I can also be found at Rotoworld.com and on Twitter @RyanGolfBlogger.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

OHL Classic at Mayakoba - One-and-done

While it's about 12 hours later than expected, here is the OHL Classic at Mayakoba one-and-done edition.

Diving right in, I quickly narrowed the OAD options down to two. They are Robert Streb and Rory Sabbatini.

I eliminated Jason Bohn (2nd in my power ranking) because it just feels like there is too much pressure on him coming off a T2 last week given his course history here. He hasn't proven to be the type of elite player to take success and run with it for a long period of time.

I'm not big on burning defending champions (Harris English), and English isn't playing all that well or consistently right now anyway. He has just one top 10 since the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February.

I like Spencer Levin and Charles Howell III this week, but they weren't my brand of bourbon. Traditionally, I hold off on CH3 for the Sony Open and he almost always rewards me. Levin's been off for a few weeks, but he does have the course history and somewhat recent form that is worth some excitement.

It's not a secret that I love Robert Streb. I've drooled over his par-4 scoring average numbers for weeks and we've watched him finished inside the top 18 in six of his last eight PGA TOUR events dating back to last season. There is no guarantee that he can keep this up after the holiday break, so there is certainly a strong argument to be made for burning his OAD this week. There are two knocks. The first is that he's never played this event, and the second is that he could be headed the wrong way on his trend. And yes, the second is nitpicking.

As for Rory Sabbatini, the trend is undeniable. He went MC (Shriners), T22 (McGladrey) and T8 (CIMB) leading into this event. The CIMB Classic is played on paspalum greens, as is the OHL Classic. Sabo has played this event on three occasions and twice cracked the top five.

I'm plugging in Sabbatini and hoping it doesn't burn me. Full disclosure, I'm pretty well hedged with Streb in a full-season league, so I reap benefits if he plays well either way.

Best of luck!

Monday, November 10, 2014

OHL Classic at Mayakoba - Power Ranking

The OHL Classic at Mayakoba represents the seventh tournament of the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season, and we have crunched the numbers to come up with this week’s power ranking. Please feel free to refer to yesterday’s preview for information on past winners and further details on El Camaleon.

Here’s how they shake out.
  1. Robert Streb – His win at The McGladrey Classic was surrounded by top-10 finishes, including an eighth-place finish in Mississippi last week. While he’s never played in this event, his stats and form offer an enticing combination. Don’t forget, Harris English won here last year in his first visit as did John Huh the year before.
  2. Jason Bohn – He’s a guy that should get plenty of attention coming off a T2 at the Sanderson Farms Championship last week and a tie for third in this event last year. The biggest question will likely come down to his ability to play as a favorite as opposed to lurking in the shadows of anonymity as he does most weeks.
  3. Rory Sabbatini – A name that hasn't gotten much mention over the last few months, Sabo tied for eighth at the CIMB Classic two weeks ago and has two top-five finishes in three trips to El Camaleon. While Bohn will likely steal the headlines, Sabbatini’s trends are almost just as good. He’s also a healthy seventh in par-4 scoring average.
  4. Spencer Levin – Appears to have tailored his schedule to include the tournaments where he has the best chance of making the biggest impact. He is a playoff loser at this venue (2011) and has T21 and a T10 in his first two starts of the new season. He’s sixth in driving accuracy and third in par-4 scoring average, which should play well anywhere.
  5. Charles Howell III – We mentioned yesterday that this leaderboard shares similarities to that of the Sony Open, and CH3 regularly nabs top fives in that event. He isn’t bad here either, tying for sixth last year to go with three other top 20s in five total trips. He tied for 14th in Mississippi last week.
  6. William McGirt – There is some precedent for this ranking. He tied for fifth in Mississippi in 2012 only to finish runner-up at the RBC Canadian Open a week later. While the schedule has shifted, it’s a nice vibe none the less. His T7 last week came in the heart of contention, as he was in the final threesome on Sunday afternoon.
  7. Fabian Gomez – Has a strong trend brewing, tying for eighth and 14th at The McGladrey Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship respectively. Only knock is a T50 here in 2011, but that was a long time ago. Stats are solid, as his only two finishes of the season would suggest.
  8. Brian Stuard – Course history buffs would know without looking that he tied for second here in 2010 and returned to finish alone in second last season. He was off to a terrible start in 2014-15 before a well-timed T13 at the CIMB Classic.
  9. Chris Stroud – Similar to Stroud, his course history is unbelievable. In his last three starts at El Camaleon, he finished fourth, T5 and T3. The problem is, his T39 at the CIMB Classic is his best return of the young season. Penciling him in would be putting complete trust in course history.
  10. John Huh – Tied for 23rd in his title defense last year and enters off a T25 at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Known for his accuracy off the tee, this season he’s tended to get stronger as he closes in on the hole. Scrambling and SGP numbers are a go, but some of the other key metrics are questionable. 
  11. Harris English – The defending champ hasn’t played all that well the last few months, with his T16 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open representing his only payday in three attempts. Currently 128th in par breakers.
  12. Ben Martin – Worth of the last slot, but it should be noted that he’s on a slight fade since winning in Vegas. Backed that title up with a T17 at McGladrey and faded to a T29 in Mississippi. He tied for 31st in this event last year, and it should be noted that all four of his rounds were under par.

