WGC Bridgestone Invitational 2013

BridgestoneDate: August 1 – 4

Course: Firestone Country Club

Yardage: 7,400 (Par 70)

Current Champ: Keegan Bradley

Quick Reminder: We’re trying to get as many people involved in the DownThe18th Fantasy Golf for 2014 with prize incentives hopefully on offer. Email us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk or tweet @downthe18th to get on board!

And please do check out this weeks Golf Monthly column on the brilliance of Brandt Snedeker

‘The Wonderful World Of Snedeker’

The crazy summer of golf continues as the 3rd WGC event takes place at the Firestone Country Club in Ohio.  One week before the final major of the year, we are all going to be treated to the best in the world fighting it out again for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational title.

An exciting field will assemble and it will be interesting to keep on eye on who does well at The Firestone Country Club, with people often carrying this week’s form into the PGA Championship.

Course form is crucial for this one as well, those who performed well in the past continue to do so year after year.

The course is a 7,400 yard par 70 and is renowned as one of the greatest challenges on tour.  The par 4s are long and the par 5 16th lies at 667 yards which is absolutely astonishing.  Therefore you would think the longer hitters should be favoured, but in all honesty the usually short Stricker, Zach Johnson, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar have all done well here in the past, which means ball strikers and GIR specialists should be looked at.

The very long and challenging Firestone Country Club course

The very long and challenging Firestone Country Club course

Rain is expected to disrupt play on the opening two days which does mean the bigger hitters will instantly have an advantage with soft ground but hitting those greens has always been the most important statistic for every winner over the past few years.

The greens are relatively large but missing them will make scoring difficult and whilst putting has never been a vital stat here, under pressure those famous yips can come into play!

Obviously the odds of many players are low, but there is always value in these big tournaments, so if you can avoid the allure of 7-time winner Tiger Woods than we do feel the following players are worth a dabble.

Bubba Watson (45/1 Various)

Hoping for more of Bubba's antics this week

Hoping for more of Bubba’s antics this week

Undoubtedly one of our favourite players and you always know you will get value for your money every time you back him! 2013 so far has been a disappointment; he will be the first to admit. After taking the Masters crown people expected him to push on, but here we are at a WGC event and he finds himself at relatively high odds of 45/1. But after watching him closely for the last few weeks we definitely feel he is on the verge of another victory, and why not at Firestone because he does LOVE it on the big stage. In 5 of his last 7 starts he has finished around the 30 mark, whilst finishing 21st last week. And he recorded a 4th place just over a month ago at the Travelers after seemingly looking in control at one stage, but the infamous outburst at his caddie came about. His passion is undeniable.

Course form is very, very consistent from Bubba finishing 22nd, 21st and 19th last year which ticks another box for us. And he did hold the first round lead in 2010 shooting a 64, so he can go low around here. His well-documented length off the tee will be a great advantage this week and 3rd in GIR, 8th ball striking, 27th scoring average, 31st total driving will help too. We have the distinct feeling this could be Bubba’s week.

Matt Kuchar (25/1 Various)

Can he bag win number 3 of 2013?

Can he bag win number 3 of 2013?

We’re here again with Kuchar, now comfortably one of the best players in the game. He has already got us 2 wins this year and we see no reason why he cannot make it a third. Regardless of what the American is all about, he enjoys it around Firestone finishing 9th, 19th and 8th last year. Now we have said this week could favour the longer hitters, but Kuchar is definitely under rated off the tee. He averages 285 yards off the tee on tour this year but he will have no worries smashing it well over 300 yards. And as for all other aspects of his game, you can’t ask for much more. 18th strokes gained-putting, 6th scoring average, 5th sand save, 12th scrambling, 2nd par 5 performance and of course 2nd in the Fed Ex Cup standings for 2013.

If anyone enjoys getting on a roll, it’s Kooch. Last time he finished 2nd he went on to win the Memorial Tournament the week after. And he finished 2nd last week… Question  marks have been raised over whether Kuchar will go onto bag his first major, but what we do know is that he is dominant outside the big four tournaments. There will be no nerves if he is near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday evening. He will contend for sure.

Henrik Stenson (40/1 PaddyPower)

One of the in-form golfers in the world

One of the in-form golfers in the world

Henrik Stenson is fully on the comeback trail, now back inside the top 20 in the world, having just missed out on a first major trophy at the Open.  His 2nd place finish at Muirfield showed his true class, no one was striking the ball as well and consistently from tee to green and if he can transfer this form onto Firestone, then he will be a genuine contender.

He has now recorded 3 top 10s in a row, contending up till the final few holes in the previous 2 tournaments.  He is one of the form golfers in the world at the moment and when you look at his all-round abilities then 40/1 represents great value.

He only lies in 74th for driving distance on the PGA, but he is 9th in Europe, which is a more appropriate ranking considering how far he can boom it.  He is 2nd in GIR on the PGA Tour and that proves how well he has been striking the ball and attacking greens.  So often we have seen him finding green after green, only faltering with a few putts at times, which has been the difference between 2nd, 3rd and titles.  If he can hole his putts and bring his best short game to the fore, then you can expect the Swede to be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

Angel Cabrera (66/1 various)

Angel Cabrera doesn't care where he smokes.  And nor do we if it helps him win!

Angel Cabrera doesn’t care where he smokes. And nor do we if it helps him win!

The enigma that is Angel Cabrera.  He only seems to play well at the bigger tournaments, finding that something extra to propel himself to the top of leaderboards.  And regularly at that.  He has found some remarkable form of late – the last 3 tournaments have resulted in a place no worse than T13.  At the Open he once again showed his determination by getting into a potential winning position on the Sunday but sadly not ever really pushing further.

Then when you look at his form on this course, you do stand up and realise that 66/1 is very generous value.   He has recorded 3 T4’s here before and shot low scores in the process, so if you bring into play his good recent form, course form and the level head he possesses, you have a potential WGC champion in the making.

He also lies in 33rd for driving distance and 66th in GIR which is a lethal combination.  Plus, it is good fund watching Cabrera play – always with a smile on his face!

Paul Casey (100/1 Coral)

Back in form, now can he push on!

Back in form, now can he push on!

This feels great writing about Casey at such a high profile event. The Englishman slipped off the face of the earth after once being ranked 3rd in the world in 2009. Now regardless of form, swing and injury, you don’t just lose that talent. Sure enough a month ago Casey was back, storming to his first title in two years at the Irish Open. He eagled the 72nd hole to claim his victory in style. We watched all four days at what we will say, Casey was incredible off the tee. If he drives that well this week he will be up there on day 4.

Casey at Firestone has recorded 5 top 20’s including an 8th in ’08 and 4th in ’06. He will come here this week knowing he has what it takes to do well around here and knowing he is back to near his best. After all that victory was his 15th win as a professional.  His statistics are nothing stand-out on the European Tour, but he does rank 2nd in GIR and 21st in stroke average. At 100/1 it is a price where we see great value and one that could give us a nice little profit at the end of the week.

Martin Laird (100/1 various)

Martin Laird has a really odd forehead...

Martin Laird has a really odd forehead…

Our last pick is a slight gamble, but we got interested in Laird because he is showing signs that he can challenge alongside the elite in the game.  At the Open he was in contention until the 3rd round 81, when a 9 on the par 3 3rd ruined his hopes.  Obviously he did win at the Valero Texas Open a few months ago – his 3rd PGA Tour victory and his game could be suited for the Firestone course.  He has finished 29th, 11th and 16th in his 3 appearances here and when you think he can hit the ball long and straight – 55th for driving distance – he could put himself in great positions to attack the greens.

