US Open 2015

2015-US-OPEN_LOGO

Prize Fund – $9,000,00

Winner’s Share – $1,620,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

#14 Pano

Chambers Bay

Primarily, what do we actually know about the place?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That looks like a fun bunker doesn't it?

That looks like a fun bunker doesn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chambers Bay from everyone else’s perspective:

Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director:

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

Ian Poulter, social media maverick:

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

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

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

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

“The course was ridiculously difficult”

Tiger Woods, a fan of Miss.America’s:

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

Jason Day, husband to a very attractive wife:

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

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

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

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

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

And Finally,

Bubba Watson sinking a ridiculous putt during a practice round…

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

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

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

Our Picks

Phil Mickelson (22/1 BetFred)

World Number 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last 6 Results:

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

Rickie Fowler (22/1 Stan James)

World Number 8

Focused - courtesy of golfweek

Focused – courtesy of golfweek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus a T6 at the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Last 6 Results:

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

Jim Furyk (40/1 Paddy Power)

World Number 3

 

Jimbo Courtesy of Daily Mail

Jimbo
Courtesy of Daily Mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

PGA Tour ‘Coastal’ tracks:

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

Last 6 Results:

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

Ian Poulter (80/1 Paddy Power)

World Number 25

Sir Ian.

Sir Ian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last 6 Results:

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

Danny Willett (150/1 BetVictor)

World Number 36

Has everything in his locker for this sort of track

Has everything in his locker for this sort of track

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last 6 Results:

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

Alex Noren (250/1 Coral)

World Number 70

Red-hot

Red-hot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last 6 Results:

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

Muirfield 2013

Course: Muirfield Golf Links

Date: 18-21 July 2013

Current Champion: Ernie Els

The third major has finally arrived and this is a week many golfing professionals, aficionados and experts will be most excited about.  The Open Championship.

The 142nd edition of the famous tournament is being held at one of the greatest tests of links golf anywhere in the world.  Muirfield has been primed, prepped and improved since it last hosted the championship in 2002 and whatever the weather, we are all in for a 4-day, Christmas-come-early treat.

As we have done with previous majors, there are two in-depth, statistical and informative previews if what we write is just not enough to quench your gambling thirst. So please do check them out!

The first one is on the trends and brief links specialists –

https://downthe18th.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-open-championship-2013/

The second one is all about Muirfield and the challenge players will face, with a look at the key statistics needed.

https://downthe18th.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/the-open-championship-2013-preview-2/

You can also check out our column on the Golf Monthly website about the farce of Open Qualifying

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531565/golf-blog-the-open-qualifying.html

Also a look at Outsiders and the ridiculous offers of bookmakers  for Golf Monthly

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/tours-and-news/opinion/tour-talk/531646/open-championship-2013-blog-bet-on-the-outsiders.html

So what happened back when it was last held here in 2002?  Reigning Open champion, Ernie Els defeated Thomas Levet, Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby in a playoff to secure his 1st Open and 3rd major trophy.  That particular year the weather was beyond brutal on the Saturday, with unforeseen storms and torrential rains hampering scoring for the majority of the field.  Our favourite 2nd-place guru Colin Montgomerie infamously shot 74, 64, 84 in his first three rounds, letting slip another opportunity.

Ernie Els chipping out the bunker at Muirfield in 2002. This was one of the iconic moments of the whole tournament and an outrageous shot

Ernie Els chipping out the bunker at Muirfield in 2002. This was one of the iconic moments of the whole tournament and an outrageous shot

The long list of champions that Ernie added himself to is full of big names, the very best the sport has produced – from Sir Nick Faldo to Lee Trevino, Gary Player to Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson to Walter Hagen – the greats who have littered golfing history books.  But all of them during four days in the Scottish summer conquered the prestigious test of Muirfield.  What does that say? No mug is going to be taking home this trophy, the cream is likely to rise to the top come Sunday evening.  However, that does not mean it would be foolish to look elsewhere for an outsider, as many bookmakers are offering 6 places, whilst PaddyPower are paying out for 7 and BetVictor are (rather astonishingly, if you ask us) offering 8 places!

http://www.betvictor.com/sports/en/the-open-8-places?banner_home_1107

http://www.paddypower.com/bet/golf/open-championship?ev_oc_grp_ids=34304#area=sb&AFF_ID=10063836

So with outsiders you are certainly looking for e/w returns and as long shot Englishman Gary Evans proved 11 years ago, sneaking a place (and nearly winning the whole thing) is not uncommon for the touring pro.

