Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

How has Hoylake changed and who serves to benefit?

Published

on

The power of Tiger Woods appears to, at times, blanket all blemishes it encounters.

If you are looking for proof, click back eight years when Royal Liverpool, hosting its first Open Championship in 39 years, re-emerged dry, browned out, prone to powdery explosions following fairway strikes and a more convincing impersonation of a racetrack than a golf course.

One may have hoped that the purple flower bombs dropped on the final green that Sunday added a distinctive hue to the colorless layout, but the sizable remnants instead painted the course as an abandoned lot further tainted by loosely organized graffiti.

Yet, Woods’ merciless four-day assault on Hoylake became the main story for the week. The compelling narrative of golf’s dominant figure ironing the course into submission for an 11th major title covered up the damaging look of the layout brought on by unseasonably hot and dry weather. As Woods cried into caddy Steve Williams’ arms, no media were prepared to type up a scathing review of a course that was so baked out and such a fire hazard that spectator smoking was banned and the fire department was on hand throughout the event.

It’s 2014 now though, and Tiger’s fortunes have changed drastically in eight years—to the point that any hope he dominates the headlines this week with his play should be deemed quite unlikely.

But Royal Liverpool doesn’t need saving this time.

The course, affectionately known as Hoylake for the town it sits in, is almost unrecognizable from its 2006 incarnation. Sure, it only stands 54 yards longer, but the grass is lush and green, the balls aren’t running on the ground like…well this, and the rough has transformed from afterthought into bona fide hazard.

943017JPG

If you’re looking at the blueprint of how to play Hoylake from 2006, you might want to update a few things. These key alterations mean that players must be aware of how new factors change the strategy in attacking this course.

What exactly do these alterations mean for which parts of the game? We have a few thoughts here, including the players these factors favor at the end.

The Softer Conditions

Besides Tiger’s chances, the massive leveling down of the course’s firmness will be the prime story heading into the championship, and it already kind of is.

If it wasn’t enough for Rory McIlroy to be a media goldmine in terms of drama—significantly down campaign in 2013, lawsuit against his former agent, breakup of engagement with tennis star Caroline Wozniaki and winning days later—he gave the assembled press an expert rundown of what to expect at Hoylake.

As McIlroy pointed out, the biggest difference he noticed from 2006 (when he watched it on television with his parents), is the color of the course and what that means for the speed on the ground. With Hoylake’s lush and green look, balls are stopping almost immediately on fairways and greens, a stark contrast to what occurred in 2006.

These comments came 10 days before the championship’s start and McIlroy was quick to note that the course is likely being protected right now and should be significantly firmer and faster once tournament play starts.

But let’s be clear, we aren’t getting anything on the levels of 2006. Even as one of the few longest drivers in the game at the time, Tiger Woods and his 291-yard average off the tee hitting mostly irons and just one driver is absurd. For good measure, Chad Campbell hit a three-iron 330 yards during one practice round that week.

With the reduced firmness the course plays longer, something that usually falls into the hands of the bigger hitters. But the opposite should be true this week.

Hoylake simply isn’t a long golf course. It will stand at 7,350 yards for the Open Championship, compared to Augusta National’s 7,435 yards and Pinehurst No. 2’s max of 7,562. And these distances aren’t exactly analogous, as Hoylake remains significantly firmer than either of theose layouts.

The course’s four par-fives are reachable by all hitters in dry or wet conditions, so don’t expect softer fairways to offer the long bombers a sizable advantage here.

Instead, a less bouncy short grass forces the bigger hitters to move away a degree from the near-certain safety that long irons provide into the fading accuracy of fairway woods and drivers.

Of course there will certainly be plenty of irons on the driving ground this week, but the one-driver-every-72-holes strategy simply will not fly like it did eight years ago.

This little affects the Luke Donalds of the world, but the Bubba Watsons and Dustin Johnsons cannot hide behind their long irons quite as much as they could have last time around at Hoylake. They must pump out significantly more woods and drivers, and however confident they feel with those clubs, the bigger sticks don’t offer the same fairway confirmation as irons.

The short hitters, then, gain a bit more with a greener golf course.

All of this is assuming that the wind is not fierce and the forecast points a mild breeze. Whatever the case, the softer conditions aid in significantly reducing the long hitter’s advantage.

