The 2011 US Open champion narrowly missed out on the world number one spot last week when he finished runner-up to Hunter Mahan in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
By his own admission, McIlroy only really produced his best golf in the semi-final match against Lee Westwood. Despite registering eight top-three finishes in his last 11 events, he will need his best game for all four days this week if he is to win and reach the top of the world rankings.
Next in the betting are Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood at 10/1. It’s clear to everyone that Tiger is still struggling with his game, most notably his putting and I’m avoiding him for the same reason as McIlroy. Both will need to be on top form if they are to challenge this week as any mistakes will be punished.
Of the three, my preference is for Westwood, who displayed some sumptuous iron play last week. Over the first four rounds in Arizona, few seemed to be playing better from tee to green than Westwood. If he strikes the ball like that this week he’ll stack the pars and pick up the birdies, that are necessary to win this tournament, along the way.
Next in the markets is Charl Schwartzel at 20/1. The South African will be relatively fresh this week having exited the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in the second round.
That could well work in his favour as he only went down on the last hole to Korea’s Sang-Moon Bae, who caused a few upsets last week. I rate Schwartzel’s chances this week but have a preference for a couple of other players at bigger odds.
The first of those is Mark Wilson at 40/1. Wilson has demonstrated he knows how to win on tour. He already has one victory under his belt this season and displayed a rock solid game last week, beating the likes of Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood to finish third. He also won the tournament here in 2007 when The Honda Classic first moved to this course.
Another man at 40/1 who I think could have a good week is Y.E. Yang. He surprised me last week by beating Graeme McDowell in the first round before getting knocked out by Hunter Mahan. He finished runner-up in this event last year and won it in 2009.
The Honda Classic betting guide and tips: