Steve Bamford's tips for the Players Championship
After the wondrous theatre of Quail Hollow, we move onto the next fascinating instalment. Firstly congratulations to Rory McIlroy who blew everyone away with 36 holes of the best golf ever seen. I’d love to know what price he was Saturday morning to win the tournament – answers on a postcard and a couple of milk chocolate digestives to the first who posts an answer on our Facebook page!
The Quail plot was absolutely brilliant. Ex hero and now Tour Villain, Tiger Woods ultimately humiliated. Step forward new boy wonder young hero McIlroy. Talking of fantasy land we move onto TPC Sawgrass. It's an amazingly American piece of golf real estate. It's all that’s fantasy about the PGA Tour wrapped up with the 17th being the cherry on the cake. Look at the winners list and American’s ‘used’ to dominate; ‘outsiders’ took time to adapt to the Stadium nature of the whole pantomime. Then the Aussie PGA regulars started to get their heads around it closely followed by the Europeans. Everyone in the media will quite readily state it’s the '5th major’ and the whole tournament backs that up.
Pete Dye designed a course that favoured no particular type of player and Sawgrass aptly matches the brief. Accuracy off the tee is vital, but previous winners Stenson, Garcia, Lefty, Love III and Woods are all long-hitters. On the other hand when the wind blowed as it often does in Florida, Ames, Funk, Janzen and Leonard triumphed. With a relatively tepid forecast I can see longer players having a slight advantage, but class will eventually prevail.
Tiger Woods 3pts Win Best priced 8/1 RESULT: W/D
This is a complete first for me. I’ve NEVER tipped up Woods but knowing the man, 8/1 is just too much value. Okay Quail Hollow was an unmitigated disaster and his TPC Sawgrass history is relatively ordinary. However his Sawgrass scoring average is solid and his 8th place last season highlighted progress after a barren 2005 through 2009 period. Add to that a win, 2nd and in total 4 Top 10s on his resume. Not exactly bleak is it! . I’m also expecting the World Number 1 to pull out every stop to keep Mickelson in Number 2 spot this week. Predictor Model No 3
Ian Poulter 1pt EW Best priced 28/1 RESULT: Missed Cut
Unsurprisingly top players play well at the 5th major. Poulter for me sits in the category of potential major winner. 10th at The Masters after contending through 36 holes shows he now feels able to compete amongst the toughest fields. Florida based and according to his Twitter account he’s excited to play well this week. 2nd last year shows that he has a handle on the course and that’s backed up by a Players resume that’s extremely solid. I’m expecting a serious challenge, finding motivation from McIlroy’s win at Quail and his own WGC Matchplay victory.
Paul Casey 1pt EW Best priced 45/1 RESULT: Missed Cut
I love players who split the opinion of the bookie market makers. Step forward Paul Casey. As short as 33/1 with Ladbrokes, but 45/1 with 888 Sport. He was as short as 28/1 to win The Masters. A missed cut and a 22nd place later and he offers tons of value. 10th on debut here in 2004 was followed up by 14th here last year. 3 rounds of 69, 70 & 70 were ruined by a Saturday 76, but Casey proved he can play the course. Casey also finished 4th at the similarly tough PGA National in March so I like his chances this week.
Matt Kuchar 0.75 EW Best priced 75/1 RESULT: T13
I tipped Kuchar at Quail Hollow and true to form he missed the cut. But I’m sticking with the Floridian to go well at his local course. 4 Top 10s so far in 2010 have catapulted him onto the radar and a Top 35 World Ranking. A closing 68 in the final round last year took Kuchar into 14th place. On one of the PGA Tour’s toughest courses, I’m expecting a strong performance from the player who ranks No1 on Tour for All-Around Ranking. His track record of winning on Bermuda greens also excites. To complete my Players Championship tips I’m a player whose record around TPC Sawgrass doesn’t correlate with his price.
Kenny Perry 1.5 pts T10 @ 15/2 RESULT: T22
Kentuckian Perry appeals at this huge price. His TPC Sawgrass scoring average is strong and his natural shot shape and ball striking based game is ideal for this course set-up. Naturally the price is indicative of 2010 season so far, but form is temporary and class permanent. Working hard with his coach to increase body flexibility and improve consistency of his golf swing. An opening 66 at Quail last week was a season’s best and I like the 14 PGA Tour tournament winner this week. Predictor Model No 6.
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 21.30BST 4.5.10 but naturally subject to fluctuation.