Masters 2013

Masters 2013 Stats and Preview

By Lewis Pacelli

It would be far easier to find the fairway Bubba...

It would be far easier to find the fairway Bubba…

Our initial “four week” preview before The Tampa Bay Championship has now developed and things have become a lot clearer before the first major, now only TWO weeks away!Brandt Snedeker simply does not look right sadly and even though he has drifted out in the market, his game will not hack Augusta in its current state. We never thought we would say that! Charles Howell looks very likely to not make the field sadly and Charl Schwartzel is too up and down for us.  He is definitely one of those with the capabilities but his inconsistency per round makes us slightly uncomfortable!

We wanted to share a system with you in  how we picked our initial players, as there are many trends at this major mainly due to the fact it never moves…

Previous Trends

  • Each of the past 13 winners made the cut at The Masters the year before
  • The past 15 major winners had a previous top-10 in the same year
  • Past 5 winners were in the top 60 for driving distance on Tour and averaging 290 yards throughout the season
  • Past 6 winners have been inside the top 63 for scoring average on Tour
  • 7 of the past 8 winners finished in the top-25 at the previous years PGA Championship

This criteria cut the field down considerably, so we then added other key stats

Adam Scott is one of those players that can really drive it far

Adam Scott is one of those players that can really drive it far

  • Changes were made in 2008 to combat a certain Tiger and since then every winner hit GIR of at least 68% during the 4 days. We therefore are factoring in GIR of around 60% on Tour for the season
  • The last 5 winners had driving accuracy of at least 58%, so we feel around 55% accuracy of the tee is required
  • 9 of the last 11 winners were inside the top 20 for putting average during the tournament, so we are looking at around the top 75 in putting stats.
  • The most crucial holes where you need to find birdies are the par 5’s. The past 5 winners have hit a combined under par average, so around top 75 on par 5 scoring average and par 5 birdies or better % – The last 4 winners have played their combined 64 Par 5 holes in –38

This pretty much cancelled out the whole field and left us with only a few golfers, but for safe measure, we incorporated the following variations

  • There’s been only one first-time PGA Tour winner at the Masters since 1948: Bernhard Langer in 1985.
  • 69% or 24 of 35 players of the Top 3 finishers from 2004 through 2012 at Augusta were residents in the Southern United States
  • The average age of the green jacket bearer is 32
  • The average attempts before a first win is 6

With all of those trends considered, we were left with just 3 players.

  • Tiger Woods

Now it is no real surprise to be left with the new number 1 golfer in the world.  He ticks every single box and has been on majestic form this year.  The only things stopping Woods is the fact that the number 1 has not won here since 2002. Guess who that was though?

  • Justin Rose

His odds have been cut down by many bookmakers for obvious reasons – he is finally in the major-winning form his amateur days promised.  Tee to green he is technically superb and his putting is getting better.

  • Adam Scott

Now there is one thing that isn’t in the Australians favour – he does not live in Southern United States. However, when everything else is is a perfect fit, you cannot ignore him.  He is a definate major-winner and he will want to avenge last years collapse at The Open.

Special mention must go to Sergio Garcia whose stats are a perfect match, however he missed the cut at the PGA and also lives back in Europe. Funnily enough one of his houses is next door to Scott!

We will be publishing our 6 initial picks this week before a final preview the Monday of the actual tournament.  For now, here is our stats pack that you may find very helpful in making your decision!

Stats masters 1stats masters 2

On the European circuit –

euro stats

In terms of the stats, Peter Hanson, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Henrik Stenson and Charles Howell stand out in particular, with good all round games from tee to green.

PGA Tour Week 13

Shell Houston Open

After the inevitable brilliance from Tiger last week at Bay Hill, we move another step closer to The Masters and the famous green jacket (Our 2013 Masters Preview is available at the top of our blog). This week sees the PGA Tour move to the Redstone Country Club in Houston, Texas for the Shell Houston Open. This is the 1st time this tournament has not been held the week before the Masters (due to an agreement with next week’s Valero Texas Open). This tournament has always been billed as the Masters warm up event with the course very similar to Augusta in many ways. Emphasis on chipping and putting is even more crucial this year after changes to the course. 11 of the world’s top 25 will be competing this week so we are expecting some great golf. But as with any tournament before a major, be wary of people using this purely as a warm up!

The course yardage is almost identical to Augusta at 7,441 yards. For us this week, the par 5’s are where the tournament will be won and lost. Redstone features 4 par 5’s, which ranked 5th hardest on the PGA Tour last year, so ability on par 5’s will be crucial for anyone expecting to win this. The Greens are very ‘Masters-like’ and on many a 2-putt is more than adequate. Having said this, the tournament winner has averaged -16 since it was formed, with the record being -22, so obviously you need to find birdies and eagles out there! With the greens being as tough as they are, proximity to the hole is another factor that has to be taken into account. Course changes this year have included reduced bunkers and increased chipping areas around the greens, which makes GIR just as important as scrambling.

Redstone will play a lot like Augusta this week

Redstone will play a lot like Augusta this week

Of the big players this week, you have to say Rory Mcilroy will still be piecing his game together in preparation for the Masters, Snedeker (Our Masters main pick), is still coming back from injury, whilst Mickelson missed the cut last week at Bay Hill by some margin. Stricker, Mahan and Johnson of course can all do well here, but for us this week we have found value elsewhere. We have to say, this is the most confident we have felt about our picks for a few weeks now!

Paddy Power and BetVictor are paying 6 places this week as well, so keep that in mind!

Keegan Bradley (14/1 Ladbrokes)

Keegan is our big fancy this week

Keegan is our big fancy this week

We have never been the greatest of admirers of Keegan and he also failed to produce when we have previously backed him (1 shot off a place), but even we can’t look any further than him. He ticks every box. In his first outing here, he finished 51st and then weighed in with a 4th place last year, so his course form improvement is there for all to see. Other than Tiger, Bradley is the form man on tour right now, 3rd, 7th and 4th in his last three tournaments is some going. The figures are as simple as that. On top of this, the American’s playing style suits this course down to a tee. It is statistics galore. He is 5th in Par 5 performance and 7th in par5 birdie or betters this year, vital for those 4 par 5’s we were talking about. 8th in scrambling, 7th in total driving, 16th in driving distance (299 yards), 8th in scoring average, 7th in total eagles, 30th in total birdies and 4th in ‘going for the green’ shows what a class act this guy is. We are going big on Bradley this week, we really do fancy him.

Henrik Stenson (50/1 Stan James)  

Is the Swede back to his best?

Is the Swede back to his best?

Henrik is the type of player that when his swing works well, he will take some stopping. And last week at Bay Hill the Swede ranked 1st in driving accuracy and 2nd in GIR on the way to his 8th place last week. Now for someone who has comfortably averaged over 300 yards off the tee in his career, that is a lethal combination. It is well known that the last couple of years haven’t been kind to Stenson, suffering from injuries and problems with his swing. But saying all that, he still managed to finish 21st last year. Whilst when he was on form back in 2009, he finished 3rd… So he enjoys it in Houston. With only one missed cut this year and 4 top 25’s, it is clear Henrik is starting to enjoy his golf again. As mentioned, taking advantage of the par 5’s will be crucial and we all know he can do that averaging over 285 yards on the PGA Tour and also nearly 300 yards on the European Tour for 2013. But Stenson seems to have added even more to his game. On the PGA Tour he finds himself 1st in driving accuracy, 1st in GIR and 1st in the following 4 categories: GIR % 75-100 yards, GIR % <75 yards, GIR % 150-175 yards and GIR % <100 yards. Now for someone so good with the driver, those are some impressive iron stats, and they don’t stop there. 1st in ‘going for the green’, 3rd in scrambling and 1st in scrambling from the rough is enough to be really confident about him this week. Stenson also finds himself 53rd in the World Rankings, so he’ll be desperate for a big performance, a top 50 spot and a place at the Masters! Lets hope he hasn’t tired himself out at Tavistock Cup!

Chris Kirk (50/1 Ladbrokes)

Kirk is a young lad who we really like this week. His style again suits this course and he is used to shooting low scores. His only appearance here came 2 years ago and he came away with a 2nd place, so he’ll have no worries with the course. Other than one missed cut this year, his form has gone 5th, 24th, 2nd, 33rd, 51st and most recently 16th in a tough field at Bay Hill last week. In his 2nd place in 2011, Kirk shot 4 rounds in the 60’s and was unlucky not to win. What we like is how he certainly has a taste for low scoring, something you need when the winner averages -16 here. -16 at the Sony Open, -13 at the Waste Management and -17 at the Pebble Beach pro-am. Statistically, he is also very impressive. 6th in strokes gained by putting, 6th scoring average, 7th all round ranking, 1st in total eagles, 18th par 5 birdie or better, 4th par 4 birdie or better whilst he also averages 290 yards off the tee! He also finds himself 9th in proximity to the hole and 9th in scrambling, so enjoys getting it close! Kirk also finds himself 76th in the World Rankings, he will be pushing like mad to get a top 50 spot and a place at The Masters this week, it’s last chance saloon time for him. Again like our first 2 picks, we feel really confident about this guy!

