Ben Coley looks at the specials markets ahead of a high-class Genesis Invitational, with Wyndham Clark fancied to go well at a price.
So strong is the front of the market for the Genesis Invitational that each-way opportunities which might first appear irresistible are in fact easy to overlook.
One such example is young WYNDHAM CLARK, who on the one hand is playing well, has the power-fade and the putting to tackle Riviera, and who looks like the sort of talent who could go very close to winning an event over the coming months.
On the other, he's never played in this event, and the only player in the last quarter of a century to defy such inexperience was Adam Scott in 2005. Scott was the world number 12 at the time, and even then benefitted from a reduction from 72 holes to just 36. Clark is promising, but at 174th in the world he's not yet Adam Scott.
Sky Bet specials
13/8 - Conners top Canadian
6/1 - Clark top 20
11/4 - Gooch top 40
25/1 - Clark T20 and Gooch T40
- All include ties paid in full
This is an old, classical, major-like venue which requires an understanding only the past can provide. Clark, on his debut, simply doesn't appear to have a serious chance to win and, with so many of the top 10 in the market likely to play well, there's probably not room for him among the places, either.
There might just be room in the top 20, however, and having managed to hit that mark in around a third of his PGA Tour starts, almost always on his first go in the event, prices as big as 9/1 look good.
Of course, we're not really playing for 20 places here - at least five and probably more like 10 will come from the world's best players - but Clark has overcome that in the CJ Cup and the Honda Classic and he bagged another top-20 finish when playing really well at Pebble Beach last week.
Before that, he opened up with a blistering 61 in Phoenix, where a three-over-par weekend cost him another high finish, but he bounced back from that nicely and it's clear his game has come back to where it was when he contended for the 3M Open last summer.
Clark loves to hit a power-fade off the tee, the shot they say works best around here, and as one of the longest on the circuit it would make sense were he to pop up in an event dominated by big-hitters of late.
Perhaps all that will help him bridge the experience gap and he's certainly one to be interested in away from the outright betting.
TALOR GOOCH has nowhere near the potential of Clark, but this 28-year-old has a bit about him nonetheless and he made an eye-catching debut here in 2018.
Coming during his rookie season and a generally run of poor golf, Gooch led the Genesis field in strokes-gained approach and finished 20th despite an abysmal putting performance and being hampered by a lack of course knowledge.
That's not a great deal to go on, but top-five finishes in the Desert Classic and the Farmers, latterly in elite company, underline that he clearly loves playing on the west coast and that he can mix it in this kind of company.
Having made every cut since the first event of the season, where rounds of 68 and 69 weren't quite enough at the Greenbrier, he's playing consistently well right now and he's another who could exceed expectations.
A top-20 finish at 17/2 is perfectly achievable, but 3/1 about a mere top 40 - something he's achieved in over a third of his PGA Tour starts - looks the way to go. That's available with Betfair and Paddy Power, but almost every firm offers the top 20 market so that option is there for those who need it.
I had been expecting to put up Kevin Chappell in some capacity, a Californian who loves this course, but his ball-striking remains a real concern. Chappell isn't a player who can often rely on the putter - save for the odd obscene round such as the 59 he produced at the beginning of his comeback from injury - and will need to hit it a lot better to make the weekend.
Similar comments apply to Danny Willett, whose iron play has been woeful for many months now. He'd otherwise be of interest given how well Augusta winners do here, and how well he fared on debut last year. Perhaps he'll raise his game around precisely the sort of course he likes, and I was interested in the top Englishman market, but the numbers suggest he's got plenty to prove for the time being.
Instead, it's worth relying on the tee-to-green prowess of COREY CONNERS to make him the best of four Canadians this week.
Adam Hadwin struggled before Christmas and has returned as a new dad who is yet to show signs of the so-called nappy factor, and while he's gone well here in the past he shot a pair of weekend 77s when last in town.
With Roger Sloan badly out of form, that leaves Sunday's hero Nick Taylor, who surely runs the risk of an emotional and physical letdown after what was a seriously demanding test at Pebble Beach, one he passed so impressively.
It took Taylor a year after his first PGA Tour win to pick up another top-20 finish and while he's a better player now, he lacks the depth of form his younger compatriot brings to the table and is entitled to suffer a temporary dip in form here.
Conners doesn't have professional experience of Riviera and that compels me to keep stakes to a minimum, but he played really well here in the 2012 NCAAs and that might help just a little. Enough, at least, to prove best of the Canucks.
Finally, I did consider Marc Leishman to beat Jason Day at evens with Ladbrokes and Coral.
Leishman won last time out and has two top-five finishes in his last four starts here, whereas Day's best of 62nd from four attempts of his own suggests that Riviera doesn't suit him anywhere near as much as Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach.
Their respective scoring averages of 70.81 and 73.08 put things firmly in Leishman's favour, and he holds a narrow head-to-head lead over his more decorated compatriot if we focus on events in California on poa annua greens.
That being said, it's important to note that Day's first three visits here came from 2010 to 2012, and his form throughout the early months of 2017, the only other time he's added Riviera to his schedule, was patchy at best.
I was really quite taken with his performance at Pebble Beach where he was positively bullish with regards his fitness and the overall state of his game, so while everything here points to Leishman, it might pay to be wary of a resurgent Day - a comment which applies when the PGA Tour heads over to the east coast in a fortnight.
Posted at 0915 GMT on 11/02/20
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