The Masters 2014 Preview 2

header_2014_Masters_sm

Firstly we must apologise for the delay in releasing our 2nd Masters preview.  We have had plenty of responses after our 1st piece, asking when will we be producing the next one. Whilst we feel we have let ourselves down in how long it has taken, we really thank everyone that has got in touch.  If you do have any questions or queries with anything about what we do, please do send us a cheeky line, we try and respond as quickly as possible – downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk

PLEASE CHECK OUT OUR FINAL MASTERS PREVIEW HERE!! –

https://downthe18th.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/masters-2014-final-preview/

Right though, on to the important stuff.  If you are yet to check out what we had to say in our 1st Masters preview, please do check it out, we went through all the trends of previous winners and cancelled out golfers galore till we were left with just a few.

DownThe18th Masters Preview 1

Rory McIlroy did make the list, but has since got significantly worse in the driving accuracy department, so theoretically he shouldn’t have made the end. But we didn’t feel it was right to take his name out.  He is still a half decent player after all…

What we have decided to do for this second piece is leave it all up to you.  We have engrossed ourselves into the world of stats and numbers which after a short while, start merging into each other and creating a bizarre, arithmetically diseased vortex.  We do now suffer from Arithmophobia, thankyou for asking.

What has been produced is a table of a whole host of players we feel could not be ignored at this years Masters.  There are a few omissions that will surprise some, but what we have done is get as many down as we could, so everyone can see for themselves who may take their fancy this year.

Courtesy of Daily Mail

Courtesy of Daily Mail

The green highlights indicate that the relevant golfer fits the stat needed in our trends from preview 1.  Annoyingly some players who have not played enough events (Tiger, Day for example) do not have recognised stats on the PGA Tour website, so we have had to work it out as best we can.

Now, if you haven’t been confused by any of that, then enjoy the number numbness you will feel once you’ve scowered through the tables.  If you get through it unscathed, have a little look at a few names we have picked out and hopefully after it all, you can feel a little happier before putting your hard-earned money on one of the greatest sporting occasions of the year.

(Our 3rd and final preview will be published next Monday night GMT)

MASTERS 1MASTERS2

European Tour

MASTERS 3

As we said in our 1st preview – Adam Scott, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia have already impressed us, but here are a few others.

Justin Rose – Obviously, you cannot ignore someone of his quality and stats wise he pretty much fits the bill.  Winning his maiden major last year will have given him the world of confidence and he has a decent record at Augusta – everytime he makes the cut he has never finished lower than T39 and overall he has 2 top 10s.  One to bet in play maybe.

He can tame Tiger with ease.

He can tame Tiger with ease.

Zach Johnson – If he could hit the ball just that bit further, he would be beyond perfect.  We know he won the 2007 Masters, but lets be honest that was a completely different ball game with the weather causing absolute mayhem for the field – he always thrives in horrendous conditions.  His other results at Augusta show he doesn’t quite suit the course because of his lack of length, but he has really impressed us this season and we wouldn’t blame you if you fancied him this year.

Graham DeLaet – We know he has never played at Augusta but it is somewhere that could really suit his eye.  DeLaet’s tee to green game is up there with the best and he could prove interesting value at 100s.  He fits every stat and we are not surprised by this at all.  He went on a mad run of 5 top 10s in a row to start the season, before the inevitable drift he experienced recently.  A T8 at the Valspar Championship is a sign things are looking good again and we expect him to go well at the Shell Houston Open.  Keep your eye on the Canadian.

Hunter Mahan – A major winner in the waiting.  No doubt about that, it is just a matter of time really.  He fits everything for this years Masters, except he missed the cut in 2013.  But 2 top 10s and  a T12 in 2012 show he has the game to overcome Augusta.  4 top 10s this year prove he is in good form, another interesting e/w shout.

How could you not trust a bald nut like that?

How could you not trust a bald nut like that?

