TOUR Championship 2013

Before you read, please do check out our weekly post for Golf Monthly magazine.  This week its all about Tiger and that ‘ball moving’ incident!

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531954/golf-blog-tiger-vs-the-rules.html

 

The end of the year is finally here.  The best 30 players from 2013 have made this season ending Tour Championship, all vying for the potential prize of $10 million.  However ludicrous that money is, it makes for a fascinating battle between the best in the world because most of them may already be stinking rich but none will sniff at that sort of payout.

As it has done since 2004, East Lake Golf course will play host this week and at 7,154 yards will provide a tough test for the 30-man field.

It is widely known as a ball strikers track, where accuracy from tee to green will be vital and the top of previous leaderboards have been constantly filled with these sorts of players.

The track that will witness greatness this week

The track that will witness greatness this week

Even with that said, the greens are where the real action will take place.  Firstly winning the FedEx Cup is fast becoming a major achievement and secondly the pressure of standing over 10 footers for that amount of money will make even the steadiest heart tremble with nerves.

Last year the stimpmeter read 12.0 which is absolutely rapid and will cause all sorts of chaos, so whoever wins this will have putted out their skin on all four days.

The top 5 in the FedEx Cup standings have destiny in their own hands (you will hear the commentator bang on about this constantly) because if any of them win the tournament they will also win the whole FedEx Cup, just as Brandt Snedeker did last year.

One of the main reasons DownThe18th began in the first place.  What a hero

One of the main reasons DownThe18th began in the first place. What a hero

The current top 5 – 1. Tiger Woods 2. Henrik Stenson 3. Adam Scott 4. Zach Johnson (was 27th before his win last week) 5. Matt Kuchar

Obviously value wise this is not an easy week because of the small field, but it is more acceptable to stake to win in these circumstances and we have some players that have really taken our eye.

Lets follow on from our win and 3 places last week and end the PGA Tour season on a high.

Quick Reminder: We’re trying to get as many people involved in the DownThe18th Fantasy Golf for 2014 with prize incentives hopefully on offer. Email us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk or tweet @downthe18th to get on board!

Hunter Mahan (20/1 various)

15th in FedEx Rankings

The whole Mahan clan welcoming the baby into the world.  Lets hope that big smile translates onto the course this week...

The whole Mahan clan welcoming the baby into the world. Lets hope that big smile translates onto the course this week…

Hunter Mahan has certainly had an interesting season and may feel disappointed at his overall performance.  5 top 10s for someone of this calibre is just not good enough, but 2 of them were at major championships and a cheeky T4 last week will give him the world of confidence.

If he hadn’t shot 73 on Friday he would have been in contention more so than he was but the 65 and 67 that followed will give him so much hope going into this week.  Plus he finished T8 and 2nd in the last two outings here, which is some achievement.

As a ball striker he is one of the best in the business when his game is on – 17th in the ball striking stats and at times last week he looked very lively.  Off the tee he is just as accurate – 24th and he loves hitting greens – 27th.  Basically from tee to green he is very dependable and if, if he can get his putter going then he has a serious chance of winning this.

After the publicised birth of his first child last month, he will be in an ecstatic mood at the moment and what better way to welcome your baby into the world than with $10 million? Obviously things will have to go his way to win that prize but as long as he wins this tournament, we won’t mind…

Steve Stricker (20/1 various)

6th in FedEx Rankings

No one reads the greens like Sir Steve does.

No one reads the greens like Sir Steve does.

We just used the word dependable in the above spiel for Mahan but that is how you sum up the 46-year old stalwart, Steve Stricker.  What this man has done in 2013 is beyond incredible.  He has only played 12 events yet found 10 top 25 and 7 top 10s, which is some achievement.

We stated in our original season preview how we thought he would be contending a few majors; enjoy his relaxed schedule and newfound freedom with his family.  He perhaps should have done better in his final round at the US Open because he was superb the previous 3 days but we all know what happened on the first tee there…

Being able to climb to 6th in the FedEx Cup rankings from such few appearances shows how consistent he has been.  Whilst, last week a T4 finish included two outstanding rounds of 66 and 64 but a 72 on Sunday ruined any chances of victory.

As for his tee to green abilities, it is scary how good and reliable he is – 3rd driving accuracy, 2nd GIR and 6th ball striking. Wow.

Because of how tight it could get his efficient scrambling (4th in the rankings) will come into play and when he gets on the green he is up there with the best putters in the world – 3rd strokes gained putting.

Ultimately, would it not be a fitting way to end the season with Stricker picking up the big cheque – because he is 6th, it is still pretty much in his hands – and we can all imagine him just waving his hands and calling it a day with $10 million in his pocket can’t we?

Come on Steve.

Luke Donald (20/1 various)

29th in FedEx Rankings

Luke Donald has nothing to lose this week

Luke Donald has nothing to lose this week

Considering he was number one in the world and has the ability to rival anyone, it is has been a disappointing season for Luke Donald.  5 top 10s on the PGA Tour sounds good on paper, but there have been too many awful showings.  However, on his home course last week he played some solid golf to finish T4 and that will give him a lot of confidence as he comes to a track he has enjoyed memorable performances in recent years.

2012 and 2011 – T3, 2010 – T2 and 2006 T5 shows how he has enjoyed this course mainly because his abilities suit the challenge down to a tee. (excuse the pun.) Surprisingly his GIR stats are relatively shocking (151st) but that is because of some of his woeful outings, so 51st in driving accuracy and 11th in strokes gained putting is actually impressive considering.  And when you think of scrambler, Donald is always one of the first names to enter your mind – 32nd in the rankings.

He will be arriving here with a limited chance of winning the big prize; a lot of things will have to go his way.

The fact he is even here is an achievement because he only sneaked inside the top 30 on the last few holes when he holed some tough putts and that could play into his favour in terms of the tournament.  He will have everything to play for and nothing to lose.

Charl Schwartzel (33/1 StanJames)

23rd in FedEx Rankings

We need say nothing about this photo.

We need say nothing about this photo.

We really felt that at 33/1 Charl Schwartzel provided decent value considering the small field and gave us a chance to have a cheeky e/w bet on a supremely talented golfer.

He played very consistently for four rounds last week in his T8 finish and that should give him plenty of confidence as he arrives onto a course that he has never played at.

Even with his lack of knowledge about East Lake, it is a track that should suit his eye as a slick ball striker.  When his game is on he is unerringly accurate and attacks pins for fun, in fact his main downfall all year has been on the greens, where he has missed far too many 5-footers – even though he somehow lies 27th in strokes gained putting.

He is one of those players that seems to thrive of a good run and if he can get going, following on from last week there is no reason why he can’t be up there challenging come Sunday.

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ISPS Handa Wales Open 2013

Handa Wales

Here we are again in the UK, this time in Wales for their Open, on a course many of us will know well. It is none other than the Celtic Manor Resort, Twenty Ten course which played host to the 2010 Ryder Cup. Only Miguel Jimenez and Ross Fisher are in the field this week from Colin Montgomerie’s victorious European side.

The course is a very challenging, links-style exposed course where players will not be going as low as last week in Scotland. Only 13 players managed to finish under par last year which tells a story in itself. The first part of the course features long rough and greenside swales on all the holes making accuracy absolutely vital. As the players go deeper into the course, more and more water hazards will await. Half of the holes on the Twenty Ten Course feature water hazards!

No matter who you back this week, the potential for double and triple bogeys will be very high for all 4 days. It will be the most consistent players who flourish. McDowell, Jaidee and Noren are the three most recent winners and all are known for their consistent iron play and course management. Statistically, you need to be looking at accurate players with good GIR stats (4 of the top 7 last year ranked inside the top 11 for GIR). 2012 winner Thongchai Jaidee also ranked 2nd for putts per GIR.

Don't underestimate how much water is in play!

