2015 Open Championship

2015_Open_Championship

Prize Fund – £6,300,000

Winner’s Share – £1,150,000

Course – St. Andrews Old Course (7,305 yards Par 72)

Our 2014 Picks – Adam Scott – T5, Graeme McDowell – T9, Zach Johnson – T47, Webb Simpson – MC, Shane Lowry – T9, Robert Karlsson – T12, Ryan Moore – T12, Stephen Gallacher – T15

So here we are. The third and most historic major of the golfing calendar. The US Open began in 1895, PGA in 1916 and The Masters in 1934. But The Open Championship? 1860.

That means the 144th edition of this great tournament will be held back at the (adopted) home of golf – St. Andrews.

As we’ve stated before, this season has been full of storylines and performances from top players, with Jordan Spieth obviously now going for the unthinkable this week.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what we can expect, we’ve got to mention the big omission of world number one Rory McIlroy. It has affected the odds and it the repercussions of him playing ‘soccer’ (It’s FOOTBALL) will definitely be felt across the globe. With his record at St. Andrews as well, you can’t help but think we really do now have a wide open contest.

On to the famous track though – we’ve had some truly great winners here, some of the best to ever play the game – Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo, Sam Snead and Bobby Jones.

We’ve all seen the layout thousands of times in replays and famous Open moments but for those of you that didn’t know, the par 72 lies at 7,305 yards running across the Scottish east coast near in Fife.

Courtesy of standrewstaxis

Courtesy of standrewstaxis

The Old Course has 112 individually named bunkers, including the infamous ‘Hell Bunker’ on 14 and the ‘Road Bunker’ on the 17th. Both have dished out serious pain to many that have succumbed to it’s sandy ways and can be the difference between a par and a triple bogey.

Tiger Woods managed to go round here without finding a bunker on his way to the 2000 Open title, whilst Sir Nick only hit a few in 1990. The likelihood is, you’re going to see everyone in one at some point, so scrambling and sand saves will be key when thinking about your bets.

The fairways are rolling, undulating and famously wide – there’s plenty of space to attack off the tee, but that doesn’t mean you can spray the ball wildly because the thick fescue ad gorse will take no prisoners.

The greens double up several times throughout the 18 and are therefore incredibly large, which means there’s a variation of slopes, lengths and speeds during a round. Knowing when to attack pins and go for those birdies is simply crucial.

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All in all there are several factors we are looking at when it comes to St. Andrews this year –

Links Form

Recent Form

  • Not necessarily on fire, but showing something in past few outings, because St. Andrews demands your full attention, just look at the recent winners –
    • Louis Oosthuizen won a tournament and had 5 top 5’s, however he missed the 2 cuts in the events prior to lifting the Claret Jug
    • Tiger Woods only had one finish outside the top 11 in the 6 tournaments prior to his 2005 win, including 3 top 3’s and a win.
    • No point even saying what Tiger was on during his win in 2000. It was barmy.
    • John Daly was a slight anomaly. Few missed cuts before and a couple of finishes inside the top 15.
    • Sir Nick had 3 top 5’s in a row before and had won The Masters.
  • Those past 4 winners all averaged nearly 300 yards plus off the tee. We’re not saying a truly big hitter is needed, but you need to have some sort of distance
  • Look at Dunhill Links for some cheeky European stalwarts at high odds
  • A scrambler and flag attacker. Birdies can sometimes be easy to come at St. Andrews.
Courtesy of TheOpen

Courtesy of TheOpen

Overall it will be an unbelievable week of historic golf, especially as we all say a final farewell to one of the greatest Open champions ever. Only Harry Vardon has more Open titles than this living legend.

Tom Watson. We salute you.

DON’T FORGET – Our weekly competition with renowned magazine Golf Monthly continues, take a peak at the end of our selections to see how our stakes have been distributed this time.
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You can follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!

