Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic

Dustin Johnson recorded a win last week at TPC River Highlands.



DJ surprisingly drove the ball below average at TPC River Highlands. It's a pretty wide open course, but it's rare to see somebody gain a sizable advantage off the tee. But TPC River Highlands proved once again that it's a long approach shot course and DJ was 2nd on shots from the Red Zone and was 4th in total Putts Gained.

***

This week the Tour comes back to Detroit Golf Club for the Rocket Mortgage Classic.



Here's some background on Detroit GC from Wikipedia.

The Detroit Golf Club was founded in 1899 by William R. Farrand and several of his friends. Originally the Club was limited to 100 members. They rented a 45-acre (180,000 m2) plot of farmland at 6 Mile and Woodward, and a 6-hole course layout was created. In 1900 the course added 3 holes, making it a 9-hole course. The membership was increased to 200 in 1902. At that time 135 acres (0.55 km2) of land were purchased at 6 Mile and Hamilton, and an 18-hole course was developed.

In 1906 the Club was formally opened, and membership fees were raised to $250. In 1913 additional property was bought, and Donald Ross was asked to survey the property. Ross determined that two courses of 18 holes could be built on the land. Horace Rackham paid $100,000 for the 36-hole course to be built to the DGC at a cost.

In 1916 Albert Kahn started construction on a new clubhouse, which was completed in 1918. The brother of Donald Ross, Alec Ross, became Club Professional, a position he held until 1945, a total of 31 years.

In 1922 club membership was increased to 650, and they decided to stay open year round. In 1929 the Fred Wardell Caddy House was built, at a cost around $40,000.

During World War II, Club activities were limited due to gas rationing, and in 1945, Alex Ross retired as Club Professional. Golf star Horton Smith was hired as the Club Pro, and in 1959 was elected into the Professional Golfers Association Hall of Fame. In 1963 Smith died, and Walter Burkemo was hired.

The club addded new amenities: tennis courts, a cart garage, and a crystal dining room. Burkemo was succeeded by George Bayer. The current club pro is Josh Upson. The club also contains a pool for members, and sponsors a swim team.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Golf_Club)

Ross course designs tend to stress approach shot play and putting with some occasional short game.  Detroit GC appears to be no different considering last year's data.  The top contenders gained their strokes thru versatile iron play and short game.  The only issue in the projections is that last year the field was considerably weaker than this year's field.

The final critical hole is the par-4, 455 yard 18th hole.



The average Tour player will hit driver here and should have a target of about 2-4 yards right of the left fairway bunker.  Detroit is about 600-700 feet above sea level and with a bit of a tailwind more players can take it right over the left fairway bunker.  But if it's a headwind (from the Northeast) it makes the hole entirely more difficult to play.

Projected Winning Score: -23


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Bryson DeChambeau +650
Webb Simpson +1,100
Tyrrell Hatton +1,200
Sung-Jae Im +2,000
Victor Hovland +3,300


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Bubba Watson +4,000
Doc Redman +4,000
Adam Hadwin +5,000
Brian Stuard +10,000
Richy Werenski +30,000





3JACK

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Travelers Championship

Webb Simpson wins at Harbour Town:



Simpson once again used his excellent 'iron play and in' to win at Harbour Town.  I currently have Simpson at 108th out of 216 players in Driving Effectiveness, but as Harbour Town shows the ceiling is low in terms of gaining strokes off the tee due tot he tightness of the course.  And that played right into Simpson's hands.

***

The Tour returns to Hartford for the Travelers Championship



TPC River Highlands was founded in 1928 as Middletown Golf Club and became Edgewood Country Club in 1934. In the early 1980s it was bought by the PGA Tour. The golf course was redesigned to TPC standards by golf course architect Pete Dye, and reopened as the "TPC of Connecticut" in 1984. The course underwent further remodeling in 1989, this time by Bobby Weed in consultation with tour pros Howard Twitty and Roger Maltbie, and renamed the TPC at River Highlands.

The course is fairly well received by the players.  It's not the most awe inspiring track, but it lacks quirkiness and plays pretty fair.  It's a big low scoring event as the tee shots are wide open.

Most strokes at TPC River Highlands will come from either superior mid-to-long iron play or great driving from a long hitter who can consistently leave themselves with shorter approaches to the green.

The final critical hole on the course is the par-4, 17th hole that plays to 412 to the center of the green.




This is the most difficult driving hole and approach shot hole on the course and with the water and the fairly easy putting green it explains the strong deviation in scores.

Last year the average player in the field hit their tee shots 260 yards on this hole, so it's certainly a lay-up hole.  However, the data shows if the player can get hit something closer to 285 yards off the tee their expected scores drop on this hole.  This goes along with one of the findings in previous versions of Pro Golf Synopsis; Tour players tend to lay-up about 20-30 yards too short.

Using the 65/50 Rule from the 2019 Pro Golf Synopsis, the play is to get something that can carry roughly 270 yards off the tee and the target is a tree in the distance which overlays the left center of the fairway.


The importance of hitting it at least 270 yards is clear, the fairway is just about as wide from 270 yards as it is 260 yards, but the bunkers don't come into play as much as the approach shot will obviously be shorter in distance. 

