Driving distance is basically irrelevant here, as very short and very straight Fred Funk’s 2005 victory shows. Accuracy off the tee is essential, but the clearest statistical guide lies in the greens in regulation stats. There are only a handful of tournaments around the world each year where that statistic has a greater influence on scoring.
For two reasons, I feel its perfectly valid to pick more selections than the usual five. Firstly, there’s the fact that every selection is at least 33/1. Secondly, because of the event’s almost major status, several bookies are offering six places for each-way punters, including Stan James, Paddy Power and Boylesports. Normally, I like to pick the same number of selections as there are each-way places, therefore keeping the dream of a clean sweep theoretically alive. So for an outlay of just 15 points, I’m having six each-way picks, knowing that just one place will cover the whole stake.
Defending champion SERGIO GARCIA is recommended despite the absence of good recent form, because there are very few if any with a long game better equipped for this challenge. Last year’s victory was something of a breakthrough for Garcia, though it was hardly a surprise. The Spaniard had been runner-up to Mickelson a year earlier, and 4th back in 2002. His odds are a consequence of persistent, if wholly predictable, recent failures on courses with very fast greens. No doubt, his terrible putting weaknesses remain, but they will be much less of a disadvantage around this course, and his mindset may be transformed by the positive memories. Remember, it is only a few months since everyone with an opinion was pinpointing Garcia as the man to follow in 2009; and a potential threat to Tiger’s No.1 status.
Sawgrass would be the perfect consolation for Masters play-off loser KENNY PERRY, and there would surely be no more popular winner than the 48 year-old. Perry has shown his liking for this venue several times, including when basically a shadow of the world-class performer he has belatedly become, finishing 4th back in 1996 and 3rd in 2004. Last year, he was in the thick of it for three days before a disastrous final day 81 sent him down to 15th place. But as so many players will testify, that’s Sawgrass for you.