With just 28 players to consider, it was easy to assess each individual claim before finalising this SBS Championship betting guide. This annual PGA Tour curtain-raiser is restricted to winners on the previous year’s schedule and always includes a mixture of top stars and rank outsiders, who owe qualification to one unlikely good performance.
This year’s field, however, is by far the weakest in living memory, with regular visitors Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Vijay Singh ineligible after a rare blank campaign and therefore joining Woods and Mickelson on the absentee list. Along with three-time champion and course specialist extraordinaire, Stuart Appleby, that means only one of the previous ten winners are here.
That man is Geoff Ogilvy, who won in a canter last year, and duly disputes favouritism with world number three Steve Stricker. A repeat performance would obviously suffice, but there is one significant factor that must always be taken on board with Ogilvy. As we saw quite clearly at the recent Australian Open and previously the Open Championship, Geoff just isn’t good enough in very windy conditions.
That is a worrying weakness at Kapalua, one of the most exposed courses seen all year, where gusts of 30mph plus are frequent. Normally, proficiency in such conditions is a must, but last year relatively calm conditions enabled Ogilvy to thrive where he’d previously struggled. Any bet on the Australian would therefore require hard to justify confidence in a calm weather forecast.
Stricker looks more reliable after an outstanding 2009. He finished runner-up at Kapalua two years ago, and having repeatedly made the frame in full-field events, one would expect a bold show against this limited field. A further reason to fancy Stricker is that this course tends to produce top-class winners near the head of the betting. With the possible exception of Paul Casey, Stricker is some way superior to the next best here. I wouldn’t deter anyone from taking the 8/1, though as I’ll explain shortly, four each-way bets at bigger odds were preferred.
Casey is the unknown quantity on his course debut, and having only registered a few disappointing finishes since his season was ruined by an injury obtained in August. At his best, the Englishman would love this test, but my suspicion is that we won’t see him produce that best for at least a few weeks.