Projected Winning Score: -20


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Bryson DeChambeau +1,200
Justin Thomas +1,200
Brooks Koepka +1,600
Bubba Watson +2,500
Patrick Cantlay +2,500
Abraham Ancer +2,800


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Collin Morikawa +3,300
Joaquin Niemann +5,000
Corey Conners +8,000
Dylan Fritelli +12,500




3JACK

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 RBC Heritage

Last week, Daniel Berger won the Charles Schwab Challenge at 40/1 odds.



Despite his victory, the big talk was with regards to Bryson DeChambeau who had bulked up and added substantial yardage off the tee.  DeChambeau had been discussing bulking up and adding yardage to his game for a while now.  His swing has noticeably changed and it's no longer the '1-Plane Swing'


The physique changes are noticeable as well.  He has worked with Chris Como to build up his ball speed up to 193 mph at Colonial.

I disagree with the notion of rolling back the golf ball because of DeChambeau's newly found speed.  He has specifically worked to achieve that speed and changing equipment rules every time somebody achieves new heights is a bad idea that will likely lead to too many equipment changes.  All the USGA and PGA Tour can do is give him a tip of the cap.

But the other question is if the speed is good for him.  A few years ago I posted on GolfWRX forums that I believed that there would be a player on Tour that would get up to 195 mph ball speed and use that to dominate the Tour off the tee, if not dominate the Tour as a whole.  This was widely scoffed at.  But the issue with that much speed really isn't so much accuracy off the tee as it is the ability to hit quality lay-up shots off the tee with good course management and the ability to control the launch and spin conditions with the irons. 

Also, many golfers don't realize that Long Drive competitors are often excellent golfers.  This concept that they can only hit the ball long is a great misnomer.  But if you had a player that had sound course management and was competent laying up off the tee and can control the launch and spin with their irons well there's no reason why they can't play to a 195 mph club speed.  And thus far, DeChambeau and his team have figured out those parameters.

***

The Tour returns to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head. The course was designed by Pete Dye in 1967 with the help of Jack Nicklaus.  Sawgrass gets more headlines as a Pete Dye course, but I think Harbour Town is the superior design.

This is mostly a mid-iron approach shot course that stresses accuracy off the tee and quality bunker play.  Most of the strokes gained/lost will come from the approach shots as it's difficult to gain a lot of strokes off the tee given how narrow the course is.  The course is generally very well received by the players

The final critical hole on the course is the 18th hole.  A 462 yard par-4. 



Most of the players will hit their tee shot 270-300 yards off the tee (last year the average driving distance on the hole was 292.4 yards).  The real treacherous part of the hole is the approach shot which hugs the hazard on the left and a difficult greenside bunker in front of the green.  The field will find the fairway ~85% of the time off, the tee and it's the 2nd easiest driving hole on the course...only to have the 3rd lowest GIR percentage.  The hole ends with the toughest green to putt on the course.

I expect the winning scores to get lower as I think they are giving the players a break with some of the conditions since they've been gone from the quarantine.

Projected Winning Score: -15

3JACK'S FAVORITES

Bryson DeChambeau +1,400
Justin Thomas +1,400
Xander Schauffele +1,400
Hideki Matsuyama +2,500
Justin Rose +2,800
Jordan Spieth +3,300
Daniel Berger +3,300

3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Sung-Jae Im +5,000
JT Poston +6,600
Joel Dahmen +6,600





3JACK

Monday, June 8, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge

After the delay in the Tour's schedule due to COVID-19, the Tour returns and is playing the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club.



As I announced on Twitter, due to the quarantine I will not be publishing a 2020 Pro Golf Synopsis at the end of the year. Not only has the Tour's schedule been messed up by the quarantine, I have been unable to conduct research for Pro Golf Synopsis due to the quarantine and being currently furloughed has forced me to conserve my expenses. And when I do come back to work, it's likely that I will be putting in extra hours to help get back on track and will not have time to make 2020 Pro Golf Synopsis.

Having said that, I am pleased to announce that when my regular work schedule returns I plan on creating a Web site with some great features for people to use as we head into re-starting 2021 Pro Golf Synopsis. This Web site will include DFS access, a podcast and a YouTube channel for all of your statistical analysis and thoughts on the PGA Tour and the game of golf.

***

Colonial Country Club was built in 1936 by Marvin Leonard and designed by John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell. It's still one of the longest lasting stops on the PGA Tour and is most notably known as 'Hogan's Alley' after Ben Hogan won the tournament five times and was later known a Mr. Hogan's tournament.

One of the main features of the course is the bent grass greens in an area where bent grass is not native to the area. Having grown up on bentgrass greens and then spending the second half of my golfing life on mostly bermuda grasses I find that there's still a lot of fallacies and mistruths with regards to the grasses.

Today there are numerous different strands of bermuda grass greens and some of them roll just as well as bentgrass greens.  The main difference is that the amount of care and resources it takes to maintain bermuda grass at that level is far greater than what it takes for bentgrass greens to grow well.  In the areas of the country where bentgrass is a native grass, you'd be amazed at how fast and smooth the greens can be on rinky dink courses that are severely under-funded.

The Red Stick Golf Club in Vero Beach, Florida was insistent on having bent grass greens in Florida years ago thinking that they could just throw money and resources and have bentgrass greens years ago.  In the end they found that it was an impossible venture when they could simply take less money and resources and get the best bermuda grass surfaces and have incredible greens.