Don’t underestimate how much water is in play!

Chris Wood (35/1 Paddy Power)

The huge Englishman is someone who we feel will go under the radar this week. At 35/1 for someone who has already won in 2013 and has good course form on Celtic Manor seems like too good value to miss. What we like is that Wood has an eye for links golf, coming 5th at the Open as an amateur in 2008 and then 3rd a year later on arguably two tougher courses. After winning the Qatar Masters in January, Wood’s confidence will have been taken to a whole new level and he will definitely believe he has what it takes in Wales. He also won around this time last year on the OneAsia Tour with victory at the Thailand Open.

Water does not scare Wood!

Water does not scare Wood!

You have to look at his average recent form with the knowledge that two of his last three events have been majors, but did make the cut at the Open. At the start of August, Wood did finish T7 at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational mixing it with the best in the world. Wood has limited his appearances this year, mainly taking part in the bigger events and his statistics reflect this. In Wales he has recorded a 10th in ’09 and 14th last year. Wood also played the majority of last year’s event with a back injury and still managed 14th place! So coming into this week fully fit, who knows…

Ross Fisher (20/1 Various)

Fisher enjoyed wearing Europe's colours around Celtic Manor

Fisher enjoyed wearing Europe’s colours around Celtic Manor

Fisher will be fancied by many this week and rightly so. He’s as accurate as they come and is definitely due a win sooner or later with the way he has been playing. It is surprising he hasn’t quite pushed on after shooting some really low rounds, but just hasn’t strung them together yet. He finished 10th here in ’08 and then 6th last year when perhaps his game was not in as good a shape as now. Many of his finishes have been on the PGA Tour as well, which features a lot tougher fields.

Fisher’s story last year at Celtic Manor was one of anger and disappointment. He was given a shot penalty and a 10,000 fine for slow play when he was just one shot off Jaidee on the final day. Fisher subsequently fell away and finished 6th. He will want to put the record straight this week. Statistically you won’t find may better, 5th scoring average, 36th driving accuracy, 19th GIR, 18th putts per GIR and 6th sand saves. He did of course feature at Celtic Manor in the 2010 Ryder Cup as well. So will Fisher be able to live up to the hype?

Paul Waring (60/1 888Sport)

Paul is a man who we have backed before and always keep our eye on. Last week he did enough to prove to us he can continue his good play into this week at Celtic Manor. He eventually managed to finish 6th last week. On his day he hits the ball very long and more importantly straight, which is exactly what he was doing last week. If you can drive well this week you will give yourself a chance. When looking at his recent form in Wales, Paul finished 10th in 2009 and therefore has the ability to do well here. Just like Fleetwood last week, Waring is still relatively young and will be itching to grab his first European Tour win. And he has previously finished T19 at the Open proving links golf will not be an issue. For 2013 the Englishman is averaging 297 yards off the tee, is 21st in GIR, 53rd driving accuracy and 36th stroke average. Watch out for him.

Alvaro Quiros (66/1 Bet365)

Watch out for Quiros off the tee

Watch out for Quiros off the tee

This is one player we have been waiting and waiting for to get back to full fitness, and we would say he is definitely 95% fit. The Spaniard not only has the ability to win tournaments like these with ease but could certainly go on to win majors. Just like Waring, Alvaro really caught our eye at the Johnnie Walker Championship and his driving was back to its dominant best. His swing is his own and when he’s on form there is nobody better or longer off the tee. But for a few errors, Quiros could quite easily have been in with a shout at the end of day 4 last week. He already has 6 titles on the European Tour so you won’t find many better in the field at these odds. When fully fit he finished 20th in 2010 and has not been back since. Quiros has the perfect game for links golf and a win this week would certainly announce his arrival back from injury.

Eddie Pepperell (100/1 Various)

Our 4th English pick of the week and in many ways the most exciting. The 22 year old will without doubt become one of the top English golfers in years to come and is already a high quality player. His best finish of late was a T6 at the BMW PGA, where he impressed us greatly, whilst finishing T22 at the Irish Open, T8 at the Open de Espana and T28 last week on similarly exposed links-style courses. Pepperell will have grown up knowing about last week’s winner Tommy Fleetwood and it is really hard to choose between them. It will definitely give Eddie massive confidence seeing Fleetwood win last week, showing it can be done. His odds are what they are because his is still such a raw talent and has never played at the Wales Open, but his ability to us makes this great value.

Will be looking to follow Tommy Fleetwood and make it 2 successive young English victors

Will be looking to follow Tommy Fleetwood and make it 2 successive young English victors

PGA Championship 2013

FINAL PREVIEWpga2013feat

Location: Rochester, New York (USA)

Course: Oak Hill Country Club – East Course

Date: 8-11 August 2013

Current Champion: Rory McIlroy

If you get a chance do check out our article for Golf Monthly on their website all about Tiger Woods and how he wont win this week!

‘Tiger Woods Still Lacking Major Mentality’

Quick Reminder: We’re trying to get as many people involved in the DownThe18th Fantasy Golf for 2014 with prize incentives hopefully on offer. Email us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk or tweet @downthe18th to get on board!

The majors have brought about some fascinating contests and winners this year and now it is time for the final one to take centre stage.

Often called ‘Glory’s Last Shot’, the 2013 PGA Championship will be another fine test for the field of 156 players at a course which has consistently proved too much for many.

We have had a successful year in terms of betting for the majors, with a win and two 2nd places, so lets hope we can create perfect symmetry and add another win!

In the previous 5 majors that Oak Hill Country Club has hosted, only 7 players broke par. In 2008 the Senior PGA Championship was held here and nobody finished below par, meaning that only 10 out of 1,074 entrants in six major championships have finished in the red. That is less than 1%.

The Famous Leaderboard of '03

The Famous Leaderboard of ’03

In other words this is not an easy course and its rich history has provided some fine winners. Legendary amateur Charles Coe won the US Amateur in 1949, Cary Middlecoff, Lee Trevino and Curtis Strange all won the US Open, whilst Jack Nicklaus became PGA Champion here in 1980.

However the last major held at the East Course in 2003 warranted a shock champion in Shaun Micheel – not to be confused with Shaun Michael, the heroic wrestler. His 2 shot victory still baffles many people and remains Micheel’s only PGA Tour career win.

TRENDS

As with all the majors we have tried to find some trends that could help us narrow down the field and pick a winner. We initially struggled with this PGA Championship, until we looked at the astonishing similarities the winners have since it was last held here.

2012 – Rory McIlroy, Kiawah Island Golf ResortRory

WGC Bridgestone (the week before) – T5

Tournaments won (during the season) – 1

Top 10s (during the season) – 8

2011 – Keegan Bradley, Atlanta Athletic Club

WGC Bridgestone (the week before) – T15

Tournaments won (during the season) – 1

Top 10s (during the season) – 3

2010 – Martin Kaymer, Whistling StraitsKaymer

WGC Bridgestone (the week before) – T22

Tournaments won (during the season) – 1

Top 10s (during the season) – 9

2009 – Y.E Yang, Hazeltine National Golf Club

WGC Bridgestone (the week before) – T19

Tournaments won (during the season) – 1

Top 10s (during the season) – 3

2008 – Padraig Harrington, Oakland Hills Country ClubHarrington

WGC Bridgestone (the week before) – T20

Tournaments won (during the season) – 1

Top 10s (during the season) – 7

2007 – Tiger Woods, Southern Hills Country Club

WGC Bridgestone (the week before) – 1st

Tournaments won (during the season) – 4

Top 10s (during the season) – 8

2006 – Tiger Woods, Medinah Country ClubWoods

WGC Bridgestone– 1st

Performance at the tournament before PGA – Buick Open, 1st

Tournaments won (during the season) – 4

Top 10s (during the season) – 7

2005 – Phil Mickelson, Baltusrol Golf Club

Performance at the tournament before PGA – T10

Tournaments won (during the season) – 3

Top 10s (during the season) – 8

2004 – Vijay Singh, Whistling Straits

Performance at the tournament before PGA – Buick Open, 1st

Tournaments won (during the season) – 4

Top 10s (during the season) – 11

So, after researching this information, we can find certain trends that keep cropping up

  • 3 out of the last 4 winners won their first major at the PGA.
  • The last 7 winners were inside the top 22 at the WGC Bridgestone prior to the PGA.
  • Winners since it was last held here in 2003 won during the year of their PGA victory.
  • Winners since it was last held here in 2003 recorded at least 3 top 10s.
  • Every winner since it was last held here made the cut in the tournament before the PGA.
  • The last 17 winners made the cut in the tournament before the PGA Championship
  • 13 out of the last 17 winners finished inside the top 20 in the tournament before the PGA Championship

THE COURSE

In short, this will be one of the toughest tests you could wish to face. Everybody talked about the rough at Merion for the US Open, well the rough at the USPGA is meant to be just as bad, if not worse.

Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York will be playing 7,163 yards. Knowing this yardage, we are already casting our minds back to Merion where Justin Rose claimed his first major and the sort of players we were looking at for the US Open.

The key is don’t miss it one foot in the rough,” Woods said. “And that’s what I did a lot of times. I missed a chip barely in the rough and that’s the worst part to be in” Tiger Woods on his last time at Oak Hill ESPN

Just one of the 18 tough greens!

Just one of the 18 tough greens!

You would expect nothing less from Oak Hill where anyone who wants to win a major will be tested to their absolute limit. But combine the rough with lightning fast greens, narrow undulating fairways and horrible pin locations and these four days are going to be one hell of a scramble. Looking a little more in depth at the greens, we found that the greens Donald Ross initially designed have been reduced in size and shape by as much as 25% on the whole. And these greens are renown for being the most slick surfaces in world golf. If you are not good with the short-stick, it could be a LONG week. If you want to know what these greens will feel like, have a few practise putts on your dining table at home.

So what statistics are we going to be looking at?

Well we know Oak Hill will be all about course management, playing the percentages and plotting your way around each hole. The main areas that we believe will be vital are:

Driving Accuracy

PGA Tour Driving Accuracy Leaders 2013

With the rough at Oak Hill worse than Merion, it will be crucial you keep the ball in the fairways this week! One venture into the long stuff and a bogey would be a good achievement. And of course, keeping it in play allows for a better approach into these tough greens.

Greens In Regulation (GIR)

PGA Tour GIR Leaders 2013

Of all the people in the USPGA 2003, everyone towards the top of the leaderboard came into the week with impressive GIR statistics. And it makes sense. Good GIR means you can putt your way to victory, or 2-putt as the case may be this week!

GIR % – 125-150 YardsPGA TOUR

GIR % – 125-150 Yards Leaders 2013

Based on our calculations of the average drive, there will be 4 holes that will leave this yardage. This is good to know and looking at these statistics filters out some very interesting names.

GIR % – 150-175 Yards

GIR % – 150-175 Yards Leaders 2013

Same as before, our calculations show 2 holes will leave this yardage around Oak Hill, with a further 2 at the 180 yard mark. The players knowing their yardages this week could be the difference.

Ball Striking

PGA Tour Ball Striking Leaders 2013

The term essentially means who is swinging the club the best and making the cleanest connections on the ball. It is a great way to filter out, excuse the pun, the ‘ball-strikers’ out there who will thrive on this course.

Strokes Gained – Putting

PGA Tour Strokes Gained – Putting Leaders 2013

These greens could be the toughest most will play on in their careers and if you are not putting well, the cut will look very far away. With the pressure of it being a major and big crowds, emphasis on putting has never been higher.

3-Putt Avoidance

PGA Tour 3-Putt Avoidance Leaders 2013

This could be massive this week. It is often those 2 putts for par that make the difference on courses like Oak Hill. If you 2-putt your way around the course this week, you will be up there. Don’t get frustrated if the putts are just not going in, avoiding those 3 putts will be everything.

Other areas that you also need to consider for sure are: Proximity To Hole, Scrambling, Scrambling from the rough, Putts per Round

OUR PICKS

Brandt Snedeker (28/1 BETFRED)

We have shown this picture before, but blimey does he not look incredible?!

We have shown this picture before, but blimey does he not look incredible?!

Before you read the reasons why Brandt Snedeker is our main man, please do check out our weekly write-up for Golf Monthly all about the man himself.

‘The Wonderful World Of Snedeker’

Snedeker will win a major. There is no doubting that he is far too good not to, but it is just the matter of when. The obvious hope is that we have lumped our hard earned cash on him when the moment finally arrives and this last major of 2013 looks like an ideal chance for all parties to end Sunday evening with a smile.

On a course that is relatively short with 10 par 4s offering the opportunity to use a mid to short iron approach shot, Sneds becomes the ideal candidate. When he has been firing this year his irons have been incredible, especially from short distances – arguably the best in the world.

And then when he reaches the dance floor there is an even stronger argument that he is right up there with the best putters. His stroke is so effortless and when the pressure is on you will not find Sneds struggling with bottle because everything flows in the way only a major champion flows.

Plus, as we have said before the recent form going into the PGA has been a critical factor in previous winners and he is certainly in fine fettle. Winning the RBC Canadian Open a few weeks ago at pretty much a canter, whilst a steady performance at Firestone will give him an extra boost.

Many experts have been stating how this is a ‘Drivers Course’ and Sneds is one of the most accurate off the tee and when you add in his all round natural abilities, Oak Hill could be the place that lives long in all of our major memory.

As the man who started it all off for us at the end of the 2012 season, it would be perfect symmetry for him to win this final major of 2013.

PGA Tour Stats 2013

Snedeker PGA Tour StatsFinish in Previous 5 Tournaments

WGC Bridgestone RBC Canadian Open The Open AT&T National US Open Best USPGA Finish
T33 1st T11 T8 T17 T18 – 2007

Hunter Mahan (40/1 Coral)

Hunter’s name has been on our lips for quite some time now; his game will be perfect for Oak Hill. Often regarded as one of the best iron players and ball strikers in the game, Mahan will be looking to prove that this week. Despite a winless 2013, he will be more than happy with the way he has played.

It's just written for Daddy Mahan to win this week

It’s just written for Daddy Mahan to win this week

A 2nd place at the WGC Accenture Match Play, T25 WGC Cadillac, T19 the PLAYERS, T4 the US Open and T9 at the Open shows he has a taste for the big events. Statistically he also ticks all the boxes for us. His best finishes in the PGA have been T16, T18 and T19. But in this kind of form he will certainly be looking to push on from them!

And we have to mention the events at the Canadian Open two weeks ago. 2 shots clear going into the third day, playing some incredible golf and the American gets the call telling him his wife has gone into labour. Without hesitation, Mahan withdrew and was on the next flight out to be at the bedside of his wife Kandi. It shows what a great guy Mahan is and more importantly puts him in a perfect frame of mind for the PGA. You can argue the break will have not given him enough preparation, but he will be coming to Oak Hill off the back of a T9 at the Open and a withdrawal at the Canadian Open where many think he would have gone on to win. 3 of the last 4 winners of the PGA have also been first-time winners which also makes for good reading. Mahan will have a great chance this week.

PGA Tour Stats 2013

Hunter PGA Tour StatsFinish in Previous 5 Tournaments

RBC Canadian Open The Open AT&T National Travelers Champs US Open Best USPGA Finish
W/D T9 MC T24 T4 T16 – 2009

Matt Kuchar (33/1 Various)

Kuchar needs no introduction now, he has well and truly cemented his place as one of the best golfers in the world with two wins in 2013 including the WGC Accenture Match Play. The all-smiling American is getting better with age, only starting to really pick up wins and contend in majors over the last four years. And in those years he has now recorded five top 10’s in majors including a T10 at the 2010 PGA Championship. 2013 has seen him miss no cuts on the PGA Tour and claim 7 top 10’s including 2 wins and 2 runner-ups.

