Anticipation is building, folks, and it’s time to nail your colours to the mast, be they Oklahoma orange all the way or Tiger red. I put together a little gambling guide for The Score earlier and, though the odds probably won’t be of that much use to you if you live in a Puritan state, I hope the picks prove a useful springboard to larger, more nuanced musings in the comments thread.
ATLANTA ATHLETIC CLUB is a long and demanding test of golf, but it’s a course that rewards tee-to-green consistency and rigorous attention to detail more than it does powerful hitting and Seve-style swashbuckling.
That’s not to say that long-ball hopefuls like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson can’t contend, of course, just that they’ll need to temper their more aggressive impulses if they want to spend Sunday evening getting cosy with the Wannamaker Tropy.
We’ve whittled our list of favourites to take the year’s final major down to a manageable top five and an out-of-the-blue dark horse pick. We’ve also deliberately avoided the pre-tournament favourite, Rory McIlroy, and last week’s winner, Adam Scott (whose affinity for the long putter probably would have ruled him out anyway).
Notepads at the ready:
Luke Donald (14/1) Picking the number one player in the world hardly counts as a surprise, but Donald’s game is a perfect fit for the Athletic Club. His relative lack of length will be less important in the sweltering heat, leaving his wonderful short-game free to assert itself. He’s also coming off a tie for second at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, en route to which he carded final rounds of 64 and 66.
Rickie Fowler (25/1) Though easy to dismiss as a colourful marketing construct, but Fowler’s a genuine talent, with the game (if not the wardrobe) of a major contender. His whiplash action encourages long spells of inconsistency, but he seems to be in the form of his life. He tied for second last week and, perhaps more revealingly, thrived in the pressure of last month’s Open Championship.
Zach Johnson (45/1) Another tidy, short-game specialist, Zach has a knack of featuring on the weekend’s of big tournaments. With his last two starts yielding a top-twenty at the Open Championship and a top-ten in Firestone last week, the 2007 Masters champion seems to be rounding into form just in time to repeat his PGA Championship heroics of last year, where he finished a solitary shot outside of the Kaymer-Watson play-off.
K.J. Choi (66/1) He’s not the most reliable putter in the world, but the Korean is an expert ball-striker with a taste for ingenious course management. He’s also a fan of the Athletic Club, having hovered near the top during the PGA’s last visit here in 2001.
Y.E. Yang (90/1) The second Korean to feature on our list, the 2009 champion is a classy performer who excels around tough, demanding lay-outs. His 2011 season has been an inconsistent one, the high-points of which have all come during major championships.
The Dark Horse: Webb Simpson (80/1) The Wake Forest alum has been a model of consistency over the last year. Yet to seal a breakthrough victory on the PGA Tour, he’s unlikely to open his account this week, but a top-ten, or even a top-five? That’s another matter altogether. He also had a hole-in-one in practice yesterday, meaning he may well have begun to feel the encouraging hand of Destiny on his shoulder.
(Reproduced with permission from The Score.)