Either way, the make %'s on Colonial's greens are high and the deviation in putting make % tends to be low.  That's due to Colonial's greens being rather flat in order to keep the bentgrass in reasonable enough condition.

Instead, Colonial Country Club is a ballstriker's course.  It's very narrow, but many players get intot he habit of laying up a little too often off the tee.  As Jamie Sadlowski and Jon Rahm have shown in recent years you can hit driver and hit it long off the tee and be very effective off the tee at Colonial.

But Colonial CC is a very heavy long approach shot course.  Particularly since it has smaller greens and with the elevations to some of the greens, a missed green in regulation can present some serious issues at converting the scrambling opportunity.

The big question here is which players are trending up or trending down.  In terms of projecting future performance, recency rules the roost on Tour.  The vast majority of winners on Tour did not miss the cut in the prior week's event and if they did play in the prior week there is a trend that they usually played pretty well (i.e. top-25 finish).  Since we have been off and don't have prior week's play to look at, we don't know who is trending up and who is trending down.


LAST CRITICAL HOLE ON THE COURSE

The last critical hole at Colonial CC over the past 5 years has been the par-4 9th hole.  The scorecard says it plays to 407 yards, but to the middle of the green it plays to roughly 398 yards.



The hole is usually the most difficult or second most difficult tee shot on the course as the average tee shot only goes about 260 yards and the field will find the fairway 46% of the time on average.  And about 12-15% of tee shots will find one of the fairway bunker.  This makes it one of the most difficult tee shots on any course on Tour.

Find the fairway is imperative here because the GIR % is usually around 75% on shots from the fairway.  From the left side of the fairway the GIR % is closer to 70% while the right side of the fairway that % jumps to 80%.  From the rough and fairway bunkers the green in regulation percentage drops to 40%.

The 9th is also one of the most difficult holes on the course around the green and with the putter.  About 7-9% of approach shots end up in the water and thus the critical nature of the hole stems from the top performers being able to make par and the rest of the field making bogey or double bogey on the hole.


PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -14


3JACK"S FAVORITES

Jon Rahm +1,200
Justin Thomas +1,600
Bryson DeChambeau +2,200
Xander Schauffele +2,800
Rickie Fowler +2,800
Sung-Jae Im +2,800


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Hideki Matsuyama +3,300*
Collin Morikawa +4,000
Marc Leishman +4,000
Joel Dahmen +8,000
Tom Hoge +15,000

*Matsuyama was listed on Bovada sports as starting the event, but was found to not be starting the event and was replaced by Sung-Jae Im.



3JACK

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 The PLAYERS Championship

Tyrell Hatton won the Arnold Palmer Invitational:


The past couple of weeks have seen high scores on Tour and it made me think of the issues the USGA and the PGA Championship have had over the past few years whether it be super low scores or the 3rd round debacle at Shinnecock.

By looking at these courses and the data it's pretty simple to see...scores rise when the course is firm and there is an ample supply of rough.  But in order to not make the course a debacle like Shinnecock and Chambers Bay were, there's an issue...particularly with the USGA...in getting the course to play firm, but fair.

Usually what occurs in the US Open is that the course plays way too firm and then almost nothing holds the greens, even quality strikes from the fairway or tee box.  The other issue with the US Open is that since it is a big field, firm greens tend to get very bumpy due to the foot traffic.  I think in this case the USGA may be better served narrowing the fairways, lengthening the rough and firming up the fairways while keeping some softness of the greens.


***

This week the Tour plays their largest purse event of the year, The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.


I was just at TPC Sawgrass today.  As a fan (and golf statistician), I tend to prefer the experience at the Arnold Palmer Invitational as that is the ultimate in fan-friendly tournaments outside of The Masters.  API is a very casual experience where you can get right close to the players and can easily walk to different holes and watch tee shots and incoming approach shots.  It's sorta like going to Wrigley Field and Sawgrass is more like going to Dodgers Stadium.

The best thing that happened to The PLAYERS Championship was moving it from May to March.  Moving it to March means more ideal weather where it can easily get into the 90's in May.  The course is more difficult to keep in tip-top shape in May (many of the greens get killed by the heat) and it's unlikely that there will be significant rainfall in March whereas May is when those infamous summer Florida storms of the century tend to occur.

The course is in immaculate condition.  It's playing much softer than Bay Hill and PGA National.  I'm sure that people will give the Tour flak for 'softening up the course', but with some rain the past couple of days and then the humidity being at 70-80% and the winds under 12 mph there's not much that could be done.

TPC Sawgrass is a unique design because almost every tee shot is a dogleg and they have an equal amount of dogleg rights as they have dogleg lefts.  I'm not a big fan of players trying to actively work the ball both ways on their shots and in reality it does not occur that often.  But the doglegs both right and left mean that the players have to hit it very straight.  This is not a course for the Bubba Watson's and Brendon de Jonge's of the world that hit large curving tee shots.

The other unique part of the design is that the front nine is very driving oriented with difficult drives on #2, #4, #5, #6, #7 and #9.  But the back nine is more approach shot oriented with difficult approaches on #11, #13, #14, #17 and #18.  To win at Sawgrass, the player is going to have to drive it effectively and do it more with accuracy than power and be able to hit long approach shots well and make some putts and save themselves from disaster.

