Winner’s Share – $1,530,00
Course – TPC Blue Monster @ Trump National Doral (7,528 yards Par 72)
Our 2014 Picks – Webb Simpson (T47), Sergio Garcia (T16), Zach Johnson (T16), Ryan Moore (T25), Hunter Mahan (T9)
We’ve had to pick ourselves off the floor after what was a tumultuous final round over at the Honda Classic. We went in armed with Ian Poulter and Daniel Berger (both 125/1) and came out empty handed. Poulter found the water no less than 5 times during his final round while Berger found himself wet during the play-off. Despite the heartbreak, we made profit and saw the rebirth of one of golf’s top professionals in Padraig Harrington. Time for recuperation and a look at the first of 2015’s ‘big’ events.
If we thought PGA National was tough last week, which it was, wait until you see the newly designed TPC Blue Monster. Gone are the days where Tiger and Phil used to tear this place apart, both winning with scores of -19 in their time around here. In short, this place is a completely different course.
Last year was the first WGC Cadillac with these new changes and Patrick Reed’s winning score of -4 says it all. Of the 18 holes, water is in play on 10 of them. Over 300 balls found the drink in 2014, nearly 100 balls more than any previous year. When you add this to the windy conditions resident at Doral, we’ve got a beast on our hands. 4 of the holes from last year ranked inside the top 30 hardest on the whole of the tour.
With the length of the course and water in play, ball strikers will come to fore. You can afford to miss the odd fairway (Reed only found 40% last year) but missing greens is criminal. Whoever wins will need to find a balance between distance off the tee (Reed was 4th driving distance last year) and strategical play – knowing when to attack and when not. Watching Poulter last week has made us weary of that more than ever.
Of course, players are not going to find 100% of the fairways and one stat that figured prominently last year was scrambling. In all big events, those who consistently get up and down when asked upon will be in and around on Sunday. And with the stature of this event, players need to be coming in hot. At least 1 top 10 in the last 3 events we believe is crucial.
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!
Jamie Donaldson (40/1 Various)
It’s weird to think in an event of this magnitude we’re going in with Donaldson as our number 1 – but also quite refreshing. Last year around Doral he finished 2nd behind Reed which was also the 2nd biggest cheque of his career. We always say players have taken it to a new level etc. But this guy has. 2014 saw him win his 3rd European Tour title, finish 4th in the Race to Dubai standings and grab a spot at the Ryder Cup. Not only that but he won the cup hitting ‘shot of the year’. Majors last year too – T14 Masters and T24 PGA were his 2nd and 3rd best ever finishes in the big 4.
Jamie has been over in America for the last few events adapting to life on the PGA Tour. For many Europeans, take Nicolas Colsaerts for example, this can be too much. But with a T19 at the Farmer’s Insurance and 6th at the Honda Classic, the Welshman is as good as anyone at the moment.
So with this form and proven quality, it’s perfect timing that we’re back at Doral. Tee to green we know what he does (T19 GIR last week) but more importantly around the green is where he could really thrive. Rarely will he put a bogey on the card and stats like 6th scrambling and 14th sand saves, he’s a certainty to get it up and down.
Everyone will question whether he could actually win an event of this size but with the way his game is at the moment – now is perfect time.
Brooks Koepka (33/1 Various)
As with all big events it’s hard to stick to our usual betting strategy of picking one of the top guys and working our way down. So Koepka joins Donaldson making it two ‘low odds’ picks for the week.
You might raise an eyebrow at this pick too, despite winning on the PGA Tour a few weeks back, to think he’s going to win a WGC event is a big ask. But this guy is good enough. Through our countless previews for European Tour events over the last few years, Koepka has never been far from our eyes. And it seems after his European adventures he’s now the real deal. To win the Turkish Open and Waste Management in the space of 4 months, both hefty cheques too, means he has to be regarded as one of the top guys in the game.