Bill Haas – If he drove the ball 2 yards further on average he would have fit everything.  We are not surprised at all, because Haas is another one of those players too good to not have won a major.  He has had a very steady season so far, impressing us especially at the Humana Challenge where he finished T6.  He never strikes us as the sort of player who loves a birdie fest, so to see him shoot -23 was encouraging.  Never got a top 10 at The Masters but can really see this being the first time for Haas jnr.

He can finally come out of Brandt Snedekers shadow. Dead ringer

He can finally come out of Brandt Snedekers shadow. Dead ringer

Jamie Donaldson – What a season the Welshman is having.  He has now joined the PGA Tour on a special temporary membership because of his stellar performances up to now. T2 at the WGC Cadillac proved his capabilities with the big boys and he fits all the stats for what Augusta requires.  Did miss the cut in his first appearance here last year, but he is certainly a different animal now and when you can get him at 150s, you have to think about it.

Freddie ‘Boom Boom’ Couples – His only major win came at Augusta in 1992 and he will always be in the field until he decides he can swing no more.  10 top 10s in 29 appearances and you have to consider the fact he hasn’t finished outside the top 15 in his last 4 starts here.  He is playing out of his skin on the Senior Tour, with 3 top 5s and a win, so why wouldn’t you put your spare change on this stalwart of the game? A top 20 bet could be very interesting.

Advertisements

Ryder Cup teams take shape

With the 40th Ryder Cup now less than six months away, the provisional teams make for some very interesting viewing.

These four days have been highlighted with vigour in millions of diaries across the golfing globe. And it is held in such high regard that the 24 names read from messrs McGinley and Watson’s lips will feel like gladiators stepping into the Roman Colosseum. The members of the Miracle at Medinah are living proof of how a Ryder Cup can turn men into heroes. So who’s going to be part of the [insert hyperbolic word of your choice] at Gleneagles? Let us find out.

Team Europe (As of 24/03/14)

1)      Victor DubuissonEurope

2)      Jamie Donaldson

3)      Thomas Bjorn   

4)      Ian Poulter

5)      Henrik Stenson

6)      Sergio Garcia

7)      Rory McIlroy

8)      Luke Donald

9)      Stephen Gallacher

Plus 3 Captain’s Picks

Team USA (As of 24/03/14)

1)      Jimmy WalkerUSA

2)      Dustin Johnson

3)      Patrick Reed

4)      Bubba Watson

5)      Jason Dufner

6)      Harris English

7)      Phil Mickelson

8)      Zach Johnson

9)      Webb Simpson

Plus 3 Captain’s Picks

With three Ryder Cup rookies currently present on either side, there could be more than a few nerves jangling around on the first tee. Walker and Reed in particular, with 5 wins and over $5,000,000 between them, look like fearsome competitors who would relish the battle on Scottish soil. The over-confident Patrick Reed already boasts an impressive match play record on the American college scene. But with the winds picking up and the European conditions bedding in, it could be the iron merchants Dubuisson, Donaldson and Gallacher that prevail.

Courtesy of BBC

Courtesy of BBC

Throw a few captain’s picks into the melting pot – Woods, McDowell and the like – we have an almighty clash on our hands. 2014 still has a lot of twists, turns and missed putts in store but if we were to take to Gleneagles now, nobody would complain. Well except maybe Bradley, Speith, Furyk, Mahan, Woods, Kuchar, Snedeker, Haas, Stricker, Rose, McDowell, Molinari, Kaymer, Westwood, Jimenez, Hanson, Lawrie and Montgomerie (he’s never happy).

Shell Houston Open 2014

Prize Money: $6,400,000Shell

Winner’s Share: $1,152,000

It’s hard not to have our eyes already on Augusta but when you glance at the field assembled in Texas for this week’s event, it has quality everywhere you look.

Played at the Golf Club of Houston (formerly called Redstone Country Club), the Shell Houston is back in its usual slot as pre-cursor to the Masters after a one year switch with the Valero Texas Open. This event works so well coming the week before the year’s first major because of the similarities between the tracks. Playing 7441yards, the par 72 features lightning fast greens, large collection areas and long, tight driving holes. Anyone who you have in consideration for the Masters will fit the bill here too. The par 5’s are also ranked as some of the hardest on the circuit, so you cannot be playing poorly on the longer holes. D.A. Points won in 2013, not one that many people called.

