Bookies taking no chances with Tiger

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With four tournament victories to his name this season, Tiger Woods looks the obvious choice to win his 15th career major at next week’s US Open.

And bookies are taking no chances where the world number one is concerned, Ladbrokes installing him as 5/1 favourite to come out on top at Merion Golf Club.

However, Woods endured a disastrous weekend at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio last time out, posting a career-worst, nine-hole 44 during his third round before eventually finishing tied for 65th place, eight over par and given his short price punters might understandably be worried about which Tiger will turn up in Pennsylvania.

Rory McIlroy is next in the betting at 16/1 with Stan James to repeat 2011 success but the Northern Irishman also struggled in Ohio, where the consistent Matt Kuchar prevailed to send his US Open odds in to 25/1 at William Hill.

Also at 25s, this time courtesy of Skybet is USPGA champion Adam Scott but asking the Australian to clinch back-to-back majors is something of a tall order while Lee Westwood, who is still searching for his first, is 25/1 (BetVictor), a price that will attract support given that he has racked up a remarkable nine top 10 finishes in his last 14 majors.

Jack Nicklaus insists that the driver will come into play more than usual at Merion and that’s good news for both 2010 winner Graeme McDowell (33/1, Stan James) and Henrik Stenson given their accuracy this year with that club – Stenson also ranks highly in terms of ‘greens in regulation’ making him a lively outsider at 80/1 with Paddy Power.

A powerhouse with the driver, Dustin Johnson isn’t without appeal at 40/1 via bet365, the same firm also post an enticing 28/1 against Brandt Snedeker, sixth at the USPGA and another interesting each-way candidate is Australia’s Jason Day, chalked up by BetVictor at 40/1.

Tomorrow (Friday) Scotland head to Croatia for a World Cup qualifier but it’s something of a dead rubber for Gordon Strachan’s troops who can’t now make it to Brazil 2014.

Subsequently, they’re BetVictor’s 9/1 outsiders to emerge victorious while the hosts are just 4/11 (bet365) to pick up what for them is a crucial three points.

Joint leaders of Group A, Croatia are hard to oppose and they’re decent value at 20/21 via bet365 to prevail ‘to nil’ in Zagreb, where they’re an equally generous 21/20 in Stan James’s handicaps when kicking off a goal in arrears.

It should be a more comfortable evening for the Irish, who are 1/11 with Paddy Power to send the Faroe Islands home from Dublin empty-handed and BetVictor rate Giovanni Trapattoni’s team at 5/1 to strike twice without reply.

Elsewhere, a Belgian outfit packed with Premier League stars can pick up a crucial victory against Serbia, an outcome William Hill chalk up at 8/13, bet365 quote Italy at 11/10 to get the better of Czech Republic and on home soil Argentina (4/7, Skybet) should have too much for Colombia.

Despite losing the ODI series against New Zealand, England are still Skybet’s joint second favourites at 5/1 to win the ICC Champions Trophy.

Bet365 make the Black Caps 11/1 outsiders but it’s South Africa (4/1, Stan James) that head the betting and it’s easy to see why, although for punters seeking a bit of value, Pakistan are a touch overpriced at 8/1 via Paddy Power.

In the European U21 Championship, Stuart Pearce described England’s performance in defeat against Italy as ‘awful’ and he’ll be demanding an improvement in his side’s second group match, against Norway.

Paddy Power price the ‘Three Lions’ youngsters at 3/4 to bounce back from their reverse in Tel Aviv to pick up maximum points at the expense of the Norwegians, Skybet’s 4/1 outsiders and it’s 13/5 (Stan James) to finish all square in Petah Tikva.

That was the outcome in Norway’s first match, against hosts Israel and a repeat of the 2-2 scoreline from that one is an 18/1 shot at BetVictor. However, England can only improve after their dismal showing in their opener and they tempt at 12/5 courtesy of BetVictor to sneak it by a one-goal margin.

More specifically, bet365 post 7/1 against a 2-1 success for Pearce’s troops, who are 7/4 via Stan James to be in front at the end of each half while Wilfried Zaha, who sat out Wednesday’s defeat with a niggling injury, could return and Ladbrokes rate him at 6/1 to break the deadlock.

Bet of the week: Croatia (-1) to beat Scotland – 21/20 (Stan James)

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