Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Texas Valero Open

 Billy Horschel won the WGC-Match Play:

And client Joel Dahmen got his first PGA Tour victory at Corales Puntacana.

A big congratulations to Joel and his team including teacher Rob Rashell for all of their hard work and dedication and making my job very easy.  I look forward to continued success and more victories.  

If you're a Tour player or Tour caddie and would be interested in my statistical services please e-mail me at


This week the Tour comes to San Antonio for the Texas Valero Open at TPC San Antonio.

TPC San Antonio has been very good to me as in 2019 I had Corey Conners as one of my picks to win at 150/1 odds.  Then the previous year in 2018 I had Andrew Landry, also at 150/1 odds, as one of my picks to win the event.  I've also had a few clients that have continually performed well at TPC San Antonio.

It's generally a fairly difficult course because of the wind.  Outside of my clients performing well there it's not that well received as a course because of some quirky design features and sometimes the wind and design are not properly matched up.  It's a Pete Dye design and while I don't hate Dye designs I always thought his biggest weakness was creating designs that matched up to typical weather patterns.

But this is very much a ballstriker's course.  Driving has an impact here, but it's more about accuracy, particularly avoiding waste areas, than hitting it long.  From there it's a lot of long iron and short wedge play.

Projected Winning Score: -12


Jordan Spieth +1,000
Tony Finau +1,200
Corey Conners +2,000
Ryan Palmer +2,000
Sam Burns +3,300
Cameron Davis +3,300


Keegan Bradley +4,000
Sepp Straka +6,600
Henrik Norlander +20,000
Ryan Brehm +20,000

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Honda Classic

 Justin Thomas won The PLAYERS Championship

Thomas was 44th on my list of projected winners.  He has not played up to his standards this year with struggles off the tee and from the Red Zone which is unusual for him.  However he got back to his old ballstriking self on the weekend and came away with the victory. the Bryson watch continues...DeChambeau showed some real skill this week on a course that usually neutralizes long hitters.  This was a display of Bryson being patient and utilizing the best strategy for the course by laying up off the tee and taking his chances that he could hit his layup clubs as far as the field average, but much more accurately and then take advantage on the holes he could use the driver.


This week the Tour comes back to Palm Beach Gardens for the Honda Classic

PGA National is one of the more well known courses on Tour due to the famous 'Bear Trap' nickname for the holes on the back nine and it is open to the public.  Having said that, most Tour players I've talked to are not a big fan of the course due to the difficulty.

It's generally a tournament that players get into because the Palm Beach/Jupiter area is a popular residence for Tour players.  They can spend Monday and Tuesday working on their games at their home courses like The Bears Club, Old Marsh, The Dye Preserve, etc. and then play the pro-am on Wednesday.  It's also a good sized purse with a good fan turnout.

This is primarily a long iron course.  Even driving the ball well does not gain a lot of strokes compared to long iron play.

The final critical hole is the par-3 17th hole.

The difficult part to this design is the green shape is diagonal sloped to the right.  For right handed golfers the natural shot dispersion is to miss short on shots that miss to the right and long on shots that miss to the left.  The short right miss is the most common miss for righties and that plays 

The hole can play from 148 yards to 178 yards.  If the pin is back right, the players will need to be around 122-126 mph ball speed with ~8,500 rpm of spin.  Typically the issue is they don't generate enough spin on this hole while keeping the face fairly square to the path.  That means the ball will either fly further than they needed or they are hitting open face flares that end up in the drink.