Jimmy Walker (55/1 Stan James)

It was a close call between Stenson, Kirk and Walker and so he doesn’t really deserve to be this far down our list! Other than his course form, Walker is looking a mean prospect for this week. And even his course form is not awful, he has registered a 30th and a 44th here. But this year Walker has been a completely different animal, so don’t let course form affect you.  It is quite amazing how Walker has not recorded a victory yet, he has had 7 top 30’s in 8 starts, 2 of those being a 3rd and 4th and a very respectable 8th last week at Bay Hill. And just like Kirk, he loves shooting low scores! Last week at Bay Hill he was 1st in driving distance and combined that with coming 19th in strokes gained by putting, a lethal combination. Just like our other picks, his stats are again crazy good. 3rd in par5 performance, 2nd in par4 performance, 20th in driving distance, 7th birdie average, 7th scoring average, 11th all round ranking, 3rd total birdies, 22nd total eagles and 29th in strokes gained putting, all on the PGA Tour. Impressive. We think it is only fair we coin Walker ‘Jimbo’ this week after Furyk has let us down 2 weeks running! Jimbo does lie in 67th in World Rankings, so maybe a good showing here could grab a Masters spot. Also, does anyone think Walker looks like Edward Norton (Fight Club, Hulk actor)? We’ll leave that one with you…

Jimmy Walker?

Jimmy Walker?

Edward Norton?

Edward Norton?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carl Pettersson (80/1 Bet365)

Our last spot was again a close call, Cameron Tringale and Ben Kohles came very close to grabbing it but the Swede’s all round game has edged it for us. Firstly, Carl finished 2nd here last year, after finishes of 50th and 71st in his 2 previous appearances.  Then last week he finished 21st at Bay Hill which is a good indicator of some form. His putter started to work as well last week, something that had not been there for him of late, he was 3rd in strokes gained putting and 5th in scrambling, so his game is definitely coming together. He has 5 wins already to his name on the PGA Tour so he’ll have no problem taking this title if his game works this week. Of course his stats will reflect the price that he finds himself at, but his performance at Bay Hill shows to us that he has turned a corner this season. The Swede averages 286 yards off the tee (his longest drive this year was 416yards!) so he’ll be more than happy taking those par 5’s on whilst in all areas of his game he is mid-range on the PGA leaderboards, but we expect him to make a climb up them after this week.

DownThe18th Double

Keegan Bradley + Pablo Larrazabal (345/1 Paddy Power)

DownThe18th Triple

Keegan Bradley + Pablo Larrazabal + Thongchai Jaidee (4485/1 Paddy Power)

European Tour Week 13

The Trophée Hassan ii Trophy

By Lewis Pacelli

With one of the coolest trophies in sporting history, it would be a shock if everyone didn't try extra hard to get their hands on that sword

With one of the coolest trophies in sporting history, it would be a shock if everyone didn’t try extra hard to get their hands on that sword

The Tour moves to northern Africa this week as The Trophee Hassan II is held at the Golf du Palais Royal in Agadir, Morocco.  What is very exciting for all European fans is the fact we are slowly edging towards the tour finally arriving in Europe.  It is the ‘European’ Tour after all.  Better still, the tee-times are at a normal hour for everyone in Europe, so you don’t have to get up at silly o’clock to watch a tournament in Asia with more rain than birdies.The event itself was only fully established on Tour in 2010, however this course was not used until 2011, when David Horsey won. That was followed by Michael Hoey claiming the title last year.

The course is one of real beauty, lying in behind the walls of the Royal Palace and it is the beloved joy of Prince Moulay Rachid who can pretty much play on it when he wants.

“You can tell from the conditioning of the course that we are in the King’s garden – it is very beautiful and is just in immaculate condition so we cannot complain about the course this week!”

Rafa Cabrera-Bello this week

Measuring at 6,800 yards, it is quite an interesting challenge with iron play seeming to be most crucial.  After his victory last year, Hoey claimed that he only won because he kept finding the fairway and giving himself a chance.  GIR will be vital on very small greens and as it often is on the European circuit, putting will be the difference between 1st and 6th.  Although as Hoey said, get it on the fairway first…

The field is relatively strong with a handful of players knocking on the door of the world top 50 and a last chance to get into the first major of the year at Augusta. Which is only TWO weeks away now! Stephen Gallacher (64th), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (65th), Marcel Siem (72nd), Richie Ramsay (73rd) and Scott Jamieson (74th) are the five golfers who will have every ambition to have a good week and find themselves at The Masters.  Keep a keen eye on all of them throughout the 4 days.

Francesco Molinari has established himself as the outright favourite which is quite criminal considering his recent form, but we really feel anyone could win this tournament, there are plenty of capable players but there are certainly a few names who we feel will make a big challenge.

Pablo Larrazabal (28/1 StanJames and Bet365)

Larrazabal and his irons could be a real force this week

Larrazabal and his irons could be a real force this week

The Spaniard has been slowly making his mark this season, with solid performances throughout 2013, resulting in a battling showing in Malaysia last week where he finished T6.  He has caught our eye a few times, but it has never seemed to be the right course or moment for us to lay our money.  However this week is a perfect fit, especially due to the fact he will be full of confidence and desperately trying to add a 3rd title to his cabinet after a winless season last year.  His iron play has the potential to stand out in this field, 11th for GIR last week in horrendous conditions, 6th at the Avantha Masters, whilst he is 23rd overall.  And his putting is improving after finishing 59th in the rankings at the Avantha to 37th in Malaysia.  All in all this is a pro on the rise and if he gets his game going as we know he can, he really should be in the fold come Sunday, especially at a course where he finished 9th last year

David Horsey (33/1 PaddyPower)

David Horsey won this event in 2011 after showing his bottle in a 3-man playoff between Rhys Davies and Zaco Van Zyl.  Last year he finished 14th, 4 shots off 3rd and what would have been a place return.  Basically he loves this course.  Whether it be the gorgeous conditions, the perfectly laid fairways or even the sight of a Royal Palace in the background, Horsey has simply got his game going here.  This year the tournament has come around at an interesting time for the Englishman.  He started 2013 in bizarre fashion, with not one round under par in Abu Dhabi, before showing signs of inconsistency over the next few months.  One round he would be scintillating, with a low score, before frustratingly shooting over par the next.  This fluctuated until the Avantha Masters two weeks ago, where a level par first day was followed by 3 superb rounds in the 60s.  He eventually finished T6 and his putter was burning hot.  17th for putts per GIR and 5th for putts per round meant he could climb the leaderboard and although his GIR have been poor this year, we don’t think anything equates for the confidence he would of gained and have going to a place he loves.

Maximilian Kieffer (66/1 SkyBet)

In 2010 Rhys Davies won this title in his first year as a Challenge Tour graduate.  We see no reason why Kieffer cannot do the same and at the very least compete when it comes to Sunday.

Maximilian is a cracking name. And he is a cracking player

Maximilian is a cracking name. And he is a cracking player

As one of our ‘Players to watch’ he has impressed in his debut season, missing the cut only once in eight attempts and recording a lowest finish of T37 in the other 7.  He has been remarkably consistent but we feel it is time for the German to attack the top 10 and better his T4 at The Nelson Mandela Championship in December.  He has a wonderful all-round game and from tee to green he rivals anyone on Tour.  18th in driving accuracy and 26th GIR show his potential, whilst on his last outing at the Avantha he was 8th GIR and 37th putts per GIR.  Obviously he has not played here before but this will not stop a plucky German who seems to have no fear in any tournament he finds himself in.

Mikko Ilonen (66/1 Bet365)

Mikko Ilonen will arrive in Morocco feeling confident after a strong showing in Malaysia last week and knowing this is a favourite country of his.  He finished T17 last year with 4 solid performances and in 2011 a round of 64 was enough to end T7. Had it not been for a first day 72, who knows where the Fin could have ended.  What is exciting is how good he was on the greens last week.  He eventually finished T17 but he was 3rd for putts per GIR and 5th for putts per round and when you think he was 53rd GIR, you realise how many putts he holed.  If he can get his irons working than he has the accuracy and distance off the tee to make a real challenge this week.

