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2008 US Open: Tournament preview - golf betting

The US Open tees off this Thursday from Torrey Pines in San Diego, and the second Major of the year has already provided something that golf betting hasn't witnessed for several seasons - bookmakers keen to take on world No 1 Tiger Woods.

Woods has been missing from competitive golf for just over two months following knee surgery, and that is enough for the layers to go 7/2 about his chances around a course that he has dominated throughout his career.

At any Major since 2005 Woods' price has been nearer to evens and the layers are taking a huge risk in believing that Woods will fare badly under the testing US Open conditions as he did after a break from the game in 2006 when he missed the cut - his first in Major tournaments after playing 39 successive weekends.

Woods has deliberately timed his return to play in this tournament on a course where he has won the Buick Invitational six times - the last four in successive seasons and he has previous form winning in his first tournament after surgery on the same knee in December 2002.

Despite not playing for two months, bar a corporate round of 18 where he went round in a buggy, Woods will want to mark his return with victory on the biggest stage and even though the course will play differently to the one he tamed in January when he won by eight strokes the facts remain that the world's No1 knows this course inside out and he will be the player to beat this week and at 7/2 is well worth backing.

Looking elsewhere there are key factors to bear in mind when deciding who will challenge. First off no European has won the event since Tony Jacklin in 1970, and there is no reason that will change this week. This is for one very good reason - US Open courses are set-up poorly for the typical European playing style.

At 7,643 yards it is long, the greens are very fast and playing conditions are hot and humid - conditions that you don't encounter on the European Tour that often. Of course Luke Donald has form at the course - he is twice a runner up at the venue and Colin Montgomerie has form at the US Open - he has finished second four times, but prices don't reflect their disadvantages and interest should lie elsewhere.

Phil Mickelson cannot be overlooked on his home course and he has been known to thrive in front of his home crowd. He has never won a US Open - finishing runner-up in the event four times - but he has won the Buick Invitational three times and had another six top eight finishes.

He is in good form having won the Colonial a few weeks ago courtesy of a last-hole birdie but his pairing on the first two days with Woods may work against him and at 8/1 he looks too skinny especially when you consider none of his victories at Torrey Pines have come since the course has been lengthend by 500 yards.

In the last four years the event has been won by players from the Southern hemisphere and this year could see a repeat as the course is most similar to courses that these players encounter in their home countries. Players like Retief Goosen (2004), Michael Campbell (2005), Geoff Ogilvy (2006) and Angel Cabrera (2007) are used to the conditions and have the temperament to accept that the US Open course will always punish any errant shots.

While Ogilvy should feature again two other Australians catch the eye as 80/1 each-way picks. First up Robert Allenby. He is in good touch having lost last week in the St Jude Classic in a play-off and he has the right attributes for the course.

He hits it long and straight (17th in Total Driving), is ranked first in Greens In Regulation and has course form at Torrey Pines. Allenby was ninth there in 2007 add to that his decent US Open pedigree, with a seventh at Shinnecock in 2004, a 12th at Bethpage in 2002 and a 16th at Winged Foot in 2006 and he looks primed for a big week.

His countryman Aaron Baddeley may not be as long off the tee but he has been in the top 30 for Driving Distance in his last three events. He made a valiant bid at US Open glory at Oakmont last year when leading by two shots going into the final round. Baddeley has plenty of experience of Torrey Pines having played five Buick Invitationals and his best finish came this year when tied 13th plus he's never missed the cut. Importantly he can have a very hot putter - essential this week - and he is curently top of the US Tour's Putting stats.

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