Monday, October 5, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Shriners Hospital for Children Open

Sergio Garcia won the Sanderson Farms Championship

Sergio put in a dominating performance from tee to green. Here's how he ranked at Sanderson Farms (out of 144 players):

Driving Effectiveness: 2nd
Green Zone (75-125 yards): 12th
Yellow Zone (125-175 yards): 37th
Red Zone (175-225 yards): 15th

I feel these alternate field events should be considered by more full-time Tour players.  It's a good way to take advantage of weaker fields and gain valuable FedEx points and at least get into a groove early into the season.  And if you win, like Sergio did, you've solidified a spot at Kapalua which is usually a 30-man event which greatly increases your odds of finishing in the top-5 and there's no cut so it's an automatic pay day.

And this may make Sergio a good pick for the Masters in November.


This week the Tour heads back to Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin for the Shriners Hospital for Children Open:

The inaugural event occurred in 1983 as the Panasonic Las Vegas Pro Celebrity Classic which was won by Fuzzy Zoeller.  It was a 90-hole event held at Las Vegas Country Club.  Since then it moved to other venues but has stuck with TPC Summerlin since 2001.  

TPC Summerlin is a private club designed by Bobby Weed.  Weed has designed numerous courses in Florida and personally I've enjoyed his designs.  Most of the players' opinions I've heard on the course are positive, but I'm sure that is partly due to many Tour players either residing in the Las Vegas area or in nearby Scottsdale.  Las Vegas has become a common residence for Tour players in recent years because of the weather, lack of state income tax and the tremendous private courses and facilities offered to them.

The course plays to a par-71 for the tournament at 7,255 yards at 2,700 feet above sea level.  Driving does have its importance here, but most strokes are gained and lost on mid-length approach shots. TPC Summerlin usually has the most difficult or one of the most difficult short game shots around the green on the entire Tour schedule.

The projected final Critical Hole on the course is the par-4, 442 yards, 12th hole.

There's not a lot to this hole other than approach shots can land in the water. The drive isn't even that difficult, but if a player finds the fairway bunker off the tee they can be looking at bogey/double bogey scenarios compared to a good drive down the middle that looks at birdie/par scenarios.

Projected Winning Score: -23


Bryson DeChambeau +700
Webb Simpson +1,000
Patrick Cantlay +2,000
Hideki Matsuyama +2,000
Collin Morikawa +2,000
Matthew Wolff +2,500


Sergio Garcia +4,000
Stewart Cink +12,500
Adam Schenk +15,000
MJ Daffue +20,000


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship

Hudson Swafford wins the Corales Puntacana Club & Resort Championship:

That makes for Swafford's 2nd career victory on Tour.  Unfortunately, Corales Puntacana does not have ShotLink so we cannot further dissect his victory.


The Tour heads to it's second 'alternate field event' with the Sanderson Farms this week:

The Sanderson Farms Championship has been a tournament on Tour, under different names, since 1994.  In 2014 the event moved to the Country Club of Jackson, a John Fought design.

Fought supposedly designed the course with a Donald Ross flavor to it.  Ross designs are known for usually making the golfer use every club in their bag which calls for some lay-up tee shots.  But most of the stress is on approach shots and short game around the green when the greens are missed.

The course gets decent, but nonplussed reviews from Tour players I've talked to.  Statistically it does stress longer approach shots and tee shots.  Since they started playing the event at CC Jackson the winners have been Nick Taylor, Peter Malnati, Cody Gribble, Ryan Armour, Cameron Champ and Sebastian Munoz.  So the winner's of the event haven't exactly become premier Tour players, although Champ and Munoz show a lot of promise.

The final critical hole is the 331 yard par-4 15th hole.

This is a reachable driving hole.  You will get a lot more players laying up off the tee in the first two rounds than one would expect, but the the play is to go for the green and the target should be the center section of the front left part of the green.

