Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What To Look For: 2018 World Golf Championship - Mexico

The first WGC event of the year takes place in Mexico City at Club de Golf Chapultepec.

The big talk of Club de Golf Chapultepec will be the change in elevation as it nears 10,000 feet above sea level. I documented the effects that the elevation at Club de Golf Chapultepec had in 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis.

So expect the ball to go far and players having some issues with distance control on approach shots which means some very important scrambling opportunities need to be converted.

The course is generally well liked by the Tour players which means it's not that difficult.

Projected Winning Score: -15


Justin Thomas +900
Dustin Johnson +1,000
Brooks Koepka +1,800


Hideki Matsuyama +2,800
Patrick Cantlay +3,300
Webb Simpson +3,300

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What To Look For: 2019 Genesis Open

The Tour comes back to one of my favorite Tour stops at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California.

Riviera was built in 1926 and designed by William Bell and George Thomas. I’ve always felt that Bell goes a bit unnoticed as he built numerous excellent designs like Rancho Park, Industry Hills, Balboa Park, Bel-Air Country Club as well. Perhaps because his designs were almost exclusively out West, he doesn’t get the notoriety that a Donald Ross or Alistair MacKenzie receive.

I’ve always been fascinated with old-school Los Angeles as well as old-school golf architecture and LA is chock full of old-school designs which just endears me to the area even more. Unfortunately, the courses in good shape in LA are almost all very private.

This is a course that from a design perspective is applauded by the Tour players. They did make some renovations over the past 10 years that helped the long hitters a little more and thus the shorter hitters were hurt by that design. But, the course can get a little crusty and that tends to shift the favor back towards the short, but accurate hitters.

The problem with Riviera has always been the conditioning. It is often in pristine shape, but it also has it’s occasional years where it’s in bad shape. I’ve seen times where players hit 160 yard approach shots into the green and it takes 1 bounce higher than the flagstick. And if you go on YouTube and look at some old LA Open videos, you can see some pretty rough years conditioning wise.

As far as the course goes, expect a lot of talk about the infamous 10th hole

I studied the hole years ago and the numbers at that time dictated that the best play was to go for the green on the front and middle pin location. Then lay-up towards the left bunker when the pin was in back (as shown in the diagram above).

The problem is that the conditions at Riviera change. Generally, if the course is really firm that is still the best way to go because if you end up either in or behind the right bunker, you’re screwed. But if the course….in particular that green….is softer, the better play is to just go for the green all 4 days.

This is not a popular opinion with many…but, I just don’t think it’s a good golf hole design. Mainly because ‘luck’ is too big of a factor on the hole. Players can hit good shots off the tee and on approach shots and make triple. Others can hit weak shots and make birdie.

But, as far as the hole design itself, it’s very rare. I’d rather watch this hole design than a bad hole design like #18 at Houston which makes the hole impossible. And since Riviera is so well designed it doesn’t make #10 so bad. But more importantly, I’m ‘okay’ with #10 because Bell had something that old-school designers have that new-school designers lack…he understood the importance of the ebb and flow of designing holes. #9 and #11 are pretty much as straight and standard of a hole as you can find. #9 is a difficult hole and #11 is not an easy birdie par-5. They are also not holes where you see a big deviation in score. Thus, #10…where there is a great deviation in score and is a very unusual hole….fits in nicely here even though I don’t think it’s a very good design.

The other thing about Riviera that doesn’t get talked about much is that it’s a great preparation for the Masters. Time and time again, players that have won at Riviera have generally done well at Riviera. Mainly because it features a lot of long approach shots like Augusta. Augusta’s greens are generally bigger, but the Riviera greens are firm enough and small enough that they generally require higher ball flights like Augusta requires. And while the Riviera greens are nowhere as fast as Augusta’s, they have a lot of break to them which tests the skill of the players with the flatstick.

Projected Winning Score: -12


Dustin Johnson +850
Justin Thomas +1,200
Jon Rahm +1,600
Xander Schauffele +2,200
Phil Mickelson +2,200
Paul Casey +3,300


Rafa Cabrera Bello +6,600
Jason Kokrak +8,000
Abraham Aner +10,000
Harold Varner III +12,500


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

What To Look For - 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

The Tour comes to Pebble Beach for the 78th AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Pebble Beach is the last of the events played on multiple courses for the season which makes Richie3Jack a happy man. They are continuing to play Monterrey Peninsula CC and SpyGlass as part of the rotation for the event.

One of the real gems in the world of golf is Cypress Point. The event used to play Cypress Point, but stopped due to Cypress Point not having any black members at the time. The course considered expediting a process to include black leaders, but balked due to trying to handle prospective members that had been on their 7-year waiting list and would be leapfrogged in the process.

However, Monterrey Peninsula is a fine replacement with stunning views. And that’s what will be talked about mostly this week…the stunning views of the area. Meanwhile, every time this year I get calls from old friends about a friend of mine that got drunk and stole a bunch of the flagsticks and tee markers at Pebble Beach about 20 years ago, only to be caught by police later on.

