Welcome back, Jordan Spieth! On Easter Sunday he won for the first time since the Texas Open last Easter Sunday. Next year’s Masters, his favourite tournament, ends on what day? Guess what - Easter Sunday!
It was Spieth’s Masters flop seven days earlier, missing the cut for the first time in the Major he had adorned with a victory, two runner-up finishes and two third places, that led to most punters shunning his 40/1 quote for the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, a tournament he had no great pedigree in - ninth on debut in 2013 and no top-ten since.
And he conquered the tight little South Carolina course, one of the trickiest on the rota, with the putter, the chief weapon in his heady days as world No 1, malfunctioning. Missing an 18-incher on the final green after “a brain fart” on Saturday left him feeling as bad as he ever had coming off a golf course and there was further evidence in Sunday’s 68 with three misses between 3 and 5 feet and from his position of 180th on the Total Putting stats that there is a permanent problem.
On the other hand, beating a strong field containing five of the world’s top ten “without my putter” has to be a huge confidence boost, coming about with staggering good figures in the Driving and Greens in Regulation fields that were the achilles heels in his game when things started to go pear-shaped a few years back.
Sure, he needed a helping hand from Shane Lowry who chipped into the water at the short 14th when in the lead and trading at odds-on, and from Erik Van Rooyen and Patrick Cantlay, who assumed the favourite’s mantle at one stage of a gripping final nine but showed frailty under pressure.
But early-finisher Spieth did hole the big putt that counted, the 20-footer for the last-hole birdie that surprisingly earned him a playoff. And he got the big break in the playoff when Cantlay got an impossible poached-egg lie in the same front bunker from which Spieth splashed out to six inches. One week late for me as I tipped him for Augusta!
As he said, sometimes you lose tournaments you should win and sometimes you win tournaments you shouldn’t. This was the latter and, with only one decent previous finish to his name in 2022, he will take it and run. By the way, you can have 25/1 for the 2023 Masters if you believe Easter Sunday will do the trick three years in a row.
The Texan skips this week’s annual pairs event, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but there’s still a big Dallas interest with world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who has lived there since he was six, teaming up with Lone Star State veteran Ryan Palmer at the TPC Louisiana course at Avondale, 14 miles outside the city they call the Big Easy.
Palmer seems to have a hotline to the stars as he won this with Jon Rahm in 2019 and, after the 2020 edition was wiped out by Covid, came back last year to finish seventh with the Spaniard when victory went to the Aussie duo of Cammy Smith and Marc Leishman after a sudden-death shootout with longtime South African pals Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Four victories in six outings, topped by that Augusta Green Jacket, in an extended run of hot form not seen since Tiger’s heyday, have boosted the Scheffler bank account by almost $8.5m and he will be much fancied to make it five from seven in this fifth edition of the Classic.
Making his debut last year in this format of two rounds apiece of fourballs and foursomes (alternate shot) team, Scheffler finished a close eighth with Bubba Watson as his sidekick. But that came when he was still looking for his tour breakthrough.
Four wins later, he’s a vastly different proposition but whether Palmer putts well enough to help him sufficiently is another matter as the 45-year-old has missed four of his last six cuts and has yet to post a top-ten this year.
My preference is for Zurich specialist Smith, also the winner with Jonas Blixt in 2017 and close to Masters glory following victories at Kapalua and Sawgrass, with the trusty Leishman alongside him.
Tip-top course form from Billy Horschel, the 2018 winner with Scott Piercy and champion five years earlier in the days when the Classic was an individual event, suggests he and Valspar hero Sam Burns can step up on last year’s fourth place. Horschel’s been in great nick this year as well and the American duo look booked for at least a place. This is very much a team game, as per the Ryder Cup, so don’t rule out close pals Will Zalatoris and Davis Riley - they used to flat-share.
We are still waiting for the first all-European winners but there are seven fancying their chances - Shane Lowry/Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood/Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell/Seamus Power, Tyrrell Hatton/Danny Willett, Sam Horsfield/Matt Wallace, Martin Laird/Robert MacIntyre, Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson - while Spanish Open champion Rafa Cabrera Bello has swerved the DP World Tour event at Tarragona in his home country to partner Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.
With Fleetwood playing much better (10th Heritage, 14th Masters), he and team golf expert Garcia, runners-up to Rahm and Palmer three years ago, look Europe’s pick and I like the old-new Irish combination of G Mac and Power if there’s to be an upset.
Like Sawgrass and Hilton Head, this is a Pete Dye layout with 100-plus bunkers, five ponds and a fine 585-yard finishing hole with water down the entire right side. A par 72 measuring 7341 yards, the records here for the better-ball is 60 (achieved five times but never by the winners!) and, in alternate shot, 65 by Rahm/Palmer. The low winning score is the 27-under 261 by Smith/Blixt in 2017.
It’s going to be dry and hot, building up to 30C on Sunday, with wind unlikely to play a major part.
Zurich Classic Of New Orleans Golf Betting Tips 2022
- 2pts each-way Smith/Leishman at 10/1
- 2pts each-way Horschel/Burns at 12/1
- 1pt each-way Fleetwood/Garcia at 16/1
- 0.5pt each-way McDowell/Power at 40/1
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Celebrating my 52nd year tipping and writing about golf. Tipped more than 800 winners (and more than 8000 losers!). First big winner Lee Trevino at 8-1, 1972 Open at Muirfield. Biggest win £40 each-way Ernie Els at 80-1 and 50-1, 2012 Open. Most memorable: Giving the 1-2-3 at 33-1, 50-1, 33-1 out of 4 tips from a field of 180 in 2006 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to one bookmaker “Undoubtedly one of the greatest tipping performances of all time”. And, of course, putting up a 150/1 winner with Stewart Cink in my very first column for Golf Monthly. Lowest handicap 9 Present handicap 35.6. Publications tipped for: Sporting Life, Racing Post, Racing&Football Outlook, Golf World, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Fitzdares Times. Check our Jeremy's latest tips at our Golf Betting tips home page
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