Trust in Dustin Johnson to make his mark in Mexico
RORY McIlroy makes his return to competitive golf this week, although judging by how much Donald Trump likes winning, the Holywood man probably had to work hard to claim the money on his much-publicised outing last week.
McIlroy has been out of action since sustaining a stress fracture to his ribs in South Africa six weeks ago, so the very fact he was able to join President Trump for a few holes is a positive sign.
That ‘friendly' game took place at Trump Doral in Florida, a venue which has hosted the last 10 renewals of the first World Golf Championship of the season, formerly known as the Cadillac.
However, Trump's outspoken views in the race for the White House saw the PGA Tour make the decision to find a new home for this week's event, ironically in Mexico.
McIlroy and the rest of the game's leading lights, other than the ill Jason Day, have made the journey to Club de Golf Chapultepec in the mountains outside Mexico City to contest the newly rebranded WGC-Mexico Championship.
Adam Scott is the defending champion after his success at Doral last year but that counts for very little as nobody in the 77-man field, aside from home hope Roberto Diaz, a 1000/1 rag, has any prior experience at the venue.
Naturally that makes things slightly harder to predict, although there are some clues to be taken from the layout of the course.
Chapultepec is a tree-lined, relatively narrow track which will play quite short by modern standards by virtue of the fact that the ball travels further at altitude.
With that in mind, the temptation is to think it provides a level playing field for everyone, but the fact there are two par-fives measuring over 600 yards and a number of par-fours that might be reachable off the tee suggests those with a bit of extra power will have an advantage.
The course should be perfect for a fully-fit McIlroy, one of the best drivers in the game, but after six weeks off it is unlikely he will be firing on all cylinders.
He is a 12/1 shot, and while the fact this is a 77-man event with no cut does afford him some time to find his game, those around him will be engaging in a shootout from the off on a course that will offer up birdie chances galore.
Dustin Johnson is just about the jolly at 7/1, with Jordan Spieth at eights, and it is hard to shake the feeling that the layers have got this one just about right.
With no course pedigree to fall back on, current form is the only real guide, especially that racked up in California over the past month, where poa annua putting surfaces were in play, as they are this week.
Spieth was hugely impressive in winning at Pebble Beach three weeks ago and deserves the utmost respect here, but I can't get away from Johnson, and would suggest the 7/1 is a bit on the big side.
The new world number one obliterated the field in the Genesis Open at Riviera the week before last, winning by five shots without ever really engaging top gear.
That was his fourth victory since last June, a run kicked off by his maiden Major success at the US Open.
Crucially with this week in mind, he came out a couple of weeks after that to make it two victories on the bounce by claiming the
WGC-Bridgestone, so DJ is not afraid to go back-to-back.
With McIlroy having fitness concerns, Johnson is the best player around by a distance at present, he's at the very peak of his powers and the fact he is second on the PGA Tour in driving distance and third for greens-in-regulation makes him a great fit.
If you're committing a large portion of your funds to a punt on the jolly, it makes a bit of sense to also look at those at bigger prices to provide your each-way runners.
My other three against the field are all big hitters who have shown form in California of late.
Burgeoning Spanish superstar Jon Rahm looks very appealing at 30/1 with Paddy Power, who will pay six places.
Rahm is going right to the top of the game, and has taken to the PGA Tour like a duck to water over the last nine months or so.
He claimed his first win at the Farmers Insurance Open at a very difficult venue, Torrey Pines, last month and backed that up with a good fifth at Pebble Beach.
Rested since then, Rahm will be fresh for his trip to Mexico, where his power-packed game should see him well in the mix.
Next up is Gary Woodland, who transferred his good California form over to Florida last week as he finished second to Rickie Fowler at the Honda Classic.
That was his second runners-up spot in the last five months, with the other coming at the OHL Classic in Mayakoba when the tour last visited Mexico.
Added to his share of fifth at Pebble Beach, the evidence all suggests a win is coming for the powerful Woodland, whose last success came at altitude, in Reno back in 2013.
That experience should stand him in good stead and he should be shorter than the 50/1 with Coral.
Finally, Thomas Pieters is worth an each-way flutter at 80/1, a price that is far too big.
The Belgian showed his appetite for the big occasion at last year's Ryder Cup and bounced back to that type of form with a second to Johnson at Riviera a fortnight ago.
He followed that with a missed cut in Florida last week but it might be a blessing in disguise as it will have let him get to Mexico earlier to get a look at a course which I feel will play to his strengths.
He's certainly worth an each-way bet at the 80s, and also at 40s to be top European.
Pieters followed DJ home at Riviera and the same thing could well happen in Mexico come Sunday.
Have a Punt
Dustin Johnson, WGC-Mexico Championship, 7/1 (Ladbrokes)
Jon Rahm, WGC-Mexico Championship, e/w, 30/1 (Paddy Power)
Gary Woodland, WGC-Mexico Championship, e/w, 50/1 (Coral)
Thomas Pieters, WGC-Mexico Championship, e/w, 70/1 (Sky Bet)
ONLY in the Rocky films do both boxers get floored at the same time but if there is any justice in the world David Haye and Tony Bellew will both be sparked out in their heavyweight clash on Saturday night.
The bad blood between the pair has spilled over on a number of occasions during the build-up to the clash, with punches thrown at an early press conference and insults flowing when they met again this week.
It is hard to know which of them is harder to like, although it should be quite easy to pick the winner come the weekend.
Former world heavyweight champion Haye has only fought three rounds in almost five years but he should be far too good for his opponent, who makes his debut in the top weight division.
Bellew has always been heavy-handed as a light-heavy and a cruiserweight and he has the capability of hurting Haye should he catch up with him, although that may be easier said than done.
Whatever the reasons for Haye's decision to come out of retirement, there is little doubt this fight has caught his full attention and he and trainer Shane McGuigan are supremely confident of getting the job done handily enough.
The bookies agree, with Haye as short as 7/1 in places and Bellew a 5/1 chance with Paddy Power.
And while there is no value at all in backing the favourite at those odds, the 9/4 offered by Paddy Power about him winning in the first three rounds does appeal.
Bellew has had a habit of getting floored early in fights in the past, notably by Ovill McKenzie, and while he has been able to recover most of the time, that might not be the case if he's on the end of a ‘Hayemaker'.
I'm taking Haye to get his man out of there sharpish and that 9/4 is a decent shout.
Have a Punt
David Haye to beat Tony Bellew in rounds 1-3, 9/4 (Paddy Power)