DP World Tour Championship 2014

160257_m16

Prize Fund: $8,000,000

Winner’s Share: $985,476

Course: Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates (Par 72 – 7,675 yards)

So here we are then.  The end of another season on the European Tour and what a 2014 it’s been.  We’ve said goodbye to the lads across the pond and now the boys in Europe will have their farewell bid at one of the biggest tournaments in the calendar.  It’s been a rollercoaster ride for us with a ridiculous amount of near misses, final day bottles mixed in with some healthy wins.

We all have one last chance to secure fantasy points, a cheeky pay day and enjoy the best the roster has to offer.  And the best it will be.  Rory McIlroy has confirmed he is teeing it up this week and will clearly head the betting in his own group we like to call ‘the unbackable ultras.’  His appearance is great for T.V viewing and we will all enjoy seeing where his game and mentality is in what will be a pretty pointless tournament.

Harsh words maybe, but let’s be honest, the overall Race To Dubai winner cannot be caught and his bonus pool money of around 2 million has already been pocketed.  McIlroy will be playing with the freedom knowing he is the winner even though he hasn’t played in any of the 3 previous ‘Final Series’ events.  Now, we have to say that of all the players at the top of the rankings, the Northern Irishman certainly deserves the crown.  He has won 2 majors, the WGC Bridgestone and the flagship BMW PGA Championship.  Those are 4 massive tournaments, so you cannot begrudge the win, BUT doesn’t it completely make the whole thing pretty pointless when he hasn’t had to play at all in the ‘crucial’ Final Series?

We had plenty of controversy last year with Charl Schwartzel threatening to quit the European Tour after not being allowed to play in the final event having failed to compete in 2 of the 3 before.  We will all remember the farce surrounding Joost Luiten who infamously teed it up on the first and promptly withdrew in order to have played the required amount of events.  So, in light of that, is this the logical answer?  Is this the way forward for the Tour, trying to emulate a very successful FedEx Cup?  For us, no, it’s just become even more pointless and ludicrous than before.

BUT moving on before we bore you with our thoughts and become liable for god knows what, let’s have a look at the reason we’re all here.  To win ourselves some money!

The field is obviously strong yet limited, therefore it isn’t the easiest to get value, but looking at the course, it will take a specific type of player.  The Earth Course is 1 of 4 at the Jumeirah Golf Estates and designed by Vijay Singh.  It is an absolute monster at 7,675 yards and the par 72 will provide an interesting test.  It may not be the most difficult of courses, because there are plenty of birdie opportunities throughout the 18, but there are water hazards everywhere that can defend the forthcoming attacks.

A spectacular aerial shot of the Earth Course

A spectacular aerial shot of the Earth Course

The fairways aren’t particularly narrow, so you will see bombers flexing their arms and you cannot help but think they will have a great say.  When you look at the previous winners here, they can all hit the ball a long way.  Henrik Stenson (2013), Rory McIlroy (2012), Alvaro Quiros (2011), Robbie Karlsson (2010) and Lee Westwood in 2009.

They were all spanking the ball during the victory, but interesting when you combine them with the top 10-15 everyone seemed to be hitting their GIR consistently as well.  It is a vital tool to find your birdies, so if you are long and a good iron player, you’ll have every chance.  Just look at those 5 names above – long and outstanding with  an iron.

We hope we’ve found good value and we’re all crossing our fingers for one final payday extravaganza!

Victor Dubuisson (18/1 various)

What a man, what a beard, what a hair piece and yes what a golfer

What a man, what a beard, what a hair piece and yes what a golfer

With the tough market prices in a small 60-man field, there was always going to be one at short odds and for us it’s going to be Victor Dubuisson.  The young Frenchman is a global name now having surged through the rankings in the past year, ending with a well-earned Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles.

He has played quite well over the past few weeks and whilst we were obviously concerned over his back having withdrawn from the WGC.  However, an impressive outing last week in Turkey made it obvious it can’t have been that serious!  He finished T15 and that was after a horrendous 1st day 77.  He shot a majestic 64 on the Sunday and we just feel that gives him an edge with what he has to offer here.  Because for everything he’s done recently, he hasn’t actually picked up a win since Turkey last year, so although he’s been ridiculously close, this would be the perfect way to cap an outstanding season.

Considering the course requires long hitting and quality iron play, you cannot help but be intrigued by an on-fire Dubuisson and during that final day last week, he was 10th for distance and 13th for GIR which is the perfect combination.  He has also played here in the last 2 outings and shot 2 low rounds to finish T3 in 2013.  Now obviously Henrik Stenson absolutely battered the tournament, but the Frenchman showed through his stats that the track suits his eye – barring his GIR on the 1st day, he was inside the top 6 for driving distance and GIR on all 4 days.  That is impressive.

As we said before, it would be a truly memorable way for Victor to finish 2014.

Danny Willett (50/1 various)

Has everything in his locker for this sort of track

Has everything in his locker for this sort of track

After a very impressive 4th placed finish last week, we felt obliged and intrigued with the pick of Danny Willett over here.  The Englishman is not the most consistent performer, hence why we don’t talk about him in that top bracket, but blimey when he’s on his day tee to green he is very dangerous.

He was hitting the ball ridiculously well last week, finding himself inside the top 7 everyday for both distance and GIR, apart from a 13th on Thursday off the tee.  If he can bring anything close to that in Dubai then you could be looking at a cheeky finish for Willett.  Admittedly, his odds have therefore been slashed which is not ideal, but you can understand it.  We wouldn’t usually go there at those sorts of prices but when you’ve hit the ball that well in the week prior, you have to be interested.

His form before that has been impressive as well, T21 at the BMW Masters and T7 in Portugal either side of withdrawal in Australia.

He has played this course 3 times with only a top finish of T26, so not the greatest form, but we would like to think he has grown a lot in the 2 years since.

Branden Grace (80/1 various)

Will he be Grace-ing the winner's circle?

Will he be Grace-ing the winner’s circle?

We obviously went with Branden Grace last week and after a really positive start he faltered and stumbled into a T19 finish.  He was 2nd going into the weekend with 2 quality rounds, averaging over 300 yards both days and playing the consistent iron game we have become accustomed to.

Yes he faltered on Saturday dropping right out of it with a +1 score, but we still feel there should be enough in the South African tank for another challenge in Dubai.  He is at the very healthy odds of 80s, which you cannot begrudge therefore for us, worth another stab.

He may not have found the top 10 for a number of months now, but he is edging closer.  Simply put, he’s been unable to put 4 rounds together, so he just feels like one of those players that isn’t far away from a big performance.  Sadly for him though, it’s obviously the end of the season now!

He has played here a couple of times before, recording a 6th place finish back in 2012 when he went into the weekend just 1 shot behind Rory McIlroy.  He shot a 65 in the midst of that performance so that clearly proves he has the attributes for the test.

A very solid outside bet.

Stephen Gallacher (66/1 various)

We will take help from the Genie if it means a win Stevie...

