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Michael Taylor 8th Jun 2010 - 11:53

Back Mac for second PGA Tour triumph

All it took was one mind blowing round of golf to make Rory McIlroy a star across the Atlantic.

The 21-year-old Northern Irishman has been Europe's top youngster for the past few years, even managing to keep in contention in the season long Race to Dubai up until the final event in 2009.

Despite all his ability and great results across Europe, in the world of golf he was still a relative unknown - this changed in May though as he produced what will undoubtedly go down as the greatest round of the year on the final day of the Quail Hollow.

Even for someone of McIlroy's considerable talent, the fourth round, ten under par 62 he mastered that day was unbelievable as he went from narrowly avoiding the cut to runaway winner.

Now, alongside Rickie Fowler and Anthony Kim, McIlroy represents the future of golf and he'll feel confident of raising his profile even higher at this week's St Jude Classic in Memphis.

For a solo PGA Tour event winner he may appear a little short as a pre-tournament 14/1 shot however there's enough about the TPC at Southwind track to suggest he's up to the challenge.

Firstly, one of the prerequisites of Southwind is that you have to expect to scramble a fair amount throughout the week.

Good ball strikers are well rewarded but unless you can consistently get down in two when you've not hit the green in regulation then you're unlikely to be in the running.

McIlroy certainly fits this category with a game that ranks 18th in driving distance, 13th in GIR and 9th in scrambling on the European Tour - it seems he's got a little bit of everything the St. Jude track demands.

The one drawback, although one he's improving on as he gains more experience, is holding a round together when he starts badly, but you just have to trust he won't become flustered in what could be extremely muggy conditions.

And while Southwind can rank as one of the toughest non-major courses of the season it also can allow for some low scoring as Brian Gay showed last year with a magnificent five stroke margin of victory.

So even if McIlroy does struggle at times, don't lose faith. His ability to create birdie chances means that one poor round needn't rule him out of contention.

Away from the young Irishman you have to be looking at Ben Crane as another of the major contenders after the best (or at least most consistent) past month of his career.

Before this year's Farmers Crane had endured five long years of wilderness in which back problems and a title drought made him almost a forgotten man.

That couldn't be further from the truth in 2010 with a series of results singling him out as the form player at the moment.

In his past three events he can boast a worst finish of seventh at the Byron Nelson, while a third and a fourth at the Crowne Plaza and PLAYERS respectively saw him move up to 42 in the official golf world rankings.

The secret of his recent success isn't actually all that complex, it simply seems that he's executing better in all areas than what he's managed over the past few seasons.

The most encouraging stat is that he's ranked first in all-round play and it's hard to see how anything is going to drastically change this week given his often criticised slow methodical play.

He's a man that likes the heat of the southern USA states and he's never going to be rushed into crazy shots meaning punters can expect to see a scorecard with plenty of pars and extremely few bogies.

He may not be a glamourous pick, he is however too hard to ignore at 18/1 to win the tournament or 7/2 to place in the top five.

Finally, looking further down the betting, David Toms at 28/1 is worth paying attention to.

The 2001 PGA Championship winner hasn't exactly set the Tour alight this season having made the cut just two thirds of the time however his past form in Memphis makes him an interesting proposition.

He won the St. Jude in consecutive years in 2003 and 2004 while he also has a handful of top-10s on a track he considers one of his favourite.

Add into the equation he arrives at Southwind on the back of his best performance of the year (13th in the Crowne Plaza) then you can tell he may be on the up at the right time.


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