PGA Core Plays – The Wyndham Championships

I already had so much respect for what Collin Morikawa had accomplished in his short PGA Tour career, but what he did at Harding Park last week just took that respect to another level. He went toe-to-toe with an absolutely packed and talented leaderboard and easily came out on top. He showed no nerves whatsoever. He now has as many majors as he does missed cuts on tour. The sky is the limit for this young kid.

We downshift a little bit this week as we play the last event before the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. This week might not include the same caliber of field from the PGA Championship, but there will be fierce competition as there are guys fighting for a place in the playoffs. This week we are covering the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club (7,127 yd par 70) in Greensboro, North Carolina.

It seems like when we have events in the Carolinas, there is talk of “home field advantage” for players who are from the area. That was very much the case last year as North Carolina native JT Poston won his first tour event while the runner-up was Webb Simpson, another North Carolina native. Poston rose to the top of the pack by leading the field in GIR and ranking 2nd in driving accuracy (Simpson ranked 1st.) Poston also went the entire week without posting a bogey. Even though Sedgefield is one of the easiest par 70s on tour, that is still an amazing accomplishment.

It is a little hard to pinpoint one or two statistics that point to success this week. Hitting fairways was a common denominator amongst the top finishers last year, but there isn’t much to penalize players who miss the fairway. The most important stat IMO is GIR. Whether you hit the fairway or not, greens can still be hit. Proximity to the hole also is an important factor.

Take a look at the recommended picks for the week:

Top-End Love:
Webb Simpson: While he was 2nd place last here, his history here is so strong that he has to be the favorite to win. He is 10-10 since 2010. He won in 2011. He has 8 top 11 finishes, two of which are 2nd place to go along with a third-place finish. 31st in driving accuracy and 29th GIR set up his top 20 ranked putting.

Top-End Like:
Paul Casey: Casey played well enough at Harding Park to win, he unfortunately was bested by an amazing performance from Morikawa. Everything in his game was solid last week, except for his driving accuracy (58.9%.) Despite missing so many fairways, he still managed to hit a very impressive 76.4% of greens in regulation. The rough at Sedgefield won’t be nearly as penalizing which means he could hit a ton of greens (ranks 10th in GIR on tour.) T13 last year and that could be improved on if he hits a few more putts. Also has a T3 to his name at Sedgefield.

Top-End Maybe: Justin Rose, Patrick Reed

Mid-Tier Love:
Kevin Kisner: 5-5 at Sedgefield with 2 top 10s. Solid play since the restart with a solo third and two other top 25s (T13 last week at Harding Park.) Accurate off the tee and solid putter. If he can consistently hit greens, he is primed for a good run this week.

Mid-Tier Like:
Harris English: 6 for 6 at Sedgefield with 2 top 15 finishes. Finished in the top 20 in each of his last 4 starts. 11th in GIR.

Mid-Tier Maybe: Si Woo Kim, Billy Horschel, JT Poston, Corey Conners, Brenden Todd, Ryan Moore

Value Play Love:
Henrik Norlander: 5-5 in his last 5 events including T6 at the Memorial and top 25s at the Rocket Mortgage and 3M. His GIR (19th) game projects well this week.

Value Play Like:
Kyle Stanley: Taking a little bit of a shot here in going with Stanley. I love his GIR (2nd) and Driving accuracy stats(4th.) T13 at last year’s Wyndham Championship. T32 at the 3M Open and T12 at the Barracuda Championship.

Value Play Maybe: Jim Furyk, Brice Garnett, Lanto Griffin

Any questions or comments?

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PGA Core Plays – The PGA Championship

PGA Core Plays
The PGA Championship
8/4/2020
By Derek Hill

The PGA Championship

 

First of all, I hope everyone did well with their lineups last week. Our Top-end and Mid-Tier favorite picks finished 1-2. We also had some other great finishes with Fitzpatrick and Todd. Hopefully they were in your lineups and made you some money.

Alright, here we go!

After 13 long months without a major championship, we are finally back this week with the PGA Championship! If it feels to you like it has been an eternity…..that’s exactly how it feels to all of us. TPC Harding Park in San Francisco will host this year’s contest for the Wannamaker Trophy. Harding Park has hosted two WGC events and a President’s Cup, but will be hosting a major for the first time. It joins other great courses like Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines as municipal courses that have risen to a level to host a major event.

The two most recent winners at Harding Park are Tiger Woods (2005) and Rory McIlroy (2015) in WGC events. Brooks Koepka is the 2-time defending champion who is hoping for a 3-peat. This looked next to impossible just 2 weeks ago when Koepka was in a significant slump, but his play in Memphis last weekend looked like the Brooks we are used to seeing. This return to form comes right on schedule as we are back at a major event. The guy just knows how to turn it on.

The location of the course will present some very unique challenges this week. The course sits a few miles from the coast, but the effect of the coast is very much apparent. The winds and sometimes dense fog can be in full effect on the course. First of all, forget about the listed yardage of 7,251 on this par 70 course. Cool (mid 60’s for a high), dense, breezy conditions will make it play more like 7,600+. There have already been reports of this effect in guys playing their practice rounds. Word is that Gary Woodland hit a fairway wood off of a par 3 (251 yards) yesterday. I expect the longer hitters to have an advantage this week, assuming they can correctly calculate their distances on approach shots. The rough is reportedly already brutally long and may not be cut before play starts on Thursday. Fairways have been narrowed and there isn’t much roll out on the fairways. Players will be forced to decide on whether they want to hit driver to leave a shorter distance, but bring rough into play; or if they want to shorten up off the tee to find the short grass and leave a long iron into the green. Some important metrics to look at will be SG: Off the Tee and SG:Approach (you could simplify this and just look at SG:Tee-to-green.) The many curved fairways will also allow players to be aggressive, if they choose, in trying to cut corners. This can be risky, as there are cypress trees that can result in a lost ball. Lake Merced comes into play on the 14th hole where it will be on the players’ left side for the rest of the round. The wind usually picks up here and makes for a tough finish.
The water doesn’t really come into play, so the courses main threat comes from bunkers and long rough.

As was mentioned, the shorter yardage here is deceiving due to the cool dense conditions. It is deceiving for several other reasons. The presence of just 2 par 5s means that the length comes elsewhere. There are 7 par 4s that are >460 yards which makes long par 4 scoring one of the most important stats this week. Both par 5s are over 560 yards. There is also the aforementioned 251-yard par 3. So, the course does play quite long.

For the players who choose fairways over distance, you may want to consider stats on approach from ~175 yards. And for players who hit driver, approach stats from the rough are definitely relevant.

Top-End Love

Justin Thomas: Let’s just start off with last week. A winner once again (3rd time this season.) 4 top 10s and a T18 in 6 events since the restart. Regained the #1 world ranking. His number 1 ranking on tour in SG:Tee-to-green is crucial this week since SG:Off-the-tee and SG:Approach will both be important. He also ranks 7th in Par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards which will be a very common yardage this week.

