Tiger Woods has drifted out to 10/1 for the final major of the year, the USPGA Championship on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
Some abysmal putting over the first three days of the Bridgestone Invitational have convinced the layers to push the world No.2 out to double figures with Paddy Power, William Hill, BetVictor and Blue Square all vying for your trade. Backers will take their encouragement from a bogey-free final round 66, which carried him up to a share of eighth place and made it consecutive top-10 finishes on Tour for the first time since 2009. Luke Donald finished on the same score at Firestone and the Englishman is 20/1 second favourite with BetVictor along with Rory McIlroy, who did the best of the trio last week in finishing fifth. Lee Westwood is on the slide after plodding home in 70th and he's not even fourth favourite with some firms, having been usurped by last year's USPGA runner-up Jason Dufner.
The good news for punters this week is that most firms are offering generous place terms of a quarter the odds the first six places, although we shouldn't expect anything less given this is the major most likely to throw-up a big-priced winner. Rich Beem (200/1), Shaun Micheel (300/1) and YE Yang (200/1) have had bookmakers laughing all the way to the bank in the past decade, and who could ever forget last year's remarkable last-round comeback from Keegan Bradley (150/1) to force a playoff with Dufner (250/1), with Anders Hansen (250/1), Robert Karlsson (100/1) and Scott Verplank (250/1) filling the places?
That drama was played out at the Atlantic Athletic Club, but a different sort of test altogether awaits this year's field with the stunning Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course being dubbed as the "most difficult course in the United States" by Golf Digest. At 7,676 yards, it's certainly the longest track ever used for the USPGA and if the weather forecast is correct, wind is going to be a factor too. It played host to the 1991 Ryder Cup and the "War on the Shore", as it became known (10 of the holes run along the coast), took plenty of prisoners. Since then it has been relaid with Seashore Paspalum grass and that isn't a surface widely experienced by Tour pros. Uniquely it has no grain and the greens, which are huge, will be running slowly at around 11.5 on the stimpmeter. Unlike the US Open, however, the course is not set up so severe as to embarrass the 20 club pros teeing up and the winning score is likely to be around 10-under.
My Three Against the Field:-
Jason Dufner @ 30/1 BetVictor
But that's enough about the course, what about the winner? Well, none of the top five in the top five cut it for me (the lay at 19/10 in Betfair's 'Big 5 v the Field' market is appealing), but Dufner simply has to be part of the staking plan. The reasons why are fairly obvious. He's finished in the top-five in the last two USPGAs - tied-fifth at Whistling Straits in 2009 to go with his second 12 months ago - and he's become a multiple winner on Tour in 2012, adding the Byron Nelson to his breakthrough win in New Orleans. Clearly, last season's heartbreak in this event has not dented his confidence one bit and he's become a man for the big occasion too, finishing tied fourth in the recent US Open and a solo seventh in last week's WGC event at Firestone. His stats make for impressive reading too: 20th for scrambling, sixth for greens in regulation percentage, fifth in Total Driving and second in the all-around. None of that has been lost on bookmakers of course but I still think the 30s is a fair price, with the sixth place on offer a bonus.
Matt Kuchar @ 40/1 BetVictor
BetVictor are also the place to back my second pick - other firms are offering 40/1 but are sticking to a quarter the first five. Like Dufner, Kooch is never going to win any charisma contests but he gets the job done and is one of the most consistent players on Tour. I was fortunate enough to be at Sawgrass (another Dye creation) back in May to see him win the Players Championship (didn't back him, unfortunately) and his composure over the final few holes really surprised me. Since then, he's continued to play solidly with his eighth place at Firestone his third top-10 in his last four starts, so there are no worries over form. Granted, he's not the longest off the tee but his stellar iron play easily compensates for that and the slow greens will help too as he looked a bit timid on the lightning-fast surfaces at Augusta, whereas he can be quite aggressive here. Hailing from Sea Island, Georgia, a short hop down the coast, you can bet your bottom dollar he's played this course a few times and the support he's sure to get from the galleries could well see him over the finishing line in front.
Kyle Stanley @ 100/1 bet365
Given this event's propensity to produce big-priced winners and placed golfers, it's only right I should include a pick at triple-figure odds. I had the foresight to back Stanley at 150/1 during last week's shindig at Firestone and I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself now, but the 100/1 on offer now is still a fair price - he's also well worth considering in the Top American market at 60/1 with Stan James. The man from Washington has really made a name for himself this season and not for all the right reasons. Back in February at Torrey Pines (a coastal course), he blew a three-shot lead coming down 18 and then lost the playoff to Brandt Snedeker. That would have knocked the stuffing out of most players but the very next week he went and won the Phoenix Open, which is always a real pressure cauldron of an event. His form did dip after that, admittedly, but he's looked on his way back in recent weeks with top-25s at the AT&T and John Deere, and last week's tied-16th was a clear sign is game is back in shape. Long off the tee (ranked 8th on Tour), he will be able to have a real crack at this week's par-5s and the par-4 12th might be driveable too. Help yourself to the 100s.
Jason Dufner 2pts each-way @ 30/1 BetVictor (1/4 odds, six places)
Matt Kuchar 2pts each-way @ 40/1 BetVictor (1/4 odds, six places)
Kyle Stanley 0.5pt each-way @ 100/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, six places)
Kyle Stanley Top American 1pt each-way @ 66/1 Stan James (1/4 odds, four places)