When pressed if the change of clubs from Titleist to Nike would affect his game, Rory McIlroy countered that ‘a hockey stick and an orange’ would serve him just fine, before going on to explain that he believed there is little difference between manufacturers equipment these days.
Punters will get to see for real if the change is going hamper the world number one, as he tees it up for the first time since signing up to sport the swoosh logo in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
He’s the short price favourite at 4/1 out in the Gulf for his first start of 2013, and while he has never won on his seasonal debut, form figures of 11-5-3-2-2 – all at Abu Dhabi – suggest he is getting closer.
McIlroy gets a single-figure odds quote – as does second favourite Tiger Woods at 6/1. However gone are the days when Woods won first time up in a calendar year. Since his last Torrey Pines success in 2008, he has managed only one top ten on his return to action following the winter break, although that was at Abu Dhabi 12 months ago.
With McIlroy and Woods taking out a big percentage of the book, there has to be some each-way value somewhere, and Francesco Molinari (25/1), Paul Lawrie (40/1) and Thongchai Jaidee (66/1) are all worthy of support.
Molinari’s Abu Dhabi record of three top-ten finishes on his last four visits bodes well, as does his ability to win in this class of company.
Lawrie topped the Greens in Regulation stats category in Durban last week and only needs to find a little more form with the putter to run a place. While few have better recent form figures than Jaidee, who comes into this week’s event on the back of four top-seven efforts from his last five outings.
My three off the tee – Molinari, Lawrie and Jaidee.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.