Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 US Open

The 127 year old Shinnecock Hills Golf Club will host the US Open this week.


The Hamptons in Long Island is the home to gazillionaires and in the summer time the crowds and traffic in Manhattan dissipate (by Manhattan standards), particularly on Fridays, as the movers and shakers look to spend their time in the Hamptons.

It’s one of the big things I noticed when I moved to the south coming from Upstate New York…summers are much more fun in the Northeast. After getting killed by the snow and crappy weather for most of the year, come summertime people from the Northeast are ready to make the most of it. That means plenty of vacation time to be used and plenty of time to party and do the outdoors stuff while the good weather lasts.

The Hamptons provides that environment. And because you’re on Long Island, the traffic is unbearable and you’re going to hear about the bad traffic on the telecast, The Golf Channel, etc.

Shinnecock was originally designed as a 12-hole course by Willie Davis in 1891. Three years later, Willie Dunn added 6 more holes. It was then re-designed again in the 1937 to make the course 6,700 yards long. Currently, it is playing to ‘only’ 7,445 yards. That’s ‘only’ to US Open standards. However, it’s a par-70 and if the winds pick up, it can be quite treacherous.

Currently, Shinnecock ranks #6 in top golf courses in the world by GOLF Magazine. The general consensus from natives is that they prefer National Golf Links (ranked #7) over Shinnecock.

The US Open is difficult to predict because the field is so vast. The other issue is that you don’t know what the USGA is going to do with the design. For instance, Erin Hills was so wide open that it massively favored the long hitter. When Rory McIlroy won at Congressional, you would have thought that this was just another Tour stop than a US Open course. Chambers Bay was a disaster conditioning wise. Merion made drastic changes (and I think was probably the best design for a US Open course in a long time). They also completely revamped Pinehurst #2 when Kaymer won it.

So, it becomes very difficult to judge what a course will do, even if you have past history at it. My guess is that Shinnecock will stay the same based on past history. There’s talk about the course being wide open and providing the long hitters with a tremendous advantage. But, I don’t see the people at Shinnecock kowtowing to anybody. The US Open could always use Shinnecock, but Shinnecock doesn’t need the US Open. And thus, I see Shinnecock making little in the way of changes to appease the USGA. You’re just not going to see the disaster you saw at Chambers Bay happen at Shinnecock. And my guess is that the people of Shinnecock have too much pride in the club to let it get steamrolled by the field like what happened at Erin Hills and Congressional.

Looking at the history of Shinnecock, the real premium appears to be short game play and iron play. Here’s a look at the top finishers in 2004:

1st – R. Goosen
2nd – P. Mickelson
3rd – J. Maggert
t-4th – S. Maruyama
t-4th – M. Weir
6th – F. Funk
t-7th – R. Allenby
t-7th – S. Flesch
t-9th – S. Ames
t-9th – C. Dimarco
t-9th – E. Els
t-9th – J. Haas

Out of those 12 players listed, the only poor short game performers were Maggert, Allenby and Ames. And those three were all fabulous iron players in their primes. Then we go back to 1995 when Corey Pavin won. Pavin is one of the greatest short game performers of all time. That Open was filled with more great iron players at the top like Greg Norman, Tom Lehman and Bill Glasson. But, Norman was a pretty sound short game performer.

Then we hit 1986 when Raymond Floyd, another one of the all time great short game players wins followed by Chip Beck (excellent iron player and short game), Lanny Wadkins (all-time great iron player and good short game), Hal Sutton (excellent iron player), Lee Trevino (legendary iron player and short game performer).

Projected Winning Score: -3


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +800
Justin Rose +1,400
Justin Thomas +1,400
Jordan Spieth +1,800
Rickie Fowler +1,800



3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Branden Grace +3,300
Paul Casey +5,000
Marc Leishman +6,000
Louis Oosthuizen +6,000
Cameron Smith +15,000





3JACK

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 FedEx St. Jude Classic

The Tour heads to one of my favorite Tour stops for the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis:


TPC Southwind is widely considered one of the best designs on Tour by the players and embraces a great charity in the St. Jude’s Hospitals. The event and the course do not quite get the recognition of other events and courses as the field is often weaker due to the US Open being on the following week.

But, it’s a fantastic design by Ron Prichard who was known for doing renovations of courses from my favorite architect, Donald Ross.

