Winner’s Share – $1,026,000
Course – Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead) (7,340 par 71)
Our 2014 Picks – Harris English (T38), Webb Simpson (MC), Louis Oosthuizen (MC), Brandt Snedeker (T58), Stewart Cink (MC)
The newly-designed Doral served up another 4 days of entertainment, from Rory’s 3-iron into the lake to DJ, JB and Bubba bombing it out at the top of the leaderboard. Question marks still surround the course and how ‘fair’ it is but ultimately as a spectator, we got what we wanted. Makes you wonder why everyone doesn’t take a 6 month leave of absence…
Off the back of the Cadillac and the Honda and Northern Trust that preceded it, we come to another really tough track. The purists out there could talk all day about how the design of this course walks all over Doral. One thing to always look at is who has done well here, often a trend appears – Furyk, Donald, Choi, Goosen, Senden. None of these guys are ever going to top the distance charts but when it comes to course management and short game, they are tough to beat (Furyk when he’s leading being the exception).
Looking back to 2014, what did John Senden do particularly well? He found plenty of greens (72% T3) and putted well (T12). His driving left a lot to be desired but his misses were good misses, he knew the course layout – coming 2nd in ’07 and ’08 helped massively. Copperhead is a place where ball strikers, thinkers and iron merchants prevail. If you combine those with a solid short game, you’ll be in the mix. And similar to the past few weeks, birdies will be at a premium.
One thing to note, given the difficulty of the course, players who have played well here before tend to do so again. Gary Woodland would beg to differ after his win at the first time of asking but by and large, knowing the yardages and where to miss will make the difference.
Other things to keep an eye on – players who can work it both ways off the tee. Although Senden’s accuracy was poor last year, playing the doglegs carefully off the tee is key. We’ve also got a five par 3’s out there and plenty of opportunities for Quicken Loans to give away their mortgage deals. As one of the toughest courses on tour, think with your head on who you’re backing this week.
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!
Luke Donald (30/1 Coral)
We can imagine quite a few people will like the look of Luke Donald this week and it’s understandable to see why. The Englishman has absolutely ridiculous form here and we’ve all been given the alerts by commentators, pundits and the man himself that he’s not far away again. In his last 4 outings he has come no worse than T6 and bagged a win back in 2012. You simply cannot ignore the fact he buzzes off this course and with all the feelers surrounding him at the moment, he has a cracking chance to get back to the top of the leaderboard.
We all got excited with his T7 finish at the Honda a couple of weeks back and the correlation between the two events is obvious, so we have looked into that quite heavily. T10 for driving accuracy, T29 for GIR and 16th for putting average at PGA National show that his game is coming together and whilst it wasn’t a great showing last week, we are positive he’ll be coming here in plenty of confidence, knowing his eye suits the track.
With what’s required to do well here, you cannot deny Luke’s game is a perfect match. Bring it back LUUUUUUUUUUUKKKEEE
Harris English (40/1 various)
The American has already sneaked into our top 5 a couple of times this calender year but with the quality this guy has at just 25, it’s hard not to like him for courses like this.
Arguably English’s strongest asset is his driving, doing what he does off the tee on difficult courses gives him an immediate advantage. His 7th here in 2013 provides some evidence for this. So his MC at the Honda is a slight worry but then you look at the World Rankings. With the Masters just 4 weeks away, the top 50 spots in the world will give you a magical ticket to Augusta – English currently ranks 60th. Incentive enough?
Harris ranks 19th ball striking, 22nd scrambling, 4th bogey avoidance, 15th 175-200 yards (a key yardage for Copperhead). He has the game, now is the time to produce the goods when it matters!
Russell Knox (60/1 Coral)
The Scotsman has this really good habit of producing his best stuff on difficult courses – T2 Honda, T9 RBC Heritage, T3 Honda again. His all round game, but particularly tee to green, is so consistent that it lends itself to places like Copperhead and PGA National. Being raised in the home of golf with some of the tracks around there helps too.
With a trend present last year between the Valspar and Honda Classic, Russ ranked T10 GIR and T10 driving accuracy – with all the drama going on around him, he was unlucky not to sneak into a play-off. So he’s playing well.
Despite not winning a PGA Tour event his consistent quality tee to green means he is always someone tipped to win week on week. His stats make for good reading too – T38 driving accuracy, T21 ball striking, 55th bogey avoidance, 81st strokes gained-putting. He was 25th last year on his 2nd time around here, he’s definitely a lot better prospect to improve significantly on that this time around.
Brian Harman (80/1 various)
For the odds this guy will find himself at, we think he’s worth a sniff. Looking back at 2014, there was a trend between guys who did well at the Honda and guys who did well around here. MacKenzie, McNeil and Donald all continued their form into the Valspar and it makes sense with the difficulty of both tracks. So Brian Harman’s 64 on the final day at PGA National grabbed our attention. For the week he ranked 1st driving accuracy and 10th GIR.
Harman has top 3’s in both the Northern Trust and Wyndham over the past couple of years, places where the going gets tough. As for his last couple of years around here, 14th and 25th – not bad. And at 85th in the world, he needs a big few weeks.
Freddie Jacobson (150/1 Coral)
Cheeky outsider in the form of our perennial underachiever Freddie Jacobson. He has so much to offer in and around the greens and we just feel he could be a cheeky bet at healthy odds. No denying he missed the cut at the Honda last time out but there was enough class in his T7 at the Waste Management to prove he could be up there again.
Tee to green he was sublime and we saw plenty of his 64 on the Sunday to know his game is in tune, it’s just putting it all together. The big risk is hoping he can replicate that sort of iron ability because 1st in strokes gained putting across the season says everything about his magical touch with the short stick.
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 –
£2.00 e/w on Luke Donald at 25/1
£1.25 e/w on Harris English at 40/1
£1.00 e/w on Russell Knox at 50/1
£0.50 e/w on Brian Harman at 80/1
£0.25 e/w on Freddie Jacobson at 125/1
Current Standings after 8 weeks:
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)