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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The McGladrey Classic - One and done

With The McGladrey Classic less than 36 hours from teeing off, it's time to declare this week's one-and-done selection.

Some weeks a guy just jumps off the page for all the right reasons, and this week there were two when it comes to the OAD. Webb Simpson and Scott Brown each offer a different strategic option, and both are smart plays in their own way.

Simpson is a guy that will crack the short list of contenders multiple times in 2014-15. For example, the Wyndham Championship is always a strong place to play him. The thing is...why wait? His course history at the Seaside Course is excellent and he tied for fourth last week. He easily checks both boxes of course history and current form.

Brown improved from a T20 to a T4 in his second trip to McGladrey last year, and enters off back-to-back top-12 finishes to start the new season. Just like Simpson, Brown checks the two major boxes. Another star in his corner is that there isn't an obvious place to play him down the road.

There is one difference.

Simpson is of a different class than Brown.

In addition, I see no reason to save Simpson. It's hard to imagine a time when he enters a tournament with his history as strong as it is on Sea Island and form as solid as a T4 last week.

Let's go Webb!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The McGladrey Classic - Power Ranking

The McGladrey Classic is just around the corner and here is a power ranking to establish the chalk and hopefully identify some value. For more details on the Seaside Course, I'd encourage you to check yesterday's Preview.

Here we go:

  1. Webb Simpson - The theory that he's a horse-for-course player gained additional traction with a T4 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last week, which bodes well for his trip to Sea Island this week. Simpson has gone T12-2-T7 in his first three trips to the Seaside Course, with 11 of his 12 rounds under par. 
  2. Matt Kuchar - Improved steadily in this event, going T25-T20-T7 in his three ventures to Sea Island. Started the new season with a respectable T21 at the Frys.com Open. Essentially, he's about as close to a lock as their is to a top-25 finish with plenty of upside.
  3. Bill Haas - Only played once here, but it went for a solo second in 2010. The Greenville, SC native may be a week too late, as his father, Jay, and neighbor, Ben Martin, both won last week. Considering that Bill didn't have a win in 2013-14, the addition to this event back in schedule could signify that he's determined to rectify that as quickly as possible this season.
  4. Scott Brown - I mentioned in yesterday's preview that players from the Southeast have a great record in this event, and the South Carolinian fits that bill. His two starts on Sea Island have gone T20/T4 and he's hot right now after a T12 in the Frys.com Open and a T10 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Tends to do his best work against weaker fields, and this week would probably qualify.
  5. Chris Kirk - The defending champ kicks off his 2014-15 season at a course where he also tied for 15th in 2010. Ranked well in most of the significant statistical categories last season. 
  6. Harris English - The top five seemed obvious, and I'm letting English carry the banner of the next wave. While he has been very quiet the last few months, he tied for 16th last week in Vegas and has a T15 at the Seaside Course. Oh, and I could totally see a UGA grad winning this week. 
  7. David Toms - A bit of a course history pick here, with Toms owning a pair of top-three finishes in four editions. He's very accurate and measures well in Par-4 metrics. It's hard to see him winning, but he's a great investment if a top 10 or 15 carries value in your format.
  8. Zach Johnson - He's 3/4 with two top 20s, but this pick is more about class in an otherwise weak field. Simply put, there is just no wisdom in dropping him any lower than this.
  9. Russell Knox - Knocked hard on the door last week and eventually settled for a third-place finish. Has a couple of middle-of-the-pack finishes at the Seaside Course, but his form and elevating class make him a much more intriguing option than his course history would suggest. 
  10. Robert Streb - If the David Toms formula of past success is any indicator, Streb's first trip could be quite profitable. He's one of the best par 4 players on the PGA TOUR (6th in 2014 in par-4 scoring average and 3rd through two events this season) and enters off a T10 at TPC Summerlin. 
  11. Ben Martin - Well, he's finished almost DFL and winner in his first two starts of the year, so chances are he'll be somewhere in between. Course history is poor, but he'll have a load of confidence. 
  12. Hudson Swafford - Florida born and UGA trained, Swafford is hot (T8 and T18 this season) and playing in a very comfortable part of the country. Was 139th in SGP last season but has already improved to 33rd this season. If he keeps that going, he will win in 2014-15 and this wouldn't be an unlikely spot for him to breakthrough. 
Instead of just a "next 5" in no particular order, I've continued the rankings through 20. 

They are:
  • 13 - Nick Watney
  • 14 - Charles Howell III
  • 15 - Scott Langley
  • 16 - Brian Harman
  • 17 - Michael Thompson
  • 18 - Martin Laird
  • 19 - Adam Hadwin
  • 20 - Tony Finau

We will return tomorrow with our one-and-done pick. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The McGladrey Classic - Preview

The McGladrey Classic returns to Sea Island Golf Club - Seaside Course this week, with Chris Kirk as the defending champion. This is the fifth edition of this tournament, with each of the previous four taking place at the current venue.

