Luke Donald, who regained the world No.1 ranking with victory at Wentworth on Sunday, heads a high-class Memorial Tournament.
The event, hosted by Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio, also features Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for what will be a final US Open warm-up for most of the main contenders. Donald is challenging McIlroy in the betting for the second Major of the year, but is clear favourite this week with Ladbrokes' 10/1 the best on offer. The same firm go 14/1 McIlroy, which is a price he shares with Tiger Woods, a four-time winner here, and they are also offering enhanced place terms of a quarter the odds the first six places, which is a reflection of the competitive nature of the event. They are not the only firms offering that concession this week - bet365, Paddy Power and Stan James to name but three - and that spells cracking value for punters in this limited field event.
The course that Jack built is a par-72 measuring 7,352 yards and is a thorough all-round test for professionals, as you'd expect. The fairways are pretty generous but missing them spells big trouble as the rough is penal and it's hard to make par once you find the long grass. That places an emphasis on accuracy over power and a good scrambling game is required too. Once on the Bentgrass greens, a steady nerve is essential as they are extremely fast, and conditions will not be a million miles form what the players will have to contend with at the US Open in a fortnight's time. Most of the birdies will come on the easier front nine, while the quarter of par-5s are all gettable in two.
My Three Against the Field:-
Rickie Fowler @ 18/1 Paddy Power (1/4 odds, six places)
With top-15s on his last three trips to Muirfield, including tied-7th last year, Donald is a worthy favourite and I'd much rather back him than McIlroy, given the latter's recent poor performances. However, 10/1 in this high-class field is no giveaway and there is better value elsewhere starting with Fowler, who has been in superb form of late. His current run of four top-10s includes a break-through win in Charlotte, second at Sawgrass and fifth last week at Colonial, and the young American, who finished runner-up here in 2009, will pitch up here full of confidence. Some might turn their noses up at the 18/1 but that's the sort of price we should expect from now on, and I would expect him to be trading at considerably shorter come Sunday.
Jim Furyk @ 28/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, six places)
If Rickie is the future of US golf (believe it!), Furyk has already been there and got the t-shirt. Granted, the 45-year-old may be starting to feel his age a bit but there are compelling reasons for thinking he will contend for a second Memorial title. Since winning here 10 years ago, he's posted three further top-10s and has missed the cut just once, that coming last year when he was suffering a dip in form. There are no such worries this week as he's on a golden run with three top-10s in his last seven starts, which includes a playoff loss to Donald at the Transitions. Last week at Colonial, he was the only player to shoot all four rounds in the 60s so, like Fowler, he'll be feeling supremely confident coming into a tournament he loves.
Ben Curtis @ 60/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, six places)
The Ohio native threw in an uncharacteristic bad performance at Wentworth last week (68th) but his previous four tournaments in the US were exceptional - four straight top-15s, including a win in Texas - and at 60/1 it's worth chancing he can get back on track this week. Certainly, his accurate style of play (ranked 16th on Tour for driving accuracy and eighth for GIR) is tailormade for Memorial and it's worth noting he finished 13th here 12 months ago when in nowhere near the form he is in now. Grab some of the 60's while it lasts as he's as short as 40/1 in a place.
Rickie Fowler 2pts each-way @ 18/1 Paddy Power
Jim Furyk 1.5pts each-way @ 28/1 bet365
Ben Curtis 1pt each-way @ 60/1 bet365
(all at 1/4 odds, 184.108.40.206.5.6)