Courtesy of PGATour

Courtesy of PGATour

Statistically we have put emphasis on driving distance, accuracy, GIR% (all can be encapsulated in total driving and ball striking), par 5 scoring average, proximity to the hole, scrambling, 3-putt avoidance and strokes gained-putting. If you bring all of these to the first tee on Thursday, you could just win this thing.

Word of warning – with it being the first major next week we need to be wary of players using this week just to fine tune their game and loosen those muscles (we’re looking particularly at you Stricker!) The likes of McIlroy, Mahan, Garcia, Simpson, Poulter, Schwartzel and co could all fit into that category.

And whoever wins here, sneaks into the Masters. All the best.

Paddy Power are paying 6 places this week!

Keegan Bradley (28/1 Stan James)

Let's hope he isn't spraying it off the tee like that  Courtesy of Zimbio

Let’s hope he isn’t spraying it off the tee like that
Courtesy of Zimbio

It is a shame Bradley has a bit of a reputation in the DownThe18th boardroom for not producing the goods when we want him to. So we can assure you, when we do back Bradley we do so because he fits every area we look at!

His 2nd place two weeks ago means he will be on many people’s radar but it isn’t just his recent form that impresses us. He has recorded two top 10’s in the last two times here (he was our number 1 pick last year too). He ranks 23rd total driving, 39th ball striking, 16th 3-putt avoidance, 6th scrambling and 25th par 5 scoring average. Some impressive figures to say the least.

Not only is he statistically right, be we feel he is mentally right too. Bradley is someone with so much passion it doesn’t matter whether it’s a week before a major or 5 months, he will give it everything he has to win.

Graham DeLaet (40/1 Coral)

Fear the beard!! Courtesy of thestar.com

Fear the beard!!
Courtesy of thestar.com

Most people who watch the PGA Tour as regularly as we do will agree that it is only a matter of time till the Canadian wins on the Tour. Taking absolutely nothing away from Steven Bowditch last week, but DeLaet will feel that if people such as the Aussie are winning, how isn’t he?

He drives the ball straight and far, is incredible with the irons and is even getting better year on year with the putter. He comes to Texas after an emotional and historic week for himself after being honoured by Boise State University for his achievements on and off the course. He is arguably Boise State’s most successful athlete and this will surely get him in the mood for the Shell Houston!

Three top 10’s (two 2nd places) in his last 6 starts make for impressive reading and he registered a 3rd on this track back in 2010. I think we are all in agreement that four years on, he is a much better player, so this bodes well. Fun fact, in 2013 he hit the longest drive of the tournament – 420yards!

Statistically he is outstanding as ever, 14th total driving, 6th ball striking, 4th GIR%, 56th proximity to the hole, 40th 3-putt avoidance and 30th par 5 scoring average.

Charley Hoffman (66/1 Various)

We miss those long, blonde Thor-esque locks of hair Courtesy of Golf.com

We miss those long, blonde Thor-esque locks
Courtesy of Golf.com

Hoffman can be described in no other way than a PGA Tour stalwart. For over a decade now he has consistently picked up money that puts more than a bit of bread on the table and amassed him 2 PGA titles for the Hoffman trophy cabinet.

The new streamlined Charley Hoffman is playing as good as ever in 2014, ranking 31st in the FedEx picking up 3 top 10s and only missing 1 cut. He has never excelled massively at the Shell Houston (best of 6th in 2008) but neither has he disgraced himself here. His course form reads considerably better than DA Points’, that is for sure.

His statistics read 28th total driving, 18th ball striking, 24th proximity to the hole, 55th scrambling and 54th strokes gained-putting.

Chris Stroud (80/1 BetVictor)

Another golfer - another stunning wife.

