It’s early days in the golfing calendar and you feel there’s more holes in the form than Robert Allenby’s Hawaiian kidnapping story.
But World No 1 Rory McIlroy won two Majors (Open Championship, PGA Championship) last season to leave just the Augusta Masters missing from his already-creaking mantlepiece and he tees it up early on Thursday morning in the Dubai Desert Classic.
Macca has yet to finish outside the top 11 in his last 11 European starts in that city and has led after round one in four of his last starts in the DDC. He warmed up with a second place finish in Abu Dhabi behind Gary Stal.
While there’s not much juice left in the price Paddy Power are paying six places for the third time this year and the big hitters have taken the hint. McIlroy is 3/1 to win come Sunday morning or 14/1 to lead after every round and win outright in Dubai.
Solid start to the season, lots of positives to take from this week. Maybe one day I’ll get that elusive W in Abu Dhabi!!
— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) January 18, 2015
Emiliano Grillo was a close-up fourth behind Branden Grace in Qatar last weekend and boasts some solid course form at the Emirates GC. The Argentine was denied by back-to-back winner Stephen Gallacher (22/1) last term and at 35/1 is attracting each-way interest. Gallacher keeps his best for Dubai and his last four starts on the course have seen him post 10-2-1-1 finishes. His 2013 victory was his first win on Tour in nine years so this is the place to catch him.
Reigning Players champion Martin Kaymer (14/1) collapsed quicker than some cheap furniture in Abu Dhabi when blowing a 10-shot lead. But the German has posted three top five finishes in five appearances here and is normally a reliable front runner.
If Lee Westwood (20/1) can rescue his putting as well as a struggling swimmer in Barbados – his form figures of 2-15-2-5-/ give him a squeak.
Tiger Woods tees it up Stateside in the Phoenix Open for the first time since 2001 as he tries to get his career back on track. The former World No 1 who was plagued by injury last season is a very un-Tiger like 25/1 shot while Major-winner-in-waiting Jordan Spieth (16/1) – a TPC Scottsdale virgin – will taste the bear pit atmosphere of the noisiest hole in golf (the par 3 16th) for the first time.
The 21-year-old comes here on the back of two victories in the Australian Open and Hero World Challenge in Florida and could be the best player in the world not called McIlroy by the time the season ends.
Reigning Masters champ Bubba Watson is the 14/1 favourite in Arizona and will be pumped to make up for blowing it last year when bogeying two of his final three holes to gift Kevin Stadler the over-sized cheque by one shot.