US Open 2015

2015-US-OPEN_LOGO

Prize Fund – $9,000,00

Winner’s Share – $1,620,000

Course – Chambers Bay (7,585 yards Par 72)

Our 2014 Picks – Jordan Spieth – T17, Luke Donald – MC, Charl Schwartzel – MC, Hideki Matsuyama – T35, Keegan Bradley – T4, Brooks Koepka – T4

The US Open is just a week away now and the excitement is gathering momentum. It’s been a truly remarkable year in golf with big names doing big things and you can only really think that the majors will produce outstanding drama in 2015.

And we can expect drama befitting of the West End or Broadway for this years US Open. The USGA are taking a completely different approach by selecting Chambers Bay and in our eyes, all stats, history and trends can pretty much be flung out the window – in some respects.

Of course, it’s still good to have a look at US Open form however unique the course is, because the correlation of tough, grinding track will certainly cross over.

So, our major preview this year is going to rely on incredibly different aspects to usual and an in-depth look at the track that is causing various degrees of mayhem, controversy and excitement.

#14 Pano

Chambers Bay

Primarily, what do we actually know about the place?

Well it is in Washington, which is a first in itself and has been built and moulded on top of what was an old quarry site. Whilst we’ve seen coastal type golf at Pebble Beach before, never have we witnessed anything like this. It’s a bonafide links track, never really seen in the States, but very common in the UK.

Designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Jnr, he pretty much had next-to-no restrictions on how he was able to construct the layout because of it’s history. That’s why there are intriguing holes, tough contours and uneven ground.

We’ve been lucky enough to spend some extended time with one of the guys who helped in the construction, agronomist John Clarkin. He, like many others, was drafted in from a British and Irish background knowledge of Links tracks to help grow and design this unprecedented place.

Clarkin stated how Links-like it is and that you can draw pretty much no comparisons with any US courses – it’s simply like extracting a British seaside course and plonking it on a Washington coastline.

The rough is full of fescue and overgrown, natural grass that will pretty much mean a drop shot if you’re hacking out of there. However, the fairways are slightly wider than we could expect, which brings to the argument that big hitters will fare well. However, if you are spraying it all over then you are going to have absolutely no chance.

The second cut will not be particularly long either and alongside the fact there are no real fringes around the greens, the whole course just manoeuvres and meanders around itself, flowing into one mammoth challenge.

Iron play is going to be absolutely vital as well – the best player from tee to green will without doubt be in the mix. But obviously we have to factor in the sloping and rapid greens (potentially around 12 on the stimpmetre) that will cause havoc and 3-putts galore.

Just to throw even more of a spanner in the works, there’s a bunker being ingeniously coined ‘Chambers Basement.’  It’s a 10-foot deep pot bunker, slap bang in the middle of the 18th.  Expect to see a few hacking out of there and it could be like Adam Scott at The Open when Ernie Els sneaked in to grab victory…

That looks like a fun bunker doesn't it?

That looks like a fun bunker doesn’t it?

But the main thing to really look out for, as with any Links course we’ve ever bet on, is the weather. Wind being the main source of potential destruction. At the time of writing, the wind will not be particularly horrendous, but simply due to the exposed nature of some of the holes, a slight breeze can still be tough to deal with.

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/forecasts/golf-report/7-day-weather-forecast/united-states/washington/chambers-bay

The last big thing to think about is the fact that whilst the par 72 stands at 7,585 yards – we’ve already been told that the USGA are going to play around with several holes on various days, making each one completely unique.

We could have anything playing rom 7,350 right up to 7,800. That is simply madness for players and caddies, but amazing for us as spectators.

So, all in all, what sort of player should you be looking for?

  • Someone who has Links form is an absolute must for us. If you’ve never performed on a coastal track, you will find it difficult to suddenly come to a US Open and win against the very best
  • A tee to green proficiency and understanding of when to attack and when to defend
  • Ability to manoeuvre the ball and play different when the conditions change and when the USGA alters the layout
  • Obviously putting is ultimately the difference at the majors…
  • Some sort of recent form. We feel you can discount pretty much anyone who has not been playing well in recent outings, because you need to be in good knick before a US Open (even Lucas Glover had a T2 a few weeks before his victory in 09’)
  • When the US Amateur was held here in 2010 (Peter Uihlein won the event) the scoring average was 79.25.  That shows you need a grinding nature when the going gets particularly tough…

Chambers Bay from everyone else’s perspective:

Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director:

“Virtually every hole out there we will be playing from different teeing grounds on different days. In some cases we may end up putting tee markers on slight slopes as opposed to you think, well, you’re always going to have teeing markers on very flat areas. But there may be some where we give the players a little downhill slope, a little uphill slope, a side slope. So that’s interesting.”

Ian Poulter, social media maverick:

“Well several players have played Chambers Bay in prep for US Open. The reports back are its a complete farce. I guess someone has to win.”

Phil Mickelson, Mr.America (and hopeful contender for inclusion in the new Rory McIlroy PGA Tour game):

“I really like it. The first time you play it, it’s like St. Andrews. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know what mounds do what to do the ball.”

Jordan Spieth, everyone’s hopeful successor as Mr.America (speaking after the US Amateur):

“The course was ridiculously difficult”

Tiger Woods, a fan of Miss.America’s:

“We don’t see this even at the British Open because the greens aren’t banked like this.”

Jason Day, husband to a very attractive wife:

“It’s a little funky.  More Links kind of style golf course, I’m excited to see how it shows it’s teeth”

Henrik Stenson, Swedish Meat-ball-playing, tee-to-green guru:

“It’s a tricked-up links course. It’s got some high elevations, some five, six holes that we normally don’t see on a regular links course, and then we’ve got some more severeness, I’d say. It’s going to be different and it’s quite tricky in places. It’s going to be so much down to the weather as well. If the wind blows and if you were to add a bit of rain, you don’t want to stand there on a 240-yard par-three down to a postage stamp. You need to be sharp with your short game there, it’s going to be tested.”

Brooks Koepka, the lady-lover (according to his Instagram):

“If you just hit a bad golf shot, you’re going to be screwed”

And Finally,

Bubba Watson sinking a ridiculous putt during a practice round…

https://twitter.com/bubbawatson/status/609418048106139648/video/1

So if you’re able to work any of that out and have a few players in mind, we’d say go with your hunches.