Brooks Koepka: Kind of crazy seeing Brooks back on here after the way he had been playing of late. Like clockwork, he has himself primed for another major run. The PGA/US Open setups suit his game so well. He has the distance, he has the power to play from the brutal rough. The 3-peat very possible.

Top-End Like

Bryson DeChambeau: So-so T30 finish last week in Memphis. Before the Memorial, he had that insane run of top-10 finishes. 9th in SG:Tee-to-Green, 5th in par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards, 11th in Approach 175-200 yards. His obsession in calculating distances based on elevation, air density, etc. is well known. He could have an advantage in that category this week over players who are going by “feel.” Obviously has the distance to shorten the course. No doubt, he will take some chances, if he can limit the mistakes he could find himself at the top.

Rory McIlroy: I would actually put Rory higher if not for his heavy price tag this week. He is the most expensive option for the PGA Championship. However, it is worth considering because his ownership may be down with his high price and sub-par play as of late. But you have to know his game projects well at Harding Park. He is the most recent winner on this course (2015 Match Play,) 5th in SG:Tee-to-green, 13th in Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 yards, 6th in approach 175-200 yards. Not to mention the pressure is not on him so he can go out and play relaxed.

Top-End Maybe: Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson

Mid-Tier Love

Webb Simpson: I’m not sure how Simpson is priced as a Mid-Tier play this week, but don’t miss out on that steal of a deal. He won the 2012 US Open at Olympic just a stone’s throw away from Harding Park. Solid all-round play and a fantastic season to this point. 12th in SG:Tee-to-green, 1st in par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards, 17th in rough proximity.

Sergio Garcia: Another guy I’m not leaving out of lineups this week is Sergio. To be honest, he is being slept on. I haven’t seen anyone who is picking him. This would normally make me hesitant, but after doing my homework, I think he is going to have a great week. Recent play is good, but not stellar (T5, T32, T32, T35.) He is the only player in the field that ranks inside the top 20 in my most important categories this week: SG:Tee-to-green (3rd), Par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards (16th), rough proximity (18th), and approach 175-200 yards (15th.) I suspect ownership will be low which will give you a chance to gain on the other competitors this week.

Gary Woodland: Familiar and successful with courses like the one he will see this week. Winner of last year’s 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach which had conditions similar to what we will see this week. Runner-up to Rory at the 2015 WGC Match play at Harding Park. I like Woodland’s low ball flight and ability to find fairways with stingers off the tee.

Mid-Tier Like

Daniel Berger: 6 top 10 finishes in his last 7 starts including his runner-up finish last week. 13th in SG:Tee-to-green, 10th in par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards, and 18th in rough proximity.

Matthew Fitzpatrick: T27 at Workday, 3rd in difficult conditions at the Memorial, T6 in Memphis last week. He is one of those guys who loves it when conditions go south. The cool weather and dense air will feel like home to him. Add in the fact that he is 2nd in SG:Putting. I think he continues his hot run this week.

Bubba Watson: For a course that demands length, ability to play from rough, and shape shots around curving fairways, you look for a player exactly like Bubba. He ranks high in important categories this week: Par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards (2nd), rough proximity (5th), and Approach 175-200 (9th.)

Mid-Tier Maybe: Viktor Hovland, Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa, Shane Lowry, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Tony Finau

Value Play Love

Joaquin Niemann: So-so play the last month or so, but his game projects really well this week based on important stats: SG:Tee-to-green (19th), Par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards (20th), Approach 175-200 yards (3rd.) He also hits a low ball which can help in windy conditions.

Brenden Todd: Picking Todd last week was one of my better picks, even though he stumbled on Sunday. Even though he is stronger in categories that suited the course last week, a guy who is accurate off the tee and can scramble and putt the lights out should do well this week too.

Value Play Like:

Kevin Na: Two top 10s in his last 4 starts. 3rd in SG:Putting. I like his chances as long has he doesn’t W/D with injury, which is always a concern.

Matt Wallace: T4 at Memorial 3 weeks ago. T19 and T3 in his last 2 PGA Championship starts. His game doesn’t project really well for this course statistically, but I think performance in similar situations is a better predictor. Not only is his PGA history strong, but he also placed 12th last year in the US Open at Pebble Beach in similar conditions. He also comes in to this week playing well.

Tom Lewis: If you’re not familiar with the name Tom Lewis yet, now might be the time to do so. He has gone T12, T32, and T2 in his last 3 starts. Stats say he will have another good week. 23rd in par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards, 24th in driving distance, 42nd in SG:Off-the-tee. No slouch on the greens either.

Value Play Maybe: Max Homa, Carlos Ortiz

PGA Core Plays – WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational

PGA Core Plays
St. Jude Invitational
By Derek Hill

PGA Core Plays

 

Finally, it feels like we are entering the heart of the PGA Tour season! This week’s WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational will be a stacked tune-up before starting the season of the majors. That’s right, we are just over a week away from the PGA Championship at Harding Park!

The event this week will be a smaller field of 78 golfers. That number, believe it or not, is larger than the 63 that played this event last year. This will be another event with an expanded field due to COVID-19. There will be no cut so all 78 players will have 4 rounds to come out on top come Sunday. This allows players who get off to a poor start to have a reasonable shot at a comeback, so don’t count out your guys if they have a poor showing in round 1.

Notable players skipping the event this week include: Shugo Imahira, Francesco Molinari, Thomas Pieters, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, and Tiger Woods. This will allow 15 players from outside the Top 50 the chance to play this week.

Most players are not skipping out this week. The field will include the top 9 in the FedEx Cup standing, the Top 8 in World Golf Ranking, and 45 of the top 50 ranked players in the world.

TPC Southwind will be hosting the event for just the second year. Brooks Koepka is the defending champion, having prevailed by 3 shots over runner-up Webb Simpson.

The scoring average last year was 69.504 which was just under par on this par 70 course. This course yields birdies but is known as a complete test of golf. Poor shots will be penalized and bogeys (or worse) will be made.

Distance is a plus on this course but is not required. The course measures 7,277 yards. A new sight will be the renovated bunkers which have been moved to more strategic locations. This means bunker play will likely be a bigger factor this week. Be sure to consider sand save % when making your picks. Bermuda grass greens are expected to roll at about 12 on the Stimpmeter. Putting is always important but I don’t expect it to be the most important stat to consider this week.

Let’s dive into the stats a little more. The last 3 winners of this event have been in the top 3 in both the FedEx cup standings and OWG ranking at the time the event was played. This might make you consider taking Justin Thomas this week since he is the only player that fits into both of those categories. Koepka is the only winner of the last 5 who finished in the top 10 in driving accuracy. Chez Reavie led the field last year and finished in the middle of the pack (T27.)

The areas of most importance this week IMO, are the following:
GIR (protected greens will cause a lot of misses)
Scrambling (a lot of misses into greens means scrambling will be very important)
Sand Save % – more strategic bunkers will require good bunker play
Bogey Avoidance (9/18 holes last year played over par which means that making par will gain you strokes on the field on half of the holes this week)
There is one player in the field this week that ranks in the Top 11 on tour in every one of these categories and that’s Bryson DeChambeau.

