Played at the exciting, risk-reward Sherwood Country Club, the Chevron World Challenge usually provides an entertaining finale to the American golfing year. The host, Tiger Woods, always manages to attract a world-class line-up which, for the first time in three years, includes himself. For obvious reasons given his involvement with the event, and the fact he has four wins and three second places from eight attempts in it, bookies have erred on the side of caution.
Despite failing to win or ever really look like doing so in 2010, the best price about Woods is a miserly 9/2. Of course, it isn’t hard to imagine Tiger bouncing back in his own event and I do expect him to start winning again in 2011. Nevertheless, I would love to hear the argument in favour of taking 9/2 against 17 world-class rivals, most of whom have enjoyed a much better season. At best, such an argument would be reliant on blind faith that he is again in control of his golfing destiny. He isn’t, as seen by failure to beat a weak field in Australia last time. Golf moves on quickly, and Tiger is in danger of being left behind.
Anyway, hopefully the consequence of his presence is to push out others to good value prices. Even with that promising angle, this is a very tricky puzzle, largely reliant on guesswork. Thirteen of the 18 candidates are PGA Tour regulars, most of whom have barely played since the summer. Their preparation for what is ultimately a friendly for charity must be taken on trust.
In theory, the five Europeans who played in Dubai last week should enjoy an advantage as fresher players. All five are in good form, too. However, there must be a doubt concerning their long journey, and whether they can maintain full focus after a series of big events. I wonder, for instance, whether we’ll see the magnificent, driven, focussed performances that Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell have produced in recent weeks. My impression is that both men improve markedly when they have the bit between their teeth.
There are no weak links in this field, and a case could be made for any of the 18 players. For me, that rather removes the point of each-way betting, especially at reduced place odds. Instead, here’s a trio of win only bets for an interest.
Sherwood is ultimately a ‘second-shot’ course, that rewards the very best iron play. RORY MCILROY may well be the finest iron player in the world already, and he certainly shouldn’t be three times the odds of Tiger on their respective form. Rory has played really well this past fortnight, finishing sixth and fifth in very strong fields, and looks bound to make a stack of birdies on his Sherwood debut.
STEVE STRICKER is also rather insulted by a 16/1 quote. This for a man who has won five titles in the last 19 months, registered 17 top tens during that period and is ranked fifth in the world. He also has a decent record at Sherwood, finishing runner-up in 2008.
Another excellent iron player worth an interest is HUNTER MAHAN, who was third on his sole visit in 2008. Twice a winner in 2010, I’m expecting big things next year from Mahan, including a possible breakthrough in the Majors.
The only other player in single figures is defending champion Jim Furyk. He won his last strokeplay event, the Tour Championship back in September, but hasn’t been seen since the Ryder Cup. Given that question mark, plus the fact that his wider Sherwood record is nothing special, it’s hard to see why Furyk should be so much shorter than the likes of McIlroy or Stricker.
Others worth a mention include Luke Donald, winner here in 2005. Luke deserves a second title for his relentlessly consistent 2010 campaign, which has yielded an incredible 11 top-three finishes. Zach Johnson is my first reserve at a tempting 25/1, on the basis of second and fifth place finishes on his two previous Sherwood attempts. Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney also warrant very strong consideration on their efforts this year.
Advised golf betting:
2010 STATS: +113pts