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.

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Masters 2013

By Lewis Pacelli + Andy Taylor

Before we start just a quick mention to check out our Masters preview on Oddschecker as one half of DownThe18th joins the punditry team at Sport Authority.  Click on The Masters and enjoy!

Well here we are, The Masters is upon us. The best 4 days on the golfing calendar and arguably the sporting calendar!  All the golfers that tee it off on Thursday will be dreaming of donning that famous green jacket and putting their names in the history books.

Played at Augusta National Golf Club, the Masters is the 1st of 4 Major Tournaments in the year, and the best if we’re honest. The par 72 will be playing all of 7,435 yards this week and is one of the hardest courses around. Narrow, long and not very forgiving! If one facet of your game is off this week, you will barely make the top 25. Not to mention the putting surfaces, 2 putt your way around here and you’ve done well. The greens won’t be easy to find this week either, expect to see a lot of scrambling.  If you had to pinpoint where to excel, very accurate iron play + driving, scrambling and holing lots of putts will be absolutely crucial.

Masters 2013 is here

Masters 2013 is here

If you haven’t already seen over the last couple of weeks, at DownThe18th we’ve managed to piece together various trends of previous winners that have helped us pick who we fancy this week. And here they are:

  • Each of the past 13 winners made the cut at The Masters the year before
  • The past 15 major winners had a previous top-10 in the same year
  • Past 5 winners were in the top 60 for driving distance on Tour and averaging 290 yards throughout the season
  • Past 6 winners have been inside the top 63 for scoring average on Tour
  • 7 of the past 8 winners finished in the top-25 at the previous years PGA Championship
  • Changes were made in 2008 to combat a certain Tiger and since then every winner hit GIR of at least 68% during the 4 days. We therefore are factoring in GIR of around 60% on Tour for the season
  • The last 5 winners had driving accuracy of at least 58%, so we feel around 55% accuracy of the tee is required
  • 9 of the last 11 winners were inside the top 20 for putting average during the tournament, so we are looking at around the top 75 in putting stats.
  • The most crucial holes where you need to find birdies are the par 5’s. The past 5 winners have hit a combined under par average, so around top 75 on par 5 scoring average and par 5 birdies or better % – The last 4 winners have played their combined 64 Par 5 holes in –38
  • There’s been only one first-time PGA Tour winner at the Masters since 1948: Bernhard Langer in 1985.
  • 69% or 24 of 35 players of the Top 3 finishers from 2004 through 2012 at Augusta were residents in the Southern United States
  • The average age of the green jacket bearer is 32
  • The average attempts before a first win is 6
  • 9 of the last 11 winners were inside the top 20 for putting average during the tournament, so we are looking at around the top 75 in putting stats.

So obviously, anyone who fits all of those categories is in for a great chance this week.

The beauty of this tournament is that you can make cases for a large majority of the field. Even more exciting is how everyone is coming into some sort of form. Who can forget how well Tiger is playing, Rory Mcilroy is looking ominous once again after a 2nd in Texas whilst 3-time winner Phil Mickelson already has a PGA title to his name this year. Let alone all the other people who have titles to their name in 2013. We are certainly in for 4 outstanding days.

Finally, over the previous month our minds have swayed from one player to the next. Our initial ‘4 week plan’ changed considerably to our ‘2 week plan’ (Both available in the ‘Masters 2013 Preview’ tab) and then eventually we ended up with our final few players.

We have a great week in store

We have a great week in store

If you do feel Tiger Woods is just too hard to back against, then there is a without Woods market with some very good odds available. Considering the form he is in, it could be a very popular route. Paddy Power, SportingBet and 888Sport are also paying 6 places on e/w bets this week, so bet wisely!

JUSTIN ROSE – (20/1 PaddyPower + w/o Woods 14/1 PaddyPower)

Previous Masters Form –

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
8 11 20 36 5
Rose is ready for his 1st Major

