US Open 2013

Final PreviewUS Open 2013

Tournament: US Open 2013

Location: Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Course: Merion Golf Club (East Course)

Distance: 6,996 yards

Current Champion: Webb Simpson

Dates: June 13 – 16

Before you read, one half of DownThe18th has been working at Golf Monthly Magazine the past few weeks, so please check out some of the stories by Lewis Pacelli, here is one of them – http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/us-open-2013/blog/531387/us-open-blog-potential-winners.html

Well here we are, the week of the second major of the year and one we have personally been waiting for, for quite sometime.  We obviously love every major but this year’s US Open at Merion seems just that extra bit special, because it will be different to any of the big 4 in the next few years.

Not only is the course going to set up an intriguing battle, there are several sub plots to the drama that will unfold.

Webb Simpson will be arriving as current champion attempting to defend his title and that has not been achieved since Curtis Strange in 1989. Since then only 3 people have finished better than 40th in their defence (Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Retief Goosen)

Tiger Woods is yet to win a major since 2008 at Torrey Pines, but is in scintillating form and he will be paired with Rory McIlroy for Thursday and Friday who is still searching for any sort of form.  Making up this 3-ball is Masters champion Adam Scott who will be trying to become only the 6th golfer ever to win both trophies in the same year.

The famous US Open trophy

The famous US Open trophy and the iconic Merion pinflags

As for the course itself, we started all this research by looking at the yardage in our 1st Preview (See Below). The track is going to be playing at under 7,000 yards and not since 2004 has that ever happened.  This will make the challenge a unique and difficult one for the field of 156 players.

DownThe18th US Open Preview 1

We calculated that the average driving distance on tour this year is 290 yards, therefore the simple maths (yes even simple for us!) leaves us with what yardage the majority of the field will face

Here is a run through of the 18 holes –

No. 1 – Par 4 – 350 yards – 60 yards left
No. 2 – Par 5 – 556 yards
No. 3 – Par 3 – 256 yards
No. 4 – Par 5 – 628 yards
No. 5 – Par 4 – 504 yards – 214 yards left
No. 6 – Par 4 – 487 yards – 197 yards left
No. 7 – Par 4 – 360 yards – 70 yards left
No. 8 – Par 4 – 359 yards – 69 yards left
No. 9 – Par 3 – 236 yards
Out – Par 36 – 3,736 yards
No. 10 – Par 4 – 303 yards – 13 yards left
No. 11 – Par 4 – 367 yards – 77 yards left
No. 12 – Par 4 – 403 yards – 113 yards left
No. 13 – Par 3 - 115 yards
No. 14 – Par 4 – 464 yards – 174 yards left
No. 15 – Par 4 – 411 yards – 121 yards left
No. 16 – Par 4 – 430 yards – 140 yards left
No. 17 – Par 3 – 246 yards
No. 18 – Par 4 – 521 yards – 231 yards left
In – Par 34 – 3,260 yards
Total – Par 70 – 6,996 yards

From this you can see that approaches from 50-125 and 125-150 yards will be key stats in finding the champion.

There have been responses from readers since we published our first preview, asking about the fact that 3 par 3s are very long and 1 par 5 is over 600 yards.  We have noted this and took it into consideration, but at the end of the day we feel more scoring can be done on the EIGHT par 4s where the course is begging to be attacked.

Our 2nd preview looks through why we feel short course gurus may be key to finding the winner and the recent short course history of certain players who kept cropping up near the top of leaderboards.

DownThe18th US Open Preview 2

You will be looking for only the most accurate players tee to green, because the rough has not been cut and will cause havoc to everyone who is wayward off the tee.

“The rough is longer than we’ve seen, You can’t make the grass grow in four days, but you can cut.  Although I don’t think they will.  Off the tee it’s quite awkward, someone who drives it the best this week will fare quite well – not the straightest, but the best” – Geoff Ogilvy (Washington Post)

Basically, the strategists and plotters will find their way to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.  Scramblers are always going to be proficient with the small greens that define Merion.  GIR and of course putting will be crucial in finding the winner.

Tiger, Mcilroy and Scott in a 3-ball will be incredible to watch

Tiger, Mcilroy and Scott in a 3-ball will be incredible to watch

We originally whittled down names using previous US Open trends in our 1st preview and we will admit that 4, who were not part of the final group have made our selections, only because they were just too good to ignore.

Our 3rd preview was an ‘initial’ picks and yes some things have changed because of the lack of form from some and brilliant form of others.

DownThe18th US Open Preview 3

In what has been a 32 day marathon of data collecting, golf-viewing, ale drinking and ball sweating research, we have finally delivered the ‘6’ we believe could win the 2013 US Open.  Enough of our rambling, here they are.

N.B. Tad more rambling – if you download the PaddyPower app, you can get 7 places paid out at ¼ the odds!

Graeme McDowell (25/1 PaddyPower)

G Mac is in the form of his life

G Mac is in the form of his life

The 2010 champion is arriving at Merion in what he has called the ‘form of his life’.  We personally feel he has been his usual inconsistent self, but you cannot ignore the fact he has already won twice in 2013 (Volvo World Match Play and The RBC Heritage) and had a further 3 top 10s.  He really does look his usual gritty self, able to work the ball in challenging situations and who better than the Northern Irishman to defeat the challenge of Merion?  His renowned scrambling could get him through the horrendous rough and sloping greens when others will falter and his short game has been particularly impressive this year.  The fact he is 13th in strokes gained putting is the mark of a much improved McDowell, especially considering he was 160th last year!

