The Players Championship 2015

PLAYERS-LogoPrize Fund – $10,000,000

Winner’s Share – $1,800,000

Course – TPC Sawgrass (Par 72, 7215 yards)

After 5 days of unadulterated madness at the WGC Match Play, we now move on to another star-studded line-up for the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

The Players Championship has long been considered the ‘5th major’ and will always attract the very best players and this year is no different.

Rory McIlroy heads the betting alongside Jordan Spieth, but the fact he’s just played 7 rounds in 5 days makes him definitely un-backable, even if you fancied the 7/1 on offer.

We do feel the same can be said of all 5 of the guys that made it through to Sunday because it’s just a lot of golf to play both mentally and physically.

Especially because the Players is so prestigious and TPC Sawgrass is such a tough challenge in itself. It’s hosted the event since 1982, with Pete Dye designing a track specifically for this tournament and it requires a level-headed tee-to-green performance.

The Par 72 is not particularly long at 7,215 yards but possesses some of the smaller and tougher greens to hit on Tour. Total diving, ball striking and top scrambling will be requirements for anyone wanting to challenge, whilst historically, scoring on par 5’s has been an important factor.

It’s also absolutely vital to have course experience and knowledge of the track and it’s tough layout. 9 of the last 11 winners had a top 20 finish here before their victory. You will rarely see anyone you wouldn’t consider a ‘top player’ come here and win either, so you are essentially looking for someone with pedigree and some sort of form.

But as we said earlier, it’s probably best to avoid the guys that made it to Sunday at the WGC and instead look at those who may have been knocked out early but still showed some form.

Louis Oosthuizen (50/1 various)

He does like trophies, don't forget that! -Photo Courtesy of Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

He does like trophies, don’t forget that! -Photo Courtesy of Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Now we know we mentioned how important course form is here and there’s no denying that Louis Oosthuizen is lacking in that department. Four starts with three missed cuts, but he does fit the trends theoretically because he has one finish inside the top 20…

The main reason we like the South African this week is simply because of how he’s performing at the moment. He finally seems to be over his bout of injuries, playing regular golf and recording good finishes.

In his last 8 starts he’s missed the cut twice but found top 20’s in his other 6 outings. That includes 4 top 10’s. We were super impressed with his outing at the Match play last week – confirming to us fully that he’s in good knick. Yes, he lost to Jimbo Furyk in the Quarters but he beat Bubba in a playoff, Rickie Fowler and destroyed Keegan Bradley. Across his four rounds (the victories) he would have been -18 in strokeplay, which just proves how many birdies and pars he was able to find.

That includes just one bogey and you have to feel slightly excited by that. Plus in the stats department he is 46th for ball striking, 9th for GIR and 15th in par 5 birdie or better.

At 50’s you’d be silly not to get involved.

Phil Mickelson (40/1 various) 

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

Oh Phil. We couldn’t help it at 40s. It’s probably slightly ludicrous, but theoretically his last outing was a T2 at The Masters, so in our eyes, he’s found his mojo again.

As usual he pulled out of the Match Play which just makes us think he’s as fresh as a daisy, raring to add another big title to his legendary CV.

In all honesty if you actually look at his form line, it isn’t that bad. 5 outings and a worst finish of T31 proves that he’s nearly there and we cant help but get excited at him plugging away on the Sawgrass track.

He obviously won here back in 2007, so he knows everything there is to know about the course and we all know what he’s about tee to green.

Yes wild at times, but there are few better scramblers or par 5 players in the game, full stop.

Too intriguing at 40’s.

Adam Scott (45/1 Coral) 

Long putter or short putter?

Long putter or short putter?

Another top player at very interesting prices and someone that would command half the odds if he was playing at the top of his game.

Adam Scott is not in the sort of form that we’re used to and that’s why he’s drifted. But actually sit down and look at his results and you’d be a fool not to back him at 45/1.

5 outings in strokeplay this season, missing only 1 cut and recording 2 top 12 finishes. He was T4 at the WGC Cadillac earlier in the season and he did go into the weekend at The Masters with a slight sniff of challenging.

Whilst that obviously didn’t work out and he dropped back to T38, it still shows that his game isn’t as bad as what the bookies are making it seem.

He did lose 3 on the bounce at the Match Play, however barring a hideous stretch on the back nine against Paul Casey, his scoring was by no means horrific.

But you’ve also got to look at his history here. He won the event back in 2004 and has recorded 2 other top 10’s, whilst he’s only missed 2 cuts in 12 outings.

His abilities clearly suits the demands when it’s in full swing – a cracking all-round driver with a top iron game, the Aussie needs to pull together and really kick start his season.

Rickie Fowler (60/1 Coral)

Focused - courtesy of golfweek

Focused – courtesy of golfweek

And so the theme continues. Another top, top player at odds we simply couldn’t resist.

It’s remarkable that the market has been pushed out compared to The Masters but it’s most likely because of the top 3 and their clearly impressive form (McIlroy, Spieth and Rose.)

But still, Rickie Fowler at 60/1 is something we simply cannot ignore.

His calendar year has obviously not gone the way it should have, but we’ve seen progressive signs in recent outings to suggest he’s close to showing the form that propelled him to new heights last year.

Mainly he seems to enjoy the truly big tournaments at the moment. Obviously we all know his performances at the Majors in 2014, but even the 3 big ones so far this season – The WGC HSBC he finished T3, T12 at The Masters and a round of 16 berth last week.

Now obviously this is the flagship PGA Tour event and when you think he’s recorded a 2nd here back in 2012, you can’t help but get excited at his prospects.

He’s a top driver of the ball and a par 5 specialist and a proven scrambler. Much like Scott, this is the sort of event that can really kick start the year for Fowler.

Ryan Palmer (100/1 BetVictor) 

Ryan Palmer has every chance here. Courtesy of Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

Ryan Palmer has every chance here.
Courtesy of Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

You will often find us backing Ryan Palmer at these sort of events. Why? Because we know that he’s on the verge of something really special. His talent has proven it over the past 18 months and it’s just a matter of time.

So, at 3-figure odds, once again, we’re lumping on the American.

He’s had a whole host of missed cuts here, but there’s a cheeky T5 finish in 2013 that proves to us his game can suit the challenge, it’s just a case of whether he turns up or not.

Now, we do feel he’s putting in more regular performances and should thrive off that confidence. One missed cut all year, 8 top 25 finishes, including 4 top 10s and he played well at Augusta, on the whole, for his T33.

He is 52nd for total driving, T36 for ball striking, 45th for GIR, 52nd for scrambling and T20 in par 5 birdie or better. If that doesn’t make you want to back him, we don’t know what will.

Webb Simpson (125/1 Coral)

Lucky fella.

Lucky fella.

Webb Simpson is arguably in the same category as Palmer for us. The main difference being he’s already a Major champion. However, we still feel there’s more to come from such a consistent tee to green player.

His distances off the tee have been improving rapidly over recent years and the fact he’s 18th in total driving proves that. He has that potent mix of strength and accuracy which should suit Sawgrass perfectly.

So why his best finish is T15 is beyond us, but again, that still fits the trends in terms of a top 20…

As for his form, he’s shown glimpses without truly putting a 4-round performance in. Last week he faced an inspired Gary Woodland in his 3rd match, but before that beat the much fancied duo of Ian Poulter and Jimmy Walker.

That shows he isn’t a million miles away.

7th in ball striking, 14th for GIR, 32nd scrambling and 2nd for par 5 birdie or better add to the appeal and we can’t argue with his 125/1 price.

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  –

£1.00 e/w on Louis Oosthuizen at 50/1

£1.25 e/w on Phil Mickelson at 40/1

£1.25 e/w on Adam Scott at 35/1

£1.00 e/w on Rickie Fowler at 50/1

£0.50 e/w on Ryan Palmer at 90/1

Each way bets ¼ odds for top 6 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power

Whilst we are not doing a preview for the Mauritius Open, we do have a staking plan in the betting challenge as follows –

£1.25 e/w on Prom Meesawat at 40/1

£1.25 e/w on Eduardo De La Riva at 50/1

£1.25 e/w on Justin Walters at 66/1

£1.25 e/w on Victor Riu at 66/1

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

Current Standings after 16 weeks (and it makes for horrible reading…)

DownThe18th                                 Golf Monthly

European Tour: £-48.70               European Tour:  £-63.75

PGA Tour: £-78.44                           PGA Tour: £48.75

Total: £-127.14                                   Total: £-5.00

Golf Monthly leads by: £112.14

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RBC Heritage 2015

Prize Fund – $5,900,000RBC2

Winner’s Share – $1,062,000

Course – Harbour Town Golf Links (7,101 par 71)

Our 2014 Picks – Zach Johnson T6, Luke Donald 2nd, Billy Horschel T68, Stewart Cink T61, Justin Hicks T38.