Weather is expected to present a challenge to players this week. This time of year in Memphis means hot/humid conditions. We are expecting to see rain and plenty of wind. This could be enough to move those guys to the top who are proven in tough conditions. Is there a possibility of a leaderboard that is top-heavy with foreign players?

Top-End Love:

Justin Thomas: 7 top 10s in last 10 WGC events. 3 top 10s and a T18 in 5 events since the restart. As was mentioned he is the only one that fits the mold of the past 3 winners here, ranking in the top 3 in the OWG ranking and FedEx Cup standings. If he can avoid his short spurts of poor play that occasionally plague him, he has a tendency to rise to the top over the course of 4 rounds. 6th in Bogey Avoidance and 3rd in sand save %

Bryson DeChambeau: Missed the cut at The Memorial, but that was exclusively due to the fact that he lost his mind for about 20 minutes on one hole that resulted in a 10. If you eliminate that one hole, he should be the clear favorite. Let me tell you why. He is the only player to rank inside the top 20 (he ranks inside the top 11 in all of them) in the following important categories this week: Bogey Avoidance, Scrambling, Sand Save %, and GIR. Add in the fact that he is 14th in SG:Putting. I won’t even get into his insane run of top 10s before his miss at the Memorial.

Top-End Like:

Webb Simpson: TPC Southwind fits his game really well and his runner-up finish last year proves it. Ranks inside the top 13 in Bogey Avoidance, Scrambling, and GIR.

Joh Rahm: His first event since claiming the title and number one golfer in the world. He shined in a very difficult test at the Memorial. 4 wins worldwide in the last year and placed 7th in this event last year.

Top-End Maybe: Rory McIlroy

Mid-Tier Love:

Daniel Berger: 5 top 10 finishes in his last 6 starts. Returning to TPC Southwind for the first time since 2018. He won back to back events on this course in 2016 and 2017 before it started hosting this WGC event. Ranks 11th in Bogey Avoidance, 2nd in scrambling, and 20th in Sand Save %. Won at colonial and 3rd place at Harbour Town.

Mid-Tier Like:

Matthew Fitzpatrick: T27 in difficult conditions at the Memorial. Rejoins forces with his regular caddie this week. That team finished T4 last year in this event. Will likely gain some strokes on the field if conditions are poor this week. He is one of those guys who loves it when conditions go south. He is a great “feel” golfer and that will likely be needed this week.

Tyrrell Hatton: In last 4 starts he has finished in the top 6 every time, including one win. Ranks first on tour in more than one category, including putting and bogey avoidance. Also ranks 3rd in scrambling.

Billy Horschel: Since 2013 he is 6-6 in cuts made with 5 top 10s on this course. Not only that, but he is playing well lately on other courses too, notching top 15s in his last 2 events.

Mid-Tier Maybe: Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman

Value Play Love:

Ian Poulter: Greens that are small play to his advantage with his good scrambling ability. He has putted very well lately. If that continues this week, he could find himself in the top 10 for a second consecutive year. T14 at Heritage and T5 at Workday.

Value Play Like:

Matt Wallace: T4 at Memorial 2 weeks ago. Placed T27 last year, but is playing better golf and is a good golfer when conditions get tough. The wind is expected to blow and there is likely rain in the forecast. This means he could gain some shots on the field.

Brenden Todd: Probably not a name you expect to see in a loaded field like this one. However, Todd’s game projects well this week. I think it is worth the shot to pick him. He ranks inside the top 20 in: Bogey Avoidance (14th), Scrambling (1st), and Sand Save % (5th).

Value Play Maybe: Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Li Haotong

PGA Core Plays – 3M Open

PGA Core Plays
3M Open
By Derrek Hill

 

 

PGA Core Plays – 3M Open

 

What a wild week at the Memorial! It definitely was not short on entertainment. We saw DeChambeau take himself right out of contention and out of the weekend by recklessly blasting 3-wood after 3-wood from the rough, over the fence, and out of bounds. We saw Phil going completely rogue and putting from almost 80-yards out and just setting his tumbler down next to him on the green while putting. We got a microscopic view of Rahms ball in the rough which moved a fraction of a millimeter before being chipped in to lock down the victory, only to be penalized later. All of it produced some great golf.
I don’t know about you, but I love the style of golf we saw at Muirfield Village. Bad golf shots were severely penalized while good golf shots were generally still rewarded. The leaders were able to keep it under par, while guys who were off their game really struggled. I think that setup really helps weed out the week and allows the best golfer to come out on top. Rahm definitely was the best player this week. He really maintained his composure and remained patient, taking advantage of his opportunities while avoiding mistakes.
Most importantly, when evaluating the DFS opportunities, it was a bit of an unexpected result. Some big names completely tanked (DJ.) Some guys started too far back on day one which negated their great play the rest of the week (Schauffele, JT.) Let’s take a look at what all this means for this week.

We’re heading to the Midwest this week for the 3M Open. Just to refresh your memory, TPC Twin Cities has hosted Champions Tour events yearly for some time now, but just last year held its inaugural PGA Tour event. Matthew Wolff won his first tour event in just his third tour start.
The field is much weaker this week when compared to the other events since the restart. There are few big names in the field, and some of those big names are far from their best form.
There will be limited top-end and middle-tier guys to choose from this week. This means a few different things in regard to DFS. Choosing a top-end guy who has a lower ownership % will help you against the competition. I would pick a top-end player, load up on the mid-tier guys and sift through the value-plays to find those sure to make the cut. Hitting the right ones will probably predict if you get paid or not.

Before making those picks, let me give you a little overview of the course this week. TPC Twin Cities is a 7,431 par 71 course. It has some really long par 5s (all 3 of them are over 590 yards,) some long par 4s mixed in with some driveable par 4s for long hitters. The fairways are lined with trees and expected to have long primary rough. Those trees and rough were not enough to prevent some really low scores last year. I would expect a lot of birdies to be made again this year.

Driving distance will allow longer hitters the chance at birdie and eagle that other players may not get on certain holes this week. However, I think the 2 statistics to look at this week will be par-5 scoring, Proximity, SG:Putting due to the fact that these greens are huge and will likely be running around 13 on the Stimpmeter.

Top-End Love

Tony Finau: Finau came into the Memorial on a “quiet” hot streak. He had been playing better and then as was mentioned several times on the broadcast, he shot an incredible course record 59 at Victory Ranch in very windy conditions. He continued that hot streak into the Memorial where he had a 3-stroke lead halfway through the second round. His fall from the top was in the spotlight which made his stumble seem worse. In reality, almost everyone struggled at Muirfield. If he had started out poorly and finished strong, he would be the obvious pick. This may be your chance to get him at lower ownership.

Top-End Like

Dustin Johnson: Another instance where people might shy away due to his 80, 80 missed cut at The Memorial. The reality is that he has a short memory and could easily come back and win this week. He has the distance to shorten the course this week and can make birdies in bunches.