Rough around the Fairways

There’s no question what the biggest hazard is when you miss the fairway at Hoylake: the pot bunkers. The fear those virtually-guaranteed one-stroke hazards engender lead Woods to adopt his now famous strategy off the tee in 2006.

Those sandy caves of doom remain eight years later, but they are no longer Hoylake’s (largely) sole defense off the tee.

One of this biggest casualties of the heat wave the last time the Open came around these parts was the rough on the Hoylake layout. The lack of proper watering from Mother Nature allowed the thick grass to whither into a nearly non-existent nuisance for championship week.

Without the freak weather though, the rough has returned in 2014 and it appears to be some of the most luscious grass these pros have faced all year—er, or at least since Congressional two weeks ago.

McIlroy’s take on the tall grass was pretty interesting, as he cited the stuff as patchy and overall quite penalizing. You’re going to get very few chances to sky irons from the rough and land the ball softly on the green. Most of the lies, it seems, will allow you to advance it to the green, but keeping it on the dance floor is the big challenge. And good luck if you get it in one of those bad patches, where chipping out is really the only option.

This second line of defense off the tee has an obvious effect; driving accuracy will be even more of a premium at Hoylake than in 2006.

Tiger Woods Hoylake 2006
Aside from its tee boxes, there was very little green to be seen at Hoylake in 2006. 

Keeping it in the fairway was already of paramount importance on this layout eight years ago, so the value of the short grass is at an astronomical level now. You could at least afford to be inaccurate if it meant hitting it in the rough back in the day of Tiger’s triumph.

That’s no longer true, although finding the rough remains preferable to a trip to the pot bunkers.

The softer and slower conditions necessitate more aggression off the tee, but if your longer clubs are wild here, you might want to lay back on drives, no matter how much it handicaps you.

The combination of uncompromising bunkers and tough and unpredictable rough (not to mention gorse as well) offers too much in terms of potential lost strokes for any player to hit 6 of 14 fairways and come off the course with a solid score.

Iron play will be quite important at Hoylake still, but as these two points illustrate, driving takes center stage for a player who has eyes for the Claret Jug.

Shots Around the Green

I think we can all admit that the average Open Championship set up minimizes the role of the flatstick. Hoylake is no different with its slow and mostly flat surfaces.

Yet, in this sport, putting and short game tend to get lumped together and that is a short-sighted move. This tendency leads people to predict Open favorites based on ball-striking prowess, wholly ignoring what the golfer offers (or doesn’t) from around the green and in.

That is a blatantly bad move. Much is said about the creativity links golf induces in shot making from tee-to-green, but the same occurs for strokes only a few yards off the putting surface.

Players can commit to all types of shots close to the green: bump-and-run, chip, pitch, flop or even a putt. There is a great existence of imagination that some tend to gloss over here and by doing so they outright miss the fact that the short game plays a massive roles in an Open’s outcome.

Hoylake was no different in this regard in 2006, and if you have any questions about that, I refer you to my man, Jim Furyk.

There is an added element this time though.

The being-talked-about rough is not singular to the fairways. Bunkers and run-offs were the real defenses around the green the previous time at Hoylake, and now we can add thick rough to this equation.

Once again, we turn to McIlroy, who referenced holes Nos. 12-to-14 containing heavy rough guarding the putting surfaces and potentially bringing nightmares to those less inclined in that area of the game.

And that’s not all. The toughest greenside rough might actually belong to No. 16, and, as McIlroy also alluded to, there are certain surfaces where missing on a specific side can be deadly. The places he was likely referencing were the thin sliver of rough before out of bounds right of No. 3 green, the thick patch of grass long and left on No. 7 and the nasty stuff short and left with the bunkers on No. 17.

With all of these dangers areas providing headaches with truly juicy rough this week, the underrated short game element becomes more magnified at this Open.

The thicker rough at Hoylake 2014 means more recognition for the short game, and it’s about time it got some.

The Players Who Benefit

As these changes have such sizable effects on certain parts of the game, some players gain significant good vibes.

Jason Dufner 2014 Open

The differences between 2006 and 2014 clearly aid players who register in the short-to-medium section on the driving-distance scale, those who are quite accurate off the tee and the competitors who possess a magic touch around the greens. Those who qualify significantly for two of these three factors, or all three, stand the most to profit off these changes.

