Well here we are after a weekend of incredibly tense, exciting, gruelling golf, we were left with winner Justin Rose, who became the first Englishman since Sir Nick Faldo in 1996 to win a major. Even though he pushed out our man Phil Mickelson, (and cost us quite a bit of money!) we could not help but feel emotional as one of our favourites picked up a very deserved trophy and gave a speech of genuine class. A true champion.
He is supposed to be lining up for this weeks Travellers Championship, however the likelihood of seeing Rose hitting any shots come Thursday is very slim, as is Hunter Mahan after his exertions. To be fair, most of the other US Open players will tee up, therefore making it a very competitive field – names such as Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley. There are plenty of players to look at, although the odds are inconsistent throughout, which is where we will hopefully come in and discover a little gem!
The course itself was one of the ‘short’ tracks we looked at as part of our US Open research. At 6,841 yards, TPC River Highlands invites the best short iron players and putters to shoot as low as possible under the par 70. It is consistently ranked as one of the easier courses on Tour and you can expect low scores within the top 20. There are over 110 bunkers and 5 water hazards, making previous course knowledge important – so the players recognise where to hit their approach shots and safely attack pins but ultimately the guys who can shoot low, have a ridiculous wedge game and can sink putts will end up winning come Sunday.
Jason Dufner (25/1 StanJames)
As your archetypal laidback American has not had the year many thought he would have done after a stellar 2012, which included 2 wins and 7 top 10s. He has only missed 2 cuts all year, however there has only been 1 top 10.
But that was at last weeks US Open after a phenomenal –3 final day, propelling him up 21 places. What has seemed to be letting him down this year is his putting, yet on Sunday he was holing everything with ease on very difficult greens. The surfaces at River Highlands will not be anywhere near as challenging and if he can continue that form, he could really attack the leaderboard. Even with his lack of top 10s, his short iron game has never waned, whilst tee to green accuracy is as good as it was 12 months ago. With the short nature of this course, his wedge work could be very influential – 10th in GIR from 100-125 yards, 44th inside 125 yards and 26th in 150-175 yards.
John Rollins (40/1 Coral)
37-year old John Rollins has had a misleading year when you look at his finishes. He has only missed 4 cuts and in the tournaments he has made the weekend, only twice has he finished outside the top 24. However, there has only been 2 top 10s and charges on the real top end of the leaderboard, but what is exciting is that they have both come in the last 2 appearances. At the Crowne Plaza Invitational he shot a 63 on the first day, but when you haven’t won a tournament since 2009, going wire-to-wire was always going to be a difficult challenge – eventually finishing T4. Then his T6 at the FedEx St.Jude Classic warranted only one round (the Thursday again) outside the 60s. He has shot 8 out of his last 11 rounds in the 60s – he really is in good knick and we have a feeling his consistent accuracy could come together with his proven ability of being able to shoot low and find birdies.
13th in ball striking, 3rd in GIR 150-175 yards, 9th GIR, 63rd 3-putt avoidance and 29th stroke average are stats that will suit this short course, but it is his form on a track where he has had previous success that really makes you sit up and take notice. T4 last year and only 2 shots behind Marc Leishman, whilst a 63 on the final day last year propelled him to T2 and just one shot behind eventual winner, Freddie Jacobson.
Charley Hoffman (50/1 Various)
Charley ‘The Hoff’ Hoffman has consistently been on the radar in recent weeks, finding himself challenging regularly and finally getting his putter going – although his hair is still as mental as it was before. He was T8 going into the weekend last week, although, like so many other players, fell behind and he eventually finished T45 – which is no shame at a very tough US Open. Hoffman has found 4 top 10s in 2013, 3 in his last 7 and his irons do look exciting at the moment. His approaches 100-125 yards he lies in 22nd, whilst he is 67th in ball striking, however the fact his putting has improved so much is recognition of how he is holing everything at the moment. 27th in strokes gained putting and 28th in stroke average, which added together, could really help him go far this week. The Hoff did finish T2 last year as well and was probably unlucky not to win, after Leishmans final day 62. He can shoot low though, is charismatic; putting well, in confident mood and his hair is magnificent. What more could you want when you are putting money on someone?!
Tim Clark (66/1 Coral)
One of DownThe18th’s favourite players, Tim Clark, has been backed quite a few times this year (including last week) getting us a return half of the time. At the US Open, we were really excited after the 1st day – a solid 70 and T6, even with quite a few missed putts, his irons looked fluent. Then a 79 on the second day and a MC was so unexpected and disappointing, from what we could see, nothing was happening for him, 10 bogeys is a hideous return and shows the rut that Merion can get you in.
We all know what his short course form is like (disregarding US Open) – 5 appearances and 4 top 5s, including a T4 finish on this track last year. His irons and (usually) his putting are so consistent and impressive, that his lack of distance off the tee doesn’t take effect when on the shorter tracks. He has got 3 top 10s this year and will definitely want to be avenging his missed cut last week. If its stats that make you tick, then this will make fascinating reading – 3rd in driving accuracy, 16th GIR from 100-125 yards, 52nd GIR inside 125 yards, 56th strokes gained putting, 4th in 3-putt avoidance and 45th in stroke average. If that does not make you realise his potential, especially at an outrageously over-priced 66/1, then nothing will. We must say Clark is driving in our last chance saloon, but we strongly feel he could challenge over the weekend.
Jerry Kelly (125/1 PaddyPower)
Jerry Kelly may have only had 1 top 10 this year (5th at the RBC Heritage) but he has been consistently plugging away, just struggling to find the top of leaderboards. Yet, what caught our eye this week, was his course form. He clearly has a liking for the course, because he plays it nearly every year and has 2 top 10s in his locker. Then when you add together his accuracy stats, Kelly seems like the perfect fit for an outsider here.
6th in driving accuracy, 29th for GIR in 100-125 yards, 24th for GIR in 150-175 yards, 40th in strokes gained putting, 28th in 3-putt avoidance and even 56th in stroke average. Kelly can shoot low and for someone at 110/1, it would be foolish not to grab some pennies and get down to your local bookies.