Three of this week’s field particularly impressed over the weekend, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and RETIEF GOOSEN. All three made the top-20, with the two Europeans saving their best round until last. McIlroy looks completely at home in elite company, and will surely win again before long. I have one eye firmly fixed on his chances in the Open Championship, but at a best-priced 14/1, there are better value bets this week. After all, Rory missed the cut here last year and also disappointed in the week following his Masters debut.
Stenson’s claims are much stronger, having won here in 2006 and finished 6th last year. Now he’s won a Players’ Championship, Stenson is ready to take on the world as a third top-10 in his last four majors illustrates. However, his form at this slightly lower level has left much to be desired lately, with three missed cuts sandwiching Sawgrass and Bethpage, which may suggest a Harrington-like change to focus on the majors. Maybe I’m wrong about that, and he certainly could win this week, but I’m not interested in backing the Swede as favourite.
Goosen has the experience to cope with the distractions of the past week, and has ideal conditions. He has always been a superb bad weather player who relishes attacking receptive greens, so it was no surprise to see the Goose hit a pair of exemplary 68s over the weekend. The South African has also prospered on this course before, losing a play-off to Stenson in 2006, and finishing 6th a couple of years earlier. 13th last year was no disaster either, considering his game was in quite a state at the time.
A strong case could also be made for the other two main candidates, defending champion Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald, who has never been outside the top-20 on this course. Both missed the cut at Bethpage which could work in their favour now. With Kaymer, I’m only looking elsewhere because I hate backing defending champions. Donald will doubtless register another high finish, but is simply too short at 18/1 for a player beginning to develop a reputation as a professional loser.