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Opinion & Analysis

The 7 most underrated players at the Deutsche Bank Championship

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The Deutsche Bank Championship hosts the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs this week, and DraftKings is holding a monster contest — a $450,000 purse with $100K going to the winner.

And if you haven’t signed up for DraftKings in the past, the contest is free with your first deposit. Translation: New users have a FREE run at $100,000.

Click here to enter.

Cash prizes are awarded up to 37,705th place. And with the help of my picks this week, there should be no reason why you can’t win some money while enjoying the Playoff excitement.

Check out my picks and analysis below, and don’t forget to enter.

The Course

www.tpc.com

www.tpc.com

TPC Boston plays in excess of 7,200 yards and plays to a par-71 for the event. Originally designed by Arnold Palmer and later re-designed in 2007 by Gil Hanse and Brad Faxon (as consultant), it is not the typical TPC network golf course.

With reachable par-5s and 100 of the best players in the world working their way around this course, low scores have been standard fare. On average, the winning score has been 17.92 under par over the tournament’s 12-year history, which equates to an 18-hole stroke average of 66.52. In other words, players have to bring their “A” game.

Vijay Singh (2008), Charley Hoffman (2010), and Henrik Stenson (2013) won shooting 22-under par (262), representing the lowest 72-hole winning score for this tournament. There is nothing to suggest at this year’s tournament, given play to date on the PGA Tour in 2014-2015, that it will be anything other than a shoot-out this Labor Day weekend once again.

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My 7 underrated players

Will Wilcox ($6,800): WD Injury

  • FedExCup Ranking: 88th
  • All-Around Ranking: 202 (1st)
  • Ball Striking: 6 (2nd)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green — 0.843 (21st)

His FedExCup Ranking is definitely misleading, as Wilcox has not only proved he belongs, but that he has a well-rounded game at the PGA Tour level. He missed the cut last week at The Barclays after an opening 67, but that should only serve to motivate Wilcox this week as he is in the bubble group at No. 88. Wilcox has also demonstrated solid putting and an ability to score in 2014-2015. The biggest question may be whether TPC Boston fits his eye. Wilcox undoubtedly will play with motivation and provides mid-range value at $6,800.

Charley Hoffman ($7,100)

Photo credit: Twitter

Photo credit: Twitter

  • FedExCup Ranking: 17th
  • All-Around Ranking: 577 (43rd)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green — .200 (80th)
  • Par 5 Birdie or Better Leaders: 45.15 percent (T-48th)

A close look at his on-course statistics will not necessarily do justice relative to the season that Hoffman is having this year. One win, two second-place finishes, six top-10s and 10 top-25s amount to a current ranking of 17th in FedExCup points, all of which demonstrate strong play overall. Hoffman is also a former winner of the Deutsche Bank Championship (2010) and holds a share of the tournament scoring record of 262 (22-under), as noted above.

Notably, Hoffman tends to get hot and stay hot for periods of play and if that happens this week, the $7,100 it takes to get him on your roster is a drop in the bucket. His prior win and experience will certainly serve him well this year at TPC Boston.

Jason Bohn ($7,300)

  • FedExCup Ranking: 24th
  • All-Around Ranking: 516 (26th)
  • Strokes Gained: Putting — 0.366 (27th)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green — 0.616 (34th)

Bohn is coming off a solid week at The Barclays in which he finished T-9th. He is a savvy veteran, who makes cuts (20 out of 25 this year) and is no stranger to top-25 finishes (11 in 2014-2015). More importantly, Bohn brings a solid 1-2 punch of tee-to-green play and strong, consistent putting. Bohn’s par-5 scoring is not as strong as one might hope, but his cap value of $7,300 is well worth the price of admission. He is also playing for something rare in his career — a spot in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, which may be motivation enough. Bohn will likely solidify his place at East Lake Golf Club for the FedExCup finale with an above average finish this week.