Admittedly, we did struggle to decide between Kuch and Henrik Stenson who is simply flying on all cylinders at the moment.

Kuchar sporting the rugged look for what will be a rugged test at Oak Hill

Kuchar sporting the rugged look for what will be a rugged test at Oak Hill

We just thought that someone with his quality will win a major, and his game is perfect for the way major courses are setup. Accurate and methodical is the way he plays, and will look forward to the tough prospect that Oak Hill will inevitably prove to be. Just like Mahan, Kuchar will take confidence from 3 of the last 4 winners being first-timers.

Interestingly, a 20-year old Matt Kuchar came to Oak Hill 15 years ago and finished in the final 8 of the US Amateur Championship where a young Sergio Garcia overcame him in the quarter finals. So if you are after a bit of course form, there you have it. We know Kooch has the game, but now he needs to prove it on the biggest stage!

PGA Tour Stats 2013

Kuchar PGA Tour StatsFinish in 5 Previous Tournaments

WGC Bridgestone RBC Canadian Open The Open US Open The Memorial Best USPGA Finish
T27 T2 T15 T28 1st T10 – 2010

Zach Johnson (66/1 various)

Zach Johnson is always found sporting delightful sunglasses.

Zach Johnson is always found sporting delightful sunglasses.

Johnson has been plugging away recently, finding some very good form at just the right time. Finding yourself inside the top 10 3 tournaments in a row is impressive and at the WGC he was unerringly consistent across the 4 days. It is the unerring ability to be consistent that makes us like his chances at Oak Hill even more.

You will not find him missing many fairways – so crucial here, whilst the abilities he possesses with irons are well known and probably the reason he already has a cheeky major trophy in his cabinet. He has a knack of knowing when to attack pins and sit back and take a par, which may seem like boring golf but in a major tournament on a difficult course that is vitally important.

He did also look very useful at Muirfield, where he lead after round one and did remain in contention throughout the week. He never fully pushed himself forward but on this sort of course where there is a mixture of all round golf, he has the tools to grind out birdies at the right moments and he could become a double major winner.

PGA Tour Stats 2013

Zach Johnson PGA StatsFinish in 5 Previous Tournaments

WGC Bridgestone The Open John Deere Classic The Travelers US Open Best USPGA Finish
T4 T6 P2 T58 MC T3 – 2010

Jordan Spieth (125/1 Coral)

Unbelievably this photo was only taken a few years ago.  That is how young he is...

Unbelievably this photo was only taken a few years ago. That is how young he is…

The young American rookie has an abundance of talent and has remarkably been very consistent throughout his debut year. He has only missed 4 cuts, found 6 top 10s and won his first PGA Tour title at the John Deere Classic a few weeks ago. All at the ripe-old age of 20. (Considering he celebrated his birthday just over a week ago as well…)

Of all the very talented youngsters the game has been lucky enough to witness this past year, Spieth is most definitely one of the elite and alongside Japanese maestro Hideki Matsuyama, will be challenging many majors for years to come.

So why do we feel money should be put on him now for what will be his first PGA Championship?

Because this a talent who has absolutely no fear and nerves are not part of his DNA. Just a few weeks ago, whilst still a teenager, he managed to beat seasoned pros Zach Johnson and David Hearn in a playoff to become the first teenager in 82 years to win a PGA Tour title. Even Tiger didn’t manage that feat…

We have also noticed how precise and accurate he is from tee to green, which will be key to this course. His mid and short irons have looked sublime at times and when you look at the trends of previous winners, it is bizarre that he actually fits most of them.

We are not saying that Spieth will win the PGA, but he could be a surprise outsider who could be an interesting run for your money, especially at such high odds where place returns are still very healthy. Beware though, most bookmakers have him at 66s, so the Coral worker who priced the tournament clearly has no idea the talent of this kid. Take advantage while you can!

PGA Tour Stats 2013

Jordan Spieth PGA StatsFinish in 5 Previous Tournaments

The Open John Deere Classic Greenbrier Classic AT&T National US Open Best USPGA Finish
T44 1st T23 6th MC DNP

Paul Casey (150/1 SportingBet)

Just like last week, this feels great backing Casey once again. We backed Paul at the WGC Bridgestone and he came in with a very respectable T27. After a mixture of injury, swing difficulties and loss of form, the Englishman dropped off the golfing radar.

Casey is back and he means business!

Casey is back and he means business!

The once 3rd ranked player in the world was struggling to make cuts and his career was in doubt. But 2013 has seen the arrival of the Paul Casey we know and love, and a player whose game is a great fit for Oak Hill. Just over a month ago he stormed to the very prestigious Irish Open title and confirmed to the world he was ‘back’. We watched all 4 days and what impressed us the most was his driving, an area that will have to be in top shape if you are to contend this week.

With 15 professional wins to his name, his quality at those sorts of odds is unbeatable. His major track-record is more than respectable with five top 10 finishes and T12 in 2010 and T15 in 2008 at the PGA. And he does have vital experience around Oak Hill, making the cut here in 2003. Definitely worth a gamble if you have a bit of spare change on you!

European Tour Stats 2013

Casey StatsFinish in 5 Previous Tournaments

WGC Bridgestone Scottish Open Irish Open BMW International Open US Open Best USPGA Finish
T27 T24 1st T53 T45 T12 – 2010

John Merrick (250/1 Ladbrokes)

Only a quick mention to John Merrick, who is just an interesting outsider considering his recent form and consistent stats which will be needed for this course.

The times we have seen Merrick, he has looked useful and obviously he picked up a victory at the Northern Trust Open earlier in the season by defeating Charlie Beljan in a playoff.

On the day his tee to green abilities were outstanding and he has recorded 3 top 10s in majors previously, so he certainly is no slouch! If you have any spare coppers floating around the house or in your account, it could be worth chucking them on Merrick!

PGA Tour Stats 2013

John Merrick PGA StatsFinish in 5 Previous Tournaments

WGC Bridgestone RBC Canadian Open AT&T National Travelers Champs FedEx St.Jude Classic Best USPGA Finish
T19 T6 MC T30 T63 T10 – 2009

MAIN BOOKMAKERS

Most will be offering 6 places this week at 1/4 odds, but those who are only doing 5 will have some very tempting odds!

Paddy Power – PGA Championship Outright Betting (6 Places)

Stan James – PGA Championship Outright Betting (6 Places)

Coral – PGA Championship Outright Betting

Bet365 – PGA Championship Outright Betting (6 Places)

William Hill – PGA Championship Outright Betting

Ladbrokes – PGA Championship Outright Betting (6 Places)

Bet Victor – PGA Championship Outright (6 Places)

WGC Bridgestone Invitational 2013

BridgestoneDate: August 1 – 4

Course: Firestone Country Club

Yardage: 7,400 (Par 70)

Current Champ: Keegan Bradley

Quick Reminder: We’re trying to get as many people involved in the DownThe18th Fantasy Golf for 2014 with prize incentives hopefully on offer. Email us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk or tweet @downthe18th to get on board!

And please do check out this weeks Golf Monthly column on the brilliance of Brandt Snedeker

‘The Wonderful World Of Snedeker’

The crazy summer of golf continues as the 3rd WGC event takes place at the Firestone Country Club in Ohio.  One week before the final major of the year, we are all going to be treated to the best in the world fighting it out again for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational title.

An exciting field will assemble and it will be interesting to keep on eye on who does well at The Firestone Country Club, with people often carrying this week’s form into the PGA Championship.

