Travelers Championship 2015

Travelers

Prize Fund – $6,400,00

Winner’s Share – $1,152,000

Course – TPC River Highlands (6,841 yards Par 70)

Our 2014 Picks – Brendon De Jonge – T42, Freddie Jacobson – T31, Brandt Snedeker – T11

Well what an enthralling final few hours we all witnessed at Chambers Bay. Rory McIlroy going on the charge before faltering, Louis Oosthuizen producing 3 rounds of genuine quality but falling agonizingly short, Branden Grace in contention right till an OOB on the 16th before the ultimate finale when DJ 3-putted to gift Jordan Spieth a 2nd Major in a row. Not forgetting the ‘Cauliflower’ incident. Exhausting stuff.

But onto this week and considering the event just gone, we don’t have the worst field to be fair. Louis will be confident after his US Open antics, whilst the likes of Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley and even Jason Day (although that’s likely to change after his vertigo issues) are all due to tee it up at TPC River Highlands.

Not a bad closing hole Courtesy of PGA Tour

Not a bad closing hole
Courtesy of PGA Tour

This 6,841 yard par 70 is clearly not the lengthiest, but due to it’s tight fairways and abundance of hazards, accuracy will play a huge part come the final putt on Sunday. Getting the ball down the middle and having the ability to attack pins will be crucial, whilst we’ve seen recent winners on fire with their short stick and scrambling around the greens.

As a Pete Dye design, it may be worth looking at some of his other tracks – Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass and TPC Louisiana – because most winners have had a decent performance at a Dye layout before.

Do take note of various GIR stats, especially 100-125/125-150 because there’ll be so many short wedges for the players and those that are consistently in with birdie chances will undoubtedly be winning by the end of the week.

Francesco Molinari (40/1 various)

Francesco Molinari did not have the greatest year in 2014 but it has been clearly evident how strongly he’s progressed this season. He has mainly been playing on the PGA Tour for starters and accumulated some pretty impressive finishes. A T10 at the Humana Challenge in January, followed by a T17 at the Arnold Palmer and then a T3 at the Memorial. The main thing they all have in common is that you need to get the ball in play to find and attack pins for birdies. The same can be said for his best two finishes in Europe – 5th at the BMW (all be it with a slight struggle on the final day) and a T2 in Spain.

All in all he is looking pretty imperious at the moment tee to green and proved his form hasn’t shown signs of slipping when he found himself inside the top 10 going into the weekend at the US Open last week.

Just look at his stats on the PGA – 1st driving accuracy, 4th in GIR, 25th scoring average, 19th proximity to the hole and most excitingly for this week, 1st in approaches from 100-125 yards.

The Italian is the perfect fit for this track, even though he’s never played here and undoubtedly at very reasonable odds.

Russell Knox (50/1 various)

Russell Knox has become a perennial top 25 finisher in PGA events. He will often be in and around before just doing enough and not truly excelling.

There’s an obvious few exceptions to the rule – 3rd at the Shriners and T3 at the Honda, but all in all he rarely gets you money back.

However he so often has that look and feel of someone on the verge of picking up a title and this could finally be that week. He suits the track perfectly, has finished T13 here before and has actually shown a steady increase in results recently.

He shot a 64 and 66 either side of a couple of rounds in the 70’s last time out and if he can sort out his short stick he’ll definitely be up there come Sunday.

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The Open 2014 Preview One

Coral Sports

the open

Date: 17th – 20th July

Venue: Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Merseyside.

Course: Par 73, 7,350 yards.

Current Champion: Phil Mickelson

Past 6 winners –

2013: Phil Mickelson

2012: Ernie Els

2011: Darren Clarke

2010: Louis Oosthuizen

2009: Stewart Cink

2008: Padraig Harrington

Past 3 winners at Royal Liverpool –

2006: Tiger Woods

1967: Roberto De Vicenzo

1956: Peter Thomson
Coral Sports

PLEASE DO CHECK OUT OUR 3RD AND FINAL PREVIEW HERE, WITH ALL OUR TIPS, PICKS AND HOPEFUL WINNERS!!!

PLEASE DO CHECK OUT OUR 2ND PREVIEW HERE – ALL ABOUT STATS AND TRENDS OF THE OPEN!!

Well, well, well.  Here we go!  Just two weeks away from the 3rd major of the season as the golfing world awaits for the games very best to master the swirling winds and weather of traditional seaside courses in Britain.  This year we are going to be in for a treat at Hoylake where the Royal Liverpool Golf Club will play host on the west north coast of England.

Tiger Woods won here back in 2006 with a record total of -18 and scoring on the whole was low.  BUT do not expect it to be the same this year because the course has changed slightly and conditions will be completely different.  In 2006 the sun shone and the fairways were rock hard, giving it a completely different feel to what the hosts would have wanted.

The course will play at 7,312 yards and the par 72 is a Harry Colt design that will require the classic tee to green ability we all would expect from a links track.

This photo just sums everything up really.  Sun, cloud, wind, who knows!

