With the doubts around Els, favouritism goes to Stenson with Sergio Garcia just behind. As over the last fortnight, Stenson presents a dilemma. He won here in 2007, with close-up 6th and 7th placed finishes either side of that, and comes here with convincing recent form having finished runner-up in Qatar. We saw in the limited field Nedbank Challenge in December just how awesome he can be when presented with four reachable par-5s, and his record in the desert is hugely impressive.
However, the fact remains that Stenson hasn’t won a full-field strokeplay event since that 2007 triumph on this course. Those stats simply don’t represent an 8/1 chance, and while I expect him to make the frame again, there’s no sense in an each-way bet at that price. Nevertheless, I’d take a match bet on Stenson to beat Garcia, who has struggled badly on these greens on both previous visits, finishing 19th in 2007 and missing the cut a year earlier.
Clearly as Woods, Els and Stenson’s records here prove, the Emirates is the type of track where certain top players can contend virtually every year. Expect MARTIN KAYMER to do exactly that throughout his career. Still very inexperienced last year when beating everyone bar Woods on his course debut, this looks an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the improvement he’s made in the meantime. Second place a fortnight ago in Abu Dhabi served early notice of his intentions this year, and the combination of fast greens and reachable par-5s seems ideal for his talents. My confident prediction is that we won’t see 18/1 again about Kaymer on this course for a very long time.
His conquerer in Abu Dhabi, PAUL CASEY, also looks a very tasty price at 28/1. As my long-term bet on the Race to Dubai illustrates, I reckon Casey is ready to step up a level in the golfing world this year. His long game looked better than ever throughout the summer of 2008, but he couldn’t hole a putt. Having found his touch at Abu Dhabi, I reckon he could be about to go on a big run and the stats suggest this course will be perfect for his long-hitting game. Though he’s never contended seriously, three top-20s from three visits is no disgrace and I expect Casey to make hay on the par-5s. Last week’s missed cut is easily forgiven, coming directly after a big win.