BMW Championship 2013

Before we write, we would like to take this opportunity for you all to check out the website of a fellow golf guru, who has had a successful 2013 in various sports betting!

Take a peak at the golf only site when you get a chance!

http://www.golfpicks.net/

It’s crunch time in the FedEx Play-Offs now as the final 70 golfers have battled their way through to compete in this week’s third leg. It is arguably one of the most exciting weeks of golf with battles being fought up and down the field as everyone scrambles to try and make the top 30 and gain a ticket to the end of season Tour Championship.

Our most-backed player Henrik Stenson finally bagged a win two weeks ago and nobody can say he did not deserve it. He has been the best player in the world over the past couple of months, and that’s with the likes of Mickelson and Woods on top form! There will be close interest in the current top five players in the FedEx Play-Off Rankings (Stenson, Woods, Scott, Kuchar, DeLaet) with the people occupying those spots automatically being able to win the whole thing with victory at East Lake next week. But there will be equal interest in people outside the top 30 looking to sneak their way in.

The BMW trophy

The stylish BMW Trophy

What is the course like? Well the Conway Farms Golf Club is new to the PGA Tour and will be hosting its first event this week, so we have no course form to look at (although this is Luke Donald’s home course!). The course is a links track and is very reminiscent of your average Scottish links course with undulating fairways, masses of fescue rough and lots and lots of sand. It’s a tight little 7,216 yard track. The course will need a lot of thinking and the ball strikers out there we feel will ultimately prevail. So people who have done well on tougher courses such as Crooked Stick are to be looked at as well as of course, links form.

With our picks this week, we have looked for value which is tough in a field where there are 9 golfers at 22/1 or below. If any one of those 9 walks away with this, we wish them all the best. But we are confident in our boys and should hopefully get you a nice return. WE HOPE!

Graham DeLaet (40/1 Various)

He is Mr Play-Offs it would appear

He is Mr Play-Offs it would appear

For the Canadian to be getting our number one slot coming into such a big tournament really does show how far this guy has come. With seven top 10’s already to his name in 2013, 5th place in the FedEx Standings and a place at the President’s Cup, all that is missing is that elusive first win!

With this being quite an unknown course, players who are just striking the ball well and being consistent are going to be the safe bets this week. And DeLaet is right up there, with 3rd and 2nd place finishes in each of the previous FedEx events. But if it is ball striking and accuracy that you want on this course, then look no further. He ranks 1st in ball striking, 1st in total driving, 3rd GIR, 28th driving accuracy, 20th driving distance and 34th scrambling. We’re exciting by DeLaet and this could definitely be his week.

Zach Johnson (40/1 Various)

Again this was a really easy and obvious pick for us this week. One of the greatest ‘plotters’ in the game and will be excited at the prospect of pitting his game against a new course. His well-documented lack of distance off the tee has forced him into becoming one of the greatest with the short irons in the game, and we reckon there will be a lot of those 75-100 yard distance left this week.

Prior to missing the Barclays to be at his brother’s wedding (We’ve got a lot of time for that) Johnson was up there with the Stenson’s and Woods’ in terms of consistency, with five top 10’s finishes in a row, four of those would have returned you some each way money. The American looked solid last week without ever challenging but a course like this will definitely take his eye and we can see him coming into his own over the four days.

Hunter Mahan (40/1 Various)

Perfect for this course

Perfect for this course

It appears since the birth of his child, performances on the course have not been what they once were a couple of months ago. He had recorded two top 10’s and WD from a tournament he ultimately could have won having been top after two days. But life as Daddy Mahan looks to be back on track and he has steadily been getting back to his consistent best, culminating in a 13th place finish last week.

All children aside, Mahan is known as one of the most accurate and consistent ball strikers in the game and will be able to take his swing onto any course. He will relish the challenge just like Johnson and will be more than happy taking irons off the tee all week. It is this sort of player that you will want to be looking at this week. Statistically he ranks 16th ball striking, 29th driving accuracy, 9th total driving, 25th strokes gained-putting and 5th GIR % below 125 yards. Definitely has the game for this place and is peaking just at the right time.

Ian Poulter (50/1 Various)

Playing well and will enjoy the course

Playing well and will enjoy the course

As we have mentioned, this course will have a British links feel to it and Poulter should feel right at home. Again he is one of those players renown for the accuracy and ball striking and will adapt to this course with ease.

What you also have to take into account is Poulter’s ability to play under pressure. He will know a good performance this week puts him in the frame for a lucrative week at East Lake and will shoot him into the top 30. What really brought the Englishman to our attention was his fine display two weeks ago where he eventually finished 9th, and but for a double bogey on the last would have been a lot higher! His ball striking was in fine touch and ranked inside the top 10 for both driving accuracy and GIR.

Poulter limits the amount of tournaments he plays every year and has done quite well to make it this far considering the people around him have played in more points scoring tournaments, so don’t be scared by his low ranking in the FedEx, Poults is pure quality.     

Graeme McDowell (80/1 Various)

Great price for a great player

Great price for a great player

The price that he finds himself at is still a weird one considering how dominant he has been this year, and yet Lee Westwood is half the odds… But regardless, we have thought there is no harm in plumping for the Irishman, with just a small stake still offering us good returns.

The reasons being this course could suit his eye just fine. McDowell loves nothing more than plotting his way around a course, finding ways to manipulate birdie chances when he can. He won the Open De France on the European Tour just a couple of months back where accuracy was the key and he won quite convincingly in the end. Now we understand his form is not the best, but his last two victories this year have come off the back of missed cuts! And we can’t forget his win on the PGA Tour this year either, the RBC Heritage was on a similar 7,100 yard course and he eventually overcame Webb Simpson in a play-off. For the game that he brings to the table and the price he is at, we can’t ignore this one.

Quick Mention:

We do love a bit of course form at DownThe18th and as mentioned in the preview this course is where Luke Donald (40/1 Various) has been a member for over a DECADE! This we just could not ignore. Chicago is his adopted home and he has played plenty of rounds at the Conway Farms Golf Course. It’s a course where your short game has to be on it and there is no better around than Luke. He even held the course record here until a couple of years ago when they lengthened it! Watch out for the Englishman.

 

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The Barclays 2013

It has been one hell of a fascinating season, with shocks, breakthroughs, Tiger, Rory and three 1st time major champions.  Now, the golfing world turns its attention to the final stretch, to tie up the FedEx Cup in a 4-tournament playoff system.

And for some extra opinion on the FedEx Cup system, please do check out our weekly blog post for Golf Monthly magazine.

‘Its All About The Money – FedEx Cup’

A picturesque course with views of the Statue of Liberty

A picturesque course with views of the Statue of Liberty

The 1st of these events is at the stunning Liberty National Golf Course for The Barclays.  The top 125 in the rankings will be embarking upon New Jersey, all trying to earn a mouth-watering $10 million.  It is utterly ridiculous that these sort of sums are being shelled out, but it has helped to attract the cream of the crop during the final few months.

The course itself is a 7,400-yard par 71 and will be a difficult proposition for the field due to its length and narrow fairways.  If the breeze whirls off the coast it will be even tougher. With quick, small, bentgrass greens, putting will be vital and they could be compared to Augusta’s famous surfaces (obviously not sloping as much!).

Heath Slocum won here when The Barclays last came to town in 2009 and his victory came about with over 80% accuracy off the tee and even with its obvious length, that proves how important it is to be in the fairway as well.  Tee to green ball strikers will run supreme here and we do feel long hitters in a bit of form will have the advantage.

All in all it will be an exciting week, with picturesque views of the famous Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline.  We are yet to see this true ‘playoff excitement’ but lets hope that this first event brings us plenty of thrills and spills!

Jason Day (33/1 various)

Two of our picks, Jason Day and Luke Donald joking together

Two of our picks, Jason Day and Luke Donald joking together

We must say before we go on that it was a very difficult decision to leave out Rory McIlroy this week.  At 20/1 we just felt it was too short to warrant an e/w bet of big significance. We are sure he will do well this week though!

As for Jason Day, he is a phenomenal talent but has had a really peculiar year.  He has performed so well at the majors with a 3rd at Augusta, T2 at the US Open and T8 at the PGA a couple of weeks ago.  He had chances to win in all 3 but never had the bottle to properly finish the job and it has seemed that way in most tournaments where has been in contention this year.  When he plays well he is one of the elite, but there are understandable question marks about what goes on between his ears when the heat is on.  So why should we be plumping for the Australian?  Because we do feel he is very close to getting over the line and he has had enough experiences this year to understand where he is going wrong and improve.

He will also be on a real high after his heroics on the Sunday at Oak Hill – he charged up the leaderboard to put himself into contention and he is one of the few who are yet to miss a cut all year – that is impressive.

He did play here in 2009 when he finished T12 and that gives us extra confidence, even more so when you think how his game has developed and matured since then.  His a-game is a perfect fit for this course – a long hitting (21st driving distance) putting machine (12th 1-putt %, 26th putts per round). His irons accuracy stats do not fully reflect how good he actually is, because when he gets going he can be so pinpoint (1st for GIR when he was 6th at the AT&T Pebble Beach).

