Tiger Woods embarks on his 2014 campaign this week, as the world number one sets foot on familiar fairways at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, looking for an 80th PGA Tour win.
Torrey Pines once again hosts this well-established tournament, with the brutal, long (7,698 yards) South Course played three times and the much easier, shorter (7,045 yards) North course taken on just once.
Woods has mastered both over the years, with the 14-time Major winner successful on eight occasions at the La Jolla track if we include his 2008 US Open triumph. He snapped a five-year winless run in this event last year when he was sent off as a 7/1 favourite. Twelve months on, and Woods is less than half that price, at 5/2, to claim yet further glory in Southern California.
The positives for Woods backers are obvious, but you can make a case against the market leader. He hasn’t won on his yearly debut since 2008 and with the rough set to be an unprecedented three and a half inches at both venues this week, Woods’ wayward driving could be an issue.
The other multiple winner in the field, Phil Mickelson, hasn’t won at Torrey Pines since it was overhauled by Rees Jones in 2001 and his erratic nature was there for all to see in Abu Dhabi last week, when he took a triple bogey down the stretch on Sunday to blow his chances of victory.
The front two in the betting, therefore, are worth taking on, with Keegan Bradley, Billy Horschel and Marc Leishman the best bets.
Bradley, a 25/1 shot, has been incredibly frustrating for punters to follow over the past six months, as he has finished inside the top 20 in nine of 11 starts but rewarded each-way backers only once.
However, he regularly features towards the top of the total driving statistics and, on an expected tough layout, can be relied upon to make fewer mistakes than most. It’s also interesting that Bradley put in his best display on the greens since winning the Bridgestone invitational in 2012 last week .
Horschel, who can be backed at 50/1, is another solid driver of the ball who plays the hard tracks well and a last day 64 in the Humana Challenge will have set him up nicely for a crack at the tournament he was second after 36 holes at 12 months ago.
Leishman, also 50/1, has form figures of 11-7-5 coming into this week and was runner up at Torrey Pines in 2010.
My three to follow – Bradley, Horschel and Leishman.