However, whilst driving distance is clearly an advantage, short-hitters have prospered here too. Indeed, short-hitting Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard have also won this title before and boast excellent course records. Both deserve their prominent market status and will probably go well again, but at restricted odds against such a hot favourite I’m prepared to look elsewhere.
Furyk really does boast a great course record, making the top-10 eight times in the last decade, but even this long-term supporter is beginning to lose patience with him. As frequent high-finishes prove, Furyk remains as good as ever, but like a few other big-names right now, seems to have forgotten how to win. It’s over two years since he last won and his performance on the final day in the Open, when holding yet another fine chance of landing a second Major title, was appalling.
Three other short-hitters also boast very good chances, but all were left out on price grounds. Scott Verplank has a fine record at Warwick Hills; nine top-25s including three top-5s; but is just too short at 30/1 with Tiger in the field. It’s only a few weeks since we backed him at bigger than that against a second-rate PGA Tour field, only to see him produce a characteristic frustrating performance just out of the places.
Brian Gay and Brandt Snedeker make more appeal, but there is a slight concern that their prices are at their lowest mark after a good run. As one of the most improved players around, Gay does look bound to challenge though on a course where he finished runner-up back in 2002. This great putter is bound to hole more than his share of birdie putts. As for Snedeker, Monday’s tie for 5th was his third top-5 place in four outings and he remains a winner waiting to happen. Hopefully it won’t be this week, as I have him in mind for the forthcoming USPGA and Fedex Cup play-offs.
I also reckon NICK WATNEY, another candidate for the most improved player award, will win again before the year is out. Watney was as good as anyone in the early part of the season and seems to be coming back to that kind of form after a sticky patch, and 14th at the Memorial was a decent effort in June, as was 6th at Loch Lomond. He is another player ideally suited to a birdie-fest with four par 5s, where his extreme length off the tee is a crucial asset.