Winner’s Share – $1,098,000
Course – PGA National (Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (7,158 yards par 70)
Our 2014 Picks – Graeme McDowell (T46), Hideki Matsuyama (WD), Keegan Bradley (T12), John Senden (T46) Chris Stroud (T12), Brendon Todd and Michael Thompson (MC)
It’s these tournaments that we cannot get enough of. Sure, birdie-fests can be exciting and watching these guys go at every pin is certainly impressive. But nothing compares to watching the best players in the world struggle grinding out pars, scrambling for their lives. And that’s exactly what you have to do at the Honda.
PGA National is 7,158 yards and you will have to think about every one of those. It’s commonly known as a ball strikers course where you don’t want to be finding the rough off the tee. McIlroy has won and finished 2nd here which could make you think length off the tee is vital, but this is Rory. When you look further into the people who have enjoyed success here (Rose, Westwood, McDowell, Donald, Villegas, YE Yang) they all love a mid-iron and certainly know how to think their way around a course.
A good gauge of who could do well here is their major record. If you can do it on that stage, you can do it here. It’s clear that scrambling is also vital and a lot will be made of that – but. If you are to actually win this thing, you won’t be doing so constantly scrambling. You need to be finding greens, getting it close. For us, this gives hole proximity and GIR much more importance over scrambling. And if they do miss, there are over a hundred bunkers out there so it’s got a good chance it could get sandy. Certainly, your pick has to be adept from the bunker.
It’s always good to look through the various stats but for courses like this, trust your judgement. You ultimately know who the thinkers are out there. It’s a tough track and this title won’t be given to you.
DON’T FORGET – Our weekly competition with renowned magazine Golf Monthly continues, take a peak at the end of our selections to see how our stakes have been distributed this time.
You can follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!
Lee Westwood (40/1 Ladbrokes)
Now we’re often the most critical of Westwood especially when it comes to his short game. But with age has come a lot more consistency in both his finishes and his putting. His current form reads 5th, 9th, 1st, 16th – that’s up there with the best around. Lee has a good habit of doing well around tough courses mainly down to his impeccable ball striking.
Our slant we put on Lee is this – he’s never going to drain birdie putt after birdie putt but one thing he will keep finding his greens. If you 2-putt your way around PGA National you will have a good week and that’s what Lee will do. And in 5 recent starts here he’s recorded 3 top 10’s. He likes it here.
Stats? 64th ball striking, 5th sand saves, 20th hole proximity. His class will shine.
Ryan Palmer (35/1 Paddy Power)
It was a toss-up between Palmer and Matsuyama and with the latter withdrawing, our decision was made. When we looked through the market leaders we had concerns over the majority whether it be price, form or course history. With Palmer, we struggled to find any negatives.
You could argue his missed cut at Pebble Beach isn’t great but the tournament has never suited the eye of the American. He knocked on the door at the Waste Management prior to that only being outdone by the outstanding Koepka. It’s worth mentioning Palmer was 1st GIR at TPC Scottsdale that week.
Then there was last year. Play-off defeat to Russell Henley. Now Palmer had never really enjoyed much success at PGA National so last year perhaps was a surprise to some. But despite being 38, we honestly believe the American has taken his game to a new level – his 5th at the final major of last year, a best ever major finish, is a big indicator. His form too is eerily similar, with a 2nd at the Humana Challenge a few weeks prior to coming here last year. And stats-wise we know what he does, 14th ball striking, 9th putting, 11th hole proximity and 9th scrambling. Time for Palmer to go close again!
Boo Weekley (150/1 Various)
Having started with a couple of high-end favourites, we’re delving straight into outsiders. And as regular watchers of golf, rarely have we ever seen the top 5 not have at least one person with odds of 100/1 or higher. James Hahn (200/1) is a prime example.
So Boo is renowned for doing things his way, on and off the course. One thing we are always guaranteed from him is ball striking. Tee to green he is genuinely up there with the best in the game. He’s 30th in ball striking for 2015. And then his form – 7 starts, 3 top 10’s, 1 runner-up, no missed cuts.
So why this week? Well we’re already intrigued considering his odds. But when you look at his last outing, he ranked 20th putting. Putting is the one thing he isn’t known for. And you have to look at this one very much like Westwood, he may not drain every putt he has but finding greens in regulation is what he will do.
Ian Poulter (125/1 Coral)
Straight away, although arguably deserved, it is odd seeing Poults at this price. Okay, he hasn’t had much success at PGA National before and he did miss the cut at Pebble Beach but on his day there aren’t many better ball strikers. Nobody can be too detrimental about his form either. Apart from his MC at Pebble Beach, a completely different course and style needed, he was 19th at the Farmers Insurance having been top 5 after round 1. Then looking back before Christmas, he finished 21st, 2nd and 6th with the latter at the WGC HSBC Champions, showing his pedigree in big events.
Then stats – 13th scrambling, 28th sand saves, 13th 3-putt avoidance. He’s got the perfect touch around the greens. If Poults locks in with his irons like we know he can, this is a solid bet. As we said in our preview, we’re trusting our instincts.
Daniel Berger (125/1 Various)
At 21, he’s one of the new generation and we’ve already seen enough of this guy to know he could go far in the game. In his rookie season, to finish in the top 10 twice before February is out isn’t bad. And yes, stats can often not be a true reflection, but 9th ball striking, 65th scrambling and 33rd sand saves is impressive. It’s his tee to green game in particular that we feel shows he will take it to PGA National. To be finding regular fairways at an average of 305 yards makes the game a whole lot easier especially when you see he’s got a nifty touch around the greens too.
As much as a mature head and inventive nature is key, sometimes the innocence of youth or a first-timer can give you a fresh outlook on the course. Russell Knox and Russell Henley are good examples of this. This course is going to be a massive test for the young lad and we’re exciting to see what he does.
Every week we’re running a weekly betting competition on both Tours with esteemed magazine Golf Monthly. It is a bit of fun between us and them to see who has the better tipsters! We have £10 to put on each tournament and will write up a weekly post for their site detailing the horrors we are sure to endure throughout the year – so keep an eye out.
It will also (for the first time from us at DownThe18th) show some sort of staking plan we have for out bets. Obviously, this isn’t the exact stakes we will put on our players, some weeks we won’t even enter a couple of our picks, but at least it can be shown roughly where our thoughts are money wise.
Our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows –
£1.90 e/w on Lee Westwood at 28/1
£1.50 e/w on Ryan Palmer at 35/1
£0.50 e/w on Boo Weekley at 125/1
£0.65 e/w on Ian Poulter at 80/1
£0.45 e/w on Daniel Berger at 100/1
Each way bets ¼ odds for top 6 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power
Find the Golf Monthly Preview here (http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/news/tour-news)
Current Standings after 6 weeks
DownThe18th Golf Monthly
European Tour: £14.30 European Tour: £-50
PGA Tour: £-22.63 PGA Tour: £37
Total: £-8.33 Total: £-13
DownThe18th leads by: £4.67