Madsen is a very calm character. Such poise

Madsen is a very calm character. Such poise

Morten Ørum Madsen (125/1 Bet365)

Another Tour graduate who has made some steady progress in his debut season, Madsen is a player who hails from the same Danish club as a DownThe18th favourite – Thomas Bjørn.  When your idol is ‘Mr.Rain’ himself, then the potential for greatness is unquestionable.  The man has taste. In all seriousness, the Dane has an interesting e/w shout for this tournament in Morocco.  On his last outing at the Tshwane Open he shot 3 consecutive rounds in the 60s, finishing in a very respectable T8, which followed a T20 at the Africa Open the week before.  His all-round abilities at the Tshwane were there for all to see, driving consistently over 300 yards and finding the fairways a remarkable 87% of the time. (4th overall) Yes the fairways were kinder, but to be hitting it that long and straight is very dangerous, especially when he was 39th GIR and 12th for putts per GIR.  There is certain ability there for a top 5 finish and with his accumulated stats over the season, you cannot ignore Madsen at his odds. 3rd in driving accuracy, 43rd for putts per round and 7th for driving distance.  In reality he could drive a couple of the par 4’s and really attack the five par 5s.

PGA Tour Week 12

Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Lewis Pacelli

This week The PGA Tour embarks upon one of the most historic tournaments in world golf.  The Arnold Palmer Invitational is a favourite among fans and pros, with the course providing an incredibly tough test ahead of The Masters, just a few weeks away.

And we must mention that we will be blessed by the return of Brandt Snedeker, who has fully recovered from injury and it is going to be more than interesting seeing how one of our favourites for that Masters crown can play this week.

Please check out our Masters 2013 preview

Tiger strutting his stuff last year

Tiger strutting his stuff last year

Bay Hill Golf Course is widely considered one of the toughest non-major tracks and just like last week at Copperhead, it will demand a variety of attributes from the players if they want to challenge.  Playing at 7,419 yards, it will favour long hitters, who can attack the four par 5’s, however if you are not accurate off the tee as well, you can kiss goodbye to any potential high finish.  The thick Bermuda rough will cause havoc with the players if they miss the fairway and therefore birdies, let alone pars, will be difficult to find.  As if that isn’t enough, the greens are a real challenge to hit and finding them requires exquisite and accurate iron play, whilst the putting once you get there will be similar to last week – complicated. Taking all this into account, we feel the key stats are proximity to the hole, GIR, driving distance and accuracy and even scrambling for when the going gets tough.

If you want to see how tight and long the course really is, check out the official Bay Hill page, where you can take a tour of each hole.

What will also be very key is the small factor of world number 2 Tiger Woods.  He has started 4 tournaments this year and won 2, he has won this tournament 7 times, he is currently a combined total of 108 under par over 15 attempts here and perhaps even more importantly, he has a new lady on the scene.  US skier Lindsay Vonn was rumoured to be ‘close’ to Tiger, but it is now official after revealing their relationship via Facebook.  Basically Tiger has got his mojo back.

These 3 factors added together are a lethal combination to an already phenomenal force, who is simply playing outstanding golf at the moment.  Oh and one more thing, if he wins this week, he will be back to the number 1 spot in the world rankings for the first time in 29 months…

Graeme McDowell (25/1 Ladbrokes and w/o Woods 18/1 Bet365)

We will hopefully be drinking thanks to Gmac come Sunday evening

We will hopefully be drinking thanks to Gmac come Sunday evening

Before previewing our selections, we would like to say Tiger looks unstoppable at the moment and there is a market without him, if you wish to ignore the man completely, however there is obviously more value and better place (StanJames and PaddyPower are paying 6 places) payouts if you bet on the normal market.

So, the man they call GMAC has been slowly making his presence known on tour, with some very solid performances of late.  After missing the cut at his season opener, he has gone on to record 3 top 10’s in a row. T5 at the Matchplay, T9 at The Honda Classic and T3 at The WGC Cadillac.  His consistency has been key to his success of late and that is evident in the fact his worst finish at a major last year was T12 at The Masters.  This also proves the old theory that the Northern Irishman is known for his ability to battle and grind out scores on difficult tracks.  He has the game to really compete this week and he will be confident knowing his form on the course.  T2 last year and in 2005, he must surely be wanting to go one better in 2013.

As for his stats, they make for no real surprises, as McDowell excels across the board. 2nd for driving accuracy and 21st for total driving, show he will have no worries about avoiding the rough, whilst he is 2nd for scrambling and 2nd for scrambling from the rough.  He is currently 32nd for proximity to the hole, meaning he has the ability to attack what will be difficult pins and although his putting has been inconsistent this season, there are signs it is on the up.  There is no doubting that McDowell is gearing up for a big Masters performance and we can really see him challenging come Sunday evening.

Bubba Watson (30/1 StanJames and w/o Woods 28/1 StanJames)

The defending Masters champion will be going into the tournament this week looking to build some momentum before attempting to regain his crown in just under a months time.  And Bubba is the sort of player who can attack this course if his game is on song, whilst we will be the first to admit, he can just as easily slump to a very poor score.  We can take confidence from the fact he did not shoot over par in his four rounds here last year, finishing in T4.  He also finished 24th the year before that, showing that he has potential to challenge and the fact he is simply current Masters champion should be enough to prove he has the game to attack difficult courses.

We do love that pink driver. Bubba got style

We do love that pink driver. Bubba got style

4th in driving distance and 3rd in GIR is a lethal combination and if he can hit straight off the tee, there is absolutely no doubt he will finish in the top 10.

Whilst his form this year has been inconsistent, he is showing signs of form peaking at the right time. Barring his missed cut at The Northern Trust, he has failed to finish outside the top 20 and if it wasn’t for a final day 75 at The WGC Cadillac, he would have been easily inside the top 10.

Bubba will want to impress this week and prove not just to all of us, but to himself that he has the form and confidence to win back to back titles at Augusta.

Jim Furyk (40/1 Ladbrokes and w/o Woods 33/1 Bet365)

It may seem odd to go for a man who promised much last week before dropping agonizingly out of the places after several missed birdie opportunities.  However this man is Jim ‘5-hour energy’ Furyk. He was impressive throughout the 4 days, plugging away at a very difficult course and we see no reason why he cannot do it again this week on what will be a similar track.  Some of his approach play was outstanding, moving the ball really well from the fairway and finding plenty of birdie chances.  Yes he missed a few of them on the Sunday but the fact he is getting there in the first place is testament to what a quality and accurate iron player he is.  This is backed up by the fact he was 1st for proximity to the hole in the tournament but if he wants to challenge here, he has to putt better. And here is the confusion, he currently lies in 47th for strokes gained putting and he has always been renowned as a consistent putter, so what was happening on Sunday is unknown to us.  However, he did hole a monster 30 footer on the 17th which would have given him confidence.  He is 3rd for driving accuracy and 23rd for GIR between 175-200 yards, which will be the main distance on the par 4s.

Whilst his form here is very respectable, finishing 11th last year, 9th in 2011 and 11th again in 2010.

All in all we feel he could challenge the top of the leaderboard again this week and if he can hole his putts, winning is a real possibility.  He certainly has the attributes and talent.

Boo Weekley (100/1 SkyBet and w/o Woods 80/1 SkyBet)

Boo admitted he is at the right weight to play his best golf at the moment

Boo admitted he is at the right weight to play his best golf at the moment

Twitter went absolutely crazy on Sunday after Boo decided to hit an –8 from pretty much nowhere.  His game could not have been more perfect on the day and to say he was striking the ball cleanly is an understatement.  He has been away from the top end of the game for a long time, but he really is coming into some form at the minute.  It may seem like we are jumping on the Boo bandwagon, especially after he won us some money last week, but as a ball striker, there are few who can match him at this moment in time.  T25 at The Honda Classic, followed by a T8 in Puerto Rico and then his 2nd place last week are all the signs of how impressive he has been. While his all-round game is a potential perfect match for this course when he is in this kind of form.  49th in driving distance proves he has the ability to hit the ball long, whilst he is 40th for driving accuracy, 7th in GIR and 1st in GIR from 200+ yards, which will give him an advantage on the Par 5s.  From tee to green he is pretty much the ideal player and if he can putt as well as he did at Tampa Bay then there is no reason why he cannot do the same here. As long as he has been fishing this week and had his pizza.

Graham DeLaet (100/1 PaddyPower and w/o Woods 90/1 Bet365)

Graham De Laet is one of those outside chances that you just never know about, especially in a season when those ‘random’ outsiders have been at the top of many leaderboards.  His form is progressively impressive after finishing a respectable T17 last week T18 in Puerto Rico and T9 at The Honda Classic.  We are aware he has never played here but he has a game that could cause an upset.  18th in driving distance, 6th total driving, 10th in GIR, 24th par 4 performance, 12th par 5 performance, 2nd GIR from 200+ yards and 11th in proximity to the hole.  You cannot tell us that those stats are highly appealing for someone who is at 3-figure odds!

