By eliminating so many mid-division candidates, the short-list of potential selections is dramatically reduced. In fact, only around a dozen players even came in for consideration.
I can sense much gritting of teeth from regular readers when reading my selection of both joint-favourites, LEE WESTWOOD and RORY MCILROY. In the case of the former, we have a player who hasn’t won in two years and has rarely done this column any favours. It seems bizarre that a player like Westwood, with 29 worldwide titles to his name, has found it so hard to get his head in front recently. That must surely change soon if maintaining his outstanding recent form though, which is arguably second only to Tiger. The worst finish of Westwood’s last five is ninth, and that includes second and third in the season’s two Majors. As he’s won here before, in 1999, and registered five top 16s in seven tries, he looks a banker to get into contention once again.
With regard to the latter, I’ve struggled so far to predict anything correctly during McIlroy’s short career. Recently, when I fancied him for the Scottish Open and Open Championship, he achieved nothing. Yet on his debuts in the US Majors, where I expected a struggle due to inexperience, Rory was quite outstanding with 10th, 20th and third place finishes. At least at Crans, we can be sure he likes the course, as he lost a play-off on last year’s debut. Clearly, he has improved markedly since. As with Westwood, that third in the USPGA represents a level of form well beyond the scope of virtually all this week’s opposition, suggesting that odds in double figures are decent value.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI also enjoyed a fine USPGA, finishing tenth and leaving the distinct impression that he has the long game skills to thrive in future Majors. That follows 13th in the Open and 27th in the US Open, along with a series of high finishes in Europe. Crans would appear to be another ideal test for the young Italian, as illustrated by three top 17s from four visits, including runner-up in 2006.