NEW world No.1 Dustin Johnson claimed his first win of the year at the weekend and gave me my first winner. He was majestic over the four days, with a 49-hole bogey-free run. Nobody could get anywhere near him as he finished five ahead of his nearest challenger.
The PGA National Championship course in Palm Beach, Florida, is the first tournament of this year’s Florida Swing. The National was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus which resulted in the famous “Bear Trap” (holes 15, 16 and 17). Last year Adam Scott had a quadruple seven at the 15th in the third round before going on to hold off Sergio Garcia to win the title.
There are lots of bunkers and water in play on 13 of the holes but GIR and putting average will be important on the 7158 yard course.
In his first outing on the PGA Tour this year Thomas Pieters set the heather alight at the Genesis Open last week. In his fourth round he hit a superb bogey-free eight-under 63 to finish second on his own. The Belgian is beginning to show the form he was in at the Ryder Cup last year and I can see him contend in quite a few tourneys this year. His GIR is 68.75 per cent and a putting average of 1.657 and he will definitely be confident going into the Honda Classic.
With three wins and a further two top-10 finishes Justin Thomas has had a brilliant season. He went off the boil a bit after winning twice in Hawaii, missing the cut at the Phoenix Open and a T39 last week, but that is maybe understandable. Last week included four solid rounds, finishing with a 68 and although he didn’t give me a return on my selection there was nothing there to stop me picking him again. Last year at the National he was the only golfer to hit four sub-70 rounds, finishing T3. His GIR stat is 74.15% and putting average of 1.686.
Daniel Berger lost in a play-off here after a brilliant 64 in the final round. Not quite back to the form he showed when he won the Fed-Ex St Jude Classic last year but a T7 at the Phoenix Open at the beginning of this month looked promising. With a GIR is 71.21% and putting average of 1.759 and the fact he has already played well here he is well worth a shout.
1.5pts ew Thomas Pieters (Betfred, 40-1)
1.5pts ew Justin Thomas (Betfair, 18-1)
1.5pts ew Daniel Berger (bet365, 35-1)