JJ Henry (400/1 Bet365 and w/o Woods 275/1 Bet365)

Just a quick word on JJ Henry. At 400/1, he is certainly worth any spare change you have, simply because of that price.  His form isn’t great this season, but he has played here before and although he may not have excelled, he has only missed 1 cut in 5 attempts and had a best finish of 12th in 2011. But it is his tee to green that intrigued us – 15th in both driving accuracy and GIR. If he decides he wants to turn it on here than you never know.

DownThe18th Double

This weeks double comes in the form of Gaganjeet Bhullar and Graeme McDowell at odds of 1058/1.

Also if you really do have some spare change and are a big betting person, maybe look at chucking those two in a triple with Richard Sterne at The Investec Cup at odds of 6771/1…you never know.

European Tour Week 12

Maybank Malaysian Open 2013

This is the 14th year this tournament has been co-sanctioned with the European Tour and it is getting better every year. The tournament up until recently had been dominated by Asian players, with the likes of Vijay Singh, Thongchai Jaidee and Charlie Wi all picking up wins here.  In the past 2 years it has had a more foreign feel with 17 year old Matteo Mannasero claiming the title here back in 2011 whilst Louis Oosthuizen came off the back of Masters disappointment to claim the 2012 trophy. We will be taking into account statistics from both the European Tour and the Asian Tour.

The tournament is played at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club and plays 7,000yards exactly.  The short yardage gives every type of player the chance to perform well here, but with 4 reachable par 5’s if you can hit the ball long and grab a few eagles out there, you could go close here. Emphasis of course will be huge on GIR % and sinking those putts!  Louis Oosthuizen won here last year with a score of -17 so there are plenty of birdies that need to be had out there this week. With the 2 favourites Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel at the 5/1 mark in the betting, it makes them pretty much un-backable, but we have a few names that can walk away with the crown this week!

The Umbrellas may be out again this week!

The Umbrellas may be out again this week!

We will also warn you, rain and thunder is expected for all 4 days this week, so the leaderboard may not shape up the way you would think! Naturally if ‘Mr Rain’ Thomas Bjorn would have been there, he would be straight on our list, but sadly he will surely be on some Danish golf course this week, making the most of life in beautiful Scandinavia.

Check the weather out for yourselves

Gaganjeet Bhullar (50/1 Bet365)

We were sitting at home on Sunday night last week watching the final round of the Avantha Masters and could not help but be mesmerised by the golf this fellow was playing! His driving, iron play and putting was all working incredibly well, and he managed to climb the leaderboard on the final day to finish outright 2nd, 3 shots behind the impressive Thomas Aiken. His performances here have never been special, but never has he gone into the tournament off the back of playing so well! On the Asian Tour, Bhullar ranks 1st in GIR, 2nd in fairways hit, 7th in stroke average and is hitting the ball 298yards off the tee. Meanwhile on the European Tour, the Indian averages 304 yards off the tee, is 10th in stroke average, 12th putts per round and 71st GIR. All in all Gaganjeet is a mean prospect and as long as the rain does not affect him this week, he will go close.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello (28/1 StanJames) 

The Spaniard could run away with it this week

The Spaniard could run away with it this week

The Spaniard has yet to get going this year but this course will suit him just fine and with 2 European Tour titles to his name already, he knows how to win. His form has been mixed of late, but his poor form has come in America and not on the European Tour. Before the WGC events, Bello in Europe finished T17, T22 and T23 in fields arguably a lot better than the one this week. And in those events he was shooting some low scores which bodes well. His course form is perhaps what will impress you the most though, in 2 appearances here he has finished 3rd and 4th, so he really enjoys this course. His statistics this year don’t fly off the page, 15th in GIR is the best to show from them. But interestingly he was 13th in GIR for the whole of 2012 on the European Tour, and as we mentioned earlier, you need to be finding those greens this week as it will be so competitive at the top. He has also averaged 290 yards off the tee the last 2 years which will give him chances to go for the 4 par 5’s out there in 2 shots. Of the lower odds there this week, Bello for us, will go the closest.

Wen-chong Liang (66/1 SkyBet)

He's enjoying his golf and can challenge this week

He’s enjoying his golf and can challenge this week

Again this is another person who really, really impressed us at the Avantha. The muscular Chinese man was always towards the top end of the leaderboard and looked both long off the tee and very capable on the greens. He averages 316 yards off the tee on the Asian Tour and 301 in the European which will be invaluable on the par 5’s. He also finds himself 10th in putts per GIR and 3rd in putts per round, albeit playing fewer tournaments. In 2012 on the European Tour, he was 28th in GIR and 20th in stroke average, which is impressive for someone not known to many.  In the Malaysian Open he has gone 65th and then 29th last year which shows improvement and his 3rd place at the Avantha will fill him with a lot of confidence. If you’re worried about his credentials, Liang has not finished outside the top 25 in 5 of his last 6 appearances on the European Tour, which includes a T24 at the WGC – HSBC Champions event. We really like him and would advise you to jump on him now.

Stephen Gallagher (45/1 Paddy Power)

We are pretty sure Gallagher will come into this tournament flying, knowing he has a European title under his belt already this year and the fact he finished 2nd here last year. He hasn’t appeared on the European Tour since his win, after two appearances at the WGC’s, so he will feel much more at ease in the less star studded field this week. His course form here before his 2nd last year goes 11th and 49th, so with that improvement it only means there is 1st place left for him to finish right? Statistically, Gallagher is solid in all areas neither excelling nor failing at any aspect of his game, whilst he is driving the ball 293 yards which is plenty long enough. Last year on the tour the Scot finished 10th in GIR. Gallagher seems to be one of those players who play well on certain courses, and this course ranks up there as one of his best, so look out for him this week.

Scott Hend (100/1 BetFred)

Hend is someone we so nearly backed last week for the Avantha Masters and he performed admirably with a T6 finish. The big hitting Aussie usually plies his trade on the Asian Tour, so he will be more than comfortable playing in Malaysia. The most impressive statistic about him is his driving, he hits it long off the tee, and then some. He currently averages 321 yards off the tee in Asia whilst he finds himself 1st in total birdies, 3rd in total eagles and 34th in stroke average all on the Asian Tour. Those figures will fit in perfect for this week.  2 of his last 3 appearances in Asia have brought about a T6 last week and then a T9 at the Open Championship Asia qualifying event. His performance here was T11 last year, so it will be very interesting to see how he goes this week with him being in very good touch.

Big hitting Hend can take this course on

Big hitting Hend can take this course on

Tale Of Our Woes

Tampa Bay Championship + Avantha Masters

Sponsored by Colin Stuart Montgomerie, 5-time major runner up and the bearer of all our woes

Things we have learnt this week:

  • We love Boo Weekley
  • Boo likes fishing
  • Colin Montgomerie actually might be a better pundit than he his golfer
  • Gaganjeet Bhullar looks incredible!
  • Kevin Streelman was not on our radar before this week
  • Jim Furyk putted as well as he acts this week (His 5Energy advert will explain all)
  • We made a tidy profit with barely anything going for us!
Should he still be playing?

Should Monty still be playing?

We think before we go any further into this week’s edition, we have to take a quick look at the bottom end of the Avantha Masters 2013 leaderboard. As you might have guessed, Monty is indeed the brunt of many of our jokes here at DownThe18th but it is only fitting this week that we let the leaderboard do the talking. Thanks Monty.

But onto more serious matters, our week at DownThe18th was certainly one of mixed emotions, shall we say.  We went into this week knowing it was always going to be a tough one with the Avantha Masters being played on a new course and the Tampa Bay being notoriously hard to call. And we can definitely come out of it with our heads held high.

First we have to mention the rejuvenated and 100/1 shot Boo Weekley. How can you not like this guy?! What a real gentleman he is. Weekley shot an 8 under 63 on the final day of the Tampa putting him in 1st place with all the people around him barely through 4 holes. Boo greeted reporters with genuine politeness “thank you sir” he said over and over. When asked what he would be doing for the next 3 hours (waiting for the round to finish) he said “we were gonna drive on over there you know, to Orlando, and do some fishing on the golf course, but we’re gonna have to wait around now, but ah that’s alright, I’ll wait”.

Sadly Boo was eventually overhauled by fellow American Kevin Streelman picking up his 1st career PGA Tour win but it was still a great each way return for us and a pleasure to watch Boo back doing what he does best.

