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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial - Power Ranking and One-and-done

The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial is just around the bend, and here is this week's power ranking and one-and-done selection.

This is one of those week's that feature very few true "A" options, but plenty of "A- / B+" options. That is, almost everyone has a flaw to reconcile, but the pool of above-average options is fairly deep.

Here we go:

  1. Zach Johnson - It was easy to narrow this down to a final two, but tough to pick between the top two. Zach's course history here is beyond good. He is twice a winner and has four top-four finishes to go with making all nine cuts. While the putter has been lukewarm of late, his wedge play looks on point. The stats back all of this up. 
  2. Jordan Spieth - Course history is good at Colonial, but the missed cut at THE PLAYERS was the tie breaker for him falling to #2, or 1A. Class is permanent and form is temporary, so he doesn't fall past the second spot.
  3. Kevin Na - Here's where it gets dicey. Na is on a roll of solid finishes the last month or two and has a pair of top 10s and five top 25s on this track. That's worth something.
  4. Ian Poulter - This is dangerously close to a "feel" pick, which is dangerous. He's 3/3 here, with two top-15 finishes, so it's certainly not without precedent. He's also scattered several really good finishes across his ledger the last few months.
  5. Jimmy Walker - Perhaps the home cooking of Texas will conjure up a result similar to that of his dominating Valero Texas Open win, but this doesn't seem to be the perfect course for him. He struggles to find fairways off the tee, and that can be a problem at Colonial. The pros are obvious, as he's been a stud the last 18 months.
  6. Paul Casey - If his health (flu at THE PLAYERS) wasn't in question, perhaps he would have crept a bit higher. Hopefully he bounces back from his flu quicker than Henrik Stenson has, or else this is way too high. Get the picture? Course history and current form before the WD at Sawgrass are both green lights.
  7. Ryan Palmer - Last three trips to Colonial have been extremely good, featuring two top-five finishes. Recent form has tapered off a bit. While the pros far outweigh the cons, he could be to Colonial what J.B. Holmes was at Quail Hollow last week. 
  8. Jason Dufner - He's been very quiet on the course since news of his divorce, but this has been a safe haven for him over the last few years. I have no idea what to do with him this week. Good luck.
  9. Brendon Todd - While I try to avoid pre-tournament chatter, sometimes it's impossible on Twitter. I get the feeling that he's a popular guy this week, but I don't think he's top-five value. Stats are tasty, as is his top-five last year, but he's not exactly on fire as he was this time last year.
  10. Boo Weekley - Went 3-MC-T16 in his last three starts leading into this event and has a win and another top 10 at Colonial. A bit unpredictable, but his question marks are no worse than anyone else has in this spot.
  11. Sean O'Hair
  12. Chris Kirk
  13. Patrick Rodgers - (very different course this week than Quail Hollow)
  14. John Senden
  15. Ben Martin
  16. Jason Bohn
  17. Charley Hoffman
  18. David Toms
  19. Russell Knox
  20. John Peterson
  21. Jerry Kelly
  22. Louis Oosthuizen
  23. Patrick Reed
  24. Kevin Kisner
  25. Robert Streb
One-and-done

I was struggling with whether or not to burn Zach Johnson this week, and then it hit me. If I was saving him, I'd be doing so for the John Deere Classic. Stay with me on this one. I didn't burn Rory last week at Quail Hollow, even though I'm on record as saying I thought he would win, because I was saving him for a tournament with a bigger purse. If I'm to follow that philosophy this week, the play is to burn ZJ for a bigger purse this week rather than waiting on him to be the top guy in a lighter purse (JDC). 

So, that's my call. Going with ZJ and hoping he comes through. 

Best of luck to all this week!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial - Preview

The PGA TOUR makes its familiar stop at Colonial Country Club for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, and here is a preview to get you off and running. This is one of the most consistent and oldest stops on the PGA TOUR, dating back to 1946 without any lengthy interruption. This course is synonymous with Ben Hogan, who won the first two editions and claimed five titles overall.

Colonial CC is a par 70 that offers a modest test of 7,204. Despite being lengthen by 150 yards for the 2009 tournament, the leaderboard continues to reinforce that length is not a big deal. There are just two par 5s, as the par-70 number would suggest, to go with four par 3s and 12 par 4s. That would certainly confirm that par-4 scoring average is at a premium this week as much as ever. This is also a layout that really favors the accurate driver, and overall good ball-striker. The leaderboards here bear some semblance to those of the RBC Heritage and THE PLAYERS, which also are fairly unforgiving off the tee.

