Pick a winner at Royal Portrush
The 148th Open Championship will be held at Royal Portrush, 68 years after Max Faulkner won there with a 72 hole score of 3 under on a significantly different course to the one we will be seeing this week. In preparation for the 2019 Open the 17th and 18th holes have been replaced to make way for the tented village and the course now features two new holes, the par 5 7th and the par 4 8th. The course is renowned for being right in front of you, and not particularly tricked up. What has been a relatively wet build up means we won’t be seeing conditions like last year at Carnoustie when the fairways were running faster than the greens! This makes the fairways a lot easier to hold which will help the players score. On the other hand these good growing conditions have lead to juicier rough and a course nearly playing its full yardage, placing a premium on driving. With the addition of a few new tee boxes, Royal Portrush will be a par 71 playing 7,337 yards and probably most interestingly only has 64 bunkers on the golf course, by far the lowest of any open venue. For comparison's sake, Carnoustie and the Old course both have 112. Another interesting stat and one the media will keep reminding us of is that Rory Mcilroy holds the old course record with a 61 that he shot when he was just 16 years old.
The last time Royal Portrush held an event it was made to look rather tame. Jamie Donaldson won the Irish open here in 2012 with a score of 18 under with 16 other players joining him in double digits under par. However like always the difficulty of the links test is almost entirely dictated by the weather. From a spectator's perspective, I hope the infamous local weather will live up to its reputation of being able to produce all 4 seasons in a single day, providing us with an enthralling championship.
Unfortunately we can’t predict the weather, but we’ve analysed the data from previous Open championships and links tournaments to identify the most important factors in becoming an Open champion. We’ve eliminated players from the running based on these factors, giving you a pool of 9 players to pick an eventual champion from. Good luck!
Scrambling, for the uninitiated, is the stat used to measure the success of a player's ability to get up and down when they have missed a green (in regulation).
It has been the standout stat over the last 10 Open winners, as was the case when the Irish Open was held at Royal Portrush in 2012. Tightly cut run-offs around the greens, thick rough lining the fairways and the wind factor means players will inevitably hit fewer greens in regulation, which adds importance to a players ability to scramble. Any player outside the top 40 in this stat on the European Tour and outside the top 70 on the PGA Tour (roughly the same scrambling %) is eliminated.
Eliminated: 104/151 in the field, including Rory, Tiger, Lefty and Spieth.
For a change to the monotonous stream of PGA tour events where players tee it high, swing as hard as they can at it and show a blatant disregard for fairways, we finally get to view an event that has always favoured accuracy over distance.
There is maths behind this madness but essentially we are looking for players whose accuracy is compensated by distance or vice versa, hence why DJ has made the cut here!
Eliminated: 15 more gone, including home heroes Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry.
Put bluntly, anyone with less than three top 10s and no top 5s is getting the chop. In the last seven years, the men in form have been the ones to follow. Take a look at Molinari, last year's winner at Carnoustie. He had two wins and two 2nds in his five previous tournaments and he is far from an outlier.
Eliminated: 10 more down, 21 left. We say goodbye to Tony Finau and Henrik Stenson here.
Open Championship experience
Learning the intricate and complex art of links golf takes time for many. Of the last 8 winners, the eventual champion has on average appeared in 12 previous Opens. Notably, all had at least one top 10! The two anomalies here are Rory and Jordan, who had only played 6 and 4 respectively. In fairness to both, they can be considered modern greats.
Eliminated: We wave goodbye to any players left on our hotlist with no previous top 10 at Golf's oldest Major. Ciao, Señor Rahm.
And the (potential) winners are…
Based on these stringent selection criteria, these chaps stand a decent chance of raising the Claret jug on Sunday.
POTENTIAL WINNERS: Scott, DJ, Rose, Kuchar, Brooks, Molinari, Fowler, Schauffele & Matsuyama
One extra thing to bear in mind before placing your bet is the weather forecast. Knowing how quickly the weather can change at Portrush, players starting early in the morning will be facing a very different test to those with afternoon tee times. When the draw is released, check to see how your players tee time correlates with the weather forecast, it could make all the difference!
“Being on the right side of the draw always plays a part in the Open Championship''. Darren Clarke, 2011 Open Champion.
Best of luck, you know where we are if you want to spend your winnings on a golf trip to the UK!
