Buick Invitational preview: What odds on Tiger Woods winning everything?
The betting on the real ’season opener’ is predictably lopsided. The money on Tiger Woods is already a flood running at more than 30 times his nearest challenger, Phil Mickelson. I suppose it’s a bit late to suggest both sides of the betting equation are a trifle barmy.
The case against laying Tiger is obvious. A five-time winner, including the last three on the trot, who even in an off-year finishes top 10, and his nearest challenger this year supposedly suffering the after-effects of bronchitis. Tiger sounds raring to go at the start of a quest to do the grand slam. Heck, why shouldn’t he go the whole hog and win everything this year? The only caveat is that even in victory Tiger’s price has invariably gone higher than the opener at some stage.
The case against backing Tiger is also simple: a price not a huge amount over evens is hardly the juiciest of morsels for four rounds of fighting off more than 150 hungry challengers. And again, if you really must back Tiger there’s usually an opportunity to get a better price after the off.
So Tiger’s not for me either way this week. I am more interested in possible trading plays and laying some of his low-priced rivals. Heck, if Tiger’s a nailed-on winner you can’t lose. Right?
I’ll steer clear of Mickelson too, though. You’d think he’d be under par with all that bronchitis stuff, but our Phil does like to make a fuss. He’s a three-time winner, though that is going back a bit and more recently he’s not done half so well. But like Tiger, he says he’s the fittest he’s ever been.
Two I don’t go for are Jim Furyk, with a missed cut in his only attempt in the last eight years, and K J Choi, who is in on top form but like Furyk will likely find the south course hard going. Forget the easy-peasy north course, which is only played for one round; the south at more than 7,500 yards is going to play particularly long in the wet weather we are promised for this. Anyone looking for hints to the US Open later in the year is likely to be disappointed in other ways too: the greens are slow, the rough not so rough and the fairways more generous than they will be come summer.
The lesson from last year was clearly that this is a course for the long hitters to exploit. Three of the top four on last year’s leaderboard were top 5 for distance off the tee (the exception being Brandt Snedeker who made up for his distance deficiency with a red hot putter. Watch him this year too).
But driving is not the whole story. Irons are key too and obviously top rate putting. The problem with including putting in stats analysis, as we found with D J Trahan last week, is that a putter can catch fire out of nowhere.
Still, the interesting thing is that the players who currently impress most with those combined disciplines are the new(ish) boys, with Anthony Kim top of the heap followed by Dustin Johnson and Steve Marino. Trahan is well up there too, but I think last week is enough for him. I’m also watching out for Ryan Moore, 16th last year and a handy 5th at the Hope Classic last week. Kenny Perry’s stats also put him in the frame after a storming first four days last week and you can’t ignore Robert Allenby, 9th last year and 12th last week, and the top bomber of the pack J B Holmes if he can get his putting in slightly better order. A lot of people point to Charles Howell III, 2nd here last year, but he’s not hitting the ball off the tee all that well at the moment so I’m steering clear.
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