Alstom Open de France 2014

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 –

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.

Le Golf National is one of the most incredible courses on the European Tour and we will be there!

Le Golf National is one of the most incredible courses on the European Tour and we will be there!

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)

What a poser and what a player

What a poser and what a player

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)

Enjoying his champagne... Courtesy of GettyImages

Enjoying his champagne…
Courtesy of GettyImages

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)

Cracking smile.

Cracking smile.

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.


The Greenbrier Classic 2014

???????????????????????Prize Money: $6,500,000

Winner’s Share: $1,170,000

It was mixed emotions at the Quicken Loans National last week with our outside shot Shawn Stefani narrowly losing out to the king of grinding, Justin Rose. But we love the Englishman and cannot deny how well he played, especially after that outrageous bogey putt on the 18th in regulation play! Non-the-less, it was a much-needed profitable week, with Fabrizio Zanotti also taking the spoils over in Germany.

The Greenbrier Classic once again presents an opportunity for players who have not already qualified for The Open. The top 4 finishers inside the top 12 who have not already qualified, will be on a plane to Royal Liverpool in a few weeks time. So everyone has incentives to do well this week.

Courtesy of wvns

(Courtesy of wvns)

Judging by the previous 4 winners (Appleby, Stallings, Potter Jnr and Blixt) it is a tournament where lower ranked players have tended to do well. Only Walker, Haas and Simpson have top 10’s to their name at this event of the ‘big’ players there. And it is also an event where not one particular part of a player’s game is really needed, apart from putting! Blixt ranked near the bottom in both accuracy and distance statistics last year but topped putting average. So as long as you possess a bit of form coming into this and are confident on the greens, you could do well. The course plays 7,287 yards and is a par 70.

Scoring has the potential to go low and the fact Stuart Appleby shot a 59 around here in 2010, you need your man to jump on board the birdie train from time to time.

Webb Simpson (22/1 Paddy Power)

Lucky fella.

Lucky fella.

It was a tough call between this man, Haas and Todd for who would sneak into our picks this week. But Simpson has been given the call with his superior putting ability (although Todd has been on another level of late) and relative consistency both at this event and in recent weeks.

Without ever really contending last week, Webb produced some solid golf and ended up ranked 19th in putting average on what were very tough greens. Combine this with a 7th in 2012 and 9th in 2011, we have a player who should do well here. The only worry we have is the trend of lesser-known players winning, continues. Simpson also ranks 9th strokes gained-putting and 32nd scoring average.

Brendon De Jonge (40/1 BetFred)

He has been on our radar for a few weeks now and we even went there to no avail a couple of weeks back. But this course seems like the perfect fit for someone who has outstanding ability with the short stick and spends most of his time at tournaments on the aforementioned birdie train.

All aboard the birdie train

All aboard the birdie train

The Zimbabwean has lacked sufficient bottle in his career so far to take a title and the number of bogeys he racks up does not help matters. But what we saw from him at the tough Quicken Loans was his putting and grinding abilities working to the max. If he can take that to an easier track this week, he could go very low. He ranked 2nd in putting average last week on his way to an 8th place finish. Has two top 4 finishes in the last 4 years and finished 17th last year.

Chris Stroud (66/1 Stan James)

The American fits everything for us this week and that is often actually a bad omen! He finished 9th in 2010 and 18th the year after whilst his form has been relatively consistent of late with two top 20’s in his last 3 starts.

His game is very rounded and we are sure he can go onto to do big things in the game.  And he is putting well, ranking 49th strokes gained-putting, 55th GIR and also 13th in 1-putts, which could be crucial.

Morgan Hoffman (125/1 SkyBet)

insl01-urban-golf-morgan-hoffmannThis guy always pops up at the top of the leaderboard when you least expect it. He is yet to bring any sort of week on week consistency to his game but we have a sneaky feeling about him coming into the Greenbrier.

Last week he ranked 6th in putting average and despite his poor finish because of his tee to green game, it will be a completely different test this week. Putting is key as we said and he finished 23rd in his first try last year which will give him more confidence. He ranks 14th strokes gained-putting and 18th 1-putts.

Andres Romero (125/1 Coral)

Another player we are quietly confident in and after South American success in Europe with Zanotti, we stay loyal to the continent with Argentinian Romero.

Andres is an iron-player specialist who has the ability to hit it long, putt well and go low. At these sorts of odds he is someone who definitely takes our fancy. 5th last week shows how well he is now playing and ranked T13 in putting average. Also has a 4th place finish here in 2011.

Outside Bets

Stuart Appleby (140/1 Bet 365) and David Lingmerth (200/1 SkyBet)

Aussie Appleby holds the course record 59, won the same year and has been enjoying somewhat of a renaissance of late. Was T35 putting last week, 32nd for the season and 16th 1 putts. Lingmerth will be looking to follow countryman Blixt in winning this and took a liking for the course last year finishing 9th. Ranked 11th putting at this event last year and finished with 3 rounds in the 60’s. Form has been sporadic, but a best of T5 at the Crowne Plaza in May will give him confidence.

