The shock of Tom Watson’s amazing performance at Turnberry a fortnight ago slightly masked the fact that we’d already seen a fairly incredible upset in that Open Championship, when runaway favourite TIGER WOODS missed his first cut in over three years. Back on what must be one of his favourite courses, Tiger will surely be desperate to make amends for that blip, so betting against the great man this week could prove to be a dangerous business.
It’s important not to over-react to Tiger’s Turnberry disaster. Going into the event, he looked back to his very best after outstanding winning performances at Congressional and previously the Memorial Tournament. For some strange reason, Tiger just hasn’t brought even his ‘B game’ to this year’s Majors, but in standard PGA Tour events he’s been as prolific as ever, winning three from six non-major strokeplay events.
Woods’ record at Warwick Hills, the long term home of this annual fixture, is already extremely impressive. His last five attempts on this course have produced figures of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd and 1st, so this may even be one of the few occasions where his odds don’t drift in-running. Laying Tiger pre-tournament with a view to backing at a higher price in-running had proved a rock-solid strategy for over a year until his latest win in the AT&T National. In honesty, it probably will turn out that way again, but such is the likelihood of victory, I feel compelled to recommend the starting price of 15/8.
When considering Tiger’s claim, it’s important to note how easy it has been to predict winners of this event this century. Besides Woods’ two victories, prolific winners Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry have bagged another pair of titles each, though surprisingly neither have opted to bid for a third this week. The only vaguely unpredictable result in the last eight came in 2007, when Brian Bateman landed a 500/1 shock.
Even that sole upset may have been a consequence of tougher than usual conditions. This event is usually a birdie-fest, with a score in the high teens under par the minimum required to challenge. The last time Woods played this course, he won with a total of -24, and I suspect something similar is in store. The combination of wide fairways, minimal rough and big greens plays perfectly to his strengths, as do the four par 5s.