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.