BMW International Open 2014

Prize Money: €2,000,000

Courtesy of INFOkontor

Courtesy of INFOkontor

Winner’s Share: €333,330

Golf Club Gut Laerchenhof plays host to this week’s German stop off on the European Tour. The event moves back to Cologne having also hosted in 2012, where England’s Danny Willett took the title. It was a track that was also used for the Mercedes-Benz Championship last held in 2009. The most recent winners of that were Kingston, Karlsson and Søren Hansen.

It will be four days dominated by the man of the moment Martin Kaymer, media-wise anyway. But nobody can discount him from winning his home title. Aside from the US Open Champ, Garcia, Stenson, F.Molinari, Dubuisson and a refreshed Paul Casey are just some of the big names who want a piece of this German trophy.

The course has iron-player written all over it. To name a few, Jaidee, Castano, Stenson, Fisher and Jimenez have all done well here and there is no denying how efficient they are with the irons. And with iron-play comes GIR. Danny Willett ranked 5th in that stat when he won 2 years ago and the majority of the contenders were at least in the top 25 for GIR. At 7,300 yards it’s a track where the bombers and shorter hitters can both thrive as long as you’re finding the greens and holing a few!

BMWIt has been somewhat of a barren spell for winners at DownThe18th so the tide will turn sooner or later!! *touches wood*

We will be in Paris next week for all 4 days of the French Open, so please do follow us on that journey!

Francesco Molinari (33/1 Ladbrokes)

The course looks suited for the Italian

The course looks suited for the Italian

The Italian has been knocking on the door of the winner’s enclosure for some time now. Four top 10’s in his last 9 appearances is not bad but without that trophy in the cabinet it will still be deemed as another poor year! And with the Ryder Cup just around the corner, he will need to do something to assert himself on Paul McGinley’s radar.

As well all know his greatest facet is the ability to do almost anything with his set of irons. He’s taken 3 titles on the European Tour in his career all on tracks where GIR is absolutely vital and this week is no different. His current form speaks for itself with those top 10’s but he also boasts a 2nd and 12th at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.

With all eyes on Kaymer, Stenson and Garcia, expect this guy to contend heavily come the weekend.

Pablo Larrazabal (80/1 Stan James)

None of this please Pablo

None of this please Pablo

In our eyes, one of the greatest iron players ever to have graced the game. All exaggeration aside, ‘young Seve’ is a perfect fit for the German track.

One thing that has let him down in recent weeks is his accuracy off the tee but it seems this course is one where focus is not as heavy off the tee as it has been over the past few months. He comes to Cologne off the back of a solid showing at Fota Island with the putter being the only club not to get going. He ranked 13th in accuracy and averaged 297 yards off the tee which is ominous for the Spaniard. When he drives well, he more than often contends.

With a best of 29th around this particular course, the Spaniard is due another top 5 at the very least.

Chris Wood (60/1 Stan James)

What a neck

What a neck

The Englishman is someone who has been very impressive for the past few weeks. He comes to a course where he finished 3rd in 2012 and this could all culminate in another big week.

He is someone who is again known for his prowess with the middle clubs and was solid across the board in Ireland last week, finishing 8th and ranking 37th in GIR. Back in 2012 on this track he ranked 17th in GIR. His putting last week needs to be noted as well with him finishing 6th in putts per GIR.

With Kaymer, Stenson and Garcia taking the brunt of this week’s betting market, there is some definite value to be had here.

Fabrizio Zanotti (100/1 Stan James)

In-form Courtesy of Compleatgolfer

Courtesy of Compleatgolfer

The Paraguayan is someone who we didn’t know a lot about coming into this season but he really has put himself firmly on our radar in recent weeks. And when looking into this tournament it was refreshing to see that he finished 11th here in 2012.

As many of the South American exports are, he is an iron-specialist. 2nd GIR last week in Ireland pretty much confirms this. Without ever really contending, last week he bagged another top 15 finish to go with his 5th in Austria and 3rd in Portugal. He is a man in form who has a liking for this track. Outstanding value in our eyes.

Note: Marcel Siem was initially picked but after seeing his odds and the fact his wife is about to give birth to his child, we opted against putting any money on him!

Outside Bets  

Alex Cejka (175/1 Stan James) David Lynn (150/1 Various) Graeme Storm (400/1 Stan James)

Cejka is a local favourite and is adored by one half of DownThe18th. Had a great spell of golf over in America earlier this year which included a win on the Tour followed by a runner-up spot. Not been great of late but did take medallist honours whilst qualifying for the US Open. Englishman Lynn has gone completely off the radar as of late but finished 11th here in 2012. If his game is in good working order, has the ability with the irons to do well here. Graeme Storm is a wild pick but with four solid rounds last week finishing 6th GIR, tied 2nd driving distance and 19th accuracy, he could push on from that in Germany.