We will take help from the Genie if it means a win Stevie…

We feel like Stephen Gallacher has become a slight enigma in recent months.  We all know he deservedly made the Ryder Cup team after some fine battling performances in Italy and Czech Republic.  But then on home turf he seemed to completely crumble under the enormous pressure and he hasn’t played quite as well since.

Undeniably it hasn’t been disastrous, but those title challenges have faded.  So why would we consider him for Dubai?  Well if you look at his finishes there has been a clear progression.  T36, T24 then T15 last week.  He has been hitting the ball better and better as the events whittle down, so much so that tee to green in Turkey he was an absolute beast.  Inside the top 12 every day in all 3 of the perfect stats – driving accuracy and distance, as well as GIR.  That is outrageous form.  It’s the sort of game which will win this tournament with ease.

He only has a best finish of T16 in 3 outings here, but that finish came in 2012 when he did shoot a 66, so it shows he can perform on the Earth Course.

If he is anything like last week and can get that putter going again, this could be the return to form for the Scot.

OHL Classic at Mayakoba 2014

 

OHL_classic_mayakoba_CMYK

Prize Fund: $6,100,000

Winner’s Share: $1,098,000

Course: El Camaleon (Par 71 – 6,987yards)

The final fully fledged PGA Tour event of the year has finally come around and what a 2014 it has been.  We really have seen some amazing golf throughout.  We have been treated to 13 first time winners, a golfing masterclass and return to dominance by Rory McIlroy, a resounding victory for Team Europe at the Ryder Cup, a remarkable 6 Australian winners (which is the most since 2006) and for us?  Well, we’ve had our ups and downs and if you’ve followed us throughout the year, you will know some of the heart break we’ve been through.  10 winners for starters, including Fabrizio Zanotti at 100/1 which was a healthy return!  But the award for best victory has to go to Matt Jones at 125/1 winning the Shell Houston Open because of that unbelievable putt on the 18th and holing out from the bunker in the playoff to beat Matt Kuchar.

However, there have been sooooo many 2nd places and final hole bottles that it’s impossible to keep count.  We will be publishing a cheeky ‘DownThe18th tale of 2014′ later next week, so do come back to check that out!

BUT onto the actual tournament this week and we are not going to be treated to the most incredible field you’ve ever seen for a PGA Tour standard.  It isn’t filled with stars, especially when you see that last weeks winner Bubba Watson has decided to stay in Asia for the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan, whilst Charl Schwartzel, Jason Dufner and Seung-Yul Noh are in north Thailand for the Chiangmai Classic.  We will also be tweeting out a few of our doubles and accumulators this week because due to those 4 appearing at such tournaments, value will be immense!

Follow us Twitter @downthe18th to have a look what we’re saying on Wednesday this week.  We have come incredibly close with some accts/doubles ranging from 300/1-100,000/1….

The field that will assemble for the Mayakoba will be hopping over the border into Mexico and the gorgeous El Camaleon course.  The 6,987 yard par 71 has all the hallmarks of a classic links course, due to it’s situation on the coast of the Caribbean Sea.  Conditions can obviously get interesting, with wind swirling in from all sorts of directions, but what intrigues us the most is how the track actually sets up.

Karma Chameleon indeed.

Karma Chameleon indeed.

Clearly it isn’t a bombers paradise as designer Greg Norman has created the ideal tee to green haven.  You will really suffer if you go offline here.  The fairways may not be particularly narrow, BUT they have the defence of an abundance of varying hazards.

There are bunkers littered everywhere and for that matter, bloody difficult ones to get out of.  The tropical surroundings mean there is forestry, vegetation for rough, lagoons and of course the sea.  Still all that being said, it isn’t the most difficult course the players will attack, however it is one of those that if you don’t treat it right, you will find scoring incredibly difficult.

 

All the accuracy stats, short 100-125 yard wedges and scrambling will all play a part this week, so keep an eye on them when making your judgement calls!

Happy punting and thank you for a marvellous 2014.  Bring it on 15′.

Rory Sabbatini (40/1 StanJames)

Sabbatini is known for wearing his ridiculous cowboy hats.  The lad got game.

Sabbatini is known for wearing his ridiculous cowboy hats. The lad got game.

As you would expect with a tournament like this, odds will fluctuate meaning some people may be priced out the market, whilst others represent outstanding value.  Rory Sabbatini however is in neither of those categories.  At 40/1 he feels about right, even though we’ve been know to back him at 250s!

He is an extremely experienced stalwart of the Tour with 6 PGA titles and a near major win at the 2007 Masters (he finished T2).  He has had an up and down 2014, finding patches of form and certainly dealing with some tricky periods.  When he plays well it is mainly down to the unbelievable tee to green game he has.  His irons are faultless, proven by the fact he is 7th for the category so far this year.  He does have his off days but on courses like this, we really feel he has the ability to free his arms and attack pins like we all know he can.

Interestingly he’s been driving the ball longer in the past couple of years, in his 3 tournaments so far this season he has averaged over 300 yards – something he has never done on the PGA Tour.  Mixed in with his straightness off the tee, that is a dangerous combination for this sort of track.   On his last outing in Malaysia he finished T8 which should give him plenty of confidence, especially in those horrendous windy conditions that may transpire over here.

But more importantly he has played here 3 times, finding the top 5 twice – T3 last year, challenging most of the way till Harris English swooped in and played some of the most spectacular iron golf you could ever see and T5 back in 2011.  He genuinely has that ability with the irons like English does and if he gets them going, he will be such a dangerous prospect.

William McGirt (40/1 various)

Again 40/1 for William McGirt seems fair especially after his 7th placed finish last week, but that doesn’t stop it feeling odd that we’ve gone there at such prices.  This is a 35-year old lad who is yet to win a PGA Tour title, but we all got the chance to see him up there last week at the Sandersons.  He was 2 behind John Rollins going into the final day, but a 72 put pay to his opportunity and a first trophy with it.  In all honesty it didn’t look or feel like a proper bottle because he never properly contended on that Sunday.  Yes he had chances, but a double and bogey on the front 9 meant he truly had to wine the cobwebs off his cabinet.  That makes us interested by him even more.

He still showed what a ridiculous tee to green player he is as well and that is one of the main reasons we are most intrigued by him for this.  Miraculously he was hit over 80% of greens, meaning he was T1 in the stat for the week and he was 17th for driving accuracy.  Those sort of figures make you drool at the prospect of him on a shotmakers paradise like this.

In fact he has had a fairly promising start to the season.  Withdrew from the Frys after a good start, 2 Top 33 finishes and then his 7th last week.  Encouraging.  He is even 42nd in strokes gained putting for the year, so if he gets all that going, then he will be a big danger.

Colt Knost (80/1 various)

Even looks good when he signs his name.

Even looks good when he signs his name.

Firstly, Colt Knost is a magnificent name.  Well done Mr and Mrs Knost.  Secondly, this is a naughtily little mid-range bet for this week.  He is one of those players that has gone completely under the radar in recent history.  That’s helped by the fact he has been like a yo-yo between the Web.com and main Tours, but after his truly stellar finish to 2014, we cannot help but feel he is still going to be in that sort of mood.