When he did win this title back in 2010, the conditions were tough at times and he plotted his way round a very difficult course (Pebble Beach) with aplomb and poise.  So when you think how much his game has improved since, it is a fascinating prospect of what he could actually achieve this week.  He will be teeing off at 1:03 p.m (local Pennsylvanian time) from the 1st hole with Jimbo Furyk and Zach Johnson and lets be honest that sort of 3-ball are so strategic they could club together and destroy civilizations within the time Ben Crane finished a round.

In an interview this week McDowell showed his confidence and self-belief and that only adds to the spice of what he could do at Merion

“You could say I’m in the form of my life going into an event in which certainly my record kind of speaks for itself.  I feel like I’m a substantially better player than I was three years ago” Graeme McDowell (Belfast Telegraph)

Statistics Vital for Merion -

Graeme McDowell stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 4 4 4 7 1

US Open Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 2 4 7 0

Best Finish – Won at Pebble Beach 2010

Tee Time: 18:03 – Graeme McDowell (NI), Jim Furyk (US), Zach Johnson (US)

Phil Mickelson (22/1 Various)

Will want to bag major number 5 at Merion

Will want to bag major number 5 at Merion

If Phil wasn’t in our plans already, his performance over the last few days at the St Jude Classic certainly confirmed his place in them. Now 42, Mickelson is not letting age get the better of him and with one win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and three top 3 finishes already in 2013, it’s hard not to look at him this week.

Phil himself will tell you his preparation was not right going into the Masters a few weeks back, which resulted in a T54 finish, stating lack of mental sharpness as his downfall. Prior to Augusta, he had a 2 week break and his form was not what we had come to expect from the American. So things have changed this time around. All the practise on the greens and range came prior to last week, and the St Jude Classic was all about getting that mental toughness he so craves. Going down the 18th on Sunday, Phil knew he needed a birdie to potentially put himself in a play-off, and he subsequently put it 2 feet away from 150 yards and was unlucky not to hole out. We’d say that is all you need to know about Phil’s mental state right now! Phil said the small greens and focus on iron play will give him just the practise he needs for Merion. And if that wasn’t enough, for each of Mickelson’s 4 major wins, he has played the week before…

“My short game got better as the week wore on” – Mickelson on the St Jude Classic

We have stated how crucial accuracy from the shorter yardage will be and Phil is one of, if not the best in the game with a pitching wedge. His accuracy off the tee is one worry, but he’ll be using the 3 wood a lot this week, don’t expect the cover to come off that driver too many times! One short yardage stat that really took our eye was that Phil is one of only 11 players on the PGA Tour this year to be overall under par on all par 3’s played. That is not only promising for the tough par 3’s at Merion, but it also highlights how good his iron play has been in 2013.

Phil has recorded FIVE 2nd places at the US Open over the years, so it is about time he put this title well and truly in his trophy cabinet! It’s his 43rd birthday on the Sunday too, what a present that would be…

Statistics Vital for Merion -

Phil Mickelson stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 2 2 6 1

US Open Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 7 9 11 20 2

Best Finish(es) – T2 in 2009 at Bethpage State Park, Winged Foot Golf Club in 2006 and 2nd at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, Bethpage State Park in 2002 and in 1999 at Pinehurst Resort.

Tee Time: 17:41 – Phil Mickelson (US), Steve Stricker (US), Keegan Bradley (US)

Matt Kuchar (22/1 Various)

The form man in golf

The form man in golf

Our first 2 players really picked themselves but slot number 3 ended up being a shootout between Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker. And we didn’t think it would be fair to leave Kuchar out, so we are sorry Brandt. Kuchar is one of the hottest players in golf right now and Snedeker’s injury this year and major track-record has just put us off him. Interestingly, they are paired together for the 1st two days!

Now we could talk all day long about “KOOOOCH” (Expect to hear a lot of that off the tee this week), we’ve been on him for both of his victories on the PGA Tour this year which included his first WGC title, a big step to having the confidence to take his maiden major title. It is well documented that Kuchar has matured into a world class golfer once he hit his 30’s, and will be looking to emulate Phil Mickelson, who won his 1st major at 33. Kuchar, now 34, said his game was near perfect at the moment

“it’s taken a long time, but now I don’t feel like there are any weaknesses in my game.” – Kuchar

Kuchar needs to change nothing this week, he just needs to keep doing what he has been throughout 2013. The US Open is one not to enjoy, but to grind, and Kuchar will be perfect at doing just that.

Kuchar’s last 2 performances have been a 2nd place 2 weeks ago, followed by a 1st place at the Memorial tournament just a week back. So on paper, he is the form man in golf right now. After his win, Kuchar made his way to Merion on the Tuesday and said he wouldn’t leave “until I get used to it”. Kuchar has a great record on the shorter courses as well, his lack of length off the tee will almost be an advantage this week. His statistics are quite something and have led him to 2nd place in the FedEx rankings. Just to point out a few, Matt ranks 4th in scoring average, 13th in all-round rankings, 10th in scrambling, 13th in strokes gained-putting and 9th on par 4 performance. If he is ever going to grab his 1st major, it will be this week!

Statistics Vital for Merion -

Matt Kuchar stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 4 6 9 12 1

US Open Form–

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 0 1 3 5 5

Best Finish – T6 in 2010 at Pebble Beach

Tee Time: 17:52 – Matt Kuchar (US), Justin Rose (ENG), Brandt Snedeker (US)

Steve Stricker (50/1 Various)

Can he finally capture his 1st major?

Can he finally capture his 1st major?

I think it tells you something that Stricker is our 2nd pick in his 40’s. To win at Merion it will take a certain maturity and level-head to grind out scores on all 4 days, something Stricker will be more than capable of doing. Steve has probably been in our minds the most since we first started previewing the US Open, in every avenue we looked down for research, his name would crop up. So much so, he was our number 1 pick in our 2nd Preview. Regardless of his age (46), Stricker has a good a chance as any this week.

