Webb Simpson can put match sharpness to use in the Hero World Challenge, where Ben Coley has three each-way selections.
Jon Rahm heads the betting for the Hero World Challenge as he looks for a third victory in succession, a fortnight on from his double-up in the Middle East.
The Spaniard defied a dogged Mike Lorenzo-Vera and a charging Tommy Fleetwood to land both the DP World Tour Championship and the season-long Race to Dubai, and having been at his dominant best in this a year ago, everything is in place for another big week.
This event, which begins on Wednesday to allow extra time for members of the US Presidents Cup side to adjust to Australian time, involves 18 elite players who will be looking to pile up the birdies in the Bahamas, with Albany the sort of course the modern golfer eats for breakfast.
Five par-fives add a dimension which players of Rahm's ilk absolutely love, and with Tony Finau on his heels last year, there's no question that those who get the ball out there are at a definite advantage.
The best starting point, however, is to look for match-sharp golfers. Every winner at this course had played somewhere during the previous three weeks, and just one champion since the turn of the decade has defied a four-week break - that being Zach Johnson in 2013.
With the likes of Patrick Cantlay (9/1) and Bryson DeChambeau (20/1) returning from nine weeks away, host Tiger Woods (10/1) and world number five Justin Thomas (7/1) not having been seen since the ZOZO Championship six weeks ago and Rickie Fowler (14/1) making his first start since August, there is a big chunk of this market taken up by players who could be caught cold.
That plays into the hands of Rahm, who has no distractions here, but 4/1 to beat 17 truly elite players is just about short enough and, despite reservations over his lack of punch, WEBB SIMPSON gets the headline vote.
On the one hand, a player who has won once in five years and who ranks among the shortest hitters in the field wouldn't appear a natural fit, but on the other, there's no denying Simpson arrives in peak condition following a runner-up finish two weeks ago.
Eager no doubt to underline just how valuable he could be at Royal Melbourne, he should turn up for this Albany debut raring to go and, for all that he concedes ground off the tee, his approach play and putting can make up the difference.
Simpson has dominated the par-fives over his two starts so far this season, and his stats from the 2019 campaign read well, too. He sits one place ahead of Rahm, level with Finau, and only a third of the field scored better on the longer holes. Pound-for-pound analysis tells you that his short-game keeps him in the conversation.
A lack of course experience isn't too much of a concern, because the equation here really isn't complicated. Rahm won convincingly on his debut at the course and Simpson, who was desperately unlucky not to oblige as favourite in the RSM Classic when losing a play-off, appears primed to go well.
Among the best correlating events is the Tournament of Champions, a limited-field shootout on a long, coastal track, and the former US Open winner has always played well there. Given his sharpness edge on so many of these, it would be disappointing were he not scoring well and while playing with DeChambeau in the first round might not be considered ideal, Simpson shot 67-66 alongside him in Las Vegas a couple of months ago.
Four of the five players who separate Simpson from Rahm are all begging to be opposed, with Xander Schauffele the obvious exception. Off for five weeks, the Californian was last seen pushing Rory McIlroy all the way in the HSBC Champions and this sort of event on this sort of course is ideal. If he can avoid casting an eye forward to his US team debut, he should go well.
With Fowler having withdrawn from the Mayakoba Classic having not yet recovered from illness, the state of his game is very hard to gauge whereas we know full well now that Justin Rose isn't at his best. The latter did talk more positively in Dubai last time, but he's been making far too many mistakes and closed out that event with back-to-back 73s.
Clearly, one or more of these players will defy concerns around their varied methods of preparation, but cases for most of them are hard to build and I'd much rather chance PATRICK REED at 20/1.
Though longer than Simpson, Reed is no bomber, and yet he's won at Doral and Augusta, two of the courses most suited to big-hitting, as well as Kapalua, home of the aforementioned Tournament of Champions.
Reed has gone well here, too, finishing runner-up on debut and fifth in 2017, and what's interesting about both those efforts is that they came a fortnight after his last competitive spin, in the DP World Tour Championship.
This isn't to suggest Dubai is a specifically worthwhile link, just that it's a very strong field and a prestigious title, meaning that those who then make the trip out to the Bahamas are cherry-ripe and ready to compete with the world's best. Last year, three players arrived with that event as their previous one, and among them were Rahm (1st) and Henrik Stenson (4th).
Contrastingly, Reed's two other appearances in this, in 2016 and 2018, saw him finish mid-pack following less suitable preparations. Last year, he actually led after the first round, but struggled on Friday as a long flight from Hong Kong caught up with him. In 2016, he'd been off for five weeks, and out of form when last seen.
While 28th in Dubai wasn't quite the result he was looking for, it did extend Reed's sequence of solid performance which dates back to the US Open - he's yet to finish worse than 36th in 17 events since the beginning of June. Before it, there were back-to-back rounds of 65 and he's clearly been keen to keep his eye in.
Coupled with an important victory in The Northern Trust, Reed's run has earned him a Presidents Cup pick from Tiger and he'll head to Australia with a point to prove once more, following his controversial remarks both during and after last year's Ryder Cup.
With his game in such obviously good shape and no problems with this course, Reed looks good value and is preferred to Finau, over whom there have to be serious form concerns after a missed cut in Mexico and a poor effort in China.
It had been my intention to go into battle with just those two, but after BUBBA WATSON played well enough in the HSBC Champions to confirm once again that he's always to be considered on Bubba courses, he has to go in the staking plan.
Watson has been far from his best this year but he's still bagged a couple of top-five finishes and a WGC top-10 and, as two wins in The Masters suggest, he's a golfer who comes alive when he returns to a track he knows he can dismantle.
Having won by three shots here in 2015, shot a second-round 63 en route to sixth as defending champion and then bagged three more sub-70 rounds last year, Albany is firmly in that category.
His form figures may not look pretty, but he played well for the first three rounds in Japan before sitting within hailing distance of the leaders throughout the week in China, and though the five-week break isn't ideal, this is one of the sport's most enigmatic players and we're compensated by the price.
Watson is also among the most devastating par-five players in the field, ranking second only to Thomas last season despite being below his best, and he was six-under for the longer holes at Sheshan.
I can see why any oddsmaker would be willing to take him on, but I can't for the life of me see any justification for Watson being bigger in the betting than Stenson or Jordan Spieth, and there's even a case he ought to be up alongside an out-of-sorts Finau.
At 45/1 in two places and 40/1 generally, in an event he's won before and with doubts around so many, he's must-bet material.
Posted at 1120 GMT on 03/12/19.
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