Former PGA champion Love also deserves another chance after one poor result when carrying our money at the Sony Open, and is fancied to emerge best of the former Major champions in this field. Admittedly his outstanding Torrey Pines form; winner and four times in the top-4 between 1996 and 2001; all took place before the course changes, but he didn’t disgrace himself in 24th on his one attempt in this event since the toughening up. Prior to the Sony, his recent form was the best of any in this field, winning and regularly contending in a great finish to 2008, and playing some outstanding tee to green golf to finish runner-up at the Mercedes Championship.
Goosen has never played in this tournament, but did pretty well to finish 14th in the US Open here. He’s no forlorn hope on the best of his winter form in much lesser company, without yet fully convincing that he’s back to anywhere near his peak. Camilo Villegas certainly has the game to win here, but was extremely frustrating at Scottsdale last week, not least with the putter. Rory Sabbatini has also shown strong signs recently of a return to form, and has twice made the top-5 here. He came in for serious consideration, before being overlooked on price grounds at a skinny 25/1.
I prefer HUNTER MAHAN at 40/1, despite the fact he’s never done anything of note in this tournament. Such old form doesn’t overly concern me because Mahan has improved considerably over the last couple of years, and could be one of the players to follow in 2009. His greens in regulation stats are usually amongst the best on offer, and there was enough in last week’s seasonal debut to expect substantial improvement now on a course where those attributes are better rewarded. Furthermore, the fact Mahan was in contention for a long way at last year’s US Open here has stayed firmly in my memory bank.