PGA Championship preview: Tiger Woods the favorite, but don't forget Lefty and the Longshots
Vital question of this PGA Championship week: do we believe what golfers tell us? They seem a decent enough bunch, ever eager to prove their sport to be honourable. Face it, if a golfer is going to voluntarily disqualify himself for some minor infringement no one else saw, why would he lie about other things?
Okay, not exactly lying, maybe. But “economical with the truth.” Like anyone, golfers like to kid us sometimes. Maybe they are trying to fool themselves also. And, honest as the sport is - Drugs? Who mentioned drugs? - There’s always the little matter of gamesmanship, gentlemanly of course. I don’t think we need dwell too much on the comments of Phil Mickelson’s caddie to the effect that his boss is a better golfer than Tiger Woods (so nah!). That’s a caddie talking and you almost expect them to have pockets full of porkie pies.
But Woods for one - don’t make too many betting decisions on what comes out of his mouth or you’re headed for the poor house. He’s a past master of the bi-directional tongue. ("I have to … be marginally more aggressive, marginally,” he told us before missing the cut at the U.S. Open.)
It isn’t Tiger that concerns me this week - it’s Kenny Perry. Two weeks ago he was telling us his game was frustratingly below par because, since his surgery, his swing has gone to pot. That’d be so below par that his last three finishes in America have been 12th, 15th and 11th. (We’ll draw a veil over the missed cut at the Open Championship). So below par that of all the celebrated contestants jostling for this final major of the year, only he and one other are top 30 in our stats for distance, accuracy, greens in regulation AND putting.
Surely some mistake? I think it’s Kenny’s tongue that’s to blame. Methinks he doth protest too much.
A starting price of 100 is perhaps not over generous but if Perry is fibbing rather than the stats, then he could at least serve up a decent trading opportunity over the next four days. Don’t forget, our stats are devoted to very recent form rather than the season as a whole and they put Perry in the top ten for driving distance, very helpful round the long Medinah course. He also ranks sixth for greens in regulation. If there is a “weakness” its putting, where he ranks 25th.
So who, you might ask, is the other mystery gentleman? Robert Allenby, another dark horse worth watching out at 95. He almost matches Perry for distance, just pips him in the GIR department, and his second place ranking indicates a mean putter at the moment. The other interesting thing about Allenby is that he is quite an accurate player off the tee too.
And Woods? Isn’t he the greatest thing since sliced cheese?
Well he is, Mickelson’s daft caddie notwithstanding. And he may well reinforce that again this weekend. But it will be because he has other vital ingredients that pure stats don’t bring out.
So here we are again, singing that old Woods hit “Should I back or should I lay?” It’s a toughie.
At the start of the week I would definitely have been a layer because his price of 3.5 was very competitive. But since then it has drifted out to almost 4. That would seem perverse considering the customary tidal wave of cash in his direction. It suggests there’s plenty of willing layers out there.
I can see their point. Yes Tiger is fit, well rested, hugely in form and raring to make it three in a row and put that in your pipe and smoke it Lefty old chum. I think he might well pull it off.
But this is not a course that will lie down and surrender to Tiger without a fight. He admits he will have to use the weakest part of his armoury, the driver, on all the par fives and probably one or two others. And no, I don’t think he’s fibbing on that one! Even on the other holes, where he hits off with a wood, the doglegs and distances will surely force him to be at the very top of his game again with his iron play. And we all know Tiger is a slow burner, just as likely to have a bad first round as good (look at last year).
That I think is the gamble: that we will be able at least to trade back at a higher price before he starts doing anything fancy. I think it’s worth going for even at the relatively high price he is now at. After all, it’s not so difficult to cover if I am wrong. Mind you, if you are thinking of laying Tiger and can wait for the off his price may well come back in again as the bookies hedge their bets.
And surely the great and good of golf are not going to surrender meekly to Tiger again are they?
Not Mickelson for sure, although I find it almost impossible to call Lefty for this one. His confidence clearly took a knock at the US Open and quite why he bothered with last week’s golfing dodgems I don’t know. But he has been practicing round this course so much I’m surprised he’s not dizzy. And I have said before, he was winning the US Open before one mad shot at the end.
Which brings me to the first of my lays, Geoff Ogilvy. Followers of my column know I think he’s already won one major too many this season, and the Tiger-Lefty circus will hardly do much for his concentration as he goes round with them.
I’m tempted to lay Jim Furyk, who I think fails to close the deal more often than he makes it, but he is in such fine form at the moment that might be dangerous. He’s not the greatest distance player, but he is well inside the top half of our ratings for that.
The form book says Vijay Singh is in with a good shout, but they can’t all win and I see him as the weakest link. I have a sneaking suspicion though we might see a performance from Ernie Els. who got himself nicely warmed up at last week’s Denver dingdong after coming third at Hoylake.
For various reasons I am going to go against Luke Donald, Chris DiMarco, Padraig Harrington, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia (especially if he wears yellow again), the exceedingly disappointing Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink on the basis that even if he does get into contention he’ll fluff it again, and Tim Clark, another who seems a bit off the boil. So those make up my 10 hostages to fortune this week (Tiger’s a trading play so doesn’t count).
Anyone looking for some fun bets might like to consider one or two higher priced individuals: Sean O’Hair at more than 100 is in pretty hot shape at the moment as our overall table shows. Keep an eye on Camilo Villegas (300) who tops the putting table and is high up the distance chart as well.
There are three people out at 320/300 well worth considering too: Jerry Kelly because he has gambled an awful lot on using this event to propel him into the US Ryder Cup team and one assumes he knows what he’s doing; Andres Romero was very impressive at the Open Championship until the pressure got to him at the death; and Johan Edfors is the hot European tip from a number of posters on the Betfair forum.
And out in the 800s is Hideto Tanihara who also put on such an impressive display in the Open Championship.
Here’s to a good one folks.
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