Next 5 (alphabetical): Robert Allenby, David Hearn, Will MacKenzie, Kevin Stadler and Justin Thomas

I will throw out the caveat that Stadler W/D from the WGC-HSBC Champions last week, so keep a close eye out for any news involving him over the next few days before investing.

Tomorrow will feature the one-and-done pick, and there are a number of solid options and angles. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

OHL Classic at Mayakoba - Preview

The last tournament of the 2014 portion of the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season is set to take place at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba this week, and here is a preview to get the week kicked off.

The layout remains the El Camaleon Golf Golf Club at Mayakoba Resort (El Camaleon), which is a 6,987-yard layout that plays to a par of 71. It has three par 5s, four par 3s and 11 par 4s. Below is a list of winners and runners-up since the event's inception in 2007.

  • 2007 - Winner: Fred Funk (266) over Jose Coceres (266) in a playoff.
  • 2008 - Winner: Brian Gay (264) over Steve Marino (266)
  • 2009 - Winner: Mark Wilson (267) over J.J. Henry (269)
  • 2010 - Winner: Cameron Beckman (269) over Joe Durant and Brian Stuard (271)
  • 2011 - Winner: Johnson Wagner (267) over Spencer Levin (267) in a playoff
  • 2012 - Winner: John Huh (271) over Robert Allenby (271) in a playoff
  • 2013 (2013-14 season) - Winner: Harris English (263) over Brian Stuard (267)
Several things stand out from this list of players. The most obvious is that many of those that have experienced success are very accurate off the tee. They also lack length. There is also a strong correlation between success at El Camaleon and success in the Sony Open and / or RBC Heritage. 

That means I will focus on stats like driving accuracy and par-4 scoring average this week. If you find a player lacking course history at El Camaleon, but having played the Heritage of Sony Open in the past, those should serve as a decent indicator.

We will be back tomorrow with a power ranking. Until then, best of luck to all!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sanderson Farms Championship - Power Ranking and One and Done

