By Lewis Pacelli
After our big win last week where we won a 76/1 accumulator, a lucky 15 and had Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Sir Ian Poulter fighting it out on the last day, we bring our winnings to the Honda Classic starting on Thursday.
The Florida Swing begins with the tournament sandwiched in-between two WGC events, played at the National Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens. Redesigned by Jack ‘The Golden Bear’ Nicklaus in 1990, it is well known for its treacherous 15th, 16th and 17th holes, otherwise appropriately called “The Bear Trap”. The course was ranked as the second hardest non-major course on tour last year, with the field average at a staggering above par +1. It will be playing at 7,110 yards Par 70 with Bermuda greens and 26 water hazards around the course. On the Nicklaus website one sentence not only makes us laugh, but shows us how sure the great man is that this will yet again prove a tough test.
“This type of fairway has the tendency to make you feel uncomfortable”
The fairways are open and tight; proving how important accuracy from tee to green will be, whilst wind will most certainly play a key part in the outcome of the tournament. All in all, we feel a solid all-round game and an ability to grind out birdies and pars will be vital. We do not know about tee-times as of yet, which could be crucial on the first two days, as early starters may gain an advantage.
It is worth noting that Rory McIlroy has drifted out to a staggering 12/1 after winning here last year, however we still feel his game will not be right yet. The inconsistency he showed again last week was worrying, but he is too good a player to be in this form for much longer, so we’ve decided to take one more look before taking a punt on the world number 1. If he stays at those prices he could be intriguing.
PaddyPower is paying out for 6 places this week, so sign up and you could also get up £250 free bet, matching whatever you deposit!
Fredrik Jacobson (28/1 PaddyPower)
The big Swede has slowly warmed to us over the past month or so, showing how incredible his touch is on the green. He always seems so calm and cool, making everything look easy. Any player we watch who doesn’t make us have heart attacks (that’s you Mr. Westwood and Bubba!) is a player we are going to like. And Jacobson fits the bill.
Last week at the matchplay he defeated Ernie Els and Marcus Fraser before losing to a fired-up Robert Garrigus, which is certainly no disgrace. And in the two tournaments previous, he could not be found outside the top 10. At the Northern Trust Open he finished a credible T3, but many say he should of made the playoff after a missed putt on the 18th.
As for stats, his driving doesn’t fill us with confidence, however he lies 24th in hit green % and 78th in GIR. Yes, this is not great once more, but when he does get it on the green, he will be very close as he is 4th in proximity to the hole.
13th for scrambling will help his cause around the difficult course, but it is on the green where he could really prove his worth. 34th in one-putt % and 2nd for strokes gained putting shows his abilities with glove off and putter in hand.
Interestingly, he now resides in Florida – always useful when playing tournaments in the state.His form here since 2007 backs this up with a 5th in 2009 and 6th in 2010 followed by 29th and 16th last year.If Jacobsen throws everything he cane to get on the green, he really could be in with a major shout and we recently saw he is coming for some money across the bookies, so get on him quick!
Charl Schwartzel (12/1 PaddyPower)
It was incredibly close between the South African and Justin Rose for our second pick, as both look very appealing and suited to the course. We could not go for both at such low prices (which nearly detracted us from them) but a few things pointed to Schwartzel.
He was very disappointing last week, losing to rookie Russell Henley in the very first round, however he has still had a phenomenal few months. T3 at the Northern Trust Open, 2nd in Johannesburg and a win in December at the Alfred Dunhill. Put simply, he loves it. From tee to green there is very few better in the world at present – hence the price – and his striking is borderline perfection. A temperament and game very suited to this test, we will be shocked if he doesn’t place, if not win the whole thing. In European stats he lies 2nd in driving distance, 25th in accuracy, 2nd in GIR, 6th in scrambling and 3rd in putts per GIR. The man literally has the incredible all round game needed to win this week. We are ignoring the setback last week, mainly because it could turn out to be a blessing, having had a long rest from the torment and stress of matchplay. In his only two outings here, he finished 14th in 2011 and 5th last year. Going in the right direction surely?!
