Valero Texas OpenIt is the last week before the first major of the new season and the pressure is still firmly on Rory McIlroy. His decision to switch manufacturers and sign up to Nike was greeted with surprise by many and there is no doubt that the young Irishman has been struggling with his game. Perhaps relinquishing the world number one spot to his new stable mate Tiger Woods will act as a spur as he tries to get his game back on track in time for the Masters at Augusta.

 

The bookmakers seem to think he can and he is priced up as 9-1 favourite to win the Texas Open this week. The Oaks course should provide quite a stiff test and does not look the ideal venue for a golfer who is out of sorts. American golfers have dominated this event with Australia’s Adam Scott the only overseas player to break the trend since 1992.

 

The pick of the visitors this year could be England’s Ian Poulter who is looking to get the perfect lift ahead of the Masters. Last year he achieved a career-best seventh place at Augusta and I’m expecting him to show signs of his best form this week. He looks worth a bet at odds of around 25-1. The last two winners here have been Brendan Steele and Ben Curtis and neither player is without a chance this week. Justin Leonard won this tournament in successive years in 2001 and 2002 and Zach Johnson also won back-to-back Texas Opens in 2008 and 2009. With both Steele (50-1) and Curtis (90-1) available at huge odds, they are worth keeping on your side.

 

Finally, its seldom a bad idea to follow a golfer in form and Billy Horschel finished second in the Houston Open last week. Closing rounds of 67 and 66 left him only one shout out of the lead and 50-1 seems too good to ignore. With ¼ odds on the first five places, hopefully one of these should make the frame at rewarding odds.

Tipster’s Best Bets

Ian Poulter (25-1) bet365-sports-bet

Billy Horschel (50-1)bet365-sports-bet

Brendan Steele (50-1)bet365-sports-bet

Ben Curtis (90-1)bet365-sports-bet