Another golfer – another stunning wife

Houston, Texas resident Chris Stroud has been plugging away on the PGA Tour over the last few years and is steadily starting to be recognised as a top golfer. 2014 has already brought him more prize money than 2013 having played just over a third of the events! This has including two 3rd places and another top 10.

Being close to home means Stroud has been playing this event since 2005 but is yet to make an impression. As we have stated before, it seems most winners around this track do not possess impressive course form anyway. But he comes to the Shell Houston in great shape, being on our radar for a few weeks now. And being held in his home state always helps.

Statistics are probably his most impressive area – 47th total driving, 37th ball striking, 13th scoring average, 4th scrambling, 69th proximity to the hole and 12th par 5 scoring average. Perhaps not an obvious choice but someone who could easily win this thing! We wouldn’t mind grabbing a spot at Augusta next week either.

Matt Jones (125/1 Paddy Power) and Aaron Baddeley (140/1 Bet 365)

We will finish off with two Aussies, only fitting with Bowditch’s win last week and Adam Scott defending his Masters crown next. Firstly, Matt Jones is a player we have a lot of time for and someone who will probably win a few titles in his career. He lies 13th in total driving, 47th in ball striking as well as 25th in par 5 scoring average. His short game is where he needs to improve. 2014 has yet to kick into gear with only 3 top 25s so far. He is a player who plays well for short periods and with his ability off the tee he could easily have a good week in Texas. 14th two weeks ago will give him confidence.

The second Australian, Baddeley, is someone who has not really played to his full potential in recent times. He comes to a course where he finished 4th on in 2011. This year, like Jones, has not been exactly fruitful but his statistics suggest he is getting near to being back to the sort of play that has won him 3 PGA titles. His accuracy at times is wayward but he does rank 42nd in driving distance, 12th scrambling, 3rd strokes gained-putting, 3rd 3-putt avoidance and 49th par 5 scoring average. If he can get things right off the tee, his short game is unrivaled and could pull him through on the final day!

NH Collection Open 2014

With all eyes on the Shell Houston Open and everyone getting prepared for a Tiger-less week at the Masters, a few guys are hitting a ball around on the southern coast of Spain. The field, let’s be honest, is not the best. Wiesberger, recent winner Canizares, Chris Wood and Marcel Siem are arguably the pick of the bunch.

The NH Collection Open is new to the European Tour and the La Reserva de Sotogrande Club de Golf has only ever held a few amateur events. It will be co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour, highlighting its lack of significance. The prize fund will be €600,000, slightly different to the $6,400,000 over in Texas… But all the negatives aside, we still need to see who is going to do well this week!

courtesy of golfcircus

courtesy of golfcircus

This course hosts the annual European Nations Cup. Looking back to 2011, Andy Sullivan was the best player present in the field this week finishing 5th in stroke-play and shooting an impressive 67 on day 3. Adrian Otaegui, Alexander Levy, Tom Lewis Daan Huizing and Lucas Bjerregard also gave a good account of themselves. Moving onto 2012 and it was only really Edouard Espana, Daan Huizing and Adrien Saddier who did well. Adrien Saddier then went onto win the stroke-play event in 2013, so he knows this track very well. Shane Lowry also won this event with Ireland back in 2008.

European Nations Cup 2011

European Nations Cup 2012

European Nations Cup 2013

Sotogrande has also held the Spanish Amateur Championships with the most notable winner being Marcel Siem back in 1999.

What is the course like? It is playing 7,234 yards but many are saying it will play more like 7,400 off the back tees. The fairways are very wide and generous which means any big hitters can loosen their arm. Being on the coast, the wind is certainly going to get up and any players that are capable in the tougher conditions will ultimately prevail. The greens are relatively large which will put stress on positioning in the fairway allowing for a close approach to the pin. Otherwise there could be a few 3-putts out there! The tournament will have a second tier feel to it which means it could offer someone who hasn’t yet got themselves a European Tour title to do so.

Alejandro Canizares looks very dangerous with the favourite tag. He is known to have a few practice rounds on this course and with it being held in his native Spain, he is sure to be buzzing. Especially considering his recent emphatic win. But at 12/1 with some people we just feel that price is too short! Get him in your Fantasy sides though.

