Winner’s Share – $1,116,000
Course – TPC San Antonio (7,435 par 72)
Our 2014 Picks – Billy Horschel (MC), Kevin Chappell (MC), Freddie Jacobson (T16)
The whole golfing (and arguably sporting) world is getting that itchy excitement now as we are in the final stretch before that small matter of Augusta in a couple of weeks.
Take a cheeky peak at our opening preview – MASTERS 2015 PREVIEW ONE – and keep an eye out for our 2nd preview which will be out in a couple of days and be a real in-depth look at a whole host of players.
But our attentions need to be firmly fixed on the now, as we’ve got a decent field assembling for the Valero Texas Open. Like Matt Every last week, every (poor pun) player will be striving and pushing to get that win which automatically qualifies them for The Masters. That makes these next 2 PGA stops rather interesting. Others who have already qualified, tend to use this as a ritual practice ground and prep for Augusta and will never truly exert themselves unless they’ve found themselves with a sniff for a win.
The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio is usually quite a difficult track and birdies are hard to come by. The 7,435 yard par 72 has sever undulation amongst the narrow fairways and proper pot-hole bunkers dotted around the course – remarkably some as deep as 12-foot……! The tree-lined fairways look like a daunting prospect when teeing it up and it will be crucial to find the short cuts more often than not because the approaches are notoriously difficult.
Last year Steven Bowditch won by the skin of his teeth as he sprayed it everywhere on the final day, but his tee-to-green exploits on the opening 3 rounds saved him. It did mean his driving accuracy stat don’t quite tell the whole story BUT just take a look at the closest challengers – 3 of the top 4 were inside the top 10 for driving accuracy. 7 of the top 10 were also inside the top 20 for putting stats as well, so it will be crucial to take a look at how everyone is playing with the short stick.
Those who can keep the ball in play more regularly than not, scramble when necessary, know how to hit out of the sand and putt out their skin will find themselves right in the mix.
Zach Johnson (25/1 Various)
He’s the only guy who takes our fancy below the 40 mark and it’s easy to see why – 4 appearances here, 2 wins and a 6th place. San Antonio is made for him where accuracy and a solid short game is king.
Since his purple patch at the beginning of 2014 Zach hasn’t featured as much as he would like but with a 9th and 10th in his last 4 starts, he’s getting back to his best. We also have to look at the courses in recent weeks and the importance on driving distance, not something we would associate the American.
The biggest factor for us was watching him last week – He looked very competent in all areas and ranked 21st driving accuracy, 27th GIR and 5th putting. The last stat in particular is key for us, we know Zach will find greens this week on a course he loves but it’s just whether he can get the putts to drop. His Bay Hill performance suggests they certainly will
Matt Jones (55/1 Paddy Power)
We’re always going to have a soft spot for the Aussie after he bagged a big win for us last year at 125/1. Like so many, Jones is a hot and cold sort of player and right now he’s at boiling point. 3rd last week at the Arnold Palmer and then T7 and T14 at Pebble Beach and the Northern Trust respectively is some of the best form in the field this week.
Like Zach, his game was firing on all cylinders last week – 5th driving accuracy, 27th GIR and 5th putting. We often associate Jones with proficiency tee to green but for the 2015 season he ranks 46th scrambling, 30th sand saves and 24th strokes gained-putting. San Antonio will be a test for anyone’s short game and we know this guy will be more than a match.
Will MacKenzie (90/1 Stan James)
More of a stats based pick this one but easily justified. 2nd last year, 6th 3 weeks ago, all over this season’s stats – 28th driving accuracy, 12th strokes gained: tee to green, 64th sand saves, 24th ball striking, 3rd proximity to the hole.
After a year on the Web.com in 2013, last year saw MacKenzie’s return to the big time and T2 here at the Texas Open was the best finish of his career since his one and only win at the Viking Classic in 2008. And it’s taken him to a new level with his 2nd career major appearance at the PGA and play-off defeat in this season’s McGladrey Classic.
Francesco Molinari (100/1 Paddy Power)
The Italian is almost our most fancied pick across both tours this week all things considered. Sitting 63rd in the world, Francesco needs a 3rd or better to get down Magnolia Lane. Having played in the Masters for the last 5 years it will be a bitter blow and reality check if he were not to make this year’s. So he more than anyone will be doing what he can do finish well in Texas. But this alone isn’t enough.
What’s he been doing recently? A couple of top 20’s in recent times including 17th last week but it’s when you dig deeper that makes us think San Antonio could be perfect for his game. On the tour this year he ranks 1st driving accuracy, 33rd scrambling, 43rd GIR (1st at the Arnold Palmer last week) and 58th strokes gained-putting. His accuracy off the tee alone is stuff only certain players could dream of. At 100/1 on a course suited to his game and with so much at stake it’s an honour to be putting our money on this guy.
Mark Wilson (300/1 Coral) & Ken Duke (250/1 Various)
Couple of value picks for you. Firstly Wilson, horses for courses quite simply. 3rd 2005, 2nd 2008, 11th 2009. 2014 was undeniably a struggle for the American having played the full 4 rounds in just 7 events! So looking at this season (T8 McGladrey and T9 Sanderson Farms) he’s clearly got things going again. Last time out he found a T24 at the Valspar off the back of 2 missed cuts and ranked T10 in both driving accuracy and GIR.
The Dukester finishes off this week’s picks. Pure and simple these courses are what he lives for, besides his family. T4 at the McGladrey and T9 out in Malaysia have been the highlights of his season so far but with the length of the courses in recent weeks it’s clear to see why he hasn’t been up there. Stats-wise he never fails – 16th driving accuracy, 28th strokes gained-putting, 59th scrambling.
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 –
£2.25 e/w on Zach Johnson at 25/1
£1.00 e/w on Matt Jones at 50/1
£0.75 e/w on Will Mackenzie at 75/1
£0.65 e/w on Francesco Molinari at 100/1
£0.35 e/w on Mark Wilson at 250/1
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 10 weeks
DownThe18th Golf Monthly
European Tour: £-16.60 European Tour: £-36
PGA Tour: £-37.28 PGA Tour: £61.75
Total: £-53.88 Total: £25.75
Golf Monthly leads by: £79.63