We have a few lads that we are quietly confident can be up there challenging, but before we showcase the might six, we must stress that Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose all have (obviously!) ridiculous appeal, but are slightly too short for us…

Our Picks

Phil Mickelson (22/1 BetFred)

World Number 19

Phil getting those fists pumping.  Come on! Phot Courtesy of USA Sports Today

Phil getting those fists pumping. Come on!
Phot Courtesy of USA Sports Today

Sometimes you’ve just got to believe things will happen for a reason. 2015 could finally see Phil’s tumultuous affair with the US Open finally come to an end. The guy has 10 top 10’s and 6 runner-ups with Chambers Bay being his 25th start at this major!

After visiting the course for the first time a few weeks back Mickelson said it “resembled a course you would find in Britain” and that he’s “excited” about Chambers Bay. Looking at his Scottish double back in 2013, we know he has exactly what it takes on these sort of tracks.

The fairways being slightly more generous than usual will only go to help him and if the wind picks up we know he’s got a few low stingers in his locker.

As we’ve mentioned, winning a US Open needs recent form. He’s only missed one cut (The Players) in his last 8 events and has a T4 at the Wells Fargo and T2 at the Masters amongst them. Has posted some solid rounds in recent weeks but just hasn’t put 4 rounds together – Chambers Bay and the electric atmosphere of the US Open is where he finally could. Phil produces on the biggest stage.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
2 4 4 10 13 2

Plus a T9, T60 and WIN at Pebble Beach since 2012

Last 6 Results:

FedEx St.Jude Classic Memorial Tournament Wells Fargo Champs The PLAYERS The Masters Shell Houston
 T3 T65 T4 MC T2 T17

Rickie Fowler (22/1 Stan James)

World Number 8

Focused - courtesy of golfweek

Focused – courtesy of golfweek

Rickie Fowler showed everyone last year that he has the game to really contend at the Majors.  Followers of DownThe18th will know that we’re big fans of him and have often spoken about his exciting brand of golf.

Winning the Players Championship a few weeks ago (and saving our pretty poor betting season) really cemented his place amongst the big boys, dispelling the ridiculous myth that he’s an overrated player.

He was absolutely superb on the back nine stretch which included 4 birdies and an eagle, then keeping his bottle to win in a playoff.

So, whilst he missed the cut last time out at the Memorial, his form this season is still more than good enough to warrant huge Major appeal.  But one of the biggest reasons we really fancy him for his maiden victory is because of the perfect fit with the track.

He has proven his ability on Links courses and actually has a decent track record.  He’s not been scared to come over to the UK for European Tour events in the past – a T8 at the Scottish Open last year and T30 in Ireland in 2015.  That T30 was pretty much ruined in one hole though, when he was very much contending going into the last day.

He is one of the best drivers of a ball – T23 total driving and his irons can be devastating.  But his scrambling and never-say-die attitude is simply perfect for a course like this, when there will be times you’re hacking out of rough and struggling for a tough up and down from a bunker.

This could be the ultimate message to everyone in golf that we are going to have a 4-pronged future with McIlroy, Spieth, Rose and Fowler.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 2 3 4 6 1

Plus a T6 at the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Last 6 Results:

Memorial Tournament Irish Open The PLAYERS WGC Cadillac Match Play Zurich Classic The Masters
MC T30 WON T9 MC T12

Jim Furyk (40/1 Paddy Power)

World Number 3

 

Jimbo Courtesy of Daily Mail

Jimbo
Courtesy of Daily Mail

We all know about how many near-misses Jimbo had before he won the RBC Heritage back in April. But that win could give him the extra confidence in his mid-forties to find himself another major win.

In 2003, Furyk won the the US Open at Olympia Fields making light work of the field winning by 3 shots. 10 top 10’s since and he still hasn’t won another major. But 2014 was arguably one of his most consistent ever years in the majors (T14 Masters, T12 US Open, 4th Open, T5 PGA). And it’s that sort of form that has seen him rise to 3rd in the world golf rankings. In any sport, 40/1 for the guy ranked 3rd in the world is value.

So what’s going to endear the American to Chambers Bay? Well not only is he brimming with confidence after his RBC win, combined with a 4th in the WGC Match Play and T5 at the Memorial, but his style of play is perfect for this course. Jim finds fairways. He puts the ball where he wants and hits plenty of greens. And when he doesn’t find the dance floor, he’s one of the best at getting up and down (23rd in scrambling on Tour).

It’s hard to see Jim not contending with the way he’s striking the ball at the moment – he’ll know the majors are running out where he can compete with the likes of McIlroy and Spieth so he’s going to be giving 110% this week to win US Open #2.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 3 3 4 7 5

PGA Tour ‘Coastal’ tracks:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
1 1 3 3 6 0

Last 6 Results:

Memorial Tournament Wells Fargo Champs The PLAYERS WGC Cadillac Match Play RBC Heritage The Masters
T5 MC T56 4th WON MC

Ian Poulter (80/1 Paddy Power)

World Number 25

Sir Ian.

Sir Ian.

Okay, so we might not be getting the best feeling out of the Poulter camp regarding his views on Chambers Bay having claimed he will let everyone know his thoughts on the course after “holing his last putt”. If his Wentworth views are anything to go by, Chambers Bay isn’t likely to be making his bucket list.

But quite frankly this is a major, the ultimate in golf and Poults will be buzzing for it. Time and time again we talk about his Ryder Cup exploits but they really do show that the Englishman has it in his locker when needed.

2015 has seen him play arguably as good as he ever has in America, T6 HSBC WGC, T3 Honda Classic, T6 Masters (his best performance at Augusta) and T5 in his last appearance at the Crowne Plaza. The swing is looking immaculate and there can’t be any complaints about the way he’s playing.

Chambers Bay will have a British Open feel to it and Poults is more than capable on these sort of tracks. He’s finished T3 and T9 in 2 of his last 3 Opens and has his best ever major finish at the Open, 2nd to Padraig Harrington in 2008.

A few concerns have surrounded his bottle of late (as much as he won’t like us saying it) given the disastrous 4th round at the Honda but he’s confident in his own ability and we think this week is as good a chance as he will ever get at a major.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 2 3 5 8 5

Last 6 Results:

Crowne Plaza Invitational The PLAYERS WGC Cadillac Match Play RBC Heritage The Masters Arnold Palmer Invitational
T5 T30 T34 T18 T6 T21

Danny Willett (150/1 BetVictor)

World Number 36

Has everything in his locker for this sort of track

Has everything in his locker for this sort of track

The Englishman was spoken about in the same breath as fellow lads from the UK Donaldson and Lowry but we’ve plumped for Danny and we’ll tell you why.