Here is a look at the winners and runners-up since 2005:

  • 2005 - Winner: Kenny Perry (19-under 261) over Justin Leonard (267)
  • 2006 - Winner: Tim Herron (268) over Richard S. Johnson in a playoff
  • 2007 - Winner: Rory Sabbatini (266) over Jim Furyk and Bernhard Langer in a playoff
  • 2008 - Winner: Phil Mickelson (266) over Tim Clark and Rod Pampling (267)
  • 2009 - Winner: Steve Stricker (263) over Steve Marino and Tim Clark in a playoff
  • 2010 - Winner: Zach Johnson (259) over Brian Davis in a playoff
  • 2011 - Winner: David Toms (265) over Charlie Wi (266)
  • 2012 - Winner: Zach Johnson (268) over Jason Dufner (269)
  • 2013 - Winner: Boo Weekley (266) over Matt Kuchar (267)
  • 2014 - Winner: Adam Scott (271) over Jason Dufner in a playoff. 

In addition to current form and course history, I intend to take a hard look at strokes gained: tee-to-green, driving accuracy, par breakers, par 4 scoring average and some sort of proximity statistic from 150 yards and closer. 

I will return later in the week with a power ranking and one-and-done selection. Until then, happy research!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wells Fargo Championship - Power Ranking and One-and-Done

While the Wells Fargo Championship is still several days away, I've concluded my research and am ready to release this week's power ranking and the one-and-done. Feel free to refer to Sunday's preview for more information on Quail Hollow and the type of player this venue tends to recognize.

Here we go:

  1. Rory McIlroy - Perhaps the easiest number one in a power ranking this year, McIlroy has everything required to lead off this power ranking. Form, course history and stats all check out in a big way. He is a play in every format except, perhaps, a one-and-done.
  2. Bill Haas - After McIlroy, there are a bunch of "B+" options, and Haas leads off that group after his T4 at THE PLAYERS last week. He's had some big weeks and some big misses at Quail Hollow, but current form is the ace of spades. 
  3. Jim Furyk - Everything about his game makes him a terrible fit for this course, but his past results disagree. He has a win and two runner-up finishes, including last year. While he laid an egg at THE PLAYERS, his form leading into that event was just fine.
  4. Hideki Matsuyama - Tied for 38th in his maiden voyage last year and has been in solid form for the better part of the last couple of months. His stats are a perfect match for Quail Hollow, and the lack of depth at the top of this field elevates him up the list. 
  5. J.B. Holmes - A T51 at THE PLAYERS shouldn't really matter when you consider the strengths of his game. Last year's winner is in the midst of the best season of his career, so a strong defense this week is entirely likely.
  6. Webb Simpson - Doesn't deserve to be any higher than this, and the case can be made for much lower, but this is his home course and he nearly pulled off the win in 2012, when he ultimately finished fourth.
  7. Kevin Kisner - Made his first real noise on the PGA TOUR last year when he cracked the top 10 here and his two P2s in his last three starts clearly prove he's riding high. 
  8. Phil Mickelson - He's done everything except win here and he reminded us at the Masters that he's still a big threat when the course fits his eye.
  9. Louis Oosthuizen - First-timer at Quail Hollow, but playing some of the best golf we've seen out of him in the U.S. in quite some time. Perhaps it's because he's healthy. This bombers paradise should fit his eye quite nicely
  10. Justin Thomas - A poor finish down the stretch at TPC Sawgrass makes him somewhat forgettable, but he's been cracking the top 15 with regularity of late. He's about as long as they come, which works just fine at QH.
  11. Daniel Berger
  12. Sean O'Hair
  13. Ben Martin
  14. Hunter Mahan
  15. Brendon de Jonge
  16. Rory Sabbatini
  17. Jason Kokrak
  18. Brendan Steele
  19. Patrick Reed
  20. Lucas Glover
One-and-done

First things first, I think Rory McIlroy will win this week, but I have to admit he still hasn't flashed anything better than his "B" game this season. He hasn't been perfect with the driver or the short irons, but it's been largely good enough. 

So the question becomes, is this the spot to burn Rory, or do we wait on him to really peak? While I'm tempted to pull the trigger, I'm going to hold off due in part because the winning share will be bigger in the remaining majors and the FedExCup Playoffs. If he had his true "A" game right now, I'd probably pull the trigger.

Now, who does that leave?

Haas, Furyk and Matsuyama are all off the board, making the defending champ (Holmes) the next available option after Rory. Simpson is also off the board at 6, as is Mickelson at 8 and Thomas at 10. Kisner at 7 and Oosthuizen at 9 remain. Here's a little secret. I've got my eye on King Louis for the Open Championship. 

So, a red-hot Kisner who almost won last week, or a course horse in Holmes who is the defending champ?

Holmes represents a little more permanent class, so I'll take J.B.