Projected Winning Score: -11


Daniel Berger +1,000
SungJae Im +1,200
Lee Westwood +2,000
Shane Lowry +2,500
Talor Gooch +2,800


Keegan Bradley +5,000
Dylan Frittelli +5,000
Patton Kizzire +10,000
Tom Hoge +10,000
Harry Higgs +12,500


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 The PLAYERS Championship

Bryson DeChambeau wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill:

DeChambeau was one of my picks to win as he was at 12/1 odds for the week.  I also got the winning score correct.  I was at Bay Hill on Friday and got to see DeChambeau tee off on the famous 6th hole.  There were about 5 rows deep at this hole alone despite the course being far less busy due to COVID restrictions.  For years I wanted to see a player with Long Driving Distance speed and carry to play Bay Hill because of some many of the doglegs but instead they would put those players like Sadlowski at more restrictive courses like Colonial CC.  Here we got to see a close facsimile and it made for a fun and exciting tournament.

Westwood was 21st on my list of projected winners which was higher than I expected and he came so close to winning.  The weather conditions started to hurt Bryson on Friday as the course started to firm up, but the Saturday rain with the wind shifted the advantage back to Bryson and he won.  And really the shot of the tournament was probably the approach shot on #18 from the right rough.  That area is D-E-A-D.  There were 93 approach shots coming from the right rough on 18 in the event and only 13 of them found the green.  On Saturday, 14 shots came from the right rough and only 1 other player (Patrick Rodgers to 32-feet) found the green.  DeChambeau hit his approach to 18'9".


This week the Tour comes to the '5th Major' for The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.  I remember it was this time last year that it appeared that COVID-19 was going to be a problem and I went to the Wednesday practice round to work with some clients and they ended up playing the first round anyway, without any fans.  Tommy Fleetwood recorded an ace on the famous 17th hole in the practice round.  I also remember many players being pissed that they were going to play the tournament while the NBA had decided to shut down.

Anyway, last week I discussed how weather conditions can affect what type of advantage long hitters have vs. short but accurate hitters.  And it played out precisely as I discussed with Bryson gaining the advantage when the course softened up from the Saturday rain and the wind picked up.

This week I wanted to discuss how course design can play towards helping long hitters vs. short but accurate drivers of the ball.  This is because Sawgrass is probably the best course on Tour in negating the advantage that long, but inaccurate players can have on the course.

If a designer wants to take out the advantage long hitters have on the course they need to take away where the long hitters have the advantage.

1.  Wide open fairways, particularly on straight away holes

2.  Don't allow for players to carry it over the dogleg (as we saw the advantage Bryson and Rory had on the par-5 6th hole at Bay Hill.

3.  Lengthen the rough on the par-5's (nobody on Tour likes hitting a 3-wood or long club from the rough).

TPC Sawgrass features 7 dogleg lefts and 7 dogleg right holes.  And Pete Dye took away players cutting over the doglegs by either building tall enough trees or by having water too close by with a more obtuse dogleg angle.

Thus long hitters are not getting to use their length to their advantage.  They are either relegated to laying up off the tee on many holes or they have to hit driver too close to the water for comfort.   

The rest of Sawgrass is mostly about longer iron play and short wedge shots.  The 17th hole gets all of the attention and for good reason as it has increased its importance in the tournament over the years.  But the par-3 that plays a larger role in the event will be the 13th

(Click to Enlarge)

This is generally not a difficult hole when the pin location is left, but when it is a front pin location or back right it is very difficult to get the ball close and very difficult to putt to.

Projected Winning Score: -15


Jon Rahm +1,600
Rory McIlroy +1,600
Collin Morikawa +1,800
Viktor Hovland +2,500


Sung Jae Im +4,000
Corey Conners +8,000
Emiliano Grillo +12,500
Keegan Bradley +15,000
Zach Johnson +25,000
Chez Reavie +30,000


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill

 Collin Morikawa wins the WGC Workday Championship at The Concession Golf Club:

I didn't release picks for the Workday since the Tour had never played there.  But it appeared to be a very heavy approach shot course (I have yet to run the numbers) which is typical for a Nicklaus design.  It also appeared to feature lots of opportunities to make triple bogey or worse.


