To a large extent, the tournament’s reputation as a lottery is deserved. There aren’t any other events in the calendar where a case of some sort could be made for virtually every one of the 64 players. Normally, even though there is a field of 150+, my pre-tournament shortlist rarely tops 20. However, there are some very important trends to use in solving this puzzle. Given the marathon nature of the event, youth and physical fitness must be an advantage. Only two of the ten former champions were over the age of 35. Furthermore, matchplay is a refined art and there are dozens of players in this field who have never prospered in this event, and only rarely at best in matchplay.
Firstly, to Tiger’s quarter, otherwise known as the ‘Bobby Jones Bracket’, where my two selections are HUNTER MAHAN and RORY SABBATINI at 80/1 and 50/1 respectively. He’s yet to deliver for us from a few bets so far this year, but has been playing pretty well just off the pace. And as Europe learned painfully at Valhalla in the Ryder Cup, Mahan is a master of head to head golf. Furthermore, I strongly fancy Mahan to eliminate Mike Weir in the opening round, as the Canadian has a very poor tournament record and played quite terribly at the weekend on one of his favourite courses.
At the odds he makes much more appeal than the rest of this section. Geoff Ogilvy is greatly feared, having won and finished runner-up before, but 25/1 is nothing to get excited about. In any case, his first-round opponent is another former champ, Kevin Sutherland, and in my view a potential banana skin. Camilo Villegas is always dangerous, but lost in the first round last year and was very disappointing in missing last week’s cut in Australia.
Sabbatini rates the pick of the South African quartet in this section. Missing out on the places at the weekend with a final hole bogey was a hard pill to swallow, but Rory certainly showed enough again to confirm that he’s back in form. Its something of a surprise that he’s never prospered in this event before, because he seems to have the perfect feisty personality for a head to head dual. His first round opponent Miguel-Angel Jimenez hasn’t done much in this either, and has been carrying an injury, so he has the ideal opportunity to get a run going early on.