Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2015

Take out Patrick Reed, but still a formidable line-up... Although doesn't McDowell's face look really super-imposed?

Take out Patrick Reed, but still a formidable line-up… Although doesn’t McDowell’s face look really super-imposed?

Prize Fund – €2,500,00

Winner’s Share – €416,660

Course – Royal County Down Golf Club (7,186 yards Par 71)

Our 2014 Picks – Stephen Gallacher – MC, Rafa Cabrera-Bello – T26, David Horsey – T49, Matthew Fitzpatrick – T29

One of the most highly anticipated events on the European Tour has arrived and what’s even more special is the fact it comes straight after the flagship tournament at the BMW. Rory McIlroy and his foundation are hosting the event and as the posters state – ‘creating history’ in the meantime. It is undoubtedly a stellar field – Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, GMAC, Jamie Donaldson and the best of European Tour.  But everyone will be drooling at the prospect of seeing the two young starlets battling it out – McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.  We’d be shocked if they aren’t paired together for the opening two days because ultimately, that’s what everyone wants to see.

In terms of betting, it’s clearly going to be difficult because only a handful of tournaments have been played here and not many players will know the track particularly well.  ALTHOUGH, the top two boys both played here at the Walker Cup in 2007 – McIlroy both won and lost against Billy Horschel in the singles, whilst only picking up a half in the foursome.  Fowler won his first 3 matches with absolute ease, before being defeated by Rhys Davis on Sunday afternoon.  Only Danny Willett and David Horsey will be in this field who played during that week, whilst Graeme Storm actually won the Amateur Championship round here in 1999…  Only other names of note during that week were Simon Dyson and Marcel Siem.

Courtesy of discovernorthernireland

Courtesy of discovernorthernireland

But from our research, there’s plenty to ponder and you can envision the sort of player that’ll potentially conquer this jewell of a course. Firstly, how this isn’t an Open venue we will never know.  Royal Portrush is due to enter the rotation, but this is another cracking track that will get the global attention it deserves this week. The infamous Old Tom Morris painted and weaved out this gem in the Murlough Nature Reserve, sitting on the backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne.  Running alongside Dundrum Bay, few consecutive holes go in the same direction, as the fairways intertwine and bend from the shoreline back to the clubhouse. Harry Colt and Donald Steel have both overlooked redesigns, leaving behind very fast greens that will test even the best putters on Tour.

There’s an abundance of blind tee shots, which make it imperative everyone teeing off is prepared for the wind and understand the course during the practice days.  You can’t just turn up and play round here.  The thick, long grass and heather is synonymous with traditional links venues and here it’s no different.  Some of the layered greens are surrounded by ‘proper’ rough and will destroy anyone who tries to hack their way out. The bunkers are pretty horrendous to deal with as well – if you find any on the fairway, you’ll be staring down the barrel of a bogey.  So, accurate, scrambling, wind-loving, links specialists will be the kings of Royal County Down.

DON’T FORGET – Our weekly competition with renowned magazine Golf Monthly continues, take a peak at the end of our selections to see how our stakes have been distributed this time.

TwitterYou can follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!

Shane Lowry (22/1 Stan James)

He looks mean and is ready to go.

He looks mean and is ready to go.

With so much value at the bottom end of our picks, we can afford to throw in one of the main contenders for the week, big Shane.

He’s someone who’s grown up on links tracks and is an ideal fit. He’s spent most of the season over in America and certainly hasn’t disgraced himself, we’ve even backed him a few times! So it’s no surprise the first time he comes over on European soil, he starts producing his best stuff. Very similar to Francesco Molinari in Spain. Wentworth has been good to Lowry down the years and last week was no different, finishing T6.

It was clear over the first couple of days he was adapting to being back on Britain and his short game really bailed him out. But once things started clicking into place, we saw what Shane is all about. The Irish Open in 2009 was the scene of his first victory, as an amateur, so the week will definitely bring back happy memories. Really good to note his recent links form as well – T9 2014 Open, T4 2014 Scottish Open.

