However, with rain sweeping the country all week, we can expect conditions to be very soft. With four reachable par-5s the key to scoring, long, straight hitters have always enjoyed something of an advantage here, but when the course is playing its full length, that advantage in distance through the air becomes much more important. Wentworth can become quite a slog, and I expect to see marked separation on this week’s leaderboard. Playing catch-up golf over the weekend will not be easy.
All of that strongly points towards power players Casey and Masters champion Angel Cabrera, who are vying for favouritism along with Sawgrass hero Henrik Stenson. The last-named will have plenty of supporters after that fantastic, nerveless final round in Florida, but backers should beware the Swede’s previous travails at Wentworth. In eight previous attempts in this event, Stenson’s best is a never challenging 8th place.
There’s very little to choose between Casey and Cabrera, with the former preferred simply because he’s more consistent. Casey has won a World Matchplay title at Wentworth, by huge margins in 2006, and while he has never seriously challenged for this title, has made the top-12 four times including each of the last three years. For me, the crucial point is that he has improved markedly over the past 12 months. Whereas Paul used to be an erratic, if very talented, big-hitter who only tended to prosper on courses that suited him, now he seems a rock of consistency no matter what the venue. He always seems to rank near the head of the greens in regulation stats, and indeed topped that list at Sawgrass last time.
It is with great reluctance that Cabrera is left out of the staking plan. His course record is superb, with four top-5s in the last seven renewals of this event, including one win and two runners-up spots. Now a dual major champion, he warrants the utmost respect on championship golf courses, especially those that reward big hitters. Without doubt, he is a serious candidate and my only reason for leaving him out is that I was loathe to pick two players under 20/1. Lets hope I don’t come to regret that tough decision.