Life beyond Boo at the Tampa for us was one of disappointment though. Billy Horschel, another of our 100/1 picks, was outright leader for some of day 1, picking up 4 consecutive birdies at one point.  You can imagine our feelings when he finished T56 and +4 for the tournament.  Our 3rd outsider in the shape of Bryce Molder had a real chance going into the last day, just 2 shots back and found himself in the 4th final pairing.  He subsequently shot a 75 and finished T30 and was outshone by a very impressive 19 year old Jordan Spieth, look out for him in the future. Meanwhile it was a Webb of disappointment for Simpson, he managed to climb up to T17 in the end, but he never looked a threat on a course that really should have suited him! And then we come to Jimbo Furyk. Coined ‘Mr Consistency’ by us, certainly was not that on the final day. 2nd place he held going into the final day, many fancied him to go on and take this especially with a 1st and 2nd place in his last 3 outings here. But Jim left his putter in the clubhouse, nothing went in for him but for a 25footer on the 17th which was ultimately too late. Naturally he finished 1 shot off a place scuppering any chance of an each way return. But we still love you Jimbo, we still have faith!

Now onto India and the Avantha Masters.  In brief, Thomas Aiken never looked like losing from midway through day 3, he was finding every green in regulation and putting superbly. From a DownThe18th perspective, things were not as rosy.

Our saviour at the Avantha was a certain Indian going by the name of Gaganjeet Bhullar. He eventually finished 2nd on his own but was visibly the best player on the course on the last day, he looked imperious picking up 7 birdies and an eagle whilst putting sensationally. (We will not mention the fact that we only backed Bhullar to win and he finished 2nd). We WILL be backing Bhullar again this week, he really did look impressive.

Our #1 pick, David Howell, found many birdies out there during the week but also found a few bogeys! He eventually finished 11 shots back in T17 but it could have been so much better if the consistency had been there this week. Andy Sullivan, a favourite of ours at DownThe18th, was again dropping too many shots out there, he finished T23 eventually, not bad but not what we had hoped for from the Englishman. It was the same story from the big hitting Alvaro Quiros, but after such an extensive period out through injury, he can be more than happy with his -6 finish.  Our 2 rank outsiders finished where the betting predicted, missing the cut. What we will say, 125/1 shot Shamim Khan hit a -6 on day 2 and still missed the cut by 1 shot. You can imagine what day 1 was like…

One more thing.  Whoever MASHED POTATOES guy is, please contact us.  We love you! We spotted you at the Tampa Bay 17th tee on sunday!  See Video…

The Masters 2013 Preview

The Masters 2013

Lets hope some of our bets are on that iconic leaderboard come Sunday

By Lewis Pacelli + Andy Taylor

The first major of the year is only four weeks away and after glancing at the odds in and around the web, we felt there was some real ante post value to take advantage of.  There are eight names we feel could really challenge at Augusta – four of which have a serious chance of winning and four outsiders who could upset the odds.  We will do a comprehensive preview the week of the tournament and compare how the eight of now are looking four weeks on.  The excitement is palpable and if you have some spare change, we do recommend dipping into the market early as odds will fluctuate significantly between now and the 11th April.

Some cheeky stats –

  • 69% or 24 of 35 players of the Top 3 finishers from 2004 through 2012 at Augusta were residents in the Southern United States.
  • Past 5 winners were averaging over 290 yards during the season.
  • With the fastest greens on tour, putting is a must at Augusta
  • The par four 1st was the hardest hole last year.
  • The average attempts before a first win is 6.
  • Youngest champion – Tiger Woods (21)
  • Oldest champions – Jack Nicklaus (46) – sorry Mr. Stricker but that means we cannot look at you!
  • The average age of the green jacket bearer is 32.
  • Only one man has won the tournament during his first trip to Augusta National, and that was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
  • In the 75-year history of the Masters, only three men have ever won back-to-back titles: Jack Nicklaus—’65 and ’66, Nick Faldo—’89 and ’90, Tiger Woods—’01 and ’02.
  • In the 75-year history of the Masters, only 16 Europeans have ever won the event. The last being Jose Maria Olazabal

Ian Poulter (50/1 Stan James)

Birthplace: Stevenage, England

Residence: Buckinghamshire, England and Orlando, Florida

Sir. Ian has the ability to read any green

All sentimental feelings for Sir Ian aside, Poulter genuinely is in with a massive chance this year and with the years ticking by, he knows it’s now or never.  His passion for the game has been on show for many years now and it will be a real shame if he doesn’t get a major in his career.  If anyone watched him at the WGC Match Play this year, you will know he hasn’t lost his spark.  On both tours last year he was more than consistent.  (2012 PGA Tour stats) 285 yards driving average, 39th Driving accuracy, 52nd putting average, 2nd Scrambling.  (2012 European Tour stats) 9th Driving accuracy, 3rd GIR, 14th Putts per GIR, and 17th in Scrambling.  And his track record here is very impressive for someone without a major to his name.   He is very consistent and his natural abilities can really hurt this course.  And let’s be honest, we can all see Poults in the green jacket!

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
7th 27th 10th 20th 25th 13th 33rd 31st

Brandt Snedeker (20/1 with various)

Birthplace: Nashville, Tennessee

Residence: Nashville, Tennessee

With Brandt Snedeker being out the game for a little while, we are hoping he drops a bit in the market, which will certainly play into punters hands. How likely that is, we are not sure, as this is a man who has to be up there.  We don’t need to say much about him, everything is beyond obvious but at 20/1 currently, wait until next week, if he is anything more, get on him straight away! A man as lethal as him with a putter is going to have a formidable chance come the Sunday.

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
19th 15th MC 3rd 41st

Adam Scott (28/1 SkyBet)

Birthplace: Adelaide, Australia

Residence: Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Rewind the clock back to 2002 and a 22-year old Australian showed signs he will be challenging for majors in the future. Winning the Scottish PGA Championship by 10 clear shots and recording a top 10 in his first ever appearance at The Masters. Since then Adam Scott has always been on the radar.  His complete bottle at The Open last year was horrible to watch and also a shock for everyone in the game because he has such a level head.  But we cannot see him ever doing that again if he is in contention and we are sure he will be when it comes to the weekend. He has purposefully only played a few tournaments this year –10th at the Northern Trust and T3 at the WGC Cadillac where he interestingly shot an –8 on the last day.  All in all his game is a perfect match for the Augusta challenge and he is a major winner in the making.

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
8th 2nd 18th MC 25th 27th 27th 33rd MC

Charl Schwartzel (22/1 BetVictor)

Evidence how good Charl looks in the green jacket. Why would he not want another one?

Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

Residence: Verceeniging, South Africa and Florida, USA

You can call this an obvious pick with the sort of form he has been showing in 2013, but he really does look like a mean prospect to once again don that famous green jacket.  Of course his credentials here do not need to be questioned, winning on his 2nd time out here.  At the start of the year the South African won 2, and had two 2nd places in his first 6 outings.  His form has dipped somewhat of late but has still managed to finish T9 at the Honda Classic and T16 at the Cadillac Championship.  His sights are certainly now set on the Masters.  Some stats to throw at you emphasising this form:  2nd Driving distance (307 yards) 25th Driving accuracy and 2nd GIR (European Tour).  Putting is a must at Augusta with the fast greens and 10th in Putts Per Round and 3rd Putts per GIR bodes well!  He also switches his residence from his native South Africa to Florida throughout the year, which is very interesting.

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
50th 1st 30th

The Outsiders who are worth a look.

Peter Hanson (80/1 Bet365)

Birthplace: Svedala, Sweden

Residence: Trelleborg, Sweden

Peter Hanson has been knocking on the door in recent years. He is an unassuming Swede who is arguably one of the most reliable putters in the game. Even though he may not have ever won a major or “flagship” event as of yet, last year he challenged.  5th at the Match play, 4th at the WGC Cadillac, 7th at the USPGA and the most interesting – 3rd at The Masters.  That sort of form is incredible and he hasn’t started this season too badly either, not finding himself outside the top 30 in any tournament yet. His attributes seem to suit Augusta – a level-head, lengthy drive and a putter that can make miracles happen.  His distances have consistently averaged over 290 yards off the tee, which is certainly healthy, where as his stats on the green are pretty much perfect. In 2012 he was 4th for putts per round and 1st for putts per GIR on the European Tour. To top it off he loves the sand as well, 24th last season and currently 15th this year.

At prices as high as 66/1 in antepost betting, it seems worth a look.

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
3rd MC

Fredrik Jacobson (150/1 Bet365)

Birthplace: Gothenburg, Sweden

Residence: Hobe Sound, Florida

Jacobson loves to dance his way around the greens

The big Swede has been very impressive so far this season, mainly due to his outstanding putting abilities.  In recent years he has not really performed to his true abilities, but there is a real sign of change. In late 2011 he began a revival, whilst a T16 at WGC Cadillac, T25 at The Honda, T3 at The Northern Trust Open and T7 at AT&T Pebble Beach show that Jacobson means business in 2013.