This week the Tour comes to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The API is my favorite non-major of the year.  Not only due to it being my 'home tournament' (it's less than 1 mile from my home golf club), but it's the fan friendliest event I've ever been to.  It's a fairly easy course to walk, they have bleacher seating right behind the driving range (some of the seating is indoors with A/C), the fans can get right close to the players on the putting green and the parking is pretty good.  

For the practice rounds and pro-am, one can park for free just off the 6th hole.  During the event they prefer you park at Universal Studios and take a shuttle over, although I recommend parking at one of the strip malls and taking an Uber of Lyft over.

But Bay Hill is just a good, solid golf course with some beautiful holes and it closes out well with a eagle-able par-5 16th hole, perhaps the best par-3 on Tour (sans majors) in the 17th hole and then the beautiful 18th hole where so many iconic moments have happened.

And it's pretty much a course with 'standard' PGA Tour features.  That's why the weather often dictates the winner.  

A lot of readers ask me what type of conditions and designs favor long hitters vs. short hitters and how to curb long, but reckless drivers have on a golf course.

The answer is basically in the math...

In order to favor the shorter, but more accurate hitter one needs to reduce the standard deviation in driving distance and increase the standard deviation in fairways hit.  I will go into design features next week at Sawgrass that can cause that to happen.  But for Bay Hill we'll talk about the weather.  Because Bay Hills has about average length of a Tour course and average width fairways and about average length rough...when it gets dry the course actually favors the shorter, but more accurate hitters.  The longer hitters have to lay-up more in order to find the fairway and still have issue doing that.  That lowers the standard deviation in driving distance while the standard deviation in fairways hit increases.

But when the opposite happens...the course playing favors the longer hitters.  Mainly because it's easier to find the fairways and with the doglegs (there's essentially 9 doglegs on the course) the longer hitters gain a sizable distance advantage due to geometry.

Here's a look at the weather for this week (click to enlarge)

So this could be very odd.  It's been very dry and hot by Orlando standards for the past 12 months.  My home club is dry, but not at the 'crusty' stage, yet.  A lot of it depends on the rain on Saturday.  But my predictions is the scores will be a little higher and in the end the course will favor the longer hitters on Sunday.

Speaking of longer hitters, it could be interesting to see how Bryson DeChambeau plays the course.  Particularly the par-5 6th hole which doglegs around the water and plays to 590 yards according to the scorecard.

However, it's 'only' 345 yards of carry from the tee to the front fringe.

A couple of years ago I saw Cameron Champ attempt it over in a practice round, but didn't really come close due to his low launch, low apex height ball flight pattern.  Bryson hits the ball much higher than Champ and if the wind is right and the stars align, he could reach this green in 1 shot and be putting for an albatross.

My prediction is that if the wind isn't a factor, he'll play more to roughly 320 yards carry and put himself roughly 70 yards to the front edge of the green.  However, that will still given him nearly a 160 yard advantage to what would be considered a 'very good' drive and more like 180 yards advantage over an 'average' drive for the field.

Other than that, Bay Hill is a mid-to-long iron play course.  If it gets crusty out there, then shots from 10-20 yards become more important because there is some legitimate difficult on those shots at Bay Hill.  

Most of the Tour players I've talked to really enjoy Bay Hill.  Some don't like it when it gets wet there because it can play ultra soft at times as holes #2, #3, #6, #7, #8 and #11 all sit in a bowl.  But the greens have been some of the best on Tour over the last 5 years since they switched to TifEagle and there's always a good turnout of fans.  Prior to Covid-19, it was also a very festive atmosphere in the houses surrounding the course.

Projected Winning Score: -11


Viktor Hovland +1,200
Bryson DeChambeau +1,200
Tyrrell Hatton +1,600
Paul Casey +2,800
Francesco Molinari +3,300

Emiliano Grillo +8,000
Keegan Bradley +12,500
Brendan Steele +15,000
Joel Dahmen +20,000
Chez Reavie +20,000