We do recommend at these odds to go all out and lump on the win, however we are confident enough to say he is worth a big stake if you prefer e/w terms.
Martin Kaymer (33/1 PaddyPower)
The former world number 1 has showed signs since that putt at Medinah, of why he reached the top, after months of horrific form. He is clearly a talented player and we were impressed with what we saw last week. Some of his approach play and touch around the green was exquisite once more, which made us instantly think this week could be key to Kaymer’s season. Losing to Hunter on the Saturday, all be it quite convincingly, was not something to be ashamed of, as the American simply bombarded the course and continued an amazing unbeaten run in the format. Let’s be honest though, he has the bottle, (you watch him squander a 7 shot lead on Sunday) he has the temperament and he certainly has the talent.
Even with a missed cut in Phoenix, on the European Tour he has been very solid so far this year with a T9 at the Qatar Masters and T6 in Abu Dhabi. Just like last week, his iron play was a joy to watch in Asia. If he gets everything going in Florida, as he has done and can, then certainly has a chance.
55th in driving distance, 18th GIR, 3rd in scrambling and 17th in Sand saves, proves what a player he is and how his game could easily adapt to ‘The Bear Trap’ et al. Whilst, with a liking for the Bermuda greens, he will be happy to get his putter in full flow.
Graeme McDowell (28/1 PaddyPower)
Well, well, well. Graeme McDowell. At the back end of last year and at the Northern Trust Open, his form was pretty poor. He looked jaded, even after a long break and missing the cut on his first 2013 outing stateside is not good enough for a player of his calibre. However, last week the typical showing of grit, determination and character propelled him to the Quarterfinals before a bizarre performance against Jason Day saw him lose on the 18th. Watching him with a short iron and recovering around the green is a delight and even though it may not be sexy, it is certainly effective.
We strongly feel that the Northern Irishman has a game that can adapt to most situations and if the expected winds ruin some players, it will not harm McDowell at all. Last year on the European Tour, he finished 47th in scrambling, 21st in GIR and 23rd in driving accuracy; whilst on the PGA Tour, he was 6th in accuracy off the tee and 5th for proximity to the hole. He has the tools to compete here, as proven by the recent form showed here. 9th last year and 6th in 2011 is more than impressive and an even bigger pointer towards potential success this week.
At the end of the day McDowell is a very dependable golfer and someone who you can rely on in the nerve-racking situations, whilst living in Florida will mean he is going to be used to the conditions and course. Bring it on G-Mac.
Ted Potter Jnr (PaddyPower 100/1)
Prior to choosing our selections, we look through the odds and if any player seems very tasty with high prices, we thoroughly research reasons why the bookies could have missed a trick. Ted Potter screamed out at a 100/1, falling into the ‘outsider bet’ category. The American has been in consistent form this season, with 5 starts and 4 finishes inside the top 26. Barring a blip at the Sony Open in Hawaii where he missed the cut, his gradual increase up the leaderboard is evident – T26, MC, T24, T16 ending in a T10 finish at the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago. We are no mathematicians, but to us that means on Sunday evening he should be well inside the top 10. No?
His stats this year back up an increase in form, showing how deadly he really is with accuracy – a vital tool for this tournament. 12th in fairways hit, 13th in driving accuracy and 17th in GIR from off the fairway make for good reading. As we have said before, scrambling around the difficult course could be a major attribute and he currently lies in 19th on tour. Added to all this, the icing on top of the cake, is his ability with a putter – 6th on the board. He just seems to good not to touch at those prices, whilst to add the cherry on top of the icing, he is Florida boy born and raised…We dare you.
This weeks double comes in the form of Jacobsen and Van Zyl at a tasty 377/1! Get on it!