Rose is ready for his 1st Major

Justin Rose has been in superb form this season, finishing in the top 25 in each of his previous 13 tournaments and it looks like his irons are back to what his amateur days had promised.  And they promised so much.  That T4 at The Open as an amateur was incredible, but turning professional the day after was certainly too soon, missing 21 cuts in a row and having to regain his card through European qualifying school 2 years on the trot.  Fast-forward a decade and the much lauded Englishman is now number 3 in the world going into the first major of the year with EVERY chance of winning it.  Last year he led both the PGA and European GIR % and won the WGC Cadillac Championship by a stroke from Bubba Watson.  From tee to green he is the perfect golfer, able to hit it long and accurate, whilst his putting is improving by the week.  The putts on the final 3 holes against Phil Mickelson at The Ryder Cup last year showed not only his capability but also his bottle.  He has long been considered a ‘flop’ when it comes to the crunch and that is a fair assumption, but this is a new man. Even big Phil turned round at the time and could only mutter one word – “Wow”. He has been first round leader twice at Augusta (2007 + 2008) and failed to assert himself come Sunday but he seems to have an aura of calmness now and why wouldn’t he?

Just look at his stats and Masters form, he likes the course and is clearly a perfect fit – we are trying our hardest not to be sentimental, but this could be the year England have their first major winner since Sir Nick Faldo back in 1996. It could be a very rosy week for Justin…

 Recent Form –

Arnold Palmer Invitational WGC Cadillac Honda Classic WGC Matchplay Qatar Masters Abu Dhabi Golf Champs
2 T8 T4 T17 T16 T2

Statistics –

Residence Driving Distance Driving Accuracy GIR % Scoring av. Par 5 Scoring av. Par 5 Birdie + Strokes Gained Putting Putts Per Round Best Finish 2013 Attempts + Average Finish
London and Orlando 301 y (8th) 57.14% (121st) 65.74% (94th) 68.675 (2nd) 4.38 (2nd) 57.50% (8th) 106th 25th 2nd 7 +20

Note bold indicates where they match the trends of past winners

ADAM SCOTT – (28/1 Various + w/o Woods 25/1 Bet Victor)

Previous Masters Form –

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
8 2 18 MC 25 27
Time for Scott to fulfill his potential

Time for Scott to fulfill his potential

Back in 2002 a 22-year old Australian showed signs he would be challenging for majors every year, winning the Scottish PGA Championship by 10 clear shots and recording a top 10 in his first ever appearance at The Masters.  He has always been earmarked as being one of the best and this could be the breakthrough year.  Firstly, lets be honest, he should have won The Open last year, leading by 4 going into the last day before a final round +5 let Ernie Els sneak in to win another major.  It was a shock to see, as he has always oozed calmness and authority – it was certainly a shock for everyone in the game.  Since then he has recorded 9 top 20s and cut down his schedule in 2013 in a bid to attack the majors this year. His T3 at The WGC was a joy to watch, shooting –8 on the Sunday is no mean feat and was great to see him enjoying his game, however at Tampa Bay his putting was uncharacteristically poor and he has gone on to work hard in time for Augusta.  He simply ticks every box of recent Masters winners and his game is tailor-made for the challenge. He is the right age, experienced, drives it long, accurate and can attack pins – the all round package. Plus with Steve Williams, Tiger Woods ex-caddie on the bag, he will have a professional and experienced voice in his ear throughout the week and he could prove to be a big difference between winning and a top 10. He will have grown and matured from that collapse last year, he is NOT the sort of player to do that again.  And when the great Arnold Palmer agrees, you know its true

“Adam Scott has performed like Usain Bolt at Augusta the last two years, starting sluggishly before finishing like an express train. If he can get out of the blocks a little quicker this time, he will take all the beating. Expect Scott to be focused, eager to avenge his collapse at [the British Open] last year, and look for him to overpower the Cathedral in the Pines.”

Recent Form –

Tampa Bay Champs WGC Cadillac WGC Matchplay Northern Trust Open
T30 T3 T33 T10

 Statistics –

Residence Driving Distance Driving Accuracy GIR % Scoring av. Par 5 Scoring av. Par 5 Birdie + Strokes Gained Putting Putts Per Round Best Finish 2013 Attempts + Average Finish
Switzerland 302.9 (5th) 54.88% (152nd) 62.9% (149th) 69.239 (2nd)   70.45% (1st) 73rd 3rd 11 +26

KEEGAN BRADLEY – (30/1 StanJames + w/o Woods 22/1 PaddyPower)

Previous Masters Form –

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
T27
Great talent and a great opportunity

