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NATIONWIDE - Panama Digicel Championship Preview
From The Sports Network

DATES: Thursday, February 5th through Sunday, February 8th
SITE: Panama Golf Club, Panama City, Panama
COURSE ARCHITECT: Jay Reviere (1976)
PAR: 70
YARDAGE: 7,123
Hole-By-Hole:1 - Par 4 395 Yds10 - Par 4 431 Yds
2 - Par 4 432 Yds11 - Par 4 502 Yds
3 - Par 4 473 Yds12 - Par 5 597 Yds
4 - Par 5 525 Yds13 - Par 3 189 Yds
5 - Par 4 413 Yds14 - Par 4 417 Yds
6 - Par 3 218 Yds15 - Par 4 409 Yds
7 - Par 4 409 Yds16 - Par 4 432 Yds
8 - Par 3 156 Yds17 - Par 3 175 Yds
9 - Par 4 485 Yds18 - Par 4 465 Yds
35 3,506 Yds35 3,617 Yds
Annual:  6th
Television:  None
Defending Champion:  Scott Dunlap
Runner-Up:  Arjun Atwal, Jeff Klauk
Tournament Record:  269 (Tripp Isenhour, 2006)
54-Hole Record:  200 (Tripp Isenhour, Brenden Pappas, 2006)
36-Hole Record:  130 (Tripp Isenhour, 2006)
Course Record:  63 (Tripp Isenhour, Kevin Gessino-Kraft, Tim O'Neal, 2006)
Total Purse:  $600,000
Shares:  1st Place - $108,000; 2nd Place - $64,800; 3rd Place - $40,800
2008 Finish
Scott Dunlap277Grant Waite281
Arjun Atwal278Jarrod Lyle281
Jeff Klauk278Greg Chalmers282
Chris Smith279Craig Bowden282
Bill Lunde280Scott Parel282
Brendon de Jonge282
Past Panama Digicel Championship Winners
YearWinner (Score) -- Runners-Up
2008Scott Dunlap (277) -- Arjun Atwal, Jeff Klauk
2007Miguel Carballo (274) -- Hunter Haas, Jim McGovern, Patrick Sheehan
2006Tripp Isenhour (269) -- K.Gessino-Kraft, P.McLachlin, B.Pappas
2005Vance Veazey (272) -- C.Villegas, J.McGovern, J.Mills, S.Bertsch
2004Jimmy Walker (273) -- Tom Scherrer
Note:Formerly called Movistar Panama Championship (2006-08), BellSouth Panama
Championship (2004-05).

Top Contenders in the Field
Scott Dunlap------T-60mcWon
Chris Smith---------T-224th
Skip Kendall---------mcT-17
Vance VeazeyT-38Won---T-32T-19
Esteban Toledo---mcT-50T-47T-24
Scott Gardiner------------T-56
Miguel A. Carballo---------Wonmc
Hunter HaasT-19---mcT-2mc
Camilo Benedetti---------T-5mc
Steve Pate------mcT-18mc
John Kimbell---------T-18mc
Len Mattiace---------57thmc
Tripp Isenhour---mcWon---mc
Josh Broadaway------T-25---mc
Bob May------------mc
Daniel Summerhays------------mc
Omar Uresti---------T-12---
Carlos Franco---------mc---
Nick Flanagan---------------
Sports Network Selections

Pick to Win - Josh Broadaway
Darkhorse - Matt Hansen
Last Week's Pick to Win - November 6-9 (Matt Weibring) - Finished T-42
Last Week's Darkhorse - November 6-9 (Bryce Molder) - Finished tied for 3rd
The Nationwide Tour begins its 20th season this week and for the sixth straight year, will start outside of the United States, as the PGA's developmental Tour opens up in Central America. A fixture on the Caribbean Tour for years, the Panama Digicel Championship was the first Nationwide Tour event staged in Central America in 2004. This event is the first of four consecutive tournaments to start the season that will be contested outside of the United States. The 132-player field includes the last four winners of this event, Scott Dunlap, Miguel Carballo, Tripp Isenhour and Vance Veazey.

Last year, Dunlap shot rounds of 65-68-73-71 to win the Panama Championship by one stroke over Arjun Atwal and Jeff Klauk. Dunlap finished the event at three-under-par 277. Dunlap, Atwal, Klauk and Chris Smith were the only players to finish the tournament under par. The final round scoring average last year was 73.677, which made it the toughest single day in tournament history and the toughest round on the Nationwide Tour in 2008.

Dunlap will attempt to become the first player to successfully defend a Nationwide Tour title this week. Dunlap finished 37th on the 2008 Nationwide Tour money list despite winning this event.

In 2007, Carballo fired a five-under 65 in the final round to win the Nationwide Tour's 2007 season-opener, the Panama Championship. Carballo finished at six-under-par 274 for a two-shot victory over Hunter Haas, Jim McGovern and Patrick Sheehan. With his victory in 2007, Carballo became the first player from Argentina to win a Nationwide Tour event. He is the fourth Latin American to win on the Nationwide Tour after Paraguay's Angel Franco and Mexico's Keoke Cotner and Esteban Toledo. His victory came at the same course, Panama Golf Club, where another famous Argentine golfer won the Panama Open, Hall of Famer Roberto De Vicenzo.

Tripp Isenhour opened with a course-record 63 in the first round of the 2006 event and went on to win the Panama Championship with an 11-under-par 269, a new tournament record. Isenhour also set new 36-hole and 54-hole records en route to his victory. He held at least a share of the lead after every round, closing with a 69 for a three-shot win over Kevin Gessino-Kraft, Parker McLachlin and Brenden Pappas. It was the first of two victories for Isenhour in the 2006 season, as he went on to win the Livermore Valley Wine Championship.

Winning the first event of the season on the Nationwide Tour does not guarantee entrance to the PGA Tour the following season. In the past 19 years, only eight season-opening winners advanced to the PGA Tour. Mike Springer in 1990 was the first, followed by Olin Browne (1991), Skip Kendall (1994), Gavin Coles (2002), Joe Ogilvie (2003), Jimmy Walker (2004), Vance Veazey (2005) and Isenhour (2006).

The Panama Golf Club has proven to be one of the toughest courses on the Nationwide Tour during the first five years of the tournament. Last year, it ranked as the most difficult course on Tour; in 2007, it ranked fourth; in 2006, it ranked ninth; in 2005 it ranked as the second most-difficult course for the season and was ranked No. 1 in 2004. The course played to a stroke average of 72.959 (+2.959) last year.

The Nationwide Tour will travel to Australia in three weeks for the Moonah Classic, where Ewan Porter captured the title last year.

02/03 13:32:30 ET

As of February 3, 2009, at 01:32 PM ET

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