Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Genesis Open

 Daniel Berger won at Pebble Beach last week:

Berger was at 14/1 odds to win and his victory marks my first projected winner of 2021, after very close weeks at Waialae, Palm Springs, Torrey Pines and Scottsdale.  A few years ago Berger was one of my 'Players on the Rise' in my annual GolfWRX column, but had an unimpressive season.  It appears that he's finally starting to rise to the projections I had for him.


This week the Tour heads to Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades for the Genesis Open.

This is one of my favorite events on Tour and some year I would like to head out there for the week for the event.  The LA area is a haven for incredible private clubs like Riviera, Bel-Air, Wilshire, Sherwood, etc. and the Pacific Palisades area was recently rated the best place to live in Los Angeles.  

It also marks the end of tournaments played on different courses which means better television coverage and less of a hassle for statisticians like myself.  And another biggie is that traditionally performance at Riviera correlates to performance at the Masters as it's a heavy Red Zone play course that can be difficult to avoid 3-putts on.

This course is considered one of the best on Tour by the Tour players.  The only thing they don't like about the event is the heavy traffic, but with COVID-19 I'm guessing the traffic will be much better.

As I mentioned earlier, this is very much a Red Zone course.  A significant amount of strokes can be gained off the tee by the more effective drivers on Tour who are long off the tee.  Effective drivers on Tour that do it thru driving accuracy are not likely to gain many strokes off the tee.  

The 18th is the last critical hole on the course, but the 10th hole will be the most notorious hole.

The play on this hole should be to hit driver regardless of pin location.  The target is just left of the green.  However, the pin locations do play a major role in how this hole plays.

The middle pin location (#2) and the back pin locations (#1 and #4) will likely play to over par for the event.  For players that miss the green off the tee to the left, if they don't feel comfortable with a flop shot over the bunker to pin locations #1, #2 and #4 they should just chip to the front-center of the green, 2-putt and make par and go to the 11th hole and still gain some strokes on the field.

The problem became about 6 years ago when Riviera's greens were about as receptive as my driveway.  This made the hole play completely different because even trying to chip a ball 20 yards to the front-center of the green was difficult and hitting a flop from the rough to pin locations #1 and #4 was impossible.  In that scenario, players were better off laying up off the tee to locations #1 and #4.

In that scenario they wanted a target that is at the left corner of the left fairway bunker and to hit a shot that is 225-240 yards.  

This is what the golfers that lay-up on #10 should be trying to do.  However, unless the pin locations are at the back-right and the greens are cement hard, the best play is to 'go broadway' and hit driver.

Projected Winning Score:   -13


Dustin Johnson +550
Jon Rahm +1,200
Rory McIlroy +1,300
Patrick Cantlay +1,400
Bryson DeChambeau +1,400
Xander Schauffele +1,400
Tony Finau +2,500
Victor Hovland +3,000


Cameron Davis +8,000
Corey Conners +15,000


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Pebble Beach AT&T

The Tour comes to Pebble Beach for the ATT Classic:


Due to COVID-19, the Pro-Am will not take place and the event will be played at only Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Spyglass Hill Golf Course.

Like many of the multiple course events, the predictive values are a bit low here.  Generally the Tour pros I have talked to like Pebble Beach, but the weather, the schedule and the Pro-Am are not to the liking of a lot of players.  Playing 6+ hour rounds and catching a cold before you hit bigger purse events like Riviera, the Honda Classic, etc. is not appealing.  However, the course has really improved its conditions over the past 5 years and the greens have been much improved.  Typically Pebble has the lowest make percentages on the greens on Tour, but now it's progessing towards the mean.

Pebble is a shining example of old golf course design theories with the greens being roughly half the size of modern course green complexes with most of the greens having some tilt from front to back which penalizes approach shots that miss long or to the side and very undulated greens with slower green speeds.

It's more of a mid-iron and putting course, although Dustin Johnson has destroyed the course thru superior driving and he just 'gets' the course.  But he's not playing this week as he withdrew for the event.

The final critical hole is the classic 18th hole.

This was designated the toughest driving hole on the course last year.  Tee shots on average were only traveling 266 yards.  Most golfers will try to put the tee shot left of the trees on the right side of the fairway.

It also ranked as the most difficult green to putt on the course.

Projected Winning Score: -19


Patrick Cantlay +750
Daniel Berger +1,400
Paul Casey +1,600
Jason Day +1,800
Jordan Spieth +2,000


Sam Burns +3,500
Peter Malnati +5,500
James Hahn +6,600
Joel Dahmen +6,600
Mark Hubbard +10,000
Ben Martin +30,000


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Patrick Reed wins at Torrey Pines last week.


At one point I had picks of Ortiz (125/1), Im (40/1), Hovland (25/1), Finau (18/1), Schauffel (12/1) and Rahm (7/1) all in contention on the weekend. Reed was ranked 38th on my list of likely to win. He has not had an impressive season thus far, hamstrung by awful Yellow Zone (125-175 yards) play (191st) and has been a so-so Red Zone (175-225 yards) player (122nd) along with decent driving off the tee (99th in Driving Effectiveness). But he putted lights out at Palm Springs despite missing the cut and one has to give the guy credit...Reed has an incredible amount of faith in himself as he can play poorly for long stretches at a time and then suddenly catch fire and look like the best player on the planet.

This week the Tour heads to Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The Phoenix Open started in 1932 and is mainly known for the 16th hole which is a rather non-descript golf hole, but is one of the most famous holes on the Tour. What started off as a lovefest of golf and booze from Arizona residents turned into a must-go social event in the area with 'stadium golf.' In many ways, I think this prompted the invention of Top Golf and the Golf Shack, massive driving range centers that feature food, alcohol, games and a stadium golf atmosphere.

The course was re-designed in 2014 by Tom Weiskopf. Most of the players I've talked to generally dislike the course and the re-design didn't help matters any. The re-design made the fairways narrower and implemented some waste areas that are in odd positions that are not to the players' liking. However, the re-design gave players who are not bombers a chance to win there as the old design was becoming almost exclusively a bomber's track. Many of the bombers are not playing here due to playing the Saudi International which features exorbitant appearance fees that are too much money for most players to turn down.

TPC Scottsdale is more of a ballstriker's course now, requiring skilled driving, long iron play, and precision on the par-5's is where most of the strokes will be lost/gained. The final critical hole is the 18th.

The 18th is the final critical hole on the course. Most players use driver and have this line off the tee.

The data suggests that laying up with 3-wood is the better play because it takes the bunkers out of play and thus greatly eliminates double bogey or worse. The hole usually plays around 4.03-ish from a stroke average perspective. Players that lay-up off the tee are not likely to make birdie, but a 2-putt par should garner them some strokes on the field. In the end, it's a hole one should use driver if they feel they need a birdie or lay-up off the tee if par is sufficient.

Projected Winning Score: -17


Jon Rahm +650
Xander Schauffele +1,000
Rory McIlroy +1,100
Bubba Watson +3,300
Will Zalatoris +3,300


Sam Burns +6,600 
Corey Conners +6,600 
Carlos Ortiz +8,000 
Keegan Bradley +15,000 
Wyndham Clark +15,000