Puerto Rico Open betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

Our man has five selections for the Puerto Rico Open
Our man has five selections for the Puerto Rico Open

Fabian Gomez and Robert Streb feature among five selections for the Puerto Rico Open from Ben Coley.

Recommended bets

2pts e.w. Aaron Baddeley at 28/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Ollie Schniederjans at 40/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Fabian Gomez at 551 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Robert Streb at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Ryan Blaum at 70/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

The Puerto Rico Open makes a welcome return to the schedule following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria and, as is always the case with these 'opposite' events, the field is a real mixed bag.

At the top of the market we have Daniel Berger, who played on the US Presidents Cup side in 2017 but has failed to really progress since, hindered by a couple of injuries as well as his inability to convert solid weeks into the sort which change careers.

Behind him comes Graeme McDowell, who signed off 2018 in noteworthy form and again caught the eye when 18th at Pebble Beach. He's at the opposite end of the career scale but, 40th birthday and Open Championship in his hometown both on the horizon, he's got just as much to play for.

Peter Uihlein, destined it seems to threaten to be a world-class player without quite doing it, course horse Scott Brown and a back-to-form Matt Every are also prominent, while there's a Masters champion in the shape of Charl Schwartzel who is desperately trying to stop the rot.

The challenge with events like this one is often to try and sort bad golf from not-bad golf, so to speak; to work through the west coast form book and find those little sparks which may light a fire as we head to the Florida-like conditions of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea.

West to east is a real paradigm shift on the PGA Tour and unlike previous years, Puerto Rico is our first chance to see which players do find that notable improvement for a switch from poa annua greens to bermuda. It's also the first real drop in class of 2019 and there's a reason winners of this event almost to a man arrived in apparently poor form - had they been playing better, they wouldn't have needed to play at all.

Top of my list at the prices is Robert Streb, one of those who, on the face of it, appears to be out of sorts. He's missed his last couple of cuts and three from five in 2019, which wouldn't typically make for a compelling case.

However, what we know about Streb is that not only is he a cut above much of this field, but that he's been able to show it under similar circumstances. Just last August, he finished 10th in the Barracuda, another opposite event, when playing in the final group, and then at the end of the month dropped down to the Web.com Tour to make an immediate impact in winning the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship.

Although he's not really built on that, he did go on to finish fourth in the Shriners and that's actually not the worst form guide to this event. Both are played on mid-to-low-scoring, resort-style courses where the weather dictates just how low players can go.

A top-30 finish in the Farmers Insurance Open won by the world number one is a more recent demonstration that his form is stronger than it may first appear, with subsequent rounds of 71, 75, 72 and 71 hardly cause for alarm.

The real source of encouragement, though, is Streb's course form. He's been 11th and 14th in two visits to Coco Beach, ranking first and eighth for greens hit and on neither occasion holing enough putts to turn four rounds of 71 or better into a title-winning performance.

Not much more is required for that to change, his scoring average of 68.6 right up there with the best in the field, and it's significant given the forecast breeze that his sole PGA Tour win came at the RSM Classic.

Also 18th in an Open Championship and having grown up in Oklahoma, the expected conditions look ideal for a player who has fewer questions to answer than most and to my eye looks well overpriced.

Around the same section of the market, Fabian Gomez and Ryan Blaum look set to go well.

Gomez has been second here (2013) and seventh (2011), while on his last visit he ranked third for greens in regulation and would've finished much higher than 24th but for a sloppy back-nine on Sunday.

That's a solid bank of course form in an event where much of the field will be having their first look, and when you look back through past champions so often they'd contended on a previous visit.

Again, Gomez doesn't look to be at his best but he's been playing on big golf courses in elite fields and this is much more his bag, a fact underlined by his victories in the St Jude Classic and Sony Open - the latter in particular a very solid form pointer.

Besides, there have been some good rounds; Gomez shot 67 at Torrey Pines South, closed 68-67 at the Desert Classic and opened with a round of 67 at Spyglass Hill last time.

A proven winner who says he likes playing in the Latino surroundings of Puerto Rico, Gomez ought to be able to build on those signs of encouragement in tournaments which typically prove well beyond his reach.

Blaum, meanwhile, looked really good when fourth in the RSM Classic at the back-end of 2018, a coastal event where a steady breeze throughout made things tricky on otherwise scoreable courses.

Born and raised in Florida and therefore honing his craft under the conditions we should expect this week, he's another who is bound to improve for a move away from the west coast where rounds of 71-72 have seen him miss the cut narrowly two weeks in succession.

Among his other standout performances is a 10th place in the aforementioned Sony Open and with course form of 15-32, both times sitting right on the heels of the top-10 throughout the week, he looks a solid each-way player.

Hank Lebioda is another Floridian who made the shortlist and the 100/1 with Betfair/Paddy Power is worth snapping up if you can get it. He'd have made the staking plan had that been available across the board, but he's half that generally and there seems little point advising a bet readers can't have.

Back towards the top of the market, Corey Conners makes some appeal having played in the final group in the Dominican Republic last year and twice contended already this season, showcasing a distinctly in-and-out profile.

He was pleased to see a fellow Canadian win on the Web.com Tour a week ago and returns to action no doubt buoyed by that, but 30/1 or thereabouts doesn't look overly generous on this occasion, even if this is where he made his first start outside of Canada when reigning US Amateur champion.

Instead, I'll take Aaron Baddeley and Ollie Schniederjans as my solid two against the field.

Baddeley looks to have rediscovered his putting mojo and it was the flat-stick which fired him to eighth place here on his sole visit back in 2016.

Later that year he further underlined his big fish, small pond credentials with victory in the Barbasol Championship from the excellent Si Woo Kim, and he has to be shortlisted when dropping in grade.

Having grown up in Melbourne, Baddeley is well used to playing by the coast and that's helped him win and finish second at Harbour Town, while he's also been runner-up in Hawaii at the Sony Open.

In terms of recent form he's got a top-five finish on the CV already this season and again, there's been nothing overly concerning given the company he's been keeping. He's opened with rounds of 69 in each of his three starts this month having closed with a round of 65 in the Desert Classic back in January, and it's easy to see a noted upturn now back in Puerto Rico.

Schniederjans meanwhile appears to have addressed the problems he was having off the tee and that can provide the platform for rapid improvement over the coming months, having caught the eye for three rounds when 33rd in Phoenix two starts back.

He's got a solid bank of coastal form including third in the Heritage, second in Cartagena, Colombia, sixth in the RSM Classic and seventh in the Sony, while the last time he dropped down to this level he took fifth place in the Barracuda.

Clearly, he's not yet delivered on the promise of his amateur career but he was most unfortunate not to win the Wyndham Championship in 2017 and there remains plenty more to come.

Other notables include Cameron Davis, who won an Australian Open in his hometown of Sydney and has shown flashes of being at his most comfortable by the coast, and the big-hitting talent that is Wyndham Clark.

Chris Kirk's iron play was devastatingly good in Phoenix and he'd be another who has more class than most here on his day, Korea's Kyoung-Hoon Lee was equally eye-catching at Riviera, while Tom Lovelady finished second and fifth in similar events to this last year.

Finally, Adam Schenk was seventh in the LatinoAmerica Tour Championship on his sole previous trip to Puerto Rico and looks to be improving. He's a Florida resident now and, as with the rest of them, will be relishing this switch in circumstances.

Ultimately this is a difficult event to unravel, but with Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau both having been runner-up in the past, it's still one to keep a close eye on.

Posted at 1350 GMT on 19/02/18.

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