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Latest Golf Tips
Get the best golf betting tips from Sam Harrop of Golf
Punters Guide, who will post his PGA tour picks on Tuesday or Wednesday every week of the US season.
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Sam has tipped the winners of both Majors this season, making it four of the last five including Phil Mickelson in last year's
Open. Sky Bet are going 10/1 one of his quintet triumphs at Hoylake.*
This week brings the prestigious Open Championship where the best players in the world head to Hoylake in a quest for the Claret Jug. Phil Mickelson is the defending champion, and arrives in reasonable form after a solid outing in Aberdeen last week, but it is Justin Rose who heads up the betting having won each of his last two events including last week’s Scottish Open.
With Royal Liverpool having only hosted this event once in the last 47 years, it’s a relatively tricky prospect for punters this week. Furthermore, during its last hosting of this event in 2006, conditions were markedly un-linksy – the course was extremely dry and weather conditions didn’t really come into play, enabling Tiger Woods to plot his way around the course without the need for a driver and post a winning total of 18-under-par. The overriding opinion from those attached to Royal Liverpool is that the same game-plan is unlucky to pay dividends this time around. The course isn’t nearly as dry as it was eight years ago, and the rough is said to be much more penal.
So, irrespective of how differently the course is likely to play when compared with 2006, we should consider what connects those who have won at Royal Liverpool. Both Tiger Woods (2006) and Peter Thomson (1956) won their third Open titles here, and Roberto De Vicenzo won his first and only Claret Jug but had come very close in two of the three preceding years, so all three clearly came to Hoylake with good Open Championship records intact. Interestingly, the other thing that connects all three is ‘Merseyside form’, or, specifically, recent form at the nearby Royal Birkdale. Woods and De Vicenzo had finished inside the top-5 in the last staging of the Open at Birkdale before winning here, and Peter Thomson had won on his last Birkdale visit.
The 2006 leaderboard also hints that those with good recent major championship records are likely to prevail. Four of the top-5 on the final leaderboard had at least one top-5 finish in a major in the previous 18 months, and I find it hard to see a rank outsider prevailing this week.
Having come very close to getting his hands on the Claret Jug two years ago at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, Graeme McDowell is a player with all the tools in his armoury to become an Open Champion. The Irishman has a great track record on links courses and won the testing Open de France on his last outing. Even more encouragingly, his form shows an identical pattern to the run-up to his 2010 US Open victory: win – week off – major win. The 34-year-old is an accurate driver of the ball, a great shot-maker, and an excellent putter, so there’s nothing to suggest he shouldn’t seriously contend this week.
If there's a player to fit all the recent Open Championship trends, Thomas Bjorn may just be the man. Each of the last three Open Championship winners were in their early 40s and came here off the back of four rounds in the Scottish Open the week before, as well as having finished highly in previous Opens. Bjorn has three top-5s over the course of his Open Championship career, and although his tie for 41st here in 2006 may not leap off the page, I genuinely believe he needed the course to be playing tougher than it did in order to contend. The veteran didn't play in the recent US Open but finished inside the top-10 at Augusta back in April, so his recent major record ticks the right boxes too.
Paul Casey is a player who has been through some frustrating times in recent years, largely as a result of injury. His return to form was certified with his win at the Irish Open just over a year ago, and I suspect the elation of winning his first tournament in nearly two and a half years resulted in the slight mini-slump that followed, including a missed cut in the Open Championship at Muirfield. This time around, it feels like Casey’s form might be peaking at just the right time with his finishes in his last four events reading 56-33-22-14. Whilst Casey didn’t shine in the 2006 Open at Royal Liverpool, he did at least make the cut, and referring back to my Merseyside link, I’m encouraged to see his top-10 finish at Birkdale in 2008.
One player who did play very well on his last visit to Royal Liverpool is Angel Cabrera. The Argentine was one of only a handful of players to shoot 66 or better, and he finished in a tie for 7th. There would be something rather poetic about a Cabrera win this week, given that his fellow countryman Roberto De Vicenzo won this event at the very same age – 44 back in 1967. Like McDowell, ‘El Pato’ comes here off the back of a win, having picked up his first non-major PGA tour title at the Greenbrier Classic, so he’s clearly playing some excellent golf at the moment, and there’s every reason to expect another strong performance at Hoylake this week.
Although Jason Dufner has missed the cut in each of this year's majors so far, a large part of that can be put down to his putting struggles on some of the hardest greens in the world. Royal Liverpool, as backed up by many of the names towards the top of the 2006 leaderboard, does not place the same emphasis on putting prowess, rather placement off the tee and shot-making which should suit Dufner down to the ground. Indeed, the 35-year-old named his top-5 courses on Twitter at the end of 2012, and amongst them was Oak Hill, scene of his PGA Championship triumph last year, and Royal Liverpool, so there’s clearly something about this track that fits his eye.
With the Open Championship fast approaching, there’s one last chance for PGA tour players to qualify for the field that will
assemble at Royal Liverpool next week – and that comes in Silvis, Illinois where the John Deere Classic gets underway on Thursday.
The host course is, as ever, TPC Deere Run which consistently ranks amongst the easiest courses on the PGA tour. Paul Goydos’ 59 in the 2010 tournament speaks to how easy the course is, and the track hasn’t been markedly toughened since that time, so we can expect to see plenty of birdies this week. To this end, the primary pointer to success here is Birdie Average, a stat in which each of the last seven winners had ranked inside the top-20 in the seasons of their victories here. Total Birdies is another stat worth considering, although this can be slightly misleading as players who play light schedules (such as three-time John Deere champion Steve Stricker) won’t rank as highly as their games would suggest.
In previous years, course form has been something that could be pretty reliably leaned upon here, but Jordan Spieth’s win (with David Hearn one of his playoff contenders) shows that this shouldn’t be over-valued.
With a strong ranking in Birdie Average (9th) coupled with a tie for 15th in his one and only visit to TPC Deere Run, Harris English ticks the right boxes this week, and as a player with two PGA tour wins in just over 12 months, he has firmly established himself as one of the best young players on the PGA tour. Uncharacteristically for English, he has really struggled for form over the last three months, but something clearly clicked last time out, at the Travelers Championship, where he finished in a tie for 7th, and I expect big things from the 24-year-old this week.
It’s always worth keeping an eye on players with local ties, especially outside of the southern states where the lion’s share of PGA tour players cut their teeth – and that leads me to Luke Guthrie and Scott Langley this week as both grew up in Illinois and attended the University of Illinois. Guthrie made the most of his local knowledge with a 5th place finish on his debut here two years ago shooting rounds of 65 and 64 along the way, and although he missed the cut 12 months ago, this came off the back of a missed cut at the Greenbrier Classic as opposed to a tie for 26th in the same event last week. Scott Langley came close to breaking his duck earlier this year at the Valspar Championship, and has shown occasional flashes of brilliance since, such as his 36-hole lead at the Travelers Championship in his penultimate start. Indeed, Langley’s general form over the last few weeks is markedly better than it was 12 months ago where he finished 33rd here off the back of a hat-trick of missed cuts, so there’s every reason to expect better this time around.
Going along similar lines of relative form, Jason Bohn gets the nod this week as he has come into this event off the back of missed cuts at the Greenbrier Classic in each of the last two years and yet still managed a tie for 22nd last time around. This time around, confidence should be much higher in the Bohn camp after a very solid tie for 11th at the Old White TPC. Furthermore, the 41-year-old ranked 3rd in birdies in this performance which bodes very well for a visit to TPC Deere Run.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Kyle Stanley’s name towards to the top of a leaderboard, and the reason why is clear as day – putting. Stanley currently ranks 191st in Strokes Gained Putting and there’s no doubt his performance with the flat-stick has been seriously hurting his chances of contending week in, week out. Encouragingly for Stanley and his backers, he showed a big improvement last week at the Greenbrier Classic where he ranked 11th in Putting Average, and although this could be a flash-in-the-pan, there’s no doubting Stanley’s ball-striking credentials or indeed his record at TPC Deere Run where he finished runner-up three years ago.
Next up for the PGA tour is the Greenbrier Classic which draws an interesting looking field that includes reigning Masters
champion, Bubba Watson. The Old White TPC plays host for the fifth year, although it’s worth noting that the changes to the
course that followed the inaugural event in 2010 (where Stuart Appleby shot a 59 on his way to victory) render course form
from that year almost useless.
During the following three editions of this event, it’s become more and more apparent that this par-70 track is no pushover. Last year’s winning total of 13-under-par by Jonas Blixt puts it pretty much on a par with TPC Southwind which is often considered one of the toughest tracks on the PGA tour. Maybe this goes some way to explaining the apparent importance of scrambling in last year’s event. Two of the runner-ups, Matt Jones and Steven Bowditch and Jonas Blixt himself ranked highly in scrambling over the course of the 2013 season, and I expect to see this week’s winner continuing that trend.
Two attributes which are certainly not prerequisites for success here are course experience and accuracy off the tee. Each of the last three winners here won on their course/tournament debuts, and none of the top-5 on last year’s leaderboard ranked inside the top-20 in Driving Accuracy during the event itself.
Brendon Todd is a pretty accurate driver of the ball, but I won’t hold that against him(!) as the 28-year-old continues to impress following his recent Byron Nelson Championship win. Last week could have been an entirely different story were it not for a couple of sloppy holes in the final round, but he stuck in there well to earn a tied fifth finish. It’s this sort of grittiness which I expect to go far this week, and his current ranking of 5th in Scrambling bodes well ahead of his visit to the Old White TPC. Todd finished 46th on his only appearance here two years ago, and although this may not leap off the page at punters – it was the first time he shot par or better in all four rounds in nearly five months.
Whilst fellow Canadian Graham DeLaet is the Canadian flavour of the month having notched a number of top-10 finishes, David Hearn is going quietly about his business and playing some pretty solid golf too. Hearn has three top-10 finishes to his name so far this year and the fact that two of these have come on par-70 layouts bodes well for this week. Hearn’s scrambling stats have shown a significant improvement from last season – ranking 35th at present, and I’m further encouraged by finishes of 18th and 12th in previous visits to the Old White TPC.
The 2013 season was a pretty unremarkable campaign for two-time PGA tour winner, George McNeill. However, his fortunes are much improved this term with six top-15 finishes and his two best finishes coming on tough layouts in the shape of Riviera CC and Innisbrook. McNeill missed the cut in his first two visits to the Old White TPC – but clearly something clicked last year as he managed a respectable tie for 17th. The 38-year-old also played some solid golf last week at a tough Congressional layout, shooting a pair of 69s before a disappointing weekend sent him sliding into a tie for 30th.
If there was a stat for form on par-70 tracks, I suspect Michael Thompson would be somewhere near the top. Indeed, as well as his sole PGA tour win coming on the par-70 PGA National, his remaining three PGA tour top-5 finishes have all come on other par-70 layouts. Whilst Thompson’s record of one visit, one missed cut at the Old White TPC may not leap off the page, he possesses one of the best short-games on the PGA tour and he’s played solid enough golf lately to make him worth a bet at a triple-figure price.
Whilst Andrew Svoboda struggled a little on his rookie season on the PGA tour last year, he certainly seems to be finding his feet this time around and has found himself in title contention on a couple of occasions – most recently the FedEx St. Jude Classic where he improved on a missed cut last year to a tie for 6th this year. True to form at the time – Svoboda missed the cut at last year’s Greenbrier Classic, but his GIR and approach stats have improved sufficiently to suggest he could be a factor this week.