Has playing from the rough become too easy for elite players?

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(Top tips in capitals)

As mentioned above, the sponsors here have managed to prise some big names away from their main tours. Beside ERNIE ELS, Phil Mickelson, VIJAY SINGH, ADAM SCOTT, KJ CHOI, LEE WESTWOOD and Angel Cabrera head a stellar overseas contingent. With early morning coverage on Setanta, this promises to be the best event of the week.

The Asian contingent will surely be outclassed once again, and the likes of Michael Campbell, Nick O?Hern and Charles Howell look some way inferior too, so I?m concentrating purely on the market leaders. And the leading seven soon become six as I can?t have Mickelson at any price given the time of year, his very poor showing in Arizona two weeks back and his failure to win a tournament of any significance outside the US.

Of the remaining six top contenders, Cabrera is reluctantly excluded. The US Open champion has been in fine form lately, winning in Argentina over the weekend to follow on from success in the Grand Slam of Golf and defeat in the Wentworth final to Els. My only argument against him here is that has to adapt quickly to very conditions to those he?s just played in Argentina. And though he came 8th in this event in 2006, that was a full eight shots off the pace in a weaker line-up.

Scott aims for his third consecutive win in this event, having pipped Els last year and Westwood in 2005. On that basis, he probably should be shorter than 11/1 and must make the staking plan even though three-timers are extremely rare. Ernie will be very hard to beat if replicating his Wentworth form. He?s looked hungry again lately and very close to his best.

The best value probably lies though in each-way bets on Asian pair Singh and Choi, plus the well travelled Westwood. Given the fact they are in comfortable, ?home? conditions and their status in America, I?m surprised to see Singh and Choi at such big prices. Choi was right in the thick of the Fedex Cup race till the last, and while Vijay had a poor second half to the season, he managed to win the Korean Open a fortnight ago.

As for Westwood, he?s finished 2nd and 8th in the past two runnings of this event, but on neither occasion looked in anything approaching his current form. One of the most prolific winners in world golf, Lee used to rack up victories for fun in Asia around the turn of the century and looks bound to be involved once again.

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