We have plenty of faith in Day to finally get that win and if he plays anything like we know he can, he will be in with a great chance.

Keegan Bradley (40/1 StanJames)

Keegan looking as perplexed as usual

Keegan looking as perplexed as usual

Another superb young talent, there is no doubting Keegan Bradley has carved himself into one of the elite golfers in the world.

His game can be absolutely devastating when everything clicks (on the flipside it can be just as disastrous when it isn’t!) and we feel this could be a course that can showcase his talents perfectly.

He didn’t play here in 2009 but with his long hitting and relatively accurate driving he will find good positions from the fairway often – 7th driving distance, 81st driving accuracy and 6th total driving.  Whilst his irons are very strong (59th GIR) and once his putter decides to work, he has the ability to hole anything (49th strokes gained putting).  Tee to green he has everything and there a few better ball strikers, so he should be challenging here.

Plus, what makes him even more exciting is the fact that he has found form again.  T15 at The Open where he was relatively consistent, T2 at the WGC Bridgestone where he perhaps should have won and a T19 at the PGA.  His 66 on the final day will have given him a lot of confidence going into this week and we have every faith he can replicate it over the 4 days at Liberty National.

Come on you quirky, strange and wonderful weirdo.

Jim Furyk (50/1 Ladbrokes)

We are sure that DownThe18th favourite Jim ‘Jimbo’ Furyk will be a very popular pick among gamblers and experts this week and it is understandable why.  He has performed superbly in the past few weeks, recording 3 consecutive top 10s including that wonderful 2nd place at Oak Hill.  Yes, he could have won, but Jason Dufner was so irresistible on the Sunday, constantly firing in perfect shots, not giving anyone a peak.  But throughout the four days Furyk was nearly perfect himself.  We all know how awful he can be with a putter, yet he seemed to hole ridiculous putts on a regular basis – at vital times as well.

The 5-10 footers have always thrown us off Jimbo sometimes, but he persistently chose to ignore previous form on the greens and perform miracles.  Let alone the unerring accuracy of his approach play.  His irons look in great shape at the moment and as a ball strikers course, he could really attack the pins and give himself opportunities regularly.  He may not be long off the tee but he lies in 8th for driving accuracy, 31st for GIR and 1st in proximity to the hole, so he will usually get there safely and accurately.

He was also T15 here in 2009, so has some sort of form on the course and with his recent performances, Jimbo could be in for the money once again.

Luke Donald (55/1 PaddyPower)

Luke Donald is one of those irritating English sportsmen who promise so much and have so much, yet sometimes just don’t deliver.  There is a reason he got to number 1 in the world yet there is also a reason he is yet to win a major – because his head gets in the way.  He finished T8 at the US Open even though he should have challenged more and he has missed the cut at the previous two.  However, The Barclays is a big tournament that has nowhere near the intensity of a major, but the lure of a lot of money.

We just feel that, even though he has been inconsistent of late, he has a chance to prove himself against the best once more.  This is the sort of tournament where someone like Donald does very well and shows his true class.

He did finish T31 when it was last held here in 2009 and even though he is not a long hitter, much like Furyk, he relies on his approaches and unlike Furyk, he has superb short game prowess.

Below 125 yards, there are few better and if he gets himself into the right positions, he will have the chance to attack the pins like we all know he can do.  Considering his lack of consistency this year, the fact he is 55th for driving accuracy, 59th in proximity to the hole, 21st in 1-putt % and 5th in putts per round is very encouraging.

He will not be afraid of the daunting fairways and greens, we just hope he is not afraid of the leaderboard come Sunday!

Matt Jones 150/1 Coral)

Matt Jones looking useful

Matt Jones looking useful

Australian golfers have had a successful 2013, which all kicked of with Adam Scotts heroic win at Augusta.  On many occasions we have seen a cheeky Aussie flag next to a name at the top of leaderboards and our 5th pick, Matt Jones has been one of them recently.

T2 at the Greenbrier Classic, T7 at the John Deere Classic, T40 at the PGA (after a 68 final day) and last week he finished T5 at the Wyndham Championship.  He shot a miraculous 62 on the Sunday, which will give him so much confidence going into this weeks tournament.  His recent form has warranted a deserved place at the first playoff event and there is no reason he can’t continue it at Liberty National.

