Quicken Loans National betting preview tips from Ben Coley

Golf
Tiger Woods: The 42-year-old remains optimistic despite a disappointing US Open
Tiger Woods: The 42-year-old remains optimistic despite a disappointing US Open

Tiger Woods plays host at the Quicken Loans National, where golf expert Ben Coley has selections ranging from 28/1 to 250/1.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Anirban Lahiri at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Tyler Duncan at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

2pts e.w. JB Holmes at 28/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Ben Crane at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

0.5pt e.w. Robert Streb at 250/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

  • For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, click here

On the one hand, Tiger Woods is entitled to feel disappointed by the field which heads to Maryland for the Quicken Loans National, an event his foundation supports and one he's been associated with since its 2007 inception. On the other, the absence of the world's best sees him priced up as second-favourite at 14/1; this is among his most realistic opportunities so far this season.

Woods headlines a mediocre cast heading to an excellent golf course. The rejuvenated TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm established a fearsome reputation when hosting two Web.com Tour events towards the start of the decade, and its inherent difficulty was on display again as it returned to the PGA Tour one year ago.

In a gruelling event further complicated by wet and wild conditions, Kyle Stanley was the last man standing at seven-under; outside of the majors, no par 70 played tougher than this one. Scoring improved versus the Web.com Tour events as you'd expect and it may do again, but this will still be demanding.

Stanley is a world-class operator from tee-to-green, so much so that he was able to putt poorly and still win. Immediately behind him were Charles Howell and Rickie Fowler, the former beaten in a play-off, and save for their relatively sparse trophy cabinets those are two players with few weaknesses. The same goes for Marc Leishman in fifth and when a saturated course does not produce a particularly big-hitting leaderboard, it suggests that this is a rounded test.

One renewal represents limited evidence, but prior to Stanley's win I was among those who felt that form at Muirfield Village might translate well, and I've not changed my mind. David Lingmerth has won at both courses and Stanley might have completed the same double himself earlier this month as he finished second in the Memorial, his third top-six at Muirfield Village, so that's a line of attack which is worth sticking with.

Certainly, both are difficult, parkland challenges with thick, lush rough and greens which are smaller than average and champions Stanley and Bryson DeChambeau across the two venues suggest a bias towards the very best ball-strikers around.

Other northeastern venues which might offer clues are the Old Whyte TPC, home of the Greenbrier, and Firestone, a devilishly difficult par 70 which has also seen the likes of Lingmerth, Fowler, Leishman and co contend for WGC honours. Anyone who pops up on all of these leaderboards deserves attention.

Fowler is a single-figure price which immediately rules him out, and I find it hard to get excited about the 14/1 quotes offered about our tournament host. Woods has been largely excellent from tee-to-green this year but while I wasn't particularly concerned about his putting funk, it is a tad disconcerting to hear reports that he's experimenting with a mallet-style putter in preparation for this.

With Leishman seemingly having lost his way a little since finishing second in Texas, there's every chance that the event could continue to throw up a fairly surprising champion and top of my list of candidates is Anirban Lahiri.

The Indian has slipped off the radar since a top-five finish in the PGA Championship of 2015 appeared to have confirmed his graduation to the top level. It's understandable, because in a relatively short space of time he's climbed the ranks from Asian Tour nobody to European Tour somebody and now bases himself in the United States, where the competition is always fierce - even, such as this week, when the best players are absent.

Significantly, his best performances so far have all come, broadly speaking, in this part of the country: fifth in the PGA was in Wisconsin, and he's produced top-10 finishes in Illinois and Connecticut, but pick of the lot is even more noteworthy as he finished second in last year's Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.

Lahiri finished ninth last week, carding four rounds in the 60s having been bullish pre-tournament, and looks to have found form just in time for this because history shows that once it clicks, he's worth following. Last year, an out-of-the-blue second was followed by a solid 17th, while later on he again sprang to life with ninth in the BMW Championship and followed that with 10th and fifth across his next couple of starts.

Last week's effort in the Travelers came courtesy of a strong through-the-bag performance, with his irons in particular dialled in, and moving from one parkland TPC to another gives him the opportunity to maintain his momentum.

Lahiri's season-long ball-striking stats are fairly modest but he's turned a corner lately, with 12 of his last 16 rounds sub-70, and he's fancied to take to the layout at the first time of asking and potentially climb back towards the world's top 50.

James Hahn's victory at Quail Hollow and top-six finishes in both the Greenbrier and the Memorial put him on the radar after a fortnight of improved play, but a few have latched onto him already and at a bigger price I'll take a chance on Tyler Duncan instead.

Duncan is enjoying a solid rookie season on the PGA Tour, which has been built on the foundations of a contending performance in California early on, and more recently he's gained more confidence with five cuts made in succession - always a sign of a player close to their best.

That sequence includes a brilliant fightback at the US Open, where he improved his score by 10 shots from the first round to the second. It's that ability to scrap for every shot which should help at a course like this and it's something Duncan says he's very good at.

"You’ll never see us give up," he said recently, referring to himself and former college team-mate Adam Schenk. "We’re always fighting until the last second. A lot of that comes from (college coaches), pounding that into our heads when we were in school and always grinding and fighting until the end."

Duncan was born in Indiana, a few hundred miles due west of this week's venue, and playing in the northeast is another little pointer towards his chances.

Chiefly, though, I like where his game is right now and last week's 33rd at the Travelers came courtesy of another strong long-game performance, ranking fourth for greens and 13th in strokes-gained tee-to-green, figures which stack up with the profile he's built since graduating from the Web.com Tour.

Duncan's obvious weakness is a lack of power but that shouldn't be an issue here and if he continues to set up chances as he did at TPC River Highlands and Shinnecock, there's every chance he's in the mix come the weekend at a course which should play to his strengths.

Byeong Hun An and Joaquin Niemann both bring Muirfield Village form to the table and are considered along with Patrick Rodgers and Gary Woodland, the latter the leading ball-striker in this field on 2018 form, but despite the absence of depth it's difficult to build a strong case for any of the quartet at the prices.

Granted, Niemann is firmly in the could-be-anything category - in fact, he's in the will-be-something category - and he'd get marginal preference, especially as another young buck called Curtis Luck contended here a year ago, no doubt favoured by the fact he wasn't conceding an experience edge.

Those who backed the Chilean at the opening show are on good terms with themselves but he's hardening as I type and my search continues, with J.B. Holmes considered by far the best bet of those towards the top of the market.

Holmes is arguably the field's in-form player, having finished third in Memphis and then second in the Travelers on his last two starts, both made all the more significant by the fact they were huge personal bests at the respective host courses.

Last week he told reporters that he's found confidence with the putter, which in Memphis he'd put down to a session with Matt Kellen at the Memorial Tournament, and that's the club which has really kept him from contending on a regular basis this year.

Truth be told he still putted poorly in Memphis but clearly felt better about things and there was a notable step in the right direction at the Travelers. Given that this improvement is supported by what Holmes has said, there's every hope the upward trend might continue and that makes him a massive player.

Third last week from tee-to-green, a similar display should work wonders at TPC Potomac, where he was 26th way back in 2006 and made the cut without threatening a year ago.

Holmes does play tough courses well as a rule and in terms of his recent form pointing towards a fifth PGA Tour title, there's some positive evidence: when winning in Houston a couple of years ago, he'd been runner-up twice in his previous five starts; his form prior to a Quail Hollow win showed four top-20s in five; in the run-up to his second Scottsdale title he'd been ninth, 10th and 17th and his first win there came after a solid 10-WD-28 run.

All of those events correlate, whether by coincidence or not, with last year's Quicken Loans National leaderboard. Winner Stanley secured his first PGA Tour title at Scottsdale, runner-up Fowler's first came at Quail Hollow and nearly-man Sunghoon Kang had been second in Houston in the spring.

For good measure, Holmes also has strong Greenbrier and Memorial form and while I wasn't all that keen to get stuck into one near the front of the market, this is a seriously weak event, Holmes is in red-hot form, he knows how to win and I think he'll improve markedly on last year's performance.

Kevin Na really ought to go well, too, but he's not for the faint of heart and I'll finish off with two more speculative plays.

Firstly, Ben Crane is back out to a big price after one missed cut when fairly well fancied in a field which included the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson, and that could be an overreaction.

Prior to it, Crane was eighth in Texas and a bounce-back win would not be unprecedented. In fact, twice before in his career he's produced a stretch of 10-MC-1 and he won't dwell too long on a humdrum performance in Memphis which was by no means disastrous.

Crane is razor sharp around the greens and hits plenty of fairways, but it's the positive signs from his iron play which really suggests that he could build on some solid form all spring - especially now presented with a demanding test like this one.

The most recent of his five PGA Tour titles came at Southwind in Memphis - hence the support for him three weeks ago - but this even more difficult par 70 may be no less suitable. Crane was sixth here in 2006 and while much has changed since, last year's 38th is perfectly encouraging given the prices on offer.

Finally, I'm willing to take a chance on out-of-form Robert Streb owing to some of the ties mentioned.

Streb has a very strong record at Muirfield Village and has twice been runner-up at the Greenbrier, including last summer when seemingly finding form out of nowhere. He's also been fourth at Quail Hollow and fifth at Firestone, so this tough, tree-lined layout is ideal for him.

The obvious worry is that he's been struggling for a long time now but a second-round 67 last week followed a second-round 68 in the FedEx St Jude Classic and hints that there may be light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

His approach play has been good of late and at 250/1, in an event where complete rags Billy Hurley and Troy Merritt have emerged victorious in recent years, the former RSM Classic winner is worth a very small bet.

Posted at 2045 BST on 26/06/18.

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