A check of the PGA Tour schedule shows that we have one final offering for 2021. Yes, hold onto your hats, it’s the QBE Shootout at Tiburon GC in Florida, a 24-man event featuring 12 pairs.

The 54-hole tournament has a Friday start and a Sunday finish, with the schedule of events as follows:

Friday – Round 1: Scramble
Saturday – Round 2: Modified Alternate Shot
Sunday – Round 3: Four-ball

The Scramble format can lead to some ridiculous scores and we’ve seen several 55s. Ryan Palmer and Harold Varner were the latest to do it two years ago.

Last year, Matt Kuchar and Harris English won with a record score of 37-under, the American duo finishing nine shots clear of the field.

That was mainly thanks to a 61 in the second round, their score in the modified alternate shot format five better than anyone else.

It’s all a bit of silly-season knockabout fun to be honest but English and Kuchar shared a first-prize purse of $895,000 so it’s worth winning!

World rankings dictate that Sam Burns (13th) and Billy Horschel (23rd) are favourites but it rarely plays out that simply.

One key factor – and this is why older players have been so competitive in this event – is that putting counts for plenty.

In both Friday’s Scramble and Sunday’s Four-ball, both players are putting so there is plenty of emphasis on prowess on the greens.

Over the last eight weeks on the PGA Tour, the two with the best Strokes Gained Putting stats are Jason Kokrak and Kevin Na.

And it just so happens that those two are partners this week!

Kokrak has gained a combined 12.6 strokes in his last two events, one of those a victory in the Houston Open in November. Na hasn’t played much of late but putted well in the CJ Cup last time.

In terms of this event, Kokrak was runner-up alongside J.T. Poston on his most recent appearance two years ago, the duo shooting 29-under (57-68-62).

Their 68 in alternate shot was only the eighth best score out of 12 so there’s scope for Kokrak to gel better with Na.

Na has played in this event twice previously and has a second and a third.

Last year he was one of a trio of runners-up alongside Sean O’Hair and his other start saw him finish tied third with Bryson DeChambeau.

It’s clear that Na is a handy partner to have and I’m happy to back the second favourites at 13/2.

It might not pay to hang everything on recent putting stats but if we are, that’s good news for Ian Poulter and Charles Howell.

Poulter ranked 6th for SG: Putting (6.802) when finishing in the top six at the DP World Tour Championship while Howell putted nicely when tied 16th in the RSM Classic.

Englishman Poulter played in six out of seven editions of this event between 2008 and 2014 and with some success too. He won alongside Dustin Johnson in 2010 and made the top three in both 2013 and 2014 in tandem with Lee Westwood.

After a four-year absence, Poulter paired with Graeme McDowell in his most recent appearance in 2019. The duo finished fifth but just a single shot out of the top three.

Howell has had mixed fortunes but was runner-up in 2012 alongside Rory Sabbatini and third in 2018 with Luke List.

I’m going to take them to beat Sean O’Hair and Will Zalatoris in a pick ’em match bet.

O’Hair clearly loves this event. He won in both 2012 and 2017 and was runner-up last year with Na. His winning partners were Kenny Perry and Steve Stricker.

However, he was last 12th and last in 2019 and eighth in 2018. Given that he’s the lowest ranked player in the field at World No. 450, can we expect him to keep going to the well in this event? Two of the last three editions say not.

He had great success with veteran players but this time he flips the dynamic and joins forces with youngster Zalatoris.

Clearly, Zalatoris has bags of talent but his current form is 37-MC-54-MC and the putter looks cold.

For the first-round leader market, I’m going to pick the American/Aussie duo of Ryan Palmer and Matt Jones.

The former has played in this event twice and and got off to hot starts both times.

Palmer shot that 55 with Harold Varner last year to finish the opening Scramble at the head of the field and the same duo were third after day one in 2019 after a 57.

New Dad Varner sits this one out so in comes Jones for his tournament debut. I’m hoping this pair can shoot the lights out on Friday too.

What can Jones bring to the table? Well, how about an incredible first-round 61 on his last appearance in Florida which propelled him to victory in the Honda Classic earlier this year.

He’s also been in the top six after 18 holes in two recent events – Shriners and Zozo – so he’s player who can get into his stride quickly.

The FRL each-way terms are 1/4 1-2-3.

Source link