One of our favourite tournaments of the calendar year has finally arrived!
AND in a mad turn of spontaneity, DownThe18th are actually GOING to Paris this week to watch all 4 days of action. The excitement is beyond extreme and we will be giving all sorts of ridiculous updates and photos via our twitter – @downthe18th and Instagram – http://instagram.com/downthe18th
So, especially after our cracking week with Fabrizio Zanotti and Shawn Stefani bringing us healthy returns and now that we are going to be watching our players at Le Golf National, we have to be 300% confident in our players!
The course is one of the very finest in France and will be hosting the 2018 Ryder Cup, which just proves what sort of track we are talking about here.
It is hard work finding birdies on the 7,331 yard par 71 course because so much depends on how you adapt to the varying tee shots and approach shots you have to face. It is of great importance to find the fairway so you can give yourself a chance, but the water hazards are a historic signature.
There is the chance of finding the drink on 1, 2, 13, 15, 16 and 18, which always makes for an interesting closing barrage – whoever handles it best will come out as the victor. There are plenty of elevated seating positions (we will be trying to find those vantage points ourselves!) and it does have this stadium feel to the place. It truly is a magnificent venue and it is no surprise the greatest matchplay tournament in the world will be held here.
The links style bunkers should be avoided as well, because they are notoriously difficult to evade, but if you are not on your game around the greens, you will have no chance.
There are some criminality amongst the bookmakers circle this week and we are shocked at certain prices, BUT keep the faith, we certainly will.
Jamie Donaldson (25/1 various)
Jamie Donaldson is a talent that at 38, has finally found his true standing amongst the top players in the world. He is currently ranked 33rd and after some of his performances in big tournaments over recent months, he can certainly go even further.
He now has 2 top 10s in WGC events and a T14 at The Masters, whilst he shot rounds in the mid 60s at the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational which is no easy feat on difficult courses.
Therefore, he was firmly fixed in our minds for another difficult but rewarding track over here in Paris. Especially after a fine performance in Germany last week where he finished T5.
He was ultra consistent across all parts of his game over the 4 days and whilst we should come to expect this by now, it gave us extra confidence to back him.
He has played here many times before but it wasn’t until last year that he put everything together and finished T6. It tied in with his real upward spiral in form and with the confidence of everything he is achieving at the moment, a3rd win in 3 years would really cement his name at the top of European golf.
Grégory Bourdy (55/1 BetFred)
Grégory Bourdy is our local boy for this week and although he faces stiff competition from his rival French exports, we have every faith that he will be contending come the weekend.
With 8 professional wins to his name, the Frenchman is a prodigious talent, but at times he can struggle to put together a sequence of top quality performances. Interestingly, 4 of those wins came on courses that have a links sort of feel and with the water and links-esque bunkers, he should be able to cope with the demands of Le Golf National.
At the Irish Open a couple of weeks back, he finished a respectable T8 after a couple of poor outings and he showed positive signs of rhythm with his swing. He never dropped outside the top 26 for accuracy off the tee all week and on 3 of the 4 days found himself inside the top 15 for GIR. That is exactly what he does – find those greens regularly. What was even more positive was how he putted on the weekend. He was able to hole a few putts, hence his climb up the leaderboard and if he can do that here, he will be in with a great shout.
The positive vibes he will get around the course will be monumental and his knowledge of the track will stand him in great stead. He has finished T6 here before and you may see us donning a French flag on the 18th green this Sunday…
Richard Green (66/1 various)
The first of Richard Greens’ European titles came so long ago that Greg Norman was runner up to him. A fresh faced 26-year old who had only been on the tour for 1 year was tipped for great things, especially with the irony that his compatriot and legend of the game played second fiddle that weekend back in 97′.
17 years on and it hasn’t been easy being Green. Adding only a couple of titles, he hasn’t lived up to his billing but we have all been treated to a sort of renaissance in recent months, with some superb performances. He nearly won in Spain, eventually losing out in a playoff to another renaissance loving Miguel Angel Jimenez, but it was the a quality tee to green performance that made him stand out. Catalunya is a notoriously difficult course and if he can play that well there, there is no reason he can’t show his skills here once again.
It helped after last week where he finished T12 in more of a birdie-fest, so it shows his capabilities on different courses. The final 3 days he was incredible from tee to green – not dropping outside the top 16 for either category. His confidence should be booming and now he is coming onto a course where he has been outstanding in the past.
6 top 11s in his past 9 outings here is an impressive return and if he can play anything like he has been, then he will surely do well on a track that has seen him perform at his very best.
When his putting is on form then he is highly dangerous. Put it together and you will see him challenging for sure.
Anders Hansen (50/1 various)
When you need a guru of hitting the ball straight and consistently, you rarely need to look much further than Anders Hansen.
The Great Dane surprisingly only has 4 professional wins in his career, but he will be coming here with quite a bit of confidence, having picked up a few competitive results in his last few outings. He hasn’t excelled since the T2 at Laguna, but a couple of mid 20 finishes, including in Germany last week will give him encouragement going onto a course where he has played very well in the past.
His knowledge of Le Golf National is immense having played here every year for the last decade and he has managed to find 5 top 11s in that time. His putting wasn’t actually great last week but the greens are completely different in length and grass type, so that doesn’t worry us. He was typically impressive from tee to green, rarely missing fairway, so at the end of the day if he does that on a course he knows so well, he will be up there at the weekend.
Pádraig Harrington (66/1 various)
A 3-time major champion. We should’t need to say much more, but many of you will ask why here and why this week? Pádraig Harrington has a knack for playing his best golf on the tougher courses – just look at his major victories – and we all know what he can do. When his game is on, he is terrifingly accurate from tee to green. He is widely regarded as a top quality iron player and we took plenty of confidence after a positive performance in Germany last week.
If it wasn’t for a 71 on the Saturday, he would have been challenging more, but 3 good rounds in the 60s will certainly encourage the Irishman as he comes to a course where he has only played a couple of times, but proved his worth with a 2nd place finish back in 2006.
He had swing changes and it will inevitably take time to work for a 42-year old, but if his game is even half on, then he will have every chance.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (300/1 various) and David Drysdale (300/1 StanJames)
Our 2 ridiculous outsiders this week are Gaganjeet Bhullar and David Drysdale. The both represent ridiculous odds and after our 3-figure win with Zanotti last week, it feels worth a punt!
Firstly, Bhullar is a player we thought would come to the fore a lot more this season, but is yet to really prove himself. For a 26-year old, to have 15 professional wins is incredible impressive. We are all just waiting for him to assert himself on the worldwide stage and although he has never played here, his long tee to green game could have a massive impact. At the weekend he didn’t drop outside the top 10 in any of the distance, accuracy or GIR stats. That says something!
Secondly David Drysdale. He consistently finds 80% accuracy in GIR and we all know what this course needs. He has finished 11th here before and with form that hasn’t excelled, you can certainly see him being one of those sort of ‘randomers’ up there come Sunday.