Course form is crucial for this one as well, those who performed well in the past continue to do so year after year.

The course is a 7,400 yard par 70 and is renowned as one of the greatest challenges on tour.  The par 4s are long and the par 5 16th lies at 667 yards which is absolutely astonishing.  Therefore you would think the longer hitters should be favoured, but in all honesty the usually short Stricker, Zach Johnson, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar have all done well here in the past, which means ball strikers and GIR specialists should be looked at.

The very long and challenging Firestone Country Club course

The very long and challenging Firestone Country Club course

Rain is expected to disrupt play on the opening two days which does mean the bigger hitters will instantly have an advantage with soft ground but hitting those greens has always been the most important statistic for every winner over the past few years.

The greens are relatively large but missing them will make scoring difficult and whilst putting has never been a vital stat here, under pressure those famous yips can come into play!

Obviously the odds of many players are low, but there is always value in these big tournaments, so if you can avoid the allure of 7-time winner Tiger Woods than we do feel the following players are worth a dabble.

Bubba Watson (45/1 Various)

Hoping for more of Bubba's antics this week

Hoping for more of Bubba’s antics this week

Undoubtedly one of our favourite players and you always know you will get value for your money every time you back him! 2013 so far has been a disappointment; he will be the first to admit. After taking the Masters crown people expected him to push on, but here we are at a WGC event and he finds himself at relatively high odds of 45/1. But after watching him closely for the last few weeks we definitely feel he is on the verge of another victory, and why not at Firestone because he does LOVE it on the big stage. In 5 of his last 7 starts he has finished around the 30 mark, whilst finishing 21st last week. And he recorded a 4th place just over a month ago at the Travelers after seemingly looking in control at one stage, but the infamous outburst at his caddie came about. His passion is undeniable.

Course form is very, very consistent from Bubba finishing 22nd, 21st and 19th last year which ticks another box for us. And he did hold the first round lead in 2010 shooting a 64, so he can go low around here. His well-documented length off the tee will be a great advantage this week and 3rd in GIR, 8th ball striking, 27th scoring average, 31st total driving will help too. We have the distinct feeling this could be Bubba’s week.

Matt Kuchar (25/1 Various)

Can he bag win number 3 of 2013?

Can he bag win number 3 of 2013?

We’re here again with Kuchar, now comfortably one of the best players in the game. He has already got us 2 wins this year and we see no reason why he cannot make it a third. Regardless of what the American is all about, he enjoys it around Firestone finishing 9th, 19th and 8th last year. Now we have said this week could favour the longer hitters, but Kuchar is definitely under rated off the tee. He averages 285 yards off the tee on tour this year but he will have no worries smashing it well over 300 yards. And as for all other aspects of his game, you can’t ask for much more. 18th strokes gained-putting, 6th scoring average, 5th sand save, 12th scrambling, 2nd par 5 performance and of course 2nd in the Fed Ex Cup standings for 2013.

If anyone enjoys getting on a roll, it’s Kooch. Last time he finished 2nd he went on to win the Memorial Tournament the week after. And he finished 2nd last week… Question  marks have been raised over whether Kuchar will go onto bag his first major, but what we do know is that he is dominant outside the big four tournaments. There will be no nerves if he is near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday evening. He will contend for sure.

Henrik Stenson (40/1 PaddyPower)

One of the in-form golfers in the world

One of the in-form golfers in the world

Henrik Stenson is fully on the comeback trail, now back inside the top 20 in the world, having just missed out on a first major trophy at the Open.  His 2nd place finish at Muirfield showed his true class, no one was striking the ball as well and consistently from tee to green and if he can transfer this form onto Firestone, then he will be a genuine contender.

He has now recorded 3 top 10s in a row, contending up till the final few holes in the previous 2 tournaments.  He is one of the form golfers in the world at the moment and when you look at his all-round abilities then 40/1 represents great value.

He only lies in 74th for driving distance on the PGA, but he is 9th in Europe, which is a more appropriate ranking considering how far he can boom it.  He is 2nd in GIR on the PGA Tour and that proves how well he has been striking the ball and attacking greens.  So often we have seen him finding green after green, only faltering with a few putts at times, which has been the difference between 2nd, 3rd and titles.  If he can hole his putts and bring his best short game to the fore, then you can expect the Swede to be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

Angel Cabrera (66/1 various)

Angel Cabrera doesn't care where he smokes.  And nor do we if it helps him win!

Angel Cabrera doesn’t care where he smokes. And nor do we if it helps him win!

The enigma that is Angel Cabrera.  He only seems to play well at the bigger tournaments, finding that something extra to propel himself to the top of leaderboards.  And regularly at that.  He has found some remarkable form of late – the last 3 tournaments have resulted in a place no worse than T13.  At the Open he once again showed his determination by getting into a potential winning position on the Sunday but sadly not ever really pushing further.

Then when you look at his form on this course, you do stand up and realise that 66/1 is very generous value.   He has recorded 3 T4’s here before and shot low scores in the process, so if you bring into play his good recent form, course form and the level head he possesses, you have a potential WGC champion in the making.

He also lies in 33rd for driving distance and 66th in GIR which is a lethal combination.  Plus, it is good fund watching Cabrera play – always with a smile on his face!

Paul Casey (100/1 Coral)

Back in form, now can he push on!

Back in form, now can he push on!

This feels great writing about Casey at such a high profile event. The Englishman slipped off the face of the earth after once being ranked 3rd in the world in 2009. Now regardless of form, swing and injury, you don’t just lose that talent. Sure enough a month ago Casey was back, storming to his first title in two years at the Irish Open. He eagled the 72nd hole to claim his victory in style. We watched all four days at what we will say, Casey was incredible off the tee. If he drives that well this week he will be up there on day 4.

Casey at Firestone has recorded 5 top 20’s including an 8th in ’08 and 4th in ’06. He will come here this week knowing he has what it takes to do well around here and knowing he is back to near his best. After all that victory was his 15th win as a professional.  His statistics are nothing stand-out on the European Tour, but he does rank 2nd in GIR and 21st in stroke average. At 100/1 it is a price where we see great value and one that could give us a nice little profit at the end of the week.

Martin Laird (100/1 various)

Martin Laird has a really odd forehead...

Martin Laird has a really odd forehead…

Our last pick is a slight gamble, but we got interested in Laird because he is showing signs that he can challenge alongside the elite in the game.  At the Open he was in contention until the 3rd round 81, when a 9 on the par 3 3rd ruined his hopes.  Obviously he did win at the Valero Texas Open a few months ago – his 3rd PGA Tour victory and his game could be suited for the Firestone course.  He has finished 29th, 11th and 16th in his 3 appearances here and when you think he can hit the ball long and straight – 55th for driving distance – he could put himself in great positions to attack the greens.

At 100/1 he does represent intriguing value and if he wants to fully assert himself in world golf, this would be the perfect starting block.

Quick Mention must go to Richard Sterne (150/1 Ladbrokes) who has been in fine form of late – 21st, 31st, 2nd and 22nd.  He can hit the ball a fair distance and his irons are up there with the best on the European Tour, whilst his putting has been impressive on his recent run.  If you do have any spare change, then it could be interesting to take a look at the South African!

ALSO

We have had a brief look at the Reno-Tahoe Open but decided against a preview.  There are some very interesting names among the field, including Padraig Harrington but the two we feel could have something to offer are Andres Romero (33/1 various) and Peter Uihlein (25/1).  Both are in good form, whilst Romero finished T3 here last year, so they both look great value!