The course plays to 7,244 yards at a par-70. The final critical hole is the 453 yard par-4 18th hole.

The drive on 18 shows why it’s a hole with such great deviation in scores:


That red dot way up in the fairway is Brooks Koepka.

However, this is really an approach shot course and players that win here tend to be good from longer approach shots and some shorter approach shots due to some of the short par-4’s and par-5’s that may not be reachable with a mediocre drive. There’s always the possibility that a player like a Koepka can drive it well and overpower the course and leave themselves with shorter approaches and take advantage of the field anyway. This course generally favors the top players more, but that’s because the field usually presents itself with weaker players due to the US Open. But in the end, there’s a lot of different types of players that can win at Memphis.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -14


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +700
Brooks Koepka +900
Henrik Stenson +1,400
Phil Mickelson +1,400
Tony Finau +2,500
Daniel Berger +2,800


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Joaquin Niemann +3,300
Luke List +4,000
Chris Kirk +8,000
Matt Jones +10,000



3JACK

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Memorial Tournament

This week the Tour will be at Muirfield Village for Jack’s tournament, The Memorial Tournament in central Ohio.


This marks the 42nd Memorial Tournament, all played at Muirfield Village. Muirfield Village was designed by Mr. Nicklaus and is one of the more well respected golf course designs on Tour.

The design focuses on approach shots and short game shots. Driving is not a very big factor here as the fairways are pretty wide when driver is needed. Typically the field average hit fairway percentage is around 70-75%. One can use the Bubba Watson method where he hits it so long to those open fairways that he gets left with short approach shots while the rest of the field is hitting logner approach shots. But, in general there’s going to be some critical greens that will be missed and players that cannot make difficult up-and-downs will likely be taken out of contention.

The 18th hole is also the final critical hole of the event.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -13

3JACK’S FAVORITES

Justin Rose +1,400
Justin Thomas +1,400
Jordan Spieth +1,600
Tiger Woods +1,800
Henrik Stenson +2,800


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Hideki Matsuyama +3,300
Louis Oosthuizen +7,500
Bill Haas +12,500
Jamie Lovemark +12,500
Bud Cauley +17,500




3JACK

Thursday, May 24, 2018

New GolfWRX Column: An Early Look at the Potential US Ryder Cup Team



With the Masters and the Players Championship complete, I wanted to examine the statistics of the current leaders in Ryder Cup Points for the U.S. Team. Over the history of the Ryder Cup, the U.S. Team has relied on pairings that were friends and practice-round companions instead of pairing players that were more compatible from a statistical standpoint. This has led to disappointing performances from the U.S. Team and top players such as Jim Furyk performing poorly at the Ryder Cup, as he is ill-suited for the Fourball format.

After a disastrous 2014 Ryder Cup where the U.S. Team lost by a score of 16.5-11.5, the U.S. decided to use a more statistical approach to Ryder Cup play. According to my calculations, the 2016 U.S. Team’s pairings were the closest to optimal that the U.S. Team has compiled in the last seven Ryder Cups. And not surprisingly, the U.S. Team won 17-11 over the Europeans.

Since there are several months to go before the Ryder Cup, I won’t get too much into potential pairings in this article. Instead, I will focus more on the current games of top-12 players in U.S. Ryder Cup Points Standings and how that translates to Ryder Cup performance.

Read More atGolfWRX: An Early Look at the Potential US Ryder Cup Team





3JACK

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Ft. Worth Invitational

The Tour is at Colonial this week for the 72nd Ft. Worth Invitational:


This season the tournament does not have a lead sponsor which was putting the tournament's future in doubt.  However, next season it will be sponsored by Charles Schwab.

The tournament also has the unique Champion's Choice Tradition where last year's champion is allowed to select two, young and up and coming players to participate in the event that they are typically not qualified to play in.

The event is known as Ben Hogan's tournament as Hogan was a long time member at Colonial.  The course itself fits along the lines of Hogan's game with difficult tee shots that require ultimate precision and a lot of difficult approach shots.

Colonial was designed in 1936 by John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell.  The course was created by Marvin Leonard who was obsessed with having smooth rolling, bentgrass greens in Texas.  Redstick Country Club in Vero Beach tried to get bentgrass greens but it was nearly impossible for them to maintain.  Ft. Worth is probably a little more reasonable as the humidity in Florida doesn't jive well with bentgrass.  But in reality, today's bermuda grass strains roll pretty much as well as bentgrass greens.