Great talent and a great opportunity

Keegan has kept impressing us at DownThe18th, not just with his golfing ability but with the way he conducts himself on and off the course. He’s a very likeable character and someone who is freshening up the game.  Has he got what it takes to win around here? Of course he has! 4 top 10’s in his last 4 tournaments, including a 4th at the Honda Classic and a 3rd at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, both very similar layouts to Augusta. So he’s in fabulous form. One thing that could put people off is that he only made his debut here last year, but finished a very respectable 27th. And who can forget his 1st ever Major appearance, a stunning victory in the PGA Championship. So if anyone with little experience around here can win this, it will be the American. Another big factor for picking Bradley is his love for big occasions. Who can forget his antics with Mickelson at last year’s Ryder Cup, fist pumping practically every shot. He certainly wears his heart on his sleeve, which we love! Statistically as you can see, Bradley looks very, very promising and if we’re honest is very unlucky to only get slot number 3 in our Masters picks this week. He’s also a connoisseur of the controversial belly putter, so it would be very ironic if someone who putts that way won this week, considering the hype surrounding them right now. Can easily win this week.

Recent Form –

Shell Houston Open Arnold Palmer Invitational WGC Cadillac Honda Classic WGC Matchplay Northern Trust Open
T10 T3 7 T4 T33 T16

Statistics –

Residence Driving Distance Driving Accuracy GIR % Scoring av. Par 5 Scoring av. Par 5 Birdie + Strokes Gained Putting Putts Per Round Best Finish 2013 Attempts + Average Finish
Jupiter, Florida 298 y (16th) 61.12% (79th) 67.6% (59th) 69.671 (8th) 4.40 (4th) 57.61% (7th) 49th 78th 3rd 1 +27

SERGIO GARCIA – (45/1 StanJames + w/o Woods 35/1 Bet Victor)

Previous Masters Form –

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
12 35 45 38 MC MC
Sergio is back to his best

Sergio is back to his best

We’ll start this one by saying it’s the 30th anniversary of a certain Spaniard’s 2nd Masters title, Mr Seve Ballesteros. If you are one for superstitions, wouldn’t it be fitting if Sergio Garcia won here this week?

The Spaniard after completely losing his game for a couple of years is back, we can tell you that. We have watched a lot of him this year, and we have been very impressed. Sergio this year has managed 5 top 20’s from 7 starts including a 2nd, 3rd and 7th place. That elusive win still evades him this year and what better place to get it? And talking of elusive wins, Garcia somehow has yet to win a Major, which is a travesty for someone with his talents! He has recorded three 2nd places, a two 3rd places, a 4th and two 5th places in Majors so far. So he certainly knows how to perform in majors! Interestingly, when Sergio was at the peak of his game 10 years ago, he recorded an 8th and 4th at Augusta in 3 years. Again, his pedigree around here cannot be questioned. Last year, with his game ever improving, he finished tied 38th. But Sergio is a different animal now. If you do look through the betting market, Garcia is arguably the best player at those sort of odds, 45/1 for a player of his calibre needs to be taken advantage of. Again he is a massive shout for at least a place here, and could quite easily win this.

Recent Form – 

Arnold Palmer Invitational Tampa Bay Champs WGC Cadillac WGC Matchplay Northern Trust Open Dubai Desert Classic
W/D T7 T3 T17 T13 T17

Statistics –

Residence Driving Distance Driving Accuracy GIR % Scoring av. Par 5 Scoring av. Par 5 Birdie + Strokes Gained Putting Putts Per Round Best Finish 2013 Attempts + Average Finish
Borriol, Spain 292.1 (41st) 61.17% (76th) 69.2% (31st) 69.276 (4th) 51.79% (31st) 31st 2nd 14 + 12th 34

HENRIK STENSON – (66/1 StanJames + w/o Woods 55/1 Bet Victor)

Previous Masters Form –

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
40 MC MC 38 17 17
In form and just sneaked into Augusta

In form and just sneaked into Augusta

Henrik is someone we expect a lot of people to be backing this week and it was hard for us to stay away from him. He was never in our plans 4 weeks ago, but has certainly earned his place in our picks this week. He is a player that feeds off confidence and someone who needs to be jumped on when he hits form. The big hitting Swede came to everyone’s attention 2 weeks ago with a great 2nd place at the Shell Houston Open (which gave us a much appreciated e/w return) that followed a T8 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Those 2 performances came after some pretty average golf by his standards, 39th, MC, 64th were his finishes in the tournaments prior to 3 weeks ago. So the confidence and form is there for all to see right now. Stenson in years gone by has often been known as a ‘big hitter’ and perhaps lacks skill with his irons. But that is certainly not the case anymore! Henrik ranks 1st in quite a few iron statistics on the PGA Tour now but is still averaging nearly 300yards off the tee. That is a pretty lethal combination. And in his 2nd place two weeks ago, the putting looked great too.

