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Michael Taylor 4th May 2010 - 10:17

Tiger can come roaring back at Sawgrass

Ever since Rory McIlroy's glorious final round 62 at this weekend's Quail Hollow comparisons have been made between the Irishman's rise to fame to that of Tiger Woods' back in 1996.

The young prodigies were both 20-years-old when claiming their maiden Tour wins; they both enjoyed rapid rises up the world rankings before their 21st birthdays and, most importantly, they both had fame, glory and success in abundance.

The big difference is, for Tiger Woods, it seems his best years are now in the past - or at least his woeful performance last week would suggest that.

He shot rounds of 74 and 79 to miss the cut by eight shots as he finished in a tie for 140th which represented his worst ever performance since turning professional.

The man widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time has major personal problems, big questions to answer in terms of his ability to rule golf and even the number one spot in the game, a position Tiger has dominated for over a decade, could slip away this week.

If big Phil Mickelson can claim this week's Players Championship and Tiger fails to finish in the top five then we'll be looking at a new world number one and a man who is improving every week at the minute.

This is the scenario that will be discussed from Kingdom come this week and we'll only get closure when the action starts on Thursday, however my guess is golf isn't quite done with the Tiger saga and he'll bounce back like never before on the fairways of Sawgrass.

Ironically even on top form The Players Championship hasn't generally been a happy hunting ground for Woods with his only victory at the event coming back in 2001.

The narrow fairways, unkempt marshland, devilishly place trees and tricky pot bunkers have flummoxed the very best players in the game for years, which goes some distance to showing why just four people have managed to claim two wins since the event moved to the TPC in 1977.

The most famous hole of all, the majestic island hole 17th, is where the cameras focus and it's also where the fearsome breeze is most evident with even a slight change in direction often resulting in disaster.

There is good news for Tiger backers though, aside from his unbelievable 7/1 outright price, and that is his early exit at the Quail Hollow allowed two extra, much needed days back on the training ground.

He started his practice regime at Sawgrass on Monday, probably at a similar time as McIlroy was downing an end of celebration Alka-Seltzer, and he looks more determined than ever to make news for the right reasons.

Bad performances don't linger in the memory of champions and until it's proved otherwise Woods is still the most complete champion in any sporting arena - after all you don't lose talent overnight.

One thing that you need to know though is that while I love Tiger at 7/1 this week I also love Mickelson at 8/1.

Lefty, the new (clean) face of golf never fully took advantage of his rival's absence from the sport, barely threatening the leaderboard for a period of months, but now he has returned this year's Masters winner has really kicked into gear.

He might not have had any answers to McIlroy's fireworks on Sunday however he still managed to grab a solo share of second place after four consecutive consistent rounds on one of the Tour's toughest tracks.

Now he makes the trip to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida full of confidence and you can guarantee the only thing raging through his mind is usurping Woods again, this time taking away the treasured world number one spot.

The prognosis is good as well after Mickelson blew away the opposition when claiming the unofficial fifth major back in 2007 and, let's face it, he has that look at the minute which tells you he could play right handed (as he did for one shot on the final day of the Quail Hollow) and still challenge.

Away from the two favourites I'm turning away McIlroy (16/1) on the basis I don't fully believe he will be fully focused on this event after his Sunday heroics, while Lee Westwood (20/1) was too patchy last week to take seriously.

However, once again I'm liking Anthony Kim, especially at 33/1.

Kim didn't do anything too special last week, he did however put together four solid rounds and will look back at how costly missed chances early on Thursday could have been.

Kim is accurate, a good scrambler and putts well - all of which are absolute necessities at Sawgrass - and unlike last season he's not hit-and-miss from week-to-week.

Even if he doesn't win the event, thanks to our special place-term offer of ¼ odds first SIX places he represents massive value for a man who is starting to become a permanent fixture at the top of the leaderboard.



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