in as a late replacement.
The course, situated 13km north of the city, is considered the top venue in Western Australia and has recently undergone a redesign by architecht Mike Clayton.
It is considered to be fairly hilly and is affected by the famous Fremantle Doctor that blows in from the coast, which Aussie veteran Craig Parry says can be very strong and creates conditions that favour the longer hitters.
That statement seems to ring true as the last time it was used on the European Tour in 2002 and 2003 for the Johnnie Walker Classic, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els were the men to come out on top.
Enough of the geography lesson anyway and down to the betting. This is an extremly top-heavy market with Jason Dufner, Charl Schwartzel and Bo Van Pelt all trading at less then 7/1 with the bulk of the field made of up of virtual unknowns from the Australian PGA Tour.
Dufner gets the nod over the other two and should be a real contender this week - it comes down to him being the best player in the field currently rather than any fanciful notions of great value this week.
He is the highest ranked player in the line-up at number 10 in the world, a position he has reached with two victories on the PGA Tour in the spring in New Orleans and at the Byron Nelson.
His finish to the campaign was solid enough down the stretch in the FedEx Cup Series and after a short break following the Ryder Cup - where he was one of the American players to deliver consistently over the three days - he has flown into Australia early in the week to get acclimatised.
He has had a chance to play both nines in amongst the various PR and media commitments and claimed that the key to victory this week will be the short game.
"There are a lot of run-off areas around the greens and balls could well end up going 20 or 30 yards away from the putting surface," Dufner revealed in one of his press conferences.
That should not be a huge issue for him considering he is 8th overall in Scrambling on the PGA Tour stats in 2012.
I like the fact that Dufner is keen to tackle a new challenge too - he has played golf in Australia a handful of times and correctly believes it will make him a more rounded competitor.
The local media will love the fact he admitted he has a "great affinity for Australia" and the fact he was bang in contention for the JBWere Masters back in 2009 when third to Tiger Woods illustrates his ability to take his game global.
We are not going to get rich this week backing Dufner but I do genuinely feel there is enough evidence to put him up at 6/1 as the one to beat.
Schwartzel has taken some confidence from last week's performance in Turkey but was still guilty of hitting some wild shots over the first couple of days and I have a feeling that he is still a little way from his best.
His class in this line-up will carry him a long way though. Van Pelt is interesting but has had three weeks of practice at his Oklahoma base since he last played a competitive round.
He (and Dufner) head off to Malaysia next week for the CIMB Classic and BVP might just sharper for this run as he eyes a defence of that title.
This is a co-sanctioned event with the European Tour and the lesser lights make the long haul Down Under.
Some are desperately trying to retain their cards for 2013 and have had their hands forced to take this trip with a number of events based in Europe scrapped due to financial issues while others are looking to force a way into the Race To Dubai's top 60.
From the latter category, old favourite Brett Rumford should have the extra advantage of local knowledge and is just about a backable price at 28/1.
Rumford is a native of Perth and and is looking forward to playing in a home fixture.
"Lake Karrinyup sets up well for me and I am not discounting my chances of winning because my game is in a good place," he said in a recent interview in one of the local newspapers.
His last few events on the European Tour have seen a distinct upturn in his fortunes, starting with a second at Gleneagles and then another couple of top-25s.
Rumford's form had dipped previous to that as he took time to settle into fatherhood following the birth of twin daughters in 2011 but things are back on an even keel now for him and he looks ready to rise to the challenge in front of what will be plenty of local support from friends and family.
As mentioned above, the classy Rumford is currently 59th in the Race To Dubai so expect a positive week with conditions to suit in the world's third windiest city as he cements his place in next month's season finale.
Cullen has shown up well from the few events played on the Australian PGA Tour this year and has a couple of top-fives, including last week at Kalgoorlie, where the wind made conditions very testing.
He paid tribute to winner Pete Wilson on Twitter afterwards but also said this was good warm-up for himself ahead of this far more valuable tournnament.
He is a speculative choice to get involved as is the talented McCarthy. The latter was the top amateur in Australia at the start of last year but a surfing accident left him with a dislocated shoulder and a battle to regain full fitness.
His ranking slipped but the 23-year-old from Tasmania has now recently turned pro and made a promising start in the paid ranks with a T21 last week in those tough conditions in Kalgoorlie.
It is going to be a massive learning curve for him but this guy could be a bit special and the hours he has put in have really paid off as he he admits he is now "playing better than ever".
This is a great chance to showcase his talents so lets roll the dice with him at big odds.