The Open Championship 2013 Preview 2

Muirfield 2013Course: Muirfield Golf Links

Date: 18-21 July 2013

Current Champion: Ernie Els

1st Preview – The Open Championship Preview 1

NEW – Official Picks and Preview available here – The Open Championship Main Preview

Our first preview (above) touched on trends that we have used to pick out a few names that fit all the criteria for being the 2013 Open Champion. And from that, we have thrown out there a few names who we thought a couple of weeks ago will be in with a chance. This preview will be all about the course, getting to grips with Muirfield and really understanding what type of player is needed to play well around here. Preview 3 will be published early next week with detailed analysis of all our selections.

Please do check out two of our articles about the Open for Golf Monthly, who we have started writing for on a weekly basis!

The first one is about Sergio Garcia and his madness

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531615/the-curious-case-of-sergio-garcia.html

And the second one is about the ridiculous process of Open Qualifying. Enjoy!

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531565/golf-blog-the-open-qualifying.html

So what is Muirfield all about?

Well the course this year has been lengthened by 158 yards, now making it a 7,192 yard par 71. Muirfield is going to be tough and we’ve found an interesting quote that proves just that

“The rough has been cut down over the winter but will regenerate over the coming weeks. We will see the rough up and you are unlikely to win an Open Championship at Muirfield from the rough. The amount of rough is weather-dependent, but we will get plenty.” – R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson

You can debate whether the extra yardage will benefit the bigger hitters, but accuracy is going to be everything around Muirfield. And the common thing with all links courses, is wind. If you don’t know how to play in the elements, you will be seeing a lot of that Scottish rough. We also think that scrambling comes hand in hand with any Open. As far as we can remember, the winners have always had to scramble well for all 4 days, because it’s often those unlikely par saves that mean the most. And as you will see in the hole guide, there are a LOT of bunkers, so sand play needs to be at its best!

Muirfield – Hole by Hole

Incredible scenes back in '02 when the Open was last here

Incredible scenes back in ’02 when the Open was last here

From a betting perspective, it is always good to get to grips with the course, getting a sense of what your players will be facing. So we’re going to give you a quick run through of each hole. This is also to show you why we have decided to focus on the statistics that we have. Just like we did for our US Open preview, we have worked out the average drive of a pro golfer to be 290 yards. From this we can work out what yardage in theory the average drive will leave you.

Hole 1: Par 4 – 447 Yards

Nerves will be jangling and everyone will hear Ivor Robson’s unmistakeable voice announcing the players. A dog leg right, and apart from the obvious rough, the danger lies in the two left bunkers 222 and 305 yards down the left. Green is relatively easy.

Average drive leaves: 157 yards

Hole 2: Par 4 – 362 Yards

First of the two short par 4’s on the front 9. If wind is with, a few players’ eyes might light up. But most will take a wood or low iron and play conservative on this hole, allowing a full shot into the green. Bunkers lurk either side of the fairway at the 240 yard mark. For this reason we will lower the average drive on this hole. 4 bunkers to the right of the green will cause lots of problems.

Average drive leaves: 110 yards

Hole 3: Par 4 – 377 Yards

Another short par 4, the already tight fairway narrows at 290 yards with bunkers either side so again the driver will probably be staying in the bag, anything short of the left bunker will be perfect for the approach. A birdie-able par 4 if ever there was one at Muirfield, with just a wedge in and no real drama awaiting on the greens. Very accurate tee shot needed though.

Average drive leaves: 100 yards

Hole 4: Par 3 – 226 Yards

The 4th Green

The 4th Green

Longest par 3 on the course, and it’s not an easy one. The long yardage with wind blowing could mean a lot of missed greens. Scrambling will be paramount here, and there are bunkers front left and right for anyone who gets their yardage wrong.

Hole 5: Par 5 – 559 Yards

If the wind is with, a definite eagle opportunity with a short iron probably in hand for the 2nd shot. But accuracy is still needed, bunkers lurk on the left at 302 and 343 yards and there are three shorter on the right, with the earliest at 251 yards. A two tiered green awaits that could get pretty fast. This green backs onto the 11th green, and the bunkers around there will be in play for both.

Average drive leaves – 269 yards

Hole 6: Par 4 – 461 Yards

A real tough hole this one, the fairway is not really visible off the tee on this dog leg left. The fairway is tight and bunkers lurk at 230 and 259 yards. Players will try and go right but get it wrong and you will be chopping out from the rough.  There are some tricky run-off areas around the green and again scrambling will be key.

Average drive leaves – 171 yards

Hole 7: Par 3 – 184 Yards

Another difficult green to find and four pot bunkers guard the front and left. Steep run-off areas again mean scrambling is everything, as well as getting out of those bunkers. If the wind is against, par will be a great score on this hole.

Hole 8: Par 4 – 441 Yards

This is another menacing hole, with the fairway narrowing severely at 280 yards and bunkers all down the right side before it. A ridge 35 yards short of the front edge makes the green tough to see. The green slopes towards the back right bunker and good play from the sand will be needed.

Average drive leaves – 151 yards

Hole 9: Par 5 – 554 Yards

Should be lots of birdies on the 9th

The new, longer par 5 9th

This hole has received one of the biggest makeovers this year, extending the tee back around 60 yards. Wind will make anyone on the tee struggle and bunkers lie at 274 and 315 yards either side. A simple green awaits but 5 bunkers dominate the front of this green, making the two shot approach a tough one. Again, good play from sand will be needed.

Average drive leaves – 264 yards

Hole 10: Par 4 – 469 Yards

A longer par 4 and again the danger off the tee will lie in the bunkers. There are three at 238, 268 and 291 yards down the right side. Players will want to be going left as a result, but this will bring the rough into play. Accuracy therefore is crucial off the tee.  Scrambling should not be difficult around this green and no real problems lie on the surface either.

Average drive leaves – 179 yards

Hole 11: Par 4 – 387 Yards

This is one of the easier holes, a ridge at 205 yards make the tee shot blind but the fairway is wide enough to keep the ball in play. But bunkers are either side at 289, 302 and 319 yards which many will go in. The problem here is the small green which is well protected by 7 bunkers all around it. So you are going to have to get it close here.

Average drive leaves – 97 yards

Hole 12: Par 4 – 379 Yards

Bunkers not really in play off the drive, but the fairway narrows at about 270 yards. So you need to be accurate. The key here will be getting on the surface, with steep run-offs at the back and 5 bunkers down the right side. So scrambling and sand saves will be vital on the 12th.

Average drive leaves – 89 yards

Hole 13: Par 3 – 190 yards

The 13th. A good look at some of the tough bunkers out there

The 13th. A good look at some of the tough bunkers out there

This uphill par 3 will be tough like all of them, 2 bunkers on the left and 3 on the right. Throw the wind in there and it will make club choice tough. The bunkers are all deep and will require skill to get out. The green is long and narrow, and most will be more than happy with par.

Hole 14: Par 4 – 475 Yards

A downhill tee shot after the uphill 13th and bunkers offer the trouble down the left between 260 and 305 yards. Centre or just right will leave you with a perfect shot in. With it being a long hole, players will find themselves off the green, but the run off is lenient and getting up and down will not be too hard.

Average drive leaves – 185 yards

Hole 15: Par 4 – 448 Yards

A dogleg right that could more than likely be playing into the wind, which means the bunkers left at 245 yards and right at 281 yards will definitely be in play. As usual the fairway is tight and accuracy is needed. Bunkers are also short of the green so players need to be carrying those while more sand lies all around it. If you miss here you will be in sand.

Average drive leaves – 158 yards

Hole 16: Par 3 – 186 Yards

A great view of the 16th

A great view of the 16th

7 bunkers surround this green, and most of them are front which means hitting into the wind will make club choice imperative. The green will not offer too many problems, but getting onto the dance floor is what it’s all about on this hole.

Hole 17: Par 5 – 575 Yards

This is a tough dogleg left but get it right and it will offer up birdie and eagle chances. Players will want to stay right off the tee to avoid the 4 bunkers down the left side in the driving zone. People who go for the 3 shot approach will find it tough with 3 big bunkers around 100 yards from the front edge. The green is quite helpful and players will need to be under par on this hole.

