Garcia also has a nice early start, but is overlooked for the same reasons as last week. In short, he’s just not a player to trust on a course where good putting is emphasised, and there’s only limited encouragement to draw from his three previous Doha outings. Scott, who bounced back to form in the States last week when least expected, is obviously respected with that course record, but is a short enough price and has the worst of the draw.
Stenson also loves it here, finished 2nd, 1st, 7th and 2nd in the last four years. And on the sort of form that enabled the Swede to slaughter world-class opposition in the Nedbank Challenge, Stenson can beat anyone. However, that amazing week at Sun City is his only decent strokeplay result since the USPGA last August, and so while he is very much feared, 14/1 is simply too short.
Still, I’d rather back Stenson than the similarly priced Els, who has looked a pale shadow of the player who won here back in 2005 over the past fortnight in Hawaii, even on courses where he’d enjoyed a superb previous record. Fellow South African legend Retief Goosen offered further evidence of a return to form when landing another lower grade title over the weekend. However having seen his truly shocking final round in the Joburg Open a fortnight ago, where he started Sunday as favourite before collapsing to 23rd despite an albatross, Goosen is on my ‘avoid’ list for now.
Initially, I had planned to back the two most exciting European youngsters around, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy, but reluctantly dropped them when they drew late tee-times for the first day. Purely on price grounds, these two represent much better value than those last-named candidates. They are very much on the way up, as opposed to declining stars like Els and Goosen, and will be winning tournaments very soon. Fingers crossed that it isn’t this week!