However, in the majors he has failed to make a top 10 for a decade.  In 2003 he climbed to 17th in the world rankings after a T5 at The U.S Open and T6 at The Open.  During that season he went into those majors in similar form as he is now and his putting was just as hot.  On the European Tour he was 3rd for putts per GIR, 30th for putts per round and 41st for one putts. Fast-forward 10 years and on the PGA Tour he is 5th for putts per round, 22nd for birdie or better conversion rate and 4th for strokes gained putting.  With crazy golf style greens at Augusta, he could putt his way into a place without doubt.

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
19th MC 17th

Charles Howell iii (145/1 Bet365)

Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia

Residence: Orlando, Florida

Charles Howell III cannot be ignored at the huge price he currently finds himself at.  The American is 150/1 with most bookmakers but some are recognising his chances, Paddy Power for instance now have him at 100/1.  For a man who was born in Augusta and resides in Orlando, Florida, he is an interesting prospect.  After 3 none appearances at Augusta (frankly due to some woeful form) Howell came back solidly last year finishing 19th.  He has always had the credentials to be one hell of a player, once holder of a top 15 world ranking spot and 2 time PGA Tour winner shows this.  Howell’s current form is something that cannot be ignored either.  His placing on the PGA Tour this year goes 3rd, T2, T9, T36, CUT, T29 (Honda Classic) and T12 (WGC Cadillac). The latter 2 are very impressive as they are on major-like tracks.  A few interesting statistics to throw in there, 20th in strokes gained through putting, 7rd in scoring average, 42nd driving distance (294 yards) and 31st in all round ranking.

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
19th MC 30th MC MC 13th

 Michael Thompson (200/1 SkyBet)

Birthplace: Tucson, Arizona

Residence: Birmingham, Alabama

Michael Thompson picking up the Honda Classic Trophy

We simply cannot believe how this guy is putting at the moment.  From pretty much anywhere on the green he is finding the cup right now.  And at 200/1 (with SkyBet) it would be silly not to put a bit of e/w money on him.  Now of course you can argue he has had his win for this year, but we can see no reason why he can’t continue his form going into the Masters.   But we will be honest, how he has turned it on these past few weeks we don’t know!  Thompson went from CUT, T78, CUT, CUT to 1st at the Honda Classic and T8 at the WGC Cadillac, both of which are much harder tournaments than the previous 4!  Again interestingly he resides in Southern United States, which does seem to be a recurring theme in the winners of late!  Even more promising, Thompson finished T2 at last year’s US Open so majors certainly do not bother this man.

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
MC

PGA Tour Week 11

Tampa Bay Championship

We know there is a small little race meeting in Cheltenham this week, where we are sure many punters will be testing their luck, however do not forget there is still plenty of golf to feast your eyes and wallets on…

With the Masters only 4 weeks away now (And our preview to be up within the next few days), many players will be making sporadic appearances here and there at the forthcoming events getting the right balance between rest and practise.  This week sees only a few of the ‘big boys’ make an appearance on the Tour, these being Garcia, Scott, Donald and Simpson as well as out of sorts major winners Oosthuizen and Kaymer.  So naturally, the betting is heavily favoured in their direction meaning there are a few outsiders at big prices that will be well worth a punt.

For us, the Tampa Bay is a tough one to call (although my colleague will argue the Avantha Masters is tougher) with it being regarded as a technical course where scrambling is just as important as birdie getting.  The previous winners tell the story, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, KJ Choi and Retief Goosen are all people who know how to somehow find their way around every course, you can call them intelligent golfers.  Perhaps not the biggest hitters on tour, but they certainly know how to use an iron.

The Innisbrook Resort, Copperhead course in Florida is a tree-lined affair, playing 7,340 yards.  Emphasis is huge on driving accuracy with wayward balls off the tee penalised.  ‘Ball strikers’ have been prevalent over the past few years and iron play from the 200yard mark seems crucial judging by the past few winners.  2 dog-leg par 5’s means irons again will be preferred for many, those who attempt to smash their way through the course will ultimately be punished.  And as with any tournament, putting is essential.  Don’t putt well here and you can kiss goodbye to a top 20.  Expect there to be wind this week as well, so it will be interesting to see who can adapt their game the most!

Accuracy is crucial! As you can tell...

Accuracy is crucial!   As you can tell…

Jim Furyk (28/1 SkyBet)

Affectionately known as ‘Mr Consistency’ here at DownThe18th, we can never miss a chance to back Jimbo Furyk.  And it is an honour to have him as our #1 pick this week.  Over the years Jim has stamped his authority on this tournament.  2nd, 13th and 1st have been his last 3 finishes here, so he enjoys it around the course.  Despite the famous Furyk swing, he finds himself 5th in driving accuracy in 2013 (4th in 2012) on the PGA Tour which certainly fits in well with his nickname.  And of course with it being trees-galore here this week, accuracy will be vital.  In every statistic Furyk is hovering around the top 40 and on this course being consistent in all areas will be key, and his putting is nothing to be ashamed of, 42nd in total putting on the tour this year.   He is 4th in bounce back ability, so fear not if he bogeys!  We will be very saddened if Jimbo does not at least place this week.  Finally, we hope you have seen Jim in action on the TV the last few weeks, his acting skills alone should surely be enough to convince you to back him this week?  Enjoy.

Webb Simpson (17/1 SkyBet)

This course looks made for Webb

This course looks made for Webb

Now this is a Webb Simpson course if there has ever been one.  He loves grinding it out on the difficult major-like tracks and his record here is nothing to be sniffed at.  10th, 2nd and 13th have been his last 3 results here for the current US Open champion.  One statistic that will be vital is iron play and 9th in GIR % from < 125yards, 16th from < 100yards and 12th from 175-200yards shows Webb is one of the best around.  Simpson is also 6th in scrambling, 11th in par4 performance, 4th in sand save % and 24th in scoring average, all statistics that will be useful on this technical course.  One worrying thing is his putting.  Webb ranked 58th out of 64 in putting at the Cadillac last week, which does not bode well!  But on the tour he finds himself 8th on the greens from 15-25feet, so it is a tough one to call.  If he lets us down this week, it will be from on the greens.

Bryce Molder (100/1 Stan James)

Bryce Molder is our 1st of 3 outside picks this week that all find themselves at triple figure odds.  This one was a close call between himself, Michael Thompson and Jimmy Walker, but we have opted for the former due to his prowess on the greens.  After 2 missed cuts here, Molder finished 20th last year which is more than respectable.  His putting has been nothing short of exceptional this year with him sitting 1st in strokes gained through putting.  His driving is perfect for this course, reasonable distance and very accurate, he ranks 12th in driving accuracy.  He is also 20th in GIR % from 125-150 yards so his iron play can certainly cope around here.  5th in 3 putt avoidance is another statistic that makes us happy, as there will be some tough holes out there this week.  A place is a very reasonable prospect for Molder this week.

Boo Weekley (100/1 Paddy Power)

Can Boo get back to his best?

Can Boo get back to his best?

Boo is one of the best ball strikers in the game but has somewhat disappeared off the radar in recent times.  We hope to bring him back on it now!  He caught our eye particularly last week with a tidy T8 finish at the Puerto Rico Open, which was somewhat overshadowed by Tiger’s win at the Cadillac.  Boo has had surgery a few times in the last few years and has recently complained of lacking confidence on the course, but despite all of this, he is actually playing some great golf!  His statistics are really hard to ignore and he looks like the perfect fit for this course.  Weekley finds himself 23rd in driving accuracy, 11th in GIR % and 1st in total driving.  Add this to 20th in all round ranking, 2nd in ball striking, 7th in GIR from 200 yards and 20th from 175-200yards, it’s hard not to be impressed.  The main worries are of course confidence issues and putting, but Weekley looked imperious on the greens at the Puerto Rico so hopefully he can continue in a similar vein this week.  4 missed cuts out of 5 on this track again does not impress, but his form this season has been progressively improving.  It seems missed cuts and places come hand in hand at this tournament as well, so hopefully Boo can continue that trend.  Tread carefully on this one, but he could go close!

Billy Horschel (110/1 Bet365)

Outsider number 3 comes in the form of William Horschel.  His only performance here has been a missed cut, but bear with us.  Statistics are our reasons for picking this guy, and you will see why.  On the PGA Tour, Billy is 13th in driving accuracy %, 6th in total driving, 7th in all round ranking and 11th in GIR % from 175-200 yards.  He also finds himself 15th in scoring average on the tour which is something that you need to be excelling in coming into this tournament.  So it is some impressive stuff for such high odds.  2nd place in consecutive cuts also highlights to us what a consistent performer he is as well.  Horschel was born, raised and educated in Florida so being a local lad will certainly help here.  With no Tour wins under his belt it is hard to envisage a win for the American, but a place is certainly within his reach!

