Quicken Loans National
The week after the debacle that was the US Open is often a bit of a flat one for the casual viewer, but the big tournaments will keep coming now all through the Summer and there are plenty of chances for a few good wins. While the top dogs will be picking their starts, there are plenty of other players hungry to qualify for The Open, Ryder Cup or keep their cards.
Here are our picks:
Patrick Reed 16/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £220
Prior to the US Open, Reed had finished eighth at the Memorial and 15th at the Dean & Deluca and only Dustin Johnson now matches him for top-10 finishes this season, despite the fact that this is the worst he’s putted from a statistical point of view since arriving on the PGA Tour.
That could again be an issue at Congressional, but this is such a demanding test, particularly off the tee, that putting is probably less of a factor than other weeks. As ever it’ll help separate those who do play well, but the first requirement here is to find someone who will keep the ball in play and limit their big mistakes.
Reed very much fits the bill on that score. While nobody has been sharper around the greens this season – no mean feat given how many putts he’s missed – Reed’s biggest area of improvement is off the tee.
When you look back at those to have thrived here at Congressional, driving is a running theme. The last time the event came here, in 2014, Justin Rose beat Shawn Stefani in a play-off – two players who ended the season next to each other at 30th and 29th in the strokes-gained: off the tee stats. A year earlier, Bill Haas won; he ended that year ranked 33rd and is widely known as one of the Tour’s most reliable drivers.
At 44th, a ranking way up on last year, it’s now fair to call Reed’s driving a strength and it’s pretty obvious that when he starts making putts, he’ll be very close to winning again.
Here at Congressional, where he was the 36- and 54-hole leader in 2014 and shot a second-round 64 en route to 34th place on debut, Reed has every chance to get back to winning ways and move inside the automatic qualifying spots for the US Ryder Cup team, something which you can be sure will be firmly on his mind.
Jamie Lovemark 55/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £707.50
Having seen Lovemark sporting shorts and a hoodie at Wentworth a few weeks back in practice we developed a bit of a soft spot for him. He absolutely pumps it off the tee and has some useful form behind him this term. Toi be honest though this is the first chance we’ve had to pick him since Wentworth and that is certainly a determining factor!
Marc Leishman 28/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £370
“Leish” looks an interesting prospect on a course he has already posted a top ten on in 2014. His long powerful game should give him ample opportunity to gain shots on the majority and given his form of late he should be confident heading to this venue. Three top 20 finishes on the trot at the Coloniol, Memorial and US Open spells out that he is gaining momentum and this may be the week he puts all four rounds together. A win at the Nedbank last winter showed us just how classy Marc can be on his day and he’ll be looking to add another victory to his lone win in the States at the Travelers. That course holds similar tests to this one so everything points towards a strong showing. I certainly can’t see why Furyk is a fair few points shorter in the market. A value bet in a weak field.
Byeong Hun An 40/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £520
A Korean won the inaugural staging and a Korean-born American won the second renewal so maybe we’re due a third winner of Korean extraction and the one I think looks a good fit for congressional is last year’s BMW PGA winner and world number 27, Byeong Hun An.
An’s all-round stats are strong and so is his recent form. After getting beat in a playoff at the Zurich Classic of new Orleans, the 24-year-old Korean missed his next two cuts but he’s back on an even keel again now after an 11th at the Memorial and an impressive enough 23rd last week in the US Open. Those two under-the-radar efforts read even better when I dug a little deeper to see he’d ranked eighth for putting at Muirfield and fourth at Oakmont.
Smylie Kaufman 125/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £791.25
Reunited with his Spring Break squad for the first 2 rounds, he’ll be more than keen to join them for the trip to Scotland in July for the Open. Feeling comfortable in his group and having a well-publicised love affair with the course should bode well for his confidence. We are putting faith into him recreating the round of 60 he shot round here while still at college – he knows he’s got it in him!
Ernie Els 250/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £1572.50
The big easy has actually being playing some pretty decent stuff of late and will have some fond memories of Congressional having claimed his second major title here – the 1997 US Open. As there won’t be such a reliance on putting and a greater demand on ball-striking, then we feel that the Big Easy will give a strong account of himself and should feel comfortable in the weaker field that is assembled here.