Quicken Loans National 2014

Another name change across the pond this week, as the PGA Tour moves to Maryland and the 2011 US Open track Congressional Country Club.

It is the place where Rory McIlroy decided to actually play a different course to the rest of the field and break all sort of records.  It is a historical place and the field looks to be matching up to the quality of the place.  So much so that the long awaited return of Tiger Woods is due to commence and every fan, journalist, cameraman and punter will have their eyes fixed keenly on what the former world number 1 has to offer after a horrible back injury.

Wouldn’t be just so Tiger for him to come back and win here?!  He won’t though, don’t worry!

The course itself is a 7,569 yard par 71 and it’s length will challenge all the players, but it is by no means the key to finding a winner this week.  There is just as much importance on keeping it in play and giving yourself the chance of attacking pins on enormous greens, where 3-putts will be a regular sighting.

A historic and naturally beautiful course

A historic and naturally beautiful course

The putters and scramblers will certainly come to the fore as well, but for us, there is not really a type of player that will win here, you have to have a good all-round game, which excels in a key area to win – whether that be avoiding those 3-putts, hitting it long with an outrageous wedge game or an accurate plotter who knocks it next to the pin regularly.  Basically, anyone!

We have been going through a rough patch with our betting recently, so we can only apologise if you have been following us, but we have spent many, many hours this weekend trying to get us back to winning ways!

Jason Day (14/1 various)

Jason Day has a real chance this week

Jason Day has a real chance this week

The price?! We know, we felt it as well.  It’s absolutely criminal to think Jason Day is at 14s but we couldn’t help but go there.  Those of you who have followed us for a while will know that we rarely back front runners or guys at horrendous odds, so this is a rare choice and in some ways shows our real liking for the Australian.

His last 3 outings at  Congressional have yielded top quality performances, especially at the US Open in 2011 where he finished a solo 2nd.  Yes, we all know he was a country mile behind McIlroy, but considering he was +1 going into the weekend, he ripped the course apart to climb the leaderboard.  He matched McIlroy’s incredible first day 65 with one for himself on the Saturday and to do that on this track shows you have a liking for it and ways to combat its challenges.

He also finished T8 and T12 in the following years and will be going into this week not just in good nick, but in a period of time where he has actually been playing consistently for a few weeks.  He is one of those golfers that can take weeks off at a time, but 3 events in the last 4 weeks can only help his rhythm and aid him on a course he enjoys – especially after 3 rounds in the 60s in a row at the Travelers last week.

He will be able to attack the pin positions if he drives it well, especially considering how long he is and when his irons are on song it is terrifying how good he is.  As we all know, once he gets on a roll, his putting is unstoppable and birdies will come rain or shine.

At the end of the Day, he has to start winning more tournaments considering how esteemed he is regarded among the very best, so let’s add to the WGC please.

Nick Watney (80/1 PaddyPower)

Massive difference in price for our 2nd pick here, Nick Watney at 80s.  It may also seem slightly bizarre considering he is a player who is yet to record a top 10 this year, but we just have a hunch that he could go well here and finally put together 4 quality rounds.

Last week he shot 3 rounds in the 60s to finish T11, but it was how he played that excited us the most.  He was hitting the ball with real velocity – averaging 293 yards, but regularly surpassing the 300 mark.  Yet his accuracy did not falter and when you are averaging over 80% FIR, then something is going right.  If he can do that here then he well consistently set himself up to attack pins on the massive greens Congressional offers.

What went wrong for the American was his actual putting and at times that has cost him in his career, so he must get everything going if he is to justify why we chose him!

He did finish T10 a couple of years ago as well, so he has course knowledge and let’s hope everything finally clicks for Watney.

Hunter Mahan (50/1 various)

Hunter needs to up his game

Hunter needs to up his game

Hunter Mahan is another golfer who has had an absolutely shocking season, especially by his incredibly high standards.  This is someone many (including us) tip to win a major in his career, but there is no way that will happen with how his season is turning out.  BUT there have been signs for us that show he is working incredibly hard on his game to try and turn it around, his main problem seems to be getting everything going at once.

He showed promise at the Memorial a few weeks ago and even last week, he shot a 68 on the first day, going on to miss the cut somehow with a poor round on Friday.  He drove the ball well and got some rhythm going with his irons which has certainly encouraged us.

But he will be coming onto a course where he has found 3 top 10s in recent years, including a 2nd place in 2009, where he finished 1 shot behind Tiger after a magical 62 on the Sunday.  THAT is the sort of player he is and on the face of it, his game is absolutely perfect for this course.

It’s just a matter of whether he decides to turn up or not.

Angel Cabrera (125/1 Coral)

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!