What A Masters. Congratulations Tiger, with special thanks to the back 9 double bogey machine Francesco Molinari. Even with a few blemishes from the tee box, Tigers imagination and sublime control with his irons reminded us of the magic he is capable of creating and why he is the G.O.A.T. Tigers experience around Augusta really played into his hands this week, exhibiting better course management than anyone else in the field which undoubtedly aided him on his way to victory. Tigers past experience and dominant victories at 2019 US Open & PGA Championship venues Pebble Beach and Bethpage Black will certainly play to his advantage in this years remaining majors just like it did at The Masters. Combine this with a physically and mentally healthy Tiger Woods with a full tank of Mojo, I think we have a pretty exciting season ahead of us. Thank you Tiger.
If you had bet on Tiger and the rest of our tips for The Masters E/W with a bookie paying 10 places you'd have the winner and 4 each way out of 15. A 1 point each way bet on each of them would have given you a profit of 11.8 points from 30 points invested.
Tiger Woods 1st
Dustin Johnson T2nd
Brooks Koepka T2nd
John Rahm T9th
Rickie Fowler T9th
Bubba Watson T12th
Justin Thomas T12th
Rory Mcilroy T21st
Bryson DeChamneau T29th
Hideki Matsuyama T32nd
Gary Woodland T32nd
Tommy Fleetwood T36th
Marc Leishman T49th
Justin Rose MC
Sergio Garcia MC
It’s that time of year again. The greatest players in the world battle it out on the world’s most iconic course. Our friends who usually have no interest in golf actually join us to watch and we get to see a few legends of the past tee it up alongside the legends of present. The only thing that could make things more exciting is by raising the stakes and putting some of your hard earned cash on a few of your favourite players! By a process of elimination Halcyon Golf Travel have narrowed down the field to 15 possible winners, further narrowing them down to our top 3 bets judged on value for money. We’ve identified the most important characteristics of a player’s game to conquer Augusta as well as 10 year trends in Masters Champions; this is a particularly useful method for betting on The Masters since it’s always played on the same course.
This doesn‘t need much discussion. Amateurs don’t win majors, although if they were to win one this major has the weakest field. But back to the original point, Amateurs DON’T win majors; the Bobby Jones era has long gone.
Improbable past champions
Let’s be honest, apart from the obligatory Freddie couples charge in the second round, none of these lads has the length to compete round this newly lengthened 7,435 yard golf course. Not to mention the fairways that have been “mowed towards the tee” to decrease roll out. Inviting past champions is a fantastic tradition of The Masters and I’m sure these chaps love reminiscing of past wins whilst walking the course and signing yellow flags for fans. Sadly, their memories are about as close as they are going to get to winning The Masters again.
Jose Maria Olazabal
First time attendees:
The only time a player has won on their Master’s debut is Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 (not counting Horton Smith who won the first Masters in 1934 and Gene Sarazen in 1935). Everyone yaks on about Augusta being a course that takes years to learn and rightly so. The greens and run offs are unlike anything most of the players will have competed on before, not to mention “it’s hillier than it looks on tv”.
Players that have never made the cut at Augusta:
Players that have won the Masters having never made the cut before: Fuzzy Zoeller 1979, Horton Smith 1934, Gene Sarazen 1935. Rather than discuss this point further let’s accept that those who have never made the cut are not much better off than first timers.
Short hitters (outside top 135 in driving distance for respective tour):
Some people will tell you that because Zach Johnson won the Masters distance doesn’t matter. Those people are wrong. Johnson won the Masters in absolutely heinous weather where most of the par 5s were not reachable for the large majority of the field, removing length as an advantage and playing into the hands of Zach’s lay up strategy. The newly lengthened course demands strong driving; approaching greens that require you to aim at minuscule targets to leave uphill putts is hard enough, never mind when you’re coming in with a hybrid or a 3 wood! I’m not saying these guys aren’t capable of winning (Fitzpatrick was only hitting the ball about 260 when he won the US Amateur at Brookline on a 7200 yard par 70 course), but they are at a serious disadvantage.
Players who have never finished higher than T38:
All of the last 10 winners have previously finished in the top 38 at Augusta.
Patrick Cantlay - (best finish 47th (low amateur), MC as a professional)
Xander Schauffele (best finish T50)
No top 10 finish in 2019:
Current form is usually pretty helpful, unsurprisingly. All of the last 10 Masters champions had at least one top 10 that season. Lets remove players who haven’t had a single top 10 in 2019.
