Sweet Home Links for Kizzire in Alabama

There is a new event on the PGA Tour this week as it heads to Alabama for the Barbasol Championship from the RTJ Trail (Grand National) GC in Auburn. It will start at 1pm UK time, on Thursday 16th July 2015.

The Course & Past Winners

Followers of the LPGA Tour will know the RTJ Trail is a series of gold course designed by Robert Trent Jones, with the Capitol Hill resort hosting the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. The RTJ Trial Grand National is to the north of Auburn and Opelika, and there are three courses at the club with the Links Course being in use this week. It will play a short less than normal as a par 71 and most of the holes will play in reverse, i.e. holes 10-17 will form the front nine with the 1st, and holes 2-9 the back nine with the 18th, not the will play green to tee… It will be 7,305 yards.
Whilst looking at the map I can't tell the difference between the Links Course and the other course at the resort, the Lakes Course. Both border the lake for the majority of the holes and are tree lines, and so the links moniker is perhaps a little misleading, especially as 12 holes are on the lake shore.
There is some course form to use although I haven't done full analysis on it as I can't find the full results for the 1997 Web.com Tour Championship. Whilst it also hosted the 2000 NCAA Golf Championship.

The Contenders

With the best players all heading to St Andrews for The Open there is a very weak field to look at, with just Emiliano Grillo inside the top 100, although at 98th only just. He mainly plays on the European Tour and is 36th in the Race to Dubai. He had a good spell when that tour headed to China with 11th at Shenzhen and 3rd in the Volvo China Open, and he followed that with 6th in the Open de Espana. Ok form since then with 38th at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, 30th in the Irish Open, 21st in Sweden, did miss the cut in France and 41st in Scotland last week.
The top ranked player on the Fedex Cup is Scott Piercey who is 42nd thanks mainly to a 2nd at the Sony Open in January. He also had a 10th in the Shell Houston Open but has struggled since then missing 3 cuts in a row, 43rd at Colonial before a withdrawal and another missed cut at the Memorial. Found some form again in his last two events with 29th at the Greenbrier and 14th last week at the John Deere Classic. He's also the second highest ranked at 112th in the World.
Winner of the individual title at the 2000 NCAA Championship was Charles Howell III who shot 67, 66, 63 & 69 on his way to an 8 shot victory. At 119th he's fourth ranked in the World here and currently 75th in the Fedex Cup, thanks to 5th at both the Farmers Insurance Open in Feb and the Shell Houston Open. Again though not fantastic form since then missing 5 of his 9 cuts, including at the Fedex St Jude Classic and Greenbrier Classic, improving with 60th last week.
The form guys will be the players coming from the Web.com Tour with 4 of the top 11 here this week. Without a win but top of the pile is Patton Kizzire who has had two runner up finishes, a 3rd and five more top ten's in his 14 starts, including a 9th last week which was a bounceback after a missed cut at the Air Capital Classic. He is also a local lad from Montgomery about an hour's drive and he went to Auburn University.
Also in good form as you'd expect for 2nd on the money list is Peter Malnati who won early on in Brasil. Has had three more top ten's including 7th last week, his fourth top 20 finish in five events after 12th in Dallas, 5th at the Rust-Oleum Championship, did miss the cut with Kizzire, then 16th in Novia Scotia and 7th last week.
Winner last week in Boise was Martin Piller which moved him up to 4th, and followed his missed cut in Novia Scotia and 9th in the Air Captial Classic.
Another winner this year is Smylie Kaufman who won the United Leasing Championship, and had been 4th in the two previous events he played on this tour. Since then though has dropped off missing 5 of his last 6 cuts with 24th in the Rust-Oleum Championship.
A couple of players who went well last week in the John Deere Classic were Johnson Wagner and Will Wilcox. Wagner was 5th to follow his 32nd at the Greenbrier, but had missed his previous 5 cuts and a best of 2nd in Houston. Alabama native Wilcox was 8th last week following missed cuts in the previous two weeks, but had been 16th, 22nd & 12th before that.
Final couple and another Auburn graduate is Blayne Barber who practises at Grand National on occasion. But he will need to use that knowledge if he's to improve on his 5 missed cuts in a row, following an 8th in New Orleans.
Whilst in 3rd behind Howell in 2000 was Rickie Barnes, albeit 10 shots adrift after 70, a pair of 68's & a 69. Another struggling for form and would seem due for another missed cut as his recent form reads, MC, MC, 37th, MC, MC, 28th, MC, MC, 67th at the Greenbrier and another missed cut last week.

My Selection

A poor field and the only player jumping out really is the favourite Patton Kizzire. Not surprising given his form on the Web.com Tour where he leads and had 8 top ten's this year and is just lacking that victory. What better way to get it, on the main tour and in his home state.