Take JIM FURYK, for example. The only reason Jim hasn’t won yet in 2009 is that he bumped into Woods on fire at the Memorial. There’s not much you can do when you’ve beaten the rest, then Woods comes along and birdies the final two tough holes. That was his third consecutive top-10 in strong company, and a subsequent Bethpage failure can easily be ignored as the course was too long for him. Furthermore, Furyk’s course record is exemplary; finishing 3rd in both the last two years and previously 5th at the 1997 US Open. If Tiger wasn’t here, Furyk wouldn’t be anywhere near 16/1, and certainly not 4/1 to reach the top-5.
A similar argument could also be employed to justify an each-way bet on any of the other leading dozen candidates. Most obviously 18/1 chance Hunter Mahan, who will grab at least another top-5 if he can maintain the form of the last fortnight. There’s every reason to think he might, based on 12th and 8th placed finishes at Congressional in the past two years. After another good finish in a Major, it seems proven that Mahan particularly thrives on championship courses that place extra emphasis on long game accuracy. The only negative is that its never easy to maintain world-class form three weeks on the spin.
Similarly on 2009 form, Paul Casey and Sean O’Hair are over-priced at 25/1. I doubt there’s any sense in reading too much into Casey’s failure at the US Open, where he never got going from a poor draw. But while I expect him to challenge again soon, I doubt this course debut is really ideal. The only deterrant from backing O’Hair is the fact he’s only made one cut out of three at Congressional. That may well turn out to be irrelevant given the rapid progress O’Hair has made in the last six months.
Defending champion Anthony Kim has, at last, shown signs of form over the past fortnight, and therefore must come into the reckoning if handling the extra pressure. It’s less easy to make a strong case for 2007 winner KJ Choi, who hasn’t made a top-20 since February.
MIKE WEIR is another who again confirmed his love of championship courses at Bethpage. It was no mean feat for Weir to register yet another major top-10, and not just because of his disadvantage in the driving distance department. Besides the opening day, I can barely remember seeing him hole a putt over that long weekend, and yet he only fell out of contention down the stretch. That was Weir’s second consecutive top-10, and fourth top-20 in five, so having enjoyed a week off to recharge the batteries, the Canadian left-hander may be due a payout week.