Bubba To Flourish At Home In Florida
World Golf Challenge
The PGA Tour may be on its December break, but the World Challenge is the first of two off-season tournaments for golf punters to get stuck into.
The event is hosted by Tiger Woods and features a select field made up of the most recent winners of the four major PGA tournaments, the top eleven from the Official World Golf Rankings and two special exemptions. As you’d expect with such a small field, there’s no halfway cut and competition for the $1 million winner’s prize will be fierce.
This year the event has a new home, at the Isleworth Golf and Country Club, in Windermere, Florida. The championship course, originally designed by Arnold Palmer, features long fairways, hemmed in by lush foliage, and fast, undulating putting surfaces. It demands big driving, accurate iron play and a steady hand around the greens, and is rated as the toughest course in Florida.
In The Bunker
This is the perfect tournament for Tiger Woods to make his comeback. Not only is he the host, but it takes place at his former home club. There’ll be intense interest in how he fares in his first competitive golf since missing the cut at the US PGA in August, but he’s entitled to take a while to shake off the rust and embed the changes to his swing that he’s been working on with Chris Como. He’s one to avoid at 14/1.
The antepost market is dominated by players who have been performing strongly on the European Tour in recent weeks, but of the three who currently top the betting, I’m going for Bubba Watson.
He’s always had the distance from the tee, but when he adds accuracy to his phenomenal hitting, he can be unstoppable, as he showed when winning the HSBC Champions in China three weeks ago.
A Florida native, he should be right at home at Isleworth and he’s a solid bet at 13/2 this week.
Graeme McDowell had a disappointing time of it in Dubai, but he shouldn’t be written off on the basis of that, as his end of year form has been pretty good. He made the top ten at the Volvo World Matchplay and finished third behind Bubba Watson in China. As the winner of this event in 2010 and 2012 he commands respect this week and at odds of 14/1 he’s good value.
The final name to add to your shortlist is young Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama. He made his PGA Tour breakthrough this summer at Memorial, and goes into this event high on confidence after picking up his sixth Japan Golf Tour win, at the Dunlop Phoenix tournament last week. Back him at 16/1 to make a splash in his first appearance in this event.