Chris Wood (50/1 Coral)

Coming into some form

Coming into some form

We watched plenty of the tall Englishman last week up close and personal and it’s safe to say he’s back right at the top of his game. He’s had a few niggles over the past season or so and that’s obviously reflected in his form. But he’s a player that loves to string big finishes together, so now is the right time to get on board.

Stat-wise, he was arguably the most consistent in the field last week. 15th driving accuracy, 2nd driving distance, 15th GIR, 4th putts per GIR. Everything is firing on all cylinders. Like Lowry, always good to check their recent links performances too – T23 2014 Open, T8 2014 Irish Open.

Robert Karlsson (125/1 Coral)

Unbelievable guns.

Unbelievable guns.

Good value this one. Without doubt last season Robbie’s best stretch was when the Tour hit the links courses. He was T8 Scottish Open, T12 Open and even a T4 over in France where the wind gets up.

So it was really interesting to see Karlsson playing well at Wentworth a week prior to the Irish. He finished day 1 tucked in behind Molinari and ranked 3rd driving accuracy and 3rd putts per round. Okay he dropped off from then on but it’s safe to say the BMW has never been on the Swede’s Christmas card list, with just one top 10 in over 20 years. So he won’t mind a T27 at all. He still managed to finish the week 19th GIR and 12th putts per GIR, the latter really important given his well documented putting yips.

David Horsey (150/1 Paddy Power)

Big Dave

Big Dave

We actually chatted with Horsey a couple of weeks back and we have to say he looked and spoke about how good his game was at the moment. Tough, horrible, windy conditions are where Dave’s game comes to the fore, he’s just one of those players who loves it in that weather.

So a MC at Wentworth doesn’t fill us with confidence but a T15 at the Spanish Open does. His short game in particular was working well, 8th putts per round. Like Karlsson, Horsey has only ever had 1 top 10 around Wentworth so the MC won’t be a bitter blow.

Most interesting about this long shot was his appearance here for the Walker Cup. He beat Webb Simpson TWICE in the singles and looked imperious throughout the week (apparently). It might not be the best course form we’ll talk about coming into a tournament but it will be advantageous and invaluable none the less.


Graeme Storm (300/1 Coral)

You won’t get many 300/1 shots better than this. He won the Amateur Championship played around here back in 1999 so he more than anyone will have happy memories coming back. That alone is interesting. But, as if by magic, the week prior to the Irish Open the Geordie finds a bit of form, T22 at Wentworth. The finish itself is good but in spells Storm was ripping it up last week, at one point he had 8 birdies in 11 holes during round 2. His stats were more than impressive too – 1st driving accuracy and 10th putts per GIR. Get on this one.

John Parry (250/1 Coral)

Loves a links track

Loves a links track Courtesy of BBC

Always interesting to look at the major qualifying and this week at Walton Heath, US Open qualifying has taken place. At the time of writing this, Parry sits T3 at 9-under which is an impressive couple of rounds given the prize at stake.

This alone shows he’s playing well. 2015 has been okay, T5 in Mauritius and T6 at the Africa Open. But one thing we really remember about the Englishman was his display in the 2013 Scottish Open. It was the first time we had really seen what John was all about and his game seemed to suit links golf perfectly, his game around the greens was particularly impressive. Sadly he found himself up against an American called Phil Mickelson…

Kristoffer Broberg (250/1 Paddy Power)

An interesting final pick that we have followed for some time. Three years ago he was an exciting prospect on the Challenge Tour and big things were expected when he made the step up to the Europe’s elite tier. It’s been undeniably tough but last season’s displays on links tracks made us sit up and think. He was T2 Scottish Open, T23 Open, T3 Irish Open and T12 Open De France. That was some going. Just like this week, he came into that period with no form whatsoever. Except this week we do have some form – he currently sits T17 in US Open Qualifying at Walton Heath…

Golf Monthly £10 ChallengeGM_masthead-630x176

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

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

Our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows  –

£2.25 e/w on Shane Lowry at 22/1 (Stan James 6 Places)

£1.00 e/w on Chris Wood at 50/1 (Coral)

