WGC CA CHAMPIONSHIP

In another positive change to the early season schedule, this week sees the second World Golf Championship of the year. Previously, this event was sponsored by Amex and held in the autumn on a variety of courses. This year?s venue is one we know well, the “Blue Monster” at Doral, a course that has hosted a variously sponsored PGA Tour event for decades.

Despite the change of sponsor and venue, the central characteristic of this World Golf Championship event looks likely to remain – namely a course that produces low-scoring. The title of “Blue Monster” was more appropriate in the 1980s and 1990s, but it has been tamed by the advances in technology since. Fast, grainy greens are the main defence against low scoring so if rain arrives to soften them, (and there is some forecast), this could be a birdie-fest and long-hitters? paradise.

However it should also be added, especially with the rough well-grown, that the shorter-hitters can overcome this handicap with quality iron-play on what is ultimately a “second-shot” course. Players like Jim Furyk, Scott Verplank, Craig Parry and Jose-Maria Olazabal have all done well here in recent years.

Which brings us to the other trend associated with this particular WGC event – TIGER WOODS invariably wins. The great man has won this five times in seven attempts, including four of the last five years. And he couldn?t have handpicked a venue more suitable for win number six as he?s won twice in a row at Doral, notching an incredible 44-under total in the process.

Furthermore, for once Woods? price looks decent value. One bad weekend and

Tiger is out to 5/2, an incredible price seeing as he?d won his previous eight PGA Tour stroke play events – a run which included two Major championships and two WGC events. Odds like this seem very short at first glance, and there is always much to be said for waiting in the hope of better odds in-running, but it does seem that there are certain courses (St Andrews, Firestone, The Grove for instance) that suit him so much that the

correct price would be odds-on. I suspect Doral may be such a course.

The case is further strengthened by question-marks surrounding so many of his immediate rivals. Vijay Singh has a great course record without ever winning. The same could have been said last week about Bay Hill but he managed to notch that one off. But the Fijian is still hard to fancy for consecutive winning weeks after considering that he had suffered injury concerns previously.

Phil Mickelson has only one good effort in six at Doral when runner-up to Tiger in a classic two years ago. And Lefty did seem at his absolute peak that week and in that specific period, something which wasn?t the case at Bay Hill. Jim Furyk has plenty of form here, but has been suffering with a recurrance of a long-term wrist injury and is probably best watched.

Of the younger stars, Paul Casey would have been interesting but for a disastrous final 27 holes from a leading position at the weekend. Henrik Stenson is at a disadvantage making his course debut. Trevor Immelman and Charles Howell have poor course records. Sergio Garcia could never be fancied for an event which required a hot putter, something that shows in his Doral record. Equally, Adam Scott and Davis Love will need a big

improvement on recent flatstick efforts.

Despite all those question-marks surrounding the main challengers, recent results from Doral still suggest that the main challengers to Woods will be heavyweights. The most likely in my view are the South African pair, ERNIE ELS and RETIEF GOOSEN. Ernie has generally prospered in the past at Doral, winning in 2002. Goosen’s last three visits have produced consistent finishes of thirth, eighth and 15th. Both have to improve on some moderate recent efforts, but then again both now have the course conditions on which to prosper. Even when they?re not at their best this pair are rarely out of the top-10, and after using a process of elimination with all the other contenders they seem very obvious candidates.

Similarly, DAVID TOMS may well have the conditions to step up on some solid, if unspectacular, recent form. Five 2007 stroke play starts have produced two top-10s, and two top-20s. Not bad, but not brilliant. He does, however, have a superb record at Doral, finishing top-five for the last three consecutive years.

Finally at more generous odds, I like the chances of LUCAS GLOVER here. Glover is slowly emerging as one of the best young American players, and is always a player to follow on courses that demand low-scoring. He comes into this in fine form and rested up having finished fourth a fortnight ago, and will no doubt be full of optimism about tackling a course on which he made the top-five last year.

As is becoming the norm in events involving Tiger Woods, where possible I strongly advise betting in the ?Without Woods? market at slightly shorter odds than the main outright market. In Glover?s case, 20/1 in the ?Top US Player Without Woods? market is also an interesting alternative.

PREVIEW For a preview of the WGC CA CHAMPIONSHIP click here

Good Luck!

ADVISED BETS

WGC-CA CHAMPIONSHIP

OUTRIGHT

12pts win TIGER WOODS @ 5/2 (VCBET, BETFRED, LADBROKES)

BETTING WITHOUT TIGER WOODS

4pts win ERNIE ELS @ 12/1 (BET365, STAN JAMES, 15/1 WITH EXPEKT)

3pts win RETIEF GOOSEN @ 18/1 (BET365, STAN JAMES, PADDY POWER, 20/1 EXPEKT)

2.5pts ew DAVID TOMS @ 25/1 (STAN JAMES, BET365)

1pt ew LUCAS GLOVER @ 45/1 (STAN JAMES)

2006/2007 STATS: -2pts

2005/2006 STATS: +144pts

ANTE-POST ALREADY ADVISED

VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT

5pts PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 7/1

5pts HENRIK STENSON @ 10/1

3pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN GRAND SLAM IN 2007@ 40/1

10pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN 3 MAJORS IN 2007 @ 8/1

US MONEY LIST W/O TIGER WOODS

2pts ew TREVOR IMMELMAN @ 20/1