The Seaside Course is a par-70 layout, stretching out to a mere 7,005 yards and featuring two par 5s, four par 3s and 12 par 4s. Here is a list of the winners and runners-up.

  • 2010 - Winner - Heath Slocum (14-under 266) over Bill Haas (267)
  • 2011 - Winner - Ben Crane (15-under 265) over Webb Simpson in a playoff
  • 2012 - Winner - Tommy Gainey (16-under 264) over David Toms (265)
  • 2013 - Winner - Chris Kirk (14-under 266) over Briny Baird and Tim Clark (267)
Several things stand out. For starters, any list this short that includes David Toms, Briny Baird, Tim Clark and Heath Slocum suggests that length is irrelevant. This list is full of players that can be streaky with the putter, and those with ties to the Southeast (Berumuda greens). Bill Haas (SC), Webb Simpson (NC), Tommy Gainey (SC), Chris Kirk (GA), Heath Slocum (FL), Briny Baird (FL), David Toms (LA) and Tim Clark (NC ties) suggest that geography might matter. 

From a statistical standpoint, this week is more about what doesn't matter than what does. The leaderboard certainly includes those with solid SGP weeks, but that isn't exclusive. There are cases where GIR and fairways are high and SGP is just average. Someone described the new measure, strokes gained: tee-to-green as a metric of the best putters among the best ball-strikers, and I see where he's coming from on that. It could be that the new metric will have some value this week.

I will take a hard look at current form, course history and par-4 scoring average to be sure. I will also consider SGP, GIR, Proximity, Par 4 birdie or better, as well as SG: tee-to-green. 

We will return tomorrow with this week's power ranking. Until then, happy research!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open - One and done

With the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open representing just the second tournament of the PGA TOUR marathon, the one-and-done selection for the week becomes pretty simple.

The top name on the power ranking this week was Martin Laird. He has the course history, current form and statistical clout to contend this week. Plus, there is absolutely no reason to save him for anywhere down the road.

He will likely be a popular pick this week. If you want to go in another direction, perhaps a guy like Ryan Moore makes a lot of sense.

Best of luck this week!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open - Power Ranking

The 2013-14 FedExCup champion, Billy Horschel, is set for his 2014-15 debut at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and also makes his first appearance of the season in the Power Ranking.

The usual cocktail of current form (when available), course history and relevant statistics have been stirred together in an attempt to accurately assign value to those expected to contend at TPC Summerlin, and here are the results.

This week’s Power Ranking:
  1. Martin Laird – Number one and it wasn't even close. Not only did he tie for third at the Frys.com Open last week, he’s a past champion in this event and also has a P2 (playoff loss). Add to that, he was ninth in strokes gained-putting, 16th in par breakers and seventh in par-4 scoring average last week. Course history is elite, current form is superb and stats are more than respectable.
  2. Billy Horschel – Jimmy Walker proved last week that a monster 2013-14 season doesn’t necessarily carry over to the new year, so we’ll find out quickly how in form Horschel is. That said, it stands to reason he wouldn’t play this week unless he felt like he was ready to jump in and contend. While I’m not sure I would recommend a one-and-done play this week, he should be gold in most formats.
  3. Webb Simpson – If we’ve learned anything about Simpson over the last 12 months, it is that he can be counted on in events where he has been traditional strong. That’s a fancy way of saying he’s a course horse. TPC Summerlin is one of his courses. Not only did he win here last season, he also tied for fourth in 2010, which was his most recent start before the 2013 win.
  4. Ryan Moore – Moore is a Vegas guy (UNLV), so this is a home game. While some people can’t handle that, he’s proven to be quite capable. He makes his 2014-15 debut at a track where he won in 2012 and tied for ninth in his defense last year. If the putter heats up (91st in SGP last year), he’ll be a factor.
  5. Jimmy Walker – I’ll issue him a free pass for his 63rd finish last week at the Frys.com, mainly because that course wasn’t all that forgiving off the tee and Walker’s never been one to hit a bunch of fairways. TPC Summerlin is much more forgiving, and he has back-to-back top-12 finishes in this event.
  6. Retief Goosen – Not only has Goosen secured his last 15 cuts (fifth best on TOUR), he tied for third last week and ranked first in strokes gained-putting. He was also second in par breakers and ninth in par-4 scoring average.  Considering TPC Summerlin is often a birdie fest and a putting contest, that works.
  7. Hideki Matsuyama – Finished third last week at the Frys.com Open and ranked third in GIR. Among the class of the field, if he gets the flat stick working then he has a solid chance at another top-five finish this week. Ranked a very average 61st in SGP last week, so that’s the real concern.
  8. Brooks Koepka – Much like Matsuyama, Koepka’s chances hinge on his ability to get hot with the putter. He threatened to score his first win last week, but just couldn’t mount a charge on Sunday. Missed the cut here last year in his only trip, but that isn’t enough history to write him off on this layout entirely.
  9. Brendan Steele – If you’re looking for consistency, he might be your guy. He tied for 21st last week, and Steele offers a pair of top-16 finishes at TPC Summerlin. In addition to that, he ranked inside the top 25 in GIR, SGP and par-4 scoring average last week. Simply put, he’s a top 25 waiting to happen this week with the upside to crack the top 10.
  10. Charley Hoffman – Sort of limped to the finish line last season, but returns to one of his better stops on TOUR. He tied for fourth at TPC Summerlin last season and has three top-15 finishes in his last six trips. Ranked 12th in par-4 scoring average and 14th in par breakers on the PGA TOUR in 2013-14.
  11. Sang-moon Bae – While it seems highly unlikely that he will back up his win last week with another one, especially since he won without making a putt longer than 15 feet, his current form demands this level of respect.
  12. Hudson Swafford – Last week we found out what can happen if Swafford putts well. It was the flat stick that held him back in his rookie campaign, but he ranked fifth in SGP and par breakers last week on his way to a T8. If he keeps that up, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Next 5 (alphabetical): Steven Bowditch, Scott Brown, Derek Fathauer, Max Homa and Nick Watney