Kevin Kisner ($7,300)

  • FedExCup Ranking: 13th
  • Ball Striking: 108 (T-46th)
  • Strokes Gained: Putting — 0.312 (T-41st)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green — 0.508 (43rd)

As far as this year is concerned, Kisner will likely be best remembered for his epic battle with Rickie Fowler at The Players Championship, as well as playoff loss to Jim Furyk at the RBC Heritage. His final round play at both events firmly demonstrated that he was ready for the big stage. Kisner’s on-course statistics are not likely to blow anyone away, but are incredibly consistent, suggesting an excellent week of putting will put him firmly in the mix. His $3 million plus in earnings this season reveal Kisner’s tendency to get paid and at a minimal investment of $7,100, so he fits nicely into a well-balanced lineup.

This year’s close calls for Kisner have certainly provided critical experience to a player with the ability to go low. He’s on the verge of winning soon, and this might be his week.

Jason Dufner ($7,600)

JasonDufner

Photo credit: Twitter

  • FedExCup Ranking: 81st
  • All-Around Ranking: 655 (63rd)
  • Ball Striking: 70 (25th)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green — 0.946 (19th)

It has been a tough year in many respects for Dufner; personally and professionally. Yet, he has persevered and seems to be rounding into decent from over the latter part of this summer. Early last Saturday at The Barclays, he was on fire with his putter on incredibly difficult greens suggesting low numbers are again an everyday possibility. Remember, he is a recent major champion (2013 PGA Championship) and still superb from tee-to-green (even in this otherwise off year), which is genuinely supported by the numbers. Dufner warrants serious consideration as moderately priced, but armed with the pedigree and ability to win.

Tony Finau ($7,700)

  • FedExCup Ranking: 32nd
  • All-Around Ranking: 539 (T31st)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green — 0.739 (29th)
  • Par 5 Birdie or Better Leaders: 49.68 percent (17th)

Finau’s play over the summer is finally generating the buzz and providing him with the credit that he deserves as a rookie on the PGA Tour this season. His most impressive statistic may be 16 top-25 finishes in 29 events, including last week at The Barclays. TPC Boston has historically favored the long hitter and long hitters covet par 5s, which suggests Finau will threaten to contend with even a modest week on the greens. Finau won’t break the bank, and could offer tremendous return with a win this week — and winning isn’t far-fetched for this bomber.

Justin Thomas ($7,900)

  • FedExCup Ranking: 30th
  • All-Around Ranking: 313 (7th)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green — 0.963 (18th)
  • Par 5 Birdie or Better Leaders: 57.05 percent (1st)

Thomas is on the verge of officially breaking out. He’s had flashes of brilliance throughout this past summer at, among other events, the Wells Fargo Championship and The Greenbrier Classic. At TPC Boston, even though Thomas represents the largest cap hit on this list of PGA Tour players, he is absolutely worth the extra cash. He leads the Tour in par-5 birdies, which will be an asset in this week’s par-5 birdie fest. Also, his overall statistics (par 5s aside), suggest a well-rounded, high-caliber player. Further, Thomas has made 21-of-28 cuts this year, so the percentages say he will be playing the weekend at TPC Boston, even if he doesn’t have his “A” game — a safe pick with tremendous upside.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Steve

    Sep 6, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Arent we bored yet with the same repeated articles over and over?

  2. Forsbrand

    Sep 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Great selections!!! FINAU YES!!! At last he really is a cracking player. Expect big things from him next year if not this year end?

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie Reviews: L.A.B. Mezz.1 Max Putter

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L.A.B. Golf pushes the limits of putters and putting to try and help as many golfers as they can make more putts. Lie Angle Balanced putters are different because the face of the putter is always pointed towards your target. We all know L.A.B.’s famous Directed Force 2.1 putter. However, a lot of golfers didn’t like the looks and size of it. So L.A.B. developed the Mezz.1 putter that has a more traditional mallet look that so many golfers use, but with Lie Angle Balanced technology engineered into it. This year, the Mezz.1 Max putter was introduced to make a great putter even better. The Mezz.1 Max is 20-percent larger than the original Mezz.1 and offers more forgiveness and stability.

