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