2009 PGA Tour Season Preview
by Matt of Predictem.com
It hardly seems like time for golf with the winter weather settling over much of the country and the college football bowl season in full swing, but the PGA is nearly ready to tee off the 2009 season.
Those of you that are accustomed to betting the PGA know its not only a good way to add some spice to Sunday afternoons, but can also be beat with some good info and therefore quite profitable. If you bet with us last year, there were some lean times as far as tournament winner picks, but patience was rewarded as we hit three longshots throughout the year at greater than 30 to 1. Overall we finished on the plus-side in units for regular season play as well as correctly predicting an American win at the Ryder Cup to cap the year.
Each week, we will give three golfers that we think are the best bets to win the tournament, one each from a short, middle and long odds group. We also take a look at the offshore golf sportsbooks to highlight and breakdown a few head to head matchups for each event. From time to time, we’ll chime in on our thoughts for some interesting prop bets that are out there, most typically during the Majors. Even if you don’t agree with our picks, there is always some great information in our previews as we break down players and their chances.
New this Year:
In addition to the standard pick format developed last year, we will keep a running tally of our performance not only in terms of + or units, but also top-10s recorded by our picks to let you know how we are trending as well as our overall match up records. * We like Tiger here, but we will refrain from picking him as our favorite in most cases to provide a potentially more profitable option.
We will also provide a more in depth preview for the host course each week. Letting you know what kind of golfer has traditionally fared well at a certain type of course will help make heads and tails of the important stat predictors for each week.
Players to Watch in 09
Wins in 08: 4 (Buick, Accenture Match Play, Palmer, U.S. Open)
You certainly can’t tell the story of 08 without Tigers U.S. Open performance on a trashed knee. The knee will be a story again in 09, but probably only in terms of his start date. Tiger has eluded that a return significantly prior to the Masters in unlikely and given his want to prep for Majors, one could gather that Augusta may be his 09 debut. Whenever he tees it up, he should be ready to win immediately, given the fact he showed he can get it done at way less than 100%.
In six starts last year, Woods won four, and took second and fifth in the others with an aggregate 50-under par total in the five stroke play events. He finished second on the money list by less than one million dollars to Vijay, who played 17 more events. Among a general feel that Tiger is the best at everything, he actually ranked first in scoring average, greens in regulation, par-4 birdie percentage and eagles(holes per). Had he completed a full schedule, he surely would have led in birdies per round and threatened to lead in multiple putting stats.
Tigers caddie, Steve Williams, has made the news as much as Woods himself this offseason, drawing heat after using some choice language in describing his general dislike of Phil Mickelson. Phil hasn’t really rose to be the consistent challenger to Tiger that many thought he should, but this added unpleasantness should really lend some intrigue to any Mickelson/Woods pairings in 09 should we be lucky enough to see them.
Tiger is obviously the favorite every week, but his history at Augusta and a return to Bethpage Black for the 09 U.S. Open could have Woods 2 for 2 heading into the British Open this summer. Tiger should also factor heavy in the year end FedEx Playoff events (Barclays, Deutsche, BMW, TOUR Championship)
Wins in 08: 1 (The PLAYERS Championship)
Sergio had a great 08, breaking through with a win at the PLAYERS and finishing as runner-up on three occasions, including the PGA Championship and TOUR Championship. His only missed cut of the year came at the Masters and his overall performance moved him into the second spot in the World Golf Rankings.
Garcia led the Tour in scoring average at 69.12, finishing 4th on the Money List and 3rd in the FedEx Playoffs with three top-5 finishes in the four events. Putting remains Garcias weak spot, ranking 107th and 142nd in putting average and putts per hole. Still, Sergio is among the best on Tour in par-5 birdies or better % and will be a good pick for Thursday/Friday matches with his top-20 pre-cut scoring average.
Garcias year ended a bit on a down note with a lackluster performance in the Ryder Cup, but the Spaniard should be back firing on all cylinders in 09 and looking to notch his first win in a Major.
Late summer is a good time to bet on Sergio. His PLAYERS win came in May; however the travel demands playing in Europe and America along with the differing course styles can lead to some uneven results. Garcia stays stateside after the British Open and that led to a stretch of four top-5s in five August and September starts last year.
Wins in 08: 2 (Northern Trust, Crowne Plaza)
Lefty had a down year in 08 by most expectations, mostly because he couldn’t get anything going in Tigers absence. Both his wins came before June and while he was never outside the top-20 in any Major, including two top-10s, he never really made any noise either. Phil did finish with a bang as a member of the winning Ryder Cup team and notched a T3 in the TOUR Championship to set up some momentum into this year.