This photo just sums everything up really. Sun, cloud, wind, who knows! Photo Courtesy of Royal-Liverpool-golf.com

Tiger finished 1st for driving accuracy and 2nd for GIR, so that tells the whole story.  But it is also important to look at those players who are comfortable on links courses and have the ability to manage their game in conditions that will constantly change throughout the week.

Therefore, in our 1st preview of 3 that we will be producing for The Open, we have taken a look at recent links history and what sort of players have kept performing on these sort of tracks.

Some of the courses are by no means an outright, obvious links track, but they all have that ‘seaside’ feel and bunkers/greens that you often find on a links course.  It does make for some interesting reading and the players who have been highlighted include some you would not expect.

Enjoy for now and our 2nd preview is OUT NOW, so if you are interested in everything you need to know about stats and trends from previous Open tournaments, then this is for you!

European Tour

As you would expect, there are more links-esque courses on the European Tour than Stateside and we have researched tournaments from the past year or so –

2014 Africa Open – East London Golf Club (Links and Parkland)  – Thomas Aiken

2014 Tshwane Open – Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate (Links and Parkland) – Ross Fisher

2014 Trophee Hassan II – Golf du Palais Royal (Links) – Alejandro Cañizares

2014 Madeira Islands Open – Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra (Links-esque in the mountains) – Daniel Brooks

2014 Nordea Masters – PGA National (Links feel) – Thongchai Jaidee

2013 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open – Castle Stuart Golf Links (Classic Links) – Phil Mickelson

2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles – The Gleneagles Hotel (Classic Links feel) – Tommy Fleetwood

2013 KLM Open – Kennemer Golf & Country Club (Links feel) – Joost Luiten

2013 ISPS Handa Wales Open – Celtic Manor (Links feel) – Grégory Bourdy

2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – Old Course at St.Andrews (Classic Links) – David Howell

2013 Portugal Masters – Oceânico Victoria Golf Course (Classic Links) – David Lynn

2013 Irish Open – Carton House Golf Course (links feels) – Paul Casey

2012 Irish Open – Royal Portrush Golf Club (Classic Links) – Jamie Donaldson

2012 ISPS Handa Wales Open – Celtic Manor (Links feel) – Thongchai Jaidee

2012 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open – Castle Stuart Golf Links (Classic Links) – Jeev Milkha Singh

2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – Old Course at St.Andrews (Classic Links) – Branden Grace

2013 The Open – Muirfield (Classic Links feel) – Phil Mickelson

2012 The Open – Royal Lytham & St.Annes (Classic Links) – Ernie Els

We have obviously missed out a few of the same tournaments in 2012, but we felt those real links tests were important, so we added them in alongside the last 2 Open Championships.  But what have we read into all of that?

Well, 7 of those 18 winners were British, which is more than any other nation and shows that traditionally, they have a greater liking for those swirling conditions.  But in all of these tournaments, it has been crucial to be consistent tee to green.

Driving accuracy and GIR stats will be vital and usually the better putters for the week find themselves at the top of the leaderboard.

Of the players who have already qualified (there are 4 spots available this week. 3 at the Scottish Open, 1 at the John Deere Classic.) we have looked at those who have a good record at these links venues.

Pablo Larrazabal (150/1 Ladbrokes)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 2 3 6

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
DNP T45 T30 DNP MC T70
Pablo jumping into the water to escape the hornets that attacked him at the Malaysian Open this year.  You won't find him in the water at Hoylake though..

Pablo jumping into the water to escape the hornets that attacked him at the Malaysian Open this year. You won’t find him in the water at Hoylake though.. Photo courtesy of Associated Press

The mercurial Spaniard is one of those players that you have to back when he is feeling good, otherwise you have no chance.  He is certainly temperamental, but when his game is on he can be outstanding.  He has the ability to move the ball how he wants and adapt his game in testing conditions, which is why he could be an interesting outsider.  It is no surprise to see his good record on links tracks.

Stephen Gallacher (100/1 Ladbrokes)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
4 1 5 5

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T21 DNP T57 T23 DNP DNP

The Scot has really found his true standing in the past couple of years.  He is widely considered as one of the best iron players in Europe and his ability to shape the ball accurately from tee to green stands him in good stead on links tracks.  He lost in a playoff at the Nordea Masters this year and the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2013, whilst his first European Tour win came at the now Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2004.  He is a links lover at the end of the day.

Joost Luiten (125/1 WillHill)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 3 1 4 1

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
DNP T45 T63

The Dutchman won on his home tournament at Kennemer and it is no surprise to see his record on these links courses.  He is unerringly accurate tee to green and has the perfect game for any sort of conditions. He is regularly one of the top players at European Tour events, so it would not surprise us to see him challenging at majors soon.

Jamie Donaldson (66/1 Coral)Coral Sports

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 4 1

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T32 T60 DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jamie kissing the Irish Open trophy.  More kisses please.

Jamie kissing the Irish Open trophy. More kisses please. Photo Courtesy of Paul Faith

The Welshman is one of our favourite regulars on Tour and he has the perfect tee to green game for links tracks.  We remember watching him at the Irish Open in 2012, which was his 1st European Tour win and it was a revelation in iron-play golf.  He is one of these late bloomers, but at 38 he has so much experience and everything really seems to be ticking for him now.  That is represented by how much his odds have been slashed, especially after a T14 at Augusta this year.

