Riding with Tag in Kansas

After missing last week I'm back on the Web.com Tour as it heads to the Mid-West for the Digital Ally Open from the Nicklaus GC at LionsGate. The event started in 2009 under the odd name of Christmas in October Classic, but it was held in August; there was no event in 2010 before returning in 2011 as the Midwest Classic, which was won by Zack Sucher last year. It's in Kansas and so 6 hours behind the UK and so will be underway at 1pm UK Time on 6th August.

The Course

The Nicklaus GC at LionsGate is in Overland Park which is to the south of Kansas City, just a mile above the Missouri border. As the name implies it was designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 2001. A typical US set up with the course winding it's way around various houses which all form part of the estate. The 7,237 yard course does have trees lining the course but it is not particularly tight. It will play as a par 71 for the pros, although in 2009 it was a par 72, and it will be 7,237 yards.
The winners of event here have been:
Year Player Score Players Under Par Winning Margin
Zack Sucher
Jamie Lovemark
Shawn Stefani
James Nitties
No Event
Michael Sim
Quite easy scoring although it has toughened up in recent years, the field still averages under par, although in 2011 is was over two shots under par, whereas last year was just 0.40 shots under par.

The Contenders

Finally last week the best player on this tour so far this year made it into the winners circle. Prior to that Patton Kizzire had had eight top ten's in his 15 events including a couple of runner up finishes and a 3rd, although he had been a bit inconsistent prior to his win missing the cut when I backed him on the PGA Tour at the Barbasol Championship, 9th the week before back on this tour but a missed cut before that, 3rd, 33rd & 2nd at the Rex Hospital Open. He makes his debut here.
There are a couple of past champions here this week, my pick last year was Aussie James Nitties who won in 2011 but has been finishing progressively worse with 11th, 34th & last year was 72nd and dead last. The closing 79 last drops his average round to 68.38 which is 9th best in the field and 81% (13/16) rounds under par which is 10th best, but with 13 he leads the field. Has not had a good season though with just an 8th at the Rust-Oleum Championship inside the top twenty. Followed that with two missed cuts, 63rd in Boise, 72nd at the Stonebrae Classic and a missed cut last week in Utah.
The far better thought is Jamie Lovemark who won in 2013 on his last appearance here, and on his first in 2012 he tied Nitties in 11th. He has 75% (6/8) of rounds under par with opening and closing 72's in 2012 letting the record down, but he did shoot a 63 in between. Still averages 67.38 which is second best in the field. He's been in good form recently but yet to pick up a win and so like Kizzire is due a win. His last seven finishes have been in the to 25, starting with 14th in the Greater Dallas Open, 8th, and then 18th at the US Open, 10th back on this tour in Nova Scotia, 23rd in Boise is his worst result which he followed with 2nd at the Stonebrae where he lost a playoff, and then 18th last week in Utah.
In terms of finishes Lovemark beats Mark Anderson by virtue of Anderson being 2nd behind him in 2013, with both 11th in their other visit which was in 2011. However Anderson has the better scoring with all 8 rounds under par and an average of 66.75 which leads the field. However he is not having a great season playing on a mix of this and the PGA Tour and has missed 9 of 15 cuts this season. His best was 15th at the Travelers Championship but he followed that with missed cuts at the Greenbrier & John Deere Classics on the PGA Tour, and the Stonebrae Classic on this tour three weeks ago, whilst last week he was 47th in Utah.
Finishing in 4th in 2011 was Tag Ridings on his only visit to the Nicklaus GC. He played very consistently opening with a pair of 68's, before a 66 and another 68 to close and so he has all rounds under par, one of four in the field, and an average round of 67.50 which is 3rd best. He arrives in good form having been 19th at the Air Capital Classic in Wichita, 16th in Nova Scotia and 14th in Boise, did drop to 54th at the Stonebrae Classic, and was then 3rd last week in Utah.
A player to have played four of the five years here is Luke List who missed the cut on debut in 09, tied Anderson in 11th in 2011, beat Ridings by a shot in 2012 and was 2nd, and then 24th on return last year. One round less than Nitties under par with 12, but better at 86%, and a slightly better average too at 68.39. again though I mentioned him at the Stonebrae Classic as a possible and said he was not in great form with 56th, 57th & a missed cut coming into that event, he finished 27th there which was ok, but then missed the cut again in Utah.

My Selection

Two guys arrive in good form and that is Lovemark & Ridings, and both have done well here in their one or two visits, Lovemark of course a past winner. So it is between those two, and with Tag Ridings coming off the better result last week after a slow start, and at the bigger odds he gets my pick to win for the first time since 2002.