Interesting fact – Fans are being allowed to watch the play for free this week!! Why did we not get a flight over…

Marcel Siem (35/1 Stan James)

We want nothing but focus!

We want nothing but focus!

It was about this time last year where the German gave us a fabulous display of golf at the Trophee Hassan, beating the likes of Ilonen, Larrazabal and Horsey who were in fine form. It was that performance that really showed us that Siem had more to his game other than a ‘bomb’ off the tee. He adapted to the windy conditions superbly and his iron play was nothing short of sublime. That performance shot him up the rankings, marginally missing out on a slot at the Masters.

Since then he has tried and failed to get onto the PGA Tour which means he finds himself once more plying his trade on the European Tour. The Sotogrande track sets up perfectly for Marcel who is averaging 293 yards off the tee in 2014. Factor in his ability on links tracks and the fact he lies 5th putts per GIR and 11th putts per round, he is a mean prospect for this week.

As we mentioned in the preview, he also won around this track in 1999! This course knowledge could give him that much needed edge. And he is also yet to miss a cut in 2014. The time is now.

Andy Sullivan (40/1 Betfair)

Cracking barnet

Cracking barnet

Just like Siem, Sullivan possesses invaluable course experience around this track. His 5th in 2011 and subsequent overall victory for England will fill him with confidence. And if that wasn’t enough he comes into this week off the back of a career-best finish of 2nd at the Trophee Hassan. His performance there also shows how he can play in windy conditions. He also came T5 at the Joburg Open this year.

He is statistically one of the best drivers on the tour averaging 294yards off the tee and ranking 23rd in driving accuracy. His recent form, course knowledge and length off the tee is enough for us to be very confident. He’s one of our favourite players too.

 

Lucas Bjerregaard (33/1 Various) 

LucasWe prefer Sullivan and Siem at similar prices to the Dane, but Lucas is someone we just cannot discount. And he is only 22 – a lad with a bright future. Most impressive is this guys length off the tee, averaging a whopping 309 yards in 2014. Only the likes of John Daly and Rory McIlroy are ahead of him. But it is unfair to just categorise him as a bomber with him not finishing outside the top 25 on his last 5 starts, two of which where top 10s. Some of those finishes were on tight tracks where accuracy off the tee was needed.

He also ranks 55th in GIR which is not bad for his first ever year on the Tour. As we mentioned in the preview, the Dane played very consistently around this track back in 2011. Invaluable for this week. But quite honestly he has blossomed in 2014 and is a very special talent.

Adrien Saddier (80/1 Various) 

Superb forehead

Superb forehead

We just feel the Frenchman is great value at these odds in this field considering his intimate knowledge of the course. Two years in a row he played solid golf around this track, most recently winning in 2013. Partner this with a 3rd at last years Spanish Amateur Championships and we have a man who enjoys life in Spain.

He only has two top 25s to his name this season but at only 21 he is a great talent. One of those was last time out at the windy Trophee Hassan. He is also ranking 19th in GIR and averages 290 yards off the tee. If he rekindles the sort of form he had when he won here in 2013, he could certainly make a name for himself this week.

 

Valero Texas Open 2014

We are just two tournaments away from that trip to Augusta and after the Florida swing ended last week, we now head south for the Valero Texas Open.

In the past 40 years only three non-Americans have won this event, but one of them being Scottish stalwart Martin Laird, who won his third PGA Tour title last year with a quite remarkable -9 final day score.

What makes that Sunday finish particularly impressive is the fact that the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio is by no means a birdie-fest of a course.

The 16th at TPC San Antonio. Yes that is a bunker in the middle of the green

The 16th at TPC San Antonio. Yes that is a bunker in the middle of the green

It is one of the tougher tracks on Tour and although it was altered late in 2012, which made it slightly easier, it still caused havoc amongst the field last year.

The 7,435-yard par 72 has undulating, narrow fairways and incredibly deep bunkers dotted throughout the course. (some go as deep as 12-foot!)

