20-1 Noh looks value if Curtis wobbles in Texas
STORY SO FAR
BEN CURTIS, the Open champion of 2003, has taken a firm grip on the Texas Open after 54 holes. The pre-tournament 150-1 chance, who is without full playing rights on the US Tour, is three shots clear going into today’s final round.
It has been six years since Curtis tasted victory and this term he has been able to compete in only four US Tour events (including this one) because he has been so short of sponsors invitations. Gentle Ben is no bigger than 8-13 to convert his advantage into a career-reviving success.
Matt Every, who sacked his swing coach a fortnight ago in a bid to improve his chances of gaining a maiden win, is clear in second place, while the trio of John Huh, Seung-yul Noh and Charlie Wi are a further two shots behind.
Ante-postfavourite Matt Kuchar is lurking six shots off the lead and is 16-1 (from a pre-event 12-1) to triumph, but second-favourite Kevin Na failed to make the weekend.
-9 Ben Curtis
-6 Matt Every
-4 John Huh, Seung-yul Noh, Charlie Wi
-3 Matt Kuchar, Greg Chalmers, Brian Gay, David Mathis, Cameron Tringale
-2 Chris Stroud, Bob Estes, Martin Flores, Ryan Palmer
8-13 B Curtis, 13-2 M Every, 16 M Kuchar, C Wi, 20 J Huh, S-Y Noh, 30 C Tringale, 33 G Chalmers, 40 B Gay, 50 R Palmer, 66 D Mathis, 80 bar
THERE can be no question that Ben Curtis is the likely winner of the Texas Open – he is a Major champion who should be able to convert a healthy advantage over a weak field.
But lumping on at 8-13 is not a particularly attractive option because the leader may allow the significance of this round to impact negatively on his play. He has posted just two top-ten finishes on the US Tour since the start of the 2009 season and has lost his card as a result.
Curtis has made only one cut in the States this season (the low-grade Puerto Rico Open, where he finished tied for 14th) and this performance has come right out of theblue. Victory today would get his career back on track and there must be a danger that the 34-year-old will want the title a little too much.
Curtis has held a 54-hole lead on the US Tour four times, winning twice from those positions, but a better value wager with 18 holes to play is the 20-1 about brilliant Korean starlet Seung-yul Noh underlining his status as one of the most promising youngsters in world golf.
Noh has already won on the European Tour – he fended off KJ Choi to land the Malaysian Open title as an 18-year-old in 2010 – and five months ago he started his bid for Stateside glory by finishing third in the US Tour Q-School.
While Curtis is fretting about getting into tournaments, Noh (who topped the Asian Tour money list in 2010) has full membership of every major tour in the world, and the 20-year-old is right up there with the likes of Matteo Manassero and Ryo Ishikawa as one of the most promising youngsters in the game.
Noh made seven birdies in round three at the TPC San Antonio yesterday to move into a tie for fourth and he can be expected to finish with a flourish. The weather forecast for the final day isperfect – clear skies and no wind – so somebody should come with a late rattle to put the willies up Curtis.
Noh, the most powerful player on the leaderboard, can attack the course with more dynamism than his rivals, and a US Tour breakthrough success would come as no surprise if Curtis wobbles in front. Noh will be relaxed with fellow Korean Charlie Wi alongside him in the penultimate threeball.
Cameron Tringale looked in imperious form on Friday before allowing the pressures of being in contention to get to him yesterday. Expect him to regain his equilibrium today and see off Chris Stroud and Bob Estes in their threeball at 11-8.
And the powerful Scott Piercy, a joint course-record holder at the TPC San Antonio coming into this week (who has elevated his status to US Tour winner since that 64), is also an attractive 11-8 chance to win his threeball against the poor duo of Brian Harman and Frank Lickliter.
S-Y Noh, 1pt each-way 20-1 general
C Tringale, 2pts 11-8 general
S Piercy, 2pts 11-8 Betfred