Top-End Maybe: Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood

Mid-Tier Love

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 27: Harris English of the United States plays a shot from a bunker on the sixth hole during the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa Champion course on February 27, 2020 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Harris English: 9 top 20s this season including T13 at the Memorial. Really good all around game including 30th in SG:Putting. One of the big reasons I love him this week is his ownership percentage will likely be lower than guys in his price range like Wolff.

Matthew Wolff: Obviously Wolff is the defending champion of the 3M Open. He also is coming off of a T22 finish at the Memorial. The course sets up pretty well for him which means we could see repeated success here. 7th in driving distance and above average in every other relevant statistic this week (GIR, Proximity, Putting.)

Erik Van Rooyen: Not many players could claim Minnesota as “home field advantage.” Van Rooyen played collegiate golf at the University of Minnesota. Has family there which makes it an easy travel site. T22 last week.

Mid-Tier Like

Sam Burns: T7 last year. 10th in driving distance, 27th in SG:Putting, 23rd in par 5 scoring. His game projects well here. 3 consecutive top 30 finishes.

Patrick Rodgers: Top 20 finishes at the Charles Schwab and The Memorial which were both really strong fields. Large, fast Bentgrass greens at TPC Twin Cities will play to his advantage since he is one of the best putters on tour. Not a one-trick pony as he is 17th on tour in driving distance and 45th in par 5 scoring average.

Lucas Glover: T7 here last year. Shares course record 62 which he shot last year. 5-5 with 4 top 25s since the restart.

Mid-Tier Maybe: Luke List, Charley Hoffman, Carlos Ortiz, Alex Noren

Value Play Love

Keith Mitchell: Mitchell made his first cut last week since missing the previous three. Not only that, but he finished T22 in a loaded field on a brutal course. He gained strokes on the field in all 4 SG categories last week. He is one of the few value play guys who has a chance to win.

Value Play Like

Johnson Wagner: Here is a guy who, even as a value play, could slip under the radar. He finished 23rd last year. He has a smaller sample size, but ranks 1st in proximity to the hole on tour.

Wyndham Clark: T5 last year, T12 in par 5 scoring average. Good putter, ranking 24th in SG: Putting

Value Play Maybe: Hudson Swafford, Adam Schenk, Xinjung Zhang

PGA Core Plays – The Memorial

PGA Core Plays
7/15/20
By Derek Hill – @DerekHillGolf 

The Memorial

 

 

For the first time since 1957 we will witness a golf course hosting PGA Tour events in back to back weeks. While Muirfield Village GC (7,456 yard, par-72) is hosting the Memorial Tournament the week after hosting the Workday Charity Open, the course is expected to present a very different challenge for this event. The setup last week was more player-friendly, while this week’s event is expected to be more viewer-friendly. That means that conditions will be a little tougher. The rough will likely be grown out all week. The greens will increase in speed from the 11-12 that they were running last week up to 13-14 this week. We may see some wear and tear from the Workday Charity Open make an impact this week. The setup will likely try to avoid this impact, but surely there will be more than one instance where a guy’s ball lands in a divot made the previous week. Hopefully that is limited.

The top 5 in the FedEx Cup standings are in the field this week, as is Patrick Cantlay, who is defending his title as 2019 Memorial Champion. Most importantly, we get to see THE BIG CAT back in action. We haven’t seen him play since the charity event at Medalist GC where he put on a clinic, specifically off the tee. Being a 5x winner at Muirfield definitely means he could go out there and win this week.

Muirfield seems to produce guys who have sustained success here. I’d lean toward players with a history of success at this course. Going off of statistics, I would have to say that driving accuracy will be important with the longer rough, but everyone will miss some fairways. Likely the most important stats this week will have to do with longer rough and really quick greens. I assume those will be rough proximity, scrambling, SG:around-the-green, and SG:Putting.

Top-End Loves:

Bryson DeChambeau: Not sure what else there is left to say about DeChambeau…7 consecutive top 10s. He’s almost a lock for a top-10 at this point regardless of the course or the field. He is better than he was in 2018 when he won this event. 3rd in scrambling. 12th in SG:Putting.
Justin Thomas: He is just too much of a competitor to not have a strong bounce back after losing in a playoff last week. A little hit/miss at Muirfield Village, but 2 top 10s at the Memorial show he can win here. Not to mention he has 3 top-10s in 4 events since the restart.Patrick Cantlay: Defending champion and coming off T7 at the Workday. In his last 12 rounds at Muirfield, his stroke average is 68.33. Hasn’t missed a cut on this course. Also has a 4th place finish in 2018.

Top-End Likes:

Collin Marikina: Nothing left to prove for this young buck. He is one of the best players on tour already. More wins than missed cuts. Very solid tee to green game. He showed last week that when he putts well he is hard to beat. May struggle just a little with quicker greens this week, but still likely a good pick.

Top-End Maybes: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson

Mid-Tier Loves:

Kevin Streelman: Must-have player this week. Finished T7 last week at the Workday. Runner-up finish at the Travelers. Top 20 finishes at Memorial in 4 of his last 5 appearances including 4th place last year. T14 in Rough proximity
Tiger Woods: Never would I have thought you could get a 5-time winner of an event for Mid-Tier value when he is still playing so well. Tiger doesn’t play many events anymore which makes him more unpredictable, but when we have seen him lately, he has impressed.

Mid-Tier Likes:

Xander Schauffele: 3 top 20 finishes since the restart. T14 at workday. Led last year’s event in total driving and SG:Off-the-tee.
Rickie Fowler: Top 15 finishes in each of the last 3 years at the Memorial. Two different second place finishes. Has the short game to score well on slick surfaces.

Mid-Tier Maybes: Daniel Berger, Byeong-Hun An, Gary Woodland, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth

Value Play Loves:

Jason Dufner: Dufner has defied logic and has improved his play at the Memorial as he has aged. He won at Muirfield Village in 2017 and placed 7th last year.
Ryan Moore: Has made 12 of 14 cuts at Muirfield Village including 3 top 10s and 8 top 25s. Ranks first in Rough Proximity.
David Lingmerth: 7 for 7 at The Memorial. Winner over Justin Rose in 2015.

Value Play Likes:

Rory Sabbatini: Sabbatini has become a staple player in the last few months. He continues to play well. He is valuable because he rarely misses the cut. Has made 10 of 12 cuts in this event with 2 top 10s and 6 top 25s.
Troy Merritt: Co-leader after 36 holes last year en-route to a T17 finish. Has made 4 consecutive cuts and has back to back top 25 finishes.

Value Play Maybes: Matthew Wolff

PGA Core Plays – The Rocket Mortgage Classic

PGA Core Plays
By Derek Hill

Rocket Mortgage Classic

 

 

This week the PGA Tour returns to Detroit Golf Club (North) which will be hosting the second edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. It is a 7,334-yard par 72. Last year had a surprising but great story of Nate Lashley running away with the win after being the last guy in the field. The course played possibly the easiest on tour last season. The 5-under cut line was the lowest cut on tour since 2016. It is expected that the rough will be grown out to make the course play a little more difficult this year.

