Although the PGA Tour went on its winter break a few weeks ago there is still one more tournament for us to enjoy before the golf stops. Last week it was the Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods and this week it is the turn of Greg Norman to play host as he welcomes 24 top class players to Naples, Florida and his Tiburon Golf Club for the Franklin Templeton Shootout.
The Shootout has been going under different names since 1989 during which time some of the biggest names in golf have played in this genuinely unique tournament. It is a pairs event set over just three days where the format changes each round. So, while the first round is a scramble, the second round is alternate shot and the winners will be crowned after a round of better ball on Saturday. The different types of play will require slightly different strengths so the pairs will have to work together well to get the best out of each other to have a chance of winning.
The fact that this is the final tournament before Christmas and that the format is varied means that there is a calm and jovial atmosphere at the Shootout. That means we should be looking for players who can thrive in a relaxed atmosphere as well as those who have the length and accuracy to score well around the fairly tough par 72 Gold Course which measures a little over 7,200 yards. There are some very tricky holes to navigate and water is in play throughout and the players will need to hit the ball down the middle of the fairway to have the best chance of making birdies.
Graeme McDowell is exactly the sort of player and personality who is suited to this sort of event. G-Mac recently returned to the winners’ circle after a year of disappointment and his game – which is based around accurate driving and impressive putting stats – has really returned to him. The Northern Irishman has always been excellent when with a partner at the Ryder Cup and in Gary Woodland he’s got perhaps the perfect teammate. Woodland ranked 12th for driving distance last season so should be able to make up for the lack of distance in McDowell’s game and he too has a relaxed persona which should serve him well this week. The pair are 15/2 with Coral and look a good bet for success at the Shark’s tournament.
Another pair who look perfectly matched for a shot at the Franklin Templeton Shootout are Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker. The two are firm friends and will have a blast as they go around the Gold Course. At a time when golf is trying to work out a way to deal with slow play these two are great examples of how to play ‘point and shoot golf’. They pick both pick their target and get on with playing the shot. With Dufner’s solid ball striking and Snedker’s impressive putting these two may be smilers but they’ll form a formidable partnership and at 11/1 with Coral they are a good price for the win.