There’s few better ways to cure our post-Masters emotions than being treated to another outstanding tournament on the PGA Tour. Absolutely incredible performance from Jordan Spieth last week, who officially came of age.   You could not deny the young American’s intense display, as he went on to hole pretty much everything.

But we can now move on to one of our favourite tournaments in the year, which is some feat considering it usually takes place straight after the first major of the season. The RBC Heritage has often attracted some of the best names and this week it’ll be no different – At the time of writing, last weeks champion Spieth will be teeing it up alongside Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson, Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen to name but a few. The 18th Hole, Harbour Town Golf LinksPlayed at the Harbour Town Golf Links, it’s one of Pete Dye’s best and has that classic mix between a links and parkland style. At 7,101 yards, it’s undeniably short and will require a superb all-round game to post good scores.   Accuracy off the tee is evidently vital because if you miss the fairway, there’s little chance of you attacking pins and finding the dancefloor. The greens are remarkably small, so difficult to hit and as we saw last year when Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald went toe-to-toe, scrambling and bunker play is so important.

To be honest, just look at the winners, they’re all iron/short game gurus; Graeme McDowell, Kuchar, Boo Weekley, Jimbo Furyk. It’s a shot makers paradise out there! Usually you’ll never find players that found themselves at the top of leaderboard at Augusta challenging here, but Kuch changed that last year which shows you should just look at the type of golfer and what their abilities are on this sort of track. Time for us to find a winner and continue the momentum from Hideki Matsuyama’s 5th place finish last week!

Russell Knox 80/1

Loves a tough track - courtesy of PGA Tour

Loves a tough track – courtesy of PGA Tour

Russell Knox has been in and out of form this season, but has shown enough glimpses to suggest he could do well on a track that should suit. His T3 at the Honda Classic proves he is more than adept on difficult courses and interestingly it was also a place he did well at last year, much like Harbour Town this week. He finished T9 in 2014 when it could have been a lot better barring a poor 72 on the Friday.

He has the qualities to be a really consistent tee to green player because he hits it far enough and is regularly finds the right position in the fairway to utilise his incredible iron skills – 52nd driving accuracy, 38th ball striking, 22nd GIR and T10 proximity to the hole. With his background on the shores of Scottish links tracks, his scrambling and bunker play is incredibly accustomed to the finer details around the greens on these sort of seaside courses – they’re just so much different to traditional American bunkers/fringes. If he’s able to get all his game going, then there is no reason the Scot won’t be up there and at 80s, he’s definitely worth a punt.

Webb Simpson 40/1

Gunning for another victory on a tough course

Gunning for another victory on a tough course

Tee to green there are few better than Webb Simpson. His uncanny abilities to put the ball in the right place is there for all to see, so we definitely think he could have some say in the outcome this week. He showed some class during periods at Augusta in his T28 finish, but he wasn’t able to consistently keep it going. The main part of his problem surprisingly lies with the short stick. Now, that may be risky in this sort of tournament, but we saw him hole a few last week to give us confidence. Admittedly, he also missed a few…

We just have a feeling that if he could get his putter moving, there could be something really special in motion this week. He has a great record here with a couple of T14 finishes before a playoff defeat to McDowell in 2013. That week he played some sublime golf and it makes us think even more that he should do finally well because it hasn’t been plain sailing in 2015 for the American. Couple of top 10s at the WGC and Humana Challenge are the only high finishes, but we are adamant that will change this week. 9th ball striking, 15th GIR, T14 proximity to the hole, 45th sand save and 12th scrambling all add to his ridiculous appeal. Luke Donald – Up to you man, prefer Simpson, but do like the look of Donald.

Kevin Streelman 70/1

Not quite sure what's happening in this photo. Bizarre, but his sponsor Wilson seem happy with it. (It's on their site by the way...)

Not quite sure what’s happening in this photo. Bizarre, but his sponsor Wilson seem happy with it. (It’s on their site by the way…)

Winner of the par 3 contest at Augusta and cracking value for this week. Kevin Streelman has plenty to offer after an impressive showing at The Masters and his all round game suits the demands of Harbour Town. He has played a lot of golf this season for not a lot of return, but to go out and win at the par 3 contest then finish T12 in the main event, shows he is starting to find a bit of form. He finished 10th for GIR and 3rd in driving accuracy across the week, which is a simple and clear indication his game is back to its best. The fact he was also 4th for sand saves tells us he has every chance going onto a track where he’s played well before.

A T3 finish in 2013 here when it should have probably been more, were it not for a +1 round on Sunday. Another very intriguing outsider that has every chance.

Rory Sabbatini (100/1 Paddy Power)

Certainly not in the best of form but a horses for courses pick if there ever has been one. Has never finished outside the top 17 in all of his 5 appearances at the course but equally has never kicked on. Like so many on the Tour, you’re never going to get consistent top 5’s out of Rory but he’s always got one or two in the locker.

Statistically speaking he ticks all the boxes – 17th ball striking, 12th approaches 50-125yards and 17th sand saves.

Ernie Els (100/1 Various)

An impressive T22 for the South African last week at the Masters and an even more impressive first day 5-under-par total. A few cheap errors cost Ernie a big finish around Augusta but he openly admitted after Spieth’s ominous lead meant the guys out there had to keep attacking and shooting at pins.

Not a lot has happened for Els in 2015 but even as the years tick by, he’s always a guaranteed to contend in one or two. Tee to green this year is where he’s been nowhere near as consistent but around the greens his touch remains – 6th approaches 50-125 yards and 17th sand saves. Was runner up in 2007 and had 3 top 10’s around this track before that. 100/1 for an Ernie Els who showed real signs of his best around Augusta seems like good value to us!

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  –

£1.75 e/w on Webb Simpson at 40/1

£1.50 e/w on Kevin Streelman at 40/1

£0.75 e/w on Russell Knox at 66/1

£0.50 e/w on Rory Sabbatini at 100/1

£0.50 e/w on Ernie Els at 80/1

Each way bets ¼ odds for top 6 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power

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

Current Standings after 13 weeks (and it makes for horrible reading…)

DownThe18th                                 Golf Monthly

European Tour: £-28.70               European Tour:  £-43.75

PGA Tour: £-59.38                           PGA Tour: £68.50

Total: £-88.08                                   Total: £24.75

Golf Monthly leads by: £112.83

The Masters 2015

Prize Fund – $9,000,000Masters logo

Winner’s Share – $1,620,000

Course – Augusta National (7,450 par 72)

Our 2014 Picks – Jason Day – T20, Sergio Garcia – MC, Dustin Johnson – MC, Hunter Mahan– T26, Bill HaasT20, Graham DeLaet – MC, Fred Couples T20, Bernhard Langer – T8

So then, here we are. The week has finally arrived and excitement is beyond palpable. One of the biggest, most exhilarating and awe-inspiring tournaments in sport is upon us.

It’s time for The Masters.

For those that don’t know, we have produced two pre-previews over the past couple of weeks, so please do check them out.

The 1st preview – We looked at historic trends and stats from past winners here and broke down the entire field to see if anyone fit them all. Three did….

Click Here to Read!

The 2nd preview – We produced a table of over 50 names, detailing all their relevant stats and results that need to fit the mould of a Masters winner. Clearly shows who you should be looking at. There’s a brief description on several top players and what the stats mean.

Click Here to Read!

Now, after these two previews that give our over-riding feeling and non-concrete DT18 opinion, this 3rd piece will be finally showing our exact thoughts and where we’re placing our money this year!

But before we get to that, a little bit about the relatively unknown course – Augusta National.

Masters-Golf-Tournament-WGIYou can follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for all things Masters!

Measuring in at 7,450 yards, this par 72 is infamous for catching out every player at any moment. Whether it be the infamous tree-lined fairways, the luscious second cut, ridiculous tornado-like wind on the par 3 12th (Bubba Watson shot 10 on this hole a couple of years ago….), anywhere on Amen Corner and of course the crazy, sloping and rapid greens.

