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Nic Ladds 15th Jun 2009 - 9:58

10/1 Mickelson has tools to crack notorious Bethpage

There are few things in sport that raise the blood pressure of a bookmaker quite like the sight of an in-form Tiger Woods and that's why the great man is 7/4 with William Hill to defend his US Open crown at Bethpage Park this week.

Anyone who witnessed Woods' extraordinary finish at the Memorial a fortnight ago where he birdied holes 71 and 72 to eclipse Jim Furyk (20/1 US Open odds) can be left in little doubt that this owner of 14 Majors is back to his very best.

Furyk summed up the mood when speaking to the media after the event.

"I wish you guys would just shut up and stop annoying him," he said referring to the fact that some sections of the golfing media cast doubts on Woods´continuing greatness because of last year's knee surgery.

There's certainly no doubt, that 7/4 is sure to take some hammer and who could put you off when you consider what happened the last time the US Open was played on Bethpage Park's ominous sounding Black Course?

Woods was the only man to shoot under par in 2002, finishing three shots ahead of Phil Mickelson, on a par 70, 7,445 yard track that is designed to break men's hearts never mind scorecards.

As well as eye-watering length the New York course - which is actually a municipal if us mortals ever fancy 18 holes when in the Big Apple - is heavily bunkered, has narrow fairways, has four inch rough and will have lightning fast greens that will measure 13 on the stipmeter. That's faster than Augusta.

So punters can forget all about unearthing a 150/1 winner this week because it will be a shock of titanic proportions if the winner doesn't come from inside the top half dozen players in the outright betting.

Of those at the top of Hills´ outright market I like the chances and price of 10/1 Mickelson most who showed in 2002 that he has the tools to get around Bethpage when matching par in two rounds and shooting a sensational 67 on Saturday.

I believe that seven years on Mickelson is a far improved player than then and if he can put that into practice this week he can close that three shot gap that did for him in 2002.

As ever William Hill are offering a raft of golf markets for this year's renewal such as Top GB and Ireland winner, Top Continental European player, Winning Nationality, Top 10 finish, Top 5 finish, Play-off to decide winner, 1st round leader, 2nd round leader, 3rd round leader, Top Rest of the World player, Top Scandinavian player, Top North American player without Woods to name but a few.

There are a few bets that really stand out in those markets.

In the Top GB and Ireland market it is interesting to see 5/1 Padraig Harrington behind Paul Casey 10/3 and Rory McIlroy 7/2 in the betting.

Harrington likes this course, he finished tied 8th in 2002, and has a short game that is some distance ahead of the two market leaders who get their first competitive look at the course this week.

The Dubliner of course holds three Majors, will Casey ever win one (!?), and his odds of 7/1 to make a Top 5 finish also appeal given his ability to grind out good scores on the toughest examinations.

The improving fortunes of Steve Stricker (33/1 outright) over the past three seasons (voted PGA comeback player in 2006 and 2007) have caught the eye of many a shrewd golf punter and he is another who could reward backers in the Top North American player without Woods market.

With his form totally out of touch the Wisconsin man finished tied 16th here in 2002 and that has to be a huge positive given that his game now is in a totally different stratosphere. He's 12/1 to finish Top North American player without Woods and that's well worth a look.

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