At 100/1 he does represent intriguing value and if he wants to fully assert himself in world golf, this would be the perfect starting block.

Quick Mention must go to Richard Sterne (150/1 Ladbrokes) who has been in fine form of late – 21st, 31st, 2nd and 22nd.  He can hit the ball a fair distance and his irons are up there with the best on the European Tour, whilst his putting has been impressive on his recent run.  If you do have any spare change, then it could be interesting to take a look at the South African!

ALSO

We have had a brief look at the Reno-Tahoe Open but decided against a preview.  There are some very interesting names among the field, including Padraig Harrington but the two we feel could have something to offer are Andres Romero (33/1 various) and Peter Uihlein (25/1).  Both are in good form, whilst Romero finished T3 here last year, so they both look great value!

Advertisements

RBC Canadian Open 2013

Quick Reminder: We’re trying to get as many people involved in the DownThe18th Fantasy Golf for 2014 with prize incentives hopefully on offer. Email us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk or tweet @downthe18th to get on board!

And please do check out this weeks Golf Monthly column on the tales of Lee Westwood

‘The Woe of Westwood’

It’s always going to be a tough act following such a thrilling Open Championship like the one at Muirfield, but the Canadian Open is one of great prestige and one that has attracted a great field this week (even most of the players are sponsored by RBC). Snedeker, Mahan, Kuchar, McDowell, Schwartzel and other big stars lead the betting this week.

This tournament is going back ‘home’ you could say, with it being held at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. It was held here for over 20 years right up until 2000 when Tiger Woods claimed a famous victory hitting probably his greatest ever shot on the 72nd hole. You have to check it out below.

It has since only been held here in ’04, ’08 and ’09 which does not give us a lot of course form to go on. You can check out who performed well at Glen Abbey below.

Canadian Open 2009 Leaderboard

Canadian Open 2008 Leaderboard

But this week like it has been on the Tour for a while, is about shooting low numbers. As you can see Nathan Green shot -18 in ’09 and Chez Reavie shot -17 the year before that! So statistically, you have to be looking at GIR, putting, rounds in the 60’s, scoring average and other similar areas that would aid low scoring.

Like we do each week, we try and find any interested stuff on the course we can and this week we have found a great image showing you all what the course is about.Canadian Open Pic

Of the market leaders, Brandt Snedeker really does catch our eye but at 14/1 we just couldn’t find real value out of that. With questions marks over whether he is back to his best, we have decided to look elsewhere and have a few names we are very confident in.

Paddy Power BetVictor and Stan James are all offering 6 places this week!

Chris Kirk (55/1 SkyBet)

Certainly has a bit of Webb Simpson about him

Certainly has a bit of Webb Simpson about him

There are some players on the PGA Tour who dominate the statistics but then somehow never seem to be up there on the final day. Ken Duke was a great example of that before he won the Travelers, and Kirk is another. So he’s been on our radar for months now, but it finally seems like the American has added some end product to his game. 22nd two weeks ago followed by a 9th place last week is a great improvement. Although Kirk has never played this course, he did finish T4 last year, albeit on a different course. But we can take solace from that, as last year’s winner Scott Piercy finished T6 the year before, on different courses. Kirk ranks 22nd in strokes gained-putting, 10th birdie average, 17th scoring average, 1st total eagles, 2nd total birdies, 1st scrambling and 10th in all-round ranking! How he has not won yet is incredible. Kirk has a solid game shown by these statistics, and two consistent finishes could be all he needs to go on and claim that elusive 1st title of 2013.

Graham DeLaet (35/1 Bet365)

All eyes will be on DeLaet this week

All eyes will be on DeLaet this week

Delaet is the man everyone is talking about in Canada at the moment and he will definitely prove to be a popular choice with a lot of punters this week. His season has been very reminiscent of Billy Horschel’s prior to his first title, constantly knocking on the door week after week before hopefully getting the win he deserves. Nobody can argue how well he has been playing and the only thing that perhaps has let him down, is the putter! But you have to think in his home country with thousands of fans likely to be following him, the adrenaline will be pumping and that short stick should finally get hot. And after all he does rank 76th in total putting, which is not bad. Last week saw the Canadian take part in his first major, where he made the cut, which shows how well he has been playing. He said playing at Muirfield was “a lot of fun” and was really excited about the upcoming Canadian Open. He has played at Glen Abbey in ’09 where he made the cut, which will give him vital course knowledge. And as we all know, DeLaet is a different animal four years on. He ranks 1st in GIR, 2nd in total driving, 1st ball striking, 6th total birdies and 19th scoring average. Definitely has a huge chance in his home country.

Jerry Kelly (80/1 Totesport) PULLED OUT

JK still has plenty to offer!

JK still has plenty to offer!

The American is a really solid pick this week, a man who knows the course well, shoots low and is in good form. He seems to have a liking for Glen Abbey, finishing 5th in ’09 and 37th in ’08. Course form does not seem to be vital, but it will give him an extra advantage. But Kelly is impressive statistically and is a very consistent tee to green player. He ranks 7th in driving accuracy, 46th scoring average, 51st all-round ranking, 16th scrambling, 25th total putting and 34th proximity to the hole. And he showed just how low he can go last time out, shooting a -18 to come T4 at the John Deere Classic. With Duke, Mickelson and last week Austin, it seems like the old boys are showing the young’uns how to play recently, so let’s hope Jerry Kelly continues the trend!

If you’re up for a laugh, see if you can say “Jerry Kelly” 5 times in a row real fast…

Matt Jones (66/1 Various)

We have been itching to back Jones for the last couple of weeks so now is the time to jump on him. He’s in stunning form at the moment, with his last two outings being 7th and 2nd. And he might not have made the cut here before, but he certainly knows how to shoot low. His last two finishes were -11 and -17 whilst he lies 9th in actual scoring average, 6th total driving, 12th all-round ranking, 4th scrambling, 41st total birdies and 54th total putting. It just feels like Jones is still under the radar despite his form and it will be interesting to see whether he can continue in Canada. And the Australian will definitely take confidence from his fellow countryman Nathan Green, who came out on top at Glen Abbey back in ’09.

David Hearn (66/1 Totesport)

Will do all he can to avenge play-off defeat a 2 weeks ago

Will do all he can to avenge play-off defeat 2 weeks ago

Hearn definitely has to be regarded as Canada’s number 2 behind DeLaet. He’s had a really consistent year in 2013, with his best finish coming last week, a T2 at the John Deere Classic where he shot -19 and agonizingly lost in a play-off on the 5th hole to Jordan Spieth.  It has been in the tournaments where you need to shoot low where Hearn has played his best stuff this year, which excites us. What we like even more is Hearn grew up under an hour away from Glen Abbey, so he will feel right at home! And playing in your home Open is always going to get the juices flowing. He finds himself 17th in birdie average and 33rd actual scoring average. And as for his abilities with the short stick, say no more – 5th total putting and 14th strokes gained-putting. That could prove vital if he is to go and win this. The Canadian also made the cut here back in ’08 which will give him course knowledge others will not have. Just like DeLaet, Hearn is part of ‘Team RBC’ and will want to impress them in their sponsored event.

M2M Russian Open 2013

Quick Reminder: We’re trying to get as many people involved in the DownThe18th Fantasy Golf for 2014 with prize incentives hopefully on offer. Email us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk or tweet @downthe18th to get on board!

And please do check out this weeks Golf Monthly column on the tales of Lee Westwood

‘The Woe of Westwood’

A few days on from a memorable Open Championship, many players on the European circuit have decided to take a break, which has left a weak field for this weeks Russian Open.