 

Thongchai Jaidee (150/1 Ladbrokes)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 3 5 2

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T32 T77 MC MC T13 DNP

The Thai magician has entered his twilight years, but he has been playing some truly outstanding golf in recent months.  Anyone with 17 professional wins to their name must be considered something of a stalwart, but this year has been remarkable.  6 top 10s, a win at the Nordea Masters and he won the 2012 Wales Open.  His tee to green game combined with a superb putting strokes, he is an interesting outsider.

Francesco Molinari (80/1 WillHill)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 1 5 2

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T9 T39 MC MC T13 DNP

Francesco Molinari went into a horrible lull of form but has this year been playing much better.  He could be a danger with his natural ability and he will have no qualms playing alongside the best the game has to offer.

Honourable Mentions – Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Shane Lowry, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Matthew Baldwin.

PGA Tour

Do bare in mind, most of these courses are not actual links tracks, but have many similarities to what you would perceive to be a links course.

2014 Hyundai Tournament Of Champions – Plantation Course at Kapalua – Zach Johnson

2014 Sony Open – Waialae Country Club – Jimmy Walker

2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open – TPC Scottsdale – Kevin Stadler

2014 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am – Pebble Beach – Jimmy Walker

2014 RBC Heritage – Harbour Town Golf Links – Matt Kuchar

2014 The Memorial Tournament – Muirfield Village – Hideki Matsuyama

2013 McGladrey Classic – Seaside Course, Sea Island – Chris Kirk

2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions – Plantation Course at Kapalua – Dustin Johnson

2013 Sony Open – Waialae Country Club – Russell Henley

2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open – TPC Scottsdale – Phil Mickelson

2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am – Pebble Beach – Brandt Snedeker

2013 RBC Heritage – Harbour Town Golf Links – Graeme McDowell

2013 The Memorial Tournament – Muirfield Village – Matt Kuchar

(And the 2013/2012 Open Championships)Coral Sports

Adam Scott (16/1 Coral)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
3 2 1

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T3 2nd T25 T27 MC T16
Scott was left devastated after that 2012 collapse. Oh how things have changed. Photo courtesy of Harry How/GettyImages

Scott was left devastated after that 2012 collapse. Oh how things have changed. Photo courtesy of Harry How/GettyImages

Adam Scott has an outstanding record on links tracks and it is no surprise.  He has arguably the best all-round game in golf and his current number 1 status is certainly deserved.  Winning The Masters last year will have given him plenty of confidence to push on and it is about time he wins on a links track.  He has come so close in the past 2 Open Championships, so do not be surprised to see him win his 2nd major title this year.

Matt Kuchar (40/1 Ladbrokes)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 1 5 2 1

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T15 T9 MC T27 MC MC

Another top quality player with real links pedigree.  Matt Kuchar has not missed a cut for the past 2 years on any links-esque course and picked up 2 titles in the meantime – The RBC Heritage this year and the Memorial Tournament in 2013.  He has genuine class and continues this trend of iron gurus that this list is undoubtedly and unsurprisingly starting to unravel.  He is one of those top players yet to win a major and whilst his form at Augusta is outstanding, it could be in the tough conditions of an Open track that Kuch finally etches his name into history.

Zach Johnson (80/1 Coral)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 1 3 2 3 1

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T6 T9 T16 T76 T47 T51

Zach Johnson has already proven his major pedigree by winning at Augusta and in what was one of the toughest conditions ever seen at the Masters, he proved his ability to manoeuvre the ball in all sorts of wind.  He has the perfect temperament to deal with links courses and proves that by his form on them in the past 2 years, winning at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions this year.  He also has very respectable form at recent Open championships, so if he can rediscover his early-season form, anything could happen.

Dustin Johnson (33/1 Coral)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 1 2 2 2

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T32 T9 T2 T14 MC DNP
DJ is used to being beside the seaside...

DJ is used to being beside the seaside…

Dustin Johnson is clearly a supremely talented golfer, but he can be frustrating to watch let alone bet on sometimes.  10 professional titles as he enters his 30s is an impressive return and his huge distances off the tee and attacking game, clearly work on links courses.  When he is straight he can be devastating.  Those low drillers completely take out the wind and give him great chances on what are usually shorter courses.  His win came at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last year and we all know his main problem is consistency.  If he is consistent, he is a winner.

 

Chris Kirk (125/1 WillHill)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 2 4 1



NEVER PLAYED AT THE OPEN

Chris Kirk is having one of those ‘breakthrough’ seasons, where his top quality golf has not come in spurts, but consistently week in, week out.  He has built upon a solid 2013 and this year is yet to miss a cut.  His straight-hitting game is a perfect fit for links golf and he has a superb short game to tackle any type of greens.  His win came at the McGladrey Classic, but a further 4 top 5 finishes on links tracks is an outrageous return.  He will be making his first appearance at The Open, but he could be one of those surprise Americans to attack the leaderboard.  He has 2 top 30 finishes at this year majors already, so he is certainly no mug.  Keep him on your radar.