Firstly, 2015 has seen the birth of Willett on the world stage. Not many American’s will have cared about who he was 6th months ago but they do now. He finished T12 in only his 4th WGC event at the Cadillac back in March which for us, was such a big result for him. But then came the WGC Match-Play. He looked unbelievable winning 6 out of his 7 matches, only losing to Gary Woodland in the semis. He defeated the likes of Reed, Moore, Westwood and Furyk on the way to his 3rd place and 2nd biggest pay cheque of his career. It also catapulted him into the top 40 in the world. All of that means Willett, now with temporary status on the PGA Tour, has to be taken very seriously for this event.

Tee-to-green is where the Englishman earns his bread and his game will be a perfect fit for the British feel of Chambers Bay. His career best major finish was a T15 at the 2013 Open, in what was only his 3rd major start.

The US Open more than any other major seems allow players with no previous major form to come in and contend and Danny is the perfect mould for that.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 1 2 4 5 4

Last 6 Results:

Irish Open BMW PGA Champs THE PLAYERS WGC Cadillac Match Play The Masters Shell Houston Open
T6 T38 MC 3rd T38 MC

Alex Noren (250/1 Coral)

World Number 70

Red-hot

Red-hot

There are certainly a lot worse bets out there than this one! Last week the Swede won his 4th European Tour title and his first in 4 years. After injury woes put pay to any sort of form in 2014 it seems Noren has come back fitter and better than ever before.

His standout attribute is his ability with irons from the fairway and this week at Chambers Bay, that will help him out tremendously. The putter too in recent weeks has got hot, so no surprises that when he ranked 3rd putts per GIR at the Nordea Masters, he won by 4 shots.

His best major finish to date was a T9 at the Open and has only played in the US Open (2012) twice before. But Noren is a confident character and you have to envisage these players in a potential final pairing with the likes of McIlroy and Spieth – how would they cope? For many of the European Tour stalwarts you’d say not very well, take Wiesberger at the PGA last year for example. But Noren seems like the kind of guy who won’t be phased at all.

At 250/1 and a recent winner, we’re looking for his confidence to continue and put him in contention this week.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 1 2 4 4 3

Last 6 Results:

Nordea Masters Irish Open BMW PGA Champs Open de España Volvo China Open Shenzhen International
WON T21 T8 T56 T26 T44
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The Open 2014 Preview 2

the open www.coral.co.uk
We promised another preview for this years Open Championship before our main one and we would never go back on our word!

PLEASE DO CHECK OUT OUR 3RD AND FINAL PREVIEW WITH ALL OUR PICKS AND SELECTIONS!!

Our 1st preview looked into everything links.  We detailed recent history on those seaside tracks and courses that have a similar feel, pinpointing a few players who have consistent finishes.  Please do have a read to help gauge more about where you should be putting your hard earned money!

As for this 2nd write-up we have looked into the trends and stats that are required to combat Hoylake and win on a links course.  Every Open Championship track has different attributes, there’s no denying that, but on the whole their similarities in terms of a classical links test make it worthwhile to look into previous years.
What trends and stats we will be looking into? 

  • Only Ben Curtis (2003) has won on debut since 1975
  • Tiger hit 85.71% of fairways (1st) and 80.56% GIR (2nd) to win in 2006 (when it was last held at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake) Therefore, we will be looking at top 75 for driving accuracy and GIR (Last 5 winners were also all inside the top 75 for GIR before the tournament)
  • Last 5 winners were inside the top 50 for scoring average – (We will look at the top 75)
  • Only 5 managed to finish Par 4s in red numbers in 2006 – Therefore we are looking at around the top 75 for par 4 performance (PGA TOUR ONLY)
  • 4 par 5’s – Tiger shot -14 and Carl Pettersson shot -16 to finish T8 – Therefore we are looking at around the top 75 par 5 performance (PGA TOUR ONLY)
  • Since 1980, every winner barring Ben Curtis, Paul Lawrie (1999), Justin Leonard (1997) have won at least 7 professional titles before winning The Open.
  • Barring Jon Daly (1995) and Ben Curtis, the past 20 champions have either won on the PGA or European Tour or finished in the top 10 at one of the two previous majors.
  • 64% of winners over the last 15 years played the course at least once before winning.
  • Only Ben Curtis in the last decade didn’t have at least 8 years experience as a pro before winning.
  • Average age of the last 10 winners is 33.8 but in the past 5 years that has increased to 38.

So, what we are going to do, similar to our Masters previews, is break down the majority of the field and see which players, if any, are left by fitting all these stats and trends.  The names you see under each title have not made that respective category and will not be considered further.

Only Ben Curtis (2003) has won on debut since 1975

Ben Curtis winning The Open. That was a genuine shock.  Photo by Nicolas Asfouri, GettyImages

Ben Curtis winning The Open. That was a genuine shock. Photo by Nicolas Asfouri, GettyImages

Patrick Reed, Brendon Todd, Chris Kirk, Chris Stroud, Brendon De Jonge, Cameron Tringale, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Every, Ben Martin, Erik Compton, Brendan Steele, Chesson Hadley, Shawn Stefani, Billy Hurley, Roberto Castro, Kristoffer Broberg

Top 75 in Driving Accuracy

PGA Tour –  Tiger Woods,Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Lee Westwood, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Hideki Matsuyama, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Paul Casey, Angel Cabrera, Louis Oosthuizen, Jimmy Walker, Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas, Gary Woodland, Jonas Blixt, Padraig Harrington, Harris English, Marc Leishman, Charley Hoffman, JB Holmes, Ryo Ishikawa, Brooks Koepka, Freddie Jacobson, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, Stewart Cink, Ryan Palmer, Matt Jones, Russell Henley, Scott Stallings, Jon Daly, George McNeill

European Tour –  Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, Mikko Ilonen, Victor Dubuisson, Joost Luiten, Matteo Manassero, Robert Karlsson, Stephen Gallacher, Thongchai Jaidee, Padraig Harrington, Branden Grace, Shane Lowry, Chris Wood, George Coetzee, Michael Hoey, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Richard Sterne, Thorbjorn Olesen, Brooks Koepka, Pablo Larrazabal, Paul Lawrie, David Howell, Darren Clarke, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Peter Uihlein, Brett Rumford, Victor Riu

Top 75 Greens In Regulation

PGA Tour – Jason Day, Luke Donald, Brandt Snedeker, Hunter Mahan, Billy Horschel, John Senden, KJ Choi, Kevin Streelman

European Tour – Miguel Angel Jimenez

Top 75 Scoring Average  

PGA Tour – Nick Watney, Boo Weekley 

European Tour  – Bernd Wiesberger

Top 75 Par 4 Performance

Kevin Stadler

Top 75 Par 5 Performance

Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia

At least 7 professional titles before winning The Open

Francesco Molinari, Matthew Baldwin, Oliver Fisher, Kevin Na, Ryan Moore, Chris Stroud

At least a win on the PGA Tour or European Tour this season OR a top 10 at The Masters or US Open

Edoardo Molinari, Grégory Bourdy

64% of winners over the last 15 years played the course at least once before winning

Matt Kuchar

Only Ben Curtis in the last decade didn’t have at least 8 years experience as a pro before winning – With the average age of 33.8 as well.

