Wednesday, January 27, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Farmers Insurance Open

Si-Woo Kim wins the American Express in Palm Springs:

Kim's victory was fitting given Palm Springs is one of the most unpredictable stops on Tour and Kim is one of the least predictable players on Tour. But this week the Tour goes to Southern California to play Torrey Pines.

Torrey Pines is another split course tournament where each player plays 1 round on the North Course and those that make the cut will play the final two rounds on the South Course. The South Course is where they play when they hold the US Open or PGA Championship at Torrey Pines. It is usually the longest course they play all year on Tour tipping out at 7,765 yards.

Torrey Pines is a municipal course where San Diego residents get to play for only $45. Non-resident fees change depending on time and season, but they usually go for around $230. On the weekends it is a first come, first serve booking basis.

Both courses feature narrow fairways. The field average for fairways hit will be around 50%. The North Course is much shorter and the green countours are a little flatter which makes for lower scoring. The green contours on the South Course are some of the hilliest of any on Tour and they aver slow. Typically the South Course will have the second loest make percentages on Tour next to Pebble Beach. But as Pebble Beach's greens have improved in recent years Torrey may end up having the lowest make percentages on Tour.

There has been some talk in recent months from Tour players, particularly Kevin Kisner, about how short hitters won't win at Torrey Pines. I think that's a bit of a misnomer given victories from shorter hitters like Brandt Snedeker and Ben Crane not too long ago. In fact, Rocco Mediate was 170th out of 197 golfers in driving distance in 2008 when he faced Tiger Woods in a playoff to win the US Open.

Certainly, distance helps here. And it helps a little more at Torrey Pines than say Bay Hill, but short hitters can win here...particularly if the course is playing tough. This is usually due to the green complexes favoring better putters which have a tendency to be shorter hitters

Nonetheless, from the Tour players I have talked to over the years it's a polarizing course. Many love the course and the backdrop of the ocean. The entire experience is pleasant as if you're coming from LA, once you get on I-5 South around San Clemente it's one of the most pleasant and beautiful driving experiences I've ever had in this county.

But others avoid Torrey Pines at all costs. They can't stand the length and the extreme green complexes with 24-yard wide fairways and there's not enough good views of the ocean for them to consider it a top course on Tour.

This course is usually won thru long iron play and quality driving. The final critical hole is the 18th a par-5.

Projected Winning Score: -13


Jon Rahm +700
Rory McIlroy +850
Xander Schauffele +1,200
Tony Finau +1,800
Viktor Hovland +2,500


Sung-Jae Im +4,000
Bubba Watson +5,000
Corey Conners +10,000
Carlos Ortiz +12,500
Wyndham Clark +15,000

Thursday, January 21, 2021

What to Look For: 2021 American Express

Kevin Na wins at Waialae

This week the Tour returns to Palm Springs.

The American Express tournament has a cut after 54-holes.  Each player plays one round at La Quinta CC, one at the Jack Nicklaus Tournament course and then 1 round at the PGA West Stadium Course.  Then the final round is played again at the PGA West Stadium Course.

This is usually the biggest birdie-fest on Tour.  It's mainly due to the lack of length and very receptive greens.  Usually the proximity to the cup on Yellow Zone shots is the shortest on Tour and the same with shots from 10-20 yards.  But in general most strokes are lost and gained from the Yellow Zone here.

The problem is that it's such an easy layout of courses projecting winners or top finishers is extremely difficult.

Projected Winning Score: -26


Patrick Cantlay +1,100
Patrick Reed +1,600
Brooks Koepka +2,000
Sung-Jae Im +2,000

Sam Burns +5,000

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Sony Open

 Last week, Harris English won at Kapalua at 33/1 odds.

I had English ranked 8th most likely to win, but only selected 6 picks due to a limited field (really, I did :) )

This week the Tour heads to Waialae for the Sony Open

I've always been a fan of the Sony Open. Maybe it's my fascination of Hawaii, it being the first full field Tour event of the year or the unknown Tour pros that pop up and make money at the event, The Sony Open is one of my favorite events on Tour.

Waialae CC is a private club on the Eastern shore of Honolulu.  It was built in 1927 with Seth Raynor as the architect.  

Despite my love for The Sony Open, it's not a favorite of most Tour players.  It's an expensive trip over to Hawaii and the purse size of $6.6 million is in line with the Sanderson Farms Classic.  The course design is not all that well liked either.  Typically, Waialae gets a few votes for 'worst course on Tour' by Tour players.

Raynor's designs usually feature a lot of lay-up tee shots and he has that at Waialae due to sharp turning doglegs.

A few years ago they widened the fairways a bit as Waialae would usually yield one of the lowest hit fairway percentages on Tour, usually less than 50%. However the field hit 65% of their fairways last year due to the widening of the fairways.  This should likely help out the better drivers of the ball. Prior to the widening of the fairways, finding the fairway often boiled down to luck and the standard deviation in both driving distance and fairways hit was low.  Now the deviation in hit fairways is slightly higher and that projects to help out the superior skilled drivers to a small degree.

Most of the shots gained/lost should come off the tee and on mid-range and short-wedge range shots.  

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

The 18th is the easiest driving hole on the course and should play well under par for the event (think of a scoring average ~4.3 strokes).  And if a player can hit a tee shot of 290+ yards that finds the fairway, they are highly like to make at least birdie.

I suspect the target for most players on 18 will be on the right edge of the first left fairway bunker.

If the wind is in their face, they'll need to move the target to the right of the first left fairway bunker.

What makes this an easy driving hole is that typically it's playing with a tailwind off the shore from the east.   The general shot dispersion for a Tour player has then hitting it further on misses to the left than to the right.  So in this case shots that miss the target to the left play nicely into the dogleg and should carry the left fairway bunkers, easily.



Webb Simpson +1,200
Collin Morikawa +1,400
Harris English +1,600
Joaquin Niemann +2,500
Ryan Palmer +3,300
Russell Henley +3,300


Emiliano Grillo +6,600
Scott Piercy +10,000
Henrik Norlander +15,000
Harry Higgs +22,500


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

What To Look For: Sentry Tournament of Champions

 The start of the 2021 year of PGA Tour golf comes to us with the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Plantation in Hawaii.

Kapalua is on the northwest shore of the island of Maui and is owned by the publicly held corporation, The Maui Land & Pineapple Company.  

They have two courses at Kapalua Resort...the Bay Course playing at 6,600 yards and the Plantation course playing at a par-73 at 7,500+ yards.  The tournament is on the Plantation course and some of the longest drives all season will be hit here due to the hilly terrain and wide open fairways.

Most strokes will be gained and lost on long approaches and short 1/2-3/4 wedge shots.  Expect about 70%+ of the GIR to be hit by the field, but if the wind picks up then some short game around the green shots will be a factor because it's a very difficult course to get up-and-down and there usually is a high standard deviation in scrambling percentage.

The course itself is generally well liked by the Tour pros, but not so much the caddies because it's so hilly.  But it's a very limited field, big purse and no cut and you're in who can complain?

It's tough to complain about views like this:

The final Critical Hole at Kapalua is the 360 yard 16th hole.

What makes the hole has such a large deviation in score is that it's a short hole, but the fairway is practically split in two with by the 3 fairway bunkers.  This is where Bryson DeChambeau should have a large advantage as carrying those bunkers should be a piece of cake.

Projected Winning Score:  -23


Dustin Johnson +600
Justin Thomas +700
Bryson DeChambeau +1,100
Patrick Cantlay +1,800
Collin Morikawa +2,200


Ryan Palmer +10,000