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PHIL MICKELSON

Media attention will doubtless centre on the world number two and his efforts to close the gap on Tiger. While Mickelson certainly finished 2009 in style, I rather doubt he’ll carry on where he left off in Shanghai, as all of his best Torrey Pines form came before it was toughened up. Mickelson’s trademark erratic long game is better suited to other venues, and the changes to the rules regarding groove faces may not help either. As good as he is, it may take a few weeks to adjust to getting less backspin than he’s used to out of the rough.
 
ROBERT ALLENBY

The formbook strongly points towards Allenby, whose relentless tee to green accuracy should also prove a considerable asset around Torrey Pines. Considering he played in pain after hurting his ankle pre-tournament, second place at the Sony Open was a quite remarkable effort. On the downside, Allenby’s event form is nothing special, with just one top-ten from five attempts.

HUNTER MAHAN

As a Californian known for his impressive long game, Mahan has all the credentials of a Torrey Pines champion. Its therefore hard to explain why he has yet to make a top ten in seven attempts here, though he did register a decent top-20 finish in the US Open here. There’s an element of guesswork about Mahan’s form on his seasonal debut, too.

ERNIE ELS

It’s make or break time for Ernie, who has altered his schedule to concentrate more on the PGA Tour. Either he is to re-establish himself as a world-class contender or be overtaken by a plethora of younger candidates. His long game still cuts the mustard, but his putting is a pale shadow of yesteryear and the less said about his bottle, the better. Els finished sixth on his sole previous attempt at this event, and also made the top 15 in the US Open here, so has some cause for encouragement.

NICK WATNEY

Seeing as Tiger defended this title so many times, Watney should have high hopes of repeating last year’s heroics. I’m expecting big things of Watney in 2010 as he clearly made strides last term, and doubt he’ll be far away on Sunday night.

OTHER CONTENDERS

RYAN MOORE

Five consecutive top tens confirm Moore as one of the rising stars of the PGA Tour. A second win looks imminent, but there must be some concern this week about his poor record to date on the South Course.

JOHN ROLLINS

Rollins should have won this title last year when blowing a big lead. That runners-up effort was his third top-eight finish at Torrey Pines, and a top ten last time out must bring him into the argument once again.

DUSTIN JOHNSON

Twice a PGA Tour winner already, Johnson is another rising star to follow in 2010. His extreme length off the tee would appear to aid his chances this week, though Johnson has yet to really make an impact on this course.

BUBBA WATSON

Comes here in form having finished runner-up last week, though must have regretted some of his shot choices after the event. Another huge-hitter, Bubba has already thrived at Torrey Pines, twice making the top seven.
 
BILL HAAS

Haas took several years to land last week’s maiden title, so it’s surely asking too much for consecutive wins. He’s made the top 30 on four of his five previous attempts here though, so could have place claims.
 
CHAD CAMPBELL

Classy, solid from tee to green and very much capable of going well on the basis of a recent top ten at Waialae. Campbell has yet to make any serious impact in this event, but did make the top 20 in the US Open at Torrey Pines.

JOHN SENDEN

This Australian is always worth considering on courses where greens in regulation is the most important stat. He’s twice made the top 15 here, and played fairly well on last week’s seasonal debut.

MARTIN LAIRD

At 80/1, bookies are still under-estimating this rapidly improving Scot. Laird’s recent fourth place at Kapalua suggested a second win could be around the corner, though in my view it is more likely to come on a target golf course.

RICKIE FOWLER

Having looked one of the game’s great young talents last autumn, Fowler’s first two efforts in 2010 have been something of a damp squib. It’s interesting to note that he made the cut in the US Open here as a teenager.

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