He is a big hitter – 45th in driving distance, accurate off the tee – 44th driving accuracy and 7th total driving, whilst his approach play is also impressive – 40th GIR.  The fact that his putting stats are just as consistent – 48th strokes gained putting – is a remarkable sign of how efficient he is from tee to green.  There is no reason Jones shouldn’t be up there come Sunday and if he gets his game going, he could be an interesting outsider.

Rory Sabbatini (125/1 Coral)

The wonderfully bizarre Rory Sabbatini.

The wonderfully bizarre Rory Sabbatini.

The only way to describe our 6th pick is curiosity.  Rory Sabbatini has certainly had bizarre career. He finished T2 at the Masters in 2007 when he could have won, has 6 PGA Tour titles and he has created controversy for some of his outrageous outbursts along the way. (Just type in Rory Sabbatini outburst into google and a whole world of fun opens up!)

He then hit some really awful form until the past few months he has started showing signs of recovery with 3 top 10s in his last 6, including a T12 and T17.  He could be on a mini revival and having sneaked inside the top 125, he will have nothing to lose on a course that could suits his eye.  44th in driving distance, 18th for GIR and 12th in proximity to the hole all add up to an encouraging player who could challenge for a place as one of the ‘randomers’ we often see.

Few spare pennies? You know the rest…

John Deere Classic

One week before The Open Championship, many players will either be in Europe for the Scottish Open or preparing for a links style challenge that this tournament State side will simply not give.

Since 2000TPC Deere Run has been the host course and is a 7,268 yard par 71 with nearly 8- bunkers and 3 water hazards coming into play and bentgrass greens and fairways.

TPC Deere Run. Stupid name, clever course, easy scoring.

TPC Deere Run. Stupid name, clever course, easy scoring.

It has often been considered an easy scoring place – ranking 42nd out of 49 in difficulty on the PGA Tour last year, meaning the winner will have to shoot very low to stand any chance. 

For us, putting and GIR are the most crucial stats, alongside scoring averages – to win you will need to attack pins and hole your putts!

Steve Stricker obviously has incredible course form, winning 3 years on the trot before Zach Johnson stole his crown last year and both will be teeing up this year.  Could be an interesting week, but anyone who has a place at Muirfield will not want to be exerting too much come Sunday evening, which has to be taken into consideration.

Keegan Bradley (25/1 Various)

The awkward stylings of Mr.Bradley

The awkward stylings of Mr.Bradley

Keegan Bradley has had a peculiar year, dipping in and out of form, showing brilliance at times and bizarreness the rest.

He went on a run of four top 10s in a row, before missing 3 cuts in his last 7 tournaments, although that included a 2nd place at the Byron Nelson. Confusing? You bet.

His last outing was at the Travelers where he did shoot 3 rounds in the 60s on the way to a T18 finish.  So why do we feel we should be backing him for a tournament he has not played at before?

Because he has the class and potential to destroy the course.

Whilst many people will be saying how important course form is (including us in some ways) last year, both Scott Brown and Luke Guthrie found top 7s in their first outing here and no offence to them, Bradley is in a different league.

He is driving the ball longer this year, currently in 8th on the PGA Tour stats, which means he will have several short iron approaches to the pins and he has hit 93.3% of the greens from inside 75 yards (18th in the rankings).

Because this is a course where low shooting is so crucial, players will need to attack greens and he is one of the more forward thinking golfers – 3rd in going for the green.  Therefore his scoring stats come as no surprise – 17th in birdie average, 15th in scoring average and 16th for rounds in the 60s.

For us, he has struggled on the greens at times this year, but it is no surprise that when he has played well, putts have not stopped rolling in and he does lie in 42nd for strokes gained putting and 23rd in 3-putt avoidance.

If, he gets in a flow and decides to throw everything at this tournament, then there is no doubting he could win it at a canter, but a lot of it depends on how he sees this in terms of The Open next week.

But, not for the first time, in Keegan we trust.

Ryan Moore (33/1 Various)

Moore shot 4 solid rounds in the 60s last year to finish T8 but he was never really in contention on the Sunday.  He is yet to miss a cut at this venue and he will gain confidence from his recent showings – T7 at the Travelers and before a MC at Merion, he had a T13 finish at the Memorial.  He is a class player when he is in full flow and with that recent surge, he should be excited to get on to a course he has played well at before.

Stats wise he may not fit the bill completely, but across the board he is relatively consistent and after some woeful performances mid-season you would not expect anything else. Lying in 46th for 1-putt percentage, 55th strokes gained putting and 72nd in proximity to the hole, whilst he is 24th for driving accuracy.

