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Michael Taylor 2nd Mar 2010 - 17:37

Yang to return to the Honda Classic with a bang

After a majestic back nine in last week's Waste Management Phoenix Open it seems YE Yang could be on course to become the latest return champion on the PGA Tour in The Honda Classic.

The 2009 PGA Champion shot to prominence in last year's running of The Honda Classic, managing to find his best form to land his first title on the Tour since joining in 2008.

Since then it has been onwards and upwards for the classy South Korean with top-10 finishes coming thick and fast, a new elevated world ranking of 27 and, of course, his unbelievable performance in usurping Tiger Woods at Hazeltine in August.

Not only is he now one of Asia's most recognisable faces, he's also showing the potential to be a big force to reckon with in the coming years - and no more should this be in evidence than at the PGA National Resort this week.

While not perfectly tailored to Yang's good all-round game the Champion Course does offer plenty for the defending champion especially if he can strike the ball as well as he did on Sunday.

Unlike with many of the Tour schedule courses the predominant plan for all competitors at Palm Beach is to, first and foremost, make par, with the greens playing amongst the toughest around.

Yang knows better than anyone after shooting the lowest aggregate four-round score since the 2007 renovation that a hot putter isn't what wins this championship, rather it keeps you in with a fighting shout.

Much more important for success is ball striking, with the emphasis being on accuracy rather than length. It's a track riddled with potential hazards so look towards those with a wise head rather than massive range to battle it out at the top of the leaderboard.

Most excitingly for spectators and worryingly for punters is that when things start heating up on Sunday afternoon all competitors can expect to find a final eight holes that offer very little solace with some horrendous pin placements.

With this in mind, anybody known for a late wobble would be very wisely ignored in the betting, but as we saw at Hazeltine Yang is quite the opposite making his 28/1 outright price just too good to miss.

In a similar vein to Yang is Honda Classic debutant Tim Clark.

What the South African lacks in course knowledge he should make up for in accuracy and tactics with the key stat being a ranking of fifth in fairways hit.

Yang's consistency won through last year as he dropped just five shots en route to the victory and that's a trait anybody familiar with Clark would see in abundance.

He's played five tournaments this season making the cut in all five and found himself in the top ten on three occasions - not bad for a man priced at a generous 40/1 in the betting.

Fair enough he's never landed a Tour win but he seems to be getting better and better so surely he'll break his duck soon. Could it be this week?

Elsewhere in the field you should be expecting a strong challenge from the Europeans.

Rory McIlroy (16/1) will be hoping to go one better than his young American rival Rickie Fowler's second in the Phoenix Open while Race to Dubai winner Lee Westwood (25/1) aims for a first win since his Dubai World Championship romp in November.

The best of the bunch for me though looks to be world number six Paul Casey who's coming off yet another second place finish in the Accenture Match Play Championship (his final opponent Ian Poulter doesn't play this week).

For years Paul Casey has had the talent to be a major player on the PGA Tour so it's nice to see the Cheltenham player finally leaving a big impression and he'll feel confident of claiming a second Tour title this week.

His obvious strength is hitting greens in regulation (first overall) so if he can just find a few extra fairways beforehand then he should have as good a chance as anyone, and he'll certainly prove to be value at 18/1.



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