It is the first time this event has been held on the European Tour and has been promoted from the Challenge Tour after 3 years on the secondary circuit.

Therefore the information we have and able to research has been limited.  However from what we have found/know there are definitely a few players who stuck out straight away as perfect matches for this course.

The wonderful layout from an aerial view

The wonderful layout from an aerial view

The Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club is near Moscow and stands at the relatively long 7,491 yards par 72.  It is Jack Nicklaus designed and opened in 2007.

The fairways are relatively wide, but with quite thick rough (same length as the Irish Open a few weeks ago), errors in judgement will be punished and the tree-lined parkland layout means plenty of players will be wandering through the woods looking for the lost balls!  There are also plenty of water hazards surrounding the greens and fairways, which will need to be avoided.

Last year’s winner Alexandre Kaleka is a well known big hitter, as is Carlos Del Moral, who won the event 2 years ago.  Therefore we do feel that longer hitters will have a major say – especially because rain is expected throughout the 4 days, softening up the fairways and making carry very important.  But keeping the ball in play and finding greens will be so crucial.

It will be an interesting watch, but is playing second fiddle to the esteemed Canadian Open taking place across the pond – also the purse is very small and we just cannot fathom how Russia is hosting a European Tour event when there are far better candidates out there.  Oh well, lets enjoy what we’ve been given!

Morten Ørum Madsen (30/1 888sport)

Madsen is an extremely talented golfer

Madsen is an extremely talented golfer

One of our original ‘Players to Watch’, Madsen has been making steady progress in his debut European Tour season.  Three tops 10s is a solid return and finishing T28 at the US Open on an incredibly difficult course, proves his credentials as a future star in the game.

We have obviously backed him at 3-figure odds in past tournaments this year and now seeing him at odds as low as 28/30s is odd but makes complete sense when you look at the quality of field.  The last time a field was similar to this on Tour was at the Madeira Islands Open (played alongside the Volvo World Matchplay) and he finished T2, two shots off the eventual winner Peter Uihlein.

His only problem is putting together 4 consistent rounds – there have been struggles this year, but at only 25 that will come in time and there will be no fears of playing with anyone of the top 20 in the world and this is why we feel he could really contend come Sunday evening.

He hasn’t missed a cut in 4 tournaments and interestingly finished T4 last year on this course, when it was part of the Challenge Tour.  Having course form could be valuable, considering the bullish nature of some of the holes.

30th in driving accuracy and 34th in driving distance is a brutal combination and could really set him apart from the competitors around him.

We never thought we would be ‘tipping’ Madsen as our number one this year, but the blend of weak field and great Danish talent is too unique to ignore.

JB Hansen (33/1 various)

Doesn't that driver look absolutely huge? Hansen will be swinging it violently all week

Doesn’t that driver look absolutely huge? Hansen will be swinging it violently all week

We are going with another young Dane for our 2nd choice – JB Hansen.  He will be arriving into Moscow with confidence after recording his best finish of the season and in his European Tour career.  T3 at the Scottish Open was a fantastic achievement and he looked imperious on the second day, carding a 65.  In fact going into the final day he was only 2 shots behind Henrik Stenson, lying in a tie for second and he could have challenged eventual winner Phil Mickelson more had he produced a similar display to the previous rounds.

Just like his countryman Madsen, he finished T4 at this event last year and it is no surprise that he can also hit the ball a long way.  His form has been woeful for most of the year so his stats do not jump out in particular, but he lies in 36th for driving distance, which is encouraging.   But at the Scottish Open he was 14th in this category, 3rd for GIR, 3rd for putts per GIR and 7th for putts per round – if he isn’t feeling much more confident than he shouldn’t be playing this game!

He is another in a long line of Scandinavian talents to emerge from the lower tours and this is the sort of tournament where he could really announce himself on the world stage.

Chris Doak (40/1 Coral)

Firstly, ridiculous hat.  Secondly, ridiculous photo - pointing at his US Open qualifying confirmation.

Firstly, ridiculous hat. Secondly, ridiculous photo – pointing at his US Open qualifying confirmation.

The ‘flat cap’ guru has attracted media attention for his wonderfully odd attire but we want to take it one step further and make you aware that the Scot could be one of the contenders this week.

He hasn’t had a great season but just like Hansen, will take confidence from a positive showing at the Scottish Open two weeks ago.  After opening with two 66s, he went into the weekend in the lead, but two 73s put pay to any home win for the touring pro.

So, he will arrive Tseleevo Golf Club feeling good whilst knowing that this is a course which suits his abilities and has warranted solid finished before.  Last year he finished T4 and the year before he was T9, which is very encouraging.

The field is only marginally stronger than what it would have been last year and there is no reason Doaky can’t challenge.  20th in driving accuracy and 74th in driving distance are reminders that off the tee he could be dangerous.

Plus, we are DYING to know whether he would keep the cap on while lifting a trophy.

Scott Henry (100/1 various)

Admittedly we have struggled to find value at the higher end of the odds market, but one player who does look interesting is Scott Henry.  The Scot is in his debut year on the European Tour and has struggled mostly throughout the year.  He has however not missed a cut in his last 3 events and has experience on the course, finishing T58 last year whilst plying his trade on the Challenge Tour.

He did win last year at the Kazakhstan Open, so has the ability to finish off good performances, but it is the fact he lies in 3rd for driving distance that excites us heavily.  If he can hit the ball that far he will be at a major advantage and with rain expected, the longer hitters will come to the fore (no pun intended).

A fascinating outsider and certainly one to look out for!

Prom Meesawat (175/1 Bet365)

If Meesawat finds the trees, his caddy is a sensational climber.  Cracking effort

If Meesawat finds the trees, his caddy is a sensational climber. Cracking effort

The big Thai golfer has caught our attention before, finishing T6 at the Avantha Masters last year and playing superbly on the Asian Tour throughout 2012.

He is a supremely talented golfer and one of his country’s top athletes (depending on how you describe the word ‘athlete’).  His form this season on the European Tour has been uninspiring – hence his odds, but he was 2nd in his last outing on the ASEAN PGA Tour.  The Singha Hua Hin Open was actually won Phachara Khongwatmai, a 14-year old amateur who became the youngest player ever to win a professional event.

He is not known as a long hitter, but rarely strays into trouble – 53rd in driving accuracy and considering he is 39th for putts per round and 52nd in putts per GIR, he does seem like a useful outsider.

The Open Championship

Muirfield 2013

Course: Muirfield Golf Links

Date: 18-21 July 2013

Current Champion: Ernie Els

The third major has finally arrived and this is a week many golfing professionals, aficionados and experts will be most excited about.  The Open Championship.

The 142nd edition of the famous tournament is being held at one of the greatest tests of links golf anywhere in the world.  Muirfield has been primed, prepped and improved since it last hosted the championship in 2002 and whatever the weather, we are all in for a 4-day, Christmas-come-early treat.

As we have done with previous majors, there are two in-depth, statistical and informative previews if what we write is just not enough to quench your gambling thirst. So please do check them out!

The first one is on the trends and brief links specialists –

https://downthe18th.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-open-championship-2013/

The second one is all about Muirfield and the challenge players will face, with a look at the key statistics needed.

https://downthe18th.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/the-open-championship-2013-preview-2/

You can also check out our column on the Golf Monthly website about the farce of Open Qualifying

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531565/golf-blog-the-open-qualifying.html

Also a look at Outsiders and the ridiculous offers of bookmakers  for Golf Monthly

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531646/open-championship-2013-blog-bet-on-the-outsiders.html

So what happened back when it was last held here in 2002?  Reigning Open champion, Ernie Els defeated Thomas Levet, Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby in a playoff to secure his 1st Open and 3rd major trophy.  That particular year the weather was beyond brutal on the Saturday, with unforeseen storms and torrential rains hampering scoring for the majority of the field.  Our favourite 2nd-place guru Colin Montgomerie infamously shot 74, 64, 84 in his first three rounds, letting slip another opportunity.