As we’ve already stated, it’s imperative to be 100% on your game tee-to-green and those that drive the ball well, will be constantly setting themselves perfectly for birdie challenges. And if you are hot with your putter, then anything is possible, because these greens are generally known as some of the most difficult in the game.

Finally, before we run through our picks, we just want to quickly talk about that man and the field itself.

Regardless of how he plays it's so good to see him back!

Regardless of how he plays it’s so good to see him back!

Tiger announced he’ll be playing which will be welcome news to Rory McIlroy, because some of the pre-tournament heat has suddenly been taken off him.

Many people think he won’t stand a chance and we’re pretty much in the same position. You can get him at EVENS to miss the cut, if that’s a bet you fancy. There’s also an interesting market that BetVictor have produced – Missed Cut Insurance Bet. Tiger is at 35’s here, so if you’re a fan of the guy and don’t want to bet on him to be awful, you’ll have the insurance here of that likely scenario where he doesn’t make the weekend.

As for the field itself, we have to say that the odds are some of the most inconsistent and disappointing we’ve seen in any Major.

There isn’t a great deal of value from the top boys to be honest and a big reason for that is because so many are playing some outrageous golf at the moment.

Rory McIlroy 13/2 – It’s Rory, we know what he’s about

Jordan Spieth 11/1 – 3-time winner this season and on course to go close this week.

Bubba Watson 12/1 – 2-time winner here and won the WGC HSBC this season

Jason Day 14/1 – Actually coming into one of his favourite Masters with a win this season

Dustin Johnson 18/1 – Outrageous winning return (WGC Cadillac) from a long layoff

Henrik Stenson 20/1 – 4 top 10’s and won the DP World Tour Championship at the end of last year

Adam Scott 20/1 – Winner here and 4 top 5 finishes this season

Phil Mickelson 22/1 – Awful season, but loves it here and shown a slight return to form this week

Jimmy Walker 25/1 – 2-time winner in 2015 and has Butch Harmon in his ear-hole.

Then there’s a break to Matt Kuchar, but it’s madness to see 9 players at 25’s and below. All of which are in very decent form. Plus, it’s not as if the low to mid-rangers are in bad form either.

Basically, what we’re trying to say – this is by far one of the hardest Masters to call in recent history. So many could win and the bookies are likely to make a lot of money.

It makes everything really exciting, but we are sure we have names that should be in and around come Sunday and we’re absolutely buzzing.

WEATHER UPDATE

Everything we have written about so far still has the upmost importance, Augusta is one of the toughest courses you will play and that will never change. But looking at the weather forecast for all 4 days, we certainly have to look at things again. Here’s the forecast –

CB5Fe-3UEAEt31e.jpg-large

 

So what does this tell us? It’s going to be soggy, miserable and filled with plenty of delays – a Monday finish is certainly not out of the question. A wet track at over 7,400 yards immediately points at the bigger hitters gaining the upper edge, namely Rory, Bubba and DJ. But then we look back to 2007, the last real weather-hit Masters. Zach Johnson, notorious short hitter, won at +1. The score in particular is something we need to take not of – In recent times we’ve seen Watson (-10), Schwartzel (-12), Mickelson (-14) and Cabrera (-12) all reach double figures. Johnson’s over par total was over 10 shots lower than the average winning score. It tells us when the weather gets tough players need to GRIND.

Who plays well in bad weather? One trend that is always talked about is the European golfer fairing much better in poorer conditions. Now it’s not an exact science but you only have to look at the last 2 rain-affected majors (2013 US Open and 2014 PGA) where British pair Rose and McIlroy came out on top. The only way to properly show who performs well is by looking through the last couple of years at events that we know were affected by weather.

WGC Match Play 2013Leaderboard

US Open 2013Leaderboard

Pebble Beach Pro-Am 2014Leaderboard

WGC Cadillac 2014Leaderboard

FedEx St. Jude Classic 2014Leaderboard

PGA Championship 2014Leaderboard

Honda Classic 2015Leaderboard

And… The Masters 2007Leaderboard

Now these leaderboards make for some very interesting reading and without going into too much detail, here are the names who regularly perform in poor conditions:

Hunter Mahan (100/1), Phil Mickelson (25/1), Jimmy Walker (25/1), Matt Kuchar (40/1), Paul Casey (80/1), Ian Poulter (80/1), Jason Day (16/1), Luke Donald (125/1), Padraig Harrington (150/1), Patrick Reed (33/1).

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!

Here’s our troops:

Jason Day (16/1 Ladbrokes)

World Number 5

“Everyone knows that you just don’t get anywhere in life without working hard and putting in the dedication to the profession that you love. I feel like I should be winning more. But it’s a process and I’m just really happy with how things have started this year. Everything’s trending in the right direction for the majors.”

We went with Jason Day last year and it didn’t go too well. He simply didn’t get going till too late in the week. Fast forward one year and our feelings about the Australian have not differed, only grown much stronger.

JD

JD

Yes, he added the WGC Match Play last year, but he didn’t play a great deal in strokeplay events. This year he has finally added another PGA title, claiming the Farmers Insurance Open a couple of months back.

He has added a few more competitions to his schedule and we just have that feeling about him once again. No denying that 14s is incredibly short and we admittedly did question whether it was too low. However, so many boxes are ticked with Day and we would just feel horrendous if he was up there and we hadn’t backed him.

As you can see in our 2nd preview, he fits all the stats barring driving accuracy, which proves how set up he is for this course. He hits it a long way, has the ability to draw the ball and can be devastating with his irons. Some cracking outings at Augusta in recent years and (he ended only 7 shots behind last year after that poor start…) a new lease of injury-free life, means Day has every chance to don that green jacket come Sunday.

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
T20 3rd WD T2
Arnold Palmer Invitational WGC Cadillac AT&T Pebble Beach Farmers Insurance Open Sony Open Hyundai Tourn. Of Champs
T17 T31 T4 1st T17 T3

Patrick Reed (40/1 Stan James)

World Number 15

“I’m very comfortable out here.  I like playing a little draw, so it sets up really well for the golf course as well as I’ve worked really hard on being able to hit a controlled cut, as well.  So in case you need that, because you do need that on a couple holes out here.”

Talented. Controversial. Confident.

Probably the three words you would use to describe the nature of Patrick Reed. He is one of these young guns who has catapulted himself into the limelight recently. Many of the youngsters have become favourites for majors and Reed is definitely one of them.

Top 5 player in the world - he actually is looking like one

Top 5 player in the world – he actually is looking like one

His form this season has been ridiculously impressive. A win that kick-started 2015 at the Hyundai, whilst 5 top 10’s and no missed cuts is pretty damn good.

He may have only played The Masters once, missing the cut in the process, but when you look a bit deeper at his background, you can’t help but think he has a big chance. He went into the turn leading during the first round, even beginning Amen Corner at the top, however 3 bogeys on the trot really set him back and he, admitting it afterwards, never recovered.

Then, you realise he was a graduate of Augusta State University. He has played here several times as an amateur and has some experience. We then think that these past 12-15 months have been such a meteoric rise, his standing in the game is completely different, even to the moment he teed it up at Augusta last year.

He has the perfect all-round game and on his day can be so consistent tee-to-green. His scrambling is up there with the best we’ve seen this year, he simply finds a miraculous way to get the ball back in play and close to the pin. He only missed out in 2 trends as well, so he does tick most boxes. Another risk at 33s, but you can see the reasons behind this bet!

It’s also good to note he excels in poorer conditions but did suffer a slight knee injury throughout the Shell Houston last week.

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
MC
Shell Houston Open Valspar Champs WGC Cadillac Honda Classic AT&T Pebble Beach Waste Management
T2 T23 T7 T29 T40

Matt Kuchar (40/1 BetFred)

World Number 16

Kuuuch is a late addition to the line-up having been considered throughout the build-up but failing to 100% convince us. But then we heard about the weather. Matt Kuchar donning a beanie is like Lewis Hamilton donning a crash helmet, you know they’re going to produce something.

Hear his thoughts on the week (Courtesy of Golf Channel):

Matt Kuchar in the bag Augusta interview

He grinds.

He grinds.

His first ‘big’ win came at the 2013 WGC Championship in some really tough conditions. Quite simply, he’s one of the best grinders in the game. He has a taste for the tougher tracks too when you look at his career wins – Honda Classic, Players, Barclays, Memorial and RBC Heritage.

His recent form over the past couple of months has been questionable but all preparation will have been for this week and his T15 in Texas showed all of his game was firing. And just look at his last 3 years around Augusta…

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
T5 T8 T3 T27 T24
Shell Houston Open Valero Texas Open Valspar Champs WGC Cadillac Waste Management Humana Classic
70th T15 T33 T23 T30 T2

Paul Casey (70/1 BetFred)  

World Number 48

You know, I feel like I’ve got the shots to get around Augusta. I’ve clearly played some very good rounds of golf around there. I love the golf course. I think it sets up beautifully for my game. I think I’ve got a way of getting around it. I’ve put myself in a good position probably a couple of times back in 2004. You know, for me, I didn’t have enough experience. It was great playing with Langer in the final round in the penultimate group. I just didn’t have it to sort of get up there and challenge Phil and Ernie coming down the stretch.

Paul.

Paul.

Playing really well again this week, used to America again and cracking tee to green game. Has 3 finishes inside the top 11 here as well, when he was in his heyday. Fit quite a few stats as well. He led in 2007 FIVE holes into the final round…. He called a penalty shot on himself at the 6th after the ball moved slightly when he went to putt it – cleeeeeearly affected him.

When you also factor in Paul’s ability in tough conditions, especially off the tee, we REALLY like the Englishman.

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
MC T38 MC T20
Shell Houston Open Arnold Palmer Invitational WGC Cadillac Honda Classic Northern Trust Open Farmers Insurance
MC T38 T3 T2 MC

Louis Oosthuizen (50/1 Paddy Power)

World Number 34

He’s an incredible talent and has that unflappable temperament that you need to win big tournaments. I believe he will win more majors in his career. Ernie Els, 2012

The South African has unfinished business with Augusta. Just take a look at the image below to see what Bubba had to do to beat him in 2012…

Courtesy of The Masters

Courtesy of The Masters

Louis’ swing is up there with the best in the game and it’s that consistency that means he’s never far away from the top of the leaderboard in any event he plays. Question marks have surrounded his health throughout this year but when he has played, look at his results! But his T9 at the Arnold Palmer and 2 more competitive rounds in Houston means fitness-wise he’s back in good shape.

At the Arnold Palmer he ranked T10 GIR, T15 putting and was as good as ever off the tee – top 30 in both driving distance and accuracy stats.

Despite not featuring in our ‘poor weather players’ section, we know he has a game that can adapt to any conditions. Come rain or shine, the South African has a great chance this week.

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
25th MC 2nd MC MC MC
Shell Houston Open Arnold Palmer Invitational Valspar Champs WGC Cadillac Alfred Dunhill Champs Nedbank Golf Challenge
MC T9 MC 6th 2nd T7

A couple more names for you to ponder over:

Lee Westwood (50/1 Stan James)

World Number 30

“But you must understand it means more to me than anyone else; nobody wants it as much as I do. And the fact I’ve come near so often only reinforces to me that it’s within my grasp if I do the right things at the right time.”

The Englishman has featured heavily in all of our research and previews and has forced his way into our staking plan. His recent form combined with his love for Augusta is too good not to have a dabble on. We know he will be as good as anyone tee to green it’s just whether the hard hours he’s put into the short game will pay off. If the weather gets poor, which it’s likely to, Lee will use that good old English grit to fight his way into contention.

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
7th T8 T3 T11 2nd 43rd
Valspar Champs WGC Cadillac Honda Classic Maybank Malaysian Open Omega Dubai Desert Thailand Golf Champs
T17 T12 T25 T5 T9 1st

Hideki Matsuyama (70/1 BetVictor)

World Number 16

 I think you’ve just seen the start, of what’s going to be truly one of your world’s great players over the next 10 or 15 years – Jack Nicklaus on Matsuyama after his win at The Memorial in 2014

Hideki was our first bet for this event over 6 months ago and our feelings are perhaps not as strong given his lack of appearances of late – even so, he knows his body and the schedule he picked will have been with the intention of being in the best possible shape for this event. In just these first couple of years in America, he’s proven what a player he is and will be up there with the Spieth’s and McIlroy’s in years to come, that we are sure of. Statistically speaking, he’s one of the best players in 2015. To be precise, he ranks 3rd in all-round ranking behind Jason Day (1) and Webb Simpson (2).

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
MC T54 T27 (la)
Arnold Palmer Invitational WGC Cadillac Northern Trust Open Farmers Insurance Open Waste Management Sony Open
T21 T23 T4 MC T2 T78

You can follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for all things Masters!

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  –

Picks and staking plan to follow…

The Masters 2015 Preview Two

For the past 2 years we have extensively looked into the Masters, working out who is playing the sort of golf to challenge at Augusta.

As you can see in our 1st preview – check it out!!! – we took a peak at trends and stats of recent winners to see which players fit the bill in 2015.2015 Masters

For this 2nd preview we’ve decided to take a mixture of the last 2 years but and produce a write-up that gives a few of our opinions but is more of a database for all of you out there to decide where your hard earned money should be going this year!

One of the main reasons we’ve decided to do this is that we really feel that this years event will be one of the closest and toughest to call in recent history. There are so many top, top players in ridiculous form and with the attributes to put together a real challenge for the green jacket.

Jordan Spieth – 3-time winner this season, Rory McIlroy going for a 3rd Major in a row, Bubba Watson – winner in 2015 and double Masters champion looking to retain his jacket, Jason Day finally recorded a solid victory not long ago and has a cracking record here, Dustin Johnson – WGC Cadillac champion and on his day can destroy any course, Patrick Reed – nearly a double winner this year, let alone the bundle of others in cracking form. We don’t mean to leave anyone out but we could be here for ages if we carried on!

We will then take a small peak at a few of the names who stand out in multiple categories and have a closer look at their recent Masters form.

Hope you enjoy the read and find it useful, please do get in touch with us if there’s any questions or something you simply want to get off your chest!

Our email is downthe18th@hotmail.co.uk and twitter @downthe18th

Happy researching and more importantly, happy punting!

Key:

– The stats in bold indicate that the player in question fits the corresponding trend
– The stats highlighted in blue indicate that this stat is from the European Tour – it’s wherever that player in question has ‘played’ the most in the corresponding category.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 18.08.54

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 18.10.09

Rory McIlroy (6/1 various)

If Rory doesn’t win at Augusta in a few weeks’ time, he’ll win next year. And if he doesn’t win next year, then he’ll win it the year after. His game is perfect for that golf course. He’s going to win there. It’s only a question of when, he’s that good. 

Darren Clarke on Rory McIlroy in the Independent this story by Karl MacGinty in the Independent.

The World number one. The man of the moment. The golfer with his sport in the palm of his hands. Rory has won the last two majors and will be looking to give himself a chance of creating history by owning all four in a row.
His form has been ridiculous throughout the past 18 months – 6 wins to his name – so the fact he is at 6/1 is more than understandable.
That is some feat to even dream about but he clearly has every chance because his game suits Augusta perfectly.

Well, to be honest it suits most tracks, but we all saw his potential here in 2011 when he went into the final day with a 4-shot lead. The idea of him bottling from that position now is simply unthinkable.

Stats: Right, so in our original trends for recent winners, McIlroy missed out in driving accuracy. He was as low as 55% for the season which is pretty poor considering how you associate him with a ridiculous game off the tee.

But his last outing at the Arnold Palmer has changed that and pushed him up to 60%, meaning he now FITS EVERY SINGLE STAT AND TREND – very ominous if you ask us…

Martin Kaymer (80/1 Coral)

I was never able to hit a draw, but now I can hit a draw without a problem, so that was the biggest thing.

Martin Kaymer talking about his own game last year

This statement makes interesting reading because the well-known ‘draw factor’ is so vital to overcome the challenge at Augusta. Martin Kaymer will surely know that the rest of his game has the perfect fitting to match this famous track, so adding a draw could be a massive help in his quest for victory.

A half decent season, barring that obvious bottle in Abu Dhabi, but as a 2-time major winner, he has all the credentials. Not the greatest form here admittedly, but if that draw is working, he could really put something together this year.

Stats: Considering his inconsistent season, may be surprising to see that he fits absolutely everything in the stats department. However, he does possess a top quality all-round game. It was still a surprise to see he ticked all the boxes, so the fact you can get him at 80’s should appeal…

Henrik Stenson (20/1 PaddyPower)

I would think Henrik is one of a few players who can win tournaments on ball striking alone. He’s certainly got the game. There are quite a few players who deserve to win majors, but unfortunately you have to win them.

Henrik Stenson’s swing coach Pete Cowen

As his swing coach Pete Cowan rightly alludes to – Stenson has one of the most incredible ball striking games in the world. If he’s on it, then he can destroy any course, even Augusta.
He may not have played particularly well here in terms of overall finishes, but he has shown brief rounds of ability around the notoriously difficult track. He lead for 17 holes of the first round in 2012 buy a quadruple bogey on the 18th completely ruined him and meant he could never quite recover. 

A slight bottle at the Arnold Palmer may deter a few, especially with his odds being cut in half, but don’t discount the big hitting Swede.

Stats: In our original trends and stats method, Stenson failed to meet the requirement in putting stats, however after an outrageous performance at the Arnold Palmer, he shot right up to 2nd in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour.

This does now mean HE NOW FITS EVERY TREND of recent winners and makes him so much more backable.

Bubba Watson (10/1 various)

When you’re playing a hook it usually takes off. But that ball danced like it had a lot of backspin on it. I saw that ball hit the green, and I said, ‘Wow.’ That was something.

Not only did he play the shot, but he played the shot and ended up with control at the end of the shot – which I thought was the amazing part. That will go down as one of the great shots ever played in the game.

Jack Nicklaus on Bubba Watson’s shot to help win the Masters playoff in 2012

One of the great mavericks in world golf. Bubba has picked up two green jackets with his unique and bombing displays. He would be the first player since Tiger to win back to back Masters and what an achievement that would be.

His season has had it’s ups and downs, but a win recent enough at the WGC HSBC will still give him confidence, along with a couple of top 10s since.

Don’t back against Bubba.

Stats: Fits everything barring greens in regulation, which is incredibly surprising. A lot of his game is built around his prowess with the irons, so that might put you off.

Or you may think it doesn’t matter at all because this course clearly suits his eye so much…

Jason Day (14/1 everywhere)

I’ve loved the way he’s refocused and rededicated himself to the game of golf. He’s playing extremely well and he’s managed his schedule extremely well coming into it.

I think he’s primed, he’s fresh and ready to go. His game suits Augusta National

Greg Norman talking about Jason Day

This recent crop of Aussies do seem to enjoy Augusta. Whilst Scott won here, Leishman and have shown plenty of promise in previous years. The latter has an enviable record considering his limited time at the top of the game, but he very much a part of this new crop of young, emerging talent.

A big factor with the 26-year old is that he’s bagged himself another win. A good win as well – the Farmers Insurance Open is never an easy title to get.

That would’ve silenced a few doubters and you cannot argue with how incredibly consistently he’s playing this season and that hasn’t really happened before coming here…

Stats: As you can imagine, fit everything except for driving accuracy. We’ve all seen him spray a ball into the middle of nowhere before, but he’s shown that on his day, his tee to green abilities can propel him to the top of leaderboards.

Patrick Reed (40/1 BetVictor)

I believe in myself and – especially with how hard I’ve worked – I’m one of the top five players in the world

Patrick Reed, talking about himself after winning the WGC Cadillac last year

A confident man who caused plenty of controversy last year with this outlandish comment. He would have upset an applecart or two after saying this, but few would have predicted his continued rise into the highest echelons of the game.

Currently 15th in the world and preparing for only a 5th start in any major, Reed shouldn’t be dismissed easily.

He went to University in the area and has previous knowledge of the courses as a junior and we saw for half a round last year how devastating he could be at Augusta.

A win at the Hyundai and nearly a double at the Valspar shows what sort of form we’re talking about here.

Stats: Misses out in two areas. He obviously missed the cut last year, but you can look past that if you consider how well he played before Amen Corner.

He also fails in driving accuracy which has seemed to be his downfall at times.

Adam Scott (22/1 Coral)

It will not surprise me if he wins more major championships than any other Australian golfer in history. Adam’s an incredible competitor. He’s not a guy that wants to sit back and relax and rest on his laurels. He has incredible fire within his system

Greg Norman on Adam Scott after his Masters victory in 2013

Adam Scott will have a big place in our hearts for many years after becoming our first big, big win when he wore the green jacket a couple of years ago.

He has gone from strength to strength since then, recording a further 4 top 10’s in 7 major outings. He may not have won this calendar year, but his form is still consistent enough to make you really think about plumping on the Aussie.

Stats: Fits everything barring putting. Completely understandable when you consider his change with the short stick recently, attempting to use the shorter putter.

We are lead to believe he will use his trusted anchor version for Augusta, so don’t be surprised to see him with it. Potentially a big game changer in whether to back him or not, so keep an eye out in pressers, on twitter and general news sites.

Jordan Spieth (12/1 Ladbrokes)

It’s clear as a bell to me, he gives you a look I’ve never seen before. It’s like a mean look, but not really mean. It’s a look of I-know-where-I’m-going.

It’s not cocky. It’s confident. It’s wonderful to watch what he’s doing.

Ben Crenshaw talking about Spieth

The next protagonist in this new bundle of leading youngsters. After an outrageous start to his professional career, who would back against him adding his first major, especially after a superb first effort at Augusta last year – pushing Bubba the whole way.

His form this season has been absolutely ridiculous and record-breaking. No one has produced more wins than the 21-year old this season (3) and he became just the fourth player since 1940 to record 2 PGA Tour victories before turning 22.

With one of the most complete all-round games in world golf and a T2 finish last year, Spieth really is one of the danger men.

Stats: Bizarrely, he fits everything but GIR. You would expect his approach stats would be right up there, but across the season he just misses out because of that.

He does have a remarkable scrambling game though, so missing the odd green won’t really effect his chances. However at 12/1, you have to be really, really, really confident on his abilities…

Jimmy Walker (30/1 PaddyPower)

He just works hard, has a lot of talent, a good demeanour. I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg with this guy.

Coach Butch Harmon after his win at the AT&T Pebble Beach in 2014

Some may argue that this is a surprise inclusion in our quick peak at some of the players from the stats table but just look at his results.

Firstly, at the time of writing, he is right in the hunt for another win in Texas, whilst he recorded 4 victories since the beginning of last season.

That’s not bad going for someone who was widely considered a journeyman! But the legendary touch of Butch Harmon has clearly galvanised the American and now a major challenge doesn’t seem far away.

By far his best performance in majors came last year with 3 top 10s – his only top 10s to date – so he is clearly on the cusp. A long game that suits Augusta and form that smells of a Major champion.

Stats: Right, he also fits everything barring driving accuracy and that is certainly understandable. We’ve all seen him spray a few at times, but when he is on it, his drivers are ludicrously dominant.

That’s how he can win tournaments, especially with a very, very consistent game around the greens. Although at 30’s, you’ve gotta have real faith in him because there’s some top players in and around those odds that may be preferred.

Rickie Fowler (40/1 Coral)

The one thing that’s so good about Rickie if you watch him is his mind. His mind is the best part of his game. His physical game is great, but his mind is so good.

He’s gonna fight to the end, and he’s not gonna let bad swings or bad putts or whatever creep in his mind. He’s gonna just keep fighting.

Bubba Watson talking about Fowler in 2010.

It’s not been a good season for Rickie Fowler. By any means. He doesn’t actually fit the stats in 3 areas, which therefore seems ridiculous to even think about writing a Fowler spiel.

However, he has to be thought about because of how he performed in the big events last year.

4 top 5’s prove he has all the credentials and we can’t help but think his game has the perfect hallmarks for Augusta – if it’s working properly.

Stats: As we said above, misses out in 3 areas, but that shouldn’t deter you from seriously thinking about putting your money on the young American. He has already gone out to Augusta and got plenty of practice in, so it’s whether you feel he is worth it at 40/1 with Coral…

Hideki Matsuyama (66/1 Coral)

I think you’ve just seen the start, of what’s going to be truly one of your world’s great players over the next 10 or 15 years.

Jack Nicklaus on Matsuyama after his win at The Memorial in 2014

Now, we backed Hideki Matsuyama at 80/1 for The Masters about 10 months ago. We thought he was going to go on and blow away all sorts of records, therefore find himself at 33’s/40’s. Whilst he hasn’t quite delivered, you can hardly say his form and performances have been poor.

He won in Japan at the back end of last year and came so close at both the Waste Management and Northern Trust Open. He had a putt to get into a playoff in Phoenix and the ball brushed the hole, simply not wanting to drop, so he has shown his form.

Won the leading amateur at Augusta in 2011, but hasn’t shown anything again since, which may worry a few, but his game is so consistent that you wouldn’t back against him.

Stats: That missed cut here last year means he doesn’t fit everything; otherwise he would have done quite easily. Not surprising considering how talented his all-round game is, so definitely one to consider as a mid-range outsider.

Lee Westwood (50/1 various)

Lee is one of the best drivers of the ball, he has been there a couple of times coming down the stretch and he knows what it takes, he just has to get over that factor of not winning a major tournament

Ian Woosnam talking about Lee ahead of Augusta a couple of years ago

Clearly the surprise package of all the players who made the trends. In fact, we nearly had a heart attack. But, when you look at it deeper, you can understand.

The perennial bottler who will top many peoples list as the ‘best player never to have won a major’ Lee will have to do a lot for all of us to even consider putting our money on him.

Although in his last 5 outings at Augusta, his worst finish is T11 and that includes 2 inside the top 3. Ridiculous form.

As for this season, he won in Thailand at the back end of last year and has a couple of top 10s in Europe.

Stats: Obviously, he fits everything – including putting! He is actually 17th for strokes gained in America, which is just madness. He has still shown the odd bottle over the short putts recently, but there’s been a marked improvement.

Louis Oosthuizen (66/1 Ladbrokes)

He’s an incredible talent and has that unflappable temperament that you need to win big tournaments. I believe he will win more majors in his career. Ernie Els, 2012

The 2010 Open champion has one of the smoothest swings in the game. Because of his injury issues and time off, people have generally completely forgotten about Louis. But do that at your peril.

5 appearances this season and 4 top 10s. The Arnold Palmer and WGC are notoriously difficult tracks and generally contain the crème de la crème, so the fact he finished strongly in both outings, shows where he’s at when he gets on the course.

Famously came 2nd here in 2012 when Bubba beat him with that ridiculous shot in a playoff, so he’s shown he can do it round here.

Stats: Actually fits everything barring putting. He would do if it was calculated on the European Tour though and he has shown his short stick can perform when he gets in a groove.

But his game is more about the tee to green brilliance and at 66/1, you can’t help but think he’s a decent mid-ranger.

Webb Simpson (150/1 PaddyPower)

Webb had such natural instincts as well as natural talent, he learned the game from the green back to the tee. He was making 30-foot putts all the time when he was 10 and 11 years old.

Once Webb filled out, he got his distance, and then he got even better

Webb’s coach Ted Kiegiel, who has been with him since he was nine years old

Another major champion, but by far and away the highest odds of anyone in this list. You can find him at 150/1 with some, which is madness considering his background.

Admittedly, he has never really performed here, but his overall abilities could overcome the Augusta challenge if he brings his a-game.

3 top 10s this season show that he isn’t in the worst knick and widely regarded as one of the best in and around the greens.

Stats: The main reason we couldn’t help but write him down here. The only stat he doesn’t fit is the fact he missed the cut here last year.

He ticks all the other boxes and has shown that he’s got the perfect game for many courses, let alone Augusta.

But at such high odds, it may be worth looking into him at great length.

The Masters 2015 – Preview One

us-masters-3

Here we go again.  The one every golfing lover looks forward to.  The one that captures the imagination of those sporting fans who ‘don’t mind golf.’  The one that makes a superstar from a field of stars.  This is the 2015 Masters.

For those that have followed us over the past few years, you will know that we like to preview the Majors once or twice before our ‘main’ preview with finalised selections.  This year will be no different and we begin with this naughty treat looking at the trends and historic stats at Augusta.

Obviously, the field has not been officially finished, but we do know the majority as it stands, so we’ve grabbed all those players and whittled them down those that don’t meet the criteria to see who we’re left with.

The players listed below the bolded trend or stat, are the guys that have failed to achieve whatever is being said and after our research, we were left with 3 golfers.  One of them is relatively obvious, whilst 2 are complete shocks to us and will probably be to you.

As we’ve said, we have done this the past couple of years and looking at the players who’ve matched all the trends/stats and where they finished makes for interesting reading –

2013 – 

Tiger Woods – T4

Justin Rose – T25

Adam Scott – WON

2014 –

Adam Scott – T14

Jason Day – T20

Rory McIlroy – T8

Dustin Johnson – MC

Looking at those guys, it clearly shows you will get someone who gives you a run for your money.  Last year, all these guys barring DJ had one round that cost them, but were in the mix.  Obviously 2013 says it all.

But anyway enough drivel, here’s that magic list:

Each of the past 15 winners made the cut at The Masters the year before –

Ryan Moore, Victor Dubuisson, Sang-Moon Bae, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Marc Leishman, Ernie Els, Branden Grace, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel, Harris English, Ian Woosnam, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Graham DeLaet, Mark O’Meara, Patrick Reed, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Tim Clark, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw

The past 23 Major winners had at least one top 10 in the same year – so far this year, will update weekly. (Bear in mind that the last 12 Major winners all had MULTIPLE top 10s before their win…)

Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Tiger Woods, John Senden, José María Olazábal, Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Thomas Bjørn, Jonas Blixt, Kevin Stadler, Ben Crane, Brian Harman, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk, Hunter Mahan, Ben Martin, Seuny Yul Noh, Kevin Streelman, Camilo Villegas, Morgan Hoffmann, Geoff Ogilvy, Cameron Tringale, Mikko Ilonen, Marc Leishman, Joost Luiten, Steve Stricker 

There has only been one first-time PGA Tour winner at The Masters since 1948. (Bernhard Langer in 1985) –

Anirban Lahiri, Benrd Wiesberger, Alexander Levy, Erik Compton, Shane Lowry, Danny Willett

Only one person in the modern era has won at Augusta on the first attempt (Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979) –

Brooks Koepka, Robert Streb, Brendon Todd,

Changes were made in 2008 to combat a certain Tiger Woods and since then every winner hit GIR of at least 68% during the 4 days. We are looking at players with at least 67% GIR on either Tour for the season. 16 of the top 20 for GIR over the 4 days in 2014 finished inside the top 20 

Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Bill Haas, Pádraig Harrington, J.B Holmes, Brandt Snedeker, Russell Henley, Kevin Na, Jamie Donaldson, Ian Poulter

Past 7 winners were in the top 60 for driving distance on Tour and averaging 290 yards throughout the season  

Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jim Furyk, Thongchai Jaidee

The last 7 winners had driving accuracy of at least 57%, so we feel around 57% accuracy of the tee is required. 8 out of the top 14 averaged 70% of fairways hit last year 

Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, Jimmy Walker, Jason Day, Gary Woodland, Freddy Couples

10 of the last 13 winners were inside the top 20 for putting average during the tournament, so we are looking at around the top 90 in putting stats. 5 of the top 6 finished inside the top 20 for putting stat 

Henrik Stenson, Charley Hoffman, Ryan Palmer, Stephen Gallacher

The last 8 winners have been inside the top 63 for scoring average across the season 

No one. (that’s not a player that’s simply just no one………)

So that shows the magic list of players and we have been left with 3 guys.  We will be updating this post over the coming days to write a full description in regards to these 3 players, the guys that came close and a full description of the entire field.

So, for now here is the 3 stalwarts who ticked every box –

Adam Scott (20/1 Coral)

The iconic phot of Scott's career... Photography by: Scott K. Brown

The iconic phot of Scott’s career…
Photography by: Scott K. Brown

Third year in a row the Australian has made it through these trends and who would deny him another fight for the jacket?  Change of putter yes, but his stats at Doral on the greens were ridiculous.  He has since gone on to miss his first cut in 45 starts (a current record) and was 141st out of 144 for putting.  A real mixture.

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
T14 WON T8 T2 T18 MC

Martin Kaymer (50/1 various)

Well, this is Kaymer's iconic career photo...

Well, this is Kaymer’s iconic career photo…

On paper it seems a massive surprise.  But when you properly look at it, you can’t deny that he has been playing some good golf.  We will all remember that horrific collapse from a 10-shot lead in Abu Dhabi, but the German is still an absolute monster on his day.  He’s number 12 in the world for a reason.  He is the reigning US Open champion for starters and during that week shone through as someone who can completely charge away if his game is on.

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
T31 T35 T44 MC MC MC

Lee Westwood (66/1 Coral)

Certainly not the 'iconic' Westwood photo, but probably sums it all up...

Certainly not the ‘iconic’ Westwood photo, but probably sums it all up…

We nearly fainted.  Realising the perennial putting perpetrator made it through the trends gave us a complete mix of joy, sadness and confusion.  Should we back Lee?  Should we ignore everything he’s done in the big tournaments previously and join the ‘it’s this year’ bandwagon?  Some real conundrums to think about.  But one thing is for sure, the Englishman suits every trend for this years Masters and to be fair his form has been so consistent it’s understandable.  Couple of top 10s and even his putting hasn’t been that bad… Plus don’t forget a worst finish of T11 in his last 4 appearances at Augusta…

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
7th T8 T3 T11 2nd 43rd

Honourable Mentions: (the lads who only missed out by one or two trends)

  • Rory Mcilroy
  • Henrik Stenson
  • Ryan Palmer
  • Bubba Watson
  • Jason Day
  • Brooks Koepka
  • Charley Hoffmann
  • Stephen Gallacher

So, that is all for now, but do check back across the coming week to see our 2nd preview, which will be a complete, in depth look at the whole field and what trends/stats they fit!

The Honda Classic 2015

Prize Fund – $6,100,000Honda1

Winner’s Share – $1,098,000

Course – PGA National (Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (7,158 yards par 70)

Our 2014 Picks – Graeme McDowell (T46), Hideki Matsuyama (WD), Keegan Bradley (T12), John Senden (T46) Chris Stroud (T12), Brendon Todd and Michael Thompson (MC) 

It’s these tournaments that we cannot get enough of. Sure, birdie-fests can be exciting and watching these guys go at every pin is certainly impressive. But nothing compares to watching the best players in the world struggle grinding out pars, scrambling for their lives. And that’s exactly what you have to do at the Honda.

PGA National is 7,158 yards and you will have to think about every one of those. It’s commonly known as a ball strikers course where you don’t want to be finding the rough off the tee. McIlroy has won and finished 2nd here which could make you think length off the tee is vital, but this is Rory. When you look further into the people who have enjoyed success here (Rose, Westwood, McDowell, Donald, Villegas, YE Yang) they all love a mid-iron and certainly know how to think their way around a course.

Remember the 18th last year? More of the same please - courtesy of progolfnow

Remember the 18th last year? More of the same please – courtesy of progolfnow

A good gauge of who could do well here is their major record. If you can do it on that stage, you can do it here. It’s clear that scrambling is also vital and a lot will be made of that – but. If you are to actually win this thing, you won’t be doing so constantly scrambling. You need to be finding greens, getting it close. For us, this gives hole proximity and GIR much more importance over scrambling. And if they do miss, there are over a hundred bunkers out there so it’s got a good chance it could get sandy. Certainly, your pick has to be adept from the bunker.

It’s always good to look through the various stats but for courses like this, trust your judgement. You ultimately know who the thinkers are out there. It’s a tough track and this title won’t be given to you.

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

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!

Lee Westwood (40/1 Ladbrokes)

Consistency is what Lee is all about these days

Consistency is what Lee is all about these days

Now we’re often the most critical of Westwood especially when it comes to his short game. But with age has come a lot more consistency in both his finishes and his putting. His current form reads 5th, 9th, 1st, 16th – that’s up there with the best around. Lee has a good habit of doing well around tough courses mainly down to his impeccable ball striking.

Our slant we put on Lee is this – he’s never going to drain birdie putt after birdie putt but one thing he will keep finding his greens. If you 2-putt your way around PGA National you will have a good week and that’s what Lee will do. And in 5 recent starts here he’s recorded 3 top 10’s. He likes it here.

Stats? 64th ball striking, 5th sand saves, 20th hole proximity. His class will shine.

Ryan Palmer (35/1 Paddy Power)

Ryan Palmer has every chance here. Courtesy of Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

Ryan Palmer has every chance here.
Courtesy of Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

It was a toss-up between Palmer and Matsuyama and with the latter withdrawing, our decision was made. When we looked through the market leaders we had concerns over the majority whether it be price, form or course history. With Palmer, we struggled to find any negatives.

You could argue his missed cut at Pebble Beach isn’t great but the tournament has never suited the eye of the American. He knocked on the door at the Waste Management prior to that only being outdone by the outstanding Koepka. It’s worth mentioning Palmer was 1st GIR at TPC Scottsdale that week.

Then there was last year. Play-off defeat to Russell Henley. Now Palmer had never really enjoyed much success at PGA National so last year perhaps was a surprise to some. But despite being 38, we honestly believe the American has taken his game to a new level – his 5th at the final major of last year, a best ever major finish, is a big indicator. His form too is eerily similar, with a 2nd at the Humana Challenge a few weeks prior to coming here last year. And stats-wise we know what he does, 14th ball striking, 9th putting, 11th hole proximity and 9th scrambling. Time for Palmer to go close again!

Boo Weekley (150/1 Various)

Ball striker.

Ball striker.

Having started with a couple of high-end favourites, we’re delving straight into outsiders. And as regular watchers of golf, rarely have we ever seen the top 5 not have at least one person with odds of 100/1 or higher. James Hahn (200/1) is a prime example.

So Boo is renowned for doing things his way, on and off the course. One thing we are always guaranteed from him is ball striking. Tee to green he is genuinely up there with the best in the game. He’s 30th in ball striking for 2015. And then his form – 7 starts, 3 top 10’s, 1 runner-up, no missed cuts.

So why this week? Well we’re already intrigued considering his odds. But when you look at his last outing, he ranked 20th putting. Putting is the one thing he isn’t known for. And you have to look at this one very much like Westwood, he may not drain every putt he has but finding greens in regulation is what he will do.

Ian Poulter (125/1 Coral)

Sir Ian.

Sir Ian.

Straight away, although arguably deserved, it is odd seeing Poults at this price. Okay, he hasn’t had much success at PGA National before and he did miss the cut at Pebble Beach but on his day there aren’t many better ball strikers. Nobody can be too detrimental about his form either. Apart from his MC at Pebble Beach, a completely different course and style needed, he was 19th at the Farmers Insurance having been top 5 after round 1. Then looking back before Christmas, he finished 21st, 2nd and 6th with the latter at the WGC HSBC Champions, showing his pedigree in big events.

Then stats – 13th scrambling, 28th sand saves, 13th 3-putt avoidance. He’s got the perfect touch around the greens. If Poults locks in with his irons like we know he can, this is a solid bet. As we said in our preview, we’re trusting our instincts.

Daniel Berger (125/1 Various)

New generation - courtesy of ESPN

New generation – courtesy of ESPN

At 21, he’s one of the new generation and we’ve already seen enough of this guy to know he could go far in the game. In his rookie season, to finish in the top 10 twice before February is out isn’t bad. And yes, stats can often not be a true reflection, but 9th ball striking, 65th scrambling and 33rd sand saves is impressive. It’s his tee to green game in particular that we feel shows he will take it to PGA National. To be finding regular fairways at an average of 305 yards makes the game a whole lot easier especially when you see he’s got a nifty touch around the greens too.

As much as a mature head and inventive nature is key, sometimes the innocence of youth or a first-timer can give you a fresh outlook on the course. Russell Knox and Russell Henley are good examples of this. This course is going to be a massive test for the young lad and we’re exciting to see what he does.

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  –

£1.90 e/w on Lee Westwood at 28/1

£1.50 e/w on Ryan Palmer at 35/1

£0.50 e/w on Boo Weekley at 125/1

£0.65 e/w on Ian Poulter at 80/1

£0.45 e/w on Daniel Berger at 100/1

Each way bets ¼ odds for top 6 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power

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

Current Standings after 6 weeks

DownThe18th                                 Golf Monthly

European Tour: £14.30                European Tour:  £-50

PGA Tour: £-22.63                           PGA Tour: £37

Total: £-8.33                                      Total: £-13

DownThe18th leads by: £4.67

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am 2015

Prize Fund – $6,800,000AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am 2010 Logo

Winner’s Share – $1,224,000

Course –Pebble Beach Golf Links (6,816 yards par 72), Monterey Peninsula Country Club (6,838 yards par 70), Spyglass Hill Golf Course (6,858 yards par 72)

Our 2014 Picks – Jordan Spieth (T4), Hunter Mahan (6th), Graeme McDowell (T7), Aaron Baddeley(T56), Retief Goosen (MC)

Andy Garcia, Huey Lewis, Ray Romano, Michael Bolton and Bill Murray.  No, it’s not the line-up for The Late Late Show with future host James Corden, but actually 5 names who will be teeing it up at Pebble Beach this week.

This fantastic tournament shows off not just celebrities, but opens our eyes to the wonderful world of true links golf.  We’ve seen all sorts of madness on the 3 tracks that play host to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and expect no different again in 2015.

Pebble Beach is a famous course that’s hosted 6 major championships, most recently in 2010 where Graeme McDowell came out on top.  We all know what the short 6,838 yard par 70 offers – strategic, windy and difficult shot making to go with the variable and inevitable windy conditions.

The par 3 7th is one of the most famous sights in golf and has been a trap to so many in the past.  But only 2 of the 4 rounds will be played here as it’s traditional for the other 2 to take place at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Spyglass Hill Golf Course.  Both come in under 7,000 yards and will test the field in a similar way to Pebble Beach.  Spyglass is often regarded as the tougher of the ‘other’ 2 tracks – with the various hazards and small, elevated greens. If there are consistent birdies to be made, it will have to be on the Monterey course.

The gorgeous par 3 7th

The gorgeous par 3 7th

We’ve seen so many varying types of golfers win over these 3 courses, with bombers (Dustin Johnson), creative geniuses around on and the greens (Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson) and iron gurus (Jimmy Walker, Vijay Singh) becoming champion.  On the whole, the winner will be a solid and experienced links player.  A manipulator of the golf ball and strategic in their shot making to understand when to attack and defend – in other words, ball-strikers.

It’s proven that rarely do we get a winner here who hasn’t already bagged themselves a PGA title.  Since Tiger Woods won the trophy back in 2000, the average PGA Tour victories before their Pebble Beach win is 10.6.  That says it all really…

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!

Nick Watney (33/1 various)

We hope to see Watney eying up more greens this week

We hope to see Watney eying up more greens this week

As we’ve said before, you’ll often find the top players doing well at this tournament, so sometimes it’s difficult to find value, but we are incredibly happy with our selections this week and to have Nick Watney kicking things off for us may seem strange at first.

He hasn’t won a tournament since 2012, he only had a couple of top 10’s all of last season and has simply struggled for form.

BUT, this is a lad with 10 professional wins to his name – 5 PGA Tour titles and a Nike sponsorship.  He is no mug.  And we really feel there are a few signs (admittedly we said it a couple of times last year) that he is close to getting back to something near his best.

He was very much in the hunt last week for the title, but just like so, so many around him, he struggled on Sunday, shooting a respectable +1 to finish T7.  He looked fantastic tee-to-green, finding himself in 6th in GIR and T14 for driving accuracy throughout the week.  He has been inconsistent with his putter, but what’s impressed us the most is that rhythm he’s showing with his irons.

That’s where he is ridiculously dangerous and he should now be coming to a tournament in high spirits and somewhere he’s played well before.  He’s had a couple of top 10s here and above all, he’s a proven links player.

He’s finished T7 at The Open and recorded a couple of T20 finishes, so he knows his way round a seaside track.  Never has there been a greater chance for Watney to re-enter the winners circle.

Chris Kirk (33/1 various)

The Captain

The Captain

What a year Chris Kirk had in 2014.  He nearly pushed his way into the Ryder Cup team and his consistency was ridiculous.  He showed that, on his day, there are few better tee-to-green stalwarts on Tour.

Now, you may be wondering how on earth he’s got into our reckoning considering his lackadaisical start to the year, but there’s enough about him, especially at mid-range odds, for us to go there.

Firstly, let’s get this year out the way.  No, it hasn’t been great when you compare it to 2014, but look closer and it’s not been awful.  He started off with a T4 at the McGladrey, went onto finish T14 at the WGC and then T14 at the Hyundai.  That is impressive form.  The 3 events since have not warranted a top 10, but he’s been in and around shooting some mixed scores.  At the Sony, he finished with a 64 after a 74 on the Saturday.  Last week he opened with a 67, before 2 over par rounds in bad conditions.  But boil it all down and he is actually putting really well.

38th in strokes gained for the season and 11th last week tell that tale and his irons have seemed to let him down in the past few weeks.  That should change considering he’s coming onto a course where he finished 2nd in 2013, shooting 3 ridiculously low rounds.

He is another top links player, as we mentioned in our Open betting last year.  In 2013-14 out of 12 links tournaments, he found 4 top 5s and a win, then going onto finish T19 at The Open.  Not bad.

Freddie Jacobson – WITHDRAWN

Freddie - the demon putter

Freddie – the demon putter

If you’ve followed us over the past few years, you’ll know we’re big fans of Freddie Jacobson.   However, he had never returned us any many until he finished T2 at the Wyndham last year and boy were we buzzing.

The big Swede is widely regarded as one of the top players on the greens and he is starting to show that once again.  9th in putting average for the last 2 weeks and clearly 1st overall for the season.  He is simply irresistible with the short stick and when you holing them, the rest of your game will start to pick up.

He was T14 for driving accuracy in his T32 finish last week, but he dropped 11 positions after a +3 final day in this horrendous conditions.  We saw quite a bit of him over in Phoenix and he played solidly for his T7 finish.  He was driving it so well – 9th for the week – and he often had chances to attack the pins.

He looked very good on the Par 3’s, which are notoriously difficult this week, so no reason why he shouldn’t do well here at high odds.   Plus, he’s recorded a T7 finish at Pebble Beach before, back in 2013.

Zac Blair (100/1 various)

One hell of a future ahead for Blair Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

One hell of a future ahead for Blair
Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Zac Blair may be a rookie on the PGA Tour, but he’s made a stellar start and is part of this endless batch of ridiculously talented youngsters coming through.   8 tournaments played and 3 finishes inside the top 12.  That is some going and whilst we know you need experience at the top of the game and on this sort of track, we were too intrigued not to back the 25-year old.

Interestingly, he isn’t one of these young guns that absolutely batters a ball, but he is more methodical and an accurate iron player who relies on his short game.  That is one MASSIVE box ticked for this tournament.

He started the year in Hawaii finishing T6, shooting 3 rounds in the 60’s, before a MC and then last week a T11.  He remarkably shot a 69 on Sunday when the wind was battering the players and that shows us he has the ability to manipulate his ball flight and keep his score ticking.  Impressive.

Plus he was 1st by some considerable distance in putting average, whilst he was 10th for driving accuracy.  Over the season he is 24th for sand-save and 6th for scrambling, which all in all show us how good a player this lad is around the greens.  That’ll hold him in great stead for the future, but it could be even better in the short term because he has all the tools to be a surprise on these links tracks.

Shane Lowry (50/1 various)

He'll hopefully have the trophy in the passenger seat come sunday

He’ll hopefully have the trophy in the passenger seat come sunday

Yes, our 2nd player out of the 5 who has never played here before, but in Shane Lowry we have a bonafide links specialist.

We can only assume that he’s making the trip over to Pebble Beach for the first time because he knows deep down he could really do well here.  Out of 7 links events last year he found 4 top 10s, including a T9 at The Open and a T2 in Wales.

We undoubtedly had reservations about his pedigree on the PGA Tour, but when you look at his history, you see that he has made the trip over a few times and done well, on the whole.

Firstly, just last week he came over for the Farmers and kamikazeed up the leaderboard on Sunday to finish T7.  No real surprise considering how comfortable (well comfortable in terms of his game, he would of been bloody freezing) in those ridiculous conditions.

Before that, you look at his major finishes and can see that he doesn’t mind being in illustrious company.  5 made cuts out of his 8 appearance is not bad going for someone so young and raw.  In 2013 he finished T15 at the Valero Texas Open and T9 at the WGC Matchplay.

His iron game and ability to move the ball will be a great help on these courses and he will be absolutely buzzing after a heroic final day effort at the Farmers.  He could really be a surprise package.

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  –

£1.50 e/w on Nick Watney at 30/1

£1.50 e/w on Chris Kirk at 30/1

£1.00 e/w on Zac Blair at 100/1

£1.00 e/w on Shane Lowry at 40/1

Each way bets ¼ odds for top 6 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power

Find the Golf Monthly Preview will be published here when available –

Current Standings after 4 weeks

DownThe18th                                 Golf Monthly

European Tour: £-29.20               European Tour:  £-30

PGA Tour: £-15.38                             PGA Tour: £57

Total: £-45.08                                   Total: £27

Golf Monthly leads by: £72.08