Hideki Matsuyama (66/1 Ladbrokes)

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 1 1 2

Last 6 Open Tournaments

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T6 DNP

It may not be fair to the likes of Brandt Snedeker and Harris English that we include Hideki Matsuyama because they have played in far more links tournaments with a cracking record.  But the reason we have decided to include the Japanese here is because he is just one of those players that has something magical and rare in the game.  To have won 6 professional titles at 22-years old says something in itself, but it’s his highly methodical swing that is so impressive.  It looks like nothing can ever go wrong and it doesn’t change in the heat of battle, as proven by his playoff win this year at the Memorial Tournament.  4 top 35s in his last 5 majors, including 2 top 10s show he is not fazed by superstars and with his incredible tee to green game and ability with the short stick, we can definitely see him up there again this year.

Honourable Mentions – Brandt Snedeker, Harris English, Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth.

So, there you have it.  We have trawled through those leaderboards and found the best we thought could offer something at this years tournaments, but please do have a look for yourselves!  Our second preview will be up on the site later this week, so do come back to check it out before the weekend!

 

NEW – Players to Watch (PGA + European)

We’ve decided to remodel this section to make it more interesting for both you and ourselves. We have each assembled a team of ‘Players to Watch’ from each tour. Lewis will be PGA TourAndy will be European Tour. We have created a point system so you can track how each player has been doing. And come December 2013, you will be able to see which tour’s rising stars have performed the best!

Look at this as DownThe18th’s Ryder Cup – where dreams will be fulfilled, putts will be sunk and titles held aloft in this battle of tours across the pond.

Team PGA (Lewis) Points Team Europe (Andy) Points
Henrik Stenson (C) 0 Alexander Noren (C) 0
Rickie Fowler (VC) 0 Francesco Molinari (VC) 0
Charles Howell III 0 Ross Fisher 0
Ryan Palmer 0 Pablo Larrazabal 0
Kyle Stanley 0 Brooks Koepka 0
Cameron Tringale 0 Peter Uihlein 0
David Lingmerth 0 Morten Ørum Madsen 0
Jordan Spieth 0 Shane Lowry 0
Graham DeLaet 0 Romain Wattel 0
Kevin Chappell 0 Victor Dubuisson 0
Total 0 Total 0

How the scoring works: Win (50 Points), Runner-up (25 Points), Top 6 (15 Points), Top 10 (10 Points), Top 20 (5 Points), Top 40 (2 Points), Missed Cut (-5 Points) (C) Captain earns double points

Team PGA Captain - There is a lot of pressure on the Swede

Team PGA Captain – There is a lot of pressure on the Swede

Team Europe Captain

Team Europe Captain – Alex Noren, a leader of men

Team Profiles:

Players To Win

Henrik Stenson (C) – The big hitting Swede has found rhythm with his swing once again and his iron play has looked fantastic.  Will be surprised if he is not challenge a couple more times this year. Alexander Noren (C) – Playing too well not to bag a win in 2013. Only finished outside top 40 once this year, no missed cuts and five top 6 finishes!
Rickie Fowler (VC) – With only 1 Tour win to his name, it is remarkable how Fowler is so often talked about as 1 of the elite players.  He has had a topsy-turvy year but I will be shocked if he is not challenging for several competitions, ultimately he is too good not to. Francesco Molinari (VC) – Back to near his best after he lost his way a bit at the start of the year. Two top 10 finishes in May and is coming onto a few courses where iron-play is key, and there are few better than the Italian.
Charles Howell III – has not won on Tour since 2007, having gone through a horrendous dip in form.  He came close this year, losing in a playoff at the Humana Challenge, but his consistency and swing are coming back and will not be long before he wins again. Ross Fisher – Slowly getting his game back together, really been impressive in May and June. A win is not far away, and will do well on the links courses coming up later in the year.
Ryan Palmer – Palmer has not won on Tour since 2010 and now at 36, age is slowly running away from him.  He has had an inconsistent season, but there were signs of a revival at The Players.  Could definitely challenge before the new year. Pablo Larrazabal – Just like Noren, playing too well not to have won. Four top 6 finishes already to his name in 2013, and has really been looking good. Some call him a ‘Young Seve’.

Players To Watch (Under 26)

Kyle Stanley – He may have already won last year, but people will often forget that Stanley is still only 25.   He has a stellar career in front of him and is definitely one of the leading youngsters in the game. Brooks Koepka – Absolutely ripped up the Challenge Tour, won 3 times already and has earned automatic promotion to the European Tour. Will definitely want to prove himself, and has booked a place at Muirfield next month.
Cameron Tringale – has recorded only 1 top 10 this year, but now being in his 3rd year on Tour, he should be used to life in the high leagues.  He is far too talented to not be challenging more often – expect to see him surging. Peter Uihlein – Has won a European Tour co-sanctioned event already, but will want to push on and win one of the bigger ones. Hasn’t missed a cut all year and is in the form of his life. These 2 American’s look very dangerous.
David Lingmerth – In only his 2nd start on the PGA Tour, Lingmerth finished joint runner up at the Humana Challenge, after losing to Brian Gay in a playoff.  The Swede has gone on to be inconsistent, but do not be surprised to see his name near the top of leaderboards Morten Ørum Madsen – Big favourite of ours, three top 10’s this season including a 2nd behind Uihlein in Portugal. Was T28 at the US Open. Comes from the same club as Danish legend Thomas Bjorn, has a big future. 
Jordan Spieth – I first saw Spieth at the Tampa Bay Championship where he finished T7.  He looked like a supremely talented youngster who belied his age (Turned 20 in July) and had an incredibly efficient game from tee to green.  He will be around a few more times this year and for many years to come. Shane Lowry – The Irishman is starting to come into real form and usually plays his best stuff at the back end of the year. Will be confident of adding to his 2 European titles he has already 

