2008 PODS Championship Preview and Picks

2008 PODS Championship, Mar 6-9, Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club (Copperhead), Tampa Bay, FL, Golf Channel/NBC
by Matt of Predictem.com

Fresh off the Honda Classic, the PGA Tour stays in the state of Florida for the PODS Championship this week from the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook GC in Tampa. The course will be a stern test for the competitors as it boasts almost 7,300 yards (par 71) and demands accuracy from the tee as well as length to shoot low. The Golf Channel carries the early round coverage with NBC picking up the weekend with all four days airing in the 3-6pm ET time slot.

Much like last week, many of the top pros are not in attendance for this
event, leaving the trophy up for grabs for many golfers. Whoever winds up
on top this week will need a solid all-around week to take down the winner’s
share of the $5.3 million purse along with the FedExCup Points. Mark Calcavecchia
is back as the defending champion.

With the Tigers and Phils absent, Ernie Els is the favorite to win, currently at 7 to 1 to win on the golf sportbooks betting boards. Els is coming his first PGA win in over three years at last weeks Honda Classic and certainly has the game to make it two in a row.

There is quite a gap on the boards to get to the next golfer, Justin Rose, currently going off at 18 to 1. Rose is making his third start in the U.S. with a t15 at the Honda in his last start. Rose owns the 8th best scoring average on the PGA at 69.52, but will need to improve on his 121st rank in driving accuracy to contend this week.

Steve Stricker had moved to 3rd in the Official World Golf Rank before Ernie bumped him with his win last week, but that certainly does not take anything away from the run Steve has been on over the last year-plus. On the board as a 25 to 1 shot this week, Stricker has 4 top-15 finishes in his 5 events in ’08, most recently posting a t9 at the Accenture Match Play.

Another hot player at 25 to 1 is Stuart Appleby. With 4 top tens in 4 events this year, Stuart is rolling and is 4th on the PGA’s All Around Rank, showing the kind of verstility that will prove useful at Innisbrook.

Stewart Cink, also 25 to 1, is another contender this week based on his solid ’08 thus far. Cink took second at the Accenture, and even though he didn’t provide much of a match for Tiger in the finale, he certainly played well to get there. Cink also posted a t3 in this years Buick Invitational.

A final golfer at 25 to 1 is Robert Allenby. Allenby has 4 top 25 finishes in his 7 starts this year including two top tens in his last two, the Honda and the Northern Trust. Allenby has the ballstriking stats to win this week (15th in GIR) and is the PGA’s top ranked golfer on the All Around Rank list.

A few looks a little deeper in the field could pay big if they can break through at Copperhead. J.B. Holmes has the length off the tee (310.2, 2nd) to threaten the long par-5’s and has one win already this year at the FBR. Holmes is 40 to 1 for the outright win. Aaron Baddeley is at 50 to1 and could use his 10th ranked putting (1.729) to propel him this week. Defending champion Mark Calvavecchia, 40 to 1 to repeat, has tallied three straight top-20’s and contended last week finsihing t4 at the Honda.

In considering the match-ups for this week, look to the accuracy and putting stats to point you to your golf picks.

In the match between Steve Stricker and Justin Rose, the greens in regulation stat bears out the biggest discrepancy between these golfers. Rose has struggled a bit, hitting only 57.4% of greens (186th rank) while Stricker is well above at 71.8% (12th). Stricker also hits more fairways and drops more putts on average and should pull out victory in this match. This match up can be found with Stricker being a +100 underdog at Bodog!

Much the same can be said for the Scott Verpalnk and Stewart Cink match. Verplank is the Tour’s leader in driving accuracy, hitting 84% of fairways while Cink lags at 53.5% ranking 173rd. The GIR stats are nearly identical, but Verplank is 20th in putting while Cink can only muster a 141 rank. These are two evenly matched players on most courses, but look for Verplank to take this one on a shotmaker’s track.

For the Win:

Favorite Pick: Ernie Els 7 to 1

Middle of the Road Pick: Robert Allenby 25 to 1

Longshot Pick: J.B. Holmes 40 to 1