The final critical hole on the course is the 18th, but everybody wants to talk about the famous 17th hole.


What's interesting about 17 is that it has the closest proximity to the cut on any par-4 or par-3 on the course. But it's the most difficult approach on the course in terms of strokes lost due to the high frequency of shots that end up in the water. typically, about 10% of the shots for the event will end up in the water. However, I did get to witness Tommy Fleetwood have ace the 17th today.

Projected Winning Score: -11


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Rory McIlroy +750
Jon Rahm +1,200
Bryson DeChambeau +2,000
Tommy Fleetwood +2,200
Patrick Cantlay +2,200
Sung-Jae Im +2,500


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Tyrrell Hatton +4,000
Daniel Berger +6,000
Billy Horschel +8,000
Shane Lowry +9,000




3JACK

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Sung-Jae Im gets his first Tour victory at the Honda Classic:



Im was the #4 player on my rankings to win and was one of my favorites to win at 28/1 odds.  He played more events than anybody on Tour last season and continues to play a heavy schedule.  it's probably not a bad move for him given that he's young and he can determine what courses suit his game and eye the best, but he should want to cut back his schedule a bit in the near future.


***

This week the Tour comes back to the homeland...the Arnold Palmer Invitation at Bay Hill.


The predecessor to the API was the Citrus Open and that used to be held at Rio Pinar Country Club.  I was a former member at Rio Pinar.  They moved the event to Bay Hill and Mr. Palmer re-designed the course while Rio Pinar became frozen in time and now the Rio Pinar area has fallen on hard times while Bay Hill is in the trendy Dr. Phillips neighborhood of Orlando.

This is still a popular stop with Tour players as they generally like the course and so many players either live in Orlando (or used to live in Orlando) or they live in Jupiter which is about a little over two hours away.  Now that the event is the week prior to Sawgrass and has a fairly large purse ($9.3 million) it's kind of a no-brainer to play the event.

The weather and conditions can dramatically change the course.  If it's soft, it plays really soft because much of the course sits in a bowl.  And when that happens it greatly fits bombers because the course is fairly long and they can keep more tee shots in the fairway.  But, if it's crusty the course starts to sway more towards shorter and more accurate players.

Last year the course played moderately soft until the last day where it became very firm and Francesco Molinari, a shorter but accurate driver of the ball who greatly improved his short game put up a stellar final round to win the event.


At its heart, Bay Hill is still a fairly long iron course and the 3-wood certainly comes into play quite often.

This week it is supposed to get breezy and the course is already playing a bit firm to begin with.  So I expect scores to rise and more shorter hitters to get into contention. 

ON a side note, I always recommend people that have never been to a Tour event or had a bad experience going to a Tour event to give Bay Hill a try as outside of the majors and Sawgrass, it's arguably the best even to go to on Tour from a fan-friendly experience.  Scottsdale has its own carzy experience and that looks incredible.  But from a fan friendly experience Bay Hill is as good as it gets with easy parking during practice rounds, the bleachers and chair seating right behind the driving range, the practice green so close that you can almost touch the players, the great merchandise booths and the course is quite easy to walk thru and go to different holes.

The final critical hole on the course is the par-4 18th. 


It plays to 460 yards.  The fairway is pretty wide (35 yards wide) which is a smart design with form following function because not only is the approach shot difficult, but the tee shot is blind and it's often difficult to get a good target to aim at thus the wider fairway suits the hole nicely.  Missing the fairway to the right can be death about 50% of the time.  Missing it left and there are still a lot of shots available.

It has led to a lot of incredible winning shots over the years from Robert Gamez's eagle, to all of the crazy putts Tiger has made on the hole over the years to Matt Every's big putt in 2015, Rory's big putt in 2018 and Molinari's monster putt last year.

Projected Winning Score: -8


3JACK'S FAVORITES
Rory McIlroy +500
Tommy Fleetwood +1,400
Bryson DeChambeau +1,800
Hideki Matsuyama +2,200
Sung-Jae Im +2,800
Jason Day +2,800


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS
Collin Morikawa +5,000
Billy Horschel +6,600
Kevin Kisner +8,000
Joel Dahmen +10,000





3JACK

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Honda Classic

Patrick Reed won in Mexico City last week:



Reed won at 40/1 odds.  And WGC-Mexico is quickly becoming one of my favorite events on Tour as between the high altitude at the trickiness of the course with great crowds, it's making for a great event to watch every year.  Unfortunately, Reed was ranked 12th on my list of players in the field that could win at Golf de Chapultec.


***


This week the Tour comes to south Florida for the Honda Classic.



The Honda Classic started as the Jackie Gleason tournament in 1972.  From 1972 to 2007 the Honda Classic changed venues from the Inverrary Club (excellent), to TPC Eagle Trace (now a dump) to Weston Hills and then CC Mirasol.  Due to those clubs being private at the time (Eagle Trace is open to the public) and the event drawing more fans they could never quite find the venue they wanted until PGA National came along.

The course is a Nicklaus design and it's always in fantastic shape.  It is difficult because it is long, often windy and often very soft which is an odd combination to see.

The course usually gets fair reviews from the players.  They like the fact that it's usually in pristine condition, but it's a lot of 'Florida Golf' with water coming in to play on a lot of holes and if the winds kick into action and your game isn't really top notch, it can make for an un-fun experience.