During the Swede’s best years in 08/09, he managed two 17th place finishes at Augusta which is more than acceptable round here! He also managed a T3, T4, T6 and 9th in the other 3 majors during those 2 years. He enjoys the Majors shall we say! But at 66/1, Henrik is a great outside bet and has a great opportunity for at least a place with the kind of form he’s in right now. Interestingly, Stenson’s 2nd place a couple of weeks ago sneaked him into the World top 50 Rankings, without that he wouldn’t be here this week! So it would be very interesting if he went close after leaving it so late to qualify.

Recent Form –

Shell Houston Open Arnold Palmer Invitational Puerto Rico Open Honda Classic WGC Matchplay Dubai Desert Classic
T2 T8 T39 MC T33 T26

Statistics –

Residence Driving Distance Driving Accuracy GIR % Scoring av. Par 5 Scoring av. Par 5 Birdie + Strokes Gained Putting Putts Per Round Best Finish 2013 Attempts + Average Finish
Orlando, Florida 285.5 (95th)(298 on European Tour) 74.29% (1st) 76.6% (1st) 70.440 (31st) 50.00% (40th) 173rd 8th 7 + 46

PETER HANSON – (80/1 PaddyPower + w/o Woods 66/1 Coral)

Previous Masters Form –

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
3 MC
Our outsider this week. Can he better his 3rd last year?

Our outsider this week. Can he better his 3rd last year?

Peter Hanson is our outside shot because he has impressed us over the last year or so.  A T3 at Augusta last year showed the world he has the game to really compete at the highest level and he could have challenged for the win had he not shot +2 on the second day. The –7 on the Saturday was simply outstanding and the best round in the field.  He also won twice at the end of 2012 at the BMW Masters and KLM open destroying both fields with ease. And his form has not stopped there, he has continued into 2013 with confidence, barring the blip at the Northern Trust Open, he has finished no lower than 22nd in any tournament. All this culminated in a superb final day last Sunday in Texas where he shot –6 to climb back up to T22.  His round included 7 birdies and an eagle on a long par 5 which will fill him with the self-belief that he can attack the dreaded par 5s at Augusta. Averaging the ball over the needed 290 yards and having a trusted putter by his side, Hanson is a real prospect at such high odds.  In fact, he has 3 top 10s in his last 8 majors which is certainly better than a lot of players in the field. In Hanson we trust.

Recent Form –

Valero Texas Open WGC Cadillac Honda Classic WGC Matchplay Northern Trust Open Qatar Masters
T22 T8 T13 T17 78 T22

Statistics –

Residence Driving Distance Driving Accuracy GIR % Scoring av. Par 5 Scoring av. Par 5 Birdie + Strokes Gained Putting Putts Per Round Best Finish 2013 Attempts + Average Finish
Trelleborg, Sweden 292.8 (38th) 53.90% (156th) 59.60% (175th) 70.179 (19th) 54.55% (12th) 27th 8th 2 +36.5

It is also worth looking at several other markets, which the bookmakers offer during the 4 majors.  Top Scandinavian, Top English and Top South African are particularly appealing, but Top Debutant is the stand out special market for us.  We would have said Thorbjorn Olesen all day long, but he was in a car crash last week (how dare you Thorbjorn) and has not practiced for 10 days, for your first time at Augusta, it is worse preparation than the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  And that is saying something. Side Note – Fredrick Jacobson has odds at 125/1 (StanJames) and it is far too intriguing not to spare some saved up change on a Swede who is one of the best putters in the world. When you are 4th for strokes gained putting, 6th for putts per round, 3rd for scoring average and 25th for par 5 birdie + you have a real outside chance at Augusta. As we said, any change you can spare, it would be rude not to have a dabble.

So look out for the big hitting Nicolas Colsaerts (11/2), Russell Henley (8/1) and an in-form Richard Sterne (8/1)

Good luck and enjoy the Masters!

Tale Of Our Woes

7th Edition (Shell Houston Open + Trophee Hassan II)

Sponsored by Colin Stuart Montgomerie, holder of 0 weeks at World Number 1 and the catalyst for every bit of our woe!