Ernie Els chipping out the bunker at Muirfield in 2002. This was one of the iconic moments of the whole tournament and an outrageous shot

Ernie Els chipping out the bunker at Muirfield in 2002. This was one of the iconic moments of the whole tournament and an outrageous shot

The long list of champions that Ernie added himself to is full of big names, the very best the sport has produced – from Sir Nick Faldo to Lee Trevino, Gary Player to Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson to Walter Hagen – the greats who have littered golfing history books.  But all of them during four days in the Scottish summer conquered the prestigious test of Muirfield.  What does that say? No mug is going to be taking home this trophy, the cream is likely to rise to the top come Sunday evening.  However, that does not mean it would be foolish to look elsewhere for an outsider, as many bookmakers are offering 6 places, whilst PaddyPower are paying out for 7 and BetVictor are (rather astonishingly, if you ask us) offering 8 places!

http://www.betvictor.com/sports/en/the-open-8-places?banner_home_1107

http://www.paddypower.com/bet/golf/open-championship?ev_oc_grp_ids=34304#area=sb&AFF_ID=10063836

So with outsiders you are certainly looking for e/w returns and as long shot Englishman Gary Evans proved 11 years ago, sneaking a place (and nearly winning the whole thing) is not uncommon for the touring pro.

With all that history malarkey out the way, what are we actually looking for in terms of player and attributes to take on Muirfield?

If you are errant off the tee, you can kiss goodbye to any birdie and most times, even a par.  The thick rough is virtually impossible to hit out of, therefore accuracy will be so crucial.  But it is not just the cabbage that needs to be avoided – strategically placed pot-bunkers litter fairways and valiantly protect greens.  Although every player will at some point find themselves lingering in the sand, how you play yourself out will be just as important as how few times you get trapped.

This does means better bunker players will save shots, but general scrambling, which is always a key component in any Open, will be vital.  It seems obvious to say it but GIR and approach play will be key, because this is where the strategists can work out when to attack and when to sit back, take par and run to the next tee.  If you’re too attacking – disaster, if you’re strategically attacking – lower score.  Simple as that.

Once on the undulating, sloping greens, putting is often the difference between 1st and 2nd.  To win majors, you have to be consistent with the short stick throughout the week and it will be no different here.  Rose putted well at Merion, Scott at Augusta and the player lifting the claret jug on Sunday will have been incredible on the greens as well.

However, at the end of the day, the really important factor to consider is the good old British weather.  Ability to keep your head in the game whilst winds blow in all sorts of directions – every hole at Muirfield is facing a different direction to each other, so wind will come from all angles – and play just as well in the rain as in the sun will be more crucial than anything.

We hope you have enjoyed our previews and found them useful, if you want to give us any feedback so we can improve for future majors, please do contact us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk.

So if you are in Britain, enjoy the wonderful and rare BBC coverage.  If you are anywhere else in the world, have fun watching four days of the most competitive golf and if you are lucky enough to have a ticket, well you’re a wanker.

Our picks –

The Favourites

Luke Donald (30/1 StanJames)

Luke Donald at the Masters in 2011 after he chipped in on the 18th. If he can get this fist pumping and passion going then we could have a second English major winner in 2013

Luke Donald at the Masters in 2011 after he chipped in on the 18th. If he can get this fist pumping and passion going then we could have a second English major winner in 2013

Wouldn’t it just make sense? Scott then Rose then Donald. If perfect symmetry was the sole factor for finding the 2013 Open champion then Luke Donald would be joint favourite alongside Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood – and we personally cannot handle anymore gruelling Westwood performances, our brains and hearts are not strong enough, although would never begrudge him a win.

As for Donald, he has admitted himself that it has not been a great season for him, after 2 incredible years of unerring consistency.  In his last three competitions he has finished T42, T8, and T21.  That T8 was at the US Open, where he went into the final day with every chance of taking the title but faltered away, allowing player partner and good friend, Rose, to capitalise.

In his last 10 major outings he has managed 7 top 32s, including 4 top 10s and you just get that sense he is on the verge of joining the major elite.

Even recent Open performances give you confidence in Donald, T5 last year with four consistent rounds and in 2009 a final day 67 put him 2 shots of a playoff place.  When you think of his playing style, it is no surprise that he finds himself at the top of various major championships.  But for us Merion and Muirfield have presented him with the best opportunities yet – a superb tee to green player, reliably accurate, a phenomenal scrambler and bunker player and when he starts holing putts he is so dangerous.  That combination is perfect for links golf and we feel very confident in our main man.

He was number 1 for a long time and his name is more than good enough to join that elite list of former winners.  In Donald we believe and trust.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 5 8 10 2

Recent Open Championship History (Including 2002 Open at Muirfield)

2012 2011 2010 2009 2007 2002
T5 MC T11 T5 T63 MC

PGA Tour Statistics

Luke Donald Stats

Graeme McDowell (25/1 various)

You can sample all the alcohol in the world if you win Gmac. It will be on us...

You can sample all the alcohol in the world if you win Gmac. It will be on us…

Yes he was our main man for Merion and yes he missed the cut, but that has not put us off one of the very best scramblers and tee to green players in the game.

It has been well documented, by both himself and the media, that it has been a very bizarre season.  3 wins in a single year is an incredible achievement, but 6 missed cuts doesn’t make a great deal of sense, especially with a usually consistent performer like McDowell.

Every time he has shown his true class and deservedly walked away with a trophy, he misses the cut the following week but we are sure it will not happen this time around, on a course that suits the Northern Irishman perfectly.

He was superb at the French Open two weekends ago, leading the field for GIR and lying in 15th for driving accuracy – two crucial Muirfield attributes.

And now he will be going into the third major, having missed the cut at Augusta and Merion in the knowledge that if he can make it to Saturday there is every chance he will be in contention.  He has made 7 cuts this season, only finishing outside the top 10 in one of those tournaments.  When his game is on, it is on and we would not be worried if the weather turns vile because his adaptable game can work in any conditions.

We really feel McDowell has the game for links golf (as shown by his history on such courses) and if he decides to turn it on, then he will have at least held one hand on a second major trophy.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 4 8 10 1

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
T5 MC T23 T34 T19 MC

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
152nd 15th 85th 46th 167th 63rd

PGA Tour Statistics

Graeme McDowell Stats 1

Sergio Garcia (28//1 various)

This is when Sergio had the world at his feet, jumping round like a ballerina.  Lets hope he can get back to that mindset and dance his way to the title

This is when Sergio had the world at his feet, jumping round like a ballerina. Lets hope he can get back to that mindset and dance his way to the title

You can read one half of DownThe18ths column for Golf Monthly on ‘The Curious Case Of Sergio Garcia’ here –

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/open-2013/blog/531615/the-curious-case-of-sergio-garcia.html

Sergio Garcia.  A confusing yet irresistible golfer who has an opportunity to resurrect his fortunes, correct the wrongs of foolish comments and finally win his first major.  We really feel that this is his best chance for a long time on a course that has a lot of history for the Spaniard.

Back in 1998 Garcia won the Amateur Championship, a matchplay format, which was held at Muirfield.  Then in his 4th year as a pro, he finished T8 in the Open proper – also held at Muirfield and at the time was his highest finish in the Championship.