It’s no coincidence that 8 of his 12 PGA Tour wins have come in his 40’s, and like Mickelson and Kuchar, is thriving in his later years. And age is but a number for Steve, he would not be travelling to Merion if he didn’t think he could win this thing. But it is his chipping and putting that really makes us confident in the American. He has made a living out of playing superb golf around and on the greens. And it is at Merion where these 2 attributes in particular will be tested to the max. Stricker’s putting has been so good, the likes of Tiger Woods have been asking for advice! And since Stricker’s words of wisdom, we all know what Tiger has been like on the greens.

Stricker has reduced his schedule hugely this year, to focus more on tournaments he enjoys and spend more time with the family. Knowing that, you can certainly assume he will be in a great frame of mind. He has two 2nd places in stroke play events in 2013, at the WGC Cadillac and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, two real top events. And his T20 at Augusta was certainly not a bad performance. Statistically below, you can see how well he is playing. His driving, iron play, scrambling and putting are all unbelievable this year. At 50/1 Stricker is a really solid choice this week, expect him to contend at least.

Statistics Vital for Merion -

Steve Sticker stats

Short Course Form -

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 0 1 2 4 0

US Open Form -

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 2 3 12 15 2

Best Finish(es) – T5 in 1998 at Olympic Club and 5th in 1999 at Pinehurst Resort

Tee Time: 17:41 – Phil Mickelson (US), Steve Stricker (US), Keegan Bradley (US)

Tim Clark (90/1 Various)

One of the best ball strikers in the game

One of the best ball strikers in the game

We managed to back Tim Clark at 100s earlier this morning, so it is both gutting and satisfying to see his shift in the market.  The 37-year old South African has been at the forefront of many DownThe18th journeys this year, simply because he is just a fine, fine player.  Tee to green you will find few better as his stats show and he is someone who is never afraid to attack even the most difficult pin positions.  With the notoriously small greens, his iron-play will suit, if his game is on.  What is even more encouraging is how he is putting this year.  He looks efficient and comfortable with the short stick and when it comes to those nerve-wrangling putts, you can definitely trust Clark.  He also won The Players back in 2010, so he has the bottle to mix it with the best and his 8-footer on the last posted the score that eventually finished best.  Trust us, he knew how crucial that particular putt was and sinking it proves the nerve he has.

As for his US Open history, he did finish T3 in 2005 at Pinehurst, which has 4 very short par 4s, 1 very long par 5 and 1 long par 3 just like at Merion this week.  Both courses are notoriously tight and Clark could once again take advantage of his lack in distance to challenge the leaders, plus at such high odds for a major, surely it is worth a punt?  As for form this year, he has recorded 3 top 10s and a T11 at The Masters, which will give him confidence going into this years tournament.

Statistics Vital for Merion -

Tim Clark Stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 4 4 5 5 0

US Open Form -

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 1 1 4 6 1

Best Finish – T3 in 2005 at Pinehurst Resort

Tee Time: 18:03 - Louis Oosthuizen (SA), Charl Schwartzel (SA), Tim Clark (SA)

Kevin Chappell (100/1 Coral)

Our much fancied outside bet for this week

Our much fancied outside bet for this week

Once again we do apologise that we could not get our information out to you all straight away but Chappell was at 150s only this morning (Monday) and Coral have clearly realised the discrepancy and slashed his odds.

Chappell has sneaked into our final 6, nudging out the likes of Furyk and Zach Johnson, simply because he was too good to ignore.  We know he is only 26 and has never won on the PGA Tour, but we just have a gut feeling about the Californian.

His record at US Opens speak for itself.  T10 last year and T3 the year before.  That is very impressive for your only 2 starts and for us it seems obvious why.  He is an aggressive, long-hitting, accurate ball striker whose ability with a short iron is unbelievable.  He can scramble and save himself from a certain bogey after wayward shots and when you think of what Maid Merion will be asking for, Chappell seems perfect.  From what we saw on his last outing, at the Memorial, he looked outstanding at the weekend.  He finished 2nd in a very difficult tournament and he will be teeing off at Merion off the back of 2 68s.

“It’s a tour event on Steriods” – Chappell on this year’s US Open course, Merion

He has only had 2 other top 10s this season, but when a young, fearless Tour player is buzzing, they generally play out of their skin for an extended period of time and we hope Chappell can continue his showing from Muirfield.  The most over-riding factor of choosing him, came with his stats in the short approach shots which will be so crucial on the 8 short par 4s.  Added to the fact that he is more than capable of hitting as far as the rest, a devastating mix is on the horizon.  Not necessarily to win, but a place for absolute sure.

Statistics Vital for Merion -

Kevin Chappell stats

Short Course Form -

Win

Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 1 2 2 10

3

US Open Form -

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 1 2 2 2 0

Best Finish – T3 2011 at Congressional Country Club

Tee Time: 18:51 - Scott Piercy (US), Kevin Chappell (US), Jamie Donaldson (WAL)

Quick Mention: Once again, like most weeks, we will throw in a player at ridiculous odds who could go well.  Hideki Matsuyama (300/1 Paddy Power) is our choice this week. The 21 year old has been setting the Japanese Golf Tour alight, winning 2 out of the first 5 events on the tour in 2013. And he only turned professional in April! Interestingly, the course he won his last title on was 7,190 yards, so he is more than capable on the shorter tracks. His only 2 major appearances have been at the Masters, where he was T54 in 2012 and in 2011 as a 19 year old, finished T27 and was the only amateur to make the weekend!

Lets have a good week!

