The golden Kyle
Can Kyle Stanley and Paul Lawrie make the Ryder Cup? Rob Lee looks at two comeback kings...
Last Updated: 08/02/12 3:25pm
Last week I wrote that Kyle Stanley would be able to bounce back from his horror final round at Torrey Pines.
But I didn't expect him to do it as quickly as that.
I drew comparisons with Rory McIlroy - who capitulated in last year's Masters and then went to the US Open and destroyed the rest of the field - but he had several weeks to get over his disappointment.
Stanley went out and put it right the very next week by winning the Phoenix Open, which is simply incredible. I was so pleased for him.
There's no doubt that he deserved to win the week before because his performance was so much stronger than everybody else's.
He was heartbroken, but responded with an outstanding effort last week. It proves that he is one of the best young players in America, if not the best.
He came back from eight-shots behind on the final day in Phoenix and the mentality is different when you're chasing. You just try to chuck in a low score and see what happens, but when you're out in front you're trying to calculate the best way to hold on to your lead.
There are all sorts of ways to win - and it probably is easier to win from behind than to hold everybody off - but that mustn't detract from a brilliant effort.
He's qualified for The Masters and he should have a very good game for Augusta. He putts well, he hits it for miles and he boasts a very good technique. You normally need to play that course a few times before you can win there, but I think he will revel in that environment.
He should be thinking about the Ryder Cup, too, and if he gets things right week by week then that could happen. You can't preoccupy yourself with trying to make the team, but if you practise hard and play well then the rewards will come.
He has a great chance.
I'll be in Dubai this week, but I will definitely be keeping a close eye on how Tiger Woods gets on at Pebble Beach.
He won the Chevron World Challenge in December and was third in Abu Dhabi, so he will turn up to the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am - an event he likes - in good spirits. This is his first PGA Tour event in some time and while he may not win, I expect him to play well again.
He's playing with Tony Romo in the pro-am, which is a pretty hot pairing of sporting personalities. There's no doubt that if you get a good partner in this sort of event then it can help you.
We saw that with D.A. Points last year, who won this tournament with film star Bill Murray on his bag. If you were looking for somebody to take your mind off what you were doing I think he'd be my number one choice in the world!
There's no doubt Murray contributed to the victory last year and rather than being a distraction, that aspect can sometimes help you to focus.
Meanwhile, I was out in Qatar to see Paul Lawrie win a really exciting tournament. It may have been reduced to 54 holes, but everyone knew that Sunday was the final round and it definitely had a climactic feel about it.
Personally, I thought Lawrie played some amazing golf and if he keeps playing like that then this could be the best year he's ever had (and we're talking about a former Open champion here).
I've never seen him swing the club better than he did last week and his putting was very tidy, too. All the components are there and if you win a big tournament this early in the season it gives you a fillip for the rest of the year.
What's there for him this year? The answer to that question is quite a lot. He now finds himself back in the top 50 in the world rankings and has a place in the Accenture Matchplay assured. If he can hang on in the top 50 he'll also get a place in The Masters.
He's one of those golfers who could win any tournament if things turn out right on a particular week and I don't see why he wouldn't be able to win a major again.
The Ryder Cup has to be a possibility as well. There's a long way to go in the race for qualification, but he's definitely in the shake-up. At this moment he has a wonderful chance to make the team.
I think he's right to play again this week and I'm sure he's looking at the Dubai Desert Classic as an opportunity to cement his position in the top 50 and qualify for The Masters. Why wouldn't he be thinking like that?
I will be in Dubai with the Sky Sports team to watch him, but I don't think you can look beyond Rory McIlroy, who has an unbelievable record there, winning in 2009 and finishing in the top 10 in each of the last two years.
He had a break last week and didn't get blustered around in the Qatar wind like some of his competitors, so that will help him. I would find it hard to back anybody but him.
Rob's Sky Bet Tips
Omega Dubai Desert Classic - I've got to back Rory McIlroy at 4/1 with Sky Bet, for the reasons outlined above, but I'm also looking out for Robert Rock, who is a 45/1 shot. He won in Abu Dhabi, took last week off to suck in his success, and now he will be ready to go out and have another good week. My money's on Rory and Rocky here!
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am - Kyle Stanley blew it last week, then came out and won. On that basis, I'm going to tip Spencer Levin, available at 35/1 with Sky Bet, who let it all slip away in Phoenix, but is looking to recover at the first attempt. Sometimes you look for patterns and he'll have looked at what happened to Stanley and seen what's possible. You've got to live the dream.