Sporting Sergio can pip Rory in Honda Classic
There’s little sentiment in sport these days and still less sportsmanship, so we can’t necessarily expect Sergio Garcia’s fine gesture at the Accenture World Match Play last week to be rewarded with a victory in the Honda Classic, which tees off in Florida on Thursday.
Coral rate the Spaniard a 20/1 chance to beat Rory McIlroy (8/1), Tiger Woods (9/1) and the rest and certainly he will be cheered along by those who saw his long-putt concession to Rickie Fowler after holding him up badly on the previous hole as a breath of fresh air.
Not everybody was comfortable with what Garcia did and we can be sure that he will not be popular with his Ryder Cup team-mates if he does something similar at Gleneagles next autumn. Typically, and disappointingly, his critics thought it was only okay if he went on to win, which he didn’t.
Anyway, Garcia is playing well enough in general to warrant serious consideration this weekend. Europeans have a good record in this event in recent years and this brilliant ball-striker is very much one of the form horses after a victory in Qatar last month took him back into the world’s top 10.
Woods, Adam Scott (18/1) and Phil Mickelson (25/1) are welcomed back to the tour after skipping the World Match Play, but there are some notable absentees, notably Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson, who fought out such a memorable final duel in the Arizona desert.
Incidentally, Day is now up to fourth in the world and will be fancying his chances of winning the US Masters in April (16/1 with Coral) after going so close twice in the past three years.
Frenchman Dubuisson, meanwhile, is the new sensation on both sides of the Atlantic following his great escape acts. Already almost guaranteed an automatic Ryder Cup spot, the Americans can’t wait to see him in action again – he’s 80/1 for the Masters.
Graeme McDowell (20/1) also performed miracles last week until finally being taken out by Dubuisson and has a good record in the Honda Classic, as does South African Charl Schwartzel (18/1). The Ulsterman excels at the really tough courses and there are few tougher than the PGA National, which features ‘The Bear Trap’, a murderous stretch of holes towards the end of the back nine.
But I think we can expect to see McIlroy up there again. Successful in 2012, he threw a wobbler last year in the second round when everything was going wrong for him and stormed off the course, but he’s in much better form now and ready to win big tournaments again.