DownThe18th Double

Jim Furyk  + David Howell (1000/1 Paddy Power)

European Tour Week 11

The Avantha Masters

By Lewis Pacelli

The European Tour travels to India this week for the fourth installment of the Avantha Masters. With a combined field from The Asian, European and PGTI (Professional Golf Tour of India) Tours, there is a sense that this could literally be won by anybody.  It has been a difficult task trawling through the various Indian online papers and Asian Tour website, trying to find that one homegrown talent who could shine this week. We can truthfully say that it hasn’t been all too fruitful, but several names have shouted out to us, with prices varying between the criminal and absurd.

The tournament itself has moved to the Greg Norman designed Jaypee Greens Golf Course near Delhi, where it will be staged for the first time.  The Par 72 course has been open for just over a decade and at 7,347 yards, it is the longest course in India. Fairways are wide and spacious, giving big hitters the chance to destroy everything in their path, especially with a forecast for rain on Thursday, which could slow down the otherwise dry grass.  Interestingly, Jeev Mikha Singh said last week that due to a harsh winter, the rough has simply not had the chance to grow and will sadly hamper the week, with an expected birdie fest on the horizon.

Even with 14 lakes and 88 bunkers scattered around the course, not much will stop players attacking the pins, especially without wind.  As we stated earlier, there are many names in this competition that are not only very difficult to pronounce, but complete unknown entities.  So, we have collated an interesting list of players who could really give Mr.Norman a reason to smile this week.

Also for all those real lovers of golf out there you will be absolutely delighted to know that Colin Montgomerie will be playing this week, which means he will NOT be on the commentary team at SkySports. Thankyou Avantha.

David Howell (50/1 PaddyPower)

David Howell is climbing back up the ranks

David Howell is climbing back up the ranks

David Howell was a golfer who once graced the top 10 in the world rankings, yet the man from Swindon, England has had a real howeller over the past few years, with a catastrophic decrease in form.  When you consider that halfway through the season last year he was 367th in the world, to where he is now, it is little wonder that he is a name on the minds of a lot of people once more.  He has pushed himself up to 185th in the rankings and has started the season sublimely.  T6 in Abu Dhabi, where a 4-putt cost him the opportunity to challenge for the win, followed by T22, T30 and T10 at the Tshwane Open two weeks ago.  For someone with obvious natural ability, form as consistent as that is a major sign that confidence is kicking back into his game.

Admittedly, his driving doesn’t stand out at all when it comes to the potential long hitting on offer, but he is 11th for stroke average and a low score will win this week.  40th for GIR, 44th for putts per GIR, 47th for putts per round, 29th for one putts and 18th for sand saves, show how unbelievably consistent he is across the board.  We are confident his current game can adapt to anywhere and with a relatively weak field, he is arguably one of the best on show.  At prices as high as 50/1, it would be ludicrous not to get involved.

We were very interesting to see what he said in an interview last week and it certainly made us sit up and listen.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing in India, it’s a fascinating country. You see some sights and sounds which you’re not used to seeing back home in Europe, so it really opens your eyes,”

“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve had one week off since playing in South Africa, spent a bit of time with the family and did a bit of practice. I’m in a good run of form, so I come into the week in confident mood.”

“I’ve been playing consistently for the past year now, and I have to give my new coach [Jonathan Wallet] a lot of credit for that. He’s got me to see things a bit differently, and I’ve worked differently over the past 12 months than I had the previous for our five years. It’s paid dividends.”

We know he hasn’t won since 2006, but we have a gut feeling he will return to the podium this year and it could very well be this week.

Andy Sullivan (50/1 PaddyPower)

We have a real liking for Andy Sullivan at DownThe18th and he seems to be showing a few signs that he has a real future at the top end of the game.  Barring his missed cut at the Tshwane Open, he has been in fine form this season, especially at the Africa open, where he finished T5.  Although he hasn’t played at this tournament before, he will be arriving in a confident mood, especially in the knowledge that his driving distances can offer plenty of birdie chances. He is averaging over 296 yards, leaving him 25th on Tour, whilst he is 28th for stroke average and 34th for GIR.  He may not be the hottest with his putter, but we are certain he will attack a forgiving course and give himself plenty of opportunities.  His odds certainly do not reflect someone that has been in and around the top 20 on a regular basis in much more difficult fields.  His first win on tour could come this week.

Alvaro Quiros (55/1 SkyBet)

The Spaniard spanking it into the distance

The Spaniard spanking it into the distance

A wrist injury and resultant surgery in November last year, meant Quiros has missed the early parts of the new season recovering.  Now, it is rare we will select people that are in their first tournament back after having such a major operation, however if the Spaniard is fully fit, he will have no trouble running away from the rest of the field.  There must have been some careful consideration and planning that has gone into his return, potentially in the knowledge that this is an open field, with wide fairways and a chance to attack a wonderful golf course.  If you are only half fit, you do not travel all the way to India for a tournament like this; we are quite sure Quiros will be raring to go.

Since turning pro he has never averaged less than 300 yards.  Even with an injured wrist at the back end of last year, he was still hitting it over 300 consistently.  If he really gets his driver going, then literally anything can happen.  Whether that is a top 10 or lost balls, it is yet to be seen.

Gaganjeet Bhullar (35/1 PaddyPower)

Our first homegrown talent comes in the form of Gaganjeet Bhullar.  The Indian initially caught our eye at the Singapore Open last year where he finished a very respectable T18 in a very strong field consisting of players like Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Matteo Mannasero.  This shows he has no fears with big names and we can promise you that this field is nowhere near that quality.  He may have started the season slowly on the European circuit, but in his last two outings on home soil he finished T25 and T8.  He has also recorded 4 victories on the Asian Tour, proving he has the capability and strength to stay the distance. (A cheeky horse-racing pun for all the Cheltenham lovers out there…) He also averages over 290 yards off the tee and when he is the mood he can easily reach 300+ yards.  On home soil, it is players like Bhullar who will be spurred on by the home crowd and as we all know, that sort of advantage can do wonders for your confidence!

Danny Chia (225/1 Bet365) and Shamim Khan (125/1 PaddyPower)

Our last selection is a double header, with two Asian stalwarts at very high prices who could upset the applecart this week.  Danny Chia is an Asian Tour golfer who made history in 2010 by becoming the first ever Malaysian to play in all four rounds of The Open.  (He finished T55) Whilst he seems to be in scintillating form at the moment, winning on his last outing at The Northport Glenmarie Masters, breaking a five-year wait for his 15th professional win. In his other 2 starts in 2013, he finished T13 and T20 and with a driving average of 301 yards, he could be a perfect fit at Jaypee.  As for Shamim Khan, he is our second homegrown talent and a player who was in superb form throughout 2012, winning the PGTI overall rankings. (The equivalent of The FedEx Cup or Race To Dubai) He won 3 trophies and finished inside the top 10 a remarkable 18 times.  And his start to this year has seen him place T38 at The SBI Open, whilst he has not been fazed by bigger names, finishing 22nd at this tournament last year and 11th the year before.  So if the local Delhi lad can shrug off any nerves and get the crowd on his side (which won’t be too difficult) then you never know. You just never know.

Shamim Khan and his rather peculiar swing. Only fitting that he and Sir.Jimbo are in our picks this week.

Shamim Khan and his rather peculiar swing. Only fitting that he and Sir.Jimbo are in our picks this week.

Danny Chia making history at The Open in 2010

Danny Chia making history at The Open in 2010

WGC Cadillac Championship

By Lewis Pacelli + Andy Taylor

The second WGC event takes place this week, as the top golfers in the world bombard Doral Golf Resort in Florida. 

The tournament used to fluctuate between different courses around the World, however since 2007, Doral has taken the reigns, making it just that tad easier to take a look at who could be challenging come Sunday.

Justin Rose walked away with the title last year, having overturned a 3-shot lead held by Bubba Watson going into the final day.  It was great seeing that smiling face of Rose lifting a trophy, that for us, started his fantastic assault on the worlds top 10.

As for the course, it is a 7,334-yard par 72, named The Blue Monster Course.  Let’s be brutally honest, that is an outstanding name for a crazy golf course let alone a WGC one and we are all over it. We warn you now; puns will come into play on our twitter throughout the week…

The infamous 18th at The Blue Monster Course

The infamous 18th at The Blue Monster Course

It may not be the longest on Tour, however with four par 5’s you could certainly argue that longer hitters will have a major say in what happens this week.  They will be the obvious scoring opportunities.  Although fairways are relatively wide, there are plenty of obstructions along the way, with bunkers and 11 water hazards aptly arranged everywhere, meaning accuracy will be important from tee to green – especially on the infamous par 4 18th, which is widely regarded as one of the toughest closing holes in golf.  If you shank it – water, if you slice it – trees.  Really could make that last day very interesting.  Putting will also be imperative with Bermuda grass giving it a quick edge.