Average drive leaves – 285 yards

Hole 18: Par 4 – 470 Yards

See you all DownThe18th!

See you all DownThe18th!

So DownThe18th they will all go. This is a tricky final hole as you would expect for the last at an Open. Bunkers are really in the driving zone at 283 and 302 yards down the left, and then at 265 yards on the right. Everyone will want to be in the fairway for this one. The green is sloped from back to front and the 2 bunkers left and right will be in the players’ mind. Scrambling and sand saves will be so vital on this one, with nerves and wind included.

Average drive leaves – 180 yards

So what statistics will you need to look at?

There are always the generic areas that you have to look at for any course. Driving accuracy, Greens in regulation (GIR) and Putting are always up there. Muirfield needs a few more specifics. Sand saves will be very crucial, as will Scrambling. Then after assessing the yardage on each hole, it is apparent Approach 150-175 yards and Approach from 75-100 yards is also going to have to be looked at. These are the MAIN ones, of course there will be more, but this should filter out enough players.

Who does this filter out?

The names that we will give you are purely because of their statistics, and no personal opinions have been put into these! We can only get hold of the specific approach statistics on the PGA Tour, so it’s only right we start there. If they fit at least half of the categories, we will show them below.

PGA Tour (WGR Order)

Tiger Woods – 40th GIR, 4th Putting, 22nd Sand, 7th 150-175

Justin Rose – 12th Dri Acc, 13th GIR, 11th Scram, 1st Sand, 3rd 75-100

Adam Scott – 18th GIR, 28th Sand, 29th 150-175, 1st 75-100

Brandt Snedeker – 27th Dri Acc, 14th GIR, 16th Putting, 29th Scram, 20th Sand, 14th 75-100

Phil Mickelson – 34th GIR, 11th Putting, 38th Sand, 3rd 150-175

Luke Donald – 29th Dri Acc, 7th Putting, 22nd Scram, 26th Sand

Lee Westwood – 30th Dri Acc, 9th Scram, 29th Sand, 36th 150-175

Charl Schwartzel – 28th GIR, 30th Putting, 10th 150-175, 4th 75-100

Henrik Stenson – 6th Dri Acc, 3rd GIR, 20th 150-175, 37th 75-100

Billy Horschel – 40th Dri Acc, 23rd GIR, 24th Putting, 45th 150-175, 28th 75-100

Tim Clark – 3rd Dri Acc, 34th Scram, 50th Sand, 18th 150-175, 12th 75-100

K.J. Choi – 37th Dri Acc, 26th Putting, 24th Scram, 2nd Sand, 42nd 75-100

European Tour (WGR Order)

Justin Rose – 15th GIR, 25th Scram, 2nd Sand

Matteo Manassero – 32nd Dri Acc, 11th Scram, 12th Sand, 30th Putting

George Coetzee – 13th Scram, 3rd Sand, 20th Putting

Alexander Noren – 52nd GIR, 9th Scram, 15th Sand, 10th Putting

Marcus Fraser – 7th Scram, 25th Sand, 4th Putting

We’ve highlighted in red a few that we will take into consideration a lot for our final selections…

Our 3rd and final preview will be with you early next week!

Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open 2013

Many of the pros are calling this the perfect preparation for next week’s Open Championship which is exactly what it is. Held at Castle Stuart Golf Links, it will be a week for the shot makers out there with wide undulating fairways and large greens. Course management is always going to be crucial and knowing how to bounce back from those inevitable bogeys is big. The course will be playing 7,050 yards, so it’s a short track.

This is definitely one of the flagship events on The European Tour, with American cult hero Phil Mickelson making the trip across the pond to hone his skills for next week at Muirfield. (Our Preview 2 will be with you tomorrow!) The Scottish Open is going to become the first European Tour event to get regular coverage in America, with a deal struck with NBC to show around six hours of live coverage on the final two days, as well as highlights of the first two. Definitely a step in the right direction for a tour many think is flailing.

Castle Stuart, a great links course and perfect build up to The Open

Castle Stuart, a great links course and the perfect build up to The Open

At Castle Stuart emphasis is heavy on scrambling and you need to be coming into this week with a good short game. We say it every week, but GIR will be vital as the more chances you give yourself on these tough greens, the better. Driving accuracy will not be as crucial (Jeev Milkha Singh ranked 52nd on the way to his win last year) but straight drives will breed confidence on any links course. Anyone who putts well over the four days will be in with a shout.

Pretty much all bookmakers are paying 6 places this week, so be sure to take advantage.

Henrik Stenson (20/1 Various)

Has the perfect game to dominate this field

Has the perfect game to dominate this field

The Swede is one many will fancy not just for this week but for the Open as well. He has the perfect game for links golf and has shown that with 3 top 5 finishes on links courses in the last few years. He’s still regarded as one of the top golfers around and he is definitely due a win. Stenson finished T8 here last year, just 3 shots off the lead and ranked 10th in putts per round. We can confidently say Henrik is in much better shape coming into this and could arguably run away with it if his ‘A’ game turns up. His last appearance on the European Tour saw a very respectable T10 at the BMW Open where he ranked 2nd in GIR and 7th in driving accuracy. But his form at the moment can be summed up by his quite outrageous statistics from the PGA Tour. 6th in driving accuracy, 3rd GIR, 18th scoring average, 3rd total driving and 2nd in ball striking. And it’s not bad on the European Tour either… 9th GIR, 14th driving distance and 18th stroke average. Now the ONLY thing that could let the Swede down this week is the putter. It is the only reason he hasn’t won this year, but fortunes have to change at some point. And his consistent putting here in 2012 is enough to suggest he can rekindle that spark on the greens.

Soren Kjeldsen (66/1 Various)

Is that Luke Donald? No it's our man Kjeldsen

Is that Luke Donald? No it’s our man Kjeldsen

Other than Mr McDowell last week, one man who really caught our eye was Kjeldsen. He was always in there with a shout and played some outstanding stuff on the Sunday, just a poor few holes on back 9 cost him a six-figure pay-out. But his game is right there at the moment, going from 68th three weeks ago, to 18th in Ireland and then his top 10 in France. When you combine that with his 5th place last year, we can’t help but be impressed. Last year Soren was 1st in driving accuracy, 8th in GIR and 21st putts per round. It’s hard to see how he didn’t win playing that well! But he will take confidence from that and also the fact he is consistent across the board statistically on the tour this year. The Dane also ranked 6th in both driving accuracy and GIR last week, so if it’s shot makers you want, Kjeldsen is your man. Will need the putter to get hot but we can definitely see it happening with every other aspect of his game in great shape.

Alexander Noren (40/1 Coral)

This is your moment Alex, don't let us down

This is your moment Alex, don’t let us down

It seems at this time in the season we are backing so many players two or even three weeks in a row. But Noren fits the bill perfectly this week so we’re willing to brush last week’s missed cut under the DownThe18th carpet. Before last week, the Swede had been in superb form recording back-to-back 4th place finishes. His game was right there but just didn’t go that step further and grab the win. This week Alex is coming onto a course where he recorded a T3 finish last year, and that will be firmly in his mind. The missed cut last week will have given him an extra few days to really fine tune his links course skills. Amazingly last year he only ranked 62nd in accuracy off the tee at Castle Stuart, but his putter was working overtime. The Swede was 5th in putts per GIR and 8th putts per round. And if there is one part of his game that we have really enjoyed of late, it is his putting. So that is a lethal combination. We have highlighted scrambling as key, and Noren ranks 9th for 2013, as well as 4th stroke average, 9th putts per GIR, 10th putts per round and 15th sand saves! He’s playing as good as ever and we don’t see why he can’t at least go close.

