Rather than take a well-earned break after the toughest Major in living memory, several of the Birkdale principals head straight to Canada for their national Open. Theres always some doubt as to whether the stars can retain their form and appetite for the lesser, follow-on event, and they will also have to deal with a very different test of golf from last week’s links experience.
Glen Abbey has hosted more Canadian Opens than any other venue, and usually represents a decent test. However, a very wet spell has left the course drenched, and very soft. For those that hit fairways, this will be target golf with very low scores for the taking. For those that frequently miss the fairways, penal rough will ensure they get left well behind.
Bidding for his third consecutive Canadian Open title, Jim Furyk starts clear favourite after tying for 5th place in the Open. Perhaps Im a little biased having spent the week cheering him on, but I felt Furyk was a tad unlucky not to finish closer. His chance was ruined by two terrible holes on Saturday, including one triple-bogey that stemmed from a slightly inaccurate tee-shot to a par-3 which left an impossible lie.
Then again, Furyks critics might point out that 5th place is the norm for a player famed for his consistency, but not for his killer instinct. 13 career wins is an impressive return compared to most, but not when you consider how many top-5s and top-10s Furyk has accumulated over his career. Given that this weeks test is wholly different to the Open and that Jim hasnt won yet in 2008, 8/1 is just too short.
It wont be long before the likes of Furyk are surpassed for favouritism by ANTONY KIM. Perhaps it would have happened this week, were it not for Furyks outstanding tournament record. With each event, I become more convinced that Kim is the true heir to Tigers throne. It was impossible not to be mightily impressed by his two comfortable wins on championship courses Quail Hollow and Congressional.
But actually, I was more impressed with 7th at Birkdale. That was the youngsters first Open, and first professional event on a proper links. Yet with three holes to go he was still right in the thick of it. It makes me wonder just how good hell be when hes gained experience and cut out the silly mistakes that hurt every young player. His high-ball flight will be much better suited to this weeks conditions and I doubt hell be far away.
And though I doubt he quite has Kims potential, CAMILO VILLEGAS has shown enough signs in recent weeks to begin to vindicate my repeated, and so far ill-placed, confidence in him. He has top-10s in three of his last eight starts, including the US Open and 3rd place behind Kim at Congressional. And he looked like being a factor in the Open for a while, sitting in second place at halfway before the brutal weekend conditions punished his inexperience. Glen Abbey though should be much more to the Colombians liking, offering much reward to his long-hitting, birdie-chasing game.
I also feel RETIEF GOOSEN showed enough at Birkdale to warrant inclusion at 20/1. Its been a long while since I backed Goosen anywhere, but his first and third rounds at the Open were outstanding in the toughest of conditions. Hes still yet to show the consistency that made him one of the big-5 just a couple of years back, but he also played well at both the US Open and Volvo PGA to suggest a win may be around the corner. Crucially, Goosens best performance of 2008 came on another soaked course where target golf was the order of the day – when finishing second in the WGC event at Doral.
Shoot the pin golf also tends to suit PAT PEREZ, a player who has been very consistent of late for little reward. Perez finished 14th at Glen Abbey four years ago, and the likely conditions should suit him better this time. Three top-12s since the beginning of May, with no top-5s, suggest to me a payout week is due.
The key stats to follow this week then are greens in regulation, driving distance and birdie average. If Im right, then RYAN PALMER rates a cracking bet at 150/1. Palmer ranks fairly well in the distance and GIR tables, but crucially ranks 1st on the PGA Tour for birdie average. His only previous PGA Tour win came in similarly very low scoring conditions at the 2004 FUNAI Classic, so after three recent top-15s hes worth a small bet to step up now.
4pts ew ANTONY KIM @ 12/1 (GENERAL, 13/1 SKYBET)
2.5pts ew RETIEF GOOSEN @ 20/1 (GENERAL, 22/1 SKYBET)
2pts ew CAMILO VILLEGAS @ 28/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew PAT PEREZ @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
0.5pts ew RYAN PALMER @ 150/1 (GENERAL)
LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED
2008 VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT
10pts HENRIK STENSON @ 7/1
4pts PAUL CASEY @ 14/1
USPGA TOUR MONEY LIST
BETTING WITHOUT TIGER WOODS
2pts ew KJ CHOI @ 33/1
1pt ew TREVOR IMMELMAN @ 80/1
2007/2008 STATS: +541pts