Perusing through the field, the names that stick out on this end are, in no particular order: Jason Dufner, Ian Poulter, Chris Stroud, Matteo Manassero, Webb Simpson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Luke Donald and Brendon Todd.

All eight of these players fit the criteria above, some in different ways than others.

Dufner and Todd are the only two on the list who absolutely nail all three factors. Dufner is solidly in the middle pack of players for driving distance, as he is a bit below average overall in that category, has one of the best combinations of driving accuracy and precision on Tour and is a great short game player.

No, seriously. As poor a putter Dufner can be at times, especially inside five feet, he’s very much capable around the greens. In the PGA Tour’s Proximity to Hole (Around the Green) statistic—a much better indicator of short game success than scrambling, which is just as much about putting as off the green work—Dufner is top 25 three of the last four years, including first in the category in 2012.

Todd is decidedly a short hitter with high-end driving accuracy and precision numbers (35th in accuracy and 15th in distance from edge of the fairway). He’s also currently top 30 in Proximity to Hole (ARG).

No players will be better suited for Hoylake’s transformation as these two, but the others on this list will still see a great net plus.

Stroud and Simpson are just moderately accurate and precise drivers, but both prove mighty skilled around the greens. Simpson’s finishes in Proximity to Hole (ARG) from 2012 to 2014 are: T7, T38, T30, and Stroud’s are T10, T16, 8. The duo is is below average in driving distance, sticking them firmly in two of three categories.

The same goes for Poulter, Donald and Manassero. They possess the same traits here as Stroud and Simpson except that all three are exceptionally short drivers. The short game prowess is real though, as Donald has placed top-five in the Proximity metric three of the last five years with Poulter not far behind at four top-15 placements in six years. Manassero doesn’t have this data because he’s a European Tour man, but his reputation as the heir apparent to Seve Ballesteros should quell all doubts here.

The final one of the eight players most likely to take advantage of Hoylake’s changes doesn’t fit in with the rest.

That’s a pretty apt deal for Jimenez, who has been immortalized for his one-of-a-kind personality. (And we can’t forget this.) We don’t have full data on Jimenez due to his European Tour affiliation, but the limited metrics there show him to be both a very short and highly accurate driver.

Like many of the others here, that puts him in line to be a significant beneficiary of two of these three changes. As for his short game, he’s generally considered a solid player from that area, even if there is no objective data to back it up (or disprove it).

To be clear, this is not a short list of favorites. What we have here are the eight candidates whose games most directly benefit from Hoylake’s new look in its eight-year downtime since its last Open.

Maybe one wins, maybe not.

In any case, it would be unwise to use the results of the 2006 Open to determine this week’s standings. It’s been nearly a decade and the course is entirely different.

And even if Hoylake is still criticized for its bland views, at least the singed property that met us in 2006 is a thing of the past.

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Kevin's fascination with the game goes back as long as he can remember. He has written about the sport on the junior, college and professional levels and hopes to cover its proceedings in some capacity for as long as possible. His main area of expertise is the PGA Tour, which is his primary focus for GolfWRX. Kevin is currently a student at Northwestern University, but he will be out into the workforce soon enough. You can find his golf tidbits and other sports-related babble on Twitter @KevinCasey19. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: September 2014

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Pingback: How has Hoylake changed and who serves to benefit? | Spacetimeandi.com

  2. Tony

    Jul 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Guarantee you Tiger has spent all his break perfecting his Stinger!

    • steve

      Jul 15, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Haven’t seen the stinger in years. They say it is very green and lush. Not dry and fast

  3. Paul

    Jul 15, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Well the green grass will get greener, the forecast is more rain on the way with a lot of wind to drive it into the players. Rory might come good if he can last the 4 days, but he has a tendency to mess it up on the Friday.

  4. IH8

    Jul 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I’m surprised Graeme McDowell didn’t make your list. Ok, he’s short (not mid-range) but he’s a fairway seeker. And he’s pretty solid with a wedge in his hands.

    • Kevin Casey

      Jul 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      I’m not afraid to admit when I’ve made an error, be it factual or by omission.

      You’re absolutely right, should’ve put him on that list. Tried to make sure I went through the field thoroughly there, but must have glossed over his name by accident.

      As I said, as long as you significantly qualify for two of the three (short-medium length, driving accuracy and short game), you deserve to be on this list. And McDowell certainly does. He’s definitely a short driver and extremely accurate as well. Clearly qualifies in both categories.

