Bob Hope Chrysler Classic preview: Is it really just the Phil and Justin show?
I suspect there’s a few people hoping Justin Rose puts me to the sword this week along with 127 of his fellow golfers at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. They probably won’t believe that I hope he does well. C’mon, he’s English. And I can still remember him wowing the world as an amateur long before Tadd Fujikawa put Michelle Wie to shame.
The market thinks he’s rarely had a better chance: second favourite when nine others are higher than him in the world rankings says so. There’s been a buzz about the newly married Rose (can’t think what happened to my invite) after he won the Australian Masters last month. He has form here: tied for 29th in his first outing two years ago and for tenth last year. But while my heart might be rooting for him and it’s a pretty easy field, until I see he’s “beaten the bottle” on the US circuit my head says no. In fact, after Luke Donald’s fadeaway last week my pocket’s steering clear of aspiring Englishmen for the moment. So that’s no to Ian Poulter too, although he has form here as well.
For the bookies, it’s fat Phil Mickelson versus the rest (although he actually opened a bit shorter last year). Only not so fat - our Phil’s been pumpin’ iron over the hols. Typical Lefty, he’s come bouncing out of his long winter hibernation full of how he’s been getting his game right. He’s been working hard on hitting more fairways - the big lesson he says he took from his US Open shambles. Oh, and this time he’s got a specially designed driver to correct his tendency to go left.
You just can’t keep a good Figjam down, certainly at the start of the season. He loves this event, has two victories already (tied for fifth last year), and he will be aware he has slipped down the rankings and Vijay Singh is climbing up. So I’m expecting a solid performance, especially since virtually all golf’s first division have passed this by - you have to go down to 31st in the world rankings to find his nearest rival, Chad Campbell.
As for the rest, has anyone got a pin? There’s only so much you can read from Hawaii because of its horrid winds and quirky greens. A breakdown of what it took to win here last year suggests getting on the greens in regulation and finishing the job in short order are the key ingredients. Unfortunately no one in the form book really has the combined stats to match. This is a particularly strange event - four different courses and, for the first four days, traipsing round being nice to amateurs who’ve paid thousands for the privilege and don’t see why they should rush the experience. I wish I kept stats for patience.
I can’t say there’s a lot of enthusiasm from Joe Punter either because there’s precious little money swilling about the markets. Maybe people have forgotten it starts a day early.
Still, here’s a few thoughts:
Chad Campbell: he managed to overcome disappointment in Hawaii to win last year, so you can’t rule him out of doing the same again.
Mike Weir: sharing fifth with Lefty last year was one of his better results in a poor season and he too is a past winner. The stats say no, although he says his swing has been revamped over the holiday.
John Senden: decent showings in Hawaii put him high up the performance charts and he too has some course form. One to watch.
Charles Howell III: bitter about throwing it away last week, but there’s no doubting the way his game has turned round, particularly his putting, so there’s every possibility of another strong showing. He was sixth the last time he played here in 2002.
Kirk Triplett: got his eye in at the Mercedes and has decent competition form.
Jesper Parnevik: another former winner (tied for second last year) who warmed up nicely at the Sony Open.
After that it’s anybody’s guess. But I will have a small speculative punt on Craig Kanada. His driving off the tee is a worry, but he’s one of the best for putting and GIR and to make tenth on his debut at the Sony was no mean achievement.
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