What we learnt this week:

  • When DownThe18th back D.A. Points he misses the cut
  • When DownThe18th don’t back D.A.Points, he wins a tournament – we’re not bitter
  • Henrik Stenson is back
  • D.A. Points uses his mother’s putter, to great effect as well
  • We had three 2nd places this week, that is surely unlucky?
  • Jimmy Walker is now coined ‘Mr Inconsistency’
  • Maximilian Kieffer had more bogeys than clubs in his bag
  • The Masters is only 2 weeks away!
  • We love the new trend ‘Dufnering’

What another rollercoaster of a week we had again! We ended up with 4 places from our picks this week, a tidy bit of money but still that bitter taste in our mouths. The week ended with D.A.Points picking up his 2nd PGA Tour title whilst the long haired German Marcel Siem picked up the title in Morocco on the European Tour. But forget all that, let’s look at the week from a DownThe18th perspective!

Let’s start in North Africa and the beautiful country of Morocco. A place perhaps not known for their golfing exploits, but they certainly put on a great few days for the ‘European’ Tour this week. We highlight the word European because it has been 6 months since there was actually an event in Europe now, all the way back on October 11th 2012 at the Portugal Masters. But we will brush that under the carpet as this was the 1st week on the 2013 calendar where we haven’t had to wake up at silly o’clock. There is always that nervous wait when you awake at 8am, load your laptop, and somewhere across the globe your picks will be finishing off their rounds, with us being none the wiser as to where they are! But this week was brilliant, a lovely 11pm tee off for most of our players and even some coverage on the TV for us to sit back and enjoy our Easter break.

Day 1, and things didn’t start well. Most of our picks where late starters and naturally the weather was gorgeous before any of our lads teed off. As soon as they heard DownThe18th had a few picks coming onto the 1st tee, the wind was summoned and it was like a scene from ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ (maybe a slight exaggeration). Marcel Siem posted a sun-drenched 64 to top the leaderboard and ultimately make it his own for the rest of the week.  Meanwhile Pablo Larrazabal, our number 1 pick, was frightfully unlucky at times eventually finishing level par, even being compared to a ‘young Seve’ from the commentary team. Perhaps a bit strong for someone who only has 2 European Tour titles to his name.

Onto days 2 and 3, and the leaderboard started to shape up. From a DownThe18th perspective, very nicely so. Larrazabal, David Horsey and Mikko Ilonen, all our main picks made up 3 of the top 4 places going into the last day, which is always good to see. Sadly, the long haired German at the top was not budging and it left our boys battling it out for 2nd spot. At times we were brought to the edge of our seats, at the start of both the final 2 days, Siem started with a bogey meaning he was only 1 shot in front, but always managed to pull himself together and consolidate that top spot. Ilonen found himself level with Siem on day 4 after a stunning front 9, but the notorious DownThe18th bottle came back to haunt us and a double bogey (something most of our picks inevitably pick up at some point) put pay to any chance he had of the €250,000 prize fund.  Quick mention to our other pick Maximilian Kieffer, +13 after day 2 and he had more bogeys than clubs in his bag. It appears we backed the wrong German! But all in all, not a bad return for us, Horsey and Ilonen both finished tied 2nd whilst Larrazabal was 2 shots back in 4th.

Now onto the PGA Tour and the Shell Houston Open, and most of our picks certainly didn’t come out of their ‘shell’ this week! Let’s start with Edward Norton look-a-like and general enigma Jimmy Walker shall we! 7 top 30’s in 8 starts he’s had this year, an animal on the par 5’s and was driving it superbly at Bay Hill! So naturally we back him and he finishes 50th… But that really doesn’t tell the whole story. He was our leading pick after day 1, sitting nicely on -4, 5 birdies and one bogey, not bad at all. Then day 2 came. 2 birdies to start off, lovely. Then from the 4th tee to 9th tee, he went bogey, bogey, triple bogey, par, double bogey. Ouch. Then on the back 9 he followed up with 4 birdies and an eagle, talk about rollercoaster! So day 3 came and he was still nicely poised. 6 bogeys on the front 9 and a bogey on the 11th is what he served up for us, you can imagine how we were feeling! When Ben Crane, no disrespect, is shooting a 67 on day 3, Jimmy Walker should not be coming away with a 78!