Rickie Fowler (22/1 various)

This boy really does have everything Courtesy of golfweek

This boy really does have everything
Courtesy of golfweek

If you’d come to our site in the past few days, you would have seen the names Rickie Fowler and Tommy Fleetwood pop up in our preview. It’s obvious that these were our two antepost bets, mainly because we fancied them to do well for both events in Scotland.

So, we grabbed Fowler at 33’s with BetFred and duly watched him go on another birdie binge to win at Gullane. It was yet another unbelievable performance; a master class in complete golf.

There’s simply very few chinks in his impenetrable armour. We all thought that he didn’t have the bottle to win and that we would never see him push on from an outstanding amateur career.

Well from recording 4 top 5 finishes at the majors last year, he’s pushed on to unbelievable heights in 2015.

His form leading in is clearly very good, he is driving well and looks very comfortable with his mid-short irons and that is a potentially lethal combination at St. Andrews. We’ve seen his scrambling abilities quite regularly recently as well, which is always a must with the heather and bunkers protecting an otherwise simple track.

But there are two significant reasons why we really fancy him this week. Firstly, his bottle. He looks so comfortable on the greens in heated moments, he is really learning how to hole putts when it matters. Just think Sawgrass and that fantastic approach on the last in Gullane to give him his one shot victory. The boy got game.

But secondly, it’s ability on links tracks. We’ve seen him several times turning up on these shores to have a knock on seaside courses – T8 at the Scottish and T2 at The Open last year, T30 in Ireland a few months back, when he was challenging for the lead.

Plus he finished T14 at St. Andrews back in 2010 after surging through the ranks following a quality final round.

In Rick we trust.

Recent Form

Scottish Open US Open The Memorial Irish Open The Players Champs WGC Cadillac
WON MC MC T30 WON T9

Open Championship Form

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
T2 MC T31 T5 T14

Henrik Stenson (22/1 various)

Another big chance for the Swede

Another big chance for the Swede

Well, here we go again. We’ve been through all sorts of ups and downs with Henrik Stenson, including at this very tournament back in 2013, but we’ve got something of a hunch that it’s time for us to re-visit and old pal.

His rise back to the summit of the sport is virtually complete and has kept very steady – he hasn’t left the top 10 since the back end of 2013 – but it’s blindingly obvious what’s missing.

He’s won The Players, a WGC and 15 other pro events, but that breakthrough major still eludes him. And whilst we feel his game can be transferred to pretty much any major, The Open feels like the best type of layout for him, especially the demands St. Andrews will bring.

He finished T3 here back in 2010, which in most years would have challenged for the title, but we all know what Louis went on to do. Plus in 2005 he finished T34 when his game was nowhere near the level it is now, so it adds up to some very encouraging signs.

He’s also played the Dunhill Links many times compared to the other big boys around him, so he’ll know the track incredibly well and having record 3 top 10’s there, you can’t help but gain that extra bit of confidence.

Form wise he’s definitely been topsy-turvy. A cracking return to his best at his last outing in Germany (T2) will keep him buoyant, whilst you have to remember he’s had top 20’s at The Masters and The Players and a solo 2nd at the Arnold Palmer and 4th at the Valspar.

His length off the tee will be an obvious advantage, especially with the wider fairways and his irons are a thing of beauty once he gets going. There’s just something telling us Stenson is going to go on a roll this week…

Recent Form

BMW International US Open Nordea Maters Wells Fargo Champs The Players Champs WGC Cadillac
T2 T27 T13 T58 T17 T34

Open Championship Form

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
T39 2nd DNP 68th T3 T13

Brooks Koepka (66/1 StanJames)

Brooks Koepka is a man on a mission.  What a future this lad has

Brooks Koepka is a man on a mission. What a future this lad has

Brooks Koepka has been on a rapid rise into the higher echelons of world golf in the past year or so. Having started out 2014 in and around 100th in the rankings, he has been firmly amongst the top 25 since his breakthrough PGA Tour win at the Waste Management.

