Quicken Loans National Preview, Picks & Analysis
TIGER WOODS will be the star attraction as Kyle Stanley defends his Quicken Loans National title at TPC Potomac. And while the 14-time major champion’s appearance is bound to create quite a stir, the 42-year-old will not need anybody to tell him that it is about time he got it done this season.
There have been several outstanding performances from the 14-time major champion as he continues his remarkable recovery from injury. Most onlookers believed that he would struggle to make an impact but there have been times when he has looked like the Woods of old, producing some swashbuckling golf and reminding us exactly what we have been missing as he has battled crippling back injuries that would surely have ended the playing careers of lesser individuals.
But there have been some worrying signs of frailties on the greens lately. When he first returned, his putting stroke looked as assured as it had ever done and the last thing that Woods can afford is a crisis of confidence when standing over four- and five-foot putts. His play in the US Open at Shinnecock Hills was dreadful as he missed the cut by a mile, but even he said afterwards that if he had putted even reasonably well then he would have been around for the weekend.
He still insists that he is good enough to win another major, and there have been times in 2018 when it has been difficult to argue with that assertion. But right now, what Woods needs more than anything else is a win - any win, on any course. And he could have chosen a more straightforward test to continue his comeback. TPC Potomac is one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour. Week after week we see players winning with scores of 20 under par and better, but Stanley’s winning total 12 months ago was only seven under. So if Woods is going find that comeback win here he is going to have to be at his very best.
He is also a past winner. The tournament was won in 2011 by Nick Watney, in 2012 by Woods, in 2013 by Bill Haas, in 2014 by Justin Rose, in 2015 by Troy Merritt, in 2016 by Billy Hurley and last year by Stanley.
Stanley enjoyed an excellent season in 2017. Apart from his victory here, he finished in a tie for fourth place at the Players Championship and sixth place at the Memorial. It demonstrated his liking for tough courses. But he hadn’t won for five years and when he began his final round in 2017 with a bogey it looked like the wait was going to continue. However, he battled back and made five late birdies, as well as a great up and down to save his par at the 71st hole. After 72 holes he finished level with Charles Howell III and went on to beat his fellow American in a playoff.
When Stanley hits top gear he is a formidable player. When he won last year he was tied third in Driving Accuracy hitting 71.4% of his fairways compared to the field average of 56.8%. Stanley also led the field for Greens in Regulation for the fourth time in his career.
Howell, of course, is one of the great enigmas of the PGA Tour. His last victory came at the 2007 Genesis Open but since then he has had more than 50 top-10 finishes and has become a money-making machine in much the same way that Matt Kuchar has. He has had 16 runner-up finishes and won at least $1m in prize money every year since 2001 - only Phil Mickelson has a better record in that time.
Rickie Fowler finished third here after nine birdies in his final round. The American came within a whisker of winning The Masters in April but his form since then has been pretty ragged and completely lost the plot during the third round at the US Open, when he staggered off the course after shooting an 84. To his credit, he came back the following day and reduced Shinnecock Hills to a 65.
Fowler has the perfect game to win The Open at Carnoustie but he will be looking for signs of a return to the form he showed earlier in the season because the Scottish links can be a pretty unforgiving place for any golfer who is not on top of his game.
Quicken Loans National tips & picks
Rickie Fowler. Needs to put US Open nightmare to bed
Tiger Woods. Still the guy everybody is rooting for
Keegan Bradley. Showing plenty of good form
Quicken Loans National Fantasy picks
Rickie Fowler. In full flow he is pretty to watch
Tiger Woods. Show us what you’ve got Tiger!
Keegan Bradley. Next win is not far away
Marc Leishman. One of the good guys
Bill Haas. Has good memories of this course
Nick Watney. On road to recovery
Ollie Schniederjans. Massive talent
Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Will surely win on the PGA Tour sometime
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