There was a sense of injustice for this column last week after our headline pick, Rickie Fowler, folded like a wet dishcloth at the Honda Classic after leading for the first 40 holes. Our 13/1 hope was left clinging to the money places; eventually finishing sixth which ensured a small return if your chosen bookmaker paid six places.
Elsewhere, Phil Mickelson failed to get to grips with the course while Russell Knox played well but just failed to secure our Top 10 finish; instead ending up 22nd. But good old Camilo Villegas obliged in the Top 20 market at 7/1, ensuring we returned a healthy profit from the weekend.
On to this week then, and the Donald Trump hosted WGC Cadillac Championship. Played at the aspiring US President’s Trump National Doral course, this is a severe test of a player’s ball striking. But with a huge cash kitty and the chance to play against the world’s best players, the riches on offer are obvious.
How Does the Course Play?
In short, very trickily. It’s huge for starters – a beastly 7,500 yard Par 72 – that rewards bombers who are able to keep their ball on the straight and narrow. With a multitude of hazards knocking around, those who scramble and putt well on the rollercoaster greens should be in good stead. Winning scores of -4 and -9 in the last two renewals tell their own story.
The ‘Blue Monster’ rewards big hitters – so driving distance needs to be considered, as does a decent ‘strokes gained: tee to green’ stat, and the complex nature around the green means scrambling and putting have added importance this week. Finally, with scoring opportunities at a premium, an ability to go low on the Par 5s – and avoid bogeys across the board – are much needed.
Who’s Playing This Week?
In short, anybody who is anybody. All of the world’s top 25 (and most of the top 50) will contend, including the holy trinity of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. With no European Tour event this week, many of the continent’s leading lights will have their chance to shine on the big stage.
We’re happy to oppose the big three once again with our betting tips. Spieth has never pulled up any trees at this course (although he’s hit a few) in his two attempts at glory, while McIlroy is in such poor form he looks a ridiculously short 9/1 favourite. If you dabble in the exchanges, laying the Irishman is a smart choice. And Day has only played three times in 2015, and his record here reads an underwhelming 31-DNP-33. Again, one to avoid.
As ever, our picks are based on a holy trinity of our own: current form, course pedigree and statistical back-up.
Who Are You Backing?
Dustin Johnson (12/1 each way)
As the defending champion much of the spotlight will fall on Dustin Johnson, but given his record on this stretch he should be able to handle it. He’s a winner, a runner up and a fourth place finisher in his last five outings here; some players just come alive on courses they love.
There’s a nice trend for strong showings in his form guide – 5-5-10-18-41-4 – and so we don’t need to worry about how he is striking the ball.
Statistically, Johnson boasts everything we need this week: driving distance (7th of all players on the PGA Tour), shots gained: tee to green (6th), and an ability to go low on the Par 5s (6th for Par 5 scoring).
Put all these ingredients in the mixer and we surely have a recipe for success.
Adam Scott (14/1)
It’s been a glorious couple of weeks for Adam Scott: a runner up at the Northern Trust Open a fortnight ago, he went one better last week with victory in the Honda Classic; his first silverware in two years. It truly was vintage from the Aussie.
And that form stands him in good stead heading into a tournament which he clearly enjoys; as a streak of 13-3-25-4 here testifies. Scott offers all the stats we need too: 8th in driving distance, 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green and while his putting stats aren’t as impressive as some, a switch from the anchored putter to a more traditional set-up is clearly helping his game on the green….as those recent results highlight.
We like to place a couple of cover bets to (hopefully) ensure that our extravagances elsewhere are recouped at the very least. This week we’re looking at the Top20 Finish market, specifically Bill Haas (2/1) and Graeme McDowell (19/10).
Haas has finished in the top ten in the last two renewals here (7th and 6th), and his current form reads 5-18-9-cut-8-cut, which is strong enough despite failing to make the cut a couple of times. McDowell, meanwhile, played fantastically well last time out to finish 5th at the Honda Classic – his fourth top 10 of the season to date. A trio of top 20s here adds to the sense of confidence.