He has openly admitted how much he loves the historic course and cannot wait to get back there for another attempt at a trophy he has recorded 7 top 10s in.

Obviously, as there always is with Sergio, worries about his mental state will play on the mind of every gambler throwing their hard earned money at the Spaniard.  The collapse at The Players was a horrendous watch, whilst the second day 76 at Augusta was a frustrating relapse after a glorious 66 on the Thursday.

But people do often forget how incredible and unlucky he was in 2007, after nearly going wire-to-wire before painfully losing in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.  He lipped out the winning putt on the 72nd hole and we cannot imagine how painful that must have been.

Yet, just like all our top 5 picks, we really feel a sense of everything coming together for Sergio.  All the stars are aligned and as we all know, his game is simply perfect for any links challenge, so if you have the guts to go through whatever he may bring for one more week then let the fun begin.

Links form since 2010

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

Recent Open Championship History (Including 2002 Muirfield)

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2002
MC T9 T14 T38 T51 T8

PGA Tour Statistics

Sergio Garcia Stats

The Mid-Rangers

Brandt Snedeker (40/1 various)

How dapper does he look in this brown suit?! What a hero.

How dapper does he look in this brown suit?! What a hero.

Finally, the man who inspired us to originally begin DownThe18th has made it past the ‘initial’ picks and found himself 4th on our list for The Open.  We have made no secret of the fact that he is one of our favourite players, but we have a feeling that this is now the right time to back him for a major.

At the beginning of the season, he was the form man in golf.  He looked irresistibly impressive and we were so excited to back him for the Masters.  But then came his rib injury and a run of horrendous performances.  Yet he went to Augusta on medication and managed to get in the running up until late Sunday afternoon, eventually finishing T6.  Whilst he went on to miss 2 cuts following the T8 at The Players, he recorded a T17 finish at the US Open and his last appearance at the AT&T National resulted in a T8 finish, which give us confidence he is back, but should be a great sign for the man himself.

He has shown ability on links courses in the past and last year finishing T3 after shooting an outrageous 66, 64 on the first two days.  He is more than capable of winning majors and with length not really needed on this course, his game has all the components to keep the ball in play and find the putting surface, where he is arguably the best in the world.  The short stick guru represents great value at 40s considering his ability, so jump on him whilst you can.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 3 3 5 7 3

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2011 2009 2008
T3 MC MC MC

PGA Tour Statistics

Brandt Snedeker Stats

Henrik Stenson (45/1 888sport)

Henrik Stenson showing he is not afraid to get down and dirty back in 2009.

Henrik Stenson showing he is not afraid to get down and dirty back in 2009.

After the very lengthy discussions in deciding our final picks, we came across Stenson and thought he was completely overpriced by Ladbrokes at 66/1.  Many bookmakers had him at 40s, which is roughly where he should be and after delving into his statistics, form etc. we chose to jump at Ladbrokes’ offer.  Subsequently he shot a 64 on the Friday at the Scottish Open and his prices slashed.  He went on to shoot 66 the following day, taking a two shot lead into Sunday, however a +1 73 meant he ended in T3, with Mickelson lifting the trophy.

We can only apologise for our 5th pick being at odds nearly half what we staked, but we do have an inkling that the Swede is back to form and in complete control of his game at the moment – even with the slight break down at Castle Stuart.

His tee to green abilities are up there with anyone and considering he has enormous power as well, he can challenge on any course at any tournament.

But he has shown a liking for links golf, with an admirable recent record, whilst two T3 finishes at The Open prove he can compete with the best.  In both 2008 and 2010 he rallied home on the final day to surge up the leaderboard, but without ever really contending.

Whilst he finished well at the Masters and US Open (T18 and T21 respectively) and he has only ever made the cut at both opening majors once – back in 2009 when he finished T13 at that years Open.

In all honesty, he should be higher up this list, because he has only missed 2 cuts all year, with four top 10s and if his putter gets going, he will be incredibly dangerous.

Links form since 2010

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 7 12 18 3

Recent Open Championship History

2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2002
68th T3 T13 T3 MC DNP

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
9th 67th 8th 118th 162nd 148th

PGA Tour Statistics

Henrik Stenson Stats

The Outsiders

Jamie Donaldson (125/1 Bet365)

NO this is NOT Brandt Snedeker, it is his long lost brother, Jamie Donaldson

NO this is NOT Brandt Snedeker, it is his long lost brother, Jamie Donaldson

Considering this is a man who is currently 38th in the world rankings, won on the European Tour this year and has a solid links record, 150/1 is outrageously over-priced.

Donaldson has impressed us throughout 2013, showing his ability tee to green and there have been few better scramblers.  If and when he finds trouble around Muirfield, the Welshman is the exact player you have every confidence in turning trouble into fortune.

In his last 2 outings he ranked 3rd for GIR in France (T6 finish) and 7th for GIR in Ireland (T10 finish).  We are aware that his overall stats do not jump out, but we feel they do not represent fully the excellent golf he has been playing over recent weeks.

At the end of the day this is a heavy outsider and with plenty of places on offer from PaddyPower and BetVictor, it would be foolish not to get involved with Donaldson, who has every capability of mixing it with the best and finding the top end of leaderboards at majors.  And for us, the Open represents the competition that will suit his style the most.  Don’t forget, he did finish T7 at the PGA last year, so he does have major pedigree…

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 7 9 11 6

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2006
T60 MC

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
85th 153th 122nd 2nd 88th 43rd

Our other outsiders we have looked at are Richard Sterne (100/1 various) and Mikko Ilonen (125/1 various)

Both guys have been winners on the European Tour this year – Sterne at the Joburg Open and Ilonen at the Nordea Masters and we were on them both times!

But intriguingly they have good links form and Ilonen made the cut here back in 2003, the year after he finished T9 at the Open.

Sterne has recorded 3 top 10s in his last 9 links tournaments and won the Alfred Dunhill Links back in 2009, whilst Ilonen has 2 top 10s.

If you prefer looking at outsiders and value, then these 2 guys are top professionals who will be used to the type of course, weather and conditions, whilst arriving in good form.  If you think they are the top end of the market for most European competitions – they are at the top of their game.

The Open Championship 2013 Preview 2

Muirfield 2013Course: Muirfield Golf Links

Date: 18-21 July 2013

Current Champion: Ernie Els

1st Preview – The Open Championship Preview 1

NEW – Official Picks and Preview available here – The Open Championship Main Preview

Our first preview (above) touched on trends that we have used to pick out a few names that fit all the criteria for being the 2013 Open Champion. And from that, we have thrown out there a few names who we thought a couple of weeks ago will be in with a chance. This preview will be all about the course, getting to grips with Muirfield and really understanding what type of player is needed to play well around here. Preview 3 will be published early next week with detailed analysis of all our selections.

Please do check out two of our articles about the Open for Golf Monthly, who we have started writing for on a weekly basis!

The first one is about Sergio Garcia and his madness

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531615/the-curious-case-of-sergio-garcia.html

And the second one is about the ridiculous process of Open Qualifying. Enjoy!

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531565/golf-blog-the-open-qualifying.html

So what is Muirfield all about?

Well the course this year has been lengthened by 158 yards, now making it a 7,192 yard par 71. Muirfield is going to be tough and we’ve found an interesting quote that proves just that

“The rough has been cut down over the winter but will regenerate over the coming weeks. We will see the rough up and you are unlikely to win an Open Championship at Muirfield from the rough. The amount of rough is weather-dependent, but we will get plenty.” – R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson

You can debate whether the extra yardage will benefit the bigger hitters, but accuracy is going to be everything around Muirfield. And the common thing with all links courses, is wind. If you don’t know how to play in the elements, you will be seeing a lot of that Scottish rough. We also think that scrambling comes hand in hand with any Open. As far as we can remember, the winners have always had to scramble well for all 4 days, because it’s often those unlikely par saves that mean the most. And as you will see in the hole guide, there are a LOT of bunkers, so sand play needs to be at its best!