Including his win in Turkey at the back end of last year, he’s been showing genuine major contending form. If you remember he grabbed us some place money at the US Open in 2014 and wasn’t a million miles away a few weeks ago at Chambers Bay.

And the fact he played well on a proper links track shows that he’s got the game for an Open Championship. He learnt the ropes in the pro game over in Europe as well, which means he’s accustomed to ‘non-American’ courses and actually has a pretty decent record on these layouts.

T28 at the Johnnie Walker, T22 in Wales, T12 at the Scottish and a win at the Scottish Hyrdo all in 2013, whilst he actually finished T4 at the Dunhill Links last year.

Then he went on to finish in a tie for 22nd last week, following on from some good recent form, including a T3 at the St. Jude Classic a few events back. His length and iron game definitely suits St. Andrews and out of all the mid-rangers, he really looks like the perfect fit to challenge the very best.

Recent Form

Scottish Open US Open FedEx St. Jude Classic The Memorial AT&T Byron Nelson BMW PGA Champs
T22 T18 T3 T16 T72 MC

Open Championship Form

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
T67 MC

Brandt Snedeker (50/1 various)

Come on Sneds, get that roaring passion going!

Come on Sneds, get that roaring passion going!

No denying that plumping on Brandt Snedker goes against everything we’ve said about distance, but this lad is in such good knick and simply too good with the short stick not to consider.

His recent form is up there with anyone (barring Spieth…) and he’s gone relatively unnoticed or even mentioned for the claret jug.

Don’t forget it wasn’t that long ago he challenged Adam Scott and Ernie Els very close. In 2012 he was unstoppable with his putter and irons – he shot 66 and 64 to equal the lowest 36 hole score in The Open. Yes he went on to finish T3 but that proves he’s got the game for links golf. Just look at his two wins at the AT&T – Pebble Beach is a proper seaside track.

But we really do feel he is closing in on that hot streak again, when attacking the pins and finding the cup is done with ease. His putting stats are a joke – 5th strokes gained putting, 19th total putting, 9th one-putt percentage. He just loves it.

He may not have played St. Andrews, but if he can avoid the bunkers as often as possible, keep in play and get that putter going, you never know…

Recent Form

Travelers Champs US Open AT&T Byron Nelson Crowne Plaza The Players Champs WGC Cadillac
T10 8th T6 T2 MC T52

Open Championship Form

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
T58 T11 T3 MC DNP MC

Tommy Fleetwood (80/1 various)

Face of concentration - courtesy of golfwrx

Face of concentration – courtesy of golfwrx

Tommy Fleetwood has entered the top 50 in the world for the first time in his career this season and most of that is down to a new-found consistency.  He really is playing some decent golf.

7 finishes inside the top 21, with 4 top 10’s including a T10 across the water in Gullane at the weekend.  He had a genuine chance going into that final round but it started off with a double on the 1st and he never truly recovered.  That hasn’t put us off backing him (even though admittedly we laid him last week…) and most of that was because of his outstanding form at St. Andrews.

He is a remarkable 26-under in his last 4, yes FOUR, rounds there.  That is simply ludicrous.  His results at the Alfred Dunhill are crazy – T2 in 2014, 2nd in 2013, 5th in 2012, 55th in 2011 and T5 in 2010.  That is some of the best form of anyone at the event and bringing that to St. Andrews in the sort of confidence and vibe he will be in at the moment is very exciting.

Recent Form

Scottish Open BMW International US Open The Memorial Irish Open BMW PGA Champs
T10 T11 T27 MC T21 T6

Open Championship Form

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
MC

Retief Goosen (250/1 various)

LOVES trophies

LOVES trophies

We wanted to find another cheeky outsider and dabbled with the idea of Rafa Cabrera Bello but stuck with Retief Goosen.  We are only talking a few spare pennies, but he got back to some iron beauty in Germany, finishing T4 (and winning us some much needed dollar!) whilst his form at St. Andrews is not bad – T41 2000 and T5 in 2005 and 6th in 2010.