US Open 2013 Preview 3

OUR FINAL PREVIEW IS NOW AVAILABLE HERE:

NEW - DownThe18th US Open 2013 Final Preview

Published 06/06/2013

US Open 2013

Tournament: US Open 2013

Location: Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Course: Merion Golf Club (East Course)

Distance: 6,996 yards

Current Champion: Webb Simpson

Dates: June 13 – 16

With the US Open now under 2 weeks away, it is definitely time to get our 3rd extensive preview up! Previews 1 and 2 can be found below.

DownThe18th US Open Preview 1

DownThe18th US Open Preview 2

In our first preview, we looked at the course and how the short nature of the track will be a challenge to all the players.  With Merion being such a short yardage, it does mean that certain players do come to the fore and could maximize their short game abilities to win the second major of 2013. Preview number 2 outlines a few names that do take our fancy for the US Open based on our research. Our 4th and final preview will be available for you at least 3 days before the first ball is struck at Merion.

The iconic Merion pin flags

The iconic Merion pin flags

Preview number 3 is going to look at the recent history of tournaments where the courses have played under 7,100 yards. Now of course all types of golfers can play well on short courses, but it is very interesting to see who consistently plays well on the shorter tracks. We have picked out quite a few players that really seem to enjoy these types of courses at the bottom.

The last 7 Majors that played under 7,100 yards

2010 US Open, Pebble Beach – 7,040 yards – won by Graeme McDowell

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=797

2004 US Open, Shinnecock Hills – 6,996 yards – won by Retief Goosen

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=170

2001 US Open, Southern Hills Country Club – 6,973 yards – won by Retief Goosen

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=25

2000 US Open, Pebble Beach – 6,846 yards – won by Tiger Woods

http://sports.yahoo.com/golf/pga/leaderboard/2000/24

2012 Open, Royal Lytham and St.Annes – 7,086 yards – won by Ernie Els

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=1017

2002 Open, Muirfield Golf Links – 7,034 yards – won by Ernie Els

http://sports.yahoo.com/golf/pga/leaderboard/2002/29

2001 Open, Royal Lytham and St.Annes – 7,086 yards – won by David Duval

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=30

PGA TourPGA Tour Pic

Here is a run through of tournaments on the PGA Tour with yardage under 7,100 in the last few years.

2011 Season – Courses under 7,100 yards

2011 Sony Open, Waialae Country Club – 7,068 yards – won by Mark Wilson

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=897

2011 Mayakoba Golf Classic, El Camaleon – 6,923 yards – won by Johnson Wagner

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=923

2011 Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am, Spyglass Hill + Monterey Peninsula Shore – 6,858 + 6,838 – won by D.A Points

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=895

2011 The Hetirage, Harbour Town Golf Links – 6,973 yards – won by Brandt Snedeker

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=903

2011 Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands – 6,841 yards – won by Fredrik Jacobson

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=910

2011 RBC Canadian Open, Hamilton Golf + Country Club – 6,996 yards – won by Sean O’Hair

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=986

2011 The McGladrey Classic, Seaside Course, Sea Island – 7,005 yards – won by Ben Crane

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=928

2011 The Barclays, Plainfield Country Club – 6,964 yards – won by Dustin Johnson

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=984

2011 CIMB Classic, The MINES Resort & Golf Club – 6,909 yards – won by Bo Van Pelt

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=929

2012 Season – Courses under 7,100 yards

2012 Sony Open, Waialae Country Club – 7,068 yards – won by Johnson Wagner

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=999

2012 Humana Challenge, PGA West (Palmer course) – 6,950 yards – won by Mark Wilson

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=1058

2012 Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am, Spyglass Hill + Monterey Peninsula Shore – 6,858 + 6,838 – won by Phil Mickelson

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=997

2012 Mayakoba Golf Classic, El Camaleon – 6,923 yards – won by John Huh

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=1030

2012 Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands – 6,841 yards – won by Marc Leishman

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=1015

2012 RBC Canadian Open, Hamilton Golf + Country Club – 6,996 yards – won by Scott Piercy

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=1020

2012 The McGladrey Classic, Seaside Course, Sea Island – 7,005 yards – won by Tommy “two gloves” Gainey

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=1035

2012 CIMB Classic, The MINES Resort & Golf Club – 6,909 yards – won by Nick Watney

http://espn.go.com/golf/leaderboard?tournamentId=1036

2013 Season – Courses under 7,100 yards

2013 Sony Open, Waialae Country Club – 7,068 yards – won by Russell Henley

http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/sony-open-in-hawaii/leaderboard.html

2013 Humana Challenge, PGA West (Palmer course) – 6,950 yards – won by Brian Gay

http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/humana-challenge-in-partnership-with-the-clinton-foundation/leaderboard.html

2013 Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am, Spyglass Hill + Monterey Peninsula Shore – 6,858 + 6,838 – won by Brandt Snedeker

http://www.golfchannel.com/tours/pga-tour/2013/att-pebble-beach-national-pro-am/

There are several players who have kept cropping up on leaderboards and here are our selected favourites:

Jim FurykJimbo

Jimbo loves playing the technical courses and has a remarkable record on most short tracks.  One of those top 5s came at the US Open last year, where he did play some superb golf.  

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 3 3 6 14 3

Graeme McDowell 

Gmac is one of our ‘initial’ picks and it is obvious why.  He simply loves playing on shorter courses.  He has never been long off the tee, so it is no surprise that he has honed his game to really attack these sortsof tracks. 

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 4 4 4 7 1

Matt KucharKooch

Another ‘initial’ pick, Kuchar also has an enviable record in short courses. When you think 9/13of these tournaments he has finished inside the top 25, you realise his ability with the shorter clubs.

