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The last men standing are likely to be the ones who can shoot straightest; Jeremy Chapman is looking for accuracy at Sawgrass.

Byline: Jeremy Chapman

KEEP it short when you're searching for the winner of the Players Championship at Sawgrass this week.

Short hitters do very well on this Pete Dye layout which isn't loved by everybody despite its dramatic, water-strewn final three holes, so thrilling for spectators but so often a nightmare for golfers in contention, particularly when it blows.

Tim Clark's victory last year, his first in the States, confirmed that it is accuracy, not power that counts and that the two stats to pay attention to are driving accuracy and greens in regulation.

At 188th out of 192 on the long-driving table, tiny Tim's 272 yards is chicken feed compared with bombers like Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson.

Even more dwarfed was oldtimer Fred Funk in 2005. He captured the biggest prize of his career at Sawgrass with 270-yard drives which earned him only 197th spot (out of 202) in the power league.

And although the Jacksonville course is 350 yards longer than when Calvin Peete, with his warped arm, won in 1985, he could hit a golf ball barely 250 yards. But he hit more than 80 per cent of fairways.

So although there is nothing exciting about Ben Crane's form in 2011, he's my idea of a cracking each-way bet at 33-1 even with Tiger Woods, Mickelson and the super-consistent Luke Donald in the line-up.

Despite recording nothing better than a sixth at The Heritage this campaign among half a dozen top-25 finishes, 35-year-old Crane stands a lofty 12th on both the key stats and has a blinding recent Sawgrass record - fourth, fifth and sixth the last three years.

At only 125th on the longdriving table, the man from Oregon, still one of the slowest players on the circuit, fits perfectly into my Identikit picture of a Sawgrass winner.

That's not to say that long hitters have not won there. Of course they have, but Woods and Lefty have done so only once, Tiger not for ten years, and only at the peak of their powers which they are not necessarily at now, while other power men like Adam Scott and Fred Couples had others strings to their bow than power.

To follow home baldy Ben, you could do far worse than Mr Consistency himself Matt Kuchar, also high on the relevant stats (13th and 17th) and with a raft of high finishes (six topeights from ten 2011 starts and 82 under par for 37 rounds). He doesn't win often, though.

Surprisingly, Donald is not high on driving accuracy or greensin-regulation. His skills are all in his short game, pitching, bunker play, putting. That's why he's No. 1 on the scoring averages and, with his new-found confidence, well capable of stepping upon his second place to Funk six years ago.

And if 49-year-old Funk can do it, so too can 46-year-old Scott Verplank and 44-year-old David Toms. Both are in belting form, especially Verplank, who was runner-up to Mickelson at Houston and ninth last time out. Scotty has the superior Sawgrass record - joint second with Donald in 2005, 13th last year - and probably the calmer nerve on Sundays. But Toms's accuracy and GIR stats are top-class, third for driving accuracy, fifth in greens hit in regulation. Take your pick.

Recommendations B Crane 2pts each-way 35-1 Stan James M Kuchar 1pt each-way 33-1 Stan James L Donald 1pt each-way 16-1 Bet365, Boyles, Paddy Power, Stan James S Verplank 1pt each-way 100-1 Paddy Power

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Ben Crane has a decent Sawgrass record
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 11, 2011
Words:584
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