With all that history malarkey out the way, what are we actually looking for in terms of player and attributes to take on Muirfield?

If you are errant off the tee, you can kiss goodbye to any birdie and most times, even a par.  The thick rough is virtually impossible to hit out of, therefore accuracy will be so crucial.  But it is not just the cabbage that needs to be avoided – strategically placed pot-bunkers litter fairways and valiantly protect greens.  Although every player will at some point find themselves lingering in the sand, how you play yourself out will be just as important as how few times you get trapped.

This does means better bunker players will save shots, but general scrambling, which is always a key component in any Open, will be vital.  It seems obvious to say it but GIR and approach play will be key, because this is where the strategists can work out when to attack and when to sit back, take par and run to the next tee.  If you’re too attacking – disaster, if you’re strategically attacking – lower score.  Simple as that.

Once on the undulating, sloping greens, putting is often the difference between 1st and 2nd.  To win majors, you have to be consistent with the short stick throughout the week and it will be no different here.  Rose putted well at Merion, Scott at Augusta and the player lifting the claret jug on Sunday will have been incredible on the greens as well.

However, at the end of the day, the really important factor to consider is the good old British weather.  Ability to keep your head in the game whilst winds blow in all sorts of directions – every hole at Muirfield is facing a different direction to each other, so wind will come from all angles – and play just as well in the rain as in the sun will be more crucial than anything.

We hope you have enjoyed our previews and found them useful, if you want to give us any feedback so we can improve for future majors, please do contact us at downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk.

So if you are in Britain, enjoy the wonderful and rare BBC coverage.  If you are anywhere else in the world, have fun watching four days of the most competitive golf and if you are lucky enough to have a ticket, well you’re a wanker.

Our picks –

The Favourites

Luke Donald (30/1 StanJames)

Luke Donald at the Masters in 2011 after he chipped in on the 18th. If he can get this fist pumping and passion going then we could have a second English major winner in 2013

Luke Donald at the Masters in 2011 after he chipped in on the 18th. If he can get this fist pumping and passion going then we could have a second English major winner in 2013

Wouldn’t it just make sense? Scott then Rose then Donald. If perfect symmetry was the sole factor for finding the 2013 Open champion then Luke Donald would be joint favourite alongside Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood – and we personally cannot handle anymore gruelling Westwood performances, our brains and hearts are not strong enough, although would never begrudge him a win.

As for Donald, he has admitted himself that it has not been a great season for him, after 2 incredible years of unerring consistency.  In his last three competitions he has finished T42, T8, and T21.  That T8 was at the US Open, where he went into the final day with every chance of taking the title but faltered away, allowing player partner and good friend, Rose, to capitalise.

In his last 10 major outings he has managed 7 top 32s, including 4 top 10s and you just get that sense he is on the verge of joining the major elite.

Even recent Open performances give you confidence in Donald, T5 last year with four consistent rounds and in 2009 a final day 67 put him 2 shots of a playoff place.  When you think of his playing style, it is no surprise that he finds himself at the top of various major championships.  But for us Merion and Muirfield have presented him with the best opportunities yet – a superb tee to green player, reliably accurate, a phenomenal scrambler and bunker player and when he starts holing putts he is so dangerous.  That combination is perfect for links golf and we feel very confident in our main man.

He was number 1 for a long time and his name is more than good enough to join that elite list of former winners.  In Donald we believe and trust.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 5 8 10 2

Recent Open Championship History (Including 2002 Open at Muirfield)

2012 2011 2010 2009 2007 2002
T5 MC T11 T5 T63 MC

PGA Tour Statistics

Luke Donald Stats

Graeme McDowell (25/1 various)

You can sample all the alcohol in the world if you win Gmac. It will be on us...

You can sample all the alcohol in the world if you win Gmac. It will be on us…

Yes he was our main man for Merion and yes he missed the cut, but that has not put us off one of the very best scramblers and tee to green players in the game.

