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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Ryan Palmer can put career blip behind him by reigning in Reno

Richy Werenski looking dangerous

Ryan Palmer could thrive this week on a course that suits
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Starts 3pm Thursday

Shane Lowry, the 2015 Bridgestone Invitational champion, tops the betting alongside in-form US Tour maiden Joel Dahmen for the Barracuda Championship, a low-grade gathering played at altitude with a Modified Stableford scoring system.

Lowry is a course debutant, while Dahmen finished 68th on his first visit to Reno 12 months ago, underlining the wide-open nature of this tournament.


Palmer's top tip
Ryan Palmer 33-1
The Barracuda Championship is a happy hunting ground for older players who are looking to stabilise their career – Geoff Ogilvy, JJ Henry and Greg Chalmers are recent examples of those who have used a Reno success to guarantee their US Tour futures – and Ryan Palmer can do likewise this week.

Palmer has spent a year outside of the top 100 of the world rankings, an uncomfortable position for a three-time US Tour champion in his early 40s, a fallow period probably caused by off-the-course challenges. His wife battled through breast cancer, while Ryan needed shoulder surgery, and his golf inevitably suffered.

A playoff loss in the Farmers Insurance Open in January showed Palmer still has plenty to offer, though, and the last month has provided further encouragement, with eighth place in the Quicken Loans National and 22nd spot in Canada on Sunday, where he closed with a 66.

Palmer put the Barracuda back on his schedule last year, finishing ninth, and he was fourth in 2008 and fifth in 2009 before establishing himself in the top 100 of the world rankings. The course suits – he appreciates room off the tee – and the format also lends itself to his naturally attacking style.

Next best
Richy Werenski 25-1
The pick of the hungry, young maidens in attendance is Richy Werenski, who won on the Tour in 2016 and has been threatening a US Tour triumph this summer.

Werenski was fourth in the St Jude Classic in June, then runner-up in the Barbasol Championship, beaten by only a shot, in Open week. Given the way he performed on his Barracuda debut last year – reaching 44 points and finding only one man too good for him in a playoff – the Florida-based swinger fully deserves to be prominent in the betting.

Other selection
Matt Jones 66-1
The intense heat is a factor in Reno this week – it is baking – but Arizona resident Matt Jones will be used to dripping sweat in the desert. Jones has flopped on difficult courses in recent weeks, but on easy layouts like this one, the Aussie has been among the birdies. His 19th spot in the Travelers was followed by 12th in the John Deere Classic, and the 2014 Houston Open champ has the game to succeed at Montreux CC.

Jones, like Palmer, is eager for dollar and world-ranking points, and he has just become a father for the third time, so has arrived in Reno with fresh determination.

Others to note
Patrick Rodgers
The underachieving former amateur superstar finished third in the 2015 Barracuda, so could threaten an overdue breakthrough.

Martin Laird
The Arizona-based Scot loves the desert and was second in this event in 2009, so his patchy recent form may be shrugged aside.

Staking plan
R Palmer
2pts each-way 33-1 Coral
R Werenski
2pts each-way 25-1 Betfair, Betfred, Power
M Jones
1pt each-way 66-1 Coral

The lowdown

Course Montreux Country Club, Reno, Nevada

Prize money $3.4m ($594,000 to the winner)

Length 7,472 yards Par 72

Format The Modified Stableford scoring system was introduced for the first time in 2012, allocating points based on the number of shots taken at each hole. Albatross = eight points; eagle = five; birdie = two; par = zero; bogey = minus one; double-bogey or worse = minus three.

Field 132

Course records (strokeplay) – 72 holes 267 Vaughn Taylor (2005) 18 holes 61 Scott Piercy (2011)

Course records (Stableford) – 72 holes 49 Geoff Ogilvy (2014) 18 holes 22 Kyle Reifers (2015)

Course winners taking part Vaughn Taylor (twice), Parker McLachlin, John Rollins, JJ Henry (twice), Geoff Ogilvy, Chris Stroud

When to bet By 3pm Thursday

Time difference Nevada is eight hours behind the UK and Ireland

Course overview This Jack Nicklaus design opened in 1997 and hosted every Reno-Tahoe Open, the first being in 1999. The tournament became the Barracuda Championship under new sponsors in 2014.

The track is at altitude and the ball flies around ten per cent further than normal. The scenic layout winds through towering pine trees, creeks, seven lakes and four waterfalls through a forest, with lots of elevation changes.

In 2002, three new holes were built, replacing the previous tenth, 11th and 12th. The stretch of holes from 15 to 17 are known as the Bear Trap. The 220-yard par-three 16th and the 464-yard par-four 17th are often the most difficult holes.

The fairways are generous, greens are Bentgrass, bigger than average and undulating.

The story of last year Three players tied at 44 points apiece – Chris Stroud, Greg Owen and Richy Werenski – before Stroud claimed a maiden US Tour title with a birdie at the second extra hole.

Weather forecast Sunny and extremely hot throughout, with only light breezes.

Type of player suited to challenge The extra distance that the ball travels in Reno cuts this course down to size. All lengths of hitter can thrive. The Stableford format encourages aggressive play, with rewards for eagles and birdies greater than the penalties for bogeys and doubles. Support players who can handle the extreme heat.

Key attribute Accuracy

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A playoff loss in the Farmers Insurance Open in January showed Palmer still has plenty to offer
E.W. Terms
Sky bet