It seems as if almost every golf punter, tipster and commentator has tipped 2014 to be a significant year in the career of Jason Day, and the emerging Aussie superstar has a golden opportunity to reward that faith in the first elite event of the season. Besides the pre-tournament second favourite, all of his three remaining rivals at the WGC-Accenture World Match Play begun the week at odds in excess of 100.099/1. That is good news for anyone who followed my advice earlier in the week to back Day at 20.019/1 and later at 9.89/1, (see below for updated instructions to take all the risk out of the latter position), but it would be wrong to take anything for granted today.
In an event like this, it is important to reconsider where the value lies each day, as the draw develops. So whilst Day has done nothing wrong and remains undoubtably the man to beat, he is now worth taking on. I'll explain more in the match previews below, but first to update the in-play portfolio. We've staked 24 units in total so far, with Day returning 78 if he wins. My plan therefore is to lay back the 24 units at 2.77/4, leaving a 'free bet' to win 13 units. As for the daily match bets, five winners from eight has accumulated nearly 12 units profit, so even after today's 10 unit stake, we'll be guaranteed a small profit here too.
Updated outright advice
*Only for those who've taken the earlier outright advice
Lay Jason Day 24u @ 2.77/4
Back Jason Day 8u @ 9.89/1
16u loss on Spieth, Dufner and Blixt
Back Rickie Fowler 4u @ 2.47/5 to beat Jason Day
Rickie Fowler started outsider to beat every one of Ian Poulter, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk, yet remains under-rated by the market here. It would be hard to envisage a harder draw and more impressive set of victims. By contrast, Day's easier route involved beating Thorbjorn Olesen, Billy Horschel, George Coetzee and an injured Louis Oosthuizen. None of those victories were easy by any means and I see little reason to believe he'll find Fowler straightforward either. In fact of the pair, I prefer Fowler's golf this week.
Make no mistake, there is nothing flukey about Fowler's progress. He's been a fine match player since his amateur days, revelling in the competitive atmosphere of head-to-head golf. He remains one of the hottest prospects in golf - perhaps the equal of Day over the long-term - and recent poor results have been the result of swing changes. On this week's evidence, those changes are beginning to bear fruit and we may well soon look back in wonder at his pre-tournament odds of 140.0139/1.
Back Victor Dubuisson 6u @ 1.774/5 to beat Ernie Els
If ever one needs an illustration of how 18-hole matchplay is golf's greatest leveller, point to last night's quarter-final between Ernie Els and Jordan Spieth. There was absolutely nothing in this week's form, or recent strokeplay evidence to give Els a chance, yet the Big Easy never trailed en route to a comfortable 3 & 2 victory. The dream therefore remains very much alive for my Find Me a 100 Winner column, with 14 units profit already bagged and plenty more up for grabs today. As with Day, however, I'm determined to put emotion aside and consider this match as a stand-alone betting heat.
On that basis, Dubuisson rates a very confident selection. It is certainly the case that Ernie's putting improved markedly last night and if it holds up again, he certainly has the matchplay experience to win against a debutant playing the biggest match of his career. That is a huge 'if', though, and the vast majority of his matches this week belonged in a much lower league than those involving Dubuisson.
For my money, the Frenchman has been this week's star player. He dominated Kevin Streelman and Peter Hanson in his first two matches in this tournament before sending two massive names packing, showing no sign of nerves or inexperience against either Bubba Watson or Graeme McDowell. On this evidence there is no weakness in the 23 year-old's game, for whom the sky is genuinely the limit.