Military service in South Korea means defending champ Sangmoon Bae misses the defence of his Frys.com Open although Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose may wish they were somewhere else.
It’s payback time for the European pair as they fulfil a commitment to play this wrap-around Ryder Cup season-opener after getting a pass to play the lucrative Turkish match-play tournie in 2012.
Last year’s runner-up Steven Bowditch has been backed on his return but Paddy Power punters are putting their faith in some household names and rising stars as the first of the PGA’s 47 tournies tees off in California on Thursday.
Paddy’s still leading the field by paying each-way the first six and here’s half a dozen of the best backed players in the book as of noon on Wednesday.
An early start for the former world No 1 after a broken ankle, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day took the gloss of his season as he slipped to World No 3.
The mop-top can’t overhaul Spieth at the top for at least six weeks but a win here ahead of a crack at the Race to Dubai will go a long way to denting Spieth’s lead before the year turns.
Two wins in 12 tournaments Stateside (the World Match Play and Wells Fargo) kept the revs up and finished the T29, T4 and T16 in his three Fed Ex tournaments last month.
Will be a shoo-in for the European Ryder Cup team but getting back up the World rankings and being competitive in the Majors again looks priority number one for McIlroy.
One of the most consistent players on Tour, the Japanese starlet was third to Sangmoon Bae last season – one of nine Top 10 finishes from 25 PGA Tour tournaments missing just two cuts in that time.
Never outside the top 25 in the FedEx Series with a T7 at the BMW Championship the high point and if his exertions for the International Team at the Presidents’ Cup last weekend haven’t taken their toll – could go close to picking up his second over-sized cheque since winning the Memorial Tournament in June 2014.
The tee-box boomer steadily moved the dial all term with five Top 10 finishes in his first year on the PGA Tour proper.
Among the nominations for Rookie of the Year along with with Justin Thomas, Nick Taylor and eventual winner Daniel Berger, Finau finished T14 at Chambers Bay in the US Open in his first Major and bettered that with a T10 at the PGA Championship.
Got his eye in at the Silverado Resort with a T14 posting last year and has proved a popular pick with PP punters all week. Steve Palmer’s pick in the Racing Post.
Another of the new brigade who could push hard for a Ryder Cup place next September as Team USA look to with the trophy back for the first time since 2008.
Led the PGA Tour rookie roster with 7 Top 10 finishes after a nervy start in the big leagues. Missed the cut here and in the Shriners Hospital for Children Open in his first two starts 12 months ago but has since proved he has the game to compete.
The 25-year-old flew from the traps last season when T8 in this comp last year (played in December) before a Tour breakthrough win at the high-octane Phoeniox Open.
Went through the gears in the Majors last season with a T33 at the US Masters in April his highest finish before T18 (US Open), T10 (Open Championship) and T5 (PGA Championship) marking him down as a player going places.
Spent time developing his game on the European Tour and comes here warm after a T2 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Masters a fornight ago.
Team Europe will lean heavily on this Ryder Cup veteran next September and Rose showed why he’s still one of the world’s best with a joint runner-up spot behind Jordan Spieth at Augusta last April before winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on his next start.
Although this is an earlier start than he would possibly have liked – the Englishman finished off the season with four top 5 finishes in his last seven tournaments after claiming T6 to Zach Johnson in the Open Championship at St Andrews.
Always puts in a shift – but needs to watch some slow starts. Should be motivated enough to bring his ‘A’ game ahead of Europe’s Final Series next month and looks a solid play.