He hasn’t played amazingly admittedly but we are hoping that is to do with the sort of courses he’s had to deal with.  Look, we knows it the 2nd Tour, but hess results are not going to be made by just any mug – T5, MC, 4th, 2nd, T8, T14.  That is impressive.  He may of found it difficult again at the moment to settle alongside the best once more, but that will change and this could be the week.

If anything the fact he’s shown this grit and determination to bounce back after a disappointing year shows his sort of character and we love that.  During the 2014 season he was 6th for birdie or better (4 very short par 3’s on offer) and he was 2nd in driving accuracy, 75th for GIR and 13th in putting average.  A LETHAL combo.  He has also finished T3 here back in 2012 when shot a 66 and 67 to close out the tournament.  Come on Knosty, be a Colt hero…

Heath Slocum (100/1 PaddyPower)

Oh the memories.  Winner of the 2009 Barclays.  What a performance that was

Oh the memories. Winner of the 2009 Barclays. What a performance that was

Heath Slocum has missed a few cuts this year and in all fairness not started very well.  But we cannot resist our urge to back him this week because ultimately his game suits this track.

His driving accuracy has consistently been one of the best on Tour – 28th so far this year, whilst his irons come hand in hand when he plays well.  He was a bit wayward attacking the greens in his T58 finish last week, but he really didn’t have the greatest of final days which didn’t help.

He will be coming onto a course he knows very well though, after a wonderful T3 finish here back in 2009.  He notably came T13 the year later and if he gets everything going, he could be an interesting idea.

Outsiders

Our two outsiders this week come in the form of Billy Hurley III (100/1 various) and Alex Cejka (350/1 Bet365).  Both players are tee to green gurus and will most certainly suit this challenge.

Firslt Hurley has come into a lot of money in the past 24 hours.  We first saw him at 150s with some, but he has come back considerably.  Clearly a lot of that is to do with his T8 finish at the CIMB Classic a few weeks back.  Get this though, he was averaging over 81% in both GIR and driving accuracy for the week.  Now THAT is not just lethal, that is fatally devastating.  Even in a difficult 2014 he finished 7th for driving accuracy and 63rd GIR, so essentially all he does is tee to green.  Perfect combinations.

As for Cejka, we have often gone there in random tournaments because we all know the sort of player he can be and prices often look too attractive to turn down.  This has remnants of that no doubt, but to be fair to the German, he has had a T18 finish this year and for tee to green stalwarts, he is certainly up there.  He had an impressive year on the Web.com – 7th driving accuracy and 37th tee to green shows his capabilities, whilst he even got a win.  Worth a few spare pennies!

Turkish Airlines Open 2014

TurkPrize Fund: €7,000,000

Winner’s Share: 

Course: The Montgomery Maxx Royal (Par 72 – 7,132yards)

In an event that is meant to have such prestige and importance, as part of the Final Series, we find ourselves scratching our heads with the likes of Poulter and Westwood at 18/1 and 20/1 in places – not to mention big names such as McIlroy, Rose and McDowell not fancying the trip. Sadly, the FedEx Play-Offs are far, far superior to its European Tour equivalent.

But at the downthe18th we try to lift this dark cloud from above European Golf and find value for our betting faithful. And this week we have plenty of names who should tickle your fancy.

MaxxSo, Turkey. Played on the Montgomery Course, it’s an iron player’s course once again. And when we say that we mean the likes of Dubuisson, Jacquelin, Fisher, Larrazabal will buzz off it here. Anyone who you can just picture with a 7 iron in their hands. It’s an average length at just over 7,100 yards – it doesn’t suit any big hitter or equally a nudger. 6 of the top 12 ranked inside the top 10 for GIR last year, confirming all of the above.

There are also 5 par 5’s and 5 par 3’s, quite unusual for a course. So getting the balance between someone who can attack the long holes and also pick up birdies on the par 3’s can be tough.

You also have to think, regardless of our opening speech, this is regarded as one of the bigger tournaments with plenty of money on the line. These titles are made for the bigger stars, or someone who’s ready to take that next step. Just look at Victor Dubuisson last year.

Who are we going with on this Turkish Adventure?

TwitterDon’t forget to follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!

Jamie Donaldson (18/1 Paddy Power) 

Courtesy of Titleist

Courtesy of Titleist

What a player he’s become since that win in Abu Dhabi which cost us significant returns as we had Thorbjørn Olesen and Justin Rose in 2nd behind him! But leading into this penultimate tournament, he has been playing out of his skin.

3 top 7s in 5 outings including a joint-bottle with Alexander Levy at the BMW Masters. For those of you that were on the Frenchman that week, we can only apologise, it was a tough recovery day for all of us!

But as for Jamie, the golf he played on the 1st 3 days typifies what sort of a golfer he is now. A long hitting, tee-to-green guru. Never have we seen someone inside the top 20 in every single major stat for a tournament – driving accuracy, distance, GIR and putting. You can’t get more all-rounded golf then that!

He should certainly suit this sort of track, especially after his near heroics last year when he chased down a flying Victor Dubuisson, cutting his lead to just 2 when he began at 6 from the pack. A 63 on any course is magnificent, but you do get that feeling it’s possible here. If he plays anything near to what we know he can, then he is in for a big week.

Brendon De Jonge (50/1 Coral)

The big man loves a birdie

The big man loves a birdie

As we hope you know, we love it when the PGA Tour boys come over to the European Tour. Someone like De Jonge, without a career win in America, will see this as a massive opportunity to make a proper name of himself and make use of that trophy cabinet he bought 10 years ago.

The start of the wrap-around season in America has been a good one for Brendon. If you are less familiar with the rotund Zimbabwean, this guy loves a birdie. Last year was the first time he ranked outside the top 10 for total birdies on the tour since 2009 (13th). But this year he’s back in the grove currently lying in 4th place. That’s dangerous reading coming onto a course Dubuisson found plenty of birdies on last year. To add to these positives, he ranks 24th total driving, 31st GIR and 57th strokes gained putting.

2nd and 13th have been his last 2 finishes. The way we look at it, he’s not coming over here to bolster numbers or look pretty. He’s coming over here for one reason – to win.

Branden Grace (66/1 Ladbrokes)

Will he be Grace-ing the winner's circle?

Will he be Grace-ing the winner’s circle?

The first of 2 South Africans for you this week. Grace is one of those players who you know sooner or later will recapture their best golf. 2012 was massive for him and a year we first realised how good this guy was. It was a quality year – 3 wins, 6th in the season-ending World Tour Championship and the best part of a million Euros in the bank. Since then it’s been a bit disappointing. We wanted finishes on the biggest stage, he has the game for it.