Players to Breakthrough

Graham DeLaet – Tough choice between the Canadian and Brendon De Jonge, but with DeLaet’s length off the tee, he just edged it.  Has been impressive as the year has gone on. Will be surprised if he has not challenged at least once before the season is finished. Romain Wattel – 22 year old has big future, two top 4 finishes to his name in 2013. Was T3 a couple of weeks back at the Lyoness. Was successful as an amateur and will be looking to do the same as a pro
Kevin Chappell – The 26-year old American is slowly forging an assault to the top of the game, having another consistent year.  He could easily make his breakthrough win this year having already come close. Victor Dubuisson – At 23, it feels like the Frenchman has been round for a while now. Has four top 10’s in 2013 but will want to get that elusive first European title

Irish Open

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

Here we are, entering the final stretch before one of the greatest tournaments in world golf – The Open.  The Irish Open will be the first of the British and Irish courses that the Tour does the rounds in.  Expect vocal support, huge crowds, superb golf and plenty of smiles!

The Carton House facilities have two golf courses, one designed by 2-time major champion Mark O’Meara and the other by Colin Montgomerie OBE.

The Colin Montgomerie course will be the one used for the tournament and has only ever hosted 2 European Tour events – the 2005 and 2006 Irish Opens.  The 05′ edition was won by Stephen Dodd, whilst Thomas Bjørn came out on top in 06′.

The 'Monty' course as it has aptly been nicknamed.

The ‘Monty’ course as it has aptly been nicknamed.

The course itself is 7,301 yard Par 72 with a parkland feel, featuring the classic British head high pot bunkers.  There are 130 of these sand traps – all strategically placed in and around the undulating, fast paced greens and the narrow fairways.  It will take good ball striking and clever plotting to overcome the challenge. If you are off your game the horrors that will follow will bite you and ruin any potential victory.

Even though it is a relatively long course, we do not feel short hitters will be overshadowed, you just have to be straight and avoid the daunting bunkers and rough.  Scrambling will certainly come into play, because you will not see everyone hitting the greens consistently, but obviously the more often you do, the more birdie opportunities will arise.  All of this said, the winner will most likely be in the top 10 putting stats for the week, because they are not easy surfaces at all, every putt will be tough and the a-game will need to brought.

What is exciting about this tournament is the expected 100,000 fans who will be in attendance, obviously screaming for their local heroes, but as the knowledgeable folk they are, cheers will be heard for every quality shot.  Especially on the grandstand par 3 17th, purpose built for the week.

Naturally, the field does include the biggest names in Irish golf, that of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke to name but a few.  This really will be a fascinating week of golf and we personally cannot wait for it all to tee off.

Because of the relatively unknown nature of the course, we decided to write a hole-by-hole guide to really show who could prosper, but if you want a 3D video look with the dulset tones of Shane O’Donoughue then you find it here:

http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/6addd26c#/6addd26c/1

1st 419 yards Par 4 – The first hole is quite tight, guarded by bunkers and water.  Good approach shot needed with bunkers on the left of the green.

2nd 415 yards Par 4 – Tough tee shot with 2 right sided bunkers and 2 on the left.  The longer hitters may attempt to carry the 2 on the right, but this will be risky with the thick rough surrounding the sand.  The green slopes on either side and has 2 bunkers protecting it, so 2 very good approaches are needed.

3rd 219 yards Par 3 – Another tough hole, with cavernous bunkers on the left side of the green, players should be looking for the middle of the surface wherever the pin position.

4th 590 yards Par 5 – First great opportunity for birdie.  Dogleg from right to left and will require a straight drive with the minimal fairways, but both long and short hitters should have a putt for at least birdie if the hole is played well.

5th 470 yards Par 4 – Considered one of the toughest holes on the course, the thin fairway and approach requires 2 superb shots to a green that has run-offs into both bunkers either side.  As Shane O’Donoughue says, “Par is a very good score here.”

6th 394 yards Par 4 – Strategic play will be needed to score on this hole, with bunkers and trees protecting the fairway on the right and a green sloping to a deep left-sided bunker. What is very interesting is the fact it is in the complete opposite direction to the 5th, which will disorientate players with wind and rhythm. A real ‘plotters’ hole.

7th 186 yards Par 3 – 5 bunkers carefully guard the green, with a ridge in the middle of the surface, meaning club selection is paramount.  A thoughtful shot is needed to have any chance of birdie.

8th 552 yards Par 5 – For the first time on the front 9, there are no bunkers to contend with off the tee.  For those laying up, the decision must be made whether they can carry the cross bunkers, whilst the green slopes from back to front with bunkers waiting on either side.  For a birdie opportunity, players will need to hit their approach below the hole, with less undulation and an uphill putt possible.