Best of luck to all!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wells Fargo Championship - Preview

Next up on the PGA TOUR schedule is the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. I have some additional insight to offer in this week's research, as I was fortunate enough to get to play Quail Hollow a few weeks after last year's tournament. Granted, I wasn't crazy enough to play the 7,562 yard par-72 layout from the tips. I stepped it back to a distance to where I could have some fun and not drive the member I was playing with crazy.

We are now well versed in what to expect from this tournament. Quail Hollow offers four par 5s and a drivable par 4 to go with four par 3s. The final three holes are known as The Green Mile. It includes the 508-yard par-4 16th, the 221-yard par-3 17th and the 493-yard par-4 18th. They say it's hard, but I hit the 16th and 17th in regulation and scrambled for a bogey at 18, but I digress.

As we look at the winners and runners-up dating back to 2005, the known theme of length being a key to success will become even more apparent. Here they are:

  • 2005: Winner: Vijay Singh (12-under 276) over Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia in a playoff.
  • 2006: Winner: Jim Furyk (276) over Trevor Immelman in a playoff
  • 2007: Winner: Tiger Woods (275) over Steve Stricker (277)
  • 2008: Winner: Anthony Kim (272) over Ben Curtis (277)
  • 2009: Winner: Sean O'Hair (277) over Lucas Glover and Bubba Watson (278)
  • 2010: Winner: Rory McIlroy (273) over Phil Mickelson (277)
  • 2011: Winner: Lucas Glover (273) over Jonathan Byrd in a playoff
  • 2012: Winner: Rickie Fowler (274) over Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff
  • 2013: Winner: Derek Ernst (280) over David Lynn in a playoff
  • 2014: Winner: J.B. Holmes (274) over Jim Furyk (275)
One interesting thing that stands out from that list is the correlation with Masters winners and U.S. Open winners at the longer U.S. Open venues. Those names includes Singh, Furyk, Immelmann, Woods, Glover, Watson, McIlroy and Mickelson. In short, if a guy would figure to be a good play at Augusta National, or a lengthy U.S. Open venue, his game should translate well here.

When I dig into the stats, I will take a hard look at driving distance, par 4 and par 5 scoring stats, as well as a bit of "feel" in terms of who fits this course. Current form and course history will, of course, be a factor.

We will return later in the week with a power ranking and one-and-done selection. Until then, best of luck to all.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

THE PLAYERS Championship - Power Rankings and one-and-done

THE PLAYERS Championship is inching closer by the minute, and here are the power rankings and one-and-done selection to complete our coverage for the week. I encourage you to refer to Sunday's preview for additional information.

Without further delay, here we go!

  1. Jordan Spieth - In terms of THE PLAYERS, his 2-1 record in the Match Play last week wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He played three competitive rounds (relatively well) and didn't have to have any 36-hole days on the weekend. Needless to say, any dust was knocked off from his one-week break and he's fresh for TPC Sawgrass, where he finished T4 a year ago. 
  2. Rory McIlroy - McIlroy can win in bunches, so he is absolutely a threat this week even though he did have to play about 700 holes last week. That he responded to missed cuts in his first three trips to TPC Sawgrass with top 10s in his most recent two trips is why he is elevated to the second spot. What needs to be pointed out is that Rory won't be able to get away with some of the wayward drives he pushed last week on this week's layout. It's too unforgiving in certain areas. 
  3. Jim Furyk - After a brief slump, he's going win (Harbour Town) and fourth (Match Play) in his last two starts. This is a home game for him, and he is 15/19 with four top-five finishes including a runner-up last year. I'm not sure who, other than the big two, you can place ahead of him at this point in the week.
  4. Hideki Matsuyama - I really loved how his stats line up for this course relative to others who have had great success here, and his T23 last year with all round par or better further support that theory. He's cracked the top 10 in his last two PGA TOUR starts.
  5. Zach Johnson - It wasn't all that long ago that this was considered the spot to burn ZJ for one-and-dones if you didn't want to use him at Colonial CC or the John Deere Classic. His T9 at the Masters was the second-best finish at Augusta National, and his T17 (2-1 record) at the Match Play further solidifies the state of his game as being strong.
  6. Matt Kuchar - I see this is being like Hilton Head for him, in that course history trumps otherwise average form. He is a past winner here with four top 10s and, much like Harbour Town, this course isn't necessarily easy for his competitors to navigate. Do I love him? No. Can I safely place anyone else other than the first five above him? No.
  7. Henrik Stenson - Since his runner-up at Bay Hill, he's battled illness and seen his "A" game fall to a "B-/C+" level. If he plays his "A" game this week, he's one of the three best options in the field, as he has four top 10s in nine starts at TPC Sawgrass including a win.
  8. Sergio Garcia - Commented on Twitter a few days ago something along the lines that this is his favorite stop of the year. Attitude matters, especially for Sergio, so that's a good sign. His record here is excellent, featuring a win and 2nd and 3rd among five top 10s and 13/15 cuts. The problem is that his form is below average by his standards and only average by the standards of an average tour pro. 
  9. Tiger Woods - He reminded us not to count him out at the Masters last month, and he's a two-time winner (including 2013) at THE PLAYERS. Yes, I read the interviews about him not sleeping the last few days and I get that the breakup with his girlfriend and the anniversary of his father's death are on his mind. In a weird way, those distractions might help him to play a little more free and ultimately better. Why not?
  10. Justin Rose - His T2 at the Masters and win in New Orleans were about as good as it gets, but he came back to earth (not all that surprisingly) at the Match Play with a T17 (2-1). His T4 at THE PLAYERS last year represents his only top 20 in 11 starts, so there is some risk in calling his number this week.
  11. Rickie Fowler
  12. Paul Casey
  13. Phil Mickelson
  14. Jimmy Walker
  15. Jason Day
  16. Lee Westwood
  17. Adam Scott
  18. Hunter Mahan
  19. J.B. Holmes
  20. Luke Donald
  21. Marc Leishman
  22. Gary Woodland
  23. Patrick Reed
  24. Louis Oothuizen
  25. Daniel Berger