£0.50 e/w on Robert Karlsson at 125/1 (Coral)

£0.35 e/w on David Horsey at 150/1 (Paddy Power 6 Places)

£0.30 e/w on Graeme Storm  at 300/1 (Coral)

£0.30 e/w on John Parry at 250/1 (Coral)

£0.30 e/w on Kristoffer Broberg at 250/1 (Paddy Power 6 Places)

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

Find the Golf Monthly Preview here (

Current Standings after 19 weeks

DownThe18th                                 Golf Monthly

European Tour: £-71.95                  European Tour:  £-50.62

PGA Tour: £-25.94                           PGA Tour: £23.75

Total: £-97.89                                   Total: £-26.87

Golf Monthly leads by: £70.02


Sony Open 2015


Prize Fund – $5,600,000

Winner’s Share – $1,008,000

Course – Waialae Country Club (7,044 yards par 70)

Our 2014 Picks – Zach Johnson (T8), Chris Kirk (2nd), Charles Howell III (T8)

2014 begins for us and most of the PGA Tour this week as a strong fields heads (or just stays from last week) to Hawaii for the Sony Open.

Patrick Reed continued his rise to the top of golf with his win at the Hyundai last week – a victory that puts him in the elite category alongside Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia as the only players to have won 4 PGA titles before the age of 24 and a half.  That’s one hell of a ssshhh to every doubter out there…

The course that hosts this tournament is the Waialae Country Club and we always feel that it’s a nice start for punters alike to get stuck into mainly because it’s been held there since 1965 so there’s plenty of form to feast our money-hunting eyes at.

The 7,044 yard par 70 has traditionally seen a complete variable in scores, usually depending on the conditions.  Due to it being a coastal track, the wind can really get up and that’s where you see those low teens final scores.  However this week we are expecting quite mild weather, so we should be in for a treat on the birdie front.  We can see it being similar to last year, where Jimmy Walker won by a shot with -17.  Basically, you have to be someone who has the ability of attacking pins and finding low scores – but you cannot look past the fact that it is a tight track with small greens and we’ve often seen those tee-to-green gurus play well here.

Gorgeous settings for the week...

Gorgeous settings for the week…

Admittedly in recent years the rough has been shortened therefore playing into the hands of longer hitters, but that hasn’t stopped the fact that finding fairways will without doubt help you in the following shot into the green.

The ranking in difficulty has decreased in recent years, falling 8 places since 2012 and that coincides with the irregularities we’ve seen in winners compared to usual – long hitter Jimmy Walker – although he started to come into some outrageous tee to green form – Russell Henley in 2012 who won with a score of -24 and had never even played here before!

Still we do feel it would be foolish to look away from players who’ve done well here and in fact tee’d it up recently.  With it being the first ‘proper’ tournament back for many of the field, there will be rustiness with many of the players and that is to be expected.  It is always useful to look into those that have not taken a long time off from the game, because the practicalities of them winning is very minimal.

Enough of the spiel though, let’s get to our 1st picks of 2015, hoping to continue what was a good year for us in 2014.  Also read right to the bottom for news of a brand spanking new competition we are doing throughout the year with some well-known friends…

TwitterDon’t forget to follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!
Chris Kirk (18/1 various)

Chris Kirk, a smiling hero

Chris Kirk, a smiling hero

Got to admit we struggled to decide between Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson and Russell Henley.  All three came in at similar odds and have pros and pluses against them.  We opted out on Henley mainly for price but also because we felt he challenged too much last week and could have taken it out of him.  Zach should have done much better than his 7th placed finish, but suffered in the 3rd round.

So, we decided upon Kirk.  What a fine, fine player he has become over the past year – so much so that he nearly edged his way into the Ryder Cup team.  But there were too many ticks against him and when you think the only negative is the fact he’s 18s, it just wasn’t enough to ignore him.

He looked highly impressive on Monday shooting a 62 with a new putter – so much so that he finished 6th for putting average for the whole week. It clearly worked absolute wonders for him and we know there was a couple of poor rounds at the weekend, but we’re putting that down to rustiness.  You’re definitely hitting it well and happy with you’re all round game if your can shoot a score that low.