The difference with bentgrass is that it does not take a lot of resources and does not require perfect weather to get excellent putting complexes.  Growing up on bentgrass greens, you would be surprised how many rinky-dink clubs with a small crew working on the greens can produce world class putting greens.  In fact, the best greens I've ever putted on were at small Wellsville Country Club in Wellsville, NY. 

Bermuda requires a lot of resources and time to sustain the greens.  In Florida, the bigger courses have a distinct advantage in their greens upkeep during the spring.  But, come summer that advantage minute as everybody is struggling to keep up their greens and some courses just happen to get a break with the weather conditions over others.

Where I tell golfers that are used to playing on bentgrass and are going to bermuda to get used to is the rough.  Particularly around the greens.  Last year when I went back home to play on bentgrass for the first time in nearly 15 years...I was shocked by how much softer I had to hit the ball from the bentgrass rough. 

The other big difference is bermuda greens need to be replaced every 12-15 years. They just don't hold up well after that.

Here's my thoughts on different bermuda green strains:

TifEagle - my preferred choice.  Extremely durable and can still run very smooth with a lot of foot traffic.  However, best to keep the stimps under 11 and struggles to maintain on 'sunken' green complexes.

UltraDwarf - works better at faster stimps than TifEagle, but needs constant maintenance and doesn't handle traffic nearly as well.

Championship Bermuda - When well kept, the best greens of the bunch and closest to bentgrass.  Usually takes approach shots well and it can be difficult to find the pitch mark.  Can easily run to 13 stimp.  But, it's very expensive and required a lot of care and doesn't work that great with heavy foot traffic.

Miniverde - excellent strain that tends to look a little more grainy, but still rolls quite smooth.  Plays more in between TifEagle and Championship Bermuda.

Anyway, most of the pros on Tour like Colonial.  Those that avoid playing here tend to do so because the course doesn't fit their game instead of avoiding it because they don't like the design.  This is very much a course about driving accuracy and long approach shots.  The 18th hole is the final critical hole on the course.


Projected Winning Score: -12


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Jordan Spieth +900
Jon Rahm +1,400
Justin Rose +1,800
Xander Schauffele +4,000


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Beau Hossler +5,500
Brian Harman +6,600
Chris Kirk +6,600
Chez Reavie +8,000
Andrew Landry +10,000
Kevin Streelman +10,000





3JACK

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 The PLAYERS Championship

The 45th PLAYERS Championship comes this week with the biggest purse of any event on Tour.


Sawgrass is Pete Dye's most famous design due to the famous 17th hole which led to a deluge of island green designs across the world.  But what often gets overlooked is how difficult Sawgrass is and how it counters wreckless bombers out of the event.

Every year, I get complaints from readers because the top of the leaderboard during the tournament lacks starpower and I'm asked why that is.

First, all of the 10 par-4's at Sawgrass are doglegs and many of them feature blind or semi-blind tee shots.  Secondly, there is an even split of 5 dogleg rights and 5 dogleg lefts.  So, it's more of a course about accuracy off the tee and in particular being able to hit tee shots at different directional angles.

Sawgrass is also the one course that may favor long hitters when it is dry and short hitters when it is soft (usually it's the opposite).  Jason Day's 2016 victory showed that as he was able to effectively lay up off the tee and then hold the greens by hitting sky-rocket approach shots.  I'm not sure what the conditions of Sawgrass are like, but it's been pretty windy the past month and thus I'm guessing it's going to play a little firm.

Usually, the 18th hole is the final critical hole on the course.  In recent years, the 17th has been a critical holes as the top contenders have really played 17 well in the past few years (think of Rickie Fowler in 2015).

Projected Winning Score: -13


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Justin Thomas +1,400
Jordan Spieth +1,400
Justin Rose +2,800
Henrik Stenson +2,800


3JACK DARK HORSE PICKS

Bryson DeChambeau +4,000
Daniel Berger +10,000
Rafael Cabrera Bello +10,000
Brian Harman +12,500
Russell Knox +15,000
Byeong Hun An +15,000




3JACK

Monday, May 7, 2018

PGA Tour Averages with the Driver on GEARS

Interesting video from Michael Neff from GEARS on what PGA Tour Averages he is seeing with the driver:






3JACK