Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, the Majors and a Ryder Cup – it’s been some year on the fairways and Paddy Power has been inside the ropes.
The year didn’t start too well for Paddy Power with one of our worst results of the year coming early on in the WGC Mexico Championship.
At the beginning of March, the World Golf Championship headed to Mexico City and the Club de Golf Chapultepec.
A very tight, tree lined course at altitude, our traders believed that this course would not play to the strengths of Phil the Thrill whatsoever. We took a strong position on the back of this, in favour of Justin Thomas.
Mickelson did put the ball in the dense part of the forestry, but somehow continued to get up and down and keep his score intact. JT holed an eagle to go clear of Mickelson, with three holes left to play. Phil birdied 17 and made a par at 18 to force a play-off.
Phil subsequently won the play-off, causing a collective headache for the PP Golf Team
If that week was bad, the Valspar Championship wasn’t much better. One of the better pre-Masters events on the PGA Tour, a star-studded leaderboard included one Tiger Woods who was slowly working his way back from his back surgery & personal issues.
The Big Cat was tied for the lead going into the final round and the golfing world was preparing for Tiger Mania to take off again.
The party-pooper would turn out to be Englishman Paul Casey. Casey is always a popular selection, but when we offered a favourable price, along with our usual favourable place terms, Casey’s liability was bigger than normal.
Tiger tried his best to save our blushes, including a tramliner for biride on the 71st hole, that sent the crowds into frenzy. Unfortunately, he left himself too much to do on the 72nd hole, and couldn’t hole his birdie putt to tie.
Casey went home with the trophy, and the PP Golf Team went home with their tails between their legs
We finally got some respite in the second major of the year took place at one of the most iconic courses in the US, Shinnecock Hills.
A very eventful Sunday began with Tommy Fleetwood making his way through the field with an electric 63. He had an eight foot putt on the 72nd and if he makes that putt, he probably posts a target that the chasing pack would not have reached, in my opinion.
We had a strong position for Fleetwood, so we were pleased to see him post a target that we thought was enough. Another player that we took a strong positive position about was Brooks Koepka, one of an A-List leaderboard, with the likes of Fleetwood, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau & Xander Schauffele all trying to win the toughest test in golf.
Sunday saw them dropping like flies on the back nine. DJ was the last player to falter after a three-putt on the 15th hole. Koepka showed his terminator-like tendencies on Sunday and looked unflappable in golf’s hottest pressure cooker.
A crooked second shot on the 72nd hole gave us heart palpitations, but he was clutch enough to get down in three to win by a single stroke, leading to jubilant scenes in the PP War Room.
The first Major of the year always brings us down Magnolia Lane at the start of April. It also always brings us the largest liability of the year on Rory McIlroy. The Green Jacket is the last piece of Rory’s Grand Slam puzzle and his legion of fans believe he will complete it every time he comes to Augusta National.
Jordan Spieth was as short as 15/8 entering the second round, but he was met with incredibly cold and windy weather early on Friday morning and a second-round 74 opened the tournament up again. Players on Friday afternoon got the best of conditions, and this included ‘Rors’.
Going into the weekend, Rory was five shots behind 36-hole leader Patrick Reed but by Saturday night he was within striking distance. Sunday started poorly for us, with Reed bogeying the first and failing to birdie the relatively easy, par 5, second.
On the second, he fired a 5 iron to four feet for eagle, but pulled that putt and never recovered mentally, finishing tamely into a tie for 5th. Others made charges but ultimately Reed would seal his first major victory, and turn a potential disaster into a decent result in the end.
An incredibly eventful tournament at Carnoustie that almost saw Tiger re-emerge as a Major winner again. We had a strong position against Woods for the week, and our liability was even greater when the Racing Post’s Steve Palmer gave such a glowing review of his chances in the Racing Post the Tuesday before tee off.
Going into Sunday, Tiger was tied with seven players at 5 under par, four shots behind leaders Kevin Kisner, Xander Shauffele & Jordan Spieth.
The front three faltered on the front nine, while Tiger excelled, and by the time he got to the turn, he was in the lead on his own.
Ordinarily we would have been beyond excited that ‘The Greatest’ was in position to lift his 15th major, almost 10 years to the day of his last Major win. He met trouble on the 11th, when he pulled his second shot into a nasty position and would end making double bogey and eventually finishing sixth.
Francesco Molinari took home the Claret Jug and his first Major, and made sure to change our Paddy Power pants that Sunday night.
A good year for … Francesco Molinari
• Race to Dubai Champion
• Won his first Major at the Open in July
• First European Player to ever win 5/5 points at the Ryder Cup
• Won his first PGA Tour event at the Quicken Loans National
• Looks to have completely revolutionised himself as a golfer
• 2 Majors in 2018
• Defended his US Open Title at Shinnecock Hills
• Held off Tiger Woods at Bellerive to win the PGA Championship
• His 3rd Major Win in his last 6 starts
• PGA Tour Player of the Year
• Now seen as one of the elite in the game of golf
• 4 Time Winner on the PGA Tour
• This included 2 Fedex Cup Playoff events
• Rose from 94th to 5th in the World Golf Rankings
• Primed for a huge 2019
A bad year for … Jordan Spieth
• Winless in 2018
• Recorded just 5 top 10 finishes all year
• Dropped from 2nd to 15th in the World Golf Rankings
• His usual elite iron play looks to be deserting him at present
Players to Watch in 2019
Cameron Champ: Potential to go right to the very top. Will have a big 2019 if end of season form holds.
Sungjae Im: Web.Com Money List Winner in 2018. Has talent to burn and will show this next year.
Xander Schauffele: Cementing himself as an elite level player. I think he gets a Major and into the top 5 in the world in 2019.
Matthew Wolff: Best College Player in America with a swing that has to be seen to be believed. Will see him at a few pro events, but definitely one for the notebook for the years to come.
Jordan Spieth: Mentioned him earlier in having a poor 2018, but that think he is too good to continue that trend. Gets back to winning ways in 2019, and is an auto bet for Augusta in April.
Players to Avoid in 2019
Justin Rose: Will be changing his equipment to a relatively unknown company in 2019. Will take him a while to become accustomed to it.
Phil Mickelson: Lefty is starting to regress markedly and this should continue in 2019.
Ian Poulter: Had an excellent 2018, with motivation to make the Ryder Cup team being the main catalyst. We could see a very quiet 2019 from Poulter.