This is strictly a long iron play golf course.  The rest of the game, outside of performing poorly at them, will likely not play a large role which is very typical from a Nicklaus design.

The final critical hole of the event is the par-5 18th.


It plays to about 555 yards.  The key is for the player to hit a good drive about 290+ yards in the fairway.  And if the wind is cooperating (or not interfering), then to go for the green because it's reachable.  What's interesting is players are better off missing the fairway left, even if it ends up in the bunker, than they are missing right off the tee.

The green is much more difficult to hit wedge shots into than it looks and it's a difficult green to putt on.  Especially that Sunday center right location as that is one of the very toughest putting locations on the entire course.

Projected Winning Score: -9


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Brooks Koepka +1,000
Rickie Fowler +1,200
Tommy Fleetwood +2,000
Justin Rose +2,500
Victor Hovland +2,800
Sung-Jae Im +2,800
Shane Lowry +3,300


3JACK'S DARKHORSE PICKS

Joaquin Niemann +5,000
Harris English +6,000
Tom Hoge +12,500





3JACK

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 WGC Mexico

Adam Scott won last week's Genesis Open.



Riviera played a little more difficult towards the weekend that originally thought.  Scott was ranked my 18th best player to win in the field.  I considered taking him, but fell in love with taking long shots like Sepp Stracka (MC'd), Corey Conners (MC'd) and Joaquin Niemann (MC'd).

There's a decent correlation between performance at Riviera and subsequent performance at Augusta in April, so that bodes well for Scott.  Also will be interesting to see what Bryson DeChambeau will do at August with his work on club speed training as DeChambeau finished 5th at Riviera and was the second most effective driver last week.  He was also 3rd in driving distance.


***

This week the Tour heads to Mexico City for WGC-Mexico tournament.




The event is played at Club de Golf Chapultepec which is at 7,800 feet above sea level.  It was designed by Willie and Alex Smith with a re-design by Percy Clifford in 1972. 

It's certainly a ballstriker's golf course and plays to those that hit it long and strike their irons well.  Most Tour players I've talked to like the course, but you would like it as well with no cut and drives easily carrying 300 yards.

I wrote about the findings and the radar data of the altitude changes in 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis.  In essence, the altitude causes the ball to not only fly longer, but flatter.  And players started to put more spin and launch on the ball.  I can understand that on approach shots and trying to get greens to hold, but off the tee the increased spin was counterproductive.

Here's a look at the weather this week:



Projected Winning Score: -17


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Rory McIlroy +600
Dustin Johnson +800
Jon Rahm +1,000
Justin Thomas +1,100
Adam Scott +2,000
Hideki Matsuyama +2,000
Tommy Fleetwood +2,200
Bryson DeChambeau +2,500




3JACK

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Genesis Open

Nick Taylor had a wire-to-wire victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.


Taylor was at 200/1 odds and was ranked 43rd on my list of probable winners. But Pebble Beach once again proved that it’s still very much a putter’s course. Taylor ranked 38th in Strokes Gained – Putting last year and is currently 60th this year.


***

Now the Tour returns to one of my favorite Tour stops, The Genesis Open at Riviera CC.


LA has so many incredible private clubs with not only Riviera, but the newly renovated Hillcrest CC, Bel-Air, Sherwood, Virginia, MountainGate, Wood Ranch, Wilshire and numerous others. The signature of private golf in LA is these big, broad elevated tees right near the clubhouse on the first tee and it just never seems to get old for me.

The courses are very much like the vibe of the city, very laid back and informal. You’re not sweating out drives that could easily end up in a hazard like you do in Florida, nor are you dealing with ferocious winds of Texas or the waste areas of Arizona. And even though the clubs are built with housing surrounding it, it’s usually amazingly peaceful as people have other things going on besides blaring music and swimming in their pools while you’re out golfing.

The city is eclectic as well. I find it fascinating of the vastly different cultures that reside in the LA metropolitan area. People from the valley are vastly different from people living on the beach. And even people on the beach, in say Venice are very different from people living in say Manhattan Beach. And all of those people are very different from people living in Hollywood and Burbank which is a different group of people from those living in Beverly Hills who are extremely different from those living in say, Pasadena.

Pacific Palisades is usually very quiet and looks much like small town, upper middle class America although most of the residents make very high incomes. It’s the type of place where you could park your car and take a nice casual walk thru the area on the sidewalk and it be very peaceful.

That’s one of the reasons why I usually take a vacation to LA almost every Spring. It’s fairly cheap airfare at usually $200 roundtrip. LAX probably has the most inexpensive car rentals of any airport in the country and I can stay over in South Bay which is only 15 minutes from LAX. And there’s always things to do besides play golf. I plan on getting over there in May and work with my man, George Gankas, on my golf swing.


***

Riviera is great event because there’s a good correlation between winners at Riviera and how well they perform at The Masters. There’s some similarities between the two courses in that there’s a high 3-putt percentage and much of the strokes gained/lost are on long approach shots. And it also helps to have some distance at Riviera.

The 3-putt percentage is due Riviera having a low make % in general due to the old school greens with large slopes, but being much larger than your typical old school greens. And given the difficulty of the approaches, it often means a lot of long birdie putts.

