Amongst all the various changes to tournament schedules on either side of the Atlantic over the last couple of years, the most inspired decision has been to move this fixture to the week preceding the US Masters. Because Redstone GC presents the same kind of rare tests players will encounter next week at Augusta, the result is always a field that almost has the feel of a major about it. Tiger Woods isn’t playing, but apart from him virtually all the other serious contenders are. Most notably Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington all line up at Redstone; in other words the players currently second through to fifth in next week’s betting. Redstone is a long course, with firm, fast-running fairways. The longest hitters will be driving the ball over 400 yards on some occasions, and so long as they’re straight, this is a significant advantage. Though there is some similarity with Augusta in this department, its the undulating greens that are all important as far as Masters preparations are concerned. At 13 on the stimpmeter, these are as fast as we see all year, and their tricky nature makes high quality approach play an absolute imperative. Firstly, I must deal with Mickelson’s chances as he bids for his third consecutive strokeplay title, and throw down the gauntlet to Woods in the process. In all honesty, I’m unlikely to ever advise a bet on Mickelson in single figures, no matter how obvious his chance. Our history is too deep for that. Whereas I’ve consistently made money opposing him in matchbets, (at the Open for example), he’s never won on the few occasions when I have supported him. To my mind, he’s just too unreliable, too flaky. Leaving that aside, I can’t pick holes in his chances at Redstone. He certainly has the ideal game; long off the tee, a high ball flight and he's arguably the best iron player of the last decade. All of which explains his awesome record at Augusta. The only real downside is that Mickelson may be in warm-up mode and lacking slightly in focus. A potential lack of focus should also be taken into account when assessing several other players’ chances. Not least Padraig Harrington, whose hopes of a third consecutive major increased with his best performance in ages at Bay Hill last week. Harrington has seemed disinterested outside the majors for a couple of years, and is hard to fancy at Redstone having missed the top-20 here from all three tries. Sergio Garcia could also be forgiven for aiming to peak next week. In his case, there must be huge doubts about his suitability on ultra-fast greens anyway. Of the main US Masters 2009 contenders, Geoff Ogilvy looks the likeliest winner in my view. Having won three times in four months, last time at the World Matchplay, Ogilvy could well land a second major title next week and must come into calculations now on a course where he was runner-up last year. My only quibble is the 14/1 price tag. I can’t help but feel this is an over-reaction to recent success, and that he doesn’t really deserve to be half the price of other world-class candidates. Its that thinking that informs my selections. Most of all with regard to ANTHONY KIM. Its only a few weeks since Kim was starting in single figures for decent events, yet a handful of poor results and he’s out to a massive 35/1. Of course we’re taking a gamble that Kim will return to his world-beating best, but the price allows such a risk. The interesting point for me is that Kim finished 5th here in his rookie season, in what was just his 12th start as a professional. The combination of long driving, a high ball flight and therefore ability to pepper these pins makes Kim a big danger around Redstone.
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