      The only contention I have is that I don’t see McDowell as a great short game player. He comes out pretty much average there in the PGA Tour metrics. Of course, he’s also a European Tour guy and has a lot more wins and has a lot better top-10s per event ratio. But it’s also an easier tour, and McDowell’s PGA Tour appearances have rarely been against anything but one of the circuit’s strongest fields (which was not the case for most of his European career). So I think the difference in competition level can mostly account for that gap, rather than him being a much better player in Europe. If the European Tour had the data, I’d think he comes out pretty much the same player, after you adjust for strength of competition.

      The short game point is tangential though. McDowell should be on this list regardless. Thank you for pointing that out!

  5. steve

    Jul 15, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Best quote of the week was Martin Kaymer interview “golf is a game where you play with yourself”. Love that, that should be the new golf campaign slogan “Golf, you can play with yourself”

    • MHendon

      Jul 15, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Lol that slogan applies to me and more than half the rounds I play.

      • paul

        Jul 15, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        I prefer to play with my wife, not by myself. You know, play a couple holes in the early evening, have some fun. Those twilight rounds can be nice ????

        • Mow

          Jul 16, 2014 at 9:57 am

          If it’s mowed down really well

        • bradford

          Jul 16, 2014 at 12:06 pm

          Indeed, your wife plays well…Really knows how to hit it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Early season wedge game tune-up

Published

on

Depending on the part of the country you call home, you might just be getting into the 2024 golf season, or you might be several months into it. Either way, your scoring success this season – like every season – will likely drill down to how good your game is from 100 yards and in.

The best way to sharpen your wedge play is, surprise, spend some time refining and practicing your technique. Whether it’s winter rust or mid-season sloppiness, your wedge game can be a serious cause of frustration if and when it goes sour on you.

If you want to be sharp when it really counts, give it some time and attention. Start with a detailed look at your fundamentals – posture, alignment, ball position, grip, and grip pressure – and then advance to an examination of the actual chipping and pitching motion of the swing.

No matter what your skill level might be, I am convinced that time spent on the following drills will yield giant rewards in your scores and enjoyment of the game. There is nothing quite so demoralizing and maddening than to hit a good drive and better-than-average approach shot, then chunk or skull a simple chip or pitch, turning a par or bogie-at-worst into a double or even more.

Core activation

The key to a solid short game is to synchronize your arm swing with the rotation of your body core. They simply have to move together, back and through impact into the follow-through. When I’m about to start a short game session, I like to begin with the club extended in front of my body, with my upper arms close to my chest, then rotate my upper torso back and through, to give me the sensation that I am moving the club only with my core rotation, with the hands only having the job of holding on to it. In this drill, you want to ensure that the clubhead is exactly in front of your sternum as you rotate back and through. When you lower the club into the playing position, this puts the upper end of the grip pointing roughly at your belt buckle and it stays in that “attitude” through the backswing and follow through.

S-L-O-W motion

I believe one of the most misunderstood and destructive pieces of advice in the short game is to “accelerate through the ball”. What I see much too often is that the golfer fails to take a long enough backswing and then quickly jabs at the ball . . . all in the pursuit of “accelerating through the ball.” In reality, that is pretty hard NOT to do if you have any kind of follow through at all. Relying on that core activation move, I like to make very slow swings – back and through impact – experimenting with just how slow I can make the swing and still see some ball flight. You’ll be amazed at how slow a body rotation can be made and still make the ball fly in a nice trajectory.

Windows

I’m borrowing this term from Tiger Woods, who often spoke of hitting his iron shots through certain “windows,” i.e. first floor, second floor, etc. For your short game, I simplify this into hitting short pitch shots on three different flight trajectories – low, medium, and high. I have found the simplest way to do this is to use the same swing for each shot and determine the trajectory by where you place the ball in your set-up. Start by finding the ball position that gives you what you consider to be a “normal” trajectory with your sand wedge. Then, hit some shots with the ball just one inch back and forward of that spot and see what trajectory you get. You can then take that to another level by repeating the process with your other wedges, from your highest lofted to your lowest.

Ladder drill

For this exercise, I like to have some room on the range or practice area that lets me hit balls any distance I want, from ten feet out to about 25 yards, or even more if you can. I start by hitting a basic chip shot to fly precisely to a divot or piece of turf I’ve targeted about ten feet in front of me. The next shot I try to land where that ball stopped. I repeat that process until I have a line of balls from ten feet to 25 or so yards from me. With each shot, I repeat it until I can land my shot within a foot or less of my “target ball.”