So why this week? Well, it was a pretty dismal mid part to his 2014 but his last few rounds has got him on our radar. T21 in the rain-sodden Portugal Masters with rounds of 66 and 69. More importantly he ranked 1st GIR (97% of greens found). Then two weeks ago he finished T16 after contending going into the weekend. Again, he ranked 2nd GIR. Also ranked 23rd putts per GIR.

Grace is all about his irons and they are on fire at the moment. He will need to hole putts but this could be the perfect time for him to get things going especially with the South Africa legs of the European Tour not too far away.

Outside Bets

Richard Bland (250/1 BetFred)

Richard Bland just had that aura of someone worth a punt at ridiculous prices. He is one of those players who suit this sort of track with his ridiculous consistent tee to green game and why not chuck some pennies at him? Not literally obviously.

 He hasn’t missed a cut in his last 5 outings, with a worst finish of T39 and including a T4 at the rain affected Portugal Masters. He was inside the top 5 for driving accuracy every day at the BMW Masters, where he recorded that T39 finish and inside the top 30 for GIR. Worth it? We think so.

 Darren Fichardt (200/1 Paddy Power)

Our 2nd South African of the week. Always available at these odds but is a proven performer at this level. Like most people, he’s gone through plenty of poor patches in recent times but we’ve seen a spark in the last couple of weeks. He went back to his native Sunshine Tour and came 2nd at the BMG Classic, and looked lively. Then he took that and finished T13 in the final series opener. Ranked 6th putts per round and 13th GIR. Was disappointing last week but will take confidence in his 15th in Turkey this time last year.

Sanderson Farms Championship 2014

sanderson-farms-championship-logo

Prize Fund: $4,000,000

Winner’s Share: $720,000

Course: Country Club of Jackson (Par 72, 7,354 yards)

Alongside the WGC on the PGA Tour will be the Sanderson Farms Championship this week and with it a quite interesting field.  We rarely cover tournaments that play second fiddle to a bigger event, but we felt there could be some value in what is, for us, a relatively strong line up.  Well considering the situation at least.

There are plenty of PGA Tour stalwarts to get excited about and arguably (although at the time of writing, odds haven’t yet been released) there will be better value than the WGC.  The tournament itself has always run alongside big events, whether it be The Open, The Masters, a WGC, Tour Championship or even Ryder Cup.  Basically it’s always regarded as a ‘second’ tournament.  Yet when you look at past winners, there are some decent names, which makes you think it can be used a stepping stone, because whatever you may say about it, it still counts as a PGA Tour title, well only since 1994. BUT before then you still had the likes of Payne Stewart and Craig ‘The Walrus’ Stadler winning.  Since it’s official recognition though people like Fred Funk (1998), Luke Donald (2002), Heath Slocum (2005), Chad Campbell (2007), Will Mackenzie (2008), Bill Haas (2010), Chris Kirk (2011) and Scott Stallings (2012) win this trophy.  In fact 14 of the 18 winners since it was made an official PGA Tour event have all been either 1st or 2nd time winners, which proves even more so that this is a stepping stone.

All that being said, when you then sit down and take a look at what sort of player could win here, you realise that yes this is a new host course.  Brilliant.  It is a relatively unknown track in the professional circuit but has regularly hosted the Mississippi Amateur State Championship.  Clearly very few players will be teeing it up this week who played in that, but there are surprisingly a few, including a winner in the form of Jonathan Randolph.  No idea.  But from what we do know it is a 7,354 yard par 72 with 4 par 5s and 4 par 3s.  The fairways are tree lined, but not particularly tight and the greens are certainly larger than average.  There are the odd water hazards dotted around the course, but the fairways are not particularly winding, so because they are straight and the greens are expanse, we should expect low scoring.

As you can see it's a wide expanse with little variation.  Birdies, birdies, birdies we feel.

As you can see it’s a wide expanse with little variation. Birdies, birdies, birdies we feel.

The bunkers don’t offer a great deal of defence either because they are not deep, pot holes but simply long and expansive.  Basically, it should be relatively simple for players of high calibre to find GIR and attack pin positions if the find the centre of the fairway.  Simple tee to green efficiency and a love of grabbing birdies seems to be the combination here.

Peter Uihlein (40/1 various)

Full-time lady's man, part-time golfer

Full-time lady’s man, part-time golfer

We have to say that Peter Uihlein at 40s felt like very decent value.  He is undeniably one of the up and coming players in the game and if there was one of those guys in this field that would make sense using the tournament as a stepping stone, it’s Uihlein.

He didn’t really have a great year to be honest, certainly compared to his breakthrough 2013, but he has still shown his potential at times.  That was proved a couple of weeks back with a very solid T9 in Australia which is one of the main reasons we were encouraged by him here.  He was absolutely battering the ball, as we have come to expect of the American, so on a course like this, that could result in some serious damage.  He was hitting the ball really well with his irons as well, which makes him even more encouraging.  If his tee to green game is even 3/4 on the ball then his ability can easily destroy high-scoring tracks.

Interestingly, he has done really well on 2 of these ‘second fiddle’ tournaments in the past year – T6 at the Puerto Rico Open (a PGA side event to the WGC Cadillac) and his only Tour win to date at the Madeira Islands Open (a European Tour side event to the Volvo World Matchplay.)  With all his talent, there will be few doubters against his potential, so what an opportunity this is to cement himself on the big stage and lay the foundations for a perfect season ahead.

Adam Hadwin (66/1 StanJames)

Adam Hadwin is certainly one to watch.  Plus anyone thinking there's a striking resemblance to Adam Scott??

Adam Hadwin is certainly one to watch. Plus anyone thinking there’s a striking resemblance to Adam Scott??

As we’ve mentioned before, Adam Hadwin is one of our players to really keep an eye on over the coming year.  He has a great future in the game and for those that follow us regularly, you will know that this will be the 3rd time we’re plumping our money on him.

He nearly won the Canadian Open back in 2011 when he was a Web.com regular, so the guy has credentials.  But what really drew us to him was the fact that during an impressive T10 at the Shriners a few weeks back, he looked perfect for a low scoring challenge.  Another one of these young players with absolutely no fear, who can tonk a ball miles.  He clocked one drive at a whopping 348 yards. That is beyond ridiculous!  Interestingly though he found himself at 10th for the field in ball striking as well, which makes this a perfect sort of track for his abilities.

He is under par for all par 5 holes this season and considering he is 56th for strokes gained putting, makes you think that 66s is incredibly good value.  A lot of people will probably be jumping on the Cameron Smith bandwagon this week and yes that is understandable in some ways, we would be the first to comment how highly we rate him, but he will be coming over to America for the first ever time and this is someone with plenty of PGA experience and just as much talent.  Get on him.

Shawn Stefani (80/1 Ladbrokes)

Like our first 2 picks, we just felt that 80s was too good to turn down for someone like Shawn Stefani.  He is one of those players that you often see in and around leaderboards, but he is yet to ever win a PGA Tour event.  He has 2 Web.com titles to his name, but not a big one as of yet.  Although we’re sure you all remember that fateful night back in July last year. It was him vs Justin Rose at the Quicken Loans National and we had him at 200/1.  He went into the final day joint top with the major champion, going toe to toe with him before succumbing to some magical approach heroics from Rose.