Angel Cabrera only turns up when the field is of top quality.  So, with the return of Tiger, we would not be surprised to see the burly Argentinean propping himself up with the leaders come Sunday.

He is a perfect fit for this course – he hits it long and straight and only ever has attack on his mind when it comes to his iron play.  He has been averaging at least 297 yards in his last 4 outings, but what impressed us about his T11 finish last week was the fact he found the fairway 71% of the time – the highest average all season.

That can only mean he has found some rhythm and a bit of confidence in his swing.  He did finish T13 last year as well, so if everything clicks then he could be an outsider certainly worth looking at.

Kevin Chappell (100/1 Coral)

Kevin Chappell somehow missed the cut last week after an impressive opening round of 66.  Many players suffered on the 2nd day and he was certainly one of them, but when you look carefully into how he has been playing recently, we feel he is a sleeper, waiting to come from ‘nowhere’ and challenge a tournament.

His T10 at the Crowne Plaza International was a solid performance, but the recent shorter, tight tracks do not quite suit his eye and therefore Congressional will be a place he can free his arms a lot more.  He averages over 300 yards regularly and is an incredibly solid tee to green player.

Plus, he will be coming onto a course where he finished T3 in 2011 at the US Open and really announced himself on the world stage. If he can put it all together and produce the qualities we all know he can, this will be a good week for Chappell.

Peter Hanson (100/1 various) and Shawn Stefani (200/1 various)

Our two real outsiders come in the form of Peter Hanson and Shawn Stefani.  Firstly, Hanson has not played a lot of golf recently, but is one of the more consistent performers in the game.  He rarely finds himself missing cuts, unless an injury is on the horizon. He averages it over 296 yards and is an iron guru, who can find greens for fun.  He finished T7 here in 2011 and could surprise a few this week.

Secondly, Stefani caught our eye because of how impressive he is off the tee and on the greens.  3rd for total driving and 36th for strokes gained putting could be the perfect combination this week.

Irish Open 2014

Prize Fund: €2,000,000

After Martin Kaymer secured one of the most dominant major wins since Rory McIlroy’s 2011 win last week, we now move to the Emerald Isles as the Irish Open comes to our attention.

In our eyes, it sort of signals the start to the swing of tournaments that will prepare players for a rigorous Open Championship next month.

Last year Paul Casey picked up the trophy in a truly wonderful win, carrying on this trend which has seen the last 7 winners of the Irish Open hailing from GB & I.

With the field including the likes of McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Casey and Stephen Gallacher, you would not be foolish to expect that trend to continue this year.

It has been a difficult process in dissecting the field however, because of a serious lack of knowledge about the course.  It will be held at Fota Island Resort in County Cork, which has not seen an elite tournament since 2002 (Soren Hansen) and 2001 (Monty came out on top).

It will be playing at 7,043 yards, which is short by today’s standards.   Hansen won with a score of -14 in 02’ and you can expect similar scores, if not more birdies on this parkland track that is spacious and has attackable holes throughout both 9s.

The beautiful aerial view of Fota Island

The beautiful aerial view of Fota Island

The two par 5s on the back 9 are great eagle chances, but over 100 bunkers and abundance of water does mean that the iron players will ultimately come out on top.  Not necessarily plotting your way round, but strategically understanding when to attack and grab those low scores.  There is a links feel to the track and we are certain the winner will be comfortable with those seaside courses.

We can expect large crowds all week, especially if an Irishman is contending on the Sunday, so it is going to be a cracking way to forget about the US Open!

Stephen Gallacher (25/1 Coral)

Stephen Gallacher (25/1 Coral)

We are sure that many people will be looking very seriously at Stephen Gallacher this week because there is no doubting his pure class and form in recent months.  If you have followed us for a while, you’ll know our admiration for the Scot because to us, there is no better sight than an iron guru strutting his stuff and that is just what Gallacher is.  His performances since that win in Dubai have been impressive, especially his T6 at the WGC Cadillac.

You can really see his tee to green abilities coming to the fore on this sort of course and he would have learnt from the US Open experience last week, where he eventually missed the cut.

He is the perfect sort of links players – T21 at the Open last year and his first European Tour win came at the Alfred Dunhill Links back in 2004.

He has shown he has no fears playing up against the big boys and if he is on song this week he will be a real danger.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello (33/1 various)

Let's get that winning feeling back again Rafa

Let’s get that winning feeling back again Rafa

Rafa Cabrera-Bello is our only pick this week that was not born on British shores and that in itself is a high accolade to how we feel about the Spaniard.

He is a flair player that recently turned 30 and he is now entering the time in his career where he needs to really push his talent forward and contend in more tournaments.

There is no denying he has had a mixed season, but 5 top 10s is a very solid return and they seem to come in clusters.  3 of those top 10s came in the space of 4 weeks and we have taken postivies from the fact he sneaked into a tie for 9th in his last outing at the Nordea Masters.

