Niall Lyons previews the first PGA event of the calendar year.
After the over indulgence of the festive period, Golf makes a welcome return to our screens. Punters’ enthusiasm is always at a high at this time of year as those victorious in 2017 take to the Tournament of Champions event in Hawaii to kick off the calendar year.
It is difficult to get excited about any of the market leaders this week. Jordan Spieth arrives here a 6/1 poke and for me this represents his chances fairly enough. I backed Spieth and Thomas here last year with a winner and placer but both looked highly enough handicapped price wise for this year. At the back end of 2016, Spieth had won in Australia whilst nowhere near his best. This time around his jaunt to Oz was a shade disappointing even though he posted a top 10. He wasn't at the races that week and that suggests to me he is worth swerving at the same odds as last year. He is woefully consistent and loves the course here so does hold every chance, but I just can't get too involved.
Rickie Fowler holds all the aces to a big performance here but again single figures for a man with only a handful of PGA tour wins is no good for us. He also has a string of events down the past few years that he really should have won. Dustin and Thomas represent a little bit more value in my opinion as they could produce sparkling golf here off that bat. Thomas did so last year and has less to prove this term so it'll be interesting to see how 2018 pans out for the newly crowned Major champion. Either way the bookies have him priced right. All of these favs have their chances but it is so difficult to choose one over the other that they all have to be left alone. Also, there is a whole host of burgeoning talent in behind more than capable of giving the big guns a hard time.
MARC LEISHMAN (best price 22-1) put together an impressive run of figures towards the end of last year and should remain positive heading into 2018. Leishman has the credentials to go a lot further in the game than he already has and a major win may just be on the horizon. Following his win at the Nedbank I expected him to kick on but it took until the back end of last season before he caught fire. He did so in fine style in the Playoff events and we last saw him playing decent stuff in his home PGA Championship. Wind usually plays a factor here and he has shown that he can cope with that down the years. A very streaky putter could make him do well here quite easily. Length is no disadvantage and given a sniff of a title he seems very capable around the lead. He is closing the gap between himself and the rest climbing to 12th in the world rankings and that ascent may just continue in Hawaii this week.
KEVIN KISNER’s (best price 33-1) only jaunt here a few years ago resulted in a top ten finish and although he has an increasing list of tournaments that he should have won, he ranks as one of the most dangerous players to the market leaders. Last time we saw Kisner he was out playing his odds at the Tour Championship being right in the thick of it until the final few holes where he stuttered to a tied 3rd place finish. However, for somebody with a handful of wins and runner up spots on tour the last few years I don't think he should be as big as what he is in the market. Kisner has a liking for tracks where solid wedge play is needed and given he was lying in 2nd spot a couple of years ago after 2 rounds he may just find another few nice rounds this time. A lively outsider for sure.
I fully expected WESLEY BRYAN (best price 150-1) to kick on following his win at the Heritage but surprisingly he spent the rest of the year searching for that game again. His only other performance worthy of note was the 3rd place finish at the John Deere. Nevertheless, these are tracks that require a nice wedge game and a hot flat stick so Bryan can not be discounted this week. He has already proven popular among some punters and although it's a big three-figure outsider he is certainly more capable than his second half of last year and around these tracks he could still contend regardless.