It has been well documented, by both himself and the media, that it has been a very bizarre season.  3 wins in a single year is an incredible achievement, but 6 missed cuts doesn’t make a great deal of sense, especially with a usually consistent performer like McDowell.

Every time he has shown his true class and deservedly walked away with a trophy, he misses the cut the following week but we are sure it will not happen this time around, on a course that suits the Northern Irishman perfectly.

He was superb at the French Open two weekends ago, leading the field for GIR and lying in 15th for driving accuracy – two crucial Muirfield attributes.

And now he will be going into the third major, having missed the cut at Augusta and Merion in the knowledge that if he can make it to Saturday there is every chance he will be in contention.  He has made 7 cuts this season, only finishing outside the top 10 in one of those tournaments.  When his game is on, it is on and we would not be worried if the weather turns vile because his adaptable game can work in any conditions.

We really feel McDowell has the game for links golf (as shown by his history on such courses) and if he decides to turn it on, then he will have at least held one hand on a second major trophy.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 4 8 10 1

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
T5 MC T23 T34 T19 MC

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
152nd 15th 85th 46th 167th 63rd

PGA Tour Statistics

Graeme McDowell Stats 1

Sergio Garcia (28//1 various)

This is when Sergio had the world at his feet, jumping round like a ballerina.  Lets hope he can get back to that mindset and dance his way to the title

This is when Sergio had the world at his feet, jumping round like a ballerina. Lets hope he can get back to that mindset and dance his way to the title

You can read one half of DownThe18ths column for Golf Monthly on ‘The Curious Case Of Sergio Garcia’ here –

http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/open-2013/blog/531615/the-curious-case-of-sergio-garcia.html

Sergio Garcia.  A confusing yet irresistible golfer who has an opportunity to resurrect his fortunes, correct the wrongs of foolish comments and finally win his first major.  We really feel that this is his best chance for a long time on a course that has a lot of history for the Spaniard.

Back in 1998 Garcia won the Amateur Championship, a matchplay format, which was held at Muirfield.  Then in his 4th year as a pro, he finished T8 in the Open proper – also held at Muirfield and at the time was his highest finish in the Championship.

He has openly admitted how much he loves the historic course and cannot wait to get back there for another attempt at a trophy he has recorded 7 top 10s in.

Obviously, as there always is with Sergio, worries about his mental state will play on the mind of every gambler throwing their hard earned money at the Spaniard.  The collapse at The Players was a horrendous watch, whilst the second day 76 at Augusta was a frustrating relapse after a glorious 66 on the Thursday.

But people do often forget how incredible and unlucky he was in 2007, after nearly going wire-to-wire before painfully losing in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.  He lipped out the winning putt on the 72nd hole and we cannot imagine how painful that must have been.

Yet, just like all our top 5 picks, we really feel a sense of everything coming together for Sergio.  All the stars are aligned and as we all know, his game is simply perfect for any links challenge, so if you have the guts to go through whatever he may bring for one more week then let the fun begin.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 0 1 3 5 2

Recent Open Championship History (Including 2002 Muirfield)

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2002
MC T9 T14 T38 T51 T8

PGA Tour Statistics

Sergio Garcia Stats

The Mid-Rangers

Brandt Snedeker (40/1 various)

How dapper does he look in this brown suit?! What a hero.

How dapper does he look in this brown suit?! What a hero.

Finally, the man who inspired us to originally begin DownThe18th has made it past the ‘initial’ picks and found himself 4th on our list for The Open.  We have made no secret of the fact that he is one of our favourite players, but we have a feeling that this is now the right time to back him for a major.

At the beginning of the season, he was the form man in golf.  He looked irresistibly impressive and we were so excited to back him for the Masters.  But then came his rib injury and a run of horrendous performances.  Yet he went to Augusta on medication and managed to get in the running up until late Sunday afternoon, eventually finishing T6.  Whilst he went on to miss 2 cuts following the T8 at The Players, he recorded a T17 finish at the US Open and his last appearance at the AT&T National resulted in a T8 finish, which give us confidence he is back, but should be a great sign for the man himself.

He has shown ability on links courses in the past and last year finishing T3 after shooting an outrageous 66, 64 on the first two days.  He is more than capable of winning majors and with length not really needed on this course, his game has all the components to keep the ball in play and find the putting surface, where he is arguably the best in the world.  The short stick guru represents great value at 40s considering his ability, so jump on him whilst you can.