Generally, the pros really love playing here due to the course designs. But, they are averse to playing in the tournament because of the unpredictable weather in Pebble this time of year. In fact, this week the highs are only supposed to be in the mid-50’s. Combine that with 6-7 hour rounds playing in the Pro-Am it can shatter this week and next week at Riviera for a Tour player.

The course is mostly about putting, wedges and mid irons. The putting part is tricky because it does fit better putters as Pebble has the lowest make percentages, by far, on Tour. This is due to the massive slopes and slow, bumpy greens. However, there are some below average putters that have course knowledge and gain an advantage due to their course knowledge. And if the greens are in really bad shape, then that swings the favor back to the poor putters. However, from what I’ve been told the greens are in pretty good shape, by Pebble standards, this week.

While the 18th is an iconic hole, it’s not a Critical Hole. The last Critical Hole on the course belongs to the par-5, 14th hole.

The graphic doesn’t do the hole justice. The tee shot is uphill to a plateau. Even today’s bombers have a difficult time reaching the green in two shots as between the climate and the uphill tee shot, the ball goes nowhere off the tee. That also usually leads to very uneven lies on the 2nd shot. There are also overhanging trees up by the green and the green is a difficult one to putt on. Every single shot on this hole is tricky.

It ranks the 3rd most difficult driving hole, the most difficult approach shot hole and the most difficult hole on shots around the green. It’s average in terms of Putting, but remember that Pebble has the lowest make percentage greens on Tour. Average make percentage on Pebble is a very low make percentage on other courses.

Lastly, Ho-Sung Choi will make his PGA Tour debut. He is at 350/1 odds

I’ve stayed mum on Choi because I don’t think my opinion will be a popular one. However, I am a bit torn on this one as I perceive Choi as more or less a gimmick and I don’t know if that is good or bad for the game of golf.

I’ve seen swings of Choi just a few years ago where he didn’t do all of the goofy theatrics after his shot and thus, the gimmicky nature to his game. He’s also a shining example of how the OWGR continues to screw over PGA Tour players for other non-PGA Tour players and events, in particular the Tours over in Asia.

However, I don’t see irreparable harm being done and if it gets people interested in watching the game, then that’s a positive. I guess I just wish so many people were not enamored by new shiny objects that appear in front of them on the internet.

Projected Winning Score: -15


Dustin Johnson +550
Jason Day +900
Jordan Spieth +1,800
Patrick Cantlay +2,200
Tommy Fleetwood +2,500
Phil Mickelson +2,500
Matt Kuchar +2,500
Adam Scott +3,000


Sung-Jae Im +5,000
Robert Garrigus +35,000


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What To Look For: 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open

The Tour comes back to the loudest hole in golf at TPC Scottsdale.

The Waste Management Phoenix open dates back to the Phoenix Open which has been in existence since 1932. For the past 33 years, they have played at TPC Scottsdale. The course used to be a pretty fair course for any style of play, but when the Pro V1 was introduced it became a bomber oriented course up until the re-design.

Generally, the course is not all that exciting from a design perspective. The bombers used to like it because it favored them so much, but the re-design implemented a lot more waste areas, often in the middle of fairways and that has drawn the ire of the players. However, the atmosphere of the 16th hole makes it hard for players to not want to play there.

This is a course that stresses a lot of mid-length approach shots. For the bombers, if they can avoid the waste areas with their driver they can be at an advantage.

The last ‘Critical Hole’ on the course is the driveable 17th hole.

What’s interesting about this hole is that it’s a fairly easy driving hole, even for a driveable hole. But, it has a very difficult approach to the green if the player does not drive the green. However, that is countered by it being the easiest green to putt on. The water also runs to the back where occasionally golfers can find off the tee.

Projected Winning Score: -18


Jon Rahm +700
Justin Thomas +900
Hideki Matsuyama +1,200
Rickie Fowler +1,800
Tony Finau +2,000
Phil Mickelson +2,200


Billy Horschel +4,000
Daniel Berger +5,000
Luke List +6,600
Talor Gooch +8,000


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What To Look For: 2019 Farmers Insurance Open

Torrey Pines is the site of this week's event for the Tour.

Torrey Pines was built in 1957 and designed by William F. Bell. The course plays to 7,698 yards at a par-72. It has a 144 slope and a 78.2 index. Normally, the slope is meant more for higher handicap golfers as the index is more for lower handicap golfers. Thus, Torrey from the championship tees is a difficult test for high handicappers, but extremely difficult by low handicap standards. Typically, this represents a course that does not have a lot of penalty areas in the way, but is difficult due to being very long.

Torrey is a public course owned by the city of San Diego.  They have early tee times available on weekends where golfers can tailgate and spend the night, even the night prior, to get a tee time on a first come, first serve basis when the course opens at 7:30 AM.  However, there are usually plenty of tee times available online.  Usually the non-San Diego resident pays roughly 4-5x more than the San Diego Restaurant for a tee time.