The fairways will be lined with trees pretty much tee to green. With the rough being lengthened, it will be tough for players to stop the ball on relatively small quick greens. Last year, the thought was that the players would have a hard time hitting the green from the rough but players just picked this course apart. I would expect that this will come into play a little more this year. This means that hitting fairways and greens will be important this week. Look for guys who rank high in categories like Driving accuracy, SG:Tee-to-Green, SG:Approach, GIR%, and rough proximity. I would expect the champion this week to be an average or better putter but I don’t think putting will be as important this week as hitting fairways and greens.

Although it is a bit of a drop off as far as field strength, there are some big names playing this week. Amongst them are guys like: Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Tony Finau, and Webb Simpson.

Top-End Loves:

Webb Simpson: The guy is just a stone-cold killer. Nothing flashy. Just a beautiful, fundamental, solid, all-around golfer. Accurate off the tee. Solid on approach. Great putter. There is nothing keeping me from putting him in my lineups.

Tyrrell Hatton: If Simpson is option 1A, Hatton is 1B. He has been playing so well as of late. His Tee-to-green game is almost unbeatable. Combine that with being one of the best putters on tour this season and you’ve got a recipe for a win.

Top-End Likes:

Bryson DeChambeau: With as much as he has been playing since the restart, and how hard he swings it, you wonder if fatigue will catch up with him at some point. You also wonder if there will be a course that just doesn’t fit his game. So far, the answer to those questions is no. He has 6 consecutive top-10 finishes. With a weaker field this week, I’d say his chances of winning this week are the highest they’ve been since the restart. His game projects well in Detroit.

Top-End Maybes: Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed

Mid-Tier Loves:

Viktor Hovland: T23, T21, T11 in the 3 loaded events since the restart. Very solid from tee to green. Putting is just barely below average. Notched a T13 last year in just his second start as a pro.

JT Poston: T11 at the inaugural event last year. Was coming off consecutive top 10 finishes before just missing the cut at The Travelers. Top 10 putter who showed that when his approaches get relatively close, he can convert them into birdies in bunches.

Doc Redman: Redman’s value gets a major lift this week, probably for good reason. He has made all 3 cuts since the restart, 2 of which resulted in top 25 finishes. This week projects to be his best when you consider he placed 2nd last year after a Monday qualifier. 13th in driving accuracy and 17th in SG:approach.

Mid-Tier Likes:

Rory Sabbatini: The resurgence of Sabbatini’s career continues. He continues to place inside the top 25. He finished T3 at this event last year where he led the field in driving accuracy

Brenden Todd: It’s been 2 days since DJ raised the trophy at The Travelers and Todd is still hitting fairways. He couldn’t miss a fairway and rarely missed a green. If he could have converted on his 12 chances at birdie, his story could have been much different. I fully expect to see more fairways and greens hit this week. A few more made putts could have him in contention.

Will Gordon: The pressure is off Gordon to secure his tour status. He can play with less pressure this week. Coming off his impressive T3 at the Travelers. His last 5 starts on the PGA tour have resulted in 4 top 25s, 2 of which were top 10s. Ranks 13th in GIR%. Very cheap mid-tier play this week.

Mid-Tier Maybes: Sungjae Im, Adam Hadwin, Brandt Snedeker

Value Play Loves:

Brian Stuard: Stuard has made all 3 cuts since the resume which is quite an accomplishment considering the field strength. Coming of T20 last week. 5th in driving accuracy. T5 at 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Value Play Likes:

Cameron Tringale: T5 in 2019. 28th in SG: Approach, 37th in SG: Tee-to-Green.

Harry Higgs: 27th in rough proximity. 2 of 3 cuts made since restart. In all honesty, I think Higgs is trending up and could find himself knocking on the door of the top 50 within a year or so.

Value Play Maybes: Ted Potter Jr., Wyndham Clark

PGA Core Plays – Charles Schwab Challenge

PGA Core Plays
By Derek Hill

The Charles Schwab Challenge

 

 

WE’RE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After what seems like a lifetime, we are finally going to see an official PGA Tour event this week. While the Driving Relief and The Match 2 were fun to watch, it just isn’t the same. I think the tour is well aware of the excitement for the return for golf. It is very apparent they want to capitalize on this opportunity when you look at the featured groups they have lined up.

• McIlroy
• Rahm
• Koepka

• Fowler
• Spieth
• Thomas

• DeChambeau
• D. Johnson
• Rose

• Mickelson
• Na
• Woodland

While the Charles Schwab Challenge typically has a solid field from year to year, this year might be the strongest it has ever had. It is an invitational format which usually results in smaller fields, but the field was expanded this year to 144 players to make up for lost time. All of the top 5 and 15 of the top 20 players in the world will be in the field. It will also include 17 of the top 20 in the FedEx Cup rankings. This is likely due to guys chomping at the bit to get back into competitive form. This makes the golf exciting to watch, but it can make predicting the results a little difficult. There will more talented players competing this week, and most of them haven’t played much over the past few months, so they will be shaking off some rust. We don’t have the luxury of knowing who has been playing well and who has been struggling. Before you just go ahead and pick guys like Rory McIlroy or Justin Thomas, it’s important to consider that neither one has ever played in the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Colonial Country Club is a familiar site. It is the longest running host of any non-major event. It’s a par 70 course which has some challenging aspects, including some lengthy par 3s and the “Horrible Horseshoe.” However, the winning score will be pretty low, likely better than -10. The bentgrass greens usually run around a 12 on the Stimpmeter which gives average putters a chance at winning. Usually the guys who are successful here are the good ball strikers who can find fairways and greens-in-regulation. Kevin Na lead the field in GIR last year and ended up winning by 4 strokes.

Let’s break down the guys who have the best chance at winning this week:

Top-End Pick: Webb Simpson


Simpson fits the mold of the typical winner at Colonial. Winners tend to have several appearances in this event (but not more than 7) and tend to be between the age of 30 and 35. His ranking of 7th in Greens-in-Regulation sets him up for success. Finished T3 in 2016 and 5th in 2017. He was as hot as anyone before the hiatus.

Top-End Likes:
Jon Rahm: A very surprising missed cut last year after an opening round 75. Don’t expect that to happen in back to back years. He’s proved to be too good on this course. T2 finish in 2017 in his debut. Also finished T5 in 2018.
Rory McIlroy: While a debutant has not won this event since Sergio in 2001, if anyone can do it, it would be McIlroy. His absolute dominance this season could carry over to a course that he is seeing for the first time. 7 consecutive top 5 finishes. 18th in GIR.

Others to consider: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas

Mid-Tier Pick: Kevin Na

Na has played 14 tour events at Colonial and has 5 top ten finishes to show for it. 4th in 2018 and is the defending champion. He also has a 61 and a couple 62s under his belt on this course in just the last 2 years so he has the ability to make a lot of birdies here.

