Woods and Johnson look World class
David John previews this week's World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual in California.
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The early money ahead of this week's World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual in California suggests punters are keeping it simple.
Defending champion Tiger Woods heads the betting as he seeks a sixth win in the event and the early 3/1 has evaporated, with him now trading at the time of writing no bigger than 11/4.
Woods and his golf foundation are heavily involved in promotion of the event so it is hardly surprising to see him bring his best game to the table for this limited field event year in and year out.
He did not participate in 2008 and 2009 and bar his T14 in 2005, Woods has yet to finish worse than second in nine other outings.
As has been highlighted on these pages in the past, supporting Tiger on courses or at events where he has thrived in the past at the very least gets you a decent run for your money and it is hard to avoid coming to a similar conclusion once more.
This was the event 12 months ago where Woods regained his winning touch after over two calendar years without a victory and it clearly provided the impetus for him to get his career back on track at regualr tour events in 2012.
So it was no shock to see him end that drought at Bay Hill in March and he then followed it with titles at Memorial and Congressional.
All three are at venues where he has posted multiple victories in the past so that returns us nicely back to the illustration about how Woods is at his very best where he can rekindle the positive memories from former glories - he just does it too often for it simply to be a pleasant coincidence.
Tiger has had a break since playing the CIMB Classic in Malaysia - where he finished with a closing 63 to claim a tie for fourth place - before being beaten by a shot in China by Rory McIlroy in an 18-hole exhibition.
He was a slightly bigger price here 12 months ago but probably had more to prove on that occasion, all things considered. He used that success to get back on track on the PGA Tour and I have a feeling he will be all out to end 2012 with yet more glory before setting his sights this time on next year's major championships.
The prize fund brings out the big names as they bid to boost the bank balance for a bit of pre-Christmas shopping and this year is no different with major heroes, Ryder Cuppers and tournament winners from the past season.
The pick of the prices in my mind looks to be Zach Johnson at 18/1, who was pipped at the post here in 2011 after being trumped by two late birdies from Woods having led going into the final round.
Johnson is an incredibly efficient player who continues to fly under the radar despite nine PGA Tour titles - including a major - to his name.
He has enjoyed another productive campaign with wins at Colonial and the John Deere Classic, while he boasts a very sound overall record at the Sherwood County Club.
He has done well here previously as his accurate driving can take advantage of the tight, tree-lined layout while at just over 7,000 yards, the Jack Nickalus-designed course places less emphasis on his lack of power from the tee.
We have not seen him in action competitvely since the McGladrey Classic towards the end of October, but he trod a similar path 12 months ago in terms of build up by doing some work with his club manufacturer and I don't think he will be found out in terms of sharpness.
I also get the distinct impression that Johnson will play to the final whistle here and as much as I admire the skills of a Bubba Watson or a Dustin Johnson, you wonder how much resolve they will show in an end-of-term outing if they start to get detached.
Graeme McDowell is the most recent example of a player finishing runner-up one year (2009) before taking the title next time and although home favourite Woods is very much the man to beat, I fully expect the unassuming Johnson to deliver another strong performance.