Carl Petterson, our outside pick, was never really involved but he’ll certainly remember his hole in 1 on the par 3 7th on day 2. Chris Kirk was very similar to Jimmy Walker, birdies here, bogeys there but perhaps not quite as extreme. Then we come to Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson. Now Keegan truth be told was always on the periphery of this tournament, but was always only a couple of shots behind and was our big bet of the week. So it was sad to see him +3 at one point on the final day, sad but expected when you’re a member of DownThe18th. In many respects it might not be a bad thing as we’ve also backed him for the Masters, and surely he couldn’t have won 2 tournaments in 3 weeks! He still finished a respectable 10th. Our Scandinavian friend Henrik Stenson on the other hand, went more than close! He found himself 2 shots back going into day 4, and he gave it one hell of a go. Spurred on by the prospect of a Masters spot, Stenson shot a -6 round of 66 and left himself on -15 in the clubhouse with a few boys still out there. One annoying thing had to be, Henrik ‘big hitting’ Stenson who loves to take advantage of par 5’s, somehow bogeyed the par5 13th to record his only dropped shot of the day, the  13th was unlucky for some eh? That eventually cost him his chance at a play off as D.A.Points (a man we backed a few weeks ago and subsequently missed the cut but we’re not bitter at all about that) got VERY lucky on the 18th and avoided bogey to claim his 2nd PGA Tour title at -16. And all this with his mother’s putter in the bag. It will have kids across the world scrambling to get their mother’s clubs after that performance.

As we said, with 4 places overall, we can’t grumble at this week, but as ever, it could have been so much better. We hoped you all followed our tips this week and it will be onwards and upwards to next week at the Valero Texas Open. Let’s win some more money!

Also, feel free to send us your ‘Dufnering’ pictures, we’ll get them on the blog

Here's Shell Houston Open winner D.A.Points 'Dufnering'

Here’s Shell Houston Open winner D.A.Points ‘Dufnering’

PGA Tour Week 13

Shell Houston Open

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

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

Redstone will play a lot like Augusta this week

Redstone will play a lot like Augusta this week

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

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

Keegan Bradley (14/1 Ladbrokes)

Keegan is our big fancy this week

Keegan is our big fancy this week

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

Henrik Stenson (50/1 Stan James)  

Is the Swede back to his best?

Is the Swede back to his best?

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

Chris Kirk (50/1 Ladbrokes)

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

Jimmy Walker (55/1 Stan James)

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

Jimmy Walker?

Jimmy Walker?

Edward Norton?

Edward Norton?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carl Pettersson (80/1 Bet365)

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

DownThe18th Double

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

DownThe18th Triple

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

WGC Cadillac Championship

By Lewis Pacelli + Andy Taylor

The second WGC event takes place this week, as the top golfers in the world bombard Doral Golf Resort in Florida. 

The tournament used to fluctuate between different courses around the World, however since 2007, Doral has taken the reigns, making it just that tad easier to take a look at who could be challenging come Sunday.

Justin Rose walked away with the title last year, having overturned a 3-shot lead held by Bubba Watson going into the final day.  It was great seeing that smiling face of Rose lifting a trophy, that for us, started his fantastic assault on the worlds top 10.

As for the course, it is a 7,334-yard par 72, named The Blue Monster Course.  Let’s be brutally honest, that is an outstanding name for a crazy golf course let alone a WGC one and we are all over it. We warn you now; puns will come into play on our twitter throughout the week…

The infamous 18th at The Blue Monster Course

The infamous 18th at The Blue Monster Course

It may not be the longest on Tour, however with four par 5’s you could certainly argue that longer hitters will have a major say in what happens this week.  They will be the obvious scoring opportunities.  Although fairways are relatively wide, there are plenty of obstructions along the way, with bunkers and 11 water hazards aptly arranged everywhere, meaning accuracy will be important from tee to green – especially on the infamous par 4 18th, which is widely regarded as one of the toughest closing holes in golf.  If you shank it – water, if you slice it – trees.  Really could make that last day very interesting.  Putting will also be imperative with Bermuda grass giving it a quick edge.

Ultimately this course could be an absolute breeze, however if wind decides to turn up, then anything is possible.  Therefore our first selection this week is the weather.  Take a constant look at the forecast in Doral, as things are likely to constantly change.  We expect wind to play a part on Thursday and Sunday, but all in all, it SHOULD be a delightful 4 days of golf.

