In short, there are other candidates with equally obvious claims at bigger prices, and who didn’t endure the marathon at Bethpage. ZACH JOHNSON, DAVID TOMS and JUSTIN LEONARD all missed the cut in New York, and those extra couple of days rest and preparation could make all the difference. All three look very strong candidates around this accuracy-orientated course. I am a massive fan of Zach, who has looked in possession of a strong, winning temperament ever since turning professional. A wet Bethpage was just too long for him, but three titles in the previous eight months and a string of top-10s against the best opposition mark him down as a massive candidate whenever the course does suit. River Highlands, with its emphasis on position and accuracy surely fits that description, and its no surprise to see that Johnson finished 3rd as a rookie here in 2004.
 
Toms and Leonard equally struggled at Bethpage because of their lack of power. Previously, Toms had finished 2nd at Southwind; his sixth top-10 of the year; and having also finished 6th on this course in 2007, looks likely to go close again. As for Leonard, another short and straight experienced American pro, we have to forgive a surprising missed cut at Southwind, one of his favourite courses. On that occasion, however, he ruined all chance in the first six holes, and it may be worth writing that off as a freak result. Previously, he’d made three consecutive top-20s and hit ten sub-70 rounds out of twelve. The Texan has only been an infrequent visitor to River Highlands this century, but did finish 3rd in the 1999 Greater Hartford Open.
 
It would be equally straightforward to argue a case for either Kenny Perry or Vijay Singh. Perry has five top-10s and seven top-15s from his last nine visits, and is bound to be there or thereabouts again so long as the weekend’s exertions haven’t taken their toll on his 48 year-old legs. Vijay has finished 4th and 5th in the last two renewals of this event, but didn’t do much to impress at Bethpage, where I felt he had ideal conditions. Stewart Cink is another course specialist who played all weekend, but I could easily have backed him were it not for the fact that he is defending champion. Cink has shown strong signs in recent weeks of emerging from a poor spell, and really does have a great course record with two wins and five top-10s to his name.