Why does Brooks always seem to do well on tough courses? Maybe it’s the grounding he gained from the Challenge and European Tours, different continents, conditions and course styles. One thing that is for certain, his distance off the tee helps a lot! And what better course to come to, the statistics suggest anyway. Here’s how the people who topped the distance stats last year faired – Dustin Johnson (4th), Scott Hend (16th), Bubba Watson (2nd), Patrick Reed (1st). Distance helps at Doral, clearly.
Jason Dufner (66/1 Various)
After his injuries at the back of 2014, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the American to see when he gets back to his best. His performance last week at the Honda was enough to suggest he was.
Although finishing T9 last year, he would have hoped for a lot more. Dufner went into the final day tied for second, despite a 77 in round 2, but just couldn’t get anything going. And this year – we’re seeing a leaner, trimmer Jason Dufner tee it up. He went 11 weeks “without any fast food, chocolate or peanut butter. He feels refreshed at his new weight to go again around Doral.
The course has changed since Dufner first teed it up here but the American has never finished lower than 30th, good to take note of none the less. Like Koepka, Dufner has a liking for the tougher tracks proven by his outstanding form in both the USPGA and US Open. He’s more than capable in wind too.
Shane Lowry (70/1 Stan James)
A bit of an instinctive bet, much like Poulter last week. The course and conditions should be the absolute ideal fit for Shane. The only doubt, and it’s a big one, will be the occasion and whether it will get the better of him.
It’s often tournaments where scores need to be ground out that people less proven than others hang around at the top end. Plenty of majors over the years have gone this way. Shane has been moulded on windy tracks and his ball striking could be key to doing well this week.
Much like Donaldson, Lowry has played a few times in America this year and performed well too. T7 at the Farmers Insurance and T21 at Pebble Beach. It’s through these performances he’s produced some very telling stats – 24th total driving, 1st hole proximity, 12th GIR, 38th bogey avoidance and 13th sand saves. All of which will be crucial to not giving any shots back to the course.
Alex Noren (150/1 Coral)
As you know we love an outsider at DownThe18th and often they turn out doing the best! So the Swede Noren is in an honoured spot.
Since an injury-blighted 2014 he has come back this year in red hot-form, to the shock of us all. For the first time in his career he recorded 3 back to back top 12’s and look set to continue that after lying T3 going into the weekend at the Joburg Open. Perhaps tiredness played a factor in his weekend slump but his start to 2015 has earned him a WGC slot. Regardless of how many events played, this will give him the buzz to carry on what he’s been doing.
He played here in both 2012 and 2013 with a best of 20th in the latter. On the European Tour he ranks 6th stroke average, 13th putts per GIR and 41st GIR while striking it 290yards average off the tee.
As the Honda showed to us last week, Europeans love a tough track and if Noren continues his hot form, he could be right up there.
Thomas Aiken (250/1 Various)
Aiken has been tipped by us a few times this year and is dangerously close to becoming one those who just never performs for us. But considering how well he is striking the ball, we feel if he takes that to Doral, he’ll do well.
The Joburg last week was a prime example of what he’s been doing this year – 18th driving accuracy, 15th distance and 6th GIR. This has been a trend throughout the start of 2015 – one problem has been the putter. The way we look at this, Doral is a place where you need to grind and birdies are nice but 2-putting your way around could still keep you right up there.
The South African has a best of 7th back in 2009, almost irrelevant given the new changes but a positive none the less. If Aiken continues his ball striking this week, he really does have a chance of being up there.
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 –
£1.65 e/w on Jamie Donaldson at 40/1
£1.75 e/w on Brooks Koepka at 33/1
£0.90 e/w on Jason Dufner at 66/1
£0.45 e/w on Alex Noren at 100/1
£0.25 e/w on Thomas Aiken at 200/1
Each way bets ¼ odds for top 5 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power
Find the Golf Monthly Preview here (http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/news/tour-news)
Current Standings after 7 weeks
DownThe18th Golf Monthly
European Tour: £4.30 European Tour: £-16
PGA Tour: £-7.28 PGA Tour: £27
Total: £-2.98 Total: £11
Golf Monthly leads by: £13.98