Plus he won the Alfred Dunhill Cup back when it was matchplay in the nineties twice in a row with Ernie and David Frost.

At the end of the day, he is a double major champion and we know that was some time ago, but all we say is, why not?

Recent Form

John Deere Classic BMW International US Open FedEx St.Jude The Memorial AT&T Byron Nelson
MC T4 MC MC T31 W/D

Open Championship Form

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
DNP DNP T64 WD 6th T5

Golf Monthly £10 ChallengeGM_masthead-630x176

Every week we’re running a weekly betting competition on both Tours with esteemed magazine Golf Monthly.  It is a bit of fun between us and them to see who has the better tipsters!  We have £10 to put on each tournament and will write up a weekly post for their site detailing the horrors we are sure to endure throughout the year – so keep an eye out.

It will also (for the first time from us at DownThe18th) show some sort of staking plan we have for out bets.  Obviously, this isn’t the exact stakes we will put on our players, some weeks we won’t even enter a couple of our picks, but at least it can be shown roughly where our thoughts are money wise.

Our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows  –

£2.00 e/w on Rickie Fowler at 33/1 (BetFred)

£2.50 win on Henrik Stenson at 22/1 (Coral)

£0.75 e/w on Brooks Koepka at 66/1 (BetFred)

£0.50 e/w on Brandt Snedeker 50/1 (PaddyPower)

£0.50 e/w on Tommy Fleetwood 80/1 (BetFred)

Each way bets ¼ odds for top 5 finish unless stated otherwise.

Find the Golf Monthly Preview here (http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/news/tour-news)

Current Standings after 26 weeks
Golf Monthly
European Tour:  £49.17
PGA Tour: £-29.00
Total: £20.17
DownThe18th
European Tour: £-110.62
PGA Tour: £19.77
Total: £-90.85
Golf Monthly leads by: £111.02
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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

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!

 

US Open 2014 Preview 2

Date: 12th – 15th June

Venue: Pinehurst Resort, No. 2 Course, North Carolina

Course: Par 70, 7,562 yards

Current Champion: Justin Rose

Purse: $8,000,000

Winners Share: $1,440,000

Past 6 Winners –

2013: Justin Rose

2012: Webb Simpson

2011: Rory McIlroy

2010: Graeme McDowell

2009: Lucas Glover

2008: Tiger Woods

Past 2 Winners at Pinehurst –

2005: Michael Campbell

1999: Payne Stewart

One of the most eagerly anticipated US Opens is finally on our doorstep. The tournament that has historically brought out the real best of top quality players, testing every facet of their games.

So why are we saying 2014 is eagerly anticipated more so than previous years?

Well, the host venue, Pinehurst No.2, may be a renowned track but we can safely say that no one really knows exactly how it will play because of this extensive renovation that has completely overhauled the look and feel from the majors it has hosted in the past few decades.

It is a new course that has kept many of the traditions which designer Donald Ross originally intended to create. It is going to be a highly intriguing 4 days.

If you want a detailed look at what the course is all about, do check out our 1st preview here.

Pinehurst will be playing at 7,565 yards, making it the longest par 70 in US Open history. We have come to expect those short, nudgers and nirdlers tracks from the years 2nd Major, so whilst it still maintains the focus on outstanding iron and approach play, length has come into it for 2014.

Bill Coore and 2-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw set about the revamp and the extension of over 300 yards will create all sorts of havoc for the field.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 20.33.44As you can see 3 of the 4 par 3’s are over 200 yards and if the wind is up, will test any player with a mid-long iron. There may be only 2 par 5’s but they are relatively monstrous, whilst 4 par 4’s are over 500 yards. It does make you scream BIG HITTERS DELIGHT but you have to stay cautious because it will not be that simple at all.

It has been well documented how the 2 golfing stalwarts ripped up 40-acres of grass and replaced it with 35 acres of ‘wasteland.’

It consists of sand and vegetation, pine needles and natural fescues, so by the time the weekend’s play comes around, lies will be completely different to the opening rounds.