Other mid-tier guys I like:
Tony Finau: Only 1 win in his PGA Tour career, but Finau is the type of player who can adapt pretty well to every course he plays. He consistently makes cuts and finishes well. He has yet to miss a cut at Colonial. He finished in 2nd place last year.
Ryan Palmer: Palmer is a member at Colonial which likely makes him more comfortable here than anyone. This might be a bigger advantage this week under unique circumstances. He has yet to win this event, but has 4 top 10 finishes.

Others to consider: Harris English, Kevin Kisner, Jordan Spieth

Value Play: Russell Knox

In 4 starts at Colonial with all 4 resulting in top 25 finishes. 2019 was his best finish (8th). 15th in GIR.

Other guys I like:
Emiliano Grillo: Grillo is a solid player from tee to green. When he gets to the putting surface, he can struggle at times. This course is less about the driver and putter and more about shot making into greens. This venue suits him well. He hasn’t missed a cut in 4 appearances. He also has a 3rd place finish in 2018.

Others to consider: Jim Furyk, Nick Watney

If you are unsure of why I like a guy in the “others to consider” category, reach out to me on twitter @DerekHillGolf. I would love to share my thoughts.

PGA Core Plays – The Players Championship

PGA Core Plays
The Players
3/10/20

PGA Core Plays
The Players – March 12-15

 

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I hope you checked out the core plays article from last week and put the recommended players in your lineup. Last week there were several players recommended in the article that had great finishes. Here are their finishes and where they were listed.

1. Hatton (Other Mid-Tier to consider)
2. Marc Leishman (Best Mid-Tier Play)
3. Im (Other Mid-Tier I Like)
4. DeChambeau (Other Mid-Tier I like)
T5. McIlroy (Best Top-End Play)
9. English (Other Mid-Tier to Consider)
9. Fitzpatrick (Other Mid-Tier to Consider)

There were several other solid finishes, but those are the ones in the top 10 that I recommended. Let’s hope this week produces the same results.

For the second consecutive week, I feel like the golf course was the big winner. Bay Hill succeeded in producing a great test of golf that showcased the skill these golfers have while giving us an idea of how difficult things were for them. It pushed them to the limit without getting out of control. I thought it was some great golf. I have fallen in love with this stretch of golf and will look forward to it again next year. Fortunately, it isn’t over yet. While conditions at TPC Sawgrass appear like they will be a little easier, it definitely is a golf course that will bring the best golfers to the top.

The Players Championship is often referred to as the 5th Major. The main reason that it has earned this title is because of the strength of the field. It could very well end up being the most difficult field of the year. It will be a more difficult field than the Masters, the Open, and will be right on par with the PGA Championship and US Open. There are 144 of the best golfers in the world who are contending for the title this week. With that many great golfers, a phenomenal week of golf is far from a guarantee to get you the win. It is so difficult to win here and nearly impossible to win more than once. In the history of The Players Championship, there are just 5 golfers who have won twice, and 0 who have won 3x. Here are the players who have managed to win more than once at TPC Sawgrass.

1- Tiger Woods
2- Fred Couples
3- Davis Love III
4- Steve Elkington
5- Hal Sutton

This shows that unless you’re one of the best players in the world, sustained success here is pretty unlikely. A big reason for this is that there is such a fine line between success and failure at TPC Sawgrass. There is trouble everywhere. The course is full of water hazards and littered with trees and bunkers. It demands accuracy from the moment you step on the first tee. Angles are important to give yourself chances at birdie. Missing the fairway will be very penalizing this week as the rough will be overseeded and very thick. Unpredictable winds make already difficult shots completely nerve-wracking. You may hit the exact shot you have in mind and a swirling or misjudged wind can put your ball in the water. Experience on the course is very valuable to these players. Keep that in mind as your make your picks

Getting the ball on the green in regulation is tough, but the challenge doesn’t stop there as the greens will be rolling around 13 on the stimpmeter. The greens frequently have several tiers on them that can quickly lead to 3-putts. Great putters like Leishman and Reed will likely gain some strokes on the field this week on the greens.

Although the greens are demanding, TPC Sawgrass is a true test of golf which means that it doesn’t favor any one strength. Players will have to do it all. One of the coolest features is that it is designed to be fair to all golfers regardless of whether they start off the front or the back. #1 and #10 are dogleg par 4s going away from the clubhouse. #2 and #11 are reachable par 5s coming back toward the clubhouse. So, players on both sides will have similar wind situations making it as fair as possible.

One thing that can’t be overlooked is how good the finish is on this course. 17 and 18 are as good as, if not better than, any closing combo on tour. They deliver some pressure packed moments as these players are faced with daunting shots.

Once again, on courses like TPC Sawgrass that are true tests of golf, it is difficult to single out just a few statistical categories that will help us predict a winner. There are a few that I feel are more important this week. I will share those with you and will make a lot of my predictions based on them.

• Accuracy off the Tee
• SG: Off the Tee
• Proximity to hole
• Bogey Avoidance
• Ball Striking
• SG: Putting
• Sand Saves

If you are unsure of why I like a guy in the “others to consider” category, reach out to me on my new twitter handle @DerekHillGolf. I would love to share my thoughts.

You’ll see a lot of the same names this week that you saw last week. That is because these players are hot and are playing 3 courses in a row that are pretty similar. Success on one is a good sign of success on the others. These are the guys that I believe have the best chance at rising to the top of this stacked field:

Top-End Pick: Rory McIlroy


Expectations have been high for Rory lately as he has gone on a Top 5 barrage and regained the #1 ranking. He has lived up to every bit of those expectations. He has put himself in a position to win every week in each of the last 7 events. Like I said last week, I wouldn’t make a single lineup that didn’t start with Rory. In his last 7 starts he has gone T3, Win, 4th, T3, T5, 5th, T5. That is unreal. 6th SG: Off-the-Tee, 3rd SG: Approach, 2nd SG: Tee-to-Green, 2nd in Bogey Avoidance. Nobody has ever successfully defended a title at The Players Championship. He has a great chance to be the first to do so. 3 other top 10 finishes at TPC Sawgrass.

Other guys I like:

Justin Thomas: He has been all or nothing in his last 5 events. He has gone: Win, Cut, T3, Cut, T6. Going 5-5 in cuts made at Sawgrass is very difficult to find. One of those finishes was a top-10. Being 2nd on tour in birdie average, he will find a way to get some at Sawgrass. He just has to avoid the trouble to give himself a chance. 17th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 5th in SG: Tee-to-Green, 8th in SG: Approach, 11th in Bogey Avoidance.

Jon Rahm: Rahm had the lead after 54 holes last year and squandered it away in the final round. If he can find out a way to close out in big events, he will be tough to beat. His statistics say it was no mistake that he contended last year. He is 5th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 4th in SG: Putting, 7th in Sand Save %. 3 for 3 in cuts made at TPC Sawgrass. Has improved his finish each year.