As for the one-and-done this week, I feel like a kid at Christmas because it's time to unwrap Jordan Spieth!!!!

To steal from my Rotoworld colleague, Mike Glasscott, It's time for #Spiethboner !

Sunday, May 3, 2015

THE PLAYERS - Preview

THE PLAYERS Championship is the next stop on the PGA TOUR schedule, and Martin Kaymer returns to defend his title at TPC Sawgrass. TPC Sawgrass is one of those courses where veteran gamers know exactly what faces the competitors from the first hole through he 18th. We'll do our best to identify the top players and best values for the week during our coverage this week.

TPC Sawgrass is a par-72 layout featuring the expected four par 5s, four par 3s and 10 par 4s. It stretches out to 7,215 yards, so definitely not all that long by modern standards. Three of the four par 5s offer the opportunity for reaching the green in two with well-positioned drives, with the par-5 ninth only reachable by the longest hitters in the field. The par-3 17th is known by all fans, but the other three par 3s offer challenges of their own. The third hole is probably the easiest of the remaining three, with the long par-3 eighth the longest.

As is the case with most truly great courses, there isn't just one "type" of player that emerges with the trophy. A player can get away with not being a bomber if he is accurate and putts well. A player can get away with not being an elite putter if his ball-striking is on point. Perhaps the best illustration is the list of winners and runners-up since 2005.

  • 2005 - Winner: Fred Funk (9-under 279) over Luke Donald, Tom Lehman and Scott Verplank (280)
  • 2006 - Winner: Stephen Ames (274) over Retief Goosen (280)
  • 2007 - Winner: Phil Mickelson (277) over Sergio Garcia (279)
  • 2008 - Winner: Sergio Garcia (283) over Paul Goydos in a playoff
  • 2009 - Winner: Henrik Stenson (276) over Ian Poulter (280)
  • 2010 - Winner: Tim Clark (272) over Robert Allenby (273)
  • 2011 - Winner: K.J. Choi (275) over David Toms in a playoff
  • 2012 - Winner: Matt Kuchar (275) over Rickie Fowler, Ben Curtis, Martin Laird and Zach Johnson (277)
  • 2013 - Winner: Tiger Woods (275) over David Lingmerth, Jeff Maggert and Kevin Streelman (277)
  • 2014 - Winner: Martin Kaymer (275) over Jim Furyk (276)

This list certainly features a who's who of the greatest players in the game. It also features a number of highly successful international players. Further driving home the point of one not needing to be a bomber, there aren't any one-dimensional players on this list where the dimension is length off the tee. These are either extremely classy players, or players who are known for being very accurate and / or excellent ball-strikers.

I plan on taking a look at, SG:TTG, scrambling, proximity, par 3 scoring average and par 4 scoring average, while combining that with a hard look at current form and course history.

One additional note is that this is the first time the WGC-Match Play has led into this event. It's hard to ignore the fact that the final four in the Match Play are likely going to be tired. Perhaps the right mix of a current form coming out of the Match Play is a guy that went 2-1, but didn't advance to the sweet 16 (Horschel, Reed, Spieth anyone?) or a guy that went 3-0 and lost in the round of 16. Just saying. 

We'll get to work on our research and return with a power ranking either Monday or Tuesday night. Until then, happy research!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

WGC-Cadillac Match Play One and Done

Rolling with Patrick Reed as my one-and-done selection.

While he certainly doesn't have the easiest path to the final four, he's proven to be excellent, dating back to college, in the match play format.

With a WGC win at Doral last year, he's proven to be a big-game player.

Best of luck!