Considering his talent and liking for the course, this could be an important week for Moore and we have every faith he will be challenging come Sunday evening!

Brendon De Jonge (50/1 StanJames)

The biggest, baddest, baldest nut on the PGA Tour.

The biggest, baddest, baldest nut on the PGA Tour.

If you have been following us this year, you will notice a few players that we just keep plugging for, knowing that they will win eventually, it is just a matter of which week.  (Paul Casey we are looking at you) Brendon De Jonge is certainly one of them but we feel this really could be the week.

He has impressive form at Deere Run, 19th last year, T7 in 2010 and in 2011 he was 2nd going into the final day before a 74 ruined his chances, eventually finishing T7 again.

He did shoot a 63 2 years ago whilst 4 rounds in the 60s last year all prove his liking for the course.

He has been in up and down form, not able to find a top 10 for a number of weeks now, but he has often been close before trailing away at the weekend, usually due to poor putting.  To say this is last chance saloon is underestimating the extremity of how we feel about the Zimbabwean.  We just say trust us!

As for stats, he is a perfect fit for this challenge, 32nd in strokes gained putting, 28th in scoring av. 1st for rounds in the 60s, whilst we all know how good he is tee to green.  38th in driving accuracy, 20th GIR, 16th in ball striking and 66th in proximity to the hole.

Back in 2011 5 of the top 6 were in the top 30 for GIR inside 75 yards and De Jonge lies in 17th for this category.

Basically, one last chance De Jonge. Do not let us down

Bryce Molder (100/1 StanJames)

Admittedly, Bryce Molder does not have the most incredible course form, but 2 30th places out of 3 is not the worst return.  (Especially considering he WD last year)

Whilst his form has not been great of recent times, a 67, 66 last week will give him an enormous amount of confidence going into a tournament where the course should really suit him. If his game is on…

12th in 1-putt percentage, 15th in 3-putt avoidance and 9th in strokes gained putting prove how incredible he has been with his putter, the only worry being whether his irons will get him into a scoring position.

He lies in 9th for rounds in the 60s and 58th in scoring av. Whilst he is 43rd in driving accuracy and crucially 55th for GIR inside 75 yards.

When you piece together all those stats, you would be foolish not to think about backing him, it’s just whether he can put it all together and get his irons working fully.

JJ Henry (175/1 Bet365)

J.J Henry looking rather confused at the blue lighting around him.  He will not be confused when he is winning come Sunday...

J.J Henry looking rather confused at the blue lighting around him. He will not be confused when he is winning come Sunday…

JJ Henry has also not been in the greatest form of late with 2 MC in a row but before that he did record a T5 finish at the Travelers which he will still hopefully be remembering!  Especially as TPC Deere Run has seen Henry produce some solid displays – 13th last year after putting himself into a good position after the first two rounds and a T5 in 2009, when he shot 4 rounds in the 60s.

Everything will depend on how he gets his putter working this week, because tee to green he is very proficient on a regular basis – 25th for GIR, 31st driving accuracy, 30th ball striking and 60th for GIR inside 75 yards.  Even with his poor putting at times, he does lie in 58th for the 3-putt avoidance and 77th for rounds in the 60s, which proves he has the capabilities to shoot low, but admittedly all of his game needs to be in tune and flowing.

But isn’t that the point in backing outsiders? They are high odds for a reason and you just never know!

Travelers Championship

Well here we are after a weekend of incredibly tense, exciting, gruelling golf, we were left with winner Justin Rose, who became the first Englishman since Sir Nick Faldo in 1996 to win a major.  Even though he pushed out our man Phil Mickelson, (and cost us quite a bit of money!) we could not help but feel emotional as one of our favourites picked up a very deserved trophy and gave a speech of genuine class.  A true champion.

He is supposed to be lining up for this weeks Travellers Championship, however the likelihood of seeing Rose hitting any shots come Thursday is very slim, as is Hunter Mahan after his exertions.  To be fair, most of the other US Open players will tee up, therefore making it a very competitive field – names such as Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley.  There are plenty of players to look at, although the odds are inconsistent throughout, which is where we will hopefully come in and discover a little gem!

The beautiful TPC River Highlands course

The beautiful TPC River Highlands course

The course itself was one of the ‘short’ tracks we looked at as part of our US Open research.  At 6,841 yards, TPC River Highlands invites the best short iron players and putters to shoot as low as possible under the par 70.  It is consistently ranked as one of the easier courses on Tour and you can expect low scores within the top 20.  There are over 110 bunkers and 5 water hazards, making previous course knowledge important – so the players recognise where to hit their approach shots and safely attack pins but ultimately the guys who can shoot low, have a ridiculous wedge game and can sink putts will end up winning come Sunday.

