The four major championships are complete and the Ryder Cup is now history. That leaves just six weeks left on the 2006 PGA TOUR calendar, and seven official events remaining.
The biggest of the seven may well be this weeks WGC-American Express Championship at The Grove outside of London. The tournament has a limited field, with players qualifying based on their world ranking and position on various money lists around the world.
But there are plenty of other golfing luminaries in attendance, vying for the $1.35 million first-place prize on the par-72, 7,170-yard venue.
Of course, chief among those competitors is Tiger Woods. And, for obvious reasons (if theyre not obvious, they soon will be), he leads our list of favorites this week.
Woods may have had his world-wide winning streak snapped in his first-round loss at the HSBC World Match Play Championship a couple of weeks ago, but the PGA TOUR streak still lives. He has won his last five starts on TOUR and is a good bet to make that six straight. Woods has won 11 individual World Golf Championship events in 21 tries, including four AmEx titles ' and, to boot, hes won this event on four different courses. Hes won at Valderrama in Spain; Mount Juliet in Ireland; Capital City Club near Atlanta; and last year at Harding Park in San Francisco. Playing for the first time at The Grove should offer little obstacle ' unless they make him partner up with another player and compete as a team. Woods has spent the last three weeks in Europe; he'd like to head home with some hardware.
There used to be a time when Els was routinely among the favorites to win any tournament. But that was before his knee injury last year. Els hasnt won on TOUR since this event in 2004, when he edged Thomas Bjorn by a stroke at Mount Juliet. This year has been quite a struggle for Big Easy. While he does have five top-10s on the PGA TOUR and two more this calendar year on the European Tour, he hasnt had that many chances to actually win. He lost to Woods in a playoff in Dubai and then fell to Adam Scott in a playoff a few weeks ago in Singapore. So why pick him to have a good showing this week? Just a hunch.
If were going with Els on a hunch, we might as well extend that to Goosen as well. Goosen, like his countryman, is winless around the world in 2006. And like Els, he hasnt been very competitive either. But, things have to get better at some point ' might as well be at this event.
Scotts win on the Asian Tour a few weeks ago was his first anywhere since that same event in 05. Surprisingly, his last TOUR win came in 04 at the Booz Allen. He doesnt have an exemplary record in stroke-play WGC events, with only one top-10 finish. That, however, came in his most recent WGC outing at the Bridgestone Invitational. Scott has played very well of late. He tied for third at the PGA Championship ' his best-ever finish in a major, before tying for 10th at Firestone. He also, as mentioned, defended his title in the Singapore Open.
Casey may well be worn out. His last two weeks have been exhaustive ' but theyve also been exceptional. The Englishman tore through everyone in his way en route to the World Match Play title. He then helped lead Europe to a Ryder Cup rout last week, making a hole-in-one along the way. If he has anything left in the tank, he has to be among the favorites at the moment.