9th 391 yards Par 4 – A dogleg from right to left, with a blind tee shot.  Although not a long hole, the green is elevated and slopes towards 6 bunkers that surround the surface.

10th 465 yards Par 4 – The start of the back 9 brings about a long par 4, with bunkers strategically placed down the left side of the fairway.  Players with a tendency to shape the ball left to right will be more at ease over their tee shot.  The length is extended with an elevated green and 2 deep bunkers awaiting anyone who strays to the right with their approach.  A really tough start to the final stretch.

11th 477 yards Par 4 – Another long par 4 and a dogleg from left to right.  Bunkers surround the right side of the fairway, so anywhere down the left will the prime tee shot.  The green is at an angle, with a pot bunker catching anyone who comes up short – birdie would be a bonus on this hole.

12th 210 yards Par 3 – The green is surrounded by 5 bunkers, with the one closest on the left, being the deepest on the course.  Another ridge separates the green, meaning pin positions will completely change the outlook of the hole.  A different shot will be needed day to day.

13th 338 yards Par 4 – The longer hitters will contemplate trying to drive the hole, but there are 3 bunkers carefully placed 50-100 yards before the green and 2 pothole bunkers surrounding the front edge.

14th 405 yards Par 4 – A straight drive is needed with 4 bunkers on the right.  If you have not found the fairway, the approach shot will be incredibly difficult. The front of the green has a severe slope, so that will need to be avoided.

15th 554 yards Par 5 – It’s a left to right dogleg, with two pot bunkers guarding the lay up, if players choose to do so.  The green is elevated, therefore a smart shot will be needed whether going for the green or laying up.  It seems like a good birdie opportunity.

16th 462 yards Par 4 – Another left to right dogleg with a challenging approach.  The green is long and narrow and to make birdie, the 2nd shot must be below the hole.

17th 176 yards Par 3 – A couple of deep bunkers guard the front of the green, but the main challenge of this penultimate hole will be the carnival atmosphere.  €50,000 was spent on a ‘stadium feel’, much like the 16th at TPC Sawgrass.  Will be intimidating and nerve-racking.

18th 513 yards Par 5 – The tee shot is crucial if an eagle/birdie opportunity is made.  If hit to the left, then the 4 bunkers and humungous tree will halt anyone attempting to go for the green.  If the tee shot has gone right, then there will be a line to a sloping green, which cannot be missed right because of the severe drop to thick rough.  A great finishing hole, with a birdie just as likely as a bogey.

Shane Lowry (25/1 Various)

Lowry as an amateur winning the Irish Open.  With those colours round his neck, the crowd will go absolutely wild this week

Lowry as an amateur winning the Irish Open. With those colours round his neck, the crowd will go absolutely wild this wee

There was always going to be at least one Irishman in our picks this week, because the local support will be ferocious and to have that crowd behind you, can only be a lift.  Let alone the fact that the last 9 consecutive Irish Opens have resulted in at least one local finding the top 10. The obvious choices are not only far too short, but the appeal of Lowry really gets you interested.

He is a former champion of this tournament back in 2009 at County Louth when he was still an amateur! (For not winning the tournament, Robert Rock received the first place payout. Lucky sod) He obviously went on to turn professional straight after and has since won the Portugal Masters.  This is someone who will definitely have a big career if he can push on – to have 2 wins under your belt at 26 is an incredible achievement.

This season he has switched between the States and Europe, with a varying degree of success.  T9 at the WGC Accenture Matchplay, (Remember him beating McIlroy?!) whilst a T15 at the Valero Texas Open was an impressive performance.  But in Europe he was T12 last time out at the BMW PGA Championship and T9 at the Volvo World Matchplay the week before.  The young Irishman is in good form and will be hopefully of continuing that in his home country AND on what is his home course.  He has lived just overlooking the O’Meara course for the past 18 months, using the pristine tracks as his practice venues.  If that doesn’t prepare him better than anyone else in the field, nothing will.

As for his stats, they don’t particularly jump out and excite, but the fact he is 27th in putts per GIR and 46th in putts per round show he has the abilities to take advantage on the greens.  On the PGA Tour he is 44th for driving distance and the fact he is 44th in right tendency off the tee is exciting considering the amount of left to right shots that will need to be hit.  Being in play down the right on many of the holes could be the difference between birdie and bogey.  We have real faith in the youngster and the hope of him reclaiming the trophy is certainly not dumfounded.

Ross Fisher (28/1 Coral)

We are hoping its 2nd time lucky for us and Fisher

We are hoping its 2nd time lucky for us and Fisher

We did back Fisher last week and were very confident he would produce the goods.  Yes, he may not have given us any returns, but he was still playing well and plugged away to a T18 finish.

That surely now proves that he is finding his feet and form once again, having struggled for a while, especially across the pond this year.  The T10 at the Wells Fargo Championship was the first big signs and it was a joy to watch and hear commentators professing their awe at this naturally gifted golfer.  8th at the Nordea Masters a few weeks ago was another indicator and having backed him for the BMW, we have this feeling that it was one week to soon.

