The final US tour event prior to the US Open looks set to be a cracker this season with 3 BIG names leading the field, Brandt Snedeker -defending FedEx cup champion, Dustin Johnson- defending champion here at the St Jude Classic and the ever popular Phil Mickelson.
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The TPC Southwind will be set up to test the players heading into the US Open, it measures 7,224 yards and houses 94 bunkers and 10 water hazards. The greens will be quick and tricky, scrambling in general will be tough, generally ranks as one of the hardest courses on which to make up and downs, often ranks in the top 3 Par 70 courses played on tour in terms of difficulty/scoring average. Players who can hit a high percentage of GIR will do well here as will players who can avoid mistakes, or certainly those who can escape from tricky spots and hole some testing par putts. This will be no birdie fest and therefore we should expect a winning score of around -9; similar to last year(dependent on weather conditions).
Phil Mickelson– 14/1 Win
Rested last week to use this event as preparation for his US Open bid, I would suggest that Mickelson has shown a consistency that has been lacking in recent years this season, but has not really benefitted from it; I believe that will change this week. Despite his still poor driving accuracy figures (mostly due to Frankenwood, not sure that club worked out!!) he did use 3-wood from the tee early in the season and was very accurate with it, bearing in mind he will be using 3 wood or less from many of the tees at Merion next week, you would think he will hit plenty of fairways here – allowing his magical iron play and short game do the rest. With his putting also showing improvement this year (ranked 7th in strokes gained putting) and his variety of shots around the green on this tough set up, I strongly fancy Phil for the win this week.
Ryan Palmer – 28/1 EW
Finished 3rd to Johnson here last year having previously missed a bunch of cuts here, Palmer is back in excellent form this year with 3 top 10’s and a 14th place finish at Colonial last time out. Ranked 28th in Greens in regulation so far this year and an impressive 8th in scoring average; Palmer is due a really strong week, he is rested having not played Memorial and should have fond memories of the course from last year event.
John Merrick – 66/1 EW
The easiest of my selections this week and probably provides the best value – Merrick has win this season (in the Northern Trust Open) and flat out loves this tournament, finishing 11th in 2011 and 2nd behind Johnson last year. The course set’s up well for the solid ball strikers and that is what Merrick is, 30th in GIR, 28th in proximity to the hole and 13th in fairway proximity all suggest that he is rarely offline, combine this with the fact that Merrick has broken 70 in 7 of his last 8 rounds on this course, the only exception being a 72 in the closing round in 2011, nice value for a player who performs at this venue.
Trevor Immelman – 150/1 EW
A bit of a flyer, but Immelman has performed at this track before finishing 2nd back in 2008 (losing in a playoff), he has been struggling with the putter this season and will need to putt a little better to contend here. Ball striking is still good enough from Immelman ranking 63rd in GIR and 81st in driving accuracy, more importantly he finished the Memorial tournament T5 in GIR suggesting an upward trajectory for his ball striking (and hopefully confidence) heading into this week’s much weaker field. Once available it may be worth considering the Top 10 price, 12/1 or better I would take.
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