Wildcard: Jason Bohn – Despite not having the stats or current form (MC last week) to make one feel good about a pick, he’s finished runner-up and T8 in his last two trips to TPC Summerlin.

We will return soon with our one-and-done selection. Until then, happy research and best of luck to all!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Shriners Hospital's for Children Open - Preview

With Sang-moon Bae kicking off the 2014-15 season with a win at the Frys.com Open in our immediate past, it's time to dive into the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open with a preview to kick off the research for this week.

TPC Summerlin is once again the host venue, and will play to a par of 71 at 7,255 yards. It has served as the lone host dating back to 2008, but had a part in the previous rotation dating back to 1992. TPC Summerlin features just a trio of par 5s to go with four par 3s and 11 par 4s. Expect those par 5s to yield numerous birdie opportunities and to be reachable by the majority of the field.

Looking back at the winners and second-place finishers since 2008, we have the following:

  • 2008 - Winner: Marc Turnesa (25-under 263) over Matt Kuchar (264) (played as a par 72 that year)
  • 2009 - Winner: Martin Laird (19-under 265) over Chad Campbell and George McNeill in a playoff
  • 2010 - Winner: Jonathan Byrd (21-under 263) over Cameron Percy and Martin Laird in a playoff
  • 2011 - Winner: Kevin Na (23-under 261) over Nick Watney (263)
  • 2012 - Winner: Ryan Moore (24-under 260) over Brendon de Jonge (261)
  • 2013 - Winner: Webb Simpson (24-under 260) over Jason Bohn and Ryo Ishikawa (266)

I'm not sure that this list of players screams anything in particular. When diving into the course history for these players, they have just as many misses as they do hits. Perhaps that means this is a tournament where the hot putter, when combined with decent ball-striking, will emerge with the win. 

Further supporting the putting theory, Webb Simpson was first in SGP last season, while Jason Bohn was second (T2 in the tournament). Ryan Moore was 2nd in SGP in his 2012 win, while Jonas Blixt was first in SGP and finished alone in third place. 

Greens in Regulation tend to be a close second to SGP in the stats category. 

In addition to course history, I will go back and take a look at who putted well in Napa last week. I will also consider GIR, SGP, Par 4 scoring average and Par Breakers. 

We will be back on Monday with this week's Power Ranking. Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Frys.com Open - One and done

Strategy is the key to any one-and-done game, and that begins with selecting the right player for the Frys.com Open.

While I'm not a big believer in "saving" players for later if the right time to use a guy presents itself, this is a week to ease into the season. There is some temptation to take a Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker or maybe even a Brandt Snedeker since the field lacks strength at the top, but it's probably best to restrain yourself. It's a better move to burn a start on a top-tier player when there is more in the way of current form and course history to go on.

Though I could endorse quite a few players this week, I narrowed my focus to two guys coming off top-10 finishes in the Alfred Dunhill Championship last week. Namely, Brooks Koepka and Richard Sterne. Both of those options have scored other top 10s in recent weeks across the globe, so their play over in Scotland wasn't a fluke.

It may sound a bit crazy, but I'm going with Sterne over Koepka just because Koepka is beginning to become a popular play this week. He tied for third in this event last year, although it was at a different venue, and is quickly becoming a trendy player. That's a lot of expectations for a player who has never won on the PGA TOUR.

I'll take my chances with Sterne, who is quietly lurking in the shadows. Plus, I doubt I'll be dying to burn him later in the year. A top-25 finish would be an acceptable result this week, and a top 10 would be outstanding. Either way, we'll have much more to go on at TPC Summerlin next week!

Best of luck to all!