In fact after the game he stated how in tune he felt, especially with his short game and that is something that will be very important throughout the week here.  He has also previously mentioned that Waialae (and Colonial) are his 2 favourites tracks and the ones he looks forward to playing the most in the calendar year.  Now that is saying something.  You cannot underestimate how important it is for a golfer to really enjoy and get a buzz when teeing it up on the 1st of a tournament.

He’s finished 2nd and 5th in the previous 2 outings here and we all know how impressive he is tee to green when his game is on.  He ticks all the boxes for seaside golf as we’ve mentioned before, so don’t be put off by his price, he is definitely worth backing this week.

Luke Donald (40/1 Coral)

Time for some success from the Englishman

Time for some success from the Englishman

When you come across these shorter, tight tracks that require a really strong tee to green game, you do often look to see if a. Luke Donald is there and b. what sort of form he is in.  We have to mention b because as it’s been widely mentioned, his 2014 was very, very forgettable.

He’s dropped outside the top 30 for the first time since climbing to the top of the rankings a couple of years back and has at times looked completely out of sorts.  However as we all know he’s been working on a new swing and a new outlook, mainly to try and get some extra length off the tee.  Understandable in some ways, but in the grand scheme of things, that shouldn’t halt the rest of your game.

We had him during his best performance at the RBC when he came 2nd and to be honest the main reasons it clicked were because he found more accuracy than most weeks – 25th in driving accuracy and 3rd for GIR – compared to 67th and 139th respectively across the season.

BUT and here is the big but, there’s something brewing from his camp in recent weeks and we just have a sneaky feeling (and we don’t think we’re the only ones) that there is a revival on the horizon.  He shot a scintillating 63 the Nedbank Challenge a few weeks back to finish 3rd and he said that he was extremely pleased with where his game was and is feeling as confident as he’s done for a long while.  It may all be a load of hock, but we do feel that is a positive vibe from the Englishman.

As for the Sony Open, this is a track that clearly fits the bill for Donald when he’s playing well and should suit his eye perfectly.  He hasn’t played here for a while, but did finish 2nd in 2007, which should give him plenty of hope.

A big season is needed and what a time and place this would be start.

Tim Clark (40/1 PaddyPower)

One of the best ball strikers in the game

One of the best ball strikers in the game

Another absolute guru tee to green, Tim Clark has found some long lost form over the past few months and will be coming into the 2015 season with high hopes.

He finished superbly in a tie for 2nd at the HSBC during the back end of 2014 and he was 7th at the Nedbank a few weeks later.  Admittedly he didn’t have the greatest week in his finish of 25th last week, but his positives completely out way that sort of negative.

He started putting well whilst playing on his own on Monday (having found himself stone cold bottom!) and he is a fantastic bermuda greens player.  He has a wonderful record here – taking out the withdrawal last year, he finished 2nd twice in a row – and has top 5s on the comparative Sea Island and PGA West courses.

He has the 4th best scoring average at Waialae in the field and simply loves it here, never finishing outside the top 25, so when you think how impressive he can be tee to green, the South African is cracking value at 40s.

 Jerry Kelly (75/1 Bet365)

Raw passion from Kelly!

Raw passion from Kelly!

Now, we are expecting quite a few to be jumping on Jerry Kelly and understandably so.  He represents cracking value, has insane course form and is playing well at the moment.  Basically the perfect pick.

In fact since the name and sponsor change in 1999, Kelly has found 9 top 13s, including a win in 2002 and two T3 finishes.  He simply loves this track.  But he finished 2014 very strongly, coming T5 in the franklin Templeton shootout with Steve Stricker and 5th at Mayakoba the week before.

He seems to be putting well at the moment and there are few better tee to green players than Kelly Stateside – however ridiculous that statement sounds, if you’ve seen him you will only be able to agree.