Thursday                                                                                   Friday

72° C 55° F                                                                              74° C 58° F

Mostly Sunny, Chance of rain: 0%                        Sunny, chances of rain: 0%

Wind: NNW at 11 mph                                                   Wind: N at 9mph

In terms of choosing our own selections, it was a difficult task, with all the best (barring Snedeker) being here.  Our long list got cut down to 6, with a very tough call between two.  We took into account the fact that the last 5-winners have had at least one top-10 in their last two strokeplay starts and interestingly, a top 20 in the previous years Tour Championship final leg…

Matt Kuchar (21/1 SkyBet)

Matt Kuchar at the Match Play

Matt Kuchar at the Match Play

It’s hard to ignore Kuch right now.  We backed him for the match play and he duly delivered so it’s only right we stay faithful.  In pretty much all aspects of the game, Kuchar is up there with the best.  19th in strokes gained through putting, 2nd in sand save %, 22nd in scrambling and 3rd in putting from 10-15’ (much needed for those nervy putts).  With 4 par 5’s out there, taking advantage of them will be key.  The American is 1st par5 scoring average,  3rd in par5 birdie or better, 4th in birdie or better conversion and 4th in eagles.  Course form also shouts out, 8th, 5th and 3rd in is only 3 appearances here, and Kuchar is a different animal now.  His recent form doesn’t need to be expanded on, 1st at the WGC Match Play says what kind of golf he is playing at the moment.  In stroke play events before that he was a respectable 38th, 16th, 5th and 9th. The wind could pick up here in the early rounds, and at the match plays he showed he could cope with bad weather.  He also finished T10 at the Tour Championship.  He ticks every box.  We expect a place minimum from him this week!

Webb Simpson (30/1 PaddyPower)

Webb Simpson may have only played here once, but his game seems “taylor-made” for this course.  Don’t forget, he shot two 66’s in between two over par rounds in his very first appearance last year.  If he had managed even pars on those days he would of ended in T6…And since that he went on to win a cheeky little trophy in San Francisco…He has the ability in the wind if needed and has the perfect temperament for big tournaments – it takes big balls winning the US Open under the conditions he faced.

His ability and stardom has subsequently risen to new heights and rightly so, but what is exciting is how he has started the new 2013 season.  T5 at the Matchplay 2 weeks ago, whilst he fits into the “top 10” mould of recent winners, with a T6 at The Northern Trust Open the week before and to top it off a T5 finish at the season ending Tour Championship last year.

His stats prove how remarkable he is with his irons and we are sure he can avoid all the obstacles on this course.  9th in GIR and 19th in proximity to the hole show he can attack pins with deadly efficiency.  With the various bunkers dotted around the course, he lies in 7th for sand saves, which may not be of prominent importance, but there will be players who find the beaches and will need a big shot to recover.  Webb can certainly do this.  As we all know on the greens he is superb and that is backed up being 21st for strokes gained in putting.

Even though his distances off the tee don’t encourage, he does lie 58th for par 5 average scoring, which could be useful on those 4 holes where scoring is crucial.  If he can spin his webb around the monster, we are confident he can deliver a stunning performance.

Jason Day (45/1 Bet365)

Jason Day with a real chance this week

Jason Day with a real chance this week

The Australian has caught our eye once more this season after a year of complete ups and downs.  His 2nd place at the US Open, T4 at the WGC Bridgestone and T6 at the Tour Championship in 2011 gave the impression that this is an outstanding player. However he does seem to suffer from certain problems with temperament at times, as shown on the last day of the Matchplay when he told journalists I’m not winning today, I wanted to stay in bed. (He then ended up beating Ian Poulter in the 3rd place play-off) But you cannot say that affects him when his game is on song.  He has the natural ability to challenge at any tournament, in any field.  And with his start to the year, he looks to be on the up.  Before the Matchplay, he came 6th at Pebble Beach, which is no mean feat.  While he began his season with a T9 at The Farmers Insurance, showing he has the sort of form that challenges in this tournament

He has appeared at Doral the last two years, coming 45th in 2011 and 20th in 2012, where he was relatively consistent throughout the week, barring a +1 over round on the first DAY… (That is an awful pun)

Whilst looking at him, it became too good to be true once the stats kept on singing at us.