Jason Dufner (25/1 StanJames)

Dufner will hopefully be getting ecstatic this weekend

Dufner will hopefully be getting ecstatic this weekend

As your archetypal laidback American has not had the year many thought he would have done after a stellar 2012, which included 2 wins and 7 top 10s.  He has only missed 2 cuts all year, however there has only been 1 top 10.

But that was at last weeks US Open after a phenomenal –3 final day, propelling him up 21 places.  What has seemed to be letting him down this year is his putting, yet on Sunday he was holing everything with ease on very difficult greens.  The surfaces at River Highlands will not be anywhere near as challenging and if he can continue that form, he could really attack the leaderboard.  Even with his lack of top 10s, his short iron game has never waned, whilst tee to green accuracy is as good as it was 12 months ago.  With the short nature of this course, his wedge work could be very influential – 10th in GIR from 100-125 yards, 44th inside 125 yards and 26th in 150-175 yards.

John Rollins (40/1 Coral)

37-year old John Rollins has had a misleading year when you look at his finishes.  He has only missed 4 cuts and in the tournaments he has made the weekend, only twice has he finished outside the top 24.  However, there has only been 2 top 10s and charges on the real top end of the leaderboard, but what is exciting is that they have both come in the last 2 appearances.  At the Crowne Plaza Invitational he shot a 63 on the first day, but when you haven’t won a tournament since 2009, going wire-to-wire was always going to be a difficult challenge – eventually finishing T4.  Then his T6 at the FedEx St.Jude Classic warranted only one round (the Thursday again) outside the 60s.  He has shot 8 out of his last 11 rounds in the 60s – he really is in good knick and we have a feeling his consistent accuracy could come together with his proven ability of being able to shoot low and find birdies.

13th in ball striking, 3rd in GIR 150-175 yards, 9th GIR, 63rd 3-putt avoidance and 29th stroke average are stats that will suit this short course, but it is his form on a track where he has had previous success that really makes you sit up and take notice.  T4 last year and only 2 shots behind Marc Leishman, whilst a 63 on the final day last year propelled him to T2 and just one shot behind eventual winner, Freddie Jacobson.

Charley Hoffman (50/1 Various)

We have said it before, but please keep that hat on Hoff.....

We have said it before, but please keep that hat on Hoff…..

Charley ‘The Hoff’ Hoffman has consistently been on the radar in recent weeks, finding himself challenging regularly and finally getting his putter going – although his hair is still as mental as it was before.  He was T8 going into the weekend last week, although, like so many other players, fell behind and he eventually finished T45 – which is no shame at a very tough US Open.  Hoffman has found 4 top 10s in 2013, 3 in his last 7 and his irons do look exciting at the moment.  His approaches 100-125 yards he lies in 22nd, whilst he is 67th in ball striking, however the fact his putting has improved so much is recognition of how he is holing everything at the moment.  27th in strokes gained putting and 28th in stroke average, which added together, could really help him go far this week.  The Hoff did finish T2 last year as well and was probably unlucky not to win, after Leishmans final day 62.  He can shoot low though, is charismatic; putting well, in confident mood and his hair is magnificent.  What more could you want when you are putting money on someone?!

Tim Clark (66/1 Coral)

One of DownThe18th’s favourite players, Tim Clark, has been backed quite a few times this year (including last week) getting us a return half of the time.  At the US Open, we were really excited after the 1st day – a solid 70 and T6, even with quite a few missed putts, his irons looked fluent.  Then a 79 on the second day and a MC was so unexpected and disappointing, from what we could see, nothing was happening for him, 10 bogeys is a hideous return and shows the rut that Merion can get you in.

We all know what his short course form is like (disregarding US Open) – 5 appearances and 4 top 5s, including a T4 finish on this track last year.  His irons and (usually) his putting are so consistent and impressive, that his lack of distance off the tee doesn’t take effect when on the shorter tracks.  He has got 3 top 10s this year and will definitely want to be avenging his missed cut last week.  If its stats that make you tick, then this will make fascinating reading – 3rd in driving accuracy, 16th GIR from 100-125 yards, 52nd GIR inside 125 yards, 56th strokes gained putting, 4th in 3-putt avoidance and 45th in stroke average.  If that does not make you realise his potential, especially at an outrageously over-priced 66/1, then nothing will.  We must say Clark is driving in our last chance saloon, but we strongly feel he could challenge over the weekend.