Projected Winning Score: -21


Sung-Jae Im +1,200
Will Zalatoris +2,000
Sam Burns +2,500
Doc Redman +3,000


Adam Long +3,500
Emiliano Grillo +5,000
Lucas Glover +6,000
Tom Lewis +7,000
Jhonattan Vegas +10,000
Will Gordon +11,000


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Corales Puntacana Championship

 Bryson DeChambeau won the US Open with a dominating performance on Sunday:

Here's how my picks finished at the US Open:


Dustin Johnson +800 (t-6th)
Jon Rahm +950 (t-23rd)
Justin Thomas +1,200 (t-8th)
Collin Morikawa +1,600 (MC)
Webb Simpson +2,500 (t-8th)
Daniel Berger +2,800 (t-34th)
Patrick Cantlay +2,800 (t-43rd)


Tony Finau +3,300 (t-8th)
Tyrrell Hatton +4,000 (MC)
Brian Harman +25,000 (t-38th)

A lot has been made out of DeChambeau only hitting 41% of the fairways, but that was actually higher than the field average.  So when some people discuss that Bryson 'played the math correctly' the main factor was that he not only hit the ball further, but didn't lose anything to the field in terms of accuracy off the tee. 

But where the math really played out in Bryson's favor had more to do with the typical penalty for missing the fairway at Winged Foot.  Unlike a TPC Sawgrass or a Harbour Town where missing the fairway could result in a shot in the trees or a shot that ends up in a hazard, the penalty for missing the fairway at Winged Foot was very deep rough.  But it was deep rough for anybody who missed the fairway and the field missed the fairway the majority of the time.  Combine that with a low standard deviation in hit fairway percentage (meaning that there wasn't a large variance in fairways hit throughout the field), Winged Foot could favor long hitters if they could somehow manage to find only 19 fairways for the entire week.  

When they missed the fairway, they were no more likely to take a 2-shot penalty than the shorter hitters in the field.  And thus the longer hitters were gaining considerable strokes on the field when they found the fairway while losing minimal amount of strokes when missing the fairway.

I had Bryson as the 12th best pick for Winged Foot. He was hurt a bit by his short game around the green play and short game around the green was a factor at Winged Foot.  Even for Bryson who may have had the best performance of his career around the green.  But when he was hitting it so long and still finding more fairways than the average player in the field and putted well, he was using the Power-to-Putting Principle perfectly to a tee and it provided him with a great advantage.  And since Bryson's biggest weakness is from 100-150 yards (188th last year) and Winged Foot didn't feature many of those shots the course very much played into his hands because he allowed it to do so.


The Tour is playing an alternate field event this week with the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic.  Graeme McDowell won the event last year.

Corales Puntacana is a Tom Fazio design playing to 7,600+ yards for the tournament tees.  I haven't heard a lot from the pros on how they feel about the course, but usually Fazio courses are well received.  The other part of Fazio's designs is that he doesn't put himself in a box in terms of what he favors unlike other designers (Nicklaus stresses approach shots, Dye stresses the tee ball, Donald Ross stresses iron play and short game, etc).

The wind will likely play a major factor here and thus the course is about keeping the ball in play off the tee, hitting quality approach shots from long and short distance and because the average GIR % to winning score is low, there are plenty of important short game shots around the green.

The last critical hole on the course is 501 yard par-4 18th hole:

Most players in the field will play the hole like this off the tee:

A Bryson DeChambeau or Cameron Champ type could play it like this:

Of course, the direction of the wind will impact everything on that tee shot which is why it's the last critical hole on the course.

Projected Winning Score: -20


Will Zalatoris +1,200
Luke List +3,300
Charles Howell III +3,300
Henrik Stenson +3,300


Brian Stuard +5,000
Branden Grace +5,000
Kyle Stanley +6,600
Rob Oppenheim +10,000
Akshay Bhatia +10,000
Bill Haas +15,000


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 US Open

 The US Open comes to September and the return of Winged Foot:

The club was founded in 1921, by a group largely made up of members of The New York Athletic Club, and opened in June 1923. Winged Foot's name and logo are taken directly from a sculpture in the lobby floor of the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.[3]

Winged Foot was designed by AW Tillinghast and is just another masterpiece in his collection of designs.  The West Course will play to 7,447 yards...but at a par-70.

The feedback I've received from the players is that they respect the course and it's a great course, but they wouldn't want to play it more than once a year due to the incredible difficulty.  And the course conditions are not ridiculous either.

The big thing about the course as like Bethpage Black, the fairways are very narrow.  They usually run about 67-70 feet wide.  A typical PGA Tour stop will have most fairways at 84-90 feet wide and on the LPGA it's closer to 90-99 feet wide.  Combine that with heavy rough that makes getting from tee-to-green very difficult.

But then you have the wicked greens which they renovated back in 2017 as shown in the video above. Making the +5 over par winning score in 2006 look very optimistic.

I get into debates with golfers on what courses and what conditions favor certain types of players.  Typically, dry and firm courses favor short hitters and soft courses favor the long hitters.  But, as with anything in life, there's always exceptions.

