Time after time the Major championships return winners at some incredibly long prices. The most recent Major winner Charl Schwarzel was available at 90/1 before his Augusta triumph in April; Louis Oosthuizen was an incredible 250/1 before his demolition of the field at St Andrews last year. Even GMac and Martin Kaymer - at 66/1 and 50/1 respectively - could have hardly be classed as favourites! With some bookies already extending their each-way terms to 6 places, the scope for getting a great E/W return, or even a shock winner, is definitely there again this week...
The key to bargain hunting is naturally picking the right players, but just as key is selecting the right bookmaker who is offering the best price as well as the best EW terms. Always shop around even if it means opening a new account! Below I've highlighted my view of the 4 best outsiders as well as the best bookie price/deal available at the time last updated (19:45BST 14.6.11). Naturally all the prices and deals are subject to fluctuation:
So we've got a previous Major champion and 20-time winner on the professional circuit available at a 3-figure price....he must be horribly out of form then?! Well no, actually: 2 top 6 finishes in his last 4 starts, with a creditable 12th at TPC Sawgrass sandwiched in between, tells a different story....
Length is the only factor that presents a cause for concern around Congressional - at over 7,500 on the card this could pose a threat to Johnson who isn't the longest off the tee by any stretch. However Augusta was playing over 7,400 yards when he won his Green Jacket back in 2007 when he famously laid up on every par 5 - that won't be such a bad strategy this week either with rock-hard greens that will require a short iron to consistently find the right parts of the putting surface. Johnson has the right temperament to win the highest of prizes as his Augusta triumph proved, as well as a further 2 Major top 10s and 5 WGC top 10s. Wins on classical tracks like Colonial and TPC Sugarloaf bode well as does 3rd at 7,500 yard Whistling Straits in 2010 and 10th at 7,600 yard Hazeltine the year before. Zach Johnson could go very close to securing his second Major this week in my opinion. RESULT: T30
Cabrera - or 'El Pato' as he's affectionately known - is a great pick for a longshot here. 100/1 about a player with 46 professional victories to his name, including 2 Majors - one of which was the 2007 US Open at Oakmont - is just too long to ignore! With a further 7 Major top 10s to his name, Cabrera is the kind of player who consistently pops up on Major leaderboards as he possesses the temperament and talent required for these kinds of test.
A cursory review of Cabrera's history shows a liking for Bentgrass surfaces, plus his long driving game will help here - although he must keep the ball in play off the tee to feature. However when it really matters Cabrera can tame his driver - 85% of fairways hit at his recent 7th place finish at Augusta is testament to that. 22nd at Memorial on his last start is a perfect platform for El Pato to mount another Major charge here this week. RESULT: M/C
Swede Peter Hanson is one of those players that you place firmly in the 'grinders' category - show him a tough course and he'll invariably get himself into contention as the fair weather golfers fall by the wayside. All 4 of his European Tour wins have been achieved with scores of -6 to -10. Hanson is not the kind of player who will shoot -25 on a resort course...this makes him ideal for a US Open test as form of 30/18/16 in his last 3 attempts suggests.
The Ryder Cup winner can take massive confidence from a fruitful 2010 which saw him double his European Tour trophy tally and 2011 has started to pick up momentum too with top 10s in Bahrain, Dubai and most recently 4th place at Celtic Manor following a creditable 18th at Wentworth. A strong record at Valderrama over the years underlines Hanson's liking for tough courses and at 125/1 I'm happy to back him here with 6 places being paid. RESULT: Tied 7th
There are some players who I'd class as perennially overpriced by the bookies and Ryan Palmer is one of those. The 3-time PGA Tour winner is available at a whopping 200/1 at the time of writing, however I'd rate his chances as much better than that following a positive run of form including his first Major top 10 at Augusta in April.
Palmer is plenty long enough off of the tee to compete here - he's averaged well over 300 yards with the driver on his last 3 starts - however with one of the best putting strokes on Tour it's often his irons which let him down. Palmer was close to his best a fortnight ago though when he came up just short with a playoff defeat in Texas and if he can get close to that form then he'll put himself close to contention here. Palmer almost obliged for us at the tough WGC Bridgestone at a silly price last year, let's see if he can go a step further this time out... RESULT: T21
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