Believe it or not, after all that we have got 2 names that have survived.  Two players who are certainly no mugs and unsurprisingly have a cracking links history.
www.coral.co.uk


Zach Johnson (50/1 Ladbrokes)

A Major champion already, how about one more then?

A Major champion already, how about one more then? Photo by Peter Casey

Recent Open History

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

Links History in the past 2 years

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

Stats

Driving Accuracy GIR Scoring Average Par 4 Perform. Par 5 Perform. Pro Titles 2006 Open Finish
6th 30th 30th T45 T24 26 MC

Now 38, Zach Johnson has already had a remarkable career.  He has a major title in his locker (the 2007 Masters) and is one of the most consistent performers on tour.  Even with everything he’s achieved he has seemed to have found an extra gear again in the past year or so and to think you can get him at 50/1.  Very intriguing.

He had an amazing start to the season, winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and recording 6 top 10s.  Yes, he hasn’t been finding the 1st page of leaderboards in the past month, but at the time of writing he is just a couple of shots behind the lead at the John Deere Classic, which will give him plenty of confidence.

He is one of those players who suits the challenges of links golf.  He has consecutive top 10s in the Open and his ability to manufacture ball flight and push the ball exactly how he wants makes him a prime candidate every year.  His tee to green efficiencies and short game prowess is a really, really dangerous combination.

Sports Welcome Bonus 120x60

 

Adam Scott (18/1 Coral BEST PRICE)

 

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

Recent Open History

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
T3 2nd T25 T27 MC T16

Links History in the past 2 years

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

Stats

Driving Accuracy GIR Scoring Average Par 4 Perform. Par 5 Perform. Pro Titles 2006 Open Finish
63rd 31st 4th T2 T67 27 T8

The number one golfer in the world and the most consistent player of the past 2 years or so.  If anything, since that horrendous collapse at Royal Lytham & St.Annes in 2012 to finish one shot behind Ernie Els after a 75 final day score.  He was destined for great things, no doubt, but losing that trophy seemed to really kick-start his assault to the golfing summit.  Let’s just put this into perspective.  Here is his form since that Open Championship.

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
6 7 8 9 7

What an unbelievable return that is, it is no wonder he is now looking down at the rest of the world in the rankings.  It is madness how consistent that is and a lot of those top 10/5/wins are in very big tournaments as well.  Well, he rarely plays in anything but the biggest tournaments.  As for his links game, you cannot ask for anything more.  A swing that will never deviate and his abilities to manoeuvre the ball with ease make him one of the best links players.  3 of his European Tour wins have come on very traditional links tracks and his Open record is clearly impressive.  The fact he finished T8 here in 2008 as well, only add to his appeal.

What a player.

Honourable Mentions 

Graeme McDowell (33/1 Coral BEST PRICE) and Henrik Stenson (16/1 Coral, WillHill, Ladbrokes)

No need for introductions with either of these top players.  Gmac is a proven links guru and the only category he failed to tick was the par 5 performance.  BUT you have to remember this is only on the PGA Tour and he is a regular both sides of the pond.  He plays the longer holes with a plotting head because of his lack of length.  He has played here before (T61) and is in fantastic rhythm following his win in Paris a few weeks ago.

Henrik Stenson is one of the hardest workers in the game. He completely went off the boil for a couple of years, but toiled and toiled and toiled, to eventually find his rhythm and do the unthinkable – win the FedEx and Race To Dubai in the same season.  Madness.  He is such a long hitter and when he is straight, he can be untouchable.  His major form in recent seasons is outstanding as well – a worst finish of T21 in the past 6 years, which includes 3 top 5s.  He will be a top challenger once again this year.

Luke Donald (50/1 Coral BEST PRICE), Matt Kuchar (40/1 Ladbrokes), Justin Rose (12/1 WillHill) and Jim Furyk (66/1 Ladbrokes) all ticked many of the categories, but didn’t quite make it.

That’s it for our 2nd preview, as we say our final write-up with all our selections will be on the site tomorrow night (GMT).  Happy World Cup Final Day. 

PGA Tour Week 12

Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Lewis Pacelli

This week The PGA Tour embarks upon one of the most historic tournaments in world golf.  The Arnold Palmer Invitational is a favourite among fans and pros, with the course providing an incredibly tough test ahead of The Masters, just a few weeks away.

And we must mention that we will be blessed by the return of Brandt Snedeker, who has fully recovered from injury and it is going to be more than interesting seeing how one of our favourites for that Masters crown can play this week.

Please check out our Masters 2013 preview

Tiger strutting his stuff last year

Tiger strutting his stuff last year

Bay Hill Golf Course is widely considered one of the toughest non-major tracks and just like last week at Copperhead, it will demand a variety of attributes from the players if they want to challenge.  Playing at 7,419 yards, it will favour long hitters, who can attack the four par 5’s, however if you are not accurate off the tee as well, you can kiss goodbye to any potential high finish.  The thick Bermuda rough will cause havoc with the players if they miss the fairway and therefore birdies, let alone pars, will be difficult to find.  As if that isn’t enough, the greens are a real challenge to hit and finding them requires exquisite and accurate iron play, whilst the putting once you get there will be similar to last week – complicated. Taking all this into account, we feel the key stats are proximity to the hole, GIR, driving distance and accuracy and even scrambling for when the going gets tough.

If you want to see how tight and long the course really is, check out the official Bay Hill page, where you can take a tour of each hole.

What will also be very key is the small factor of world number 2 Tiger Woods.  He has started 4 tournaments this year and won 2, he has won this tournament 7 times, he is currently a combined total of 108 under par over 15 attempts here and perhaps even more importantly, he has a new lady on the scene.  US skier Lindsay Vonn was rumoured to be ‘close’ to Tiger, but it is now official after revealing their relationship via Facebook.  Basically Tiger has got his mojo back.

These 3 factors added together are a lethal combination to an already phenomenal force, who is simply playing outstanding golf at the moment.  Oh and one more thing, if he wins this week, he will be back to the number 1 spot in the world rankings for the first time in 29 months…

Graeme McDowell (25/1 Ladbrokes and w/o Woods 18/1 Bet365)

We will hopefully be drinking thanks to Gmac come Sunday evening

We will hopefully be drinking thanks to Gmac come Sunday evening

Before previewing our selections, we would like to say Tiger looks unstoppable at the moment and there is a market without him, if you wish to ignore the man completely, however there is obviously more value and better place (StanJames and PaddyPower are paying 6 places) payouts if you bet on the normal market.

