Chevron World Challenge
Successful golf punter Tom Allen previews the action in California.
A terrific treat in California this week as 16 of the world’s best tee it up at Tiger’s end of year jamboree. No great man of course, winner of this event four times in eight seasons, but six Major Champions and a clutch of the planet’s most exciting new talents are in town and it should provide top notch entertainment.
It’s difficult to rule anybody out this week, except perhaps loveable Fred who looks up against it, but a couple of players appeal more than most and both Mike Weir and Justin Leonard are taken to trump the five co-favourites that precede them in the betting. The pair have remarkably similar profiles entering the event and this shot-makers course looks ideally suited to their games.
Weir, a Major Champion himself of course, has not landed a stroke play title for 12 months but there were very few players hotter than the Canadian as the PGA Tour season came to a close and he looks sure to go well. It was six top-10’s in his last eight starts, culminating in an excellent fourth when defending champion at the Frys.com Open, and he is very close to a return to the sort of form that saw him capture three events in a lucrative 2003, including, of course, his triumph at Augusta.
Michael has not played at Sherwood, this week’s host course, since that terrific campaign but he performed with credit then after an opening 75 to finish fourth behind Davis Love and if he can get his silky smooth putting stroke working early then he must contend on a course that rewards straight hitting. Weir is a very similar player to Luke Donald and the Englishman was successful here in 2005.
Unlike the former Masters Champion, Justin Leonard did get the job done in 2008, entering the winner’s enclosure in Memphis in June, and that was the highlight of another very productive season on Tour for the Texan.
Just one missed cut for Leonard all term, at Sawgrass back in the Spring, illustrates just how consistently the 1997 Open Champion has played over the past 12 months and arguably his best form came in the Autumn. A run of seven top-20’s in his final eight starts saw him finish a highly creditable eighth in the Fedex Cup standings, earning very nearly $4m in prize money in the process, and he's surely not only flown West for the weather.
Leonard, along with Weir one of the Tour’s best putters, also hasn’t competed in this event since 2003 but remarkably finished tied with Mike in fourth place. Leonard was also eighth, a fair effort, back in 2000 and he, too, appears suited by the demands of the layout.
The two selections have combined for 20 PGA Tour victories throughout their careers and I’ll be very disappointed if at least one of them isn’t involved in the shake-up come Sunday evening.
Of the market leaders all hold decent if not outstanding claims and Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas are also getting their first look at the course.
Vijay Singh must go close if continuing his blistering end of season form, but has only gone close here once in seven starts, while Jim Furyk also has a pretty mediocre record. Jimbo hasn’t won for ages either and he might just need this.
Kenny Perry, another fancied runner, has a poor course record, virtually propping up the field on two of his three starts, and of the rest Paul Casey looks overpriced. He continually flatters to deceive but has the talent to win any event and played some very decent stuff in the second half of the season.
Back Mike Weir LOST
To link to this article please use the following: