Australian PGA Championship Preview

Australian PGA Championship
RACV Royal Pines Resort
11-14 December 2014

This tournament, for the Joe Kirkwood Cup, has been a popular staple on the Aussie golf calendar for more than a hundred years, especially while hosted by the hugely popular Hyatt Coolum Resort (2002-2012).

Unfortunately, owing to the immature, even twat-headed, actions of new Coolum owner, Clive Palmer, there was a falling out and PGA Australasia from 2013 ditched Coolum - to the benefit of the RACV Royal Pines Resort, Benowa, located 10 minutes or so inland from Surfers Paradise.

By way of background, Palmer, among other Coolum 'innovations' had a giant dinosaur named Jeff erected behind the 9th tee and spray-painted tributes to the likes of JFK on some fairways. Such 'innovations' certainly give cause for sympathy for the PGA in making the tough decision to relocate an established tour stop away from a popular location!

The Course

Royal Pines has been the home, since 1992, of the LET / ALPG Australian Ladies Masters. This event has been won 8 times by Karrie Webb and that is the first pointer to selecting a winner this week, especially given that an Aussie has won every PGA Championship since the event shifted to Queensland in 2000.

The course, which hosted its first of at least five PGA Championships last year, will again play to around 6,600m (7,200yd) at a par of 71 this time around. In 2013, Gold Coast local hero Adam Scott won with a 14-under 270 via an emphatic closing 67 that distanced the field, including runner-up Rickie Fowler, by 4 shots.

Water mildly threatens on at least half the holes, but the flat generous fairways, limited rough and large greens leave plenty of margin for error and the course thus favours longer hitters who can putt a bit.

Top of the Early Market

Again this week there can be no argument with Adam Derek Scott's hot favouritism. He is the class of the field by a mile, in good form, at home on the Gold Coast - his home since age 13 - and the reigning champion here.

Here are the early favourites' average prices:

2.75 Adam Scott
15.00 Marc Leishman
17.00 John Senden
21.00 Brendon de Jonge
26.00 Greg Chalmers & Brett Rumford
29.00 Boo Weekley, Robert Allenby & Steven Bowditch

Who will Win?

I actually rate Adam Scott even money (2.00) to win this, far shorter than the market, and recommend him if, unlike me, you're a favourites backer. I'd be very surprised if he were beaten this week and I thus cannot recommend a win bet on anybody else.

There are some 'Without Scott' markets about and here I favour Nick Cullen at 33/1 in early markets (I rate him 25/1). A late developer, he's had 3 decent career wins, including last month's Beteasy Masters and the 2012 Indonesian Open.

He has genuine appeal at the price in a field where the quality level drops away pretty fast once Scott is removed and is a cool customer under pressure; unlike a number of his promising younger compatriots, I wouldn't expect Nick to throw it away if he were in contention on Sunday.

Who can Place?

I have 2 Top10 selections that I believe represent real price value here.

The first is fabulously talented 21-y-o Aussie Cameron Smith who since August has been in a rich vein of form with 6 consecutive Top10's culminating in a meritorious 5th in the CIMB Classic where he finished ahead of Sabbatini, Schwartzel, Westwood et al.

That Top5 led to invites to the PGA Tour's Sanderson Farms & Mayakoba events which, while character-building, probably came a bit early for the kid. Back on home soil, and acclimatised, I expect him to be a genuine place chance this week where I rate him 3.75 for a Top10 whereas the early markets have him at 4.50+.

My other Top10 selection is the relatively anonymous and inexperienced Victorian Anthony Houston whose game has been developing at a rapid rate in 2014. Since his Australasian season-opening 6th in the WA Open early in October he's added: 7th (WA PGA), MC (NSW Open), 11th (Beteasy Masters) & 9th in last week's NSW PGA.

There have been few players in more consistent form this summer and he has to be rated a Top10 chance this week where I rate him 10.00 and the early bookmaker markets range from 11.00 - 13.00

Best Longshot?

400/1 shot, 20-y-o Korean Yi-Keun Chang is of interest in the longshot department. He's had a solid debut pro season, firstly on the new PGA China Tour before a great 8th in the Nanshan China Masters followed by 14th in his home Korean Open.

In his only start since, he finished 38th in the WebCom QSchool Stage2 tournament in California. This kid's got game and, though the conditions will be foreign to him, I reckon he's worth a few bucks as a Top20 longshot at 20/1 or longer; a market where I rate him 14/1 only.

*Editors Note: Yi-Keun Chang is now a non-starter in the tournament.

Cheers, best X'mas wishes and good luck with your golf punting!

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