THE first Major of the year finally tees off on Thursday.
We have seen enough of the top players since the PGA Tour shutdown ended to get a good idea of their form.
Well, apart from Tiger Woods that is…
Woods is a 33-1 shot to win his 16th Major title.
But he has played just four competitive rounds since mid-February, finishing down in 40th place at the Memorial, an event he has won five times.
He did not manage a single round in the 60s – carding two 76s.
Woods had to fight back pain AND birdie the final two holes in round two just to make the cut.
His odds would be closer to 100-1 if his name wasn’t Tiger, so it’s hard to back him at that price.
But here are a few players who are a little more appealing…
*All odds from Ladbrokes, as of 12pm Tuesday August 4, 2020…
Brooks Koepka – 10/1
I hate to put up favourites, but it’s THAT time of year again.
And the man who has won four of the last ten Majors he has contested is looking mean and magnificent again, judging by his return to form in Memphis.
Koepka is going for an unprecedented hat-trick of USPGA titles.
No-one has managed that since it became a stroke play event in 1958.
And Koepka's form figures in the Majors last year read 2-1-2-4.
He seems certain to be involved in the finish on Sunday.
Jon Rahm – 12/1
His first tournament as the world No1 did not go well and he surrendered top spot to WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational winner Justin Thomas.
But I like the fact the Spaniard is not carrying that extra burden in San Francisco.
He was a hugely impressive winner of The Memorial before that, and has always looked comfortable on California courses.
His record in the Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines – a win and a second in the last three years – proves that.
He has already posted three top four finishes in the Majors and can kick on.
Collin Morikawa – 30/1
He has emerged as the "Steady Eddie" among the new breed of exciting young players – think Hovland, Wolff etc – and seems to have the ideal temperament for the Majors.
The world No12 showed there was no scar tissue from missing the short putt that would have won him the Charles Schwab Challenge by beating Justin Thomas in a play-off to land the Workday title last month.
Bounced back from a slow start in Memphis with encouraging weekend rounds of 67-66.
Shane Lowry – 66/1
The Open champion has a short-game to die for, and that will be crucial at Harding Park.
The punishing rough and narrow fairways mean everyone will find it tough to hit the greens.
The Irishman understandably suffered a post-Portrush hangover – and boy, did he celebrate winning the Claret Jug.
But he looked close to his best again when finishing tied sixth in Memphis last week.
He had contended in Majors before the Open, but will be more dangerous after finally getting over the line.
Louis Oosthuizen – 66/1
The South African star has completed the "Second Slam" with runner-up finishes in all four Majors since his only Major victory in the 2010 Open.
But it is easy to visualise his name on the leaderboard once again.
He would have won more often if it was not for a recurring back injury.
But there were no signs of that troubling him when he also finished in a share of sixth place last week, shooting nothing worse than a 68 all week.
He can be a slow starter, but if he hits the ground running, watch out.
Danny Willett -125-1
England has a strong hand in San Francisco, with Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Tyrrell Hatton, Tom Lewis, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Tommy Fleetwood all making an impact in America this year.
But at the odds, 2016 Masters champion Willett looks like the man to bet on.
He showed he can still win big by landing the DP World Tour Championship at the end of 2018 and adding the BMW PGA Championship title at Wentworth last year.
Never got going in Memphis, but has shown he can handle the pressure of Major championship golf.
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