Teeing Off: The Coral Golf Blog
After a one week break, the FedEx Cup resumes as the top 70 players try to book their place at the Tour Championship next weekend. Only the leading 30 players will earn a trip to East Lake so for most of the field this week’s tournament will determine whether they can reach the final event.
Conway Farms will make its debut on the PGA Tour this week so most of the field will have no previous experience of the Tom Fazio designed course. The Chicago track is a 7,149-yard par 71 and the links style layout is reliant on wind to prevent low scoring. With minimal course form to go on, it looks like the best bets could be players in decent form or motivated by needing a big performance to advance to the FedEx Cup decider.
Luke Donald has had a disappointing season by his high standards but the Englishman can still rescue the year with a late rally on his home course. The former world number one lives in Chicago and is a member at Conway Farms which has to give him a big advantage over the field. Donald has plenty of experience of playing the course and even scored a hole in one during practice last week. It should not be forgotten Donald topped the rankings as recently as last year and two seasons ago managed the feat of winning the money lists in both Europe and America.
His short game has not been at its brilliant best in 2013 and this has prevented the 35-year-old from winning. But there were encouraging signs in Boston on his last start, following his recent decision to switch coaches, when he shot ten-under-par and made just one bogey in his final 48 holes. Donald, who will be motivated after pledging to donate money to charity for every birdie and eagle he makes, also needs a big performance to reach East Lake. Eighth in strokes gained putting shows he is not too far away and Donald looks worth a shout at 40/1 each way.
Zach Johnson has been a consistent performer in recent months and the short hitting American looks a lively contender in Chicago. Prior to his last start, Johnson had strung together five consecutive top eights including a tie for second at the nearby John Deere Classic. He was only inside the top 30 at the Deutsche Bank Championship but closed with rounds of 67 and 66 at a venue where he has never excelled.
The 37-year-old will have no problems handling windy links conditions as he has finished in the top ten of the Open Championship over the last two years. Johnson has nine victories on the PGA Tour and will be aiming to reach double figures this year. His current form suggests he is pretty close and on a track where power isn’t essential this may be the week. Johnson could easily reward punters and looks excellent value at Coral’s 40/1 top price each way.
Graham DeLaet is still looking for his maiden PGA Tour win but the Canadian is furiously knocking on the door and looks on the verge of a deserved breakthrough. The 31-year-old has performed brilliantly in the opening two play-off events, having finished in a tie for second at the Barclays before coming third in Boston. He shot a round of 62 during his last start and all facets of his game are in top gear.
DeLaet has the perfect combination of power, touch and accuracy which has been the key to his best season to date. Posting seven top tens this year, he has earned himself a place on the Presidents Cup team. His stats are incredibly impressive as DeLaet is first in both total driving and ball striking, third in greens in regulation percentage and fifth in total birdies. I am reluctant to tip players yet to win, but in DeLaet’s case it looks only a matter of time and he offers plenty of each way appeal at Coral’s 40/1 top price.
There are some big priced outsiders also worth considering and recent winner Patrick Reed could prove the pick of the bunch. It has been a tremendous campaign for the American with the highlight coming last month with his play-off victory at the Wyndham Championship. Reed has recorded three top tens in his last five tournaments including when tied seventh at the John Deere Classic.
Reed is another of the few players with valuable experience around Conway Farms. The 23-year-old reached the semi-finals of the Matchplay event at the 2009 Western Amateur and tied for second in the strokeplay competition. This bodes well for the Texan who is close to securing a place in the Tour Championship next week. Reed looks overpriced at 150/1 and is also well worth backing at 10/1 in the top ten market.
Follow Simon’s bets on Twitter @watfordtipster