Luck of the Irish at Players?
Right country, wrong Aussie. In missing a third consecutive cut with Adam Scott at Bay Hill, I'm taking solace in knowing that at least I got the hemisphere correct. Besides, if you had Rod Pampling over Greg Owen, I'll be happy to rent you this space for the next couple of weeks.
Time to get serious. The reason the Players Championship is moving to May is to get the TPC at Sawgrass at its premium, Pete Dye-intended state: firm and bouncy so errant drives scamper into trouble. So go figure -- a dry north Florida winter should have it playing that way this week. It's a whole different ballgame at Sawgrass if you have to drive it straight.
I'm going with Padraig Harrington, the runner-up in 2003 and 2004 (he finished T-63 last year). Firm and fast should mean tougher scoring, and Harrington is a grinder. In fact, he leads the PGA Tour in scrambling, a skill that should come in handy if Sawgrass' greens are difficult to hold. He's tough and heady, and he's driving the ball better this year than ever before -- plenty long enough to give himself ample scoring opportunities.
I think Harrington is on the verge of big things. The death of his father last summer was obviously an emotional hardship, but he played hard and finished 14th on the U.S. money list despite missing the cut at the three majors he played. The Irishman won twice here last year. I like him to pick up his first in '06 this week.
John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine