Goosen also finished down the field at Pearl Valley last year, though in fairness that came in the middle of his worst run of form this century. During the ten months between the 2007 Masters and 2008 WGC event at Doral, the dual former US Open champion failed to make a single top-10. Since then, he’s still been some way below his Major-winning best but there have been some signs of life. 4th place in another WGC event at Bridgestone was top-class and he hit arguably the round of the year on the opening day of the British Open at Birkdale.
Recently, Goosen has been mopping up smaller prizes around the world, winning his last strokeplay event in Malaysia as well as a lucrative skins event in the Middle-East. This is obviously much, much harder but Goosen has always been a good player of tough golf courses, and 18/1 represents a solid each-way bet to land his third Open title.
Typically for a player who has done me very few favours over the years, Clark chose last week to land his first win in over three years, after I’d backed him in consecutive Australian events without much return. No doubt he is a man in form, but is hard to fancy for back-to-back titles having so frequently blown winning chances in the past. Add in possible jetlag, plus long-term injury worries that can make playing four consecutive weeks a struggle, and we have plenty of reasons to avoid Clark.
Immelman on the other hand must come into the reckoning in his home state. He missed the event last year with injury, but boasts a fine previous record in his national Open. In five attempts since 2003, he’s won twice and finished runner-up, strongly confirming the suspicion that he is a better player in home conditions. On the downside, Immelman has only played well sporadically since winning the Masters, but his greens in regulation stats did improve markedly towards the end of the season. The return to the Western Cape, scene of both his previous Open titles, could be just the required spark.
Richard Sterne, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel and Rory Sabbatini are the other big-names in attendance. After Sunday’s win, Sterne warrants plenty of respect even if his odds are plenty short enough given the much stronger field, and the difficulty faced by anyone trying to win back-to-back. Its very hard to make a case for Rose though on his dire 2008 form. Sabbatini, Schwartzel, and Leopard Creek runner-up Johan Edfors for that matter, are generally seen to best effect on easier, low-scoring courses.