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Jim Furyk favourite in Las Vegas

Long shots have paid off at the last two Las Vegas Opens but this year the smart money is on world number two Jim Furyk at the $4 million tournament, which tees off on Thursday.

Australia's Andre Stolz picked up his first and only career title at the event in 2004 while languishing at 217th on the PGA Tour money list, while American Wes Short Jr. was also an unlikely first-time winner last year.

Short, who beat Furyk on the second playoff hole, was 176th on the money list at the time. Twelve months later he returns to defend his title without a top-10 finish in 30 events this season and ranked 157th in earnings.

Except for a 29th place finish at the PGA Championship, Furyk has placed no worse than fourth since being runnerup at the U.S. Open in mid-June, pushing his season earnings to nearly $6.5 million -- second only to Tiger Woods.

Furyk is a three-times winner in Las Vegas and is a whopping 242-under par through 56 rounds. He collected the first of his 12 PGA Tour wins there in 1995 then followed up with back-to-back victories in 1998 and 1999.

With the season winding down, only two other top 20 players will appear. Number 14 David Howell and 15th ranked Chris DiMarco have made the trip to Las Vegas for the event that will be played on two courses, the TPC Summerlin and TPC at the Canyons.

Despite the lack of top-ranked players there is much to play for in the desert with some looking to secure a place in next month's Tour Championship and others battling to keep their Tour cards for next season.

Kevin Na makes his return to the PGA Tour having missed much of the season after breaking his hand in a car door.

The South Korean posted a wire-to-wire win on the Nationwide Tour last week that included a course record 62 at the Empire Lakes Golf Club.

October 11, 2006

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