The Sanderson Farms Championship is set to break in the Country Club of Jackson as the host venue this week, and here is a power ranking of players that should enjoy the layout.
  1. Kevin Kisner – Coming off a T4 at The McGladrey Classic, the South Carolina boy with a University of Georgia education should feel right at home in Mississippi. He’s moved himself onto the short list of players that should be the conversation for a breakthrough win, and a weak field like this one is the perfect place to realize that potential. Ranks inside the top 50 in both par 4- and par-5 scoring average.
  2. Hudson Swafford – In his rookie season of 2013-14, he proved to be a solid ball-striker but a poor putter. If the first three tournaments of the new season are any indication, he may have found something with the flat stick. He went T8-T18-T12 in his first three events and ranks 20th in GIR, 10th in ball-striking, 32nd in Proximity, 33rd in par-4 scoring average and 30th in par-5 scoring average. Spent essentially his entire life in Florida and Georgia (UGA), so the climate and turf in Mississippi should be quite comfortable.
  3. Andrew Svoboda – Offers a nice trend, going MC-T18-T8 in the first three events of the season before missing the CIMB Classic. He’s also 26th in par-4 scoring average. If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you know that’s a stat in which I place a ton of emphasis.
  4. Ben Martin – The off week (didn’t go to CIMB) came at a great time. On the heels of his first win (Shriners), he posted a solid T17 at The McGladrey Classic. He should be an excellent fit for this course and one of the classier players in a weak field. We shall see quickly enough if he’s in hangover mode or ready to compete. My hunch is that he gives it a solid go at CCofJ.
  5. Tony Finau – Perhaps one of the more pleasant surprises of the Fall, Finau started hot with a T12-T7-T14 run. It’s no secret that his game in predicated on power, and ranks fourth in par-5 scoring average, but he’s converted that power into ranking a very solid 34th in GIR.
  6. Robert Streb – Speaking of par-4 scoring average, he’s a dream. He tied for sixth in that category in 2013-14 and had me drooling when he fell to me in the ninth round of my season-long draft a little over a month ago. He has improved to fifth this season and is fresh off his breakthrough win. Like Martin, last week was a good time for a break and he should be ready to go in Jackson this week.
  7. Cameron Smith – If he had only tied for fifth in the CIMB Classic last week, with no other green flags, he would have been easy to overlook. Digging deeper, he’s finished inside the top 10 in his last seven worldwide starts. Granted, most of those have come in weak events, but this isn’t exactly a top-tier group gathered in Jackson this week. If you’re looking for a favorite for this year’s Jordan Spieth (2013) or Brooks Koepka (2013-14), he may be your guy.
  8. Peter Uihlein – Like the aforementioned Spieth and Koepka, Uihlein was tabbed to be one of the guys that played his way onto the PGA TOUR at some point. While it didn’t happen in either of the last two years, he enters this event off a T9 in his last start and has made eight consecutive cuts overseas with a bunch of them resulting in top 30.
  9. Scott Piercy – Classy player in a field without much, followed up a missed cut at the Frys.com Open with a T7 at the Shriners and a T17 at McGladrey.
  10. Andrew Putnam – Was the 36-hole leader at the Shriners before fading into a share of 33rd. He proved to be a quick study, rebounding to share 12th in Sea Island the very next week. That’s a lot of moxie for a rookie.
  11. Fabian Gomez – Tied for fifth in par-4 scoring average, which is part of the reason he was able to share eighth at The McGladrey Classic.
  12. Nick Watney – Two years ago, he wouldn’t have even considered playing in an event like this. Heck, he would have been in the field at the WGC-HSBC Champions. His T16 to start his season in Vegas was a positive start, but his MDF in Sea Island a week later was a reminder that he’s still sorting things out.
Next 5: (Alphabetical): Paul Brown, Ken Duke, John Peterson, Brendon Steele and David Toms

As for the one-and-done, the small purse ($4M with $720k to the winner) dictates swinging for the fences. A tie for 23rd by a player barely moves the needle. So, if you want to take a risk, this is the tournament for it.

I’m going with Hudson Swafford this week. If he putts well, he’ll be dangerous. His form is as good as it has ever been and he is clearly in a great frame of mind. Kevin Kisner was a close second, but his 100th ranking in GIR was enough to miss the final cut. I could easily endorse almost anyone in my top 12 and next 5 this week.

Best of luck to all this week!

