Who could have predicted a month ago that Ernie would be chasing a remarkable hat-trick of victories, and challenging for second favouritism at the Masters? Full credit is due to the Big Easy, whose performances at Bay Hill and Doral were quite magnificent. A repeat would take the world of beating in any company, but I wonder whether the putter will be quite as hot on these different greens, and in any case, very few players win three on the spin.
Mickelson heads to Texas in urgent need of a confidence boost ahead of the Masters, after another very disappointing effort at Bay Hill. Redstone really should suit his game perfectly, even if he has missed the top 20 on both previous visits. I suspect his focus then was on the following week’s Major, whereas right now he must be desperate for a win.
The defending champion and in my view, the man to beat. Casey looks a massive runner every time he tees it up, finishing no worse than 11th on his last five starts. These long par-72s at Redstone and Augusta suggest April could be a very lucrative month. Nevertheless, the price isn’t that great and he is another who could be forgiven for thinking one week ahead.
Rather like Mickelson, Harrington’s previous failure to register a top 20 at Redstone may have owed something to the Irishman’s tendency to focus on the Majors more than the warm-ups. The difference between them is that Pod is in good form. He really should be desperate for a win, having drawn a blank since the 2008 USPGA.
Westwood is playing the best golf of his life, and must make any shortlist for both this week and next. He wasn’t beaten far in 11th last year, and will be hard to keep out of the frame if he gets the pace of these greens quickly.
Redstone looks another course that McIlroy will doubtless conquer in due course, as it plays to his long-game strengths. Right now though, the youngster is going through a sticky patch, particularly with the putter, which could prove costly here.
With the obvious exception of Els, 50 year-old Freddie is the form pick, following three consecutive victories against his fellow seniors, and a perfectly respectable top 15 on his last PGA Tour start. Furthermore, Couples has finished third and fourth in the last two Redstone renewals, so must be capable of breaking the age barrier.
After another top-three at Doral, his fourth in his last ten completed strokeplay events, Kuchar must rate one of the most improved players around. The only thing against him at Redstone could be a lack of power off the tee.
Obviously, the reigning Masters champion has the game to thrive at this Augusta replica. Unfortunately, he has nothing to offer in the way of recent form.
Donald remains in excellent form, but missed the cut on his only previous visit and is another who could be handicapped by a lack of power.
After his heroics at Doral, Schwartzel came back down to earth at Bay Hill. Nevertheless, the South African remains a player on the up, and he certainly has the long game to thrive on this track.
Prior to withdrawing from Bay Hill, Vijay looked to have his long game back, even if his putting remained an embarrassment. If he is to find his touch somewhere, Redstone is unlikely to be the place, given previous failures and a stated dislike of the greens.
Big-hitting Bubba was runner-up here in 2007, and warrants consideration after an excellent third in the WGC event at Doral. He looks a strong candidate for place markets, but is swiftly developing a reputation as a very poor finisher.
At 80/1, Fowler is definitely around the price level that interests me. This course should suit his attacking style, so long as he gets the pace of the greens.
It would take a huge leap of confidence to say O’Hern will ever win on the PGA Tour, given his catastrophic conversion ratio. Nevertheless, he’s in good form and having finished third last year, could be another Aussie to make his mark at Redstone.
2010 STATS: -65pts
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