The season’s second World Golf Championship event takes centre stage this week, just a fortnight after man of the moment Geoff Ogilvy again confirmed his liking for these elite events at the World Matchplay, upstaging Tiger Woods’ comeback in the process. For the fifth year in a row, the venue is the ’Blue Course’ at Doral, and having won three of the last four here, all eyes will very much be on Woods again.
I said before the Matchplay that victory on his return would probably be asking too much even of the greatest player of all-time, and am loathe to draw too many conclusions from that performance. Certainly, there was nothing in either a facile first-round victory against an overwhelmed and outclassed Brendan Jones, or in a comprehensive defeat to Tim Clark the following day, to suggest he was back to his best, but we must still remember this was matchplay. In that format, anyone can get caught cold by a poor stretch of holes or an inspired opponent, whereas 72 holes of strokeplay offers a must clearer guide to a player’s wellbeing. There can be no excuses after this week, and if Tiger flops again, the Masters betting will alter significantly.
At 7/2, Woods is a much bigger price than he would usually be on this ultra-suitable course. Doral used to be renowned as the ‘Blue Monster’ with its many water hazards, but with the gradual advances in technology, its lost most of its teeth and the longer hitters now enjoy a significant advantage. Very fast greens, registering 11.8 on the stimpmeter, are the main defence, which should at least prevent extremely low scoring. Nevertheless, the winner will need to shoot double figures under par for sure.
Having won this event from 2005 to 2007 and never finishing worse than 9th on the course, its easy to see the case for backing Woods. However, he didn’t run away with any of them. That may sound like an unnecessary quibble, but its an important factor when we’re being asked to take short odds. If for instance this were Torrey Pines, where he always dominates, I’d consider backing him even if at only 50% of his best form. Here, I reckon Woods will still need to bring his ‘A-game’, and after that disappointing Dove Mountain performance, a bet at 7/2 would require a huge leap of faith.
If he were a bigger name, Ogilvy would surely be quoted in single figures rather than 14/1. Having won the Australian PGA, and Mercedes Championship, the Matchplay was his third title in just over three months, and the third WGC title of his career. That last record includes victory in this event last year, though conditions were very different after persistent rain. Bearing all that in mind, its hard to make any sort of case against Ogilvy, though I just can’t help feeling that runs like this have to come to an end sooner or later.
Nevertheless, his chance is far more obvious than the other two members of the world’s top-4, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, neither of whom have really shone in 2009 yet. Both have one good effort to their name at Doral, Mickelson finishing 2nd in 2005, Garcia 3rd in 2007, but they are the only times either has made the top-10 from a combined total of 12 tries.