#2
I think he's lightly Palm Muting the strings to stop any notes he doesnt want ringing, because at grade 8 its got to be perfect and any notes that ring too long etc will be penalized. Yes you can flip things round a bit as it states ( if your using RockSchool ) in the book that the tablature markings are only a guide.
Why not change it a bit? A bit of originality never hurt anyone.