His driving distance and GIR at the weekend was exceptional – he never dropped outside the top 15 in either category and bizarrely he putted incredibly well to begin the week.  If he had put all those facets of the game together he would have won at an absolute canter.

He generally likes courses where birdie opportunities are more prominent (all his top 10s have come with scores of -10+) and if the wind does pick up, he is more than capable of shaping his shots and manoeuvring through the conditions like every Spaniard seems to be able to do.

David Horsey (80/1 SportingBet)

Horsey with horsey.

Horsey with horsey.

One of our perennial favourites.  David Horsey has become our go-to-guy if there is even a sneaky inkling of wind and/or a course that has a links feel.

He is a classical tee to green golfer whose only fault is being able to put 4 rounds together.  All 4 of his top 10s have included silly 70+ rounds and for someone of his calibre, it can be frustrating.  Some of that may be down to the fact he has not won since 2011, but we have seen signs this year that he will be lifting a trophy once again very soon, it is just a matter of time.

If he can find his range off the tee distance wise, then there is no reason why Horsey can’t have a big say in proceedings this week.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (100/1 various)

He has even had a round with Freddy Couples.  He is ticking off the greats with ease.

He has even had a round with Freddy Couples. He is ticking off the greats with ease.

A real jewel in the English game.  Matthew Fitzpatrick is yet to enter his 20s and he has already created a buzz around players and media alike at his potential future in world golf.  He is a genuine talent who has the all-round game to compete on any sort of course.

Whilst that is reason enough to consider him here, it will be an interesting few days for the Sheffield-born terrier because it will be his first tournament as a professional.

Last week he was paired with Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, at times looking just as experienced and capable as his elder partners.  He then went on to become the first golfer since Bobby Jones to hold the accolade of low amateur in consecutive Open and US Opens – a truly remarkable feat.

With his astute abilities around the greens and surprising distance off the tee, he could be a cheeky outsider to have a punt on here.  What a story it would be.

Travelers Championship 2014

TravelersPrize Fund: $6,200,000

Winner’s Share: $1,116,000

After Martin Kaymer played Tiger Woods in the 2014 drama US Open at Pinehurst, we turn our attentions to the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. This was a joy to watch last year as the then 44 year old Ken Duke won his maiden PGA Tour title after years of toiling around the globe. The American’s win also highlighted what the course was all about, finding the fairways.

Last year Duke also putted and scrambled out of his skin and it will take someone doing much of the same this week to take the title. With water and plenty of bunkers in play, if your man has not been driving the ball straight in recent weeks it’s hard to see them doing well here. The course measures 6,841 and is a renowned low scoring par 70.

Courtesy of PGA Tour

Courtesy of PGA Tour

Field Watch: Watson comes in as strong favourite and rightly so given the combination of his current and course form. Kuchar, DJ, Bradley, Snedeker and Day all come in with strong showings at the US Open and it’s Bradley and Snedeker who particularly catch our eye.

Brendon De Jonge (50/1 Various)

The big man loves a birdie

The big man loves a birdie

The Zimbabwean was followed by a bit of controversy last week after being paired with Lowry and Stadler in the heavyweight 3-ball of the first two rounds. None the less, he managed to give a very respectable display and but for a 76 on the final day, things could have been a lot more fruitful!

He topped the driving accuracy statistics for the week finding 87.5% of them whilst he came 19th in GIR. He is renowned for his low scoring and it will more than likely be a low one to take home the title this week and De Jonge is not scared of getting on the birdie train. His putting is usually solid and ranks T8 in putts 15-20’ (where Duke excelled last year).

Freddie Jacobson (50/1 Various)

Freddie - the demon putter

Freddie – the demon putter

There was a bit of a clash in the boardroom over this decision as to whether Jacobson or De Jonge go into the week as our number one pick (a place that holds important recognition in the world of golf). We decided after a few deliberations that the Scandinavian would have to settle for this number two slot.

Freddie, as we all know, is a demon on the greens and you will always find him at the top of the putting charts. He ranks T8 in strokes gained-putting this year and also finds himself 14th scrambling which Ken Duke again excelled in last year.  He also ranks 30th approaches 125-150yards, a key yardage we have highlighted. For a former champ here and someone playing solid stuff, this is a good bet!

Brandt Snedeker (35/1 Paddy Power)

Come on Sneds, get that roaring passion going again!

Come on Sneds, get that roaring passion going again!

Before we begin, the American did finish the US Open with a little niggle in his back/ribs and could be a doubt for this week. Even so, he still shot a 73! Health permitting, this is why we fancy him.

Snedeker’s start to 2014 has not been half as dominant as to what his 2013 was as it has been a tale of a few injuries and niggles. Last week’s T9 finish at Pinhurst saw him finish in the top 10 for only the 2nd time this year, the other being the Arnold Palmer. He found 67% of the fairways and was 23rd in GIR rankings for the week showing he was striking the ball well.