The idea of this kind of practice with your short game is to hit so many shots that you feel like you can do anything with the ball, and you can take that confidence and execution skill to the course. You can literally work through a few hundred shots in an hour or so with these drills, and there’s nothing like repetition to build a skill set you can trust “under fire.”

Your Reaction?
  • 9
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW2
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge betting preview: Tony Finau ready to get back inside winner’s circle

Published

on

After an action-packed week at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour heads back to Texas to play the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.

Colonial Country Club is a 7,209-yard par-70 and features Bentgrass greens. The difficulty of the event this week will be influenced by course setup and/or wind. The last four seasons have all produced winners with scores between -8 and -14, with the two most recent playing extremely difficult. Last year, Emiliano Grillo won in a playoff against Adam Schenk at -8, and in 2022, Sam Burns edged out Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at -9.

After last season’s event, the course was renovated by Gil Hanse. I expect the course to stay true to what the original design intended, but will improve in some areas that needed updating. Jordan Spieth, who is one of the most consistent players at Colonial, told Golfweek his thoughts on the changes.

“I always thought courses like this, Hilton Head, these classic courses that stand the test of time, it’s like what are you going to do to these places? I think that’s kind of everyone’s first response,” Spieth said. “Then I saw them, and I was like, wow, this looks really, really cool. It looks like it maintains the character of what Colonial is while creating some excitement on some holes that maybe could use a little bit of adjusting.”

The Charles Schwab Challenge will play host to 136 golfers this week, and the field is relatively strong despite it being the week after a major championship.

Some notable golfers in the field include Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Min Woo Lee, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Akshay Bhatia. 

Past Winners at Charles Schwab Challenge

  • 2023: Emiliano Grillo (-8)
  • 2022: Sam Burns (-9)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-14)
  • 2020: Daniel Berger (-15)
  • 2019: Kevin Na (-13)
  • 2018: Justin Rose (-20)
  • 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)

Key Stats For Colonial Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Colonial Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach will be a major factor this week. It grades out as the most important statistic historically in events played at Colonial Country Club, and that should be the case once again this week.

Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  2. Ryan Moore (1.00)
  3. Tom Hoge (+0.96)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+0.85)
  5. Greyson Sigg (+0.83)

2. Strokes Gained: Off The Tee

Both distance and accuracy will be important this week. Historically, shorter hitters who find the fairway have thrived at Colonial, but over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of the players in the field use big drives to eliminate the challenge of doglegs and fairway bunkers.

The rough can be thick and penal, so finding the fairway will remain important.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  2. Keith Mitchell (+0.90)
  3. Kevin Yu (+0.87)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+0.81)
  5. Min Woo Lee (+0.80)

3. Strokes Gained: Total in Texas

Players who play well in the state of Texas tend to play well in multiple events during the Texas swing. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over past 36 rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.16)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.97)
  3. Tony Finau (+1.91)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+1.68)
  5. Justin Rose (+1.62)

4. Course History

Course history seems to be much more important at Colonial Country Club than most other courses. The same players tend to pop up on leaderboards here year after year.

Course History per round Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.31)
  2. Justin Rose (+1.70)
  3. Harris English (+1.66)
  4. Webb Simpson (+1.54)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+1.47)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass)

The Bentgrass greens at Colonial are in immaculate condition, and putters who roll it pure are at an advantage. Historically, great putters have thrived at Colonial.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass) Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  2. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  3. J.T. Poston (+0.87)
  4. Maverick McNealy (+0.85)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.74)

Charles Schwab Challenge Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: OTT (25%), Strokes Gained: Total in Texas (14%), Course History (17%) and SG: Putting Bentgrass (17%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Chris Kirk
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Billy Horschel
  5. Daniel Berger
  6. Maverick McNealy
  7. Adam Schenk
  8. Collin Morikawa
  9. Austin Eckroat
  10. Sepp Straka

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks

Tony Finau +3300 (FanDuel)

Tony Finau hit the ball incredibly well at last week’s PGA Championship. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining 9.3 strokes in the category, which was his second-best performance on approach this season (Farmers T6). Finau’s tie for 18th at Valhalla is ideal considering the fact that he played very well but didn’t have the mental and emotional strain of hitting shots deep into contention in a major championship. He should be sharp and ready to go for this week’s event.