What impressed us most is how he didn’t back down from the challenge against one of the top, top players in world golf.  He drove the ball ridiculously long and straight throughout the 4 days and that is backed up by the fact he was 6th in total driving for the season.  If you’re hitting the ball like that on this sort of course, alarm signs will be ringing.

In fact tee to green he is a very consistent player, he can just struggle with the short stick.  Admittedly he hasn’t started the season brightly, but we just have one of those feelings about him for this.

Andrew Putnam (100/1 various)

Lining up those putts.  Put-nam in please...

Lining up those putts. Put-nam in please…

Another interesting outsider in Andrew Putnam.  In fact another pick to have never won a PGA Tour title, but he is still not a PGA Tour regular.  This will be his first proper season on the big tour and he has started it brightly.  T33 a couple of weeks ago, whilst a T12 at the McGladrey gives us great confidence.  Even more impressively though, he shot 4 rounds in the 60s.  Tee to green he is incredibly efficient and he does have the potential to drive it long.

But you have to consider that this course needs birdies and his one win on the Web.com last year was a cracking -20 score.  He is only 25 and will have already shamed off the nerves of official PGA status, so he should be in the thick of it now.  59th for ball striking adds to the appeal, so a very decent outsider.

Outsiders

Fabian Gomez (150/1 various) and Andrew Loupe (200/1 various)

Two VERY interesting outsiders this week in the form of Fabian Gomez and Andrew Loupe.  Firstly Argentinean 36-year old Gomez.  He is an incredibly experienced player who, for the 2nd time in his career, has earned a PGA Tour card.  He finished 23rd in the Web.com season earnings last year and is now going for the big time again.  He has 11 professional titles to his name, which is a very credible return, whatever the standard, so he does know how to win.  Interestingly, he finished T8 in his first event back, at the McGladrey, by playing some fine tee to green golf.  He is a cracking player with the short stick as well, so this could be an interesting bet.

As for Loupe, he undeniably had a shocking season last year, but he still has plenty of potential. Last year he was one of the top putters on Tour – 24th overall for strokes gained, whilst 4th for driving distance shows his capabilities off the tee.  He finished 24th for GIR in his one outing so far this year at the McGladrey Classic where he finished T41.  Certainly worth a few coppers!

WGC HSBC Champions 2014

hsbc-logo-1

Prize Fund: $$8,500,000

Winner’s Share: $1,400,000

Course: Sheshan International Golf Course (Par 72, 7,266 yards)

The final WGC of 2014 will take over the PGA and European Tours this week (although the Sandersons Farms Championship will be running alongside on the PGA) as 78 players from both sides of the atlantic try and muster up one of the big trophies golf has to offer.

Now, on paper, this is a massive tournament.  It’s a WGC. It’s a world wide extravaganza.  BUT for us, it does lack that mega sort of sex appeal that the other WGC’s and majors have.  (Upon reading that sentence back, we must apologise because let’s be honest does any golf tournament have sex appeal? In fact don’t answer that…)  It may be unfair to say, but even when you look at the field, however much it’s filled with quality for this late in the calendar year, you still can’t help but be under-whelmed by the whole proceedings.  To be fair maybe some of it is to do with the fact the odds are absolutely horrendous.  We know its a small field, but you still cannot deny the amount of top players here.  There’s some laughable prices for certain players, especially ones that haven’t hit a ball in a couple of months…

But anyway, we’ve all got to take time out and look at this objectively, because ultimately we all want two things from the 4 days golf – a great entertaining tournament and to win some money.

Looking at the tournament as a whole, it has often been won by quite high scores considering it’s importance (maybe another reason for our underwhelmed feeling) and it has always been held on the Sheshan International Golf Course since 2005, barring Ian Poulter’s victory in 2012 when it was held at Mission Hills.  In fact, the combined winners score is a remarkable -138, which is an average of -17.  That is low.  Although we are being told that it will play harder this year because of faster greens and more trees…

The par 72 measures in at 7,266 yards which is what we would call ‘one of those.’  Not particularly long, but certainly not short either.  Even when you look at the past champions, you can’t really gage what sort of player suits this track – 2013 Dustin Johnson (who is obviously not defending his title due to misdemeanours.  Prat), 2011 Martin Kaymer, 2010 Francesco Molinari, 2009 + 2007 Phil Mickelson, 2008 Sergio Garcia, 2006 Y.E. Yang and 2005 David Howell.

A complete mixed bag of players there, but one thing they ALL have in common from their victories is putting.  They all putted out their skins, which on birdie-fest courses may come as little surprise, but still it something we have to consider when making our final picks.  However, here is where confusion may set in.  You look at DJ’s performance last year – he won by hitting it ridiculously long and was able to consistently attack greens, therefore his GIR stats were a joke.  And then he was in the top 10 for putting every day.  Awesome golf.  Kaymer was inside the top 20 or so for distance and GIR every day whilst he also putted incredibly.  BUT Molinari was not long and not particularly accurate with his irons, yet he was inside top 8 for driving accuracy all 4 days and insanely hot with the putter.  Basically it’s a hard one to judge!

A course that encapsulates the beauty of Shanghai

A course that encapsulates the beauty of Shanghai

It would be foolish to discount par 5 specialists, as there are 3 reachable long holes, whilst one is over 600 yards.  But we must also look at shorter players because all 4 par 3s measure over 200 yards.  On the PGA Tour stats you can easily have a look at the GIR from 175-200 and 200+.  Sadly the European Tour doesn’t give us in-depth stats like their Atlantic cousins.

The fairways are of average width and will encourage players to find the centre, especially when you consider there are 4 cuts, meaning the 2nd and potentially 3rd cut are easily manageable, but also because when you look at the greens, you should be wanting a perfect position to attack.  There is quite a lot of slope on many of them and it is difficult to judge pace, hence the importance on putting.  We are expecting the stimpmeter to read around 11’6″.

There are an abundance of water hazards dotted around the whole course, which will always make for a laugh, so to be fair, we should have a good few days of early morning (or night) golf.  As we said the odds are not great, so we can only apologise for what we have had to do this week…

TwitterDon’t forget to follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!
Charl Schwartzel (40/1 Coral)

Hopefully Charl can finally produce for us!

Hopefully Charl can finally produce for us!

Now, on first glance for us to pick Charl Schwartzel when we have banged on about putting may seem slightly bizarre.  We have all seen him struggle with the putter in recent times, frustratingly missing tiddlers whilst miraculously holing long ones.  Trust us, we have been at the forefront of the pain as well.  But last week at the CIMB Classic he was top of the putting stats for the week.  When you see something like that from a player who is usually so consistent tee to green, you cannot help but be interested in him for a tournament like this.