This is a tournament that has not yet brought him much success but the small greens and intelligence needed on the approach play will set up perfectly to a fully fit Snedeker.

Three Outsiders

Brian Davis (100/1 Various) Billy Hurley III (150/1 Various) Ted Potter Jnr (250/1 Coral)

All of these boys hit the ball straight as an arrow and the Englishman Davis even has a two top 10’s to his name around this course. Potter Jnr ranks 5th in scrambling and Hurley III 29th. They are both T23 in approaches 125-150yards and also rank in the top 30 for hole proximity.

US Open 2014 Preview 2

Date: 12th – 15th June

Venue: Pinehurst Resort, No. 2 Course, North Carolina

Course: Par 70, 7,562 yards

Current Champion: Justin Rose

Purse: $8,000,000

Winners Share: $1,440,000

Past 6 Winners –

2013: Justin Rose

2012: Webb Simpson

2011: Rory McIlroy

2010: Graeme McDowell

2009: Lucas Glover

2008: Tiger Woods

Past 2 Winners at Pinehurst –

2005: Michael Campbell

1999: Payne Stewart

One of the most eagerly anticipated US Opens is finally on our doorstep. The tournament that has historically brought out the real best of top quality players, testing every facet of their games.

So why are we saying 2014 is eagerly anticipated more so than previous years?

Well, the host venue, Pinehurst No.2, may be a renowned track but we can safely say that no one really knows exactly how it will play because of this extensive renovation that has completely overhauled the look and feel from the majors it has hosted in the past few decades.

It is a new course that has kept many of the traditions which designer Donald Ross originally intended to create. It is going to be a highly intriguing 4 days.

If you want a detailed look at what the course is all about, do check out our 1st preview here.

Pinehurst will be playing at 7,565 yards, making it the longest par 70 in US Open history. We have come to expect those short, nudgers and nirdlers tracks from the years 2nd Major, so whilst it still maintains the focus on outstanding iron and approach play, length has come into it for 2014.

Bill Coore and 2-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw set about the revamp and the extension of over 300 yards will create all sorts of havoc for the field.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 20.33.44As you can see 3 of the 4 par 3’s are over 200 yards and if the wind is up, will test any player with a mid-long iron. There may be only 2 par 5’s but they are relatively monstrous, whilst 4 par 4’s are over 500 yards. It does make you scream BIG HITTERS DELIGHT but you have to stay cautious because it will not be that simple at all.

It has been well documented how the 2 golfing stalwarts ripped up 40-acres of grass and replaced it with 35 acres of ‘wasteland.’

It consists of sand and vegetation, pine needles and natural fescues, so by the time the weekend’s play comes around, lies will be completely different to the opening rounds.

Accuracy will be important, mainly on the approach shots – especially between 200-225 yards, as many approaches will be at this sort of distance – because the notoriously difficult greens have hardly been touched and will provide the courses’ main defence.

How Pinehurst has changed over the years.  Incredible.

How Pinehurst has changed over the years. Incredible.

The raised, bentgrass greens are tough to find and get the ball to stick, so no matter how pinpoint you are with your irons, everyone will miss greens and this is where scrambling because a necessity. Defending your score as much as finding those birdies are vital to any US Open and this will be no different.

The one worry we are sure the USGA has about Pinehurst this year is the fact the weather on all 4 days looks horrendous.

If the rain pours consistently and heavily it will make it easier for these top pros to get the ball to stick on greens and then scoring could go anywhere.

In all honesty we have seen an abundance of names get talked about as potential winners, more so than any tournament we can remember, because the unknown entity of the course and weather makes it difficult to judge.

We have really slaved over our picks, after deliberating for hours about whether this guy has the game, or this guy etc. We finally came to a decision that we are certainly happy with and it felt right to go with 5 main people followed by a group of outsiders worth looking at.

Note: Many bookmakers are offering 6 places this week, but Coral have an offer of betting £10, getting £10 free in play.  A good ploy to use for this sort of tournament, because all sorts could happen on the first few days!

Let’s make it a happy Father’s Day for all of us.

Jordan Spieth (28/1 Coral)

Better than Tiger?

Better than Tiger?

20-year old Jordan Spieth has made a rapid rise to the top of world golf. Having only turned professional in 2012, he is now 10th in the rankings and we couldn’t be surer that he will become a multiple major winner. It is just a matter of time before he picks up his first one and Pinehurst could be the place he achieves that feat.

His performance at Augusta was truly special, although finishing just behind Bubba for a tie of 2nd, he had a 2-shot lead at one point and for us, he didn’t bottle it.

