With the money lists settled and main tours taking a few weeks break, the most prestigious title left in 2009 is this week’s WGC World Cup. Twenty-eight nations are represented in teams of two, though not all by their highest ranked players, some of whom clearly consider this to be a late-season distraction. Most notably, American interest has cleared waned since the start of the century when Woods and Mickelson both made this off-season journey. This year the USA are represented by Nick Watney and John Merrick, ranked 31st and 139th respectively.
This event has generally proved pretty straightforward for punters over the years, basically because it’s never really that competitive. It’s not so much that the favourites always dominate, (three of the nine winners this century started favourite), rather it’s that the places are always very pickable. Even when there has been a ‘shock’ winner, like Germany in 2006, Wales in 2005 or Japan in 2002, they were still less than 50/1 and in the ‘plausible each-way bet’ range.
Usually, a process of elimination can be employed to whittle down the candidates, and that is the case once again this year. Of the 28 countries, it is easy to write off seven as completely out of their depth; Brazil, Canada, Chile, Pakistan, Phillipines, Singapore and Venezuela. Though they do represent a significant jump in class from that bunch, it is hardly controversial to dismiss seven more; Argentina, China, Chinese Taipai, Scotland, New Zealand, Wales and France.
Some of those latter teams have a player who can boast top-class form in 2009; Levet for France, Donaldson for Wales, Lee for New Zealand; so I suppose they can’t be completely written off for the places. Nevertheless, I’m happy to because each of these limited sides either contains a badly out of form player or one who has struggled in the past two years at this venue.
So after excluding that lot, we’re down to 14, each of whom deserve assessment. First to those who are unfancied. Thai pairing Jaidee and Marksaeng have enough class to win this, but have been well beaten in the two years since this tournament moved to Mission Hills. Similar comments apply to another potentially strong pair from Asia, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa. Japan finished fourth last year with a pairing that included Ryuji Imada, but as Imada’s 2009 form has seen a marked deterioration on previous efforts, they are easily opposed.
Very low scoring appears certain this week, as the two previous winning scores were -25 and -27. That doesn’t bode well for an Aussie pairing consisting of weak putter Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby, who has had his worst season in well over a decade. More significantly from a betting perspective, 9/1 fourth favourites Spain are hard to fancy in a putting contest, given that they are represented by two of the weakest players in that category, Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez Castano.