George to be crowned king
David John previews the Puerto Rico Open and expects George McNeill to go close at a course he loves.
- Related Content
I doubt we will see many better finishes in 2014 than the one we got at the Honda Classic as it highlighted just how difficult it is to get across the line with your head in front.
And the Puerto Rico Open does not make things any easier for punters to unravel in that respect with bookmakers going 20/1 the field with a whole host of players yet to prove they can put a tick in the "W" column on the PGA Tour.
Chris Stroud, Matt Jones and Cameron Tringale all fall into that category at the head of the market and they are certainly a trio of up-and-comers who may well believe this a good opportunity for them to lose that maiden tag and follow 2013 hero Scott Brown into the winners' enclosure.
George McNeill trades at a similar sort of price and although I don't think that there is a huge amount of mileage in the 25/1 on offer, he does have a pretty solid set of credentials to suggest he can go well.
Firstly, and perhaps the least convincing part of the argument, is that he is a past winner here in 2012 and the event does have a history of a player prevailing more than once with Michael Bradley lifting the trophy in 2009 and 2011.
We can add some solidity to the argument though with some quotes from McNeill, who discussed his liking for the Trump International venue: "The golf course fits my eye and it is like a lot of the courses back in Florida with the saltwater ponds. I am just so comfortable here and I know how to play out of the Paspalum."
For the uninitiated (me included), Paspalum is a grass strain that equates to a poor-man's Bermuda and requires less attention from the groundstaff. It's hardy characteristics are ideal for resorts right by the sea but there is enough of a difference in terms of how a golf ball reacts on it to give the players something to think about.
McNeill obviously has no such problems and the fact he arrives here following a T6 at Riviera and a T12 at the Honda will also please the current-form merchants.
He did drop 49 places down the leaderboard from inside the top 10 12 months ago thanks to a closing 76 so I am going to take a swing with a win-only suggestion as he bids to recapture his crown.
It has not taken long for people to latch on to the similarity between here and Mayakoba and players with form in Mexico have been backed this week considering the courses set a similar test and are both on Paspalum grass.
Brian Stuard was very much at the forefront of my thinking in that regard but I am simply going to have to give him a miss at 28/1.
So my two remaining selections are on offer at three figures - Kevin Kisner and Jason Gore.
I will start with Kisner and find him very interesting in terms of his mental outlook and I really think he can figure on Sunday at 140/1.
One of the current all-conquering graduates from the University of Georgia which include Chris Kirk and Harris English, Kisner should be even more fired up to perform following another Bulldog Russell Henley's heroics to see off Rory McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox in such dramatic fashion following a play-off.
There is no doubt Kisner has taken longer than expected to make an impact as he is still trying to establish himself while he flits between the PGA and Web.com Tours.
But he is a winner on the latter and was actually due to defend his title this week at the Chile Classic but obviously getting a start here is a much more tempting proposition with an opportunity you feel he would love to take.
If you are in any doubt as to Kisner's talent, here is what his university coach Chis Haack said: "Kevin is the most confident player I have ever had with one of the greatest attitudes on the golf course. He never gets mad, just keeps playing and nothing fazes him."
So you start wondering why he does not win every fortnight and perhaps Henley and the recent success of the other Georgia alumni along with the fact he has just turned 30 might spark him into life at last on the PGA Tour exactly 12 months on from lifting that trophy in Chile.
Gore can be backed at 150s and he went through a spell when you could have stuck another nought on to the end of that price as he really fell out of love with the game.
But he explained in a recent interview in Los Angeles following Monday qualifying for the Northern Trust Open that he felt "good things" were just around the corner as he completely rededicated himself to his career on the fairways having failed a couple of years ago to even get a job as coach of the golf programme at Pepperdine.
There were certainly pleasant signs that Gore's game was coming around at both Riviera and in the Frys.com Open last back-end and I am prepared to give his new outlook a chance to shine bearing in mind he knows how to win with eight career titles to his name.