Admittedly, he wasn’t actually that great tee to green in his T19 finish, but he will rarely have 2 weeks on the trot where his irons aren’t in full flow.  In Perth he was driving it long and straight as he finished T15, whilst also finding himself in the top 20 for putting on all 4 days.  That is a winning combination for this track and we do feel in the market, that 35s is reasonable value for a player of this calibre.

We all know about his Masters win back in 2011, but barring that victory, he hasn’t won any other top tournament, all be it he’s come mightily close – we recall most recently the 2012 US Open where that putting did indeed let him down.  He really does have every chance on a track that should suit and where he has had good form in the past.  A final round 65 propelled him up the 2011 leaderboard into a tie for 4th, whilst in 2008 he finished T6.

Last season he was 41st for GIR 200+, 7th for par 3 birdie or better and 3rd for par 5 birdie or better – all adds to his appeal.

The South African really does have every chance this week with how he’s been putting, let’s just hope he can do it all 4 days.

Jimmy Walker (33/1 Various)

Courtesy of cba

Courtesy of cba

This guy is someone we believe is perfect for this course. Admittedly he struggled last year but considering the amount of events he did win, he couldn’t win them all. Since that purple patch, things have been consistent but no wins have come. He has 3 top 10’s in his last 7 starts, one of which was a 4th in his first start of the year at the Shriners (he was top 20 for both putting and GIR). We also can’t forget his confident showing at the Ryder Cup, an experience that will have given him confidence despite the loss.

We’ve highlighted you need to go low and this guy is one of the best in the business. Was 1st in total birdies in 2014, 4th rounds in the 60’s. The key to Walker when he wins is his putting. He holes everything. So top 20 putting in his last event, T13 in one putt %. A few holes out there will need precision from 200yards+ too. Only McIlroy and Scott were better than Walker in that category last year…

Chris Kirk (55/1 Coral)

The Captain

The Captain

Despite not challenging last week, Chris Kirk was in China and playing golf. He’s accustomed to conditions over there and a big trend in recent times is playing the week before a big event. Phil Mickelson knows all about that. So if we discount his performance on the European Tour, his recent form reads 4th, 4th, 36th and 1st. Of course those latter performances were in the play-offs but he’s proven he’s continued that form with the 4th 2 weeks ago.

Ranked 5th in total birdies, 8th rounds in the 60’s, 41st 200+ last year. Also ranked 7th in putting at the McGladrey – he’s in the perfect shape to get plenty of birdies.

Thorbjørn Olesen (80/1 Stan James)

Buzzing after his win in Aus

Buzzing after his win in Aus

His win a couple of weeks ago in Australia just reminded everyone what this guy is all about. One of the best talents in the game. Despite a couple of strong top 10’s in recent majors, his quality is yet to really shine on the biggest stage. Well with a win under his belt, he couldn’t be striking it better. Followed his win with a consistent performance in China, where he was top 20 for GIR and putts per GIR. For a guy who’s buzzing off a recent win, this is cracking value.

Outside Bets

Jonas Blixt (125/1 Stan James)

Has been really consistent the past couple of weeks, something that is a rarity in the Swede’s game. Was T12 putting on his way to a top 10 at the CIMB. Clearly has the game for a big event, 2 top 4’s in his last 5 majors says everything. 125/1 for a guy who’s a proven winner and striking the ball well. We’ll have a bit of that.

Jason Dufner (90/1 Stan James)

A quick bet thrown in at the end. Yes he’s been injured but he feels good with his game and importantly, is putting well (5th last week). The past couple of weeks have been easing him back into things but he’s looked better than that. He’s openly said the injury was much needed to give him a rest and break from the game. Dufner is recharged and well prepared for a big week in China.

BMW Masters 2014

race-to-dubai-banner

Prize Fund: $7,000,000

Winner’s Share: $1,160,000

Course: Lake Malaren Golf Club (7,606 yards par 72)

The race is well and truly on indeed.  The ‘Final Series’ gets underway this week as we begin the shuffling, re-shuffling, confusion and countdown to the season ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

If you thought the FedEx Cup was a confusing web of rules, then the adapted version of the European Tours equivalent will make you reach for the cupboard and open that 1975 Malt whisky you got tucked away.

We understand that you no longer have to play 2 out of the 3 tournaments preceding Dubai, which is ludicrous in itself, but if you play all 3 then you are eligible for some sort of 20% bonus points that get added to your overall score.  Basically, we can’t quite get our whisky-fuelled heads round it, but if you want to try – have a look at this graph and a read of these 2 sites -

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/news/newsid=238784.html

http://www.europeantour.com/mm/document/tournament/tournaments/18/54/51/_english.pdf

rtb

No idea.

As for this opening tournament though, the Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai plays host to the BMW Masters.  It is an absolute monster of a course, measuring in at a whopping 7,607 yards.  The par 72 has a couple of ridiculous par 4s and one monstrosity of a par 5.  Apart from that though, it is like any other course…

Rory McIlroy teeing it up at Lake Malaren last year.  He isn't here in 2014, but you can see you gorgeous this course is

Rory McIlroy teeing it up at Lake Malaren last year. He isn’t here in 2014, but you can see you gorgeous this course is

It isn’t just about the length though, because this Jack Nicklaus design includes all his trademarks and is a stern test of precision and accuracy as well as brutal power.  Whilst distance off the tee will obviously play a part, GIR gurus will ultimately be the difference, as it has shown in the past 2 outings.  Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño won last year with an unbelievable iron performance, whilst Peter Hanson had the combined brilliance of holing everything alongside approach-play genius.

Yes both players were not short off the tee, no denying that, but they weren’t in the Colsaerts league either.  The strategists come into play due to the well positioned bunkers and abundance of water that defends the greens and negotiating you’re way round will be a factor.  The undulating greens are quick, tough and will test the field, so it is important to be on your game with the short stick.

You do look at last years leaderboard to see Francesco Molinari and Thongchai Jaidee close behind Castaño and think, well, they aren’t long.  They may not be big hitters, but they are plotters who have an outrageous ability with long irons.  If you are a shorter hitter, your woods and long irons have to be outstanding.

BUT we are throwing a spanner into the works some what.  The weather could make things a little more interesting this week because the first 3 days are scheduled for quite heavy rain, meaning that there could be a bigger emphasis on length, as it will play even longer with soft fairways and potentially be low-scoring. 

We know this may all sound like a jumble of ideas, types of players etc but it is a tough one to call.  There is a whole host of factors to consider and with the small 78 man field, we have extensively gone through to see what could be that winning combination to try and add to our Thorbjørn Olesen victory last week…

TwitterDon’t forget to follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!

Brooks Koepka (20/1 various)

Koepka will be prepared if the weather turns sour.

Koepka will be prepared if the weather turns sour.

My my did we deliberate over this first pick.  It probably wasted an hour of our lives discussing 3 players we really thought could challenge, but were at the wrong end of the market to potentially even have one let alone all of them.  Victor Dubuisson and Chris Kirk understandably took our fancy, as I am sure they will for many others.  We decided Kirk has too long to travel after challenging Stateside last week and we don’t have a bad word to say about Victor, it’s just we had to decide on one.  So, we uncharacteristically went with a player we feel has nearly been priced out of it in Brooks Koepka.