I have played the Mezz.1 this year and think it is a great putter, so to be honest, I wasn’t that excited to try the Mezz.1 Max at first. That changed pretty quickly once my putter showed up. To start, getting fit for a putter is one of the last things we golfers think about. L.A.B. has a very unique and effective remote fitting process if you cannot get to a fitter in person. You email a short video to them using your current putter and they use their internal genius to get your specs processed. The remote fitting video took me about seven minutes from start to submission.

Once you have your putter specs, you can then order a stock or custom Mezz.1 Max. I went down the custom path of various head colors, alignment aids, shafts, grips, and even a headcover to build my putter. My original Mezz.1 is black, and I wanted to go with some color to change things up and, for whatever reason, the cappuccino color kept grabbing my attention. The cappuccino color online looks more gold, and I was pleasantly surprised that in person the color is more brown and muted than I expected. The color goes well with the matte white Accra shaft and Press II 1.5-degree smooth grip.

Headcovers are now becoming big accessories, and the brown headcover I chose is kind of retro-looking while feeling high quality. Overall, I love the look and my Mezz.1 Max stands out without being too flashy and distracting.

As soon as I got the putter out of the box, I rolled a few putts on the carpet here at the office, not expecting much difference. From the first couple of putts, I could immediately tell something was a little different with this putter. The weight and balance through the stroke is more stable and you get an even better feeling of the putter wanting to keep the face pointed at the target. The other interesting find is that I didn’t even notice the 20-percent larger size that the Mezz.1 Max has over its older sibling. Maybe if I had them both side-by-side I would notice the size difference more, but the Mezz.1 Max on its own looks normal to my eye.

The first putts I hit on the carpet were great feeling and the Mezz.1 Max felt like it wanted to stay on its path regardless of how your hands tried to manipulate it. The same feeling was present on the putting green, and it was far stronger to me than the standard Mezz.1 felt. When you put the Mezz.1 Max on a target, the putter just wants to hit the ball at that target. The other interesting note is that, to me, the new Max has a softer and more solid feel compared to the smaller head. The sound at impact was more muted and had a lower pitch to it, even on mishits. Just like the original, the grooved face puts immediate forward roll on the ball and reduces almost all skipping.

L.A.B. says this Mezz.1 Max is 20-percent more stable, and I don’t think that is just some marketing talk. I have been in this putting funk where I have been making contact on the toe of the putter regularly. This miss has caused me to miss more than a few putts this year, and I hit a few with the new putter as well. Those toe misses still went straight and I wasn’t losing much speed. Those putts left the toe of the putter and either came up just short or just missed my intended line by a small amount. Those misses are a great improvement over the traditional blade that has been my gamer all summer. The biggest problem I had with the original Mezz.1 is that it took me awhile to get used to longer lag putts. This wasn’t the case with the Max, as I felt much more comfortable from long range and was able to get putts closer and reduce the 3-putt chances by a good amount.

Overall, if you’re searching for a new flatstick, the new L.A.B. Golf Mezz.1 Max putter is something to check out. You have a putter that can truly help you make more putts thanks to the Lie Angle Balanced technology, additional forgiveness, and stability.

For more information on my Mezz.1 Max putter review, listen to the Club Junkie podcast, which is available below and on any podcasting service.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A Tale of Two Misses

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It seems like I somewhat “touched a nerve” with last week’s post ‘A Defense of Blades’, based on the scoring you all gave my take on that controversial topic.

I do appreciate it when you take the time to score your reaction to my work, as it keeps me tuned in to what you really want me to pontificate about. Before I get into today’s topic, I request that any of you who have a subject you’d like me to address please drop me an email at [email protected], OK?

So, in somewhat of a follow-up to last week, let’s talk today about misses. Those too frequent shots that move your scores in the wrong direction.