Finau has been phenomenal in the state of Texas. He ranks third in Strokes Gained: Total in the Lone Star state in his past 36 rounds and just recently put up a T2 finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open last month. He also has success at Colonial. He finished 2nd at the course in 2019 and T4 at the course in 2022. He missed the cut last year, however, that seems to be an aberration as he hasn’t finished worse than 34th in his seven other trips to Fort Worth.

Finau has gained strokes off the tee in 10 of his 13 starts this season, and his ability to hit the ball long and straight should give him an advantage this week at Colonial. He’s also gained strokes on approach in 11 of his 13 starts this year. His tee to green excellence should work wonders this week, as Colonial is a challenging test. The concern, as usual, for Tony, is the putter. He’s in the midst of the worst putting season of his career, but with a target score in the -8 to -13 range this week, he should be able to get away with a few mistakes on the greens.

Finau is one of the most talented players in the field and I believe he can put it all together this week in Texas to get his first win since last year’s Mexico Open.

Sungjae Im +5000 (BetRivers)

Sungjae Im is really starting to play some good golf of late, despite his missed cut at last week’s PGA Chmapionship. Im missed the cut on the number, which may be a blessing in disguise that allows him to rest and also keeps the price reasonable on him this week. The missed cut was due to some woeful putting, which is atypical for Sungjae. He gained strokes slightly both off the tee and on approach, therefore I’m not concerned with the performance.

Prior to his trip to Valhalla, Sungjae was beginning to show why he has been such a good player over the course of his career. He finished T12 at Heritage and then won an event in Korea. He followed that up with a T4 at Quail Hollow in a “Signature Event”, which was his best performance on the PGA Tour this season. At the Wells Fargo, the South Korean was 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and showed his skill around and on the greens.

Sungjae has had some success at Colonial. He’s finished T10 and T15 with two missed cuts scattered in between over the past four seasons. When he is in form, which I believe he now is, the course suits him well.

Im hasn’t won since 2021, which is an underachievement given how talented I believe he is. That can change this week with a win at Colonial.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout +5000 (FanDuel)

I absolutely love this spot for Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The South African is having a fantastic season and this is a course that should suit his strengths.

Prior the PGA Championship, Bez hadn’t finished worse than 28th in six consecutive starts. He’s not the type of player who can get to -20 in a “birdie fest” but can grind in a tougher event. He is a terrific player in the wind and putts extremely well on Bentgrass greens. Bezuidenhout has also had success both in Texas and at Colonial. He ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over his past 36 rounds.

Part of what has made Bezuidenhout play so well this year is his increase in ball speed, which has been the recipe for success for plenty of players, including the winner of last week’s PGA Championship, Xander Schauffele. Bezuidenhout’s coach shared his ball speed gains on Instagram a few weeks back.

https://www.instagram.com/p/C6FCvK3S97A/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Now at close to 170mph ball speed, that isn’t enough to compete at the monstrous major championship courses in my opinion, however it’s plenty to contend at Colonial.

Bezuidenhout has been one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour this season and a win would put an exclamation point on what’s been his best year on Tour to date.

Brendon Todd +12500 (BetRivers)

Brendon Todd is the type of player that’s hit or miss, but usually shows up on the courses he has a strong history on and plays well. Todd finished T8 at Colonial in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. He’s also flashed some Texas form this year as he finished T5 at the Valero Texas Open in April.

Todd doesn’t contend all that often, but when he does, he’s shown in the past that he has the capability to win a golf tournament. He has three PGA Tour wins including a win in Texas back in 2014 (TPC Four Seasons).

Todd is a player who can rise to the top if some of the elite players aren’t in contention after a grueling PGA Championship.

Your Reaction?
  • 17
  • LEGIT4
  • WOW3
  • LOL3
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK5

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 PGA Championship betting preview: Rising star ready to join the immortals at Valhalla

Published

on

The second major of the 2024 season is upon us as the world’s best players will tee it up this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy.

The last time we saw Valhalla host a major championship, Rory McIlroy fended off Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and the creeping darkness that was descending upon the golf course. The Northern Irishman had the golf world in the palm of his hand, joining only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as players who’d won four major championships by the time they were 25 years old. 

