WITH the big guns resting up for next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational – the PGA Tour’s third $20million ‘elevated’ event – this is the perfect opportunity for the LIV rebel rousers to make some noise.
The second coming of the LIV Golf circus – sorry, circuit – kicks off in Mexico on Friday.
And while they have struggled to add any more big name signings, there is still enough firepower to overshadow the Honda Classic north of the border.
Dustin Johnson heads the market for the first of the 14 LIV events. But the fact he pulled out before the start of the Saudi Invitational with a back problem means he has not hit a shot in anger this year.
The former world No 1 has proved LIV’s shining light so far, as you might expect from a man paid $125million just to sign on the dotted line. But he will surely be a bit under-cooked for this event.
It might pay to stick with players who have had a decent warm-up and are familiar with the conditions in Mayakoba.
And with none of the world’s top 17 players teeing off at the Honda, it may also be worth having a speculative punt on a couple of the players at three figure odds….
Hot shot: Abraham Ancer, 11-1.
Before Mayakoba ‘defected’ to LIV, Mexico’s top golfer competed in the PGA Tour event played at the course five times, and clearly enjoyed playing in front of his home fans.
His record there reads 9-21-8-12-7, against much deeper opposition than he will face in a field limited to 48 players – including a fair amount of dead wood.
Ancer looked rusty when he missed the cut at the Dubai Desert Classic, but showed the benefit of that outing by romping to a wire-to-wire victory at the Saudi Invitational. He beat Cameron Young by three shots. That will do for me.
Mid price: Carlo Ortiz, 33-1.
Yeah, I know, picking a second Mexican golfer on home soil seems a bit too obvious. But there are good reasons for siding with Ortiz as well as Ancer.
Apart from his 2020 Houston Open win, Ortiz’s best performances have come at Mayakoba. He was runner up in the PGA event there in 2019, and again in 2021.
That second near-miss hoisted the Mexican No 2 into the world’s top fifty, and a couple of top five finishes in LIV events last year showed he can still play a bit. He has had TWO competitive outings this year, so rust should not be a problem.
Long shot: Kevin Na, 70-1.
Na did not exactly set the world alight in his first year as a LIV player – just one top ten finish in six attempts – but he is better than that.
He won five times on the PGA Tour, and it is less than 18 months since he tied Jon Rahm for the best 72 hole score at the Tour Championship. And he is still the right side of forty.
If Na has finished counting his money from joining the rebels, and gets the competitive juices flowing again, he could be a force to reckon with this year.
And at the Honda….
Sepp Straka was a shock winner of this Florida pipe-opener a year ago, and it looks ready-made for another turn-up.
Ben Martin looks attractively priced at 150-1 after a decent showing at Pebble Beach last time out.
And at 400-1, Brian Stuard – who edged into the top ten here a year ago – could repay a small each way interest.
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