Mickelson is ranked 3rd in the World and 3rd in the PGA All Around stat with top-10 ranks in birdie average, scoring average, sand saves and bounce back %. Phils shortcomings are on the tee with a 181st rank in fairways hit and an odd struggle on Saturdays that had him averaging a 115th best, 71.00 strokes per round on moving day.
For his part, Mickelson has deflected the Steve Williams controversy with class by referencing the respectful nature of his own caddy and not firing back at Williams in any manner. Phils supporters will surely pull even harder for Lefty in a potential comeback year of sorts.
Historically, Mickelson has done well in the early portions of the Tour schedule, winning multiple events in Arizona and California . The FBR, Buick and Pebble Pro-Am are all good events for Phil and his card should be coming up again in a Major.
Wins in 08: 2 (British Open, PGA Championship)
Harrington cemented his place amongst golfs best with two Major victories in 08, including his second consecutive British Open crown. His T5 at the Masters goes very well with is two wins, leaving the T36 at the U.S. Open as the lone disappointment on his Majors resume. Paddy did sputter to end the year, missing the cut twice and tying for 55th in the Playoffs to eventually miss the TOUR Championship, but his six top-5s in 15 events played is more ofan indicator of things to come.
Harrington putted his way to his wins, ranking 5th and 2nd in putting average and putts per hole, leading to a 8th best birdie average and a sub-70 scoring average. His All Around stat is just inside the top-20 due to below average fairways and greens hit numbers, but top-20 ranks in scrambling and bounce back % cover up the bogeys.
Paddy will be a good play in weekend matches again this year if he can continue his 22nd ranked Saturday average and 3rd best final round scoring. A few swing tweaks to boost the accuracy numbers could mean even more wins in ’09.
Harrington comes in as the reigning Player of the Year and the Masters will surely be onhis radar as the opportunity for three Majors in a row has got to be motivating. Look for Harrington to play well early in the season as well, events like the Northern Trust (T3 in ’08) and the Zurich in New Orleans (T4).
Wins in ’08: 3 (WGC-Bridgestone, Barclays, Deutsche Bank)
Singh turned a so-so start to the season into a nice boost to the retirement fund by winning the first two legs of the FedEx Cup playoffs, all but locking up the 10 million dollar bonus by simply showing up to the final two. Singh also won the Bridgestone and added two runner up finishes to notch eight top-10’s in his 23 starts. The Majors were not kind to Singh, with a T14 at the Masters as his best finish to go along with a T65 and two missed cuts.
Vijay was among the longest players on Tour at 297 yards off the tee on average, and parlayed that with a 12th best GIR% to overcome some putting woes throughout the season. Singh was the best at converting under-par scores on the par-5’s, cashing inover 51% of the time, keeping his scoring average in the top-20 on all days.
Singh may not be the consistent threat to win that he was a few years back, but there will be stretches when he will look unbeatable when the putter is on. Vijay is still swinging strong in the offseason, winning the Chevron World Challenge at 11-under,right before Christmas.
Vijay plays so many events on the year that he will be always bea solid play when he is running well. Its safe to assume he will be swinging well in Hawaii to open the season at the Mercedes and the Sony.
Others to Watch:
The young gun stormed the field in winning at the Wachovia and the AT&T with a game that is very complete given his age. A Ryder Cup berth capped his year and he got the better of Sergio Garcia through the Cup week. Kim is currently 12th in the World Rank, but there will be an adjustment as he is adding some Euro PGA stops to his schedule.
Perry was on a Ryder Cup mission through ’08 and he cashed in three wins with that motivator. He may take a more casual approach to this season, but even a step back will have him in the top-20 in money, FedEx points, scoring and top-10 finishes.
Villegas finished with a bang, winning the final two events in ’08 to highlight a year that saw him move to 7th in the World Rank. Camilo ranks in the top-10 in scoring, money earned, top-10 finishes and is only getting better.
Look for your favorite players to tee it up a few more times in ’09 after the PGA has asked for some additional participation from it’s stars as a thank you to sponsors in a down economy. Several players have already agreed to play in events with traditionally weak fields to help the cause.
2008 officially came to an end a few weeks ago as far as the World Ranks are concerned. While most PGA players are vacationing, there are some events going on around the world that will have an impact on the early ’09 season, particularly the Masters.
The Masters will extend invites to the top-50 in the world that are not already qualified as of now as well as the week prior to the event. Players not yet earning invites will have the first portion of the schedule to either win an event or get inside the top-50 to claim their spot. Notables currently on the outside are Davis Love III, Scott Verplank and J.B. Holmes.
Have a Happy New Years and we’ll see you on the first tee in Kapalua for the season opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, Jan 8-11.