From the tee, many players will be daunted by the tree-lined fairways and it is imperative to hit a safe and accurate drive because the second cut is notoriously horrendous and can be the difference on many shots.

Even with the steadiest GIR specialist, you have to take into account bunker players because it is inevitable that you will find the beaches at some point during the 4 days.

Overall you are looking for efficient tee to green players, who can scramble and can communicate the Bermuda greens with ease.

Billy Horschel (50/1 Ladbrokes)

Billy means business

Billy means business

We have struggled to find value in a weak field this week but Horschel, already a winner on the tour, looks like a great bet. His name has not really been branded around the DownThe18th boardroom a lot in 2014 but when you look at his stats, he does suit the course.

He comes to TPC San Antonio off the back of a T3 last year, and despite finished T43, some really solid play at the Arnold Palmer. Last week he ranked T19 driving distance, T3 accuracy and T12 GIR%. So everything is all in good working order, he just needs to putter to get hot. But as we saw in 2013 when he really burst on the scene, he is more than capable on the greens.

His best finish in 2014 so far was a T6 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions which was a great result. And stats-wise on the tour he finds himself 4th total driving, 35th GIR% and 63rd strokes gained-putting. In a weak field, Horschel could go all the way.

Kevin Chappell (50/1 Betfred)

ChappellChappell is someone we backed a bit last year and has been on our radar for most of 2014.

His long game is really consistent and regularly finds himself in the top bracket of the stats. Like Horschel, his 2014 has not been what he would have hoped for with only 3 top 25s, but promisingly his best finish was last week! T14 around the tough Bay Hill track will give him confidence. He ranked 24th driving distance, T5 driving accuracy and 6th in putting average. Whilst on the Tour he is 20th total driving, 38th GIR% and 23rd ball striking.

The putter needs to improve if he is to mount a serious challenge but this course suits his eye, being 15th last year and 2nd back in 2011. Look out for him.

Freddie Jacobson (35/1 Bet365)

Freddie - the demon putter

Freddie – the demon putter

One of our old stalwarts Freddie Jacobson enters the fray this week mainly because of his outrageous course form.  He simply loves coming to Oak Hill – never dropped outside the top 20 in the four starts here.

Back in 2010 he finished second to Adam Scott after a superb 65 on the Saturday but he ended up 1 shot on the wrong side of the Australian.

We did back him here last year as well and whilst he finished T15, he never actually fully got into the top end of the leaderboard due to a really poor second day.

He had come in without much course time though, recovering from slight niggles, so it is encouraging to see he has played a couple of good rounds in the past couple of weeks – T20 2 tournaments ago and T10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he did look like contending at one point.

His putting was back to a high standard throughout the 4 days – 22nd in putting average and 7th in strokes gained putting on Tour. We all know how consistent he can be tee to green if everything falls into place, but his bunker play and scrambling is up there with the best and big reason as to why he has played well here in the past – 47th sand save and 45th scrambling.

We have been impressed with Jacobson before, lets just hope he can find that form again and come out of the 4/5 month slump he was in.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (Under 25 Profile)

Age: 19Fitzpatrick

Birthplace: Sheffield, England

Years Professional: 0 (Still Amateur)

Primary Tour: Various, will be playing on invitations

OWGR: 2 (Amateur Ranking)

Amateur Record:

2012 Boys Amateur Champion (Held in UK)

2013 US Amateur Champion

Low amateur at 2013 Open Championship

2013 English Amateur Championship Finalist

Top British point scorer at 2013 Walker Cup

What others have said:

Fred Couples –

“He’s very good,” Couples said. “He doesn’t miss many shots, he hits it straight. As he gets bigger, he’ll hit it a little further, but he hits it plenty far. He’s not like one of these crazy bombers that you see. He’s good. At 18 you should putt well. He’s a good putter.”