While the final critical hole on the golf course is the 18th, the hole that will get the most attention is the short par-4 10th hole.



It only plays to 315 yards, but it really plays more like 290 yards with the elevated tee. In the past, the green was so firm that the best play was to go for the green when the pin was in the middle or in the front left location and then lay-up left if the pin was in the back right.

In recent years the green has softened considerably and now the best play is to aim for the left front edge of the green with a driver regardless of pin location. If the golfer goes long and doesn’t feel comfortable hitting a flop to the back right pin location, they can simply chip to the center-front of the green and try to 2-putt from 50+ feet.

There is no chance of rain this week with winds projected to be under 7 mph. Temperatures should have highs of 70 degrees which is very typical in LA this time of the year.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -15


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Rory McIlroy +800
Justin Thomas +1,000
Jon Rahm +1,000
Patrick Cantlay +2,000
Xander Schauffele +2,200
Hideki Matsuyama +2,800


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Bryson DeChambeau +5,000
Joaquin Niemann +8,000
Corey Conners +10,000
Sepp Straka +40,000




3JACK

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Webb Simpson won the Waste Management Phoenix Open last week:




Simpson was one of my projected winner’s picks at 14/1 odds. It goes to show how the changes to the design of TPC Scottsdale have allowed shorter hitters to have a chance to win there. I also projected the winning score as well (-17)

While Simpson has excellent performance metrics, he is usually the one guy on Tour that I find consistently utilizes the best on-course strategy and playing holes that are in line with what the numbers project. He’s a fascinating player given his swing with a severely cupped (left wrist extension) at the top of the swing and an open club face at p6 and can still strike the ball extremely well.



***

This week the Tour returns to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.




Pebble Beach Golf Links was designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant in 1919 and then extensively re-designed by H. Chandler Egan. It was also renovated and re-designed by Alister MacKenzie, Robert Hunter, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer over the decades.

This is the last of the multiple course events on Tour for the time being (thank god). The cut will be after 54-holes as each player will play Pebble, Spyglass and Monterey Peninsula in the first three rounds. Those that make the cut will then play Pebble again on Sunday.


In general, the feedback I get from Tour players is that they enjoy the courses, but the Pro-Am makes for a giant cluster and super long rounds. The TV footage is usually horrible because of players playing the three different courses and inevitably a few players will get in contention and you never get to see them hit a shot until Sunday.


The real allure of the event on TV is Pebble itself (although the other courses are beautiful, you just don’t get to see them that much). The secondary allure was the celebrity amateurs playing the event. Most notably Jack Lemmon and Clint Eastwood. Now, the Pro-Am is mostly filled with corporate executives that most people could not pick out of a lineup and are about as personable as learning about corporate stock derivatives.


Anyway, putting is a big deal at Pebble Beach. It usually has the lowest make percentages on Tour and has the slowest greens as well. So much for the theory that slower greens mean better putting. The 3-putt percentage is not that high there because the greens are about half the size of the modern Tour course designs.


The greens have steep slopes and thus they need to be made slow in order to keep the ball on the green, particularly when the famous Pebble wind comes around. Thus, this is the course that many good putters have an advantage at.


The make %’s have improved on the course in recent years. This is due to better ownership that has done a much better job with the conditioning of the course. It’s in its best shape in decades.


Here’s a look at the weather forecast for the week.



So it will be dry, but cool. As I’ve explained in previous versions of Pro Golf Synopsis, my research shows that scores start to rise when the winds get 12 mph or faster. My guess is that the winner will likely come from playing Monterey on Saturday as that is the easiest course of the three courses to play.

Projected Winning Score: -17


The final critical hole at Pebble is the 575 yard par-5 14th hole.




The diagram doesn’t do the hole justice as you’re hitting to an elevated fairway that makes for a blind tee shot.

There’s also trees up by the green and they reek havoc on approach wedge shots.

This is a severely sloped green and they usually have a Sunday flag location front left. It not only makes for a difficult approach, but a very fast putt as it slopes very downward from there.



The winner could very well be the player that can manage to make 2 birdies on this hole.

3JACK’S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +600
Patrick Cantlay +1,000
Brandt Snedeker +2,200
Matt Kuchar +2,500
Graeme McDowell +3,300


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Adam Hadwin +6,600
Vaughn Taylor +8,000
Nick Watney +10,000
Brian Stuard +20,000
Peter Malnati +40,000






3JACK

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Last week, Marc Leishman found his way back to the winner's circle with a victory at Torrey Pines:



Leishman was at 50/1 odds to win and ranked 31st in my list of probable winners.  If you read 2019 Pro Golf Synopsis you would know that Leishman ranked 1st in Red Zone Play (175-225 yards) in the 2018-2019 season.  His struggles off the tee were due to his strong right miss bias and it appears he has worked that out. 

Jon Rahm was at 8/1 odds and finished in second place.  I had him at 18th in my picks list.  I was rooting for Ryan Palmer who was one of my picks at 50/1 odds, but a final day 77 blew him out of the water.


***

This week the Tour comes to stadium golf with the famous 16th hole:



Personally, I love the scene.  It goes against golf's nature, but the scene is something to behold and there's nothing wrong with it happening once a year.  

In fact, if every tournament had this...while against golf's nature...it would be good for golf in the long run because it means more people are watching golf and more people will get interested in the game and supply their discretionary income towards the game.