For instance this year Muirfield Village was so firm and fast, but it still favored long hitters.  The reason being was that many of Muirfield Village's fairways were so wide that it was still easy for a long hitter to find the fairway either with the driver or laying-up.  And then they could use their ability to produce more spin with longer approach shots to their advantage. 

But the other part of the equation was that there were some holes at Muirfield Village that had such a low hit fairway percentage that finding the fairway off the tee was more luck than predictable skill.  And thus even short, but accurate golfers were still finding the rough and thus the advantage went more to the longer hitter.

From gathering data at Winged Foot the course is more biased towards the latter scenario.  One can benefit by having superior driving skill, but much of the time the ability to find the fairway will come down more to luck, particularly if the course gets firmer.  If the course gets softer, then better drivers of the ball who do it thru accuracy, will be at the advantage.

Having said that, this is a 2nd and 3rd shot course.  Lots of greens are likely to be missed and those that can avoid missing greens are at an advantage, but that advantage can be taken away if they cannot get up-and-down when they do miss greens.  And my theory is that this even will likely be won by a player that is better than the tour average in Strokes Gained - Putting.  

Putting is the least reliable metric when it comes to projecting a winner on Tour.  But the courses where putting skill tends to carry over into tournament play are places like Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines...both very undulated green complexes just like Winged Foot.

The final Critical Hole will the the 498 yard par-4 16th hole, appropriately labeled 'Hells Bells':

It's a dogleg with a fairway about 72-feet wide with a tree on the left that helps block the green.  Golfers are forced to hit driver for the most part.

Projected Winning Score: +1


Dustin Johnson +800
Jon Rahm +950
Justin Thomas +1,200
Collin Morikawa +1,600
Webb Simpson +2,500
Daniel Berger +2,800
Patrick Cantlay +2,800


Tony Finau +3,300
Tyrrell Hatton +4,000
Brian Harman +25,000


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

Michael Thompson won the 3M Open at 125/1 odds last week:

This week the Tour returns to Memphis to play the most underrated course on Tour (according to Billy Horschel).

TPC Southwind is well respected by the players.  It's a course that stresses versatility in the iron play and the ability to get up-and-down when greens are missed.  The field usually averages around 60% of fairways hit and about 62% of greens in regulation hit.

The 18th hole is the final 'critical' hole of the course.

18 is an interesting hole because those that can hit a driver that finds the fairway will find the green about 80% of the time.  But if you miss this fairway the GIR% drops to ~35%.  And there's also water on the left that comes into play on both the tee shot and approach.

The data shows that the average player in the field should utilize a target that is about 2-3 yards left of the last fairway bunker.

Projected Winning Score: -14


Rory McIlroy +1,100
Byrson DeChambeau +1,200
Patrick Cantlay +1,600
Webb Simpson +2,000
Tyrrell Hatton +2,800
Hideki Matsuyama +2,800


Tony Finau +3,300
Joaquin Niemann +8,000
Shane Lowry +15,000
Tom Lewis +20,000


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 3M Open

Jon Rahm wins The Memorial:

What was interesting about The Memorial was that normally firm courses favor the shorter, but more accurate golfers.  In this case, the longer hitters prevailed.  Here's a look at the top-10 finishers and their ranking in Driving Distance with the Driver (adjusted for schedule - out of 227 golfers).

Jon Rahm (21st)
Ryan Palmer (71st)
Matthew Fitzpatrick (144th)
Matt Wallace (38th)
Jason Day (74th)
Mackenzie Hughes (86th)
Henrik Norlander (143rd)
Tony Finau (6th)
Kevin Na (174th)
Luke List (17th)
Patrick Reed (81st)
Xinjun Zhang (111th)

Typically the firmer courses favor the shorter, but more accurate golfers because they can find the fairways and reduce the variance in approach shot yards to the hole because the bombers now have to lay-up off the tee more often.  And because the shorter, but more accurate golfer is now in the fairway they can use that to their advantage and generate more spin on their approach shots and get the ball to hold the green in regulation.

But at Memorial it was a different story due to the more generous landing areas off the tee at Muirfield Village.  When the greens are firmer, it actually favors the longer hitter because they are likely generating far more spin than the shorter golfer.  But that is *if* all things else being equal.  Meaning, their lie and yardage being the same or closer to the same.  If they are both hitting from the rough, firm greens favor the longer hitter.  The same goes if they are both hitting from the fairway or tee box.  It's just that when the greens are firm, typically so are the fairways.  And the average Tour fairway is about 28 yards wide and thus the shorter, but more accurate golfer can create an advantage on firm courses because they have an advantageous lie compared to the longer, but less accurate golfer.

