Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy are all short priced favourites to win this week's three big golf tournaments - the Chevron World Challenge, the Nedbank Challenge and the Hong Kong Open.
In addition to the usual business of trying to find winners, this week's key question for punters could be 'When to get some sleep?!'. As the 2011 golfing season enters the final furlong, the world's best are scattered across every corner of the globe, with five tournaments in Hong Kong, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand and the USA. There might just be a couple of hours between 1600 and 1800GMT to get some shut-eye.
Another feature is short-priced favourites for events either lacking numbers, or strength in depth. Rory McIlroy starts the Hong Kong Open at just 5.8, Tiger Woods a paltry 4.5 for his own Chevron World Challenge, while Lee Westwood is a 4.7 chance to defend his Nedbank Challenge title. On the basis of a year that has seen an unpredecented number of shock winners, punters could be forgiven for simply deciding to lay them all. However after considering each case in detail, my conclusion is that while the first two indeed represent poor value, Westwood is blindingly obvious at Sun City.
In McIlroy's case, it seems that punters are increasingly willing to take almost any price. This trend started after he ran away with the US Open, and despite the fact he's only won a lower-grade Shanghai event since, backers remain undeterred. Don't get me wrong - Rory is special, and strongly fancied to become world number one at some stage. Nevertheless, one must at least demonstrate some kind of statistical justification for taking such short odds and in Rory's case, it just isn't there. In nearly three years since he won his maiden title, McIlroy has added just two further titles on the main tours. In any case, this opposition is hardly weak, with at least 30 realistic potential winners in the Hong Kong line-up.
In reality, only one player has ever been reliable at short odds in full-sized fields. The expectation that Woods is on his way back to something approaching that untouchable best must be the reason for this skinny quote. The argument that he's won his own tournament four times previously can only be of so much use, because he is hardly the same player nowadays.
And given that Tiger hasn't won anywhere since his career and personal life was derailed almost two years ago to the day, this might be the least deserving favourite's quote in the history of betting. Remember, Woods finished 128th on the 2011 PGA Money List. Apart from fellow struggler Paul Casey, the lowest placing of any of this week's 18 opponents was 53rd, and in that case, Jim Furyk just swept all before him at the Presidents Cup.
Granted, it would be churlish to not acknowledge that Tiger played better to finish third in the Australian Open, but I wouldn't get over-excited. Does anybody really think the old Tiger would have surrendered a halfway lead, on a championship course, to Greg Chalmers and John Senden? Of course not, he'd probably have won around The Lakes by half a dozen shots.
Having made these arguments about poor win ratios and failures to deliver over the weekend, readers could be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at my selection of Westwood, who hasn't won since May and is developing a reputation for blowing glorious weekend opportunities. However, in this case, the nature of the event and opposition make for a very different scenario. There are only 12 players in the Nedbank Challenge, nearly all of whom are significantly inferior or lacking any previous course form. Against that, Westwood's eight-shot victory last year sets a formidable benchmark.
It is hard to see many of these even getting in a blow. Sun City is a layout that takes a bit of learning, and the leaderboard tends be separated by big margins as the course takes its toll. It favours long, straight drivers who can make hay on the par-fives, which is perfect for Westwood, a regular contender here for more than a decade.
In contrast, principal rival Luke Donald never bettered fifth from his four tries, and may lack the power to succeed here. Martin Kaymer is making his Sun City debut, as are four other inferior candidates. Even home hero Charl Schwartzel has a relatively ordinary course record. In fact the only candidates with sound course credentials are Robert Karlsson and Darren Clarke, neither of whom have convinced at all in recent weeks. Value seekers might legitimately want to look at these outsiders, but should be very wary of taking on Westwood.