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Michael Taylor 2nd Dec 2009 - 20:18

Woods’ absence blows Chevron wide open

Tiger Woods car crash related absence from this week's Chevron World Challenge may have left his hordes of fans a little deflated but it's no such news for the rest of the 18 strong field.

The tournament, hosted by Tiger Woods, sees a selection of this year's most successful golfers aim to get their hands on a mammoth first place prize pot of $1.35 million and the favourite is one of our own, Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood.

It's hardly a surprise that Worksop born Westwood is drawing so much early attention after he imperiously strolled to victory, when it mattered, in last month's Dubai World Championship.

His manner of victory, a six shot champion carding a final round eight under par, blew away the best the European Tour could muster and most likely would have given the same treatment to his opposition here.

It was even more impressive given the pressure heaped on his shoulders in the knowledge that tournament victory ensured he topped the European money list for just the second time in his career.

There were no signs of anxiety though as he tore his way through a challenging, if not overly difficult course, and the best news for his backers here is that he seems to be in the form of his life.

If his putter stays hot, which has been one of his major issues over the years, then his starting price of 6/1 could be looking extremely short, even as early as the close of play on Thursday.

However, there are several superstars who are more than able to explode into action, including a very strong presence from the home country.

The most interesting prospect of the nine US contenders looks to be PGA Tour money list runner up Steve Stricker.

The 42-year-old Wisconsin native has undeniably enjoyed the finest year of his career which has included Crowne Invitational, John Deere and Deutsche Bank triumphs - not bad for a man who had just one other success in the past seven years.

The beautiful Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California would appear to favour Stricker's accurate game as well after he was narrowly edged into second place by a rejuvenated Vijay Singh in last year's edition of the Chevron.

It has always been said the key to Sherwood is keeping the ball on the fairways and, as Singh showed last year, it was four consistent rounds that gave him the most lucrative payout of his storied career.

Stricker's game is characterised by taking few risks and if he can hold it together round the greens then his 15/2 outright price is likely to keep you interested right down to the wire.

Finally, one of the outsiders I'll be keeping an eye out for is Justin Leonard at a massive looking 20/1.

The former British Open winner failed to register a Tour win this season but, nevertheless, he has regularly been found near the top of the leader board going into the final day.

He's another that thrives on pin-point accuracy and in a small field he could find that his regular game is good enough to see him hovering somewhere near the top of the pack - and at ¼ of the odds for the first three he definitely represents great each way value.



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