So, the man they call GMAC has been slowly making his presence known on tour, with some very solid performances of late.  After missing the cut at his season opener, he has gone on to record 3 top 10’s in a row. T5 at the Matchplay, T9 at The Honda Classic and T3 at The WGC Cadillac.  His consistency has been key to his success of late and that is evident in the fact his worst finish at a major last year was T12 at The Masters.  This also proves the old theory that the Northern Irishman is known for his ability to battle and grind out scores on difficult tracks.  He has the game to really compete this week and he will be confident knowing his form on the course.  T2 last year and in 2005, he must surely be wanting to go one better in 2013.

As for his stats, they make for no real surprises, as McDowell excels across the board. 2nd for driving accuracy and 21st for total driving, show he will have no worries about avoiding the rough, whilst he is 2nd for scrambling and 2nd for scrambling from the rough.  He is currently 32nd for proximity to the hole, meaning he has the ability to attack what will be difficult pins and although his putting has been inconsistent this season, there are signs it is on the up.  There is no doubting that McDowell is gearing up for a big Masters performance and we can really see him challenging come Sunday evening.

Bubba Watson (30/1 StanJames and w/o Woods 28/1 StanJames)

The defending Masters champion will be going into the tournament this week looking to build some momentum before attempting to regain his crown in just under a months time.  And Bubba is the sort of player who can attack this course if his game is on song, whilst we will be the first to admit, he can just as easily slump to a very poor score.  We can take confidence from the fact he did not shoot over par in his four rounds here last year, finishing in T4.  He also finished 24th the year before that, showing that he has potential to challenge and the fact he is simply current Masters champion should be enough to prove he has the game to attack difficult courses.

We do love that pink driver. Bubba got style

We do love that pink driver. Bubba got style

4th in driving distance and 3rd in GIR is a lethal combination and if he can hit straight off the tee, there is absolutely no doubt he will finish in the top 10.

Whilst his form this year has been inconsistent, he is showing signs of form peaking at the right time. Barring his missed cut at The Northern Trust, he has failed to finish outside the top 20 and if it wasn’t for a final day 75 at The WGC Cadillac, he would have been easily inside the top 10.

Bubba will want to impress this week and prove not just to all of us, but to himself that he has the form and confidence to win back to back titles at Augusta.

Jim Furyk (40/1 Ladbrokes and w/o Woods 33/1 Bet365)

It may seem odd to go for a man who promised much last week before dropping agonizingly out of the places after several missed birdie opportunities.  However this man is Jim ‘5-hour energy’ Furyk. He was impressive throughout the 4 days, plugging away at a very difficult course and we see no reason why he cannot do it again this week on what will be a similar track.  Some of his approach play was outstanding, moving the ball really well from the fairway and finding plenty of birdie chances.  Yes he missed a few of them on the Sunday but the fact he is getting there in the first place is testament to what a quality and accurate iron player he is.  This is backed up by the fact he was 1st for proximity to the hole in the tournament but if he wants to challenge here, he has to putt better. And here is the confusion, he currently lies in 47th for strokes gained putting and he has always been renowned as a consistent putter, so what was happening on Sunday is unknown to us.  However, he did hole a monster 30 footer on the 17th which would have given him confidence.  He is 3rd for driving accuracy and 23rd for GIR between 175-200 yards, which will be the main distance on the par 4s.

Whilst his form here is very respectable, finishing 11th last year, 9th in 2011 and 11th again in 2010.

All in all we feel he could challenge the top of the leaderboard again this week and if he can hole his putts, winning is a real possibility.  He certainly has the attributes and talent.

Boo Weekley (100/1 SkyBet and w/o Woods 80/1 SkyBet)

Boo admitted he is at the right weight to play his best golf at the moment

Boo admitted he is at the right weight to play his best golf at the moment

Twitter went absolutely crazy on Sunday after Boo decided to hit an –8 from pretty much nowhere.  His game could not have been more perfect on the day and to say he was striking the ball cleanly is an understatement.  He has been away from the top end of the game for a long time, but he really is coming into some form at the minute.  It may seem like we are jumping on the Boo bandwagon, especially after he won us some money last week, but as a ball striker, there are few who can match him at this moment in time.  T25 at The Honda Classic, followed by a T8 in Puerto Rico and then his 2nd place last week are all the signs of how impressive he has been. While his all-round game is a potential perfect match for this course when he is in this kind of form.  49th in driving distance proves he has the ability to hit the ball long, whilst he is 40th for driving accuracy, 7th in GIR and 1st in GIR from 200+ yards, which will give him an advantage on the Par 5s.  From tee to green he is pretty much the ideal player and if he can putt as well as he did at Tampa Bay then there is no reason why he cannot do the same here. As long as he has been fishing this week and had his pizza.

Graham DeLaet (100/1 PaddyPower and w/o Woods 90/1 Bet365)

Graham De Laet is one of those outside chances that you just never know about, especially in a season when those ‘random’ outsiders have been at the top of many leaderboards.  His form is progressively impressive after finishing a respectable T17 last week T18 in Puerto Rico and T9 at The Honda Classic.  We are aware he has never played here but he has a game that could cause an upset.  18th in driving distance, 6th total driving, 10th in GIR, 24th par 4 performance, 12th par 5 performance, 2nd GIR from 200+ yards and 11th in proximity to the hole.  You cannot tell us that those stats are highly appealing for someone who is at 3-figure odds!

JJ Henry (400/1 Bet365 and w/o Woods 275/1 Bet365)

Just a quick word on JJ Henry. At 400/1, he is certainly worth any spare change you have, simply because of that price.  His form isn’t great this season, but he has played here before and although he may not have excelled, he has only missed 1 cut in 5 attempts and had a best finish of 12th in 2011. But it is his tee to green that intrigued us – 15th in both driving accuracy and GIR. If he decides he wants to turn it on here than you never know.

DownThe18th Double

This weeks double comes in the form of Gaganjeet Bhullar and Graeme McDowell at odds of 1058/1.

Also if you really do have some spare change and are a big betting person, maybe look at chucking those two in a triple with Richard Sterne at The Investec Cup at odds of 6771/1…you never know.

Tale Of Our Woes

Tampa Bay Championship + Avantha Masters

Sponsored by Colin Stuart Montgomerie, 5-time major runner up and the bearer of all our woes

Things we have learnt this week:

  • We love Boo Weekley
  • Boo likes fishing
  • Colin Montgomerie actually might be a better pundit than he his golfer
  • Gaganjeet Bhullar looks incredible!
  • Kevin Streelman was not on our radar before this week
  • Jim Furyk putted as well as he acts this week (His 5Energy advert will explain all)
  • We made a tidy profit with barely anything going for us!
Should he still be playing?

