The defending champion starts as favourite, wrongly in my view. Last year’s impressive victory came during a golden spell of form which moved him up to second in the world rankings. His case this year is completely different, coming off a disappointing spell since suffering a clavicle injury. Until a return to that pre-injury form is seen, I couldn’t back Stricker at anywhere near his usual odds.
This is the man who I consider to be the worthy favourite. Clark should have won this title in 2008, when carrying this column’s cash. After trading at extremely short odds-on during the final round, this notorious bottler contrived to hand the title to Jonathan Byrd. That bottler tag may no longer be worthy, though, after Clark finally broke his PGA Tour duck in style at Sawgrass. We may now begin to see the same Clark who has looked much more solid when contending elsewhere in the world.
Choi rates another very obvious candidate having made every cut of an excellent season, even if he is at something of a disadvantage on his course debut. JDR really should suit his tidy long game, if he can get the hang of the greens quickly.
Zach’s seven failures at this course prior to finishing runner-up last year are hard to explain, as the emphasis on accuracy and a quality short game suits him ideally. Johnson has a prolific conversion ratio, most recently winning at Colonial, and could very easily land his fourth title in just over 18 months.
If we are to see the sixth first-time winner in 11 years at JDR, Fowler is easily the likeliest candidate. Forgiving last week’s failure is no problem, as inconsistency is expected during this rookie season, and the rest of his form is competitive at a much higher level than this. At 28/1 though, he is a short enough price on his course debut, in a tournament where it generally pays to back outsiders.
Champion two years ago, Perry has struggled to find his best form this year. He is still without a top ten since the opening event of the year, and even that came in a field restricted to about a fifth the size of this week’s line-up.
Nobody is making more birdies right now than Bubba, who finally broke his duck at River Highlands, foiling this column’s two play-off candidates in the process. Given that driving distance is pretty much irrelevant here, JDR might not seem his ideal set-up. Then again, nor was River Highlands according to that singular criteria.
Campbell must come in for consideration after finishing fifth at River Highlands, his best in ages. Chad has made the top 15 here in both the last two years.
Sunday’s fourth place, the best effort among four top 25s from his last seven starts, bring Charlie into the argument. He was also fourth here in 2008.
Third place in the Texas Open suggested Baddeley was at last finding some form, and last week’s top 20 was solid enough. Badds also made the top ten here last year, so rates a lively candidate if that cocky putting stroke holds up.
Freddy is becoming infuriating to follow, and is therefore overlooked on his course debut. His scrambling skills should prove a big asset around here though.
After a couple of recent top tens, this former Ryder Cup player could contend at a big price. In the early part of the century, he registered three top-five finishes at JDR, and has only missed the cut once since despite a marked decline in his game. Again, good scrambling skills have been the key.
Sutherland fits a similar profile to Riley. He’s experienced, accurate, a good scrambler who has made three top tens here. In short, a plausible 80/1 chance.
Another plausible first-time winner. Jones finished fifth last year and is in decent form, having made the top 25 in five of the last eight starts.
Based on his recent stats and results, Blanks looks decent value at 100/1. He’s been among the best for greens in regulation over recent months, and has made the top 15 on two of his last four starts, following on from a couple of top fives earlier in the year.
2010 STATS: +14pts
LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED
5pts MARTIN KAYMER TO WIN THE RACE TO DUBAI @ 9/1
20pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN EXACTLY TWO MAJORS @ 5/1
8pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN EXACTLY THREE MAJORS @ 14/1