Jerry Kelly (125/1 PaddyPower)

Excitable Jerry Kelly is a solid outsider this week

Excitable Jerry Kelly is a solid outsider this week

Jerry Kelly may have only had 1 top 10 this year (5th at the RBC Heritage) but he has been consistently plugging away, just struggling to find the top of leaderboards.  Yet, what caught our eye this week, was his course form.  He clearly has a liking for the course, because he plays it nearly every year and has 2 top 10s in his locker.  Then when you add together his accuracy stats, Kelly seems like the perfect fit for an outsider here.

6th in driving accuracy, 29th for GIR in 100-125 yards, 24th for GIR in 150-175 yards, 40th in strokes gained putting, 28th in 3-putt avoidance and even 56th in stroke average.  Kelly can shoot low and for someone at 110/1, it would be foolish not to grab some pennies and get down to your local bookies.

PGA Tour Week 13

Shell Houston Open

After the inevitable brilliance from Tiger last week at Bay Hill, we move another step closer to The Masters and the famous green jacket (Our 2013 Masters Preview is available at the top of our blog). This week sees the PGA Tour move to the Redstone Country Club in Houston, Texas for the Shell Houston Open. This is the 1st time this tournament has not been held the week before the Masters (due to an agreement with next week’s Valero Texas Open). This tournament has always been billed as the Masters warm up event with the course very similar to Augusta in many ways. Emphasis on chipping and putting is even more crucial this year after changes to the course. 11 of the world’s top 25 will be competing this week so we are expecting some great golf. But as with any tournament before a major, be wary of people using this purely as a warm up!

The course yardage is almost identical to Augusta at 7,441 yards. For us this week, the par 5’s are where the tournament will be won and lost. Redstone features 4 par 5’s, which ranked 5th hardest on the PGA Tour last year, so ability on par 5’s will be crucial for anyone expecting to win this. The Greens are very ‘Masters-like’ and on many a 2-putt is more than adequate. Having said this, the tournament winner has averaged -16 since it was formed, with the record being -22, so obviously you need to find birdies and eagles out there! With the greens being as tough as they are, proximity to the hole is another factor that has to be taken into account. Course changes this year have included reduced bunkers and increased chipping areas around the greens, which makes GIR just as important as scrambling.

Redstone will play a lot like Augusta this week

Redstone will play a lot like Augusta this week

Of the big players this week, you have to say Rory Mcilroy will still be piecing his game together in preparation for the Masters, Snedeker (Our Masters main pick), is still coming back from injury, whilst Mickelson missed the cut last week at Bay Hill by some margin. Stricker, Mahan and Johnson of course can all do well here, but for us this week we have found value elsewhere. We have to say, this is the most confident we have felt about our picks for a few weeks now!

Paddy Power and BetVictor are paying 6 places this week as well, so keep that in mind!

Keegan Bradley (14/1 Ladbrokes)

Keegan is our big fancy this week

Keegan is our big fancy this week

We have never been the greatest of admirers of Keegan and he also failed to produce when we have previously backed him (1 shot off a place), but even we can’t look any further than him. He ticks every box. In his first outing here, he finished 51st and then weighed in with a 4th place last year, so his course form improvement is there for all to see. Other than Tiger, Bradley is the form man on tour right now, 3rd, 7th and 4th in his last three tournaments is some going. The figures are as simple as that. On top of this, the American’s playing style suits this course down to a tee. It is statistics galore. He is 5th in Par 5 performance and 7th in par5 birdie or betters this year, vital for those 4 par 5’s we were talking about. 8th in scrambling, 7th in total driving, 16th in driving distance (299 yards), 8th in scoring average, 7th in total eagles, 30th in total birdies and 4th in ‘going for the green’ shows what a class act this guy is. We are going big on Bradley this week, we really do fancy him.

Henrik Stenson (50/1 Stan James)  

Is the Swede back to his best?

Is the Swede back to his best?