Should Monty still be playing?

We think before we go any further into this week’s edition, we have to take a quick look at the bottom end of the Avantha Masters 2013 leaderboard. As you might have guessed, Monty is indeed the brunt of many of our jokes here at DownThe18th but it is only fitting this week that we let the leaderboard do the talking. Thanks Monty.

But onto more serious matters, our week at DownThe18th was certainly one of mixed emotions, shall we say.  We went into this week knowing it was always going to be a tough one with the Avantha Masters being played on a new course and the Tampa Bay being notoriously hard to call. And we can definitely come out of it with our heads held high.

First we have to mention the rejuvenated and 100/1 shot Boo Weekley. How can you not like this guy?! What a real gentleman he is. Weekley shot an 8 under 63 on the final day of the Tampa putting him in 1st place with all the people around him barely through 4 holes. Boo greeted reporters with genuine politeness “thank you sir” he said over and over. When asked what he would be doing for the next 3 hours (waiting for the round to finish) he said “we were gonna drive on over there you know, to Orlando, and do some fishing on the golf course, but we’re gonna have to wait around now, but ah that’s alright, I’ll wait”.

Sadly Boo was eventually overhauled by fellow American Kevin Streelman picking up his 1st career PGA Tour win but it was still a great each way return for us and a pleasure to watch Boo back doing what he does best.

Life beyond Boo at the Tampa for us was one of disappointment though. Billy Horschel, another of our 100/1 picks, was outright leader for some of day 1, picking up 4 consecutive birdies at one point.  You can imagine our feelings when he finished T56 and +4 for the tournament.  Our 3rd outsider in the shape of Bryce Molder had a real chance going into the last day, just 2 shots back and found himself in the 4th final pairing.  He subsequently shot a 75 and finished T30 and was outshone by a very impressive 19 year old Jordan Spieth, look out for him in the future. Meanwhile it was a Webb of disappointment for Simpson, he managed to climb up to T17 in the end, but he never looked a threat on a course that really should have suited him! And then we come to Jimbo Furyk. Coined ‘Mr Consistency’ by us, certainly was not that on the final day. 2nd place he held going into the final day, many fancied him to go on and take this especially with a 1st and 2nd place in his last 3 outings here. But Jim left his putter in the clubhouse, nothing went in for him but for a 25footer on the 17th which was ultimately too late. Naturally he finished 1 shot off a place scuppering any chance of an each way return. But we still love you Jimbo, we still have faith!

Now onto India and the Avantha Masters.  In brief, Thomas Aiken never looked like losing from midway through day 3, he was finding every green in regulation and putting superbly. From a DownThe18th perspective, things were not as rosy.

Our saviour at the Avantha was a certain Indian going by the name of Gaganjeet Bhullar. He eventually finished 2nd on his own but was visibly the best player on the course on the last day, he looked imperious picking up 7 birdies and an eagle whilst putting sensationally. (We will not mention the fact that we only backed Bhullar to win and he finished 2nd). We WILL be backing Bhullar again this week, he really did look impressive.

Our #1 pick, David Howell, found many birdies out there during the week but also found a few bogeys! He eventually finished 11 shots back in T17 but it could have been so much better if the consistency had been there this week. Andy Sullivan, a favourite of ours at DownThe18th, was again dropping too many shots out there, he finished T23 eventually, not bad but not what we had hoped for from the Englishman. It was the same story from the big hitting Alvaro Quiros, but after such an extensive period out through injury, he can be more than happy with his -6 finish.  Our 2 rank outsiders finished where the betting predicted, missing the cut. What we will say, 125/1 shot Shamim Khan hit a -6 on day 2 and still missed the cut by 1 shot. You can imagine what day 1 was like…

One more thing.  Whoever MASHED POTATOES guy is, please contact us.  We love you! We spotted you at the Tampa Bay 17th tee on sunday!  See Video…

PGA Tour Week 11

Tampa Bay Championship

We know there is a small little race meeting in Cheltenham this week, where we are sure many punters will be testing their luck, however do not forget there is still plenty of golf to feast your eyes and wallets on…

With the Masters only 4 weeks away now (And our preview to be up within the next few days), many players will be making sporadic appearances here and there at the forthcoming events getting the right balance between rest and practise.  This week sees only a few of the ‘big boys’ make an appearance on the Tour, these being Garcia, Scott, Donald and Simpson as well as out of sorts major winners Oosthuizen and Kaymer.  So naturally, the betting is heavily favoured in their direction meaning there are a few outsiders at big prices that will be well worth a punt.

For us, the Tampa Bay is a tough one to call (although my colleague will argue the Avantha Masters is tougher) with it being regarded as a technical course where scrambling is just as important as birdie getting.  The previous winners tell the story, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, KJ Choi and Retief Goosen are all people who know how to somehow find their way around every course, you can call them intelligent golfers.  Perhaps not the biggest hitters on tour, but they certainly know how to use an iron.

The Innisbrook Resort, Copperhead course in Florida is a tree-lined affair, playing 7,340 yards.  Emphasis is huge on driving accuracy with wayward balls off the tee penalised.  ‘Ball strikers’ have been prevalent over the past few years and iron play from the 200yard mark seems crucial judging by the past few winners.  2 dog-leg par 5’s means irons again will be preferred for many, those who attempt to smash their way through the course will ultimately be punished.  And as with any tournament, putting is essential.  Don’t putt well here and you can kiss goodbye to a top 20.  Expect there to be wind this week as well, so it will be interesting to see who can adapt their game the most!

Accuracy is crucial! As you can tell...

Accuracy is crucial!   As you can tell…

Jim Furyk (28/1 SkyBet)

Affectionately known as ‘Mr Consistency’ here at DownThe18th, we can never miss a chance to back Jimbo Furyk.  And it is an honour to have him as our #1 pick this week.  Over the years Jim has stamped his authority on this tournament.  2nd, 13th and 1st have been his last 3 finishes here, so he enjoys it around the course.  Despite the famous Furyk swing, he finds himself 5th in driving accuracy in 2013 (4th in 2012) on the PGA Tour which certainly fits in well with his nickname.  And of course with it being trees-galore here this week, accuracy will be vital.  In every statistic Furyk is hovering around the top 40 and on this course being consistent in all areas will be key, and his putting is nothing to be ashamed of, 42nd in total putting on the tour this year.   He is 4th in bounce back ability, so fear not if he bogeys!  We will be very saddened if Jimbo does not at least place this week.  Finally, we hope you have seen Jim in action on the TV the last few weeks, his acting skills alone should surely be enough to convince you to back him this week?  Enjoy.