This past week at Muirfield Village, the tee shots either ended up being 1 of 2 types:

1.  Generous landing areas that made the fairways very easy to find.


2.  Nearly impossible fairways to find and finding the fairway was more about luck than skill.

Much like the 18th hole which only saw 27% of the field find the fairway on Sunday and 34% of the field found the fairway on all 4 rounds.

Thus the approach shots were 'more equal' and the firm greens started to favor the bombers.  Even a player like Matthew Fitzpatrick who does not hit the driver very long, still generates 115 mph club speed.  His lack of distance with the driver is more due to his steep attack angle, but he generates good ball speed and spin rates with his irons.


The Tour comes to Eden Prairie, MN at TPC Twin Cities for the 3M Championship.   Last year Matthew Wolff won.

Unfortunately, there's only 1 tournament of data to use for TPC Twin Cities, but it appears that the course is about versatile ballstrikers.  Many strokes are gained/lost off the tee and with long approach shots and short approach shots.

Since they only played TPC Twin Cities last year, I have not heard opinions from pros on the course.  It's an Arnold Palmer design with help from Tom Lehman.  I always found that Mr. Palmer was probably the most underrated designer in golf which is sort of an oxymoron given his worldwide popularity.  The big thing that Palmer's designs usually feature is keeping the ball below the pin on approach shots.

This leads us to the last critical hole being the 596-yard, par-4 18th hole.

The fairway is about 80 yards wide, but it's still important to not hit the tee shot too far left because the player will have too long of a distance to reach the green in two shots.

Projected Winning Score: -22


Dustin Johnson +1,100
Brooks Koepka +1,400
Paul Casey +2,000
Matthew Wolff +2,200
Harris English +2,800


Bubba Watson +3,300
Will Gordon +6,600
Scott Stallings +8,000
Scott Piercy +12,500
Joseph Bramlett +15,000


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 The Memorial

Collin Morikawa wins the inaugural Workday Charity Open Championship.

Last week's What To Look For went over Muirfield Village and pondered how shortening the course and making the greens slower would impact the course. The course played pretty much the same as it always does in terms of it being an approach shot centric course. But more players were able to hit greens and thus short game around the green did not play much of a factor.

With the tees moved back the course should feature more long approach shots and that will translate to more missed greens and short game around the green playing a slightly larger factor.

The 18th hole should still be the most critical hole on the course as it was at the Workday Charity Open where Justin Thomas bogeyed the 72nd hole to drop into a playoff with Morikawa.



Bryson DeChambeau +1,000
Justin Thomas +1,000
Collin Morikawa +2,000
Webb Simpson +2,200
Hideki Matsuyama +2,500


Joaquin Niemann +5,000
Tony Finau +6,600
Jason Day +6,600
Adam Hadwin +8,000
Shane Lowry +12,500


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

What To Look For: Workday Charity Open

The PGA Tour will return to Muirfield Village for 2 weeks in a row, one week for the Workday Charity Open and the following week for The Memorial.

The Workday Charity Open will feature a Muirfield Village that is shorter in length with slower greens.  I think this will bring shorter distance golfers that are good putters into the fold more because they can't get hurt by so much length and slower greens typically mean lower make percentages which means there's more room to gain more strokes on the green if a player putts well.

The big question in all of this is if the firmness of the greens get softer as the greens get slower.  If they do, then that helps the shorter hitters even more since they usually hit the ball lower into greens.  However, it will also make things easier for shots around the green which is where Muirfield Village terrorizes Tour players.

Muirfield Village is a Jack Nicklaus design and a very typical Nicklaus design feature is that it's about the approach shots.  Particularly if you miss the approach then the player is often in jail and only the extremely talented short game around the green players can save par.  It's wide open off the tee and the field average of hit fairway percentage is usually 70%+.

The 18th hole is typically the final Critical Hole on the golf course.

The hole actually plays from an elevated tee and then an elevated green. With the shallow, slightly angled green it makes for a high deviation in scores.

On average the drive on this hole will travel 300+ yards, but it is the most difficult fairway to find on the course (~53%). And about 4-5% of tee shots will find the water on the left.

