With that record in mind, it would be folly to ignore Holmes’ claims as he clearly has the power to turn this into a pitch and putt affair. His chances, however, are surely reflected in odds of 40/1 which would be a bad joke on any other course. Besides, whatever the advantage to long-hitters to which I will return later, driving distance is not a pre-requisite of success at Scottsdale. In the last three years, relatively short-hitting, accurate types like Steve Elkington, Kevin Na, Kevin Sutherland, Bart Bryant, Billy Mayfair and Scott Verplank have all made the top-5.
Therefore, I’m prepared to overlook last week’s disappointment and give another chance to JUSTIN LEONARD. He gave us no sort of run for our money in the Bob Hope Classic, with all chance disappearing on the first day after which he was 11 shots off the pace. That is always a danger in putting contests and he played well enough for four sub-70 rounds afterwards, making it safe to assume that Justin retains the excellent form showed on his seasonal debut and in late 2008. Leonard has prospered before at Scottsdale, finishing runner-up twice in the 1990s and registering two further top-10s over the last five years.
Narrowing down the short-list here was tougher than usual, but because most of the candidates were at very big prices, we can afford six each-way selections rather than the usual five. Before getting to them, a word about those nearer the head of the market. Aaron Baddeley won this two years ago, and showed plenty of promise in Qatar last week. Having missed the winter in his native Australia to stay at home, (in Arizona incidentally), it would be no surprise to see Badds return to winning ways over the next few weeks. Kenny Perry is another very plausible candidate on the basis of his recent form in Hawaii and five previous Scottsdale top-10s.
A wide variety of normally strong contenders have repeatedly performed below their best at this venue, perhaps partly due to the unique atmosphere. Runaway Mercedes winner Geoff Ogilvy has never bettered 20th in seven Scottsdale visits, while Sony contender Charles Howell’s best from eight is 18th. Steve Stricker has only one top-10 from eleven; a similar record to out of form Stewart Cink, whose best is 9th from twelve tries. Canadian pair Mike Weir and Stephen Ames have never got into serious contention, while last week’s winner Pat Perez’s highest finish in seven visits is a miserable 43rd.