By Jeremy Chapman published
Matt Kuchar and Harris English
Winners Matt Kuchar and Harris English blitzed in 60 blows (ten birdies and an eagle!) last year. It’s a tall story - Kooch is 6ft 3, English 6ft 4 - but at a record-busting 37 under for a nine-shot margin that pair were winning for a third time. When they won it for the first time in 2013, it was also a landslide, that time by seven strokes - yet they are not even favourites for a fourth Shootout title in seven attempts.
Will Zalatoris and Sean O'Hair
Much-hyped Zalatoris, the straightest of drivers, has yet to deliver so could be more motivated than some. He has a perfect partner, if not on current form then for Sean’s formidable Shootout record - champion in 2012 and 2017 as well as shared second place last time. They could surprise.
Corey Conners and Graeme McDowell
G-Mac's straight driving and short-game mastery are invaluable assets in team events. Evidence of that comes with his three runner-up Shootout efforts, all with different partners, Darren Clarke, Shane Lowry and Emiliano Grillo.
QBE Shootout Golf Betting Tips 2021 AND PREVIEW
A quarter of a century ago my old pal Keith Elliott propounded his Nappy Factor theory - that golfers who have just become first-time fathers, particularly of male offspring, are likely to play above themselves when they are back on course. The theory, still used by some golf tipsters, was so compelling that the late Peter Dobereiner, the learned Observer columnist, devoted a whole Sunday column to examining the idea.
Nobody can have told Jordan Spieth about it because the former champion finished stone-cold last in the Hero World Challenge just a couple of weeks after wife Annie had presented him with little Sammy Spieth.
Far from being inspired, our main tip played like a dog to end up as one of only two in the elite 20-runner field to finish over par, 24 shots behind 11/1 third favourite Viktor Hovland at Albany in the Bahamas. Spieth scored worse every round and, on Sunday, just rubbing salt into the wound by incurring a two-shot penalty for driving off the wrong tee. Maybe he needed more time to bed in a new baby routine and those sleepless night!
He wan’t the only one to struggle. Rory McIlroy ran up a cricket score after opening promisingly. Eights and nines are what we hackers are used to but from a former World No. 1, and coming straight after a wincingly awful defence of the lead in Dubai, such mega-disasters are unacceptable. And whodathunk Mr Reliable Collin Morikawa would have lost two balls and a seemingly impregnable five-shot lead after six holes? Had he stayed ahead, the Open champion would have snatched the world No. 1 spot from Jon Rahm and we can assume that Morikawa’s meltdown, which also featured a severe loss of flat-stick form, came down to the extra pressure.
On a comedy-of-errors final day of the 20/21 year, Patrick Reed was in more bunkers than John Wayne in Sands of Imo Jima but managed to right the ship with stunning short-game wizardry to slip into a share of third and justify our 33/1 each-way support.
And what about Sam Burns who was tied for the lead and in with every chance of a dream Hero debut until a dramatic five-chip triple bogey on the 14th (and needed to hole a 20-footer to avoid a quad!) sent him tumbling down the leaderboard. We will shortly see the after-effects of that as Burns makes a quick return to action in Friday’s end-of-term Christmas party, the QBE Shootout in Florida. Partnered by Wentworth winner Billy Horschel, he goes off market leader at host course Tiburon.
The 12-team pairs event tees off with a scramble, it’s greensomes on Saturday and the $3.5m outcome will be decided on Sunday with the four-ball better-ball which winners Matt Kuchar and Harris English blitzed in 60 blows (ten birdies and an eagle!) last year. It’s a tall story - Kooch is 6ft 3, English 6ft 4 - but at a record-busting 37 under for a nine-shot margin that pair were winning for a third time. When they won it for the first time in 2013, it was also a landslide , that time by seven strokes - yet they are not even favourites for a fourth Shootout title in seven attempts.
That’s because both have been off their game for a while, although English did shoot a third-round 63 in finishing 14th in Tiger Woods’ charity tournament on Sunday. But this is altogether different - a pairs event in formats they play only once a year. So I’m much preferring course form over current form in looking at credentials.
That’s why I have Graeme McDowell on my betting menu. The Northern Irishman struggles to keep up in singles these days - it’s 11 years since he won his first and only Major - but in team events his straight driving and short-game mastery are invaluable assets. Evidence of that comes with his three runner-up Shootout efforts, all with different partners, Darren Clarke, Shane Lowry and Emiliano Grillo.
This year he has a new, seventh partner in classy Canadian lefty Corey Conners, the 2019 Texas Open champion, and I can bet G-Mac’s excellent course management skills will bring out the best in Conners, who has already placed top-ten twice at the Masters.
Lee Westwood has dropped out and Ian Poulter get a new partner in Charles Howell but more obvious winners Jason Kokrak and Kevin Na have recent form at Tiburon. Kokrak was second with JT Poston two years ago while Na partnered Sean O’Hair to joint-second last year, but they are priced accordingly and at the respective odds I’ll risk the afore-mentioned O’Hair with late sub Will Zalatoris.
Much-hyped Zalatoris, the straightest of drivers, has yet to deliver so could be more motivated than some. He has a perfect partner, if not on current form then for Sean’s formidable Shootout record - champion in 2012 (with Pat Perez) and 2017 (with Steve Stricker) as well as that shared second place last time. They could surprise.
Finally, regular visitor Lexi Thompson waves the flag for the fair sex. Length won’t bother her on a course that’s under 6600 yards while partner Bubba Watson can be a birdie machine. They have never properly contended before but there’s always a first time and 40/1 insults their potential.
QBE SHOOTOUT GOLF BETTING TIPS 2021 - ADVISED BETS
- 2pts each-way English-Kuchar at @13/2 (Bet365)
- 1pt each-way Zalatoris-O’Hair at 14/1 (Betfair)
- 1pt each-way Conners-McDowell at 12/1 (Bet365)
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