Muirfield – Hole by Hole

Incredible scenes back in '02 when the Open was last here

Incredible scenes back in ’02 when the Open was last here

From a betting perspective, it is always good to get to grips with the course, getting a sense of what your players will be facing. So we’re going to give you a quick run through of each hole. This is also to show you why we have decided to focus on the statistics that we have. Just like we did for our US Open preview, we have worked out the average drive of a pro golfer to be 290 yards. From this we can work out what yardage in theory the average drive will leave you.

Hole 1: Par 4 – 447 Yards

Nerves will be jangling and everyone will hear Ivor Robson’s unmistakeable voice announcing the players. A dog leg right, and apart from the obvious rough, the danger lies in the two left bunkers 222 and 305 yards down the left. Green is relatively easy.

Average drive leaves: 157 yards

Hole 2: Par 4 – 362 Yards

First of the two short par 4’s on the front 9. If wind is with, a few players’ eyes might light up. But most will take a wood or low iron and play conservative on this hole, allowing a full shot into the green. Bunkers lurk either side of the fairway at the 240 yard mark. For this reason we will lower the average drive on this hole. 4 bunkers to the right of the green will cause lots of problems.

Average drive leaves: 110 yards

Hole 3: Par 4 – 377 Yards

Another short par 4, the already tight fairway narrows at 290 yards with bunkers either side so again the driver will probably be staying in the bag, anything short of the left bunker will be perfect for the approach. A birdie-able par 4 if ever there was one at Muirfield, with just a wedge in and no real drama awaiting on the greens. Very accurate tee shot needed though.

Average drive leaves: 100 yards

Hole 4: Par 3 – 226 Yards

The 4th Green

The 4th Green

Longest par 3 on the course, and it’s not an easy one. The long yardage with wind blowing could mean a lot of missed greens. Scrambling will be paramount here, and there are bunkers front left and right for anyone who gets their yardage wrong.

Hole 5: Par 5 – 559 Yards

If the wind is with, a definite eagle opportunity with a short iron probably in hand for the 2nd shot. But accuracy is still needed, bunkers lurk on the left at 302 and 343 yards and there are three shorter on the right, with the earliest at 251 yards. A two tiered green awaits that could get pretty fast. This green backs onto the 11th green, and the bunkers around there will be in play for both.

Average drive leaves – 269 yards

Hole 6: Par 4 – 461 Yards

A real tough hole this one, the fairway is not really visible off the tee on this dog leg left. The fairway is tight and bunkers lurk at 230 and 259 yards. Players will try and go right but get it wrong and you will be chopping out from the rough.  There are some tricky run-off areas around the green and again scrambling will be key.

Average drive leaves – 171 yards

Hole 7: Par 3 – 184 Yards

Another difficult green to find and four pot bunkers guard the front and left. Steep run-off areas again mean scrambling is everything, as well as getting out of those bunkers. If the wind is against, par will be a great score on this hole.

Hole 8: Par 4 – 441 Yards

This is another menacing hole, with the fairway narrowing severely at 280 yards and bunkers all down the right side before it. A ridge 35 yards short of the front edge makes the green tough to see. The green slopes towards the back right bunker and good play from the sand will be needed.

Average drive leaves – 151 yards

Hole 9: Par 5 – 554 Yards

Should be lots of birdies on the 9th

The new, longer par 5 9th

This hole has received one of the biggest makeovers this year, extending the tee back around 60 yards. Wind will make anyone on the tee struggle and bunkers lie at 274 and 315 yards either side. A simple green awaits but 5 bunkers dominate the front of this green, making the two shot approach a tough one. Again, good play from sand will be needed.

Average drive leaves – 264 yards

Hole 10: Par 4 – 469 Yards

A longer par 4 and again the danger off the tee will lie in the bunkers. There are three at 238, 268 and 291 yards down the right side. Players will want to be going left as a result, but this will bring the rough into play. Accuracy therefore is crucial off the tee.  Scrambling should not be difficult around this green and no real problems lie on the surface either.

Average drive leaves – 179 yards

Hole 11: Par 4 – 387 Yards

This is one of the easier holes, a ridge at 205 yards make the tee shot blind but the fairway is wide enough to keep the ball in play. But bunkers are either side at 289, 302 and 319 yards which many will go in. The problem here is the small green which is well protected by 7 bunkers all around it. So you are going to have to get it close here.

Average drive leaves – 97 yards

Hole 12: Par 4 – 379 Yards

Bunkers not really in play off the drive, but the fairway narrows at about 270 yards. So you need to be accurate. The key here will be getting on the surface, with steep run-offs at the back and 5 bunkers down the right side. So scrambling and sand saves will be vital on the 12th.

Average drive leaves – 89 yards

Hole 13: Par 3 – 190 yards

The 13th. A good look at some of the tough bunkers out there

The 13th. A good look at some of the tough bunkers out there

This uphill par 3 will be tough like all of them, 2 bunkers on the left and 3 on the right. Throw the wind in there and it will make club choice tough. The bunkers are all deep and will require skill to get out. The green is long and narrow, and most will be more than happy with par.

Hole 14: Par 4 – 475 Yards

A downhill tee shot after the uphill 13th and bunkers offer the trouble down the left between 260 and 305 yards. Centre or just right will leave you with a perfect shot in. With it being a long hole, players will find themselves off the green, but the run off is lenient and getting up and down will not be too hard.

Average drive leaves – 185 yards

Hole 15: Par 4 – 448 Yards

A dogleg right that could more than likely be playing into the wind, which means the bunkers left at 245 yards and right at 281 yards will definitely be in play. As usual the fairway is tight and accuracy is needed. Bunkers are also short of the green so players need to be carrying those while more sand lies all around it. If you miss here you will be in sand.

Average drive leaves – 158 yards

Hole 16: Par 3 – 186 Yards

A great view of the 16th

A great view of the 16th

7 bunkers surround this green, and most of them are front which means hitting into the wind will make club choice imperative. The green will not offer too many problems, but getting onto the dance floor is what it’s all about on this hole.

Hole 17: Par 5 – 575 Yards

This is a tough dogleg left but get it right and it will offer up birdie and eagle chances. Players will want to stay right off the tee to avoid the 4 bunkers down the left side in the driving zone. People who go for the 3 shot approach will find it tough with 3 big bunkers around 100 yards from the front edge. The green is quite helpful and players will need to be under par on this hole.

Average drive leaves – 285 yards

Hole 18: Par 4 – 470 Yards

See you all DownThe18th!

See you all DownThe18th!

So DownThe18th they will all go. This is a tricky final hole as you would expect for the last at an Open. Bunkers are really in the driving zone at 283 and 302 yards down the left, and then at 265 yards on the right. Everyone will want to be in the fairway for this one. The green is sloped from back to front and the 2 bunkers left and right will be in the players’ mind. Scrambling and sand saves will be so vital on this one, with nerves and wind included.

Average drive leaves – 180 yards

So what statistics will you need to look at?

There are always the generic areas that you have to look at for any course. Driving accuracy, Greens in regulation (GIR) and Putting are always up there. Muirfield needs a few more specifics. Sand saves will be very crucial, as will Scrambling. Then after assessing the yardage on each hole, it is apparent Approach 150-175 yards and Approach from 75-100 yards is also going to have to be looked at. These are the MAIN ones, of course there will be more, but this should filter out enough players.

