Last year's Wachovia Championship featured one of the more interesting playoffs in recent years: Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh, who won on the fourth extra hole after Furyk drove his ball into a creek. The tournament was memorable for the six-stroke lead Garcia frittered away Sunday, but the fact that three premium players with varying skill sets finished together atop the leaderboard speaks volumes about Quail Hollow CC.
Why is Quail Hollow so good? Because it's tough to score on but fun to play, appealing to the eye and fair to players of all styles. You definitely have to drive the ball well to factor, which is why I like Garcia not only to contend again but to finish the job.
Go ahead, call me crazy. His putting problems have been thoroughly documented -- no one has cost himself more chances to win from inside eight feet. His upside, however, is obvious. Five of Garcia's six tour victories have come in May or June. And although he has driven the ball poorly in 2006 -- he ranks 124th in distance, 76th in accuracy -- it's too early in the year to draw conclusions.
Oh, and one other thing -- Tiger Woods isn't around. Garcia seems to play with a lot more composure and confidence when Tiger isn't in the field. With Woods out indefinitely to spend time with his ailing father, I won't be surprised if Garcia discovers a cure to his putting woes and begins performing with the consistency we've long expected.
John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine.