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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Harman and Perez look set to top the QBE honours list

In-form duo can make hay on the Tiburon greens

Brian Harman has always been one of the best putters on the circuit
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Play starts 3.15pm Friday
Live on Sky Sports from 6.30pm

Palmer's top tip
B Harman & P Perez 15-2

The Shark Shootout is being televised on Sky Sports for the first time this year and two men new to the event may be the stars of the show. Brian Harman and Pat Perez could be a dream team.

Putting well is the key to success in the Shootout, which is under new sponsors QBE, having been known as the Franklin Templeton for many moons. The generous format creates countless birdie opportunities and the players rolling their rock the best usually end up victorious.

Punters should opt for pairings without a weak link on the greens. Jason Dufner and Billy Horschel, two of the worst putters on the US Tour, will need to relentlessly pepper pins to be competitive. Graeme McDowell may end up throwing Shane Lowry and his putter in one of the many lakes at Tiburon, while Brandt Snedeker could get equally frustrated with his partner, Bubba Watson.

Harman has always been one of the best putters on the circuit, as well as sharp with his pitching and chipping. Perez has made a sensational surge up the world rankings since returning from shoulder surgery just over a year ago and excellent putting has been a part of that renaissance.

Both Harman and Perez are US Tour champions this season. Harman fended off Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm to win the Wells Fargo Championship in May, while Perez has won twice, most recently when putting brilliantly in the CIMB Classic in October.

They can be expected to gel – they are both nutty and should inspire one another – and form figures from their last four events make encouraging reading (Harman 24-5-8-4, Perez 1-5-24-34). The only negative is that they are both Shootout debutants, but this is a straightforward course and they have two pro-ams (Wednesday and Thursday) in which to adjust to the new terrain.

Harman and Perez have a combined world ranking of 46 (Harman 27, Perez 19), which is the best in the field of the all-male duos, and they should arguably be favourites despite their Shootout inexperience.

Others to note
C Hoffman & Z Johnson
These two US Tour veterans should blend well and bring excellent form to the event. Hoffman blew a five-shot Hero World Challenge lead on Sunday, though, and both men are winless this season.

K Chappell & K Kisner
This pairing will probably have the best team spirit – they are good pals who know how to enjoy themselves – but the putting weakness of Chappell may deny them a title tilt.

H English & M Kuchar
The defending champions are seeking a hat-trick of Shootout victories together. Both are strong putters, which has been the basis of their success, but English has been horrifically out of form.

R Henley & K Stanley
An eye-catching partnership, pitting one of the best putters in the world with one of the best drivers. Stanley's strengths are negated in this format and his lack of putting ability should be exposed.

S O'Hair & S Stricker
Stricker won the 2009 Shootout with Jerry Kelly and has the perfect set of skills for the competition. Stricker could go close again this week, but his partner is a poor putter.

K Bradley & B Steele
The 2011 champions have reunited. Bradley loves pairs golf, twice winning the CVS Charity Classic with Jon Curran, and Steele is confident after winning the Safeway Open in October.

B Harman & P Perez
4pts 15-2 general

The lowdown

Course Gold Course, Tiburon Golf Club, Naples, Florida

Prize money €3.3m ($385,000 each to the winning team)

Length 7,382 yards

Par 72

Field 12 teams of two

Course records – 54 holes 182 Harris English & Matt Kuchar (2014)

Course winners (as a pairing) taking part Keegan Bradley & Brendan Steele, Harris English & Matt Kuchar (twice)

When to bet By 3.15pm Friday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 6.30pm Friday

Time difference Naples is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – Hero World Challenge 1 R Fowler (9-1), 2 C Hoffman (35-1), T3 T Fleetwood (28-1), J Spieth (13-2)

Course overview The Shootout moved to Tiburon in 2001 and has remained there since. There is no rough at Tiburon and the fairways are generous, but plenty of water is waiting to punish the seriously errant. There are two par-five holes on each nine, the shortest of which is the 559-yard 17th. The 485-yard, par-four 18th is a tough closing hole

Format Friday Scramble (best ball chosen after every shot) Saturday Greensomes (best tee-shot chosen then foursomes golf thereafter) Sunday Betterball (fourball golf with only the best score counting)

The story of last year Harris English and Matt Kuchar regained the title, edging out Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker by a shot

Weather forecast Clear for the most part, with light to moderate breezes throughout

Type of player suited to challenge A birdiefest is almost inevitable – most loose shots do not count towards a team's score – and the pairs often return sub-60 rounds. The team who putt best should go close to victory

Key attribute Touch/putting

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They have two pro-ams in which to adjust to the new terrain
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