But, what's funny about the tournament is that the 16th hole is a very bland hole and the course isn't very well liked by Tour players.  But the atmosphere is off the charts and that makes Tour players want to play the event.  

The old design greatly favored bombers and players that hit it long could just bomb it anywhere with little recourse.  The re-design got a bit goofy for my tastes, but it took the reckless bombers advantage from them and made it more of an irons play golf course

You may also recall from 2019 Pro Golf Synopsis that TPC Scottsdale is one of the courses where players playing the event from the previous week have one of the largest drop-offs in Strokes Gained - Putting.  Thus, I would be a little averse to taking a player that played Torrey Pines last week.

Here's a look at the weather this week:


Projected Winning Score: -17


While the 16th hole gets all of the attention, the 17th hole is far more critical in separating the contenders from the rest of the field.


Only about 2-4% of the field will lay-up off the tee.  About 10% will find the water.  Usually though they find the water left.  Rarely will a player find the water behind the green.

The most difficult location will be the back left location.  


However, it's still a very low scoring hole and the back left location is only slightly more difficult than the other pin locations.


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Justin Thomas +900
Hideki Matsuyama +1,400
Webb Simpson +1,400
Rickie Fowler +1,600
Xander Schauffele +1,800


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Collin Morikawa +3,300
Victor Hovland +5,000
Byeong-Hun An +6,600
Corey Conners +8,000
Andrew Landry +10,000




3JACK

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Farmers Insurance Open

Last week, Andrew Landry won his second Tour event with a victory at Palm Springs.


Landry is an interesting golfer as he finished in the top-10 in both Driving Effectiveness and Strokes Gained – Putting in 2016, but failed to keep his Tour card due to performing poorly in virtually every other metric that season. He then regained his Tour card in 2018 and I projected him as one of my Players on the Rise in my annual GolfWRX column (http://www.golfwrx.com/453676/pga-tour-players-on-the-rise-and-the-decline-in-2018/) and he ended up winning at Valero that season, a tournament that I had him as one of my picks to win, at 150/1 odds.

His iron play and short game around the green improved greatly while his driving and putting dipped slightly in 2018 and he was able to have an excellent season finishing 36th in FedEx points. Then in 2019 he became a pretty good iron player overall but started to see bigger declines in his putting and driving and his play dropped even more as he finished 96th in FedEx points.

Now he goes out and wins at Palm Springs at 200/1 odds. Strangely enough, I had Landry as my 64th best pick to win Palm Springs with 2nd place finisher, Abraham Ancer, as my 65th best pick to win at Palm Springs.


***

This week the Tour heads to the longest course on Tour, Torrey Pines.



Torrey Pines was built in 1957 and designed by William Bell. Bell built a lot of famous golf clubs in Southern California and you can see the influence he had on course design in the area just like the influence that Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones had on Upstate NY golf courses.

Torrey Pines is owned by the city of San Diego. Residents of San Diego can play the course at very inexpensive rates of less than $50. Non Residents are looking at somewhere of $150+ for a round of golf.

The Tour will play both the North and South course. The cut will be after the 2nd round (instead of after the 3rd round like they did in Palm Springs). Each player will play one round at the North Course and then one round at the South course in the first two rounds. The weekend will consist of the golfers playing just the South course both times.

The North course is substantially easier than the South course as it typically plays about -1.6 strokes easier than the South course. The South course is difficult due to narrow fairways that are about 24-26 yards wide instead of Tour standard of 28-30 yards wide. The rough is not overly difficult, but the distance of the course presents a problem.

Normally, Torrey Pines has the second lowest make percentages on the greens of any course on Tour. Only Pebble Beach has a lower make percentage. This is due to big time undulations of the greens on the south course. The greens are a bit slower due to their undulations and they use Poa Annua grass.

Here’s a look at the weather forecast via Weather.com:



Humidity is expected to be fairly high in the 70% - 80% range. That should negate the effect of distance loss due to the weather being cooler. Distances off the tee will be about how firm the course is, but Torrey is one of the lowest hit fairway % courses on Tour and thus the ball will not roll as far on many of the holes.

It’s a long approach shot course that requires good driving and good play with the 3-wood.

The last critical hole on the course is the last hole…the 18th. It’s a hole that can play to 570-yards as a par-5, but last year they played it to 540 yards, making it much more reachable, particularly with a tailwind coming from the south.

It’s a very birdie-able hole if the golfer can hit a good drive in the fairway. But, players tend to get antsy when they hit a good drive that finds the rough due to the water in front of the green.



A shot in the rough can also make the lay-up shot more difficult. On Sunday they will place the flag in the front left location.



Players hitting wedge approach shots from the fairway will need to land the ball past the hole and then have it spin back to the hole. If the ball does not land far enough past the hole on the front-left pin location, the ball could easily spin back into the water.

If a player has an approach wedge from the rough, it’s almost impossible to get the ball close to the hole on that front-left pin location.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -13


3JACK’S FAVORITES
Rory McIlroy +600
Tiger Woods +1,100
Xander Schauffele +1,600
Justin Rose +1,800
Hideki Matsuyama +2,000
Rickie Fowler +2,000
Gary Woodland +2,500
Tony Finau +2,500


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS
Joaquin Niemann +5,000
Ryan Palmer +5,000
Billy Horschel +6,600





3JACK




3JACK

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

What To Look For: 2019 American Express

The Tour returns to Palm Springs for the American Express, formerly the Bob Hope Classic:


The American Express does not have a designation. It's not a 'Classic' or an 'Open' or 'Championship.' It's just 'The American Express.' But, they are keeping the tournament alive so they can call it whatever they want.