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 3 3 5 7 3

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2011 2009 2008
T3 MC MC MC

PGA Tour Statistics

Brandt Snedeker Stats

Henrik Stenson (45/1 888sport)

Henrik Stenson showing he is not afraid to get down and dirty back in 2009.

Henrik Stenson showing he is not afraid to get down and dirty back in 2009.

After the very lengthy discussions in deciding our final picks, we came across Stenson and thought he was completely overpriced by Ladbrokes at 66/1.  Many bookmakers had him at 40s, which is roughly where he should be and after delving into his statistics, form etc. we chose to jump at Ladbrokes’ offer.  Subsequently he shot a 64 on the Friday at the Scottish Open and his prices slashed.  He went on to shoot 66 the following day, taking a two shot lead into Sunday, however a +1 73 meant he ended in T3, with Mickelson lifting the trophy.

We can only apologise for our 5th pick being at odds nearly half what we staked, but we do have an inkling that the Swede is back to form and in complete control of his game at the moment – even with the slight break down at Castle Stuart.

His tee to green abilities are up there with anyone and considering he has enormous power as well, he can challenge on any course at any tournament.

But he has shown a liking for links golf, with an admirable recent record, whilst two T3 finishes at The Open prove he can compete with the best.  In both 2008 and 2010 he rallied home on the final day to surge up the leaderboard, but without ever really contending.

Whilst he finished well at the Masters and US Open (T18 and T21 respectively) and he has only ever made the cut at both opening majors once – back in 2009 when he finished T13 at that years Open.

In all honesty, he should be higher up this list, because he has only missed 2 cuts all year, with four top 10s and if his putter gets going, he will be incredibly dangerous.

Links form since 2010

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 4 7 12 18 3

Recent Open Championship History

2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2002
68th T3 T13 T3 MC DNP

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
9th 67th 8th 118th 162nd 148th

PGA Tour Statistics

Henrik Stenson Stats

The Outsiders

Jamie Donaldson (125/1 Bet365)

NO this is NOT Brandt Snedeker, it is his long lost brother, Jamie Donaldson

NO this is NOT Brandt Snedeker, it is his long lost brother, Jamie Donaldson

Considering this is a man who is currently 38th in the world rankings, won on the European Tour this year and has a solid links record, 150/1 is outrageously over-priced.

Donaldson has impressed us throughout 2013, showing his ability tee to green and there have been few better scramblers.  If and when he finds trouble around Muirfield, the Welshman is the exact player you have every confidence in turning trouble into fortune.

In his last 2 outings he ranked 3rd for GIR in France (T6 finish) and 7th for GIR in Ireland (T10 finish).  We are aware that his overall stats do not jump out, but we feel they do not represent fully the excellent golf he has been playing over recent weeks.

At the end of the day this is a heavy outsider and with plenty of places on offer from PaddyPower and BetVictor, it would be foolish not to get involved with Donaldson, who has every capability of mixing it with the best and finding the top end of leaderboards at majors.  And for us, the Open represents the competition that will suit his style the most.  Don’t forget, he did finish T7 at the PGA last year, so he does have major pedigree…

Links form since 2010

Won Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 7 9 11 6

Recent Open Championship History

2012 2006
T60 MC

European Tour Statistics

Driving Distance Driving Acc GIR Scrambling Sand Saves Putts Per Round
85th 153th 122nd 2nd 88th 43rd

Our other outsiders we have looked at are Richard Sterne (100/1 various) and Mikko Ilonen (125/1 various)

Both guys have been winners on the European Tour this year – Sterne at the Joburg Open and Ilonen at the Nordea Masters and we were on them both times!

But intriguingly they have good links form and Ilonen made the cut here back in 2003, the year after he finished T9 at the Open.

Sterne has recorded 3 top 10s in his last 9 links tournaments and won the Alfred Dunhill Links back in 2009, whilst Ilonen has 2 top 10s.

If you prefer looking at outsiders and value, then these 2 guys are top professionals who will be used to the type of course, weather and conditions, whilst arriving in good form.  If you think they are the top end of the market for most European competitions – they are at the top of their game.