Valhalla is named after the great hall described in Norse mythology where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The course is a Jack Nicklaus-design that has ranked among Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Courses” for three decades. 

Valhalla Golf Club is a par-71 measuring 7,542 yards with Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens. The course has rolling hills and dangerous streams scattered throughout and the signature 13th hole is picturesque with limestone and unique bunkering protecting the green. The 2024 PGA Championship will mark the fourth time Valhalla has hosted the event. 

The field this week will consist of 156 players, including 16 PGA Champions and 33 Major Champions. 

Past Winners of the PGA Championship

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-9) Oak Hill
  • 2022: Justin Thomas (-5) Southern Hills
  • 2021: Phil Mickelson (-6) Kiawah Island
  • 2020: Collin Morikawa (-13) TPC Harding Park
  • 2019: Brooks Koepka (-8) Bethpage Black
  • 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16) Bellerive
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8) Quail Hollow
  • 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14) Baltusrol
  • 2015: Jason Day (-20) Whistling Straits
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy (-16) Valhalla

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats For Valhalla

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Oak Hill to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Valhalla will play as a true all-around test of golf for the world’s best. Of course, it will take strong approach play to win a major championship.

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Shane Lowry (+1.25)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  3. Jordan Smith (+1.05)
  4. Tom Hoge (+.96)
  5. Corey Conners (+.94)

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Valhalla will play long and the rough will be penal. Players who are incredibly short off the tee and/or have a hard time hitting fairways will be all but eliminated from contention this week at the PGA Championship. 

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+1.47)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  3. Keith Mitchell (+.90)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+.89)
  5. Ludvig Aberg (+.82)

Strokes Gained: Total on Nickalus Designs

Valhalla is a classic Nicklaus Design. Players who play well at Nicklaus designs should have an advantage coming into this major championship. 

Strokes Gained: Total on Nicklaus Designs over past 36 rounds:

  1. Jon Rahm (+2.56)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.48)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+2.35)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+1.79)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.57)

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Very Long Courses

Valhalla is going to play extremely long this week. Players who have had success playing very long golf courses should be better equipped to handle the conditions of this major championship.

Strokes Gained: Total on Very Long Courses Over Past 24 Rounds: 

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.44)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+2.24)
  3. Will Zalatoris (+1.78)
  4. Viktor Hovland (+1.69)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+1.60)

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

One factor that tends to play a large role in deciding major championships is which players have played well in previous majors leading up to the event. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships over past 20 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+3.14)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+2.64)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+2.49)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+2.48)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (2.09)

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens

Valhalla features pure Bentgrass putting surfaces. Players who are comfortable putting on this surface will have an advantage on the greens. 

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Ludvig Aberg (+1.12)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick (+0.99)
  4. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  5. J.T. Poston (0.87)

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways

Valhalla features Zoysia fairways. Players who are comfortable playing on this surface will have an advantage on the field.

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways over past 36 rounds: 

  1. Justin Thomas (+1.53)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+1.47)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.40)
  4. Brooks Koepka (+1.35)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+1.23)

2024 PGA Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (25%), SG: Off the Tee (22%), SG: T2G on Very Long Courses (12%), SG: Putting on Bentgrass (+12%), SG: Total on Nicklaus Designs (12%). SG: Total on Zoysia Fairways (8%), and SG: Total in Major Championships (8%). 

  1. Brooks Koepka
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Scottie Scheffler
  5. Bryson DeChambeau
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Alex Noren
  8. Will Zalatoris
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Keith Mitchell
  11. Hideki Matsuyama
  12. Billy Horschel
  13. Patrick Cantlay
  14. Viktor Hovland
  15. Adam Schenk
  16. Chris Kirk
  17. Sahith Theegala
  18. Min Woo Lee
  19. Joaquin Niemann
  20. Justin Thomas

2024 PGA Championship Picks

Ludvig Aberg +1800 (BetMGM)

At The Masters, Ludvig Aberg announced to the golf world that he’s no longer an “up and coming” player. He’s one of the best players in the game of golf, regardless of experience.

Augusta National gave Aberg some necessary scar tissue and showed him what being in contention at a major championship felt like down the stretch. Unsurprisingly, he made a costly mistake, hitting it in the water left of the 11th hole, but showed his resilience by immediately bouncing back. He went on to birdie two of his next three holes and finished in solo second by three shots. With the type of demeanor that remains cool in pressure situations, I believe Ludvig has the right mental game to win a major at this point in his career.