Not in World top 30:
9 of the last 10 Masters champions have been ranked in the top 30 in the world when they won. Although some surprising names are in here, the current cream always rises to the top in major championships.
Charles Howell III
Weak Red Zone players (175-225 yards approach):
Augusta may be known for its greens but because of this approach play quality is actually the more important statistic. 9 of the last 11 winners have hit at least 49 greens in regulation and Patrick Reed last year only hit one less with 48. Not only is it par 5 scoring that is incredibly important, but it is actually par 4 scoring that is the deciding factor when it comes to winning The Masters. The large majority of par 4’s are lengthy and serious two shotters, making this “red zone” yardage vitally important.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
We have some additional trends that you could base your betting on, although one could perhaps argue they are due to correlation rather than causation. All 10 of the last 10 champions were…
Some other interesting observations:
This leaves us with 15 players that can potentially win The Masters. Unsurprisingly the large majority have some of the shortest odds in the field (who’d have thought bookies would use their brains eh?). You could almost say that the 5+ minutes you have wasted reading this has really taught you nothing you didn’t already know.
So here they are, the top of the field and my "best value bets"
John Rahm – Picture of him found in the dictionary under petulant.
Justin Rose – About as charismatic as a tee peg.
Justin Thomas - Quite good at golf.
Rickie Fowler – The real Slick Rick.
Tommy Fleetwood – Scouse Jesus, severe allergy to weekends.
Gary Woodland – Probably wishes he’d gone down the pro basketball route.
Bryson Dechambeau – Thinks a C in high school Physics makes him a scientist.
Brooks Koepka – Keyboard warrior.
Marc Leishman – Top bloke.
Tiger Woods – Goat.
Dustin Johnson – Terrified of stairs.
Rory McIlroy (favourite) (7/1 Betfair, paying 6 places E/W at 1/5th odds)
After such an unbelievable start to the year and quite rightly being the bookies favourite we ought to devote some time to talk about Rory. He’s not finished outside the top 10 so far this year and could have quite easily secured more than just his one win at Sawgrass. His game definitely suits the course, he’s finished in the top 10 the last 5 years running and the relevant stats back this up. Unfortunately however he is handicapped by the demons inevitably looming in his head from the unmentionable events of 2011. Going into the week as the Players champion and outright favourite will mean the spotlight will be on him, and if he plays himself into contention people WILL be talking about what happened in 2011 A LOT. Having said that, he had the gonads to bounce back from the 2011 fiasco with an astounding win at the US Open and has proved throughout his career that he can overcome immense pressure. I wouldn’t blame anyone for piling money onto Rory this year, but I think there are other players that present much better value…
*Best Value Each Way Bets*
Hideki Matsuyama (35/1 BETVICTOR, 25/1 PaddyPower paying 10 places E/W)
Matsuyama is a sneaky long hitter averaging 308 yards off the tee this season which will go a long way on this recently lengthened course. PGA Tour stats indicate weakness on the greens (29.42 putts per round, 164th on tour) however this can be a misleading statistic as players who hit more greens in regulation (Matsuyama is one of these players) have a greater average proximity to the hole when putting, hence why they take more putts on average per round. He has had a steady year so far with 3 top 10’s from 8 starts and has a reasonable track record with 4t op 20’s in his past 4 starts at Augusta.
Bubba Watson (40/1 UNIBET, 30/1 PaddyPower paying 10 places E/W)
Bubba’s had 2 top 10’s so far this year, although this is nothing to brag about it does show that his game is very nearly there. Bubba nearly got chopped from the list for his relatively poor red-zone play (t80th) so far this season but his length off the tee, superb imagination and positive memories from previous wins at Augusta more than make up for this.
Sergio Garcia (50/1 Bet365, 40/1 PaddyPower paying 10 places E/W)
In his last 14 starts the Spaniard has managed 10 top 10’s, so it looks like he’s finally found some consistency after missing more cuts in 2018 than in the 5 previous years combined. Garcia obviously knows how to get it done round Augusta with a win and a handful of top 10’s throughout his career, however he’s had enough MC’s next to his name for people to start mistaking him for a rap artist. At least the prestige and condition of the course should prevent him from making some quick modifications to the putting surface or tearing the head off an Azalea and getting himself disqualified!
With the Masters rapidly approaching my daydreams of playing Augusta come more frequent and vivid with my jealousy of those lucky players growing stronger. A natural coping mechanism is to write about the misfortunes of golfers much better than I who have had the opportunity to play there, of course. Alas, here is a list of men who all share one thing in common; they have all come tantalisingly close to winning a green jacket. Obviously there has to be a runner up at every Masters tournament, but the circumstances surrounding these particular gentleman’s misfortunes are especially entertaining / tragic.
Fred Hawkins, 1958.
Ever wondered what inspired the expression “Amen corner” ? Look no further than the final round drama of the 1958 Masters, initiated by a questionable interpretation of an embedded ball on the short 12th hole, involving the late legend Arnold Palmer and at the expense of Fred Hawkins.
Wet conditions during the weekend of the 1958 Masters lead to the introduction of a local rule allowing players to take relief from embedded balls without penalty; sensible. Arnie’s approach to the 12th came in hot and plugged in the grass just beyond the green. The rules official made the erroneous decision of making Palmer play the ball as it lies, stating that the ball was only “half plugged”.
“Thats like being half pregnant; I’m playing two balls” replied Palmer.
Palmer barely moved the ball with his chip shot which came to rest in a puddle from which he got undisputed relief; another chip and 2 putts made him a double-bogey 5. Palmer the rebel returned to the spot where his original tee shot came to rest, dropped a ball and got down in 2 for a par 3 his second time around.
Confusion infected the air; doubtful of signing for a 3 on the 12th and a shot off the leading pack of 3 players on 3 under par, Palmer played the 13th aggressively, hitting the green in 2 and converting for an eagle. Bobby Jones came charging up the 15th fairway to hear Arnie’s interpretation of the events that took place on the 12th, and after conferring with a troupe of other green jackets behind the 15th green awarded The King a 3 on the 12th hole. Palmer went on to win the 1958 Masters, eventually beating Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins by just 1 shot. Previous years winner Ford helped Palmer put on the green jacket for his first time, however for Hawkins this was the closest he ever came to winning a Major, and he never won another tournament on the PGA tour.
It’s popular opinion that Palmer was rightly awarded a 3 on the 12th hole of that famous last round despite going against the original decision of the referee; which probably wouldn’t be applauded so much in todays modern age. The bizarre circumstances surrounding the par however are almost undisputedly a contributing factor to Palmers victory; had the referee originally given relief so Palmer knew he had a 1 shot lead going down 13 instead of a 1 shot deficit, would he have taken the gamble to go for the green in 2? Fred Hawkins’ career could have taken an extraordinarily different path.
Roberto de Vincenzo, 1968
Ever accidentally signed for the wrong (higher) score in a club medal and lost by one shot? If you have, that was stupid. You were presumably gutted by your silly mistake and your friends probably still tease you about it to this day (does it sound like I’m speaking from personal experience? I promise I’m not…) Imagine how Roberto de Vincenzo felt after signing for a 4 on the 71st hole of the ’68 Masters when he actually made a 3, to miss out on a playoff by 1 shot! De Vincenzo interviewed surprisingly well despite the horror of a situation, claiming complete responsibility. “Its my fault…no none else’s…I play golf all over the world for 30 years, and now all I can think of is what a stupid I am to be wrong in this wonderful tournament. Never have I ever done such a thing.”
Astonishingly, de Vincenzo won the Houston Open 3 weeks after the Masters fiasco; talk about a bounce-back! Whats even more astonishing is that according to Jack Tuthill (who at the time was director of the PGA tour) de Vincenzo walked out of the scorers office after his final round without signing his card! Refusing to be held responsible for the disqualification of the popular Argentinian, or perhaps out of pity, Tuthill hunted him down in the clubhouse for a signature on his winning scorecard!
The grace with which De Vincenzo lost the 1968 Masters on a technicality, combined with his light hearted attitude to golf and life itself earned him the Bob Jones award, the highest honour given by the USGA in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. His reaction after being scammed in the car park after winning the Houston Open says it all. Confronted by a lady with a heart wrenching story about her daughter who had cancer and how she desperately needed money for treatment, he gave the woman a few hundred dollars. Shortly afterwards he was told that this woman was in fact scamming him and that her daughter wasn’t dying, to which he replied “My friend, that is the best news I have ever heard!”
Greg Norman, 1987/87/96
Greg Norman has certainly had his chances during his career at Augusta. 8 top 5’s and 3 silver medals is good going, however The Great White never got to sink his teeth into a green jacket; a lack of bottle mixed with some plain bad luck, The Shark has undoubtedly earned himself a place on this list.
Normans first silver medal at Augusta came in 1986, the year Jack Nicklaus shot a 30 on Sunday’s back 9 to win his 6th Masters at the age of 46. It would be unfair on Nicklaus after such an extraordinary final round to say it was Greg Norman’s Masters that he blew away, so we’ll swiftly brush past this one!
A disappointing result for Norman, but at least theres always next year…
Twelve months later, after an average start to his Masters campaign Norman played his way back into the championship with the tied low round of the week of 66. After climbing up the leaderboard over the weekend he faced a 18 footer on the 72nd hole for victory, his ball burned the edge of the cup at dead weight but its access was denied. A 3 way sudden death playoff between himself, Seve and Larry Mize would decide the 1987 Masters championship. Seve bogeyed the 1st playoff hole and so Mize and Norman went down the 11th. Norman had the advantage after 2 shots being on the fringe of the green about 40 feet away, Mize was faced with a daunting chip from 50 yards pin high right of the pin. With 25 yards of uphill fairway followed by 25 yards of lightening fast bentgrass sloping towards the alluring water hazard to negotiate, Mize would have paid a lot of money for a 4. Miraculously, he chipped it in and a stunned Norman missed his putt, winning just the silver medal for the second year in a row.
The Shark’s 1996 Masters performance was reminiscent of the life of a piece of gum. It begins with a 10 minute period of intense, mouthwatering flavour, symbolic of Normans 9 first round birdies to tie the course record of 63. This intense, juicy period soon comes to an end but a pleasant flavour lingers in your mouth, the novelty of blowing the occasional bubble remains amusing. This period bears comparison to Normans 69 and 71 for his second and third rounds; good but nothing compared to the early life of the gum. The worst thing about bubblegum is that it goes dry. It runs out of flavour, stealing moisture from your tongue and exhausting your jaw. Onlookers initially found your bubble blowing entertaining, but now you’re just unbearable to watch. Norman shot a final round of 78 and his chances of earning himself a green jacket found themselves in the trash, or more accurately spat out and trodden into the pavement. Nick Faldo ended up finishing with a 67 and beating Norman by 5 shots.
Scott Hoch, 1989
This next one is short but sour. Scott Hoch hit one of the worst putts of his career at the worst possible time- you have to see it to believe it
Watching it makes me wonder if Hoch even wanted to win, look at where he’s aiming! Maybe he felt bad for Faldo after losing an 18 hole playoff for the US Open the year before. In all seriousness though you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, this wasn’t even the first time he blew a major! A miss from 10 foot on the 72nd hole cost him victory at the 1987 PGA Championship, then the return putt that he also missed cost him a place in the playoff! *palm to the face emoji *
Rory McIlroy, 2011
Dominant over his first three rounds and leader of the tournament for 63 holes, McIlroy was in the drivers seat steering himself towards his first major championship victory. Then the wheels fell off. A tee shot hit further left than Bernie Sanders off the 10th tee was the beginning of the end for Mcilroy. Later that hole Rory hit a pitch shot which seemed to have as much thought invested into it as a late night drunken teleshopping purchase of some gimmick exercise machine, firing into the tree and back to his feet, Mcilroy eventually walked off the 10th with a triple bogey and 2 off the pace. An excellent drive and approach into the 11th made it seem as if a comeback was on the cards, but these shots counted for diddly squat after 3 putting from 10ft. Then came the nail in the coffin for young Mcilroy, a 4 putt double bogey on the 12th. Rory entered Sunday hoping to earn himself a place in the history books, and that he did with a final round of 80 including a back 9 of 43, the worst ever closing round for the 54 leader in Masters history.
Credit due to the young man, he took the L in his stride following up with a record breaking winning margin at The US Open just a few weeks later. The past couple of years have been relatively quiet for Mcilroy, but he’s shown strong form so far during the 2019 season, shushing his critics with a victory at The Players Championship. If Rory can conquer his Augusta demons I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sulky Patrick Reed dressing the Northern Irishman in an emerald green jacket next Sunday, I’m sure he’ll be delighted to be taken off this list!