This is traditionally Tiger’s season “curtain raiser” and, proving that his whole world is returning back to a level of normality, the newly domiciled Florida resident returns to his home state and his beloved Torrey Pines. The field he faces is strong with fellow Californians Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan heading up a strong home team. Add to that the likes of Allenby, Choi, Villegas, Watson, Rose and prolific coast specialist Dustin Johnson and you can see that this won’t be easy for Tiger.
I’ll come clean. Tiger was originally within my 10 point selection this week and sits handily within the Top 5 of our Torrey Pines Predictor Model. Everything in the Northern Hemisphere points towards Tiger’s first win since Cog Hill in 2009 as his game at the Chevron Challenge at Thousand Oaks in December was seemingly back to somewhere like normality. However I’m passing up the 11/4 available because of nagging doubts around whether he can hit the ground running on his 2011 debut. Remember this isn’t the old Tiger, just yet.
I don’t blame anyone for backing Woods this week, but beware - Tiger's price has been shortening all week and 11/4 is the best you'll get at the time of writing...having said that, you can get double those odds from Extrabet if you're opening a new account - their matched bet offer means they place the same bet as your first bet up to a stake of £25 which effectively doubles the odds. For more information on this offer click here: Extrabet Double Odds
Torrey Pines is never set up as US Open tough for this tournament but provides a classical test. Also bear in mind that the format of the tournament also takes in both the North and South courses. The North course is a 6,800 yard Par 72 that is relatively easy to score on. To win the tournament players need to shoot a minimum of 65 on the North Course and then ‘hang on’ to those red numbers on the strict +7,500 Par 72 South Course. The weather forecast is for tranquil conditions on this section of Pacific coast so expect relatively low scoring and also extremely worthy of note are the poa annua greens which aren’t to every golfers tastes.
I’m going for a mix of players who have decent course experience and have Top 10 finishes at Torrey in the bank. Major & PGA Tour winners who thrive on this coastal course near San Diego and I have deliberately selected players who are fighting back after a disappointing 2010 season.
Lefty had a tremendously difficult 2010 that only garnered The Masters! Mickelson who is down to No 6 in the World Golf Rankings though offers tremendous value this week as a consequence and I’m sticking to my strategy of backing him at 16/1 or above at a non major/WGC event.
Torrey Pines is his home turf and he has won here 3 times (93, 00, 01) and finished in the top 10 a further 6 times in 20 starts. 42nd at last week’s Abu Dhabi Championship was unspectacular but took the ‘festive’ rust off his game. The same can’t be said for Messrs Woods, Watney and Fowler who are opening their 2011 accounts. Mickelson has a habit of winning early in the season within the PGA Tour’s ‘West Coast’ swing and after relatively recent victories in Phoenix, Riviera and Pebble Beach (on poa), I’m expecting big things from him. He’d love to spoil Tiger’s party. Torrey Pines Predictor Model No 2. RESULT: 2nd
I tipped Imada last week at 100/1 for the Bob Hope and he semi contended until a weak closing 18 holes finally delivered a solid 33rd and a Spread Tip profit. I’m sticking with him for a second week running. Imada was hot stuff in 2008. But his victory at the AT&T Classic was the catalyst for a slump to a +200 World Rank by the middle of last season. It’s great to see Imada upwardly mobile again. His record in California and at Torrey Pines in particular is first class. 2nd here in 2008 at the Buick Invitational was followed by a Top 20 finish at the US Open. He also led here last year before finally finishing 9th. His current form line of 68-33-3-8-6 includes a further 6th at CordeValle in California as recently as October. RESULT: M/C
If only I could find a proven classical course player who thrives on tough coastal tracks at a decent Each Way price. Think I just did! Cink missed the cut at last week’s Bob Hope Classic but the fact he played the tournament on a set up that would never suit shows that Georgia Ryder Cup player is serious about 2011.
His Open Championship triumph at Turnberry could have been the catapult for stardom and a place in the World’s Top 10, but almost inevitably it led to a 2010 of total mediocrity. However 5 consecutive Top 21 finishes at the WGC Bridgestone, PGA Championship, The Barclays, Deutsche and BMW show a steady re-application of effort and form. This was followed by 19th at the alien (to Cink) Disney event in November and an encouraging 5th in December at Tiger’s Chevron Challenge in California. 3rd here last time out in 2008, Cink will have a far more competitive 2011 on tough tracks and 3 of his professional victories have been on the coast. RESULT: T51
West Coast swing specialist Perez is attractive value at 125s with Skybet and his resume and recent form stack up well to recent winners Ben Crane and Nick Watney. A PGA Tour winner at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, Perez has an amazing habit of popping up on leader boards on tough classical courses early in a season. 4th at Bay Hill in 2009, 4th at Waialee in 2008, 8th at Riviera in 2007, 6th at the PGA Championship (I know it wasn’t early in 2006 but this result is still valid) 2006 and 6th here in 2005. There is no-doubt that Perez is a talented ball striker and that his game is again taking shape like all of this week’s selections. 6 consecutive pay days that have yielded a form line of 54-68-30-14-38-33 and show a player just ready to make the jump to contention. This product of the Western States (Arizona) should be a factor this week in San Diego. RESULT: T20
As an update my Ton-Plus tip last week, Vaughan Taylor finished 25th at the Bob Hope Classic. That was totally eclipsed by Paul’s tip of Ricardo Gonzalez who finished 8th in Abu Dhabi and who finished so close to a 300/1 Each Way pay out. Watch this space! This week I’m going for the Californian veteran Paul Goydos who loves to be beside the seaside. It’s no surprise that this 2 time PGA Tour winner victories have been at Waialee and Bay Hill. Both tough tracks with the former naturally being on the coast in Hawaii. A 42nd finish at last week’s Bon Hope appeared on my radar. Ultimately finished 5th at Pebble Beach last year when he was leading going down the stretch and that followed a 5th the previous week at Riviera. A true California specialist who performs best where straight driving is a pre-requisite. RESULT: T76
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:00GMT 25.1.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation
Finally, we run a weekly competition on our facebook group where you can win a £25 free bet with Paddy Power simply by predicting who will win each week’s events – it’s great fun and free to join, here’s a link to the page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=254181393361