With such limited opposition, this would appear to be the perfect chance for rising stars such as Danny Willett, Chris Wood or GARETH MAYBIN to land their breakthrough title. The only problem, at least in the cases of the first two, is their odds. While both Willett and Wood are clearly great prospects that have been regularly competitive in 2009, it’s hard to justify a bet at 20/1 or 25/1 on players who have never won, or even really seriously challenged for a top-level title. Doubtless the breakthrough will come soon, but hopefully when it does we’ll be on at much bigger odds.
Preference is for Maybin at 40/1, who still seems somewhat under-rated by layers. In contrast to the other two, the Northern Irishman has proven his ability to win on the Challenge Tour and has gone very close already at this higher level, losing nothing in a narrow defeat in South Africa last December. Nor was that his only top effort by any means, and top-15s in two of his last three events confirming that his excellent form is still there.
Again, shortish odds are a deterrant to backing several of the other main candidates. Graeme Storm, for instance, has claims after some solid recent form, but I just can’t seriously consider taking 28/1 about a man who has just one title from well over 100 starts on the European Tour. Even less so Euro Tour maiden Jamie Donaldson, whose 33/1 quote seems a clear over-reaction to Sunday’s 2nd place at Barseback. Similarly, the man who scored best across this week’s likely key stats, Anthony Wall, has never won besides a rain-shortened event nine years ago.
A case could be made for several other well-known names at this level. Thomas Levet starts second favourite, rightfully so on recent form, but again isn’t really the type of player I’d be interested in taking just 20/1 about. Steve Webster and Peter Lawrie were both very disappointing in Sweden last week, but have enough quality recent form to thrive if in better spirits. Raphael Jacquelin remains frustratingly inconsistent, but showed again at Loch Lomond that he is capable of world-class golf when on song.