Henrik is the type of player that when his swing works well, he will take some stopping. And last week at Bay Hill the Swede ranked 1st in driving accuracy and 2nd in GIR on the way to his 8th place last week. Now for someone who has comfortably averaged over 300 yards off the tee in his career, that is a lethal combination. It is well known that the last couple of years haven’t been kind to Stenson, suffering from injuries and problems with his swing. But saying all that, he still managed to finish 21st last year. Whilst when he was on form back in 2009, he finished 3rd… So he enjoys it in Houston. With only one missed cut this year and 4 top 25’s, it is clear Henrik is starting to enjoy his golf again. As mentioned, taking advantage of the par 5’s will be crucial and we all know he can do that averaging over 285 yards on the PGA Tour and also nearly 300 yards on the European Tour for 2013. But Stenson seems to have added even more to his game. On the PGA Tour he finds himself 1st in driving accuracy, 1st in GIR and 1st in the following 4 categories: GIR % 75-100 yards, GIR % <75 yards, GIR % 150-175 yards and GIR % <100 yards. Now for someone so good with the driver, those are some impressive iron stats, and they don’t stop there. 1st in ‘going for the green’, 3rd in scrambling and 1st in scrambling from the rough is enough to be really confident about him this week. Stenson also finds himself 53rd in the World Rankings, so he’ll be desperate for a big performance, a top 50 spot and a place at the Masters! Lets hope he hasn’t tired himself out at Tavistock Cup!

Chris Kirk (50/1 Ladbrokes)

Kirk is a young lad who we really like this week. His style again suits this course and he is used to shooting low scores. His only appearance here came 2 years ago and he came away with a 2nd place, so he’ll have no worries with the course. Other than one missed cut this year, his form has gone 5th, 24th, 2nd, 33rd, 51st and most recently 16th in a tough field at Bay Hill last week. In his 2nd place in 2011, Kirk shot 4 rounds in the 60’s and was unlucky not to win. What we like is how he certainly has a taste for low scoring, something you need when the winner averages -16 here. -16 at the Sony Open, -13 at the Waste Management and -17 at the Pebble Beach pro-am. Statistically, he is also very impressive. 6th in strokes gained by putting, 6th scoring average, 7th all round ranking, 1st in total eagles, 18th par 5 birdie or better, 4th par 4 birdie or better whilst he also averages 290 yards off the tee! He also finds himself 9th in proximity to the hole and 9th in scrambling, so enjoys getting it close! Kirk also finds himself 76th in the World Rankings, he will be pushing like mad to get a top 50 spot and a place at The Masters this week, it’s last chance saloon time for him. Again like our first 2 picks, we feel really confident about this guy!

Jimmy Walker (55/1 Stan James)

It was a close call between Stenson, Kirk and Walker and so he doesn’t really deserve to be this far down our list! Other than his course form, Walker is looking a mean prospect for this week. And even his course form is not awful, he has registered a 30th and a 44th here. But this year Walker has been a completely different animal, so don’t let course form affect you.  It is quite amazing how Walker has not recorded a victory yet, he has had 7 top 30’s in 8 starts, 2 of those being a 3rd and 4th and a very respectable 8th last week at Bay Hill. And just like Kirk, he loves shooting low scores! Last week at Bay Hill he was 1st in driving distance and combined that with coming 19th in strokes gained by putting, a lethal combination. Just like our other picks, his stats are again crazy good. 3rd in par5 performance, 2nd in par4 performance, 20th in driving distance, 7th birdie average, 7th scoring average, 11th all round ranking, 3rd total birdies, 22nd total eagles and 29th in strokes gained putting, all on the PGA Tour. Impressive. We think it is only fair we coin Walker ‘Jimbo’ this week after Furyk has let us down 2 weeks running! Jimbo does lie in 67th in World Rankings, so maybe a good showing here could grab a Masters spot. Also, does anyone think Walker looks like Edward Norton (Fight Club, Hulk actor)? We’ll leave that one with you…

Jimmy Walker?

Jimmy Walker?

Edward Norton?

Edward Norton?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carl Pettersson (80/1 Bet365)

Our last spot was again a close call, Cameron Tringale and Ben Kohles came very close to grabbing it but the Swede’s all round game has edged it for us. Firstly, Carl finished 2nd here last year, after finishes of 50th and 71st in his 2 previous appearances.  Then last week he finished 21st at Bay Hill which is a good indicator of some form. His putter started to work as well last week, something that had not been there for him of late, he was 3rd in strokes gained putting and 5th in scrambling, so his game is definitely coming together. He has 5 wins already to his name on the PGA Tour so he’ll have no problem taking this title if his game works this week. Of course his stats will reflect the price that he finds himself at, but his performance at Bay Hill shows to us that he has turned a corner this season. The Swede averages 286 yards off the tee (his longest drive this year was 416yards!) so he’ll be more than happy taking those par 5’s on whilst in all areas of his game he is mid-range on the PGA leaderboards, but we expect him to make a climb up them after this week.

DownThe18th Double

Keegan Bradley + Pablo Larrazabal (345/1 Paddy Power)

DownThe18th Triple

Keegan Bradley + Pablo Larrazabal + Thongchai Jaidee (4485/1 Paddy Power)