17th in driving distance means he can battle with the meatheads and 4th in par 5 scoring average show those 4 key scoring holes will be attacked by the Australian.  What is even more interesting is how consistent he has been with his irons this year. 16th in GIR will prove how he can avoid all the obstacles but if he does fly into the sand his beachplay is phenomenal. We were impressed with his touch in the sand at the Matchplay and he currently lies 2nd in sand saves.  And the importance of work on the green cannot be underestimated at this tournament and with Day lying in 22nd for strokes gained in putting, it gives another indication towards the big man pushing for victory.

It really could be his Jason Day. (Not sure which pun is worse)

Keegan Bradley (28/1 Bet365)

Would be interesting if a belly putter won this week...

Would be interesting if a belly putter won this week…

At 4 p.m. G.M.T on Monday, we were caught in a debate regarding this slot for over an hour.  The two in question were Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan. It was almost impossible to decipher who had the edge and you may argue, why not have them both? But at similar odds, it only seemed right to choose one. Hence the final decision in the awkward customer that is Keegan Bradley. He has become one of the top golfers in the world in recent years and has this workman-like attitude about him that could be considered arrogant. He could even be compared to marmite.  It’s either love or hate… Here at DownThe18th, we will not disclose whether we would spread him on our toast or not.

As for the WGC though, he does seem like another perfect fit.  We may of always considered him, but it was the performance last week that really stood out for us.  To work the ball around the course as he did in conditions similar to The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was very impressive. He battled his way to a T4 and if the wind does pick up over the four days this week, he will have the confidence to compete.  Last year was his first appearance here and he delivered a very respectable T8 finish.  The first 3 round brought about 3 scores in the 60’s and he could certainly have challenged, had he not shot 75 on the final day.

His driving is long enough to hit low scores if and when the wind dies down, lying 23rd in distance off the tee, whilst he is 26th for accumulated total driving (distance + accuracy).  With his GIR very inconsistent this season, he may find himself in the bunker on a couple of occasions and he lies 44th for sand saves.  Yet those four par 5’s could be where he targets, as he is 11th in par 5 scoring average.

This could be the start of a major push for Bradley…

No, actually YOU WATCH Hunter Mahan win it…

Robert Garrigus (50/1 Paddy Power)

Garrigus can smash his way around this course

Garrigus can smash his way around this course

If the conditions are right this week, Garrigus could storm this.  It’s a relatively long course and in good conditions, the big hitters will thrive here.  And of course the American is right up there, 6th in driving distance.  But he’s got a lot of class around the greens too, 6th in GIR % which could be vital if there’s  a bit of bad weather, 7th in sand save % and 1st in par3 performance.  One stat that really impressed us was Garrigus being 1st in all round ranking which takes into account all 8 main aspects of the game.  For a 50/1 shot, you can’t ask for more than that!  Now Garrigus has not played here which is the only negative we can find, but people like Kuchar and Bradley have both performed on their 1st try here so it can be done.  He’s been one of the most consistent people so far this year without recording that big performance, 8th, 22nd,  11th, 6th and 16th have been his last 5 performances.  Garrigus also finished T10 in the Tour Championship which we highlighted as a big factor.  But this is his time to record that big result.  Interestingly, Robert Garrigus is 150/1 with SkyBet for the Masters in a few weeks, we think that is definitely worth an e/w punt!

Russell Henley (100/1 Bet365)

If any young player has a big future in the game, we can see it being this guy, even if he does have a suspect swing.  Henley became the 1st rookie in 12 years to win on his PGA Tour debut at the Sony Open in January, breaking the tournament record by 4 shots with a fabulous -24.  Add that to 3 Web.com Tour wins, he certainly knows how to win and all at just 23 years of age.  After his success in Hawaii, he had a couple of average performances before a 32nd and then a really solid 13th at last week’s Honda Classic, which shows he knows how to grind it out.  At 100/1 his statistics are hard to ignore as well.  We have highlighted the par 5’s as a must to take advantage of and Henley is 8th in par5 scoring average, 7th in eagles, 7th in birdie average and 7th in scoring average.  And the stats keep on coming.  9th in strokes gained through putting, 16th in total driving, 24th in GIR %, 3rd in FedEx Cup standings and just like Garrigus was up there, Henley is 3rd in all round ranking.  We really can’t see us backing many better 100/1 shots this year than Henley!

Henley at 100/1 is a great outside punt

Henley at 100/1 is a great outside punt