The golf season may be winding down somewhat following the conclusion of the FedEx Cup last week, but the European Tour chugs on in fine style with the long-awaited return of the British Masters.
This tournament has been absent from the tour for seven years, but with Sky Sports back on board and a charismatic host in Ian Poulter, this year’s event looks set to be a fantastic affair for spectators and punters alike.
A high class field will assemble at Woburn on Thursday, and whilst the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose are notable absentees there should still be plenty of top golf to savour; a field containing five major winners, two former world number ones and 22 former Ryder Cup stars can’t be bad after all.
The Woburn course, which is as quintessentially an English course as you could ever wish to see with its tall tree-lined fairways, hosted this event back in 2002 when Rose held off a late challenge from Poulter in a thrilling finale to lift the trophy. These 18 holes look eerily similar to those at Wentworth, and with that course still very much part of Tour life this gives us a great bit of insight when considering the possible title challengers here this weekend.
Shane Lowry (16/1)
You might find 16/1 quite a short price for a favourite in a field of 150+ players, but in Shane Lowry’s case it is fully justified. Having won the Bridgestone Invitational at Wentworth as recently as August, you know that this is a player licking his lips in anticipation at getting stuck in here.
There was a bit of a hangover for the Irishman following that famous victory, but a top 20 placing at the Dunhill Links Championship last week – despite a horrific first round showing – suggests that Lowry is heading in the right direction.
All in all, the world number 21 has finished in the top six of three of his five starts at Wentworth, and in a field shorn of talents from around the globe it is Lowry who looks the standout contender.
Chris Wood (33/1)
This is a player that boasts the two qualities that all golf punters look out for: good form and decent course history. Okay, so Chris Wood hasn’t played much at Woburn in his short career to date, but he has an impressive record at the replicable Wentworth – finishing in fourth place there at the BMW Championship in May.
Form wise, a top five placing at last week’s Dunhill Links – where he fired two glorious rounds of 65 – suggests that Wood is a man at the peak of his powers, and indeed a half-dozen of top five placings in 2015, including victory at the Lyoness Open in June, back that notion up.
The 28-year-old’s driving accuracy is up to 64% on the European Tour – a fairly handsome figure, and that should stand him in good stead here. At this price we can back him each way (most bookies will pay for a top six finish in the e/w stakes) and still enjoy a decent return.
Paul Dunne (66/1)
Whilst still being something of an unknown quantity, Paul Dunne has stood out as one of the finest players around in recent weeks after an incredible season on the amateur circuit. He turned pro just a fortnight ago, and celebrated his new found status with a top 20 finish at the Dunhill Links.
Even more impressively, the Irishman absolutely tamed this very course not once but twice (in 2014 and earlier this year) during the Woburn Open’s qualifying events, and as previously mentioned a combination of good form and course history tends to be a winning one.
Make no mistake, Dunne is a tournament outsider – but at this price, he’s a damn exciting one.