As the Bob Hope Classic it was a nice, little, quaint event.  It didn't have the star power in the Pro-Am like Pebble Beach, but it always felt visually appealing as usually the weather cooperated.  It just seemed 'pleasant' unlike Pebble Beach where vicious wind and rain could make the event look miserable to play in.

Hope was a golfing fanatic known for having a hook.  Here's some footage of him playing back in the day:



They should refer to this as a 'shootout' as that is what it will be with this being usually the lowest scoring event on Tour.  Not a lot of Red Zone (175-225 yards) shots and more Yellow Zone shots (125-175 yards).  To top things off, it usually has the nearest proximity to the cup from the Yellow Zone and on shots around the green.  The greens are fairly flat and very receptive and it's pretty wide open.  It's about who can get hot with the irons and the putter that can win.

Too many different courses to come up with a critical hole, so I will pass on the analysis this week:

Projected Winning Score: -24


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Sung-Jae Im +2,000
Francesco Molinari +3,300
Jason Kokrak +4,000


3JACK"S DARK HORSE PICKS

Brian Harman +5,000
Harris English +5,000
Andrew Putnam +6,600
Nate Lashley +12,500
Talor Gooch +12,500
Peter Malnati +20,000
Tom Hoge +20,000







3JACK

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Sony Open

The Tour returns to Waialae Country Club for the 2020 Sony Open:



This is one of my favorite times of the year for the Tour as the ‘offseason’ is officially over and you can only dream of what it would be like to be a Tour player that gets to play Kapalua, Waialae and then Palm Springs in January. Then they are off to Torrey Pines, followed by the hoopla and ballyhoo of stadium golf in Scottsdale. It’s also a time of the season and with the course designs where unknowns and journeymen that get rejuvenated tend to flourish or a top player can establish their dominance for the rest of season. And given that this is a Ryder Cup year, it all becomes even more important.

Waialae Country Club is located in the south eastern part of Honolulu. It’s a Seth Raynor design playing to a par-72 and roughly 7,125 yards. It routinely has one of the lowest hit fairway percentages for the field as the average will hover around 50%. This is due to narrow fairways (roughly 26 yards wide) and the wind. Since it’s a Raynor design, there is quite a few tee shots that force the golfer to lay-up off the tee.

Despite the low hit fairway percentage, the average hit GIR % is around 70%. The greens are fairly receptive and if the golfer can find the fairway, the approaches are not overly difficult.

There is a polarizing opinion on Tour about Waialae. Many players love, others hate it. From the vibe I’ve received about the course is that those that don’t like it feels like it favors the shorter hitters too much and there’s too much luck involved due to the wind and narrow fairways. Those that love the course seem to really love the old-school design flavor to it The other factor in all of this is the expense and experience of Hawaii. It’s a pricey trip to make to Hawaii, but others will embrace it and bring their families over.

Waialae is mostly about the versatility of approach shots in terms of being able to precisely hit wedge shots as well as mid-length approach shots. Driving is also important here, but good luck in projecting who will drive well here given the wind and narrow fairways.

The last critical hole on the course is the par-5 18th hole.



Last year the hole played to 4.51 strokes on average. This was despite the field only finding the fairway 29.8% of the time. The big key is for the player to hit it at least the distance that is between the right fairway bunker and the 2nd left fairway bunker. That is roughly about 285 yards. Players that the ball to that distance, even if they found the fairway bunker, saw their projected scores drop dramatically.

Using The 65/50 Rule as described in 2019 Pro Golf Synopsis (purchase here 2019 PRO GOLF SYNOPSIS), the target off the tee for the average Tour player should be just left of the tree that is highlighted by the yellow box. With rollout, it’s easy to see why the fairway is often missed on this hole.


Projected Winning Score: -22


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Justin Thomas +500
Collin Morikawa +1,600
Hideki Matsuyama +1,600
Joaquin Niemann +2,500


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Abraham Ancer +4,000
Corey Conners +4,000
Kevin Kisner +4,000
Chez Reavie +5,000
Brian Stuard +6,600
Emiliano Grillo +8,000






3JACK

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Update 1/5/2020 ***NEW*** 2019 Pro Golf Synopsis E-Book on Sale!

I am pleased to announce that the 2019 version of Pro Golf Synopsis is now on sale for only $10.99!

The book is available for purchase by clicking the link below:

PURCHASE THE 2019 PRO GOLF SYNOPSIS E-BOOK

Pro Golf Synopsis is the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf and the indispensable to the 2019 Golf Season.  It has 354 pages of valuable information and statistical insight involved with the game. 

This year's version of the book has detailed findings from launch monitor research data collected from low handicaps and Touring professionals over the past three years.  It also involves a new Statistically Based Golf Strategy to help golfer's better prepare their rounds and lower their scores.

There is also the 188 player-by-player analysis of the 2019 season. 

Here is the table of contents (click on the picture for a larger view)