Monday, November 3, 2014

WGC-HSBC Champions - Power Ranking / One and Done

It’s a little hard to believe we have two tournaments to cover in November, but such is the case with the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Sanderson Farms Championship this week. Today we will release the power ranking for the WGC-HSBC Champions and the one-and-done selection.  Tomorrow we will return to release the power ranking and OAD for the Sanderson Farms Championship.

At Sheshan International GC this week, there are players arriving from both the BMW Masters and the CIMB Classic. We have taken a look at the current form of all players in the field, as well as several key statistical categories and course history. Here’s what we came up with.
  1. Sergio Garcia – Met his lofty expectations at the CIMB last week with a T2 and returns to the site of his solo fourth a year ago. Anyone who has watched golf in 2014 realizes that Sergio is playing the best golf of his life, so this is the perfect storm of form and course history emerging at a WGC.
  2. Justin Rose – He’s played Sheshan twice and hasn't finished worse than a T7 in 2011 (5th last year). He enters off a T4 at the BMW Masters last week. Much like Sergio, form and history are in top condition.
  3. Adam Scott – Posted a career-best T11 at Sheshan back in 2011. Per usual, his schedule has been light of late. He tied for 38th at the Japan Open a few weeks ago, but one has to question his true motivation and preparation for that event. This is a nod to his elite class in a field that lacks Rory McIlroy.
  4. Graeme McDowell – He’s finished third in his last two trips to Sheshan, so he gets a big “check” in the box beside course history. He’s been solid since the Ryder Cup, scoring a T9 at the Volvo World Match Play and a T16 at the BMW Masters last week.
  5. Martin Kaymer – While his form isn’t pristine, he is the course horse in the field. He has three top-eight finishes at Sheshan International including a win in 2011.
  6. Jamie Donaldson – One of the  hottest players on the globe, he kicked off an impressive run with a win at the D+D Real Czech Masters and followed that up with a Ryder Cup win and 7-T4-T13-T4 run, with the last T4 coming at the BMW Masters last week.
  7. Victor Dubuisson – The Frenchman has yet to play this event, but has gone T5-2-T21 in his last three worldwide starts. A win on a big stage is coming.
  8. Charl Schwartzel – A safe option this week, as he has a T16 and a T4 in his last two trips to Sheshan and went T15 and T19 in his last two starts leading into this week. It would seem that a top 20 is a lock in the no-cut event and a top 10 is quite possible.
  9. Ryan Palmer – I was beginning to think an American wouldn’t crack the list. While this is Palmer’s first PGA TOUR event of the 2014-15 season, he hasn’t been sleeping through the offseason. He tied for 14th at the Alfred Dunhill and shared 8th at the BMW Masters last week. He’s quietly moved to 39th in the world. One shouldn’t be too concerned with his T46 in 2010 at Sheshan, as he is a much more confident and complete player than he was four years ago.
  10. Jimmy Walker – Answered his disappointing 63rd at the Frys.com Open with a T4 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and has been off the last two weeks. Statistically, he’s a solid fit for this (or most any) course. He tied for 46th here last year.
  11. Rickie Fowler – Fowler makes his post-Ryder Cup debut this week. His record at Sheshan is lacking (T25 / T55), but he took a big step up in class over the last six months and should be a factor if he gets the rust knocked off.
  12. Bubba Watson – In the spirit of Halloween, he’s a complete bag of Skittles this week. You never know what flavor you might pull out. This is his first action since the Ryder Cup, but a T8 at Sheshan last year and the visual of a bomber (Dustin Johnson) winning the trophy offers plenty of reason for optimism.