Bryson DeChambeau: The Scientist has been on a tear as of late. 3 consecutive top 5 finishes. 2-2 in cuts made at The Players. 3rd in SG: Off-the-Tee, 9th in Bogey Avoidance, 8th in Sand Save %, 22nd in SG: Putting.

Others to consider: Tommy Fleetwood, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott

Mid-Tier Pick: Webb Simpson


6-10 in any regular tour event might be seen as just ok, but at TPC Sawgrass that is pretty impressive. 4 of his appearances resulted in top 25 finishes. Of course, he won this event in 2018. Simpson is just simply a steady player who isn’t flustered by pressure. He has the accuracy and short game to thrive on this demanding course. 7th in Proximity to Hole, 13th in SG: Putting, 1st in Bogey Avoidance, 11th in Sand Save %. Great season so far including 3rd at Sony Open and winner at Waste Management.

Other mid-tier guys I like:

Tyrrell Hatton: Ranks first in 3 some major categories: SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Approach, SG: Total. Also 12th in SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Around Green. 32nd in SG: Putting. 2nd in Bogey Avoidance. In his 4 appearances on the PGA Tour this season he has finished T6, T14, T6, Win. He is as hot an anyone and has the numbers to succeed again this week. The only reason I hesitated to pull the trigger on making him the best Mid-Tier pick is the fact that he has missed 2 cuts in 3 appearances at TPC Sawgrass. I don’t see him missing a cut this week. I expect him in the top 10 once again.

Marc Leishman: Is this starting to look like the leaderboard at The API? It’s for good reason. Leishman looked like a wizard on the slick greens at Bay Hill. He should shine again on similar surfaces this week. 6 for 10 at The Players with 3 top 25 finishes. A win and a second place highlight his 2019-2020 resume.

Others to Consider: Sergio Garcia, Hideki Matsuyama, Sung-Jae Im, Patrick Reed, Collin Morikawa, Matt Kuchar, Daniel Berger, Harris English

Value Play: Joel Dahmen


Dahmen has caught fire this season. His most recent 3 events resulted in a T14, and 2 T5s. All 3 of those events are played on difficult courses and have strong fields as well. Finished 12th in his Players debut in 2019. 24th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 22nd in SG: Approach, 17th in Proximity to hole, 11th in SG: Tee-to-Green, 25th in SG: Total.

Other guys I like:

Max Homa: Homa is famous for roasting golf swings on social media. He has proven this season that he knows a thing or two about playing golf. He is 10 for 11 in cuts made this season. He has 3 top 10s to show for it as well. Pretty solid all-around game. He is definitely one of the most promising first timers here at The Players.
Keegan Bradley: 6 for 9 at TPC Sawgrass. Finished 7th in 2018 and 16th in 2019. 38th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 27th in SG: Around the Green.

Others to Consider: Brandt Snedeker, Jhonattan Vegas, Sung Kang

PGA Core Plays – 3/4/20

PGA Core Plays 
Arnold Palmer Invitational
By Derek Hill

 

PGA Core Plays
API March 5th – 8th

 

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I have to start this off with a quick review of last week. There really were two winners over the weekend. The first was the golf course. PGA National was just awesome. It has quickly become one of my favorite courses. Talk about a course that delivers a show and some drama, even with a subpar field. The second winner was obviously Sungjae Im. It was only a matter of time before the talented youngster ended up on top. He stared a tough course in the eye and didn’t blink. He was aggressive and attacked some pins in some dangerous locations. The two birdies he made at 15 and 17 were incredible. Kudos to him.

With that being said, I would expect a lot of similarities this week. Bay Hill is a course that also requires course management skills and the ability to avoid trouble. It is no surprise that a lot of the guys who finished in the top 10 at PGA National were high finishers in last year’s Arnold Palmer invitational (Fleetwood T3, Im T3, An T10, Steele T17.) There are some ways in which the courses differ. Bay Hill presents a few different challenges than what we saw last week. This week we will see longer rough that will many times cause players to shorten up off the tee to avoid the long stuff. Also, the greens at Bay Hill are among the toughest the players will see all year. They’re large in size and are lightning quick. If that isn’t a tough enough test, you have to factor in that it is tough to get the ball close to the hole. Average proximity to the hole at Bay Hill is 40’1”. That means guys are going to have some long, fast putts. Don’t be surprised to see a fair amount of 3 putts this week. 2 stats that will be very valuable this week are SG: Putting and 3 Putt avoidance. Keep those in mind.

However, it isn’t all about putting this week. Bay Hill requires a complete game to get the win. Look at Molinari’s recipe for success last year. Sure, he was 4th in SG: Putting, but he was also T1 in SG: off the tee, 6th in GIR, and 5th in scrambling. GIR % at Bay Hill is very low, so guys that can hit greens will be at an advantage. Scrambling is important for the reason just listed. Greens are tough to hit, so getting up and down will be a frequent requirement. Maybe the most important stat of the week would be SG: Tee to green. That means guys are finding the fairway, avoiding the rough, and giving themselves a chance at birdies, or at least 2 putts for par.

The best chances to score this week will be on the par 5s. Par 5 scoring will be important because the par 3s and par 4s are tough. All 4 par 3s play >200 yards so par 3 scoring 200-225 yards is another stat to look at.

This week you will have a big decision to make, do you go with what the stats tell you or do you go with the hot players despite what the numbers say? Hopefully we can point out some who fit into both.

The last thing you should keep in mind is that invitationals like the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week have slightly smaller fields. That means that a higher percentage of players make the cut. This gives the long shots a better chance at scoring you some big points this week. My recommendation would be to pick a few of the can’t miss guys and then pick a couple value plays who project well.

If you are unsure of why I like a guy in the “others to consider” category, reach out to me on twitter @derekhill87. I would love to share my thoughts.

These are the guys that have the best shot:

Top-End Pick: Rory McIlroy

I wouldn’t make a single lineup that didn’t start with Rory. In his last 6 starts he has gone T3, Win, 4th, T3, T5, 5th. That is unreal. Add the fact that he hasn’t missed a cut at Bay Hill and in his last 3 starts there he is T4, Win, T6. 1st SG: Tee To Green (3rd approach, 7th off the tee.)

Other guys I like:
Sungjae Im: Red hot. Winner last week. T3 in his first start at Bay Hill last year. Projects well again this week.

Bryson DeChambeau: Great form as of late. T5 at Riviera. 2nd at Chapultepec. Runner up at Bay Hill last year. 11th SG: Tee to Green, 21st SG: Putting

Others to consider: Tommy Fleetwood, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed

Mid-Tier Pick: Marc Leishman

Recent winner at the Farmers Insurance Open. Winner at Bay Hill in 2017. 2 other top 10s at this course. 16th in SG: Tee to Green (4th in SG: Approach)

Other mid-tier guys I like:

Byeoung Hun An: Last 2 starts at Bay Hill: 10th, 14th. 2 top 10s in his last 3 starts including a T4 last week at a similar test in PGA National. Unlikely winner this week due to his putting, but the rest of his game gives him a great chance of cracking the top 10 again.