University Coach –

“is the ‘most significant’ player the program has inked since (Luke) Donald”

What DownThe18th think: 

Matthew Fitzpatrick is regarded as Britain’s hottest prospect in golf. Having won the prestigious US Amateur Championship in 2013 (Peter Uihlein, Edoardo Molinari and Ryan Moore are the most notable recent winners) he then went on to finish as low amateur at the 2013 Open Championship.

His outstanding play saw him reach number 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings which also saw him move to America and attend the Northwestern University in 2013. After a successful year, he made the bold switch back to his home city of Sheffield to pursue a full-time amateur career. 2014 will bring many new challenges including invitations to the Masters, US Open and British Open. A few have questioned Fitzpatrick’s decision to leave the college scene in America, but he is someone we will see a lot of not just in 2014, but for many years to come!

And just as we publish this, Matthew is over in America gearing up for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Do not put it past the Englishman making a name for himself come this weekend!

Fun Fact: If you know your football/soccer, Matt is a HUGE Sheffield United fan. He will be happy at the current revival under Nigel Clough, that is for sure.

Video courtesy of CNNInternational

Arnold Palmer Invitational 2014

Arnold Palmer 2Arnold Palmer’s love for Bay Hill has stemmed all the way back to the mid-60s when a younger Arnie won a charity event there. He later went on to purchase the resort in 1974. Forty years later we find ourselves looking at one of the most prestigious tournaments on the PGA Tour. Fitting that the modern day golfing phenomenon Tiger Woods has made this his playground, 8 wins no less. So what is the course looking like these days?

It plays 7,400 yards and includes four par 5s. This immediately shouts ‘big hitter’ at us but with the penal rough and many labelling this one of the toughest non-major tracks, accuracy is pivotal too. If you find yourself on the PGA website, the Total Driving section is what you need, which takes into account both accuracy and distance. On average since a re-design in 2009, people winning this (usually Tiger) have averaged around the -10 mark, meaning scoring is relatively tough. Then you have to factor in the lightning fast greens, every aspect of the winner’s game will have to be firing on all cylinders. GIR, proximity to hole, ball striking and scrambling have also had to be looked at.

Bay-Hill-Tiger-WoodsNow Tiger is of course going to be favourite, but if he were to ever have a poor showing at Bay Hill, it will be this week. And with the other top boys not possessing amazing course form, that is doing Justin Rose an injustice, the door is open for someone further down the field to take this. But be warned, if Tiger even has a sniff going into Sunday, it could be game over for everyone else.

Our picks this week were also picked prior to odds release, so if there are any horrendous odds for our picks, we can only apologise!

Bubba Watson (16/1 BetVictor)

Let's hope we are toasting a Bubba victory on Sunday

Let’s hope we are toasting a Bubba victory on Sunday

Bubba looks like he’s found that spark again in his golf and these are exciting times if you love him as much as we do. His last 3 stroke play finishes look like this: 2nd, WIN, 2nd. With form like that you can understand why he is such short odds.  His record at Bay Hill for someone who is known for an erratic week or two is very consistent reading 14th, 4th and 24th. But those finishes are irrelevant, it seems Bubba could go low on any track the way he is striking it at the moment.

He is top once again in the driving distance stats, that’s a given. But what he has included in 2014 is GIR, where he finds himself 20th. That is down to some superb wedge play. It means if the putter gets hot on a weekly basis (29th strokes gained-putting), there is no reason why he would not challenge. One worry could be his accuracy off the tee, but his recovery game is up there with the best of them and 8-time winner Tiger is known for a spray or two off the tee. Whatever the outcome, Bubba will always give you value for money!

Zach Johnson (25/1 PaddyPower)

This picture actually scares us

This picture actually scares us

One of the best performers in 2014, Zach Johnson has consistently impressed us and when you think about the course, he could suit it perfectly. He may not be the longest off the tee and that could worry when you look at the yardage, but it has never effected him in the past because he is simply so good and accurate with his irons. From tee to green he is sublime and if you want anyone in the world over a wedge shot (maybe barring Phil Mickelson) you would want Zach – 2nd driving accuracy, T32 total driving, 12th GIR, 29th proximity to the hole, 20th scrambling. The ridiculously quick greens will obviously be tough to putt on, but here we have one of the best short stick gurus in the game – 24th strokes gained putting.

