A cracking field lines up at Sawgrass and Niall Lyons has some strong fancies.
One of the most pleasant viewing experiences is brought our way this week from Ponte Vedra Beach and the TPC at Sawgrass. This tournament always provides its fair share of drama and 2016 will be no different. A great spell of weather awaits for this years renewal and players will have little excuse to score well. Sawgrass presents many challenges to the players but undoubtedly the most important aspect to score around here is keeping the ball in play. Fairways are hard to hit and only those who can manage their way round will be able to tally a decent score. That isn't to say longer hitters can't do well around here as Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott have both won around here. Garcia, Kaymer, Kuchar, Love and Stenson are all considered more 'Open' championships contenders and it is those gritty golfers that we'll be looking at this week to lift that Waterford Crystal on Sunday evening.
Rory McIlroy once again arrives as a very uneasy favourite. It is no secret that Sawgrass does not suit his game however I would be surprised if he didn't oblige here at some stage in his career. Mickelson and Tiger did despite it not being their track either, so I fully expect Rory to do the same some year. Whether this is the year it all clicks together is questionable. His putting stroke still looks quite poor left hand below right and I believe the sooner he reverts to type the better. That will be hard to do though as it admits defeat. He came with a wet sail at Quail Hollow on Sunday, as he usually does only to come up a few shots shy. Why it takes until Sunday for his shackles to come off is anyone's guess. It is my personal opinion Rory is affected by outside influences too much and finds it hard to concentrate on course. It has been a disappointing period for the world's most gifted golfer but he'll come out of it at some stage no doubt. The 8/1 on offer could tempt a few but I'm happy to take him on with a host of other players in better form and better equipped to take this challenge on.
Where better to start but with our most recent winner on this column Branden Grace
. Earlier slightly more tastier prices about Branden have gone by the wayside but he remains the best betting prospect in the field. He followed his win at the Heritage with a top ten in Texas and I fully expect him to show his class at Sawgrass this week. Two modest made cuts from two visits to Ponte Vedra is enough to suggest he has the tools for this course. What was mighty impressive about his win around Heritage was his low stinger irons off the tee. With the course drying out at Sawgrass this should be his aim once again and if he takes this tactic to the tee I can't see him out of the top ten. His short game has improved dramatically and he is one who has perfected the claw grip on the putter. The way his game is right now he is made for Sawgrass so he has to be number one on everyone's list.
Brandon Grace - 2pts e/w @ 40/1Lost -4pts
is another who nearly obliged for us lately in New Orleans and coming to a track that really suits his wedge game he must be a play. I have been impressed with just how smoothly this lad is rolling his putter lately and with an upward trend of results lately could contend here once again. He lead here after 54 holes last year only to falter on the final day but with two top 15 finishes posted here in the last two years it shows he has the game to play here. I was a shade disappointed a few weeks back as I feel if he had got 72 holes in New Orleans he would've proven tough to beat. Such is life however we had to take the place and we move on in search of better opportunities. Plenty of these top players will struggle as it is a 'Marmite' week for many. Those with solid tee to green and wedge games will no doubt be licking their lips and Kirk is one of them. 80/1 is a fair price.
C.Kirk - 1pt e/w @ 80/1Lost -2pts
36 year old Sergio Garcia
is far from done winning big events and this as always represents one of his best chances of the year. I was very impressed by his performance at Valderrama when he finished 3rd. He wasn't firing on all cylinders that week yet still managed to contend on day four. He won here in 2008 and has had numerous other close calls, none more so than when he was beaten in a playoff here last year by Rickie Fowler. He absolutely loves Sawgrass and with sic top 15 finishes posted in his last ten events he comes here as one of the form golfers. As ever, his putting under pressure at the weekend here will tell the full story of whether the 30/1 on offer here is a value price. Considering his current and course form though he is one of the more likely contenders here so must be included in our staking plan.
S.Garcia - 1pt e/w @ 30/1Lost -2pts
is producing some of his best stuff for a long time and who could rule him out contending here once again. Just two missed cuts since the beginning of November is a huge plus for the former world number one and his wedge game could well be used to his advantage this week. He has played a lot of golf around Sawgrass and has posted 2nd, 4th and 6th placed finishes here at the 'fifth major'. He finished second to Branden Grace a few weeks back and faces a similar task here at Sawgrass. The same kind of game will apply as to what did at Harbour Town and Donald can not be ruled out. I certainly wasn't expecting to see prices of 125/1 so we'll definitely wade in.
L.Donald - 0.75pts e/w @ 125/1Lost -1.5pts
Another I'll take a very small chance on is Brooks Koepka
. I've been disappointed by this lads results lately and for somebody who I though would kick on quickly to become one of the worlds top ten golfers it has surprised me. We are entering his time of year however and with this weeks tournament as well as the majors to come we might see the best of him again. He posted a top 25 finish at the Masters a month ago which is his best result in a while. He usually leaves his best for the bigger tournaments. I mentioned earlier how 'Open' players seem to do well around here. He has a penchant for the more tougher course. I'll note some of his results. 2nd on the Dunhill LInks. 4th 2014 Us Open. 5th 2015 PGA Championship. 9th Dunhill Links. 10th 2015 British Open. Combine that with two prestigious wins in his short career so far this lad is going places. I also note that Phil, Scott, Garcia, and most recently Fowler have won this tournament relatively earlier on in their careers. Koepka is another who could fit into that bracket. He missed the cut last year on his first appearance and that is what holds me back from having a bigger bet. A spot of experience around here is always a positive note, however we'll have a speculative wager on the swash buckling yank.
B.Koepka - 0.5pts e/w @ 90/1Lost -1pts