The approach shot is about average in terms of difficulty for the given yardage. But since the average approach shot is about 190 yards, the average proximity to the hole is roughly 40-feet.

The hole is one of the most difficult short game shots around the green holes on the course due to the green being on a hill and it's an average hole in terms of putting difficulty. Thus, it's usually a par vs. bogey-double scenario type of hole.

If the hole plays shorter I would imagine that it's still a Critical Hole due to the difficulty of the drive and the elevation of the green.

Projected Winning Score: -22


Justin Thomas +1,000
Patrick Cantlay +1,200
Hideki Matsuyama +1,600
Justin Rose +2,000


Jordan Spieth +4,000
Joaquin Niemann +4,000
Adam Hadwin +5,000
Byeong-Hun An +6,600
Shane Lowry +10,000
Branden Grace +12,500
Richy Werenski +20,000


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Bryson DeChambeau Transformation - By the Numbers

Bryson DeChambeau wins at Detroit Golf Club last week:

A few years ago, I postulated on the GolfWRX forums that there would be a player on Tour that would reach around 195 mph ball speeds very soon that would dominate the Tour off the tee, but possibly dominate the PGA Tour altogether. This was ridiculed as golf has a weird hangup over distances versus accuracy and precision. But my beliefs were based on the data available and the hope that a player and his team of coaches could see the benefit of what I've called in previous versions of Pro Golf Synopsis as 'The Power-to-Putting Principle.'

The Power-to-Putting Factor was actually discovered by my friend, AimPoint Golf Founder ( Mark Sweeney. Mark found there was a strong correlation on the PGA Tour between distance off the tee and the length of the player's average birdie putt. Essentially, the longer a player hits the ball the more likely they will have a shorter length average birdie putt.

This explained why poor putters on Tour like Bubba Watson can have so much success on Tour. Watson is one of the longest drivers of the ball on Tour. He also rarely lays up off the tee. With that, he's more likely to give himself shorter length birdie putts on average. Since shorter putts almost always have a higher make percentage than longer putts, Watson can be an inferior skilled putter than say a shorter hitting, but superior skilled putter in Zach Johnson...but Watson can still *sink* more birdie putts than Johnson. Again, all in spite of being an inferior skilled putter.

The key advantages with long distance to get those shorter length birdie putts is not only on par-5's, but also on dogleg par-4's where the bomber can take it over the corner while the shorter hitter has to play more towards the middle of the fairway and losing even more distance to the bomber.

What I've found though is that the bomber's disadvantage tends to come when they miss the green in regulation. Whether it's a poor approach shot or a poor tee shot that flies well offline and requires a punchout, the bomber is more likely to have a longer and more difficult scrambling opportunity when they miss the green compared to the shorter, but more accurate golfer off the tee.

This also led to what I've dubbed the Power-to-Putting Factor

If a player like Bubba Watson can hit it long and have inferior skills with the putt and sink more birdie putts than a shorter hitter who is superior with the putter, then the 'honey pot' would be a player that can hit it long and is a superior putter. That's a player, almost regardless of iron play, can sink a ton of birdie putts because they are getting more makeable putts and have the skill to sink those putts at a higher rate than the average player.

I always look at John Daly's 1991 PGA Championship victory as the example of when you put a long hitter (nobody was coming close to hitting it as far as Daly at that time) who is putting great.

I mean, y'know somebody is on fire when they are walking to the hole like they made it when the ball is still 4 feet from the cup.


But what about the long drive competitors? There's a great myth that long drive competitors are just a bunch of meatheads that can't play worth a lick and just hit it long. However, that's vastly untrue. Most of the long drive competitors I've known are +3 or better handicaps and on more open courses can go really low

Watching Kyle Berkshire's YouTube Channel ( has allowed me to notice some more potential pitfalls that the long drivers can have on a Tour quality course.  What's interesting is that Berkshire brings his Trackman with him and utilizes on almost every swing, whether it's with a driver or with the irons.

The other interesting facet is unlike other long drive competitors that I've worked with, Berkshire gets about the same spin rate with his individual irons that the average Tour player gets.  Here's the Tour averages for spin rates according to Trackman.

In working with other long drive competitors, it's not unusual to see super high spin rates with their irons. But with Berkshire he typically keeps the spin rate, for example an 8-iron, within the 8,000-9,000 rpm spin range.

But the difference is that Berkshire is hitting his 8-iron with 155 mph ball speeds (115 Tour average) and about 215-220 yards (Tour average is 160 yards). 