Instead of the next 5, I’ve decided to complete the top 25 this week. There were too many guys worthy of a mention even if we don’t dive into the details.
  • 13 - Henrik Stenson
  • 14 - Mikko Illonen
  • 15 - Joost Luiten
  • 16 - Gary Woodland
  • 17 - Hideki Matsuyama
  • 18 - Hunter Mahan
  • 19 - John Senden
  • 20 - Lee Westwood
  • 21 - Bill Haas
  • 22 - Keegan Bradley
  • 23 - Ian Poulter
  • 24 - Jordan Spieth
  • 25 - Billy Horschel

As for the one-and-done, this is a WGC. That means the purse is big ($1.4M to the winner) and there is absolutely no reason to hold back. I will roll the dice with Sergio Garcia this week, but could make a compelling case for Martin Kaymer or Jamie Donaldson for those not wanting to blow a pick on Garcia.

As mentioned earlier, we will return with the Sanderson Farms Championship power ranking and OAD. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sanderson Farms Championship - Preview

The Sanderson Farms Championship will be contested in Jackson, Mississippi, opposite the WGC-HSBC Champions. This tournament was played at Annandale CC since 1994, but will break in the Country Club of Jackson as the host venue this time around. Of note, this tournament has recently played second fiddle to the Open Championship, but was off the schedule all together in 2013-14. It was also rained out in 2009.

Before I continue, I would like to thank Country Club of Jackson member, McWillie, and the First Assistant Golf Professional, Taylor, for the assist in my research this week. Here's hoping a little local knowledge will go a long way this week!

Country Club of Jackson is a par-72 layout that stretches out to 7,354 yards and features a quartet of par 3s and 5s to go with 10 par 4s. All of the par 5s are listed at 554 yards or longer, with the par-5 fifth weighing in at 612 yards.

My friends in Jackson offered me the following, which I will dutifully pass along to you. The greens are currently extremely firm and fast and of the Champions Bermuda variety. They are relatively difficult to read, and don't feature a common break (ex: in Vegas, everything breaks towards the strip etc). Missing greens could prove penal, as there are some severe falloffs just off the putting surfaces. The higher a player's ball flight, the better the chances of holding the putting surface. The course plays a little shorter than the yardage, and is fairly open off the tee. Longer players should enjoy an advantage.

So what does all of that mean?

Typically, when a new course enters the rotation, ball-striking wins out over putting. I would expect that to be the case this week. Difficult greens to read tends to equalize the field. It brings elite putters back to the average and puts the onus on hitting it close and avoiding three putts.

Driving accuracy probably won't be quite as big of a deal, but length will likely be rewarded. Obviously, being in the fairway would allow for more spin to hold the firm greens, but a wedge out of the rough isn't much worse than an 8-iron from the fairway.

My preference this week will be to find a group of solid ball-strikers who happen to be average to above-average putters and decent scramblers. In terms of ball-striking, I would rank GIR > Driving Distance > Driving Accuracy.

I will return with Power Rankings on Tuesday. Until then, happy research!

WGC-HSBC Champions - Preview

The WGC-HSBC Champions returns to Sheshan International GC for the fifth time in six years later this week. Here is a preview to get you off and running.

Sheshan International plays to a par of 72 and is expected to stretch out to 7,266 yards. It has the expected blend of four par 5s, four par 3s and 10 par 4s. Two of the par 5s measure over 590 yards, which could explain why bombers have performed well here in the past. Similarly, half of the par 4s measure 450 yards or longer, and all of the par 3s measure 200 yards or longer. Several short par 4s make the total yardage of the layout deceptively short.

Here is a look at the winners and runners-up for each of the previous four season Sheshan was utilized in the rotation.

  • 2009 - Phil Mickelson (17-under 271) over Ernie Els (272)
  • 2010 - Francesco Molinari (269) over Lee Westwood (270)
  • 2011 - Martin Kaymer (268) over Freddie Jacobson (271)
  • 2013 - Dustin Johnson (264) over Ian Poulter (267)

In terms of research, this could be a good week to throw in par-5 scoring average. It also might be worth a glimpse at a boutique stat like GIR from 200+ yards. While Driving Distance is normally overrated, this is a week where it may not be. The usual suspects of par-4 scoring average, SGP and GIR are never a bad thing.

We will return tomorrow with a power ranking. Until then, happy research!