Who does this filter out?

The names that we will give you are purely because of their statistics, and no personal opinions have been put into these! We can only get hold of the specific approach statistics on the PGA Tour, so it’s only right we start there. If they fit at least half of the categories, we will show them below.

PGA Tour (WGR Order)

Tiger Woods – 40th GIR, 4th Putting, 22nd Sand, 7th 150-175

Justin Rose – 12th Dri Acc, 13th GIR, 11th Scram, 1st Sand, 3rd 75-100

Adam Scott – 18th GIR, 28th Sand, 29th 150-175, 1st 75-100

Brandt Snedeker – 27th Dri Acc, 14th GIR, 16th Putting, 29th Scram, 20th Sand, 14th 75-100

Phil Mickelson – 34th GIR, 11th Putting, 38th Sand, 3rd 150-175

Luke Donald – 29th Dri Acc, 7th Putting, 22nd Scram, 26th Sand

Lee Westwood – 30th Dri Acc, 9th Scram, 29th Sand, 36th 150-175

Charl Schwartzel – 28th GIR, 30th Putting, 10th 150-175, 4th 75-100

Henrik Stenson – 6th Dri Acc, 3rd GIR, 20th 150-175, 37th 75-100

Billy Horschel – 40th Dri Acc, 23rd GIR, 24th Putting, 45th 150-175, 28th 75-100

Tim Clark – 3rd Dri Acc, 34th Scram, 50th Sand, 18th 150-175, 12th 75-100

K.J. Choi – 37th Dri Acc, 26th Putting, 24th Scram, 2nd Sand, 42nd 75-100

European Tour (WGR Order)

Justin Rose – 15th GIR, 25th Scram, 2nd Sand

Matteo Manassero – 32nd Dri Acc, 11th Scram, 12th Sand, 30th Putting

George Coetzee – 13th Scram, 3rd Sand, 20th Putting

Alexander Noren – 52nd GIR, 9th Scram, 15th Sand, 10th Putting

Marcus Fraser – 7th Scram, 25th Sand, 4th Putting

We’ve highlighted in red a few that we will take into consideration a lot for our final selections…

Our 3rd and final preview will be with you early next week!

John Deere Classic

One week before The Open Championship, many players will either be in Europe for the Scottish Open or preparing for a links style challenge that this tournament State side will simply not give.

Since 2000TPC Deere Run has been the host course and is a 7,268 yard par 71 with nearly 8- bunkers and 3 water hazards coming into play and bentgrass greens and fairways.

TPC Deere Run. Stupid name, clever course, easy scoring.

TPC Deere Run. Stupid name, clever course, easy scoring.

It has often been considered an easy scoring place – ranking 42nd out of 49 in difficulty on the PGA Tour last year, meaning the winner will have to shoot very low to stand any chance. 

For us, putting and GIR are the most crucial stats, alongside scoring averages – to win you will need to attack pins and hole your putts!

Steve Stricker obviously has incredible course form, winning 3 years on the trot before Zach Johnson stole his crown last year and both will be teeing up this year.  Could be an interesting week, but anyone who has a place at Muirfield will not want to be exerting too much come Sunday evening, which has to be taken into consideration.

Keegan Bradley (25/1 Various)

The awkward stylings of Mr.Bradley

The awkward stylings of Mr.Bradley

Keegan Bradley has had a peculiar year, dipping in and out of form, showing brilliance at times and bizarreness the rest.

He went on a run of four top 10s in a row, before missing 3 cuts in his last 7 tournaments, although that included a 2nd place at the Byron Nelson. Confusing? You bet.

His last outing was at the Travelers where he did shoot 3 rounds in the 60s on the way to a T18 finish.  So why do we feel we should be backing him for a tournament he has not played at before?

Because he has the class and potential to destroy the course.

Whilst many people will be saying how important course form is (including us in some ways) last year, both Scott Brown and Luke Guthrie found top 7s in their first outing here and no offence to them, Bradley is in a different league.

He is driving the ball longer this year, currently in 8th on the PGA Tour stats, which means he will have several short iron approaches to the pins and he has hit 93.3% of the greens from inside 75 yards (18th in the rankings).

Because this is a course where low shooting is so crucial, players will need to attack greens and he is one of the more forward thinking golfers – 3rd in going for the green.  Therefore his scoring stats come as no surprise – 17th in birdie average, 15th in scoring average and 16th for rounds in the 60s.

For us, he has struggled on the greens at times this year, but it is no surprise that when he has played well, putts have not stopped rolling in and he does lie in 42nd for strokes gained putting and 23rd in 3-putt avoidance.

If, he gets in a flow and decides to throw everything at this tournament, then there is no doubting he could win it at a canter, but a lot of it depends on how he sees this in terms of The Open next week.

But, not for the first time, in Keegan we trust.

Ryan Moore (33/1 Various)

Moore shot 4 solid rounds in the 60s last year to finish T8 but he was never really in contention on the Sunday.  He is yet to miss a cut at this venue and he will gain confidence from his recent showings – T7 at the Travelers and before a MC at Merion, he had a T13 finish at the Memorial.  He is a class player when he is in full flow and with that recent surge, he should be excited to get on to a course he has played well at before.

Stats wise he may not fit the bill completely, but across the board he is relatively consistent and after some woeful performances mid-season you would not expect anything else. Lying in 46th for 1-putt percentage, 55th strokes gained putting and 72nd in proximity to the hole, whilst he is 24th for driving accuracy.

Considering his talent and liking for the course, this could be an important week for Moore and we have every faith he will be challenging come Sunday evening!

Brendon De Jonge (50/1 StanJames)

The biggest, baddest, baldest nut on the PGA Tour.

The biggest, baddest, baldest nut on the PGA Tour.

If you have been following us this year, you will notice a few players that we just keep plugging for, knowing that they will win eventually, it is just a matter of which week.  (Paul Casey we are looking at you) Brendon De Jonge is certainly one of them but we feel this really could be the week.

He has impressive form at Deere Run, 19th last year, T7 in 2010 and in 2011 he was 2nd going into the final day before a 74 ruined his chances, eventually finishing T7 again.

He did shoot a 63 2 years ago whilst 4 rounds in the 60s last year all prove his liking for the course.

He has been in up and down form, not able to find a top 10 for a number of weeks now, but he has often been close before trailing away at the weekend, usually due to poor putting.  To say this is last chance saloon is underestimating the extremity of how we feel about the Zimbabwean.  We just say trust us!

As for stats, he is a perfect fit for this challenge, 32nd in strokes gained putting, 28th in scoring av. 1st for rounds in the 60s, whilst we all know how good he is tee to green.  38th in driving accuracy, 20th GIR, 16th in ball striking and 66th in proximity to the hole.

Back in 2011 5 of the top 6 were in the top 30 for GIR inside 75 yards and De Jonge lies in 17th for this category.

Basically, one last chance De Jonge. Do not let us down

Bryce Molder (100/1 StanJames)

Admittedly, Bryce Molder does not have the most incredible course form, but 2 30th places out of 3 is not the worst return.  (Especially considering he WD last year)

Whilst his form has not been great of recent times, a 67, 66 last week will give him an enormous amount of confidence going into a tournament where the course should really suit him. If his game is on…

12th in 1-putt percentage, 15th in 3-putt avoidance and 9th in strokes gained putting prove how incredible he has been with his putter, the only worry being whether his irons will get him into a scoring position.