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 4 6 9 12 1

Brandt Snedeker

Was always going to be one of our ‘initial’ picks – can you really blame us?  The guy is unreal from 150 yards right to the pin is incredible.  His record is even better than Kuchar’s and if there were any doubts about him, they surely don’t exist anymore?! 

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 4 6 10 12 1

Charles HowellHowell

An extremely talented iron player who had lost his way but has come back in recent times.  If he can qualify, expect to see people fluttering on Howell as an outsider because he loves short, technical courses.

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 3 4 7 11 2

Tiger Woods

We don’t need to say much here. 3 tournaments, 3 finished inside the top 10.

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 1 2 3 3 0

Webb SimpsonSimpson

The defending champion will come into this year’s tournament knowing it will suit his game once more.  Another superb player from 150 yards, he really could write his name in the history books by winning back-to-back titles – not since Curtis Strange in 1989 has that feat been achieved. 

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 3 4 6 8 1

European TourEuropean Tour Pic

It would be unfair to leave out the European Tour, as it has proved to give us some interesting reading. 

2013 Season – Courses under 7,100 yards

Nelson Mandela Championships, Royal Durban Golf Course – 5,594 yards – won by Scott Jamieson

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2012094/index.html

Volvo Golf Champions, Durban Golf Course – 6,732 yards - won by Louis Oosthuizen

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013003/leaderboard/index.html

Africa Open, East London Golf Course – 6,632 yards – won by Darren Fitchardt

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013013/leaderboard/index.html

Maybank Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur G&CC – 6,976 yards – won by Kiradech Aphibarnrat

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013023/leaderboard/index.html

Trophee Hassan II, Golf du Palais Royal – 6,951 yards – won by Marcel Siem

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013025/leaderboard/index.html

Open de Espana, Parador de El Saler – 7,052 yards – won by Raphal Jaquelin

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013031/leaderboard/index.html

Madeira Islands Open, Club de Golf do Santo da Serra – 6,826 yards – won by Peter Uihlein

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013037/leaderboard/index.html

2012 Season – Courses under 7,100 yards

Africa Open, East London Golf Course – 6,632 yards – won by Louis Oosthuizen

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2012/tournamentid=2012001/leaderboard/index.html

Saint-Omer Open, Aa St Omer GC – 6,835 yards – won by Darren Fitchardt

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2012/tournamentid=2012042/leaderboard/index.html

Open de Andalucia Costa del Sol – 6,881 yards – won by Julian Quesne

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2012/tournamentid=2012012/leaderboard/index.html

KLM Open, Hilversumsche GC – 6,906 yards – won by Peter Hanson

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2012/tournamentid=2012066/leaderboard/index.html

Omega European Masters, Crans-sur-Sierre GC – 6,891 yards – won by Richie Ramsay

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2012/tournamentid=2012064/leaderboard/index.html

ISPS Handa Perth International, Lake Karrinyup GC – 7,014 yards – won by Bo Van Pelt

http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2012/tournamentid=2012080/leaderboard/index.html

Here are our golfers that stand out to us on the European Tour:

Matteo ManasseroManassero 2

The young Italian has qualified through winning the BMW PGA Championship and he is one of the hottest prospects in world golf.  He doesn’t have power off the tee but he makes up for it with a pinpoint short game. Not missed a cut in his last 7 tournaments on short courses either…

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 2 3 5 7 0

Marcel Siem

The German is having a stellar 2013 and is currently in the US Open field through his world ranking.  His win at the Trophee Hassan showed his talent and could be an interesting outside bet.

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 1 1 3 4 0

Pablo Larrazabal

Unlikely to make the final field, but you never know.  He does love short courses and would do anything to tee up come the Sunday.  Needs to have 2 superb weeks though.

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 2 4 5 6 2

Marcus FraserMarcusFraser_2871353

Has got a place at Merion through European qualifying and could cause some sort of upset.  Very unlikely to win, but top 10 territory comes into play with the Australian.  He has never missed a cut in recent years on short courses, so will fancy himself to do well.

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 2 2 4 5 0

Zaco Van Zyl

The South African also qualified through European qualifying and has not missed a cut in his last 6 attempts on short courses.  4 top 10s is a superb return and proves his ability, like Fraser could be a very interesting top 10 bet.

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 2 4 5 6 0

Paul LawriePaul Lawrie

3 tournaments, 3 top 10s.  We will be very curious to see what Lawries odds will be for the top 10 market.  He has plenty of experience and even though he has never played a US Open, he has won The Open…

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 0 3 3 3 0

Darren Fichardt

The South African is just outside the top 60 in the world at the moment so is likely to miss out, but if he does make it you should all really look at him. Would warrant healthy odds and an outsider who loves short courses.

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 2 2 5 8 0

Note: Morten Orum Madsen has qualified and loves shorter courses…On the Challenge tour – 2 top 10s, 5 top 25s.  On European Tour – 2 top 10s, 3 top 25s and no missed cuts…

HP Byron Nelson Championship 2013

The Texan swing begins at the TPC Four Seasons this week as a field without Tiger will attempt to hit the ground running as we enter the first stages on the road to the US Open.  The course is widely regarded as a masterpiece after its 2008 remodel, featuring large undulating greens, several ponds, high and strategically placed bunkers and tight tree-lined fairways.  All these components add together to make a ball striker’s paradise and the best “plotters” will end up conquering come Sunday.  It is a 7,166-yard par 70 that will test the abilities of the pros to the extreme.  You are looking for driving accuracy, GIR and someone with a hot putter, but the most accurate with an iron, attacking pins will have the best chance.  Jason Dufner won last year hitting over 80% of the greens and he was 1st in proximity to the hole.  It is forecast that there will be winds between 15 – 20 mph, which will heavily effect the scoring and make conditions even tougher, so birdies will be hard to come by!

