Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What To Look For: Dell Technologies Championship

The Tour hits the second leg of the FedEx playoffs as it heads to Boston for the Dell Technologies Championship.

But to digress for a second,  I was asked about Dustin Johnson’s strategy in the playoff last week.

Obviously, the strategy paid off. But that does not always mean that it was a good strategy. If the odds of executing the shot are low and you happen to get away with it, that strategy will eventually come back to haunt you if you continue to use the same approach. But, as I’ve mentioned in previous editions of Pro Golf Synopsis, longer hitters can afford to be more aggressive with their lines off the tee and they should often seek out to be more aggressive so they can take advantage of their length off the tee. This is what DJ did. It was also a high likelihood of that he was able to carry the water from that line.

The only possible issue with taking that approach is that it can be difficult to pick the proper line to aim at. However, DJ usually hits a fade the only way he doesn’t carry the water if he takes an average swing at the ball is if he hooks it. So being able to hit his fade leans more towards being safe and in the end, it was a text book strategy for a player of his length off the tee.


TPC Boston started hosting Tour events back in 2003 with the Deutsche Bank Championship. TPC Boston was originally designed by Arnold Palmer who is, to me, perhaps the most underrated architect of golf courses. It’s a weird thing where as much as Mr. Palmer was respected, he had such mass popularity and tremendous playing credentials that most serious golfers that analyze designs tend to not take him very seriously.

They seem to take Nicklaus’ designs more seriously, but often pan Mr. Nicklaus’ designs because of their difficulty. Ben Crenshaw generally receives great praise for his designs and he is probably the most acclaimed former player turned designer in today’s game. But you almost never hear Mr. Palmer’s name in the conversation of top quality golf course designs.

Palmer’s designs usually stray from tricked up holes and prefer low laying greens to provide a more picturesque view on approach shots. He’s especially keen on creating some holes where too many players lay up off the tee when they should hit driver and usually a hole or two where virtually everybody should lay up off the tee, but it tricks too many players into thinking they can hit driver. He’s also very adept at using ‘form follows function.’ For instance, the 17th hole at Bay Hill is a great example as it’s a very difficult tee shot on the par-3, but the green is very flat and has a very high make percentage. Thus, it’s not impossible and gives in a little to the tee shot being so difficult.

Lastly, Palmer designs usually stress keeping your ball below the hole.

Of course, TPC Boston was re-designed by Gil Hanse. But, the course is still well respected. And the 18th hole is the final critical hole on the course, so it can lead to an exciting finish:

Projected Winning Score: -15


Dustin Johnson +700
Jordan Spieth +800
Rickie Fowler +1,400
Jon Rahm +1,800
Justin Thomas +2,000


Paul Casey +2,200
Kevin Chappell +3,500
Charley Hoffman +4,000
Kyle Stanley +12,500
Emiliano Grillo +15,000


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What To Look For: 2017 PGA Championship

The 100th PGA Championship will take place at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte. Quail Hollow is a routine Tour stop for the Wells Fargo Championship, but has made some alterations to suit the PGA Championship.

The course was originally designed by George Cobb in 1961. Cobb has a lengthy list of courses he designed, but almost all of them were relegated to the Mid-Atlantic states of Virginia, North and South Carolina. His most prominent design is actually the par-3 course at Augusta National.

Arnold Palmer made modifications to Quail Hollow in 1986 and then Tom Fazio made alterations in the course in 1997 and 2003. The main changes for the PGA Championship is that Quail Hollow is going from rye grass to Bermuda which they feel will likely make the course play firmer. They also altered the 1st hole, turning it from a 418 yard par-4 into a 508 yard par-4. They also changed the par-5 5th hole into a par-4.

Over the years most players I’ve talked to like the layout of Quail Hollow, but aren’t always nutty about the conditions and generally dislike the green contours. While I think Arnold Palmer may be the most underrated golf course designer of my generation, if there’s one attribute to his designs it’s that he was very insistent on keeping the ball below the cup and often times used some extreme contours on the greens to get that point across. But, this is still a George Cobb design and given it was built in 1961, that’s an era when green contours were much more severe so I don’t think Mr. Palmer wanted to change that too much.

Despite the recent renovations, I do not expect the course to change that much. It will still be a ballstriker’s course and the 3-wood will be more important here than it is on most other Tour courses. It still favors the longer hitter, but if the course plays firmer with the Bermuda grass, it will allow for more shorter hitters to have a chance.

While I’m not overly nutty about the course itself, I think we could have the makings for a fantastic tournament with all of the top-10 players in the world starting to play fairly well, Spieth chasing for the career Grand Slam, the possible rise of Matsuyama in making claim to the #1 player in the world and Rory starting to heat up again. And I still project that the final critical hole on the course will be the par-4 18th hole.



Rory McIlroy +700
Jordan Spieth +850
Dustin Johnson +1,100
Hideki Matsuyama +1,200
Rickie Fowler +1,600
Jon Rahm +2,200


Paul Casey +4,500
Daniel Berger +5,500
Zach Johnson +6,600
Brendan Steele +20,000


Luke List +35,000


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What To Look For: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

The last leg of the World Golf Championships takes place at Firestone Country Club. The WCG-Bridgestone Invitational is considered to be founded in 1999, but the Tour has actually been playing at Firestone since 1954 at the Rubber City Invitational.

Firestone CC consists of three different courses, the North, South and the West. The PGA Tour events have almost exclusively been played at the South Course. They did play the North course in 1976 and 1994, but it was generally disliked compared to the South course.

The South Course plays to 7,400 yards flat and a 75.1 handicap index. However, it is only a par-70. The general consensus from Tour players on Firestone is very positive. It’s not impossible, but it’s still a very strong ballstrikers course that is in superb condition, isn’t tricked up and usually has fantastic crowds. It also helps that it has one of the biggest purses on Tour and there is no cut line.

In order to qualify for the event, a player must meet one of the following criteria:

• Playing members of the last named Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup teams (whichever was played last).

• Players ranked among the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking (one week and two weeks prior to event).

• Tournament winners of worldwide events since the prior year's tournament with an Official World Golf Ranking Strength of Field Rating of 115 points or more.

• The winner of one selected tournament from each of the PGA Tour of Australasia, Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour and two selected tournaments from the Japan Golf Tour.

Most of the strokes lost/gained here will come off the tee and approach shots from mid-to-long range. What I like about Firestone is that while it’s a ballstriker’s course, it’s not necessarily a long ball hitter course as Craig Parry and Hunter Mahan have won here.

What I don’t like about the course is the Critical Holes are all on the front nine and the last critical hole is on the 494 yard par-4 9th hole.

Projected Winning Score: -13


Jordan Spieth +800
Rickie Fowler +1,600
Hideki Matsuyama +1,800
Jon Rahm +2,200
Paul Casey +3,300
Matt Kuchar +3,300


Gary Woodland +5,500
Charley Hoffman +5,500
Russell Henley +8,000
Bryson DeChambeau +12,500