This week will almost certainly be the cheapest of the year for this column. Not only must we do without a European Tour event, but the Honda Classic represents one of the trickiest PGA Tour puzzles of the year to solve. Since the event moved to PGA National in 2007, results have strongly suggested this new venue is prone to upsets. The surest sign of a lottery is how crowded the leaderboard is. When a course represents a tough overall examination, the best tend to separate from the rest. When scores are very close, anyone can win with a hot streak on the greens, which makes for an tricky, albeit interesting, betting guide.
So it proved in 2007. That year saw a four-man play-off, with all four candidates starting the week at 100/1 or more. Moreover, a massive total of 19 players finished within five of the winning score. The 2008 winner, Ernie Els, would appear much less of an upset, but as I recall, he was badly out of form and widely unfancied going in. Again, the scoring was very close with 14 players within five shots of Els total, and numerous outsiders amongst them.
After his best effort to date of 2009, the defending champion would appear to hold at least as good a chance this time. Ernie claims to be working very hard to regain his form, and for the first three rounds at Dove Mountain looked back to somewhere near his best. However, one good week in his preferred format doesnt really amount to a comeback and Els was hardly impressive in defeat to Stewart Cink at the quarter-final stage. Seven days ago, 14/1 about Els in a PGA Tour event would have been a bad joke, so Im not going to over-react now.
Still, I prefer his chance to that of the favourite, Sergio Garcia. Not so much because of Garcias first-round exit in Arizona; hes never prospered in the WGC Matchplay anyway. Rather Sergio is hard to fancy because hes yet to fire on all cylinders this season, and still looks weak over those short putts. As he finished a distant 43rd last year, I see little reason to expect a turnaround this week.