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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson

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A change of golf course this year for the AT&T Byron Nelson, as Trinity Forest Golf Club makes its debut on the PGA Tour. Analyzing new courses is always a challenge, however, Steven Bowditch helped us by tweeting his insights into Trinity Forest yesterday.

“Love Trinity Forrest. Suits ever type of player. Fairways are rolling out good amount considering zyosia.. Greens somewhat receptive.. putting around green is near impossible as they have let greenside grass grow more than usual. Better bring short game and precision iron game.”

To add to Bowditch’s insights, Trinity Forest is quite a long par-71 at just under 7,400 yards. Wide fairways mean that the longer hitters have some advantage, however, ball striking, accuracy with irons and short-game skills appear to be of paramount importance this week. Last year at TPC Four Seasons, Billy Horschel won a dramatic playoff against Jason Day.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 11/2
  • Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 18/1
  • Jimmy Walker 20/1
  • Billy Horschel 20/1
  • Adam Scott 22/1

Headlining the field and playing on a course where he is a member, Jordan Spieth deserves to be the heavy favorite. Spieth has said how he feels his game is in good enough shape to win and that he has a distinct advantage this week at a course he knows better than anyone else. While all this is true and all the signs point to Spieth having a good week in Texas, there remains a question mark over his putting. Spieth has posted negative Strokes Gained numbers on the greens in his last four PGA Tour events, and last week he ended his tournament by three-putting from 5 feet. It’s a concern big enough for me to ignore the price of 11/2.

Instead, another man with a fine record in Texas looks to be the way to go. Jimmy Walker (20/1, DK Price $9,500) has roared back into form in recent weeks, following up a top-20 finish at the Masters with back-to-back top-5 finishes in his last two events. Over his previous eight rounds, Walker ranks ninth in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, first in Strokes Gained-Short Game, second in Strokes Gained-Putting and first in Strokes Gained-Total.

Walker has also been excellent around the greens. Over his previous 24 rounds, Walker sits fifth in Strokes Gained-Around the Green, a skill that Bowditch says will be essential this week. Walker has always been wild off the tee, something that is still a concern. But by all accounts, we are getting some of the widest fairways of the year at Trinity Forest this week, and that should help Walker massively. He’s an acceptable price and looks set to get himself in the mix again in Texas.

Beau Hossler (33/1, DK Price $9,000) is enjoying a good year on the PGA Tour, and he has now made six consecutive cuts. Despite a seemingly dull week for him at The Players last week, Hossler will take massive positives from his T-46 finish. His irons were very sharp, and his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green numbers equalled his best on Tour. In fact, Hossler was the third-highest ranked player last week from tee to green. Had it not been for a disastrous week on the greens, he would have found himself in contention.

Hossler matches up well in all the key categories this week, and he also looks a little undervalued. Over his previous 12 rounds, the American ranks 11th in Ball Striking, seventh in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and 22nd in Strokes Gained-Around the Green. It’s a considerably weaker field this week than it has been on Tour for a while now, and if Hossler can bring his form with the long game from last week to Trinity Forest, then there’s every chance of another high finish.

Time for a couple of big prices and lower-priced men for your DraftKings lineups. Over his previous 12 rounds, Troy Merritt (150/1, DK Price $7,600) has shown the type of ball striking necessary to do well at Trinity Forest. Merritt ranks seventh in Ball Striking and third in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green in this period, and he also sits 20th in Strokes Gained-Total. Merritt has also made seven of his last eight cuts on Tour, and he looks to be a solid choice for any DraftKings lineup this week in what is a weak field.

Consistently one of the best putters on Tour, the flat stick is the part of Aaron Baddeley’s (125/1, DK Price $7,500) game that has been off recently. If his putting were to return to him this week, then you’d be looking at a dangerous sleeper. Over the past 12 rounds, Baddeley ranks 20th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green. His short game has been immaculate over his previous 24 rounds, and he sits 2nd in this field for Strokes Gained-Around the Green. The Australian has also made seven of his last eight cuts on Tour, and he should prove to be a solid choice for DraftKings players this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Jimmy Walker 20/1, DK Price $9,500
  • Beau Hossler 33/1, DK Price $9,000
  • Troy Merritt 150/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Aaron Baddeley 125/1, DK Price $7,500
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. gobrogolfo

    May 15, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Tigger all the way ….. 😀

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Podcasts

Gear Dive: How Tiger Woods used to adjust his clubs based on swing changes

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Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the TheTourVan.com, joins host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser on this episode of The Gear Dive. Ben discusses working in-depth with Nike Athletes before the company stopped producing hard goods. He has some fantastic intel on TW and the setup of his sticks (around the 14-minute mark). They also discuss Ben’s new endeavor.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

The 2018 NCAA Men’s National Championship: By the Numbers

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For the 2018 NCAA Men’s Championship, 156 participants (30 teams of five, and six individuals) will collect at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 25-30 to determine the 2018 NCAA Individual Champion and the NCAA Team champion.

There will be three days of stroke play on Friday through Sunday (54 holes). From there, 15 teams and nine individuals advance to a final day of stroke play on Monday. That will determine the eight teams who will advance to match play, and the individual 72-hole stroke play champion. Match play format on Tuesday and Wednesday will then determine the national team champion.

Who will win? Well, let’s look at the numbers from the NCAA Men’s Championships in the past 9 years (when they began playing match play as part of the national title).

Average winning score for individual stroke play

  • For 3 rounds of stroke play — 832 strokes (avg. 69.3 per golfer)
  • For 4 rounds of stroke play — 1137 strokes (avg. 71.06 per golfer)

Number of No. 1 seeds to win championship: 0

Average match play seed of eventual winner: 4.5

Where the winners have come from

  • 44 percent of winners (4 out of 9) are from the SEC: Texas AM (2009), Alabama (2013, 2014) and LSU (2015)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from the Big 12: Texas (2012), Oklahoma (2017)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from Augusta, GA: August State (2010, 2011)
  • 11 percent of winners (1 out of 9) are from the PAC 12: Oregon (2016)
  • 11 percent of the match play field has historically come from mid-major teams

Mid-Majors that have Qualified for Match Play

  • August State (2010, 2011)
  • Kent State (2012)
  • San Diego State (2012)
  • New Mexico University (2013)
  • SMU (2014)
  • UNLV (2017)

Mid Majors with 4+ Appearances in the NCAA National Championship 

  • UCF (2009, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • Kent State (2010, 201, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • North Florida (2010, 2012, 2013, 2018)

So with facts in hand, let’s hear your opinion GolfWRX readers… who’s going to be your team champion for 2018?

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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