Webb Simpson (17/1 SkyBet)

This course looks made for Webb

This course looks made for Webb

Now this is a Webb Simpson course if there has ever been one.  He loves grinding it out on the difficult major-like tracks and his record here is nothing to be sniffed at.  10th, 2nd and 13th have been his last 3 results here for the current US Open champion.  One statistic that will be vital is iron play and 9th in GIR % from < 125yards, 16th from < 100yards and 12th from 175-200yards shows Webb is one of the best around.  Simpson is also 6th in scrambling, 11th in par4 performance, 4th in sand save % and 24th in scoring average, all statistics that will be useful on this technical course.  One worrying thing is his putting.  Webb ranked 58th out of 64 in putting at the Cadillac last week, which does not bode well!  But on the tour he finds himself 8th on the greens from 15-25feet, so it is a tough one to call.  If he lets us down this week, it will be from on the greens.

Bryce Molder (100/1 Stan James)

Bryce Molder is our 1st of 3 outside picks this week that all find themselves at triple figure odds.  This one was a close call between himself, Michael Thompson and Jimmy Walker, but we have opted for the former due to his prowess on the greens.  After 2 missed cuts here, Molder finished 20th last year which is more than respectable.  His putting has been nothing short of exceptional this year with him sitting 1st in strokes gained through putting.  His driving is perfect for this course, reasonable distance and very accurate, he ranks 12th in driving accuracy.  He is also 20th in GIR % from 125-150 yards so his iron play can certainly cope around here.  5th in 3 putt avoidance is another statistic that makes us happy, as there will be some tough holes out there this week.  A place is a very reasonable prospect for Molder this week.

Boo Weekley (100/1 Paddy Power)

Can Boo get back to his best?

Can Boo get back to his best?

Boo is one of the best ball strikers in the game but has somewhat disappeared off the radar in recent times.  We hope to bring him back on it now!  He caught our eye particularly last week with a tidy T8 finish at the Puerto Rico Open, which was somewhat overshadowed by Tiger’s win at the Cadillac.  Boo has had surgery a few times in the last few years and has recently complained of lacking confidence on the course, but despite all of this, he is actually playing some great golf!  His statistics are really hard to ignore and he looks like the perfect fit for this course.  Weekley finds himself 23rd in driving accuracy, 11th in GIR % and 1st in total driving.  Add this to 20th in all round ranking, 2nd in ball striking, 7th in GIR from 200 yards and 20th from 175-200yards, it’s hard not to be impressed.  The main worries are of course confidence issues and putting, but Weekley looked imperious on the greens at the Puerto Rico so hopefully he can continue in a similar vein this week.  4 missed cuts out of 5 on this track again does not impress, but his form this season has been progressively improving.  It seems missed cuts and places come hand in hand at this tournament as well, so hopefully Boo can continue that trend.  Tread carefully on this one, but he could go close!

Billy Horschel (110/1 Bet365)

Outsider number 3 comes in the form of William Horschel.  His only performance here has been a missed cut, but bear with us.  Statistics are our reasons for picking this guy, and you will see why.  On the PGA Tour, Billy is 13th in driving accuracy %, 6th in total driving, 7th in all round ranking and 11th in GIR % from 175-200 yards.  He also finds himself 15th in scoring average on the tour which is something that you need to be excelling in coming into this tournament.  So it is some impressive stuff for such high odds.  2nd place in consecutive cuts also highlights to us what a consistent performer he is as well.  Horschel was born, raised and educated in Florida so being a local lad will certainly help here.  With no Tour wins under his belt it is hard to envisage a win for the American, but a place is certainly within his reach!

DownThe18th Double

Jim Furyk  + David Howell (1000/1 Paddy Power)

European Tour Week 11

The Avantha Masters

By Lewis Pacelli

The European Tour travels to India this week for the fourth installment of the Avantha Masters. With a combined field from The Asian, European and PGTI (Professional Golf Tour of India) Tours, there is a sense that this could literally be won by anybody.  It has been a difficult task trawling through the various Indian online papers and Asian Tour website, trying to find that one homegrown talent who could shine this week. We can truthfully say that it hasn’t been all too fruitful, but several names have shouted out to us, with prices varying between the criminal and absurd.

The tournament itself has moved to the Greg Norman designed Jaypee Greens Golf Course near Delhi, where it will be staged for the first time.  The Par 72 course has been open for just over a decade and at 7,347 yards, it is the longest course in India. Fairways are wide and spacious, giving big hitters the chance to destroy everything in their path, especially with a forecast for rain on Thursday, which could slow down the otherwise dry grass.  Interestingly, Jeev Mikha Singh said last week that due to a harsh winter, the rough has simply not had the chance to grow and will sadly hamper the week, with an expected birdie fest on the horizon.

Even with 14 lakes and 88 bunkers scattered around the course, not much will stop players attacking the pins, especially without wind.  As we stated earlier, there are many names in this competition that are not only very difficult to pronounce, but complete unknown entities.  So, we have collated an interesting list of players who could really give Mr.Norman a reason to smile this week.

Also for all those real lovers of golf out there you will be absolutely delighted to know that Colin Montgomerie will be playing this week, which means he will NOT be on the commentary team at SkySports. Thankyou Avantha.

David Howell (50/1 PaddyPower)

David Howell is climbing back up the ranks

David Howell is climbing back up the ranks

David Howell was a golfer who once graced the top 10 in the world rankings, yet the man from Swindon, England has had a real howeller over the past few years, with a catastrophic decrease in form.  When you consider that halfway through the season last year he was 367th in the world, to where he is now, it is little wonder that he is a name on the minds of a lot of people once more.  He has pushed himself up to 185th in the rankings and has started the season sublimely.  T6 in Abu Dhabi, where a 4-putt cost him the opportunity to challenge for the win, followed by T22, T30 and T10 at the Tshwane Open two weeks ago.  For someone with obvious natural ability, form as consistent as that is a major sign that confidence is kicking back into his game.

Admittedly, his driving doesn’t stand out at all when it comes to the potential long hitting on offer, but he is 11th for stroke average and a low score will win this week.  40th for GIR, 44th for putts per GIR, 47th for putts per round, 29th for one putts and 18th for sand saves, show how unbelievably consistent he is across the board.  We are confident his current game can adapt to anywhere and with a relatively weak field, he is arguably one of the best on show.  At prices as high as 50/1, it would be ludicrous not to get involved.

