Winner’s Share – $1,440,000
The PGA Tour season is drawing to a close after what has been a magnificent year. As is now the norm, we will be treated to 4 nail-biting tournaments with the major-esque field getting cut each week from 125 all the way down to the final 30, before one winner will come away with a staggering $10 million. Yes $10 million. To say that’s ridiculous is an understatement, but then again sport is ridiculous these days.
The first playoff event is The Barclays and has traditionally been played at alternate courses in recent years and for the 2014 edition we are at a venue that has all the hallmarks of major track – Ridgewood Country Club.
The 7,319 yard par 71 has not held many tournaments considering its beauty and difficulty, but we were treated to this track back in 2010 and 2008. Matt Kuchar and Vijay Singh won those outings respectively, which gives you the impression that a tee-to-green specialist could do well here.
And even with its length, you wouldn’t be too wrong to think that. The fairways are tree-lined and can haunt any horrific drives, so those that have the ability to plod their way in order to attack pins will have a great chance. Obviously the game has changed in even the 4 years since Kuuuch, with bombers serenading the fairways so far down it’s horrifying. Rory McIlroy has shown in recent weeks that you can overpower a course and in many ways this could get the same treatment, but some tactical nouse will be required.
The greens are quite quick and protected by an abundance of bunkers and water throughout the 18. These will need negotiating and for us, due to these factors and the sheer length of the par 5s, scrambling will be another important attribute.
We cannot deny it has been really difficult this week, with the strongest possible field and a rarely played track, the winner could come from anywhere. We deliberated and came to a happy settlement with both long and short odds. Enjoy..
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Phil Mickelson (25/1 Ladbrokes)
Oh Phil. We have been through so much with America’s favourite son in recent years, even when we don’t have any money on him. Just look at his performance at the PGA a couple of weeks back. What an outstanding display. Not only sticking your finger up at the circulating critics over his finishes, but to rip up his own 2014 form book in such fashion is credit to the legend he naturally is.
We were perched gently on the edge of our seats throughout that final round, with Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and of course Rory McIlry providing top quality golf, but it was the all-American 2-ball that particularly caught our eye. Wasn’t it a joy to watch 2 competitors fighting each other for one of the sports biggest prizes, yet still urging one another on. Fist pumping and pushes of confidence. It made us realise what a unique and wonderful game this is. But it also cemented the genius of Phil and his scrambling abilities still amaze us. He can be so wild sometimes, but oh how he recovers.
You cannot ignore Phil when he gets a run going and the PGA could be his first push towards the Ryder Cup. He will need to use all his experience to overcome the challenge which he has played on the previous 2 outings – MC in 10′ and T19 in 08′ don’t give the best reading, but we overlooked that because he should really suit Ridgewood. He even stated its similarities to Winged Foot – the home of the 2006 US Open where he finished 2nd and he does have good form at Tillinghast tracks.
At 25/1, you have to appreciate the true value in a proven winner. Come on Phil take us on an adventure…
Rickie Fowler (20/1 various)
The 2nd of that amazing duo at the PGA Championship takes up the 2nd mantle of our assault this week. Rickie Fowler has been a sensation since Butch Harmon got his claws into the 25-year old. What a remarkable run of form he is on – 5 top 10s in a row and all 4 majors inside the top 5. He has been writing headlines without actually winning and we have the gut feeling he could finally pick up a victory this week.
He has only ever won 1 PGA Tour title and that was a couple of years ago now. He played here in 2010 and finished T36, which shows he is capable, but it is his recent performances that have made us take that plunge at such low odds. His scrambling has been outstanding, his long, straight hitting eye-catching, but his putting has been on another level. We cannot say he has bottled any of the tournaments he has come close at, just someone has edged over the line by playing better.
He is 35th for driving distance, 25th for scrambling, 89th for strokes gained putting and 15th for par 5 birdie or better. But obviously he has performed way above that in every one of his last 5 outings. He has the real ability to overcome every challenge this course provides.