Aberg has not finished outside of the top-25 in his past eight starts, which includes two runner-up finishes at both a “Signature Event” and a major championship. The 24-year-old is absolutely dominant with his driver, which will give him a major advantage this week. In the field he ranks, in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and has gained strokes in the category in each of his past ten starts. Aberg is already one of the best drivers of the golf ball on the planet.

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the great hall where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The Swedes, who are of Old Norse origin, were the last of the three Scandinavian Kingdoms to abandon the Old Norse Gods. A Swede played a major role in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and I believe another, Ludvig Aberg, will be the one to conquer Valhalla in 2024. 

Bryson DeChambeau +2800 (BetMGM)

Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few players in the world that I believe has the game to go blow-for-blow with Scottie Scheffler. Although he isn’t as consistent as Scheffler, when he’s at his best, Bryson has the talent to beat him.

At The Masters, DeChambeau put forth a valiant effort at a golf course that simply does not suit his game. Valhalla, on the other hand, is a course that should be perfect for the 30-year-old. His ability to overpower a golf course with his driver will be a serious weapon this week.

Bryson has had some success at Jack Nicklaus designs throughout his career as he won the Memorial at Muirfield Village back in 2018. He’s also had incredible results on Bentgrass greens for the entirety of his professional career. Of his 10 wins, nine of them have come on Bentgrass greens, with the only exception being the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He also has second place finishes at Medinah and TPC Summerlin, which feature Bentgrass greens.

Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to argue that Bryson isn’t one of the most exciting and important players in the game of golf. He’s also one of the best players in the world. A second major is coming soon for DeChambeau, and I believe he should be amongst the favorites to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy this week.

Patrick Cantlay +4000 (FanDuel)

There’s no way of getting around it: Patrick Cantlay has been dissapointing in major championships throughout his professional career. He’s been one of the top players on Tour for a handful of years and has yet to truly contend at a major championship, with the arguable exception of the 2019 Masters.

Despite not winning majors, Cantlay has won some big events. The 32-year-old has won two BMW Championships, two Memorial Tournaments as well as a Tour Championship. His victories at Memorial indicate how much Cantlay loves Nicklaus designs, where he ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds behind only Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm.

Cantlay also loves Bentgrass greens. Six of Cantlay’s seven individual wins on the PGA Tour have come on Bentgrass greens and he also was one of the best putters at the 2023 Ryder cup at Marco Simone (also Bentgrass). At Caves Valley (2021 BMW Championship), he gained over 12 strokes putting to outduel another Bentgrass specialist, Bryson DeChambeau.

Cantlay finished 22nd in The Masters, which was a solid result considering how many elite players struggled that week. He also has two top-ten finishes in his past five PGA Championships. He’s undeniably one of the best players in the field, therefore, it comes down to believing Cantlay has the mental fortitude to win a major, which I do.

Joaquin Niemann +4000 (BetMGM)

I believe Joaquin Niemann is one of the best players in the world. He has three worldwide wins since December and has continued to improve over the course of his impressive career thus far. Still only 25, the Chilean has all the tools to be a serious contender in major championships for years to come.

Niemann has been the best player on LIV this season. Plenty will argue with the format or source of the money on LIV, but no one can argue that beating players such as Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith is an unremarkable achievement. Niemann is an elite driver of the golf ball who hits it farther than just about anyone in the field not named Bryson DeChambeau or (arguably) Rory McIlroy.

Niemann is another player who has been fantastic throughout his career on Bentgrass greens. Prior to leaving the PGA Tour, Bentgrass was the only green surface in which Joaco was a positive putter. It’s clearly a surface that he is very comfortable putting on and should fare around and on the greens this week.

Niemann is a perfect fit for Valhalla. His low and penetrating ball flight will get him plenty of runout this week on the fairways and he should have shorter shots into the green complexes than his competitors. To this point in his career, the former top ranked amateur in the world (2018) has been underwhelming in major championships, but I don’t believe that will last much longer. Joaquin Niemann is a major championship caliber player and has a real chance to contend this week at Valhalla.

Your Reaction?
  • 37
  • LEGIT15
  • WOW4
  • LOL1
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP4
  • OB3
  • SHANK17

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending