IAN POULTER‘s Open performance was inexplicable, too bad to be true, and for that reason must be ignored. He looked back to somewhere near his consistent self in 15th place at Firestone, so is worth persevering with at inflated odds. As I have written so many times this season, with never more than a place return to show for it, Poulter has improved and is a big event winner waiting to happen. His excellent driving accuracy stats should prove an asset this week.
 
When ZACH JOHNSON won the Masters, Augusta was playing about as long as it ever has, so clearly he has the long-iron game to compensate for any shortage in the driving distance department. Zach has won three times in the last year, and with 2nd and 15th his last two results in the States, looks a likely candidate again. He should particularly love the firm and fast greens at Hazeltine.
 
MIKE WEIR is another short-hitter who has repeatedly shown he has the long game to cope with tough Major venues. In total, the former Masters champion has 19 top-20s in the Majors, including eleven top-10s. That consistent record always makes him one for the shortlist, and after a career best effort at Firestone over the weekend, Canada’s finest looks a cracking each-way bet at 100/1.
 
ROBERT ALLENBY also impressed over the weekend in joint 2nd place behind Tiger, and is another who should relish the emphasis on ball-striking. I’m getting tired of repeating the fact that Allenby has been a surprise under-achiever in Majors, but the USPGA is at least his best one and he did reach the top-10 on this course in 2002.
 
I ear-marked BRANDT SNEDEKER a few weeks ago for this, after seeing him make three top-5s in four events. The strong impression I’ve gained from Snedeker’s short career is that his best is most likely to be seen on long, tough golf courses. After arriving on the PGA Tour in 2007, he went on to make the top-25 in five of his first six Majors, most memorably when finishing 3rd in the 2008 Masters. Now back to form after injury, Snedeker rates a threat to all.
 
My final selection, at the crazy price of 250/1, is another who can boast both recent and tournament form, JOHN SENDEN. Runner-up last time out to Tiger, and 4th in the 2007 PGA, the ultra-accurate Aussie is surely overpriced. Senden is consistently one of the best ball-strikers around, and interestingly for this course, ranks prominently in the stats for approach shots between 175 and 225 yards.
 
Finally a few words about the other big-names. Paul Casey would have a great chance on his early season form, but while it is a great relief to see our main Race to Dubai hope lining up after last week’s injury scare, he is best watched at present. Ross Fisher must come into the argument after such great challenging efforts in the last two Majors, though I still wonder whether he has the short-game expertise for these tough American courses with super-fast greens. Similarly two old favourites, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, are only dismissed because of their work on the greens. If either could find their putting touch, they would rate very strong candidates, and like so many other good players, are available at massive odds this week.