Hunter Mahan (50/1 various)
Hunter Mahan seems to have finally found some form. It has taken pretty much all season but a T15 at the WGC Bridgestone and T7 at the PGA show he could be back. Having missed out on the 9 slots for the Ryder Cup, he will be one of several players vying to earn a captains’ pick and if he pushes on and has an outstanding playoffs series, his natural ability will really aid his cause.
Interestingly, he finished top of the GIR stats at those previous 2 tournaments and combining that with the fact he holds the course record here – an opening round 62 in 08′, he is an attractive option. He will be comfortable on the greens, due to there similarity to Californian grass and his game, on paper at least, should suit the tracks demands. He can hit it long when needed and is an adept scrambler, whilst his putting is always very consistent – 44th driving distance, 40th driving accuracy, 42nd GIR and 41st strokes gained putting. If you ever wanted an all-rounded golfer, Hunter is your man.
Two T31 finishes here don’t quite represent his true class and suitability, so expect big things this week.
Ryan Palmer (100/1 various)
Ryan Palmer has had a topsy turvy season, at times showing some real talent and winning capabilities and at other times seeming non existent. He impressed us highly at the PGA, where he finished T5 with 4 consistent rounds and to be fair he did get a sniff of being in the hunt on the Sunday.
He could have picked up a couple of victories throughout the year, but has failed to get himself over the line and with his big hitting all round game, he could be an interesting long-shot. He has moments where his accuracy can be poor, but when he is straight, he is dangerous – 25th driving distance, 32nd GIR, 83rd strokes gained putting and 32nd par 5 birdie or better.
There are understandable concerns over his bottle, but the fact he finished T5 here in 2010, shows he knows and likes the track. He is a far better player than he was 4 years ago, so there is every chance he will take his good form from the PGA onto Ridgewood.
We have 3 cheeky outsiders this week and 2 of them go hand in hand…
Paul Casey (100/1 StanJames) and Ian Poulter (125/1 various)
The two Englishman have been inconsistent to say the least this year, but both have shown promise at times throughout 2014.
Firstly, Paul Casey. One of the great renaissance’s is well under way after a horrendous fall from grace. He won after a 2-year gap last year and has begun climbing the rankings again. On his day we feel he is a top 20 golfer and will not be overawed by this field. His game is long and he is outstanding with his irons, whilst scrambling is second nature. You cannot look past a T12 and T7 on his 2 outings here, especially because the former was during his decline into golfing obscurity.
He missed the cut at the PGA but otherwise has plodded along, consistently finishing in ‘mid-table.’ Worth a punt for sure.
As for his compatriot, Ian Poulter, we are going from hunch really. If you have followed us for a while, you will know of our love for the man and we just felt time is running dangerously close for Ryder Cup qualification and the thought of Sir Poults not making the numbers is simply horrifying. He is on the fringes and he must have a good few weeks (providing he makes the top 100 of the FedEx for next week) and show that he is finding some form.
He started the PGA quite well before a couple of bad rounds meant he finished 59th and we are hoping he will take a bit of confidence going onto a track where he finished T15 in 2010. He is not particularly long but if he gets in that mindset of realising his Ryder Cup place is on the line, then his GIR, scrambling and putting game will take over. Come on Poults.
Chris Stroud (250/1 Coral) BEST PRICE
When Chris Stroud gets his game fully flowing he is a dangerous outsider and at 250s we felt obliged to chuck some of our change on him. Whilst not particularly long, tee-to-green he is outstanding and he is known as being a top scrambler. Any situations he gets himself in, he often finds a way out and that is always crucial in tournaments such as this.
His form is inconsistent but a T4 at the Greenbrier a few weeks ago gives plenty of confidence. 45th driving accuracy, 76th GIR, 65th strokes gained putting, 33rd par 5 birdie or better and 15th scrambling. Not bad.
Let us know your thoughts on our selections and who you fancy this week! @DownThe18th