We were very interesting to see what he said in an interview last week and it certainly made us sit up and listen.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing in India, it’s a fascinating country. You see some sights and sounds which you’re not used to seeing back home in Europe, so it really opens your eyes,”

“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve had one week off since playing in South Africa, spent a bit of time with the family and did a bit of practice. I’m in a good run of form, so I come into the week in confident mood.”

“I’ve been playing consistently for the past year now, and I have to give my new coach [Jonathan Wallet] a lot of credit for that. He’s got me to see things a bit differently, and I’ve worked differently over the past 12 months than I had the previous for our five years. It’s paid dividends.”

We know he hasn’t won since 2006, but we have a gut feeling he will return to the podium this year and it could very well be this week.

Andy Sullivan (50/1 PaddyPower)

We have a real liking for Andy Sullivan at DownThe18th and he seems to be showing a few signs that he has a real future at the top end of the game.  Barring his missed cut at the Tshwane Open, he has been in fine form this season, especially at the Africa open, where he finished T5.  Although he hasn’t played at this tournament before, he will be arriving in a confident mood, especially in the knowledge that his driving distances can offer plenty of birdie chances. He is averaging over 296 yards, leaving him 25th on Tour, whilst he is 28th for stroke average and 34th for GIR.  He may not be the hottest with his putter, but we are certain he will attack a forgiving course and give himself plenty of opportunities.  His odds certainly do not reflect someone that has been in and around the top 20 on a regular basis in much more difficult fields.  His first win on tour could come this week.

Alvaro Quiros (55/1 SkyBet)

The Spaniard spanking it into the distance

The Spaniard spanking it into the distance

A wrist injury and resultant surgery in November last year, meant Quiros has missed the early parts of the new season recovering.  Now, it is rare we will select people that are in their first tournament back after having such a major operation, however if the Spaniard is fully fit, he will have no trouble running away from the rest of the field.  There must have been some careful consideration and planning that has gone into his return, potentially in the knowledge that this is an open field, with wide fairways and a chance to attack a wonderful golf course.  If you are only half fit, you do not travel all the way to India for a tournament like this; we are quite sure Quiros will be raring to go.

Since turning pro he has never averaged less than 300 yards.  Even with an injured wrist at the back end of last year, he was still hitting it over 300 consistently.  If he really gets his driver going, then literally anything can happen.  Whether that is a top 10 or lost balls, it is yet to be seen.

Gaganjeet Bhullar (35/1 PaddyPower)

Our first homegrown talent comes in the form of Gaganjeet Bhullar.  The Indian initially caught our eye at the Singapore Open last year where he finished a very respectable T18 in a very strong field consisting of players like Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Matteo Mannasero.  This shows he has no fears with big names and we can promise you that this field is nowhere near that quality.  He may have started the season slowly on the European circuit, but in his last two outings on home soil he finished T25 and T8.  He has also recorded 4 victories on the Asian Tour, proving he has the capability and strength to stay the distance. (A cheeky horse-racing pun for all the Cheltenham lovers out there…) He also averages over 290 yards off the tee and when he is the mood he can easily reach 300+ yards.  On home soil, it is players like Bhullar who will be spurred on by the home crowd and as we all know, that sort of advantage can do wonders for your confidence!

Danny Chia (225/1 Bet365) and Shamim Khan (125/1 PaddyPower)

Our last selection is a double header, with two Asian stalwarts at very high prices who could upset the applecart this week.  Danny Chia is an Asian Tour golfer who made history in 2010 by becoming the first ever Malaysian to play in all four rounds of The Open.  (He finished T55) Whilst he seems to be in scintillating form at the moment, winning on his last outing at The Northport Glenmarie Masters, breaking a five-year wait for his 15th professional win. In his other 2 starts in 2013, he finished T13 and T20 and with a driving average of 301 yards, he could be a perfect fit at Jaypee.  As for Shamim Khan, he is our second homegrown talent and a player who was in superb form throughout 2012, winning the PGTI overall rankings. (The equivalent of The FedEx Cup or Race To Dubai) He won 3 trophies and finished inside the top 10 a remarkable 18 times.  And his start to this year has seen him place T38 at The SBI Open, whilst he has not been fazed by bigger names, finishing 22nd at this tournament last year and 11th the year before.  So if the local Delhi lad can shrug off any nerves and get the crowd on his side (which won’t be too difficult) then you never know. You just never know.

Shamim Khan and his rather peculiar swing. Only fitting that he and Sir.Jimbo are in our picks this week.

Shamim Khan and his rather peculiar swing. Only fitting that he and Sir.Jimbo are in our picks this week.

Danny Chia making history at The Open in 2010

Danny Chia making history at The Open in 2010

DAY 4 – WGC ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP 2013

Bubba and his unorthodox swing

Bubba and his unorthodox swing

By Lewis Pacelli

Day 3 in Arizona was one we will never forget, as we achieved our first big money win with the 8-fold accumulator at 76/1.  Bubba Watson and Jason Day made us wait for it however, after both their matches went down to playoffs after both players missed chances to win during the 18.  Bubba looked horrendous inside 10 feet, missing two putts to defeat Jim Furyk, whilst rookie Russell Henley produced an outstanding bunker shot on the 17th to be able to take the match “down the 18th ” before holing a 12 footer and squaring the match.  Our hearts were completely out of control and Budweiser bottle caps were strewn across the floor, watching the last two of our bets too and fro between winning losing.

Once Bubba holed his putt on the 22nd hole of their match, we screamed like you would at a football match, jumping like you would at a rave.  To us, matchplay can excite more than strokeplay and should be a bigger part of the tour.  It brings in a younger audience, because of its drama and even though purists may disagree, golf is changing.  The crowds were once again losing their heads yesterday, the atmosphere that can only be seen at this sort of event.

As for the other matches, Poulter looked in control once more, easing past Bo Van Pelt, whilst Mahan and Kuchar both shook off the challenges of Sterne and Garcia respectively.  Nicolas Colsaerts looks ominous, with his long hitting defeating Justin Rose and Irishman Shane Lowry absolutely battered Carl Petterson, adding to his scalp of McIlroy on Thursday.

As for proceedings today, the 3rd round matches are very interesting.  Kaymer Vs Mahan brings real intrigue, whilst the winner of Colsaerts and Kuchar could go all the way.  We do have a cheeky 7-fold accumulator, which we hope can bring as much as excitement as yesterday!

DownThe18th’s Day 4 Bets

Day 4 Match Accumulator

All to win:  Poulter – Watson – Stricker – Garrigus – McDowell – Mahan – Simpson  (Paddy Power 46/1)

We will also be posting up as soon as the 3rd round is complete for the Quarter-final matches.