MAIN CANDIDATES

LEE WESTWOOD

Unless something untoward happens in the meantime, (or he wins and destroys any value in the price), I will be backing Lee next week at Pebble Beach. For now though, I expect Westwood will be using this Southwind debut to fine-tune his game ahead of that latest attempt at becoming a Major champion.

RORY MCILROY

Rory very much took the eye at the Memorial, making the top ten with some good stats. Hopefully, he’s returning to the levels of form that made him virtually impossible to keep out of the frame in the latter half of 2009 and during the early stages of this year’s Race to Dubai. He’s no forlorn hope on his course debut.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON

Very similar comments to Westwood apply. Harrington is high on my US Open list, but isn’t the most reliable option here, given that he’ll probably have one eye on Pebble Beach. He does have some course experience though, in contrast to Westwood, and finished fourth in this two years ago.

BEN CRANE

Crane’s case is blindingly obvious, having finished no worse than seventh in his last three events. He was also a respectable 14th last year, and finished sixth here much earlier in his career. The only thing deterring me from a bet is the fact that the bookies are taking no chances, offering 20/1 about this rare winner.

BRIAN GAY

Normally I’m loathe to back defending champions, as there’s always a bit more pressure second time around, but I nearly made an exception for Gay. He’s now made the top five at Southwind in three of the last six years, and has sound recent form credentials having finished runner-up on his penultimate start.