Simon Dyson (66/1 Various)

That's the face of a man who enjoys links golf

That’s the face of a man who enjoys links golf

We’ll get the puns out the way first. Dyson will be looking to clean up this week. We’re expecting him to blow away the field. Dyson will do a job on any surface. We could go on… but Simon Dyson is an infectious character who is a joy to watch out there, wearing his heart on his sleeve. And if anyone enjoys links golf, it’s this man. On links courses over the past few years, Dyson has 3 wins, 2 top 5’s and 6 top 10’s. And Dyson is a confidence player, one good performance will lead to another for him. His career has been in spells, winning two tournaments in ’06, two in ’09 and then again in ’11. So if history serves us right, he is due one in 2013. And he’s had two more than respectable finishes here at Castle Stuart finishing 29th and 25th. But like we say, Simon is a confidence player and he will be absolutely buzzing after his 5th place finish last week in France and will be looking to carry that into this week. He’s also well known for his shot making and course management, so we’re quietly confident about the Dyson this week.

Morten Orum Madsen (150/1 Ladbrokes)

This week has a VERY Scandinavian feel to it, something tells us they enjoy links golf over there. The man from Denmark and Thomas Bjorn’s home club is fast becoming one of our favourite players. But Madsen is definitely showing promise on links courses, which is why we really he like him this week. His recent finishes on them have been: T2 Madeira Islands Open, T51 Open de Espana (having been top 10 after the first day) and T11 Madeira Islands 2012. Now combine that with a 28th at Merion for the US Open and we have a player here who knows a lot about course management. Statistically he is 18th in driving accuracy and 22nd in distance, which is a deadly combination for links courses. His form is nothing to write home about but he’s not at these odds for no reason. Madsen is definitely someone who represents value for money this week in our opinion. 

AT&T National 2013

Before reading, please do check out our first weekly write up for Golf Monthly Magazine – its a different look at Rose and his US Open win…

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531549/golf-blog-rose-aftermath.html

After quite a few weeks on tough, short tracks where emphasis was high on accuracy, we now move to Maryland on the long 7,500 yard course at Congressional Country Club. Many of you will remember the US Open being held here in 2011 where Rory Mcilroy stormed to his maiden major victory. Rain played a big part that week, with the greens and fairways being a lot softer as a result, which allowed the Irishman to win by 8 shots on -16!

US Open 2011 Congressional Leaderboard

Now the weather this week is again expected to be poor, with thunder and rain predicted for all 4 days. (Congressional Weather Forecast) So this will mean soft greens which will also mean low scores. The only people to really suffer from the weather will be the shorter hitters, so they will have to make it up on the greens!

With the US Open being held here 2 years ago, there is a vast array of material explaining what Congressional is all about. One chart we really liked the look of is this (Courtesy of Daily Mail):

US Open 2011 Preview

Consistent iron play and GIR statistics will all be needed this week, but most importantly will be putting. With the greens so large, 3 putting will be seen right through the field. So for this reason, the statistics that we have looked very closely at are proximity to hole, 3-putt avoidance and putting from 5-10’ (There will be a LOT of these length putts this week). But with the weather this week, you really have to look at distance off the tee as well.

Jason Day (16/1 Various)

He is too good to only have 1 PGA title

He is too good to only have 1 PGA title

When you actually look at the ‘top’ golfers in the field this week, Jason Day really does stand out. Rose and Mahan are likely to be drained after a tough couple of weeks and nobody knows really how Snedeker is feeling. Adam Scott would be the one worry, but you can argue Day is actually in better form. Jason was 3rd at the Masters and 2nd two weeks ago at Merion and has only finished outside the top 50 once all year, back in February. He has no missed cuts to his name and five top 10 finishes. But it’s his taste for majors that we really like, with Congressional being a major track. The Aussie has recorded four top 3 major finishes in three years, one of which was here at Congressional in 2011, where he finished 2nd behind Mcilroy. It is quite amazing how he only has 1 PGA Tour title to his name, which was all the way back in 2010. But you really have to fancy him to get title number 2 this week, especially as he finished 8th last year in this tournament. Now his statistics are perhaps not as good as our other picks, but with players of his calibre on a course he likes, that should not be a problem. In 2012 at Congressional, he did rank T3 in driving distance, 2nd in GIR and averaged 1.8 putts per green.   A nice statistic we do like, is he ranks 10th in carry distance this year, which will be needed on the soft fairways. But with no real ‘big’ names here other than Rose, Snedeker and Scott, Day really will fancy his chances this week.

Fredrick Jacobson (66/1 Ladbrokes)

Freddie is a demon putter

Freddie is a demon putter

Now Freddie is a real favourite of ours and has yet to register a win this year despite playing really consistently. We’ve highlighted putting as a key area this week, and the Swede is one of the first names we think of when it comes to ability on the greens. And his statistics will back us up. 12th in 3-putt avoidance and 29th in putting 5-10’ is very impressive. But it’s the whole package that we like with him, Jacobson finished 14th when the US Open was held here whilst he registered a 2nd place back in 2008. And after not playing here last year, he will be looking to continue that trend. He ranks 11th in proximity to the hole as well, so pair that with his putting and it makes for a very tasty combination. People with good scoring average have tended to do well here over the years, and he ranks 8th in that category as well. Freddie finished off with a bogey-free 68 at the Travellers last week, so he’s in good touch and will be raring to go.

Graham DeLaet (40/1 Various)

With 2013 being effectively Graham’s third year on the PGA Tour (after injury blighted most of 2011) you really have to think this is the year for him to get his first win on tour. All the signs are there having not missed a cut for nearly 3 months now whilst registering two top 10’s. Last week he went so close, being in the final pairing on day 4 but eventually missed out on the play-off by 1 shot! But this will definitely spur him on for this week, and with the statistics he possesses, he could go one better. The Canadian ranks 11th in proximity to hole, 16th scoring average, 1st in GIR and 46th in putts 5-10’. And he really can strike a ball, ranking 9th in driving distance on the PGA Tour this year. Here’s a few more, 2nd total driving, 1st ball striking, 5th total birdies, 3rd par 5 performance and 7th carry distance. He’s in the form of his life and did make the cut here last year, so he has experience around Congressional.  He will get a win soon, so hopefully it is here!

Ryan Palmer (50/1 Various)

Palmer has been Mr Consistency of late

Palmer has been Mr Consistency of late

Just like the previous two picks, you will have seen a lot of Palmer on our site this year. And more often than not, has got us a return. His consistency this year has to be a rewarded with a victory soon and why not here. His last 3 finishes at Congressional have been 15th, 21st (US Open) and 22nd. Other than a missed cut at Merion, Palmer has finished 4th, 14th, 33rd and 5th in his last four starts which you will struggle to find any better. So the course form and current form combined really does give off positive signals. As for his statistics, they do reflect the kind of form he is in. 12th scoring average, 10th driving distance, 51st proximity to hole, 22nd 3-putt avoidance, 35th strokes-gained putting, 33rd GIR and 6th in total birdies. We keep saying it, but just like the rest, Palmer really does have to bag a win soon and it could be here. 50/1 is great value as well!

Chez Reavie (150/1 Coral)

It’s always a prestigious spot being DownThe18th’s outsider for the week, and Chez has just edged out Canada’s David Hearn this time around, purely because of his experience around Congressional. But statistically you will not get any better than Reavie at the kind of odds he finds himself at. He ranks 19th in 3-putt avoidance, 5th proximity to hole, 35th scoring average and 28th ball striking. One worry could be his distance off the tee (280 yards average) but he makes up for that in accuracy, where he ranks 4th!   And as we mentioned, his form is more than respectable, 45th (US Open), 48th in ’09, 40th in ’08 and then 15th last year. Definitely someone who has the ability to do well this week.

William Chesney Reavie

William Chesney Reavie