He lies in 9th for rounds in the 60s and 58th in scoring av. Whilst he is 43rd in driving accuracy and crucially 55th for GIR inside 75 yards.

When you piece together all those stats, you would be foolish not to think about backing him, it’s just whether he can put it all together and get his irons working fully.

JJ Henry (175/1 Bet365)

J.J Henry looking rather confused at the blue lighting around him.  He will not be confused when he is winning come Sunday...

J.J Henry looking rather confused at the blue lighting around him. He will not be confused when he is winning come Sunday…

JJ Henry has also not been in the greatest form of late with 2 MC in a row but before that he did record a T5 finish at the Travelers which he will still hopefully be remembering!  Especially as TPC Deere Run has seen Henry produce some solid displays – 13th last year after putting himself into a good position after the first two rounds and a T5 in 2009, when he shot 4 rounds in the 60s.

Everything will depend on how he gets his putter working this week, because tee to green he is very proficient on a regular basis – 25th for GIR, 31st driving accuracy, 30th ball striking and 60th for GIR inside 75 yards.  Even with his poor putting at times, he does lie in 58th for the 3-putt avoidance and 77th for rounds in the 60s, which proves he has the capabilities to shoot low, but admittedly all of his game needs to be in tune and flowing.

But isn’t that the point in backing outsiders? They are high odds for a reason and you just never know!

Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open 2013

Many of the pros are calling this the perfect preparation for next week’s Open Championship which is exactly what it is. Held at Castle Stuart Golf Links, it will be a week for the shot makers out there with wide undulating fairways and large greens. Course management is always going to be crucial and knowing how to bounce back from those inevitable bogeys is big. The course will be playing 7,050 yards, so it’s a short track.

This is definitely one of the flagship events on The European Tour, with American cult hero Phil Mickelson making the trip across the pond to hone his skills for next week at Muirfield. (Our Preview 2 will be with you tomorrow!) The Scottish Open is going to become the first European Tour event to get regular coverage in America, with a deal struck with NBC to show around six hours of live coverage on the final two days, as well as highlights of the first two. Definitely a step in the right direction for a tour many think is flailing.

Castle Stuart, a great links course and perfect build up to The Open

Castle Stuart, a great links course and the perfect build up to The Open

At Castle Stuart emphasis is heavy on scrambling and you need to be coming into this week with a good short game. We say it every week, but GIR will be vital as the more chances you give yourself on these tough greens, the better. Driving accuracy will not be as crucial (Jeev Milkha Singh ranked 52nd on the way to his win last year) but straight drives will breed confidence on any links course. Anyone who putts well over the four days will be in with a shout.

Pretty much all bookmakers are paying 6 places this week, so be sure to take advantage.

Henrik Stenson (20/1 Various)

Has the perfect game to dominate this field

Has the perfect game to dominate this field

The Swede is one many will fancy not just for this week but for the Open as well. He has the perfect game for links golf and has shown that with 3 top 5 finishes on links courses in the last few years. He’s still regarded as one of the top golfers around and he is definitely due a win. Stenson finished T8 here last year, just 3 shots off the lead and ranked 10th in putts per round. We can confidently say Henrik is in much better shape coming into this and could arguably run away with it if his ‘A’ game turns up. His last appearance on the European Tour saw a very respectable T10 at the BMW Open where he ranked 2nd in GIR and 7th in driving accuracy. But his form at the moment can be summed up by his quite outrageous statistics from the PGA Tour. 6th in driving accuracy, 3rd GIR, 18th scoring average, 3rd total driving and 2nd in ball striking. And it’s not bad on the European Tour either… 9th GIR, 14th driving distance and 18th stroke average. Now the ONLY thing that could let the Swede down this week is the putter. It is the only reason he hasn’t won this year, but fortunes have to change at some point. And his consistent putting here in 2012 is enough to suggest he can rekindle that spark on the greens.

Soren Kjeldsen (66/1 Various)

Is that Luke Donald? No it's our man Kjeldsen

Is that Luke Donald? No it’s our man Kjeldsen

Other than Mr McDowell last week, one man who really caught our eye was Kjeldsen. He was always in there with a shout and played some outstanding stuff on the Sunday, just a poor few holes on back 9 cost him a six-figure pay-out. But his game is right there at the moment, going from 68th three weeks ago, to 18th in Ireland and then his top 10 in France. When you combine that with his 5th place last year, we can’t help but be impressed. Last year Soren was 1st in driving accuracy, 8th in GIR and 21st putts per round. It’s hard to see how he didn’t win playing that well! But he will take confidence from that and also the fact he is consistent across the board statistically on the tour this year. The Dane also ranked 6th in both driving accuracy and GIR last week, so if it’s shot makers you want, Kjeldsen is your man. Will need the putter to get hot but we can definitely see it happening with every other aspect of his game in great shape.

Alexander Noren (40/1 Coral)

This is your moment Alex, don't let us down

This is your moment Alex, don’t let us down

It seems at this time in the season we are backing so many players two or even three weeks in a row. But Noren fits the bill perfectly this week so we’re willing to brush last week’s missed cut under the DownThe18th carpet. Before last week, the Swede had been in superb form recording back-to-back 4th place finishes. His game was right there but just didn’t go that step further and grab the win. This week Alex is coming onto a course where he recorded a T3 finish last year, and that will be firmly in his mind. The missed cut last week will have given him an extra few days to really fine tune his links course skills. Amazingly last year he only ranked 62nd in accuracy off the tee at Castle Stuart, but his putter was working overtime. The Swede was 5th in putts per GIR and 8th putts per round. And if there is one part of his game that we have really enjoyed of late, it is his putting. So that is a lethal combination. We have highlighted scrambling as key, and Noren ranks 9th for 2013, as well as 4th stroke average, 9th putts per GIR, 10th putts per round and 15th sand saves! He’s playing as good as ever and we don’t see why he can’t at least go close.

Simon Dyson (66/1 Various)

That's the face of a man who enjoys links golf

That’s the face of a man who enjoys links golf

We’ll get the puns out the way first. Dyson will be looking to clean up this week. We’re expecting him to blow away the field. Dyson will do a job on any surface. We could go on… but Simon Dyson is an infectious character who is a joy to watch out there, wearing his heart on his sleeve. And if anyone enjoys links golf, it’s this man. On links courses over the past few years, Dyson has 3 wins, 2 top 5’s and 6 top 10’s. And Dyson is a confidence player, one good performance will lead to another for him. His career has been in spells, winning two tournaments in ’06, two in ’09 and then again in ’11. So if history serves us right, he is due one in 2013. And he’s had two more than respectable finishes here at Castle Stuart finishing 29th and 25th. But like we say, Simon is a confidence player and he will be absolutely buzzing after his 5th place finish last week in France and will be looking to carry that into this week. He’s also well known for his shot making and course management, so we’re quietly confident about the Dyson this week.

Morten Orum Madsen (150/1 Ladbrokes)

This week has a VERY Scandinavian feel to it, something tells us they enjoy links golf over there. The man from Denmark and Thomas Bjorn’s home club is fast becoming one of our favourite players. But Madsen is definitely showing promise on links courses, which is why we really he like him this week. His recent finishes on them have been: T2 Madeira Islands Open, T51 Open de Espana (having been top 10 after the first day) and T11 Madeira Islands 2012. Now combine that with a 28th at Merion for the US Open and we have a player here who knows a lot about course management. Statistically he is 18th in driving accuracy and 22nd in distance, which is a deadly combination for links courses. His form is nothing to write home about but he’s not at these odds for no reason. Madsen is definitely someone who represents value for money this week in our opinion.