Accuracy will be important, mainly on the approach shots – especially between 200-225 yards, as many approaches will be at this sort of distance – because the notoriously difficult greens have hardly been touched and will provide the courses’ main defence.

How Pinehurst has changed over the years.  Incredible.

How Pinehurst has changed over the years. Incredible.

The raised, bentgrass greens are tough to find and get the ball to stick, so no matter how pinpoint you are with your irons, everyone will miss greens and this is where scrambling because a necessity. Defending your score as much as finding those birdies are vital to any US Open and this will be no different.

The one worry we are sure the USGA has about Pinehurst this year is the fact the weather on all 4 days looks horrendous.

http://www.weather.com/weather/tenday/Pinehurst+NC+USNC0529

If the rain pours consistently and heavily it will make it easier for these top pros to get the ball to stick on greens and then scoring could go anywhere.

In all honesty we have seen an abundance of names get talked about as potential winners, more so than any tournament we can remember, because the unknown entity of the course and weather makes it difficult to judge.

We have really slaved over our picks, after deliberating for hours about whether this guy has the game, or this guy etc. We finally came to a decision that we are certainly happy with and it felt right to go with 5 main people followed by a group of outsiders worth looking at.

Note: Many bookmakers are offering 6 places this week, but Coral have an offer of betting £10, getting £10 free in play.  A good ploy to use for this sort of tournament, because all sorts could happen on the first few days!

Let’s make it a happy Father’s Day for all of us.

Jordan Spieth (28/1 Coral)

Better than Tiger?

Better than Tiger?

20-year old Jordan Spieth has made a rapid rise to the top of world golf. Having only turned professional in 2012, he is now 10th in the rankings and we couldn’t be surer that he will become a multiple major winner. It is just a matter of time before he picks up his first one and Pinehurst could be the place he achieves that feat.

His performance at Augusta was truly special, although finishing just behind Bubba for a tie of 2nd, he had a 2-shot lead at one point and for us, he didn’t bottle it.

He showed his remarkable character and lack of fear, had it not been for an incredible performance from Bubba, he would have become the youngest wearer of the green jacket. That experience will undoubtedly help him and he would have learnt from the 4 days and this could put him in a great mind-set for this week.

At The Players he went into the final day joint top with Martin Kaymer and he didn’t look as comfortable admittedly. A few uncharacteristic bogeys amongst his usual birdies halted his chances for a big victory, but again he would have learnt from it all.

He is an exceptional talent, with superb iron ability and he has averaged over 290 yards in his last 3 tournaments, so his length is not an issue. He is also very capable with his long irons – 55th approaches from 200-225 yards, 4th approaches from 250-275 yards.

But it is around the greens where his genius really takes hold. He is an adept scrambler and putter and with the tough surfaces, he will be able to find birdies at the right time, whilst hold onto those valuable pars – 9th scrambling, 5th scrambling from the rough, 39th 3-putt avoidance, 29th strokes-gained putting.

Spieth is not a young pretender at all, this guy is the real deal.

Luke Donald (40/1 Coral)

Time for some success from the Englishman

Time for some success from the Englishman

Here we go again. Luke Donald is one of those players on that ever-shortening list of world-class, non-major winners.

He is now 36 and arguably into his prime years and with 15 professional wins across the globe, this could finally be the Englishmans’ time.

Unsurprisingly he showed he class at Merion last year, a course that screamed Luuuuuuuuuke. We know that Pinehurst is considerably longer and he doesn’t have the greatest length off the tee, but as we have said already, distance is useful, however it is more crucial to have an all-round game that can combat anything and everything the tournament throws at you.

Of his 11 wins on the PGA/European Tours, 6 of them have come on courses over 7,350 yards, let alone the WGC matchplay win at Doral – a monstrous 7,700 yard track.

He is accustomed to finding other ways to combat long courses and his course management is up there with the best in the game. Therefore his long irons are simply outrageous – 21st GIR 200 + yards, 21st approaches from 200-225 yards, 16th approaches from 250-275 yards.