If you’ve followed us for a while, you will know how big a statement it is for us to go Koepka at such low odds, but we just felt too many things were pointing in his direction and it would be too heart-breaking if he were to win and we didn’t have him.

The young American, as all European Tour followers will know, has been a breath of fresh air in the past year or so.  Him and his mate, Peter Uihlein decided to attack leaderboards this side of the Atlantic instead of America and it’s been a great thrill.  However, you get the sense that may be changing as he has started the PGA Tour season and been outstanding.

T4 at the Shriners and T8 at the Frys.com is one hell of a return considering it will still be relatively new for him.  Plus, he was absolutely tanking the ball – recording a drive of 362 yards at the Shriners!  He was 9th in driving distance that week and 1st at the Frys.com – where he was also 9th for GIR.  Basically, this guy is the perfect player for a course of this distance and magnitude, especially if it rains like predicted.

Which brings us to our next point – he is not scared of horrible conditions.  We felt Kirk may not be used to horrendous rain, whilst Koepka has made a cracking living from playing in touch weather these past 18 months or so.  T9 recently at the Alfred Dunhill in wind and rain, bizarre and mixed conditions at the Omega Dubai where he finished T3, a win at the Challenge Tours Scottish Hydro Challenge last year in torrid weather – basically we could go on.  He will be used to it and in the form he is in (a worst finish of T11 in his last 5 outings), nothing will halt him at the minute.

There are so many risk/reward shots on this course and his length, form and confidence is a dangerous combination, because he has the potential to shoot very low here.  If you are worried about his pedigree, then we must remind you of his T4 finish at the US Open…

Plus, he has had a week off unlike many of the field, arriving in Shanghai nice and early on Sunday, compared to the likes of Dubuisson, who was busy challenging for a title in Perth and will not have arrived until at least a day later – food for thought.

If anything, Brooks, don’t make us look like mugs backing you at 20s this week…

Alexander Levy (50/1 PaddyPower)

What a player this lad is turning out to be

What a player this lad is turning out to be

Alexander Levy finally started to show his true promise this season.  He has already picked up 2 titles – over in the rain-effected Portugal Open and interestingly in China back in April.  He played out his skin for that 4-shot win, hitting it long and straight, which instantly makes you think he has the attributes for another victory in China.

We were slightly surprised at his odds of 50s – which has already been reduced to 40s with most – because he is still in fine fettle after that bizarre win in Portugal.  With quite a number of players, we rarely back anyone who has won in the weeks prior to a tournament, simply because the strain, mental strength and consistency is so tough to replicate.  However, we really do feel that winning like he did, means you can take all those factors out of the situation – he went into the weekend after 2 magnificent rounds not having to hit another ball before lifting the trophy.  He will simply gain a shed load of confidence, not be mentally drained.

That was proven by his performance at the Volvo World Matchplay.  We are not denying he lost all his matches, but he was actually -6 for the 3 rounds, which isn’t too bad at all.   He lost the odd silly hole, but it was not a disgraceful outing by any means.

He too, like Koepka, has never played on this course, but the fact he has already won in China, averages nearly 300 yards off the tee and is 45th for GIR, then you have to feel he has a cracking chance to 100% announce himself on the world stage.

Bernd Wiesberger (45/1 StanJames)

In so many ways, Bernd Wiesberger can be such a frustrating player.  He has all the talent in the world with his natural tee to green ability and can hit the ball a mile.  He showed his abilities by winning 2 European Tour titles in 2012, but has failed to fully push himself further since.

But then we all saw how wonderfully he played at US PGA in his tie for 15th.  He went into the final round just 1 shot behind Rory McIlroy, after 3 cracking rounds, only to struggle with the attention of his playing partner and mad surroundings.  We simply cannot class it as a bottle, because it’s the first time the 29-year old challenged for a major and it must be a daunting experience.

Since then, he has only had 1 top 10 over at the Italian Open, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t playing good golf.  Far from it.  He has gone under the radar with solid performances (barring in Portugal) and has only failed to challenge due to one inconsistent round.

He is 45th for driving distance and 13th for GIR across the season – a lethal combination – and he usually enjoys courses that offer the chance for birdies.  Both his wins came at -19 and if the rain softens everything up, he will without doubt be in the mix.

Pablo Larrazabal (66/1 StanJames)

None of this please Pablo

None of this please Pablo

One of our favourites.  We’ve said it so many times in the past about our love for the mercurial Pablo Larrazabal and even when he has let us down, he still manages to win us back.

It is difficult to describe how talented the Spaniard is, he’s just one of them.  He hasn’t had the greatest of season by any means, surprisingly not able to capitalise on a few good performances and push on.  That isn’t like him and we really thought after that win in Abu Dhabi, he would be right up there come this time of year.

He isn’t, that’s fine, but we have seen enough and know enough about him to suggest he could have a decent week over here.

Firstly, he played out his skin at the weekend here last year to finish T5 which shows his liking for the course.  He didn’t start particularly well, but he is one of those players who gets on a roll and it’s difficult to stop him once he does.  There will be periods of tough golf for the whole field this week, it is just how well you play in that purple patch and Larrazabal is someone you want on your side.  He is long, accurate and a genius with his irons, whilst we have to take into account what McIlroy said of this course last year.  The world number one said you’ve got to find the green yes, but when you inevitably don’t, the chipping is completely different to most tracks.  No flops or anything, just the usual chip and run on such quick, large greens.

Taking that in, makes you like Larrazabal’s case even more.  He is a stunning scrambler around the greens and can easily find his way out of many messes.  He arrives in good knick, even though he got demolished by Joost Luiten at the matchplay – although -1 isn’t a disgraceful score.

If his game clicks into place, trust us, he is one to watch.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello (66/1 various)

One thing we do love about Rafa is you will rarely find him grimacing.  Always a smile on his face!

One thing we do love about Rafa is you will rarely find him grimacing. Always a smile on his face!

Another unbelievably talented Spaniard.  Rafa Cabrera-Bello should be winning more tournaments than he does.  No win since 2012 is highly disappointing, although he did come close at another BMW sponsored event this year in Germany where he lost in a playoff.

He usually goes on mini-runs as well, so the fact he finished T12 over in Portugal makes us interested in him for here.  We are certain he would of challenged Levy had the tournament continued, especially after a magical 64 on the 1st day, but that obviously never materialised.

His stats were scary for those 2 days though.  Top 16 in accuracy, distance and GIR across the opening rounds, which makes him frighteningly interesting for this course.  Yes his putting wasn’t amazing, but he was still able to go on a roll or 2 and if he can do anything like that over here, he has a genuine chance.

He also finished T8 here last year, which shows he likes the track and when we first saw him on offer at 80s this morning we jumped on it.  Unsurprisingly he has dropped in the past few hours, but 66s is still very decent value to be had.