Ultimately this course could be an absolute breeze, however if wind decides to turn up, then anything is possible.  Therefore our first selection this week is the weather.  Take a constant look at the forecast in Doral, as things are likely to constantly change.  We expect wind to play a part on Thursday and Sunday, but all in all, it SHOULD be a delightful 4 days of golf.

Thursday                                                                                   Friday

72° C 55° F                                                                              74° C 58° F

Mostly Sunny, Chance of rain: 0%                        Sunny, chances of rain: 0%

Wind: NNW at 11 mph                                                   Wind: N at 9mph

In terms of choosing our own selections, it was a difficult task, with all the best (barring Snedeker) being here.  Our long list got cut down to 6, with a very tough call between two.  We took into account the fact that the last 5-winners have had at least one top-10 in their last two strokeplay starts and interestingly, a top 20 in the previous years Tour Championship final leg…

Matt Kuchar (21/1 SkyBet)

Matt Kuchar at the Match Play

Matt Kuchar at the Match Play

It’s hard to ignore Kuch right now.  We backed him for the match play and he duly delivered so it’s only right we stay faithful.  In pretty much all aspects of the game, Kuchar is up there with the best.  19th in strokes gained through putting, 2nd in sand save %, 22nd in scrambling and 3rd in putting from 10-15’ (much needed for those nervy putts).  With 4 par 5’s out there, taking advantage of them will be key.  The American is 1st par5 scoring average,  3rd in par5 birdie or better, 4th in birdie or better conversion and 4th in eagles.  Course form also shouts out, 8th, 5th and 3rd in is only 3 appearances here, and Kuchar is a different animal now.  His recent form doesn’t need to be expanded on, 1st at the WGC Match Play says what kind of golf he is playing at the moment.  In stroke play events before that he was a respectable 38th, 16th, 5th and 9th. The wind could pick up here in the early rounds, and at the match plays he showed he could cope with bad weather.  He also finished T10 at the Tour Championship.  He ticks every box.  We expect a place minimum from him this week!

Webb Simpson (30/1 PaddyPower)

Webb Simpson may have only played here once, but his game seems “taylor-made” for this course.  Don’t forget, he shot two 66’s in between two over par rounds in his very first appearance last year.  If he had managed even pars on those days he would of ended in T6…And since that he went on to win a cheeky little trophy in San Francisco…He has the ability in the wind if needed and has the perfect temperament for big tournaments – it takes big balls winning the US Open under the conditions he faced.

His ability and stardom has subsequently risen to new heights and rightly so, but what is exciting is how he has started the new 2013 season.  T5 at the Matchplay 2 weeks ago, whilst he fits into the “top 10” mould of recent winners, with a T6 at The Northern Trust Open the week before and to top it off a T5 finish at the season ending Tour Championship last year.

His stats prove how remarkable he is with his irons and we are sure he can avoid all the obstacles on this course.  9th in GIR and 19th in proximity to the hole show he can attack pins with deadly efficiency.  With the various bunkers dotted around the course, he lies in 7th for sand saves, which may not be of prominent importance, but there will be players who find the beaches and will need a big shot to recover.  Webb can certainly do this.  As we all know on the greens he is superb and that is backed up being 21st for strokes gained in putting.

Even though his distances off the tee don’t encourage, he does lie 58th for par 5 average scoring, which could be useful on those 4 holes where scoring is crucial.  If he can spin his webb around the monster, we are confident he can deliver a stunning performance.

Jason Day (45/1 Bet365)

Jason Day with a real chance this week

Jason Day with a real chance this week

The Australian has caught our eye once more this season after a year of complete ups and downs.  His 2nd place at the US Open, T4 at the WGC Bridgestone and T6 at the Tour Championship in 2011 gave the impression that this is an outstanding player. However he does seem to suffer from certain problems with temperament at times, as shown on the last day of the Matchplay when he told journalists I’m not winning today, I wanted to stay in bed. (He then ended up beating Ian Poulter in the 3rd place play-off) But you cannot say that affects him when his game is on song.  He has the natural ability to challenge at any tournament, in any field.  And with his start to the year, he looks to be on the up.  Before the Matchplay, he came 6th at Pebble Beach, which is no mean feat.  While he began his season with a T9 at The Farmers Insurance, showing he has the sort of form that challenges in this tournament

He has appeared at Doral the last two years, coming 45th in 2011 and 20th in 2012, where he was relatively consistent throughout the week, barring a +1 over round on the first DAY… (That is an awful pun)

Whilst looking at him, it became too good to be true once the stats kept on singing at us.

17th in driving distance means he can battle with the meatheads and 4th in par 5 scoring average show those 4 key scoring holes will be attacked by the Australian.  What is even more interesting is how consistent he has been with his irons this year. 16th in GIR will prove how he can avoid all the obstacles but if he does fly into the sand his beachplay is phenomenal. We were impressed with his touch in the sand at the Matchplay and he currently lies 2nd in sand saves.  And the importance of work on the green cannot be underestimated at this tournament and with Day lying in 22nd for strokes gained in putting, it gives another indication towards the big man pushing for victory.

It really could be his Jason Day. (Not sure which pun is worse)

Keegan Bradley (28/1 Bet365)

Would be interesting if a belly putter won this week...

Would be interesting if a belly putter won this week…

At 4 p.m. G.M.T on Monday, we were caught in a debate regarding this slot for over an hour.  The two in question were Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan. It was almost impossible to decipher who had the edge and you may argue, why not have them both? But at similar odds, it only seemed right to choose one. Hence the final decision in the awkward customer that is Keegan Bradley. He has become one of the top golfers in the world in recent years and has this workman-like attitude about him that could be considered arrogant. He could even be compared to marmite.  It’s either love or hate… Here at DownThe18th, we will not disclose whether we would spread him on our toast or not.

As for the WGC though, he does seem like another perfect fit.  We may of always considered him, but it was the performance last week that really stood out for us.  To work the ball around the course as he did in conditions similar to The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was very impressive. He battled his way to a T4 and if the wind does pick up over the four days this week, he will have the confidence to compete.  Last year was his first appearance here and he delivered a very respectable T8 finish.  The first 3 round brought about 3 scores in the 60’s and he could certainly have challenged, had he not shot 75 on the final day.

His driving is long enough to hit low scores if and when the wind dies down, lying 23rd in distance off the tee, whilst he is 26th for accumulated total driving (distance + accuracy).  With his GIR very inconsistent this season, he may find himself in the bunker on a couple of occasions and he lies 44th for sand saves.  Yet those four par 5’s could be where he targets, as he is 11th in par 5 scoring average.

This could be the start of a major push for Bradley…

No, actually YOU WATCH Hunter Mahan win it…

Robert Garrigus (50/1 Paddy Power)

Garrigus can smash his way around this course

Garrigus can smash his way around this course

If the conditions are right this week, Garrigus could storm this.  It’s a relatively long course and in good conditions, the big hitters will thrive here.  And of course the American is right up there, 6th in driving distance.  But he’s got a lot of class around the greens too, 6th in GIR % which could be vital if there’s  a bit of bad weather, 7th in sand save % and 1st in par3 performance.  One stat that really impressed us was Garrigus being 1st in all round ranking which takes into account all 8 main aspects of the game.  For a 50/1 shot, you can’t ask for more than that!  Now Garrigus has not played here which is the only negative we can find, but people like Kuchar and Bradley have both performed on their 1st try here so it can be done.  He’s been one of the most consistent people so far this year without recording that big performance, 8th, 22nd,  11th, 6th and 16th have been his last 5 performances.  Garrigus also finished T10 in the Tour Championship which we highlighted as a big factor.  But this is his time to record that big result.  Interestingly, Robert Garrigus is 150/1 with SkyBet for the Masters in a few weeks, we think that is definitely worth an e/w punt!

Russell Henley (100/1 Bet365)

If any young player has a big future in the game, we can see it being this guy, even if he does have a suspect swing.  Henley became the 1st rookie in 12 years to win on his PGA Tour debut at the Sony Open in January, breaking the tournament record by 4 shots with a fabulous -24.  Add that to 3 Web.com Tour wins, he certainly knows how to win and all at just 23 years of age.  After his success in Hawaii, he had a couple of average performances before a 32nd and then a really solid 13th at last week’s Honda Classic, which shows he knows how to grind it out.  At 100/1 his statistics are hard to ignore as well.  We have highlighted the par 5’s as a must to take advantage of and Henley is 8th in par5 scoring average, 7th in eagles, 7th in birdie average and 7th in scoring average.  And the stats keep on coming.  9th in strokes gained through putting, 16th in total driving, 24th in GIR %, 3rd in FedEx Cup standings and just like Garrigus was up there, Henley is 3rd in all round ranking.  We really can’t see us backing many better 100/1 shots this year than Henley!

Henley at 100/1 is a great outside punt

Henley at 100/1 is a great outside punt