Whilst around the greens, we all know his capabilities – 18th scrambling, 22nd scrambling from the rough, 10th 3-putt avoidance, 6th strokes-gained putting.

You can have every faith in Donald when standing over those clutch-putts and we do feel the recent experiences of near misses will actually help him in a weird way.

The RBC Heritage is a tournament he has come so close to winning many times (5 top 5s in 6 attempts) and he was in pole position to win on the final day. Matt Kuchar ended up holing out from the bunker on the 18th to snatch victory away and whilst there have been a few bad rounds since, the T3 at the BMW PGA Championship shows he hasn’t lost his form.

With Rose winning last year, it would be unheralded to have another Englishman dominate the best the USGA can offer. Yet, it is a distinct possibility.

Charl Schwartzel (50/1 BetVictor)

A golfing marvel

A golfing marvel

The only question mark for us surrounding the South African is whether he is a good enough putter to win around here. He is one of those who consistently burns the edge and lips out but his weight of putt is actually really good and that could prove to be vital around Pinehurst.

To show this in figures, he ranks 73rd strokes gained-putting (not exactly bad) and yet ranks 17th for 3-putt avoidance. And when every shot counts in majors, 2 putting your way around the course could prove to be a winning formula.

Aside from his short game, we know what he does from the tee and fairways with one of the best swings technically in the game.

He ranks 18th total driving, averaging 297yards off the tee, 42nd scrambling, T10 approaches from 200-225 yards (one of the key yardages considering the par 3’s as well), T15 par 5 going for the green (showing his ability to attack greens from all long yardages). At 50/1 for a man in his prime with a major under his belt and that swing, it is too good to resist.

Contended heavily at last year’s US Open and his only other top 10 in majors, aside from his Masters win, was at the 2011 US Open.

Hideki Matsuyama (50/1 BetVictor)

Matsuyama will not be hiding in the shade this week.

Matsuyama will not be hiding in the shade this week.

The first thing that comes to our mind is, can he win two tournaments in a row, one of them being the US Open? Well short answer, yes.

We had been following Matsuyama for a couple of years over on the Japan Golf Tour and even won a bit of money on him. So it was no surprises when he came over to America and immediately started putting in quality performances.

It was his consistency in the majors, very similar to our main man Spieth, that is scarily good. T10 (US Open), T6 and T19 were his three major performances last year. For a 21 year old, you can’t ask for much more. We can genuinely see an historic ding-dong battle developing between Spieth and Matsuyama for the next 30 years.

Aside from his performances in big events, the way he plays the game sets up perfectly for Pinehurst. He fits the statistics we looked at arguably better than anyone in the field. T34 total driving, T23 scrambling, 6th approaches under 100 yards, 9th 200-225, T41 225-250 and 22nd par 5 going for the green.

His putting has left a little to be desired this year but 7th putting average on the way to his Memorial victory two weeks ago is enough for us to be happy. He has unquestionable talent with the driver and irons, it’s just whether that all important putter turns up!

Keegan Bradley (66/1 Coral)

The steely concentration of Keegan Bradley

The steely concentration of Keegan Bradley

It has been a bizarre year for Keegan Bradley. He hasn’t really excelled, but his consistency has caught our eye for a tournament where a solid swing and rhythm is vital.

3 top 10s, but 9 top 20s is quite some return and we just feel his game could suit Pinehurst to add another major trophy to his cabinet.

He is very long off the tee when he wants to be – 21st driving distance and his approach play, all be it slow, has everything needed to combat the challenge this week – 30th GIR 200+ yards, 36th approaches from 200-225 yards, 16th approaches from 250-275 yards.

He is one that will never shirk away from attacking greens and yes this has got him into bother at times, but if the rain does stay for all 4 days, then this ploy could reward him with a shot at lifting the trophy.