Henrik Stenson: 4 top 5s at Bay Hill since 2014. Winner at Hero World Challenge just a few months ago.

Others to Consider: Francesco Molinari, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ian Poulter, Jason Day, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood, Harris English, Wyndham Clark

Value Play: Jazz Janewattananond

We don’t get to see him much on the PGA tour as he spends most of his time playing internationally, but make no mistake about it, the kid can play. He is ranked 40th in the world for good reason. This is his first time playing Bay Hill, but I think he could have a solid first showing. He hasn’t missed a cut in his few PGA Tour events since fall of last year. 2nd in approaches from 200-225 yards. 8th in SG: Putting

Other guys I like:

Patrick Rodgers: Made 3 of 4 cuts at Bay Hill. Has a 20th and a 7th place finish to his name. Playing well as of late. 6th in 3 putt avoidance. 14th in SG: Putting.

Harry Higgs: Made 8 of last 9 cuts. When looking at important stats for the week his isn’t stellar but very good all around. 21st SG: Off the Tee, 80th SG: Putting, 84th SG: Tee to Green.
Others to consider: Emiliano Grillo, Pat Perez

 

Derek Hill Grew up in rural Utah. Married my his wife, Krista in 2010. Derek and Krista have 2 young daughters. Derek earned an undergrad degree from UVU, a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Weber State University, and Masters in Nursing Anesthesia from Samford University. Derek

 

PGA Core Plays – The Honda Classic

PGA Core Plays
The Honda Classic
By Derek Hill – @derekhill87

 

 

PGA Core Plays

 

The tour heads to Florida for the next 4 weeks and presents a very tough test this week at PGA National for the Honda Classic. As was mentioned in my weekly “Playing the Tips” segment, we are missing many of the top ranked players on the tour this week at they begin to strategize how to peak at Augusta. It is becoming such a popular thing that many of the players skipping this week are essentially skipping a home event as they live in the area.

Even with many top players skipping this week, the field is still loaded with talent. There is a long list of guys who could bring home the trophy this week. Let’s get started in evaluating the course and who has the best chance at winning.

PGA National Champions course is known as one of the toughest on tour. The winning score last year was 9 under par. That is actually a pretty impressive score when you consider that 14 of 18 holes played over par last year. There are several really tough holes that will produce plenty of double bogey or worse scores. The famous stretch is the “Bear Trap” named after Jack Nicklaus who redesigned the course and made these holes more challenging. They are shorter holes that require a lot of precision and course management skill. The players will have to judge the wind and hit good shots to avoid ending up in the water. It requires guys to keep their nerves under control as they come down the stretch. It should be fun to watch the leaders manage these holes on Sunday. Winds may be strong over the weekend, so don’t be surprised if you see a couple guys falter on the closing holes.

You may be wondering what makes PGA National so tough. The fairways are wide with generous landing areas. There are big Bermuda grass greens. However, there is long, overseeded, Bermuda grass rough that can make it almost impossible to get the ball close to the pin. There are also really lengthy par 3s and 4s. The ones that are not short are exposed to significant winds that bring all sorts of trouble (water and bunkers) into play. Ball striking and the ability to control the ball are crucial this week.

There are just so many holes on this course that can produce bogeys (or worse), that avoiding big numbers as much as possible is important to win this week. Keith Mitchell won last year because he didn’t make a single double bogey. He wasn’t great in any one category, but he avoided mistakes.

When considering what stats are important this week. The ones that come to mind are:
Bogey Avoidance
Birdie:Bogey Ratio
SG: Approach
Proximity to Hole on Approach
Birdie or Better: 200+ (as well as 150-175)

The top-end plays are limited this week, but the mid-tier section is loaded. Get as many of those guys as you can in your lineups this week.

I also wanted to try something new starting this week: If you are unsure of why I like a guy in the “others to consider” category, reach out to me on twitter @derekhill87. I would love to share my thoughts.

These are the guys that have the best shot:

Top-End Pick: Rickie Fowler

This is just a course that fits Rickie well. Controlling the ball in windy conditions is a strength of his. He is the all-time earnings leader at PGA National. Since 2012 he is 7 for 8 in cuts made with 4 top 10s, including a win in 2017 and 2nd last year. Ranked 14th in Birdie:Bogey Ratio.

Other guys I like

Tommy Fleetwood: This could very well be the week that Fleetwood gets his first win on the PGA tour. It is long overdue for such a talented player. He would almost surely have a win if he played more frequently. Great form as of late with his worst finish being T18 in his last 5 worldwide starts. Has only appeared here once but finished an impressive 4th. Had 4 rounds of par or better last year. Similar to Fowler, he plays well in the wind and controls his ball very well. Ranked T7 in Birdie or better 150-175 yards.

Gary Woodland: There are a lot of stats that support Woodland playing well this week. 5th in bogey avoidance, 9th in Birdie:Bogey Ratio, 2nd in ball striking, 14th Birdie or Better 200+ yards, 11th GIR, T2 in 2017. 7 for 7 in cuts made. Another strong candidate to win.

Others to consider: Brooks Koepka (good chance if truly healthy), Justin Rose (good results but first time playing in 5 years), Louis Oosthuizen

Mid-Tier Pick: Billy Horschel

Born and raised Florida guy. Well acquainted with Bermuda Grass. Strong history at PGA National including 2 top 10s and a 16th last year. Horschel is one of the hotter players on tour coming off of back to back T9 finishes. 16th in SG: Putting.

Other mid-tier guys I like

Harris English: I really like Harris this week. Having a much better season than last year when he placed T12 at the Honda Classic. 8 for his last 9 in cuts made including 4 top 10s. Also had a T16 at the Waste Management. On top of that, the stats point toward a really good week. He leads the tour in Bogey Avoidance, 4th in Birdie: Bogey Ratio. Has improved his finishes at PGA National each of the last 3 years.

Wyndham Clark: 12th in Birdie or better: 200+, 19th in SG: Putting, led after 54 holes in his lone appearance in 2019 ending in a 7th place finish. Had 2 top 20s on the west coast swing.

Others to Consider: Corey Conners, Daniel Berger, Lucas Glover, Ryan Palmer, Emiliano Grillo, Russel Knox, Charl Schwartzel

Value Play: Talor Gooch

Contending at Riviera is no joke. It means you can play tough courses with the best of the best. It was not an outlier either as Gooch has made his last 10 cuts. Finished 20th last year.

Other guys I like

Kyoung-Hoon Lee: T13 and T14 in his last 2 starts. 7th place finish last years. 15th in proximity to the hole from the rough. Co-led in GIR and par 4 scoring last year on this course.

Matthew NeSmith: First timer at PGA National, but has the resume to be a successful debutant. Matthew has the accuracy and putting to avoid big numbersT14 in GIR, 17th in Birdie:Bogey Ratio, 24th in SG:Putting. He has made 7 consecutive cuts and finished T6 last week in Puerto Rico.

Others to consider: Jim Furyk