Robert Allenby (150/1 various) and Boo Weekley (90/1 StanJames)

Our first two outsiders of the year come in the form of Robert Allenby and Boo Weekley. Both have been playing well in the close season and with their tee to green abilities could upset the applecart come Sunday in Hawaii.

Firstly Allenby.  He is an absolute stalwart in the world of golf and has a very decent record here.  2nd in 2010, 8th in 07′ and 4th in 2003.  He has been playing superbly tee to green so far this season on the PGA Tour – 32nd in strokes gained tee to green, 23rd driving accuracy and 15th GIR.  The sort of stats you would expect from a seasoned pro.  Plus the trip back to his native Australia ended with 3 finishes inside the top 13 – T13 at the Australia PGA, T7 at the Australian Open and T9 at the BetEasy Masters.

We aren’t denying the standard is nowhere near that of the PGA Tour but you have to be encouraged by his form and you would be a fool to think he hasn’t got a chance.

Secondly the bizarre talent of Weekley.  We all know his prowess tee to green on his day – currently 8th for strokes gained tee to green – but we also know how poor he can be with the putter.  That has shown signs of improvement in recent outings though which gave us encouragement for a tournament where he has finished T9 before in 2009.

He finished T15 at the Australian Open and 6th at the Australian PGA whilst most interestingly he was 2nd at the Sanderson Farms Championship before the New Year and on those Bermuda greens, he was 6th for strokes gained putting.  Food for thought.


Golf Monthly £10 ChallengeGM_masthead-630x176

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

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

So, for this Sony Open our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows –

£3 win on Chris Kirk at 18/1

£1 e/w on Luke Donald at 40/1

£1 e/w on Tim Clark at 40/1

£0.75 e/w on Jerry Kelly at 75/1

£0.75 e/w on Robert Allenby at 150/1

Find the Golf Monthly Preview and their £10 picks here – (Golf Monthly Betting Preview)

Current Standings after 0 weeks

DownThe18th – £0

Golf Monthly   – £0

The Open 2014 Preview 2

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 75 in Driving Accuracy

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

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

Top 75 Greens In Regulation

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

European Tour – Miguel Angel Jimenez

Top 75 Scoring Average  

PGA Tour – Nick Watney, Boo Weekley 

European Tour  – Bernd Wiesberger

Top 75 Par 4 Performance

Kevin Stadler

Top 75 Par 5 Performance

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

At least 7 professional titles before winning The Open

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

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

Edoardo Molinari, Grégory Bourdy

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

Matt Kuchar

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

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

Zach Johnson (50/1 Ladbrokes)

A Major champion already, how about one more then?

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

Recent Open History

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

Links History in the past 2 years

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


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

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

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

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

Sports Welcome Bonus 120x60


Adam Scott (18/1 Coral BEST PRICE)


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

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

Recent Open History

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

Links History in the past 2 years

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


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

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

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

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

What a player.

Honourable Mentions 

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

US Open 2014

Date: 12th – 15th June2014-US-OPEN_LOGO

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

Course: Par 70, 7,562 yards

Current Champion: Justin Rose

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



The 2014 US Open is just 2 weeks away and the pre-tournament talk has reached fever pitch.

All understandable.  The 2nd major of the year, an unofficial start to summer and an event that has heralded some of the grittiest, toughest, physiological tests in the history of golf.

Just how we like it at DownThe18th.  And now that there is no Tiger Woods, who lost out in his battle to overcome a spine injury, the 114th edition is going to be incredible.

Tiger is out the 2014 US Open. Shame.

Tiger is out the 2014 US Open. Shame.

However, this year it is going to be a completely different challenge to what we have come to expect.

The USGA selected the historic Pinehurst No.2 course in North Carolina, which has hosted 2 US Opens in recent history, with Payne Stewart winning back in 1999 and Michael Campbell surprising everyone in 2005.  But the extensive renovation made by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has radically changed the whole look, set up and feel of one of America’s finest golf courses.

So, the questions a lot of you will be asking is, how will this effect betting and what sort of test with the players be facing come 12th June?

Well, with this, our first preview, we hope we can go some way to answering them.