Early in my life, I was always part of “the group” of low-handicap players who had various kinds of “money games”, but that put me in touch only with other low-handicap players who were highly competitive. Just as I was getting fully engaged in the golf equipment industry in the early 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of a group at my club called “The Grinders”. We had standing tee times every day…so if you could get away, you played. There were about 35-40 of us who might show up, with as many as 6-7 groups going off on Fridays and Saturdays.

These guys sported handicaps from scratch to 20, and we threw up balls to see how we were paired, so for twenty years, I had up close and personal observation of a variety of “lab rats.”

This let me observe and study how many different ways there were to approach the game and how many different kinds of mishits could happen in a round of golf. As a golf industry marketer and club designer, I couldn’t have planned it any better.

So back to a continuation of the topic of last week, the type of irons you choose to play should reflect the kinds of misses you are hoping to help. And the cold, hard truth is this:

We as golf club designers, engineers and fitters, can only do so much to help the outcome of any given shot.

Generally, mishits will fall into two categories – the “swing miss” and the “impact miss”.

Let’s start with the former, as it is a vast category of possibilities.

The “swing miss” occurs when the swing you made never had a chance of producing the golf shot you had hoped to see. The clubhead was not on a good path through impact, and/or the clubface was not at all square to the target line. This can produce any number of outcomes that are wildly wrong, such as a cold skull of the ball, laying the sod over it, hard block to the right (for a right-hand player), smother hook…I think you get the point.

The smaller swing misses might be a draw that turns over a bit too much because you rotated through impact a bit aggressively or a planned draw that doesn’t turn over at all because you didn’t. Or it could be the shot that flies a bit too high because you released the club a bit early…or much too low because you had your hands excessively ahead of the clubhead through impact.

The swing miss could be simply that you made a pretty darn good swing, but your alignment was not good, or the ball position was a bit too far forward in your swing…or too far back. Basically, the possible variations of a “swing miss” are practically endless and affect tour pros and recreational golfers alike.

The cruel fact is that most recreational golfers do not have solid enough swing mechanics or playing disciplines to deliver the clubhead to the ball in a consistent manner. It starts with a fundamentally sound hold on the club. From there, the only solution is to make a commitment to learn more about the golf swing and your golf swing and embark on a journey to become a more consistent striker of the golf ball. I would suggest that this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the game and encourage anyone who loves golf to go down this path.

But today’s post is about “mishits”, so let’s move on the other and much smaller category of misses…the “impact miss”. As a 40-year golf club designer, this is the world in which I function and, unfortunately, to which I am limited.

The “impact miss” is when most of the elements of the swing pretty much fall into place, so that the club is delivered pretty accurately to the ball…on the right path…face square to the target line at impact…but you miss the sweet spot of the club by just a bit.

Finding ways of getting better results out of those mishits is the singular goal of the entire golf club industry.

Big drivers of today are so much more forgiving of a 1/8 to ½ inch miss than even drivers of a decade ago, it’s crazy. Center strikes are better, of course, with our fast faces and Star Wars technology, but the biggest value of these big drivers is that your mishits fly much more like a perfect hit than ever before. In my own launch monitor testing of my current model driver to an old Reid Lockhart persimmon driver of the mid-1990s, I see that dead center hits are 20-25 yards different, but mishits can be as far as 75-80 yards apart, the advantage obviously going to the modern driver.

The difference is not nearly as striking with game improvement irons versus a pure forged one-piece blade. If the lofts and other specs are the same, the distance a pure strike travels is only a few yards more with the game improvement design, but a slight mishit can see that differential increase to 12-15 yards. But, as I noted in last week’s article, this difference tends to reduce as the lofts increase. Blades and GI irons are much less different in the 8- and 9-irons than in the lower lofts.

This has gotten a bit longer than usual, so how about I wrap up this topic next week with “A Tale of Two Misses – Part 2”? I promise to share some robotic testing insights that might surprise you.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: World Long Drive! Go Mu!

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In this week’s podcast we discuss Wisdom In Golf Premium, new ways to help and fun talk about rules and etiquette.

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