Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Travelers Championship

The PGA Tour comes back to Hartford for the 66th Travelers Championship:


TPC River Highlands was created in 1928 and was designed by Robert Ross and Maurice Kearney and was originally called Middletown Golf Club. Later, it changed its name to Edgewood Country Club in 1934. The course went thru a re-design by Pete Dye in 1984 as was renamed TPC of Connecticut. It then went thru further renovations from Bobby Weed (one of my personal favorites) along with Howard Twitty and Roger Maltbie and changed its name to TPC River Highlands.

The course is well received by the players. Perhaps due to the much needed break from the US Open. However, I do not find it surprising as a lot of the Pete Dye courses I’ve played that were later tweaked and renovated tend to be very good. Dye has a lot of good ideas, but tends to go overboard…particularly with blind tee shots where it’s difficult to get a feel for the line.

TPC River Highlands is pretty straight forward. It’s a course for good drivers that leans towards power off the tee and then is about mid-length iron shots. Get those two areas of the game down and you’ll likely get into the top-20 even with poor putting.

The big hole that the telecast will focus on is the par-4 15th hole that only plays to 296 yards. And it is a ‘critical hole’ at Hartford. However, it’s not exactly my favorite type of reachable par-4 design as it’s pretty straightforward in that any player should go for the green.

Here’s the data of tee shots from #15 last year. It appears there were only 7 layups, each resulting in par.



The last critical hole is the devious 17th hole where water comes into play on the tee shot and the approach. This should be the hole that gets a lot of attention because it is what separates the contenders versus the rest of the field




Projected Winning Score: -15


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Justin Thomas +1,200
Paul Casey +2,000
Bryson DeChambeau +2,500
Emiliano Grillo +4,000


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Kyle Stanley +6,000
Chez Reavie +6,600
Keegan Bradley +6,600
Brendan Steele +6,600
Kevin Streelman +10,000
Pat Perez +10,000




3JACK

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