Around the greens he has immense patience and prowess, but a lot of his putting comes down to what head he brings. He can miss all sorts of putts, but he can also hole anything from anywhere for fun. If the latter of the schizophrenic-like Bradley turns up, we have a winner on our hands – 16th scrambling, 24th 3-putt avoidance, 58th strokes-gained putting.

For 66/1, a major champion, we just felt it was too good to ignore, especially with there being pretty poor value at the top. Keegan has the complete game to really challenge here.

Outside Bets

We usually incorporate players of big odds into our final 5 but with this being a major and the best possible field, there are plenty of people at tremendous value. So we have brought together 5 names at three figure odds and we will let you be the judge on whether you chuck a tiny bit of money on them or not. All of them will be at respectable odds in the top 10 market too.

Matt Every (125/1 Various)

If you get a chance, type in Matt Every into Google, there are some hilariously similar mug shots of the man.  Lad.

If you get a chance, type in Matt Every into Google, there are some hilariously similar mug shots of the man. Lad.

A player who might not be a household name but has a massive future at only 30 years of age. Bagged his first PGA Title back in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and after a terrible run of form since that win, hit back last week with an impressive 3rd place behind Ben Crane. Finished 28th at Pinehurst back in 2005 when he was a younger lad, but this will not mean a lot.

Notable Statistics: T43 scrambling, T20 scrambling from rough, 3rd strokes gained-putting, T9 approaches under 100yards, 16th 200-225yards, T37 par 5 going for green.

Chris Kirk (125/1 Various)

Chris Kirk, a smiling hero

Chris Kirk, a smiling hero

Like Every, bagged a title in this 2014 wrap-around season at the McGladrey Classic. Went on to finish 2nd at the Sony Open and hasn’t missed a cut all season! That’s 18/18 cuts made. Finished T4 in his last appearance at the Memorial and was back striking the ball as cleanly as we know he can. Currently sits 6th in the FedEx Rankings, showing what a player he is. His iron play is one of the best in the game and will be invaluable around Pinehurst. Also ranked 3rd in putting average last time out.

Notable Statistics: 44th total driving, 19th scrambling, 40th strokes gained-putting, T52 under 100yards, 57th par 5 going for the green.

Ryan Palmer (150/1 Paddy Power)

We’ve had him earmarked for the US Open for quite some time now and it’s always just been a case of making sure he qualifies. His game pretty much is perfect for this course and has 5 top 10’s to his name in 15 starts this season, including 2 runner-up finishes. Looked very good a few weeks ago in his T5 finish at the Crowne Plaza. Has 3 PGA Tour titles to his name and knows how to get the job done. Next step is doing it on the big stage.

Notable Statistics: 25th total driving, 23rd driving distance, 35th scrambling from rough, 75th strokes gained-putting, T45 under 100yards, 13th par 5 going for the green.

Paul Casey (100/1 Paddy Power)

We're in awe of this photo

We’re in awe of this photo

Really, really good to see the Englishman back contending in America and shooting some good numbers. One of the best drivers of the ball in the game, particularly evident in his victory at last year’s Irish Open on the European Tour where he was hitting it miles. Growing up in England he will be more than used to the weather that he will experience in the first two rounds at Pinehurst. Led for quite a while at the Memorial Tournament and will be buzzing about the way he is playing.

Notable Statistics: T73 strokes gained-putting, T9 under 100yards, 31st 200-225, T63 par 5 going for the green.

Brooks Koepka (250/1 Various)

Koepka will be prepared if the weather turns sour.

Koepka will be prepared if the weather turns sour.

Followed this guy for quite some time now since his Challenge Tour days and absolutely bombs it off the tee. After a few weeks full-time in America, has started to look quite decent. Will be used to adverse conditions playing all over the globe on the Challenge and European Tours. With a tidy short game added to his length off the tee, worth a few coins surely?

Notable Statistics: T6 driving distance, T39 3-putt avoidance, 44th strokes gained-putting, T26 under 100 yards, T13 200-225.

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

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…