Despite being the longest course on Tour, Torrey has very narrow fairways.  Torrey is often the course with the lowest field hit fairway percentage of any course on Tour.  And to top it off, it usually has the second lowest make percentage on the putting greens as only Pebble Beach has a lower make percentage.  This is due to the slow, bumpy and undulated Torrey green complexes.

The players will play the North Course in either round 1 or 2 and then play the South course.  If they make the cut, they will play only the South course on the weekend.  The North Course usually yields a lot of low scores while the South course causes the scores to climb.

This is a long ballstriking and putting course.  The good putters can do well here because of the undulated greens which result in low make percentages.  Thus, a good putter can gain more strokes than they normally do with the flatstick.  But, if they do not have the requisite long game, they'll never make the cut.

The 13th hole is the final Critical Hole on the course, so it makes the tournament less dramatic.

It's actually one of the easiest driving holes on the course, but the 2nd, 3rd and putting is some of the most difficult shots of the entire course.  So, if a player hits a weak drive, they are looking at par-bogey scenarios.  A good drive certainly does not guarantee a birdie, but given it is a par-5 the average length birdie putt is fairly short.

Projected Winning Score: -9


Jon Rahm +1,000
Rory McIlroy +1,400
Marc Leishman +2,000
Patrick Cantlay +2,200
Gary Woodland +2,800


Abraham Ancer +5,500
Luke List +6,600
Kyle Stanley +7,000
Jason Kokrak +15,000
Anders Albertson +20,000


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What To Look For: 2019 Desert Classic

This week the Tour heads out to Palm Springs for the Desert Classic.

As many of you know, The Desert Classic was originally the Bob Hope Classic starting back in 1960. It used to be a 5-round event at one point, but it is now a 4-round event with two rounds at the PGA West Stadium course, and 1 round at the PGA West Tournament Course and another round at La Quinta Country club.

With plenty of courses in the area, the tournament has been held at numerous different courses over the years.


***Click to Enlarge table below***

The tournament is still a pro-am event. With Bob Hope it did not quite attract the celebrities that the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am did, but it did a good job and from what I was told a few years ago, it was far more preferable of a Pro-Am for the amateur to play in because the weather was better, the courses were easier and they were only a couple of hours from Hollywood.

Now the tournament appears to be on its last legs as it does not have a major sponsor. I think this is the event that Steph Curry should consider sponsoring. While he is located in Northern California playing for the Golden State Warriors, it is too big of a historical event to let go of on Tour. The only issue would be the timing of the tournament during basketball season.

Anyway…this is the lowest scoring event on Tour. The reason being is that the driving is fairly easy out there and it has the easiest approach shots on Tour. No tournament has players hitting it closer to the hole from 150+ yards than they do in Palm Springs. And that is what will mostly decide this event, approach shots and who gets hot with the putter.

The 18th hole is the last Critical Hole at the Stadium Course.

Statistically the 18th is the most difficult driving hole on the Stadium Course because of the water left and the bunkers right. However, it is one of the easier approach shots on the stadium course and the green is right at the average in terms of putting difficulty. Thus, a mediocre drive can lead to bogey. A poor drive can lead to double bogey. And a good drive can lead to birdie. I think it’s a very well designed hole by Pete Dye, allowing form to follow function.

Projected Winning Score: -27


John Rahm +650
Justin Rose +900
Patrick Cantlay +1,600
Aaron Wise +2,800
Abraham Ancer +3,300


Chez Reavie +4,000
Beau Hossler +5,500
Peter Uihlein +5,500
Corey Conners +5,500
George Cunningham +20,000


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

What To Look For: 2019 Sony Open

The Tour comes to the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club.

Waialae has been a tour stop since 1965.  It was built in 1927 under the architecture of Seth Raynor.  It plays to 7,044 yards at a par-70 with 72.1 index.

With Raynor designs there is usually a lot of laying-up off the tee due to sharp angles.  Waialae is one of the lowest hit fairway percentages on the Tour as the tight fairways, sharp angles and wind make it difficult to find the short grass.  The course has a polarizing effect on players as many love it and many absolutely hate it.

The 18th hole is the final critical hole on the course.  But, take a look at the par-4, 15th hole as it is only 398 yards:

It's nothing crazy and plays to just under 4.000 strokes on average.  But, using a driver or being long with the 3-wood off the tee can give a player a sizeable advantage.  It's a very difficult green to find in regulation if the player misses the fairway.  And there is usually one round where the players are finding less than 50% of the fairwyas and the discrepancies in score skyrockets.

This will be a course about mid-to-long approach shots, avoiding impeded shots from the trees, good short game around the green play and making some putts.

Projected Winning Score: -23


Justin Thomas +650
Bryson DeChambeau +1,000
Jordan Spieth +1,400
Kyle Stanley +4,000


Brian Harman +5,500
Adam Hadwin +7,000
Russell Knox +7,000
Sung-Jae Im +8,000
Brian Gay +10,000
Sam Ryder +12,500