Former winner John Senden has had a lean start to his 2017 season but will be hoping a return to the site of his last PGA TOUR victory could be the inspiration to kick start a resurgence.
The Queenslander won at the difficult Copperhead Course at Innisbrook in Florida in 2014 for his second TOUR victory thanks in large part to a masterful short game display over the closing holes.
Known throughout his career for excellent ball striking, Senden has twice finished runner-up at the demanding Florida layout and while he has missed the cut the last two years knows his way around the course.
With five missed cuts in his first nine starts of the current wraparound season Senden needs to turn his form around and a course which harbours so many good memories for him might be just the tonic to cure his current ills.
Senden is one of seven Australians teeing up this week, joined in Florida by Steven Bowditch, Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley, Cameron Smith, Greg Chalmers and Rod Pampling.
All have had less than stellar starts to the season though Pampling, like Senden, has had some success at the Copperhead course.
Australia’s most recent TOUR winner has recorded three top-10 finishes in nine starts at the Valspar tournament and after missing his last three cuts will be refreshed coming off a nearly month long break.
Aaron Baddeley also comes into the week off three straight missed cuts though his most recent event was the Genesis Open three weeks ago.
The four time TOUR winner has long been considered one of the best putters in the game but his 2017 statistics tell a different story with a negative Strokes Gained Putting figure for the season.
A perennial top-10 dweller in this category, Baddeley currently ranks 158th on TOUR in Strokes Gained Putting and if he can turn that around this week could improve on a previous best finish at Innisbrook of T40.
Another whose game is built around consistent putting is Greg Chalmers though he, like Baddeley, hasn’t been at is best on the greens in 2017.
His Stokes Gained Putting figure is just in the positive but only good enough to have him ranked 90th on TOUR, an unusually low figure for him.
Chalmers’ best finish in 10 starts at the Valspar has been T4, that coming in 2013, but having broken a run of five straight missed cuts at the Honda Classic a fortnight ago things are moving in the right direction for the likeable left hander.
While Chalmers is playing this season with the comfort of guaranteed playing privileges courtesy of a 2016 victory it is the opposite story for 2006 US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy.
Ogilvy was forced to use a one time only career money list exemption to play this season and has had a mixed bag of results so far.
A T4 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children event in November last year has been the highlight so far though a T14 at Pebble Beach last month is also encouraging.
Innisbrook hasn’t traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Ogilvy though he has two top finihes in 10 starts at the tournament, the last coming in 2008.
He has missed the cut each of the last two years and has struggled with the driver for much of this year finding just 59 per cent of fairways.
With his iron play well above average, Ogilvy relies on straight hitting off the tee to get the most out of his game and a good driving week in Florida could see him in the mix come Sunday.
Cameron Smith and Steven Bowditch round out the Australian challenge, Smith showing recent signs he is close to good form.
Smith’s most recent outing at the Genesis Open was a case of one step forward and two steps back for much of the week, his 18 birdies offset by 13 dropped shots.
In his only appearance at this tournament last year he finished T42 but was inside the top 10 after an opening 70, proving he is capable of playing the course well.
For the last Australian in the field, Steven Bowditch, it has been a difficult past two season with issues both on and off the course and there is little in his recent play to suggest a turnaround is imminent.
He has missed his last five consecutive cuts though did post a second round 68 at the Genesis Open, his first sub 70 score since the Career Builder Challenge in January.
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