On this tight course where accuracy, attacking prowess and putting will be vital, he is in the sort of form that will stand him in great stead. A win at the Hyundai back in January set him up for a cracking start to the season, followed by two further top 10s. This is a course where he has recorded 3 top 10s, including a T3 in 2009. Zach simply loves the sort of courses that warrant thinking and strategy and Bay Hill couldn’t fit that bill more. Plus, on a course that could definitely be considered a second home to Tiger Woods, it would be wonderfully ironic symmetry if Zach was to defeat the world number one twice in the space of a few months at a place like this.

He beat Tiger in a playoff in his own backyard at the Northwestern Mutual Challenge and wouldn’t it be just beautiful to see him doing it again?

Ryan Moore (50/1 Betfred)

Just like Zach, when you back Moore you always feel confident. His game is solid all round and with his impeccable driving, he always gives himself chances. His season so far has been a real success, with 4 top 10s including a win back at the CIMB Classic. And he comes to a course where the American has played consistent, 4th in 2012 being the pick of his finishes.

It will be a solid performer like Moore who will inevitably prevail with the streakier players falling foul of the very testing Bay Hill course that awaits. If you want convincing further, his stats read 16th driving accuracy, 38th total driving, 4th GIR, 15th proximity to the hole, 17th ball striking and 51st strokes gained-putting. The man excels in all areas and could be a massive contender this week.

Will Mackenzie (55/1 StanJames)  

Will

Not to be confused….

Mackenzie is someone we looked at before his T4 finish at Copperhead this week and we can only see his form continuing at Bay Hill. We monitored him closely last year on the Web.com Tour and he often caught our eye. He eventually finished 40th on the money list and regained PGA Tour status through the Tour Finals. After rekindling his love for the game in 2000, the American has since won two PGA Tour titles, so he is no stranger to success on the tour.

He comes to Bay Hill not only with the T4 this week but an outstanding T6 at the tough Honda Classic in his previous event and also T7 back at the Farmers Insurance. He is in the best form for some years currently and his statistics back this up. 24th total driving, 41st GIR, 15th strokes gained-putting and 6th par 5 performance. He will be exciting to be back at courses like Bay Hill and a win here would truly assert his place back on the PGA Tour.

William McGirt (140/1 Bet365)

mcgirtWilliam McGirt represents a cheeky outsider whose stats and ability could see him challenging this week. He will be coming to a course where he will have gained confidence from a T8 finish last year and he has shown that he is in decent knick this season, after a strong showing at the Northern Trust Open.  He finished T6, but was over par on the final round, meaning he dropped down quite significantly down the leaderboard. But if he comes here without any fears, then his game should suit the testing nature of Bay Hill – 40th driving accuracy, 47th GIR, 34th strokes gained putting and 42nd scrambling.

He has never won on the PGA Tour, but there have been so many first time winners in the past year, so its all about being on them at the right time.  And this time it could be McGirt.

Justin Hicks (300/1 SkyBet) and Brendan Steele (125/1 BetVictor)

Our two mentions this week go to Justin Hicks and Brendan Steele, both of which look intriguing at such high odds. Firstly Hicks may not be in the greatest form and may have only played here once, but a T32 last week on a similarly tough course will give him the world of confidence. Admittedly a top 10 has past him by this year, but when you think about his game and the stats that he has, you cant help but not ignore him.

T9 total driving, 6th driving accuracy, 1st GIR, 79th strokes gained putting and 40th proximity to the hole.  That is some going for an outsider! As for Steele, he is actually in decent form of late, after a T6 at the Waste Management, T10 at the Northern Trust and T33 The Honda Classic.  All 3 of those tournaments are not easy courses by any means and he could definitely continue that here if his whole game clicks together like it has done recently. T4 total driving, 10th driving distance, 56th GIR, 80th strokes gained putting, 28th scrambling and 45th proximity to the hole – this is a beast from tee to green.