TPC 4 Seasons

TPC Four Seasons

Our disappointing run has continued after horrendous conditions cost us last week (Westwood, Johnson etc) but all we can do is keep plugging away as our purple patch must surely be over!

Charl Schwartzel (22/1 StanJames)

Hopefully Charl can finally produce for us!

Hopefully Charl can finally produce for us!

Schwartzel is one of those players we have backed a few times this year and he has produced absolutely nothing for us.  He is still one of our favourite players on tour and we are so sure this is the week he will give us a return.  He is too good not to.  It has been a very solid season for the South African, yet to miss a cut, with the lowest finish of T55 at The Players last week.  He may not have recorded a top 10 since Malaysia at the end of March, but this is a course that seems to have been built for him, which makes it surprising he has yet to play here.  He is one of the best strikers of the ball on tour and he has the ability to overcome and conditions that are in front of him.  He stands at 54th for ball striking, 70th for GIR (fallen since the Players) 6th in birdie or better % from the fairway and 4th in going for the green – you will need to be courageous on this course in order to find the birdies and Schwartzel is what we would call an aggressive tactician.  More importantly he is very consistent with the short stick. There will be many long putts on such large greens and he is 4th in putting from outside 20 ft, which could prove vital, whilst he is 1st for 3-putt avoidance and 43rd for putts per round.  This combination of stats only underlines what we already knew but we hope he finally makes us all proud and gets his first PGA victory of the year.

Marc Leishman (25/1 PaddyPower)

 The Australian has been in outstanding form of late, recording 3 top 10s in a row, started off by that courageous performance at Augusta.  In those 12 rounds he has only hit over par once and looks to be striking the ball with real elegance at the moment.  This seems like the perfect moment to jump on the Leishman bandwagon because it is also a course he has played well at in the past.  T3 last year when he shot a 65 and 66 to finish only 2 shots off Dufner, whilst a 63 in 2009 was enough for a T8 – astonishingly he didn’t even shoot over par in those four rounds, eventual winner Sabbatini was just very consistent.  When you think how high his confidence will be going into the first day, he must be sure of producing a quality display.  Stats wise he does not impress but his early season form was beyond woeful, so it is in no way a true reflection of how he is playing.  Trust us.

Ryan Palmer (28/1 Coral)

Palmer did well at the Players last week

Palmer did well at the Players last week

Another one of our favourite players, Palmer has had an up and down season so far, but is slowly coming into the sort of form that makes him a potent threat in any tournament.  After some rough showings in February, he has found his feet after a T15 at the Valero Texas Open, which proves he enjoys it in the state and a T5 last week at The Players.  Whilst his form here went from 4 missed cuts in a row to a 2nd in 2011 and T9 last year, where he lead from the front after day 1 but two mediocre rounds after put pay to a challenge for the win.  And in 2011 he dug deep in horrendous conditions only to lose out in a playoff to Keegan Bradley.  If the weather is anywhere near like it was 2 years ago, you would fancy Palmer to battle hard and still be one of the front runners.  He is also 17th for ball striking, 35th for GIR, 66th for proximity to the hole and 5th in birdie or better % from the fairway, which is a lethal combination for this course.  He often attacks greens and has no fear in playing his shots, lying 7th in going for the green and when he finally gets onto the dancefloor (what a stupid term that is by the way) he has the capabilities to sink putts.  25th in putting outside 25 ft, 53rd puts per round and 34th for 3-putt avoidance.  If the course was not built for Schwartzel, then it CERTAINLY was for Palmer.

Ken Duke (100/1 various)

Although Ken Duke may look like your dad playing in the Sunday medals, he is a golfer who has plugged away on the PGA tour since turning pro in 1994.  With 4 professional wins, Duke will be going into this week knowing it is a course he is suited to and has performed well at in the past.  If it weren’t for a 72 on the Saturday last year, he could have challenged the leaders, eventually finishing T7, whilst a similar 73 in 2007 hampered a push for another T7 finish.  He may have missed two cuts on the bounce, but as we have seen so many times on tour this year, anything can happen and pretty much anyone can win, whatever form. (Step up Mr.Streelman) He did have a T8 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with a T18 at the RBC Heritage, both of which are similar tracks.  Basically “our dad” loves playing tight and tough courses and his stats prove this – 1st in driving accuracy, 58th in ball striking and 4th in proximity to the hole. Whilst his putting stats do not scream at you, they are very respectable – 74th in putting from outside 20 ft and 33rd in 3-putt avoidance.  All in all at high odds it would only seem right to save the money you would have put in the Jukebox and dabble on the Duke himself.  Duke of DownThe18th we hope he will be…(what a crime it is for two puns one sentence after the other. We are only Dukeing… Awful)

Henrik Norlander (150/1 various)

When we first looked at this tournament we took an interest to the young Swede at odds of 200/1, but he has since come in for a bit of money, which is a shame, but shows that we are not the only ones keeping our eye on him.  The PGA tour rookie hard a poor start to the season but has since gone on to make 5 cuts in a row and record a T15 in New Orleans and a T16 at the Wells Fargo in his recent 2 outings.  We first properly noticed him when he shot 65 at the Zurich Classic and although he finished outside the top 10, his ball striking did not look out of place amongst fine company.  We are sure he has a bright future in the game but with all the young Americans stealing the spotlight this year, Norlander could definitely upset the applecart and prove his worth this week.  He is 9th for ball striking and 17th for GIR, whilst his 89th in driving accuracy is excellent considering his horror early season form.  He is a real talent with his irons and has no fear attacking the pins, lying 17th in going for the greens and once on the surface, he has the ability from long range.  57th in putting from outside 20 ft and 50th from outside 25 ft – there will definitely be some long putts and he will not be afraid of them.  Once again with high odds, a tipple worth thinking strongly about.