“There are only two mowing heights out there. There will be the height they cut the fairways and the height they cut the greens. We’ve never encountered something like that for a U.S. Open.”

Mike Davis Executive Director USGA.


Firstly, taking a brief look at some of the history of Pinehurst will help give a clearer indication at how the course used to play and makes us understand the reasons behind this innovative renovation.

Famed course designer Donald Ross opened No.2 in 1907 and it has gone onto host USPGA’s, US Open’s, Ryder Cups and US Amateurs.  Basically, this track is firmly etched into the record books.

Stats wise Stewart and Campbell both played sensibly and excellently from tee to green for their wins.  Campbell ranked 8th in driving accuracy throughout the week and both inside the top 20 for GIR.

Michael Campbell victorious in 2005.  Craziness really.

Michael Campbell victorious in 2005. Craziness really.

The reasons finding those dance floors are absolutely crucial is because of how difficult the raised, bentgrass greens are to stay on.  They are known to resist shots like a trampoline, resulting in the ball drifting and skidding into run-off areas where pins are sometimes not visible.

When you consider Stewart and Campbell both won with GIR % no higher than 58 (the equivalent to second from bottom in the GIR PGA Tour stats this year), you realise that everyone will have to be saving their par at some point.  And this is where your scrambling really comes to the fore.

These greens have hardly been altered, so we can take some insight into the week from here, but it is the rough, length and fairways where an abundance of these modern golfers are frothing at the thought of how their game could suit.

The Present

Crenshaw and Coore have tried to restore Pinehurst into something they firmly believe Ross originally intended to create

“We felt like it was time to really try to help restore the character we think Donald Ross intended.”

Resort owner Bob Dedman

What does that mean?  Well, firstly the course will be playing as long as 7,562 yards!! Compared to 7,214 in 2005.  It will be the longest par 70 in US Open history by some distance.

Secondly, there has been extensive upheaval of all the rough, with replacements of what the USGA is calling ‘waste areas’.  This consists of sand and vegetation with  pine needles, natural fescue and all sorts of crazy bother that will require improvisation of the highest order at times, especially at the weekend when the crowds have trampled, trodden and sunk their trainers into the grounds around the fairways.

How Pinehurst has changed over the years.  Incredible.

How Pinehurst has changed over the years. Incredible.

To put it into perspective, 40 acres of grass has been replaced by 35 acres of this wasteland.  That is just mind-boggling.

The worry for many players will be what actually is a hazard and not because the merge into sudden bunkers is not strictly obvious.

“We will play bunkers as bunkers. So they will be hazards. The other sandy wire-grass areas that have other types of vegetation will just be through the green. So in those areas the player can ground his or her club, can remove loose impediments.”

Mike Davis Executive Director USGA.

It will not be an easy task, but do no be surprised if there is some sort of confusion or controversy before the winner picks up the trophy come the Sunday.

The fairways have also been widened, giving those bombers more of a chance to free their arms and send the ball miles down the lengthened track.  Do not be fooled though, it is still important to find the fairways because you will be able to attack pins and control the balls on the greens way more comfortably.

They have also changed par around on the 4th and 5th holes, with the former hardest hole on the course (the old par 4 4th) has now become a par 5.

In all honesty, the changes are so drastic that it will be an exciting challenge trying to pick the winner from the elite.

What will it take to win?

With any major championship, it is obvious to say, but your mental game needs to be perfectly in with your game.  No doubting that.

Hitting the ball long will of course be an advantage, but the bombers will have to keep it in play more often than not and then they will certainly be challenging.

For the shorter hitters it is all about pinpoint accuracy and plotting your way around the course in order to find greens with greater ease and grab birdies when the time is right.

We will definitely be looking at how high certain players can get their ball because they can obviously find greens with greater ease, whilst putting is of course absolutely vital.  Every winner of every major putts relatively well because holing those ‘clutch-putts’ make all the difference.

However, where we feel the tournament could be won or lost is around the greens.  Scrambling will be an inevitable skill to conquer because everyone will miss greens, so when you do, how many can you save.

