Tournament: 2008 AT&T Classic
Date: Thursday May 15 Sun May 18
Location: TPC Sugarloaf Duluth, GA
TV: Golf Channel/CBS
The PGA Tour makes another stop in the Peach State as the AT&T Classic takes place this week from Duluth, Georgia. TPC Sugarloaf hosts the event which will lack some star quality as many of the big names on Tour are taking a bit of a break before beginning U.S. Open preparations in earnest. That leaves the trophy and $990,000 dollar winners check up for grabs and opens the door for a potential first-time winner or perhaps a cagey veteran to sneak up the board. The Golf Channel carries the early rounds, with coverage shifting to CBS for the weekend.
A TPC course stands in front of the players for the second week in a row, although Sugarloaf should be a bit kinder than Sawgrass. For the Championship, the course will play par-72 at 7,293 yards. This track does have length in spots, so look for the long hitters to have an advantage, even if only on the 5-pars. Number 10 looks daunting on the card at 608 yards, but plays downhill and a solid drive will lend a look at the green in two. As in most events, the last hole at Sugarloaf will give players a chance to win or lose at the wire. Eighteen is a par-5 that will play 576 yards, and a drive hit to the bottom of a split level fairway will give the best shot to carry the water guarding the front of the green. A one shot lead heading to the last will not be safe.
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With the absence of Tiger, Phil, Vijay and the rest, it does make it harder to put your finger on the guys that have the best chance to rise this week. Lets take a look at those who are there, who are the best bets, and breakdown a few matches available at the golf sportsbooks. Odds to win and top-5 and tie courtesy of Bodog, highlighted matches found at Linesmaker.
10 to 1 to win & 2 to 1 (top 5 and tie)
The GA Tech product is the favorite this week and gets to sleep in his own bed as a bonus. Cink has been a fixture on the first page this year with four top-3 finishes to date and his T21 at THE PLAYERS was his worst finish in a month. The Tours third All Around player has five top-10s in 10 tries at the AT&T including a runner up, but is still searching for the win here. Cink is a good mix of length and accuracy, ranking 24th in driving distance and 9th in greens hit. Look for him to excel on the par-5s as he is 15th in birdie or better conversion and 4th in eagles.
14 to 1 & 5 to 2
Goosen appears here perhaps on name recognition as his play has been spotty in 08. Retiefs one flash of brilliance this year came at the WGC-CA where he was a T2. He is a former winner here, taking the trophy in 02 and is above average in putts per round, ranking 38th. He still own a stroke average that is a full stroke under par so he is finding chances even though his ball striking numbers are ranked 100th or worse. Goose would be a gut play this week as he tries to regain his form from a few years back.
14 to 1 & 5 to 2
Johnson comes in as the defending champion and also has a win here in 04 and a runner up in 06. His other win on Tour was the Masters, so Georgia has been kind to Zach. Johnson is plenty accurate, ranking 11th in fairways hit at 72.3% and 21st in GIR%. Zach has made most of the cuts this year (10 of 12) but a 123rd rank in putting average has kept him down the board as he has only 4 top-25 finishes. He obviously likes Sugarloaf, so even an average putting week will have him in position on the weekend.
22 to 1 & 7 to 2
The 03 AT&T winner is having a quiet but solid season with 10 of 11 cuts made and just logged a T6 at last weeks PLAYERS. Crane gets it done off the tee as the Tours 11th ranked overall driver and is solid on the greens, ranking 34th with the putter. Ranking 12th in the All Around stat, Crane averages a ninth best 69.9 stroke average and can be bet with confidence in the Thu/Fri matches with the second best pre-cut scoring average (69.8).
25 to 1 & 4 to 1
Mahan is another player in the field looking to jump start a so-so year. Hunter has recorded five top-25s in the nine cuts made, but has scuffled some with 5 MCs as well. He is plenty accurate with the irons, ranking 4th in GIR% at 69.9%, and is 16th in total driving. While the ballstriking numbers are there, Mahan will need to overcome a 144th ranked putting average to seriously contend. Maybe Sergio has given confidence to the shaky putters with his win last week.
28 to 1 & 4 to1
Like Goosen, Toms is looking for a return to the success of a few years back. David had a good start to the PLAYERS, but struggled some, as many did, on the weekend, and finished T32. Toms has hit enough fairways, but the approaches have been wayward as he is only 149th in greens hit. The putter has been there for Toms as he ranks 39th in putting average, so a good week with the irons will give him a shot.
28 to 1 & 9 to 2
Camilo has the length (291 yards) to take advantage here, but will need to up his tee accuracy as he is hitting just over 58% of fairways. A 17th ranked putting average nets a 10th best 3.81 birdies per round, and Villegas has snuck to 19th in the All Around rank. Camilo is looking to put it all together; he only has one top-10 thus far in 9 cuts made, a T7 at the Verizon. T3 here last year bodes well.
33 to 1 & 6 to 1
Byrd has a punchers chance here as one of the best putters in this field; he ranks 19th in average and 21st in total putts per round en route to 3.69 birdies per round. The negative on the stat sheet comes in greens hit, where Byrd slumps to 122nd which can limit his looks for birdie. He had a good run here last year, finishing T9. A good week from the fairways will have him in contention.
HEAD TO HEAD MATCHES
Zach Johnson (+100) v. Retief Goosen (-130) Pick: Johnson
Its too hard to bet against Johnson here considering his AT&T record, especially with Goosen not playing particularly well.
Jonathan Byrd (-105) v. Camilo Villegas (-125) Pick: Villegas
Putting stats are comparable and Villegas has a major advantage in length.
Ben Crane (-120) v. Hunter Mahan (-110) Pick: Crane
Crane over the injury of 07 and Mahan managed just a T68 here last year.
Stewart Cink (-125) v. Retief Goosen (-105) Pick: Cink
Not trying to pick on Goose, but Cink has home cooking and a big edge on the stat sheet.
My Picks to Win:
Short Favorite: Stewart Cink 10-1 odds
Middle of the Road: Zach Johnson 14-1 odds
Longshot: Camilo Villegas 28-1