This is a course that will suit the Englishman, the marshland nature and distinct British feel will stand him in good stead.  His stats complement the idea that he is tailor-made for the track – 13th in driving accuracy, 42nd for GIR, 18th in putts per round and 2nd in putts per GIR.  He also proved his potential here with a 5th place finish in 2006, so will have course history on his side.  This week Fisher, this week.

Richard Sterne (50/1 Ladbrokes)

When we saw Sterne at 50s, we had to stand up and have a proper look considering this is a guy who was one of the form men in golf for most of this season.  He obviously won the Joburg Open back in February (Our first win of the season may we add!) only the week after coming 2nd at the Omega Masters.  It is not as if he has fallen completely out of sync since either.  Yet to miss a cut and a worst finish of T57 at Wentworth, even finishing T25 at The Masters.

The South African is having a superb year after finding the wilderness for a few years and to find someone like this at such high odds, it would be foolish not to get involved.

Especially when he was 9th here back in 2005 and to think how far he has come in that 8 year gap is scary.  64th in driving accuracy, 47th for GIR, 57th in scrambling, 22nd in putts per round and 13th in putts per GIR all prove how consistent he is tee to green – these stats are scary when you consider what is needed for this course.

With most bookmakers offering 6 places, we feel the value of Sterne is too good to turn down and as a player, he is perfect.

Alejandro Cañizares (125/1 PaddyPower)

We have been keeping track of Cañizares for a while now, waiting for the right moment to gamble on him before he makes a breakthrough.  It may seem like an odd time considering he missed the cut last week, but the Spaniard could be a perfect fit for the challenge that Carton House will offer.  The 30-year old has integrated himself into the European circuit after trying to give the PGA Tour a go and has not had a great deal of success, but now he looks more mature and determined to win his 2nd Tour event.  That T4 at the BMW PGA Championship was very impressive, even though some may say that he ‘bottled’ it on the final day.  That experience would have only helped him grow even more and with the proof he likes it on British courses, we feel this test could suit the nature of his game.  51st in driving accuracy, 48th in scrambling, 47th in putts per round and 49th in putts per GIR all add to his appeal and with odds as high as 125, it is only sensible that you take a punt on a straight hitting Spaniard such as Alejandro.  What an incredible name by the way, you can just keep saying it and every time you wish that was the name on your own birth certificate. Alejandro Cañizares.

Damien McGrane (150/1 WillHill)

Lets be hoping McGrane has a smile as broad as this come Sunday evening

Lets be hoping McGrane has a smile as broad as this come Sunday evening

McGrane is as low as 80s with some bookmakers, which shows the lack of transparency and knowledge in where he should be in the market.

The 42-year old journeyman has not won since the Volvo China Open in 2008, but his form in 2013 is starting to become rather impressive.  He has not missed a cut in 7 appearances and has 2 consecutive T14 finishes, all of which will give him huge amounts of confidence going into his home tournament, where he did manage a T19 finish back in 2006.

He will plot his way round a familiar course and work twice as hard as anyone else to achieve a high finish and with solid short stick abilities, he could be in with a chance come Sunday.  62nd for putts per GIR and 19th in putts per round prove his talent on the greens whilst 71st in driving accuracy and 6th in scrambling add to the evidence that this is one heck of an outsider whose Irish following will only aid his challenge.

So all we ask is don’t buy a 99p McDonalds burger and save those pennies for a better cause – Damien McGrane e/w at the Irish Open.

European Tour Week 13

The Trophée Hassan ii Trophy

By Lewis Pacelli

With one of the coolest trophies in sporting history, it would be a shock if everyone didn't try extra hard to get their hands on that sword

With one of the coolest trophies in sporting history, it would be a shock if everyone didn’t try extra hard to get their hands on that sword

The Tour moves to northern Africa this week as The Trophee Hassan II is held at the Golf du Palais Royal in Agadir, Morocco.  What is very exciting for all European fans is the fact we are slowly edging towards the tour finally arriving in Europe.  It is the ‘European’ Tour after all.  Better still, the tee-times are at a normal hour for everyone in Europe, so you don’t have to get up at silly o’clock to watch a tournament in Asia with more rain than birdies.The event itself was only fully established on Tour in 2010, however this course was not used until 2011, when David Horsey won. That was followed by Michael Hoey claiming the title last year.

The course is one of real beauty, lying in behind the walls of the Royal Palace and it is the beloved joy of Prince Moulay Rachid who can pretty much play on it when he wants.

“You can tell from the conditioning of the course that we are in the King’s garden – it is very beautiful and is just in immaculate condition so we cannot complain about the course this week!”

Rafa Cabrera-Bello this week

Measuring at 6,800 yards, it is quite an interesting challenge with iron play seeming to be most crucial.  After his victory last year, Hoey claimed that he only won because he kept finding the fairway and giving himself a chance.  GIR will be vital on very small greens and as it often is on the European circuit, putting will be the difference between 1st and 6th.  Although as Hoey said, get it on the fairway first…

The field is relatively strong with a handful of players knocking on the door of the world top 50 and a last chance to get into the first major of the year at Augusta. Which is only TWO weeks away now! Stephen Gallacher (64th), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (65th), Marcel Siem (72nd), Richie Ramsay (73rd) and Scott Jamieson (74th) are the five golfers who will have every ambition to have a good week and find themselves at The Masters.  Keep a keen eye on all of them throughout the 4 days.