He showed his remarkable character and lack of fear, had it not been for an incredible performance from Bubba, he would have become the youngest wearer of the green jacket. That experience will undoubtedly help him and he would have learnt from the 4 days and this could put him in a great mind-set for this week.

At The Players he went into the final day joint top with Martin Kaymer and he didn’t look as comfortable admittedly. A few uncharacteristic bogeys amongst his usual birdies halted his chances for a big victory, but again he would have learnt from it all.

He is an exceptional talent, with superb iron ability and he has averaged over 290 yards in his last 3 tournaments, so his length is not an issue. He is also very capable with his long irons – 55th approaches from 200-225 yards, 4th approaches from 250-275 yards.

But it is around the greens where his genius really takes hold. He is an adept scrambler and putter and with the tough surfaces, he will be able to find birdies at the right time, whilst hold onto those valuable pars – 9th scrambling, 5th scrambling from the rough, 39th 3-putt avoidance, 29th strokes-gained putting.

Spieth is not a young pretender at all, this guy is the real deal.

Luke Donald (40/1 Coral)

Time for some success from the Englishman

Time for some success from the Englishman

Here we go again. Luke Donald is one of those players on that ever-shortening list of world-class, non-major winners.

He is now 36 and arguably into his prime years and with 15 professional wins across the globe, this could finally be the Englishmans’ time.

Unsurprisingly he showed he class at Merion last year, a course that screamed Luuuuuuuuuke. We know that Pinehurst is considerably longer and he doesn’t have the greatest length off the tee, but as we have said already, distance is useful, however it is more crucial to have an all-round game that can combat anything and everything the tournament throws at you.

Of his 11 wins on the PGA/European Tours, 6 of them have come on courses over 7,350 yards, let alone the WGC matchplay win at Doral – a monstrous 7,700 yard track.

He is accustomed to finding other ways to combat long courses and his course management is up there with the best in the game. Therefore his long irons are simply outrageous – 21st GIR 200 + yards, 21st approaches from 200-225 yards, 16th approaches from 250-275 yards.

Whilst around the greens, we all know his capabilities – 18th scrambling, 22nd scrambling from the rough, 10th 3-putt avoidance, 6th strokes-gained putting.

You can have every faith in Donald when standing over those clutch-putts and we do feel the recent experiences of near misses will actually help him in a weird way.

The RBC Heritage is a tournament he has come so close to winning many times (5 top 5s in 6 attempts) and he was in pole position to win on the final day. Matt Kuchar ended up holing out from the bunker on the 18th to snatch victory away and whilst there have been a few bad rounds since, the T3 at the BMW PGA Championship shows he hasn’t lost his form.

With Rose winning last year, it would be unheralded to have another Englishman dominate the best the USGA can offer. Yet, it is a distinct possibility.

Charl Schwartzel (50/1 BetVictor)

A golfing marvel

A golfing marvel

The only question mark for us surrounding the South African is whether he is a good enough putter to win around here. He is one of those who consistently burns the edge and lips out but his weight of putt is actually really good and that could prove to be vital around Pinehurst.

To show this in figures, he ranks 73rd strokes gained-putting (not exactly bad) and yet ranks 17th for 3-putt avoidance. And when every shot counts in majors, 2 putting your way around the course could prove to be a winning formula.

Aside from his short game, we know what he does from the tee and fairways with one of the best swings technically in the game.

He ranks 18th total driving, averaging 297yards off the tee, 42nd scrambling, T10 approaches from 200-225 yards (one of the key yardages considering the par 3’s as well), T15 par 5 going for the green (showing his ability to attack greens from all long yardages). At 50/1 for a man in his prime with a major under his belt and that swing, it is too good to resist.

Contended heavily at last year’s US Open and his only other top 10 in majors, aside from his Masters win, was at the 2011 US Open.

Hideki Matsuyama (50/1 BetVictor)

Matsuyama will not be hiding in the shade this week.

Matsuyama will not be hiding in the shade this week.

The first thing that comes to our mind is, can he win two tournaments in a row, one of them being the US Open? Well short answer, yes.

We had been following Matsuyama for a couple of years over on the Japan Golf Tour and even won a bit of money on him. So it was no surprises when he came over to America and immediately started putting in quality performances.

It was his consistency in the majors, very similar to our main man Spieth, that is scarily good. T10 (US Open), T6 and T19 were his three major performances last year. For a 21 year old, you can’t ask for much more. We can genuinely see an historic ding-dong battle developing between Spieth and Matsuyama for the next 30 years.

Aside from his performances in big events, the way he plays the game sets up perfectly for Pinehurst. He fits the statistics we looked at arguably better than anyone in the field. T34 total driving, T23 scrambling, 6th approaches under 100 yards, 9th 200-225, T41 225-250 and 22nd par 5 going for the green.

His putting has left a little to be desired this year but 7th putting average on the way to his Memorial victory two weeks ago is enough for us to be happy. He has unquestionable talent with the driver and irons, it’s just whether that all important putter turns up!

