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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Puntacana punters should plump for Patrick

US Tour maiden set for breakthrough

Patrick Rodgers in action at the Valspar Championship
1 of 1

Starts 11am Thursday

The golfing elite are eating at the top table in Texas, but competing for a $540,000 cheque in the beautiful Dominican Republic is no hardship for the US Tour second string at Corales Golf Club.

A ragbag of players – from fresh-faced youngsters to washed-up veterans – will tee up in the new US Tour event at a long but straightforward layout.

Palmer's top tip
Patrick Rodgers 20-1
Much was expected from Patrick Rodgers when he turned professional in the summer of 2014, having matched the winning record of Tiger Woods at Stanford University, and the transition from world number one amateur to US Tour star has not run smoothly.

A runner-up spot behind Rory McIlroy in the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship was encouraging and lucrative, but title challenges have been few and far between since.

Two third-place finishes in low-grade events – the Barracuda Championship and the Travelers Championship – were followed by two bold efforts last year. Fourth place in the Farmers Insurance Open and second in the John Deere Classic showed Rodgers was getting closer to an overdue breakthrough.

At 25 years of age, this talented powerhouse still has time on his side and his last five tournaments have provided a source of great optimism. A quintet of solid performances, starting with eighth place at Pebble Beach and ending with seventh spot at Bay Hill on Sunday, suggest Rodgers is a major runner at the Corales Club.

Weekend rounds of 68 and 69 hauled Rodgers up the Bay Hill board and it is worth noting that his lone Web.com Tour triumph came just south of the Dominican Republic in the 2015 Colombia Championship. His results outside of America are solid.

Next best
Emiliano Grillo 12-1

Rodgers could finally be ready to become a US Tour champ, but Emiliano Grillo is the highest-ranked player in the field and a worthy favourite. The Argentinian, a playoff loser in the 2015 Puerto Rico Open, enjoys this part of the world and should take an immediate shine to Corales.

Grillo has spurned plenty of chances, including a four-shot halfway lead in India earlier this month, but he has won the Argentina Open, the Web.com Tour Championship and the Frys.com Open, so can get the job done in the right conditions. This assignment looks perfect for the 25-year-old to claim a second US Tour title.

Grillo has been banking healthy cheques in US Tour company far superior to what he faces this week. He was ninth in the OHL Classic in November, 12th at Torrey Pines in January, eighth in the Honda Classic last month, and 26th last week at Bay Hill, where he closed with a 69. His putting has improved in recent weeks and it is difficult to imagine Grillo out of the frame if he holes his fair share over the next four days.

Other selection
Abraham Ancer 50-1
The most appealing of the bigger odds is the 50-1 about improving Mexican, Abraham Ancer, who graduated from the Web.com Tour last season. Ancer won on that circuit as a rookie in 2015, but was not ready for the US Tour. At the age of 27, this accurate operator is starting to look like he belongs in the higher grade.

Ancer, ninth in the OHL Classic, 20th at Torrey Pines and 16th in the Valspar Championship last time out, has already banked enough to have high hopes of keeping his place on the US Tour. A six-under-par Valspar weekend at the demanding Copperhead Course was hugely impressive.

Ancer has experience of Corales, finishing 41st in the 2017 Web.com event there, and he made the each-way places in Panama (fourth) and the Bahamas (fifth) last year, noteworthy spins in nearby countries.

Others to note
Paul Dunne
The British Masters champion should enjoy this breezy, seaside layout, but has been unimpressive this season.

Chris Wood
The lanky Bristolian is another European Tour raider who could take an immediate shine to the venue. He was runner-up in the Oman Open a month ago.

Scott Piercy
The three-time US Tour champion is a big fish in a small pond this week. Inconsistent but dangerous.

Nate Lashley
The only course winner in the field, but has missed three cuts in a row and is without a top-ten finish since August.

Corey Conners
The Canadian led the Valspar Championship for a long way and has been swinging well in his rookie season.

Harris English
The Georgia man looked set for stardom after winning twice on the US Tour in 2013, but he has slipped to 215th in the world. This is a good chance to mount a recovery.

Staking plan
P Rodgers
3pts each-way 20-1 Coral
E Grillo
3pts each-way 12-1 Coral
A Ancer
1pt each-way 50-1 Coral


Tournament lowdown

Course Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Prize money $3m ($540,000 to the winner)

Length 7,670 yards Par 72 Field 132

Course records – 72 holes 264 Dominic Bozzelli (2016) 18 holes 62 Stephan Jaeger (2016), Alexandre Rocha (2016)

Course winner taking part Nate Lashley

When to bet By 11am Thursday

Time difference The Dominican Republic is four hours behind the UK and Ireland

Course overview This is a new tournament on the US Tour and the first in the Dominican Republic, but the event has been staged at this venue on the Web.com Tour the last two years.
Winning scores of 24 and 20 under par underline how straightforward the second-tier players found the layout, despite its considerable yardage.

Wind is the main defence of this track, which plays along the cliffs, bays and coves of the Caribbean Sea, and it is vulnerable to low scoring in calm conditions.

The course was designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 2010. There are six oceanside holes, while the 12 inland feature lakes and quarries.

The fairways are undulating and the greens are large and elevated. The last three holes are difficult and are known as the Devil's Elbow.

Weather forecast Hot and humid with sporadic showers and light breezes for the most part, with the wind peaking on Sunday.

Type of player suited to challenge Players with experience of the course from 2016 or 2017 on the Web.com Tour have an advantage. Power appears helpful, but putting touch is arguably more important given how low the previous winning scores have been.

Comfort in a breeze and form from the Puerto Rico Open (played on the neighbouring island) are additional positives.

Key attribute Touch


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Fourth place in the Farmers Insurance Open and second in the John Deere Classic showed Rodgers was getting closer
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