Francesco Molinari has established himself as the outright favourite which is quite criminal considering his recent form, but we really feel anyone could win this tournament, there are plenty of capable players but there are certainly a few names who we feel will make a big challenge.

Pablo Larrazabal (28/1 StanJames and Bet365)

Larrazabal and his irons could be a real force this week

Larrazabal and his irons could be a real force this week

The Spaniard has been slowly making his mark this season, with solid performances throughout 2013, resulting in a battling showing in Malaysia last week where he finished T6.  He has caught our eye a few times, but it has never seemed to be the right course or moment for us to lay our money.  However this week is a perfect fit, especially due to the fact he will be full of confidence and desperately trying to add a 3rd title to his cabinet after a winless season last year.  His iron play has the potential to stand out in this field, 11th for GIR last week in horrendous conditions, 6th at the Avantha Masters, whilst he is 23rd overall.  And his putting is improving after finishing 59th in the rankings at the Avantha to 37th in Malaysia.  All in all this is a pro on the rise and if he gets his game going as we know he can, he really should be in the fold come Sunday, especially at a course where he finished 9th last year

David Horsey (33/1 PaddyPower)

David Horsey won this event in 2011 after showing his bottle in a 3-man playoff between Rhys Davies and Zaco Van Zyl.  Last year he finished 14th, 4 shots off 3rd and what would have been a place return.  Basically he loves this course.  Whether it be the gorgeous conditions, the perfectly laid fairways or even the sight of a Royal Palace in the background, Horsey has simply got his game going here.  This year the tournament has come around at an interesting time for the Englishman.  He started 2013 in bizarre fashion, with not one round under par in Abu Dhabi, before showing signs of inconsistency over the next few months.  One round he would be scintillating, with a low score, before frustratingly shooting over par the next.  This fluctuated until the Avantha Masters two weeks ago, where a level par first day was followed by 3 superb rounds in the 60s.  He eventually finished T6 and his putter was burning hot.  17th for putts per GIR and 5th for putts per round meant he could climb the leaderboard and although his GIR have been poor this year, we don’t think anything equates for the confidence he would of gained and have going to a place he loves.

Maximilian Kieffer (66/1 SkyBet)

In 2010 Rhys Davies won this title in his first year as a Challenge Tour graduate.  We see no reason why Kieffer cannot do the same and at the very least compete when it comes to Sunday.

Maximilian is a cracking name. And he is a cracking player

Maximilian is a cracking name. And he is a cracking player

As one of our ‘Players to watch’ he has impressed in his debut season, missing the cut only once in eight attempts and recording a lowest finish of T37 in the other 7.  He has been remarkably consistent but we feel it is time for the German to attack the top 10 and better his T4 at The Nelson Mandela Championship in December.  He has a wonderful all-round game and from tee to green he rivals anyone on Tour.  18th in driving accuracy and 26th GIR show his potential, whilst on his last outing at the Avantha he was 8th GIR and 37th putts per GIR.  Obviously he has not played here before but this will not stop a plucky German who seems to have no fear in any tournament he finds himself in.

Mikko Ilonen (66/1 Bet365)

Mikko Ilonen will arrive in Morocco feeling confident after a strong showing in Malaysia last week and knowing this is a favourite country of his.  He finished T17 last year with 4 solid performances and in 2011 a round of 64 was enough to end T7. Had it not been for a first day 72, who knows where the Fin could have ended.  What is exciting is how good he was on the greens last week.  He eventually finished T17 but he was 3rd for putts per GIR and 5th for putts per round and when you think he was 53rd GIR, you realise how many putts he holed.  If he can get his irons working than he has the accuracy and distance off the tee to make a real challenge this week.

Madsen is a very calm character. Such poise

Madsen is a very calm character. Such poise

Morten Ørum Madsen (125/1 Bet365)

Another Tour graduate who has made some steady progress in his debut season, Madsen is a player who hails from the same Danish club as a DownThe18th favourite – Thomas Bjørn.  When your idol is ‘Mr.Rain’ himself, then the potential for greatness is unquestionable.  The man has taste. In all seriousness, the Dane has an interesting e/w shout for this tournament in Morocco.  On his last outing at the Tshwane Open he shot 3 consecutive rounds in the 60s, finishing in a very respectable T8, which followed a T20 at the Africa Open the week before.  His all-round abilities at the Tshwane were there for all to see, driving consistently over 300 yards and finding the fairways a remarkable 87% of the time. (4th overall) Yes the fairways were kinder, but to be hitting it that long and straight is very dangerous, especially when he was 39th GIR and 12th for putts per GIR.  There is certain ability there for a top 5 finish and with his accumulated stats over the season, you cannot ignore Madsen at his odds. 3rd in driving accuracy, 43rd for putts per round and 7th for driving distance.  In reality he could drive a couple of the par 4’s and really attack the five par 5s.