Keegan Bradley (66/1 Coral)

The steely concentration of Keegan Bradley

The steely concentration of Keegan Bradley

It has been a bizarre year for Keegan Bradley. He hasn’t really excelled, but his consistency has caught our eye for a tournament where a solid swing and rhythm is vital.

3 top 10s, but 9 top 20s is quite some return and we just feel his game could suit Pinehurst to add another major trophy to his cabinet.

He is very long off the tee when he wants to be – 21st driving distance and his approach play, all be it slow, has everything needed to combat the challenge this week – 30th GIR 200+ yards, 36th approaches from 200-225 yards, 16th approaches from 250-275 yards.

He is one that will never shirk away from attacking greens and yes this has got him into bother at times, but if the rain does stay for all 4 days, then this ploy could reward him with a shot at lifting the trophy.

Around the greens he has immense patience and prowess, but a lot of his putting comes down to what head he brings. He can miss all sorts of putts, but he can also hole anything from anywhere for fun. If the latter of the schizophrenic-like Bradley turns up, we have a winner on our hands – 16th scrambling, 24th 3-putt avoidance, 58th strokes-gained putting.

For 66/1, a major champion, we just felt it was too good to ignore, especially with there being pretty poor value at the top. Keegan has the complete game to really challenge here.

Outside Bets

We usually incorporate players of big odds into our final 5 but with this being a major and the best possible field, there are plenty of people at tremendous value. So we have brought together 5 names at three figure odds and we will let you be the judge on whether you chuck a tiny bit of money on them or not. All of them will be at respectable odds in the top 10 market too.

Matt Every (125/1 Various)

If you get a chance, type in Matt Every into Google, there are some hilariously similar mug shots of the man.  Lad.

If you get a chance, type in Matt Every into Google, there are some hilariously similar mug shots of the man. Lad.

A player who might not be a household name but has a massive future at only 30 years of age. Bagged his first PGA Title back in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and after a terrible run of form since that win, hit back last week with an impressive 3rd place behind Ben Crane. Finished 28th at Pinehurst back in 2005 when he was a younger lad, but this will not mean a lot.

Notable Statistics: T43 scrambling, T20 scrambling from rough, 3rd strokes gained-putting, T9 approaches under 100yards, 16th 200-225yards, T37 par 5 going for green.

Chris Kirk (125/1 Various)

Chris Kirk, a smiling hero

Chris Kirk, a smiling hero

Like Every, bagged a title in this 2014 wrap-around season at the McGladrey Classic. Went on to finish 2nd at the Sony Open and hasn’t missed a cut all season! That’s 18/18 cuts made. Finished T4 in his last appearance at the Memorial and was back striking the ball as cleanly as we know he can. Currently sits 6th in the FedEx Rankings, showing what a player he is. His iron play is one of the best in the game and will be invaluable around Pinehurst. Also ranked 3rd in putting average last time out.

Notable Statistics: 44th total driving, 19th scrambling, 40th strokes gained-putting, T52 under 100yards, 57th par 5 going for the green.

Ryan Palmer (150/1 Paddy Power)

We’ve had him earmarked for the US Open for quite some time now and it’s always just been a case of making sure he qualifies. His game pretty much is perfect for this course and has 5 top 10’s to his name in 15 starts this season, including 2 runner-up finishes. Looked very good a few weeks ago in his T5 finish at the Crowne Plaza. Has 3 PGA Tour titles to his name and knows how to get the job done. Next step is doing it on the big stage.

Notable Statistics: 25th total driving, 23rd driving distance, 35th scrambling from rough, 75th strokes gained-putting, T45 under 100yards, 13th par 5 going for the green.

Paul Casey (100/1 Paddy Power)

We're in awe of this photo

We’re in awe of this photo

Really, really good to see the Englishman back contending in America and shooting some good numbers. One of the best drivers of the ball in the game, particularly evident in his victory at last year’s Irish Open on the European Tour where he was hitting it miles. Growing up in England he will be more than used to the weather that he will experience in the first two rounds at Pinehurst. Led for quite a while at the Memorial Tournament and will be buzzing about the way he is playing.

Notable Statistics: T73 strokes gained-putting, T9 under 100yards, 31st 200-225, T63 par 5 going for the green.

Brooks Koepka (250/1 Various)

Koepka will be prepared if the weather turns sour.

Koepka will be prepared if the weather turns sour.

Followed this guy for quite some time now since his Challenge Tour days and absolutely bombs it off the tee. After a few weeks full-time in America, has started to look quite decent. Will be used to adverse conditions playing all over the globe on the Challenge and European Tours. With a tidy short game added to his length off the tee, worth a few coins surely?

Notable Statistics: T6 driving distance, T39 3-putt avoidance, 44th strokes gained-putting, T26 under 100 yards, T13 200-225.