Harrington is the other class act on show, and he can at least boast some top-class recent form. Top-5 at Abu Dhabi was a solid start to the Irishman’s 2009 campaign, showing an immediate return for much hard work put in over the winter. For my money, he should start clear favourite over Mickelson, but I still wouldn’t fancy a bet as I just don’t think the monster of Torrey Pines South Course is ideal. Its no coincidence that Harrington’s one sub-standard performance in a 2008 Major came in the US Open on this course.
Much of the previous evidence at the South Course, which hosts three of this week’s four rounds, suggests that this is very much a venue for the course specialists. Several big names have never prospered here, so its no surprise to see the likes of Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh opting for another week off. It also therefore looks an ideal opportunity for the likes of LUKE DONALD and CHARLES HOWELL to capitalise on Tiger’s absence and improve their already impressive course records.
It was at the US Open on this course that Donald suffered the wrist injury that curtailed his 2008 campaign and ruled him out of the Ryder Cup. Scottsdale was only his third event back since the injury, and his efforts over the last three rounds suggest he is now fully ‘tournament ready’ and primed to challenge on one of his favourite courses. Donald looked certain to miss the cut at Scottsdale after opening with a 76, but subsequent rounds of 65/68/69 were only bettered by eventual winner Kenny Perry. Having twice finished runner-up in this event, and never outside the top-25, there could be more improvement to come.
Howell’s record at Torrey Pines is very similar, twice finishing runner-up to Woods in 2005 and 2007. He’s very much the type of player who will frequently challenge on suitable courses, but equally always seems to struggle on those that don’t suit his pretty one-dimensional power game. It was therefore no surprise to see Howell miss the cut at Scottsdale, where he’s never prospered, and it makes much more sense to assess his chance on the previous form shown at the much more favourable Waialae, where he finished 4th.