IT’S not been since the days of Tiger Woods ruling the fairways that we have seen a player enter a golf tournament at odds of 3/1.
But we find ourselves here again as Masters maestro John Rahm attempts to defend the Mexico Open this week — and win a fifth PGA Tour event of the still early season.
The reason for that short price is because most of the bigger names are taking this week off with eyes to more lucrative events in the weeks ahead (including the PGA Championship taking place in three weeks at Oak Hill — where Rahm is the 9/1 favourite).
The repercussions of the new “designated event” PGA schedule now falls on ’in-between’ events, which star players are far less likely to travel out of their way for, even to lovely Mexico.
On paper, Rahm’s main opposition this weekend is Tony Finau, who finished as a runner-up to him by a single shot on the same course last year.
This year’s Arnold Palmer winner Kurt Kitayama tied second with Finau then but doesn’t participate this year, leaving Finau at 8/1 the likeliest contender to stop the Spaniard.
We prefer better value than all that of course and the lack of star performers mean that if the top two do falter, a bigger-priced contender has a chance, i.e. Gary Woodland is 30/1.
The course is long and hasn’t got much in the way of rough and the 2019 US Open winner is in the top 10 on the tour in average driving distance, ahead of even a boomer like Rahm. The 38-year-old hasn’t won since that Major, but has found better form this season and is also a dinger with long irons that will come into play on this track (he is second only to Rahm in proximity from 200 yards or further out over their last 50 rounds).
He was a creditable tied-14th at Augusta and it will be a surprise if he is not in contention. He finished 24th last year when he carried much poorer form into the event. Here he is looking to make his fifth straight cut.
With most firms offering 1/4 on each-way terms he is certainly good value.
OUR Asian picks last week didn’t go down too well.
The South Korean Kims did make the top 10 in the Zurich Classic, but never really threatened the outright lead. The less said about Ding Junhui’s efforts at the Crucible the better.
Closer to home things were a bit nearer to clicking as five selections from our GAA six-timer for the weekend came up, only for the 30/1 accumulator to come unstuck when 1/4 shots Dublin only managed a draw against Antrim in the Leinster Hurling Championships. As a famous caveman once said, “Ugh!”
OUR shout for Ding success in Sheffield definitely fitted into the ‘longshot’ category. We did mention two other decent bets however, suggesting not to let 4/1 put you off eight-chasing Ronnie O’Sullivan “as he has won one in three Crucibles he has appeared in since the turn of the century”.
He is 7/4 to capture the record amount of titles before entering today’s quarter-final with Belgian Luca Brecel.
His match with Hossein Vafaei was a 13-2 rout (helped by the Iranian’s smashing break antics). This should be much tougher with Brecel racking up four centuries in a 13-11 defeat of multiple winner Mark Williams, who looked in decent form himself. It is 5/2 he beats Ronnie and 16/1 he becomes the first player from continental Europe to lift the title.
THE other player we mentioned was Mark Allen, whose recent form suggested he could be in contention at 14/1, yet poor Crucible performances put us off.
The Northern Irishman is now in to 11/2 and faces event debutant Jak Jones in the quarters today. The man from Wales has thus far seen off Ali Carter, Neil Robertson, and Barry Hawkins in qualifying and is a decent price to win this meeting at 3/1.
WE narrowly missed out on a six-timer at the weekend, so we’ll attempt one less for the midweek Premier action. Villa can continue to push for Europe by beating Fulham tonight. City will more or less wrap up the title tomorrow with a win. Liverpool should win at West Ham. Southampton to win a Southcoast derby against Bournemouth and give themselves a chance of avoiding relegation. And United to put an end to Spurs Champions League hope will net you just shy of 30/1.