Great statistics going into this week for Norlander

Great statistics going into this week for Norlander

The Players Championship 2013

The calendar seems to fly by at this part of the season, only just has the Masters finished and now we’re off to the tournament known as golf’s 5th Major, The Players Championship. This is certainly a trophy everyone in the field will want in their cabinets. It will be really interesting to see how the big stars perform this week, with most of them having pretty poor form here over the past few years. Rory Mcilroy has never made a cut here while Tiger has only 1 top 10 here since his win back in 2001!

The iconic 17th at TPC Sawgrass

The iconic 17th at TPC Sawgrass

Played at the famous TPC Sawgrass, this is without doubt one of the toughest courses on the tour and will examine every part of your game. Being the Stadium course, expect there to be a great atmosphere this week, especially on the signature 17th island hole. This is a real beauty from course designer Pete Dye. His courses are very tricky and golfers who get to grips with his many courses will have a chance around here this week. PGA Tour has released an interesting article on who has performed well on Pete Dye courses. You will see our picks this week have all made their way onto it.

http://www.pgatour.com/news/2012/08/07/dye-courses-best-players.html

Sawgrass plays 7,215 and although it is fairly long, driving it far does not seem to help round here. The ‘ball strikers’ out there have prevailed over the past few years. Green in regulation, driving accuracy and most importantly scrambling will be key this week. The shots will be picked up around the greens. Getting up and down is vital. The rain has been hard on the course for a few weeks now, which will make the course a little easier and again favor the accurate players out there.

It is also interesting to know that only 2 players have ever won here more than once, which shows what a test it is. Despite this, course experience will be crucial as it is definitely one you need to learn your way around. Kuchar, Choi, Clark, Garcia and Mickelson have all played 8 times or more around here before claiming their titles.

Most bookmakers are paying 6 places this week too, so be sure to get involved on that.

Luke Donald (20/1 Paddy Power)

Luke's short game will prove vital this week

Luke’s short game will prove vital this week

This is the first time we have backed Luke Donald this year and he is arguably the only ‘big name’ this week that has had really consistent finishes over the past few years. His record here reads 6th, 4th, 26th, 37th, 27th and 16th. With finishes like that, it does appear Donald has cracked this course and all he needs is that elusive win. The Englishman ranks 14th in stroke average around Pete Dye courses which shows his game suits these courses, with putting especially excelling on the Bermuda Greens. His current form is not bad either, even though his name has not been branded about as much as it was last year. Luke has 3 top six finishes in his last 8 tournaments and his last appearance was a 3rd in the RBC Heritage where he definitely looked in great shape. Even without looking at statistics, we all know Luke’s short game is incredible and we have already stated how important scrambling will be. He is in fact 17th on the PGA Tour in scrambling in 2013. It’s a shame to think he might not win a major, but with a major title still eluding him, these are the events Luke will want to prove himself in.

Last 7 ‘Big Tournament’ Performances 

The Masters WGC Cadillac WGC Matchplay PGA Champs WGC Bridgestone The Open U.S Open
T25 T43 R32 T32 T8 T5 MC

 Last 5 Pete Dye Course Performances

Zurich Classic RBC Heritage BMW Champs PGA Champs Players Champs
- T3 T28 T32 6

Jason Day (45/1 Stan James)

After his performance at Augusta, can he find that elusive win?

After his performance at Augusta, can he find that elusive win?

How Jason Day has not claimed one of the `big´ tournament victories yet is beyond remarkable.  His record in the majors and WGC events are outstanding and it is only a short matter of time before he finally earns a rightful place as one of the top, top players.  He has come 2nd at both The Masters and US Open, whilst also finishing at 4th at the Bridgestone Invitational in 2011.  And this year he has really pushed on once again, not missing a cut all season, finding 3 top 10s and his performances in the 3 big tournaments have been superb.  T3 at Augusta a few weeks ago, where he played incredible golf but for a poor few holes on Saturday, he could have easily won and in the WGC Matchplay he breezed into the Quarter-Finals only to come up against a supreme Matt Kuchar, eventually finishing 3rd.  Finally, in the WGC Cadillac, he finished a respectable T33 and when you think he shot a 74 and 75 that is impressive.  Bare in mind Day is only 25, for him to be achieving what he has is a major sign that this is a guy on the verge of a big success and as Kuchar did last year, winning The Players would the most obvious progression.  He has come 6th at Sawgrass as well, not shooting over par in the four rounds in 2011, which proves he can adapt to the challenge it requires.  When he is playing to the top of his ability, his ball striking is formidable and he can hit it very far.  30th for total driving and 14th for driving distance could be lethal on this course, but he must hit it straight.  He has shown how he can play from the rough when he is a bit wayward, 26th in GIR from other than fairway and 24th in scrambling, whilst his bunker play at Augusta proved to the world his ability from the beaches. He is currently 4th in sand save % and when the ball is finally on the dance floor, his putting is up there with the best, 25th in strokes gained putting and 33rd for birdie or better conversion.  The Australian has all the attributes to have another big week and this really could be the one he finally wins..

Last 7 ‘Big Tournament’ Performances 

The Masters WGC Cadillac WGC Matchplay PGA Champs WGC Bridgestone The Open U.S Open
3 T33 3 MC T29 - T59

Last 5 Pete Dye Course Performances

Zurich Classic RBC Heritage BMW Champs PGA Champs Players Champs
- T30 - MC MC

Lee Westwood (25/ Various)

Please putt well this week Lee. Please!

Please putt well this week Lee. Please!

