The tectonic plates in world golf appeared to be shifting over the weekend. While Rory McIlroy was coming of age at Quail Hollow, Tiger ignominiously missed the cut. Nobody would be stupid enough to write him off over the longer-term, but he has serious questions to answer at Sawgrass. It doesn’t bode well that this has always been one of his least favourite courses. Woods has only made four top tens in 12 attempts here, challenging seriously just twice, and not since 2001. He will need to markedly improve his accuracy off the tee to turn it around this week.
For the first time this decade, Mickelson is seriously challenging Tiger for favouritism. Rightly so, given that magnificent Masters performance, and a follow-up at Quail Hollow that was good enough to beat everyone bar McIlroy. Sawgrass will be wholly different, though. Mickelson has been wayward off the tee all season, even during those great performances, and a repeat would be disastrous around here. Indeed, that weakness has generally proved costly for Phil at Sawgrass, where he’s only made the top ten three times in 16 attempts.
Sunday’s wonderful 62 will live long in the memory, and will be recorded as the moment when one of the game’s legends truly ‘arrived’. Rory’s genius was of course no secret, even if there had been little hint of it in the preceding weeks. Such is the nature of youth, when inconsistency is easily forgiven. He’ll need to improve massively on last year’s missed cut, but right now the sky’s the limit.
Local favourite Furyk is a rock-solid candidate for an event he will surely win one day. He’s won twice this season, and has been placed in three of the last six Sawgrass renewals. His accurate game is perfect for this layout.
Another strong European candidate. Harrington has twice been runner-up here, and took the eye with a fast-finishing seventh at Quail Hollow. However, he is another who will need to be much more accurate off the tee than in recent starts to have any hope of challenging.