Morten Ørum Madsen (200/1 various)

Our cheeky outsider this week comes in the form of Danish youngster Morten Ørum Madsen.  We have followed him for a long time now, since his graduation from the Challenge Tour and we were undeniably delighted to see him pick up his first European title at the South Africa Open right at the start of the year.

It’s been a roller coaster of a year since then however, not finding another top 10 till a couple of weeks back at the Portugal Open.  He finished T4 with rounds of 65 and 66 and if that doesn’t give him great confidence, then we aren’t sure what will.

He enjoys playing in rainy conditions and can hit the ball an absolute mile (21st in driving distance) whilst he was in the top 20 for GIR on both days in Portugal.  A decent price for someone whose just finished 4th and has a lot of natural ability.

CIMB Classic 2014

malaysia-cimbclassicPrize Fund: $7,000,000

Winner’s Share: $1,260,000

Course: Kuala Lumpur Golf & CC (6,985 yards par 72)

Robert Streb continued the early season trend of high odds winners, 75/1 being the starting price of the American. That follows Sang Moon Bae (150/1) and Ben Martin (200/1). It’s quite a contrast from the start of 2013 where Simpson, Moore and Walker all won at rather short odds comparatively.

It’s a quite exciting week for the PGA Tour as it makes its yearly trip over to Asia, to boost revenue and give fans further afield a taste of the action. We say exciting because it’s a breath of fresh air in comparison to the 20 times we see the European Tour over there. Even more fascinating is the fact this course also hosts a regular European event, the Maybank Malaysian Open. Westwood, Aphibarnrat and Oosthuizen being the most recent winners of that.

An exciting place to play golf

An exciting place to play golf

It’s an event that usually sees rain and there’s plenty of it predicted for all 4 days this week. It means precision accuracy into the greens is needed – as well as patience for the inevitable rain delays. Remember, Ryan Moore had to get it done on the Monday last year.

At 6,900 yards, it means every type of player has a chance. Ryan Moore and Gary Woodland battled it out with 2 contrasting styles in 2013. Moore left himself with full wedge shots into the greens while Woodland tried to overpower the course with heavy reliance on his chipping and recovery. 3 of the par 5’s will require no more than a 4 iron for the 2nd shot while there are a few reachable par 4’s out there. Plenty of birdies will be on offer as a result. Your guys needs to be finding tons of greens, sticking it close and taking advantage of the easier holes. You need to factor in a pretty long haul flight over to Kuala Lumpur while interestingly not many people over the age of 30 have done well here – largely due to the humidity. Food for thought.

TwitterDon’t forget to follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!

Paul Casey (33/1 Coral)

He's back.

He’s back.

We said not many people over the age of 30 have done well here so that’s why our number 1 pick is 37 year old Paul Casey… But we’re happy to say the amount of hours the Englishman puts in the gym and his 2 wins in both Abu Dhabi and China can safely dispel that theory.

Casey, as you will know, is finding the sort of form we saw a few years back where a major title was a real possibility. After winning the Irish Open last year, things have been steady and he won the KLM Open last month to confirm his resurrection. But despite promising play in Europe, Casey knows the real recognition will come from a win on the PGA Tour. Proven by the turning of his back to the opening event of the Final Series this week.

Paul is a player well equipped for adverse conditions and when the greens get soft, he comes to the fore. His driving is good enough and long enough to over power this course while his short game is getting better week on week. The last time we saw him was at the European Tour’s match play event, where despite not progressing far, played some quality golf. Notably shooting 10 under par when going on to defeat Jonas Blixt. He has all the tools to get the job done this week.

Ryo Ishikawa (66/1 Coral)

Japanese poster boy - courtesy of supersport

Japanese poster boy – courtesy of supersport

Having backed the man from Japan a couple of weeks ago, he has still remained firmly in our plans. At 23, he has already done so much in the game but needs to prove himself once more with so much young talent coming through – dare we mention Matsuyama and Spieth. But with the travel to Malaysia being something Ryo will be more than used to, this is an event he will feel comfortable in more so than many of the other PGA regulars.

Despite not lighting the touch paper so far this year, he hasn’t missed a cut and finished inside the top 20 twice already. And he’s doing well in plenty of relevant stats columns for this week – 28th proximity to hole, 38th approaches 100-125 yards, 9th 125-150, 30th par 5 birdies, 30th GIR. And as we have mentioned before, Ryo has a round of 58 in his locker. He can go low and has a point to prove. Good value in this small field.

Stewart Cink (80/1 Ladbrokes)

Will want to avoid this over in Malaysia

Will want to avoid this over in Malaysia

‘The Kitchen’, we like to call him, ticked too many boxes for the ‘under 30’ theory to put us off. 11th last year paired with a couple of promising showings in his first two starts this year makes us happy. Cink ranked 8th GIR at the CIMB last year and has been 1st and 3rd respectively so far this year. He is finding greens for fun, just needs to get the putter going.

15th hole proximity, 21st 125-150 yards, 14th par 5 birdies and 2nd GIR are all promising signs for the new season. The American also ranked 18th in hole proximity for the whole of last season too. Although we managed to back him at 100/1, 80/1 is still very appealing in our opinion.

David Lingmerth (80/1 Various)

A couple of Swedes to finish off for you this week. This guy has arguably got some of the best form of anyone in the field. 14th and 17th so far this year while he had a couple of top 10’s in last season’s Web.com final events. That alone is enough needed to turn our heads. But he’s very capable on the par 5’s, is putting consistently this year and is someone who will travel well – feel like we’re previewing horses here… Lingmerth is one of those enigmatic players who will spring up a top 5 from time to time without showing any signs of doing so prior to that. Well this week, we’ve seen the signs and we’re plumping for a big week.

Jonas Blixt (100/1 Bet365)

Can he produce one of the weeks we know he can

Can he produce one of the weeks we know he can

Undoubtedly a better player than Lingmerth with a couple of PGA Titles under his belt and one very promising display around Augusta this year. But despite all that, regularly finds himself at high odds because of the inconsistency in his game. Even so, in a field this small with the adverse conditions predicted, this could be a week he does well.

Blixt is one of those guys who will take the ‘Woodland’ approach to this course – spank it 300 yards off the tee and rely on his short game to grind out birdies. And as we know from the Masters, this guy has some short game. His odds don’t reflect the fact he also came 25th last year and was 26th GIR in the process. Fits a few stats for the season too, most notably 10th hole proximity.

Last appearance was in London for the World Match Play, where as we mentioned earlier, shot 10 under par during his match against Casey. In very good touch.

Outside Bet

Will Wilcox (250/1 Coral)

His name kept popping up all over our research meaning at these odds we had to give him a jersey for the week. His form is poor, yes, but after showing his metal in the Web.com play-offs, we feel he could spring a surprise this week. 2nd hole proximity, 29th driving accuracy are the pick of his stats while he was also 5th in par 5 birdies for the whole of 2014. Can he continue the trend of high-odds winners?

Let us know your thoughts on our selections and who you fancy this week! @DownThe18th