We know very well that we are the ones who have said on a number of occasions, do not back Westwood.  It is a painful week when you watch him get on the green, most likely for 2 and then putt his way to a double bogey.  But something just feels very different coming into The Players, this is a man who has shown he is on a mission.  Moving to America could be thought of as a desperate attempt in his last chance saloon, but if you have been watching the Englishman closely, there is evidence something is changing.  Remarkably his putting has actually been a lot better and his irons have let him down!  He was T8 at The Masters this year and produced relatively consistent golf but it is his record in all the big tournaments that make you realise it is a joke he has not won any yet.  His best finish in every major, WGC and Players is no worse than 4th… And with ball striking needed to win here, an in-form Westwood has to be in with a shout to finally get one of the big ones. Surely.  10th in total driving, 42nd in driving accuracy, 8th in scrambling, 8th in sand save % and even more remarkably 52nd in 3-putt avoidance (where he didn’t 3 putt at Augusta all week!) point towards the Englishman getting himself up the leaderboard.  Whilst he is currently one of the form men in golf, recording 3 top 10s in a row and in 4 out of his last 6. That move to States may not have brought him The Masters but could it bring the Players? Come on Lee, what a story it would be!

Last 7 ‘Big Tournament’ Performances 

The Masters WGC Cadillac WGC Matchplay PGA Champs WGC Bridgestone The Open U.S Open
T8 T25 R64 MC 70 T45 T10

 Last 5 Pete Dye Course Performances

Zurich Classic RBC Heritage BMW Champs PGA Champs Players Champs
- - T2 MC T61

Bo Van Pelt (50/1 Various)

Go Bo!

Go Bo!

With a lot of the bigger names less fancied this week, it is people like Van Pelt who have a real opportunity. He has started to hit a bit of form and his 6th last week in the Wells Fargo was his first top 10 of the season. He was 13th in total driving and 12th in strokes gained putting for the week, which is promising. When Bo plays well here, he is a one who will always get you a top 10. 7th last year, 4th in 2010 and 8th in 2006 are some of his impressive finishes. It appears he has definitely peaked at the right time for this, 20th at Augusta cannot be overlooked. Bo has a record of playing well around similar courses; the American is sitting 4th in the Pete Dye course stroke averages. He is traditionally a slow starter to the season and he will be looking to kick start his year with a very good run here.

Last 7 ‘Big Tournament’ Performances 

The Masters WGC Cadillac WGC Matchplay PGA Champs WGC Bridgestone The Open U.S Open
T20 T39 R32 T18 T8 MC T59

 Last 5 Pete Dye Course Performances

Zurich Classic RBC Heritage BMW Champs PGA Champs Players Champs
- MDF T10 T18 T7

Zach Johnson (70/1 Stan James)

Hoping for a Hollywood performance from Zach this week

Hoping for a Hollywood performance from Zach this week

You can see a bit of a trend with the players we are picking, and Johnson caps it off for us. Accurate players who are not the longest off the tee. The American caught our eye last week in the first couple of rounds at the Wells Fargo. He tailed off on the final two days but initially his short game looked back to its best and his accuracy was there for all to see. Current form is the only thing that would put you off Johnson but he has been playing some good stuff, so don’t let that worry you. His course form on the other hand is one of the best in the field and it’s why we can’t ignore him. 2nd, 12th, 22nd, 32nd, MC, 16th have been his last few performances at Sawgrass. Course form will be a huge factor this week. The Masters win in 07’ proves how his length off the tee does not affect him and we feel really confident backing someone who relies on accuracy, around this course. Zach also ranks 13th in Pete Dye scoring average, so his ability on these courses cannot be questioned. He also looks like Joaquin Phoenix, which helps…

Last 7 ‘Big Tournament’ Performances 

The Masters WGC Cadillac WGC Matchplay PGA Champs WGC Bridgestone The Open U.S Open
T35 T47 R64 70 T40 T9 T41

 Last 5 Pete Dye Course Performances

Zurich Classic RBC Heritage BMW Champs PGA Champs Players Champs
- T48 T12 70 T2

Fredrik Jacobson (125/1 StanJames)

A great outside bet this week

A great outside bet this week

The big Swede has caught our attention many times this season, fast becoming one of our favourite golfers on tour.  His charisma and calmness on the greens is a joy to watch and you are always confident that if he can drive well, the rest of his game will fall into place.  15th in proximity to the hole and 8th in par 4 performance will stand him in good stead but his putting is where the stats shout out at you.  4th in strokes gained putting, 13th birdie or better conversion, 4th total putting and 47th for 3-putt avoidance.  The man LOVES  his short stick.  Whilst his form has certainly been impressive this season, finishing no lower than 25th in his last 7 tournaments, including 3 top 10s.  He is another one of these `top´ players who is yet to win one of the flagship tournaments, but he has shown talent on Pete Dye courses.  10th here in 2010 and won at River Highlands in 2011, so when you think his odds are as high as 125/1 it would be foolish not to get involved.

Last 7 ‘Big Tournament’ Performances 

The Masters WGC Cadillac WGC Matchplay PGA Champs WGC Bridgestone The Open U.S Open
T25 T16 R16 T36 T50 T54 T15

 Last 5 Pete Dye Course Performances

Zurich Classic RBC Heritage BMW Champs PGA Champs Players Champs
- - - T32 MC

Special mention must go to Stewart Cink at 135/1, who was incredibly close to getting our 6th and final pick.  Considering his fall from grace for several years, the American has started playing the sort of golf that propelled him inside the top 10 in the word.  He also has the 2nd most wins, (4) 6th for stroke average and 13th for most top 25s on Pete Dye courses since 1983…If you have some spare change or a spare slot in your fantasy team, throw the kitchen Cink at Stewart…