What they are saying

“A length hitter who just hits the ball long will not win this Open, though. You need to hit it long AND high. And, at the end of the day, you have just GOT to make the putts.”

Mike Davis Executive Director USGA.

“Over par will win”

Swedish golfer Jonas Blixt, after a practice round back in early May.

The wordsmith that is Jonas Blixt

The wordsmith that is Jonas Blixt

“Pinehurst is an iron-shot golf course, a second-shot golf course.

It will be a unique type of challenge next month, and a unique type of short game is going to be required around there because of the greens

I am just worried that this year’s U.S. Open, with no rough, is going to give the bombers a little too much space, that’s my only concern.”

Northern Irish 2010 champion Graeme McDowell.

Oh how McIlroy will wish this is how his face will be next Sunday

Oh how McIlroy will wish this is how his face will be next Sunday

“You’re going to have to use a lot of imagination around the greens, bump it into slopes, putt up the hills. There’s going to be a lot of visualization and imagination needed.”

2011 champion Rory McIlroy

Big Phil will be feeling the strain of the FBI's investigation

Big Phil will be feeling the strain of the FBI’s investigation

“You’ve got to be in the fairway to have a realistic chance of controlling your shot and staying on the green.”

FBI’s favourite Phil Mickelson.

“This year it is going to play more of a running game, more of a mix between a US Open and a British Open Championship.”

Reigning champions Justin Rose

So, where does that leave us?

Well, our full selections will be up on our final preview next Monday afternoon (GMT) but there are a few names that have been floating around our heads in the past few days.

We cannot deny Phil Mickelson interests us, but are his allegation going to prove too much of a distraction?

Webb Simpson is a local lad with an impeccable short game and Luke Donald has everything barring significant length off the tee.

Jim Furyk and Keegan Bradley appeal for their scrambling, whilst Ryan Palmer really does have everything as well as a bit of recent form.

You may find only one of these names makes our list, because for the first time ever on a major, we are not chucking our big money antepost as of yet, we will be biding our time and making sure our research and decisions are as thorough as possible.

This is going to be a true test at the end of the day, so we need to give it justice.

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 –

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

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

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

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!

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

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 –

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

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.

The Open Championship 2013

Muirfield 2013

Course: Muirfield Golf Links

Date: 18-21 July 2013

Current Champion: Ernie Els

Please do check out two of our articles about the Open for Golf Monthly, who we have started writing for on a weekly basis!

The first one is about Sergio Garcia and his madness

And the second one is about the ridiculous process of Open Qualifying. Enjoy!

NEW – Our Open Preview and Official Picks available here – Open Championship Main Preview

Preview 1

The way that we have done things for both The Masters and The US Open has been pretty successful, so we’re going to do the same sort of things for The Open Championship.

This 1st preview will outline a few trends we have found to do with previous winners of The Open. You will see this already filters out a few very interesting names. With Muirfield being a tough links course, we have also found a few names who have performed well on links courses on both tours.

The Trends 

9 of the last 10 winners had a top 10 during the year.

6 of the last 10 winners won during their winning year.

7 of the last 8 winners had a top 10 at a Major.

11 of the last 15 winners had a top 10 at the Open previously.

Since 1960, 51 of the 52 winners have ALL won a Tour event prior to their Open victory. (Ben Curtis won his first Tour event in the 2003 Open in what was his first major)

So who does this leave us with?

Player 2013 Tour Victory Best Open Finish
Thomas Aiken Avantha Masters 7th (2012)
Ernie Els BMW International Open 2 Wins
Dustin Johnson Hyundai Tournament Champions T2 (2011)
Matt Kuchar 2 Tournaments T9 (2012)
Graeme McDowell 2 Tournaments T5 (2012)
Phil Mickelson Waste Management T2 (2011)
Justin Rose The US Open T4 (1998)
Adam Scott The Masters 2nd (2012)
Brandt Snedeker AT&T Pebble Beach T3 (2012)
Tiger Woods 4 Tournaments 3 Wins

There are quite a few names who haven’t won this year but do fit the criteria, and here they are:

Angel CabreraKJ ChoiStewart CinkNicolas Colsaerts

Luke Donald

Rickie Fowler

Jim Furyk 

Sergio Garcia

Padraig Harrington

Miguel Angel JimenezZach JohnsonRobert KarlssonMartin Kaymer

Paul Lawrie

Justin Leonard

Hunter Mahan

Rory Mcilroy

Carl Pettersson

Henrik StensonSteve StrickerNick WatneyLee Westwood

Alexander Noren

Geoff Ogilvy

Thorbjorn Olesen

Louis Oosthuizen

Ian Poulter

Links Course Form

Our course preview will all come in Preview 2, but we have researched previous form on links courses which we can now show here. There are some interesting names in there…

Padraig Harrington

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 3 6 11 17 3

Henrik Stenson

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 3 4 6 7 2

Luke Donald

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 3 5 9 10 1

Simon Dyson

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
3 2 6 10 14 4

Ross Fisher

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 2 2 6 14 3

Dustin Johnson 

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

The Open Championship 2002 at Muirfield

If you didn’t already know, The Open has been held here a few times, but most recently was in 2002. Ernie Els won that year, but a few other names featured heavily as well. Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington both had top 10’s while Justin Rose was T22.

2002 Leaderboard at Muirfield

Initial Picks

We’re not going to go into depth, but here’s a taste of a few players that we have our eye on at the moment.

Luke Donald (25/1 Various)

Can Donald follow Rose and bag his 1st major...

Can Donald follow Rose and bag his 1st major…

Has the perfect game for links golf and with this the only major in Britain, he will have the crowd behind him. Rose and Scott have both won their first majors this year and Donald is equally as talented, so surely it’s only time. He has two T5 finishes to his name at The Open already, and will be high on confidence after his strong performance at The US Open.

Ernie Els (28/1 Coral)

We just don’t think you can ignore a man who has already won this thing 2 times, one of which being on the host course. He has a great record in Europe and won just a couple of weeks ago at the BMW IntDernational Open. Lets not forget he was T4 at The US Open as well. He just seems to be there or there abouts all the time! And he does have 12 top 10 finishes at The Open.

Dustin Johnson (40/1 Various)

DJ is an interesting prospect for Muirfield

DJ is an interesting prospect for Muirfield

Just one of those players who fits all the categories we have been looking at. On his day, he could tear this course apart. Many might forget his win at the start of 2013 as injuries have kept him from being present for parts of the year. But fear not he is fully fit now and was in Germany a couple of weeks ago adjusting to conditions in Europe. His form on links courses is also very promising.

Sergio Garcia (33/1 Various)

Obviously it’s always a gamble with the Spaniard considering his attitude at times. But when you look at Sergio for this tournament, he is perfect. He has 7 top 10’s at The Open and he is only 33. If he is going to win a major, his best stuff has always come in this one. Very interestingly, Garcia already has a win to his name around Muirfield, at the 1998 Amateur Championship. Combine that with a T8 finish here in 2002 and we have some tasty course form. Will be very interesting to see how he performs. Needs to keep off the front pages though!

Brandt Snedeker (40/1 Various)

3rd time lucky hopefully in our initial picks

3rd time lucky hopefully in our initial picks

This is the 3rd time he has been on our ‘inital picks’ list for a major this year, and hopefully it’s 3rd time lucky. You can’t really find a better putter than the American and people do forget he will want to avenge his poor last 2 rounds last year. Snedeker was leading after day 2 but rounds of 74 and 73 ruined any chances he had. Before injuries this year he was the best player on the planet, and looks to be getting back to where he was with a T8 last week.

Thomas Aiken (200/1 Bet365)

The South African has sneaked on here because he fits all our research and when you think about it, has the perfect game for this course. Absolutely walked away with the Avantha Masters earlier this year and his only 2 top 10’s in any majors have both come at The Open. T8 in 2009 and T7 last year makes for interesting reading. His poor form of late means his odds are what they are, but definitely worth a cheeky little ante-post stake.

Our Preview 2 should be with you all in a week!