And we start to see the issue...Berkshire isn't exactly spinning the ball more with his individual irons compared to the Tour average, but he's getting far more spin for the same length shot than the Tour average.

For instance, on a 215-yard shot a Tour player is spinning the ball about 4,600 rpm's because they are using a longer and more low-lofted club.  Compare that to Berkshire who is using an 8-iron and getting roughly 8,000 rpm of spin for a 215 yard shot.

Using FlightScope's Trajectory Optimizer, it shows the main issue with being able to hit an 8-iron 215 yards...slightly variations in spin and/or launch conditions have a larger impact on distance control.

For instance, using Berkshire's data, if he were to hit an 8-iron with 8,000 rpm of spin it would carry 212 yards.  But if he hit the same conditions and the spin lowered to 7,000 rpm (it's easy to lose or gain 1,000 rpm of spin) it would carry 219 yards.  And if he increases his spin rate to 9,000 rpm his carry goes to 205 yards...a total variance of 14 yards.

Compare that to the average Tour player hitting that shot with 4,600 rpm of spin which they will carry 214 yards.  If they drop to 3,600 rpm it carries 218 yards and at 5,600 rpm it carries 210 yards.  Thus a total variance of 8 yards.  And in approach shot play, distance control is a huge variable with regards to performance.


We've gone into the more accurate benefits of distance with The Power-to-Putting Principle and shown one of the key weaknesses of generating super-duper ball speeds, but we should address some other key roadblocks that come with super-duper ball speeds.

Strategy tends to be a problem as well.  Long hitters can lay-up too often off the tee and thus take away that advantage they have with power.  The other weakness is that they often struggle with hitting quality lay-up shots.  The 3-wood off the tee can present problems mainly because most Tour players find that to be the toughest club for them to hit.  But the other issue is finding that lay-up club that they can hit 285-315 yards comfortably in the fairway and not give up too much distance.  A former client of mine, Matt Dobyns, who generates 180 mph ball speeds found my suggestion of The Gonzo Driver (a 460cc driver head at 12-13* loft and a short shaft) to be an adequate answer to that issue.

So how has Bryson fared?

As far as the strategy goes, he only layed-up on 10 out of 56 tee shots and ended up ranking #1 in Driving Effectiveness at Detroit.  He did manage to hit 58.9% of his fairways despite hitting his average missed fairway tee shot 39 feet wide.  His misses would normally be a bit worrisome, but he made those big misses on holes and in spots where he could afford to miss big and found the fairway other times and it left him with a ton of advantageous positions off the tee.

As far as his lay-up shots at Detroit he was hitting his fairway wood roughly 292 yards on average and was able to gain an advantage off the tee versus the field despite hitting his fairway wood off the tee.

Then we get to his approach shot play.  He struggled here, particularly from the Green Zone (75-125 yards) and the Yellow Zone (125-175 yards), but he was hitting Green Zone shots when the rest of the field was hitting Yellow Zone shots and hitting Yellow Zone approach shots when the rest of the field was hitting Red Zone (175-225 yards) shots.  So even with the struggles, he was still managing to hit those approach shots closer because he had much shorter approach shots.

And on the par-3's, where Berkshire tends to struggle given the spin rate issues noted, DeChambeau played the par-3's at Detroit at +1 over par for the event. He only loss -0.432 strokes for the entire event to the field on the par-3's.  For the season, DeChambeau is ranked 4th in Adjusted Par-3 Scoring Average.

As far as his approach shots on the par-3's, he hit them to an average Fractional Remaining Length of 5.9%.  FRL = distance to the hole / length of original shot.

The Tour average on par-3's is 6%.

Meanwhile DeChambeau played the par-5's at -10 under and played the par-4's at -14 under par.

In summation, DeChambeau and his team have identified the opportunity of gaining distance and the pitfalls of what can come along with it and have accentuated those strengths and worked to modify those weaknesses.  And combined with really good putting (DeChambeau was 2nd in Putts Gained/Round last week) we may be seeing the next great top-10 player of all time.

On a side note, I do believe from watching Kyle Berkshire's data that there is room for a Tour player to probably max out at 205-210 mph ball speed and dominate the Tour off the tee,  Particularly if they can figure out the lay-up shot situation.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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.



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


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.


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 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


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


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


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

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

Collin Morikawa +5,000
Billy Horschel +6,600
Kevin Kisner +8,000
Joel Dahmen +10,000


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


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


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


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


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


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.



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


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


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.


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


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